Karl Kautsky as Critic of Bolshevism – III

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Kautsty's critique of Soviet communism

Economic and social aspects: the nature of the mode of production

The Kautskian critique of the economic aspects related to the implementation of the Bolshevik (communist) regime in former Tsarist Russia seeks its foundation in axial postulates of Marxian theory, related to the transition to socialism. According to Marx, this could only take place in a country where the capitalist mode of production was already dominant.

Therefore, where the level of development of the productive forces could guarantee the existence of wealth to be shared with the population. In this vein, socialism of penury expresses a contradiction in terms, a contradiction in terms for those who defend a materialist conception of society.

Indeed, Marxian theory demonstrates that the possibilities of a transition to socialism are materially determined: the socialist mode of production would necessarily have to be the result, in the evolutionary dynamics of capitalism, of the contradictions between the growing development of the productive forces, their ability to generate wealth, with rigid relations of production, limiting this productive potential.

Now, in Soviet Russia, the backward stage of development is at the base of the shortage of workers and qualified staff to boost production. Without these, there is little point in importing advanced means of production. On the other hand, the very low level of consumption, in the face of widespread poverty and misery, conspires against workers' productivity. This situation is also associated with the deprivation of freedoms that limits the initiative capacity of those who produce, and consequently, their income. (KAUTSKY, 1982:10-11).

Faced with such limitations, Kautksy strives to demonstrate that the forced collectivization of the countryside constitutes a “flight forward” by the regime. And that the industry, created at the cost of unprecedented waste and suffering, is characterized by poor productivity and the poor quality of its products (1982:130-145).

What mode of production was then being constructed by the Bolsheviks? For Kautsky, state capitalism, which “limits itself to replacing private employers – expropriated from the ownership of their capital – by officials who, in essence, preserve the old relations of production, founded on the absolute power of the director of the company and of the ruling class in the state” (1931: X).

Thus, in the Leninist conception “large industry requires a rigorous, absolute unity of will”, which can only be obtained by “submitting the will of thousands of people to that of one” (LENIN:1968:659).

Kautsky's understanding, also on this issue, is diametrically opposed to Lenin's. For him, without democracy, the collective ownership of the means of production is nothing more than a legal fiction that disguises the appropriation of productive forces by the holders of political power: the State bureaucracy. And he proposes that, with the end of the Bolshevik regime, socialized companies be governed by a council composed of representatives of workers, consumers and the State (BERGOUNIOUX AND MANIN, 1979; 80).

In conclusion, for Kautsky, “A socialist mode of production means the organization of production by society and requires economic self-management by the entire mass of the people. State organization of the economy by the state or by a single layer of the people is not socialism. This presupposes numerous free organizations, both economic and political, and the most complete freedom of association. The socialist organization of work must not be militarism” (KAUTSKY, 1979:34).

Legal-political regime

Kautsky, in his works, frequently criticizes the anti-legal character of the Bolshevik regime, covered by supposedly legal norms, which legitimize arbitrariness. As an example, one can cite the one that allows voters to organize the electoral procedure, which, in the name of a supposed “mass sense of justice”, gives the Bolsheviks “the possibility of getting rid of every inconvenient element of opposition in the proletariat itself” (1979:53).

This is how the Bolshevik dictatorship “dictatorship of a party, within the proletariat” took on its first contours, still in 1918, with the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, on January 19, and with the expulsion of the Mensheviks and part of of the Socialist Revolutionaries of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, on June 14 of the same year. Thus, the repression of other socialist tendencies begins “well before the civil war; in reality, it begins with the very seizure of power'” (FAUSTO, 2001:42).

On the other hand, in Kautsky's view, the bureaucracy, commanded by the Bolsheviks, exercises absolute control of the State and, by extension, of the means of production. In this way, it behaves as a collective exploiter of the proletariat and the peasantry. It is a political regime, intertwined, inseparably, by economic and (anti) legal elements, which he described as bureaucratic despotism of the eastern type, which is maintained by violence, in defiance of the law and the rights of peoples. . A sui generis despotism because it is based on economic power and modern technology. For the most prominent theorist of the Second International, such a regime, under Stalin, is but a variant of fascism: "Fascism is but the equivalent of Bolshevism and Mussolini the imitation of Stalin" (931:112).

Massimo Salvadori recalls that, in his work, entitled Terrorism and Communism, Kautsky states that the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party, which can only be maintained through terrorism, ends up producing a regime of political and social privileges: a 'new class of functionaries', whose vocation is Bonapartism, that is, a “despotism exercised by an armed minority over an unarmed majority” (1982:337).

Based on these conclusions, the “Pope of Marxism” considers the Bolshevik regime a historical aberration, even more harmful to the proletariat than capitalism. In this, workers are free to claim and can organize to change the system in force while in Soviet communism, workers suffer, in addition to economic oppression, political dictatorship. Thus, “industrial capitalism, from private, was transformed into State capitalism. Before, the worker supported himself, sometimes on one, sometimes on another. Now the bureaucracy of the state and that of capital have merged. This is the result of the great socialist transformation brought about by Bolshevism. It is the most oppressive despotism that Russia has ever known” (1982: 113).

Therefore, in Kautsky's opinion, the Bolshevik regime performs a potentiation of the bureaucracy that crushes the workers to an extent that capitalism is not able to accomplish.

In summary, Kautsky understands that “socialism without democracy is not worthy of consideration. By modern socialism we mean not only the collective organization of production, but also the democratic organization of society. Therefore, we believe that socialism is inseparably linked to democracy. There is no socialism without democracy” (1979:6).

* Rubens Pinto Lyra Professor Emeritus at UFPB and author, among other books, of La Gauche en France et la construction europeenne (Paris, 1978) and Socialism: impasses and perspectives (ed.) (Scritta).

To read the first part click on https://aterraeredonda.com.br/karl-kautsky-como-critico-do-bolchevismo/

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