The prevailing view holds that communism is in principle a doctrine elaborated in the 19th century by the famous Siamese twins named Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and that this doctrine would be perfected a little later by the founder of the Bolshevik State, Lenin. It would be applied with more or less nastiness in a certain number of countries: the USSR, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba…. In this context people debate whether Yugoslavia or Algeria are socialist, capitalist, or mixed regimes. The reader will forgive us if we do not sing the praises of the benefits of such socialism or communism. We will not confuse apples with oranges, the grey monotony of the countries of the East or the personality cult of China with humanity’s radiant future.
• The Corkscrews
Communism was not founded by Marx, or by Engels, or by the Pharaoh Ramses II. There might be a brilliant inventor behind the origin of the corkscrew or gunpowder or Valencian paella. There is no such inventor at the origin of communism, nor is there one at the beginning of capitalism, either. Social movements are not the affair of brilliant inventors.
After Marx, Engels synthesized a movement that had become conscious of its existence. They never claimed to have invented either the reality or the word. They wrote little about communist society. They helped the Movement and communist theory to dispel the fog of religion, rationalism and utopianism. They encouraged the proletariat not to rely on the plans of reformers or prophets.
Real revolutionaries do not fetishize the ideas of Marx and Engels. They know that they are the fruit of a particular era and that they have their limitations. Both men underwent development and sometimes clashed. One can find “anything” in the works of Marx. It is necessary to exercise discrimination!
We do not claim to be Marxists. But we deny to those who do claim to be Marxists the right to appropriate and falsify the thought of their heroes.
The proof that great men are powerless in the face of historical movements is provided for us by the shameful way that the work of Marx and Engels was distorted in order to be used against communism.
Some individuals are more gifted and perceptive than the mass of their contemporaries. Class society cultivates these differences. Their impact is felt within the communist movement. We are not talking about whether the leaders or the people make history. We are saying that the work of Marx, like that of Fourier, Bordiga or any other spokesperson for communism, transcends the simple point of view of the individual. Communism does not deny differences in ability, it does not reduce its theoreticians to playing the role of simple amplifiers of the will of the masses but to the contrary is the bitter enemy of careerism, the Führer principal and celebrity worship.
Communism is neither an ideology nor a doctrine. Just as there are communist actions there are also communist words, texts, and a communist theory, but action is not the application of an idea. Theory is not the pre-established battle plan or social blueprint that can be most effectively translated into reality. Communism is not an ideal.
The countries that proclaim their adherence to Marxism-Leninism are not just places where the principles of communism have been misapplied for one reason or another. These countries are capitalist countries. Their regimes display some anomalous characteristics but they are just as capitalist as any liberal regime. It could be argued that a country like Poland or East Germany is much more capitalist than many underdeveloped countries in the “free world”. In these countries “communists” are fighting against certain spontaneous tendencies of capital. This is being done for the good of capitalism’s general development and is by no means peculiar.
Mandatory planning, collective ownership of the means of production, proletarian ideology … none of this has anything communist about it. These are aspects of capitalism that have been accentuated in these countries. All the basic characteristics of the system and of the logic of capital accumulation (re-baptized as “socialist accumulation”) are ideally suited for such a regime.
• The Capitalist Mode of Production
To see socialism or communism in the Marxist-Leninist regimes is to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the reality of these regimes, and above all it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the nature of capitalism.
This shows that one thinks that capitalism is based upon the power of a particular class (the bourgeoisie), private property in the means of production, and the unbridled quest for profit. None of these features are fundamental.
The bourgeoisie is the heir of the old mercantile class. After having spent many years consolidating an important but strictly delimited position within agrarian societies, the commercial bourgeoisie began, over the course of the Middle Ages in Europe, to no longer control just commodities but also the instruments of production. Among the latter was human labour power, which it transformed, via wage labour, into a commodity. This was the origin of capitalism.
The bourgeoisie was in power from the moment that it became the ruling class thanks to the power of the economic and industrial forces it controlled which rendered the old forms of production obsolete. But the bourgeoisie can only submit to the laws of its economy. As the owner of capital, it must obey this force that drags it along, deranges it and sometimes drives it to bankruptcy.
The individual or the separate enterprise has some room for manoeuvre, but neither can swim against the current for very long.
No historical class has ever been able to satisfy all of its whims by using the power it ostensibly wielded. Even the worst tyrants could only remain in power by acknowledging the strict limits of their real sovereignty. It is a mistake to seek to explain social phenomena in terms of power. Such an explanation is even less applicable to the capitalist system than to its predecessors.
The class of those who direct the course of capital has been subject to constant permutations by the action of capital itself. What do the rich merchant of the Middle Ages and the modern CEO have in common? Their motivations and their tastes are different. This divergence is necessary so that they can perform the same function in two different moments of capitalist development. The class of feudal lords was distinguished by tradition and inheritance. This was no longer the case for a bourgeoisie whose fortunes could rise and fall by virtue of business success, marriage connections and bankruptcy.
The relations that unite master and slave, lord and serf, are personal relations. Now, however, instead of being bound to one boss the modern proletarian is bound to the system. The chains that bind him are not those of a personal alliance or a particular contract, but those of a direct need to survive, the dictatorship of his own needs. The proletarian, uprooted from his ancestral land on his lord’s manorial domain, and separated from the means of production, has no other choice than to prostitute himself. He is free, marvellously free. He can even, should this arouse his enthusiasm, refuse to sell his labour power and starve to death.
A bourgeois or politician could fail as an individual. In Russia and China an entire section of the international bourgeois class was left in the lurch. It was replaced by a bureaucracy. This bureaucracy is not a radically different class with respect to its predecessor! A “communist” banker or industrial director bears more of a resemblance to his capitalist enemy than the latter does to his counterpart from only fifty years ago, not to mention the 15th or the 18th centuries.
If capitalism, whether of the western or eastern variety, cannot be explained by the power of the bourgeoisie, it is even less possible to explain communism by the power of the proletariat. The advent of communism means the self-destruction of the proletariat.
• Private Property
Private property in the means of production is not a constitutive feature of the capitalist mode of production. It pertains only to the juridical sphere. It subsists in the East in the form of the lands owned by individual peasants. In the West it is being progressively diminished by the encroachments of public ownership.
The State often owns large industrial complexes. Although nationalized, the postal services and the railroads have not lost their capitalist nature. Frederick Engels interpreted this tendency of the State to become the owner of productive forces as a general development that would relegate private capitalism to the museum of antiquities.
The development of modern capitalism is tending increasingly to dissociate private ownership from the management of the productive forces. Not only are the directors of nationalized companies not the owners of the capital they control; even in the big private industries, if they are privately owned, ownership is divided into tiny percentage shares of the total capital. The capitalization requirements of big industry are far larger than any particular personal or family fortune could encompass. These corporations function with the money that is provided to them by a mass of small stockholders and savings account depositors who have practically no power at all over the corporations’ operations.
The situation of the countries of the East must be understood in the context of this general developmental trend of capital.
The capitalist is supposed to be motivated by the quest for the maximum profit. The expression “maximum profit” does not mean much. A business owner can try for one day, or for a week, or even for a whole month, to drive men and machines at full capacity if he was assured of a market for his products. But he would run the risk of regretting his imprudence soon enough for having exhausted his capital. The failure of an attempt of this kind took place in China with “the great leap forward”. The scale of the expected profits, and consequently, the volume of dividends for the stockholders and the salaries of the managers, and the rate of economic growth are not arbitrarily decided by omnipotent capitalists.
Making money, that is what motivates the capitalist, whether for personal enrichment or for investment. If he does not make money, whether as a result of negligence, virtue or because it is no longer objectively possible, his business will be eliminated. This is also true for the bureaucrat, in the form of fear of administrative sanctions. As for the rest, neither in the USSR nor in China has it been proclaimed that profit has disappeared; to the contrary, profit is sought for the good of the people, to construct communism. It has become an instrument of economic measurement at the service of the planned economy!
In neither the East nor the West, as Marx explained, can capitalist development be explained by the profit motive. The truth is quite the contrary. The ideas of profit or land rent do not explain the laws of motion of the system. They are only categories by means of which the ruling classes become aware of economic necessities and take action.
Unlike the humanists of the left who see or pretend to see profit as their great enemy, revolutionaries do not allow themselves to succumb to this illusion. They do not blame the system for being immoral; we are not mired in an attachment to a few unprofitable archaic sectors.
Profit will disappear with the revolution. And without delay! Until that moment arrives it will to some extent play a protective role for the workers. It imposes limits on the tyranny of the owners; it obliges them to be careful with their human material. If it were possible to abolish profit while preserving capital, the average business would be inclined to welcome the return of the concentration camps and society would unravel and collapse into the most absolute barbarism. Nazism was not a historical accident; it was the unleashing of forces that were lurking in the lowest rungs of capital’s civilization. Profit fixes some limits on the authoritarianism and on the will to dominate and to destroy that are spawned by an inhuman system.
Blame profit! But then you will also have to blame the whole society in which the life of man has become a commodity.
• Wage Labour and Industrialization
The capitalist mode of production is constructed on two solid pillars that distinguish it from all modes of production that preceded it.
The first of these pillars is the system of wage labour. There have already been men who rented their charms, their political loyalty, their military ability and even their labour power to other men. But these activities remained marginal in societies composed of small groups among which money and the commodity did not circulate widely. The development of capitalism meant the real introduction of wage labour in the sphere of production, which it would transform into the general form of exploitation.
The second pillar is industrialization, the transformation of man’s relations with nature and with respect to his own activity. Man was no longer content with scratching out a bare subsistence from the soil. With industrialization he would assume the task of systematically transforming nature on a constantly increasing scale. Capitalism is an uninterrupted revolution in the methods of production; it is the progress of “science” and “reason”, as opposed to fatalism and obscurantism. It is the movement that succeeds the stagnation of agrarian societies.
Communism is not a return to the past. The end of the system of wage labour does not mean the return to slavery or serfdom. The overcoming of the process of the “conquest of nature” and of industrial organization does not mean a return to the stagnation of the past. Communism will render the aggressive and disorderly nature of the action of capital a thing of the past. Its purpose is not to destroy, to compartmentalize and subjugate, but to act comprehensively to humanize the world, and to make it habitable. It will transcend our current industrial practices so as to reconcile the useful and the pleasant. The lost sense of belonging that once connected the human being with his environment will be rediscovered on a higher level.
Capitalism did not emerge one fine day because people suddenly noticed how efficient it is. Its advent was not a triumph of the intellect; it was imposed on the workforce by way of social convulsions that were often cruel and irrational. It encountered resistance; it would retreat for a while only to seize more ground. It “harvested” its wage labourers from the masses of peasants who had previously been uprooted from their lands and reduced to mendicancy.
The movement of capital has a two-faced aspect. On the one hand it is the development of the human and material forces of production, and consequently use values and useful things. On the other hand it is the development of exchange value. The commodity thus already presents this double character; capital is still a commodity but it is also value that must be constantly enlarged.
For many years capital took the form of the commodity. The merchant could, thanks to his ingenuity and cunning, possess and set in motion a growing mass of products. The moneylender did likewise, but only with respect to money. These primitive forms of capital, however, could not continue indefinitely; value was still parasitic and did not create the means required for its accumulation. Only by the unceasing appropriation and crystallization of value in the means of production as capital did it become capable of real expansion. It is a vampire that feeds on value, i.e., human labour; in order to fulfil its purposes, it must develop machinery and productivity. For capital the latter are only means to an end; for us, in the last analysis, these factors are of the utmost significance. This technological development often assumes unsavoury forms—unemployment, deadly weapons, devastation of nature—but it will permit the revolutionary transformation of human activity and create the preconditions for leaving the barbarous era of class societies behind us.
Communism will not overthrow capital in order to return to the early days of the commodity. Commodity exchange is a link in the chain of progress, but it is link between antagonistic parts. It will disappear without however occasioning a return to barter, that primitive form of exchange. Humanity will no longer be divided into opposed groups and enterprises. It will organize to plan and utilize its common heritage, and to distribute tasks and enjoyments. The logic of the gift (sharing) will replace the logic of exchange.
Money will disappear. It is not a neutral instrument of measurement. It is the commodity in which all other commodities are reflected.
Gold, silver and diamonds will have no other value than the value that derives from their specific usefulness. Following Lenin’s suggestion we will be able to reserve gold for the construction of public urinals.
• The State and Capitalism
In the so-called “communist” countries money continues to circulate undisturbed. The division by international borders, and within these borders, the division of the economy into separate enterprises, works wonders.
The role played by the State in the economy, a role that is legally founded in the public ownership of enterprises, can be explained by the capitalist nature of these countries.
The State and the commodity are old friends. The merchants wanted society to be unified, so that thieves and robbers could be suppressed and the standard of monetary exchange regulated. With the increasing circulation of goods and people, the State and its bureaucracy discovered the means to become free of the dominant power of the agrarian sector.
The modern State, whether monarchy or republic, is the product of the dissolution of feudal structures by capital. The latter set itself in opposition to particular interests as a representative of the general interest. Capital had to do this because this helped it to overcome those contradictions and oppositions that it could not avoid provoking. The monarchy and the bourgeoisie, despite some momentary friction, stuck together against the feudal powers. Political unification was necessary for the development of commercial and industrial enterprises. Large fortunes and accumulated wealth made the State stronger and more independent. The State often intervened directly to allocate or consolidate the capital necessary for one or another industrial sector. It established the legal arsenal necessary for the development of a supply of free labour. It liquidated the old customs and dissolved ancient bonds. When the bourgeoisie made its appearance on the political stage it had already been a dominant force for many years and the monarchy had long been its servant.
In Russia and Japan, countries that made their appearance on the international stage while still barely industrialized, it was the State that initiated and organized the development of capitalism. It did so in order to preserve the basis of its own power, so as to have a supply of modern weapons. By putting capital at its service it only bowed to the superiority of the latter. The monarchy initiated a process that would end with its own destruction. The necessary preconditions for this grafting operation were not present everywhere. If it was successful in Japan this was because the State was already independent and trade was already highly developed. In China the process at first failed to take hold, and the same was true for most of the other pre-capitalist countries.
The State must often intervene in order to constrain a capital that is acting irresponsibly and to invest more in one place than in another. The bureaucratic regimes only accentuate this tendency towards a never achieved goal.
Does the capitalism of the East create the conditions for a more harmonious or more rational expansion of capital than the capitalism of the West? The question does not make much sense. That such a question can arise is the result of the defects of traditional capitalism. If this traditional capitalism is now re-imported to Moscow or Leningrad it is because of the defects of the capitalism of the East.
Wherever the bourgeoisie remained in a state of underdevelopment due to the economy, the bureaucracy conquered political power by relying on the support of certain social forces like the proletariat or the peasantry. But this could not reduce the impact of the disintegrating effects of international capitalism on traditional society. The bureaucracy had no other choice; it could not, as it wished, establish traditional capitalism and make it fertile; this was because of its social base of support and its lack of capital. Learning from experience it found a way that conformed with its nature and which allowed it, at the expense of the peasantry, to accumulate industrial capital.
The bureaucracy is a unifying force that has facilitated the authoritarian transfer of wealth from one sector of society to another. It modifies the spontaneous development of capital in favour of its goal of retaining power. But capital is not a neutral force that can be used for any purpose whatsoever. The bureaucracy plans, it rules. But what does it plan, what does it rule over? The accumulation of capital. It restricts the free market, it fights against the black market that is constantly re-emerging; but this is not the proof of its anti-capitalism but only a sign that the essential basis of capital is still alive and well.
The western States themselves have been led to intervene even more directly in the play of the economic forces. They must have a social policy and they must undertake planning. Bureaucratization is not a phenomenon restricted to the East. It affects the democratic and the fascist States as well as the big private corporations. It is the product of and the bleak remedy for the increasing atomization of society.
In a certain sense it is incorrect to speak of the bureaucratic capitalism or State capitalism of the countries of the East. All modern capitalist forms are bureaucratic and statist.
State ownership of all industry does not, however, signify absolute control; legal power is not the same thing as real power.
In liberal capitalism, the State, relying on the support of popular, military or even bourgeois forces, can confront this or that major corporation; it has the power. This does not, however, allow it to rise above economic laws. It can stand up to the power of the monopolies, but it cannot return to the world of small businesses of the past.
In the capitalism of the East, the bureaucratic State, regardless of the location of its headquarters, cannot abolish commercial categories and competition between enterprises. As long as separate enterprises exist there will be competition even if prices are subject to regulation.
This lack of unity is not limited to the economic sphere. The bureaucracy itself is incessantly rent by factional struggles and conflicts between individuals. Due to a lack of real unity it is the image of unity that must be maintained. The enemy is not a party colleague, but anti-party.
What the bureaucracy gains with regard to economic efficiency, is immediately lost again. The lie and the loss of reality totally suffuse the social body. The silent struggle behind the scenes replaces open competition.
Although it was capable of initiating a burst of economic development in unfavourable conditions, the bureaucracy always trailed behind the technological level attained by the liberal capitalist societies.
Why would capitalists try to pass themselves off as communists? As a general rule capitalists do not like being called capitalists!
The origin of the capitalist claim to the name of communist can be precisely dated to the Russian revolution. The word communist conveys more of the sense that one would bend over backwards for the working class rather than that one recognizes the fact of exploitation. It can give inhuman development of the system a human face: the construction of communism. Or else the masses are presented with some projects called “the new frontier” or the “new society”!
When capital claims to be communist, when it recuperates the thought of Marx in order to denature it in its universities of intellectuals or in order to facilitate the brutalization of the workers in factories, it is only imitating a movement that was completely fulfilled elsewhere. Capital does not create, it recuperates; it feeds on the passion and the initiative of the proletarians, which is to say: it feeds on communism.
You will not be able to understand much about communism if you do not understand the capitalist nature of the countries of the Eastern Bloc. The revolutionary battles of its past must not be allowed to rehabilitate Stalinism, since it is a fundamentally anti-communist system and ideology. The fact that bastions of the working class still exist within its domains must not cause us to become indulgent, but to the contrary, it must incite us to refuse any compromise with it.
One does a great service to Stalinism by not criticizing it as a capitalist system. Some revolutionaries, anarchists in particular, have recognized Stalinism as communism so as to be able to associate the latter term with authoritarianism. Authority—that is the monster! Under the guise of analysis the search for the origin of this authoritarianism goes all the way back to the personality of Karl Marx.
The Trotskyists, following in the footsteps of their leader, the unfortunate enemy of Stalin, have manufactured explanations as elaborate as they are silly. Socialist base and capitalist superstructure coexist, at least, in the USSR; as for the other countries, the jury is still out. In any event, they never understood anything about communism; no more than Trotsky, who thought compulsory labour was a communist principle. They are not revolutionaries; Trotsky was, but he was never anything but a bourgeois revolutionary and then a reluctant bureaucrat. We shall leave this clique with its intellectualism, its Byzantine disputes and its ridiculous organizational fetishism.
The Maoists, those “Stalinist-mystics”, reduce the entire problem to a question of politics and morality. The USSR has become social-imperialist and maybe even capitalist. Fortunately, China and Albania, under the wise proletarian leadership of Mao, Enver Hoxha and Bibi Fricotin, have not been contaminated. Communism is profit and politics put at the service of the people!
As communist ideas spread, even in the USSR and China, to satisfy the needs of a proletariat that will become revolutionary, these sects will become increasingly more incomprehensible! They are trying to keep the process of the revolution on the terrain of politics. They are in the vanguard, it is true, but it is the vanguard of capital; in a revolutionary period all the political puppets will try to assume revolutionary airs so as not to be cast aside. It has become something of a tradition for the revolution to be combated in the name of the revolution. The Stalinist or leftist militants who have gone astray will be incorporated into the real party of communism.
Some, not so blind, have acknowledged the fact that society in the capitalism of the Eastern Bloc is divided into social classes. Unfortunately, they have also thought that this capitalism represents a new and superior mode of production. This is doing too much honour to Stalin and his cohorts.
• Primitive Society
We see nothing communist about the regimes that claim to be communist. On the other hand, we see communism where it is usually not discerned. Primitive societies that, rejected by “civilization”, subsist in arid or inaccessible corners of the earth are communist, although their members live from hunting and gathering or from rudimentary agriculture. This is why we can say that the USSR is not communist but the United States of America was communist several centuries ago!
We do not expect to make humanity return to this stage. Such a project would in any case be very difficult because such a condition requires a very low population density. It is important, however, to rehabilitate primitive and prehistoric humanity.
The Indian was happier and, in a certain sense, more civilized, than the modern American citizen. The cave man did not die of hunger. It is in today’s world where hundreds of millions of humans have an empty stomach. Primitive man, as Marshall Sahlins has demonstrated, lived in a state of abundance; he was wealthy, not because he accumulated wealth, but because he lived as he wished. The western traveller who was sometimes paradoxically impressed by his good health before giving him smallpox pities his seeming poverty and his nakedness. Primitive man possessed practically nothing; but for those who live from hunting and gathering this is no disadvantage. His lack of possessions allowed him to move about freely and take advantage of the bounty of nature. His security was not maintained by savings but by his knowledge and his ability to use what his environment provided. He spent less time than a civilized man in earning his livelihood. His “productive” activity had nothing to do with the boredom that characterizes the office or the factory. Fortunate are the Yir-Yiron of Australia, who have the same word for ‘work’ and for ‘play’!
There is a profound difference between the communism of the past and the communism of the future. The former is a society that uses its environment by knowing how to adapt to it, while the latter is a society based on the continuous and profound transformation of that same environment. Between these two communist societies, the period of class societies will appear to be, when viewed in this perspective, a painful but relatively short stage of human history. A small consolation for those who are still immersed in it!
• Marx and Engels
Marx and Engels tried to acquire an understanding of the development of capitalist society. They did not spend much time describing the future world that monopolized the attention of the utopian socialists. But one cannot not draw a hard and fast line between the critique of capitalism and the affirmation of communism. The correct understanding of the historical role of money or of the State can only be attained from the point of view of their disappearance.
If Marx and Engels did not have more to say about communist society this is undoubtedly, and paradoxically, not only because this society was not as easily comprehended due to the fact that it was so distant, but also because it was all the more present in the spirits of the revolutionaries of that time. When they spoke of the abolition of wage labour in The Communist Manifesto they were understood by those in whom these words found an echo. Today it is more difficult to envisage a world without the State and without the commodity since both have become ubiquitous. But by becoming so ubiquitous they have also lost their historical necessity. Theoretical effort must take over from spontaneous consciousness, before it renders itself superfluous by virtue of the fact that its conclusions have become simple banalities.
Marx and Engels may not have understood the nature of communism as well as Fourier, in the sense of its liberation and harmonization of the emotions. On the other hand, Fourier did not fully reject the wages system insofar as he envisioned, among other things, that doctors should not be paid for treating the illnesses of their patients but rather in accordance with the general state of health of the community.
Marx and Engels nonetheless expressed themselves clearly enough so that they cannot be held responsible for the bureaucracy and the financial policies of the “communist” countries. According to Marx, money disappears immediately with the advent of communism and the producers no longer exchange their products. Engels spoke of the disappearance of commodity production with the advent of socialism. In order to clarify the fact that these statements were not youthful errors, as is so often claimed by the Marxological rabble, we shall draw upon the “Critique of the Gotha Program” and Anti-Dühring.
Stalinists of every stripe will speak of the dross in the works of the masters. They will perform a song and dance that proves they are Marxists rather than dogmatists. According to them, money, capital and the State have shed their bourgeois character in order to become proletarian. The boldest will even say that once communism is constructed it might be possible to leave such trinkets behind. According to others communism will be simply a society in which the standard of living will be very, very high. In any event, communism, lost in heaven and the stairway that leads to it, is composed of a multitude of additional modules that form so many transitional stages.
It is true that communism is being constructed in the Eastern Bloc, but its construction is neither better nor more conscientiously undertaken there than it is anywhere else. A revolution will be required for it to be exposed.
The concept of building communism by means of economic and social instrumentalities is a typically bourgeois idea. Communism is represented in the same way as the production of a manufactured object. Society is seen as an immense factory; it is thought that the whole functions just like the part. Therefore it is a question of will, of planning, of the correct political line….
The error into which these Stalinists fall with respect to the road to follow affects the result. It is no longer a question of making the private enterprise economy disappear, but of transforming the economy into one big enterprise. The conundrum represented by the existence of a police force will disappear; the augmentation of the moral sense by “communist” education will be enough to cause theft and subversion to disappear!
The best solution is of course the one proposed by Joseph Stalin himself. When we cannot change reality, we will change the words. The little father of the people tells us: you want the employees to receive a wage and, through the agency of the State, they are the owners of the enterprises that hire them. You cannot be your own employee! So the wages system is abolished in the Soviet Union. If you are under the impression that you receive a wage, if you are afraid of being fired from your job, this is because you are delusional. Fortunately, our socialist fatherland possesses re-education centres and psychiatric hospitals!
Stalin admitted that commodity production and the division of the economy into separate enterprises still existed, but this was not capitalism because in capitalism the means of production are the property of individuals. Everything boils down, in practice, to questions concerning the legal definition of terms. It is enough for a State to proclaim that it is communist for it to be so.
Since Stalin explained all of this in The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, those who have studied this question have had nothing new to contribute to our understanding of the issue.
One can see Mao Tse Tung or Fidel Castro as brave guerrillas and capable politicians. One could maintain that the Chinese suffer less hunger than the Indians and have fewer political freedoms than the Japanese. But regardless of these details, it is still just capitalism.