EVOLVING RUSSIA : III. CLASS AND RANK
By WALTER DURA Y ,
/11HE U.S.S.R. is evolving ;, that is to say the lava As thrown up, by the social eruption of .107 is, still in a semi-fluid state ; it is premature, and perhaps in- correct, to assume that this process of ;evolution is, going to harden into anything 'that may be •described as a " bourgeois " ,societY. The essential difference hetWeen the U.S.S.R. and the rest of the world is that in the former the is no place for private profit., It is not only, impos.- sible but a crime for any citizen to use his Money 'or the work of his felloWs to make profit for hiakelf.. He Can make inciney—in some cases large sums of nioneyby his own efforts as writer or playwright (the two best paid professions in the U.S.S.R. today) or as inventor- or technician, even in some cases as a, highly skilled manual worker. But that is not " profit " in the Marxist sense of the word, which implies a surplus value obtained ficom the work of others. Finance, industry and trade are now so completely in the hands of the State-7-or municipalities and co-operatives—in the U.S.S.R.. as to make the whole country, for purposes of Western comparison, like a civil Service or Army, in. which the higher ranks are better paid and live more comfortably than their subordinates but where no one makes money, except in the form of savings from the' salary paid. After eighteen yearS of an attempt to apply the does trines of Marx to the' Practical life of a nation, the Bol- sheViks have reached' the conchisioil that the 'one Cardinal principle to which they must-adhere is the prohibition of private profit either by the work of Others .or by accumu- lated wealth. To that priaciple. they do adhere and will adhere. It lies like a sword of severance between Soviet SOcialism and any reversion, to CapitalisM, beCause in the fiaal issue Capitalism is based upon the 'prat-motive, whereas Socialisni is based upon the profitsmotive's elimination. This, I knoW, 'is a deliberate simplification of. a highly complicated subject, but it is none the less correct on that account.
There remains, however, a Much more pertifient queS- tion—How far are the differences of wages and the systein of greater rewards for -greater service, and - the reintro- duction of titles, like that of Marshal and of Other AP- parently " bourgeois " practices' froni jazz bands to- the use of cosmetics; really tending to affect social values in the U.S.S.R. and to create a new " bourgeoisie " or ruling class ? The Bolsheviks thenkelves have no hesitation on this score. They point out that there is a no less fundamental difference- between class and rank than betweeifState service, or Collectivism, and the system 'of private profit, 'or Capitalism. Rank, they say, is what a Man earns; for, himSelf by his own efforts, whereas class arises from the hereditary transmission of ;ilk*. ThUS, in capitalist society a man becomes'rich or wins a title ; his children inherit those 'riches and that honour, and their children after them, unless by folly or Misfortune they lose what they have inherited. That, say the Bel- sheviks, is the origin of class and class distinctions. Rank,' however, is merely a life tenure. They admit that the militaiy or political leader or the head Of one of the TruSts. does-in their present intermediary state 'of Socialism-.-receive much greater rewards for his 'services than the mass 'of his fellow-citizens, but they deny that he can transmit theSe advantages, automatically, to children and descendants. That this denial is sincere I do not doubt, but whether it is wholly accurate I do. As 'I said in an earlier article, the fact that the Soviet public is now able to get more' consumer's goods—as illustrated by photographs and articles in the BritiSlt Press showing shop windows full of food or 'cOsincties and displays of mannequins wearing fashionable frocks with headlines like, " Russia. Becomes Bourgeois .'' Or " Luxury Reappears in :Moscow "—does not really imply a reversion to what the Bolsheviks mean by the term bourgeoisie," in the sense of a revival of elass' diSs tinctions. The power to purchase comforts, or even luxuries, comes front the increase in earning-power and in the production of consumer's goods but doeS not of itself create class distinctions in what aims at being a classless society. In reality, it is no more than a raising, of living standards. In other words, the introduction of class distinctions is not defined by the possession of goods but by' the perpetuation of rank, that is to say, by transmitted enjoyment to children of privileges which their parents have earned. In a society where property, money and titles give power, their transmission from. one generation to another inevitably leads to the formation of a' privileged, Or ruling elaSs. In the U.S.S.R., of course, there is no trans- missiori of titles, and the transmission of property or Money is limited in its effects by the impossibility of using the said property or Money to make a profit, which robs it of indst of it's power. In addition to that *An article on this subject will appear next week. there is the :fact that the holders of power arc almost Communists nowadays, and the regulations of the Party forbid anylarge money or property accuniulal. t ion by'its members. That an apartment or .cottage or even a small volume of interest-bearing 'State bonds' may -thus be transmitted is Certainly insufficient to :justify the conclusion that classes in society are being formed. The possession Of increased comfort may be synonymous with the words bourgeois,' or " middle class " in ordinary parlance, but it has no political impOrtance in the creation of elais distinctions. A more subtle influence in this direction is prOvided by nepotism, which not only exists in the U.S.S.R., but perhaps is all the stronger because of the inability to transmit hereditary power. All the world over it is the instinct' of human nature that a man should wish to improve the lot of his children and relatives, and the more he is prevented from doing so by the distribution after his death of the advantages which accrue from his property or rank, the more he is inclined to aid his family during his lifetiMe. The truth of the proverb, " Kissing goes by faVour," holds good in Soviet Russia no than elsewhere, deSpite the efforts of control committees and Other State or Party organisations to Make -advaneenient depend solely upon merit. The most ardent Bolshevik 'will not venture to deny that the sons and daughters of men in authority have an easier course and greater facility of advancement than the children of the rank and file In this respect, 'there- fOre; there is a trend towards the perpetuation of rank, that is towards the formation oT class distinctions, but so long as the Bolsheviks refuse to permit the operation of private profit and continue to maintain an open membership in the Communist Party for citizens of proletarian, origin who are Prepared to obey Party rules, there seems to me little likelihood that any permanent as the Bolsheviks would say, dangerolis-claSs distinctions will be established.