Lessons from the Russian Revolution and Its Fallout: An Epistemological Approach*


     Only he who builds the future has a right to judge the past.
F. Nietzsche

Les choses pourraient être autrement. (Things could be otherwise.)
R. Ruyer

“We communists”… Or, in other words: we, faithful to the event of October 1917.
If the failure does not entail the abandonment of the underlying hypothesis, it becomes
simply the history of its justification.
both by A. Badiou

Part 1: Guidelines from Walter Benjamin

Articulating the past historically does not mean recognizing it “the way it
really was.” It means appropriating a memory as it flashes up in a moment of
danger…. The danger threatens both the content (Bestand) of tradition and those
who inherit it. For both, it is the self-same thing: the danger of turning into a tool
of the ruling classes.
Walter Benjamin, Thesis VI in On the Concept of History

For the centenary of the Great October Revolution, I propose to examine some of its epistemological and political implications for us today. I shall start from some relevant aspects of Walter Benjamin’s so-called Theses on the Concept of History.1They can be wrenched, if necessary, out of the author’s 1939 preoccupations or idiosyncrasies and into a new horizon of our needs. True, Benjamin is quite right in insisting that understanding past oppressions and defeats adds “hatred and the readiness for sacrifice” (Thesis XII) to our movement. He is also right that we have to seize the opportunity as it “flits by” (Thesis V), so that we may act today on the lessons, positive as well as negative, that the October Revolution suggests to us. In this our more and more dire “moment of danger,” which is also one of hope, I am more interested in his existential politics than in his critique of historiography.

1. On Redemption and Class Struggle

At the root of Benjamin is the experience of life under the bourgeoisie as a Hell of stunted fulfilment and ongoing, wrenching psychophysical lesion. Hell is not only a repetition of everlasting senseless drudgery, he explains in his Arcades Project (106, citing Engels on the fate of worker under capitalism as Sisyphus). Material misery (often) and psychic misery and oppression (always) is the lot of people under the domination of commodities; even innovations are as a rule more of the same, hyped up as novelty for sale. At the historical moment of the Theses this was sharply intensified by the defeats of 1933-40. The lack of German working-class resistance to Nazism, the collapse of social-democracy and democratic liberalism (e.g., the Popular Front in France), the failure of official communist parties and pseudo-Leninist theory -- for one thing, the totally erroneous Comintern stance toward Nazism between 1928 and 1935, a mirror image of Stalin’s 1930s’ insistence on the sharpening of class struggle inside the USSR -- and finally the Nazi-Soviet Pact reflected for Benjamin the general failure of 20th-Century anti-bourgeois and Modernist utopian projects, from Surrealism to Lenin: "The experience of our generation: capitalism will die no natural death" (GS V: 819). Today, after the collapse of State socialism (however partially socialist that was), this is intensified by the oppressively closed horizons of ecocidal and political inescapability, worsening within the speed-of-light transactions of financial capitalism, and buttressed by “a meticulous organisation of ideological stupidity” (Badiou 63). As Marlowe put it, “Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it” (Doctor Faustus).

Benjamin‘s orientation for a way out of a hell getting increasingly hotter is centered on the category of redemption (Erlösung) that appears in Thesis II as “indissolubly bound up with [the idea of happiness].” Quite rightly, he starts -- as Marx did! -- from persons (people) and their basic needs. That is, he starts from the great promises of happiness, first, of the bourgeois revolutions such as the US and French ones; and second, of the communist/socialist movements proposing to pick up the fallen flag for the new historical subject of the proletariat, which would avoid the compromises and betrayals of the bourgeoisie. For Benjamin, happiness implied also reparation for the omnipresent desolation or bleakness at the outcome of history and dereliction (Trostlosigkeit) or abandonment determining the lives of the great majority.

The term redemption was traditionally usurped by Judeo-Christian theology, but the concept came from the freeing of slaves and war prisoners, and Benjamin returns it to the secular horizon. What he keeps from the theological mode of arguing is its claim to absolute necessity and validity and its focus on salvation. This "estrangement" by way of partly theological but wholly godless semantics was especially useful in the period of strong dogmatic rigidity within Stalinist Marxism. Redemption means in the later Theses (most clearly in IV) the liberation of the oppressed: equally of the defeated insurrectionaries throughout the ages – say, from Spartacus to 1848 and to this day – and of the huge masses suffering through untold generations from the consequences of the defeat: “So long as the sufferings of a single human being are forgotten there can be no deliverance” (Löwy 34). This liberation entails a historical revolution, a radical transformation of material life and moral relationships between people.

This necessity becomes realistically possible because each generation has, in Benjamin’s Thesis IV, a messianic force (Kraft). However, the Messiah here is neither an individual Superman nor sent by God: as in Marx, it is we, oppressed humanity, who are potentially our own liberators – if we understand why our lives are going so badly and band together to act upon it. The Messiah is a figural abbreviation for the subject-force bringing about the end of the old world of class history and the installation of a classless society (see the notes on the "messianic world" in GS I: 1232-45). With the Lukács of History and Class Consciousness, and with all consistent Marxians, Benjamin calls such action class struggle (from below, we should add, since class struggle from above happens unceasingly). The Messiah story itself is in the Jewish version thisworldly, and the Christian kidnapped version keeps the possibility of a utopian future as the victory over Antichrist (Thesis VI). As he knew, the dice of power are loaded against liberation, but the October Revolution and its aftermath show us, despite all, that in particular circumstances it was possible. Who in 1750 would have thought the French Revolution was possible? And yet it was.

Within Marx’s arsenal, class struggle was coupled with and limited by the development of productive forces of any particular society. Both are in constant feedback, yet as of the Second Industrial Revolution (electricity and Fordism), class struggle -- including wars -- has grown into the strategic dominant for understanding history. For Benjamin, here strongly influenced by Brecht, the plebeian rebels have latent emotional and cognitive resources:

Class struggle, which for a historian schooled in Marx is always in evidence, is a fight for the crude and material things without which there are no refined and spiritual things. But these latter things are not present in class struggle as a vision of spoils that fall to the victor. They are alive in this struggle as confidence, courage, humour, cunning, and steadfastness…. They always call into question every victory, past and present, of the rulers…. (Thesis IV)

What can we draw from this first section for understanding the October Revolution today? My first Benjaminian guidelines are:

1. The imperative of capitalism is “get a profit and enrich yourself.” The imperative of communism is “practice solidarity and emancipate yourself.”

2. Redemption or salvation of the great majority of exploited, oppressed, and suffering people is absolutely necessary and (with difficulty) possible.

3. It can come about by organised class struggle from below, based on not only indignation but also much study and organising, not only of courage and cunning but also of confidence, humour, and fortitude. Paradoxically, they may win over explosives (by placing their explosives better): “In other words, hardness must lose the day” (Brecht, Legend).

2. On the State of Emergency and Fascism

Benjamin is not only at his most clairvoyant but also nearest to us today (alas) when he anchors his concern in the need to know how to counteract fascism – the overriding need of a stance from which fascism can be comprehended and practically fought:

The traditions of the oppressed teach us that the “state of emergency” (Ausnahmezustand) in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that accords with this insight. Then we will clearly see that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against fascism. (Thesis VIII)

This means that today we must learn how to cope with both financial capitalism gone mad and its not so slow turn toward fascism. The question is, as Rastko Močnik tells us, not whether fascism is on the agenda, but “how much fascism” (openly admitted or hypocritically masked) in any particular time and place will be welcome to the rulers and not opposed strongly enough by the oppressed (see also Suvin, “To Explain”).

The deep economic reason for this is that capitalism must, on penalty of disappearing, practise unceasing accumulation, by dispossessing and plundering other places, times, human groups and ecological environments. Today this means trumping economic competition through the market by more and more overtly violent competition through military destruction, a corollary to this being replacement of the already toothless parliamentarism with more and more dictatorial measures, such as the “war against terrorism” in USA and France. The common denominator of both is overt warfare and official murderous violence on a mass scale, in which both these countries are prominently engaged. Even in regions where war is carefully kept out of sight, there is obvious and gnawing insecurity, with erupting hotbeds of violence, particularly in the gun-crazy USA. The Nazi project was an unexcelled machine for enforcing such new accumulation for German capital, and necessarily remains a paragon, though today’s ruling classes proceed gradually for tactical reasons -- to bamboozle the citizenry.

We must conclude, with our great antifascist ancestors (Benjamin, Brecht, Marcuse, Bloch…), that a tendency to fascism flows out of the very centre of capitalism: whenever its contradictions ripen, it is a possible and proven outcome. Capitalism, we now see, will always and necessarily resort to war when its economy is in insoluble trouble (Suvin, “Capitalism”). This turn entails rampant militarisation of everyday life, hugely strengthening ruling-class command as well as increasing anxiety and intolerance. War means the hollowing out of citizenship. The unceasing, capillary, and brutal plundering of people’s muscles and minds, habitats, and whole countries if not continents, by means of terrorist warfare bolstered by efficient perpetual emotional machines (cf. Retort’s chapter “Permanent War,” 78-107), brings about a serious corruption of civic life. It results from the economic and psychological onslaught of the death-oriented military-financial complex, fully integrated with mass communications (Dean 122-33) and increasingly with the academy. Violence enters into the pores of everyday life.

This cancer works at erasing the great bourgeois revolutionary concept and practice of citizenship, the citoyen. This was a horizon of friendly relations between State and democracy from below, without which there is no possibility of developing socialism, communism, or any other movement towards social justice. The economic master of the State today (capitalism) needs “weak citizenship,” a nation without the citoyen, a “social texture … of loosely attached consumer subjects” constantly bombarded by “idiot fashions and panics and image motifs” (Retort 21). On the Nazi model, the State grows into “a gigantic monopolistic combine” (225), synchronised with other capitalist international and power combines, in relation to all of which the individual is pushed into the position of an atomised member of the mass, reduced to self-interest, and thus easily manipulated and disciplined by quasi-legal terror and by indoctrination of his superiority to other groups of individuals – say immigrants.

We should be quite clear about the stark dilemma posed to any life worth living by the growing prevalence of warfare and fascistisation. It was formulated (on the lesson of the First World War) by Luxemburg’s slogan “socialism or barbarism.” In a radically Benjaminian fashion, it is the suspicion that perhaps the defeat of Lenin’s emancipatory and plebeian anti-war endeavour does mean a century or more of the Iron Heel, leaving an impoverished planet and impoverished human horizons to all that may come after it. That would mean that Marx’s spectrum of class social formations would have not only a non-progressivist beginning in the “Asian mode” but also a very non-progressivist ending in the presently returning fascist-type of production relationships melding and exasperating many of the worst traits of all previous societies. Freud’s death instinct, formulated by him in 1920 in good part because of World War traumas, is perhaps stronger than many of us suspected. Death, the Thanatos option, is the ultimate object and hidden purpose (telos) of alienated human subjects in capitalist individualism, in both war and fascism: the Left has underestimated the hyena-like savage ferocity of the imperialist ruling classes.

So what are the obstacles that prevent the working people – after all, a vast majority in all nations – from counteracting this strong drift of our masters towards the violently enforced intensification of exploitation and oppression? Benjamin speaks about one of the weightiest: the conformism and plain betrayal, “the servile alignment into an uncontrollable [power] machine” of the political parties supposed to represent them (Thesis X-XI). A further obstacle today is the widespread disillusionment engendered both by capitalist propaganda and by the real errors of the socialist/communist parties that led to the downfall of USSR and Yugoslavia (and in China or Vietnam to the compromise of leaving such parties in power as long as they carry out the capitalist program in their own dictatorial way).

My final Benjaminian guidelines are then:

4. We have to read and apply properly one of richest among his puns, Ausnahmezustand (in the quote at the beginning of this section). For it means both an “exceptional” (not normal) state of affairs and, more restrictedly, the “state of emergency” proclaimed in a society that suspends ordinary laws and jurisprudence for the sake of its survival. He pleads for applying an emergency rule from below, which would be at once antifascist and anti-capitalist (you cannot have one without the other).

5. Ways have to be found to create political movements and parties that would be both efficient and incorruptible. There is no alternative.

6. As Adorno somewhere put it, the absence of theory is also a material force when it grips the masses. Since in however modified and wide a sense we still need a radical change of political power and mode of production, which used to be called revolution, we therefore have to revive the classical Marxian realisation that (adapting Lenin’s formulation) “without a radical theory there can be no radical movement.”

Let us remember these guidelines for the task at hand, to grasp how and why we should be considering the huge October, or better Russian Revolution after 1917.


Part 2: The Revolution and Russia, 1917-452

Sapere aude! (Dare to know!)

In truth, history does not belong to us, we belong to it.
H.G. Gadamer

The beginnings are measured by the ensuing beginnings (re-commencements) they allow.
A. Badiou

What is or are the essential things to learn today, 100 years after it started, from the Russian Revolution? Yes, it was then (I shall argue) betrayed, and eventually imploded. Yet how are we to identify, for a reconsideration here and now of its import and importance, Hegel’s “what is essential” (see section 3.0) or Wittgenstein’s essential rule/s of any linguistic or other game (450)?

First, what is a revolution? Theda Skocpol defines revolution as a radical and rapid transformation of “a society’s State and class structures accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below… [In it,] societal structural change [coincides] with class upheaval; and… political with social transformation” (4-5).

I find this too narrow. I would like a definition to include at least four more matters: 1) the cultural/symbolic factor of lived existence, entailing a horizon of radical change in human relationships to each other and to the world; 2) some specification of situational prerequisites, such as Lenin’s pithy summary that it occurs when the ruling classes cannot go on “in the old way” and the ruled classes do not want to (“Collapse”); 3) that since the 1790s, revolutions are exportable and international, and so is (in spades) their putting down; and 4) an argument why a class-based revolt from above, mobilising certain classes from below but reinforcing existing relationships of production -- on the Nazi model -- does not qualify as a revolution.

This final matter would lead us to consider as a key the central mode of production, that is, capitalism (which fascist revolutions reinforce and communist ones at least attempt to do away with). However, Skocpol might be a useful beginning; and we should use this inquiry to see how to redefine the Russian Revolution at the end.

Further, how do we delimit the duration of this Russian revolution? As Mark Steinberg notes, researchers use the most disparate limits for given purposes. My purpose is to find the “essence” of the ensuing socio-political change in USSR before it jelled into final stasis, and its fallout for us today. Therefore, we cannot be confined either to February-to-October 1917 (the Bolsheviks’ coming to power) or to any other brief span. Other historiographic favourites all begin in 1917 and then last: a) to 1921, but I would think this was the military phase only; b) to 1928-29: this includes NEP and the struggle for power in the State, up to the moment of Stalin’s triumph; or c) to 1938: this includes industrialisation, rural collectivisation, and the big waves of terror. Clearly, we need this longest alternative, and then to add World War 2 as the capstone where a certain kind of truth came out.

1. Hypothesis: The Discontinuity

My initial thesis is that Lenin’s strategy in 1917-18 was to combine full centralisation and discipline in the Party with full democracy from below for the soldiers, workers, and peasants, also with the equality and sovereignty of all peoples in the Russian empire, organised in their own direct-democracy “councils” (soviets), uniting executive, legislative, and judicial power. To advance and channel plebeian democracy, the Bolsheviks favoured workers’ control, confiscation of non-peasant land, soldier election of officers, national self-determination up to the possibility of separation, and of course a legal system of radical citizen equality (on its strength they could, to my mind, well argue that the Constituent Assembly was, after its long process of election, unrepresentative when it convened). This parallelogram of interacting forces, with Bolsheviks ruling but responsive to and representative of the plebeian upsurge, would give a both very efficient and very democratic result, and would provide a solid basis for rapid development of woefully backward productive forces. This is what Lenin meant by “revolutionary organisation” and encapsulated in his famous formula “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country,” where the components stand for a full panoply of political and economic agencies in order that a highly developed industrial democracy might be set up, in ten years or more (“Our Foreign”).

But Lenin then committed, I believe, a bad mistake by prizing unity above democracy and persuading the 1921 Party Congress to ban factions, which logically led a few years later (after the Left SRs reverted to terror assassinations against Bolshevik rule) to banning all other parties. Lenin’s original, sincerely democratic centralism became in practice simply centralism, finally issuing after 1928 in a full autocracy of Stalin and his top team.

Lenin’s Marxism was “Fordist,” that is constructivist, on the model of a huge factory or construction site in which the show can be run only by the supervisory engineer – who knows best, because s/he has been trained for it, how to put into effect a blueprint, correcting it whenever needed. However, his “democratic centralism” does add a plan, brought about by means of an open debate from below and changeable through that debate (cf. Bourdet), to the self-will of a leadership from above. Lenin himself, having revisited dialectics during World War 1, corrected his early phase of rigid positivism by creating heretical theories on the possibility and necessity of a proletarian revolution in Russia. Furthermore, he adopted a long-range horizon identical to the anarchist rejection of the State. His unsurpassed State and Revolution posits, in strict accordance with Marx after 1871, a full structuration from below upwards — a republic of federated soviets (councils) and a universal civic militia instead of the army and police. This is predicated upon a future proletarian society, when a giant development of productivity and “an enormous abundance and variety of political forms” will flower, with a State that is not a dominant apparatus, and importantly – the subordination of the party as educator to such historical class aims. It remained an “untried communism, … envisaging not only the liberation of the worker from the boss and of the subaltern from the system’s fetishes, but the liberation of people from the State” (Cortesi 224ff, 235). Amid savage warfare and economic chaos, this program was torpedoed, and Lenin had to insist on full discipline and terror. However, he changed to full advocacy of NEP as soon as it ended.

In and after the cruel, bitter, and destructive all-out Civil War of almost three years, utopia met the final reason of the capitalist-imperialist rulers, naked violence. To the ca. 2.7 million dead in the World War, 3 million were added in the Civil War, untold more millions were left with lifelong physical and psychic scars, homeless, and impoverished. Russia was, said Lenin, “like a man beaten to within an inch of his life; the beating had gone on for seven years, and it’s a mercy he can hobble about on crutches!” (“Report”). Civil industrial production in 1921 was 20% of the pre-war level, that is, near zero. In the fury of a bloody and exhausting war for survival, the working class and much of the intelligentsia were destroyed physically or by dispersion, and a smaller part of both was absorbed into various levels of the new rulers. The whole democratic component had been shunted aside for immediate brutal measures of defence and warfare. In the “vicious affair” of Civil War, “both sides practiced mass incarceration, summary executions, hostage taking, and other forms of ‘mass terror’ against suspected enemies.” But the upshot among the victors, for both Trotsky and Stalin, was “a willing embrace of violence and coercion as a means to remake the world” (Steinberg 98-99) – an eschatological cruelty, akin to deep religious currents and resentments within the people (see the first-hand testimony of Rakovsky; also Tucker, Stalin 55-63).

In sum, as Robert Tucker convincingly argued in the 1970s, the Civil War “militarised the revolutionary political culture of the Bolshevik political movement,” favouring “readiness to resort to coercion, rule by administrative fiat, centralised administration, [and] summary justice,” and leading to an ethos of “cruelty, fanaticism, and absolute intolerance of those who thought differently” (Tucker ed. 91-92; cf. Fitzpatrick in Gleason ed. 67-70 and 73). Freedom of the press and information, envisaged by Lenin in 1917 (“Draft”), would be suicide in a civil war, he realised, but the tradition of muzzling it continued in peacetime. The war victors had to rule firmly, whatever the discontent from below, when the only alternative was total chaos, hunger, and further warfare. Many sincerely believed the violence was to end all violence. Many more, in the top echelons of “Stalin’s team” (Fitzpatrick’s title) and especially in the rapidly rising empire of the secret police replacing Lenin’s Cheka, came to like and indeed revel in such behaviour. In practice, this meant a sea change in the Bolshevik movement and party: its full-scale etatisation, with an eventually central role for coercion and bureaucratic oligarchy. Coming on top of drastic regimentation and penury used by all European States since 1914 to mobilise their economies for total warfare -- most notably Ludendorff’s “war socialism” -- this Russian “war communism” left a permanent imprint on future Soviet politics, from the “dekulakisation” to the cyclical orgies of mega-liquidations, and cancelled out Lenin’s initial horizon.

Thus, as against Western Kremlinology (and Stalinist hagiography), I share the growing conviction from Tucker to Lih that there is a discontinuity between the horizons of Lenin and Stalin. Both were subjected to relentless assaults from the capitalist world, with maximal violence and ruthlessness. Lenin was prepared to use violent dictatorship when indispensable to save revolutionary rule but expected plebeian classes to ally and use direct democracy through the soviets, so that the State apparatus could wither. Stalin revelled in violence and held that the “class” struggle was intensifying, so that the State apparatus also had to grow. Lenin favoured open discussions in the Party (except in what he, probably with exaggeration, felt was the emergency of 1921) and fully democratic elections from below to all governing bodies; Stalin both falsified information and restricted it on a “need to know” basis, bringing back vast zones of State secrets and opacity, and de facto replaced elections by nomination from above (that is, by his own organisational apparatus).

2. Upshot; and a Dilemma

In the USSR from 1917 to 1929, as well as in key periods of other revolutions, the communist party was a two-faced Janus, which performed some extremely significant acts of emancipation and then of enslavement (Suvin, “15 Theses”).The black face of Janus is mostly represented by Stalin, whose absolute power can be traced back to 1928/29. Very soon, at the center of power was no longer any party but the secret police and the high nuclei of State administration, united under Stalin’s authority. The waves of village collectivisation, Party and then general population purges led to millions of arrested and displaced as well as to wholesale assassination of the Old Bolshevik generation, except for the ruling team, and to permanent paranoia against any potential opponent. In this period the feedback between leaders and plebeian democracy that existed under Lenin turned into oligarchic oppression of the people, supported by harsh tactical maneuvers devoid of any principle except keeping State power. At the end of his life, Lenin in part sensed this but could do little about it (see Lewin Lenin’s; Ali 152, 312-24).

The collectivisation of village production resulted in a stalemate: on the one hand, there were no further famines, on the other, given insufficient mechanisation, the production was low and inefficient, so that it needed permanent imports of food. However, the price of breaking the peasants as a class with its own interests was heavy: it was a new serfdom for the majority who did not manage to escape into cities, and it underlay a return to conservative order. The workers who survived the Civil War were dispossessed of political power and subject to growing exploitation and pressures, while maybe 10-15% of them were absorbed into the lower and middle ranks of the oligarchy (see Filtzer). Since real wages fell between 1928 and 1932 to below half and then crept up a bit so that by 1940 they were at about half of the 1928 level (Filtzer 7, 91), the rate of exploitation was roughly doubled. Added to this was a huge slave labour sector run by the secret police, mostly in horrendous concentration camps.

What kind of social system actually came about is not fully clear: it was an improvised monster melding disparate strands from Tsarism to Fordism, revolutionary dynamics and reactionary patriarchalism, within a politics of fear and anxiety, in fact of State terror. It was clearly based on violent primitive accumulation of capital through exploitation of the working population, and especially of the peasantry, by a relatively small oligarchy: “Stalinism as revolution from above was a State-building process, the construction of a powerful, highly centralised, bureaucratic, military-industrial Soviet Russian State” (Tucker ed. 95). It ruled within a permanent, if hypocritically undeclared, martial law.

But for all the huge waste of people and materials (see Rakovsky “Five-Year” and Filtzer), the achievements were also gigantic, as suggested by 9 million people flowing between 1926 and 1939 from the villages to cities and industrial labour. The social support for Stalin came from their upwardly mobile strata (out of an upper class of perhaps slightly more than 1 million people, ca. one-fifth had been workers in 1928. Fitzpatrick, Russian 128, 133). The regime’s “social mandate” or legitimation was – as later in Yugoslavia and China -- the guarantee of a secure workplace and basic social services for the masses of urbanised peasants, including education as the main road to social advancement. Yet its rigid forms of production relations could finally not compete with the development of the production forces in capitalism, especially after the 1950s, and they perished in that duel.

Nonetheless, the stubborn fact remains that – primarily because everybody in the USSR expected a war sooner or later – Tsar Koba the Terrible managed to build a collectivist industrialism within the huge country, centred on heavy industry and railways, without which Hitler would have taken Europe (Ali 238): a world-historical accomplishment. There is no question today but that Stalinism was a highly odious system, but was it unavoidable then? Was there an alternative way of industrialising that would have been equally or indeed more effective, but would not have led from Lenin’s master-plan of an alliance between city workers and peasantry – however reluctant on the latter side – to a police State with millions of victims after 1928? Lenin had believed that any massive use of violence to quickly impose collective production on the peasantry was “a bezobrazie, a ridiculous outrage” (Lih 203), and proposed exemplary cooperatives, cultural education especially of women, and more industrial goods to lure peasants. Bukharin was in favour of this way, but he was also ready for a “tortoise pace” of industrialisation based on rising living standards (see Stephen Cohen’s argument in Soviet xxii and passim, and Tucker, Stalin 398-99). If ruling firmly -- especially if it entailed a qualitative leap in productive organisation -- is necessarily backed up by violence as the final instance of power, how much violence was needed and justified? Surely, qualitatively less than Stalin applied. Would that have accomplished sufficient heavy industrialisation by 1941? We do not know.

The first conclusion from the Russian Revolution is then that it was an event of major importance that fashioned the whole “short 20th Century,” on a par with the World Wars, the burgeoning of technology, and the rise of fascism. It created an extreme aporia of achievements vs costs: both were titanic. To my mind, its central world-political significance and importance was the defeat of Nazism.

3. Evaluation; The Archaeopteryx

3.0. Axiom, and Three Presuppositions. Every position or stance in life has a nest of presuppositions. The general and central, not further argued presuppositions are called axioms. What could be our axioms as we survey the fallout of the great Russian Revolution?

My axiom stems from Hegel: “Without judgment (Urteil), history loses interest…. Any proper historiography must know what is essential; it takes a position (ergreift Partei) in favour of the essential and holds on to (hält fest) what relates to that” (282, 135). Thus: what is das Wesentliche, the essential, here for us? Or more modestly, some first presuppositions to envisage lessons for us today?

First, we must re-emphasise teleology or finality: what is a process tending to? (see Collingwood 13 and passim)? Processual potentiality is ontologically before actuality, which remains as its historical condition, and existential time is a pull between facticity and tendency (Grene 250, 245; see also Bloch 345-49 and Suvin, “On the Horizons”). To give an example: the telos or end of flying in birds includes the development of wings and refashioning of the entire body (muscles, nerves, circulation); it shapes the whole physiology. Its lower level specifies conditions of possibility towards a more highly organized level of events, while the higher ends or reasons -- here of flying -- are principles of organization or a norm for the lower. However, if the lower level conditions grow restrictive, the end may be aborted (Grene 233-34). In sum, the use of wings conquered for life a new range of ecological niches into which it became possible to expand.

Therefore, second, history is feasible (machbar); it can be radically and at times quickly remade by huge collective forces stemming from people and their organisations. The flip side of this is that the two overwhelming factors of technological power and mass organisation have made history totalising – the principal new influence determining our lay horoscope, a superpower or new divinity, today’s face of Destiny. As in all previous epochs, it exalts many millions of individuals and rides roughshod over and through at least as many. There are long periods of stagnation, but there are also sudden accelerations and dynamic breaks or jumps (see Adams). The generation of the Russian revolution -- and my generation of World War 2 -- lived through half a dozen politico-existential epochs each. The young communist Marx put it brilliantly:

Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind. (Manifesto)

Third, feasibility does not at all mean carrying anything out with blueprint precision. Mass human affairs are messy parallelograms of forces, not fully calculable and without a sure result. Human affairs possess a certain degree of freedom; their certainties are at best probable and statistical. They do have long-term economic and psychological constants that as a rule win out -- such as the “cultural,” that is, political and ideological backwardness of Russia -- but also minority, even single actors that can prevail in a shorter run (had Lenin been imprisoned or killed in 1917, there would certainly have been no October Revolution). One attempts to take into account the best probability, and then commits oneself: on s’engage, et puis on voit, said Napoleon of his battles (though he made sure his artillery was on the highest hill). The present may be very dark, but the future is open.

In short, this new deity is not omnipotent. It depends on or emanates from all of us. At some privileged points a few of us – if strenuously prepared throughout the stagnant epoch – can have a disproportionate weight. Again, I do not know of any better formulation than Marx’s: “People make their own history but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past” (18. Brumaire).

3.1. The USSR as Archaeopteryx. The archaeopteryx was a raven-sized transition between small dinosaur and bird whose fossil was found in the 1860s in Germany and brilliantly confirmed Darwin, though at the cost of some rethinking about transitions between animal realms. It had feathers, wings, hollow bones, and a wishbone, like modern birds, yet it was a carnivore. From the ferocious dinosaurs, it retained sharp teeth, a long bony tail, belly ribs, and not least a curved killing-claw on the second toe of each foot. It is likely that it could fly; probably, it flapped over a short distance, but it may well have run, leaped, glided, and flapped all in the same day. It might have had a primitive metabolism generating body heat on its own, but its metabolic system probably was not as fine-tuned as warm-blooded animals later, so it had a slower growth rate than most birds. There is a category quarrel in archeo-zoology whether it wasn’t after all still a small dinosaur, but the most recent study has restored its status as a “basal bird”; further species of this transitional nature have since been found in China (livescience.com/24745-archaeopteryx.html).

ARCHAEOPTERYX (drawn by Emily A. Willoughby)


To anybody who knows Trotsky’s hypothesis, as expanded by Moshe Lewin (Making) and later by Michael Löwy (Politics), of a “combined and uneven development” of backward countries in a socialist revolution, this is an almost perfect analogy for the USSR. In this approach, the revolution leads to a coexistence and reciprocal maiming between the most advanced communist forms and the huge queue of vastly backward patriarchal, petty-capitalist, and autocratic social relationships. While these relationships get pulled vertiginously forward, they at the same time pull backwards the socialist relations of equality and fraternity, not to mention liberty. My main conclusion from studying the milder case of Yugoslavia (in Splendour) is that using the State as a direct administrator of the economy – along with military-type command circumventing written law – ensures the victory of the backwards pull by stifling democratic initiative from below. A struggle for liberating relationships within production cannot properly develop without a discussion that would be at least as free as in once true parliamentary capitalism -- or in USSR 1920-26, Yugoslavia 1955-65, Cuba 1961-64.

Was oligarchic rule in the USSR, then, a collective State capitalism, a budding socialism (communism) bent by security needs, or a third, yet unknown mixture or species? As Lenin told us, various economic bases for such identifications were present in 1921 Russia (“Report”).3 The most reasonable conclusion is that it was a shifting jostling of all these possibilities, with “dominants” (Mao’s “dominant contradiction,” 51-59, see also on “contradiction within the people,” 79-133) that allow us to differentiate it into periods or phases. Roughly, for my present purposes, they would be:

  • 1918-21, “War Communism,” rule of Party, victory in Civil War, total devastation of country;

  • 1921-28, NEP, slow economic recovery, intra-Party fights with steady rise of Stalin, the “original sin” (Lewin) of the 1921 ban on factions, nobody fully dominant;

  • 1928-32, Stalin dominant, rams through village collectivisation with iron hand and unnecessary magnification of violence, rise of secret police;

  • 1934-41, full Stalinism, industrialisation, destruction of 1917-28 Bolshevik top, domination of secret police.

Let us use the cognitive potentials of the analogy between archaeopteryx (incipient flight that could overcome gravity) and the Russian Revolution and its upshot (incipient leap to the realm of freedom that could overcome class society). The analogies have a limit, but go far enough to make us realise that evolution lasts long, that “leaps” between central categories or realms of being -- as we understand them -- can be abortive and monstrous, and last not least that nature (and society as a part of nature) is prodigal with lives and failures, and that nevertheless its process is ongoing and open-ended.

Whatever the USSR might have been, surely it was an early and in an evolutionary sense unsatisfactory entity. However, it remains in many ways hugely suggestive regarding both what to inherit (the October Revolution itself and the original plebeian democracy) and what to avoid (the violent methods and autocracy of Stalinism).

4. A Few Consequences Here and Now

4.1. It follows from all above that our revolutionary horizon, in response to capitalist immiseration and violence (where the invisible hand of the market is accompanied by a very visible fist), is absolutely necessary. What do the lessons of the “long” Russian Revolution add to this?4 We are today in a deep defeat. The breakdown of the radical Left around 1990 was not only political and economic but also ideological and philosophical. The entire “scientific paradigm” of Marxism from Engels to the New Left stood convicted of having wrongly understood what it thought it understood. This was not fully fair, but it did fit the politically most relevant, dominant beliefs of that paradigm, bound up with the existence and value of the USSR. Now the horizon too needs reformulation: this is our first task. First of all, we need to clean our eyeglasses.

This can be done under two conditions. In theory, this means we must relinquish neither Marx nor the lessons – for better or worse – from the history of Marxism and socialism/communism. This includes both the final goal (as the Communist Manifesto has it, “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” -- and vice versa) and the main mediation, that is, the role and profile of the avant-garde party. Let us rephrase his perhaps somewhat too famous 11th Thesis on Feuerbach as “the Marxists have interpreted Marx; the point is to change him” – while preserving his constant emancipatory and epistemological horizon.

Marx drew the lesson of the failed French 1848-50 revolution as follows:

The revolution, which finds here not its end, but its organisational beginning, is no short-lived revolution. The present generation is like the Jews whom Moses led through the wilderness. It not only has a new world to conquer, it must go under in order to make room for the men who are able to cope with a new world. (Class)

“The present generation” – there is the romantic optimist for you! Six generations so far, and counting…

Second, we must complement our epistemology (philosophy of cognition) with insights that are not only adequate to the age of the theory of relativity and cybernetics, internet and genetic manipulation, but also adequate to the dying, and extremely dangerous, beast of financial capitalism, of its global terrorism and warfare. Marx’s constitutive epistemological rule may be phrased as: the object of knowledge is judged by looking backward from the future possibilities, which in feedback with the objects tendency and latency provide the normative criteria for judgment.

4.2. In politics, this means insisting on three foci. The first two foci are more or less universally acknowledged on the thinking Left. They are a full and mainly direct organised democracy and eco-socialism. A wise use of all three forms of democracy -- associative, direct, and electoral -- has to be found, holding fast to central class interests, but integrating them with all the other (gender, ethnic, etc.) interests of individual self-determination and living labour. The fall of the completely corrupt Soviet bloc means “another communism might also be possible” (Harvey 227). What Leninism did not have, nor could it historically have had it, was a theoretical framework for what happens after the revolution comes to power – militarily, economically, organisationally, and in the final instance psychologically. By this last aspect I mean the operative consciousness of both the working masses and the political vanguard/s, for whom Marx’s great principle that “theory also becomes a material force as soon as it takes hold of the masses [which it can do] as soon as it becomes radical” (“Introduction”) must be extrapolated to encompass all operative consciousness. In brief, Leninism did not have a theory of politics after the revolution, when international class struggles meld with the necessarily conflictual decision-making of a national society on all the levels.

For one example, it can now be seen that the bottleneck determining the mode of social production – the production of a livable society – is no longer the Production Forces, which in a developed capitalism already potentially surpass the needs of humanity (and are today largely abused for fashionable crap), but the Production Relations, namely the relationships among people that are specific to a particular phase of the production possibilities. This shift is of a piece with the shift of central class antagonism from being based mainly on productive property (capital vs. exploited labour) to being based on many interlocked power relations. Structures and institutions shaping people’s minds are important but so is people’s consciousness -- which also means culture, on which Lenin insisted toward the end of his life -- that changes such structures.Most urgent is to awaken fully both to war dangers (cf. Suvin, “Capitalism” and Retort) and to capitalist ecocide, proceeding rapidly and changing all cards on the table (cf. Klein). Therefore, planned, democratic, and enlightened social command over production and distribution of goods and the human metabolism with nature must be reinstituted, or hundreds of millions will experience centuries of sharp misery, slavery, and mass killings; and our species might well perish.

The third and crucial focus is organisational mediation. My axiom here is that after the failure of both the Stalinist Party and the anarchist “movement of movements” since (say) the 1950-60s, we need a refurbished Party in tandem with movements accompanying it. True, “any effective organisation in modern industrial society tends to be bureaucratised in some degree”: it oscillates between ineffective unlimited freedom and ossification (Hobsbawm 54-55). However, as Žižek remarks, in one his most felicitous moments educed from Lenin, “politics without the organisational form of the Party is politics without politics” (297), i.e., a politics guaranteed to be ineffective. The collective translation with modification from a far-off horizon and theory to here and now can only come about by means of “an earlier unknown discipline … the practical discipline of thinking” (Badiou 177). This, by the way, is identical to Lenin’s original idea of a militant and disciplined party leading a movement of the entire people (minus the ruling classes), as documented by Tucker (Political 39; Lih 14-15, 94, and passim). Here, the main lesson of the Russian revolution is that etatisation of the party in power is a permanent mortal danger, to be permanently fought against, and that a form of vigorous plebeian democracy at all levels, allowing for changes of leading political cadre, is indispensable. Whether it then proceeds as factions inside one party or as formally more parties, is a matter of contingent situation.

Such a renovated Party model and stance would certainly fight for access to command based on State force and violence, but must use it only on two conditions. First, it must have – as the Bolsheviks had in 1917-21 – the consensus, active or passive, of a clear majority of workers or plebeians in the wide sense. The proletarian party’s Gramscian hegemony must go hand in hand with a democracy going from the ranks upwards. That is, a radical party must prefigure in its internal workings the plebeian democracy it would preach. Of course, if we get to a full abrogation of citizen rights in -- declared or undeclared -- civil warfare and/or Fascism 2.0 (see Suvin “To Explain”), the game changes totally. Second, this means that the Party must dialectically both be acceding to command of the State and yet keep a critical distance from the State’s tendency toward pragmatic and usually violent measures of coercion (Gramsci understood this so well in good part because he had vividly present the example of the Catholic Church, that ranged from such caesaropapism – eventually reconstructed by Stalin – to post-feudal “dual power” politics, flowing out of both mass organisations and its own subsidiary power structure).

The Russian Revolution led to a plain absence and suppression on all levels of the initial democratic rule from bottom up, crucially including its leading institutions – which is what Marx (and later Balibar and Badiou) meant by dictatorship of the proletariat.5 Marx’s identification of all politics with fully antagonistic class struggle has – after the Russian and subsequent revolutions – become obsolete. Even without antagonistic classes, allocations of social labour will be unavoidable, essential, and in a way conflictual (cf. Wood 155-59). To this should be added the experiences of the worldwide youth revolt building up from the 1950s and culminating in 1968-71, those of the Chiapas venture, the Chinese Cultural Revolution (well approached in Badiou 89-133), and many others I know too little about. As Kouvelakis concludes his book: “communism [is] the never-ending, self-critical return of the democratic revolution” (352). It is the organised collective emancipation of humanity.

My argument about the inheritance of the Left in view of the Russian Revolution can be summarised as: we need both Marxism and Leninism as non-exclusive fundaments from which to advance, but we certainly do not need Stalin’s Marxism-Leninism.

Finally, we have to return to a political vision as global as Lenin’s. At least two major developments have to be factored in. First, tempestuous world financial capitalism has to the immemorial “peacetime” destruction of people through exploitation superadded a direct assassination of hundreds of thousands, maybe soon millions, of people by State terrorism (see Suvin, Darko 263-306). Permanent undeclared warfare has become capitalism’s normal way of doing business. Second, there is now a “transnational” class fraction of world capitalism, solidly anchored in the triad World Bank / International Monetary Fund / World Trade Organisation, with a coordinating meeting at the Davos World Economic Forum. For all such reasons, the communist movement obviously must create an equally efficient worldwide coordination. The model of the three Internationals has to be corrected towards full plebeian democracy.

Probably another full essay should be devoted to the military lessons of the 1917-45 Russian Revolution, and to the need of and strenuous fight for international peace and a full ban on ABC weapons.

Citing Lenin’s definition of a revolutionary situation that I also used in the “Approach” above, Jodi Dean comments that in it the ruled classes “have to want in a communist way…. Without collective, communist desire revolutionary upheaval moves in a counterrevolutionary direction” (198). Which is exactly what has been happening in Europe and USA since 2008 or so, in the rise of Fascism 2.0. Without anti-capitalism, there is no effective anti-fascism; thus, I cannot imagine higher stakes.


for Lenin, www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works (MALW)

for Marx, www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works (MAMW)

Part 1

Badiou, Alain. L’Hypothèse communiste. Paris: lignes, 2009.

Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project. Transl. H. Eiland and K. MacLaughlin. Harvard University Press, 2002. monoskop.org/images/e/e4/Benjamin_Walter_The_Arcades_Project.pdf

---. [GS] Gesammelte Schriften. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1972ff.

---.“Über den Begriff der Geschichte,” in his GS, Vol. 1.2: 691-704; (“Theses on the Philosophy of History,” in his Illuminations. New York: Schocken Books, 2007, 253-264).

Brecht, Bertolt. Legend of the Origin of the Book Tao-Te-Ching… [1938], in his Poems 1913-1956. London: Eyre Methuen, 1976, 314-16.

Dean, Jodi. The Communist Horizon. London: Verso, 2012.

Löwy, Michael. Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History’. Transl. C. Turner. London: Verso, 2005 [2001].

Marx, Karl. “Human Requirements and Division of Labour under the Rule of Private Property,” in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, MAMW 1844/manuscripts/needs.htm

Močnik, Rastko. Koliko fašizma? Transl. S.Pulig. Zagreb: Arkzin, 1999 [1995].

Retort (Iain Boal, T.J. Clark, Joseph Matthews, and Michael Watts). Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in the Age of War. London: Verso, 2005.

Scholem, Gerschom. Geschichte einer Freundschaft. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1975.

Suvin, Darko. "Capitalism Means/Needs War," in his In Leviathan’s Belly: Essays for a Counter-Revolutionary Time. [Baltimore] Wildside Press for Borgo Press, 2012, 93-134.

---. “To Explain Fascism Today.“ Critique 45:3 (2017): 259-302.

Part 2

See also Badiou, Dean and Suvin “To Explain” from Part 1

Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008.

Ali, Tariq. The Dilemmas of Lenin. London: Verso, 2017.

Bloch, Ernst. Experimentum Mundi. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1975.

Bourdet, Yvon. La délivrance de Prométhée. Paris: anthropos, 1970.

Cohen, Stephen F. Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution. New York: Knopf, 1973.

---. Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

Collingwood, R.G. The Idea of Nature. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1945.

Cortesi, Luigi. Storia del comunismo da utopia al Termidoro sovietico. Roma: manifestolibri, 2010.

Droysen, J. G. Historik. Ed. R. Hübner. München: Oldenbourg, 1967 [1881].

Filtzer, Donald. Soviet Workers and Stalinist Industrialization. London: Pluto Press, 1986.

Fitzpatrick, Sheila. On Stalin’s Team. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.

---. The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Gleason, Abbott, et al. eds. Bolshevik Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Grene, Marjorie. The Knower and the Known. London: Faber & Faber, 1966.

Harvey, David. The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Hegel, G.W.F. Einleitung in die Geschichte der Philosophie. Ed. J. Hoffmeister. Leipzig: Meiner, 1959.

Hobsbawm, Eric. Revolutionaries. [London] Abacus, 2008.

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Kouvelakis, Stathis. Philosophy and Revolution. Transl. G.M. Goshgarian. London: Verso, 2003.

Lenin, V. I. “The Collapse of the Second International.” MALW/1915/csi/ii.htm#v21pp74h-212

---. “Draft Resolution on Freedom of The Press.” Transl. Y. Sdobnikov and G. Hanna. MALW/1917/nov/04.htm

---. “Our Foreign and Domestic Position and Party Tasks” Transl. J. Katzer. MALW/1920/nov/21.htm

---. “Report on the Substitution of a Tax in Kind for the Surplus Grain Appropriation System.” Transl. Y. Sdobnikov. MALW/1921/10thcong/ch03.htm

---. The State and Revolution. MALW/1917/staterev/index.htm

Lewin, Moshe. Lenin’s Last Struggle. Transl. A.M.S. Smith. New York: Vintage, 1970.

---. The Making of the Soviet System: Essays in the Social History of Interwar Russia. New York: Pantheon, 1985.

Lih, Lars. Lenin. London: Reaktion Books, 2011.

Löwy, Michael. The Politics of Combined and Uneven Development. London: New Left Books, 1981.

Mao Zedong. Four Essays on Philosophy. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1968.

Marx, Karl. The 18. Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.” Transl. S.K. Padover. MAMW/1852/18th-brumaire/

---. The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850. MAMW/1850/class-struggles-france/

--- [with Friedrich Engels]. Manifesto of the Communist Party. Transl. S. Moore with F. Engels. MAMW/1848/communist-manifesto/

Rakovsky, Christian. “The Five-Year Plan in Crisis." Transl. D. Filtzer. Critique no. 13 (1981): 13-53, www.marxists.org/archive/rakovsky/1930/08/5year1.htm#pre

---. The “Professional Dangers” of Power. www.marxists.org/archive/rakovsky/ 1928/08/prodanger.htm

Skocpol, Theda. States and Social Revolutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007 [1979].

Steinberg, Mark D. The Russian Revolution 1905-1921. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Suvin, Darko. “15 Theses about Communism and Yugoslavia, or The Two-Headed Janus of Emancipation through the State.“ Critical Q 57:2 (2015): 90-110 [now in Splendour below].

---. “Bureaucracy: A Term and Concept in the Socialist Discourse about State Power (Before 1941)“. Croatian Political Science Review 47:5 (2012): 193-214.

---. “Communism Can Only Be Radical Plebeian Democracy: Remarks on the Experience of S.F.R. Yugoslavia and on Civil Society.” International Critical Thought 6:2 (2016): 165-89,

---. "From the Archeology of Marxism and Communism.” Debatte 21:2-3 (2013): 279-311.

---. “On the Horizons of Epistemology and Science,” in his In Leviathan’s Belly (see in Part 1), 261-308.

---. Splendour, Misery, and Potentialities: An X-ray of Socialist Yugoslavia. Leiden: Brill, 2016, and Chicago: Haymarket Press, 2017.

---. “What Is To Be Done?: A First Step.” Socialism and Democracy 30:1 (2016): 105-27, modified at http://gerusija.com/darko-suvin-what-is-to-be-done-3/

Tucker, Robert C. Political Culture and Leadership in Soviet Russia: From Lenin to Gorbachev. Hemel Hempstead: Wheatsheaf Books, 1987.

---. Stalin as Revolutionary 1879-1929. London: Chatto & Windus, 1974.

---. ed. Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation. New York: Norton, 1977.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophische Untersuchungen. Werkausgabe Bd. 1. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1988.

Žižek, Slavoj. Revolution at the Gates. London: Verso, 2002.


1 This not quite finished work (possibly intended by Benjamin as his provisional testament, certainly taken as such) was left by him without a final title; the present one, to my mind unsatisfying, was suggested by Adorno, who is well known for being at important points unable or unwilling to honour his friend's horizon. Quotations here are from the original German text.

2 My approach to the Russian Revolution is guided, first, by the older writings of E.H. Carr, Isaac Deutscher, Victor Serge, Charles Bettelheim, Moshe Lewin, Robert C. Tucker, and Stephen F. Cohen, then in Russia by Roy Medvedev; and second, by the newer sources cited. I have also used insights arrived at in my essays “From the Archeology,” much informed by the writers cited in it. Though I dislike god-like capital letters and nominations, I could not escape using “Party” for the Russian communist party (Bolsheviks) and as its envisaged but central mutation later.

3 In this remarkable speech, Lenin posited that Russia contained the following “socio-economic structures”: “(1) patriarchal, i.e., to a considerable extent natural, peasant farming; (2) small commodity production (this includes the majority of those peasants who sell their grain); (3) private capitalism; (4) state capitalism; (5) socialism.” To his mind, this was also a progression in usefulness, so that he favoured more State capitalism as against the hunger-producing small commodity production.

4 I shall here only briefly summarise arguments and desiderata I formulated earlier (in “From the Archeology,” ”Communism,” and “What”).

5 The complex Roman term dictatorship, beloved by Marx the classicist and still useful to Lenin (for one central matter, it meant a strictly limited duration), has since 1917 become so corrupted by both Stalinist and bourgeois use that I would not employ it in practical agitation any more.