Communism/Collectivism

 


 

[1936-1937]  André Gide,  Retour de l'URSS, suivi de, Retouches à mon retour de l'URSS, Gallimard, Paris, 1978

-  "Ce que l'on demande à présent, c'est l'acceptation, le conformisme. Ce que l'on veut et exige, c'est une approbation de tout ce qui se fait en U.R.S.S.; ce que l'on cherche à obtenir, c'est que cette approbation ne soit pas résignée, mais sincère, mais enthousiaste même. Le plus étonnant, c'est qu'on y parvient. D'autre part, la moindre protestation, la moindre critique est passible de pires peines, et du reste aussitôt étouffée. Et je doute qu'en aucun autre pays aujourd'hui, fût-ce dans l'Allemagne de Hitler, l'esprit soit moins libre, plus courbé, plus craintif (terrorisé), plus vassalisé." (p. 55)

-  "C'est la hauteur de votre bluff qui fit si profonde et si douloureuse la chute de ma confiance, de mon admiration, de ma joie. Aussi bien ce que je reproche à l'U.R.S.S., ce n'est point tant de ne pas avoir obtenu mieux. Non : ce que je reproche surtout à l'U.R.S.S, c'est de nous l'avoir baillé belle en nous présentant la situation des ouvriers là-bas comme enviable. Et je reproche aux communistes de chez nous (oh! je ne parle pas de camarades dupés, mais de ceux qui savaient, ou du moins auraient dû savoir) d'avoir menti aux ouvriers, inconsciemment ou sciemment - et dans ce cas par politique." (p. 114)

-  [En U.R.S.S.] chacun surveille, se surveille, est surveillé." (p. 117)

 

[1940]  Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon, Jonathan Cape, London, 1945

-  Ivanov : "We for the first time are consequent ... ".
    "Yes - said Rubashov. So consequent, that in the interest of a just distribution of land we deliberately let die of starvation about five million farmers and their families in one year. So consequent were we in the liberation of human beings from the shackles of industrial exploitation that we sent about ten million people to do forced labour in the arctic regions and the jungles of the East, under conditions similar to those of antique galley slaves. So consequent that, to settle a difference of opinion we know only one argument : death". (p. 154)

-  "Acting consequentially in the interests of the coming generations, we have laid such terrible privations on the present one that its average length of life is shortened by a quarter. In order to defend the existence of the country, we have had to take exceptional measures and make transition-stage laws, which are in every point contrary to the aims of the Revolution. The people's standard of life is lower than it was before the Revolution; the labour conditions are harder; the discipline is more inhuman, the piece-work drudgery worse than in colonial countries with native coolies; we have lowered the age limit for capital punishment down to twelve years; our sexual laws are more narrow-minded than those of England, our leader-worship more Byzantine than that of the reactionary dictatorship. Our press and our schools cultivate Chauvinism, militarism, dogmatism, conformism and ignorance. The arbitrary power of the Government is unlimited, and unexampled in history; freedom of the Press, of opinion and of movement are as thoroughly exterminated as though the proclamation of the Rights of Man had never been. We have built up the most gigantic police apparatus, with informers made a national institution, and with the most refined scientific system of physical and mental torture. We whip the groaning masses of the country towards a theoretical future happiness, which only we can see." (p. 155)

 

[1945]  Arthur Koestler,  The Yogi and the Commissar, Jonathan Cape, London, 1964

-  "Children in Soviet Russia grow up rich and poor as in capitalist countries. The first bulwark against inherited privilege fell when the new constitution sanctioned the inheritance of property; the second and more important bulwark fell when free education was abolished by the introduction of fees for higher education. The decree of October 2nd, 1940 fixed the tuition fee for Secondary Schools (technical, normal, agricultural, medical, etc.) at 150-200 roubles per year, for universities at 300 to 500 roubles. The fee for the first term had to be paid within one month from the promulgation of the new law; 600,000 students from poor families who couldn't pay the fee had to leave school." (p. 156)

-  "The whole development can be summarized in two stages. First, the population became stratified according to income-classes, which was unavoidable; secondly, this economic division is transferred to the following generation from the cradle, by deliberate government policy. A hereditary bureaucracy, technocracy and military caste emerges in the framework of a new type of class-society, based no longer on the ownership of the means of production but on control of the levers of the State, and following the same trend towards self-perpetuation which characterizes all stable class-rule in history." (p. 158)

-  "'Stakhanovites' - that is team-leaders; foremen in capitalist terminology - had separate dining-rooms in factories and were paid up twenty times the average. To take an example: according to the Moscow paper Trud (Jan. 20th, 1936) sixty employees of a Donnetz mine earned monthly wages of 1000-2500 roubles per head; seventy-five employees earned 800-1000 roubles per head; four hundred earned 500-800 roubles per head and the remaining thousand averaged 125 roubles. The top wages in this average mine were about thirty times higher than the minimum wages. But the director of a mine of 1500 employees belongs only to the medium stratum of the technocracy; the salaries of directors, chief engineers and administrators in the top stratum are up to one-hundred times higher than the average wage and up to three hundred times higher than the minimum wage. In 1943 the appearance of the first 'Proletarian Millionnaires', enthusiastically welcomed by the Soviet Press, completed the development." (pp. 162-163)

-  "Income differentiation in agriculture began with Stalin's famous 'enrichissez vous' to the peasants in February 1933." (p. 165)
 -  "Protective legislation in favour of women and adolescents (preventing their employment on night work and overtime) was abolished. It should be emphasized that all this refers to pre-war days; since December 1941 all branches of Soviet industry and transport directly or indirectly connected with the war were placed under martial law; Absenteeism, Idling and Carelessness became capital offences." (p. 168)

-  "The decree of Dec. 27th, 1932 (Code o.L. 1932, 84-516), introducing the compulsory Home-passport system, deprived the Soviet citizen of the right to travel freely in his own country. Special permission is needed to enter all the bigger industrial towns and the surrounding areas varying in radius from 20 to 100 kilometres; absence from home even of twenty-four hours has to be reported to the police. Travel abroad is banned except on government missions. Illegal attempts to reach a foreign country are punishable by death." (p. 177)

 

[1950]  Louis Fisher in, VV. AA.,  The God that failed, six studies in communism, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1950

-  "The Kremlin decreed equality 'a bourgeois virtue'. It certainly was not a Soviet virtue. The spread between the richest and poorest reached super-capitalist dimensions. Piece-work for labour was now universal and the tradeunions became paper organizations while the directors of factories and offices became 'sole commanders' who hired, fired, and fixed wages." (p. 214)

 

[1950]  Iganzio Silone in, VV. AA.,  The God that failed, six studies in communism, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1950

-  "Between 1921 and 1927 I had repeated occasions to go to and take part, as a member of Italian Communist delegations, in a number of congresses and meetings of the Executive.  What struck me most about the Russian Communists, even in such really exceptional personalities as Lenin and Trotsky, was their utter incapacity to be fair in discussing opinions that conflicted with their own. The adversary, simply for daring to contradict, at once became a traitor, an opportunist, a hireling. An adversary in good faith is inconceivable to the Russian Communists. What an aberration of conscience this is, for so-called materialists and rationalists to uphold absolutely in their polemics the primacy of morals over intelligence. To find a comparable infatuation one has to go back to the Inquisition.
Just as I was leaving Moscow in 1922, Alexandra Kollontaj said to me: 'If you happen to read in the papers that Lenin has had me arrested for stealing the silver spoons in the Kremlin, that simply means that I'm not entirely in agreement with him about some little problem of agricultural or industrial policy.'  Kollontaj had acquired her sense of irony in the West and so only used it with people from the West.
But even then, in those feverish years of building the new regime, when the new orthodoxy had not taken complete possession of cultural life, how difficult it was to reach an understanding with a Russian Communist on the simplest, and for us most obvious, questions; how difficult, I don't say to agree but at least to understand each other, when talking of what liberty means for a man of the West, even for a worker. I spent hours one day trying to explain to one of the directors of the State publishing house why she ought at least to be ashamed of the atmosphere of discouragement and intimidation in which Soviet writers lived. She could not understand what I was trying to tell her.
'Liberty,' I had to give examples, 'is the possibility of doubting, the possibility of making a mistake, the possibility of searching and experimenting, the possibility of saying no to any authority-literary, artistic, philosophic, religious, social, and even political.'  But that,' murmured this eminent functionary of Soviet culture in horror, 'that is counterrevolution.' Then she added, to get a little of her own back: 'We're glad we haven't got your liberty, but we've got the sanatoria in exchange.' When I observed that the expression 'in exchange' had no meaning, 'liberty not being merchandise that could be exchanged,' and that I had seen sanatoria in other countries, she laughed in my face. 'You're in the mood for joking with me to-day,' she said to me. And I was so taken aback by her candour that I no longer dared to contradict her." (pp. 106-107)

 

[1951]  Albert Camus,  L'homme révolté, Gallimard, Paris, 1951

-  "Le système concentrationnaire russe à réalisé, en effet, le passage dialectique du gouvernement des personnes à l'administration des choses, mais en confondant la personne et la chose." (p. 294)

 

[1957]  Milovan Djilas, The New Class. An analysis of the communist system, Thames and Hudson, London, 1958

-  "Hegel claimed that the absolute monarchy in Prussia was the incarnation of his idea of the Absolute. The Communists, on the other hand, claim that they represent the incarnation of the objective aspirations of society." (p. 3)
-  "... the Communist revolution, conducted in the name of doing away with classes, has resulted in the most complete authority of any single new class. Everything else is sham and an illusion." (p. 36)

-  "In his 'Stalin au pouvoir', published in Paris in 1951, Orlov states that the average pay of a worker in the U.R.S.S. in 1935 was 1,800 rubles annually, while the pay and allowances of the secretary of a rayon committee amounted to 45,000 rubles annually [25 times the worker's pay]." (p. 46)

-  "Through the kolkhozes and the use of the compulsory crop-purchase system, the new class has succeeded in making vassals of the peasants and grabbing a lion's share of the peasants' income." (p. 63)

-  "The Communists have a fetishist relation toward the state or the government, exactly as if it were their own property." (p. 83)
 -  "Lenin reduced the state to force, or more precisely, to the organ of tyranny which one class employs for the sake of oppressing other classes. Trying to formulate the nature of the state in the most forceful way, Lenin noted, 'The State is a club'." (p. 84)

-  "Communist regimes are a form of latent civil war between the government and the people." (p. 87)

-  "In the Communist system legal theories change according to circumstances and the needs of the oligarchy." (p. 92)

-  "In the Communist system, insecurity is the way of life for the individual. The state gives him the opportunity to make a living, but on condition that he submit." (p. 98)

-  "Compulsory labor in the Communist system is the result of monopoly of ownership over all, or almost all, national property. The worker finds himself in the position of having not only to sell his labor; he must sell it under conditions which are beyond his control, since he is unable to seek another, better employer. There is only one employer, the state." (p. 107)

-  "The Communist leaders handle national property as their own, but at the same time they waste it as if it were somebody else's. Such is the nature of ownership and government of the system." (p. 120)

-  "An enemy to thought in the name of science, an enemy to freedom in the name of democracy, the Communist oligarchy cannot but accomplish complete corruption of the mind." (p. 142)

 

[1976]  Jean-François Revel,  La Tentation Totalitaire, Éditions Robert Laffont, Paris, 1976

-  "Le communisme a joué un rôle historiquement contre-révolutionnaire. Ce n'est pas un hasard s'il a triomphé en Russie et en Chine, dans les deux empires qui avaient déjà le passé le plus xénophobe et le plus totalitaire, ceux où l'Etat  avait toujours imposé le culte idolâtre du monarque, le despotisme bureaucratique et le dirigisme culturel." (p. 381)