From Bolshevism to the Bureaucracy
Cardan, Paul (Cornelius Castoriadis)/CxArchive/MIA/castoriadis/1964/bureaucracy.htm
Publisher: Solidarity, London, United Kingdom
Year Published: 1962
Resource Type: Book
Cx Number: CX6302
Among the innumerable questions raised by the fate of the Russian Revolution, two form the poles around which we may organise all the others. The first question is: What kind of society was produced by the degeneration of the revolution? (What is the nature and the dynamic of this regime? What is the Russian bureaucracy? What is its relation to capitalism and to the proletariat? What is its place in history? What are its present problems?)
Published: Originally as "Le Rôle de l'idéologie bolchevique dans la naissance de la bureaucratie," Socialism ou Barbarie, 35 (January 1964). Translated into English by Maurice Brinton and published as "From Bolshevism to the Bureaucracy," Solidarity Pamphlet, 24 [1964?], 18 pp. Brinton, whose added subtitles we retain here within brackets, notes that "the present pamphlet was later translated into Italian (under the title "Dal Bolscevismo all Burocrazia") und published in 1968 by the Quaderni della Rivoluzione dei Consigli (V. C. Rolando 8/8, Ge-Sampierdarenda). Later in the same year, it was also translated into Swedish (under the title "Bolsjevism, Byråkrati!") and published by Libertad (Allmänna vägen 6, 41460 Göteborg)."
Among the innumerable questions raised by the fate of the Russian Revolution, two form the poles around which we may organise all the others.
The first question is: What kind of society was produced by the degeneration of the revolution? (What is the nature and the dynamic of this regime? What is the Russian bureaucracy? What is its relation to capitalism and to the proletariat? What is its place in history? What are its present problems?) This question has already been discussed on several occasions in S. ou B. and will be again.
The second question is, How can a workers' revolution give birth to a bureaucracy, and how did this occur in Russia? We have examined this question in its theoretical form, but so far we have said little from the concrete historical point of view. Indeed, there is an almost insurmountable obstacle to a close study of this particularly obscure period extending from October 1917 to March 1921, during which the fate of the revolution was played out. The question of most concern to us is, in effect, the following: To what extent did the Russian workers try to take upon themselves the direction of society, the management of production, the regulation of the economy, and the orientation of political life? What was their conscious awareness of these problems, the character of their autonomous activity? What was their attitude toward the Bolshevik party, toward the nascent bureaucracy? Now, we should point out that it is not workers who write history. It is always the others. And these others, whoever they may be, have a historical existence only insofar as the masses are passive, or active simply to support them, and this is precisely what "the others" will tell us at every opportunity. Most of the time these others will not even possess eyes to see and ears to hear the gestures and utterances that express people's autonomous activity. In the best of instances, they will sing the praises of this activity so long as it miraculously coincides with their own line, but they will radically condemn it, and impute to it the basest motives, as soon as it strays there from. Thus Trotsky describes in grandiose terms the anonymous workers of Petrograd moving ahead of the Bolshevik party or mobilising themselves during the Civil War, but later on he was to characterise the Kronstadt rebels as "stool pigeons" and "hirelings of the French High Command." They lack the categories of thought - the brain cells, we might dare say - necessary to understand, or even to record, this activity as it really occurs: to them, an activity that is not instituted, that has neither boss nor program, has no status; it is not even clearly perceivable, except perhaps in the mode of "disorder" and "troubles." The autonomous activity of the masses belongs by definition to what is repressed in history.
Thus, it is not only that the documentary records most interesting to us during this period are fragmentary, or even that they were and continue to be systematically suppressed by the triumphant bureaucracy. It is that this record of events is infinitely more selective and slanted than any other historical testimony. The reactionary rage of bourgeois witnesses and the almost equally vicious hostility of the social democrats; the delirious ravings of the anarchists; the official historiography, periodically rewritten to suit the needs of the bureaucracy, and that of the Trotskyist tendency concerned exclusively with justifying itself after the fact and with hiding its role during the first stages of degeneration - all this "historical evidence" converges on one point: it ignores the signs of the autonomous activity of the masses during this period, or, if necessary, "proves" the a priori impossibility of its very existence.