The Price of Isolation for the Russian Workers and their Revolution

Submitted by dalcassian on 15 October, 2013 - 8:45

The world is paying dearly for the isolation of the Russian
Revolution, paying in blood and sweat, and tears and in car-
nage and destruction such as history records nowhere else.
The Bolshevik Revolution of November, 1917, opened up a
new eporh for mankind. It contained, the promise of a life of
security and peace, of abundance and brotherhood, of equality
among men in a world freed of classes and class rule. What no
other social upheaval before it had even dared to hope for, the
Russian Revolution proclaimed boldly and confidently. Not the
great French revolution, not even the Paris Commune of 1871,
not even the rehearsal of the Russian Revolution in 1905,
dreamed that it was the immediate forerunner of international
socialism. The Russian revolutionists of 1917, from their leaders
down to the most obscure militant, did believe that they had
only made the magnificent beginning, and that the flame they
lighted would burn until it illuminated and warmed the whole
earth with the victory of socialism.

But the promise of the Russian Revolution required for its
fulfillment the victorious organization of the revolution in all
the great and advanced countries of the world. It was required
not only in order that the peoples everywhere might emerge
from the blind alley into which capitalism had dviven them, but
in order that the revolution IN RUSSIA ITSELF might estab-
lish a socialist order, and even less than that—THAT THE

Every intelligent person understood this simple truth. That
the two great titans of the Russian Revolution, Lenin and Trot-
sky, understood it, goes without saying. That the whole Bol-
shevik Party understood it is equally incontestable. Even the
backward peasant understood that what he gained from the
Bolshevik revolution was constantly in danger of being lost if
imperialism abroad continued to remain in power. Woodrow
Wilson understood it, and so did Lloyd George and Winston
Churchill and Georges Clemenceau and Benito Mussolini and
the Emperor of Japan and all the other pillars of the old order,
including Adolf Hitler, an obscure corporal in the German
Imperial Army whose name was not known at that time to
more than 50 people.

Was the immense confidence of the Bolsheviks in the world
revolution mistaken? Before saying categorically "Yes" or
"No," it would be better to ask whether Lenin or Trotsky were
right in arguing from 1914 onward, and especially from 1917
onward, that the world is living in a period of the final decay
of capitalism, of dreadful wars, of socialist revolutions and of
colonial uprisings.

The Bolsheviks were right in their optimistic confidence, be-
cause their complete lack of confidence in capitalism's ability
to restore the old, pre-war, more or less peaceful relationships
has been confirmed over and over again in the last quarter of a
century. They were right in their optimistic confidence, be-
cause for 24 years there has been one revolutionary uprising
after another, with no continent, with hardly any one country,
exempt. They were right in their optimistic confidence, be-
cause capitalism can no longer maintain itself without imposing
the most gruesome sufferings upon the hundreds of millions
of plain people who make up the world, without spreading the
most terrifying devastation everywhere, without destroying all
remnants of culture and civilization.


But they were mistaken in their confidence, too. The Rus-
sian Revolution did indeed spread to other countries, but it was
not triumphant. Each time it was crushed, and often with the
greatest bloodshed. Capitalism proved to be stronger and ca-
pable of longer life—if the convulsive agony of capitalism can
be called life—than the Bolsheviks thought in 1917 and in 1919.

Yet, wherein is the strength of capitalism represented?. In our
times, in one thing, and one thing only: in the weakness of
the working class which is destined to destroy it. And wherein
is the weakness of the working class represented? In its lack of
numbers? Not at all; it is numerous enough to crush any enemy.
In its social unimportance? No; it remains the indispensable
foundation-stone of all modern society. Its weakness lies only
in its lack of full class consciousness, in its lack of complete
independence from the capitalist class, in its lack of fully inde-
pendent class organization, class program, class leadership and
class aims.

The political name of that weakness, from 1914 on (and even
earlier) and especially from 1917 on, was: the Social Democracy,
the Second International. It saved capitalism during and after
the First World War. It mowed down the proletarian revolu-
tion in Western Europe with machine guns. It seduced and
traduced the working class, trading on its past services to labor,
on the inertia of traditionalism, on the short memory of the
workers. It alternately beat the workers into unconsciousness
with clubs or lulled them into paralytic sleep with soothing
whispers that by careful medical treatment of the poisoned
body of capitalism, by transfusing workers' blood into it, it
would not only get well hut become transformed painlessly into

By driving back the wave of revolutions that followed the
war of 1914-1918. the capitalist class and its social-democratic
assistants isolated the Revolution from the rest of Ihe
world. The products of this isolation of the revolution are uni-
formly and universally reactionary. Because the workers of
Germany did not take power into their own hands, Hitlerism
was imposed upon Germany and then upon the rest of Europe.
Because the Chinese workers did not take power when they
had the chance to do so, the rotten regime of Chiang Kai-shek
kept the power, enfeebled China, facilitated the attack of the
Japanese barbarians and helped in general to perpetuate the
precarious rule of these barbarians in Japan itself. Because
the French and British workers did not lake power, they must
now fight in an imperialist war against resurgent German im-
perialism and fight it under menacing handicaps. So it is
throughout the world.

Not the least monstrous of the reactionary products of Rus-
sia's isolation, however, is the growth and triumph of the Sta-
linist bureaucracy. Capitalism's victory over the revolution in
the West gave birth to the bureaucracy in Russia as a powerful
social force. The bureaucracy, in turn, has repaid its capitalist
midwife by invaluable services rendered to keep it in power
throughout the world. What the social democracy could do
for only a few years after the end of the war. Stalinism has
succeeded in doing since 1923, for 18 long and horrible years.
Masquerading as revolutionary communists, defaming the
names of Lenin and Bolshevism under which they operate, the
Stalinist bureaucrats systematically undermined the revolu-
tionary and labor movements in one country after another.
They took up the work of the social democrats—often cooperat-
ing direclly with them—in disrupting the unity of the working
class. Those organizations they could not dominate, they de-
stroyed. Those revolutionary uprisings they could not mis-
direct, they crushed, as in Catalonia, with armed force. The
hundreds of millions of colonial slaves who saw in the great
Russian Revolution a beacon of liberty, they cynically be-
trayed to imperialism. The class-consciousness of a whole gen-
eration, they tore to shreds. Those they could not win to their
ends by persuasion or intimidation or outright bribery, they
sought to discredit and isolate by methods that any half-decent
capitalist politician would hesitate lo employ.

The havoc they wrought in Russia itself was, in a sense,
even more stupefying in its sinister magnitude. Every trace of
the great revolutionary promise of 1917 has literally been wiped
out by reactionary force. The Soviets, the most wonderful ma-
chinery of popular democratic expression and rule known to
history, were wiped out, step by step. The Bolshevik Party
itself, which never had its equal as a power for social, histori-
cal progress, was physically and ideologically destroyed with a
thoroughness and brutality that Czarism before 1917, never
dared lo use, that Hitlerism, since 1933, was never successful
in using. The great Communist International, which set more
of the world's people into motion for an ideal than did Chris-
tianity in all its history, was killed by one hammer blow after
another, and a caricature of it set up to do the bureaucracy's
dirty chores abroad.

The workers were reduced to the status of slaves, toiling
under the despotism of the new ruling class, the bureaucmcy.
The peasants were made like serfs again, wiped out wholesale.
by the millions, to suit the needs of the bureaucracy. For
every big factory set up, another concentration camp rose to
surround the victims of a totalitarian regime. All intellectual
life was transformed into organized, compulsory bootlicking of
a vulgar, vain and voracious autocracy, "with Comrade Stalin
at its head."

Nothing, absolutely nothing, was allowed to stand in the way
of the Atilla-like inarch to power of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
A small section of the heroes of the Bolshevik Revolution was
corrupted; by far the greater part of it that remained alive
after the rigors of the civil war was decimated by Stalin. The
noblest figures of October were sent to their graves by assassi-
nation, including our greatest contemporary, Leon Trotsky. The
murder of this gifted incorruptible symbolized the long-drawn-
out murdering of the Bolshevik Revolution by the new masters
of the Kremlin.


Property—the means of production and exchange—was not
restored to the capitalists, to be sure. The bureaucracy was not
so simple. Instead, it established its own absolute monopoly
over the property; or, more accurately, it established complete,
totalitarian control over the machinery of its own new state in
which the ownership of all property is concentrated. It was thus
able to rest upon an economic foundation which enabled it to
exploit and oppress the Russian masses and the still more cru-
elly subjected peoples of the national republics, like the
Ukraine, White-Russia, Georgia and the like, with a ferocity and
arbitrariness rarely seen in ordinary capitalist countries.

Such In the price that the Soviet working class was compelled
by the bureaucracy to pay for the isolation of the Russian Revo-
lution. The totality of the payment has meant the destruction of
the rule of the prolelnriat, of the workers' state, and its replace-
ment by the repulsive, reactionary rule of the new bureaucracy.


But just as the idea of building "socialism in a single coun-
try" was preposterous and reactionary from its very inception
in Stalin's brain in 1924, so even the idea that the new and iso-
lated bureaucratically-collectivist state can long endure is absurd.
Shift and dodge as it would—and did!—the Stalinist bureauc-
racy could not escape entrapment in the mad whirlpool of con-
tradictions that make up the world of imperialism today. It has
been sucked into the Second World War under conditions most
unfavorable to it—and, for that matter, to the working class of
Russia and the rest of the world. The Russian working class is
drawing on all the vast reservoirs of idealism, courage and self-
sacrifice that it has tapped on more than one previous occasion.

It is now fighting the armies of Hitler with a courageousness
that evokes such universal admiration not because it loves Stalin
more but because it loves Hillerism less: more accurately,
because it detests Hitlerism, and indeed all foreign rule, with a
fierceness that all the still-unforgotten heroic memories of the
Russian Revolution imbue it. They are impelled and resolved
in their resistance to the Axis and all it stands for by an even
more masterful type of the spirit that animates the workers and
peasants of the Balkans, of Poland, of Norway, of France, of the
workers of Britain, who fear and hate Hitlerism with the same


But like the embattled British workers and the other true
enemies of fascism on the European continent, the Russian
masses are now being exploited by their rulers for the cynical
imperialist directors of the Allied "democracies." The policies
of the Stalinist bureaucracy have driven the fighters of Russia
right into the camp of the imperialist democracies it serves to-
day, as it served the imperialist totalitarian stales up to yester-
What more accurate reflection could there be of the real role
of Russia in the World War today than the fact that congenital
enemies of the Russian Revolution as Churchill and Beaver-
brooke vie with each other to send material aid to Stalin? that
the Stalinist regime is dependent for its very life upon the good
will of Anglo-American imperialism?

The Stalinists here screech with hysterical frenzy for the
"defense of the Soviet Union," coupling their demand with the
call for support of the imperialist war of the democracies and
for the self-strangulation of the American working class—an-
other sign that Stalinist self-preservation goes hand in hand with
the enslavement of the working class. However much they are
actuated by revolutionary considerations, others who now cry
for the "defense of Ihe Soviet Union" in this war, find themselves
completely unable to tell the working class just what it should
DO for this "defense," for defense of Stalinist Russia in this war,
like defense of England in this war, means support of the camp
of democratic imperialism. Hence, the impotent clamor of the

The revolutionary defense of Russia, like the revolutionary
defense of the working class and its rights in England, can mean
only one thing in this war: the unremitting struggle of the work-
ing class to acquire state power, to establish working class rule
—establish it in England and similar countries, and re-establish
it in Russia.


The Stalinist bureaucracy is celebrating a Black October. It
not only overthrew the power of the Russian working class, but
it has brought the Russian workers to the very edge of the huge
concentration camp of Hitlerism, a fate which the Russian
worker has been resisting with such fierce doggedness. To pre-
serve his power, the bloody Czar of all the Russias was forced
to arm millions of workers and peasants, who finally used their
arms to establish their own rule over the country. Stalin, too,
has been compelled, in the interests of self-preservation, to re-
store the arms he took from the Russian masses.
Whether Hitler finds his grave in Russia or some other land
is not yet certain. But the fate of the Stalinist counter-revolu-
tion is being settled now. As we are not for the triumph of
Churchillism, we are even less for the triumph of Hitlerism, in
Russia or anywhere else. On the 24th anniversary of the Russian
Revolution, all our hopes and confidence rest with the interna-
tional working class, and in Russia, with the Russian working
class. Once, in 1917, it put an end to one despotism. IT WILL

Labor Action
17 November 1941

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