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tion, the mines, the factories and the land, are owned by a
small class of capitalists and landowners. In both Rome and
Berlin there are still stock exchanges on which the capital-
ists and their friends buy and sell their shares in one factory
or mine, for shares in another factory or mine. The existence
of such a stock exchange, which is a market on which the own-
ership of different means of production can be exchanged, is
alone enough to prove beyond argument that the capitalist
system still exists in those countries. And because the capital-
ist system still exists there, the fascist countries suffer from
the same scourges which afflict us, and which we have dis-
cussed in preceding chapters.

In Germany and Italy there are slumps, unemployment,
exploitation, long hours, falling wages, undernourishment



(and, for that matter, actual starvation). Indeed, conditions
there are far, far worse than they are in America, because,
as I have described above, the workers in fascist countries
have lost the one basic liberty on which all our existing rights
are based, the liberty to withhold our labor. Next time some-
one tells us that he can see no difference between socialism
or communism, and fascism, or between the Soviet Union and
the fascist countries, let us ask him why the fascist countries
do not give their workers a seven-hour day, holidays with pay,
freedom from unemployment, complete non-contributory so-
cial services and steadily rising wages. There is only one an-
swer to that question. The fascist countries cannot even think
of giving their workers these conditions because the workers
have not taken the means of production out of the hands of
the capitalists and landlords.

D f h * "But, but, but," someone will object, "that

, ' is not what I mean when I say that there is no

difference between the fascist countries and
the Soviet Union. I am not thinking about such questions as
who owns the factories, the mines and the land. Such ques-
tions have never entered my head as a matter of fact. What
I am thinking about is that in the Soviet Union, as in Ger-
many and Italy, there seem to be executions, purges, trials.
That is what I object to. In particular what about the trials?"

TL T 7 Well then, about the trials. The first thing

1 he 1 rials. .1111

that must be said about the trials is this. It

was a profound tragedy that the men who stood in the dock
at the Soviet trials had engaged in a conspiracy to overthrow



the Soviet Government. And any friend of the Soviet Union
who even seems to deny this is, in my opinion, behaving
foolishly. It is a historical tragedy of the first magnitude that
these men, who had played prominent parts in the Russian
Revolution, should have done these things. And it is true that
in doing them they have done grave harm to the Soviet Union.
They did grave harm to the Soviet Union directly by the at-
tempts which they made to frustrate the Russian people in
their task of building up their new industrial and economic
system ; they did still greater harm to the Soviet Union by the
relations with the fascist powers into which they entered; and
they did the greatest harm of all by the effect which the
revelation that there were prominent Soviet citizens who could
do such things, has had upon the opinion of the world. That
they harmed the Soviet Union in these three ways is the over-
whelming responsibility which the names of Bukharin, Piata-
kov, Zinovieff, Rykov, and the rest must ever bear before
history. It is just this which makes their conduct one of those
acts which mankind will forever remember and forever

rrj c . But this does not mean that the Soviet GOV-

The Soviet .

T j . T eminent did not have to arrest these men; or

Union Is , _ . . ._ .

c that it had any conceivable alternative, when

Stronger. J . .

they had told their stories, but to shoot them.

The conspiracy of these men was formidable. If it had gone
undetected a few months longer (the date fixed by Tukha-
chevsky for his coup d'etat was May 15, 1937), the Soviet
Government might have been faced with a serious crisis



and the fascist armies might even now be marching to attack
the Ukraine. It would have been ten thousand times better if
these men had never conspired; but since they did conspire,
the whole future of humanity was dependent upon their de-
tection and execution. The Soviet peoples, after going through
the inevitable shock of discovering that some of the men in
whom they had placed their trust were so horribly unworthy,
are today (1938) undoubtedly far stronger politically, eco-
nomically and militarily than they were two years ago when
these men were still at large.

rri ^ r All the above argument is based upon the

Ihe Lonfes- . . . - .-'

n~ authenticity 01 the confessions of the accused.

sionswere * i ,,

Y 1 believe that no one who had not unalterably

fixed his mind in the contrary opinion could
read the verbatim reports of the trials without being wholly
convinced of the authenticity of the confessions. The report
of the last, 1938, trial is a document of some eight hundred
closely printed pages. It contains a sheer weight of self
exposure; of careful, detailed, precise description of the con-
spiracy as a whole; of detailed descriptions of the criminal
activities of each and all of the prisoners; the whole delivered
by each prisoner separately in open court before the assem-
bled diplomats and correspondents of the world. It contains
internal proofs of authenticity which simply cannot be
doubted by any reasonable person who takes the not incon-
siderable trouble to study the matter. For that very reason
only a small percentage of those who talk so freely about



the Soviet trials have read them, or ever will actually read
them. But that cannot be helped.

As a matter of fact, however, the British conservative press
has now largely abandoned the allegation that the confessions
were false; and I understand that much of the American
press has now done likewise. (But in neither case, of course,
does that mean that they abuse the Soviet Government any the
less.) Hence two major questions remain. First why did the
prisoners confess? And second, and more important still,
why did they commit the terrible acts to which they con-

Wh Did ^ S to ^ e ^ rst ( I ues ^ on 9 I should have

The C f ? thought that the testimony of the prisoners
themselves as to why they confessed might be
allowed to carry some weight. And several of the most im-
portant of them were at great pains to explain exactly what
had induced them to confess. Let us take the cases of Rakov-
sky and Bukharin, two of the most important of the prisoners
in the last trial.

Rakovsky says that this is why he confessed.

Rakovsky: For eight months I denied everything and
refused to testify. . . .

Vyshinsky: (who was what you in America would call
the "District Attorney" of the case) And then, as they
say, you laid down your arms. . . .

Rakovsky: But before this the thought frequently
arose in my mind: was I doing right in denying? No-
body will deny that imprisonment, solitude in general,



makes people undertake a revaluation of values. But I
remember, and will never forget as long as I live, the
circumstances which finally impelled me to give evi-
dence. During one of the examinations, this was in the
summer, I learned, in the first place, that Japanese ag-
gression had begun against China, against the Chinese
people; I learned of Germany's and Italy's undisguised
aggression against the Spanish people. . . .

I learned of the feverish preparations which all the
fascist states were making to unleash a world war. What
a reader usually absorbs day by day in small doses in
telegrams, I received at once in a big dose. This had a
stunning effect on me. All my past rose before me. Of
course this past may be reduced to naught and will be
obliterated by my disgraceful actions, but as an inner
motive, nothing and nobody can do anything against it.
All my past rose before me, my responsibilities, and it
became clear to me that I myself was a party to this,
that I was responsible, that I myself had helped the ag-
gressors with my treasonable activities. . . . And then I
became a judge over myself, I sat in judgment over my-
self. This is a court which no one will reproach with
being biased. I sat in judgment over myself. I had given
myself to the labor movement from my youth, and where
had I got to? I had reached a stage when I facilitated
the vilest work with my actions; I had facilitated the
fascist aggressors' preparations to destroy culture, civ-



ilization, all the achievements of democracy, all the
achievements of the working class.

That is what induced me to speak, that is what over-
came my obstinacy, my false shame born of vanity, fear
for my own fate, which was not worthy of a man who
had once taken part in the revolutionary movement. My
rancor, which all of us harbored, some to a greater and
some to a lesser extent, rancor against the leadership,
rancor against particular individuals, had played a great
part. Rancor and ambition fell from me. I considered
that from now on my duty was to help in this struggle
against the aggressor, that I would go and expose myself
fully and entirely, and I told the investigator that on the
following day I would begin to give complete, exhaustive

Does that sound to you like the statement of a man under
the influence of a 'Tibetan drug'? Or a 'Dostoevsky soul'?
Bukharin, however, raises this very point and does so spe-
cifically in order to convince the outside world that he is
telling the truth.

Bukharin: I take the liberty of dwelling on these
questions because I had considerable contacts with these
upper intellectuals abroad, especially amongst scientists,
and I must explain to them what every Young Pioneer in
the Soviet Union knows.

Repentance is often attributed to diverse and abso-
lutely absurd things like Tibetan powders and the like.
I must say of myself that in prison, where I was confined



for over a year, I worked, studied, and retained my
clarity of mind. This will serve to refute by facts all
fables and absurd counter-revolutionary tales.

Hypnotism is suggested. But I conducted my own de-
fense in Court from the legal standpoint too, orientated
myself on the spot, argued with the State Prosecutor;
and anybody, even a man who has little experience in
this branch of medicine, must admit that hypnotism of
this kind is altogether impossible.

This repentance is often attributed to the Dostoevsky
mind, to the specific properties of the soul (Vame slave
as it is called), and this can be said of types like Alyo-
sha Karamazov, the heroes of the Idiot and other Dos-
toevsky characters, who are prepared to stand up in the
public square and cry: "Beat me, Orthodox Christians,
I am a villain!"

But that is not the case here at all. Uame slave and
the psychology of Dostoevsky characters are a thing of
the remote past in our country, the pluperfect tense.
Such types do not exist in our country, or exist perhaps
only on the outskirts of small provincial towns, if they
do even there. On the contrary, such a psychology is to
be found in Western Europe.

I shall now speak of myself, of the reasons for my
repentance. Of course, it must be admitted that incrim-
inating evidence plays a very important part. For three
months I refused to say anything. Then I began to testi-
fy. Why? Because while in prison I made a revaluation



of my entire past. For when you ask yourself: "If you
must die, what are you dying for?" an absolutely
black vacuity suddenly rises before you with startling
vividness. There was nothing to die for, if one wanted
to die unrepented. And, on the contrary, everything posi-
tive that glistens in the Soviet Union acquires new dimen-
sions in a man's mind. This in the end disarmed me com-
pletely and led me to bend my knees before the Party
and the country. And when you ask yourself: "Very
well, suppose you do not die; suppose by some miracle
you remain alive, again what for? Isolated from every-
body, an enemy of the people, in an inhuman position,
completely isolated from everything that constitutes the
essence of it. ..." And at once the same reply arises.
And at such moments, Citizen Judges, everything per-
sonal, all the personal incrustation, all the rancor, pride,
and a number of other things, fall away, disappear.
And, in addition, when the reverberations of the broad
international struggle reach your ear, all this in its en-
tirety does its work, and the result is the complete in-
ternal moral victory of the U.S.S.R. over its kneeling op-
ponents. ... I am about to finish. I am perhaps speaking
for the last time in my life."

Well, if you can read even these two tiny extracts from the
speeches of only two of the prisoners at one of the trials and
still believe that it is all a put-up job then I am afraid
that you are not a very good judge of men.



6Ven ^ t ^ 16 aut h ent i c i tv f the confes-

Wh Did

The D It? s i ns cannot be doubted, there remains the im-
mense question of why these men committed
their crimes. In order genuinely to understand that, you will
have to read not only the verbatim reports of the trials, but
the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. And
not everyone has the opportunity to do this.

I find that after very careful study I can just realize how
these things came about. But I can only just realize it in spite
of very earnest study and in spite of certain experiences in
the British Labor movement which help me to understand.
Indeed we in Britain have no difficulty in believing that in-
dividual Labor leaders may sometimes betray their cause.
Mr. J. R. MacDonald, Mr. Snowden and Mr. Thomas all did
that. The difference between Britain and the Soviet Union in
this matter is not that all our labor leaders are incorruptible
while some of the Russians go wrong; the difference is that
when the Russian labor leaders sell out, they are shot, and
when the British labor leaders sell out, they are put in the
Cabinet. Undoubtedly it is a big difference; indeed it is the
difference between a capitalist and a socialist country. But
it is not a difference of which I as a Britisher am proud.

This little book is certainly no place in which to try to give
an explanation of why these Russian leaders went wrong. For
one thing, human motive is one of the most obscure and com-
plex questions in the world, and the motives of these men
were undoubtedly mixed, complex and distorted in the ex-
treme. In their statements at the trial they give in great detail



the reasons which prompted them to act as they did. But I am
afraid that these reasons will not be comprehensible to those
who are unfamiliar with the whole historical setting.
It Ha Dened Anyhow this great historical tragedy oc-
, i curred. It occurred, and nevertheless the So-

Neverthele V * et ^ n ^ on st ^ f r S es ahead like one of her
own great ice-breakers crushing and crashing
her way through the frozen seas. She has suffered a cruel
blow from within; but she has survived it, just as she has sur-
vived far worse blows before, and just as she will survive the
blows which her enemies will certainly attempt to deal her
from without.

The associated peoples of the Soviet Union are striving to
do no less a thing than to show mankind how millions of men
may live together in peaceful association, working at the com-
mon task of providing for their ever-developing needs by
their ever-developing skill; they are striving to do no less a
thing than to build a community without unemployment, with-
out poverty and without war.

Is it not strange and sad that when in the course of this vast
and enormously difficult undertaking the Soviet people find
themselves threatened and checked because certain of their
old leaders have betrayed their trust, the world should see in
this a reason for reviling and hindering them still further?
For my part I can see in the treason which for several months
of 1937 racked the Soviet State but one more reason for
striving to the very utmost stretch of my little powers to
aid these peoples in their incomparably high endeavor.


Chapter XIII

What Would Socialism Be Like Here?

j . , "But anyhow," you may say, "Russia is a

D'ff nt* ^ n ^ W ^ ^' anc ^ a Ver y different kind of
place from this country. What we want to
know is what socialism would be like here in America. Ameri-
can conditions are absolutely different."

It is quite true that American conditions are very different
from those of the Soviet Union. But because they are differ-
ent, that does not mean that they are necessarily less favor-
able for building up a socialist economic system. As a matter
of fact, in many respects, they are much more favorable.

c t For the American people are much more

survey of

P d t' highly skilled in the job of producing wealth

p. than are the Russian people; the American

people really could produce enough wealth to
create general plenty almost from the very moment that they
started using their means of production to the full.

As a matter of fact America is the one country in which
careful estimates have been made of how much everybody
could have if the American people could only arrange their
economic life in such a way that they could use all their



means of production steadily and without interruption. The
first of these estimates was made in another volume published
by the Brookings Institution, and called America's Capacity
to Produce. The authors of this volume come to the conclu-
sion that even in 1929, at the very peak point of the boom,
America could have increased her output of wealth by almost
exactly 20 per cent. For she had this percentage of her means
of production idle. They calculate further that in the depres-
sion years some 50 per cent of America's means of produc-
tion were idle. So that we may say that nowadays from 20
to 50 per cent, according to the state of trade, of America's
capacity to produce cannot be used. The authors of Amer-
ica's Capacity to Consume estimate that the full use of
American means of production in 1929 would have meant
that the incomes of all those American families with less than
$2,500 a year, and there were 19.4 million of them, could
have been brought up to approximately a $2,500 a year
level.* In other words destitution could have been abolished
in the United States.

IT KX LO Another and equally careful estimate of
How Much? i

America s capacity to produce wealth was

made under the auspices of the New York City Housing Au-
thority and published under the title of The Chart of Plenty
(Report of the National Survey of Potential Product Capac-
ity). The authors concluded that in 1929 the American
productive system could have produced enough wealth to

* America's Capacity to Consume, pp. 119 and 128.



give every American family of four an income of $4,370 a
year, and pro rata for larger and smaller families.

At first sight it would seem that one or the other of these
two estimates must be wrong. But this is not so. They are
both right on their own assumptions, but their assumptions
are different. It is too technical a discussion to go into here,
but briefly the point is that the Survey of Potential Product
Capacity allowed for transferring productive resources from
such things as building skyscrapers to building dwellings,
while the Brookings Institution did not. Now under a socialist
system the American people would certainly transfer pro-
ductive resources from less to more urgent uses, so that the
hypothesis of the Survey can certainly be accepted. No doubt
the exact figure of $4,370 a year is an estimate, but I am
bound to say that it seems to me proved that the American
people could provide themselves with incomes of approxi-
mately this size.

.7. Such immense productive capacity is the

Socialism r A j T>

n , prune difference between American and nus-
Based on . . . .

pj sian conditions. And it is a dmerence which

would make socialism work incomparably
better in America than in Russia. For socialism is an eco-
nomic system based on the hypothesis of plenty, just as
capitalism is an economic system based on the hypothesis of
scarcity. Hence the fact of America's vast potential wealth
is her greatest single advantage over any other country. Her
capacity to produce wealth would be as much of an advan-
tage for her under socialism as it is an actual difficulty for



her under capitalism. For socialism is, as we have seen, the
only economic system which makes it possible to distribute
the wealth when you have produced it.
Wh I the Anyone who has taken an active part in
^ political life on the progressive side will often

Come From? ^ ave ^ een as ^ e( ^ ^ s cn 168 ^ 0111 Where will
the money come from? Maybe he has not
even been talking about socialism as a new economic system,
but merely about some advance toward it, about the nation-
alization of this or that industry or the extension of this or
that social service.

Where is the money to come from, some skeptical worker
has asked. Now at first sight this may not seem a very sen-
sible question. As we saw when we discussed Mr. Roosevelt's
program, money is never the difficulty so long as there are
idle labor and means of production which can be turned to
making wealth. For money is only the (very imperfect)
means by which we attempt to reckon up, and to distribute
among ourselves, the wealth which we produce. That wealth
itself can be nothing but the product of our work. Hence
so long as we have unused productive capacity, we ought
never to let ourselves be stopped by the question of where
is the money to come from? For, as we saw in the first chapter
of this book, America already produces enough wealth to
give everyone quite a decent standard of life and, as the
Survey of Potential Product Capacity showed, far more
wealth could be produced. So that unquestionably there is



plenty of money available for enormous immediate improve-
ments and for drastic reorganization.

But I think that a real question lies behind this objection
as to where the money is to come from. What people are
really getting at with this question is something like this.
Can we get on without the present capitalist class? Could
we build up and manage a socialist society without the help
of the men who run industry today?

The question really boils down to one of whether the
American workers, and those from the middle class who
agree with them, can run American industry.

I do not see how there can be any doubt that the answer
to that question is, Yes. The American wage earners are
extremely capable, literate, well-developed people. Many of
them are used to undertaking very responsible work. There
is a vast fund of administrative, managerial and technical
ability among the ninety million Americans who live on wages
and salaries.

It is really extraordinary that anyone should doubt the
ability of the American people to carry on the productive
system. Why even the Russians, who had incomparably
fewer advantages than the American people have in this
respect, were able to do the job in the end. The Russian
people were ninety per cent illiterate, had terribly little
technical skill, and almost no managerial or administrative
experience. And yet, although not without great difficulty,
they have not only managed their existing productive system,



but have enormously developed it. How much more could
the American people do?

^1 A i It must not be supposed, however, that

What About

z. TF/ i jo America or Britain becoming socialist would
the World r _

leave the rest ol the world unchanged. The

abolition of capitalism in America or Britain would be a
world-shaking event. It would mean that a second great
country had passed from the capitalist camp into the socialist
camp. Such a change in the balance of forces between the
two camps would have immense repercussions upon the rest
of the world.

After all, a socialist America would not be alone in the

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Online LibraryJohn StracheyHope in America → online text (page 10 of 12)