May–September issues 2000
ONE. Workers states are way forward but minus Moscow weak revisionist leadership chaos.
1. The struggle for socialism faces such confusion that only, a review of even the most basic assumptions about the individual and society will clarify a way forward.
2. The supposed 'triumph' of the Reagan Thatcher 'New World Order' and the supposed 'defeat' and 'collapse' of the Soviet Union, plus the retreat of all 'Reformism' into openly accepting (like New Labour) that it is just a movement for full class-collaboration with capitalism on a permanent basis, - have helped spread cynical scepticism about even the most basic class-war science of Marxism.
3. As a result of it now being doubted that any economic system could ever match the phenomenal innovations and technology-productivity of the 'free market', there is also now widespread doubt that anything remotely like the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution could ever happen again.
4. In turn, this muddle gets caught up with sneaking suspicions that the whole Soviet experience might have been a very unhealthy one-off cul-de-sac in history, a sick wrong turning utterly irrelevant to socialism.
5. Apart from a few groups of museum-Stalinists in some countries who simply deny most of the difficult problems of 20th century development, all the rest of the 57 varieties of Trotskyism, Revisionism, and Centrism on the fake-'left' tend to capitulate to this all-powerful international anti-communist sentiment.
6. This widespread mentality not only challenges traditional Marxist ideas on how socialism could come about, but on how history itself works. Instead of class-struggle revolutions being civilisation's driving force, idealist philosophy again rules. The fake-'left' spends its entire time manoeuvring for electoral 'alliance' pecking order position (LSA Trots); trying to recreate 'left' Labourism (CPB, SLP, SP,) etc or pretending to guarantee 'mistake-free socialism’ by the pedantic peddling of abstract act, generalised programmes, constitution; or standing orders of some wholly academic immaculate-party conception (CPGB, SLP, open Polemic, etc).
7. Wholly shunned is any attempt to re-convince the international working-class that a further development of Marxist scientific understanding alone holds the key to civilisation's future by demonstrating a correct analysis of the current stage of imperialist crisis and polemically defending it against all comers, -- rebuilding a party of revolutionary theory as Leninism did, in other words.
8. Current world events are either ignored completely, or dealt with by some wooden formula which then not only ignores all polemical critique but even keeps its mind closed when history itself proves things differently. For example, the SWP became the fattest of the fake-'lefts' via decades of the most reactionary anti-Soviet opportunism. Crucial for these anti-communist 'revolutionaries' was the fiction that 'socialist' solidarity with the USSR against imperialist provocation, subversion, and sabotage was not an issue because the Soviet Union was only 'state capitalist' itself anyway. When the Gorbachev 'market forces' counter-revolutionary debacle did finally re-introduce state capitalism (quickly inevitably joined and shafted by robber-baron capitalism), and when the overthrow of proletarian-dictatorship centre planning and discipline via state-capitalist 'market forces’ soon devastated the former mighty USSR, thus proving that what went before for 60 years could not have been state capitalism, -- the SWP simply carried on insisting that its 'theory' which 'justified' its anti-Soviet hatred was 'still correct'.
9. What undermined the Stalinist Revisionist ideology of the USSR was its being proved wrong by events. The entire 57-variety swamp of fake-'leftism' still has not grasped this point and is doomed to destruction along exactly the same sterile path as Third International Revisionism.
10. Such widespread multi-hued anti-Marxism has captured the international workers movement before, of course. It was rescued from 57 varieties of Bernsteinism, Kautskyism, Luxemburgism, social pacifism, social chauvinism, etc, etc in 1917 by the combination of spontaneous revolutionary struggle ripping the imperialist world apart whether anyone had written a constitutional programme or a set of perfect standing orders for it or not, plus the correct scientific analysis of the world by Lenin's deliberate party of revolutionary theory ('What is to be done', etc) which was consequently trusted by the masses to give guidance and leadership to the revolution.
11. A recent new feature of the anti-communist fake-'left' has been to replace the old Trot cliché that 'Lenin was a great revolutionary socialist but Stalin's brutal dictatorship imposed a counter-revolution' (which has always caused difficulty since no one could ever agree when, where, and how this counter-revolution took place), - with the more internally coherent line that 'Lenin's revolution was a monstrous antisocialist dictatorship from the start', etc.
12. The problem for the anti-communists with this, of course, is the same one that routine anti-Stalinism found difficulty with (apart from in a handful of very wealthily bourgeois Western imperialist countries), namely, that although very patchy and seriously theoretically flawed, the actual 70-year record of the Soviet Union in standing up to or challenging imperialist world domination in so many ways, exposed all instinctive class-based anti-Sovietism for the idealist anti-Marxist reaction that it was.
Despite endless allegations of dubious motives, crass interference, grotesque mistakes, etc, the plain reality is that for 70 years, the backward and war devastated workers state founded by Leninism made colossal disciplined sacrifices to help two-thirds of the world rise up against colonial slavery and start their own independent economic and cultural development, supplying doctors, engineers, educational establishments, agronomists, dams, economic enterprises, backed by scores of special Third World colleges and institutions set up in the USSR itself, setting a completely new agenda for the world to replace the bombs, bullets, and scorched-earth tyranny that the dying colonial empires (Britain, France, USA, Holland, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, etc) had tried hanging onto power with post-1947 in Algeria, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indo-China, Egypt, Kenya, Aden, Indonesia, Mozambique, etc, etc, etc. In addition, a score or more countries, from China to Cuba, were further generously helped to establish their own planned economies in defiant independence of the non-stop worldwide imperialist attempts at armed subversion and counterrevolution, at economic embargo-strangulation, and at ideological propaganda-destruction.
13. These most outstanding and astonishing achievements yet (in the history of international political development) only started going irrevocably wrong when the Moscow bureaucracy began to lose the plot theoretically about how the later stages of the international class war to destroy the international imperialist bourgeoisie and its system of 'free-market' world economic domination, would unfold. Widespread confusion started taking root in the international workers movement from the 1930s Popular Front onwards that capitalism might finally be toppled or tamed, universally, partly by the worldwide pressure of anti-imperialist coalitions of cross-class 'democracy'.
This anti-revolutionary delusion was further cemented by the tragic World War II confusion that there were 'good' imperialists (USA, Britain France, etc) who were prepared to become an 'ally' of the Soviet workers state in its fight for survival against German imperialist onslaught, and there were 'bad' imperialists (Germany, Japan, Italy, etc) who were out to destroy the USSR.
This imbecile falsification of Marxism and history then spawned further stupidities that 'good' imperialism might eventually accept the need to peacefully coexist permanently with the socialist camp, and in time even acknowledge socialism's superiority as an economic system. This in turn gave birth around the Third International to the nonsense of the 'peaceful road to socialism', and misled the Moscow bureaucracy into foolish and needless boasts that Soviet consumer products would soon outperform, in terms of quality and productivity, the slickest and most cost-effective output of Western imperialism (which had the whole world to exploit at often slave-labour rates and under direct colonial tyranny)-- -- a pointless and ridiculous claim when socialism's target was pointing in the entirely opposite direction of trying to equalize living standards and investment levels right across the socialist camp from Cuba to North Korea and Vietnam. There was no way that factory shirts e.g. from Uzbekistan with its universal free health service, secondary and higher education, widespread cultural facilities, etc, could ever be turned out with so much labour-content so cheaply as shirts churned out from Bangkok factories by child-labour literally sold into bondage by an illiterate peasantry and some times literally chained to the looms and sewing machines for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.
But this daftest way possible of trying to 'compare' the building of socialism with the cut-throat competitiveness of the monopoly-imperialist free market was pursued relentlessly by the Revisionist Moscow bureaucracy to the point where Gorbachev eventually concluded that free-market capitalism was the better way to run society altogether, and set about deliberately dismantling the dictatorship of the proletariat.
14. It was the theoretical legacy of the Stalin era which did the damage. The Revisionist bureaucrats subsequent to Stalin idiotically missed this most crucial aspect when struggling to overcome the 'cult of the individual and its consequences', concentrating instead on the alleged paranoid arbitrary illegalities in the war against imperialist subversion and counter-revolutionary backsliding. On most questions of anti-imperialist revolutionary theory, the subsequent Revisionist bureaucrats departed even further from Marxism-Leninism towards international class-collaborationism and liquidationism than Stalin did.
On the really essential questions of 'Stalinism', the subsequent detractor bureaucrats were in fact more Stalinist than Stalin, suggesting by Gorbachev's time, for example, that World War II might not have been an inevitability of imperialist-system crisis but possibly an avoidable bureaucratic mistake by the Moscow leadership of the time (i.e. Stalin).
An entire anti-Stalin Revisionist literature was produced post-Stalin which traced bureaucratic deterioration difficulties in running the Soviet Union all to the weakening of cadres for subjective reasons (only those who could not stand up to Stalin getting promoted, etc, etc) whereas in reality, the deterioration in the bureaucracy came from compounding the mistakes in world analysis (objective mistakes) which earlier bureaucrats (led by Stalin) had made, thereby eventually weakening the ability and authority of the party leadership all round, culminating in its astonishing self-liquidation, - the first case in history of a 'ruling class' abolishing itself (proving thereby, of course, that it was not a true 'ruling class' in any sense, but really was just a bureaucracy of a truly workers state, and was, therefore, theoretically susceptible to any and every improvement and transformation, if only the correct understanding of what the world needed could have been arrived at in time).
Dreadful rationalisation has been retrospectively applied implying that the bureaucracy finally self-liquidated because it saw itself as flawed subjectively and therefore as an obstacle to further progress; but in reality the Gorbachev bureaucracy self-liquidated because it claimed to be able to see market forces as the genuinely better objective way forward for the Soviet economy; an insanity which the USSR's uncompetitive remains are still tragically and grievously suffering from, and which will look even more insane when world slump starts wiping out the 'higher living standards' (a patchy fraud to start with) of the free market.
The wrong critique of Soviet bureaucracy's humiliation currently circulating, - that "in the age of assessing different variants of new scientific and technological achievements and permitting various types of quests, the wilful methods of leadership were bound to lead to mistakes", etc, etc, - is no advance on Trotsky's reactionary, self-serving, subjective bilge from 1936 in the 'Revolution Betrayed'. If, indeed, it were true, as is argued, that, "the Administrative System (meaning the party bureaucracy at the head of the dictatorship of the proletariat running an entirely planned economy, publicly-owned) finds it particularly difficult to function in the conditions of the scientific and technological revolution when industry has to deal on a daily basis not with just one or two inventions, but an avalanche of innovations"; and "the decision-makers, possessing no objective economic criteria, inevitably become hostages to foreign countries, where what is being used is always correct"; and "the Administrative System proves to be more and more incompetent in dealing with the key problem of the second half of the 20th century - the problem of scientific and technological progress:', etc, etc, - - - then market forces would rule forever, and the dream of a planned socialist world would truly be dead.
But in reality, the Soviet workers state carried on successfully, technologically transforming itself for a further period four times longer than the span of existence it had covered when Trotsky first declared in 1936 that 'all further Soviet economic progress was now out of the question because the demands of modern technological change had now run into the absolute limits of bureaucratic-dictatorship command-economy management's ability to respond flexibly enough to all the detailed delicate new innovative requirements', etc.
If the USSR could multiply its productive growth period of 1923 to 1936 by five times to reach 1988 successfully, having mastered space exploration, nuclear rocket engineering, aircraft design and mass production, computerised television communications etc, etc, etc, along the way, - despite having been utterly war-destroyed again by another Western imperialist invasion-intervention from 1941 to 1945, and despite having propped up half the Third World with free technological assistance thereafter - then Trotsky's sour grapes counter-revolutionary nonsense was clearly proved as such, and the above 1988 Gorbachevite version of the same irrational anti-Marxist mysticism made no sense either. If bureaucrat state planning can do it at one time, it can do it at another time just as easily.
15. What undermined the final generation of Soviet bureaucratic leadership was not an inability to cope with "the new scale and pace of scientific and technological progress” (Nauka i Zhizn, 1988 Science & Life, the 3.2million monthly circulation magazine of the All-Union Knowledge Society) but a degenerate Revisionism which made an even more disastrous mess of failing to understand imperialism as an incurable system of boom-and-bust crisis than Stalin had done.
The background to this rationalised idealism (about Soviet state planning suddenly becoming incapable allegedly, of coping with technological innovation any longer) -lay in the confusion sown by Stalin's 1952 work 'Economic Problems of Socialism'. This had mapped out how the conflict with imperialism would be overcome peacefully through the socialist states eventually easily outperforming the capitalist economies. When this uncorrected anti-Marxist nonsense had failed to prove true by the late 1980s (according to how the then generation of Moscow Revisionist bureaucrats chose to measure things), this ongoing anti-Marxist confusion decided to abort not Stalin's mistaken ideas about this pointless and unrealistic 'competition' and about misunderstanding the boom bust nature of imperialist crisis, but his sound ideas about how the Soviet economy should continue to organise its development.
When the Western economies failed to decline to a crawl and be overtaken by the socialist camp, as Stalin's 'theory' explained must happen, Gorbachev & Co decided it was because the Soviet economy was failing to make proper use of market mechanisms. Stalin’s 'theory' carried such weight that it was not even questioned, (in spite of much 'anti-Stalin' posturing after his death), because it fitted so well into so many other non-Marxist anti-revolutionary delusions the bureaucracy had lived by.
It suited admirably the established wishful thinking that maybe ultimate all-out conflict between the socialist camp and the 'good' Western imperialists (now dominant - USA, Britain, France) could be avoided. With the socialist camp still constantly growing, and going from success to success, then the cooperative coexistence illusion of the wartime Soviet alliance, - (forced on the West by Stalin cleverly splitting the rearming imperialist warmongers ranged against the USSR in 1939, halting the Western-approved German invasion plan against the USSR by signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact), --- was envisaged as extending to a near permanent understanding by the West that it would never be a good idea for capitalism to get involved in a war with the USSR again.
But this not-incorrect sentiment that (JVS) "the struggle of the capitalist countries for markets and their desire to crush their competitors proved in practice to be stronger than the contradictions between the capitalist camp and the socialist camp", (referring to how WWII started out as an inter-imperialist war in spite of the West’s hopes that it would just be anti-Soviet Armageddon), - only found expression in hopelessly anti-revolutionary notions.
Extending the idea that inter-imperialist conflicts in practice could overtake the even more fundamental contradictions in the long run between capitalism and socialism, Stalin goes on:
"WWII began not as a war with the USSR but as a war between capitalist countries. Why? Firstly, because war with the USSR, as a socialist land, is more dangerous to capitalism than war between capitalist countries; for whereas war between capitalist countries puts in question only the supremacy of certain capitalist countries over others, war with the USSR must certainly put in question the existence of capitalism itself."
While this superficially makes sense, and conveys Stalin's clearly-understood and determined revolutionary anti-imperialist purpose in letting the Red Army hold the ring for a series of anti-capitalist power seizures throughout East Europe after the expulsion of the German imperialist invaders, - it also reveals that Stalin had stopped thinking about the revolutionary end to imperialist crisis as being the way forward for the planet. In the long run, the exact opposite is the outcome, refuting Stalin, as actual world history had already crucially done.
Far from putting in question "only the supremacy of certain capitalist countries over others", war between capitalist countries in 1917 was precisely what first "put in question the existence of capitalism itself" by causing the Bolshevik Revolution. On the other hand, it was precisely Stalin's deluded wish to continue the WWII alliances with the 'good' imperialists, on into the United Nations, which guaranteed that the "war with the USSR" aspect of WWII most certainly did no "put in question the existence of capitalism itself".
Just the opposite. Moscow's delusion that workers states now had a permanent safe stake in the world, accepted by the 'good' imperialists, helped breed an attitude around much of the Third International (as was) that the last thing that was needed was any 'revolutionary adventurism', meaning 'premature' bids for working-class power, which would tend to 'unnecessarily rock the boat of what was seen as a 'good enough' phase of 'stable international peaceful coexistence' which it was imagined would somehow lead to imperialism eventually giving up completely on any general dreams of maintaining active, instant, universal counter-revolutionary responses to block the path forever to any further socialist advances in the world. In this deluded atmosphere, future socialist advances were seen as almost falling into the lap of the international working class in time, practically automatically.
Stalin casual neglecting to mention the utterly crucial importance to mankind for the working class to be ready to take revolutionary power out of the hands of the bourgeoisie upon the failure of yet another capitalist war-disaster, both reflected and cemented this totally anti-Marxist mentality already established.
Stalin gives this deliberately non-revolutionary perspective further authority in commending the objectives of the heavily internationally CP-backed peace movement. Although not denying that to eliminate wars inevitability altogether, imperialism would have to be ‘abolished’ (but avoiding stating specifically how), - Stalin plainly advocates the following:
"The object of the present-day peace movement is to rouse the masses of the people to fight for the preservation of peace and for the prevention of another world war. Consequently, the aim of this movement is not to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism, - it confines itself to the democratic aim of preserving peace. In this respect, the present day peace movement differs from the movement of the time of the First World War for the conversion of the imperialist war into civil war, since the latter movement went further and pursued socialist aims".
As Marx or Lenin might have commented, it is impossible to prevent the capitalist system from going to war. It is not impossible to overthrow the capitalist system. So, surely it would be easier to overthrow capitalism rather than trying to prevent it going to war.
But once again, behind this Stalinist anti-revolutionary Revisionism lurks the assumption that the imperialist countries are steadily collapsing economically anyway, and that sooner or later, they will just fall into the hands of the working class like ripe plums. All that is needed from the international workers movement is to guard against letting the imperialists get away with starting another war.
And this was the essence of the "less difficult" task facing the international communist movement that the Bolsheviks had to face in 1917, as Stalin explained it to the 19th Congress of the CPSU in 1952, again implying that bourgeois imperialist decline and decay would make winning power off them relatively easier. The following passage in 'Economic problems' finally spells out the warped 'theory' behind this anti-revolutionary retreat from Marxist science, which doomed the world movement to an impossible perspective, and condemned it to inevitable ultimate total confusion:-
"The result [of East European socialist-camp cooperation] is a fast pace of industrial development in these countries. It may be confidently said that with this pace of industrial development, it will soon come to pass that these countries will not only be in no need of imports from capitalist countries, but will themselves feel the necessity of finding an outside market for their surplus product;
"But it follows from this that the sphere of exploitation of the world's resources by the major capitalist countries (USA, Britain, France) will not expand but contract; that their opportunities for sale in the world markets will deteriorate, and that their industries will be operating more and more below capacity. That in fact is what is meant by the deepening of the general crisis of the world capitalist system in connection with the disintegration of the world market.
"This is felt by the capitalists themselves for it would be difficult for them not to feel the loss of such markets as the USSR and China. They are trying to offset these difficulties with the ‘Marshall Plan’, the war in Korea, frantic rearmament, and industrial militarisation. But that is very much like a drowning man clutching at a straw.
"This state of affairs has confronted the economists with two questions: "a) Can it be affirmed that the thesis expounded by Stalin [talking about himself in the third person] before the Second World War regarding the relative stability of markets in the period of the general crisis of capitalism is still valid?
"b) Can it be affirmed that the thesis expounded by Lenin in the spring of 1916, namely that in spite of the decay of capitalism,
"on the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before", - is still valid? "I think that it cannot. In view of the new conditions to which the Second World War has given rise, both these theses must be regarded as having lost their validity".
16. This was the gospel in 1952. Despite the start of the open debunking of Stalin in 1956, and the beginnings of China's doubts about how well Moscow understood the world, the November 1960 statement of the 81 communist parties, including China, continued promoting the universal perspective "to achieve the socialist revolution by peaceful means" on the basis that "the pillars of the capitalist system have become so decayed that the ruling imperialist bourgeoisie in many countries can no longer resist, on its own, the forces of democracy and progress which are gaining in scope and strength ....,The decay of capitalism is particularly marked in the USA, the chief imperialist country ....Never has the conflict between the productive forces and relations of production in the capitalist countries been so acute ...." etc.
In the increasingly bitter exchanges of correspondence between Moscow and Beijing in 1963, the perspective that peaceful coexistence was really all that was required for the socialist struggle to prevail against capitalism was still being peddled:
"Availing themselves of the conditions of peaceful coexistence, the socialist countries are scoring more and more new victories in the economic competition with capitalism. Our adversaries realise that it is difficult for them to count on winning the competition against us. They are unable to keep up with the rapid economic advance of the socialist countries; they are powerless in the face of the appeal that the example of the socialist countries makes to the peoples under the yoke of capitalism .... The Soviet Union has already outpaced the leading capitalist countries of Europe in economic development and has come to take second place in the world. The time is not so distant when it will take first place in the world", etc, etc.
By the measurement of superficial consumer products, this was neither necessary, nor possible at the present stage of the anti-imperialist world struggle. Just surviving, being strong enough for self-defence, and developing powerful social-welfare economies, and living conditions, would have been plenty of achievement enough to see the growing anti-imperialist camp through to success in the long run, (but by revolution, of course, as and when imperialist world market collapse finally set in, in accordance with Marxist economic laws of overproduction crisis.)
But by the late 1980s, the Gorbachevites were still working to the uncorrected Stalinist Revisionist assumptions that capitalism should have been well dead and buried by superior socialist competition by now.
When it did not happen but imperialist exploitation-productivity and innovations continued to soar ahead (on a limited affluent-world basis), the Revisionist bureaucracy mentality went the whole hog and challenged the workings of socialism, not the mistakes the Stalin era revisionism had made in completely corrupting the Marxist scientific understanding of the boom-bust crisis nature of the imperialist economy.
One Gorbachevite, Boris Bolotin at the Institute of World Economics at the USSR Academy of Sciences even turned (in a 1988 Moscow News article) to the difficulties that Stalin's 1952 Economic Problems work was now causing them, - - but in order not to challenge its phoney perspective on imperialism's growth prospects, but to challenge its prescriptions for further development of the Soviet economy! He wrote:
"Stalin's refusal to accept the market in conditions of socialism, and his opinion that the market and a planned economy were incompatible firmly shaped economic thinking not only among a considerable number of our economic managers but also among our scholars....we must not keep quiet about ‘Economic Problems of Socialism’ in the USSR but should analyse and criticise it."
But it was not any tinkering management adjustments to the continuing survival of commodity-money relations for dealing with the ongoing contradictions between collective-farm property and state-farm property which were any kind of serious problem, merely routine evolution of economic organisational forms which had gone on non-stop from 1917 onward. It was the Stalinist-Revisionist worldview of how the imperialist economic crisis outside of the USSR would evolve that was completely disarming and undermining the Soviet workers state.
But to this disastrous aspect of the 1952 'Economic Problems' work, Bolotin makes no reference at all.
16. Western anti-Marxist attempts to ascribe the USSR's spectacular self-destruction to fundamental incurable flaws in how a workers state must inevitably function, have failed quite sensationally.
One of the most exhaustive economics studies was by Ellman (Amsterdam University) and Kontorovich (Haverford College, USA) (1992, Routledge)*. This investigated every economic statistic and report available (Soviet and western sources) from 1953 onwards, claiming to be able to trace and explain scores of various movements, up and down, in every conceivable indicator, inflation, wages, investment for production goods, investment for consumer goods, GDP growth, military expenditure, shop queueing times, etc, etc.
Much painful unevenness of development is gleefully recorded in this anti-communist book, but it concludes fairly that the USSR was still growing in general economic strength, in line with its development since 1917 more or less, coming up to the Gorbachev political onslaught on how things were running, in 1988-1990, after which a dramatic decline and disintegration set in (the economy of the ex-USSR has collapsed in the subsequent 10 years to less than half its former strength, an economic decline of a major power unknown in the whole of recorded history).
Every plausible and implausible 'explanation' for the sudden deterioration Gorbachev had on his hands is examined: poor planning tying up too much capital investment unproductively; slowdown in supply of new labour from the countryside; increased bureaucratic corruption; natural resources exhaustion; ageing population; environmental destruction; relaxation in social-political discipline; loss of wage incentives; decay of ideological motivation; absolute vastness-of-scale problems for continued central planning and control; loss of intellectual and moral authority for the system; neglect of infrastructure; increased military expenditure; growth rate tending to get smaller each year since 1958; etc, etc, etc.
None of these are dismissed from having played a part in the accumulated problems Gorbachev thought he had to deal with. But they are all rejected, collectively or separately, as remotely offering any explanation of the disintegration.
Repeatedly, and in detail, Ellman and Kontorovich return again and again to the following broad conclusion:
"The Soviet system has been brought down to a considerable extent by the acts of its top executive, starting in 1986 .... On the one hand, the decision (the 'initial revolution from above') was related to objective difficulties confronting the society. On the other hand, the decisions taken reflected very much the ruler’s perception of the situation. Judging by Gorbachev's speeches, it seems to have developed as a trial-and-error response to his perception of the situation he inherited (i.e. failure to compete successfully on the economic front with the capitalist world, widespread drunkenness and corruption, low economic growth, and an official economic doctrine which could not rationalise the policies the leadership wished to pursue).
"The economic collapse has been in part an unintended by-product of the political changes Gorbachev has introduced. These political changes (the withdrawal of the Communist Party from a direct role in the economy; the transfer of substantial powers to the Soviets; de-totalitarianisation; an expansion of the independence of enterprise) - were expected to release the human factor in economic development and thus lead to rapid economic growth. In fact they removed the motive force (pressure from above) which had propelled the Soviet economy in previous decades, without replacing it by an adequate substitute. Hence, as the political reforms became more radical, the economy went into a tail-spin.”
Dumbly tied to Stalin's infantile anti-Marxist perspectives about the historic international class war against the imperialist bourgeoisie being won by the still relatively-backward Soviet workers state getting a greater range of potentially profitable consumer goods onto the market than capitalist world-market exploitation could, - - what this bourgeois economic jargon is describing is Gorbachev's Revisionist destruction of the dictatorship of the proletariat, replacing it with the 'democracy' (bourgeois democracy) of market forces.
These anti-communist Western academics make further admissions:
"The recovery of the Soviet economy from its 1979-82 decline showed that the traditional economic system was viable .... The success of the Andropov and early-Gorbachev policies pointed to a possible strategy of development based on utilizing the strengths of the existing system. Such a strategy would have been based on the comprehensive and consistent enforcement of discipline, but not limited to it. It would also have sought to improve the organisation, planning and management of the command system on its own terms, rather than trying to graft market-inspired elements on to the command structure, as so many reforms have done. For a time it looked as if Gorbachev would adopt precisely this strategy. Some innovations of a command type (such as the 'Novopolotsk systems' of tight control over labour) were introduced on a small scale. Command methods were deployed to accelerate technological change. The 12th 5year plan (1986-90) embodied the recommendations of the advocates of increased investment. What would have happened if this strategy had actually been adhered to?
"Increased pressure on managers alone significantly improved performance in the railroad sector, with its worn-out capital stock and extremely high level of capacity utilization. It would have brought even larger gains in other sectors, where the capital stock was in better shape and capacity reserves higher. If tighter discipline had been supported by streamlining and rationalizing the command system, and by the injection of new investment, the recovery of 1983-86 might have been prolonged into the 1990s. The traditional model of socialist planning was by no means doomed to extinction in the late 1980s. Its eventual ruin was the result of conscious choice on the part of the political leadership."
After detailing how some of Gorbachev's attempted command strategy policies in fact proved counter-productive due to their clumsy, crude implementation (anti-alcohol campaign, accelerated machine-building investment, restrictions on the black economy, etc), this bourgeois economic science contentedly concludes:
"The command strategy, however, was not adhered to. After the 27th party congress in 1986, Gorbachev started the policies that undermined discipline. One reason for abandoning the command strategy was dissatisfaction with its results. In 1983-86 the net material product grew, according to official statistics, at an annual average rate of 2.8 per cent. This was too low for a lagging country which was trying to catch up. Soviet aspirations were expressed in Gorbachev's speeches of 1985 as catching up with the world's leading powers in terms of high technology, and as being within the targets of the 12th 5-year plan, which envisaged acceleration of growth. Apparently, Soviet politicians perceived (correctly in our view) that the traditional economic system, however strengthened, was not up to this task ....
"Whether or not the economic situation in the USSR in the early 1980s was a 'crisis' depended not only on the economic performance of the USSR considered in isolation but on the economic performance of the USSR relative to that of the USA. The 1980s was a decade in which Soviet economic policy came under the influence of the international demonstration effect of the worldwide successes of capitalism. In North America, western Europe and East Asia, high and rising living standards and rapid technical progress (both the introduction of new products and the rapid resource-saving in production) were very visible and had a great influence on Soviet policy formation ....the OECD countries had achieved much higher living standards than the USSR. Furthermore, judging by the rhetoric of Reagan and Thatcher, the market economies were full of self-confidence in the superiority of their system. The USSR had long been engaged in the 'competition between the two systems', and it was important for the legitimation of Soviet power to score successes in this competition. The complete failure of the USSR to catch up with the advanced countries in living standards undermined the legitimacy of the regime. This was particularly marked among the elite who travelled abroad and/or were able to obtain imported consumer goods."
17. In reality, of course, it was no shame at all for the Soviet workers state, struggling in a reasonably honest and altruistic manner alongside Cuba, Korea, China, Vietnam, East Europe, and much of the Third World to try to contain world imperialist domination, - to have not yet remotely caught up with top bourgeois living standards at the apex of the longest and vastest international capitalist trade boom in history, - - especially when the USSR was once again at that precise moment (as Ellman and Kontorovich admit) having to allocate more precious resources to military needs than ever because of the threatened US Star Wars programme.
But Stalin's anti-revolutionary Revisionist complacency, with its utterly naive perspectives on imperialist development, not seeing the boom but equally now ignorantly unaware that the most massive bust and slump in history must also subsequently follow, - still totally ruled the Moscow bureaucracy. And in the sick, sad aim of wishing to 'catch up' with what the imperialist system of vicious Third World exploitation could achieve in terms of shallow profiteering consumerism and trade-war market manipulation and domination, this degenerate Revisionism then took the knife to the workers state itself, and to all connection with the science and aims of Marxism-Leninism.
In the terms of this bourgeois economists account:
"The leadership itself removed (from the building it was trying to rebuild) crucial load-bearing 'bricks' on which the stability of the structure rested. As a result, the whole structure came crashing down. The three key 'bricks' which Gorbachev removed, or weakened, were: the central bureaucratic apparatus; the official ideology; and the active role of the party in the economy." For example, the Western professors mention the 28th party congress in June 1990:
"Among other things, the congress criticized the endless administrative reorganizations affecting agriculture: 'In recent years, the agro-industrial complex has been continuously reorganized. This has destroyed the links and inter-relationships between the different parts of the agro-industrial complex, led to the loss of many highly qualified specialists, and weakened technological, productive and state discipline. This was the view of most of the agricultural delegates. At the section on agrarian policy of the congress, practically all the speakers proposed re-establishing the Ministry of Agriculture. The resolution of the congress on agricultural policy specifically called for the restoration of the Ministries of Agriculture and Agricultural Machinery (abolished by Gorbachev in 1985), and the re-establishment of a supply and service system specifically for agriculture. These demands were not conceded, partly because that would have been an admission that Gorbachev's earlier reorganizations had been harmful, and partly because they came from people, opposed to Gorbachev's partial decollectivization policy ."
Scores more examples are given of specific disastrous economic effects of the perestroika revolution where the 'liberalization' delusion just led to a 'chaotic breakdown' in management discipline. Summarising it all as an effective destruction of the USSR’s state ideology, this anti-communist observation continues:
"By removing the party from its role in the economy, Gorbachev removed an essential feature of the smooth running of the traditional model. In the traditional model, the party committees at all levels played an essential role. They cut through the maze of conflicting bureaucratic bodies and enforced the priorities of the centre. Once they withdrew from the economy however, factories, cities, regions, and republics were free to do what they thought best, regardless of the documents emanating from the centre. Furthermore, the process of de-totalitarianisation, by transferring much power to the Soviets and permitting the emergence of independent social organizations, led to destabilizing economic consequences, varying from the introduction of customs posts round republics, and depriving non-residents of certain cities of the possibility of shopping there, - to the closing of ecologically harmful factories. It also led to the coming to power of anti-communists in parts of the country (Moscow, Leningrad, RSFSR, Baltic republics, Georgia). These anti-communists were prepared to go ahead with reforms regardless of their short-run negative effects .... one of the striking effects of the disintegration of Marxism-Leninism was that it was partially replaced by religion and nationalism. In a multi-national and multi-religious state .the disintegration of Marxism-Leninism and the revival of religion and nationalism automatically led to a weakening of the USSR as a unitary state. Replacing an ideology which was uniform throughout the country by ones which divided it on ethnic lines was a recipe for conflicts... and had serious economic costs."
Numerous examples are appended.
18. So finally, a Stalinist counter-revolution really did take place and destroyed the workers state, building socialism. But not until 1990-91,on average, 60 years after the first generations of fake-'lefts' started putting their boot into the Soviet Union for a variety of bogus 'reasons'.
These same petty bourgeois still argue: 'So it collapsed eventually anyway. So what?'
Utterly irrelevant are all the smart-arse comments about 'Call that socialism? Life in a capitalist prison would be preferable?. Such philistine Western ignorance will count for as little in the long run as any other mentality originating in the colonial-racist complacency of monopoly-imperialist affluence.
It is the survival of the West's world-exploitation for so long that is the real historical anomaly, not the outstanding achievements of the world's first workers state, lasting 70 years despite starting in the most difficult and backward country imaginable, and despite being three times dismembered or devastated by war since October 1917; threatened or sabotaged by further imperialist intervention continuously; economically blockaded, subverted, and blackmailed throughout; and vilified, provoked, lied about, and distorted by non-stop hostile propaganda and hatred between states, nothing the like of which had ever been seen in all history.
And that anti-communist Cold War poison atmosphere is still polluting the world as dominantly today as ever it was e.g. Zimbabwe has just been given the full treatment for refusing to toe the West's monopoly capital-subservient line. Yugoslavia, Iraq, China, Korea, etc, got it before. The IRA and Sinn Fein got it in Britain. Revolutionaries in Colombia, Palestine, and Mexico are being lined up for it next. Or possibly China again, or Vietnam, - wherever panicking imperialism sees the next threat looming to Western prestige as 'the best way to run the world, politically or economically'.
Any kind of revolt (against Western domination) seen as 'successful', whatever it is, is regarded as a deadly threat because of how it might give billions of others in the Third World the idea of revolution against Western control as well.
It is on these basic class-war questions that Soviet communism is not dead at all. For 700 years, the bourgeoisie has dominated the world and every sphere of human achievement with its 'capitalist democracy' way of doing things. But it could never stop ending up as monopoly-imperialist domination-exploitation of the rest of mankind through war-conquest and the market.
The Soviet workers state was the first successful resistance to that domination, making miraculous achievements without a bourgeois capitalist class in sight, let alone in total control (as is the condition of the 'free world'). No wonder it was, and is still, so hated by every scrap of ruling-class and petty-bourgeois propaganda.
19. But if it failed in the end, why does it matter? Why would any part of the world want to re-tread the Soviet Union ’s route?
The vast majority of impoverished Third World mankind still would. And they are going to want to emulate Soviet workers-state achievements even more urgently, before much longer, because of the fundamental reality of world development which every wretched renegade from the dictatorship of the proletariat has always ignored (Revisionist, Trotskyists, or Reformist), - the basic Marxist science that no boom period in imperialist world trade can last forever.
A crisis of 'surplus' capital must cause a Crash sooner or later. All-out trade war and shooting war will inevitably follow. Relatively speaking, the world will be back to 1917 once again.
Billions of ordinary people around the globe, suffering capitalist war horrors as well as capitalist slump horrors once more, after stifling endlessly under capitalist exploitation anyway, will not put up with it. Communist revolution will yet again be the only future for mankind.
20. 'Left' electoralism, without a genuine revolutionary content, will soon have the Trots, etc, as hated as the rest of bourgeois political opportunism in Parliament. Only renewed parties of Leninist revolutionary theory will capture long-term working-class allegiance now, and he able to turn it into successful revolutionary struggle. There is no way forward for mankind but via the whole works of Leninist science.
Tactical compromises can be endlessly flexible over broad-front possibilities for mass party-building activities, but such has been the corruption of workers-movement thinking by 80 years of Cold War anti-communism and by recent decades of reformist single issue political correctness pursuing extreme individualist philosophies (feminism, black nationalism, homosexualism, etc) that any restriction on Marxist-Leninist polemics can only lead back again to total chaos fairly soon.
'Left' electoralism may briefly be turned to (out of working-class habit in this country). But while it may temporarily encourage Trot opportunism, it will not be able to prevent electoralism itself from being held in ever-increasing contempt by the working class.
Regional parliamentary nationalism will prove just as sterile. The working class in Britain has far more culture in common than the average proletarian does with the average bourgeois in any part of the land, England, Scotland, or Wales, - and on far more crucial questions in view of the coming crisis of capitalism.
When international imperialist counter-revolution is on the rampage everywhere, the working class of Britain will stand far better chance of defending any revolutionary gains made if united rather than if atomised into a separate England, Scotland, and Wales. Blair's devolution concessions are strictly a boom-time gimmick to gain electoral popularity, saddling the working class with yet another layer of bloated bureaucracy to support, and wrapping yet more confusing parliamentary cover-ups around the still continuing basic capitalist system, which will remain as dominated by uncontrollable monopoly-imperialist interests as ever, and which will carry on the class-divided exploitation of the unpropertied and non-business owning proletariat the same as before. Come the slump, and the contempt for this petty bourgeois nationalist plaything will know no bounds.
The defeat of British colonial-imperialism by the heroic Irish national-liberation struggle truly reflects the world crisis of the monopoly-capitalist system facing insuperable odds from the Third World billions in revolt. Even when outnumbered, the dispossessed (as in Occupied Palestine and the Occupied Zone of Ireland) can learn how to fight with far more determination and skill and political superiority to bring colonial annexationism to its knees.
Every significant setback for world imperialism, large or small, will serve to inspire the revolt everywhere else. Marx’s inescapable law of capital over-production-crisis also implies that the vaster and longer the boom that artificial credit creation has constructed (in effect through huge dollar hand-outs to every anti-communist crook and chancer on earth since 1945), - the more devastating will be the wipe-out of 'surplus' capital once the rate of profit collapses and confidence shatters everywhere.
The world is in for the most catastrophic crash and slump in history. All-out war for economic survival is inevitable. Suddenly, the mass involvement in the slow steady but reliable progress of the Soviet economy, however muddled and bureaucratic, will seem like paradise.
And how are workers states supposed to be able to function anyway? Like the disorganised chaos of the average trade union or 'left' party in Britain? The only model in history of any sort of workers state is the Soviet one, followed by a couple of dozen allies and imitators. How is the underclass in Britain expected to learn statecraft for building towards an egalitarian society in the future? With difficulty, and by massive hard work and discipline, under a mass-party-led proletarian dictatorship, exactly as the Leninists did it.
The only reason for refusing to rebuild a Leninist movement in open polemical struggle is because petty-bourgeois complacency, philistinism, and cynicism still does not believe that capitalism is about to collapse, or sees nothing wrong with its total cultural degeneracy anyway.
But only three years ago, the SWP said Blairism had a future worth voting for. Look at its sick collapsing mess now, dithering whether to crawl into the German imperialist camp, or deeper into the American laager, - eventual humiliation and war in either direction. By its incurable nature, capitalism is on a course of increasing frustration, alienation, and divisiveness. Only Marxist-Leninist science offers a sane constructive way forward for human community. Build the EPSR.
21. Cynicism has most difficulty getting its brain round how easily derisible unsophisticated Soviet bureaucracy made itself, in its sick cult-of-the-individual days; in its farcical self-liquidation which no one fought hard to prevent; in its clumsy pollution; in some of its crude simplistic brutalities for political control or to exert social/cultural pressure. How could part of the future frequently look so embarrassingly naive and barbaric, and end up falling flat on its face anyway?
The first point is to forget all comparison with life in the West. Compare Soviet workers-state achievements with the hell-hole of Tsarist Russia or even with the hellhole since 1990 in spite of massive Western aid and investment flooding in to try to make capitalism look good.
The only comparison for Soviet achievements would be with some other vast backward semi-Asiatic hell hole like Tsarist Russia, but none exist. A better comparison on whether workers state should be seen as part of the world's past or crucial to its future would have been seen in likening China's progress to India's from similar starting points and with similar problems, which China won hands down, but then partly confused the picture by borrowing some capitalist methods of development for its own use.
A clear sight of Cuba's outstanding superiority to anywhere else in Latin America in eradicating illiteracy, ill-health, grinding slum-poverty, and much else of traditional backwardness of the region, has been deliberately clouded by US imperialist might bending every sinew to subvert, undermine, blockade, poison, terrorise, vilify, etc to keep everything on edge and prevent clear thinking about Cuba's remarkable achievements.
By accident or design ,Vietnam’s progress has been obscured by the surrounding 'miracle' economies of the South East Asian 'tigers'. But the first collapse later, and Indonesia is up in flames of revolt. When the world crash comes, how will the comparison seem then? And what crucially matters is how it is seen locally, not from Islington.
China's potential for revolutionary workers-state regional leadership is far from over yet. As was always going to be the case, the fate of the world imperialist trade-war crisis will be decisive in what future the Third World chooses for itself, - throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. And once revolutionary workers-states become the dominant pattern on earth, then the Western imperialist 'free market' racket of exploiting the whole planet for its own benefit really will find its days numbered. A much healthier, more rational world is in view. Build Marxism-Leninism.
Continue to Part Two
*[Seems to be now published as The destruction of the Soviet economic system: an insiders' history (New York: M.E.Sharpe, 1998)- web editor (continue article)].
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