Deformed or degenerated ?

Vladimir Bilenkin "achekhov at" at
Sat Sep 21 22:19:02 MDT 1996

John Plant wrote

> I think it is clear from the context that 'degeneration' is nearer to the meaning
> than 'regeneration'.

	Absolutely, though, of course, Russian 'degeneratsia' also fails to
convey the meaning of 'pererozdenie' as qualitative change.

>  When Lenin wrote about "a workers' state with bureaucratic deformations" what
> was the Russian word he used, do you happen to know ? (I think it is quoted in
> one of Rakovsky's statements in the BO, the one where he says the state has
> passed over into being a bureaucratic state with proletarian survivals. Don't
> distract yourself too long from your work if you don't have this material, I
> can look at it on monday for myself.)

Sorry, I don't have Rakovsky's work in either language. I've checked Lenin's
last articles as ones most likely to contain this expression. Nothing.
But in RB Trotsky puts in quotation marks the expression
"buirokraticheskie izvrashcheniia" (b. distortions?) as characteristic for
Lenin's understanding of the problem (section "Generalized Want and
the Gendarme").  Trotsky makes it clear that this expression signaled
the "obvious underestimation of the coming problems," and in the end of the
section concludes that bureaucratism has turned from "izvrashchenie" to the
system of rule.  This process is precisely what he denotes by "pererozhdenie"
that results in some new quality. (Rakovsky's "functional becoming social").

> The phrase 'degenerated workers state' occurs in the Transitional Programme.
> This may be the first time he uses it. Certainly it is not in 'Revolution
> Betrayed', but it may be in some of the other writings between 37 and 38.

I don't know how this phrase may sound in Russian, but adjectival
"pererozhdennoe" (let alone, degenerativnoe) is out of question.
Also note that while this phrase does not occur in BR, "pererozhdenie"
is one of the central concepts of the book. I have found two usages
especially significant because they imply that the process of pererozhdenie
has gone beyound that of the party. Both are in the Supplement to the Russian
edition (1990, courtesy David King of London, and Fortress Books.  In section
"Socialism in One Country" we find: "The longer the USSR remains in the
capitalist encirclement the deeper progresses the process of pererozhdenie
of social tissues." And close to the end of the last section
"Friends of the USSR" he writes that these "friends" "console themselves
that under given conditions the bureaucratic pererozhdenie appears a
historical necessity."  We also find "pererozhdenie" of the Third
International and the army.

Now, if I may make a comment re the Thermidor theme and pererozdenie thing.
There may be a certain tension of a theoretical
sort manifested here.  On the one hand, Trotsky attempts to grasp the nature
of Soviet developments through a historical analogy. But he already
realizes that this analogy lames and that he faces an absolutely new
historical phenomenon.  For the transition from the Jacobins to the
Thermidorians  was clearly not of a pererozhdenie type.  These forces
existed alongside from the very beginning, and the dynamic of the Revolution
just put these groups forward in succession. Pererozhdenie then may denote
some new type of social-political transformation/mutation uniquely proper
to the "workers' state" and thus lacking any satisfactory explanatory analogy
in history.

> reason I know this stuff is not that my head is so full of Trotsky's texts, but
> that I am trying to write a piece on the development of these trends -
> especially the ideas of workers state, degeneration and Thermidor - by Trotsky
> for the November conference on 'Revolution Betrayed', which means I have to
> look at a great many of these texts again in detail. Would you have any
> objection if I were to quote your remarks in my paper ?)

I'll be proud if my humble name is mentioned at this historical event.

> You wrote :
> > In BO, Trotsky often uses the formula of the "bureaucratically deformed
> worker's state."
> This may be a very important point. In the items translated in the Pathfinder
> 'yearbooks' this phrase is not much used, even for example when Trotsky writes
> about Rakovsky's conclusions. If it is not too much trouble, perhaps you could
> point to a couple of examples of this phrase in the Russian of BO and I can
> check the translation.
> 	I 'm sorry for not making it clear that I read BO only in English.
That was long ago when I had access to it.  I also came across this phrase
recently rereading some of Deutscher's Trotsky who appears to quote it from
BO. So I withdraw my "often".

I hope you'll have a great time in Moscow. I also thought about taking part in
this conference but had to decide against it.  Incidentally, do you know
Vadim Rogovin's works on the Left Opposition.  He is very good. I am sure
he'll be at the conference.  Hope you'll tell us about your trip upon return.


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