A Man Overboard

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Comrade Souvarine:

Your long letter, or rather your pamphlet, gives me some necessary particulars. I do not see that anything remains of the ties that united us a few years ago. If I reply to you by this letter, it is not out of reverence for the past but out of the political necessity to state that our futures are irreconcilably opposed.

I find in your letter hardly a single idea that is correct and based on Marxist doctrine and the great events of history. I cannot escape the impression that it is the pen of a discontented journalist that guides you and prompts your paradoxes. The latter, moreover, are not new. I could cite many cases where a desertion from the revolution has been dressed up in analogous formulations, without perhaps such journalistic skill or such bookish culture.

I have neither the possibility nor the desire to analyze the complicated threads of your paradoxes and your sophisms. I will take only one example, sufficient nonetheless because it deals with the most important question.

You treat the party and the International, including the Opposition, like a corpse. According to you, the great fault of the Russian Opposition consists in its insistence on influencing the party and even on being reintegrated into it. On the other hand, you characterize the Soviet economy as state capitalism, as a great step forward, and you demand that the Opposition enter the service of this state capitalism instead of being concerned with the party.

You thereby give an example of an analysis which springs from words, not ideas, only to end up with words without content.

State capitalism — I use your formulation — that is, nationalized industry and transportation, retain their “state” character only through the party. The state apparatus and the apparatus of the trusts themselves are guilty of centrifugal tendencies. It would not be an exaggeration if I said that nine-tenths of the elements who constitute the economic apparatus would be quite happy to transform the trusts into enterprises more or less independent of the state, in order to transform them, at a second stage, into private enterprises.

On the other hand the unions, if they are not allied to the party, are altogether disposed and inclined -to launch a trade-union struggle outside of any consideration for the state and the five-year plan. It would never occur to anyone who deals in realities, not superficial journalism, to serve the Soviet economy by ignoring the party, and outside the measures of the party or a faction. “State” capitalism lives and dies with the party. Besides, the best proof of it is that the Soviet economy every day experiences the influence of the Opposition, as refracted and distorted by the Stalinist apparatus.

Your idea that one can serve the cause of the proletariat outside of the party is not even mature enough to be called syndicalist. At this stage, it only signifies desertion from the Marxist organization. During the counterrevolution in Russia and at the height of the imperialist war, we often heard this notion, the crowning touch to your letter: “We must keep silent and wait.” That always means that one is in the process of changing sides.

I am sure that tomorrow you will not be silent. You will pass to the other side of the barricades. Theoretically, you are already there.

We record a man overboard and pass on to the next point on the agenda.