The building of socialism in one country, the Soviet Union, up to World War II
From the October Revolution to the outbreak of World War II, the USSR made enormous progress unprecedented in the history of social evolution. In a very short period of time it covered the greater part of the distance that separated it from the developed capitalist countries.
The USSR had to secure productive self-sufficiency in order to deal with international isolation. It had to address the problem of energy sources, to develop its steel and armaments industries, because of the international situation, with neither a chemicals industry nor significant metal works. Under harsh, disparate climatic and terrain conditions, heavy industry had to be developed and the agrarian economy mechanised.
It was necessary to establish strong central planning and centralised leadership for a relatively long period of time. Central planning contributed decisively to helping the USSR to stand on its own two feet, to cover the distance that would normally have required centuries of socio-political and cultural development, and to combat Hitler's fascist offensive thus making a decisive contribution to the international victory against fascism.
The Soviet power had to put into practice the principle of socialisation of the basic means of production, at the same time developing the alliance between the working class and the peasants, under conditions of a sharpening class struggle.
19. The new system, from the very beginning, chose to address the lack of a distribution and supply mechanism, and the prevalence of scattered, backward and small production units, with measures of an economic nature. It chose to act within the spirit of the New Economic Policy. This choice was necessary during the transitional period, where the new power had to build the foundations of socialism on the grounds of capitalist relations. Intervention and isolation, however, obliged it to abandon this choice early and led it to apply the policy of "wartime communism" without which it would not have been possible to defend the socialist revolution.
The CPSU did not want, nor was it in its interest, that the class struggle which had intensified during that period take on the form of a civil war. But it was necessary because the supporters of the class society did not back down easily nor, above all, quietly.
The policy of "wartime communism" was succeeded by the "New Economic Policy" (NEP) and later by the policy of "the socialist offensive against capitalism" and the "all-out cooperative organisation of the agrarian economy''.(9)
Generally, Soviet power addressed successfully the problems associated with the recovery of industry, agricultural production and transport. It laid the foundations for socialist production with spectacular rates of growth and under conditions of the sharpening of the confrontation between the socialist and capitalist forces (kulaks and the section of the intelligentsia which stemmed from the ruling class). (10)
The specific conditions (encirclement and the threat of war in conjunction with a high degree of backwardness) necessitated a very rapid pace of collectivization, which in certain regions caused social friction and difficulties in the alliance between the working class and the middle peasantry against capitalism.(11) In party decisions and the speeches by Joseph Stalin, reference was made to the problems and mistakes in assessing each region's diversity. In some cases, preliminary preparatory work was replaced by a bureaucratic enforcement of the movement, with decisions on paper to develop collective farms in places which did not in fact exist.
The problems which appeared in the course of collectivization aggravated the contradiction between the working class and the petty and middle peasantry. Despite the corrective decisions in the application of collectivization, problems remained.
20. The adverse phenomena were used to publicize different viewpoints and dissensions, which went beyond disagreements over the pace of collectivization. They touched upon the very necessity to continue the class struggle against the kulaks, who were opposing and hindering the building of socialist relations in the village. The inner-party struggle constituted a barrier to progress in building socialism (Bukharin group and Trotsky-Zinoviev).
The primary phase in the building of socialism is a field for further study. It offers experience of the relationship between the economy and politics during the period in which the new power was trying to lay the foundations for socialist construction by consolidating and cementing the alliance between the working class and the middle strata in towns and villages.
21. Early in the 1930s, Soviet power came up against new problems in the building of socialism, such as the contradictions between the elimination of unemployment and the delay in the effort for extensive mechanisation of production which was manifested by a shortage of skilled labour and a levelling viewpoint on wages policy. The party perceived the need to determine "new tasks for building the economy in the new situation". It became aware of the need to step up the rate of development in comparison with the corresponding rates of development under capitalism.
Symptoms can be seen in party documents of some laxity in its characteristics, such as bureaucracy, complacency, and abuse of power. This fact led to the decision to "purge its ranks". The distortions which arose can be attributed mainly to the problem of the promotion of cadres. In the place of cadres who had felt victim to anti-socialist forces during the civil war in the early years of Soviet power, replacements were elected who had no experience, nor the required ideological and political background. (12)
The new situation demanded a new way of dealing with party work, and within this framework, the party emphasized the need to expand inner-party democracy and to address phenomena associated with the administrative way of solving problems, and with violation of the principle of the electibility of party cadres, as the constitutional procedures provided for conferences were, unjustifiably, not being observed.
The study of this period and the relevant documents bears witness to the fact that there was some departure and deviation from decisions. Despite the measures taken to develop inner-party democracy and collectivity, phenomena appeared of abuse of power and of arbitrary actions.
The criticism levelled at this period by the 20th Congress of the CPSU (1956) did not constitute an all-round and objective examination of the course of building socialism under those particular historical conditions. The discussion was focused on the question of the personality cult, an issue which by itself could not provide comprehensive explanations for the problems of that time, nor for negative phenomena in the functioning and activity of the party.
The most serious event was that the 20th Congress condemned the correct position -- for that particular historical period - i.e. that the class struggle was sharpening. (14) During the pre-war period (building of socialism in a country under conditions of encirclement), crushing the activity of the exploiting classes, their supports and vestiges was not an easy task. Vigilance was required with regard to the machinations of capitalism that had found a response and support in the interior of the country among forces which had vested interests in preventing the foundations of socialism from being built. At that particular period, the centralised means of managing the economy was necessary, and up to a point its repercussions in the political superstructure.
The criticism levelled by the 20th Congress was used to launch a destructive and slanderous attack against socialism by people who were certainly not interested in studying mistakes and deploring them, but who, in the name of such mistakes, preferred to strike at the root of communist theory and the socialist construction. In its talk of Stalin, imperialism showed all its class hatred for the creation of the socialist system after World War II.
One conclusion is that the party, at the most complex and difficult moments in the building of socialism, should not have underestimated the fact that, apart from the major, basic fact which was the counter-revolutionary threat, there was also the danger of abuse of power and high-handed actions by cadres and organs. There is a danger that anti-socialist criticism and activity may be confused with the criticism of real mistakes and deviations.
The last word on the real problems, the total experience and the negative aspects of this period has not yet been pronounced.
Deeper study of the period is required so that the historic conclusions drawn will be comprehensive and objective with regard to the primary phase of socialist construction, and that the positive as well as the negative aspects are put forward in their true dimensions.