‘The Middle Classes in the Russian Revolution’ by Victor Serge from Soviet Russia (New York). Vol. 7 Nos. 10-11. November-December, 1922.

A major, sprawling essay from Victor Serge, transcribed online for the first time here, giving a history of the relationship between Russia’s ‘middle class’ and the Russian Revolution. From the terrorist intellectuals of the 1880s, to their hostility to October, through their dispersal in the Civil War, to their partial reconciliation to the new Soviet state by way of an emerging bureaucracy and openings the New Economic Policy provided. An essential literary bridge between Serge the Comintern propagandist, and Serge the Left Oppositionist. Published over two issues of the Friends of Soviet Russia’s New York magazine, ‘Soviet Russia.’

‘The Middle Classes in the Russian Revolution’ by Victor Serge from Soviet Russia (New York). Vol. 7 Nos. 10-11. November-December, 1922.

1. Under the old regime, the revolutionary Intelligentsia is recruited from the middle classes.

BEFORE the revolution, the petty bourgeoisie of Russia gave to the movement for emancipation the best of its children. The large majority of Russian intellectuals who, for more than a half century, sustained a struggle to the death against the old regime, founded great parties, and gave to the world and to posterity so remarkable a group of pioneers, was recruited from the petty bourgeoisie of Russia. They were sons of petty officials, doctors, tradesmen, the lower clergy; they thronged the Russian universities, which had become centers of revolutionary ferment.

This was due to profound causes. The old Russian regime added to the ills of capitalism those of autocracy, particularly felt by the middle classes. While the latter are in all democratic countries closely associated with political power and participate at their pleasure in the benefits of capitalist exploitation, they were shut off by tsarism from political life, deprived of certain elementary rights (notably of representation in the government), placed, as was the Third Estate in France before 1789, in a position of manifest inferiority with respect to the nobility, the high clergy, the high officials and some plutocrats. In combating autocracy, the petty bourgeoisie of Russia was only defending its own right to existence. Its development was everywhere hindered. The conditions under which it existed were intolerable.

It suffered cruelly from the anachronisms of the old regime. The total absence of political life embittered it in democratic countries a considerable number of people make a comfortable living out of what is called “political life”, journalists, lawyers, parliamentarians, molders and exploiters of public opinion in divers degrees. In tsarist Russia, the intelligent veterinary who felt in himself the stuff of a party leader or of a politician summoned to play a role in his province, was doomed to the most bitter inaction. Even the activity of literary, philanthropic or scientific societies, being suspected by the Minister of the Interior, was hampered in a thousand ways. And the insolence of the privileged castes added still further to the bitterness of an enlightened bourgeoisie, nourished on liberalism and envious of the liberties of the Occident. Up to a short time before the war it still happened that doctors or merchants were beaten by drunken officers: Korolenko has told about it.

This situation created, especially in the youth of the Russian petty bourgeoisie, a revolutionary frame of mind. One had to be a socialist. One became a socialist with passion, wrath and despair. For the price was big: often life, always freedom and ease. But there was no other way out. The revolutionary intelligentsia of Russia gave to posterity the Narodnaya Volya and its magnificent terrorists, nihilism and its searchers after truth, the embryo of a great Marxist social-democracy which extends from Plekhanov to Lenin, a revolutionary socialism illuminated by the Lavrovs and the Mikhailovskys, the Pleiades of terrorists who are apostles — Sazonov, Kalayev, Balmashev, Guershuni —  anarchists capable of every audacity and every sacrifice…..

This was, however, but a vanguard, upon which all eyes were fixed. And one scarcely noted what forces of reaction and darkness came behind that vanguard. For the petty bourgeoisie, who had issued the revolutionary intelligentsia, remained true to itself. Only a few perspicacious observers discerned, with painful sharpness of vision, the ridiculousness, the ferocity, the unfathomable stupidity, the sordid egoism of this innumerable “mediocracy”. Gorky wrote his Petty Bourgeois, Chekov, with dry humor, depicted the shabby soul of a hideous petty bourgeoisie.

2. March 1917 and democratic hopes.

For a moment, during the revolution, the petty bourgeoisie hoped to conquer. One morning in March 1917 the workers of Petrograd, driven to desperation by the useless butcheries in Galicia, the Carpathians, Poland, Volhynia and many other places, cast down the worm-eaten edifice of autocracy. It was, in truth, falling of itself. The reports of the Petrograd chief of police during the last days of the old regime announced the catastrophe each day. The working people applied the necessary push. And there were seen advancing on the stage a prince Lvov, a Rodzianko, a Miliukov, a Kerensky, parliamentarians trained in the Duma, who believed themselves clearly designated to resume the succession of the Stolypins and Sturmers and began by attempting to save the monarchy….That was the dream of a great bourgeoisie with “constitutional” inclinations which saluted with joy the coming of the rule of money.

The petty bourgeoisie did not permit its realization. It wanted a republic. It streamed into and almost instantaneously assimilated the Social Revolutionary party whose ideologists and orators knew very well how to interpret its aspirations. The reign of men of affairs, lawyers, of an enlightened, liberal bourgeoisie, “highly advanced” of course, was about to begin. Beside, or a little below the national banner, they willingly flew, to please the mass, a red flag — a red agreeably approaching pink. They would be Socialists — and even Social-Revolutionists: that is to say, they would talk much, long, eloquently and seriously of giving the land to the peasants — as they spoke of socialization in Germany. They would continue the war for justice — not without hope of obtaining the Dardanelles.

The workers’ revolution in November annihilated this fine dream.

3. The battles of November 1917.

The events of November transpired despite vigorous opposition by the petty bourgeoisie. It was, moreover, the latter that furiously defended property and the rights of the bourgeoisie. Already the financial and industrial barons had quit. In Moscow, in Petrograd, in Irkutsk, wherever there was fighting in the streets for the power of the Soviets of workers, soldiers and peasants — who were the last defenders of Kerensky’s provisional government and therefore of bourgeois democracy? The military schools, the students; in a word, the petty bourgeois youth. The same elements, in Finland, were soon to constitute the White Guards of bloody infamy. In Moscow, too, this armed petty bourgeoisie, believing itself victorious at one moment, began with the November battles to shoot its prisoners.

Is it not opportune to recall the role of the petty bourgeoisie of France, itself also republican, on the morrow of the revolution of 1848, when it entrusted to General Cavaignac the task of “saving society” in the blood of the workers?

4. The sequel: conspiracies and sabotage.

The November revolution was thus in the first place a victory of the working class over the petty bourgeoisie. From that moment, the expropriated great bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, frustrated in its hopes, formed a bloc against the revolution. But the latter is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of the Soviets. For years it will maintain a tireless, incessant resistance, which no scruple will hinder and no repression break.

This resistance began on the morrow of the November revolution with the strike of officials and technicians. The ministries were empty. The municipal bureaus were empty. Bureau chiefs, employees, engineers were gone. For weeks and months they did not return. Rather let the city perish without food, without water, without electricity! “One does not work with the Bolsheviks!” Here was a danger of immediate death to the revolution. Would the workers’ Soviets succeed in reorganizing all at once the public services necessary for the provisioning and life of the large centers? They did succeed. It had been intended to cause the fall of the Bolsheviks by the general strike of officials and technicians. They were disillusioned. Besides, at the end of a few weeks, necessity was already forcing a considerable number of officials and technicians to ask the Soviets for work.

Returning to the administrations and the public services, they inaugurated a new tactic: that of sabotage. In 1918 the great bourgeoisie was conquered. Bankers, industrial captains, big proprietors, having taken refuge in Paris or London, schemed for military intervention. It is the middle classes, almost unassisted, who put up a fierce resistance to the revolution in Russia. Coincident with sabotage, conspiracies developed and branched out. The most important of these is quite characteristic. It was that of the “Union for the Safety of Fatherland and Liberty”, of which the ex-“Social- Revolutionary” Savinkov was the principal organizer. This Union, upon which the foreign missions — notably the French mission — set great hopes, recruited its active elements among officers and intellectuals (liberal professions, students, officials). From the social point of view, its class composition was sharply defined. Thence arose the confused character of its ideology in contrast to the clarity of its aspirations. The officers of the old tsarist army constitute the most retrogressive element of petty bourgeois “mediocracy”: they are monarchists; and as it is they who go in front when it is a matter of being killed, their influence is great. The intellectuals are all more or less “socialist” and “revolutionary”. The Union was non-political. It defended the Fatherland — and liberty. What liberty? Evidently the ideal of bourgeois democracy. It is this Union that began the civil war, at the express demand of the Allies (insurrections of Yaroslav and Riazan; capture of Kazan by the “Whites”; revolt of the Czecho-Slovaks).

5. The middle classes furnish the cannon fodder for the White armies.

The outstanding facts of the history of the civil war in Russia cannot be set forth in the limits of a summary. I shall cite only a few to show the role played by the middle classes.

The first counter-revolutionary government established in Russia after November 1917, is that of Samara, formed by the members of the Constituent Assembly, Social-Revolutionaries in large majority, who claimed to represent to a great degree the majority of the middle peasants, that is to say, the petty bourgeoisie of the rural districts, their program is democratic.

From the Samara government springs, at the Ufa Conference (September 1918) the Ufa Directory, of which Avksentiev, of the S.-R. Party, is the most prominent member. But civil war inflames the whole country. It gives birth to armies. The proletarian dictatorship, rendered warlike, hardened, tempered by plots, criminal attempts, sabotage, foreign aggression, is an opponent much more formidable than was imagined. In Siberia, where the counter-revolution is for a time the stronger, the middle classes and their Party reveal their incapacity to direct a war that they are waging with all their souls. Their liberalism, weak and indecisive, merely prepares the way for a monarchist reaction. Kolchak has very little trouble in driving out the Directory and seizing power. The former members of the Constituent Assembly surrender their position to the military dictatorship of a tsarist admiral.

Let us take note: inevitably, in accordance with the logic of history, this military dictatorship could not conquer because it had to govern against the petty bourgeoisie. When it had shot down Social-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, it was doomed. With the middle classes, the only real supporters of counter-revolution in Siberia, Kolchak was soon unpopular, then discredited, then execrated. Upon the announcement of his first defeats, the whole country rose against him. The poor peasants and the workers had never submitted to him; but it is the uprising of the “enlightened” population of Irkutsk and the desertion of the Czecho-Slovak pretorians (whose “democratic spirit” has not been forgotten) which finished the Supreme Ruler.

With what soldiers did the counter-revolution make war in South Russia, under Komilov, Kaledin, Dutov, Krasnov, Denikin and Wrangel? Three elements formed its armies: the remnants of the “Volunteer Corps”, organized soon after November 1917 by military cadets escaped from Moscow and by officers; the mass of officers of the old regime; and the Cossacks. In numbers and political influence the last were the most important People of the Don, the Terek, the Kuban, Astrakhan, the Cossacks waged a war to the death against Bolshevism before submitting to it Why? Being rural proprietors, of warlike habits, of democratic traditions, understanding nothing about Communism, distrustful and hostile toward the working class of the cities, they desired neither socialization of land, nor a socialist republic, which it was easy to present to them in its least attractive aspects. And it was they who furnished the tsar’s generals with cannon fodder. The drama that took place in Siberia is repeated with them in Kuban, Ukraine, Crimea. Confused and narrow democrats, the Cossacks served the monarchist reaction, which never hesitated to break their opposition by force. Finally, however, they wearied and began to understand. The Cossack youth passed over to the “reds”; the example was contagious. The rural petty bourgeoisie of Ukraine and the Don, witness of the incapacity and corruption of the “Whites”, ended by preferring the “reds” to them.

6. The petty bourgeoisie of the cities, and the writers.

During the civil war the middle classes in the large cities of Russia, especially in the two capitals, resisted the Soviet regime to the best of their ability and succeeded in doing the country enormous harm. Their resistance was almost unanimous, permanent, incessant. It assumed various forms.

The active element conspired. In all the conspiracies the participation of the intellectuals (particularly from the universities) and of the liberal professions is notable.

Officials in the Soviets sabotaged. The former tradesmen, shopkeepers, businessmen, brokers, and clerks speculated. Speculation attained terrible proportions and was a social danger. For it was always based, at bottom, on pillage or the diversion of collective goods — especially victuals — a serious matter in time of blockade and scarcity! Or else it trafficked in municipal food-supply in the rural districts, determined the rise in prices, aiding the peasants to starve the revolutionary cities. Even in 1920, dealers in smuggled goods, counting on the imminent fall of the Soviets, lived on illicit commerce, practiced on a large scale. And despite every repression they never completely ceased their traffic.

Moreover, everybody was slandering, whispering in the waiting lines at the doors of communal shops, in the offices of State institutions, every- where; sensational news spread — about the pending reestablishment of order; everybody endeavored to discredit the communists and the proletariat, and contributed to the creation of an unendurable atmosphere of petty hate, of ill will and passive resistance to the revolution, passive through cowardice.

Another very significant fact that must be attributed to the resistance of the petty bourgeois of the cities: the attitude of the writers toward the revolution.

With the exception of an extremely small number, all the journalists, all the writers remaining in Soviet Russia — many because of the material impossibility of emigrating — were open or secret enemies of the regime. The best known set the example by placing their talents at the service of reaction. This was the case with Andreyev, Merezfakovsky, Ivan Bunin, Amfiteatrov, E. Chirikov, Kuprin.

Of the great Russian writers only one was early to range himself on the side of the proletarian revolution: Gorki. And he is precisely the only one who, by his origin, is altogether foreign to the petty bourgeoisie. Gorki, until the moment when his immense talent came to light, was in turn a tramp and a worker.

7. In 1919 the petty bourgeoisie adapts itself to the Revolution and little by little invades Soviet institutions.

At the end of 1919 the White armies were everywhere vanquished. Denikin is in flight, Kolchak is in retreat, Yudenich is crushed, the Archangel government endures only by grace of an English general. In the interior of the country the armed resistance of the middle classes declines and ceases. Without external military support they do not feel capable of conquering; then they have been doubly disillusioned by the collapse of their hopes and by the treatment inflicted upon them by several military dictators. But it is now that they become most dangerous to the revolution.

The petty bourgeoisie begins to adapt itself ta the revolution. It has learned much, it has been trained to warfare. It knows how much it is needed. The technician no longer risks his skin in hazardous plots. On the contrary, he works, he installs himself in the revolution, demands a good ration and gets it while communists and proletarians continue to die of hunger; he becomes indispensable.

The officers enter into the Red army, where, however, the customs of revolutionary war do not allow much scope for their influence. The young ladies enter the soviet bureaus. Likewise the officials, the merchants, the traders. It is often with the best of intentions.

In a few months the Soviet administrations have been invaded — one is sometimes tempted to write conquered — by the petty bourgeoisie.

There are, indeed, proved revolutionists at the head of the administrations. But they are overwhelmed. In the immense country they constitute but a small minority, whose blood has flowed profusely during the war, and which assumes all the responsibilities just as it faces all the perils. What remains in the bureaus? Persons who have come to install themselves there merely to be at ease and because they have to live.

Into the Soviet administrations the petty bourgeoisie brings its habits, its mentality, its class solidarity, even its manner of speech. It very quietly reconstitutes the bureaucracy,

Lenin observes in 1920 that we have a workers’ and peasants’ state deformed by bureaucracy.

8. Causes of This Peaceful Penetration.

What made this peaceful penetration of the proletarian State by the class hostile to it possible? The numerical insufficiency of the proletariat, the elimination of the most class-conscious workers by the war, and ignorance and lack of preparation on the part of the working class — these are the great historical causes.

In a large populous city like Petrograd, with workers in the proportion of 40 to 50 per cent, the numerical relation of the classes was profoundly altered during two years of revolution. By tens of thousands the proletarians went to fight under the red banners. By the hundreds the more class-conscious among them were murdered or shot by the Whites. By tens of thousands the more backward workers with rural connections deserted the poorly rationed factory, frequently the scene of mobilizations, to return to the villages. The bulk of the remaining urban population was made up of shopkeepers, officials, clerks, intellectuals — in short, of the middle classes.

The worker charged with the management of an administrative service scarcely knew how to write, read with difficulty the scrawls that were submitted to him, and lost himself in the text of the decrees; but he quickly found a good assistant, either someone acquainted with the old method of running the bureaus, a former bank employee, or a professor of accountancy. The assistant, in turn, procured the help of a friend of his who needed a job. So, very quietly, the character of the personnel was built up.

Two other causes of the development of the bureaucracy constituted by the middle classes should be mentioned. First: the serious scarcity of goods, which made the distribution of remaining stocks extremely difficult. It is obvious that a good deal of special skill is required when it is a question of distributing 500 pairs of shoes among 10,000 persons as equitably as possible. Second: the excessive centralization imposed by the war.

9. The Bureaucracy.

In 1920, while Party mobilizations were tearing thousands of communists away from the work of interior organization, while all the best forces of the revolution were engaged in war against Poland, against Wrangel, against the “Social-Revolutionary” bands of Antonov, who was ravaging Tambov, against the bands of the “anarchist” Makhno and numerous other adventurers and brigands who were pillaging the Ukraine and the Caucasus, against the bands of Ungem in Mongolia, of Semionov in Eastern Siberia, the middle classes in the large cities adapted themselves perfectly to the situation. In the bureaucracy they found a formidable weapon to combat the new order, which was

often discredited and rendered inoperative by their mere presence in the gears of the revolutionary State.

The communists were fighting to the death. Some day we shall have to relate the atrocities of this civil war in which the Whites ruthlessly butchered every prisoner suspected of communist sympathies or Jewish origin. The non-partisan workers, undergoing all the privations of this time of want, already exhausted by years of suffering, were toiling for the defense of the country.

And when a convalescent wounded soldier came back to the city for some document, when the worker went from the mill to the commissariat to request some service due him, what did they see in the offices? This, among other things:

The “employees” there have tea from 11 to 5 o’clock. It is a custom there to kiss the hand of the dainty little powdered female clerks who read French novels by Bourget and Henri Bordeaux! When they pretend to work, it is only to number papers, keep very imposing books, pile up reports, or deliberate in committees. They complain about everything, they jest about their work, they await the deferred fall of the Bolsheviks, they spread mean and petty tales about the “commissar”. And they are rather well dressed, generally better fed than those in the factories or at the front; because they have friends in the cooperatives, they “control” some rationing bureaus, and, finally, there are some big and little mysteries which only the Cheka sometimes succeeds in bringing to light

This bureaucracy has become a national sore. Every day the Soviet press denounces it.

10. Methods of Undermining the Soviet Regime.

The bureaucracy resorts to two equally grave methods of doing harm:

Often, though personally well intentioned and honest, its functionaries mess up the state machinery with formality, red tape, irresponsibility and absenteeism, so that things of course function badly. The bureaucracy understands nothing of socialism and does not try to understand. It applies the decrees (whenever it does apply them) literally, idiotically. It takes malicious pleasure in wasting time and paper, in exasperating the public. “Here it is, here is your soviet power.” Consciously or unconsciously, it is more sabotage, clearly counter-revolutionary.

The other method of doing damage is criminal.

Long before the new economic policy you could meet on the Nevsky Prospekt at Petrograd, on the Iverskoy Boulevard at Moscow, elegant women carrying in their fresh garments, in their high boots, in their handbags, thirty or fifty times the monthly salary of a worker or clerk. If you made inquiry, you learned that this charming person, a subordinate employee in a commissariat, earned 3,000 rubles a month, while she spent at least 400,000 during the same period of time. It was disturbing. A French comrade was upset over it and asked me about it. I answered: “It’s the petty bourgeoisie that robs us and kills us.”

During a period when there was as yet no commerce, no private enterprise, the petty bourgeoisie lived well, and it alone lived well. On what? On bribes, theft and criminal speculation.

11. Corruption, Theft and Speculation.

In Pravda and Izvestia of Moscow and Petrograd you can find practically several times a week, accounts of bribery, speculation and “crimes committed by soviet officials” liquidated by the revolutionary tribunals of the Cheka. It was a new war between the Soviet regime and the petty bourgeoisie waged throughout the length and breadth of Russia — a war which has not yet ended (although its importance baa diminished), for the process continues.

Toward the end of 1920 there was a terrible fuel crisis. Traffic had to stop on the main lines of the railway system (Petrograd-Moscow, for example). Numerous factories had to cease work suddenly. It was an unexpected catastrophe. A month previous it had been believed, on the basis of official statistics, that there were wood reserves, poor but sufficient to furnish the strict minimum fixed in advance. But the statistics lied, all the accounts of certain central administrations were false. What had become of the fuel paid for by die State in provisions and money? Had it ever existed? After long investigations, in the course of which many frauds, bribes, manipulations and fictitious operations were revealed, almost all the managing personnel of the Central Fuel Bureau had to give an accounting of itself before the revolutionary tribunal in Moscow. If my memory is good, there were four capital convictions. In several places, at different times, similar trials exposed certain hidden features of a fuel crisis that might have cost the Soviet Republic its life.

During the Third Congress of the Communist International, the Moscow revolutionary tribunal had to try a curious case, one involving certain electrification services. It was ascertained that stocks of material purchased for gold abroad had been promptly sold in speculation by officials charged with the duty of guarding and distributing them; that engineers — scientists! — placed at the head of the most important services, were selling dynamos for fabulous sums in provisions and money to heroic, intelligent peasants who were installing electricity in their own villages.

Only a few months ago some fifteen State Treasury officials were shot for stealing, selling and squandering the riches confided to them. During the famine!

But these rather clear and precise examples will suffice.

12. Moral Worth and Revival of the Middle Classes.

Scarcely had the new economic policy been initiated, when cafes, pastry shops, groceries and stores of all kinds reopened. Little by little, in step with the growing conviction as to the stability of the new order of things, various articles came forth from their secret hiding places and appeared in the show windows. The Soviet Government, entertaining no illusions with regard to the character of the new merchants, made them pay high rates for the license and authorization to open shop. They had the wherewithal to pay, and they paid. Fine garments reappeared, in large quantity, beginning with last summer.

Let us consider the significant facts. The middle classes, to which the workers’ revolution was constrained to grant concessions, had managed, despite every repression, to rob the Soviet Republic, sometimes to grow rich during the civil war, to survive the terror, to adapt themselves to carry on under all conditions. And, what completes the demonstration of their moral worth — important from the point of view of social progress — security having returned, they have found it quite natural to resume their good eating, good drinking, good dressing, good amusement, good business, in the sight and the knowledge of all, with insolence characteristic of the newly rich, in a martyr country, still bleeding from its wounds of civil war, where fifteen million peasants and five million children are dying of hunger….

The middle classes, whose insolent well-being — although only comparative — makes a display of itself nowadays in Red Russia, are not, it is true, the same as those of 1917-1918. A certain renewal has taken place. But it is impossible to doubt that, on the whole, those of today are closely related to those of yesterday. Former traders are reestablishing themselves in great numbers. Most of the intellectuals, technicians, lawyers, writers, etc., have already set themselves up again in good enough circumstances. It must be said, however, that there are among these a good number of men sincerely devoted to the newborn order who are working with the Soviet State. The rest hope to enrich themselves in private enterprises. There are also the “new rich”, petty profiteers of the great tempest. What are they from the class point of view? By origin and spirit: peasants, shopkeepers, clerks, and an extremely small percentage of former workers.

13. Complex Role of the Middle-Class Peasants.

All that precedes concerns the urban middle-classes chiefly. What was the role of the rural middle class and what is it today?

Let us note first of all that the peasants have saved the revolution on several occasions. It is they who, in large majority, constitute the Red Army. And it is they also who by their continual insurrections, by their partisan warfare, in Siberia, in the Ukraine, in the Kuban, brought about the fall of the White governments, of Kolchak, of Denikin. Such, in natural conformity with their class interests, was the final outcome of the continual oscillations of the peasant mass, swung turn by turn in opposite directions.

In a general way, the peasants, among whom the large and middle holders dominated in the beginning, effected in the rural districts their pro- found, their invincible November Revolution But, having acquired the land, they were hostile to the socialist workers’ city, which, becoming an entrenched camp, incessantly demanded bread without paying for it; and which, after that, demanded soldiers of them. Thereupon, instigated by the clergy, the Social-Revolutionaries, and even by the Anarchists, in Siberia, along the Volga, in the Urals, in the Ukraine, everywhere except in the central part of Great Russia, the peasants arose against the commissars by districts, regions and sometimes by whole provinces. The martyrdom of the “Provisioning Commissions” sent into the country to seek grain would be a long story. However, each time that the peasants had to choose between the Reds and the Whites it came to pass that, whether through past experience or not, they chose the Reds.

After three years of ceaseless and futile uprisings, after having had to undergo several fearful White invasions, the middle-class peasants, to whom, moreover, the new economic policy affords great satisfaction, laid down their arms: the proof lies in the slow but, it seems, real pacification of the Ukraine and Siberia. As for the rest, they issue victorious from the civil war; they have their land and the unhampered disposition of their products.

In the neighborhood of the large cities, especially near the capitals, their victory is more complete, being likewise economic. They have, for years, drained all the wealth of the cities. Where are the hundreds of billions of paper currency issued since 1917? It is a remarkable fact that the various issues have succeeded each other without the return into circulation of issues made six months before. These billions, exchanged for products of the land, slumber in the neighboring villages in the coffers of the peasants, who often possess kilos, even poods of paper money. Furniture, jewels, curtains, garments, everything that could be carried away from a city has gone the same way. In the course of the past years the sharp peasant has learned to exchange his produce for articles of a real and lasting value: gold, silver, objects of art.

But transportation difficulties have permitted only a small minority of the peasants to enrich itself in this fashion. The great majority, in the provinces, has gained nothing but the land through the revolution — and liberty, the possibility of free development ultimately.

In those provinces where civil war raged, as well as in those where the drought completed the work of the Whites and the rural insurrections, the entire middle class has been ruined and has suffered frightful losses in men.

14. The Petty Concessionaire and the New Economic Policy.

The experience of the new economic policy has proven beyond doubt that the most dangerous, the most tenacious class enemy of the proletariat is the petty bourgeoisie. It is with this class above all that the Russian Revolution has been at grips. How? This struggle has two aspects: the one normal, which we willingly term healthy foreseen, tolerated by the Soviet Government — the competition of the small producer with the State; the other unhealthy, because it contaminates every social relation and incessantly raises new obstacles against the economic restoration of the country — abuses.

The petty bourgeois concessionaire, instead of occupying himself with production only too often thinks merely of plundering. He takes on concession only an establishment that still contains hidden stocks or new salable equipment (regarding which he is informed by a “specialist” among his friends, some collaborator with the Soviet bureaus). He engages himself to pay the State a percentage based upon production to which he has not the least intention of devoting himself. The hidden stocks having been exhausted, the equipment sold or stolen piece by piece, he declares himself incapable of carrying out his engagements and restores the enterprise to the State — with an apparently complete inventory. (On this subject see a documented article in No. 104 of the Pravda of 1922). Thousands of operations, all rotten, fraudulent, dirty, all bearing witness to the presence in the petty bourgeois of the mentality of a man of prey capable of anything, are known. And the revolutionary courts continue to try, every week, officials of Soviet bureaus, accused of having taken bribes, and from time to time they are shot.

In the domain of labor, the petty boss has shown himself hard and disloyal. At Smolensk, at Moscow, at Petrograd, “trials of exploiters” have revealed how he understands the restoration of the wage system, and have demonstrated also, doubtless for the first time in history, that justice, the class weapon, can be that of the have-nots against the haves, if the former retain political power.

Thus there is an every day struggle in every sphere of social life; a bitter struggle, with never a truce, whose stake is the liberation of the proletariat and the foundation of a new society of free workers.

What factors will determine its outcome? The international factor is by far the most important The Russian Revolution can still hold out for a long time. It is strong enough to fear the violence of its enemies no longer. The thing to know is whether the proletariat of some big European countries will throw off the yoke of wage slavery before heroic Red Russia succumbs — in the long run — under the coordinated pressure of the capitalist world outside and of the basically anti-socialist classes within.

Soviet Russia began in the summer of 1919, published by the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia and replaced The Weekly Bulletin of the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia. In lieu of an Embassy the Russian Soviet Government Bureau was the official voice of the Soviets in the US. Soviet Russia was published as the official organ of the RSGB until February 1922 when Soviet Russia became to the official organ of The Friends of Soviet Russia, becoming Soviet Russia Pictorial in 1923. There is no better US-published source for information on the Soviet state at this time, and includes official statements, articles by prominent Bolsheviks, data on the Soviet economy, weekly reports on the wars for survival the Soviets were engaged in, as well as efforts to in the US to lift the blockade and begin trade with the emerging Soviet Union.

PDF of full issue: (large file): https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/srp/v6-7-soviet-russia%20Jan-Dec%201922.pdf

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