How Marxist were the Bolsheviks?

Please note the following work was written between September 2004 and August 2006. You may quote from it but I would ask that you credit the author and publish a link to this page.

How Marxist were the Bolsheviks?

Keith Shilson



Part 1: A Definition of Marxism

Part 2: Analysis
     Section A: 1917 – 1924
          Idea: Lenin’s theory of the state
          Practice: The ‘withering away of the state’?

     Section B: 1924 – 1939
          Idea: Socialism In One Country
          Practice: The strengthening of the state?




The main purpose of this work is to discover to what extent the Bolsheviks, in both theory and practice, followed the principles of Marxist theory. This instantly throws up a number of methodological problems. In this area of political thought, as much as any other, words have to be very carefully defined.

By the Bolsheviks or the Bolshevik Party I am referring to the Bolshevik faction within the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party known as the Bolsheviks and which was later renamed the Communist Party. It is specifically the ideas and actions of the ‘leading Bolsheviks’, sometimes known as the ‘Old Bolsheviks’ that I am interested in, people such as Lenin, Bukharin, Preobrazhensky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky and Stalin.

By Marxist theory or Marxism, I am specifically referring to the writings of Karl Marx and, to some extent, Friedrich Engels.1 I am not referring to ‘classical Marxism’2 as a whole as this often includes the writings of Lenin. It is precisely this assumption, that Lenin forms part of the ‘trinity’ of classical Marxism, that I am hoping to test. I am also not referring to ‘orthodox Marxism’. This, also known as ‘Marxism-Leninism’, or Stalinism, essentially refers to the policies of the Soviet Union and again, this is what will be tested here. Finally, I am not referring to ‘Western Marxism’, neo-Marxism, or Euro-Communism. Not Euro-Communism because it is, to a large extent an outgrowth of Stalinism. Not ‘Western’ nor neo-Marxism because they largely take Marxist concepts such as exploitation and the oppression of the working class, but rather than frame them within the wider Marxist methodological framework they use a ‘pluralist intellectual framework’ and these theories, despite being ‘informed by a Marxist perspective’, do not accept many of the principles of Marx’s own analysis.3

I shall begin by outlining the major elements of Marx’s theories, with an emphasis on his ideas for revolutionary practice and any comments he makes that specifically concern Russia.

The main body of the work will be divided along two axes. The first will divide ‘what the Bolsheviks said’, or the ideas of the leading Bolsheviks through written works and published speeches, from ‘what the Bolsheviks did’, or the actions of the Bolsheviks as a revolutionary party. The second axis will divide the period into two historical sections: the period from 1917 up to Lenin’s death in 1924, and the period from 1924 to 1939. I will then draw my conclusions on the basis of three criteria. I will decide to what extent the actions and thoughts of the Bolsheviks either follow the writings of Karl Marx, express and develop the principles of Marxism, or are decidedly non-Marxist.

It may be wondered what this would achieve. It may be asked, is it possible to decide ‘how Marxist’ someone is? Even if one can decide, is it desirable? If we discover that Bukharin was ‘more Marxist’ than Zinoviev, but ‘less Marxist’ than Lenin, for example, what does this actually prove and why is this important? I think this is vital for the future of Marxism and the world. Marxism is not dogma that people can simply read and then instantly know how to make a revolution. Marxism is a method of analysis that requires people to use that method to evaluate situations within their historical context and determine a Marxist analysis. This is not done to show that some people are ‘better Marxists’ than others, but to determine the correct path for the movement. It is therefore important to build up a body of work that is ‘Marxist’, distinct from that which is not. This can then be used as a guide for the future.

Some academics argue that the Soviet Union was not based on Marxist principles at all. They argue that the Bolsheviks had ‘no prospect of creating a society without exploitation and oppression’ and that it would not have mattered whether Bukharin, Trotsky or Stalin had determined the direction of the party after Lenin’s death.4 Indeed many Marxists in 1917, such as Karl Kautsky, argued the Bolsheviks had broken with Marxism. This opinion will be put to the test in this work.

Other academics, and indeed some ‘orthodox Marxists’,5 argue that the Soviet Union was based on Marxism and that when the Soviet Union, in their words, ‘collapsed’, Marxism collapsed with it. There are a number of assumptions underlying this position and the very idea that Marxism could collapse with the Soviet Union. Firstly, it assumes that Marxism as a theory was a prediction or prophecy of the future course of the world. Secondly, it assumes that the Soviet Union was the realisation of that prediction and that it was based on the writings of Karl Marx. And thirdly, it assumes that as the practical project of Marxism has failed, then the theoretical ideas behind it must also have failed. These academics then use this rationale as a neat way of dismissing Marxism without actually dealing with it as a theory.6 However, if it could be proven that Marxism is not a prediction of the future but a method of analysis and that the Soviet Union was not the realisation of the ideas of Karl Marx, then it would seem that, if writers want to be viewed as credible, Marxism will have to be taken seriously and examined to see what relevance it has in the twenty-first century. I believe this to be considerable.

Part 1: A Definition of Marxism
Karl Marx’s social theory is often said to have come from three main sources, German philosophy, English political economy and French politics. Indeed Marx began with a critique not only of the German Idealist philosophy of Hegel, but also of philosophy itself. He also critiqued the political economy of Smith and Ricardo. Again Marx found the self-contradiction not only in their work, but also in the discipline as a whole. Finally Marx critiqued French revolutionary politics, and the Utopians in particular, and found it to be inadequate.

Hegel’s philosophy was, in large part, an attempt to understand what knowledge is. Hegel believed that human consciousness progressed over time by making mistakes and thereby gaining clues about how to continue. He said consciousness develops false ways of thinking and by challenging the underlying assumptions they can be shown to be inadequate on their own terms; we will find their self-contradiction. In this way consciousness ‘learns’ and progresses to a new form of consciousness, ultimately arriving at what Hegel called ‘absolute knowledge’.7

This method is known as dialectical. At the level of ideas, rather than disagreeing with one position and taking up the ‘apparent opposite’, a dialectical approach shows ‘how the dichotomy underlying the dispute is false’ and that a new position may contain elements of both previous positions.8 Hegel sees this movement as the real truth; ‘things acquire their real meaning only when we see them as moments in a process of change’.9 Hegel said common-sense ideas of the world abstract out one side of its nature and presents it as the complete picture. He said we must get to a concrete, many-sided nature. To think concretely is to think in a many-sided way; to think abstractly is to think in a one-sided, or partial, way and present it as the total truth.

Hegel also had a view of history (as the progress of ideas) and introduced the concept of alienation.10 Marx deals with these ideas but in a radically changed form. This is because his dialectical approach, which is so crucial to all of his ideas, is the ‘direct opposite’ of Hegel’s. Marx criticises Hegel for placing consciousness or thought above the real world, as though the material world were only the external form of thought. For Marx it is the opposite; thought is only an internal reflection of the material world. Marx says: ‘With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel in the mystical shell’.

Marx’s view of history proceeds on this basis; it is a materialist conception of history. However this does not mean Marx was a crude materialist. Marx described his whole social theory as ‘scientific socialism’. For Marx, this means viewing things as many-sided. Marx discussed whether material activity or human thought was important in human development and understanding human behaviour. Marx believed both schools, the materialist and the idealist, took an element of truth and presented it abstractly. The real truth, however, is that both are simultaneously true; a theory that is two-sided and concrete.

Marx says in the Communist Manifesto, ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles’. Marx states that the fundamental feature of any society is the production and reproduction of the material conditions of existence. This means food, clothing, shelter and so on. Human history has passed through various modes of production. Ever since the ‘agricultural revolution’, when humans formed into settled communities and were able to produce a material surplus, human history has involved class struggle, whether it has been between master and slave, lord and serf, or capitalist and worker and as the economic system has changed, so these social relations have changed.

This is because the surplus labour of the producing class is appropriated by a minority, who are able to control the means of production. So class is determined by ones relation to the means of production; whether one controls those means or is subject to them. In each mode of production, at a certain stage in its development, the productive forces of society have come into conflict with the existing relations of production. These relations then become a brake on the development of those productive forces and so ‘begins an era of social revolution’. New classes are produced and therefore class struggle and a new mode of production is formed. The economic ‘base’ (which is determined by the productive forces and the relations of production) conditions the political ‘superstructure’. In other words, the economic system conditions social, political and intellectual life. This includes the state, which exists to defend the interests of the dominant class. So as the mode of production changes through history, so to does the formation of state and society.

So each mode of production contains a material contradiction that is resolved in a new mode of production. For example, the mode of production that comes directly before the current mode, capitalism, was known as feudalism and was exemplified by mediaeval Europe. It was aristocratic, hierarchical and dynastic and was based on land ownership as a form of private property. In this society there was direct exploitation. Serfs, or peasants, had a strip of land that they could work, but for a certain period of time each year they had to work for the feudal landowner (lord, baron or aristocrat). So the landowner could appropriate the surplus labour of the serfs because he owned and controlled the means of production and had private property, land.

At a certain stage in the development of feudalism, people began to trade products. This developed until people began to produce products specifically to be sold. This led to the industrial revolution, which transformed society. Feudal relations of production began to hamper this development and people tended to fall into two new classes, the capitalist class or bourgeoisie and the working class or proletariat. There was then a period of class struggle in which the bourgeoisie fought with the feudal aristocracy for dominance, which eventually led to the formation of a new mode of production, capitalism and a new formation of state and society. The French and American revolutions can be seen as the new economically dominant class, the bourgeoisie, in those countries fighting for and winning a new form of state that would defend their interests and the interests of capitalism.

So for Marx, capitalism is a specifically historical mode of production that has its own internal contradictions that will lead to a new mode of production. This will be discussed in more detail later. Marx describes wealth in a capitalist society as ‘an immense accumulation of commodities’. Commodities can be defined as things that ‘are made, not to be directly consumed, but to be sold on the market. They are produced in order to be exchanged’. However, a commodity does not have to be a physical object; a service is also a commodity. Under capitalism, labour power becomes a commodity. The commodity labour power defines the central social relation of production.

The capitalist production process works like this: the capitalist starts with capital, or money, which is invested to produce commodities. These are then exchanged for more money. The significance of this is that it is more money than was invested in the beginning. This extra money, sometimes known as profit, Marx termed surplus value. ‘Labour is the source of value, and moreover the worker will normally create during a working day more value than the daily wages with which the capitalist purchased his or her labour power’. The difference is surplus value and is appropriated by the employer. Capitalists enter a market for labour power. Workers produce a volume of work and a surplus accrues to the capitalist in the form of surplus value. So the key point here is that the capitalist makes profit by exploiting the worker.

The competition between different capitalists forces each of them to accumulate more capital. This is so they can continually invest and avoid bankruptcy. Competition also means that each capitalist is trying to save money by reducing his wage bill. However, as labour is the source of value, this means there is a tendency for the rate of profit to fall, and this can produce economic crises.

Marx discussed the way class society produces alienation. He observed under capitalism that, as workers, we are alienated from the process of labour; we do not choose what to make. We are also alienated from the product of our labour; we do not own it. We are also alienated from other workers; we have to compete with them for jobs and for promotion. And we are alienated from our species as a whole (species-being). According to Marx, only when we have transformed our material conditions to be self-determining in our labour will we be truly free.

So as well as critiquing political economy dialectically at the level of ideas and discovering the abstractions and contradictions in the work of Ricardo, Smith and so on, Marx also critiques the material world in a dialectical way and reveals abstractions and contradictions there too. For example, money is an abstraction and capitalism has internal contradictions with a long-term tendency to undermine itself. Capitalism has an enormous capacity to innovate and this develops the forces of production. But it is precisely this development that leads capitalism into crisis and ultimately to a new mode of production, communism.

In his earlier works, Marx describes the movement from capitalism to communism as freedom from alienation. He says private property is both the product of alienated labour and the means by which labour is alienated. So society must be emancipated from private property, or to put this another way, the proletariat must be emancipated, because this is also ‘universal human emancipation’. This is because the relationship between worker and production is the principal social relation. The alienated worker in bourgeois civil society is an abstraction and under communism he again becomes concrete. In this sense Marx defines communism as ‘the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e. human) being’.

So Marx believes the abolition of private property will mean the end of classes, exploitation and alienation. But how will this happen? Unlike with previous transitions between modes of production, no new classes are created. In other words, the transition to communism means an end to class society. This is because with feudalism the ruling class are able to exist by exploiting serfs on the basis of owning the means of production, or land ownership. With capitalism the ruling class exists by exploiting workers on the basis of owning the means of production, factories, machines and so on. However, with communism, the new ‘ruling class’ is at once the producing class, workers, who own the means of production collectively. So there is no exploitation or separation into classes. In a communist society people work for themselves collectively, for the good of society as a whole. So for Marx, the proletariat is a universal class; the emancipation of the proletariat is human emancipation and it must also be self-emancipation, achieved by the proletariat itself, through class struggle. This will bring about great social revolution and proletarian control of the means of production. However, unlike with previous revolutions, the proletariat will not become a new ruling class, but will ultimately abolish class altogether.

This will happen because in the course of defending themselves against capitalism, workers will come together in trade unions so they can act collectively. Through strike action, workers will come to understand the power they have by virtue of ‘their position within capitalist relations of production’. They will understand that their labour is the source of value and that without it the capitalist system could not function. So the workers have power, but only collectively as a class and only the working class can seize the means of production and create a classless society. It is important to point out here that Marx did not believe, therefore, that the peasantry alone could be a revolutionary class. However, he did believe that peasant uprisings, when coincident with working class struggle could play a role in creating a new society. In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx explains that in France in 1789 the peasantry had great ‘political influence’ because they were led by the bourgeoisie. Similarly, he believed, the working class could join with the peasantry to form a movement to overthrow the bourgeoisie.

So the capitalist exploitation of workers leads to class struggle and this in turn enables workers to become conscious of themselves as a class. However it is not enough in itself. Marx said that purely engaging in economic struggle would only produce temporary improvements in workers’ pay and conditions. It is only by challenging the very nature of the system of wage labour, by engaging in political struggle, that workers will gain the necessary class consciousness and this requires the existence of a workers’ party. As Marx states in the Communist Manifesto, the role of the communist party is to be ‘the most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties of every country’ with ‘the advantage of clearly understanding the…general results of the proletarian movement’ and having as they do ‘no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole’. So the aim of the party is not ‘to shape and mould the proletarian movement’, but the ‘formation of the proletariat into a class [able to] overthrow…bourgeois supremacy [leading to the] conquest of political power by the proletariat’.

Marx defines ‘political power’ as ‘the organised power of one class for oppressing another’, or state power. So, Marx says, the proletariat, organised as a class, will overthrow the capitalist state, seize power and make ‘itself the ruling class’. Then it will smash the state. Unlike with previous revolutions, that ‘perfected this machine instead of smashing it’, the proletariat would ‘concentrate all its forces of destruction against it’.

There would then be a temporary period of the proletariat acting as a ruling class. This period comes between capitalism and communism, and Marx termed it the ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ and he described the Paris Commune of 1871 as an example of this. He said it was ‘essentially a working class government, the produce of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour’. This government had replaced the army with an armed population; its leaders were elected by universal suffrage and recallable at any time; the members of the police force worked for the commune and not the government and were also instantly recallable; judges were also elected, recallable and responsible to the commune; and everyone received workers wages. These measures changed the position of the state from being above society, to being subordinate to it and constituted a greater form of democracy than had hitherto been known.

Marx makes it clear that the revolution, like capitalism, must be international. He says ‘Empirically, communism is only possible as the act of the dominant peoples ‘all at once’ and simultaneously’, because communism is dependent on the productive forces developing to a certain level and this development is international. Therefore he is saying that a revolution in a single country, that did not spread, would necessarily fail, as it could not obtain the ‘great increase in productive power’ it would need to abolish classes; nor would it establish the necessary ‘universal intercourse between men’, which is important because ‘each nation [is] dependent on the revolutions of the others’. Therefore the class struggle would carry on. Internationalism is a key component of Marx’s socialism and indeed he was an important figure in the International Working Men’s Association. Marx argued that the decision to support or oppose a national movement should be based on whether or not it was in the interest of the international revolution, whether or not it improved the unity of the international working class. Hence Marx’s famous rallying cry, ‘Workingmen of all countries, unite!’

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat would mean workers’ control of the means of production via a system of workers’ councils, which would form a new kind of state. This system of socialism would be a transitionary period before full communism. At first this might mean the workers would get a share of the wealth of society in proportion to how much work they had done. This, Marx says, is because people would still be used to the idea of wage labour and because there would still be a situation of scarcity. Marx makes it clear that full communism requires abundance. However, eventually communism would progress to the stage where production and distribution would be decided ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’. In this ‘higher phase of communist society’ the economy would be planned according to the needs of society as determined by the producers. Individual abilities and needs would be recognised and acted upon, thus creating a ‘real’ equality.

By abolishing the existing order and with no other classes left, it will have abolished class and therefore also ‘its own supremacy as a class’. Society will now be based on co-operation rather than competition, ‘association’, rather than ‘class antagonisms’. There will also eventually no longer be any need for a state. Having abolished class and therefore also class antagonisms and having no other class to oppress, the state ceases to have any reason to exist and ‘dies out’ or ‘withers away’. This would not happen instantly, but once the counter-revolution had been thoroughly defeated and productivity had increased, thus freeing workers to participate in the running of society.

Part 2: Analysis
Section A: 1917 – 1924

Idea: Lenin’s theory of the state
Lenin wrote State and Revolution in 1917. In it he outlined his theory of the state. Lenin began with the Marxist theory of the state but, as it was ‘a line of thought rather than a finished system’, it was necessary for him to develop the theory with reference to the specific conditions of early twentieth century Europe in general and Russia in particular.

Lenin begins with a critique of the state in bourgeois society by stating simply that ‘the state is a special organisation of force: it is an organisation of violence for the suppression of some class’. For Lenin, capitalism was in its monopoly stage, which he described as imperialism. States expressed themselves through violence, both between states in terms of the First World War and within individual societies through the state’s violent repression and the removal of freedoms.

He goes on to say ‘to decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism’. For Lenin, as for Marx, this meant that the revolution must ‘set itself the task, not of improving the state machine but of demolishing and destroying it’.

Lenin offered an alternative view of the state. For a time there must be a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. He says ‘the dictatorship of a single class is necessary not only for every class society in general, not only for the proletariat which has overthrown the bourgeoisie, but also for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from “classless society,” from communism’. So this would be a temporary phase and one in which there would be ‘an immense extension of democracy, which, for the first time, becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the money-bags’. There would also be, he says, ‘suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and oppressors of the people’.

Precisely how this was to be constructed, however, was not elaborated upon in any great detail. What Lenin does say, however, is an expansion of the formulation given by Marx and Engels. Lenin argues that once the victorious proletarian revolution has destroyed the bourgeois state, a dictatorship of the proletariat must at once be created. At its very inception, Lenin argues, this state begins to ‘wither away’ as socialism is constructed. Indeed for Lenin, ‘it is no longer a state in the proper sense of the word’. This is because the ‘state’ exists to suppress not the majority of the population but a minority. Moreover, he argues, the need for repression will diminish:
‘for the suppression of the minority of exploiters by the majority of the wage-slaves of yesterday is comparatively so easy, simple and natural a task that it will entail far less bloodshed than the suppression of the risings of slaves, serfs or wage-labourers… And it is incompatible with the extension of democracy to such an overwhelming majority of the population that the need for a special machine of suppression will begin to disappear’.
Lenin does not say so explicitly, but there is a suggestion that Lenin is advocating the arming of the proletariat to defend their interests, possibly unmediated by the state. He says ‘the mass of the population will rise to take an independent part, not only in voting and elections, but also in the everyday administration’. That said he also recognises that, for a while at least, it may be necessary to continue to employ members of the former state bureaucracy, although they will be paid no more than a worker and will be ‘simply carrying out our instructions’.

At the heart of Lenin’s theory is an obsession with breaking with the old prejudice that a certain class of people are born to be able to carry out the administration of the state and with extending democracy in every facet of the state. Soviet democracy demanded that public life be transformed so that working people may take an active role in decision-making and so that they may participate in the administration of public affairs. Coercion would wither away, as eventually would the state itself, as people got used to the idea of working ‘for themselves’.

Practice: The ‘withering away of the state’?
Lenin was ‘interrupted’ in writing State and Revolution by the events of October 1917. He was well aware that his theory might develop during this process and described the creation of the socialist state as ‘something new, unprecedented in history [which] cannot be studied from books.’

During the revolutionary events of 1917 the soviets, or workers’ and peasants’ councils, had been created along with factory committees. These new and highly innovative forms of workers’ control were in the tradition of the Paris Commune and were to form the basis of the socialist state. Committees were also formed, and quickly grew, within the army.

Immediately after the seizure of power in October 1917 authority was transferred to the Soviets. An All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies was held, which set-up a Council of People’s Commissars as a Provisional Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. The Government announced a number of decrees such as the division of land between the peasants; and workers’ control over certain businesses, but these had to be put into practice by the peasants and workers themselves.

The Government recognised that it was not in a position to nationalise the entire economy being, as it was, isolated and lacking in resources. What actually developed was a compromise between the proletarian state and Russian capitalism. However the employers responded to workers’ control with lockouts and many businesses were nationalised by local soviets or even by workers themselves, sometimes against the wishes of the central Government.

In the field of housing, local committees appeared, in order to deal with the housing shortage, and in November 1917 these were given the backing of central Government. Similarly education was provided not by the Government but by the people themselves. Lenin himself said in November ‘Comrades, working people! Remember that now you yourselves are at the helm of the state. No one will help you if you do not unite and take into your hands all affairs of state… Get on with the job yourselves; begin right at the bottom, do not wait for anyone’. In December he wrote ‘One of the most important tasks of today, if not the most important is to develop [the] independent initiative of the workers, and of all the working and exploited people generally, develop it as widely as possible in creative organisational work. At all costs we must break the old, absurd, savage, despicable and disgusting prejudice that only the so-called ‘upper classes’, only the rich, and those who have gone through the school of the rich, are capable of administering the state and directing the organisational development of socialist society’.

In March 1918 Lenin described the revolution to the Seventh Party Congress as ‘a revolution that the masses themselves create by their slogans, their efforts’. He went on to say ‘socialism cannot be implemented by a minority, by the Party. It can be implemented only by tens of millions when they have learned to do it themselves’. On the same occasion, Lenin also said ‘since the working people themselves are undertaking to administer the state and establish armed forces that support the given state system, the special government apparatus is disappearing, the special apparatus for a certain form of state coercion is disappearing’. He also said ‘just when will the state wither away? We shall have managed to convene two more congresses before the time comes to say: see how our state is withering away. It is too early for that. To proclaim the withering away of the state prematurely would distort the historical perspective’.

However later Lenin came to argue that the state did not begin to wither away immediately after the creation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and as socialism was constructed. Indeed he came to realise that class struggle intensifies after the destruction of the bourgeois state and thus the state actually became temporarily strengthened. Nevertheless he described ‘Soviet power’ as ‘a new type of state’ with a ‘new democracy’ and with no need of a bureaucracy, police or army in the traditional sense. However in March 1918 Lenin said ‘the bricks of which socialism will be composed have not yet been made’.

So Lenin had changed from a hopeful enthusiasm that the participation of the workers would relatively quickly render the state unnecessary to a guarded realisation that it would take longer than he had first anticipated for the state to wither away. This does not indicate a contradiction in Lenin’s ideas so much as the complexity of the unfolding situation.

In the spring of 1918, Soviet democracy was functioning well and could truly be said to be a dictatorship of the proletariat. However the Russian working class was already beginning to be weakened. Economic collapse had led to factories being dismantled, enterprises being closed and large numbers of workers being without work. The populations of Petrograd and Moscow were far smaller than they had been one year earlier and this, combined with the fact that the production of bread dropped rapidly, led to poverty, starvation and disease. This weakening of the working class continued unabated for several years resulting in the virtual disappearance of workers as a political force in Russia. In the spring of 1919 Lenin wrote ‘the organisation of proletarian influence over the rest of the population, the creation of a new mass environment’ was ‘an immensely difficult task, the fulfilment of which will require decades’.

The necessities of the civil war caused a decline in the democracy of the proletarian state. Between 7th November 1917 and 10th July 1918 there were four Congresses of the Soviets. Between November 1918 and December 1922 the Congress met just once a year. Moreover, despite being constitutionally subordinate to the Congress, in practice power shifted to the Central Executive Committee, particularly between Congresses. Indeed the Committee, which consisted of an unwieldy 200 to 386 members, also began meeting less frequently and power became concentrated, in practice, in the hands of a seven or eight member ‘presidium’. The Council of People’s Commissars, itself formally subordinated to the Congress of Soviets, was able, in practice, to operate independently of Congress, the Central Executive Committee and its presidium.

The civil war also undermined the local soviets. In many places they disappeared altogether, in others soviets were combined. Revolutionary Committees, set up to carry out the civil war, were, by a decree of the Council of People’s Commissars, superior to the soviets. The soviets were also undermined during this period by the Cheka, or the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission to fight Counter-revolution and Sabotage. On 28th August 1918 the Central Cheka sent an instruction to local committees that the Cheka should not be subordinate to local soviets. Pietsch, a historian, said ‘If the constant changing of the fronts caused the collapse of some Soviets, the Cheka, which disposed its own troops, represented the state authority in the areas affected by the war’.

In October 1917 Lenin wrote ‘the wholesale arming of the people and the abolition of the regular army is a task which we must not lose sight of for a single minute’. In April he had said that officers must be elected by the soldiers; ‘soldiers will obey and respect only elected authority’. In December the Council of People’s Commissars decreed that ‘the full power within any army unit or combination of units is to be in the hands of its soldiers’ committees and Soviets’. All officers were to be elected, all ranks between corporal and general were abolished and privileges, saluting and decorations were also abolished. However when, from March 1918, Trotsky began to organise the ‘Red Army’, he found that many of the conscript soldiers deserted. He decided that in the same way that ‘industry needs engineers [and] farming needs qualified agronomists, so military specialists are indispensable to defence’. By ‘military specialists’ Trotsky was referring to the former Tsarist officers that had recently been barred from the army ranks. These officers were to be shadowed by a political commissar whose role was to ensure their political loyalty. Despite the obvious military necessities that drove the Bolsheviks to adopt this strategy, it was undoubtedly about as far from Lenin’s theory of a workers’ militia as set out in State and Revolution as it was possible to have.

By the end of 1920 there were five times as many state officials as industrial workers (almost 5.9 million). Although there were many workers in the Soviet administration, the vast majority were of bourgeois origin. In June 1920 Lenin said ‘the soviet government employs hundreds of thousands of office workers, who are either bourgeois or semi-bourgeois…they have absolutely no confidence in our soviet government’, a position supported by an inquiry of 1922. In March 1919 he said ‘We threw out the old bureaucrats, but they came back… What to do about it? We must fight this scum again and again and if the scum has crawled back we must again and again clean it up, chase it out, keep it under the surveillance of communist workers and peasants’. In November 1922 he said ‘We now have a vast army of government employees, but lack sufficiently educated forces to exercise real control over them…there are hundreds of thousands of old officials whom we got from the tsar and from bourgeois society and who, partly deliberately and partly unwittingly, work against us’.

The civil war had a huge impact on all the institutions of the state. State organisations had to be able to deal with the realities of the civil war and to be militarist in their outlook. Bukharin and Preobrazhensky described the situation as ‘not simply the dictatorship of the proletariat [but] a militarist-proletarian dictatorship’. The increasingly bureaucratic nature of the state and its institutions was caused and exacerbated by the blockade imposed by the Allied and White (or former Tsarist) armies; the uncooperative or even hostile attitude of the bulk of the peasantry; and the weakness of the industrial proletariat. Time and time again the Bolsheviks deviated from the Marxist theory of the state, and indeed Lenin’s conception as outlined in State and Revolution, but many times too it was followed and was used to condemn bureaucratic degeneration.

Section B: 1924 – 1939

Idea: Socialism In One Country
By way of introduction to this section it is important to look at what attitude the Bolsheviks had had over the preceding period towards building socialism in Russia. Before 1905, Russian Marxists had considered the prospect of socialist revolution in a backward country such as Russia to be impossible. Therefore they believed their role was to aid the bourgeois revolution. After the 1905 ‘dress rehearsal’, Lenin and Trotsky put forward alternative views. Lenin believed workers and peasants, with a proletarian vanguard party at its head, could carry out a bourgeois revolution and set-up a ‘democratic dictatorship’ of workers and peasants to prepare the ground for a later socialist revolution. Trotsky also believed that a revolutionary proletarian-peasant coalition should lead the bourgeois revolution, but, by contrast, he believed that the proletariat would be compelled to continue uninterruptedly with the socialist revolution. This Trotsky described as ‘permanent revolution’. Lenin was incredibly sceptical of this theory. However in April 1917 Lenin called upon the Bolsheviks to seize power on behalf of the proletariat and to turn the bourgeois revolution at once into a socialist one, thus adopting a practical position almost identical to Trotsky’s theoretical one. Neither Lenin nor Trotsky believed a socialist economy could be built in Russia alone, nor indeed that a proletarian regime could survive for long, without the proletarian revolution spreading to other countries in Europe. Therefore they believed in ‘permanent revolution’ in a new sense.

The ideas of the Bolsheviks in 1917, then, were fundamentally rooted in internationalism. They argued that capitalism, in its imperialist stage, had brought the world together in one system and was now destroying it in a global war. Opposition to this system was also growing, particularly across Europe. Capitalism had to be overcome and the moment had to be seized in Russia before it passed. Revolution in Russia was meant to act as a spark to ignite revolution in other countries. Once this had happened Russia would no longer be isolated and collectively the revolutionary countries would have the capacity to build socialism.

The ABC of Communism, an attempt to set out the Bolsheviks’ theoretical position and practical policies in 1919, stated:
‘The necessity for the communist revolution arises above all from the circumstance that Russia has become intimately connected with the system of world economy. Our country is now merely part of the world economy. If the question arises, in what way Russia can advance to the communist system in spite of the backward condition of the country, the answer will mainly be given by pointing to the international significance of the revolution. The proletarian revolution must today be a world revolution. On world lines only can it develop’.
It is important to stress that this was not an unrealistic proposition. There was massive social crisis throughout Europe and this almost resulted in revolution on several occasions. In Germany between 1918 and 1921 and again in 1923, the state came close to being toppled. Arguably the failure of the German revolution had more to do with the weaknesses of the German left than an absence of revolutionary possibilities. Similar potentialities existed in Austria and Italy and in Hungary a soviet regime that was created in March 1919 was only defeated after the country was invaded by Romania.

In March 1919 in an attempt to encourage the international revolution, the Third International, or Communist International, was created in Moscow. At the Second Congress in July 1920, Zinoviev said ‘I am deeply convinced that the Second World Congress is the precursor of another congress, the World Congress of Soviet Republics’. By 1921 the Third Congress was host to representatives from 48 new Communist parties in 52 countries.

This was important because the idea of an international movement was seen as essential for the final victory of communism:
‘If…for the victory of communism, it is essential that there should be a world revolution and that the workers in various lands should render mutual aid to one another, this implies that the international solidarity of the working class is an essential preliminary to victory… The workers’ communist movement can conquer only as an international communist movement.’
However, as the optimism that the revolution would spread began to wane around 1923, so the tendencies towards a nationalist position increased amongst the leadership of Soviet Russia. This, combined with the apparent stabilisation of international capitalism leading to the increased likelihood of Russia’s isolation, was the background to the concept of ‘socialism in one country’. Bukharin, and then Stalin, argued that although international revolution would be of great benefit, it was not a precondition for Russia to develop on its own. This was a total contradiction of the policy that the Bolsheviks had had since long before 1917.

Stalin’s concept of ‘socialism in one country’ was first mentioned in his article that was published in Pravda on 20th December 1924 entitled October and Comrade Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution. This was itself at least partly based on a report Bukharin had recently read to a party meeting entitled ‘The Theory of Permanent Revolution’. This was seen by many as an attempt, on the part of Stalin, to discredit Trotsky and to present a more positive alternative of his own to Trotsky’s theory.

In April 1924 Stalin said ‘for the final victory of socialism, for the organisation of socialist production, the efforts of one country, particularly of a peasant country like Russia, are insufficient’. However in January 1925 the earlier Pravda article was re-written and re-printed as The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists. In it Stalin discussed how, as a result of the October revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat had been established in Russia on two bases. The first was that it had been based on an alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry. The second was that it had been achieved ‘as a result of the victory of socialism in one country’. This counterpoised Trotsky’s ‘Permanent Revolution’ in that Trotsky played down the importance of the peasantry and insisted that ‘the real rise of a socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the most important countries of Europe’. Trotsky’s view was clearly in line with the Bolshevik policy that had existed for many years. However, by finding obscure quotes from Lenin and misinterpreting the meaning, Stalin was able to make it appear that his view was the real successor to Lenin’s position.

Practice: The strengthening of the state?
Socialism in one country appealed to many Russians both within Russia and abroad that had retained a sense of patriotism. As the concept became more widely known and the regime began to be seen as stable, ‘national pride’ was revived to an exceptional degree, lending a degree of support to the idea. Trotsky and Zinoviev both criticised the concept as ‘national narrow-mindedness’.

In April 1926 Rykov attempted to appeal to patriotism when he said ‘We achieved these successes in the sphere of our whole national economy without any help from outside. Our state is apparently the only one which was capable of recovering from unheard of destruction without recourse to foreign loans… The workers and peasants know how to build their economy, organising it better than under the bourgeois-feudal and capitalist order’.

Clearly this new doctrine, and therefore now the interests of Russia, came into conflict with the aims of the international Communist movement. By 1928-9 the Communist International was subordinate to the Soviet state and was being used as a tool of its own foreign policy. Communists in other countries made assumptions that Russia could do no wrong and followed Stalin’s commands to the letter. 1400 Communists that fled to Russia expecting help were shot.

In 1924 the government of the USSR backed the nationalist Kuomintang party in China over the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The USSR sent the Kuomintang arms as well as political and military advisers. The Executive of the Communist International imposed a policy on the CCP of working with Kuomintang. The aim of the Kuomintang was to exploit the popularity of the CCP and with its support to win national power without any social reforms. In 1926 the Kuomintang was even allowed to join the Communist International.

‘Socialism in one country’ appealed to many people within the party and particularly to the new layer of bureaucrats who saw this as a way of strengthening their position. The concept of ‘socialism in one country’ was inextricably linked to the rise of this new layer within society and had huge implications for the concept of the state that Lenin had put forward in 1917.

After the civil war there had been attempts to reduce bureaucracy within state and party. In an attempt to bring order to the workings of the state bureaucracy, Stalin was made general secretary of the party in April 1922. In the last few years of his life Lenin struggled to come to terms with the rise to power of an elite group at the top of the state and of one man in particular, Stalin. He said ‘The proletarian policy of the party is not determined by the character of the membership, but by the undivided prestige enjoyed by the small group that might be called the old guard of the party’. From May 1922 Lenin attacked Stalin and his attempts to control the direction of the party and the state. He said ‘Comrade Stalin, since he became general secretary, has concentrated enormous power in his hands’. He also said ‘I suggest the comrades think about a way to remove Stalin from that post'’. However, with Lenin too ill to take an active part in politics, the leadership decided to ignore Lenin’s warnings.

Shortly before his death in 1924 Lenin said ‘if we take the huge bureaucratic machine [the state], that huge pile…we must ask: who is leading whom? To tell the truth, it is not they [the Bolsheviks] who are leading, they are being led’. Rather than try to correct this situation, Stalin capitalised on it. Those who were hostile to Stalin were moved to less important positions; those that were sympathetic were moved in. Within a year of taking up his position Stalin had made around 10,000 appointments. In the autumn of 1923 Trotsky said ‘the present regime…is much further from any workers’ democracy than was the regime of the fiercest period of War Communism’. Another party member said in Pravda at this time, ‘During the last year the conservatism of the committees has increased. In some committees the idea of elections has been entirely given up, and the constitution of the party is flouted… The minutes of the committees consist of nothing but orders… The way in which the committees are being transformed into bureaucratic departments controlled by a lot of unnecessary officials is simply deplorable’.

Bukharin suggested that ‘the embryo of a new ruling class might emerge through the control of the state’. In 1930 an oppositionist called Rakovsky said ‘Before our very eyes there has been and is being formed a large class of rulers with their own subdivisions, growing through controlled co-option… What unites this peculiar sort of class is the peculiar sort of property, namely state power’. He went on to describe the bureaucracy as ‘the nucleus of a class… Its appearance will mean that the working class will become another oppressed class. The bureaucracy is the nucleus of some kind of capitalist class, controlling the state and collectively owning the means of production’.

Before he died Lenin argued that there were too many new members of the Bolshevik party that did not fully understand the aims of the revolution. He argued for ‘fewer but better’ members. Nevertheless, after his death, numbers actually increased. In 1924 there were less than half a million members of the party. By 1925 there were almost 800,000 members and by 1929 this had increased to one and a half million. Moreover by the late 1920s, members that had been in the party since 1917 constituted only 5% of the whole whilst around 66% had joined since 1921 and the vast majority of those since 1924. Many of these either did not fully understand Marxist ideas or did not believe in their own capabilities. They were taught to learn about ‘Leninism’, as Stalin defined it, and to do as they were told rather than to engage in debate and analyse the changing circumstances. Around 80-90% of the revolutionary generation of 1917 had died. Preobrazhensky said the old Bolsheviks were quickly ‘becoming extinct’.

Kamenev said in 1925 ‘I have come to the conviction that Comrade Stalin cannot fulfil the role of unifier of the Bolshevik general staff. We are against the doctrine of one-man rule. We are against the creation of a “chief”’.

In 1927 and 1928 industrial unrest grew in reaction to the policies of the Stalinist regime. The Left Opposition, a faction within the Bolshevik party, organised mass meetings of workers. At one in Moscow was heard the chant ‘Down with Stalin’s dictatorship!’

During Lenin’s lifetime workers had the right to organise to defend their interests. Lenin said ‘Our present state is a workers’ state with bureaucratic deformation… Our state is such that the completely organised proletariat must protect itself against it and we must utilise these workers’ organisations for protecting the workers from their own state, in order that the workers may protect our state’. In the 1920s many thousands of workers went on strike and party members would support the strikes. However by the 1930s the trade unions had become tools of the state and no longer existed to defend workers. From 1934, unions had no role in determining wages. There was a gap of seventeen years between the Ninth Congress of the Trade Unions in 1932 and the Tenth in 1949. Seventeen years later the percentage of worker delegates at the Congress had decreased from 84.9 to 23.5.

In December 1919 at the Seventh Congress of the Soviets Trotsky said ‘It is necessary to begin a transition to the realisation of the militia system of arming the Soviet Republic’. At the Ninth Party Congress it was decided to begin organising units of a workers’ militia alongside the regular army. The idea was that these would eventually replace the army entirely, but this was never put into operation because of the decimation of the working class and the low level of the productive forces. With the beginning of the rise of the bureaucracy from 1923 however, officers increasingly began to act in a dictatorial manner. Increasingly the job of political commissar, whose job it was to defend the troops from the officers, was being given to the officers themselves. By 1926, ‘two-thirds of all positions in the Party apparatus in the army were in the hands of commanders’. The Army Statutes of 1928 crystallised these phenomena creating a separate officer caste. In 1929 something akin to the old officers’ clubs were re-introduced and gradually pay differentials grew to become acute. ‘During the second world war, privates in the Soviet Army received an allowance of 10 roubles a month, lieutenants, 1,000, and colonels, 2,400’. In 1935 a large number of ranks were re-introduced into the army, navy and air force. In 1940, yet more ranks were introduced and badges of rank of the Tsarist design were brought back.

In 1923 other republics joined the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR) to create the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The first Congress of Soviets of the USSR was in 1922. The second was in 1924, the third in 1925 and then they occurred in alternate years up until 1931. Then there was a gap of four years until the seventh Congress in 1935. Many of the most important decisions were taken between congresses without any consultation. Under Stalin, even the Central Executive Committee met for no more than ten days a year and the dealings of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet were kept secret. From the end of the nineteen-twenties, even those decisions that were passed by the Congress of Soviets were done so unanimously. No one has ever voted against, nor even abstained from, a proposal, and neither has any one ever suggested an amendment to a proposal. Moreover, no one has ever even made a speech in opposition to a proposal. This demonstrates that the Congress of Soviets had become merely ceremonial. The same can be said of the Supreme Soviet, which, when faced with Stalin’s wish to abandon alliance with Britain and France for a deal with Hitler, decided not to even discuss the matter ‘because of the clarity and consistency of the foreign policy of the Soviet Government’.

In 1937 Stalin said ‘Never before…has the world ever seen elections so completely free, and so truly democratic!’ What he failed to mention, however, was that in the coming general election, in each constituency, there would be only one candidate and the turnout of voters would be at least 98%. Evidence of electoral fraud in Soviet elections from around this time was widespread.

The 1918 Constitution of the RSFSR stated ‘The fundamental object of the Constitution…is the establishment…of the dictatorship of the urban and rural proletariat together with the peasant poor, to secure the complete suppression of the bourgeoisie, the abolition of the exploitation of man by man, and the realisation of Socialism, under which neither class divisions nor state authority will any longer exist’. After Stalin took control of the Soviet Union, however, there was no longer any mention of the ‘withering away of the state’. Stalin and his spokesmen talked about the idea that ‘socialism in one country’ involved the strengthening of the state. In 1948 Yudin said ‘The consolidation of the Soviet State by every means has been the necessary condition for the building of socialism, and now, of communism; this is equally one of the most important laws of the development of Soviet society’. However, as Cliff points out, ‘The strengthening of the Russian state, its increasing totalitarianism, can only be the result of profound class antagonisms and not of the victory of socialism’.

The international revolution had been abandoned and so it was now argued that survival depended on economic and military power. Indeed in 1937 Litvinov said ‘The defensive capacity of the Soviet Union does not depend on international combinations, but is grounded on the unfailing, growing power of the Red Army, Red Navy, and Red Air Force’. Having destroyed the remains of the revolution in his ‘counter-revolution from above’, Stalin said in 1931:
‘One feature of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered for falling behind, for her backwardness… All beat her for her backwardness, her military backwardness, for cultural backwardness, for political backwardness, for industrial backwardness, for agricultural backwardness. She was beaten because to do so was profitable and could be done with impunity… We are 50 or 100 years behind advanced countries. We must make good this distance in 10 years. Either we do it or they crush us’.
With these words Stalin made it clear that he wanted the Soviet Union to compete with global capitalism for the purposes of national security and gain. The new policy was to be capitalist competition based on a planned economy; this was the real meaning of ‘socialism in one country’. The aim was no longer to beat capitalism, but to join it.

Karl Marx set out a concept of emancipation based on the revolutionary transformation of society. He said that the potential of humanity for creative, productive, unalienated work would be unleashed only when exploitation had ended and the material conditions of every day life had fundamentally changed. This could only be brought into being by the great mass of working people who had themselves suffered under, and resisted, the class society of capitalism.

Key to this, for Marx, were the concepts of international solidarity and the necessity to smash the existing state and replace it with a radically different and much more democratic version, in which the vast majority of previously exploited people would take part in making decisions. Once this revolutionary process had spread to a number of advanced countries, the conditions would exist for the final transformation of the whole of society.

The Bolsheviks shared this vision and put it into action with the Russian revolution of 1917. This was the first such revolution in a major country. The old system was overthrown and the landlords and capitalists were dispossessed. In its place was created a truly democratic mass government led by workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils, or soviets. Through these bodies socialism began to be built. No longer would profit be the motive behind production. Now need determined what was to be produced.

In order to do this Lenin, Trotsky and others developed the ideas of Karl Marx for peculiarly Russian and twentieth century conditions. The rebirth of the soviets helped Lenin to make the crucial leap of his career; to see what others could not, that the soviets could form the basis of a proletarian state. Lenin was able to hold on to the proletarian core of Marxism, while abandoning the outdated formulae of Kautsky. Until 1917, Lenin had agreed with the Mensheviks that the Russian Revolution would remain within bourgeois limits. Only Trotsky developed the theory of Permanent Revolution. In 1917, Lenin effectively adopted this theory, recognising it to be a creative development of the Marxist theory of history. The Bolsheviks did not always get everything right, as neither, of course, did Marx, and they sometimes disagreed with each other. But always the focus was on obtaining a Marxist analysis of the current situation, and the Russian revolution of 1917 is a testament to their success.

When it came to putting the theories into practice the Bolsheviks again had much success. However world war, foreign invasion, blockade and civil war, the massive economic decline this created, the poverty, starvation and disease that followed and which also led to the destruction of much of the working class, combined with the failure of the revolution to spread, to make it impossible for the Bolsheviks to remain committed to their theoretical programme in the years from 1918 to 1923. Where they did deviate from it, however, it was always seen as a tactical retreat in order to solve an immediate problem, by which time, it was hoped, the revolution would have spread, the productive forces would have increased and the building of socialism would resume.

From 1924, however, and the rise of Stalin to the leadership of the party, theories such as ‘socialism in one country’ were fundamental breaks from the Marxist heritage of the party. A new ‘class’ of bureaucrats developed that acted like a capitalist class and exploited the working class once more. In 1928 the first ‘Five Year Plan’ indicated that the new emphasis was on capital accumulation. The so-called ‘Old Bolsheviks’ were discredited, arrested and/or executed. Workers’ rights were withdrawn and workers resumed their subordinate role. The state was strengthened as the leaders sought economic and military power. In short, there had been an internal counter-revolution that had given up the ideas of Marx and returned to capitalism, albeit in a new form.

1. Engels was a contemporary of Marx and they collaborated on much of their work. However, Engels was an independent thinker, so use of his individual work will be limited to those occasions where it helps to clarify Marx’s opinion.

2. ‘No discussion of Marxism…would be complete without reference to the third of the trinity of classical historical materialist scholarship. Lenin’, Hazel Smith, 1999, pp. 143.

3. Hazel Smith, 1999, pp. 144-149.

4. Robert Service, ‘Did Lenin Lead to Stalin?’ in John Rees with Robert Service, Sam Farber and Robin Blackburn, 1997, p. 100.

5. See my definition of ‘orthodox Marxism’ above.

6. I am thinking particularly of Francis Fukuyama and followers of his ‘End of History’ thesis. Fukuyama asserted that history in terms of a progressive or directional account of history as a meaningful totality has come to an end, in the sense that there will be no new epochs. He argues we are heading towards global liberal democracy based on rights. He says liberal democracy is the dominant form of political organisation and there is a trend towards it throughout the world. This is, he says, because it is the rational, ideal form of government. Fukuyama develops ideas from Hegel and yet makes no attempt to deal with Marx’s criticisms of Hegel.

7. G. W. F. Hegel, 1977, pp. 46-57.

8. Robert Stern, 2002, p. xiii.

9. Alex Callinicos, 1995, p. 71.

10. Alienation [Entfremdung] in Hegel is a phase that self-consciousness goes through. The ‘Unhappy Consciousness’ is an alienated consciousness that is aware of the contradictions between the Self and the world and projects the resolution of this contradiction in the future in the idea of an after-life. For more information see ‘The Truth of Self-Certainty’ and ‘Freedom of Self-Consciousness’ in G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit.

11. ‘Afterword to the Second German Edition’ in Karl Marx, 1999, p. 11.

12. ‘Afterword to the Second German Edition’ in Karl Marx, 1999, p. 11.

13. Tony Cliff, 2000, p. 18.

14. Marx outlines this criticism in the first of his Theses on Feuerbach, see David Wootton (ed.), 1996, p. 798.

15. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p. 5.

16. Means of production can be defined as ‘the things human beings use in order to wrest a livelihood from nature. They vary from digging sticks, nets and spears in hunter-gatherer societies to enormous machines in industrial societies’, ‘Glossary’ in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p. 32.

17. Productive forces can be defined as ‘the historically developed capacity of people to make a livelihood – labour, raw materials and food’, ‘Glossary’ in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p. 32.

18. Relations of production can be defined in the following way: ‘The work that goes into producing things involves social relations between those taking part, eg the relationship between workers and bosses under capitalism, or the relationship between peasants and landlords under feudalism’, ‘Glossary’, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p. 33.

19. Karl Marx, ‘Preface to’ A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in David Wootton (ed.), 1996, p. 863.

20. Or in Marx’s words: ‘The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness’, Karl Marx, ‘Preface to’ A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in David Wootton (ed.), 1996, p. 863.

21. Marx’s materialist conception of history can be found, and be seen to develop, in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology, The Communist Manifesto and A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy all in the bibliography.

22. Private property is not simply possession or inhabiting. Private property is ownership backed up by law or legitimised by a judicial body or other arm of the state. It also has to have a coercive force or violence to defend ‘property rights’ or claims. This did not exist until the ‘agricultural revolution’ around 10,000 years ago.

23. Karl Marx, 1999, p. 13.

24. Alex Callinicos, 1995, p. 123.

25. Alex Callinicos, 1995, p. 130.

26. For more on Marx’s analysis of capitalism, see Karl Marx, Capital in the bibliography.

27. For more on Marx’s concept of alienation, see ‘Estranged Labour’ from Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.

28. Karl Marx, 1977, p. 73.

29. Bertell Ollman, 1971, pp. 134-135.

30. ‘The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation’, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p. 13.

31. Alex Callinicos, 1995, p. 163.

32. It should be pointed out that a classless society would not be created immediately. Marx believed seizing the means of production would initially intensify class struggle.

33. The logic of the market is such that the peasantry’s interests are best served by the division of the land; there is no drive to own the land collectively on a national scale. By contrast, industrial production is collective, with a highly developed division of labour. You cannot divide up an assembly line the way you can divide up a piece of land. Peasant risings, therefore, tend to be local in character unless they are united with the urban proletariat.

34. Karl Marx, 1934, p. 106.

35. Karl Marx, 1934, pp. 105-106.

36. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p. 15.

37. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p, 21.

38. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p, 21.

39. Karl Marx, 1934, p. 105.

40. Karl Marx, 1934, p. 104.

41. ‘Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the proletariat’, Frederick Engels, ‘Introduction’ to The Civil War in France in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1968, p. 259.

42. Karl Marx, The Civil War in France in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1968, p. 290.

43. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1965, p. 47. In using the word ‘simultaneous’, I do not think Marx should be taken too literally. Marx believed the revolution should spread rapidly from one country to another.

44. Marx did, however, realise that revolution must start in one country and its spread might be protracted.

45. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1965, pp. 46-47.

46. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p. 30.

47. Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1968, p. 321.

48. Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1968, pp. 320-321.

49. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, pp. 21-22. It is important to remember that this would only happen after a period of transition. In the short-term, class struggle would intensify.

50. The state being ‘the organised power of one class for oppressing another’, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 2003, p, 21.

51. Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1968, p. 424.

52. Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 191.

53. Lenin, 1976, p. 30.

54. Lenin, 1976, p. 56.

55. Lenin, 1976, p. 38.

56. Lenin, 1976, p. 43.

57. Vladimir Lenin, 1976, p. 107.

58. Vladimir Lenin, 1976, p. 108.

59. See pp. 13-15 of this work.

60. Vladimir Lenin, 1976, p. 110.

61. Vladimir Lenin, 1976, p. 110.

62. Vladimir Lenin, 1976, p. 141.

63. Vladimir Lenin, 1976, p. 60.

64. Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 195.

65. Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 215.

66. Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 213.

67. It is not possible to overstress the fact that the soviet was a real innovation. Many Bolsheviks, including initially even Lenin, were very suspicious or regarded this new institution as unnecessary. At the same time the nature of soviet democracy could be seen as directly descended from the Paris Commune.

68. Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 217.

69. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 219.

70. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 219.

71. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 220.

72. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 220.

73. Marcel Liebman, 1980, pp. 220-221.

74. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 222.

75. Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 222.

76. Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 223.

77. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Marcel Liebman, 1980, p. 225.

78. Tony Cliff, 1978, pp. 146-149.

79. Pietsch, cited in Tony Cliff, 1978, pp. 150-151.

80. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Tony Cliff, 1978, p. 153.

81. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Tony Cliff, 1978, p. 153.

82. Cited in Tony Cliff, 1978, p. 153.

83. Leon Trotsky, cited in Tony Cliff, 1978, p. 157.

84. Tony Cliff, 1978, p. 158.

85. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Tony Cliff, 1978, p. 158.

86. Tony Cliff, 1978, pp. 158-159.

87. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Tony Cliff, 1978, p. 159.

88. Vladimir Lenin, cited in Tony Cliff, 1978, p. 160.

89. Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, 1969, p. 240.

90. Tony Cliff, 1978, pp. 160-161.

91. Trotsky described the 1905 revolution in Russia as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the events of 1917.

92. E. H. Carr, 1978, pp. 36-37.

93. Mike Haynes, 2002, pp. 31-32.

94. Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, 1969, p. 207.

95. Mike Haynes, 2002, pp. 44-45.

96. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 46.

97. Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, 1969, pp. 186-187.

98. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 69.

99. E. H. Carr, 1978, pp. 21 and 36.

100. E. H. Carr, 1978, pp. 39-40.

101. E. H. Carr, 1978, p. 40.

102. E. H. Carr, 1978, p. 42.

103. E. H. Carr, 1978, pp. 47-49.

104. E. H. Carr, 1978, p. 167.

105. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 70.

106. Duncan Hallas, 1987, pp. 20-21.

107. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 69.

108. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 65.

109. Mike Haynes, 2002, pp. 65-66.

110. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 67.

111. Leon Trotsky, 1975, p. 57.

112. Cited in M. Farbman, 1924, p. 49.

113. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 68.

114. Mike Haynes, 2002, pp. 68-69.

115. Mike Haynes, 2002, p 71.

116. Mike Haynes, 2002, pp. 71-72.

117. Mike Haynes, 2002, pp. 74-75.

118. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 76.

119. Cited in Tony Cliff, 1996, pp. 27-28.

120. Tony Cliff, 1996, p. 28.

121. Cited in Tony Cliff, 1996, p. 110.

122. Tony Cliff, 1996, p. 110.

123. Tony Cliff, 1996, p. 113.

124. Tony Cliff, 1996, p. 115.

125. Tony Cliff, 1996, p. 116.

126. Tony Cliff, 1996, pp. 118-119.

127. See Tony Cliff, 1996, pp. 121-122.

128. Tony Cliff, 1996, p. 134.

129. Cited in Tony Cliff, 1996, p. 135.

130. Tony Cliff, 1996, p. 135.

131. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 83.

132. Stalin talked about a ‘revolution from above’. However ‘counter-revolution from above’ is, arguably, a more accurate description of what was taking place.

133. Mike Haynes, 2002, p. 81.

134. Mike Haynes, 2002, pp. 81-82.

135. For more on the ‘orthodox’ Marxist opposition to Bolshevism, see Karl Kautsky, Terrorism and Communism (reproduced on and the reply, Leon Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism (reproduced on

Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1977)

David Wootton (ed.), Modern Political Thought (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1996), including:
o Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question

o Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach

o Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology [selections]

o Karl Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1965)

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto (London and Sydney: Bookmarks, 2003)

Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1934)

Karl Marx, Capital (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1968), including:

o Karl Marx, The Civil War in France

o Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme

o Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

o Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Letters

Alex Callinicos, The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx (London, Chicago and Melbourne: Bookmarks, 1995)

Bertell Ollman, Marx’s Conception of Man in Capitalist Society (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1971)

Tony Cliff, Marxism at the Millennium (London, Chicago and Sydney: Bookmarks, 2000)

Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1976)

Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, The ABC of Communism (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969)

Tony Cliff, Lenin, Volume Three: Revolution Besieged (London: Pluto Press, 1978)

Marcel Liebman, Leninism under Lenin (London: Merlin Press, 1980)

Duncan Hallas, Trotsky’s Marxism (London, Chicago and Melbourne: Bookmarks, 1987)

E. H. Carr, The Russian Revolution, From Lenin to Stalin (1917-1929) (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1979)

E. H. Carr, Socialism In One Country 1924-1926, Volume Two (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1978)

Mike Haynes, Russia, Class and Power 1917-2000 (London: Bookmarks, 2002)

Tony Cliff, State Capitalism in Russia (London: Bookmarks, 1996)

Orlando Figes, A Peoples’ Tragedy (London: Jonathan Cape, 1996)

John Rees with Robert Service, Sam Farber and Robin Blackburn, In Defence of October (London, Chicago and Sydney: Bookmarks, 1997)

Leon Trotsky, ‘First letter to the CC’, in The Challenge of the Left Opposition 1923-25 (New York: Pathfinder, 1975)

M. Farbman, After Lenin: The New Phase in Russia (London: Leonard Parsons, 1924)

Richard Overy (ed.), The Times History of the World (London: Times Books, 1999).

Hazel Smith, ‘Marxism and international relations theory’ in A. J. Groom and Margot Light (eds.), Contemporary International Relations: A Guide to Theory (London and New York: Pinter Publishers, 1999)

G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977)

Robert Stern, Hegel and the Phenomenology of Spirit (London and New York: Routledge, 2002)

G. V. Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Vol. 1, (Moscow, 1961)