[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The New York Times. 14 June 1931
RED RUSSIA OF TODAY
RULED BY STALINISM,
NOT BY COMMUNISM
Kremlin Chief Has Reverted to Autocracy of Early Czars, Dominating Nation.
5-YEAR PLAN IS FLEXIBLE
Soviet Leaders Aim Through it to Direct Masses—Its Relative Success Not Crucial.
THEORETICAL DAYS PASSING
Lenin Modified Marxism and Stalin Now Turns Practical Trends of People to His Own Policy.
This is the first of a series of articles on present conditions In Russia by THE NEW YORK TIMES’S [Sic] Moscow correspondent, who is now out of Russia on a holiday in Western Europe.
By WALTER DURANTY.
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
PARIS, June 13.—Russia today cannot be judged by Western standards or Interpreted in Western terms. Western Marxists and Socialists go nearly as far wrong about it as the “bourgeois“ critics because they fail to understand that the dominant principle of the Soviet Union, though called Marxism or Communism, is now a very different thing from the theoretical conception advanced by Karl Marx.
In thirteen years Russia has transformed Marxism—which was only a theory anyway—to suit its racial needs and characteristics, which are strange and peculiar, and fundamentally more Asiatic than European.
The dominant principle in Russia today is not Marxism or even Leninism although the latter is its official title, but Stalinism—to use a word which Joseph Stalin deprecates and rejects. I mean that, just as Leninism meant Marxian theory plus practical application, plus Russia, so Stalinism denotes a further development from Leninism and bears witness to the prodigious influence of the Russian character and folkways upon what seemed the rigid theory of Marx.
Operating Principle Is Russian.
Stalinism is a tree that has grown from - the alien seed of Marxism planted in Russian soil, and whether Western Socialists like it or not it is a Russian tree.
Old Russia was an amorphous mass, held together by a mystic, half Asian idea of an imperial régime wherein the emperor was exalted to the position of God’s vice regent, with limitless power over the bodies, souls, property and even thoughts of his subjects. That, at least, was the theory, and it was only when the Czars themselves began to question it and “act human” that a spirit of doubt and eventual rebellion became manifest.
The Czarist régime was poisoned by the European veneer that was spread over Russia—a veneer that was foreign and at bottom unwelcome to the mass of the Russian people—and one of the things the Bolshevist revolution did was to sweep away this alien crust and give the essential Russianinity underneath an opportunity to breathe and grow. Which explains why the Bolsheviki, who at first were a mere handful among Russia’s millions, were able successfully to impose their dominant principle - namely Marxism—which in superficial appearance was far more alien than the Germanized or Westernized system it overthrew.
The truth is that the ideas outlined hi the Communist Manifesto of Marx (which incidentally expounds his whole philosophy far more simply, 1ucidly and concretely than the ponderous “Das Kapital” and should be learned by heart by any one who wishes to understand the Soviet Union) suited the Russian masses much better than the Western theory of individualism and private enterprise imported by Peter the Great and his successors, who finally perished in the conflict it involved with the native character of Russia.
Stalin Abolished NEP.
Lenin took and shaped Marxism to fit the Russian foot, and although circumstances compelled him to abandon it temporarily for the New Economic Policy, he always maintained that this political manoeuvre was not a basic change of policy. Sure enough, Stalin, his successor and devout disciple, first emasculated the NEP and then set about abolishing it. Today the NEP is a sorry stave in the outer courts of the Soviet palace.
That is what Stalin did and is doing to our boasted Western individualism and spirit of personal initiative—which was what the NEP meant—not because Stalin is so powerful or cruel and full of hate for the capitalist system as such, but because he has a flair for political management unrivalled since Charles Murphy died.
Stalin is giving the Russian people—the Russian masses, not Westernized landlords, industrialists bankers and intellectuals, but Russia’s 150,000,000 peasants and workers— what they really want namely, joint effort, communal effort. And communal life is as acceptable to them as it is repugnant to a Westerner. flits is one of the reasons why - Russian Bolshevism will never succeed in the United States, Great Britain, France or other parts west of the Rhine.
Stalinism, too, has done what Lenin only attempted. It has re-established the semi-divine, supreme autocracy of the imperial idea and has placed itself on the Kremlin throne as a ruler whose lightest word is all In all and whose frown spells death. Try that on free-born Americans or the British with their tough loyalty to old things, or on France’s consciousness of self. But it suits the Russians and is as familiar, natural and right to the Russian mind as it is abominable and wrong to Western nations.
Key to Stalin’s Power
This Stalin knows and that knowledge is his key to power. Stalin does not think of him as a dictator or an autocrat, but as the guardian of the sacred flame, or ‘party line’ as the Bolsheviki term it, which for want of a better name must be labeled Stalinism.
Its authority is as absolute as any emperors—it is an inflexible rule of thought, ethics, conduct and purpose that none may transgress. And its practical expression finds form in what is known as the five-year plan. The Soviet five-year plan is a practical expression of the dominant principle—which for convenience the writer will call Stalinism, although Stalin still terms it Leninism—which rules Russia today with absolute authority.
In a sense it is far more than a plan—and in another sense it is not a plan at all. It is a slogan for a national policy and purpose rather than the glorified budgetary program which it appears at first at first sight to be. Most persons outside Russia seem to think that if the five-year plan “fails’ it will be the end of Bolshevism and that if it “succeeds” it will mean the end of capitalism elsewhere. Nothing could be more absurd or more wrong.
The five-year plan is nothing more or less than applied Stalinism, and its mass of bewildering figures is only the thermometer to measure the degree of heat engendered by the application of the plan, but is not other wise intrinsically important The figures have been changed so often and so considerably as to cease to have real value save as an indication of the “tempo,” or rate, at which Stalinism is gaining ground.
Five-Year Plan Provides Goal.
To the rest of the world it is only a menace in the sense that Bolshevism itself is a menace- which may or may not be true. To Russia it is only a hope or promise in terms or what Bolshevism itself offers. But to the Russian people the five-year plan is infinitely more besides—it is a goal to aim at, and its inception cannot be regarded as a stroke of genius by any one familiar with the Russian nature.
Russians ignorant or wise, have a positive passion for plans. They almost worship a plan, and the first thing any one, two or more Russians ever do about anything is make a plan for it. That, after making his plan, the Russian feels satisfied and seems to lose sight of the fact that a plan must next be carried out is of the great obstacles Stalin and his associates are now facing.
So, to conceive a whole national policy and everything in the national life as one gigantic plan was the political tour do force that put Stalin In the highest rank. Every one who has employed Russians or worked with Russians or knows Russians finds that if he wants them to jump on a chair, he must tell them to jump on a table, and aiming at the table they will reach the chair. The important thing s that they have something to jump at and make an effort—whether they actually get there all at once or not does not really matter in a country of such vast natural resources and with such a tough and enduring population
What matters is that they keep on trying, and that is what Stalinism and its five-year plan is set to make them do. In others words, the five-year plan is something for the Russians -to measure at, not for the rest of the world to measure Russians by. This sounds confusing, but it is true, and if you cannot understand it you cannot understand Russia.
Chief Purpose Is Direction.
The whole purpose of the plan is to get the Russians going—that is, to make a nation at eager, conscious workers out of a nation that was a lump of sodden, driven slaves. Outsiders “viewing with alarm’ or hooting with disdain as they take and into making an effort and making all together in tune to the Kremlin’s music. That is why the Soviet press utters shouts of Joy about the five year plan for oil production being accomplished in two and a half years and does not care a rap when some meticulous foreigners comment about the fact that nothing like the five- year amount of oil has actually been produced.
What the Soviet press really means is that in two and a half years the daily production rate—or tempo-has reached the point set for the end of the fifth year of the plan—in short, that oil has jumped on the table way ahead or time. That the said rate may only be maintained with the utmost difficulty has small importance to Russian logic, and rightly so, because a successful effort has been made and what a man has done once that man can do again.
Russia and Russians and Russian logic are different, but the tact that they are different does not necessarily mean they are wrong.
In succeeding dispatches the writer will try to show what this difference is and how it works. More immediately, how the five-year plan works in practice in this, which the Russians call, the “third and decisive year.’ And incidentally, by “decisive” they do not mean critical or deciding of success or failure, but success only.
© The New York Times. 1931. N.B. The executive editor of The New York Times, Bill Keller, told The Washington Post on October 23 2003, that the newspaper would have no objection if the Pulitzer Prize Board wanted to revoke Mr. Duranty's award. Mr. Keller called Mr. Duranty's work "pretty dreadful. ... It was a parroting of propaganda." It will be taken as read that no royalties are due on this un-authorised reproduction of this article As such they are also perceived, as having no truthful value whatsoever, are only reproduced for academic and educational purposes, not intended to defraud The New York Times of any morally legitimate royalty revenue and are published without financial gain. In any event, the copyright for the above may well only reside, 70 years after its publication with the heirs of Walter Duranty, and with whom we have no personal animosity whatsoever. Nevertheless, any contention of copyright violation may by taken up under the jurisdiction of English Law. My service address for any legal correspondence is: Nigel Linsan Colley, 1, Crown Street, Newark, Nottinghamshire, England, NG24 4UY. Any prosecution will, you can be assured, be defended in the public domain.
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