Peter Petroff, The Wheatsheaf, September 1934

Co-operation and State Capitalism

Source: The Wheatsheaf, September 1934, p.xiv. The Wheatsheaf is described as a co-operative Magazine for the home;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Some socialists have a tendency to underestimate the importance of co-operation.

Co-operation is often regarded merely as a useful means for the improvement of the condition of the working class at the present moment, without any importance for the future.

The experiences of the Russian Revolution show the importance of co-operation in an entirely new light.

When, in Russia, the revolutionary State took over the industries of the country and its transport system, centralising the management, they were faced with the great problem of organising the supply of the population.

There was no strong democratic co-operative movement to deal with this problem. The complex, yet democratic, machinery of a developed co-operative movement was missing. Nor were there the millions of people educated in the spirit of co-operation.

This greatly affected the whole course of the development in Russia.

A cumbersome, bureaucratic machine was, by and by, developed, pressing with its dead weight upon the population unable to secure a proper distribution of the inadequate supplies.

Tremendous queues in front of the bureaucratic State “co-operative” shops became a standing feature of every Russian city. In the country of planned economy goods were directed at random to districts where they were not wanted, while other districts were anxiously waiting for them.

The absence of strong voluntary democratic co-operation — the great school of management — affected the entire organisation of industry and transport, strengthening everywhere the tendency towards bureaucratism. There was also considerable waste.

The discontent caused amongst the people by this bureaucratic and inefficient machinery made police. counter-measures “necessary,” thus strengthening the anti-democratic tendencies in the State.

Now the tendency towards State control of industry, transport, and commerce is rapidly growing in all industrial countries. Nationalisation is the next step. We are moving towards State capitalism.

Unfortunately, many people do not yet recognise the dangers innate in State capitalism. It has hidden rocks, on which the ship of mankind, sailing towards socialism, may be wrecked.

Under State capitalism the important industrial plants, the means of transport, and trading belong to the State. In the hands of the government they are run on a profit basis.

Thus enormous power is concentrated in the hands of the government. A powerful bureaucratic machine springs up ready to crush the individual citizen.

The State is everybody’s employer, everybody’s landlord, everybody’s tradesman. The individual citizen finds himself completely at the mercy of the State.

State capitalism, therefore, always develops strong tendencies towards dictatorship.

This can be counteracted by a thorough democratisation of the State, with all its services, and of the municipalities, by a far-reaching decentralisation of power, by an efficient control exercised by democratic labour organisations.

In the epoch we are now approaching the importance of co-operation can hardly be overestimated.

A strong democratic co-operative movement, capable and willing to take over the supply of the requirements of the population — food, clothing, shelter, and so forth —will form a strong rampart against the dictatorial tendencies of the all-powerful State in the period of State capitalism.

It will help to extract the poisonous teeth of State capitalism, and prove a reliable compass to steer the ship of society towards the happy shore of the socialist commonwealth.