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Workers’ Government

Susan Green

What Is a Workers’ Government?

Stalin Government Is Not a Workers’ Government

(12 April 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 15, 12 April 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In 1936 that famous New Constitution – which Stalin and all his domestic and international underlings hailed as “the most democratic in the world” – in effect abolished the Soviets. The Soviets – based on the factories and occupational groups – had been established by the 1917 Revolution as the agencies through which the workers could rule. The New Constitution formally did away with elections on a working class and industrial basis – and again made elections a free-for-all, as in capitalist countries.

However, the New Constitution of 1936, which in essence was the death certificate of the Soviets, was only another stepping stone of the counter-revolutionary advance begun by the Stalinist bureaucracy many years before – and continued today as a despotic, cruel and greedy dictatorship.

Long before 1936 the Soviets had become rubber stamps of the bureaucrats. Elections were a mockery since only Stalin’s stooges could be candidates. All opposition or criticism was ruthlessly suppressed. All the old revolutionary Bolsheviks were exiled, imprisoned and finally assassinated with or without witch-hunt frame-up “trials.” Militant workers were herded into concentration camps by the tens of thousands. In its labor-camps the secret police tortured millions of workers and peasants.

By methods surpassing the nightmares of medieval barbarism, Stalin and his bureaucratic henchmen wipeid out the revolutionary vanguard of the workers, terrorized the masses into submission, ended the functioning of the Soviets and established a dictatorial regime.

The Bureaucracy Becomes Russia’s Ruling Class

On the economic side of life, this reactionary transformation of the government meant that nationalized industry became the collective property of the bureaucracy – for the government owned the industries. With government and industry in their control, the bureaucracy became the new ruling class.

Every vestige of workers’ control of industry – which the 1917 Revolution had instituted after ousting the capitalists – is ended. An oligarchy of bureaucrats has arisen whose function it is to rule the workers as its industrial slaves. The passport system prevails and workers cannot change jobs. When there is rationing, the industrial manager can he the custodian of the worker’s ration cards and thus of his very life. When workers’ living quarters are connected with the factory, this becomes another weapon the bureaucrat holds over the worker’s head. WHO DOES NOT OBEY SHALL NEITHER EAT NOR LIVE IN A HOUSE!

There is more truth than poetry in this. For if a worker is black-listed for one reason or another, he finds himself an industrial outlaw, because the Stalin bureaucratic state which fired him is the only industrial employer. Instead of workers’ control of industry – which is part and parcel of a workers’ government – the Russian workers under Stalin labor in industrial prisons.

Nor do the Russian trade unions – still so called – in any way help alleviate the workers’ slavery. On the contrary, the unions are simply additional oppressive agencies of the Stalin state. What the slave-driving managers leave undone, the union officials try to do. These officials owe their jobs directly to Stalin and his lieutenants. They are no more responsible to the rank and file than Stalin himself.

As agents of the dictatorial state, the unions see to it that the workers fulfill their “norms” of production – “norms” unfairly and artificially set by the privileged aristocracy of labor known as the Stakhanovists and deeply hated by rank and file workers. Piecework pay – that sweat-shop practice that the workers of most capitalist countries have fought and ended – is today the basic pay system in Russia.

Under a workers’ government that leads the masses toward socialism, the unions would be partners protecting the daily interests of the workers in harmony and coordination with the socialist plans for increasing mass production and mass consumption. Under Stalin, the Russian unions have become another battle front in his war against the workers.

Social Causes of Stalin’s Betrayal

What impelled Stalin and his bureaucrats on their bloody, unscrupulous counter-revolutionary path? Always there are social causes behind villainy in places of government. As Trotsky put it, the Stalin regime “had become totalitarian in character several years before this word arrived from Germany.”

Because of the economic backwardness of Russia and its extreme economic collapse following the long years of war and revolution, the “good life” was not in sight for the 180,000,000 Russian people for many years. But self-seeking careerists saw that the “good life” was available to them, AT THE EXPENSE OF THE 180,000,000 PEOPLE. That is why the few set out to put the many under a new yoke of slavery. That is why the workers’ Soviets were emasculated and workers’ control of industry so short-lived. That is why Stalin and his bureaucrats rooted out every possibility of mass expression and mass advancement.

This clique of bureaucrats were given their opportunity to make their counter-revolution and establish themselves .as the new ruling class by the failure of the workers in the more advanced European countries to accomplish their own .socialist revolution. Instead, reaction set in throughout Europe. Stalin’s cohorts took advantage of the disappointment of the Russian people, and of their deadly tiredness after years of war, revolution, famine and struggle.

From the vantage point of their control of government and industry, the class of bureaucrats divert to themselves great chunks of the national income. This favored upper crust of major and minor rulers, of specialists, etc., and their families – constituting in all perhaps FIFTEEN PER CENT of the entire population – take for themselves as much as is distributed among the entire remaining eighty-five per cent. The industrial specialist, for example, GETS FROM EIGHTY TO A HUNDRED TIMES AS MUCH AS AN ORDINARY WORKER. This is the measure of social inequalities under Stalin.

A workers’ government would not permit the development of such inequalities. A worker’s wage would be the norm of compensation for government officials, industrial managers, specialists. Not that a workers’ government would make poverty the social level for all – as the enemies of socialism claim. On the contrary, a workers’ government would plan production to raise the level of ALL TOGETHER. No Cleopatra could bathe in milk while children went hungry.

Stalin’s Army and Trotsky’s Red Army

The present war has centered a great deal of attention on the Russian army – to call it the Red Army is as false as to call the Stalin government a workers’ government. All the class inequalities of Russian life are duplicated in the army. The hierarchy of army officers – abolished by the Revolution – has been re-established and commensurate economic and social privileges have been granted them. There is as wide a gulf between the soldier and the officer as between the worker and the industrial manager.

Furthermore, the purpose of the Russian army today is as different from that of the Red Army as blackest night is from day. In, 1918 the objectives of the Red Army were stated as follows: “With the transfer of power to the toiling and exploited masses there has arisen the necessity to create a new army which shall be the bulwark of the Soviet power ... and will serve as a support for the coming socialist revolutions in Europe.”

Today the Russian army is nothing but the military appendage of a powerful dictatorship. It invades Finland or takes over Poland, as the dictatorship sees its interests best served. Stalin is as hostile to socialist revolution to free the working people as all the other imperialist belligerents on both sides. Because the Russian soldier fights bravely is no reason for sprinkling holy water over the Stalin regime and its army. All over the world soldiers are fighting bravely – alas, for very reactionary regimes and for very unworthy causes.

A workers’ army under a workers’ government would, naturally, fight Hitler’s invasion of their land – even as the Red Army under Trotsky fought invasion by the capitalist armies of the world. But with this vastly important difference: It would at the same time – as did the Red Army under Trotsky – call upon the workers and soldiers of all countries to stop serving their capitalist masters at home and on the battlefields – and unite as brothers to make a socialist world.

Workers Party Resolution Described New Ruling Class

A great deal more could be written to prove that the Stalin government is not a workers’ government, but the regime of a new ruling class of bureaucrats owning nationalized industry through what you might call their ownership of the government. However, the basic points made in this article are all sufficient proof.

The WORKERS PARTY has long ago designated the Stalinist bureaucracy as a new ruling class – exploiting the masses as does every ruling class. Labor Action wholeheartedly endorses the Workers Party in this position. Daily comes corroboration of its correctness.

For example, Walter Graebner, reporter for Time magazine and in the main an admirer of the Stalin regime, writes in his new book, Round Trip to Russia: “The bureaucrats ... compose a social class which is every bit as distinct from the masses as the English nobility is from the cockneys.”

The workers of the world must face the fact that the Russian revolution has had a setback. With the next revolutionary wave, the Russian masses will have to overthrow their new class of usurpers – as the workers in other countries will have to overthrow their capitalist classes.

Stalin betrayed the Russian Revolution. The myth of “socialism in one country” stands exposed as lying propaganda.

What we must remember is that the Russian workers by their Revolution showed that workers can set up their own government, can run the industries, can plan national production. The Stalinist betrayal of the Revolution must engrave on our minds the lesson that the way to lasting international socialism is through international revolutionary solidarity. The workers of the world must unite!

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Last updated: 22 May 2015