ATH3 KapRest ENG
October Revolution Congress Athens, Topic 3:
Capitalist Restoration in the Soviet Union – Causes, Effects and our Answers for the Movement
IA*RKP Austria (Oct. 2017)
In the Soviet Union, the first socialist country of the world, nearly 50 years after seizing power by the proletariat capitalism was definitely restored and politically stabilized as the economic order. It was the form of bureaucratic state capitalism that many did not recognize as a capitalist order of exploitation until it was replaced by a classic form of capitalism. We name the 20th party congress in 1956 as the date of irrevocable restoration when a new bourgeoisie from the ranks of the CPSU seized all power and chased into underground or destroyed all opponents – revolutionary communists as well as opposing petty bourgeois careerists and profiteers in the apparatus of state and economy.
When searching for the causes for this change, this counter-revolution or its political completion, we must go far back – to the beginnings of communist workers movement. We must deal with theoretical as well as practical questions. For, it’s truly certain that – despite all adversities – the first socialist state made big progress on the road of the working class in their struggle for liberating mankind from exploitation and oppression. But both the theoretical fundamentals for the real construction of socialism in a single country und further steps towards a classless society had to be transformed from up to then rather abstract formulas and principles of Marxism into practical actions, shaped into concrete aims of class struggle and tested and enhanced in social reality. On the other hand, the real political, economic, social, and cultural etc. conditions in Russia or later Soviet Union and world-wide forced them to make fundamental and far-reaching decisions within very short time in situations without any or nearly no reliable experience in that field. They could not walk along beaten tracks!
Before we get to the points we (as IARKP Austria – Initiative for the construction of a revolutionary communist party) want to stress I want to emphasize something well-known: Socialism i.e. the first phase after seizing the political power – often called lower stage of communism by Marx (“each one according to their effort” and with all birthmarks of the old capitalist society) – socialism is a transitory society from capitalism to communism. Therefore there must be strong driving forces to advance this transition at all. This also means that with dwindling driving forces – both subjective and objective ones, both interior and exterior ones – socialism must go bust and be buggered, more or less by itself. Socialism – even more in a single country – is no conveyor belt or elevator where you simple need to enter to get lifted.
We think it’s very important to stress that in a social and economic situation as in the whole 20the century the socialist construction will stop at once and (at least) a creeping diffusion of capitalist elements will take place if the working class under the leadership of the Communist Party do not advance class struggle day in, day out. At least under the conditions of the 20th century and of today, you will simply be swept away by the capitalist surge if you do not stem against it collectively and united.
1. Let’s start with an important issue that has concerned and strained the whole communist movement of the 20th century, the issue of historical progress and historical determinism.
Since there existed no practical experience in construction of Socialism (apart from the few weeks of Paris commune in 1871) all well-known socialist and communist theorists – not only Marx and Engels described Socialism/Communism as a social formation following after capitalism in history – and being in a historical sense more or less the logical advancement in the history of mankind. So e.g. the Manifesto of the Communist Party, at the end of the 1st chapter reads, “The bourgeoisie first of all produce their own gravediggers. Their downfall is inevitable as the victory of the proletariat.” At the beginning of the 1st chapter there is indeed a historical hint that class struggle can also end “with the joint downfall of the fighting classes” but that was always missed out by the communist movement. Some 50 years after the publication of the “Manifesto” Lenin wrote harsh critiques against the right-wing social-democratic theorists of the 2nd International first of all against the reformism and ultra-imperialism of Kautsky. But just to mention one example Lenin did never criticize the pseudo logical and historical deterministic argumentation of Kautsky’s assertion: As the working class represents the majority of the population in industrialized countries in 1900 Socialism be ineluctable, inevitable. (“The Road to Power”, chapter 6: “Growth of the revolutionary elements“, in German)
In the middle of the 1930ies Stalin states: Since the capitalists in the Soviet Union were completely expropriated the bourgeoisie as a class be liquidated and so Socialism could only be destroyed by the imperialist encirclement (and their agents). So also in his speech about the Soviet Constitution at the 8th soviet congress he e.g. said, “all exploiting classes are liquidated.” (German brochure p.15)
That was an embodiment of a mechanistic approach to the issues of a transitory society and smoothed the road for 1956.
In fact the imperialist pressure and not least the attack and war of the German army formed an important exterior framework, influence and trigger for neglecting, disregarding or ignoring certain tasks of socialist construction. But the restoration of capitalism took place on the basis of interior contradictions – and that was actually inconceivable not only for the CPSU but for nearly the whole communist movement of the world.
Communists have totally overlooked or immoderately underrated this danger for decades. When the 19th Party Congress of CPSU in 1952 explicitly stated and criticized that a new caste of privileged party bosses had emerged it was presumably too late to change tack – and obviously there weren’t any relevant and sufficient forces in CPSU that would have been able to prevent the complete restoration of capitalism. Communists mainly used the hints given by Lenin about the material basis of bureaucracy in socialism and the effects in superstructure of petty bourgeois production (esp. agricultural petty bourgeoisie) and the bourgeois tradition not yet overcome, but did not really understand what was happening before their own eyes.
10 years passed until CP of China (CPC) really started to deal scientifically with the issue of a state bureaucratic capitalist class emerging right from the ranks of the CP (Polemics on the General Line 1963) and put into practice the theoretical conclusions during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in China 1966 to 1976 – until this movement was brutally stopped by the new rulers, the capitalist road-runners. A decisive new development in GPCR was laying stress on the conscious element and primacy of politics in socialist construction.
2. We find a close connection between the alleged irreversibility of socialism (especially after victory over fascism and construction of several people’s democratic states in Europe and Asia) and errors concerning issues of socialist economy that can only briefly be dealt with here. Regarding the discussion in the early 1950ies I want to refer to Stalin’s text “Economic Problems of Socialism…” and the “Textbook of Political Economy” (Moscow 1954) which e.g. in the 3rd deals with the “socialist method of production”. In this latter text you find e.g. the sentence, “After the victory of socialism and liquidation of exploitation of human by human there don’t exist any hostile, antagonistic classes or irreconcilable class contradictions in the Soviet Union any longer”. (German ed., Berlin 1955, p.423) In the Textbook they also uncritically take over the categories by Marx in “The Capital” analyzing capitalism und do not try to grasp scientifically the dynamics of socialist production process on the road from “each one according to their effort” to “each one according to their needs”. So we find in the Textbook no passage or even chapter pointing at the forces of commodity production driving back to capitalism, nor the effects of (still continuing) bourgeois law. The fact that Stalin in person expressed his position on the “Economic Problems …” shows what a fierce and unclear discussion took place already at that time when the “Textbook on Political Economy” was discussed and edited.
It took no less than 20 years before during the GPCR in China the textbook “Fundamentals of Political Economy” was published in Shanghai in 1975, where in volume 2(Socialism) they try to learn from the experience in Suviet Union and China and draw lessons on a theoretical level. This book was well translated into English in 1977 (Fundamentals of Political Economy, transl. & ed. George Wang) but it was not widely noticed in the movement before the re-publishing of volume 2 about Socialism in New York 1994 under the title of „Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism – the Shanghai Textbook“, at a time however when the revolutionary communist was already on decline. This Textbook argues that socialism is a transitory society from capitalism to communism, and class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie takes place during the whole period also in economic fields.
A key statement on this point reads, “In socialist society the exploiting class still exists further on as a class although they have lost their means of production. After the socialist transformation of the ownership of means of production has been basically completed the existence of classes is linked to the economic conditions of the people before the socialist transformation and to their political positions in the struggle between the socialist and the capitalist road” (…) and “there are permanently emerging new bourgeois elements among the working classes”. (Germ.ed. Vienna 2006, p.7)
The Textbook e.g. directly points at issues of socialist commodity production, “Cooperation between socialist enterprises must adopt the form of commodity exchange and stick to the principle of equal exchange – what comprises bourgeois law and the feeding ground for producing capitalism”. (ibid.)
It’s fascinating and depressing at the same time the authors of “Shanghai Textbook” quite prophetically predicted what would happen after 1976 – after seizing power by the capitalist road-runners – when the proletarian revolutionary line would be replaced by the pro-capitalist line of unfolding commodity production and focusing on the development of the forces of production as the only criteria. Today we clearly see where this has led to!
In a former socialist country restoration of capitalism mostly happens in a sneaky way and its proponents and fore-runners are bureaucratic rulers within the Communist Party who convert into a new bourgeoisie – not only because of political but also economic mistakes and errors during socialist construction.
The negative effects of capitalist restoration in Soviet Union and 20 years later in China are still devastating and massively obstruct the construction of revolutionary communist parties – what can only be tackled in the mid of class struggle, in real mass struggles especially of the working class and through winning the most conscious fighters for the cause of communism.
The revolutionary communist movement can only make progress if we can and do also explain in detail and make clear why (and because of which errors) the communist movement failed in the 20th century. Without opening our eyes to this issue, without profound and understandable criticism especially on Khrushchev-Brezhnev-Revisionism we will unavoidably have permanent trouble when trying to intervene in and lead class struggles because the bourgeoisie and various bourgeois and petty bourgeois currents will discredit us successfully – with the accusation playing a big role that historically we had verifiably failed, communism and “Stalinism” had undeniably broken down etc.
During the 1960ies and 70ies there was big hope in the global Marxist-Leninist movement that we could succeed in unmasking Khrushchev-Brezhnev-Revisionism and eclipsing it in ongoing movements and class struggle. Indeed, in several countries Marxist-Leninist forces could take the lead in struggle, at least for some time. But if we look back we notice that this happened only in a few countries and nearly everywhere only a few years passed until the Moscow-Revisionists of various shades had again a stronger influence than those organizations really based on Marxism-Leninism including the further development by CPC in the GPCR (Mao Zedong Thoughts). The decline of Khrushchev-Brezhnev-Revisionists after the breakup of Soviet Union has not led to a situation where the revolutionary communists now had free way ahead (as many thought). Both in countries with developed class struggle and in such as Austria where the working class movement is mainly domesticated by “social partnership” and on social democratic rails nearly everywhere the revisionists oriented on the rotten CPSU are still stronger or equally strong within the forces of class struggle as the revolutionary communists. Through the eyes of many militant colleagues our organizations are not more than quarrelling detachments of one current that found its end with the breakup of Soviet Union, at least in Europe.
We must win the most class conscious colleagues for communism in the mid of struggles in the streets and factories. This goes on e.g. by putting forward correct and progressive slogans in struggle and trying to introduce and establish them in unities of action. But doing that we must never neglect criticizing revisionism; on the one hand we must make clear why e.g. an anti-monopolist strategy will lead the movement into defeat; on the other hand we must always make clear that socialism in the Soviet Union did not end in 1990 but already in 1956 and that the same mistakes, that spread since 1936 also destroyed socialism in China. Only when following a clear and scientific position against restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union completed in 1956 – and not starting at that time – we will be able to give compelling arguments also on history.