Supplement to Part 5 on Lenin
Economic Policy and Attacking Leninism by Wu Bing
by Wu Bing
Part of a critique Xie Tao
At the same time as tampering with the basic theories of Marx and Engels, Mr Xie Tao aims the spearhead of his attack at Lenin and Leninism.
(1) He attacked Lenin for “using changes to the relations of production as equal to the method of nationalization of the productive forces in building socialism”, for this was “a basic error of deviation from Marxism”. Then he carried on his distortion of Lenin with a change of tone, saying “Lenin recognized this mistake in his old age and proposed the New Economic Policy, saying ‘Inasmuch as we are as yet unable to pass directly from small production to socialism, some capitalism is inevitable as the elemental product of small production and exchange; so that we must utilise capitalism (particularly by directing it into the channels of state capitalism) as the intermediary link between small production and socialism, as a means, a path, and a method of increasing the productive forces.’ (“The Tax in Kind”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 32, p. 342)”
On the question of Lenin implementing a New Economic Policy in Russia, this has been distorted by the “masters” of certain reforms in our country who attempt to flaunt this banner to lead China along the capitalist road. It has to be said that the proposals and debates surrounding this question are already very old. It is no great interest for Mr Xie Tao to restart this in his Preface.
Everyone knows that shortly after the October Revolution, Lenin placed the task of organizing the socialist economy on the agenda, pointing out “The Bolsheviks have already convinced Russia, have already taken Russia out of the hands of the wealthy, and must now learn how to administer Russia”.(“The Proletarian revolution and the Renegade Kautsky”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 28 p.234). Thus, beginning from the Spring of 1918, on the basis of an analysis of the economic characteristics of the transition period in Russia, Lenin determined the interim plan for the construction of socialism. However, owing to foreign armed intervention and the domestic counter-revolutionary rebellion, the plan could not be implemented in a timely manner.
In 1921, the Soviet state ended the civil war and Lenin once more raised the task of restoring the national economy and building socialism. Owing to the destruction of four years of imperialist war and three years of civil war, in addition to severe drought and other natural disasters, there was an extreme shortage of food and fuel, a number of factories had to shut down. In the light of these circumstances, the 10th Congress of the Soviet Party decided to move from a system of collecting surplus grain to a tax in kind. This was the first important policy of the New Economic Policy. Its main purpose was to enable the rapid restoration of agriculture and to establish the worker-peasant alliance on a new basis and get the wheels of the whole socialist economy moving even better.
In an extract from Lenin’s “On the Tax in Kind” referred to by Mr Xie Tao, Lenin said: “The most urgent thing at the present time is to take measures that will immediately increase the productive forces of peasant farming” (“The Tax in Kind”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 32, p. 331). This was in order to restore industry on this foundation and to create the necessary material conditions for the construction of socialism.
Another important measure of the New Economic Policy was the implementation of state capitalism. Implementing the food tax (tax in kind) and allowing farmers to freely dispose of their surplus agricultural products requires some room for freedom of trade. Lenin believed that allowing free trade would definitely give rise to the development of private capitalism, and that this type of situation under the condition of the existence of vast numbers of small farmers was inevitable, and that the Party must conscientiously guide this development along the path of state capitalism.
Lenin believed that in the struggle between socialism and capitalism over “who wins and who loses” in the transitional period, state capitalism enters the doorstep of socialism and that this is a strength that the proletarian state can use. State capitalism was capable of limiting capitalism in the economy, was a type of capitalism that was capable of having its limits determined, its purpose was not to develop capitalism but to use capitalism in the service of socialism, on the political level it could divide the bourgeoisie, and at the same time it could help the state carry out struggle against the spontaneous trend towards small scale production and anarchy, and through state capitalism, gradually lead small scale peasant production towards collectivization.
In this sense, it really is a type of tool by which the proletariat wages class struggle, so state capitalism was conceived of by Lenin as a method and supplementary means for the transition to socialism under Russian conditions. Later, owing to the new circumstance of the emergence of the struggle over “who wins, who loses” and to the beginnings of rapid large-scale socialist industrial development, state capitalism no longer had the significance it was originally estimated to have.
In the course of the transition to the new economy put forward by Lenin, strong resistance from the bourgeoisie was encountered and opportunists within the Party also attacked Lenin in a vain attempt, in the Party’s policy of “concessions”, to turn the socialist state into a capitalist state. Therefore, Lenin said: On the economic front, the struggle over the problem of who will defeat who will be fiercer than the struggle with Kolchak and Denikin, because “It was, of course, much easier to solve war problems than those that confront us now” (“The New Economic Policy and the Tasks of the Political Education Departments”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 33, p. 48).
In the Summer of 1921 the Constitutional Democratic Party and the Octobrists published in Prague “Changing Landmarks”, from which they got the name “Changing Landmarks faction” and attempted to prove that in its turn to the New Economic Policy, the Communist Party was giving up on the construction of socialism and was turning to the bourgeois system. The “Changing Landmarks faction” wrongly estimated the situation, they appealed to the bourgeois intellectuals cooperating with the Soviet political power to urge this kind of transformation on the Soviets. The “Changing Landmarks faction” brazenly proposed the abolition of the nationalisation of banks and industry, the abolition of the monopoly on foreign trade and demanded the restoration of the system of private ownership of land. The united with the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries and wantonly engaged in counter-revolutionary activities to subvert Soviet political power.
In the course of just one year of fierce struggle, the New Economic Policy completed its historic mission. Convening the 11th Party Congress in March 1922, Lenin drew an extremely important conclusion: The early period of the New Economic Policy which allowed certain degree of a capitalist component now closing, the task now was the redistribution of the strength for a step in the direction of an attack on private economic capital.
At the Congress Lenin said: “For a year we have been retreating. On behalf of the Party we must now call a halt. The purpose pursued by the retreat has been achieved…We now have a different objective, that of regrouping our forces” (“Political Report of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.)”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 33 p.246).
Lenin also pointed out at the Congress through the resolution on the report he wrote: “The Party believes it must make concessions towards private capitalism, and has completed each measure stipulated over the past year; on the basis of this point, the Congress has recognised that the retreat has ended and believes the tasks before the Party is to renew the distribution of the Party’s forces in order to completely guarantee the practical implementation of the policies adopted by the Party” (History of the Soviet Socialist Period, Sanlian Bookshop, 1956 ed., p. 511).
This is the long and the short of the historical background to Lenin’s new Economic Policy. From this we can get an in-depth appreciation of how to put into practice the task of building socialism, which was, as far as the newly victorious Russia goes, a completely new experience. On the basis of the fundamental tenets put forward by Marx and Engels, Lenin creatively developed Marxism by integrating it with the specific conditions of Russia, formulated the correct line and policies on how to make the transition from capitalism to socialism following the seizure of power by the proletariat, how to plan and take measures that conformed to the construction and development of socialism, how under specific conditions to work out the necessary strategic retreat to the advantage of the revolutionary cause; and also, which has been stressed repeatedly in many works by Lenin, and particularly in those later works where it was thoroughly explained, how to change over to the strategic offensive at a suitable opportunity.
Lenin included amongst the basic elements for the construction of socialism: implementing socialist public ownership and industrialisation; implementing the transformation of agricultural cooperatives according to the principles of socialist public ownership; implementing the socialist distribution system; strengthening the building of political power, the building of the party, and ideological building and cultural revolution etc.
Where, from so many historical materials and from Lenin’s series of expositions on the New Economic Policy, are there the so-called “mistakes” Mr Xie Tao says Lenin recognised in his later years? And where in fact have communists since Lenin “departed from Marxism”? If we say these things, then it is revisionism post-Bernstein! It is the likes of Krushchov and Gorbachev! It is the false Marxism of those Party members hanging up the signboard of new liberalism and trumpeting democratic socialism, of fake Party members! It is revisionism! It is Mr Xie Tao’s kind of people with the surnames “Private” and “Capital”, a faction backed by the elite!
Thanks to Mike of Serve the People for translating this. More from Wu Bing on his site: