The Paradoxes of working class of Russia and USSR

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meerov21
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Jan 16 2019 11:19
The Paradoxes of working class of Russia and USSR

The main paradox of the working class of Russia is that it brought the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 and it was the first who rose against the Bolsheviks in 1918. The historian Dmitry Churakov compares the scale of the workers' protests against Lenin in 1918 with the Russian revolution of 1905 and 1917!

The workers saw this party was not fulfilling its promises. By the summer of 1918, half the workers in Petrograd and hundreds of thousands more workers across the country lost their jobs. The Bolsheviks did not know how to manage industry and it was paralyzed.

The workers of the largest factories and plants began to kick the Bolsheviks out of the Soviets. This was probably the main reason for the ban on re-election the Soviets and the transition to one-party dictatorship in 1918. Then workers formed alternative Councils - the "Assemblies of commissioner factories and plants", which united half of the working class of Petrograd and quickly spread to all industrial centers. But this movement was crushed in 1918.

In 1919-1921 workers many times went on strike against the Bolsheviks putting forward political slogans. In the spring of 1919 the Left SRs (they already had an anarcho-syndicalist program (*1)) initiated strikes at the big factories of Petrograd. Moreover, along with economic requirements, there was also a demand for free elections to Councils. It was a real, not fake, libertarian social-revolutionary movement, during which there were armed clashes between workers of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and Bolsheviks. Then the left Social Revolutionaries of Petrograd and Northwest Russia wrote that "Bolshevik and tsarist counter-revolutions are identical". But this movement was defeated. Hundreds of activists of the left SRs were arrested or shot. After this the working class becomes very weak.

Separate protests took place in 1922 - 1930 and in 1962 (a workers revolt in Novocherkassk, which was shot). But in the late USSR, workers were integrated into the system of social partnership. It was a strange system of state paternalism at the factories. Workers and superiors were connected by a mass of informal links. It gave to the workers certain advantages (for example, the opportunity to get a cheap tourist trip or closed eyes on poor quality work), but paralyzed their resistance. Some of my familiar russian supporters of the council communism called this system "quasi-feudal."

Also the state provided a good social protection for the russian workers and building social housing for them in 1956 -1986. The state of Stalin's time was bloody terrorist form of fordism associated with hunger (*2), but Khrushchev and Brezhnev improved the situation of workers, began to pay pensions to the elderly, built social housing etc. The state bureaucratic apparatus owned property, began to exploit workers more gently.

In addition, workers of the USSR were crushed by terror and fear. The KGB and the party committees (two hands of the regime) carefully monitored the behavior of the workers. Dissatisfied workers leaders could be arrested or placed in a mental hospital. Therefore, the population of the USSR was extremely atomized and far less able to protest than the working class of Western and Eastern Europe, where the control was weaker. This monstrous pressure spawned disintegration of the collectivist traditions of the working class of Russia.

It is one of the main paradoxes of the Leninist countries: their population is more individualistic than the population of the West. For example so famous researcher of two Koreas, Andrei Lankov, notes that North Koreans are far more individualist than the southerners. This is another amazing paradox of Bolshevism: state collectivism, which declared the whole society a "single family" (there was even such a famous propaganda film about the working class of the USSR in 1954: "Big Family"), led to the most extreme, destructive forms of individualism and to the total cynicism and to disbelief in the triumph of any utopian idea.

Finally, drunkenness became an important aspect of life in the Bolshevik Russia. Perhaps it was a reaction to a hopeless existence, a product of "learned helplessness" (a special phenomenon that psychology studies). It is also possible that this was a reaction to the collapse of utopia. Drunkenness reached monstrous proportions in the proletarian districts. For example, my childhood was spent in a working-class area, where almost the entire male population at the weekend was drunk.

However, in the late USSR, economic strikes happened occasionally. For example, sometimes there were miners' strikes. In addition, in 1980, under the influence of the impression of Polish "Solidarity", workers of the Latvian port of Ventspils went on strike. The reaction of the authorities was ambivalent. Usually, they tried to fulfill some of the requirements of the workers. At the same time, if the workers persisted, the state resorted to repression.

In addition, spontaneous riots sometimes occurred: mobs attacked police stations. But these riots were usually caused by the violence of police officers. This was, for example, a riot in the city of Murom in 1961 (the authorities responded with repressions: a few dozen people were arrested and three were sentenced to death).

But In general, the working class of Russia was not ready for a big fight. In 1989-1991 hundreds of thousands of miners went on strike. In the 1990s a wave of privatizations began and then 50% of the industry was destroyed. But the working class which had lost the traditions of the struggle could not offer decent resistance to this.

It was another paradox of the totalitarian system of Bolshevism, which appropriated the name "socialism". Many factories were privatized and looted by representatives of the party bureaucracy and the KGB, who merged with mafia groups. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the working class (including highly skilled or unskilled workers, as well as engineers and other specialists) did not resist them. Bolshevik totalitarianism became a real sado-masochistic school of violence and passivity, which prepared the workers for submission to the new-old bosses.

***

1) How a society based on self-government labor groups would look like? Perhaps the answer to this question is the Kronstadt republic. Libertarian socialists and anarchists are well informed about the uprising in Kronstadt in 1921. But only few know about non-authoritarian (libertarian) experience of Kronstadt in 1918. In 1918, the vast majority of the council of Kronstadt belonged to anti-authoritarian (libertarian) socialist currents, Left SRs and SR Maximalists. Radicals (with the strong support of the majority of workers and sailors of the city) started reforms. Delegate from Kronstdat Lefts SRs A. Brushvit on the 2nd Congress of his Party spoke about how these reforms were going. https://libcom.org/forums/history/practice-anti-authoritarian-socialism-...

2) According to modern studies of economists, prepared by a group of one of the leading Russian and European economists Sergei Guriev, the economic system of the USSR in 1928-1940 did not exceed the tsarist system. The Tsar's trend can gave about the same results as Stalin's one. On the other hand, the Bolshevik system had much more victims. https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/golosov/files/cggt_rev...

meerov21
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Jan 16 2019 11:26

Ugg i think it can be intresting for you
Link i wood like to know your opinion

meerov21
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Jan 17 2019 00:48

Here is the discussion about Asiatic mode of production, " retro-gradualism" or bureaucratic collectivism or state-capitalism

There was a group of German Marxist immigrants during WWII who created the theory of "retro- gradualism". According to it "stalinism and fascism" is a sort of throwback to the absolutist-feudal society.

Some other Marxists, such as Karl Wittfogel, believed that Stalin's USSR is a form of the Asiatic mode of production. Similar ideas were expressed by non-Marxist libertarian (he became authoritarian later) German philosopher Rudolf Baro. That also means sort of a regress in comparison with capitalism...

Moshe Machover, a Marxist Israel dissident, said: "In this context there was a very serious sub-theme regarding the major under-developed countries -countries like China, Japan, Russia, Turkey and Persia, which had been great powers and were never colonies, but in which capitalism had not developed properly, and which therefore found themselves left behind. In all these countries the “objective” historical task was to get modernisation and industrialisation going. And in all of them the ruling classes (traditional or newly arrived to power) imposed some form of forced modernisation and industrialisation...The new ruling class led by Stalin attempted another road to modernisation and industrialisation: command planning, while market forces were largely suspended. A valid historical assessment of bureaucratic collectivism cannot be performed by comparing it, even negatively, to socialism. This would not only be unfair to the very idea of socialism, but also irrelevant to the place of bureaucratic collectivism itself in history"... :

https://libcom.org/forums/theory/asiatic-mode-production-retro-gradualis...

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Jan 20 2019 06:58

Meerov, I agree with others that you should contact the Libcom admins and request a blog – it would be a better format for your well-researched essays than a forum post.

meerov21 wrote:
The Bolsheviks did not know how to manage industry and it was paralyzed.

Then again, the situation where it was up to the Bolsheviks to manage industry should never have arisen in the first place!

meerov21 wrote:
In 1919-1921 workers many times went on strike against the Bolsheviks putting forward political slogans. In the spring of 1919 the Left SRs (they already had an anarcho-syndicalist program (*1)) initiated strikes at the big factories of Petrograd.

If the strikers had an explicitly anarchosyndicalist program as early as 1919, that's an important counterpoint to the view expressed by the likes of Victor Serge, who argued in Year One of the Russian Revolution that the Petrograd factory workers striking against the Bolsheviks were the most backward elements of the proletariat, simply because the most conscious and dedicated workers had left the factories for the frontlines of the civil war. While this claim is little more than a convenient excuse for how the Bolshevik dictatorship on behalf of the proletariat turned into a dictatorship over the proletariat, there is probably some element of truth to it as well. Peter Sedgwick, in his introduction to Serge's book, mentions British agents having encountered slogans such as "Долой Ленина с кониной, дайте царя со свининой!" at workers' demonstrations. It is important to know that despite such isolated occurrences, many workers still struggled against the Bolshevik government on their own class terrain.

I find it surprising that an anarchosyndicalist program should be formed by the Left SRs. Would you happen to have a link to that program (assuming that it was actually written down and printed in some pamphlet or newspaper), or at least to a brief summary of it? On a related note, what was the relationship / programmatic agreement between the left SRs and Russian anarchists before and after October 1917?

meerov21 wrote:
Finally, drunkenness became an important aspect of life in the Bolshevik Russia. Perhaps it was a reaction to a hopeless existence, a product of "learned helplessness" (a special phenomenon that psychology studies). It is also possible that this was a reaction to the collapse of utopia. Drunkenness reached monstrous proportions in the proletarian districts. For example, my childhood was spent in a working-class area, where almost the entire male population at the weekend was drunk.

How reminiscent of Bakunin: Of escape there are but three methods — two chimerical and a third real. The first two are the dram-shop and the church, debauchery of the body or debauchery of the mind; the third is social revolution.

meerov21 wrote:
Some other Marxists, such as Karl Wittfogel, believed that Stalin's USSR is a form of the Asiatic mode of production.

Obviously, this opens up the whole discussion about the nature of the USSR, and by extension, the even more fundamental discussion about the Marxist conception of history (unilinear vs. multilinear). Both topics have been discussed on Libcom before. Here, Marcel van der Linden's Western Marxism and the Soviet Union is an essential resource, offering what is pretty much an exhaustive overview of Marxist theories on the subject, including those of Wittfogel, Bahro, and Machover. (A condensed summary can be found on pages 309 and 318–319 of the pdf linked to above.) The startling conclusion of van der Linden's book is that none of the many hypotheses advanced so far is both compatible with the Marxist theoretical framework and consistent with the facts…

meerov21 wrote:
Similar ideas were expressed by non-Marxist libertarian (he became authoritarian later) German philosopher Rudolf Baro. That also means sort of a regress in comparison with capitalism...

Not necessarily. This is illustrated by the analysis developed by Alexandr Zimin (also given in van der Linden's book), who came up with a sophisticated theory that allowed him to incorporate the Asiatic mode of production into a unilinear conception of history by allowing for limited deviations1 from the main sequence of slavery → feudalism → capitalism → communism. Zimin explained the similarities between the USSR and the Asiatic MoP by postulating that both were failed transitions between two "main-sequence" modes of production: the Asiatic MoP between primitive communism and slavery, the USSR between capitalism and communism. More generally, both were failed instances of the same transition undertaken in opposite directions: the Asiatic MoP from a classless society to class society, the USSR from class society to a classless society.

  • 1. Obviously, there's the question of whether it's fair or even useful to call a "deviation" something that was the dominant mode of production in most of the world for several thousand years.
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Jan 21 2019 16:07

Sorry but ive missed out on these discussions of Russia and on Meerovs invitation to comment so im only just catching up and not really responding to the detail of any specific contribution

Ugg started one of the other threads by identifying Russia as state capitalism which appears to have generated a discussion about what else Russia could have been. In spite of Meerov’s personal knowledge I would agree with Ugg .

I think it is significant that we talk of a world or global market nowadays. This is something that capitalism created when it took over from a feudal system which was very slow to develop the economy and based on classes which were fixed in law. Under feudalism, the ruler owned everything in his or her realm and was able to dispose of roles in managing regions to Dukes etc down to Lords of the Manor. A serf’s status was fixed in law and they supplied tithes to the lord of the manor out of the work they performed but kept the rest to themselves.

It was some time ago that I read about the Asiatic modes of production but the basic points I remember are that it seemed more like a variation of European feudalism based mainly on regional powers. I don’t feel expert on this so perhaps Meerov you will wish to expand on this very brief summary.

As capitalism developed a world market it established its control over the whole world and I think this has been true throughout the 20th century. It is important to start at this world level because it is clear to see there are many variations of capitalism in different countries and there are many localising examples of pre-capitalism societies and modified pre-cap societies. I don’t think you can understand the world by looking at the local first.

Whats more one major feature of capitalism in this last century has been the development of what is called state capitalism as the dominant structure within capitalism. The state itself was a relative minor institution during the 18th century and even by the early 1900s was still relatively small – the army tending to the be the largest element of the state even at that stage. Since then the state has gradually taken over most elements of the running of society in all countries and private capital has had to back down and accept this – obviously there are significant differences in how this is expressed from country to country however.

To resond to Meerov’s arguments then, I cannot see justification for seeing Russia as something separate to the capitalist world. I would also argue that the revolution of 1917 was a working class revolution where workers took power with the help of the Bolsheviks. Isolated in one country however it could never stay in power and the Bolsheviks weaknesses in understanding, on role of the Party and Nationalism for example, meant that from the early 20s onwards the workers grip on power was weakening dramatically and capitalism restored its control. The revolution had got rid of the Absolutist monarchy and the bourgeoisie, so all that was left to run capitalism was the state apparatus.

As a state, it employed workers and paid wages and owned the means of production and owned the surplus value generated by work done ie capitalist exploitation where capital is owned by the state. The state managed by a planning system, true, which did not function in the same way as a free capital market internally It planned and accounted for its internal production and operated capital markets by barter and exchange rather than financial markets. It operated within the framework of a world market and was dominated by this. It traded with this world market with surpluses and obtained items it could not produce itself.

Key for me is the exploitation of a waged working class. I do not see how this can be labelled as anything other than state capitalism

Spikymike
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Jan 21 2019 16:36

Will just get in here another recommendation for this book that deals with many (though not all) of the related theories of the Soviet Union as capitalist in some form.
https://libcom.org/library/capitalism-class-struggle-ussr-neil-c-fernand...

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Jan 22 2019 15:18
link wrote:
the Bolsheviks weaknesses in understanding, on role of the Party and Nationalism for example, meant that from the early 20s onwards the workers grip on power was weakening dramatically and capitalism restored its control.

Arguably, the examples given by Meerov (or even by Victor Serge in his book that I linked to above; see also the excellent timeline from The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control) show that the workers had lost their grip on power long before that, with antagonisms between the Bolshevik government and the Russian working class already in full force as early as 1918.

link wrote:
The revolution had got rid of the Absolutist monarchy and the bourgeoisie, so all that was left to run capitalism was the state apparatus.

That's one of the problems with the state capitalist theory – if there was capitalism in the USSR, where was the capitalist class, given that the revolution had gotten rid of it?

Did the state apparatus become a new bourgeoisie? That seems unlikely; individual bureaucrats did not own any individual enterprises that they could freely dispose of (e.g., by bequeathing them to their heirs), did not compete with one another for market share, and did not individually benefit from the production of surplus value.

Or maybe the USSR was one huge capital, one huge firm, and the state apparatus simply managed it on behalf of someone else? If so, who was that someone? The NEP-men were the closest Soviet Russia ever came to having real capitalists, but they did not outlive the NEP period. Was it the peasants, who were for the most part violently expropriated as a result of the Bolshevik collectivization policies? Or was it the international bourgeoisie? That too seems unlikely. The very reason why the USSR became a role model for a number of third-world anti-imperialist movements was that by rapidly industrializing and sealing itself off from the world market (though never completely so), it managed to assert itself against the international bourgeoisie, who would have probably much preferred for Russia to be a backwater that could be freely exploited for its markets and resources, as in Czarist times.

Or was the USSR a capitalism without capitalists, where the workers exploited themselves in a system of cooperatives which the state apparatus simply did its best to coordinate (Naville), or where society acted as an "abstract capitalist" (Bordiga, making a somewhat creative use of the Manuscripts of 1844)? As pointed out by van der Linden, that would contradict Marx, who explicitly wrote in the Grundrisse that "[t]he concept of capital contains the capitalist".

link wrote:
Key for me is the exploitation of a waged working class.

That is the key issue, but many have argued that wages, and by extension wage labor, did not play the same role in the USSR as in capitalist societies, and thus were actually nothing of the sort. The wages of Soviet workers were not established by the competition of individual capitals in a free labor market, but rather set by the State. They were not tied to performance, and they were simultaneously unnecessary and insufficient for appropriating consumer goods. Many basic goods and services were provided by the State for free (public healthcare, transport, education) while others were subject to chronic shortages and could not be acquired regardless of how high your wages were. Still others were only available in limited amounts, and their allocation was primarily dictated by non-monetary factors (time spent waiting in line, having the right connections). Again, many of these points have been raised on Libcom before – see this thread in particular.

meerov21
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Jan 21 2019 22:41

1.
AnythingForProximity Meerov, I agree with others that you should contact the Libcom admins and request a blog – it would be a better format for your well-researched essays than a forum post.

Thanks so much. I've tried that before. I wrote to the administrator but have not received any response.

meerov21
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Jan 22 2019 00:55

2.

Me:
"In 1919-1921 workers many times went on strike against the Bolsheviks putting forward political slogans. In the spring of 1919 the Left SRs (they already had an anarcho-syndicalist program (*1)) initiated strikes at the big factories of Petrograd."

AnythingForProximity If the strikers had an explicitly anarchosyndicalist program as early as 1919, that's an important counterpoint to the view expressed by the likes of Victor Serge, who argued in Year One of the Russian Revolution that the Petrograd factory workers striking against the Bolsheviks were the most backward elements of the proletariat, simply because the most conscious and dedicated workers had left the factories for the frontlines of the civil war.

I don't know why Victor Serge became popular in the West. I find this man was largely (though not entirely) a Pro-Bolshevik.

In any case, a lot of new documents and studies have been published today, so such views are simply outdated.

Victor Serge is lying. Already in 1918, workers of the largest factories of Petrograd protested against the Bolsheviks. These workers had a variety of political ideas, from the Menshevist version of social-democracy and parlamentarism to anarcho-syndicalism and the left SR. But All the striking workers demanded free elections to the Soviets!

Also they sometimes demended the elimination of the Cheka, free development of workers ' cooperatives, direct product exchange between the city and the village etc. Some workers were on strike also in 1921 under the slogans of free elections to the Soviets and in defense of Kronstadt.

Moreover: Workers of Petrograd (Leningrad) went on strike and issued the same slogans in February 1927!

If you can read in my (Russian) language, you can read the documents, where it is said about it, in the book. There are alot of documents: Pavlov,D.B. “The workers' opposition movement in Bolshevik Russia. 1918 " http://communism21.org/books/%D0%A0%D0%B0%D0%B1%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B5%D0%B5%...

The fact is that a couple of months after October, the mood of the workers began to turn against the Bolsheviks. And it was happening fast because the economic catastrophe was becoming more and more pronounced.

There was no big civil war at that time. Continuing economic problems of 1917 + mismanagement by the Bolshevik government destroyed the industry.

Also One of the reasons for the paralysis of the economy was the struggle of the government of Lenin with the Association of workers and specialists of Railways (VIKZHEL). This Association demanded the transfer of Railways in the self-management of workers and under the protection of the workers ' militia. The Bolsheviks responded with a split of VIKZHEL and repressions. But this has led to a sharp deterioration of the Railways and to new economic problems.

In the spring-summer of 1918 the workers of the biggest factories began to withdraw deputies-the-Bolsheviks across all the country. In response, the Bolsheviks:

a) prohibited the re-election of some Soviets
b) falsified the elections to the Soviets (like in Petrograd in the spring or summer)
c) dispersed non-Bolshevik Soviets, if the workers still elect them (Samara, Tambov, Izhevsk)
d) dispersed election meetings, strikes and demonstrations of workers (Yaroslavl),
e) has closed the opposition press,
f) made an armed attacks against the opposition groups (anarchists, social revolutionaries-maximalists in Moscow and Samara and Izhevsk)
g) ...or have completely banned the activities of opposition parties (June 14, 1918 Mensheviks and SR were banned).

In General, you probably have a bad idea how much new has become known today due to the publication of new documents... For ex:

The use of chemical weapons in Russia in 1918. Lenin was the Assad of its era.
https://libcom.org/forums/general/use-chemical-weapons-russia-lenin-was-...

meerov21
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Jan 22 2019 00:13

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AnythingForProximity find it surprising that an anarchosyndicalist program should be formed by the Left SRs. Would you happen to have a link to that program (assuming that it was actually written down and printed in some pamphlet or newspaper), or at least to a brief summary of it? On a related note, what was the relationship / programmatic agreement between the left SRs and Russian anarchists before and after October 1917?

The ideas of the left SR until July 6 were a strange mixture of authoritarian and anti-authoritarian socialism. They criticized the Bolsheviks, but at the same time cooperated with them in some areas. For example, they helped Bolshevik operations against anarchists in April 1918 in Moscow.

But then left SR adopted at its fourth Congress (September-October 1918) a radically new program which I would describe as a combination of ideas close to the German-Dutch left Communists and anarcho-syndicalism.

After the defeat in the fight against the Bolsheviks on 6 July left S. R. ceased to be a centralized party, has become (de facto) Federation of Autonomous regional groups and ideological and political factions. The power of the Central Committee of Left SR sharply decreased. In addition, Pro-Bolshevik elements left the party. So to some extent it stops to be a party ))

Finally, the left SR Trutovsky recalled that the workers who remained in the party were opposed to nationalization. In the autumn of 1918 many workers began to see that Bolshevik nationalization led the country to disaster. Workers inside the left CP was supported by the program of "Syndical-Cooperative Federation"

...In Spain Friends of Durruti (revolutionary faction of CNT) advocated the economy is controlled by revolutionary syndicates, local life ruled by Councils of deputies of the Commune and militia were under the control of the Soviets of deputies elected from the fighters ("Huntas").

In Russia there was a revolutionary and to some extent libertarian movement - Party of left socialists - revolutionaries (PLSR), which supported similar ideas in 1918-1923.

a) In the field of politics, the left SR became strong supporters of free Councils. They sharply condemned the opinion of the Bolsheviks about the Soviets. In her letter to the Bolshevik Central Committee, in November 1918, Maria Spiridonova, the leader of the left SR, wrote that the Soviets should be a "living laboratory of the masses", and not an instrument in the hands of the parties. She pointed out that the power should be in the hands of the Soviets and workers ' assambliers of any plant or village have the right to withdraw delegates at any time, she also said that "there is something wrong in the power of any party". So "the party should generate new ideas, and the workers themselves should rule with the help of Councils".

b) As for the economy, the lef SR believed that it should be transferred to the hands of the "Syndical-Cooperative Federation".
They believed the associations of factory committees should create syndicates and take control of the factory. Also consumers should unite in "consumer cooperatives" (At that time about a third of Russian peasants and a part of city inhabitants took part in work of self-governing consumer, trade-and-purchasing, credit and production cooperatives). Then, syndicates and cooperative-unions-of-consumers had to choose special Economic Councils, in order to plan production according to the needs of the working population.

c) One of the leading theorists of the left SR Isaac Steinberg called it a "System of separation of Soviet authorities".
He believed it's not enough to smash the Bolsheviks dictators. Steinberg said: "It is necessary to crush the common fist of the Power of Soviets".
One can argue that Councils is a system of direct democracy, which relies on the Assembly of workers. But there is a problem: the most active people usually come to the Councils as delegates and make operational decisions on their own, while the people's assemblies can not control them all the time.
Steinberg developed the "theory of crystallization". According to this theory, within even the most free society there are pockets of authoritarianism (parent-child relationship, teacher-student, doctor-patient). So there may be authoritarian centres of crystallization and then pyramids of autocracy will start to line up. Therefore, it is necessary to separate the different decision centers make them to control each other ("constant mixing of the liquid to prevent authoritarian crystallization").

P.S. You can read something here https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%82%D0%B8%D1%8F_%D0%B...

meerov21
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Jan 22 2019 03:11

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I would also argue that the revolution of 1917 was a working class revolution where workers took power with the help of the Bolsheviks.

They did not. The working class cannot take power through the party. The party is a centralized bureaucratic system that serves its top management, not the working class. Moreover, the idea of party representation has its roots in exploitative society, with its parliamentary systems, centralized army, police and postal service. The working class, universally organized in the Association of Soviets, can take power. The party, like the centralized Union, is the mortal enemy of the Soviet system. The Bolshevik party, relying on an Alliance with the old tsarist bureaucracy, destroyed the Soviets in 1918 -1921.

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Isolated in one country however it could never stay in power and the Bolsheviks weaknesses in understanding...

The problem with this scheme, which comes from the left Communists, is that it is completely wrong.

There is an interesting paradox for me. I agree in many ways with the supporters of German-Dutch communism of the Soviets in terms of the social revolutionary role of the Soviets in history,

I agree with their criticism of trade unions.

I agree with the criticism of anti-fascism.
https://libcom.org/forums/organise/fascism-anti-fascism-18102018

I certainly agree that the Bolsheviks did not build a socialist society.

But at the same time, the evaluation of Bolshevism on the part of the German-Dutch left communism and bordigism is incorrect. That's not the problem that the Bolsheviks were weak. On the contrary, to my great regret, these bastards were very strong!

In 1918-1921, the Bolsheviks, relying on the old tsarist bureaucracy, and red army, which was ran by the Alliance of new red burocrats ("commissari") and old tsarist officers built a powerful terrorist system of exploitation, which destroyed the workers ' movement.

At the same time, the anti-Bolshevik labor movement in 1918 was huge, furious and comparable in scale with the movement of 1905 and 1917.

Please read above what I wrote in my answer to AnythingForProximity in "N2" about the Bolsheviks ' destruction of Soviet power.

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Jan 22 2019 18:06

I find a major contradiction in AfP and Meerovs views. Ok you are both arguing that the Bolsheviks were the bad guys because they took power away from the working class (and on this latter point I would agree with you) but I am assuming that means you accept that there was a working class revolution to start with.

So, after the revolution, the Bolsheviks took power away from the class. What did they do with it is the question then? There is for me a major differentiation to be made between the Bolsheviks prior to 1917 and the Stalinist regime. Meerov seems to be arguing that they introduced an Asiatic Mode of Production ie Stalin’s regime was a new ruling class that managed to return history to a previous state of being. This was not the dark ages when everything fell apart but a new construct created by Stalinism. How is such a thing possible? I find it problematic that in condemning the Bolsheviks, a so-called marxist Wittfogel is used to justify this theory. Wittfogel didn’t join the CP till the early 20s when you say they were already anti working class and then didn’t stop supporting Stalinism until they allied with Germany for a period prior WW2? He’s no revolutionary marxist and nor was Stalin or his regime. But neither were they representative of a feudal type regime

AfP raises the issue without a private enterprise based ruling class there can be no capitalism but fails to identify what type of system existed. The Bolsheviks are condemned in the 30s and 40s for the way they exercised power, yet apparently they was not the ruling class and were even to be supported because Russia ‘managed to assert itself against the international bourgeoisie’ (AfP Post 7)

Does this not seem like a bunch of major theoretical contradictions to say that the Bolsheviks created a brand new society but they was either no ruling class at that time running things, not even Stalin, or they were a feudal ruling class.

Things get even more complicated later on as capitalism takes over again when ‘the KGB and party bureaucrats privatised and looted the old system and because new old bosses’ (from Meerovs first post on this thread). Somehow then an Asiatic mode of production has been converted into capitalism by members of the Asiatic bureaucracy.

I would put it this way. If the state owns and manages the means of production and exploits the working class then the bureaucracy is either the whole or part of the ruling class. What is the problem with this? The theory of state capitalism makes a far more coherent argument that the ones ive criticised above.

Certainly there is no point in condemning workers at the lower levels of the state as part of the ruling class, but are you really going to keep arguing me that Stalin and the Bolsheviks, Hitler and the Nazis, Churchill, Thatcher, Trump Xi Jinping etc etc are not part of the ruling class. Perhaps this approach is why some anarchist nowadays seem so willing to support Labour Party and CP campaigns cos they don’t see these political parties are part of the ruling class under capitalism. ( Meerov, I know I can exclude you from this criticism thankfully but I hope you can see the logic of the point im making)

meerov21
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Jan 22 2019 20:32

Ok, there are a lot of questions and important comments, thank you. I will try to answer some things today (but not all of them, because there are big questions).

meerov21
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Jan 22 2019 20:46

1.

Wittfogel ... He’s no revolutionary marxist

So what?
I do not quite understand what it matters.

In 1939, Vitfogel was influenced by the news of the Stalinist repressions and the Soviet-German pact so he breaks with the Communists. Later he came to his theories of the Asian mode of production and the hydraulic state. Theories of Witfogel became to some extent the product of his life and disappointment in Bolshevism.

But even if Witfogel for a 100% a bad person, a supporter of all the worst on earth, what's the difference? I'm not saying that he was a good guy or that his political calls were good. I say just that his scientific theories were interesting. He is one of the most famous researchers of Asia, and his scientific doctrine is interesting.

(By the way, Marx relied on the ideas of the millionaire and stock-market player Ricardo, and on the ideas of the Prussian reactionary and nationalist Hegel wink )

link
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Jan 22 2019 21:34

I responded to your use of Wittfogel because you called him a marxist. But he was a stalinist and whether he become critical of USSR or not, he is a bourgeois politician and therefore I do not trust him to make a clear class analysis of the situation. I think it is important to use genuine revolutionaries to help our analyses and not rely on leftist bourgeois ideas from stalinism or social democracy or trotskyist ideologues. This is why I took up this point although yes I would use them for more empirical facts. I look forward to your responses to my other arguments.

meerov21
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Jan 22 2019 21:36

2. "Commissarocracy"

Link :
I find a major contradiction in AfP and Meerovs views. Ok you are both arguing that the Bolsheviks were the bad guys because they took power away from the working class (and on this latter point I would agree with you) but I am assuming that means you accept that there was a working class revolution to start with.
So, after the revolution, the Bolsheviks took power away from the class. What did they do with it is the question then? There is for me a major differentiation to be made between the Bolsheviks prior to 1917 and the Stalinist regime.
Meerov seems to be arguing that they introduced an Asiatic Mode of Production ie Stalin’s regime was a new ruling class that managed to return history to a previous state of being. This was not the dark ages when everything fell apart but a new construct created by Stalinism. How is such a thing possible?

The Russian revolution began in February-March 1917. The first Soviets were created by workers of large factories in the same time as the Provisional Government.

At the same time, various forms of self-organization of workers and communitarian peasantry developed throughout the country (village councils, factory committees, house committees, soldier committees, cooperatives, workers' unions, engineers, teachers).

In October 1917, the Bolshevik party was able to win over most of the workers and soldiers who were dissatisfied with the economic difficulties and the continuation of the imperialist war. Relying on this part of the working class and the soldiers, the Bolsheviks were able to initiate a series of uprisings, shift the Provisional government and create their own government.

Although officially this movement in October-November 1917 took place under the slogan "All power to the Soviets", in practice, already in December, the influence of the Bolshevik central government began to grow (Council of People's Commissars - "Sovnarkom"). It dismisses the revolutionary armed detachments and creates centralized ministries and power structures, which are subordinate directly to the new government and to the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks: the Cheka, then the Red Army and GLAVKi (ministries). In all these structures, former tsarist officials and officers are absolutely dominant (with the exception of the Cheka).The Bolsheviks ruled the new-old departments only with the help of small cells (party groups), which they were able to introduce into the tsarist ministries, and these party cells were subordinate to the Central Committee. An alliance appears between the old tsarist bureaucracy and the new red bureaucracy. In 1918-1921, this alliance destroyed the Soviets (leaving only a shell from them) creates a totalitarian bureaucraсy, destroys elections, bans any criticism and opposition to the party, nationalizes all industry and introduces a serf system (workers of Petrograd in 1921 organize strikes demanding "detach them with their wives and children from the factories " - to give tham wrights change the work of their own will - Read the collection of documents "St. Petersburg Workers and Dictatorship of the Proletariat" of St. Petersburg 2000. ).

The councils of workers' deputies were, as the leader of the left SR Maria Spiridonova wrote, a gigantic "laboratory", where the workers ’ assamblears could choose certain people, individuals, parties and groups, and change them at any time.

The alliance of the tsarist bureaucracy and the Bolshevik bureaucracy destroy this laboratory in 1918, after workers outraged by the economic crisis began to recall the Bolshevik deputies.

It was Lenin who created the total system of state exploitation and a serf system that oppressed the workers.

Of course it was the Asian system, because the workers in 1919 - 1921 became slaves or serfs attached to factories, having ceased to be hired workers. True, after riots and strikes, slavery was weakened in 1922. Stalin again introduced these measures against the workers in 1940.

This system exacerbated certain features of the royal autocracy (samoderjavie). The revolutionary workers called it at that time the "Commissarocracy" (komissaroderjavie).

I do not know why you are paying so much attention to Stalin here. The name of the main counter-revolutionary in Russia, who created a new\old system of exploitation - Vladimir Lenin.

Tomorrow I will try to answer questions about the Asian mode of production.

meerov21
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Jan 22 2019 21:51

I responded to your use of Wittfogel because you called him a marxist. But he was a stalinist and whether he become critical of USSR or not, he is a bourgeois politician and therefore I do not trust him to make a clear class analysis of the situation. I think it is important to use genuine revolutionaries to help our analyses and not rely on leftist bourgeois ideas from stalinism or social democracy or trotskyist ideologues. This is why I took up this point although yes I would use them for more empirical facts. I look forward to your responses to my other arguments.

I do not think that Vitfogel remained Stalinist, officially he was against the USSR and Stalin. And I separate scientific knowledge and analysis from moral and political ideas. The scientist's assessments and analysis can be deep, while his political views are terrifying.

Many people are too dependent on passions and personal experience and some psychological transference when it comes to some personalities, and in this they can be less interesting and objective as in the science. I'm afraid Sigmund Freud and his like-minded people also influenced me here;)

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Jan 22 2019 22:09

Hey I really like your article and also agree with everyone it would be cool to see some of your articles on the frontpage.

meerov21 wrote:
The historian Dmitry Churakov compares the scale of the workers' protests against Lenin in 1918 with the Russian revolution of 1905 and 1917!

I tried to look Dmitry Churakov up but I can't find anything in English. Do you feel he has any other useful insights? It's both inspiring and disheartening to learn that the scale of the opposition to the Bolsheviks compared to that of the Revolution itself because it means that the masses were doing everything right but still were unable to stop what was happening.

meerov21 wrote:
Also the state provided a good social protection for the russian workers and building social housing for them in 1956 -1986.

Raya Dunayevskaya thought that Kruschev was going to be similarly brutal as Stalin was, but that uprisings in places like Hungary as well as resistance by soviet workers led to the state backing down on some of these things. Do you feel like this is a fair assessment?

meerov21 wrote:
It is one of the main paradoxes of the Leninist countries: their population is more individualistic than the population of the West.

How do you feel like this has changed since the fall of the USSR? Do you think the increase in "individualism" was positive in some ways or was it mostly just that people felt alienated and isolated from one another?

meerov21 wrote:
But In general, the working class of Russia was not ready for a big fight. In 1989-1991 hundreds of thousands of miners went on strike. In the 1990s a wave of privatizations began and then 50% of the industry was destroyed. But the working class which had lost the traditions of the struggle could not offer decent resistance to this.

Do you feel like the fall of the USSR was something that was taken away from the masses, the same way the Russian Revolution was?

meerov21 wrote:
1) How a society based on self-government labor groups would look like? Perhaps the answer to this question is the Kronstadt republic. Libertarian socialists and anarchists are well informed about the uprising in Kronstadt in 1921. But only few know about non-authoritarian (libertarian) experience of Kronstadt in 1918. In 1918, the vast majority of the council of Kronstadt belonged to anti-authoritarian (libertarian) socialist currents, Left SRs and SR Maximalists. Radicals (with the strong support of the majority of workers and sailors of the city) started reforms. Delegate from Kronstdat Lefts SRs A. Brushvit on the 2nd Congress of his Party spoke about how these reforms were going. https://libcom.org/forums/history/practice-anti-authoritarian-socialism-...

Do you think it could have been possible that had it not been crushed sooner Russia would have looked a lot more like Anarchist Catalonia? I feel like some of the demands of Kronstadt Uprising mirror a lot of the ways Anarchist Catalonia was run (ie. Abolition of wage-slavery, equalization of rations, allowing farmers to either join collectives or farm individually so long as they didn't exploit labour, etc.)

There's another article I read on here (https://libcom.org/library/soviets-factory-committees-russian-revolution... ) which talks about how during this period there was some roadbumps in trying to coordinate supplies and stuff, and that factories were still in competition with one another. Do you feel like given enough time they would have begun engaging in mutual aid and some form of organized communist production?

meerov21 wrote:
>2) According to modern studies of economists, prepared by a group of one of the leading Russian and European economists Sergei Guriev, the economic system of the USSR in 1928-1940 did not exceed the tsarist system. The Tsar's trend can gave about the same results as Stalin's one. On the other hand, the Bolshevik system had much more victims.

What do you think could have been done to fix the high level of violence and low productivity?

I've tried reading a bit about the USSR's economy and a lot of the decisions they made don't make sense to me. For example Alec Nove talks about how at one point the price of means of production was set way above the actual demand for them while the price of lumber was artificially lowered to below the actual cost it took to produce it.

I wish I knew what the planners were thinking because there seems to be a lot of cases like this where there was some level of disregard for trying to have supply meet demand. It almost seems like they had this pointless bureaucracy that mediated things that would have happened automatically within a market, where where prices tend to go up and down relative to supply and demand. I don't know if it was because the system was just too centralized or something.

link wrote:
Ugg started one of the other threads by identifying Russia as state capitalism which appears to have generated a discussion about what else Russia could have been. In spite of Meerov’s personal knowledge I would agree with Ugg .

I wish there was a term I could use that could encompass both the state capitalist interpretation as well as others. Even though I tend to agree with the state-capitalist theory what's most important to me is that it was a hierarchal, exploitative system where workers were compelled to minimize costs and maximize production.

meerov21
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Jan 22 2019 23:44

Thank you, Ugg, English is not my native language and it is difficult for me to write on it. I will try to briefly answer only a few questions. Later I will try to answer the others.

meerov21
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Jan 23 2019 00:19

Ugg,
Do you feel he has any other useful insights? It's both inspiring and disheartening to learn that the scale of the opposition to the Bolsheviks compared to that of the Revolution itself because it means that the masses were doing everything right but still were unable to stop what was happening.

Not certainly in that way. When in 1918 a gigantic wave of indignation of workers rose up against the Bolsheviks, when the workers began to form an alternative system of Soviets ("Assemblies of commissioner factories and plants"), many Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries and others decided that this wave would soon wash away the Bolsheviks. However, they did not take into account several factors.

1) Unemployment and non-payment of wages drove workers out of the revolutionary industrial centers, Moscow and Petrograd. People moved to the village or wandered around the country in search of work. By the summer of 1918, the number of the working class in Petrograd had fallen by from 400 to 200 thousand. This led to the erosion of labor collectives where anti-Bolshevik ideological-political crystallization began.

2) The working masses were weakened by hunger in 1918. Many did not have enough food. People just lost physical strength and fell ill with various diseases.

3) Burnout syndrome. The workers were shocked by the failure of two love stories. In March 1917, they fell in love with the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries, in September-October 1917, the workers fell in love with the Bolsheviks and brought them to power during the uprising. The disappointment was terrible. This led many workers to apathy.

4) Conflict within the working class. The movement against the Bolsheviks in 1918 was grouped around the working intelligentsia of the factory, which realized (to some extent) their group corporate interests. "Assemblies of commissioner factories and plants" depended on the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, but overwhelmingly said that the workers should no longer follow the parties, that the workers should not be the tools of the Bolsheviks or the Mensheviks, but should defend their class interests. I think that the German-Dutch Communists of the Soviets would greatly appreciate this. But some workers did not like the working intelligentsia, which created the core of the protest movement.

5) In addition, it is possible that the confrontation with the white armies in 1919-1920 inspired some workers during this period that the Bolsheviks are the lesser evil. But this factor does not explain the defeat of the working class in 1918 and in 1921.

But the main reason for the defeat of the anti-Bolshevik labor movement of 1918-1921 was that the working class was weakened and scattered around the country due to a combination of unemployment and hunger.

Link and AnythingForProximity i I also comment here on your discussion on the confrontation of the working class and Bolshevism.

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Jan 23 2019 16:06
link wrote:
Meerov seems to be arguing that they introduced an Asiatic Mode of Production ie Stalin’s regime was a new ruling class that managed to return history to a previous state of being.

No, that's incorrect in more than one way. First, even those who identified the USSR as a form of the Asiatic mode of production did not claim that this social formation was introduced into Russia by the Bolsheviks. Wittfogel, for example, believed that Russia became "Asiatic" as a result of the Mongolian invasions, and after a brief window of opportunity for transitioning to capitalism that was opened by the February revolution, relapsed into it, though on a higher, industrialized level. Other theoreticians, like Zimin, simply pointed out what they perceived to be analogies between the USSR and the Asiatic MoP, without going so far as to say that the former was a type of the latter.

Second, no one is suggesting that Stalin somehow turned back the clock of history and replaced capitalism with the Asiatic MoP. (Here I'm going to disagree with Meerov and say that even if that was what happened, it still wouldn't be appropriate to talk of "regress", since the Asiatic MoP is supposed to belong to an entirely different road of history than capitalism – that's what makes the whole notion so controversial for Marxists.) The same authors who noticed similarities between the USSR and the Asiatic MoP would also deny that pre-1917 Russia had been capitalist. Bahro, who was mentioned by Meerov, came closest to what you're implying – he considered Czarist Russia to be a primarily Asiatic society with relatively unimportant feudal and capitalist outgrowths, both of which were destroyed when the Bolsheviks expropriated the capitalists and the big landowners. However, Bahro still viewed the Bolshevik dictatorship as essentially progressive in light of the rapid industrialization it had achieved, even if he didn't think that this industrialization had changed the underlying social structure.

link wrote:
I find it problematic that in condemning the Bolsheviks, a so-called marxist Wittfogel is used to justify this theory.

I'm with Meerov on this, and don't find it problematic. People with shitty politics are occasionally capable of astute insights, just as it is possible for people with sound politics to commit serious analytical blunders.

link wrote:
AfP raises the issue without a private enterprise based ruling class there can be no capitalism but fails to identify what type of system existed.

True, and it would be surprising if I didn't. I mean, Marxists and revolutionaries everywhere have been debating this for over a hundred years, and you expect me to provide a definitive answer in a forum post?

link wrote:
yet apparently they was not the ruling class

That's your claim (I only argued that they were not bourgeois), but yeah, there are problems with saying that they were. First, if we are aiming for a Marxist analysis, a class must be defined by its relationship to the means of production, and it's not immediately obvious that the Soviet bureaucracy satisfied that criterion. Overseers, managers and bureaucrats have been a constant feature of all class societies – slavery, feudalism, capitalism – but in none of them did they constitute a distinct class of their own, so it's unclear why the USSR should have been different in this respect. Again, saying that the Bolsheviks were not a class as such, just the representatives of one, gets around this issue but introduces others. Second, as pointed out by van der Linden, if the Soviet bureaucracy was a class, then it was a class that only constituted itself after it came to power – which flies in the face of not just Marxism but basic logic.

link wrote:
I would put it this way. If the state owns and manages the means of production and exploits the working class then the bureaucracy is either the whole or part of the ruling class. What is the problem with this?

There's a whole bunch of them. Your reasoning is circular, since by using categories like "exploitation" and "working class", you're presupposing what you're trying to prove. Moreover, even if you showed that the Soviet bureaucracy constituted a ruling class, that would not be enough to prove that the USSR was capitalist; ruling classes that appropriated the social surplus product for themselves also existed in pre-capitalist modes of production. If you are going to simultaneously maintain that (1) the USSR was capitalist and that (2) the bureaucracy was the ruling class there, you have to prove that the bureaucracy turned into a new bourgeoisie. You haven't even come close to doing that.

link wrote:
But neither were they representative of a feudal type regime

link wrote:
or they were a feudal ruling class.

Again, the whole controversy about the Asiatic MoP consists in the fact that it is supposed to be fundamentally different from feudalism. Noticing similarities between the political economy of the USSR and the Asiatic MoP has even less to do with feudalism.

link wrote:
were even to be supported because Russia ‘managed to assert itself against the international bourgeoisie’ (AfP Post 7)

No, that's your inference and it's totally wrong; don't ascribe it to me. The phrase was simply meant to indicate that while the Bolsheviks' ascent to power was not the preferred outcome from the viewpoint of the international bourgeoisie (otherwise 13 different countries would not have invaded Russia to aid the Whites), it came to pass anyway; the invading armies were ultimately defeated. I could just as well say that the US asserted itself against the international bourgeoisie by electing Trump and then starting a global trade war under his leadership; that was not the international bourgeoisie's preferred turn of events, either, and yet it happened anyway. Doesn't mean you'll see me wearing a MAGA hat.

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Jan 23 2019 03:28

Meerov, what admin did you message? I know they’ve been a bit slow on the uptake lately as a friend had to put in a message to a few different ones before eventually getting a response.

meerov21
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Jan 23 2019 13:23

I do not remember ... And to whom should I send, to what address?

meerov21
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Jan 23 2019 13:52

That's your claim (I only argued that they were not bourgeois), but yeah, there are problems with saying that they were. First, if we are aiming for a Marxist analysis, a class must be defined by its relationship to the means of production, and it's not immediately obvious that the Soviet bureaucracy satisfied that criterion. Overseers, managers and bureaucrats have been a constant feature of all class societies – slavery, feudalism, capitalism – but in none of them did they constitute a distinct class of their own, so it's unclear why the USSR should have been different in this respect. Again, saying that the Bolsheviks were not a class as such, just the representatives of one, gets around this issue but introduces others. Second, as pointed out by van der Linden, if the Soviet bureaucracy was a class, then it was a class that only constituted itself after it came to power – which flies in the face of not just Marxism but basic logic.

1. I do not think that there is a big difference between ownership and control. An American researcher, economist John Gilbraith showed that managers, at least the top management of large corporations, are part of the social stratum that owns property.
I add that the Top management makes decisions about investments, manages the labor process, decides on the issue of dismissals and hiring, and the salaries of top management are comparable to the income of large businesses and can be tens of millions of dollars. I do not think that it is correct to absolutize nominal (formal) ownership of property. For ex. formally, according to the USSR constitution, the property was owned by the people of the USSR, and in fact, it was owned by the Pirdamid of officials, above all, its elite, who possessed gigantic power over production and people.

2. The bureaucracy of the USSR was originally a product of the merger of the Bolshevik leaders and their party factions with a huge layer of tsarist officials. Although officially this movement in October-November 1917 took place under the slogan "All power to the Soviets", in practice, already in December, the influence of the Bolshevik central government began to grow (Council of People's Commissars - "Sovnarkom"). It dismisses the revolutionary armed detachments and creates centralized ministries and power structures, which are subordinate directly to the new government and to the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks: the Cheka, then the Red Army and GLAVKi (ministries). In all these structures, former tsarist officials and officers are absolutely dominant (with the exception of the Cheka).The Bolsheviks ruled the new-old departments only with the help of small cells (party groups), which they were able to introduce into the tsarist ministries, and these party cells were subordinate to the Central Committee. An alliance appears between the old tsarist bureaucracy and the new red bureaucracy. In 1918-1921, this alliance destroyed the Soviets (leaving only a shell from them) creates a totalitarian bureaucraсy, destroys elections, bans any criticism and opposition to the party, nationalizes all industry and introduces a serf system (workers of Petrograd in 1921 organize strikes demanding "detach them with their wives and children from the factories " - to give tham wrights change the work of their own will - Read the collection of documents "St. Petersburg Workers and Dictatorship of the Proletariat" of St. Petersburg 2000. ).

3. During Stalin's time, the royal bureaucracy and the part of the old lenin's bureaucracy was largely destroyed and replaced by new bureaucrats loyal to Stalin.

meerov21
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Jan 23 2019 13:50

Link:
Things get even more complicated later on as capitalism takes over again when ‘the KGB and party bureaucrats privatised and looted the old system and because new old bosses’ (from Meerovs first post on this thread). Somehow then an Asiatic mode of production has been converted into capitalism by members of the Asiatic bureaucracy.
I would put it this way. If the state owns and manages the means of production and exploits the working class then the bureaucracy is either the whole or part of the ruling class. What is the problem with this?

The process of the collapse of the USSR was connected with the fact that the numerous middle layers of bureaucracy, primarily the leadership of individual economic departments and the leadership of the Republics that were part of the USSR, refused to obey the top management (the Central Committee of the Party and the Political Bureau). You must understand that the Central Committee was the true master of the country, to the extent that within the Central Committee there were departments that duplicated the work of all the ministries and economic departments! Local party and state-economic leaders left the subordination of top management (Central Committee and Political Bureau), were able to divide USSR into separate states and privatize part of the economies of these new countries. Then they became independent politicians and businessmen and enrich themselves uncontrollably.

meerov21
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Jan 23 2019 18:58

Noah Fence
Meerov, what admin did you message? I know they’ve been a bit slow on the uptake lately as a friend had to put in a message to a few different ones before eventually getting a response.

This one https://libcom.org/user/1
Todey i have done it second time!

meerov21
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Jan 23 2019 19:21

AnythingForProximity
There's a whole bunch of them. Your reasoning is circular, since by using categories like "exploitation" and "working class", you're presupposing what you're trying to prove. Moreover, even if you showed that the Soviet bureaucracy constituted a ruling class, that would not be enough to prove that the USSR was capitalist; ruling classes that appropriated the social surplus product for themselves also existed in pre-capitalist modes of production. If you are going to simultaneously maintain that (1) the USSR was capitalist and that (2) the bureaucracy was the ruling class there, you have to prove that the bureaucracy turned into a new bourgeoisie.

Very accurate! The bureaucracy in the USSR was the ruling class. I agree with that. But exploitation exists not only under capitalism. The bureaucracy appropriated the products of labor and acted as the force that controlled the process of labor and the distribution of products. However, we can find these characteristics in pre-capitalist exploitative systems, primarily in countries with the Asian mode of production. It was there, in contrast to the ancient or feudal society, that the state led the labor process, speaking in the role of manager and engineer. At the same time, the state appropriated the results of labor and actively controlled the distribution.

First, even if we assume that capitalism in 1917 was a world system, this does not mean that all regions of the world lived under capitalism. 90% of the population of Russia, communal peasants lived in an archaic community that had an ancient pre-capitalist origin, and their economy was partly (but not completely) natural. On the other hand, the Russian state was the leading force and engine of the economy, which owned huge statу enterprises.

Incidentally, Karl Marx, in his preface to the Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto, allowed the possibility of a direct transition from the Russian community to communism, without going through capitalism. Anarchists and Socialist Revolutionaries thought about the same, although they understood communism or socialism differently than Marx.

Why, then, cannot it be assumed that Russia could develop alternatively, creating a different non-capitalist system based on the exploitation of slave workers? ?

The second. The society in which I was born and lived in the USSR had nothing to do with capitalism. Capitalism is based on three principles - private property (initiative), market relations and hired labor. None of this was in my country.

A private initiative was pursued by the police. State-owned enterprises were not private, they never went bankrupt, because they received subsidies from the treasury and their superiors lived in freebies, blocking the introduction of new technologies. On the other hand, state-owned enterprises could produce an inconceivable amount of defective products, because they did not sell their goods, but transferred them to other state-owned companies or retail chains there and then the state ordered it at prices which established by the state also.

Market relations were poorly developed, and the state led the production, making plans for the whole country, and centrally distributed the produced things.

I am not sure that the workers in a Bolshevik country can be considered "hired". Workers were attached to factory in 1919-1921 and 1940-1956 and did not have the right to change jobs (this is more than a quarter of the total time of the Bolshevik Russia). There was a registration, people were attached to their cities and housing and could not just get housing and work in another city throughout almost the entire history of the USSR. The state forcibly sent students to different jobs after graduation from universities. The state provided a different level of food supply for workers depending on their place of residence. For example, Moscow was supplied better than most regions of Russia. Etc.

link
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Jan 23 2019 20:53

I wrote this contribution to supplement my previous comments thinking it to be relevant to the discussion. I still think it is but it does not include direct responses to the last posts from AfP and Meerov. I will come back to specific points shortly and looks like I should try to find time to read up on asiatic MoP too!.

I would like to say that I have always believed that one of the most important ideas that Marx presented is his view of history and how it develops. His Materialist Conception of History is an absolutely basic tool to a clear understanding how society has developed over the ages and is very relevant to this discussion about the USSR.

It categorises society by the economic relations of production and recognises that social classes perform differing roles within those relationships. The ruling class in each society generates and represents the ruling ideology that supports those relationships. Both he and Engels wrote about how societies in history had developed progressively after one another and only came into being because each new society provided more efficient means of production

The basic framework they set up was the progression from simple communism to feudalism to capitalism (with some discussion about Asiatic mode I know but never developed so I still see this as a form of feudalism) and each being represented by a new class that developed within the old society that became the ruling class in the new.. However they saw capitalism as the culmination of this process, ie a very dynamic mode of production that generates no new ruling class and therefore they suggested it cannot be superseded by a new exploitative society. Only the working class exists in opposition to capitalism and it can only get rid of capitalism when it understanding what it is fighting and what it is fighting for.

They saw capitalism in the process of completing a world market in the latter part of the 19th century and hence establishing a world wide domination of society.

Im was trying to keep this brief but feel im gtting long winded now!! Anyway the point I want to make is that capitalism dominated then and still does today. Certainly different histories in different nations lead to different stuctures of types of regimes (and isolated tribal communities and so forth still exist) but capitalism still dominates the world market and each nation within that. The nation state is the basic building block for capitalism and it dominates the world today. Each nation state may vary in exactly how it is constructed and the type of regime that exists but they are all capitalist. So the Russian revolution never created socialism and never got rid of the domination by world capitalism (it just created the possibility of doing so but failed) and it was inevitable as the Bolshevik party took power away from the soviets and the bureaucracy came to dominate that it fitted back into world capitalism even if it followed a somewhat autarkic policy vis a vis that world market.

So on the question of the role of a bureaucrary and the complicating factors regarding Russia (and other individual countries), here is Engels simplifying the issue in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific:

But, the transformation — either into joint-stock companies and trusts, or into State-ownership — does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies and trusts, this is obvious. And the modern State, again, is only the organization that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine — the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers — proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is, rather, brought to a head.

link
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Jan 23 2019 22:45

Meerov, 1 would like to respond to some points raised in your post 28

I agree that there was a significant portion of the Russian population involved in feudal or semi feudal economies in the early part of the 19th C but there was as you say also a large and well developed industrial economy run the Russian state. Because it was peculiar and not standard practice for capitalist economies, it gets called an absolutist regime, but that does not deflect from the idea that it was a significant capitalist economy., one of the largest in the world at that time. So despite the population difference, the power that ran Russia came with the industrial economy. Equally we can look at China, India, Africa, Middle East and say that there were and have been significant feudal and semi feudal communities with them at that time and to some extent in recent years – I think peasant economies have become more and more dependant on markets for purchases and sales of surpluses rather than being genuinely feudal though. The situation does not mean that capitalism was not dominant across the world because it held the economic power and it had established political control by having created nation states throughout the world.

The second half of your contribution starts with your point that ‘Capitalism is based on three principles - private property (initiative), market relations and hired labor. None of this was in my country. “

I obviously cannot match your detailed knowledge of Russia so perhaps I can point out some of the realities of western countries because they do not either match your idealised characteristics of capitalism.

IN the 1930s, economic crisis dominated the world and nations generally followed autarkic policies which restricted the world market and international trade, industries were limited in production and unemployment grew massively. Countries used forms of forced employment for these unemployed getting them to working in social projects . Hitler famously used unemployed to build motorways and generate industrial growth during this period. War economies (forced labour and state planning) became the norm for most countries.

Just as you say happened in Russia, during the period form the late 30s to early 50s, forced labour became the norm in the western war economies, restriction were placed on moving jobs and wages and rationing existed for many years after the war.

Following the war, the USA came to dominate the western economies and enforced the opening of markets to trade (to buy American goods of course) and countries followed a deliberate policies of nationalisation and a demand managements to control and redevelop industries. Significant portions of the western economies were run by the state in this period (eg 40-50% of a national economy in the UK was dependant on the state) . In the course of this and the controls established by the welfare state apparatus, the state bureaucracies in west countries grew enormously.
Its only from the 80x onwards that government started to recognise how inefficient nationalist industries were (with all the same problems you mention in Russia) and began a process of denationalisation and deregulation that enabled firms and industries to function better on world market. This is pretty much the same influences that led to the collapse of the old USSR nations at the end of the 80s.

For all these reasons all countries are now state capitalist regimes with massive bureaucracies that establish a highly developed set of rules and regulations on society as a whole.! No country now has a system that is run by private enterprise with little or no state apparatus such as existed in the 19th Century

Lastly wages. In Britain, wages were highly bureaucratised and controlled by the TUs and government in the 50 and 60s. This has become freer in recent years being more individually negotiation in the skilled professions but this has just led to spiralling wages for senior management who can now earn enormous amounts relative to the lowest paid workers in a firm. Wage restraints for the masses are still set in place by the government and have remained in place throughout this whole period and ensured that poverty is increasing and wages level for the workers stay low.

One particular feature of the western system that I know did not exist in the Eastern bloc to anything like the same level is household debt (savings levels in the USSR were far higher than in the west). I recognise that as a dictatorial regimes, eastern bloc countries had control on workers that did not exist here, but household debt has been increasing enormously during the period since WW2 and I believe it to be one of the major factors that have prevented workers from fighting back against the conditions they face here. I understand that household debt is now the equivalent of one year's GDP which is a massive constraint on workers.

I hope this comparison is useful because it seems to me there is less difference between the way the west functions and the way the USSR functioned than you suggest and your 3 characteristics of capitalism may well have been accurate for the 19th Century and earlier when capitalism was in its early phases and supplanting feudal economies but things are just anyway near a simple as that in the age of state capitalism.

meerov21
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Jan 24 2019 01:20

First of all, I would like to thank all the participants in the discussion. I am very happy to see such a discussion in this forum. I believe that such discussions are necessary on all important issues of the past, present and future, from the Russian or Spanish revolution to modern Yellow vests in France. This is a real debate, not the argument that one of the participants was politically incorrect. wink

meerov21
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Jan 24 2019 01:46

1

Link, I see no reason why I should follow Marx's logic entirely. I don't think that's the Bible. However, I don't think Marx is as straightforward as you draw it.

Marx saw the majority of the Russian population (about 60-70%) lives in non-capitalist communes with public ownership of land and semi-subsistence farming. And he allowed with many reservations the possibility of a direct transition from the world of these communes to socialism, without capitalism.

Many Russian socialists, such as anarchists and socialists-revolutionaryies, thought the same. Their economists argued in the early 20th century that 100 million Russian peasants had not yet become capitalists or wage labourers, but lived in communities of producers linked by collective ownership of land and semi-subsistence farming (semi-natural economy). Russian economist Chayanov wrote that the Russian community has not yet become capitalist. Moreover, the state imposed huge taxes on this community, sucking out of it the means for industrialization (which was carried out through the development of not only private but also public industry).

Moreover. Today we know that during the civil war of 1918-1921 there was a sharp transition of the community to subsistence farming, as the market was destroyed. Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of the CheKa and, at the same time, the VSNH (the main Directorate, which led the economy of the USSR), wrote that by 1921 the Russian community had become a group of equal people, and class differences were "leveled" there.

Yes, there was a large industry in Tsarist Russia. But you have to remember that part of this industry was statist and that the working class was no more than 3-4% of the population (peasants were about 80-90%).

And that's what I'm saying. Even if Marx believed that Russia could develop non-linearly from the community directly to communism, why can't we assume the possibility of Russia's transition in the 20th century to a non-capitalist system of exploitation, many features of which it possessed before the revolution? Moreover, the new ruling class of the USSR was originally a mixture of tsarist officials and Bolshevik party members.