Excerpts from the
The Significance of the New Policy and Its Conditions
I will take the liberty of quoting a long passage from my pamphlet, The Chief Task of Our Day. "Left-Wing" Childishness and Petty-Bourgeois Mentality. This pamphlet was published . . . in 1918… I leave what appertains to the discussion about "state capitalism" and the main elements of our contemporary economy, the transitional economy from capitalism to socialism.
This is what I wrote at that time:
State capitalism would be a step forward as compared with the present state of affairs in our Soviet Republic. If in approximately six months' time state capitalism were to be established in our Republic, that would be a great success and a sure guarantee that within a year socialism will have gained a permanently firm hold and will have become invincible in our country.
I can imagine with what noble indignation some people will recoil from these words. . . . What! The transition to state capitalism in the Soviet Socialist Republic would be a step forward? . Isn't this the betrayal of socialism?
No one, I think, in studying the question of the economics of Russia, has denied its transitional character. Nor, I think, has any Communist denied that the term Socialist Soviet Republic implies the determination of Soviet power to achieve the transition to socialism, and not that the existing economic system is recognized as socialist.
But what does the word "transition" mean? Does it not mean, as applied to economics, that the present system contains elements, particles, pieces of both capitalism and socialism? Everyone will admit that it does. But not all who admit this take the trouble to consider the precise elements of the various socio-economic formations which exist in Russia at the present time. And this is the crux of the question.
Let us enumerate these elements:
Russia is so vast and so varied that all these different types of socio-economic formations are intermingled. This is what constitutes the specific feature of the situation.
The question arises: what elements predominate? Clearly, in a small-peasant country, the petty-bourgeois element predominates.
…economically, state capitalism is immeasurably superior to our present economic system.
In the second place, there is nothing terrible in it for Soviet power, for the Soviet state is a state in which the power of the workers and the poor is assured.
To elucidate the question still more, let us first of all take the most concrete example of state capitalism. Everybody knows what this example is. It is Germany. Here we have "the last word" in modern, large-scale capitalist engineering and planned organization, subordinated to Junker-bourgeois imperialism. Cross out the words in italics, and in place of the militarist, Junker, bourgeois, imperialist state put also a state, but of a different social type , of a different class content - a Soviet state … and you will have the totality of conditions that is socialism.
Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the last word in modem science. It is inconceivable without planned state organization by means of which tens of millions of people are made strictly to observe a single standard in production and distribution. At the same time socialism is inconceivable unless the proletariat is the ruler of the state. This also is ABC. And history… took such a peculiar course that it gave birth in 1918 to two unconnected halves of socialism existing side by side like two chicks in the single shell of international imperialism. In 1918 Germany and Russia were the embodiment of the most striking material realization of the economic, the productive, and the socio-economic conditions for socialism, on the one hand, and the political conditions, on the other.
A successful proletarian revolution in Germany would immediately and very easily have shattered any shell of imperialism ….. and would have brought about the victory of world socialism for certain, without any difficulty, or with slight difficulty-if, of course, by "difficulty" we mean difficult on a world historical scale, and not in the very narrow sense. While the revolution in Germany is still slow in "coming forth," our task is to learn state capitalism from the Germans, to spare no effort in copying it and not shrink from adopting dictatorial methods to hasten the copying of Western practices by barbarian Russia, without hesitating to use barbarous methods in fighting barbarism. …
At present, petty-bourgeois capitalism prevails in Russia, and it is one and the same road that leads from it to both large-scale state capitalism and to socialism, through one and the same intermediary station called "national accounting and control of production and distribution." Those who fail to understand this are making an unpardonable mistake in economics. Either they do not know the facts of life, do not see what actually exists, and are unable to look the truth in the face; or they confine themselves to abstractly comparing "capitalism" and "socialism" and fail to study the concrete forms and stages of the transition that is taking place in our country.
It is precisely because Russia cannot advance from the economic situation now existing here without traversing the ground that is common to state capitalism and to socialism (national accounting and control) that the attempt to frighten others as well as themselves with "evolution towards state capitalism" is sheer theoretical nonsense. It means that one's thoughts are wandering away from the true road of "evolution," and one fails to understand what this road is. In practice it is equivalent to dragging back to small-proprietor capitalism.
In order to convince the reader that this is not the first time I have given this "high" appreciation of state capitalism and that I gave it be/ore the Bolsheviks seized power, I take the liberty of quoting the following passage from my pamphlet, The Impending Catastrophe" and How To Combat It, written in September 1917.
"Try to substitute for the Junker-capitalist state, for the landlord capitalist state, a revolutionary-democratic state, that is, a state which in a revolutionary way destroys all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way, and you will find that, given a really revolutionary-democratic state, state-monopo1 capitalism inevitably and unavoidably implies a step towards socialism. "For socialism is nothing but the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly.
"State-monopolistic capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung in the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs."..
Please note that this was written when Kerensky was in power, that we are discussing, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, not the socialist state, but the "revolutionary-democratic" state. Is it not clear that the higher we stand on this political ladder, the more completely we incorporate the socialist state and the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviets, the less ought we to fear "state capitalism"? It is not clear that from the material, economic, and productive point of view, we are not yet "on the threshold" of socialism? And how otherwise than by way of this "threshold," which we have not yet reached, shall we pass through the door of socialism?