Dmitri Prieto

Havana policeman and tourists. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 8 — “USSR: four letters, four lies,” said Cornelius Castoriadis.

This year Russia was deprived of a word that was also a part of its revolutionary heritage, and most certainly a lie.

The Russian “Militia” was renamed in accordance to what it has been all along: “The police.”

In 1917, even before the Red October Revolution of that year, communities across that country were forming armed militias to replace the discredited and hated tsarist police.

Instead of police officers and uniformed guards, there emerged workers with rifles and wearing red arm bands. They organized themselves into formations to defend the public order.

With the establishment of Soviet power, the Militia became a permanent body. Bolshevik ideologues stressed the difference between it and the former Russian police and its counterparts in other capitalist countries.

But obviously, what had been a popular volunteer militia that defended the order, over time became a bureaucratic and repressive apparatus “like in any country in the world,” proving its total effectiveness in working with its secret colleagues during Stalin’s great purges” of in the 1930s.

It’s interesting that in other countries that wanted to be socialist, there was no uniformity in the names of the law enforcement bodies. Some were the “Militia,” like in the USSR, but others were called “police” – adding the adjectives “popular” or “revolutionary”. Thus in the GDR it was called “Volkspolizei.”

In Cuba, it’s the National Revolutionary Police that has maintained order since 1959, while the Militia is a formation for civilian military training in the event of an imperialist attack.

Therefore in Russia they finally decided to return the true name to what had ceased being a militia ages ago.

People’s reactions have been ambiguous though.

Some people like the change. “It sounds more professional, so hopefully it will foster a change in that direction,” they say.

Others recalled that the closest thing to the old/new name for the “organ of authority” was the title “Polizei” (pronounced “politsai”), which was applied to the militarized Nazi collaborators in occupied Soviet territories during World War II. It is a title that was indeed despised, hated and bloody.


Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

One thought on “One Less Lie

  • You may know this already, Dmitri, but the theoretical “withering away of the state apparatus” during the socialist bridge to a theoretically possible classless society does not refer to the withering away of civil government. It refers to a withering away of the police and other coercive features of the old state apparatus.

    Our dream of eliminating such features from society as armed and arrogant cops was–and is–based on the presumption that a truly socialist mode of production would gradually but steadily remove the reasons the police–and armed forces–are needed in society to “maintain order.”

    The problem with the Soviet Union and Cuba has been that the erroneous mode of production that the capitalist Engles and his bourgeois cohort Marx smuggled into the socialist movement under the spurious claim of being “scientific” was and is not functional, especially in the long term. By smuggling in the absurd formula that the state should nationalize everything, the gullible socialist movement was made to propound a formula before the masses that could never win them to socialist conscious.

    Even the slowest worker understand instinctively that state ownership of the workplace does not and cannot work. When revolutions established the new, socialist-led state in various countries, the unworkable statist formula was implemented and socialism was and has been to this day discredited.

    P-J Proudhon, the French socialist leader whom Engles/Marx attacked and successfully displaced, came to the conclusion that a state apparatus is necessary in the beginning of the socialist bridge period, and that it is pointless therefore to call for its immediate elimination. What is needed, he concluded, is a force to “counter-balance” to the raw power of the state, and keep it from becoming tyrannical. The only such force he could find is the institution of private productive property.

    As it turns out, both the Soviet and Cuban police have proved Proudhon correct. The statist mode of production of Marxism destroys the only force in society capable of keeping the socialist state from becoming tyrannical, and its coercive features from withering away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *