The selected fragments are from Bolszewizm (“Bolshevism”), Księgarnia S. A. Krzyżanowskiego: Cracow 1920, pp. 3-13 and 24-29.
The Communist Manifesto ends in a call to revolution, because the workers have nothing to lose but their chains. The Russian worker who believed this was in for a disappointment. It is true that many wealthy people had their properties and even their lives taken away from them. The opponents of socialism claim: “Le socialisme, c’est l’envie”. So far only this kind of socialism has been put into practice in Russia. The Bolshevik revolution satisfied the instinct of hatred, since it impoverished the bourgeoisie more than the workers. However, it did not make the workers richer. On the contrary, under the Tsars the Russian worker was incomparably better fed and clothed. He had more firewood in the winter. He worked shorter hours and did not have hanging over his head the threat of severe punishment for slacking. Thanks to better living conditions he was less prone to diseases. The revolution has shortened his life expectancy. It has increased infant mortality. What has it given him in return? The appearance of power, in fact concentrated in the hands of the commissars, appointed without his participation, nothing more. The materialist historiosophy, identifying political victories with economic ones, was also proved wrong in that the peasant, though politically disadvantaged, has been better off under the worker revolution than the worker himself. Before the revolution the rural population migrated to the city in search of better pay, now the urban population is fleeing to the countryside.
Nutrition standards have, to be sure, declined less for peasants than for town-dwellers, but in general they probably have not improved. The peasant is more shabbily dressed than before. Not only the cities, but all of Russia wears rags. Under the Tsars the peasant had more kerosene, more sugar. He was able to buy agricultural implements. “He has more land at his disposal than before.” True, but those who use this argument in order to demonstrate that conditions have improved in comparison with the pre-Revolutionary period, forget that an agrarian reform had been under way in Russia. Because of this reform the peasants’ landholdings had been increasing at a slower pace but without violent disturbances and it ensured a steady growth of production and prosperity, which cannot be said about the current revolution. There have been thoughts about abolishing the commune (obshchina), fundamental in remedying peasant farming, as well as the very positive activity of the zemstva. Economically the peasant is worse off. [...]
General wealth has been reduced for a long time to come.
Is this not a transient symptom, the result of war and revolution, for which it would be wrong to blame the Bolsheviks? The Bolsheviks have very clearly expressed their view on this question. Their policy involves a rapid and thorough turning away from the causes that they initially championed, because they facilitated the seizure of power, but as they correctly noted, the same causes made it more difficult to maintain power. They eclipsed many “bourgeois” parties in their opportunism. “Religion is opium for the masses”. It is said that now they have significantly relaxed the persecution of religion. As soon as they took power, they created agrarian committees based on the principle of universal, direct, equal, and secret ballots, because it was needed in the given circumstances. A few months later, in the constitution, they renounced these causes. The soviets, which are assorted councils in the military, in the civil administration, and in the factories, created in order to enact the principle of collegiate power, are dropped for the sake of one-person rule. Initially the Bolsheviks advocated decentralization, favoring above all the self-government of the communes, as they called them invoking the Paris Revolution of 1871. They soon became fierce centralists. They stopped talking about communism in agriculture, and they proclaim that they want to fulfil the wishes of the peasants. We know what they did with industry. When they took power, many predicted a rapid collapse of bolshevism. They are mistaken if they think that they made an error of judgement. Bolshevism has already collapsed, but the Bolsheviks are still in power, because they did not insist in implementing their program. The more persistent they are in deviating from the path of communism which they had entered, the sooner and the more thoroughly they will rebuild the country economically. [...]
That will suffice as regards an economic assessment, which the Bolsheviks are the most concerned about. What about a moral assessment? This is even more painful. General impoverishment, a reduction of income from honest, arduous work, and an increase of accidental, criminal profits and losses – these had to lead to a moral breakdown, as always occurs in such circumstances. To make matters worse, the Bolsheviks initiated their own method of implementing freedom. They limited economic and political liberty. They restricted the freedom of the press and the freedom of assembly more than the Tsarist government had. They recompense these losses by relaxing moral bonds. They often remove professional judges. They ask that sentences be passed solely on the basis of conscience. One can easily imagine the results. One obvious consequence is that they are closing law departments as superfluous. They make divorce easier. They subvert the authority of parents and schoolteachers over children. They destroy family and educational values. They ruthlessly restore discipline in the army and in the factory. Perhaps they will undertake a similar reform of their own reforms in education. So far one hears nothing about it. Even in the best scenario imaginable it will be long before they repair the damage they have wrought. Always recommending violence as the proper way to enact their plans, they undermined society’s respect for law. They undermined it by falsely claiming that law is only an expression of the material interests of the ruling class. They thereby diminished the authority of law in the eyes of their followers.
I have no doubt that among the Bolsheviks one could find people who are personally honest, animated by the best of intentions, but their system is fundamentally immoral. The doctrine of historical necessity, hardly proved, weakens the sense of personal responsibility for one’s own actions. Conceiving the whole of history in terms of class struggle is surely wrong, if only because struggle presupposes co-operation as people fight in groups. Secondly, class interest is not necessarily what holds these groups together. Overemphasizing the element of struggle surely does not foster morality. Combined with the spurious doctrine of historical necessity, it may easily serve as a justification for the worst abuses. The same effect is produced by the essential discrepancy between ends and means which is inherent in the doctrine of class struggle: they are recommending class struggle only as a temporary measure which should lead to the enhancement of the brotherhood of the people. The same discrepancy is revealed in the conception of the relation between the state and the individual: They want to abolish the state by making it omnipotent (the higher and the lower stage of communism.)
French Revolution and French and English socialism are the spiritual parents of the communism of Marx and the Bolsheviks. The difference is in the lowering of the moral tone.
The Bolsheviks immensely hurt the cause to which they devoted their lifetime efforts and in defense of which they did not hesitate to shed oceans of blood. The point of socializing the means of production is to replace a distribution of goods based on free exchange within a system of private property with a distribution according to norms regarded by the state as just. In reality the abolition of exchange led above all to replacing a money economy with barter, which became the source of general impoverishment, as theory and experience said it would. Advocates of liberal economic policy have always claimed that an attempt to realize communism will inevitably spell economic and moral ruin. The course of events in Russia has fully corroborated their predictions. Before the war liberalism was discredited in public opinion. The Bolshevik experiment will find its historical justification if it becomes a lesson about the detrimental character of the socialist system and the beneficial character of the liberal system, based on the principle of private property.