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Nov. 27, 2011. The article below “Russia, the Dictatorship of the Bureaucracy” appeared almost 40 years ago in the December 1972 issue of "NEW GUARD," a “Young Americans for Freedom” publication, authored by Peter N. Budzilovich of Nyack, NY. The author translated the article into Russian, replacing "Russia" with "Soviet Union." The article is given for reference only and, since the rest of this web site is in Russian, various links in the box at the top are in Russian.
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“Soviet Union, the Dictatorship of the Bureaucracy”
Mention the dismal failure of socialism in the Soviet Union to a "progressive" audience, and you'll get a Pavlovian response that runs something like this: "They don't have socialism in the Soviet Union! They have a dictatorship (or ‘Bolshevism' ‘Russian Communism,' ‘distorted Marxism,' and so on), anything but socialism."
Apparently, centuries of philosophical propaganda are bearing fruit. The meaning of socialism ("scientific socialism" to some!) has long been forgotten, and the word today symbolizes a society with neither poor nor rich, with neither slums nor palaces, where, in short, "everything will be well with justice for all."
It is small wonder then, that when the first large-scale application of "scientific socialism" in 1917 in Russia produced a dictatorship with large-scale terror, socialist theoreticians this side of the Iron Curtain quickly denounced the Soviet system as "non-socialist." In other words, "If facts don't agree with the theory, too bad for the facts."
But suppose we stop regarding socialism as a philosophical sacred cow and examine the 50-year Soviet experience (a respectable period of time for a nation) in a truly objective and scientific manner.
That is, let us ask ourselves: Could it be that the Soviet system is the only way a practical socialism can exist? After all, until the Soviet experiment, socialist theory was just that – a theory. Shouldn't "we re-examine a theory that so far has produced results diametrically opposite to its promises?
Socialism: Bureaucracy to the Nth Degree
As a first step, let me dispel the universal notion that the Soviet economic system is "communist," a distorted version of "pure" Marxism, rather than socialist. Indeed, let us look up a definition in any Webster's dictionary: "[communism] is a social system that puts property, capital, and industry under the control of the community, and strives toward equal distribution of benefits." Looking up the word "socialism," we find it defined as: "A theory that land, industries, and goods produced should be owned, managed, and distributed by a government representing the people: any system aimed to put these ideas into practical application."
Quickly comparing these two definitions, we immediately notice that the real difference between them is in the distribution of goods: Equal distribution among society members under communism, against some undefined distribution scheme under socialism. On the basis of accepted definitions one can see that in the Soviet Union there is a bona fide socialist economy. If you think about either definition, however, you'll notice that they lack clarity. Therefore, let us try to get at their true, common-sense meaning.
The ownership and management of a property (or land, or industry) by "government" are slippery concepts. "Government," "state," "people," "nation," and so forth are pure abstractions and, as such, can neither govern nor manage. It takes live people, with arms and legs (and, unfortunately, stomachs requiring food and drink) to exercise ownership, to manage, to distribute. Who will these men be (must they be, really) in a socialist society? Why, government employees, of course! Or, to use the word loosely applied nowadays to all sorts of government employees, "bureaucrats."
Thus we can restate the original "theoretical" definition of socialism in a slightly more meaningful way: Socialism is an economic system where property, land, industries, and produced goods are, in theory, owned by the people but managed and controlled by bureaucrats appointed by the government.
Having arrived at this practical definition of socialism, we can appreciate, at least partially, the lot of a Soviet citizen: A man whose every move is governed by an unimaginable amount of red tape, whose very life depends on reams upon reams of laws and regulations, plus numerous bureaucratic decrees.
Recall your experiences in dealing with our own bureaucrats and project them to cover your every move: Buying a loaf of bread, fixing a pair of shoes, applying for a transfer from one job to another ... In short, surround your every step with applications, permits, and regulations, season them with typical bureaucratic brush-offs – the "Don't bother me, this isn't my department" attitude – and you have it – you are living in a socialist paradise.
But, of course, there is more to it than that. Various other aspects directly follow from this dictatorship of bureaucracy that is the essence of socialism.
Terror Is a Main Spring of a Planned Economy
Planned economy versus “capitalist chaos” has been heralded by socialist theoreticians as the single most significant "advantage" of socialism: It automatically eliminates unemployment, overproduction and, consequently, waste. On the surface, it holds a promise of Utopian happiness, easily attainable as soon as the socialistic principles are implemented.
The very first five-year plan in the Soviet Union (late 1920's, early 1930's) resulted in tremendous strengthening and subsequent continuous maintenance of a department whose only function was to hold the masses of Soviet workers in dumb obedience: the department has changed its name (but not its essence) several times during the last 50 years, Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, MVD, KGB. It turned out that the only way to implement the planned economy was by holding a gun to practically every Soviet citizen's head. It was no mere coincidence that the planned economy got rolling only after Stalin assumed his full dictatorial powers.
Numerous socialist theoreticians this side of the Iron Curtain are quick to dismiss the evolvement of the all-encompassing terror in the Soviet Union as "non-socialist," "Bolshevism," "dictatorial," "Communistic," and so forth. The theory that led to the appearance of all this was just too beautiful to be doubted. But in fact, the planned economy must lead to terror! Even a superfluous reflection shows that no dissent can be tolerated in a planned economy, if it is to remain a planned economy. Take strikes, for instance. Suppose Soviet steelworkers go on strike. Since every ton of their production has been spoken for, the whole economy can be severely damaged. It makes a shambles of the plan for the rest of the country. Indeed, we never hear about strikes in the Soviet Union. To assume that the reason for this is the uniform happiness of the people would be outright foolish.
Literature and Art – a Public Relations Function
Another aspect of practical socialism that was forced upon Soviet leaders by reality was the fact that not only the economy, but all other phases of national life also had to be planned with a gun as the major "incentive." Moreover, following Lenin's view that the "press is the sharpest weapon of socialism," even stiffer measures were applied to intellectuals than to workers to eliminate dissenters. Some of them were starved (poet Blok), others shot (poet Gumilev), others committed suicide (poets Yesenin, Mayakovsky). The remainder accepted the role of public relations writers, with fat (by Soviet standards) paychecks and the duty to praise any and all actions of socialist "leaders."
It could not be otherwise. Suppose freedom of speech were allowed, and, lo and behold, there comes a man like L. Tolstoy with his "return-to-nature" call. If he manages to convince enough workers that we should go back and live in the bush, what happens to heavy industry (which Tolstoy considered a complete folly)? Or, worse yet, suppose some writer looks at any of the numerous failings of Soviet shops and farms and says: "The plan and planners were stupid, and everyone will be better off by doing away with both the plan and the planners." What then?
Obviously, Soviet leaders have learned the Machiavellian logic well: If there is no one to tell a man that he is badly off, chances are he'll never figure this out for himself. And thus, just as there are no strikes in the Soviet Union, there is little intellectual dissent either.
In this connection, it is interesting to examine the case of A. Solzhenitsin. His only "sin" against the socialist fatherland is his refusal to become a Soviet public relations writer. Nowhere in his writings does he dispute the virtues of socialism, ideologically he is neutral. True, he denounced Stalin's methods, but so did many Soviet leaders. His latest novel, August 1914, could even be considered (on the surface) as in line with the Soviet practice of denouncing anything connected with tzarism.
But, once again – and this is crucial to grasp – he has committed the highest crime of a socialist state: He refuses to toe the line, he insists on writing what he likes, he does not take orders from some bureaucrat in charge of the current "party line."
Dictatorship Is a Must with Socialism
One of the main promises of socialist Utopia-planned economy – led to the necessity to enforce plans and, consequently, to the necessity of having an elite corps of enforcers, now known as the KGB. In other words, the KGB is a socialistic attribute: How else can its presence be explained, after 50 years of Soviet existence, after well fulfilling its original function, the extermination of "class enemies"? In fact, this organization is the cornerstone of Soviet law and order, the mainspring of the Soviet economy, and the final authority that determines when a Soviet writer (or artist) acts "in the interest of the working masses," or against them. Summarizing:
a. There can be no dissent in a socialist society.
b. It must be supported by terror.
c. Socialism is a dictatorship of bureaucracy.
A dictatorship (or "cult of personality," as it is termed in the Soviet Union) is another basic requirement for the existence of a socialist state.
We have shown before that the basis of a socialist society is suppression of any kind of dissent, either economic or intellectual. And so, mentally scanning through the layers of Soviet bureaucracy until we get to the very top level, we see blind obedience to orders (or "directives," as they are diplomatically called there). But, as we get to the top of the heap, can we have a "collective," "democratic" forum?
The answer is clear. If the "collective leadership" consists of several men, there is immediately a possibility of dissent, disagreement, inability to make firm decisions. The lack of firmness at the top will be transmitted below, and the whole Babylonian bureaucratic tower will come down.
Thus, throughout the USSR's 50 year history, there always existed a dictatorship, with brief intervals of "collective leadership." In reality, these periods of "collective leadership" are simply transition times during which a fierce battle is fought among the few top bureaucrats for the chair of the dictator. Thus after seven years of Lenin's rule, it took Stalin about four years to knock out the competition. The same thing happened after Stalin's death, when Khrushchev finally eliminated his rivals. And it appears today that comrade Brezhnev is gradually moving into the top spot.
Did We Get Sufficient Warning?
Despite the Utopian propaganda for socialism in the 19th century, some could see its inevitable consequences.
About 100 years ago, wrote Alexander Herzen: "Socialism will develop in all its phases to the limit, to the absurd. Then, once again, from the titanic breast of the revolutionary minority there will come a cry of suffering, and a life-and-death struggle will commence, in which socialism will play the part of today's conservatism and will be defeated by the future, unknown to us, revolution." A. Hertsen, Complete works, Vol. 5, p. 121.
About the same time, F. Dostoyevsky wrote: "Just give these modern supreme teachers a chance to tear down the old order and to build a new one, the result will be such a chaos and darkness, something so cruel, blind, and inhuman, that the whole edifice will collapse among the curses of mankind, even before its completion. . . Once having rejected Christ, the human mind can produce amazing results," "Writer's Diary," Citizen, No. 50, 1873.
L. Tolstoy sketched the coming Russian revolution precisely: "Power will be seized by chatterbox lawyers and rundown landowners, and after them – Marats and Robespierres," Yasnopolianskie Zapisky, p. 81. This prediction, made about fifty years before the revolution, proved to be a snapshot: After the tsar stepped down, the power was seized by A. Kerensky ("chatterbox lawyer") and Grand Duke L'vov ("rundown landowner"). After them came Lenin and Stalin ("Marats and Robespierres").
Looking at the Facts
In 1972 we need take no one's word for granted. Indeed, all we have to do is look at how socialism works in the Soviet Union. For instance, Soviet newspapers, for any year, will be filled with essentially the same material. Depending on the season, several articles will call upon collective-farm workers to take care of the crops. Simultaneously, one or more articles will describe the failure of a farm or a factory to fulfill its quotas ("While workers enthusiastically, as a whole, do their job, there are a few . . .").
These articles telling workers and farmers that they should do their job, in themselves are eye opening. Indeed, they plainly show that there is no incentive for a Soviet laborer or farmer to work.
But various "sins" of management and workers are even more revealing: "Production of metal beds was planned in tons. And therefore it was not just pure chance that many factories were making beds weighing 110 to 125 pounds. As the result, over 500,000 tons of rolled metal was required for bed production yearly." F. S. Veselkov, Material Stimulation of Workingmen in USSR, Moscow, 1962, p. 47.
Another example from the same book and on the same page: "Production of enameled steel pots and pans is planned in tons. As a result stores get an abundance of large pots and pans, but there are not enough small sizes."
These examples could be extended indefinitely. They could be countered by saying: "But if the plan were worded differently, then . . ." and so on, and I would agree. But what is really important here is the attitude, i.e., the ever-present tendency just to satisfy some "directive," without any regard for either the quality or the usefulness of the product. And why should it be otherwise? The plant manager's salary stays fixed, no matter how he performs. True, under various "incentive" plans he can earn a bonus, but in a bureaucracy there are easier ways to earn bonuses than by working hard.
This lack of capitalist-style incentives forces Soviet planners to use all kinds of gimmicks to make Soviet workers produce. What American labor has long termed "sweatshop practices" are the accepted practice in the "socialist paradise," i.e., in many industries workers' pay is based on their production, not an hourly rate. "This increases productivity, and improves the organization of production. Because of this, 77.5% of industrial workers in 1956 were paid on this basis. And today this practice remains predominant." (Veselkov, p. 99.)
Pay reductions are also used in the Soviet Union quite routinely as punishment for bad work. Writes Veselkov (p. 138): "For example, directors of Soviet farms have a right to reduce the pay of combine operators up to 30% for low quality of harvesting. This serves as one of the measures to raise the quality of harvesting."
All these examples serve to show the total impotency of a bureaucracy, top to bottom. Just as there are no incentives to produce within the management, so there are even fewer incentives to produce for the workers. And so, as the "ultimate incentive," there stands the KGB, easily filling jails by spotting enough "enemies of the people" among the second and third-generations of "Soviet man."
Are We Learning?
From all appearances one must conclude that Americans, on the whole, are very slow learners. Indeed, in this country, which created more wealth than all other nations combined, there is doubt about the success of our methods. In fact, there are plenty of ready and willing experimenters who would love to try "their" version of socialism. It seems that the only people on this earth who learned the "socialist facts of life" are those who lived —even for a short time —under socialism.
Ironically, for instance, last year we tried to cure free enterprise (after it bogged down under an ever-increasing burden of bureaucratic measures) with more bureaucracy, in the President's New Economic Policy, "NEP," or the wage-price freeze. Lenin, too, had a New Economic Policy. Right after the "military communism" that ruined Russia's economy completely, he gave the country a "breather," by permitting the operation of small businesses. He reasoned quite correctly that only capitalism could save an economy poisoned by a large dose of socialism. It is a lesson American office holders should remember.
Instead, we seem incapable of realizing that every new bureaucrat is a new non-productive member of society. For a typical bureaucratic function is to control, to govern, to restrict. Not only are we adding a burden, but we also diminish our ability to carry that burden, since we give up a certain amount of freedom every time we create a new "government agency." And, just as socialism is a dictatorship of bureaucracy, so a dictatorship of bureaucracy is socialism ...
What to Do?
The first thing to do is to re-examine many seemingly "self-evident" notions espoused today at every turn. Whenever someone approaches with high-sounding, "morally correct" propositions, think about them: What do they really mean? What are they about? How would any given proposition be carried out in practice?
And finally, the best thing to remember is that so far, every attempt to build a "paradise on earth" invariably ends up in disaster. Isn't it time to agree that God's order is best?
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