Against the Current, No. 38, May/June 1992
The Crime of the Centuries
— The Editors
The Democrats' Wasteland
— Peter Drucker
1992: A Palestinian View
— Yasmin Adib
Reproductive Justice for All
— Ron Daniels
Why I'm Supporting Ron Daniels
— Sabrina Virgo
The Rebel Girl: Dow Bows, FDA Applauds
— Catherine Sameh
South Africa: Towards Grassroots Socialism
— Patrick Bond
Letter to the Editor
— Val Moghadam, Helsinki, Finland
Letter to the Editor
— Dave Linn, Berkeley, CA
- Globalization and Resistance
Peru: A People Under Siege
— Socialist Challenge
Our Roots, Our Revolution
— Hugo Blanco
Random Shots: The Revolution Looks Forward
— R.F. Kampfer
- Globalization and Resistance
A Hawaiian Activist's Fight
— Nancy Holmstrom interviews Haunani-Kay Trask
Guatemalan Women: Organizing Under the Gun
— Deborah J. Yashar
Native American Struggles Today
— Jennifer Viereck
- Reflections on Socialism After the USSR
Nationalism at the End-of-Century
— Michael Lowy
The Future of Marxism
— The Editors
Privatization and Russian Workers
— Milton Fisk
Socialism Is Not Stalinism
— Suzi Weissman interviews Mansoor Hekmat
Worker-Communist Party of Iran
— Mansoor Hekmat and others
End of Stalinism, Beginning of Marxism
— Hillel H. Ticktin
Before Stalinism (a continuing symposium)
— The Editors
Rejoinder: Revolutionary as Conservative
— Tim Wohlforth
Of Lenin and Leninism
— Bernard Rosen
The Politics of Affirmative Action
— Aaron Brenner
THE OVERALL THESIS of this paper is that Stalinism was an unmitigated disaster for socialists, for its millions of unfortunate victims, for those who were so deluded as to believe in it, and for the world. It has set back history for many decades and possibly, in the view of some, centuries. It has served, therefore, to prolong capitalism beyond its natural life. It has done so both materially and ideologically.
Unfortunately, many socialists fell directly or indirectly under its spell. Its ramifications have been absolutely enormous and as yet little discussed. Conservatives and liberals can have no interest in considering the effects of Stalinism because it would imply that a genuine Marxism could exist and even succeed in understanding and changing society. Since most Marxists are afraid to reassess their own heritage, they prefer to revise their views in favor of the market or liberal thought, if they do not actually become conservatives.
The obverse of this thesis is clearly that Marxism, as opposed to Marxists, is in fact untouched. Stalinism was an entirely alien force, which influenced many Marxists in un-Marxist directions. The final disintegrative process of Stalinism frees both the peoples of the world and the whole process of thought.
Stalinist Doctrines and Marxism
1) Socialism in One Country
I propose to take a number of doctrines which have influenced thought, in the West, in a Stalinist direction. I start from the conception of Stalinism itself. I take this to be the doctrine of socialism in one country, invented [in the early 1920s–ed.] by Bukharin and adopted by Stalin. This definition has been criticized as either too broad or too narrow. It is too broad, it is argued, because it includes thinkers like Bukharin who were not in favor of the post-1929 economic policy. It is too narrow because it does not mention the purges and brutality associated with the name of Stalin.
Both criticisms are obviously correct, but only if one regards the doctrine of socialism in one country in the abstract, without reference to its inherent logical outcome or to the system which evolved out of it. The brief answer to these objections is that the doctrine of socialism in one country has a logical necessity contained within it, which leads to the purges, atomization, low productivity and economic and political failure.
Bukharin may not have understood the logic of the doctrine. Unlike Trotsky, he was able to serve Stalin as the editor of a major newspaper, precisely because he still regarded the processes at work in the USSR of the time as somehow socialist. He never came out against the one-party state. On the contrary, he was absolutely vicious against Trotsky.
2) Socialism in One Country and Nationalism
For Marx there is a necessary dynamic that begins with the formation of the collectivity of workers, which establishes them as a class. This universal class then must overthrow the old order in every respect to fulfil itself. It must end all internal divisions induced by exploitative society or else fall prey to them itself and lose power. So, the workers in power must abolish racism, nationalism and national oppression (though not cultural differences, which is a very different question) and sexism.(1)
Stalinist “ocialism in one country,” however, committed the ultimate crime of cutting the Soviet workers from the universal working class and in so doing destroyed their original dynamic and mission. It cut the USSR off from its dependence on revolution in the rest of the world and created an artificial harmony inside the USSR itself. To do so it had to invent a whole series of pseudo-doctrines of its own kind, including a nationalism which was not a nationalism: Soviet nationalism.
Stalinism had to invent its own nationalism in order to preserve its own unity, once it abandoned proletarian internationalism. Soviet nationalism, however, was an invented construct, which had to rely on a view of the USSR as the chosen people fighting the rest of the world in order to introduce a better society. It made little sense and had to be supported with the doctrine of an external enemy, which was first fascism and then NATO and the CIA. Even that was never enough to ensure loyalty, and Stalin had to use Russification and forms of national oppression, which he identified with loyalty to the Soviet state.
The reason for the use of nationalism was the need to obfuscate the real social divisions in the society and permit the growth of a Soviet bureaucratic elite. Nationalism always serves to unite the oppressor and the oppressed, the exploiter and the exploited, the extractor of the surplus product and the direct producer. The problem for Stalin and his successors was that they could only use an invented form, which was never sufficient to serve the purpose. (Hence the ease with which Soviet nationalism has been cast aside!)
Nationalism and proletarian internationalism are necessarily antagonistic. This is not to be confused with the task of the proletariat to end national oppression. The workers and peasants of the colonies and semicolonies are doubly exploited and as such have a national interest in overthrowing the imperialist overlord. he point, however, is that nationalism is a movement and a doctrine which unites oppressor and oppressed, capitalist and worker in support of one organization or movement. Its unity is only based on the need to overthrow a common enemy.
By adopting such a doctrine, left organizations disarmed themselves in the face of the more class-conscious bourgeoisie or petit bourgeoisie. The crucial point is that before Stalinism, Marxists opposed popular fronts, i.e. movements which subordinated the interests of the workers to that of other classes. From the twenties the term “national liberation movement” meant just such a subordination.(2)
Such movements were compelled to be nationalist through the reality of the world situation. The Stalinists supplied money, armaments, food, trained personnel or alternatively they arranged for the liquidation of the anti-Stalinists as in Spain (1930s).
Two reasons have been adduced for the success of nationalism in the Stalinist period, the first political and ideological and the second material. There was also a third, however, which was more intangible: The whole epoch became one of national liberation as it were, with one after another country obtaining their freedom from the colonial yoke. It appeared to be the period of the decline of imperialism and the main enemy seemed to be imperialism and not capitalism. Many anti-Stalinists despaired of the real possibility of overthrowing capitalism and rejoiced at the tangible benefit of attacking the imperial role of the colonial and imperial powers.
Today all three reasons have ceased to operate. Stalinism can no longer supply money or materials, it cannot push for popular fronts and liquidate the left, and the anti-imperialist struggle now looks very worn. Africa, Asia and Latin America no longer look as if they have successfully overthrown imperialism. The standard of living of the population in many of these countries is now below the level it attained under colonialism. The reason lies in the new form by which finance capital maintains world dominance. Trotsky has been proved right with a vengeance. Only the working class can truly emancipate the subordinate countries and classes.
Stalinists in the West accepted the glorification of Soviet nationalism as well as the justifications of Russian nationalism. They then applied the doctrine to the so-called wars of national liberation in Africa and Asia. The main enemy became not capitalism but imperialism. When local elites took power as in Angola, they were justified, even when they killed their own left. Indeed so far had this doctrine gone, that there were very few on the left, whether nominally Stalinist or not, who would come out in opposition to nationalism in Africa, Asia or Latin America.(3)
The disastrous feature of Stalinist nationalist doctrine has been that it is all pervasive. Even the small groupuscules mouthed slogans about national liberation and supported this or that local dictator. The problem for the U.S. left in particular was that it was at the heart of the imperial power and easily succumbed to the doctrine that the enemy’s enemy is our friend. The left everywhere was desperate for some success of whatever kind but no more so than in the United States.
The fields of the anti-Stalinist left are littered with the detritus of hopes placed on leaders of underdeveloped countries. Papandreou, Mugabe, Eric Williams, Kaunda, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh and Mao Tse Tung all had their supporters. Today they are all debunked. Not only have some of them been shown up as mass murderers but they have all failed to fulfil their own goals. The problem was that the American and European left made it much easier for these leaders and their regimes to liquidate the left in the underdeveloped world, as well as the left in the Stalinist countries.
The entire thought process of the left was corrupted, as it had to justify some aspect of this or that country in however convoluted a form. Ernest Mandel, for instance, insisted on the importance of growth in the USSR to justify the argument that it was a workers’ state.(4) Today in the (former) USSR they have announced, what was inherently obvious, that the figures for growth down to the present had to be downgraded by a factor of ten.(5)
It became necessary to avoid looking at the obvious in order to remain credible in the left. Such justifications then meant that definitions had to be changed in order to fit the fantastic world that they had conjured up. Planning was redefined. Democracy was discovered even when there were no parties, elections, platforms or even dissident thought. Brutality and killing could be supported on the grounds that the alternative was capitalist hunger. The groupuscules were only conforming to the larger environment, in which the Communist parties and social democracy had largely accepted many of the assumptions of Stalinism.
The more sophisticated thinkers produced more complex doctrines, which justified Stalinism and their jobs. Althusser produced an essentially static construct which justified the structure of the USSR, though not its immediate politics. Marcuse declared that what was wrong with the USSR was its drive for productivity, when anyone could have told him that there was no such drive. In the best case, theorists preferred to ignore the USSR itself, forgetting that the very facts and concepts they were using were inevitably tainted.
This does not mean that the genuine emotions and support for socialism shown by the left have simply gone to waste. But it does mean that the left has to recognize its past mistakes, hard as it may be for many of us to do so. The Stalinists have proclaimed their mistakes and turned into liberals or conservatives. The task of the left, however, is to come to grips with the Stalinist environment in which it was formed and remove all of its negative consequences in thought, program and organization.
3) Surplus Product
If one looks at the crucial concepts which underlie the difference between Stalinism and Marxism, one has to proceed from the concept lying at the heart of Marxism: the extraction of the surplus product. The generalized use of the concept itself was effectively banned from Soviet textbooks and official theory. It was clear that it applied very obviously to the USSR and its use would be socially dangerous.
Thus it was left to Sweezy and Baran, in their book Monopoly apital,(6) to resuscitate the term, even if in an ambiguous form. It is noteworthy that it was they who did it rather than the Trotskyists, who were critical of the USSR. Such a critique could have been in relation to the USSR, but Trotsky did not employ it in his crucial works and hence none of his followers down to the seventies did so either.(7)
Yet the failure to use Marx’s understanding of the form of the surplus product denies the theorist any possibility of understanding non-capitalist societies as well as aspects of modern capitalist societies. The whole question of control over the surplus product or surplus value becomes difficult to appreciate. In turn, the alienation of the worker had to be ignored in favor of lack of ownership. The demand that every worker should have control over her own labor process and product and that everyone should have the right to engage in creative labor was lost. Only the duality of nationalization and private property could be countenanced. In turn, this meant that the very concept of abstract labor, let alone alienation had to be rediscovered.
4) Historical Materialism
Underlying Stalinist economic doctrine was a theory of historical materialism unique in its scholasticism: the forces and relations of productions were said to determine the superstructure in a direct and static manner. The view was structural rather than dynamic and as such formed the bedrock on which Althusser could argue his doctrine.(8) Stalinists could maintain that a particular set of forces and relations of production automatically produced a particular superstructure. Hence the USSR was socialist and could only proceed on its chosen path. Stalin was quite clear in his structuralism.(9) The doctrine in the West simply appeared as crude dogmatism, which indeed it was.
This is not the place to discuss the question, but suffice it to say that the word “determine” ought, in my opinion, to be interpreted in a dynamic sense: the base is crucial in the process of change and formation of the superstructure. There is a necessary interpenetration but it is the base which provides the source for systemic and general change. In a static context there is no primacy. There can be different aspects of superstructure on the same economic base.
The logical conclusion, however, is that the base/superstructure analogy is insufficient as a tool to understand movements. It is necessary to go back to analysis of the extraction of, the nature of control over, and the form of the surplus product.
The Nature of the Epoch
By the time of Gorbachev there were few aspects of Marxism which had not been compromised. There were few if any Marxists in the USSR, while in the West there were many Marxists of different hues but not all that many who were able to differentiate Marxism from Stalinism. Most had been educated on a mixed diet of Stalinism of various kinds and anti-Stalinism. As the anti-Stalinist movement was deprived of members and support for many years, the textbooks, journals and conferences had been dominated by Stalinism. Even with the best will in the world, the most dedicated anti-Stalinist association would have to compromise on its understanding of reality and be part of modern society.
Today, however, the repudiation of Marxism by the Soviet elite has opened the way to a genuine Marxism. It means that the Communist parties around the world will no longer be claiming to be Marxists. While the works of Marx will no longer be available as in the past, and Marxism appears to be a discarded doctrine, fewer will declare themselves Marxist.
Even though the demoralization of much of the left and even the anti-Stalinists was predicted and predictable, important questions arise. How long will it take for the establishment euphoria and left pessimism to evaporate? Put differently, how long will it take for a new left to emerge?
To put this pessimism in perspective, it is necessary to look at reality itself. The death of the one-party state has profound implications for capitalism itself. Most particularly, it is making it more difficult to use dictatorial solutions for its own problems. It is not at all clear that capitalism has any other political solutions.
Its problems, however, are more profound than they have ever been. The fundamental paradox lies in the real decline of value (as discussed below), and so of the law of value, at the same time as value is reproclaimed as the aim of all right-thinking humans. The old Marxist dictum that the fundamental contradiction lies in the socialization of production as opposed to the appropriation of value by ever fewer magnates of capital is patently obvious. We may sum up the argument as follows: The special nature of the present period is that of the disappearance of the old forms of capitalist stability in the guise of the emergence of a resurgent capitalism.
Whereas the Stalinist countries were not capitalist, they were critical in preventing the emergence of any real threat to the capitalist system. The Cold War needed its Stalinist pole in order to maintain the world in its state of immobility. At the same time, the disappearance of Stalinism is being taken to mean the end of the socialist alternative, and the permanence of the market. Not surprisingly, both the pristine Stalinists and the supporters of capitalism have joined together to argue for a world of utopian capitalism. It is a necessary contradiction of the present time that at one pole, we have the complete destruction of the old forms of stability, while at the other we have the reintroduction of the even older, superseded forms. This movement is occurring both in reality and in thought.
The Decline of Value
The capitalist system is based on the accumulation of capital and so of value. I will argue in this section that the law of value is declining in its operation.(10)
The market is the sphere of action of the law of value. The market needs certain features to operate. These include atomized producers, and competition. The growth of monopoly, government interference, and nationalizations directly interfere with the market. Thus the phenomenal [i.e. apparent–ed.] form of the reduction of the law of value is the reduction in the operation of the market.
The real movement of the world economy has been one in which the centralization of capital has been growing together with its political counterpart in the increasing governmental control over the economy. The reactionary utopias of Reagan and Thatcher actually led to more taxation and more control over the real economies of those countries. The fact that the control was exercised through the arms sector and the money supply does not alter the point. The increasing demands of the needs-based sectors of education, health, transport and housing are supported by the equally needs-driven sector of armaments. Governments can ignore needs only up to a point. They can ask the private sector to build houses and roads but they must subsidize that private sector if they want a contented capitalist class and reformist working class.
The enormous growth of the bureaucratic apparatus throughout the world both in the government sector and in industry has led to a reaction which has discredited social democracy. Workers and capitalists object to the controls, the taxes and the privileges associated with this bureaucracy. The capitalist class objects to the reduction of profits which results from the increased taxation and bureaucratic meddling. The result has been the growth of governments dedicated to rolling back both government and the welfare state in the name of greater democracy and freedom for ordinary people.
The dissolution of nationalized companies (in Europe), however, has not altered the essential nature of the formerly nominally state-owned companies. The profits of the utilities remain subject to quasi-governmental agencies. Other companies continue to have controlling shares held by the government. Even where there is no direct form of control, the company remains closely associated with the state through the arms sector or indirectly and informally because of its importance to the economy. The major effect of privatization has been the ejection of a bureaucratic group of employees, who owed their existence to the support of the public sector by the social democratic parties.
Even in the private sector, the shift to greater privatization has not achieved the results which its apologists expected. Deregulation has only led to even more powerful monopolies and higher prices. The merger movement has clearly led to the destruction of industry and the emergence of an even more predatory and speculative form of finance capital. The shift towards private as opposed to institutional ownership has been more illusory and limited than expected. Share ownership is more concentrated in the hands of institutions today than ten years ago, while many of the new entrepreneurs are in grave financial trouble, subject to the demands of those very institutions.
In other words, the apparent antitheses of privatization and nationalization conceal an unbudging reality of more direct decision-making, more conscious organization of the economy and less independent and spontaneous buying, selling and producing within the economies of the world. The law of value is more restricted in its operation than at any time in the development of capitalism.
Even if the conservative reaction has failed, the economic defeat of social democracy that took place over the last twenty years is final. It is no accident that it has coincided with the death of its twin, Stalinism. Today, the old program of nationalization and the welfare state has died. The social democratic parties live on like ghosts who cannot be exorcised because the formula has not yet been found. Their only slogan is that of austerity with a human face.
Yet the shift against social democracy necessarily involved an attempt to reintroduce the law of value into sectors which had discarded it. This involved the use of cost accounting in the needs-based sectors, the reintroduction of a reserve army of labor, deregulation of controls over industries and the internationalization of national currencies. This brings us back to the initial point of this section: The attempt has failed on all counts. Where it has not obviously fizzled out, it is creating confusion, demoralization and the decline of the particular sector.
In Britain, for example, it has meant the decline of education, health, transport, housing and industry. As part of this process, finance capital has returned to become the dominant form of capital but in an even more predatory, parasitic and decadent form. Today it is based not just on surplus value but to an ever larger extent on pensions, insurance companies and various savings institutions, representing not so much capital but rather expropriated workers’ savings employed as capital.
The capitalist class needs today to return to the post-war social democratic consensus, but lacks the means to do so. Worse still for the capitalist class, the international conjuncture is one in which neither the arms economy nor the old anticommunist war cry can play their roles. In short, if the left lacks a party and a means towards the formation of a political party, the bourgeoisie is confused as to its next step but has been deprived of its most obvious cards.
The Eternal Market And Market Stalinism
The bourgeoisie today has only one answer to those who would want to go towards a more democratic, non-alienating, self-managed society. Their reply is simplistic in the extreme. It is to repeat Adam Smith to the effect that the market is eternal.
At a doctrinal level this argument is being tested out in the USSR today. It is here that we have to see the answer to the previous questions. Can the USSR transfer to a market? If not, the argument that the market is eternal proves false. Furthermore, since the disintegration of Stalinism will not permit a return to the old system, an alternative must be found.
Only a small section of the old elite want to find a new “democratic” Stalinist alternative. Furthermore, it is very hard to see it surviving ore than a few years, in the unlikely event that it is introduced. The other possibility which is being put forward has been aptly called market Stalinism. This is one variant of the Nove solution.(11) It is a situation in which the market is introduced without a capital and labor market. In such an instance the old elite remains in power, though there would be a different economic system.
This argument has been largely discredited by the inability of the system in the USSR to cope with such a market. In any case all third ways have led to the same starting point. There are no alternatives to the socialism/capitalism dichotomy. Not only are there not an infinite variety of Stalinoid-type societies, there is not even a single one which has any long-term future.
Inevitable Working-Class Action
The death-struggle of Stalinism is occurring in the USSR, where the workers have been atomized for over sixty years but only through a form of socialization which is so total that the decay of that atomization raises the real specter of a vengeful working class.
The size of Soviet factories is several times that of Western factories. Seventy-three percent of workers in industrial enterprises operate in enterprises of 100 or more workers; thirty-seven percent work in enterprises of more than 5000 workers.(12)
Moreover, in the USSR none of the forms of control exist that are operative in the West. There is no large middle class based on doctors, lawyers, advertising executives and middle managers who owe their particular form of existence to the system. There is no financial sector. The service sector is undeveloped. Although the intelligentsia has constituted a social group protecting the elite, the move to the market is causing them to polarize. Those associated with exchange in any form are able to command high salaries, while the remainder are being reduced to the level of skilled workers or worse. The market, as is often remarked, has no social basis, other than the elite itself.
Workers live in similar areas, often close to their factories. At the same time, nonindustrial workers are in a similar position to the industrial workforce in belonging to large enterprises or institutions. The reason has a lot to do with the form of control under Stalinism. It is, therefore, a necessary feature of the regime, in that it accepted the overall tendency of modern production towards increasing centralization and concentration.
It was not surprising that the reformist regime tried to change the situation and therefore produced a decree on the introduction of smaller enterprises.(13) This was, however, too late. It is inconceivable that the existing enterprises be abandoned. As a result the workers constitute a powerful force, which cannot be defeated by any direct confrontation. They can only be outmaneuvered. That is what the reform process is all about.
Perestroika may be regarded as an attempt by the Soviet elite to replace a limited, unstable and disintegrating form of extracting the surplus product with the more permanent form of the market. That primarily involves the introduction of a labor market or the sale of labor power and a capital market. To introduce a labor market it is essential to have a reserve army of labor and a large number of medium- to small-size enterprises competing with each other on the basis of profits and which go bankrupt when necessary. But to introduce such a form, the workers would first have to be defeated.
The Soviet elite has failed in its attempts to introduce the market thus far. Formal democracy, nationalism and methods of dividing the workers have succeeded in preventing the workers forming a political opposition. It has also led many to accept the market as the only
form capable of destroying the old bureaucracy. But very few workers accept the need for unemployment, higher prices, greater inequality or harsher work regimes. Indeed throughout the USSR and Eastern Europe, workers regard capitalism and profits as dirty words. Egalitarianism is generally popular.(14)
Whether the Soviet workers will rise first or there will be an upsurge in the West is not obvious. What is obvious is that such an upsurge in the West would very quickly lead to an enormous mass uprising in the USSR. The chief obstacle to socialist change in that country is their inability to believe in international socialism.
The death of the cult of the personality also involves the death of sects ruled by gurus. The objective termination of Stalinism and social democracy also involves the liquidation of the distorted forms that the left has taken in the past sixty years. In the last twenty years left groups vied with one another to proclaim their adherence to democracy but few could take them seriously when they announced support for undemocratic regimes and had organizations which were very often microcosms of the wider politics of capitalist society.
It is not a subjective question, as if certain leaders were themselves naturally dictatorial or evil, but an objective reality. No one could stand above the nature of the epoch. All of us were subject to it and all of us have been muddied. The enormous impact of an elite which was able to deploy part the surplus product of the USSR to ensure the success of its own strategy in various countries around the world cannot be underplayed.(15)
The task of the resuscitation of genuine Marxism can now begin and in the process of Marxist revival we will ourselves revive, lose our sectarianism, and deepen our understanding of reality. In so doing, we will cease to be the freaks of the outside left. All conditions, subjective and objective, are now maturing. We do not know the nature of the next subjective forms because they are still evolving. Just as the Soviets, the workers’ council form of the 1905 and 1917 revolutions, was predicted by no one, so too will the next step taken by the working class be of the same kind.
The task of Marxism in the present is to cleanse Marxism of its alien Stalinist clothes and begin a new era which will strip left politics of its modern Machiavellianism.
- This is not to argue that organizations of the sectionally oppressed may not play an important role, but they can only succeed because of the absolute need of the universal class to do away with all forms of exploitation and oppression to emancipate itself.
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- These popular fronts ended in disaster for the left. In China in 1927 the left was destroyed by Chiang Kai Shek precisely because of the disastrous Stalinist popular front policy. This led directly to the formation of an alternative peasant/nationalist policy under Mao. In other words, Maoism itself was formed as the only alternative available to a revolutionary movement when Stalinism opposed independent working class action. Thereafter various distorted revolutionary movements took shape, culminating in the monstrous shape of the Iranian regime.
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- It is possible to argue that nationalism has played a negative role in the socialist movement before Stalin, most particularly during the First World War. That was undoubtedly true. Nonetheless, there were always factions which opposed it. Among the Polish socialists there were the Luxemburgists, among the Russians, there were the Bolsheviks and other internationalists, in Germany the Spartacists and everywhere else there were various influential left groupings.
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- Ernest Mandel, “Ten Theses on the Social and Economic Laws governing the Society Transitional Between Capitalism and Socialism,” Critique 3,5-23.
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- Alec Nove, “Radical Reform,’ Problems and Prospects,’ Soviet Studies, July 1987, provides an account of the arguments of Soviet economists, where the question of growth is discussed. See also Alec Nove, “A Further Note on Hidden Inflation and its Consequences,” Soviet Studies, January 1988, 136-138. Nove has summarized in this useful note the arguments of a number of Soviet economists, but most particularly that of Khanin and Selyunin, in their article “Lukavaya Tsifra,” in Novyi Mir, 3/1987. In this article he brings out the point that real wages did not rise in the period from 1976-1985.
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- Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy, Monopoly Capital, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1964. See also Paul Baran, The Political Economy of Growth, Monthly Review Press, 1956. Stalinists or their offshoots had to reject those aspects of the growth of managerialism in the West raised by Burnham and Shachtman, who could call in question the simplistic view of capitalist-and-worker based on legalistic ownership forms. Sweezy and Baran returned to this original discovery, in the ambiguous manner of all their works.
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- To illustrate Trotsky’s approach, chapter 9 on “Social Relations in the USSR” in The Revolution Betrayed does not use surplus product at all. Instead he uses terms and concepts like property and relations of production. It is, of course, a question of approach and not whether Trotsky or Trotskyists used the words “surplus product.” In this chapter, class is defined purely. in relation to the means of production (2.35), property relations are adduced as part of the resistance to the overthrow of the October Revolution (238), and the character of the ruling groups is discussed in part in relation to “Its appropriation of a vast share of the national income… (236). Citations from Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, Faber and Faber, 1937. On the other hand, the term itself is used in his last work Stalin (Hollis and Carter, London, 1947,397 if.): “He who disposes of the surplus product, has the power of the state at his disposal (397). It is noteworthy that it should appear in his last work, which was easily his most critical of Stalin and which Deutscher among others found his weakest work for that reason. Unfortunately, even in Stalin the term is only used to limited degree and not explored in relation to the USSR. It may well be that Trotsky’s theory would have evolved as a result, if he had not been assassinated.
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- In its original form, structuralism was dogmatic and rigid. Aithusser, made it much more sophisticated and eliminated the One to one relationship between base and superstructure by arguing in terms of an autonomy of the superstructure. Thereby the whole relationship became just as obscure as in Stalin’s work but from an apparently more liberal angle. The point being made is that it was Stalinism which introduced structuralism in the first place.
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- See for instance J. Stalin, History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Moscow, 1937. “Whatever are the productive forces, such must be the relations of production” (122).
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- Stalinism had no theory of change and consequently could only predicate a cataclysm or no change at all. Stalinist doctrine had no explanation for the overthrow of capitalism except for the unreal immiseration of the proletariat. Stalinists and many apparent anti-Stalinists in the West by the late 1950s had given upon the view that capitalism was in decline. Since their view of reality was governed by technological quantities rather than by social change, it was logical for them to see a permanent vista of expanding capitalism. There could be no theory of a declining capitalism for Stalinism and its fellow travellers, as such a theory would have to encompass Stalinism itself! The political economy textbooks in the USSR continued to churn out absurd views on the “General Crisis of Capitalism” but it was a mechanical lifeless doctrine, which few of those actually writing it believed.
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- A. Nave, The Economics of Feasible Socialism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1983).
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- Sbornk Stalisticheskikh Materialov 1990 (Moscow: Goskomstat, 1991), 288.
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- Decree of 8 August 1990, ibid., 287.
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- Gaspar Tamas, Spectator, 27 July 1991, 14-16: He argues that the West has failed to understand what is happening in Eastern Europe. The attitude to capitalism is negative, the demand is for equality, while interest and profit are dirty words. Even in Hungary land cannot be bought and sold and the reforms started by the liberal communist regime have not been continued. The author is director of a research institute in Hungary.
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- In this respect, the recent proof that the United Kingdom Communist Party received around 100,000 pounds per year from the USSR, which it used to fund full timers, brings home the enormous power of the Stalinists to corrupt the left. See the Independent, London, 15 November 1991, 1; Sunday Times, London, 17 November 1991, 1 The right wing press has made the report to prove the treacherous nature of the Communist Party, but that is entirely secondary, given the fact that many organizations in the United Kingdom receive money from the United States to promote free enterprise. The important fact is that the Stalinists received considerable sums of money as well as training from the USSR. As a result, the Stalinists were able to maintain a bureaucratic entity which could distort left politics within the country. It is certain that the annual 100,000 pounds discovered in the Soviet Central Committee archives is only a fraction of the real support that the UK Communist party actually received.
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May-June 1992, ATC 38