Wells. I am very grateful to you, Mr. Stalin, for agreeing to receive me. I was recently in the United States, had a lengthy conversation with President Roosevelt and tried to figure out what his guiding ideas were. Now I have come to you to ask you what you are doing to change the world …
Stalin. Not so much…
Wells. Sometimes I wander around the world and, like a simple person, I look at what is happening around me.
Stalin. Major figures like you are not “common people”. Of course, only history can show how significant this or that major figure is, but, in any case, you are not looking at the world as a “common man”.
Wells. I’m not going to be shy. I mean that I strive to see the world through the eyes of a common person, not a party politician or a responsible statesman. My trip to the United States made an amazing impression on me. The old financial world is crumbling, the economic life of the country is being rebuilt in a new way. Lenin once said that one must “learn to trade,” learn this from the capitalists. Now the capitalists must learn from you, comprehend the spirit of socialism. It seems to me that in the United States we are talking about a profound reorganization, about the creation of a planned, that is, a socialist economy. You and Roosevelt travel from two different starting points. But isn’t there an ideological connection, ideological kinship between Washington and Moscow? For example, I was struck in Washington by the same thing that is happening here: expansion of the administrative apparatus, the creation of a number of new state regulatory bodies, the organization of a comprehensive public service. Just like in your country, they lack leadership skills.
Stalin. The United States has a different goal than we, in the USSR. The goal pursued by the Americans arose out of the economic turmoil, the economic crisis. The Americans want to end the crisis on the basis of private capitalist activity, without changing the economic base. They strive to minimize the devastation, the damage that is caused by the existing economic system. In our country, as you know, in place of the destroyed old economic base, a completely different, new economic base has been created. Even if the Americans you are talking about partially achieve their goal, that is, they minimize this damage, then in this case they will not destroy the roots of the anarchy that is characteristic of the existing capitalist system. They preserve the economic system, which must necessarily lead, cannot but lead to anarchy in production. Thus, at best, it will not be about the restructuring of society, not about the destruction of the social system that engenders anarchy and crises, but about limiting its individual negative aspects, limiting its individual excesses. Subjectively, these Americans, perhaps, think that they are rebuilding society, but objectively, the present base of society remains with them. Therefore, objectively, no restructuring of society will work.
There will be no planned economy either. After all, what is a planned economy, what are some of its signs? The planned economy seeks to eliminate unemployment. Let us assume that it will be possible, while maintaining the capitalist system, to bring unemployment to a certain minimum. But after all, not a single capitalist will ever and for anything agree to the complete elimination of unemployment, to the destruction of the reserve army of the unemployed, whose purpose is to put pressure on the labour market, to provide cheaper paid workers. Here you have one hole in the “planned economy” of bourgeois society. A planned economy further presupposes that production increases in those branches of industry whose products are especially needed by the masses of the people. And you know that the expansion of production under capitalism occurs for completely different reasons, that capital rushes into those branches of the economy, where the profit rate is more significant. You will never force the capitalist to harm himself and agree to a lower rate of profit in the name of satisfying the needs of the people. Without getting rid of the capitalists, without getting rid of the principle of private ownership of the means of production, you will not create a planned economy.
Wells. I agree with a lot of what you said. But I would like to emphasize that if the country as a whole accepts the principle of a planned economy, if the government gradually, step by step, begins to consistently implement this principle, then, ultimately, the financial oligarchy will be destroyed and socialism will be established in the sense in which it is understand in the Anglo-Saxon world. Roosevelt’s slogans of the “new order” have a colossal effect and, in my opinion, are socialist slogans. It seems to me that instead of emphasizing the antagonism between the two worlds, it would be necessary in the modern situation to strive to establish a common language between all constructive forces.
Stalin. When I talk about the impossibility of implementing the principles of a planned economy while maintaining the economic base of capitalism, I do not in any way want to belittle Roosevelt’s outstanding personal qualities – his initiative, courage, and decisiveness. Undoubtedly, of all the captains of the modern capitalist world, Roosevelt is the most powerful figure. Therefore, I would like to stress once again that my conviction in the impossibility of a planned economy under capitalism does not at all mean doubts about the personal abilities, talent and courage of President Roosevelt. But the most talented commander, if the situation does not favour him, cannot achieve the goal you are talking about. Theoretically, of course, it is possible that under capitalism it is possible, little by little, step by step, to go to that chain, which you call socialism in the Anglo-Saxon interpretation of the word. But what will this “socialism” mean? In the best case, this is a certain curbing of the most unbridled individual representatives of capitalist profit, a certain strengthening of the regulatory principle in the national economy. This is all good. But as soon as Roosevelt or some other captain of the modern bourgeois world wants to do something serious against the foundations of capitalism, he will inevitably fail completely. After all, Roosevelt does not have banks, because he does not have the industry, because large enterprises, large savings are not with him. After all, all this is private property. Both the railways and the merchant fleet are all in the hands of private owners. And, finally, an army of skilled labour, engineers, technicians, after all, they are also not with Roosevelt, but with private owners, they work for them. We must not forget about the functions of the state in the bourgeois world. This is an institution for organizing the country’s defence, organizing the protection of “order”, an apparatus for collecting taxes. Economy in the proper sense has little to do with the capitalist state; it is not in its hands. On the contrary, the state is in the hands of the capitalist economy. Therefore, I am afraid that Roosevelt, despite all his energy and abilities, will not achieve the goal you are talking about, if he has this goal at all. Maybe in a few generations it would be possible to get a little closer to this goal, but I personally think this is also unlikely. Economy in the proper sense has little to do with the capitalist state; it is not in its hands. On the contrary, the state is in the hands of the capitalist economy. Therefore, I am afraid that Roosevelt, despite all his energy and abilities, will not achieve the goal you are talking about, if he has this goal at all. Maybe in a few generations it would be possible to get a little closer to this goal, but I personally think this is also unlikely. Economy in the proper sense has little to do with the capitalist state; it is not in its hands. On the contrary, the state is in the hands of the capitalist economy. Therefore, I am afraid that Roosevelt, despite all his energy and abilities, will not achieve the goal you are talking about, if he has this goal at all. Maybe in a few generations it would be possible to get a little closer to this goal, but I personally think this is also unlikely.
Wells. Perhaps I believe more in the economic interpretation of politics than you do. Thanks to inventions and modern science, tremendous forces have been set in motion, leading to a better organization, to a better functioning of the human collective, that is, to socialism. The organization and regulation of individual actions has become a mechanical necessity, independent of social theories. If you start with state control over banks, then move on to control over transport, over heavy industry, over industry in general, over trade, etc., then such comprehensive control will be tantamount to state ownership of all sectors of the national economy. This will be the process of socialization. After all, socialism, on the one hand, and individualism, on the other, are not the same antipodes as black and white. There are many intermediate stages in between. There is individualism, bordering on banditry, and there is discipline and organization, tantamount to socialism. The implementation of the planned economy depends to a large extent on the organizers of the economy, on the qualified technical intelligentsia, who can, step by step, win over to the side of the socialist principles of organization. And this is the most important thing. For first – organization, then – socialism. Organization is the most important factor. Without organization, the idea of socialism is just an idea.step by step, win over to the side of the socialist organization principles. And this is the most important thing. For first – organization, then – socialism. Organization is the most important factor. Without organization, the idea of socialism is just an idea step by step, win over to the side of the socialist organization principles. And this is the most important thing. For first – organization, then – socialism. Organization is the most important factor. Without organization, the idea of socialism is just an idea.
Stalin. There is no irreconcilable contrast between the individual and the collective, between the interests of the individual and the interests of the collective, there should not be. It should not exist, since collectivism, socialism does not deny, but combines individual interests with the interests of the collective. Socialism cannot be distracted from individual interests. Only a socialist society can give the fullest satisfaction to these personal interests. Moreover, a socialist society is the only firm guarantee of the protection of the interests of the individual. In this sense, there is no irreconcilable contrast between “individualism” and socialism. But can one deny the contrast between classes, between the class of the propertied people, the capitalist class, and the working class, the proletarian class? On the one hand, the class of property-owners, in whose hands banks, factories, mines, transport, plantations in the colonies. These people see nothing but their interest, their desire for profit. They do not obey the will of the collective, they seek to subordinate any collective to their will. On the other hand, the class of the poor, the class of the exploited, who have neither factories, nor factories, nor banks, who are forced to live by selling their labor power to the capitalists and who are deprived of the opportunity to satisfy their most elementary needs. How can such opposing interests and aspirations be reconciled? As far as I know, Roosevelt was unable to find a way to reconcile these interests. Yes, this is impossible, as experience says. However, you are more familiar with the situation in the United States than I am, since I have not been to the United States and follow American affairs mainly from literature. But I have some experience with the struggle for socialism, and this experience tells me: if Roosevelt tries to really satisfy the interests of the proletarian class at the expense of the capitalist class, the latter will replace him with another president. The capitalists will say: presidents come and go, but we capitalists stay; if this or that president does not defend our interests, we will find another. What can the president oppose to the will of the capitalist class?
Wells. I object to this simplified classification of mankind into rich and poor. Of course, there is a category of people seeking profit. But aren’t these people just as much of a hindrance as they are here? Are there few people in the West for whom profit is not a goal, who have certain means, want to invest them, get profit from this, but do not see this as the goal of their activities at all? These people view investing as an inconvenient necessity. Are there not enough talented and devoted engineers, organizers of the economy, whose activities are driven by incentives that are completely different from profit? In my opinion, there is a large class of simply capable people who are aware of the unsatisfactory nature of the current system and are called upon to play a big role in the future, socialist society. I have studied a lot in recent years and thought a lot about the need to propagate the ideas of socialism and cosmopolitanism in a wide circle of engineers, pilots, in military-technical circles, etc. Approaching these circles with straightforward propaganda of the class struggle is pointless. These are circles that understand the state of the world, which is turning into a bloody swamp, but these circles consider your primitive antagonism of the class struggle to be nonsense.
Stalin. You object to the simplified classification of people into rich and poor. Of course, there are middle strata, there is also the technical intelligentsia that you are talking about and among which there are very good, very honest people. There are also dishonest, evil people in this environment. There are all sorts of things. But first of all, human society is divided into rich and poor, into the haves and the exploited, and to abstract from this basic division and from the contradiction between the poor and the rich is to abstract from the basic fact. I do not deny the existence of intermediate strata that either take the side of one of the two fighting classes, or take a neutral or semi-neutral position in this struggle. But, I repeat, to abstract from this basic division of society and this basic struggle between the two main classes is to ignore the facts. This struggle is going on and will go on. The outcome of this struggle is decided by the class of proletarians, the class of workers.
Wells. But are there not many non-poor people who work and work productively?
Stalin. Of course, there are also small farmers, artisans, and small traders, but it is not these people who determine the destinies of countries, but the working masses who produce everything necessary for society.
Wells. But there are very different capitalists. There are those who only think about profit, about profit, there are those who are ready to sacrifice. For example – old Morgan: this one thought only about profit, he was simply a parasite on the body of society, he only accumulated wealth in his hands. But take Rockefeller: he is a brilliant organizer, he gave an example of oil marketing, worthy of imitation. Or Ford: of course, Ford is in his mind, he is selfish, but is he not a passionate [p.29] organizer of rational production, from whom you also learn? I would like to emphasize that recently in the Anglo-Saxon countries there has been a serious change in public opinion in relation to the USSR. The reason for this is primarily the position of Japan and the events in Germany. But there are other reasons too not arising from international politics alone. There is a deeper reason, the widespread awareness of the fact that a system based on private gain is collapsing. And in these conditions, it seems to me that we should not emphasize the antagonism between the two worlds, but strive to combine all constructive movements, all constructive forces as much as possible. It seems to me that I am to the left of you, Mr. Stalin, that I believe that the world has already come closer to the elimination of the old system that the world has already come closer to the elimination of the old system.
Stalin. When I talk about capitalists who strive only for profit, for profit, I do not mean at all that these are the last people who are not capable of anything else. Many of them undoubtedly have great organizational skills, which I do not think to deny. We Soviet people learn a lot from the capitalists. And Morgan, to whom you give such a negative characterization, was, of course, a good, capable organizer. But if you are talking about people who are ready to reconstruct the world, then they, of course, cannot be found among those who faithfully serve the cause of profit. We and these people are at opposite poles. You are talking about Ford. Of course, he is a capable production organizer. But don’t you know his attitude to the working class, don’t you know how many workers he wasted in throwing out into the streets? The capitalist is chained to profit it cannot be torn away from it by any means. And capitalism will be destroyed not by the “organizers” of production, not by the technical intelligentsia, but by the working class, for this stratum does not play an independent role. After all, an engineer, a production organizer, does not work the way he would like, but the way he is ordered, as the owner’s interest dictates. There are, of course, exceptions, there are people from this stratum who have freed themselves from the intoxication of capitalism. The technical intelligentsia can, under certain conditions, work “miracles” and bring tremendous benefits to humanity. But it can also do great harm. We Soviet people have our own considerable experience with the technical intelligentsia. After the October Revolution, a certain part of the technical intelligentsia did not want to participate in the building of a new society, opposed this building, and sabotaged it. We tried in every possible way to include the technical intelligentsia in this construction, we approached it this way and that way. Much time passed before our technical intelligentsia took the path of active assistance to the new system. Today, its best part is in the front ranks of building a socialist society. We, having this experience, are far from underestimating both the positive and negative sides of the technical intelligentsia, and we know that it can harm and work “miracles”. Of course, things would be different if it were possible with a single blow to tear the spiritually technical intelligentsia away from the capitalist world. But this is a utopia. Are there many people from the technical intelligentsia who will dare to break with the bourgeois world and take up the reconstruction of society? How, in your opinion, are there many such people, say, in England, in France? No, there are few hunters to break with their masters and begin the reconstruction of the world!
Besides, how can you lose sight of the fact that in order to remake the world you need to have power? It seems to me, Mr. Wells, that you greatly underestimate the issue of power, that it generally drops out of your concept. After all, what can people do, even with the best intentions, if they are not able to raise the issue of taking power and do not have power in their hands? At best, they can render assistance to the new class that will take power, but they themselves cannot change the world. This requires a large class to replace the capitalist class and become a sovereign master like him. This class is the working class. Of course, it is necessary to accept the help of the technical intelligentsia and it is necessary in turn to provide it with help. But one should not think that it, the technical intelligentsia, can play an independent historical role. Remaking the world is a large, complex and painful process. This big business requires a big class. The big ship has a great voyage.
Wells. Yes, but big sailing requires a captain and a navigator.
Stalin. True, but for a large voyage, first of all, a large ship is required. What is a navigator without a ship? A man with nothing to do.
Wells. The big ship is humanity, not a class.
Stalin. You, Mr. Wells, seem to be proceeding from the premise that all men are kind. And I do not forget that there are many evil people. I do not believe in the kindness of the bourgeoisie.
Wells. I remember how things stood with the technical intelligentsia several decades ago. Then there were few technical intelligentsias, but there was a lot of work and every engineer, technician, and intellectual found application of his knowledge. Therefore, it was the least revolutionary class. Nowadays there is a surplus of technical intelligentsia and its mood has changed dramatically. A qualified intellectual who previously would never have even listened to revolutionary conversations is now very interested in them. I was recently invited to dinner at the Royal Society, our largest English scientific society. The chairman’s speech was a speech in favour of social planning and scientific management. Thirty years ago, there would not have even listened to what I say. And now at the head of this society is a man with revolutionary views, insisting on the scientific reorganization of human society. Your propaganda of the class struggle has not reckoned with these facts. Moods are changing.
Stalin. Yes, I know that, and this is explained by the fact that capitalist society is now at a dead end. The capitalists are looking for and cannot find a way out of this impasse that would be compatible with the dignity of this class, with the interests of this class. They can partially get out of the crisis on all fours, but they cannot find a way out through which they could come out with their heads held high, which would not violate the interests of capitalism at the root. This, of course, is felt by broad circles of the technical intelligentsia. A significant part of it begins to realize the community of interests with the class that is able to indicate a way out of the impasse.
Wells. You, Mr. Stalin, know better than anyone else what revolution is, and, moreover, in practice. Do the masses ever rise up themselves? Don’t you consider it an established truth that all revolutions are made by a minority?
Stalin. Revolutions require a leading revolutionary minority, but the most talented, dedicated and energetic minority will be helpless if they do not rely on at least the passive support of millions of people.
Wells. At least passive? Maybe subconscious?
Stalin. Partly for both semi-instinctive and semi-conscious support, but without the support of millions, the best minority is powerless.
Wells. I follow the communist propaganda in the West, and it seems to me that this propaganda in modern conditions sounds very old-fashioned, because it is propaganda of violent actions. This propaganda for the violent overthrow of the social order was appropriate when it was a question of the undivided domination of one or another tyranny. But in modern conditions, when the dominant system is collapsing anyway, and already decaying, it would be necessary to focus not on insurrection, but on efficiency, competence, and productivity. The insurrectionary note seems outdated to me. From the point of view of constructive-minded people, communist propaganda in the West appears to be a hindrance.
Stalin. Of course, the old system is crumbling, decomposing. It’s right. But it is also true that new attempts are being made by other methods, by all means to protect, to save this dying system. From the correct statement you draw the wrong conclusion. You are right to state that the old world is crumbling. But you are wrong when you think that it will collapse by itself. No, replacing one social order with another social order is a complex and lengthy revolutionary process. This is not just a spontaneous process, but a struggle, this is a process associated with a clash of classes. Capitalism has rotted, but it cannot be compared simply to a tree that has rotted so badly that it must itself fall to the ground. No, the revolution, the replacement of one social system by another, has always been a struggle, a struggle for life and death. And whenever the people of the new world came to power, they had to defend themselves against the attempts of the old world to restore the old order by force; they, the people of the new world, always had to be on their guard, be ready to rebuff the attempts of the old world to the new order.
Yes, you are right when you say that the old social order is collapsing, but it will not collapse by itself. Take fascism, for example. Fascism is a reactionary force trying to preserve the old world through violence. What will you do with the fascists? To persuade them? Convincing them? But this will not affect them in any way. The communists do not idealize the method of violence at all. But they, the communists, do not want to be caught unawares, they cannot count on the old world to leave the scene by itself, they see [p.33] that the old order is being defended by force, and therefore the communists Tell the working class: prepare to respond with force on strength, do everything so that you are not crushed by the dying old system, do not let it put shackles on your hands, with which you will overthrow this system. As you can see the process of replacing one social system with another is not just a spontaneous and peaceful process for the communists, but a complex, lengthy and violent process. The communists cannot but reckon with the facts.
Wells. But take a closer look at what is happening now in the capitalist world. After all, this is not just a collapse of the formation. This is an explosion of reactionary violence, degenerating into outright gangsterism. And it seems to me that when it comes to conflicts with these reactionary and stupid rapists, socialists should appeal to the law and, instead of viewing the police as an enemy, support them in the fight against reactionaries. It seems to me that one cannot simply act with the methods of the old, inflexible insurrectional socialism.
Stalin. Communists proceed from a rich historical experience, which teaches that outmoded classes do not voluntarily leave the historical scene. Remember the history of England in the 17th century. Didn’t many say that the old social order had rotted away? But didn’t, nevertheless, need Cromwell to finish him off by force?
Wells. Cromwell acted on the basis of the constitution and on behalf of the constitutional order.
Stalin. In the name of the constitution, he resorted to violence, executed the king, dispersed parliament, arrested some, beheaded others!
But let’s take an example from our history. Was it not clear for a long time that the tsarist order was rotting, that it was crumbling? How much blood, however, it took to bring him down!
And the October Revolution? Weren’t there few people who knew that only we Bolsheviks were showing the only correct way out? Was it not clear that Russian capitalism had rotted away? But do you know how great the resistance was, how much blood was shed to defend the October Revolution from all enemies, internal and external?
Or take France at the end of the 18th century. Long before 1789 it was clear to many how rotten the royal power, serfdom, was. But it could not do, could not do without a popular uprising, without a clash of classes.
What’s the matter? The point is that the classes that have to leave the stage of history are the last to be convinced that their role is over. It is impossible to convince them of this. It seems to them that the cracks in the decayed building of the old order can be repaired, that the crumbling building of the old order can be repaired and saved. Therefore, the dying classes take up arms and by all means begin to defend their existence as the ruling class.
Wells. But many lawyers were at the head of the French Revolution.
Stalin. Do you deny the role of the intelligentsia in revolutionary movements? Was the Great French Revolution a lawyer’s revolution, and not a people’s revolution, which won, raising huge popular masses against feudalism and defending the interests of the third estate? And did the lawyers from among the leaders of the Great French Revolution act according to the laws of the old order, did they not introduce a new, bourgeois revolutionary legality?
Rich historical experience teaches that up to now no class has voluntarily made way for another class. There is no such precedent in world history. And the communists learned this historical experience. The communists would welcome the voluntary departure of the bourgeoisie. But this turn of affairs is incredible, as experience says. Therefore, the communists want to be prepared for the worst and I urge! the working class to be vigilant, to be on the alert. Who needs a commander who lulls the vigilance of his army, a commander who does not understand that the enemy will not surrender, that he must be finished off? To be such a leader is to deceive, to betray the working class. This is why I think that what seems old-fashioned to you is actually a measure of revolutionary expediency for the working class.
Wells. I do not at all deny the necessity of violence, but I believe that the forms of struggle should be as close as possible to those possibilities that are provided by existing laws, which must be protected from reactionary attempts. The old order does not need to be disorganized just because it is disorganized enough by itself. That is why it seems to me that the struggle against order, against the law is something outdated, old-fashioned. However, I deliberately exaggerate in order to clarify the truth more clearly. I can formulate my point of view as follows: first, I am for order; secondly, I am attacking the existing system because it does not provide order; thirdly, I believe that propaganda of the ideas of the class struggle can isolate from socialism precisely those educated circles that are needed for socialism.
Stalin.To accomplish a big, serious public deed, it is necessary that the main vulture, the support, the revolutionary class be present. Further, it is necessary that assistance to this main force be organized from the side of the auxiliary force, which in this case is the party, which will also include the best forces of the intelligentsia. You just talked about “educated circles.” But what educated people did you mean? Were there not enough educated people on the side of the old order in the 17th century in England, and at the end of the 17th century in France, and during the era of the October Revolution in Russia? The old system had on its side, in its service, many highly educated people who defended the old system, who went against the new system. After all, education is a weapon, the effect of which depends on who holds it in their hands, whom they want to hit with this weapon. Of course, to the proletariat, socialism needs highly educated people. After all, it is clear that it is not the boobies of the heavenly tsar who can help the proletariat fight for socialism, build a new society. I do not underestimate the role of the intelligentsia; on the contrary, I emphasize its role. The only question is what kind of intelligentsia we are talking about, for there are different intelligentsia.
Wells. There can be no revolution without a radical change in the public education system. Suffice it to cite two examples: the example of the German Republic, which did not touch the old education system and therefore never became a republic, and the example of the British Labor Party, which lacks the determination to insist on a radical change in the public education system.
Stalin. This is a correct observation.
Let me now answer your three points.
First, the main thing for a revolution is the presence of social support. This support for the revolution is the working class.
Secondly, an auxiliary force is needed, what the communists call a party. This will include both the intelligent workers and those elements from the technical intelligentsia who are closely associated with the working class. The intelligentsia can only be strong if it unites with the working class. If it goes against the working class, it turns into nothing.
Third, power is needed as transformations roar. The new power creates a new rule of law, a new order, which is a revolutionary order.
I do not stand for all order. I am in favour of an order that is in the interests of the working class. If some of the laws of the old system can be used in the interests of the struggle for the new order, then the old legality should also be used. I cannot argue against your position that it is necessary to attack the existing system, since it does not provide the necessary order for the people.
Finally, you are wrong if you think that the communists are in love with violence. They would gladly abandon the method of violence if the ruling classes agreed to give way to the working class. But the experience of history speaks against such an assumption.
Wells. In the history of England, however, there was an example of the voluntary transfer of power from one class to another. Between 1830 and 1870, there was a process of voluntary transfer of power from the aristocracy, whose influence was still very great by the end of the 18th century, to the bourgeoisie, which was the sentimental support of the monarchy, without any fierce struggle. This transfer of power subsequently led to the establishment of the dominance of the financial oligarchy.
Stalin. But you imperceptibly moved from the questions of revolution to the questions of reform. They are not the same thing. Do you think that the Chartist movement played a big role in the reform of England in the 19th century?
Wells. The Chartists did little and disappeared without a trace.
Stalin. I disagree with you. The Chartists and the strike movement organized by them played an important role, forced the ruling classes to make a number of concessions in the electoral system, in the elimination of the so-called “rotten townships”, in the implementation of certain points of the “charter.” Chartism played a significant historical role and prompted one part of the ruling classes to make some concessions, to reform in the name of avoiding major upheavals. In general, it must be said that of all the ruling classes, the ruling classes of England — both the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie — turned out to be the most intelligent, the most flexible from the point of view of their class interests, from the point of view of maintaining their power. Let’s take an example from modern history: the 1926 general strike in England. Any bourgeoisie in the face of these events, when the general council of trade unions called for a strike, it would have arrested the leaders of the trade unions first. The British bourgeoisie did not do this and acted wisely from the point of view of their interests. Neither in the USA, nor in Germany, nor in France do I imagine such a flexible class strategy on the part of the bourgeoisie. In the interests of asserting their rule, the ruling classes of England have never renounced small concessions or reforms. But it would be wrong to think that these reforms represent a revolution. In the interests of asserting their rule, the ruling classes of England have never renounced small concessions or reforms. But it would be wrong to think that these reforms represent a revolution. In the interests of asserting their rule, the ruling classes of England have never renounced small concessions or reforms. But it would be wrong to think that these reforms represent a revolution.
Wells. You have a higher opinion of the ruling classes of my country than I do. But is the difference between a small revolution and a big reform really big, aren’t the reforms a small revolution?
Stalin. As a result of pressure from below, the pressure of the masses, the bourgeoisie can sometimes go for certain partial reforms, remaining on the basis of the existing socio-economic system. In doing so, it believes that these concessions are necessary in the interests of maintaining its class rule. This is the essence of the reforms. A revolution means the transfer of power from one class to another. Therefore, one cannot call any reform a revolution. That is why there is no reason to expect that a change in social order could occur as an imperceptible transition from one system to another through reforms, through concessions from the ruling class.
Wells. I am very grateful to you for this conversation, which is of great importance to me. In giving me your explanations, you probably remembered how in underground pre-revolutionary circles you had to explain the foundations of socialism. At present, there are only two individuals all over the world whose opinion is listened to by millions: you and Roosevelt. Others can preach as much as they want; they will neither print nor listen to them. I still cannot appreciate what has been done in your country, to which I arrived only yesterday. But I have already seen the happy faces of healthy people, and I know that you are doing something very significant. The contrast compared to 1920 is striking.
Stalin. Even more could have been done if we Bolsheviks had been smarter.
Wells. No, if only human beings were smarter at all. It would not hurt to invent a five-year plan for the reconstruction of the human brain, which clearly lacks many of the particles necessary for a perfect social order.
Stalin. Are you planning to attend the congress of the Union of Soviet Writers?
Wells. Unfortunately, I have different obligations and I can only stay in the USSR for a week. I have come to meet you and I am deeply satisfied with our conversation. But I am going to talk with those Soviet writers with whom I can meet about the possibility of their joining the Pen Club. It is an international organization of writers founded by Galsworthy, after whose death I became chairman. This organization is still weak, but it still has sections in many countries, and, more importantly, the speeches of its members are widely covered in the press. This organization insists on the right of free expression of all opinions, including opposition. I look forward to discussing this topic with Maxim Gorky. However, I do not know if such broad freedom can be represented here.
Stalin. We, the Bolsheviks, call this “self-criticism.” It is widely used in the USSR.
If you have any requests, I will be happy to help you.
Stalin. Thanks for the conversation.
Bolshevik. 1934. No. 17.
Russian Language Source: