Many proponents of capitalism claim that socialism is undemocratic because past socialist societies (such as the Soviet Union) have not had formal elections like those seen in the United States. As such, power was concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable elite, rather than the people themselves. In this essay, I will explain why this perception of socialism is incorrect on both a theoretical and practical level.
Firstly, there is strong evidence to suggest that the United States is in fact a society in which power is managed in an undemocratic manner. A study by Martin Gilens from Princeton university shows that “Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent influence on US government policy, while the average citizen and mass-based groups have little or no independent influence” . This study and others prove that money, not popular will, is the driving force behind the passage of policy and the election of candidates. We can therefore conclude that, based on the definition of democracy proposed previously, the United States is an undemocratic society.
This is not the result of an anomaly or a freak accident, but rather the normal workings of capitalism. It is a system in which a tiny minority of people-the capitalist class-control the means of production. Means of production are things like factories, farms, tools, and offices. We require these things to produce food, housing, education, and everything else that facilitates our existence on this planet. It is only a slight exaggeration to assert that you only live because the capitalists allow you to. If our very lives are controlled by another person, how can we say that we have genuine power? We cannot. Therefore, we cannot say that capitalism produces genuine democracy.
Socialism represents a meaningful alternative. Let’s use the Soviet Union as a case study so we can learn why this is the case.
One of the most common criticisms of the Soviet Union is that all popular opinion was crushed, and every important decision was made and carried out by Stalin and his cronies. While democracy in the USSR was a deeply flawed system, the conclusion that it was nonexistent is not based on hard evidence.
To begin refuting this notion, we must examine the idea of the ‘economic elite’ more closely. A key part of capitalism as a system is that the people with real power-business leaders, politicians, and so forth-have a much better quality of life than the masses of people. They have access to the best food, healthcare, and educational institutions, among other things. By contrast, many workers are unable to procure even the barest hint of a meal, much less a fulfilling higher education. The result of this is that those with real power cannot possibly represent the interests of the working class. They simply have no idea what life in poverty is like. As such, power cannot be in the hands of the working class.
The Soviet situation was entirely different. In East Germany, for example, party leaders were given a yearly allowance of only $725.00 in hard currency. The party leaders were, admittedly, housed in complexes on the outskirts of Berlin with saunas, pools, and fitness centers. However, these amenities were shared by all the residents, so there was very little disparity in their quality of life. Further, both leaders and the masses were permitted to buy goods such as clothing or electronics. The disparities in income between Soviet leaders and normal workers was generally modest. The metric was at 5 to 1, compared with 10,000 to 1 in the United States. These statistics were included in John Gunther’s 1940 publication Inside Europe, in which he writes, “One should keep in mind, however, that big incomes are still extremely rare. Earning power may vary in the Soviet Union, according to artistic or technical proficiency, but the extremes, as Louis Fisher has pointed out, are very close. No such “spread” is conceivable in the USSR as exists in Britain or America between say, a clerk in a factory and its owner. Among all the 165 million Russians, there are probably not ten men who earn $25,000 per year” . Michael Parenti agrees, writing in Blackshirts and Reds that, “Soviet leaders like Yuri Andropov…lived not in lavishly appointed mansions like the White House, but in relatively large apartments in a housing project near the Kremlin…they had none of the immense personal wealth that most U.S. Leaders possess” .
It is clear that the Soviet leaders lived within the means of the working class. Therefore, they were better able to represent the interests of the vast majority of people.
The USSR was a single-party state. There is nothing in particular in Marxist-Leninist thought that asserts that this must be the form a dictatorship of the proletariat takes. Certainly, Leninism holds that the Communist Party should play the leading role in politics, but this does not preclude the existence of other parties. For instance, China was founded on Marxist-Leninist principles, and there is currently a Maoist Party that exists in opposition to the state .
In practice however, after the October Revolution, the Communist Party in Soviet Russia and subsequently the USSR very quickly became the only legitimate political organ. This should be understood as a consequence of the fact that in their early form, the Bolsheviks were unprepared to deal with political opposition, but also of the fact that the political opposition of the time was totally unwilling to work within the system. This general scenario is a result of the intense aggravation of class struggle that occurs immediately following a socialist revolution. The bourgeoisie do not simply roll over and allow their power to be usurped; they fight back and attempt to retake it. Opposition parties in a period of counter-revolution tend to be manipulated by the bourgeoisie, or they become opportunistic in their opposition and actively seek allegiance with elements of the bourgeoisie. The result is that opposition parties tend to serve counter-revolution themselves, which is exactly what happened in Soviet Russia. Every opposition party except the Social Revolutionaries refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Soviet system, and even the latter party eventually withdrew. The consolidation of political power into a single party was solidified after the civil war with the 1922 trial of Social Revolutionary leaders for treason, but as Edward Hallett Carr points out in The Bolshevik Revolution, the acts the Social Revolutionaries were tried for “under any system of government would have been criminal” . So the single-party system arose out of the harsh conditions immediately following revolution, and similar scenarios have played out in nearly all of the other socialist revolutions of the 20th century. This was a result of concrete material conditions, and cannot be expected to occur in every socialist revolution.
Despite this, many still assert that the Soviet Union was undemocratic. They assert this on the basis that everyone who disagreed with Stalin was sent to a violent gulag to be executed. However, taking this view demonstrates ignorance of what life for prisoners in the Soviet Union was actually like. Yes, they were sent to gulags, but those were primarily used for housing real criminals rather than political prisoners. According to Albert Szymanski in Human Rights in the Soviet Union, political prisoners accounted for only twelve percent of all Gulag detainees. More than half of all gulag deaths in the entire 1934-1953 period occurred in 1941-1943, mostly from malnutrition caused by the war .
John D. Littlepage supports these assertions, writing his book In Search of Soviet Gold that, “I was told that political prisoners, including members of other revolutionary groups and disgruntled or disgraced Communists, are seldom if ever put into such prison camps or gangs. If they are considered dangerous, they are confined in concentration camps or isolated prisons. If they are considered merely a nuisance, they are given what is called free exile….the free exile system is a comparatively mild punishment” . Gulags, it turns out, never housed a majority of political prisoners. Instead, they housed thieves, murderers, and the like.
As Michael Parenti writes in Blackshirts and Reds, “There was no systematic extermination of inmates…the great majority of gulag inmates survived and eventually returned to society when granted amnesty or when their terms were finished. In any given year, 20 to 40 percent of the inmates were released, according to archive records” . The gulag population never exceeded 2.6 million prisoners a year throughout its existence. For 454,000 to have died throughout nearly 20 years of this penal system, this is simply a mere fraction of the alleged 60 million deaths.
Side note: the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that, “About 1 in 36 adults, or 2.8% of adults, in the United States was under some form of correctional supervision at year-end 2014, the lowest rate since 1996.” It also records a population of 6.9 million people at year-end 2014 . This, of course, concludes that the highest year of gulag population, which was 1950 with 2.6 million, was still at least a third of the U.S prison population in 2014.
It is also important to note that labor camps-and secret police-existed in Tsarist Russia prior to the Bolshevik Revolution. Both Lenin and Stalin were exiled at one point or another in the course of their revolutionary activities. Although the Soviet Union founded new ones, they largely made use of what they already had. Penal labor was common practice throughout most of the world at the time, including the United States. The Soviet Union followed in the footsteps of most other nations, ending the practice in the 1950s . The United States, however, has recently seen several prisoners strike in protest of forced labor . Several right-wing and even unabashedly anticommunist regimes have also made use of labor camps. There is nothing about them that is intrinsically socialist.
In fact, there is reason to believe that the Soviet Union had a progressive prison and exile system. As Chamberlain writes, “The Soviet prison system, as applied to ordinary criminals, embodies a number of progressive penological ideas. Educational and manual training instruction courses exist in the more advanced prisons; prisoners are not required to wear uniforms; and the well-behaved prisoner receives a vacation of two weeks every year, which is certainly a unique Russian institution” .
In Stalin: Man of Contradiction, Kenneth Neill Cameron writes that, “In the 1930s, as we have seen, the spread of industrialization and collectivization brought about a socialist state with a broad spectrum of social and political rights. As we would expect from such a state, the legal and prison systems that it established were essentially just and non-punitive. In fact, they were praised and admired by liberal attorneys and penologists throughout the world. People’s courts, in which ordinary citizens sat with a professional judge on the bench, tried 80 percent of all cases, and legal services could be obtained free of charge. As a desirable alternative to prisons, ‘agricultural and industrial labor colonies’ were established where some prisoners brought their families and where they were allowed to marry. The basic objective of the system was rehabilitation, not just in words, as in capitalist states, but in reality, as was dramatically shown, for instance, in the film Road to Life, depicting the regeneration of teenage criminals. One of the most extensive industrial camp projects was the building of the Baltic-White Sea Canal by prisoners, a vast enterprise whose three chief engineers were former “wreckers.” At the completion of the project, 300 prisoners received scholarships, 12,000 were freed, and 59,000 had their sentences reduced. Such was the normal course of working class justice in the USSR” .
In Khruschev Remembers, Strobe Talbott writes that, “Actually, I’d say that on the whole our convicts received fairly humane treatment. They were considered to be the products of capitalist society. Therefore, it was felt that our socialist society should reeducate them rather than punish them” .
Even the ardent anticommunist Robert Conquest admitted in Stalin: Breaker of Nations that, “Many prisoners were quoted as expressing their joy at having been saved and turned into decent citizens” . In May 1934, detainees in Soviet labor camps were given the right to vote, according to Siegelbaum and Sokolov in their book Stalinism as a Way of Life . American prisoners, it is interesting to note, are not afforded this right . How can we call the Soviet Union undemocratic when more of its citizens had the right to vote than ours do?
In fact, Stalin argued for a dramatic expansion of democracy. This is argued convincingly by Grover Furr in Stalin and the Struggle for Democratic Reform. In 1936, a draft for the Soviet Constitution approved by the All-Russia Congress of Soviets included new provisions for secret ballot, contested elections, and re-enfranchisement of certain groups, including kulaks and those who had violated the “law of three ears.” These additions were insisted upon by Stalin and he continued to vigorously fight for them. The rest of the Central Committee of the Party strongly disagreed with some of these provisions however, and given the panic caused by the uncovering of forces within the state collaborating with Germany and Japan, not all the democratic expansions made it into the final Constitution .
There is no evidence anywhere that Stalin ever removed anyone from a position of leadership because they disagreed with him. The notion that Stalin removed his political opponents from power is perhaps the greatest fabrication told about the man. There is simply no basis for it. The accusation is backed only by hearsay and rumor, and the sparse anecdotes that appear to show that Stalin hated opposition, refused to compromise, made decisions unilaterally, etc. are easily countered by the numerous contrary accounts given by those who worked with him.
After Stalin’s death appeared the tale about how he used to take military and strategic decisions unilaterally. This was not the case at all. I have already said above that if you reported questions to the Supreme Commander with a knowledge of your business, he took them into account. And I know of cases when he turned against his own previous opinion and changed decisions he had taken previously .
His style of work, as a rule, was businesslike. Everyone could express his own opinion without being nervous. The Supreme Commander treated everyone the same way—strictly and officially. He knew how to listen attentively when you reported to him with knowledge of your topic. He himself was laconic, and did not like verbosity in others .
I must say that each one of us had the full ability to express himself and defend his opinion or proposal. We frankly discussed the most complicated and contested questions (as for myself, I can speak on this point with the fullest responsibility), and met on Stalin’s part in most cases with understanding, a reasoned and patient attitude even when our statements were obviously disagreeable to him.
He was also attentive to the proposals by the generals. Stalin listened carefully to what was said to him and to counsel, listened to disagreements with interest, extracting intelligently from them that bit of truth that helped him later to formulate his final, most appropriate decisions which were born in this way, as a result of collective discussion. More than this: it commonly happened that, convinced by our evidence, Stalin changed his own preliminary viewpoint on one or another question .
- A. Benediktov:
Contrary to the widespread view, all questions in those years, including those involving the transfer of leading party, state, and military figures, were decided in a collegial manner in the Politburo. At the Politburo sessions themselves arguments and discussions often flared up, different, sometimes contradictory opinions were expressed within the framework, naturally, of party directives. There was no quiet, untroubled unanimity—Stalin and his colleagues could not abide that. I am quite justified in saying this because I was present at Politburo sessions many times .
Even if we discount all of these statements (and there are many more like this), the fact remains that there is simply no record to support the idea that Stalin was not collegial or that he removed his political opponents for disagreeing with him.
Additionally, Stalin sought to change the role of the Communist Party in relation to the state. Over the history of the USSR, the Party and state had effectively merged. Stalin did not see this as inevitable or particularly desirable, nor did most other Marxists. A political party that must also carry out the state’s executive functions has little time for healthy ideological life and can become degenerate. Moreover, party-state mergers are breeding-grounds for bureaucracy and opportunism, a view Stalin seems to have held. Thus he advocated that the role of the Party should return to one of agitation, ideological leadership, nominating cadres, etc. while the executive functions of the state should be carried out separately, and nominations to the Soviet congresses should be carried out by the people. Effectively what Stalin was discussing was a separation between Party and state. Although the 1936 Soviet Constitution did vaguely reflect this concept, the desired democratic shift never fully materialized .
As we have seen, Stalin argued that many oppositional forces should have their rights restored. Although this was not achieved to the fullest extent possible, there was great freedom given to the opposition on both sides of the political aisle. As J. Arch Getty writes in The Road to Terror, “The Stalinist leadership had often permitted the publication of statements and articles by various oppositionists within the Party….Trotsky’s works were published until the mid-1920s…Stalin had personally nominated Bukharian for the editor of the government newspaper Izvestia,” and, “In cases where there was no firm ploy, debate, negotiating and lobbying were possible, even in the Stalin years” .
As Baldwin writes in Liberty Under the Soviets, “Former Mensheviks or Social Revolutionists, still numerous in the unions, are now not expelled even when critical. But their criticism must be “constructive,”–intended to remedy the evils and defects of the accepted system and program, not to attack its purposes….But the general policy is to encourage ‘helpful’ criticism and the fullest rank and file participation in solving industrial problems” .
In The Truth About Soviet Russia, Sidney Webb writes that, “Indeed it is amusing to discover that nearly all the books that are now written proving that there is corruption, favoritism, and gross inefficiency in the management of industry and agriculture, are taken from reports of these discussions in the Soviet press, in Pravda, the organ of a Communist Party; in Izvestia, the organ of the government; in Trud, the organ of the trade union movement, and in many other local and specialist newspapers” . What this means is that critics of the Soviet Union got their information from communist sources.
In “A Reply to Robert Conquest,” Robert W. Thurston writes that, “Stalin, the press, and the Stakhanovite movement all regularly encouraged ordinary people to criticize those in authority. At the very top, Stalin was certainly an unassailable figure, but during the Yezhovshchina anyone several rungs below him was fair game. If the citizenry was supposed to be terrorized and stop thinking, why encourage criticism and input from below on a large scale?” .
Baldwin writes, “Though I found a few opponents who were fearful of speaking out, and many cautioned me not to quote them, I found nowhere such universal fear as marks opponents of the dictatorships in Italy or Hungary…. Speech is fairly free everywhere in Russia. What the authorities land on is any attempt at organized opposition” .
Szymanski writes that, “Toleration of widely diverse viewpoints within the Party, continued throughout the period of the New Economic Policy…. While the center-right alliance of those around Stalin and Bukharin had the upper hand in the period after Lenin’s death (they were united on the continuation of the New Economic Policy and a fairly moderate international line), their left opponents continued to occupy leading positions” .
In Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, Alan Bullock writes that, “The leaders were not arrested or shot; even Trotsky was banished, not imprisoned or executed, and most of the others, like Zinoviev and Kamenev, were allowed back into the party–even, like Bukharin, to hold official posts” .
James Harris writes in “Stalin as General Secretary” (published in the anthology Stalin: A New History from Cambridge university press) that, “Despite their expanded powers, challenges to the authority of local secretaries remained a fact of political life,” . and that, “New archival sources only serve to reinforce our sense of the succession of struggle as a see-saw battle of thesis and counter-thesis, of alternative visions of the future…presented to the Party elite and broader membership. In his letters to Moscow, for example, Stalin insisted on responding publicly to…his rivals” . He also writes that, “The [party] secretaries did not submit passively to his [Stalin’s] directives. They had their own agendas of which they were aggressive advocates” . Stalin’s political line was not unquestionable, nor was it decided without input from the rest of the committee.
Said committee was not packed with Stalin’s cronies, as many believe. According to figures published in The Soviet Elite, by 1925, in the election of the central committee at the Fourteenth Party Congress, 217 voters struck Kamenev off their ballots. 224 struck off Zinoviev. By contrast, 87 struck off Stalin and 83 Bukharian. Harris writes that, “Stalin had the clear advantage, but his failure to obtain those 87 votes suggests that if he did try to stack the central committee with his cronies, he was not doing a very good job” .
There is also this quote from Duranty Reports Russia, (written by Walter Duranty, the New York Times correspondent to Russia during Stalin’s rule), “although ‘Free speech’ and a ‘free press’ in the western sense are unknown in Soviet Russia, Moscow newspapers are now indulging in such a loud chorus of complaints, rebukes, and pessimism as has probably not been equaled since Jeremiah was the “official spokesman” of Israel. To read the newspapers one would suppose the country was headed straight to perdition” . What this means is that critics of the USSR got their information from communist sources. I cannot stress this enough.
This is in line with Stalin’s thoughts on the matter. He once wrote that, “Comrades, oppositionists can and should be allowed to hold posts. Heads of Central Committee departments can and should be allowed to criticize the Central Committee’s activities” .
A study of the Politburo supports the view that Stalin was not all-powerful. J. Arch Getty writes in “Stalin as Prime Minister” that, “Politburo members were not slaves, nor was their power reduced as Stalin’s increased. Sometimes Politburo members argued with Stalin…and occasionally won the argument” . He goes on to write that, “One source of Stalin’s authority from the earliest days was his ability to…listen, to refer…to steer the conversation towards consensus. This earned him the respect, cooperation, and loyalty of senior Bolsheviks,” and further that, “His office logs do not suggest a lonely and solitary dictator who made decisions without…discussion with others” .
All of this considered, an analysis of democracy (or lack thereof) in the Stalin era would be incomplete without discussion of the purges. Much ado is made about the expulsions from the party, the arrests, and the executions that occurred under Stalin’s leadership, especially those between 1937 and 1938, where the purges reached their height. The extent of executions is often exaggerated, and there is evidence today that many who were accused of crimes were in fact involved in espionage or other sabotage—that is to say, they were guilty of the crimes they were accused of. According to figures from Yeltsin’s archives and published in Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union by Keeran and Kinney, the number of executions during the Stalin Era wa 799,455. This is a far cry from the millions typically posited by anticommunists. And keep in mind that Yeltsin, who released these figures, was staunchly pro-capitalist. Thus, it is highly likely that even these figures are exaggerated .
This is a complicated topic, and is generally beyond the scope of this analysis. However, Chapter 11 of Grover Furr’s Khrushchev Lied contains a detailed and thorough account of how Pospolov’s report—which Khrushchev used to “rehabilitate” many who he claimed had been falsely accused during the purges—is extremely fraudulent . This is highly recommended reading. Also recommended is Robert Thurston’s Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, in which he writes that, ”Ordinary…workers…frequently reported no contact with the security apparatus” . The purges mostly targeted government officials who, as we have discussed, were in fact guilty of criminal activity.
Nevertheless, it is well-known that many innocent people were killed during the purges. The question is whether Stalin was responsible for the excesses. The worst offenses of the purges were carried out by the NKVD (the Soviet secret police) during the tenure of Nikolai Ezhov as its director. Ezhov is sometimes described as Stalin’s “loyal executioner,” but the Soviet archives demonstrate he was anything but. He was part of a Rightist conspiracy to undermine the Central Committee’s effort in ousting right-wing cadres from its ranks. The plan was for the NKVD to protect the Rightists by diverting attention away from them, fabricating evidence against honest communists and bringing them to trial and in many cases execution. Here is the 1939 statement from Frinkovsky, one of the deputy heads of the NKVD during the purges:
“Before the arrest of Bukharin and Rykov, Ezhov, speaking with me quite openly, started to talk about the plans for Chekist work in connection with the current situation and the imminent arrests of Bukharin and Rykov. Ezhov said that this would be a great loss to the Rights, after that regardless of our own wishes, upon the instructions of the Central Committee large-scale measures might be taken against the cadres of the Right, and that in connection with this his and my main task must be to direct the investigation in such a way so that, as much as possible, to preserve the Rightist cadre…
After the arrests of the members of the center of Rights, Ezhov and Evdokimov in essence became the center, and organized:
1) the preservation, as far as possible, of the anti-Soviet cadre of the Rights from destruction; 2) the direction of the blows against the honest party cadre who were dedicated to the Central Committee of the ACP(b) [the Communist Party as it was called at the time]; 3) preservation of the rebel cadre in the North Caucasus and in other krait and oblasts of the USSR, with the plan to use them at the time of international complications; 4) a reinforced preparation of terrorist acts against the leaders of the party and government; 5) the assumption of power of the Rights with Ezhov at their head” .
Thus in his effort to preserve right-wing cadre, to undermine the Central Committee, and to concentrate power to himself, Ezhov falsely accused and killed huge numbers of innocent people. This is pretty damning. Adding further to this is Ezhov’s own confession, where he admits that he was committing espionage on behalf of Poland and Germany. Meanwhile, there is no evidence that Stalin was a part of this conspiracy, and it is absurd to suggest that he was. The conspiracy that Ezhov headed was explicitly a response to anti-Rightist efforts initiated by Stalin and the rest of the Central Committee. Stalin himself was a target of removal for Ezhov. When his heinous crimes were exposed, Ezhov was arrested, tried, and executed. When Beria took control of the NKVD in 1939, the chaos that marked the previous two years largely subsided.
This is not to say we should absolve Stalin of all responsibility. When massive treachery such as this happens under one’s leadership, even if the leader is totally unaware of it, the leader must to some extent be held responsible. If Stalin was in error here, it was in trusting Ezhov and his cronies. It could also be said that Stalin and the rest of the Communist Party created power structures that were ripe for saboteurs to abuse. Furthermore, the general idea of widespread purges as a means of suppressing internal counter-revolution tended to create a climate which blurred the distinctions regarding contradictions between the people and their enemies, and healthy contradictions within the people themselves, as Mao argued in his sympathetic critique of Stalin. However, to understand all of this as a product of a “villainous” Stalin is a theory that holds about as much water as a sieve. Instead, we should recognize that Stalin fought to combat degeneracy within the party, to expand democracy, and to suppress counter-revolution, but along with the rest of the Party he made some serious errors. Although we should not downplay the significance of these errors, we should understand that they were the product of a leadership grappling with something entirely new: how to build a socialist society, and how to do so in the midst of sabotage and generally extreme conditions at that.
It is also worth noting that ‘purge’ in this context is a mistranslation of the original Russian word. The word ‘purge’ was deliberately chosen by anticommunist scholars to conjure images of genocide. In reality, the purges were more akin to yearly performance reviews than massacres. Walter Duranty writes that the Bolsheviks did not often kill those that they purged, and many so-called victims were readmitted back into the Party .
I am not trying to argue that the USSR was a utopia in which everyone had complete freedom. Freedoms were indeed curtailed, often to an unnecessary extent. (As with art or religion under Lenin.) However, the suppression did not occur to the extent that is commonly believed. The historical record is consistent with this view.
The practice of suppressing free speech is not as uncommon as some anticommunists would have you believe. It also occurred during the American Revolution. The property of Loyalists was seized during this time. The great libertarian hero Thomas Paine lived in a home stolen from a loyalist. As Szymanski writes, “Beginning in 1775, states started passing legislation making it a seditious act to libel or defame congress…eight states formally banished Tories” . None of the Tories, so far as I’m aware, were ever given key positions in government, as Bukharian was. From this we can conclude that it is not socialism which requires repression, but revolution. We should evaluate the morality of the revolutionary cause when considering the use of repression. The aim of socialism is the elimination or reduction of hunger, want, and exploitation. What higher aspirations could one have?
I should also mention that the repressive measures utilized by the Soviet Union mostly targeted Nazis. Some might say that this is irrelevant, as it does not change the fact that the Soviet Union engaged in undemocratic practices. However, denial of freedom of speech to Nazis constitutes an expansion of freedom to the oppressed people who no longer have to live in fear of them. The freedom to walk down the street without being assaulted is greater than the freedom to assault. And, contrary to what liberals would have you believe, ideas can be considered as bad as actions. Take Dylan Roof for example. He had written a manifesto before actually carrying out the shooting that took nine lives. Had his white supremacist speech been criminalized, he would not have been able to carry out that act of terror, and nine innocent people would still be alive. In cases such as these, impinging in freedom of speech can benefit the people rather than hindering them.
A concrete example of this can be found in the Soviet Union. Prior to the revolution, Jews were subjected to brutal massacres known as pogroms, which were endorsed by the Tsar. The Bolsheviks made anti-semitism punishable by death, and refused to allow the circulation of anti-Semitic literature. This meant that Soviet Jews no longer had to live in fear of being massacred. In this way, restrictions on the free speech of one group led to increased freedom for another group. This is why we should take a nuanced approach to understanding repression. We should look at who it serves and what it accomplishes rather than decrying it offhand. For more on this, see Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, as well as Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times .
Finally, it is incorrect to say that formal elections did not exist in the Soviet Union. Although the members of the Central Committee were not directly elected by the people, local politicians were. These politicians would elect the people above them, and so on until the Central Committee had been chosen. These elections usually took place in factories, and candidates were chosen from two lists. The Communist Party was often the only organization that was able to muster candidates, but the Mensheviks remained “tolerated rivals” until the 1920s, according to How the Soviets Work . These elections were obviously very different from those seen in the United States. However, they still existed, and the will of the people was the genesis in carrying them out. There was a definite attempt at democracy within Soviet elections. One could even argue that local Soviet elections were more democratic than local elections in the United States, given that the people could recall unsatisfactory representatives instantaneously. Despite this, many would assert that the elections were “meaningless” or “frauds.” For the sake of argument, let’s assume that this is true. If the United States can have elections and be undemocratic, it stands to reason that a society without traditional elections could remain democratic in spite of that. Elections are not the end-all, be-all of democracy. They are merely a tool used by the people to exercise political power. This is the true marker of democracy.
I would also like to mention that the Soviet system of elections was similar to that which is used in many countries today. This includes the republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The people do not directly elect the President, the Prime Minister, or the Senate. They are split into forty-one electoral districts. The people in each elect a representative as a member of parliament. These members of parliament elect the Prime Minister. The Senate is then appointed by the President, the Prime Minister, and the Opposition Leader. The President is not directly elected by the people, either. The Parliament and the Senate jointly elect the President. Recently, Trinidad and Tobago introduced what is known as the right to recall. This is a practice in which a district or constituency can request for their representative to be replaced. This was first practiced in the USSR. Despite these obvious similarities, I have never heard an anticommunist refer to Trinidad and Tobago as being undemocratic. In fact, the American state department describes it as a “parliamentary democracy” . This is evidence that they care more about slandering communism than actually learning anything about how these systems function. Anticommunists, especially those in America, are engaging in the most profound intellectual dishonesty. Therefore, they ought not be considered credible sources on this subject.
The reason for this stems from America’s presidentialism. Citizens of the United States tend to elevate their Presidents to incredible heights. It is assumed that the President is the most powerful and impactful government official. Thus, it is assumed that governments can only be democratic if the President is directly elected. As we have seen, this is far from the truth.
The Soviet Union also made tremendous strides in fostering democratic institutions outside of the electoral system. Most notable among these was the workplace. Sociologist Albert Szymanski writes in Is the Red Flag Flying? that production conferences were held in factories throughout the 30s and 40s, and again from 1957 onward. Members of the production conferences were elected at general meetings of all the workers, and the conferences themselves were made up of employees, scientific and technical societies, trade unions, and members of the Youth League. The conference members took part in drafting production plans, determining wages and resource allocation, and protecting workers. They were required to report back to the masses at general meetings, at which there was a high level of participation. If the conference members did not adequately represent the workers as a whole, they could be recalled .
One utterly mainstream Soviet history book reminds us that.
Workers did sometimes suffer arrest, for example in several cases when they produced too much waste on the job… Yet the sources indicate overwhelmingly that industrial toilers were the least likely of any social group to be arrested in the Great Terror; this was the consensus of the thousands of emigres, for example, who answered questionnaires in the Harvard Project survey after the war. Since considerable evidence argues against the view that the population generally feared arrest, it follows that workers would have felt even less of a threat from the state than other individuals.
Former Soviet workers sometimes described their situation in the late 1930s using terms that support the view of their peers as fear-ridden slaves. Virtually all of the twenty-six emigre factory workers or employees interviewed by J.K. Zawodny in the early 1950s said that they had been afraid to complain about anything. For instance, a former coal miner spoke of ‘this horrible fear of being arrested’. Many analyses of the period rest upon such generalizations, but in fact this is only the beginning of the story, for the very same people who made these statement sometimes offered specific evidence from their own experiences which undermines their general observations. Were this inquiry a legal trial, any court would rule that the second kind of evidence (if the first is really evidence at all) is considerably mroe important.
Stalin emphasized the importance of the party’s ‘ties to the masses’. To maintain them, it was necessary ‘to listen carefully to the voice of the masses, to the voice of rank and file members of the party, to the voice of the so-called ‘little people’, to the voice of ordinary folk [narod]’. The party newspaper Pravda went so far as to identify lack of criticism with enemies of the people: ‘Only an enemy is interested in seeing that we, the Bolsheviks… do not notice actual reality… only an enemy… strives to put the rose-coloured glasses of self-satisfaction over the eyes of our people.’
But were not these calls merely a vicious sham, so that only carefully chosen, reliable individuals could make ‘safe’ criticisms? The evidence suggests otherwise.
Besides offering informal verbal criticisms and writing to newspapers, workers utilized other means of expressing dissatisfaction. First, they could go to the Rate and Conflicts Commissions (RKKs) within each factory to challenge decisions regarding pay, job classification or dismissal. These bodies had an equal number of representatives from the employer and from the factory or shop union committee. If workers failed to win their cases at that level, they could appeal to the people’s courts or to the central committees of their unions… [L]abour unions, usually pronounced all but dead by this time in Western literature, in fact had some power to act on workers’ behalf. Other examples of the same point will be given below.
Workers participated by the hundreds of thousands in special inspectorates, commissions, and brigades which checked the work of managers and institutions. These agencies sometimes wielded substantial power. For instance, the former worker turned inspector V.R. Balkan, together with a union official, investigated an accident at his Moscow factory in 1937. Finding the cause in improper testing of materials, the two fined the head of the production shop 100 roubles, about a week’s pay, and placed a reprimand in the foremand’s record. The book which recounted this story was published as a guide to action for other union officials and inspectors and therefore also encouraged similar action by workers.
The Stakhanovite movement was not a crude bludgeon used to beat all workers into vastly greater production, despite the drive to raise norms. However, it did accomplish something else for the industrial labour force which was of grave importance. The movement provided new status for workers in voicing criticism, urging and even demanding changes in production processes, and getting supervisors’ attention in general. New forums appeared in which Stakhanovites could speak out, while some old and weak mechanisms for input now revived.
Worker enthusiasm was essential to boosting productivity. In order to help whip up zeal, the party leaders were quite willing to encourage workers to speak out; workers needed to feel that the Stakhanovite movement was theirs in a meaningful way. Therefore with Stalin, Molotov, and other top officials sitting behind him, Izotov was blunt:
Stakhanovites spoke to me and asked me to convey the following to the government: they earn a lot, but there is little to buy. One says: I need a piano, another – a bicycle, a third, a record player, radio and all sorts of cultural goods, which are necessary, but which are not [available] in Donbass.
[P]robably recognizing that repression was only likely to spread discontent, in March 1936 the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the USSR announced a change in policy: ‘In many cases courts have incorrectly judged individual backward workers as enemies of the people for incorrect remarks’, the Presidium reported. In its view such statements often reflected the workers’ inability to cope with the new conditions; this is, some workers could not make the new norms. Their negative remarks do not ‘indicate their opposition to the Stakhanovite movement or sabotage’. What was needed was not court action but ‘mass explanatory work’. In other words, workers were not to be punished for speaking against the movement; instead, managers and other officials were directed to help discontented workers master the new standards.
[W]orkers in the city which had supposedly suffered at least as much as any other in the ‘Great Terror’ were still able to criticize a director to his face and apparently to get a job back after cursing a supervisor.
While sane, calm, and sober, no worker would have dared to say that socialism was a poor system or that Stalin was an idiot. But such bounds allowed a great deal that was deeply significant to workers, including some aspects of production norms, pay rates and classifications, safety on the job, housing, and treatment by managers. This occurred at a time when American workers in particular were struggling for basic union recognition, which even when won did not provide much formal influence at the work place.
Far from basing its rule on the negative means of coercion, the Soviet regime in the late 1930s fostered a limited but positive political role for the populace… [A]t lower levels of society, in day-to-day affairs and the implementation of policy, [the Soviet political structure] was participatory. Earlier concepts of the Soviet state require rethinking: the workers who ousted managers, achieved the imprisonment of their targets and won reinstatement at factories did so through organizations which constituted part of the state apparatus and wielded state powers.
Only by staying on the surface of the story and limiting the use of evidence to certain kinds of sources can the system be described as one in which coercion overwhelmingly determined the course of workers’ lives… This and similar issues meant that ultimately relatively little was controlled by government or party decree, which often expressed pious wishes rather than commands which were then fulfilled.
It is also worth noting that no party leader was allowed to hire other people and accumulate great personal wealth off the labor of another. To quote William Henry Chamberlain’s book Soviet Russia, “No private person may legitimately make a penny of profit out of this system of state and cooperative industry and trade, banking and transport. There are no individual shareholders in the state industrial enterprises; and the financial columns of the Russian newspapers are restricted to brief quotations of the rates of the state loans. All the normal means of acquiring large personal fortunes are thus pretty effectively blocked up in Russia and if there are some…private traders who have become ruble millionaires through lucky dealings in commerce or speculation, they are certainly neither a numerous nor a conspicuous class” .
In his book Human Rights in the Soviet Union, Albert Szymanski writes that, “Making a living through means other than work was prohibited. Hence, deriving an income from rent, profits, speculation or the black market…social parasitism was illegal” . Put simply, the Bolsheviks never got much out, personally, of the revolution. If they wanted great power, they certainly could have done better.
Chamberlain also stated that, “The new class of state managers, or ‘red directors’ of factories, who have replaced the former capitalist owners, are mostly Communists and former workers…..by the very nature of their position they must look at industrial life from a rather different angle from that of the workers. Although they make no personal profit out of the enterprises which they manage, they are supposed to turn in a profit for the state….But the general view of the…critics of the Soviet regime, that there is a deep rift between a few Communist officeholders at the top and the working masses at the bottom is, in my opinion…quite at variance with the actual facts of the Russian situation” . Although Party members often did not engage in labor, they clearly remained closely connected to the working masses.
Chamberlain’s admission that state-run industries were expected to turn a profit might at first appear to lend credence to the idea that the USSR was not socialist, but in fact State Capitalist. A key part of the capitalist mode of production involves turning a profit, which comes from extracting surplus value from wage laborers. If the Soviet Union engaged in this practice, then surely it must have been State Capitalist rather than socialist. What this analysis ignores is that, under capitalism, profits serve only to enrich the owner of an enterprise. The wealth does not go to benefit the public good. This was not the case in the Soviet Union. In Liberty Under the Soviets, Roger Baldwin writes that, “They [The workers] labor not for the private profit of employers, (save for the small proportion employed in private industry), but for the profit of the whole community. State industries, like private, must show a profit to keep going, but the public use of that profit robs it of the driving force of exploitation” . So while it is true that workers were paid for their labor, they were also provided with vital services and a considerable degree of autonomy in the workplace. Thus, it is unreasonable to say that the Soviet proletariat was an exploited class, especially given Szymanski’s findings discussed above.
Another facet of the leftist critique of the USSR is that workers were still alienated from the productive process, as they had no say over how work was to be conducted. To a certain extent, they were correct. Most economic planning was carried out by the Central Committee or other parts of the state apparatus. But, as I mentioned previously, the workers still had a large degree of autonomy. As one Western business analyst wrote in the 1980s, “There is little doubt that worker participation goes considerably beyond that found in American firms.” Albert Szymanski writes that, “About 45-50% of workers report that they participate actively and regularly in some organization of the factory…that number has increased over time” . While there were still managers, “The rate of upward mobility between workers and administration is quite high,” . and, “at the general meeting of an enterprise the administrative personnel must report to the worker vis-a-vis the goal of the economic plan….any director who suppressed criticism would…not only be removed, he would be tried.” (Emphasis mine) . As a result, the managers of the enterprises were far more connected with rank-and-file workers when compared to the West. This reveals a crucial fact about management as a whole. Managers under capitalism are undesirable because they are pawns of the bourgeoisie. They exist to extract as much surplus value from the worker as possible. Under socialism, however, they serve an entirely different purpose. Managers exist to motivate workers and ensure that enterprises can communicate with one another more effectively. The antagonism between workers and managers does not disappear under socialism, but it is mitigated.
Szymanski goes onto say that, “The role and power of Soviet unions have grown…collective agreements have become more important as mechanisms of establishing rules,” and further that, “the norm is that before there can be promotion…there must be prior discussion with the work force or their representative bodies” .
In Is the Red Flag Flying, Szymanski goes further into the subject of unions, writing, “Regular meetings of rank and file trade unions are held in each enterprise. All union organs from the bottom up are elected by union members and accountable to the majority” .
John Reed echoes these sentiments, writing in Soviets in Action that, “As all real socialists know, and as we who have seen the Russian Revolution can testify, the workers of Russia have fashioned….an economic organization which is evolving into a true industrial democracy” .
In her book The Stalin Era, Ana Strong writes that, “All kinds of people who made achievements in production…a milkmaid…a scientist…would be invited to discuss…how and why it was done.” She also writes that, during the first of the Five Year Plans, “In factories and villages, people discussed what they wanted, what they could make, what they needed…their local plans went by channels to the center, were correlated and sent back for local adoption” . This suggests that individual workers were in fact given a suitable degree of autonomy in production discussions. Plans were not simply handed down by despotic leaders uninterested in the mass of workers.
As Sidney Webb writes in The Truth About Soviet Russia, “As we have described previously, free criticism, however hostile it may be, is permitted, even encouraged, in the USSR, of the directors of all forms of enterprise, by the workers employed, or by the consumers of the commodities or services concerned” . Even in situations where the State devised production plans, workers across the Soviet Union still offered input.
In American Trade Unionism, Foster writes,
“The government planning agency now submits [the economic plan] for consideration through the several commissariats and other centers, to all the enterprises and organizations whose proceedings for the ensuing year it will govern….In each factory or office the part of the Plan relating to managers and heads of departments, but also submitted to the whole of the workers concerned, through their various factory or office committees, production conferences and trade union meetings… All sorts of suggestions and criticisms are made, which are considered by the foreman and managers, and finally transmitted to the government planning agency… Very often, during the last few years, the workmen’s meetings have submitted a counter-plan, by which the establishment would be committed to a greater production than the Provision Plan had proposed” 
He goes on to write,
“In 1934, the [Soviet Union] government abolished the existing national department of labor and turned its functions over to the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, it being taken for granted in a socialist regime that no group in the country is more competent or trustworthy to administer the nation’s labor laws than those persons most directly concerned, the workers themselves.
But imagine what a wild outcry such a proposal in the United States would wring from the reactionaries. The Soviet trade unions, in protecting the rights and welfare of the workers in the industries, have the power to issue regulations having the binding force of law, and for whose infraction careless or bureaucratic factory managers may be punished. To supervise the country’s great labor protective service the trade union movement has its own system of factory inspectors. Each factory council has a commission to attend to problems of local enforcement in the plant, mine, office, or railroad.
This is a concept utterly unthinkable in any capitalist system” .
Finally, I would like to quote an anecdote from the groundbreaking 1981 study, Human Rights & Freedoms in the USSR. In it, Fydor Medvedev and Gennady Kulikov write,
“Antonina Pokhmelnova told us a typical story.
‘At a trade union meeting we were discussing what to do in order to raise the output of clocks. i’d like to quote here only one of numerous proposals because I believe it shows how the workers’ opinions are valued in the USSR. My friend, assembly worker Lyudmila Ataulina, suggested that we do without the assembly line. Of course, everybody was surprised: was it possible? I remember the shop superintendent asked the chairman of the meeting (who was our fitter) to give him the floor immediately.
‘What are you going to use instead of the assembly line?’ he asked. Indeed, at the time the assembly line was considered (and is still considered) indispensable for intensive industrial production, the clock industry included. But Lyudmila stood her ground: the assembly line imposed a certain rhythm, which kept the worker under constant strain. Without the enforced rhythm people would assemble clocks quicker and better, while those who were still unable to work quickly and efficiently would be given help. Lyudmila had calculated the time to be spent on every operation, and the meeting discussed it and came to see her point. The managers also endorsed the initiative, which made labour less monotonous and more efficient. Both the workers and the factory stood to gain” 
Workers at all levels had a tremendous amount of influence in the productive process. It was organized in a participatory way, with special emphasis placed on the physical and mental well being of the workers. Exploitation and alienation, the primary sources of worker’s misery under capitalism, were combatted. This was a process that took place in all eras of the USSR’s existence, from its inception in 1917 to the mid-1980’s. I have chosen not to delineate time periods too much here, because my goal is to show that democratic management of the means of production was common in all periods of the USSR’s existence.
All this sounds like worker control to me, especially given that less than ten percent of Russian workers were not affiliated with unions . In Is the Red Flag Flying? Szymanski puts this figure at closer to five percent . In addition to all this, the Soviet Union also made other strides in worker’s rights. To quote David M. Kotz in his essay, “Socialism and Capitalism: Lessons from the Demise of State Socialism in the Soviet Union and China,” “Employees had a high degree of bargaining power on the job, with obvious benefits in job security, and management paying close attention to employee satisfaction. Article 41 of the 1977 constitution capped the workweek at 41 hours. Workers on night shift worked seven hours but received full (eight-hour) shift pay. Workers employed at dangerous jobs (e.g., mining) or where sustained alertness was critical (e.g. physicians) worked six or seven-hour shifts, but received full-time pay. Overtime work was prohibited except under special circumstances” .
From the 1960s, employees received an average of one month of vacation which could be taken at subsidized resorts . All Soviet citizens were provided a retirement income, men at the age of 60, and women at the age of 55. The right to a pension (as well as disability benefits) was guaranteed by the Soviet constitution (Article 43, 1977) . More on this can be found in Roger Keeran and Kenny Thomas’s Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union . as well as in Herwig Lorouge’s essay How the October Revolution and the Soviet Union Contributed to the Labour Movement in Western Europe, and More Particularly in Belgium .
Even dissidents had to admit that the USSR was not only interested in providing for its working class, it successfully did so. Tariq Ali quoted Soviet dissident Zhores Medvedev writing in 1979, “There is no unemployment…a greater variety of job choice for workers. The average working family can satisfy its immediate material needs: apartment, stable employment, education for children, health care….The prices of essential goods…have not changed since 1964” . What this means is that the policies of the USSR were focused on providing for the proletariat. The laws ensured a decent existence for the working class, which is strong evidence that the working class held power in this society. This is the basic definition of socialism. Since the working class is the majority class in any society, it can fairly be said that power in the hands of the working class means power in the hands of the people as a whole. Put another way, socialism means democracy.
What all this means is that the means of production were managed by the broad masses of working people, rather than a tiny minority of capitalists. Again, means of production are responsible for things like food, housing, and education. These are all things we require to live. They grant us the power to do so. In the Soviet Union, the things which grant us power were controlled by the masses. Thus, power was in the hands of the people. It therefore follows that the Soviet Union was a democratic society.
This is true of all socialist societies. Socialism is a system in which the means of production are organized to meet the needs of the people as a whole. As such, it is inherently democratic.
- Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 131
- E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1923, Vol. 1 (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1966), 190.
- Albert Szymanski Human Rights in the Soviet Union Zed Books, 1994. p. 76
- Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 135-139
- http://www.greanvillepost.com/2015/05/23/left-anticommunism-the-unkindest-cut/ Op. Cit.
- Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 102-104
- Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 124 Op. Cit.
- Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 128
- Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 99
- Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York, New York: Viking, 1991, p. 186
- Siegelbaum and Sokolov. Stalinism as a Way of Life. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, c2000, p. 97
- Holding, Reynolds (November 1, 2008). “Tomes Magazine”. Reason.
- G. Furr, Stalin and the Struggle for Democratic Reform, Part One (2005), pp. 20-36.
- Furr, Khrushchev Lied (Kettering: Erythros Press and Media, 2011), 223
- Ibid, 9
- G. Furr, Khrushchev Lied (Kettering: Erythros Press and Media, 2011), 223.
- Getty & Naumov. The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 103
- Baldwin, Roger. Liberty under the Soviets, New York: Vanguard Press, 1928, p. 169
- Webb, Sidney. The Truth about Soviet Russia. New York: Longmans, Green, 1942, p. 34
- Thurston, Robert W. “On Desk-Bound Parochialism, Commonsense Perspectives, and Lousy Evidence: A Reply to Robert Conquest.” Slavic Review 45 (1986), 239.
- Baldwin, Roger. Liberty Under the Soviets, New York: Vanguard Press, 1928, p. 178
- Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 211
- Dr. Stephen White, New Directions in Soviet History
- Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Knopf, 1992, p. 182
- Harris, James. “Stalin as General Secretary: the Appointments Process and the Nature of Stalin’s Power.” <i>Stalin: A New History</i>, edited by Sarah Davies and James Harris, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005, pp. 63–82.
- Evan Mawdsley and Stephen White, The Soviet Elite from Lenin to Gorbachev: The Central Committee and its members 1917-91. Oxford University Press, 2000. Ch. 2.
- Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 369
- Stalin, Joseph. Works. Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1952, Vol. 6, p. 44
- Stalin: A New History. Cambridge University Press, 2005. p.99
- Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny, Socialism Betrayed: behind the collapse of the Soviet Union. iUniverse, 2010. P.63
- G. Furr, Khrushchev Lied (Kettering: Erythros Press and Media, 2011), 8
- Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 253
- Lubianka. Stalin I NKVD – NKGB – GUKR “SMERSH”. 1939 – mart 1946 (Moscow, 2006), pp. 33-50
- Albert Szymanski Human Rights in the Soviet Union Zed Books, 1994. P.153
- Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 84-88; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 169, 186-87.
- Szymanski, Albert Is the Red Flag Flying: the Political Economy of the Soviet Union Zed Books, 1979. P. 54-55
- Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 131
- Szymanski, Albert Is the Red Flag Flying: the Political Economy of the Soviet Union Zed Books, 1979. P. 139
- Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 177
- Baldwin, Roger. Liberty Under the Soviets, New York: Vanguard Press, 1928, p. 29-30
- Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984 p.141
- Szymanski, Albert Is the Red Flag Flying: the Political Economy of the Soviet Union Zed Books, 1979. P. 55
- Strong, Anna L. The Stalin Era. British and Irish Communist Organization, 1976. P. 51
- Webb, Sidney. The Truth about Soviet Russia. New York: Longmans, Green, 1942, p. 74
- William Z. Foster, American Trade Unionism, pg. 331
- Medvedev, Let History Judge,1989 Columbia University Press p. 24
- Baldwin, Roger. Liberty Under the Soviets, New York: Vanguard Press, 1928 p.166
- Szymanski, Albert Is the Red Flag Flying: the Political Economy of the Soviet Union Zed Books, 1979. P.55
- Kotz, David M (2000). “Socialism and Capitalism: Lessons from the Demise of State Socialism in the Soviet Union and China,” in Socialism and Radical Political Economy: Essays in Honor of Howard Sherman, edited by Robert Pollin, Cheltenham and Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2000, 300-317.
- Lerouge, Herwig (2010). “How the October Revolution and the Soviet Union contributed to the labour movement in Western Europe, and more particularly in Belgium”, Belgium Works Party, May 05, 2010.
- Keeran, Roger and Kenny, Thomas (2004). Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union, International Publishers, New York, 2004. P. 21
- Tariq Ali The Idea of Communism London: Seagull Books, 2009. P. 81-82