Question about the Soviet Union

The People
February 1997
Vol. 106 No. 11

QUESTION PERIOD

Question:

I would like to know, if you could tell me, if Lenin, in the Russian Revolution of 1917, at first intended to have socialism in Russia according to Karl Marx? There certainly was no socialism after Stalin took over.

Milton Poulos

McCleary, Wash.

Answer:

The SLP has always taken the position that Lenin and the Bolshevik Party sincerely wanted to establish socialism in Russia, but that their aspirations were frustrated by the backward economic development of that vast country at the time, and by the failure of the working classes of Europe's industrialized countries to follow Russia's lead.

A failed socialist revolution did occur in Germany at the end of World War I. That uprising was led by the Spartacus League and the famous (and martyred) German Socialists, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

Many have argued that the failure of the German Revolution of 1918-1919 explains why the Bolsheviks began to undermine the authority of the workers' own organizations (the Soviets) and to build the power of the Soviet state. However, others have argued that those measures began before the German Revolution. (See, for example, Maurice Brinton's BOLSHEVIKS & WORKERS' CONTROL, 1917-1921.) Indeed, one of Lenin's harshest critics from the period was Rosa Luxemburg. Although Luxemburg never doubted Lenin's sincerity, she did believe that his emphasis on the importance of the political party was an error that would, if the Russian Revolution survived, lead to the bureaucratic despotism that Stalin eventually came to personify.

By 1921, Lenin knew that socialism could not be established in Russia without what he called "special transition methods" that would not be necessary in the industrialized countries. History now tells us what those "transition measures" were and what they led to.

For more information on this subject, see the SLP pamphlets, THE SLP AND THE USSR and THE NATURE OF SOVIET SOCIETY.