LETTER TO COMRADE LOBOV
This is a letter written by Grigory Isayev, one of the leaders of the Party of Proletarian Dictatorship (PPD) to Mikhail Lobov, the editor of the regional newspaper "Burevestnik Dona" (The Stormy Petrel of the Don), a man close to the official communist movement. "Official" here means "registered" by Russian authorities under the "law on public organizations." To my knowledge, the PPD and Samara Stachkom are the only "public" organizations which the Yeltsin regime has repeatedly refused to legalize. One must admit that this is a rare example of "rational behavior" on the part of the regime otherwise notorious for its venal stupidity and madness. But even madness has a method if informed by class interest. So it is only rational for the bourgeois state to draw a line between a genuine fighting organization of Russian proletariat and the motley of those who under the name of "communist" deflect the revolutionary energies of the class and try to prevent its revolutionary self-organization. But Isayev's letter is more than an impassionate condemnation of the "registered" communist movement for its betrayal of communist ideals and the working class. It is also a major statement of a new proletarian Marxism, a voice of the class who is struggling to rise from its prostration after a monumental historical defeat.
Some one has said that communism is but "organized pessimism." These words have never been more relevant than today, when Western ultra-imperialism--hand in hand with the vicious nationalisms nurtured by it--threatens to throw mankind into a new and, now, a truly "globalized" nightmare of history. Only the memory of past catastrophes, only the complete dis-illusionment of history can help to prevent the coming one. Isayev's class has this memory and none of illusions.
"It seems as if history itself has betrayed us," --he writes, and this tragic conception of history is the only one that can still give us a chance to beat it.
First, briefly about the first congress. It was initiated by Andzhero-Sudzhensk and Samara. Delegates from 21 cities attended it. Besides Kuzbass, there were representatives from Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Sayanogorsk, Kopejsk, Tula, Moscow, Samara. I repeat: the initiative came from below, from workers themselves. You know well about our financial situation. We had no choice but to ask communists for help. They helped us all right--with the meeting-hall, meals and housing--and embraced us so heartily that they almost stifled the congress.
While strike committees, workers' councils, and unions, stripped of money, could send only one-two men the CPRF, RCWP, the Anpilovites and their ilk descended on the congress in packs by buses, trains, and planes. There is no need to say what kind of resolutions were passed and in whose favor votes were. It was amazing to see the complete solidarity between these eternal opponents--Ziuganovites, Tiulkinists, Anpilovites--their absolute unanimity in not letting workers organize in an independent political force. All politically sharp, let alone revolutionary, proposals were put down, dissolved, blunted by the communists. Instead of genuinely radical actions, i.e. the creation of a regional strike committee, they formed a "union of workers" (like the one destroyed in the early 1990s by Aviliani himself).
Here is one characteristic example of the communists' behavior. The most serious sickness of our labor movement today is treason from the inside, the betrayal of the proletarian cause within the movement. This is a mass phenomenon: from the shop floor to the union central committee. The French say: "Only one's own can betray." I have in mind Fokin and his gang in Kuzbass. By the end the May rail war, everyone clearly saw that Fokin was a personal representative of Tuleev on the rail. At the Congress, workers decided to handle this problem. They failed: communists voted down the resolution of distrust to Fokin. This open double-dealing however had a positive effect as well by prompting workers to become more self-dependent. Once the congress was over, the "friends of the people" quickly boarded their buses and went home--they did their business! But workers remained.
At once we started talking as if we had known each other for a thousand years, openly expressing our disgust with what had taken place at the congress. We made plans, agreed, exchanged addresses, and decided to have our next congress in Samara. It will be an all-Russian congress of strike committees without any communist rot and our own, workers' Judases. This is how another, smaller, but genuinely workers' congress was held in Andzhara.
Why was it Samara that was asked to organize this congress? We brought to Andzhera our banners from the Gorbaty Bridge. They were six-eight meter long, burned with the sun and beaten by rain and wind. They read: "All Bosses Are Scoundrels!", "All Power to Strike Committees!", "Long Live Revolution!" Looking at these banners workers' faces lit up, those of the communists' soured. They even tried to pull down the one about bosses, but the workers did not let them.
We also brought with us our paper "The Strike," leaflets from Samara, posters, Razlatsky's works. At once all of those were gone, even the police and the FSB got some for themselves.
Every one agrees that without Samara the congress would have been faceless, toothless, conciliatory--entirely communist.
Now in response to your letter, point by point.
1) As to your remark that it is a sign of WEAKNESS that all business concerning the All-Russian Strike Committee (VSK) should be conducted through Samara I almost wrote: Yes, unfortunately. But in reality I should have said: Yes, fortunately--because in the entire labor movement today there is at least one truly revolutionary bastion struggling for the political victory of the organized proletariat. The creation of the VSK as well as the slogan "All Power to Strike Committees!" are exclusively Samara ideas which have been coming from the Volga for many years. At last, they sounded clearly and strongly from the Gorbaty Bridge.
Don't you think it is easy to question and give us poor grades while remaining an observer, outside of our struggle? But who would talk today, as Comrade Lobov does, about the VSK if our party and strike committee did not do everything possible last summer in Moscow to make it happen? Ask hundreds and thousands of people who went through the experience of the miners' picket in those four months, ask the army of journalists, including foreign ones, ask finally Anpilov if the VSK could have been created or even imagined if it were not for Samara. Ask, and you will hear that without the Samara people not only would there be no VSK, but the miners' picket itself would have become the miners' dead-end. And it is in this dead-end that our entire labor movement has existed for a long time. Miners sit in this dead-end more firmly and deeper than anybody else. They were led there by communists and unions, both independent and not. Unions in the political struggle, the struggle for power is but pre-Marxian socialism, i.e. a dumb repetition of the bygone past. This is why anarcho-syndicalism to which we presumably are "drawn by the logic" of this moment is absolutely wrong. Only a truly revolutionary party can organize and lead the proletariat to victory. Without such a party, the proletariat is a giant in chains.
Say what you like, but I am proud of my Samara being a truly revolutionary center of Russia. And as such we in fact are struggling alone. Here is an example. Anpilov--this seemingly most consistent radical communist--visited us on the Gorbaty Bridge almost every day. You should have seen his hatred at the sight of our banner "All Power to Strike Committees!"
-Cracker-barrel! Provocation! Schism! - he would say-"All Power to the Soviets!" --this is the slogan of the day!
He does give a damn that our slogan is born by life itself; that strike committees ARE the beginning of new soviets, new power of the workers. Anpilov needs soviets because he will get on them automatically and--right on the chair of the head of the Moscow Soviet! But as a striker, i.e. a fighter for the working class' cause (i.e., the communist cause), Anpilov is lousy. This is why he did all he could to stop us and even stabbed us in the back in Moscow.
In August-September a number of Moscow enterprises and those in Yaroslavl and Kolomna went on strike. We took most active part in all of them. Especially successful was the strike at the Moscow Ball-Bearing Plant #1. And it was Anpilov with his people who helped the authorities and the police at the decisive moment to take the strikers (700 men) from the street back to the "stable," to the shop floor. He did not let the workers block the highway in front of the plant. Luzhkov (the mayor of Moscow) was terrified by this possibility since that would have produced a shock for prosperous Moscow and a precedent for the future. So for whom does the "revolutionary" Anpilov work? The police and the plainclothes guys from the FSB did not grab us that day only because they were afraid of the plant's workers.
2). You write: "The main task is to organize the working class." Right! I will only add: "and to arm it with a revolutionary theory, without which 'there can be no revolutionary praxis'" (Lenin).
3). You write: "If some one has already organized the class (let it be in the framework of the CPRF) it will only help the cause." Are you serious? Isn't the CPRF one of the most infamous bourgeois-nationalist parties in the world now? It is this party which more than any other disorganizes and disorients the working class. It is the communist movement that the democrats (i.e., the bourgeoisie) must be grateful to for being still alive. This is nowadays the dialectic of the Russian communist movement.
4). You write: "One has to go to meeting-halls rather than concentrate on individuals: one should not miss the forest behind trees (Anpilov, Tiul'kin, Popov, Andreeva)!"
Well, we do see the forest all right! All this public is that forest--rotten, stifling cobweb which entangled the proletariat and all society. Don't you see that the communist movement can attract to its banners no one except retirees, veterans, and invalids? I admire the old generation, but they (don't take it as cynicism) are worn out, hopelessly brainwashed, and dying people. Yet the indication of the popularity of any social movement is the participation of young people in it. Remember Mayakovsky's words: "Communism is the youth of the world and it is up to the youth to build it"? And how many young people do the ziuganovs and anpilovs have? . . .
5). You advise us to go to meeting-halls? Us? Just look closer: their meetings are filled with pensioners-veterans. No! Our auditoriums are shop floors and factories, streets and squares, railroads and highways. Ask anyone in Samara and those elsewhere who know us: What are the City Stachkom and the Party of the Proletarian Dictatorship? The answer will be: They are for revolution, for a New October." Not in words but in deeds. So it is not an accident that last year we decisively rose to the national level. This is the result of many years of hard work. And now we have this breakthrough, a qualitative leap. Thanks to the Internet we know that our views, our voice, our deeds are known in the world; there grows and broadens a sincere interest to us. Presently we are pushing forward, developing our offensive.
6). Chetkarev-Leonov-Muraviev argue: "We have to make every one a worker, i.e. realize Marx's law of 'the abolition of the division of labor'--this how workers, rather than professionals, will be able to administer everything from top to bottom."
Yes, it would be great to make workers out of all. But how? >From the materialist point of view the law of "the abolition of the division of labor" cannot be introduced by decrees. It can be achieved only in the process of historical development and only under one absolute precondition: firm functioning of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. In full this law can be realized only in a communist society (this is according to Marx and Lenin). In other words, the chetkarevs-muravievs with their theoretical constructions are pure idealists on this question. Instead, they'd better think of a different problem.
In the West, company owners, capitalists rarely administer the process of production because they, like our workers, are either not specialists in management or simply do not want to do this hard work. Moreover, the bourgeoisie itself does not sit in the parliament, the court, the prosecutor's office or the editorial board. Yet it is able to control superbly both the economy and the state in its own interests. The task then is to understand how the bourgeoisie does this and to use this science to our benefit. Here is the food for thought for our theoreticians.
I feel the need to express my opinion of Muraviev. I do not have anything against his economic views and his brilliant conceptions of planning and developing production. But I must notice that his ideas cannot come true unless the tasks of the political organization of society are solved. And those tasks are less than secondary for Muraviev. For him economy is primary, it is above everything else. This is an appalling theoretical error! I stopped writing for a minute seized by a feeling of desperation. For how long will we keep going in circles, like a beast of burden, around this problem, making the same mistake the umpteenth time?
1921. During the discussion on unions Lenin severely criticized Bukharin's eclecticism and among other things wrote: "Politics cannot but have priority over economics. To think otherwise is to forget the ABCs of Marxism" (v. 42, pp. 278-79). The point is not that it was Lenin who said this. He just precisely formulated this truth. It is easy to show it on one's own. Let us do this together.
In full, the subject of our investigation presents itself as follows: ideology--politics--economics which corresponds to the deeper existential processes: I think--I decide--I act. According to muravievs (they are multitudes), this triad should be reversed: I act--I decide--I think. But is it possible to imagine a normal being doing something without first giving it a thought and only afterwards deciding that this is how he should do it, and still later asking what can come out of it? Isn't it rubbish? However one approaches this subject "politics cannot but have priority over economics." Otherwise one has to agree that plants are built and produce as they wish and what they wish, whether cannons or toys. No, behind all this there stands some one's will, some one's reason, some one's politics. The question is: Whose will, whose reason, whose politics? This depends on one's ideology--and not the other way around. By the way, politics is nothing else but ideology in tactics.
Muraviev is in many respects a tragic figure. A titanic, half-a- century long labor--and everything in vain. Popova and Chetkarev write that in his conception the Academician Muraviev tied together thousands of problems. This is, of course, possible--but only not in the field of knowledge toiled by our hero--i.e., the formal economics rather than the living one which exists in real, constantly changing world inhabited by live people.
This is what I have in mind. There are material and moral stimuli to work. Everything is clear with wages. But what about the moral stimuli, i.e. the social recognition--how can Muraviev's conception account for this? For instance, how can we calculate the economic effect of, say, the Stakhanovite movement? And who knows how a young worker can be stimulated by the praise of a venerable veteran worker? I personally had this experience and remember how inspired I was by such a praise, how much better my work became.
In the same article, Popova and Chetkarev criticize A. Zinoviev for his political approach to the party Program, for his insistence that it must contain declarations and slogans. They nail him by the iron argument: "Does the economy develop by slogans?!" These signs "?!" are especially amusing. But tell me: Who would have heard Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917 if they had thrown at the masses loads of managerial problems? Instead, the Revolution was made by these three slogans:
"Peace to Nations!"
"Factories to Workers!"
"Land to Peasants!"
History will hardly produce a more precise, laconic, and effective program. Oh, if we only could write like this! This program shook the world transforming human life and giving people, like Muraviev, the opportunity to use fully their extraordinary abilities for the benefit of society. But in the present circumstances I categorically refuse to mollify our edisons because they pull the wool over the eyes of the working class and teach it to put the cart before the horse.
The source of Muraviev and Co's weakness and inability to understand what is going on is their idealism. In their mind life is one thing, their ideas quite another. These theoreticians proceed not from the facts and phenomena of social being, but from their own ideas about the latter. But there is a world of difference between the two. Popova and Chetkarev also proclaim: "The movement to communism is a spontaneous process . . . . Communism is being built and inevitably will be built. What ought to be discussed is a program of the ACCELERATED construction of communism, that is an ECONOMIC program. Politicians are not able to do this." "Spontaneous" and "inevitable" sound very convincing, especially today, right now (i.e., after the end of the Soviet Union--trans.).
Yes, up to a certain moment mankind moved from one formation to another spontaneously, independently from men's will and consciousness, but only up to a certain moment: till the onset of the epoch of socialist (proletarian) revolutions. Since then, history teaches us that any spontaneous movement to communism is a BIG problem. All history of proletarian struggles is one chain of victories (sometimes brilliant, like the Paris Commune and our October Revolution) and the crushing defeats that followed them. Isn't it high time to ask if the spontaneous period of human history did not end with the epoch of socialist revolutions? Perhaps further advance toward the future demands the highest degree of organized and conscious motion and any spontaneity is fatal along this path. If so we have to do everything possible to understand the mystery of the fatal infinity of our victories and defeats because today no one and nothing can guarantee the proletariat that this evil rule will not repeat in the future. This is what we need to think about rather than endlessly mixing together thousands of economic questions.
Fyodor Mikhailovich (Lobov)! I feel that my constant assaults on the communist movement offend you. Let me say a few words in defense of my position by referring to history. We find in it one analogy with what is happening to our communist movement. I have in mind the appalling opportunism of the Second International at the time of W.W.I. You know this history. Answer this question: Why did Lenin not even try to talk sense into the heads of the "lost ones" and to return them to Marxism? On the contrary, from the very beginning he waged a merciless struggle against them. Why? Wasn't it because the anti-Marxist mutation of those social-democratic leaders was irreversible? They all had to be thrown into the melting pot! Moreover, Lenin even rejected the formerly glorious name od "Social-Democracy" in order to separate it from the social-traitors. Otherwise, the Communist International would not have been born . . . Today we have communist-traitors. History did not know a more horrendous degeneration of the communist movement. It's terrifying! . . . if one does not understand the nature of what is happening.
I would like to quote an opinion on this problem from
abroad. Similar opinions come to us through the Internet from
everywhere, it's just that this one is expressed in good
I believe that . . . you are some of the very few proletarian revolutionaries who by some miracle have survived in Russia. I am convinced that if salvation is still possible it can come only through people and groups like yours, with blood ties to our working class. This is what is IMPORTANT for me no matter what disagreements we may have in particular questions of the doctrine. In short, I am with you since I do not separate myself from the interests of the working class.
I consider the so-called "communist movement" to be the worst enemy of the working class and a disgrace for the country who gave the world the proletariat of 1917. History gave them ten years. And all they did was to bring themselves and, above all, the working class to the brink of a terrible catastrophe. Our proletariat faces either the final partition of the country by the imperialists, down to its military occupation, or a tragedy similar to one in Germany in 1933. And no one except workers themselves can save them and the country. The situation is desperate. Only the uttermost mobilization of the inner strength of the class can change it.
But the communist movement stifles every stirring of this mobilization, nipping it in the bud. They have clung to the body of the class, covered all its pores and do not let it breathe. Just as our workers begin to recuperate from the terrible historical defeat, raise their heads, think, and act--these scoundrels hit them in the head, trying to push them back into the rank of the "masses" who must be obedient to their self-appointed and condescending shepherds. War on the "communist movement"! It is through and through saturated with the bourgeois spirit, with the philosophy of inequality, the "middle-class" psychology, venal nationalism and bureaucratism.
These good-for-nothings were brave when they had behind them the state with its repressive apparatus. They can only rule "the masses." They still imagine that revolutions are made by department heads of the Central Committee. They won't stay long in the world of bureaucratic illusions. Reaction will squash them like bed-bugs. Good riddance! Perhaps only when they are kicked by troopers' boots in the scrotum they will be able to learn something. To the devil with them!"
How do you like that! Yet the traitors still hide under red flags. And on these flags there are the same dear words, ideas, portraits. How to oppose this? Without hesitation, we resolutely rejected the words "socialism," "Bolshevism," "communism" because these words which in the past were sacred to every worker have been now distorted, slandered, defiled. This is a fact, one cannot escape it. So today we say not "socialism" but "proletarism," not "communists" but "proletarists." Let it sound unusual, even odd but then we stand out clearly and do not get confused with the rest of the crowd. And second, these words in no way contradict classical Marxism. Indeed, if we closely reread Marx, Engels and Lenin it becomes clear that for them socialism in the political sense meant first of all the strong power of the working class. Everything else is secondary. Which is to say that the road to communism leads only through a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. In connection with this, more should be said about the term "proletarism."
Proletarism designates what Marx and all his loyal followers meant by the "lower phase of communism" or "socialism," i.e., the period of transition from capitalism to communism, from class to a classless society. Everything seems clear. But the traditional term "socialism" in no way reflects the class essence of this transition from one form of society to another. Rather it obfuscates, clouds this essence. Not by accident most reactionary regimes, but not the power of the proletariat, exist under the the name of socialism. In contrast, the term "proletarism" clearly designates not the power of the party, let it be even trice proletarian, not the power of the leaders, even if they are absolutely devoted to the proletariat, not the power of the state, even if controlled by the organized proletariat--but the power of the class itself. The power which is political and economical, the power at the center and locally, the power which is absolute and shared with no one.
The term "proletarism" follows the logic of
history. When slaveholders were the masters of society
it was a slaveholding society, when feudals--feudalism, when capitalists--capitalism. That is every society was defined by the name of its ruling class. Why then right after the revolution, after the proletariat has taken power not call this social order proletarian? And proletarian it is! To sum it up,
communism is the goal, proletarism is the road to it. But even a great goal is not worth much without the knowledge of how to reach it. Someone has said: "Cry sugar, sugar as you wish, it won't become sweet in your mouth." This could be said about those who today cry "communism, communism, communism," even if they cry sincerely, bleeding in their souls. In other words, if communism is not an empty sound for us but a really great goal then we have to direct all our efforts at showing workers the right road to communism. If we get on this road we will achieve the goal. It also means that we have to resolutely introduce the term "proletarism" in our everyday work. We should not be afraid that the new term will lead to a conceptual confusion or disorient the "dark" masses. As our experience shows, workers accept this new term as their own after a minimal explanation. Apparently, it is because the term is simple, understandable and precise.
Besides, the phonetics of this word, the way it sounds won't let any one to forget whose power it is, what kind of society we live in and, above all, who is its Master!
There is no analogy in the past with the tragedy of our proletariat. There were hard, and even terrible times but there was always some light in the end of the tunnel. The thought that sooner or later but "we will build our, new world" never died in the consciousness of our working class.
But not now, today.
Never before the proletariat was so betrayed by all. It
seems as if history itself has betrayed us.
The ideas, the goals, the meaning of the struggle have been lost. The very faith in the possibility of changing the world has been killed. The great majority of our workers are completely demoralized.
What is to be done in such a situation, if one remains a Marxist?
Dialectics suggests that in critical moments the most complex problems are solved beyond the realm of logic, on the level of the paradox. Here are some examples.
May of 1917. The revolutionary slogan "All Power to the Soviets!" is proudly unfurled over Russia. Yet Lenin, without hesitation, replaces it with the opposite: "No Support to the Soviets!" A theoretician who relies on logic would say that such a turn around borders on treason. Yet, precisely this helped to transform the rotten Menshevik soviets into the Bolshevik, proletarian ones.
Or consider the NEP--the new economic policy--which essentially was an open retreat, a step back to the old economical and therefore social relations overthrown by the revolution. ("Some novelty!"--our logician would say). But every one knows that NEP saved Soviet power and the revolution.
Here is an example from our time. I have in mind the new view on the party's place in a proletarian society, in the dictatorship of the proletariat. Says Razlatsky: "A proletarian party should not be the ruling party!" But this contradicts the entire experience of the post-October socialism. Moreover, no one ever (from Lenin to present) questioned the thesis of the ruling status of the party.
Would you like to know the reason for the universal crisis of labor movement? It is the profound crisis of Marxism, the theoretical base of the labor (communist) movement. There is simply no and cannot be any other reason. And everything that since Stalin's death in Russia and Mao's in China paraded under the banner of developing Marxism is in reality monstrous anti-marxism. Let us recall just one pearl of this "developing" Marxism: the "ALL-PEOPLE'S" state.
We, who have taken upon ourselves the organization of labor movement, need to shake off the stupor and acquire the boldness of a special kind. I mean not personal courage but the boldness of thought. We need to stop at last wallowing in the past and the present. We need to free ourselves from the entanglements of old ideas. One cannot go forward with one's head turned back. We need ideas so new and astonishing that one cannon immediately believe in them, yet so true that it is impossible not to believe in them after all.
We have to immediately and resolutely acknowledge that the leaders of the communist movement have betrayed the interests of the working class. We have to acknowledge this and to proceed from there. What it means is that the work has to begin anew, from the very bottom, however hard it would be. Lenin was not afraid of this. He was always ready to address the masses directly. Just recall the story of the Brest peace.
The firmness and originality of our views are self-evident. I believe I have said already that this is not an accident. If it were not for A.B. Razlatsky we would not become revolutionaries, there would be nothing at all. We are convinced that if we have been able to achieve something it is only because we are armed theoretically as no one else. Over many years we have realized what a force, what a treasure Marxist theory is.
We might be wrong, of course, we can be consumed by ambitions, and yet, Razlatsky's works are indeed a new word in Marxism, not only we think so. Fyodor Mikhailovich, if you have not yet lost interest in Samara read once again chapter IV from _The Second Communist Manifesto_, the very end of the "Notes on the Margins of History," and the "Dialectic of the Party Development." Razlatsky develops there his thesis on the non-ruling status of the party. Discussion on the party is badly needed today. It was needed yesterday! If you do not mind let's have this discussion together on the pages of your paper and our "The Strike."
Feel free to publish this letter. Since it is concerned with
the questions of importance for many
people today the letter can be considered open.
Samara, 1 April 1999.