April 24, 2015
Translated from Russian by Dvajdsitdva
Noble and majestic is the history of these descents into social hell, undertaken with the goal of rescuing those suffering.
Does anyone really believe that Marx (also Engels, Lenin, and Stalin), faced with new problems, would cling to secondary (and even primary) components of models, exercises, theoretical constructions? While these components (as well as the models themselves, doctrine and theory) arose in a situation where the new problems were absent? But how does one then approach the famous statement of Engels, not once repeated by Lenin, and then Stalin, that “Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action”? And other similar such statements uttered by Marxist politicians, which have been made plenty of times!
About the classes and the class struggle Marx wrote very little – he just ran out of time. The “class in itself” for Marx is not a class. To mold this unorganized, helpless, senseless “class in itself” into a full-fledged class (“the class for itself”), it needs to be joined by some intelligent force, which possesses not only intellectual self, but also a political self. For these forces to awaken the class, to restructure it into something historically complete. For a class to reformulate, to acquire a new and much more perfect structure, to find a new will and consciousness, to morph into a substance from a proto-substance, and then – to the subject of historical action. And once becoming this subject – to save itself, and the rest of humanity.
From what did the class and humanity had to be rescued in the late XIX – and early XX century? From material poverty, generating dehumanization. The very same material impoverishment was a consequence of exploitation, brilliantly described by Marx. Material impoverishment in the period that we are discussing, from which we are separated by more than a century, was quite obvious and blatant. It and its consequences gave rise to furious indignation, which always arises from witnessing the suffering of the majority, brought to the sacrificial altar by the greedy minorities, in people who had material wealth, but were gifted with what Chekhov called “the talent of compassion.” It helps to reread the stories of Chekhov or the novel of Emile Zola’s “Germinal”, to understand just how disgusting and foul were the beastly excesses of material capacity of the minorities, and how the majority suffered. And those members of this minority, who were endowed by nature or by upbringing with the ability of deep and sacrificially-active compassion, deeply felt for this majority.
Such representatives of the minorities came together in one way or another. Of course, the unsurpassed standard of such cohesion and real unification was Lenin’s “party of a new type”. But the Mensheviks and other social revolutionaries also united. And just as the Bolsheviks, extended a helping hand to those representatives of the majority, who in their eyes had the greatest ability to resist dehumanization, carried out by the minorities for the sake of their own deplorable luxuries.
The Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks both approached the working class from different angles, but they both considered them to be the most capable of resistance. The Socialist-Revolutionaries went to the peasants, because their model of resistance to dehumanization convinced them that the peasants were most capable of resistance.
But we are talking about here, and I would like to reiterate, about resistance to dehumanization that has been generated by mass impoverishment, as a result of exploitation.
[These events originated as small ripples, then turning into waves, flowing back and worth. Dehumanization of the exploited majority by the exploitative minorities, caused these resistance movements to surge and counter the flowing tide, as the only solution – tr.]
A huge number of workers lived in barracks and worked endlessly, they were deprived consistently of what a person needs for a decent and healthy life. But among these deprivations, the most important one was the lack of daily bread. Hunger in itself and its related deficits, just as material, as hunger, is what dehumanized the people [and got the resistance wheel spinning – tr.] a century ago. Among these material deficiencies were: offensive overcrowding, affecting many workers; the wretchedness of living conditions fueling the wretchedness of interpersonal and group relations; an incredible exhaustion from labor, fueling terrible dullness, an escape from reality towards alcohol; dirt and unsanitary conditions; gradual adoption of the most vulgar habits.
[In summary, it was a foul existence all around being faced with some many deprivations at once. – tr.]
Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Gorky, Kuprin – each author narrated these deficits and the resulting horrors of dehumanization on their own. The Russian intelligentsia and nobility enthusiastically read about it, and then watched it all with disgust. Adopting a firm decision that it cannot be tolerated and it must change. And ended up at the scaffolds and prisons, giving their “soul for a friend”.
Noble and majestic is the history of these descents into social hell, undertaken with the goal of rescuing the suffering.
Noble and glorious are the results – the creation of the Soviet Union and a Soviet society, were all of these horrors were explicitly absent.
Noble and glorious are the achievements, because the Soviet Union was able not only to end all the monstrous consequences of extreme and offensive material hardships designed to shackle the majority by the insane minority, who swam in luxury. The Soviet Union managed to do much more – to create such an ascent, where people free from material hardships, began to live by the maxim “not on bread alone” and thus became a different breed of people.
[A biblical quote from Matthew 4.4, “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Possibly implying that a man is different from an animal in that he can do more compassionate and productive things than just continuously and ignorantly consume without purpose – tr.]
A century has passed, and what do we see?
On that “blessed West,” where the Soviet people were lured by the anti-Soviets, we really do not see the humiliating impoverishment of workers in general, and the working class in particular. Destructive material impoverishment takes place on the periphery of the capitalist world – in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In those places dehumanization by hunger at a minimum does not decrease. And actually – is growing.
The worsening of the material impoverishment of workers can be tracked without any difficulty if you look at standard of living indicators for the workers of planet Earth. But due to the heterogeneity of such data, some could argue, that you are measuring the “average temperature in a hospital”. Also, to prove to people that the relative prosperity of workers in the West is bought at the price of all the grosser and more relentless impoverishment of all other workers of the world is firstly, quite difficult, and secondly, not as effective, as some like to think. Because someone will say, “Who cares! Let the blacks bend their backs, and we will have everything like the West!” And some will say that the blacks have always bent their backs and are now bending their backs less. And will explain that they are bending their backs due to their laziness, inferiority and so on.
In truth we are facing a new capitalist (or imperialist, or even ultra imperialist) reality. It requires significant adjustments. Otherwise, we will lose all reality. And together with that reality we will lose the right to strong-willed and life-affirming resistance to new challenges, new threats, and new snares of the enemy of men and humanity.
See you in the USSR!
While people passionately argue about these and other conspiracies surrounding the Russian revolution (rightfully or not), the fact remains that there was a genuine social need at its foundation.
Just like in Ukraine where the interests of various elite groups were supported by popular social dissatisfaction and a genuine desire for a better future.
Although not mentioned in the article, repressions of the Stalin period, initiated by the few, overshadowed the achievements made possible by the Revolution (in education, healthcare, and other social spheres comprising the Soviet safety net).
When embracing capitalism for a pair of jeans and a personal vehicle, many Russians were quick to toss the Soviet legacy to the sidelines of history, defining that period by the Soviet crimes, as opposed to accomplishments.
But problems did not miraculously disappear and new problems require new heroes and new solutions, for which history could be a guide.