Poland, Bridge for the Abyss? An Interpretation of Developments in Post-War Poland

By Richard Hiscocks | Go to book overview

III. THE ADAPTATION OF MARXISM TO RUSSIA: LENIN AND STALIN

AT the beginning of the twentieth century Russia was an autocratically governed police state. The country was just emerging from feudalism: serfdom had only been abolished in 1861 and the process of emancipation was not yet complete. The peasantry made up the great majority of the population, and they were still suffering under the burdens of the past, their economic situation having deteriorated rather than improved since liberation. Industrialization, though still on a small scale, was developing rapidly, and the industrial workers shared the troubles of their fellows elsewhere. The intelligentsia were critical of the inefficient and oppressive government of the Czar. The nobility had lost confidence and sense of purpose.

This situation placed Russian Marxists in a dilemma. Their country was clearly ripe for political revolution. Amongst the peasantry and the industrial workers there was a widespread sense of social injustice. But according to Marx's formula Russia was far from ready for the proletarian revolution, since the bourgeois, capitalist revolution, at the expense of the feudal order of society, was only in its early stages. In his classic summary of historical materialism Marx had written: 'No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself.1 In Russia at the time the capitalist social order was only beginning to develop its potential power. The proletariat, as yet very limited in size, was incapable of carrying out the revolution in which, according to Marxist theory, it was destined to triumph by sheer weight of numbers.

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1
Preface to The Critique of Political Economy, Marx and Engels: Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 363.

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