Socialism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

The following article was sent to The Marxist-Leninist by Professor Toad, and is the first part of a series of articles on China:

The term socialism and the term dictatorship of the proletariat refer to two different concepts. Socialism describes a particular relation of production in which the means of production are socially owned and the exploitation of man by man is abolished. The dictatorship of the proletariat is a political situation in which the working class — in all known cases, acting in alliance with the peasantry — has seized political power in a country. In the real world the two are very closely linked, and if you find one, the other is not far off. But in analyzing countries very near in time to a revolution, the failure to understand this difference can lead to confusion.

Socialism Before And After Marx

The book Socialism: From Dream To Reality, written by Evgenii Mikhailovich Koveshnikov and published by Novosti in Moscow in 1979, discusses the history of socialist literature prior to Marx. According to this book, the first example of socialist literature is the book Utopia, by Thomas Moore, written in 1516. Thomas Moore was an English chancellor who made a name in his day for law reform and his support of the burning of heretics. Executed by Henry VIII because he would not support Protestantism, Moore was later made a saint by the Catholic Church. The name Utopia is taken from Greek words meaning no place, and it concerns a fictional society on a distant island which Moore uses to explain his ideas on a better organization of society. To give an idea of the concept of socialism in this book, we can look at a few quotes from the description of Utopian society:

Their doors have all two leaves, which, as they are easily opened, so they shut of their own accord; and there being no property among them, every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever. At every ten years’ end they shift their houses by lots.

AGRICULTURE is that which is so universally understood among them that no person, either man or woman, is ignorant of it; they are instructed in it from their childhood, partly by what they learn at school and partly by practice; they being led out often into the fields, about the town, where they not only see others at work, but are likewise exercised in it themselves. Besides agriculture, which is so common to them all, every man has some peculiar trade to which he applies himself, such as the manufacture of wool, or flax, masonry, smith’s work, or carpenter’s work; for there is no sort of trade that is not in great esteem among them. Throughout the island they wear the same sort of clothes without any other distinction, except what is necessary to distinguish the two sexes, and the married and unmarried. The fashion never alters; and as it is neither disagreeable nor uneasy, so it is suited to the climate, and calculated both for their summers and winters. Every family makes their own clothes; but all among them, women as well as men, learn one or other of the trades formerly mentioned.

The chief, and almost the only business of the syphogrants, is to take care that no man may live idle, but that every one may follow his trade diligently: yet they do not wear themselves out with perpetual toil, from morning to night, as if they were beasts of burden, which, as it is indeed a heavy slavery, so it is everywhere the common course of life among all mechanics except the Utopians; but they dividing the day and night into twenty-four hours, appoint six of these for work; three of which are before dinner, and three after.

And thus from the great numbers among them that are neither suffered to be idle, nor to be employed in any fruitless labor, you may easily make the estimate how much may be done in those few hours in which they are obliged to labor.

Every city is divided into four equal parts, and in the middle of each there is a marketplace: what is brought thither, and manufactured by the several families, is carried from thence to houses appointed for that purpose, in which all things of a sort are laid by themselves; and thither every father goes and takes whatsoever he or his family stand in need of, without either paying for it or leaving anything in exchange.

Thus, we can see in this very early work by a man in no way connected to the proletariat many shades of what we now understand as socialism. Whether this is in fact the earliest socialist literature is debatable. Marx and Engels saw shades of socialist thinking even in the Christian Gospels.

Prior to Marx there were even various attempts to put socialism into practice. During the English Civil War, the Diggers, or True Levellers, briefly established a communal society in England. Another political sect of the time called the Levellers insisted on universal male political equality. The True Levellers distinguished themselves by calling also for economic equality. The Digger settlement was soon destroyed by the English ruling class.

There were also the Utopian Socialists, such as Charles Fourier, who set up small scale communal societies in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The different varieties of socialists which existed before Marxism are explained in the Communist Manifesto: Feudal Socialists; Petty Bourgeois Socialists; German or “True” Socialists; Bourgeois or Conservative Socialists; and Critical-Utopian Socialists or Communists.

Marx’s concept of socialism was more developed and more materialistic than earlier concepts. It involved a much clearer statement of, how, for instance, the rules of distribution would work in socialism. Most importantly, of course, it involved a practical route to socialism. But by socialism Marx still meant a society based on the common ownership of the means of production. Thus we have the following from the Communist Manifesto:

In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

And from Engels’s Principles of Communism we get:

Question 14 : What kind of a new social order will this have to be?

Answer : Above all, it will generally have to take the running of industry and of all branches of production out of the hands of mutually competing individuals and instead institute a system in which all these branches of production are operated by society as a whole, that is, for the common account, according to a common plan and with the participation of all members of society. It will, in other words, abolish competition and replace it with association. Moreover, since the management of industry by individuals has private property as its inevitable result, and since competition is merely the manner and form in which industry is run by individual private owners, it follows that private property cannot be separated from the individual management of industry and from competition. Hence, private property will also have to be abolished, and in its place must come the common utilization of all instruments of production and the distribution of all products according to common agreement — in a word, the so-called communal ownership of goods. In fact, the abolition of private property is the shortest and most significant way to characterize the transformation of the whole social order which has been made necessary by the development of industry, and for this reason it is rightly advanced by communists as their main demand.

Thus, socialism at its base means the collective ownership of the means of production. Of course, to Marxists this concept brings on its heels many, many other improvements, but the economic reorganization of society is the foundation of the other changes. And the Marxist concept of socialism has indeed been followed by socialist societies.

Chapter 1 of the 1936 Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics — the so-called Stalin Constitution — is entitled “the Organization of Soviet Society.” Marx wrote that economics is the motor of history. As is appropriate in a constitution written by Marxists, most of this chapter deals with the economic organization of Soviet society. Article four of that Chaper reads:

ARTICLE 4. The socialist system of economy and the socialist ownership of the means and instruments of production firmly established as a result of the abolition of the capitalist system of economy, the abrogation of private ownership of the means and instruments of production and the abolition of the exploitation of man by man, constitute’ the economic foundation of the U.S.S.R.

The same chapter goes on to explain that generally the means of production are to be collectively owned. This means either owned by the state as the organization of the whole working people; owned by cooperative associations; or owned by collective farms. The right of individuals to own furnishings and personal effects and even to leave these to their heirs is protected, but only very limited private ownership of the means of production is allowed:

ARTICLE 9. Alongside the socialist system of economy, which is the predominant form of economy in the U.S.S.R., the law permits the small private economy of individual peasants and handicraftsman based on their personal labor and precluding the exploitation of the labor of others

Even at that, the Stalin Constitution recognizes that private ownership of the means of production, even by small producers working on their own or in a family farm, is not socialist.

This Constitution came into force in 1936, nineteen years after the seizure of power in Russia, and is a set of rules for a country in which socialism is firmly in place.

Similar rules apply today in Cuba. Recently, the capitalist press has made much of the new rules allowing barbers to cut hair on their own account in Cuba. Others in Cuba run restaurants or drive taxis as a sort of small business. But neither barbers nor anyone else in Cuba is allowed to employ anyone to work for them. In short, although some private small production exists, the exploitation of man by man is banned in Cuba, and the law is stringently enforced.

Thus, the concept of socialism was greatly deepened by Marx, but it was not invented by Marx, and what Marx meant by socialism, is, at base, much the same as what many earlier thinkers meant by it. Of course, we have to keep in mind that no socialist of the utopian dreamer or reformist stripe has ever succeeded in establishing a lasting socialist society.

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Marx and Engels did not teach utopian socialism or reformist socialism, but rather scientific socialism. For Marx and Engels, socialism would come about only as a result of the seizure of power by the proletariat. Thus, in Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, Engels explains the difference between scientific socialism and utopian socialism in these terms:

From that time forward, Socialism was no longer an accidental discovery of this or that ingenious brain, but the necessary outcome of the struggle between two historically developed classes — the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Its task was no longer to manufacture a system of society as perfect as possible, but to examine the historico-economic succession of events from which these classes and their antagonism had of necessity sprung, and to discover in the economic conditions thus created the means of ending the conflict.

And in the Manifesto, we have this:

We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

Thus, Marx and Engels taught that socialism would come only when the proletariat seized political power — the dictatorship of the proletariat — and built socialism.

And, indeed, history has born this out. Every single example of a socialist society which the world has seen has been a result of a proletarian revolution.

How the Proletariat Builds Socialism

We have seen already how Marx and Engels described how the proletariat will “wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie.” Further in the Manifesto, Marx and Engels discuss concrete steps by which the proletariat might go about this:

These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.

Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

Thus, we see that the process is indeed gradual — not in the sense that European “socialist” parties set out for socialism so gradually that the goal is never actually reached — but gradual in the sense of taking years or even decades to complete, even in advanced countries.

And, once again, the theoretical projections of Marx and Engels have been very exactly born out in practice.

In the Soviet Union, for instance, the struggle against kulaks — who were peasants who exploited other peasants and not, as people who only read the bourgeois media may think, an oppressed ethnic group — was ongoing two decades after the seizure of power by the proletariat.

And, in the Foundations of Leninism lectures given by Stalin in 1924, we find a warning about the problem of small production:

Wherein lies the strength of the overthrown bourgeoisie?

Thirdly, “in the force of habit, in the strength of small production. For, unfortunately, small production is still very, very widespread in the world, and small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale” . . . for “the abolition of classes means not only driving out the landlords and capitalists — that we accomplished with comparative ease — it also means abolishing the small commodity producers, and they cannot be driven out, or crushed; we must live in harmony with them, they can (and must) be remoulded and re-educated only by very prolonged, slow, cautious organizational work.”(See Vol. XXV [of the Collected Works of Lenin], pp. 173 and l89.)

The Stalin Constitution, which we saw before, forbids the private ownership of the means of production in most cases. But that constitution was not an immediate product of the seizure of power by the proletariat. It was promulgated 19 years after the October Revolution. Even then, it was not a description of Soviet life as much as a legal tool to combat the vestiges of capitalism which still existed. And even at that, it contemplated the continuation for a considerable period still of small production.

Summary

Thus, when the proletariat seizes power, it inherits a society in which the prevailing mode of production is capitalism. It then sets about reorganizing society on socialist lines. This is done over the course of years or even decades. The seizure of power by the proletariat is a necessary step towards the establishment of socialism, but the two are not the same thing.

Conversely, we now unfortunately have a considerable amount of experience in what happens in case of a counterrevolution. When the bourgeoisie seizes power in a socialist country, the bourgeoisie inherits a society organized on socialist lines. Thus in these cases for a period of a few months at least socialism even exists under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It is well worth noting that the known cases of transition from socialism back to capitalism show that it nearly always happens extremely quickly. While the proletarian state builds socialism gradually and carefully, working to minimize the disruption and pain to the toilers who make up most of society, the bourgeoisie has no such qualms.

When Yeltsin took power in Russia, nearly the whole economy was still organized along socialist lines. Within a few years, the Yeltsin government had destroyed the socialist order of the economy as crudely as with an axe, resulting, of course, in the most terrible hardships and widespread death. The Russian Communists are well-justified in accusing Yeltsin of genocide for his actions in this period.

When talking about socialist and capitalist economies here, we must keep in mind that in the real world we rarely meet anything which is absolutely pure. In early capitalist societies, there were considerable holdovers from feudalism, for instance. And communists in the United States are all aware that even in this most capitalist of countries slavery played an economically important role for nearly a century.

Thus, to say that a country is capitalist is not to say that the entire economy is organized along capitalist lines, but only that capitalism is the dominant means of organizing the economy. Similarly, it is not necessary that every shred of capitalist production be abolished before we can call a country socialist. If we were to apply the terms capitalism and socialism in such an academic manner, they would become nearly useless because they would fail to describe almost everything we find in the real world.

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32 responses to “Socialism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

  1. Great poster – calls for people to study the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat

  2. This is informative. I know most countries which have some of the characteristics raised above.

  3. It’s fine to study the classics, but there’s a number of new factors to consider, especially the role of the ‘commodity of a new type,’ information, and the revolution in the productive forces related to it.

    Take Microsoft. It’s mainly an old college campus with a bunch of computers. The most most productive forces are between the ears of its employees, and moves to the parking lot and leaves the grounds every weekend. It’s one reason Gates pays them so highly.

    Socialism is a class society and a mixed economy, with the working class in the lead, between the current order and the classless society of communism.

    All states are dictatorships of one class or another, or and alliance of classes.

    The important historical lesson is that the d of the p should not be ‘unrestricted,’ ie, it should be limited by the natural human rights that have evolved historically, that we have self-evidently, simply because we are human beings, not because they are a gift from any state or deity. Some states, ie, the d of the p, may defend them better than others, but that is another matter.

  4. ProfessorToad

    Well, the point of the article is that socialism is an economy in which public ownership of the means of production is the dominant form of ownership. Thus, we have in Northern Europe a number of countries in which there is an extensive welfare state and some public ownership. But they are nevertheless CAPITALIST societies because the dominant form of ownership is clearly private ownership.

    Of course, all economies are mixed to a greater or lesser extent. But in reasonably advanced socialist countries, the startling thing is how little mixing there is.

    In Cuba, for instance, the exploitation of man by man is banned by law. I am sure someone, somewhere on the island flouts that law, but it’s certainly not an economically important phenomenon.

    Of course, you do have the self-employed taxi drivers, restaurateurs, etc. But these, too, are a tiny, tiny part of the economy. Nickel, sugar, tourism and biomedicine are all state run, and these are the dominant industries on the island in every sense. They are dominant in the amount of production they constitute, in the number of people they employ, in the level of development of the industries, and in the extent to which they are growing.

    Social democrats mix up the concept of socialism as well. They do not confuse it with the dictatorship of the proletariat — indeed, they consider the two concepts incompatible — but they confuse it with welfare state capitalism. And when people on the United States at least talk about mixed economies, they are usually talking about welfare state capitalism.

    The definitional aspect of socialism is not that the working class is in the lead. The definitional aspect is that the means of production are collectively owned. that can’t come about without the working class in the lead. But if you see a country where the working class in the lead, and most of the means of production are still privately owned, you are probably mistaken about the working class being in the lead.

  5. I disagree with much of what is said above about “mixed economies.” The bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat is not zero-sum game. One class rules. The other is ruled.
    The discussion of the 1936 (“Stalin”) Constitution is very enlightening. It clearly shows that capitalist survivals in socialism are simply remnants that have not yet been eliminated. Their extinction is the measure of progress. The usual static concept of “mixed economy” is the fantasy that there can be a reformed capitalism that serves the whole of society.
    I disagree with the professor’s statement that socialism was only overthrown by the time of Yeltsin. If that was the case the bourgeoisie are right, socialism does not work.
    In fact by 1970 the Soviet Union was a capitalist economy. The dictatorship of the proletariat had explicitly been repudiated in the revisionist formula of the “state of the whole people.” Comprehensive state planning of the Soviet economy was only a fiction. Enterprises were run by the managers, who hired and fired workers at their will. Means of production could be bought and sold. Marx said these conditions comprise the sole historical precondition of capitalism. I think he was right. See Martin Nicolaus’ excellent book, “Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR,” written in 1975 and posted at marx2mao.com.

    • ProfessorToad

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by you disagree with much of what has been said about mixed economies. Please explain.

      If you mean that the definition of socialism as “a mixed economy with the working class in the lead” is incorrect, I think that’s obviously so. Socialism means the collective — mostly public — ownership of the means of production. A mixed economy might mean very little public ownership of the means of production. In that case it would obviously be capitalist.

      You concede, of course, that even a very developed socialist economy is not purely socialist. But I’m not sure what use “It clearly shows that capitalist survivals in socialism are simply remnants that have not yet been eliminated. Their extinction is the measure of progress.” is.

      Of course capitalist survivals in socialism are remnants of capitalism. Equally obviously, they have not yet been eliminated: Otherwise, they would not be survivals.

      If you mean that the proletariat, once in power, always carries out an unrelenting offensive against all survivals of capitalism, then, of course, you are wrong, as the experience of the NEP shows, as well as the discussion in the Stalin constitution about small production. And I do not think you are arguing that Lenin was wrong in the NEP.

      Perhaps you mean that a society in which there are still significant survivals of capitalism is not really socialist. But this really is puritanism and excludes from the definition of socialism Soviet society at least until the start of WWII.

      I’m not trying, in this article, to touch off a debate about socialism in the USSR. I’m happy to take that up, but, of course, if we don’t keep some semblance of order to a discussion, there is no hope of progress.

      Still, I would like to reply to a few things:

      First, the book you mention is available exactly here:

      http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/RCSU75.html

      Second:

      On a first perusal, the book seems to say a great deal about the lack of proper planning in the later Soviet Union, and the autonomy given to heads of state enterprises. I am sure that is problematic, but it is not the same problem as capitalism.

      The heads of state owned enterprises did, in fact, answer to somebody, just as the heads of capitalist enterprises answer to somebody. But in the case of capitalist enterprises, they answer to either shareholders — not, as the theory says, to all the shareholders assembled democratically, but really to a couple of major shareholders — and to bankers. In the case of the state owned enterprises, they answered to the state.

      This is an enormous difference because, whether the plan is well-elaborated or not, all the people implementing the plan are ultimately answerable to the same bunch.

      In short, and to get back to the basic point of my original article: Socialism means the collective — mostly public — ownership of the means of production. The means of production in the Soviet Union remained publicly owned, despite the mismanagement and increasingly undemocratic nature of Soviet society.

      Of course, without a proper plan, there is considerable confusion, disorder, etc. And I am sure the book is right when it says that from time to time the various state owned enterprises acted in competition with one another.

      But this was clearly the exception, rather than the rule.

      If the basic rules of capitalism had applied, the Soviet Union would have seen what every developed capitalist country sees over and over again: Crises of overproduction.

      Instead, what the Soviet Union saw was an economy that was continually unable to provide an adequate number of consumer goods, and, in the later years, even had shortages of such basic items as bread.

      Further, while the lack of a formal plan undoubtedly led to a certain amount of anarchy, the experience of the Yeltsin years shows very clearly that it was only a tiny fraction of the anarchy that the actual restoration of capitalism brought.

      In fact, the Yeltsin years are a very useful comparison here, and it is significant, I think, that most of the books and articles relied on by Maoists and Hoxhaists for a critique of the Soviet Union were written prior to the Yeltsin years.

      The Soviet economy stagnated to a considerable extent in the 1970s. In the 1990s, production fell by half in Russia, and by more in the other regions of the old Soviet Union.

      Living standards stagnated in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. In the 1990s, Russia underwent genocide by poverty, with life expectancies falling by nearly twenty years.

      There is no doubt that the errors of Khrushchev and those who followed him led directly to the rise of the Gorbachev and to Yeltsin himself. But to say that capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union in the 1960s badly overstates the case.

    • ProfessorToad

      Please let me add: If you think that Soviet socialism as it existed in the 1970s and even the 1980s was not worth fighting for, you should talk to more people who lived in Russia in the 1990s.

  6. I think there is a middle ground between the line expressed by David, that capitalism was completely restored by the 1970s, and by Prof. Toad, that capitalism was restored rather quickly, by Yeltsin. This is well expressed in the 1999 Declaration of the International Communist Seminar:

    II The rise of revisionism and the struggle against it

    14. The advent of Krushchov at the head of the CPSU was a historical turning point. Krushchov’s group set off his work of destruction by denigrating the revolutionary struggles carried out by the Communists led by Stalin in order to implement the principles and orientations bequeathed by Lenin.

    15. It took revisionism, initiated by Krushchov’s group, more than 35 years to completely destroy the work accomplished by Lenin, Stalin and three generations of Bolsheviks!

    16. Today, it is clear why Stalin has been subjected to bitter slander and calumny by the enemies of socialism. Stalin remained loyal to Leninism. Under his leadership the Soviet people accomplished miracles. After Stalin’s death, the revisionists and mainly Krushchov and Gorbachov rejected Leninist principles and went from failure to failure.

    17. History proved that the fight against the ideas and the revolutionary practice of Stalin was a fight against communism.

    18. The 20th, 21st and 22nd congresses of the CPSU were marked by the revision of Marxism-Leninism, setting off ideological and political degeneration and bureaucratism at the head of the State and Party.

    19. Krushchov directly took many reactionary ideas from the renegade Tito. Krushchov’s theories about the “State of the whole people” and the “Party of the whole people” led to the liquidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the ceasing of class struggle against the bourgeois forces and influences. The theory of “the cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union in the struggle for peace” inflicted blows on the anti-imperialist struggle. The theory of “peaceful and parliamentary paths towards socialism” strengthened the social-democratic currents in several communist parties.

    20. Brezhnev put an end to some of the extreme forms of Krushchev’s revisionism but he never questioned the revisionist programmes of the 20th, 21st and 22nd Congresses. Brezhnev put an end to the policy of open capitulation to american imperialism and he supported on the international stage different forces, which were fighting that imperialism. Under Brezhnev, a new petty bourgeoisie has arised from the bureaucracy and the intelligentsia and was the largest social basis of revisionism. It encouraged the development of a ‘shadow’ capitalist sector and stimulated a process of degeneration in the socialist enterprises.

    21. Gorbachov’s revisionism ultimately took outright anticommunist forms. The forces he led, supported by the international bourgeoisie, completed the counter-revolutionary process in the Soviet Union and led to the open restoration of capitalism in its crudest forms. Gorbachov and Yeltsin have been the executors of a triumph for the forces of imperialism and reaction of international importance.

    I think this summation is the most accurate.

  7. Professor Toad

    I don’t think that position is in any way contrary to mine.

    The part you have quoted, at least, does not explicitly say at what point capitalism was restored in the USSR. It does talk about a process of degeneration in the socialist enterprises and a shadow capitalist sector.

    All of that is obviously correct. The shadow capitalist sector grew enormously in the 1980s. Its members were important figures in the Gorbachev government. Eduard Sheverdnadze’s grandson was the largest gasoline blackmarketeer in Georgia at a certain point.

    But throughout the 1970s, the socialist enterprises continued to dominate the Soviet economy.

    Obviously the process of transition was in some sense gradual, but equally obviously, it was not smooth and even. A relatively slow growth of the capitalist sector in the 1970s sped up considerably in the 1980s, before reaching an absolute crescendo of destruction in the very late Gorbachev years and the Yeltsin years.

    But, in the 1960s and 1970s, despite their increasing neglect and mismanagement, the state enterprises remained public property and continued to control the main means of production in the USSR. The USSR was accordingly socialist.

    What we say about the dictatorship of the proletariat in those years is an interesting question. It is by no means a simple question. It is a question which is related to the question of whether or not the USSR was socialist. But it is not the identical question because the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism are not synonyms.

    • Perhaps you’re right that your point is the same. Certainly you’re right that during that period of revisionist degeneration from the 20th Congress in 1956 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the USSR still had a fundamentally socialist economy.

      I think the intesting thing about the 1999 Declaration’s position on the restoration of capitalism in the USSR is that it doesn’t say simply that Yeltsin or Gorbachov are solely responsible for suddenly restoring capitalism, or that Khruschev suddenly restored capitalism. It shows the the restoration of capitalism in the USSR was a long process, and not neccessarily one that couldn’t have been reversed along the way. There is another good book, Socialism Betrayed by Keeran and Kenny, that argues along similar lines, but makes the point that Andropov looked like he would have struggled to turn the Party sharply to the Left had he lived longer as the General Secretary of the CPSU.

  8. I stand by my view that capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union around 1970. Socialism is the lower, first form of Communist society: “from each according to ability, to each according to work.” The transition to communism is to “from each according to ability, to each according to need.”
    Socialism is not distinguished from communism by some mix of capitalism There is no such thing as a “mixed economy,” only the stage of transition in which elements of both are present. Either socialism is in the process of elimination capitalist survivals, or capitalist-roaders are busy eliminating socialism. One or the other.
    Look how the capitalists are hysterically against “socialism.” The dumber ones won’t tolerate anything that even vaguely suggests it. The smarter ones know that some degree of accommodation of the masses is needed, and deception too.
    But let’s look at capitalism to see why it won’t mix with socialism. Consider the auto industry. Steel, rubber and glass are a few of the things needed to make autos.
    Suppose the general rate of profit at a given time is 5%. Suppose further that the profit rate in the manufacture of rubber is 7% and that of glass is 3%. That means there is too much investment in glass, so much is produced it’s not very profitable. Investment will flow out of the glass industry until production declines and a 5% level of profit results. Likewkise 7% in rubber means there is not enough production. Investment will be attracted until profit drops to the general level of 5%.
    Now, how in the world are such processes of capital investment, competition, and pricing to be managed in the presence of a socialist economy that operates on completely unrelated, indeed antagonistic, principles? They can’t! It’s impossible! And conversely in the case of socialism.
    As well might it be tried to graft the hindquarters of a pig onto the forequarters of a sheep.
    As for the supposedly socialist Soviet Union that operated without central planning and with private ownership of the means of production and a private labor market, government title of ownership did not amount to socialism. The state serves the owners of the means of production, not vice-versa.
    They had a setup like that in Iraq and called it socialism but it wasn’t. They nationalized a great deal of the economy to prevent imperialist capital from buying the country out, which was a great thing to do, but it wasn’t socialism, whatever they called it. Likewise the Soviet Union wasn’t socialist after Stalin no matter how many holy oaths the Khrushchev revisionists swore on the name of Lenin.

  9. ProfessorToad

    “There is no such thing as a mixed economy.” This is pretty rank idealism. Of course there is such a thing as a mixed economy. Every economy is a mixed economy. the Soviet economy in 1937 was a mixed economy.

    And what do you have to say about the use of the word “socialism” to mean “the collective ownership of the means of production” by Marx, Engels and Stalin? Were they misusing the word?

    You can’t do science without giving words clear, exact meanings. The meaning that socialism has in the science of Marxism is the collective ownership of the means of production.

    The nature of a society is first and foremost an outgrowth of its economic organization. Economics, as Marx said, is the motor of history. The economic structure of society is not as easily changed as the person in the top position in government or even the policy of the government. It cannot be changed without changing the class in power, but even that is only the first step.

    Capitalism, also, has an exact meaning in Marxist political discourse. It is not, let us say, “a country with a government I don’t like,” or “a country whose leadership makes errors,” or, “A country with a class society” — because many class societies are not capitalism, or “a country which is no longer moving toward a higher phase of socialism.”

    Capitalism is an economic system with many attributes, such as the private ownership of the means of production, the dominance of commodity production, and the existence of wage labor as the primary means of exploitation.

    The nature of capitalism defines the course that it takes: It inevitably results in crises of overproduction and in bubbles. The reasons for these things are explained carefully in Capital. They are inherent in capitalism, and those people who are seeking to avoid a repeat of the world’s last economic crisis are fooling themselves because capitalism can’t be reformed.

    The Soviet economy in the 1960s and 1970s very obviously did not perform in this way. Contrast it to the Russian economy in the 1990s and this becomes abundantly clear.

    • If you have anywhere clearly defined your idea of “mixed economy,” professor, I missed it. As for myself, I continue to think any stable sharing of a national economy by capitalism and socialism is impossible. If both are present it can only be a stage in the elimination of one by the other.

      • Professor Toad

        David,

        I apologize if I’ve been unclear about a mixed economy. What I mean was this:

        A socialist economy is one in which the means of production are collectively owned. A capitalist economy is one in which the means of production are privately owned. A mixed economy would then be one in which some of the means of production are collectively owned and some are privately owned.

        Nearly every modern society is a mixed economy. That covers a great deal of ground, however: One one hand, we have the United States in which the postal service, a very few weapons plants, and, however briefly, a single failing auto maker are publicly owned while nearly everything else is privately owned. On the other, we have Cuba in which nearly the whole economy is collectively owned — mostly by the state — but a handful of people own, let’s say, a restaurant, a barber’s chair, or the equipment to operate their own small holding.

        The United States is thus undoubtedly capitalist. Cuba is undoubtedly socialist.

        When people talk about a mixed economy in the United States, they typically refer to the Northern European countries. More of the economy is publicly owned there, but the predominant mode of production is undoubtedly capitalism. They are simply social democracies, i.e. basically capitalist economies in which the government owns a handful of industries and provides certain accommodations to the working class.

        You say:

        “As for myself, I continue to think any stable sharing of a national economy by capitalism and socialism is impossible.”

        There is something in this. As Stalin said, even the presence of small holdings is something of a political problem. But in many circumstances it’s not that serious of a political problem. The organized proletariat, controlling the overwhelming majority of the means of production plus the whole superstructure can probably keep a handful of would be kulaks at bay long enough to change their mode of thinking. That, at least, was evidently Stalin’s view.

        You say:

        “If both are present it can only be a stage in the elimination of one by the other.”

        Well, of course, for a dialectician everything has a being and a becoming, so as far as that’s concerned, what you say is true. Again, however, if you say that the proletariat will or should wage an unrelenting struggle against all survivals of capitalism, then you are more communist than Stalin and Lenin.

        The process of transformation of a society from capitalism to socialism is not a simple matter, but a dialectical matter.

      • Professor Toad

        P.S. Please just call me Toad.

  10. This is a right on article and site. Great to see.

    Much appreciated and being shared.

  11. I think professor does not understand the distinctions between the classical form of capitalism and the peculiar form of the state capitalism of 60-80s in the USSR.And second.Professor does not understand the decisive role of dictatorship of the proletariat if we want to define the social sistem correctly.

    • Professor Toad

      Well, Morozov, I am happy to listen to what you have to say. I suspect that the lack of understanding is not so much on my side, but I have been wrong before.

      I’m a little disappointed though that you are not responding to what I have said. Let me sum up a few points and see whether you can respond specifically to them:

      1. The dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism are distinct. The dictatorship of the proletariat precedes socialism in time, because the proletariat must seize power before it can build socialism.

      2. Socialism cannot come into existence or survive long at all without the dictatorship of the proletariat. But it is distinct from the dictatorship of the proletariat. Socialism is an economic system in which common ownership of the means of production is dominant.

      3. Capitalism is not a general term for class societies. It is a very specific form of class society, described in detail in many works of political economy, most notably Capital. Class societies which do not operate according to those rules of political economy are not capitalism.

      I am not, of course, ignorant of what Maoists and Hoxhaists say concerning the Soviet Union from Krushchev on. I have long been struck by the similarity between their analysis and the analysis of certain Trotskyists, of course.

      But on the whole, it is clear that the Maoist analysis is incorrect.

      This article is written in part to correct one of the errors of Chen Po Ta’s analysis, which is to conflate the two distinct concepts of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

      It seems to me that so far at least, rather than refuting the article, you are ignoring the points it makes and the quotations from such unassailable Marxists as Marx, Engels and Stalin which it contains. It seems to me that that approach is not going to do anybody any good.

  12. My answers:.
    1.”The dictatorship of proletariat precedes socialism in time”…No.It is correctly to say:”The first,undeveloped form of dictatorship precedes socialism in time.”Upbuilding of socialism in economy and upbuilding of real developed dictatorship are two simultaneous connected processes.
    2.”Socialism is economic sistem in which common ownership is dominant”…Yes.But it is necessary to add:”The state ownership DOES NOT EXIST AS COMMON without dictatorship of proletariat”.The means of production belong to state but simultaneously the state must belong to proletariat.Otherwise the ownership is state but not common.
    3.”Marx described the capitalism”…Yes.But Marx described the known him form of capitalism and showed the essence of any capitalism.This essence may be in different forms as history has shown.
    Excuse my bad english.I am an ordinary worker.I did njt read Chen Po Ta but I lived in the USSR and saw everything myself.

    • Professor Toad

      Your bad English is fine. There are some problems with your argument, though.

      1. So, you would invent “the undeveloped dictatorship of the proletariat.” Lenin and Stalin lived the dictatorship of the proletariat and led it, but they never noticed this stage. You — who never lived through this period of history in any country — have invented it in your theory to avoid recognizing some obvious truths.

      2. First of all, whoever controls the state, so long as the state controls the means of production, the anarchy of capitalism is not going to prevail. Second: The bourgeoisie likes capitalism, not state socialism. Capitalism is the fundamental bourgeois mode of production. Why in the world would they tinker with “state capitalism” or deformed socialism giving the workers less and less rather than simply move to capitalism? It’s absurd.

      The bottom line is that when the bourgeoisie controls the state, nevertheless, the means of production are operated as social property until they are privatized. But don’t worry: It doesn’t take long.

      3. When you call a thing capitalism which is nothing like capitalism except in that you don’t like it, you are no longer using scientific terms of art. You are using epithets and insults. For you, as for most Maoists and Hoxhaists, capitalism is no longer a description of an economic system, but a mere curse word.

      You lived in the USSR. Therefore I suppose you must know all there is to know about the USSR, just as every American worker has a full understanding of American capitalism?

      You didn’t like the USSR, you saw it and saw that there were problems with it. That I accept. To thereby conclude it was capitalist is childish.

      You never read Chen Po Ta? Well, I think the matter is worse: You have read the writings of less talented and less inspired copiers of Chen Po Ta, perhaps on the internet.

    • Professor Toad

      I think I would like to say a little more about socialism and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie:

      I hope we are all familiar with the principle of distribution under socialism, taken from Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme: From each according to his ability, to each according to his labor.

      Now, we know that in a developed socialist society, there is a complicated mechanism in place by which that principle applies.

      When Krushchev took power, did it instantly cease to operate? Of course it did not. Nothing happens instantly. A change in political leadership does not, by itself, change distribution.

      So, do we then have a capitalist society in which the socialist principle of distribution in effect applies? Very odd, isn’t it?

      At what point did the iron law of wages begin to operate in Russia? At what point were the Russian working classes reduced to the level of poverty of the mass of the world’s workers, excepting the sector of bribed workers in the imperialist countries? Not until the late 1980s.

  13. Your convictions are undestandable for me.Thank you.However my expierence of life and expierence of my friends compels us to think in another way.Sorry.
    Any soviet worker can tell you much about real(unlike official)sistem of distribution in 60-80s and about bureaucratic anarchy of production(under the state control of state bourgeoisie).
    I would want else to read the opinions of other readers if it is possible.Please comrades,take part in.

    • Professor Toad

      Well, Morozov, I have to say, as dialogs go, this seems like an absolute failure to me, in that you are not apparently interested in listening to what any one else has to say, or at least in responding directly to it.

      Also, of course, you’re not being all that consistent here, are you? On one hand, you are telling us that the Soviet Union in the 1970s was not socialist because it was then under the control of the bourgeoisie rather than the proletariat, and therefore the ownership of the means of production was not collective. If you hold with that, then what does it matter how the distribution was accomplished? If you are retreating from that position, please have the grace to do so openly.

      I find it very hard to take seriously the suggestion that the so-called anarchy of production of the 1970s was somehow parallel to the anarchy of production of the 1990s. It is true that I did not live through either, but the readily available facts and figures show that there really is no comparison.

      If you read the previous part of the discussion, no one here is denying the existence of the black market in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. No one here is denying that there was an excess of localized decision making and even a market among the major industries. However, the great bulk of the means of production continued to be state owned, and all responsive to the same central decision making bodies, however imperfectly so.

      In contrast, starting in the 1980s and into the 1990s, the major industries were increasingly privatized and put under the control of private individuals answerable to no one.

      The result was that an economy which had stagnated due to poor planning and underinvestment in capital production — the opposite problem of capitalist economies according at least to a scribbler of a professor called Karl Marx — went into absolute freefall.

      The result also is that Soviet workers, who until then had enjoyed living standards basically comparable to — although in some ways much favorable to — the workers in the Western European imperialist countries suddenly found themselves part of a capitalist proletariat. They found themselves suddenly in a position more akin to workers in capitalist countries with no colonies, such as India. Hunger, homelessness, and the diseases of poverty burst onto the scene. The results were devastating. No one has to visit Russia to know that: Even the capitalist press admits it.

      I detect a very real anti-intellectualism in what you write. You seem to suggest that perhaps you understand these things better because you have not studied Marxism. This is not a Marxist attitude. To understand the world around you, you need not only practice but also theory.

    • Professor Toad

      Let me also add this:

      You repeatedly stress that you lived in the Soviet Union through this period. You suggest that this means your opinion is especially valid. The problem with that argument, which I think you can see, is that millions of other people lived in the Soviet Union during that period and reached very different conclusions. So, obviously, simply asking people who lived in the Soviet Union in the 1970s what they think happened is not going to get us very far.

  14. Dear comrades,
    I am really glad to find this forum. I, like any other Marxist-Leninist of the world, can so relate to everything and all the discussions here. I belong to the Communist Party of Pakistan.
    We have a kinda similar blog to discuss the scenario of our (disturbing) politics in the perspective of world politics and imperialism. I wonder if you guys know anything about the struggle of Pakistani Marxists in different eras.
    We, infact, have a commune like society right in the middle of the most dangerous areas of the country. Please check this and participate:

    http://pakteahouse.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/hashtnagar-a-land-forgotten/

    Long Live Marxism-Leninism!

  15. Yo, Toad, you are getting too personal with Morozov. It doesn’t clarify things. Lighten up.

    To proceed, we have discussed a few things in this thread but here is something else:

    In your note of June 3 9:05 PM, you said,

    2. First of all, whoever controls the state, so long as the state controls the means of production, the anarchy of capitalism is not going to prevail.

    Anarchy is intrinsic to capitalism. Commodity production and exploitation of labor for profit and self-expansion of capital guarantee anarchy. State ownership under capitalism is only a formal shell of private ownership. If the bourgeoisie hold the state they also dispose of the means of production. The procedures may differ from explicitly private ownership but that in no way affects any characteristic of capitalism.

    • ProfessorToad

      Well, if I’ve gotten too personal, I apologize.

      Now, you say that state ownership is only a formal shell.

      But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, of course. Your statement amounts to this: Although certainly the means of production in the Soviet Union in the 1970s were overwhelmingly collectively owned, they ACTED AS THOUGH they were privately owned.

      Honestly, I think this has already been fairly well refuted. If the Soviet Union was acting like a capitalist economy in the 1970s, then the description of capitalism which Marx gave should apply to it. But it plainly doesn’t.

      Were there crises of overproduction? No. Consumer goods were scarce and capital goods were scarcer.

      Was there an overproduction of capitalist goods? Quite the contrary, as the 1990s showed, Soviet industry was undercapitalized compared to Western European industry.

      Did the iron law of wages apply? The iron law of wages says that, because a proletarian is selling his labor power, what he gets in return is what it takes to reproduce that labor power, i.e. just enough to survive and reproduce. There are, of course, exceptions to it. For instance, in the imperialist countries, much of the proletariat lives much better than that, but that is possible only because of the exploitation of the colonies.

      So, did the iron law of wages apply in the Soviet Union? No, it didn’t. Can we explain this away with reference to Soviet “colonies”? No, we can’t, because in the Soviet “colonies”, such as Cuba, the iron law of wages didn’t apply either.

      We could continue. We could talk about patterns of development in real colonies verse so-called “colonies” like Cuba, and, I’m sure, with a little thought, a dozen other topics. You would find that in each one, the Soviet Union did not behave as a capitalist economy.

      But there is no point to that: Either you’ll accept three or four proofs, or you won’t accept a dozen.

      There are two basic ways of understanding the world: The materialist way and the idealist way. The materialist way studies the world and draws conclusions from it. The idealist way starts with an idea and then makes the world fit into it.

      If we are taking an idealist route… If we are starting from the premise that the Soviet Union was capitalist, and then reappraising life in the Soviet Union, in Cuba, and in wherever else in whatever way we have to until we make it fit our premise, then discussion is as futile as a theological argument.

      But if we are all materialists here then the material evidence is quite clear: The Soviet Union was in no meaningful sense capitalist in the 1970s.

      Of course, it may be that you agree with Mazurov, that capitalism in the Soviet Union was completely unlike capitalism anywhere else, and so the usual rules of capitalist political economy don’t apply.

      But in that case, maybe we’ll redefine “like” and “rules” in the next paragraph, and, again, there is no point in discussion.

      I believe Lin Biao was responsible for the Little Red Book. This was a small collection of essays by Mao which Lin Biao distributed as an alternative to a serious course of Marxist study. The essays are all good essays, but they cover only a very limited range of topics, and have almost nothing to say about the nature and the political economy of capitalism.

      Modern Maoists, like those who read only Lin Biao’s book, fundamentally do not understand what capitalism is because they have never studied it.

      As a consequence, when they stub their toe on a rock, they think that means the rock is capitalist.

      • ProfessorToad

        Please read “capital goods” for “capitalist goods” above. I can’t edit comments.

  16. I have some questiones to David.Please,answer.
    1).The essential feature of any capitalism(in spite of its form)is separation means of production and manpower.Presence or absence of this feature means presence or absence of capitalism,isn’t it?
    2).If the state isn’t the dictatorship of proletariat,what class is the dictator of such state?
    3).If we have the state ownership without dictatorship of proletariat,can we name it the socialist ownership?
    In other words:is the dictatorship of proletariat only political tool of class violence or besides one of the most essential conditions of the common socialist ownership?
    4).Are there any differences between features of the capitalism with many(personal)owners and capitalism with one(state)owner?
    5).Is it correct to search all the features of the first form of capitalism in the second form instead of to study thoroughly the peculiarities of such new form?

    Mr Toad,please,comment upon the David’s answers(not my questiones).

    • Okay, Morozov, these are good questions. Here’s my shot:

      First let’s talk about socialism. Marx says, “defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society.” (Critique of the Gotha Programme, point 3.) Marx says something that cannot be overemphasized: socialism is already communism. It is the first, lower stage of communism, not a different mode of production.
      Marx’ observation about defects applies all the more strongly to the Russian and Chinese revolutions. Neither occurred in predominantly capitalist countries. Lenin described Russia as a system of “military-feudal imperialism” and Mao showed that old China was a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country.
      While we’re at it let’s note that Mao’s conception of new-democratic revolution was a matter of transformation of the old society to socialism, not of socialism to communism.

      Q: 1).The essential feature of any capitalism(in spite of its form)is separation means of production and manpower.Presence or absence of this feature means presence or absence of capitalism,isn’t it?

      A1: Form-shmorm of capitalism, comrade. To paraphrase the Muslims, there is only one capitalism and it is capitalism.
      The separation of the oppressed class from the means of production is essential to all exploiter-class modes of production. It obtains under slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. The peculiarity of capitalism is the free laborer who sells his-her labor-power on the market, i..e., the wages system.
      Ownership of the means of production by the workers and peasants (family farmers) is essential to socialism. Practical necessity may force some survivals of exploiter-class ownership but only as a matter of transition from the old society. Survivals must be restricted and eliminated as soon as possible.
      Family plots in socialist agriculture do not violate this rule. The plot of land is means of production but it is owned by the toilers. The decisive thing in this case is the presence or absence of the dictatorship of the proletariat. However, even the family plots must be eliminated in good time by means of superior socialist development. Their indefinite existence lays ground (indeed!) for the restoration of capitalism.

      Q: 2).If the state isn’t the dictatorship of proletariat,what class is the dictator of such state?

      A2: Lenin quotes Engels, that the state is “the product of a society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable opposites which it is powerless to conjure away.” (State and Revolution, Ch. 1) Thus both Engels and Lenin tell us class contradictions are insoluble, they are irreconcilable.
      Lenin further quotes Marx: “Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” (Ibid., ch. 6 part 2)
      Hence the proletariat cannot dispense with its dictatorship. Otherwise the insoluble and irreconcilable class contradictions, which still exist under socialism, will transform into exploiter-class dictatorship, either capitalist of feudal or a combination of both.
      For those unfamiliar with the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat, consider the bourgeiois dictatorship under which we live with all its horrors. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the only alternative.

      Q: 3).If we have the state ownership without dictatorship of proletariat,can we name it the socialist ownership?
      In other words:is the dictatorship of proletariat only political tool of class violence or besides one of the most essential conditions of the common socialist ownership?

      A3: First part: no. Counterexample: Iraq under the Baath regime. It was termed “Arab socialism” because there was extensive state ownership of industry, including oil. No one, including the Baathists, saw it as Marxist socialism, however. It was a bourgeois society. The issue wasn’t who had formal title to ownership of industry but who held the state. Still, sovereign bourgeois development was a great advance over the old feudal-colonialist society.
      Iraq nationalized its oil and industry to prevent their acquisition by imperialist capital. Nationalization was a great anti-imperialist achievement of the Baath, but it wasn’t socialism as we understand it. It also was the real ground of the imperialist aggression against Iraq.
      The same nationalization of oil in Venezuela did not prevent a pro-imperialist “managers’ strike” against the national-sovereign regime of Hugo Chavez. Hence, nationalization is not the be-all and end-all of struggle against imperialism.
      Second part: both. Whaddaya mean, “besides?”

      Q: 4).Are there any differences between features of the capitalism with many(personal)owners and capitalism with one(state)owner?

      A4: Yes, there are different features, as in the difference between an imperialist country like the United States and pre-imperialist, national-market capitalist country like pre-invasion Iraq. It is still capitalism, however.

      Q: 5).Is it correct to search all the features of the first form of capitalism in the second form instead of to study thoroughly the peculiarities of such new form?

      A5: Well, form-shmorm again.
      I think rather the question is the difference between the way capitalism developed out of feudalism, which was the object of Marx’ study, and the way capitalist restoration occured under socialism. Those “peculiarities” are of the greatest importance. To my mind the only satisfactory analysis of the latter is Mao’s account of the spontaneous rise of a new bourgeoisie inside the Communist Party.

      • ProfessorToad

        I’ll reply also to the suggestion that Iraq or Venezuela would have to be termed socialist because the oil is state owned.

        I think that actually this was covered fairly thoroughly in the earlier discussion: the question is not whether or not some of the means of production are state owned. The question is what is the dominant form of ownership of the means of production. The ownership of part of the oil industry — and in nearly all capitalist countries it is really only part — is hardly the same thing as the ownership of the main means of production, or most of the main means of production.

        This attempt to separate the capitalist mode of production from capitalism and bourgeois society is really very strange to see. Capitalism is defined by its mode of production. The bourgeoisie are produced by the capitalist mode of production and strongly allied with the capitalist mode of production.

        Capitalism is based on the private ownership of the means of production. No rule in the social sciences is without exceptions, and to go around shouting “Ah Hah! There’s an exception! Your rule is no good!” is really very silly.

        As to the question of whether Iraq was not Marxist socialism but perhaps some other form of socialism under the Ba’ath party, I would be very interested to hear what other form of socialism there is… That is, what other path to the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production David thinks Saddam Hussein found.

        Really, this attempt to redefine capitalism and socialism in ways which are only loosely connected to a particular organization of the economy is an abandonment of Marxism in favor of some kind of idealism.

  17. I’m not going to answer all of this in depth. I hope you’ll accept an excuse of lack of time. You see I have a new article up. It is much shorter, and much more factual. I look forward to hearing from all of you on that page.

    But I would like to make a few comments:

    First, on whether you can call it socialism if the state falls into the hands of the bourgeoisie. I think the answer to this is that it is an almost completely academic question because the notion that the bourgeoisie would maintain the collective ownership of the means of production for twenty or thirty years is absurd. Absolutely, astonishingly, absurd.

    The bourgeoisie HATES the collective ownership of the means of production. They FEAR the collective ownership of the means of production. And they tear it to bits whenever they have a chance. Read the bourgeois press and you will not miss this point.

    If you wish to argue about what to call the situation during the period of a few months while the bourgeoisie dismantles socialism, perhaps you have a point, but not a very important one.

    To miss this point is to miss the dialectical connection between the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism: Socialism cannot come into existence without the dictatorship of the proletariat, and it cannot last without it. Collective ownership of the principle means of production in a situation other than the dictatorship of the proletariat is among the rarest of historical anomalies. What you call it is bizarre.

    I hope I sympathize adequately with the disappointment you felt in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. I hope that I understand well enough the failings of socialism in the Soviet Union in the 1960s.

    But it is possible to say that it was badly damaged without saying that socialism had been abolished or that a new bourgeoisie had seized power. Failing to understand that is economic determinism and a failure to grasp the power of the superstructure. The recommended treatment for this disease is a dose of Althusser’s For Marx.

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