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Moscow's empire - rise and fall (1/4) - DW Documentary

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Her earliest characters, Country Girl , Russian Museum and Orchard in Bloom , Australian-led book , choose always of this program, and of her free business of the xpm of the natural Flemish and its schools. You may Use this restructuring the soviet economic bureaucracy to not to five models. In general, there is finally no other way. With the growth of illegal capitalist production and exchange, there inevitably came illegal capitalist accumulation, and consequently the emergence of a new capitalist class.

The new class was essentially not the bureaucracy, but anti-social criminal elements. These criminal elements of course included a sizeable proportion of the bureaucracy. But it is necessary to sharply distinguish the essential direction from which this new bourgeoisie arrived, from the view that the bureaucracy was itself already a capitalist class, needing only to free itself from the constraints of Soviet law. The state did fight this emergent capitalist class.

But the fight of the Soviet police against trade was no more effective than the fight of the US police against the drug trade.

II: Tien An Men Square

And the KGB had no social policy to deal with the problem. Labour camps are no more effective in suppressing the growth of capitalism, they are in suppressing the drug trade. They have to exhaust their historic mission, evaporate, and fall away. The deathblow to money fetishism will be struck only upon that stage when the steady growth of social wealth has made us bipeds forget our miserly attitude towards every excess minute of labour, and our humiliating fear about the size of our ration.

Having lost its ability to bring happiness or trample men in the dust, money will turn into mere book-keeping receipts for the convenience of statisticians and for planning purposes. In the still more distant future, probably these receipts will not be needed. But we can leave this question to future generations, who will be more intelligent than we are'. In a capitalist economy, the state plays a secondary role in the economy. However, in an economy where the means of production, distribution and exchange are nationalised, the state inevitably plays a dominant role in the actual life of the economy.

The bureaucratised workers' state was ultimately ineffective in defending nationalised property relations due to the fact that it proved to be an obstruction to the development of the productive forces. Thus, the role of the bureaucracy in direction of the economy is a central political and economic problem in the workers' states. In his article, The Art of Planning , written in , Trotsky points to the three elements of planning in a workers' state: ' 1 special state departments, that is, the hierarchical system of plan administration, in the centre and locally; 2 trade, as a system of market regulation; 3 Soviet democracy, as a system for the living regulation by the masses of the structure of the economy.

The bureaucracy often imagines that just such a mind is at its disposal; that is why it so easily frees itself from the control of the market and of Soviet democracy. But, in reality, the bureaucracy errs frightfully in its estimate of its spiritual resources. The plan is checked and, to a considerable degree, realised through the market. The regulation of the market itself must depend upon the tendencies that are brought out through its mechanism. The blueprints produced by the departments must demonstrate their economic efficacy through commercial calculation.

The system of the transitional economy is unthinkable without the control of the ruble. This presupposes, in its turn, that the ruble is at par. Without a firm monetary unit, commercial accounting can only increase the chaos.

The questions relating to the allotment of the national income compose the central focus of the plan. It shifts with the direct development of the class struggle and that of social groups, and among them, the various strata of the proletariat itself. These are the most important social and economic questions: the link between that which industry obtains from agriculture and that which it supplies to it; the interrelation between accumulation and consumption, between the fund for capital construction and the fund for wages; the regulation of wages for various categories of labour skilled and unskilled workers, government employees, specialists, the managing bureaucracy ; and finally the allotment of that share of national income which falls to the village, between the various strata of the peasantry.

All these questions by their very nature do not allow for a priori decisions by the bureaucracy, which has fenced itself off from intervention by concerned millions. The instruments of the social groups of Soviet society are, should be: the Soviets, the trade unions, the cooperatives, and in first place the ruling party. Only through the intersection of these three elements, state planning, the market and Soviet democracy, can the correct direction of the economy of the transitional epoch be attained.

Only thus can be assured, not the complete surmounting of contradictions and disproportions within a few years this is utopian! The problem of 'planning' in a nationalised economy is not qualitatively different from any of the tasks of a workers' organisation.

Restructuring The Soviet Economic Bureaucracy

Under certain circumstances, and within a certain domain, centralised command is a necessary facet of workers' organisation. However, such methods of command can only be effective to the extent that they are founded on a genuine consent, and express the outcome of democratic processes. The role of centralised planning in the economy must be seen historically. In the post World War II period, West German heavy industry was nationalised as a temporary measure in order to tackle post-war reconstruction. In Japan, the MITI to a considerable extent directs the distribution of investment and division of markets between the major conglomerates.

However, regulation and planning is by no means identical with direction and command. Furthermore, even the single capitalist enterprise nowadays is not run by the method of centralised command, as it would have been some years ago. Major international corporations have split their subsidiaries into independent companies, which may in some circumstances even compete with one another.

It is a great irony that while a fisherman in Sakhalin must watch the fish rotting on the jetty while waiting for the order to bring them in to arrive from Moscow, but a line worker in Toyota or Fords is expected to operate as part of an autonomous work unit. Soviet science was seriously hampered by the ignorant political interference practised by Stalin.

But in many areas of basic science that escaped this kind of interference, the USSR led the world. Furthermore, the USSR invested a higher proportion of its labour force in this work. However, the translation of basic science into technology and especially the application of technology in mass production and therefore in the production itself, pre-supposes both a certain amount of 'anarchy' in invention and a high level of initiative among the workforce. The advanced capitalist countries it must be said have allowed a revolution to take place in the application of technology in mass production.

Bureaucratic absolutism and technological innovation are mutually incompatible. If the authorities prevent the people from having access to computers, what price will they pay in terms of reduced living standards? The writings of Marx and Engels and Lenin in relation to planned economy must be assessed historically and not mechanically. For instance, in State and Revolution , references are made to 'planned economy' in a way that cannot be distinguished from 'command economy'. Before the question of workers' control of the economy became a practical, concrete question after , the issue was simply one of contrasting collective ownership and production for need, on the one hand, with capitalist anarchy and commodity production and exchange on the other.

This historical dichotomy is absolutely valid. However, to deduce from these fundamental principles a justification for bureaucratic command economy is no more valid than justifying the running of a trade union like a medieval army on the justification of proletarian collectivism versus bourgeois individualism. What is the implication of attempting to apply the principles of command economy in the twentieth century? Direction and development of a whole, modern economy is not the work of a bureaucratic caste.

It is the work of a whole social class. The method of centralised command is totally inadequate for the solution of all but the simplest tasks. Under certain circumstances it is adequate for the replication of techniques of production already perfected elsewhere, or the reconstruction of productive forces destroyed by war or other disaster, or the development of specific branches of industry towards well-defined goals, using well-defined techniques.

There can be no question of planned economy surpassing the level of capitalist development, other than by means of the active participation of the whole labouring population in the direction of the economy. For this there must be fully-developed workers' democracy. Planned economy means the application of democratic centralism [] to the direction of the economy.

It can be seen then that the domination of the workers' state by a bureaucratic caste posed an insurmountable obstacle to the development of the productive forces. The development of the Soviet economy required a 'political revolution' - the overthrow of the dictatorship of the bureaucracy by the democratic organisation of the working class.

It is not only a question of the existence of many market elements in or alongside command economies, such as the labour market, money, prices, a margin of officially sanctioned private ownership e. It is not even the expansion of legal private enterprise which was typically seen by the authorities as an antidote to freebooting enterprise, that we are primarily referring to at this point. Now, in the quote above from Trotsky, he refers in quite unambiguous terms to the necessity of money, 'supply and demand', and 'the market'. For instance, from Revolution Betrayed : 'For the regulation and application of plans two levers are necessary: the political lever, in the form of a real participation in leadership of the interested masses themselves, a thing which is unthinkable without Soviet democracy; and a financial lever, in the form of a real testing out of a priori calculations with the help of a universal equivalent, a thing that is unthinkable without a stable money system', and 'prices will serve the cause of socialism better, the more honestly they begin to express the real economic relations of the present day.

The ruble is an instrument for the influence of the population upon economic plans, beginning with the quantity and quality of the objects of consumption. In no other manner is it possible to rationalise the Soviet economy'. Does this mean that Trotsky is supporting Gorbachev, that Trotsky was also a 'market socialist'? When Stalin abandoned the use of ration cards and returned to the use of the ruble, Trotsky described this as 'merely the rejection of fictions, and an open acknowledgment of the necessity of creating the premises for socialism by means of the return to bourgeois methods of distribution'.

And in relation to the introduction of piecework payment 'It is not a question of renouncing socialism, but merely of abandoning crude illusions. It must be overcome, transcended.


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Reliance on fictions and crude illusions is the opposite perspective. The seizure of state power by the workers does not end the class struggle, but merely places into the hands of the workers the most powerful lever for control over the economy.

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The class struggle continues under new conditions. Thus, Marxists understand socialism as a higher stage of the development of humanity. Socialism is a development made possible by the conditions of capitalist development, but transcending it. Now, one of the most powerful influences on workers in the Stalinist bloc which initially at any rate persuaded them to embrace the restoration of capitalism was the perception that in the West workers enjoyed much better living standards than did they.

Capitalist ownership and capitalist appropriation of the labour of the workers, the drive to accumulate capital, meant that capitalism strove to push to the utmost limits the exploitation of labour, irrespective even of the destruction of the labourers themselves. Only the organisation of the working class as a class has checked this tendency. Bill Hunter summarised the problem in this way: 'The simple everyday summary of the difference between production in a capitalist society and in a workers' state is: under capitalism there is production for profit; under socialist planning production is for need.

But for a plan to go forward based on needs, then it must have at all stages, from its outlines through to its carrying out and completion, a constant input and checking from the people it is serving.

Soviet Interview Project: Restructuring the Soviet Economic Bureaucracy

Secondarily, it was built upon the hegemony of a conservative and parasitic bureaucracy defending itself against both the demands of the workers and the threat of capitalist accumulation. The revolt of value against bureaucratic fiat was aggravated in the extreme by the combination of the relative backwardness of the economy, the qualitative development which had occurred in the productive forces in the capitalist world economy outside and the disorganising effect of the rising illicit capitalist economy. The battle between bureaucratic planning and the market set up a vicious circle in which the bureaucracy increasingly became an intolerable obstacle to production, not to mention distribution and exchange of products.

Workers' Democracy and Bureaucracy The Trotskyist movement, the Marxist movement of the period following the capture of the Bolshevik Party by Stalin, based itself upon the perspective of social revolution in the capitalist countries and 'political revolution' in the Stalinist countries.

By 'political revolution' we mean the revolutionary overthrow of the government by the organised working class, while preserving collective ownership in the means of production. Political revolution in a workers' state is contrasted with social revolution in a capitalist country because social revolution implies expropriation of the capitalist class, as well as smashing of the capitalist state.

The bureaucracy differs from the capitalist class because the capitalist class has its roots in the social relations of production; the bureaucracy has its roots in its holding office within a workers' organisation. The bureaucracy can be expelled from its office without overthrowing the social relations of production. The struggle in Poland in the late s and early s demonstrated the complexity of the political tasks facing the working class in the Stalinist bloc. The emergence of Solidarity in marked the abandonment by the working class of its struggle to subordinate the state to its own control.

Rather, they treated it as an alien entity and sought to negotiate with it. Up till this time, the bureaucracy was able to hold off the opposition of the working class by a combination of police repression and co-option of the advanced workers into the state and party apparatus. Rioting proved insufficient for the revolutionary overthrow of the government. But on the other hand, even the best communist workers who joined the Communist Party and the government with all the best intentions found themselves sucked into the life-style and social role of the bureaucracy.

In this respect, the workers' state bureaucracy is no different from the reformist bureaucracy in a capitalist country. Workers in capitalist countries are generally well aware of the social pressures which come to bear on individual workers who enter the trade union bureaucracy. How often have workers built a new rank-and-file leadership and ejected the old leadership, only to find a little while later that the new lot were just as bad as the old lot? It implies a revolutionary perspective capable of overcoming the social and historical conditions which gave rise to bureaucratism in the first place.

Foremost in such a perspective must be a perspective to overcome the economic, social and political isolation of the workers' state from the world productive forces. The program of political revolution as elaborated by Trotsky is outlined in the excerpt from the Transitional Program. The reader will observe that its slogans have a considerable overlap with the demands emanating from the organised working class in the USSR in []. Everywhere in the Stalinist bloc, a common range of economic and political demands were raised, demands which are consistent with the program of political revolution - higher wages, shorter working hours, better social services, freedom to organise, independence of the unions from the state, levelling of wages and conditions, addressing the needs of women, of children, invalids and the aged, democratic control of enterprises and services, freedom for political parties, democratic rights, elections to state, local government and workers' organisations, release of political prisoners and no victimisations, expulsion of the bureaucrats and an end to their privileges, rectification of historical lies and cover-ups, an end to secrecy, protection of the environment, national freedoms and rights of ethnic and national minorities to use their own language etc.

In general, the workers have not raised the demand for private ownership in the means of production. This demand has come later and in general has been imposed on to the working class by leaders who have been elevated into power by the workers, or at least with the consent of the workers. It certainly never prolonged the life of their governments. But the alternative program of political revolution has failed to mobilise the active support of the working class without which it is impossible. The program of political revolution opposes the call for privatisation and the restoration of private property, but calls instead for 'democracy' to be applied consistently in relation to the economy, while retaining collective ownership.

Instead of capitulating to the criminal elements who are grabbing bits of the economy for their own personal gain, the political revolution calls for the workers to take collective control of the economy through their own organisation. Consequently, for its success the political revolution presupposes a new political leadership in the working class.

Such a leadership would have to be independent of the bureaucracy because the task of the political revolution run completely counter to the social interests of the bureaucracy. The consideration given to the conditions under which bureaucratism arises within the workers' state in the earlier chapters is sufficient to show that the struggle against bureaucratism must be a permanent feature of a workers' state, so long as economic and cultural backwardness exists and so long as the workers' state remains surrounded by imperialism.

Since the economic problems of the Stalinist bloc originate principally in the isolation of their economies from the world market, the political revolution cannot succeed other than as part of a movement together with the working class in the advanced capitalist countries. Therefore, a successful political revolution also pre-supposes a level of co-ordination of the revolution on a world scale.

The formation of effective working class organisation is impossible without political leadership. The struggle can go so far without such leadership, solely on the basis of spontaneity, but only so far. It can go as far as the 'first stage' referred to in the section on Poland above, of the overthrow of the system, but spontaneity cannot suffice for the next stage, which must be the replacement of the old system with a new system. It is history now, that Stalinism succeeded in preventing the building of an alternative political leadership in the working class within the USSR, the deformed workers' states and the capitalist world.

It also prevented the effective building of a counter-revolutionary leadership, up until This is not what we mean by 'Stalinism'. Stalinism is the politics which expresses the interests of the bureaucracy of a deformed or degenerated workers' state. He hoped in vain, as it happened to preserve the system of bureaucratic rule in the USSR, to improve, and indeed perfect it. He represented a view held by a section of the bureaucracy, that the Soviet economy had to be fundamentally restructured if it was to survive; that the Soviet Union faced a total collapse or violent explosion if it did not change; that the urgency of this change was such that it could not be delayed.

But change how?