OCML-VP: The process of the capitalist restoration in the USSR

Presentation of OCML-VP

International meeting 5 of November 2017 in Athens

Topic of Discussion:

Capitalist restoration: causes – effects – the answers of the movement.

The process of the capitalist restoration in the USSR

We all know that revolution is when a class uproots power from another class. But what should be done afterwards? We respond: a State mechanism entirely new, instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which will organize, during a long period of transition from capitalism to communism, the exercise of power by the workers themselves and the withering of the State. Historical experience teaches us that it is not so easy to build this new state. And above all, that the state is a carrier of contrasts and a source of Degeneration.

The new state that emerged from October represents an unprecedented power: that of the soviets, the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. The road to the Russian Revolution since October is no less spiral than its long journey to power. It is the first real blow against old society and the first steps of a victorious proletarian revolution. From this point of view everything had to be taught. It was incomplete, mistakes were made and the counter-revolution eventually prevailed. But its undoubted value, historical achievement, was that it existed.

In „State and Revolution,“ Lenin reminds us that the two most typical institutions of the state machine are bureaucracy and the permanent army, and that the first decrees of the Paris Commune were their replacement by the armed people, the installation of elected and recalled civil servants which were paid as workers, the abolition of the parliament, and so on. In a proletarian state, on the contrary, to the extent that the distance that separates the state from civil society has actually been diminished, then we have a new State that is no longer exactly a State. Having taken the power, the working class is equipped with a state which can be used to fight for Communism, „from above“.

But being able to do this is not simple. Let’s just take the example of Lenin’s Russia. The urgent need, the unheard difficulties, and the lack of consciousness and education of the proletariat, which was also numerically weak at country level, required draconian measures. The State of the proletariat could never be „ideally“ established from scratch. Only idealists pretend that the Bolsheviks shouldn’t have taken radical steps to save the Soviet power.

What are the difficulties that arise immediately after gaining power, in the rebuilding of a new State? Between 1918 and 1921, the repression of the raids by the Whites and Allied imperialist powers, the struggle against hunger, ensuring the restoration of a minimal functioning of the ruined economy, requires everything to be subjected to these two tasks. In this unheard context of disorder and disaster, what does „soviet power“ mean?

The proletariat is unable to „simplify“ the State mechanism as much as it is required. It is not enough, Lenin recalls, to nationalize and confiscate „More of what we manage to measure“, that is, more than what can really be controlled and managed by the proletariat itself. This inability of the proletariat explains its substitution in part by an administrative mechanism, composed initially by who have the ability. Since October, the Interim Government has expropriated a number of industrial and commercial businesses, but for the Bolsheviks the priority is not to extend expropriations. But to build a state capitalism under the control of the soviets of workers and peasants. At this stage, factory committees have a controlling role rather than a directing one: the bourgeoisie still holds a portion of the means of production while being subordinate to the Soviet state.

Moreover, it is not easy to transform the scattered action of the thousands of factory committees into a centralized and coordinated labor control. Without this centralization, the action of factory committees could only take place in an anarchic manner, ie through the market and competition. During the winter of 1917-1918, this anarchy extends to the paralysis of the economy. Many workers suffer from „corporate selfishness,“ based on petty bourgeois ideology. This ideology is supported by the Mensheviks, the anarchists and the SR’s. The Labor Control Decree in November of 1917 enshrines these committees and factory councils in the Soviet system, subjecting them to the control of superior institutions at local, regional and national levels.

Central government is exercised in principle by the Council of People’s Commissars, a coalition government, then directly by the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. Since 1918 the permanent army has to be restored to face the imperialist attacks. The power of the Bolsheviks must at all costs use some Tsarist officials, as well as many other specialists of the old regime (engineers, etc.) who, under the Tsar, possessed the knowledge. Against the counter-revolution, radical decisions are imposed, such as the establishment of a professional police (Cheka) with emergency powers. Faced with disruption in the countryside, in order to avoid hunger, supply commissioners are given the right to cancel the decisions of local Soviets.

We notice that, slowly, because of the needs of war and supply, factory committees and the labor control system completely lose their autonomy in front of the central governing bodies. The Central Committee of the Soviets is deprived of executive power in favor of the party’s governing bodies.

Moreover, in March of 1918 the Party issued instructions focused on the tasks of management and administration: a requirement for discipline without exception by all workers, a consent that makes bourgeois experts paid more and the introduction of Taylorism … But the compromise with certain social layers of the old regime is a source of degeneration. It is what Lenin finds at the 4th Congress of the Communist International in 1922: „We inherited the old mechanism of the State and it is against us. The State Mechanism works quite often against us. […] We now have huge masses of workers, but we do not have enough trained people to manage the staff effectively. In particular, it is very often at the top, where we have the authority of the State, that the mechanism functions in some way, when under the command, they give orders on their own and do so in a way that often acts against our intentions. […] there are hundreds of thousands of old civil servants inherited from the Tsar and the bourgeoisie, who are partly consciously, partially unconsciously working against us. „

Since 1918, the Revolution is in fact confronted with a dictatorship of the proletariat only in name, which is essentially exercised through the Bolshevik Party. The Soviets, who ought to be the organs of a workers‘ government, are in fact government organs assured by the most advanced layer of the proletariat. Given the conditions of Russia at that time, this „deviation“ process is in part natural and inevitable to the immediate challenges facing Soviet power. But at the same time, it ends very quickly and uncontrollably, the Bolshevik party does not control its implications in bureaucratisation. The mechanisms of the State are not under the control of the Soviets, who lose their status. Labor control is disintegrating. The most active and politically conscious workers were absorbed by party duties, the trade unions, the State, and have massively enrolled in the army.

The „War Communism“ since June 1918, reinforces all these trends by militarizing the economy. The victory of the Red Army in the civil war certifies the triumph of the proletariat against its yesterday’s masters. But it has exhausted the proletariat, which has drastically decreased by war, hunger and partial destruction of production. The number of industrial workers was reduced to half between 1917 and 1922. The working class therefore has little to see between these two dates, either materially, nor politically or ideologically. The solidity of the dictatorship of the proletariat is not primarily determined by the amount of workers. But the natural disappearance of the Soviet working class couldn’t have no impact on its ability to exercise its dictatorship. It also forced it to move away from the political, ideological, financial struggle.

The seeds of a social group with indefinite limits are slowly developing in a managerial role in the social division of labor, within the State and the Party. This strata of bourgeoisie is born between old and new civil servants, specialists and technicians, communists responsible for Party organs, trade unions, and soviets. In October 1919, the Party numbered 52% of workers and 15% of farmers, but over 60% of them are employees of the Party, the government or trade unions, and the 27% are in the Red Army. The NEP, since September 1921, is seen as a return to the state capitalism of 1918, the old measures of which are maintained in addition to the allowance of businesses to the capitalists, the development of cooperatives, and the liberalization of trade. For Lenin, this state capitalism that is handled by Soviet power would no longer be capitalism in the usual sense: controlled by the proletarian State, it could not „overcome the framework and conditions laid down by the proletariat“. but the problem was that the proletariat’s superiority in this State was already weakened.

The proletariat was relentlessly deprived of its political and economic power: by the persistence of old habits, by new privileges, by the bureaucracy of the State … in short from the layer of the bourgeoisie that was born and, more generally, from bourgeois relationships. This Soviet bourgeoisie is the product of class struggle and economic, political and social conditions in the early years of the Revolution. It is dominated by the measures that were taken during the war communism, which was in part necessary, but their evolution was not controlled. In 1918, the Bolsheviks underestimate the risk of a counter-revolution of the exploiters who would not use the means of production as their own property but would benefit from them collectively through the Soviet State. What in 1918 was but a potential danger transforms into a profound social tendency over the years, with the contribution of bureaucratized Communist executives, a portion of bourgeois and petty bourgeois of the old regime revived, „Nepmen“ … As the October Revolution victoriously replaced individual ownership with collective ownership by the State, the new bourgeoisie could not prevail in the same way as a classic counter-revolution of the Whites and reconstitute a class of individual properties. The process of counter-revolution thus developed camouflaged within even the State and the Party in the name of Socialism. This new bourgeoisie that proceeds without open confrontation with the proletariat relies on:

(a) the economic basis of dominant production relations, those of state capitalism, established since 1918, and then strengthened by NEP.

b) In the mechanisms of the State, where a class of collective owners of the means of production is rooting.

The policy that materialized in order to destroy primarily the main enemy (atomic capital and small production) developed another enemy as dangerous, the State’s capital: the enemy is Capitalism, in all its forms and in all fields.

Surely, the Soviet Constitution of 1924 enshrines a number of principles to ensure the dictatorship of the proletariat. For example, the right to vote and to be elected is withdrawn from the „persons using salaried workers to benefit, people who enjoy non-working income, civil servants and old police agents.“ It enshrines one representative at the soviets for every 25,000 city electors, and one for 125,000 in the villages to ensure the proletariat’s superiority to the peasantry. Puts in the hands of poor peasants and the working class all the necessary technical and material infrastructure for the production of newspapers, books and guarantees their free dissemination. It provides all appropriate venues for organizing political gatherings. It declares compulsory labor for all citizens and grants political rights to all foreigners residing in the territory. It is not about recognizing formal rights equal to all but as guaranteeing a material basis that allows the exercise of power by certain classes.

But we should not stand there: it would be like believing that a constitution, the laws, would be enough to secure the victory of the proletariat. The problem is that the majority couldn’t immediately become conscious of its tasks. Democracy, as it exists under the dictatorship of the proletariat, has the task of educating the working class itself in its tasks of actually exercising power, as well as persuading the intermediate masses that waver. The ability to put the masses into motion to build Communism in order to liberate them depends on the political line that the Party implements: from its ability to determine at each stage of socialist construction what transformation is timely and can initiate labor masses to fight against the bourgeoisie.

Communists should never lose sight of the goal of transforming the Soviet state. First they organize the struggle for the control of civil servants and executives by the workers. Control not only aimed at supervising but also teaching them, introducing them into case management, so that workers can finally exercise power gradually in the place of the specialized mechanism of professional employees.

In socialism, the superstructure plays an active role in the transformation of social relations. That is why the Party and the State cannot be regarded, as the reformists do, as purely technical tools, which we can easily enhance their productivity.

The State definitely represents the power of a class, but it always acquires a certain degree of autonomy in relation to it. The proletarian state cannot without difficulty organize the whole class into a ruling one, just its representatives. A worker minister is no longer a worker but a minister. Therefore, there is always a social division of labor between the ruling and the ruled in the proletarian state. This exists even if the Soviet State significantly reduces the distance between the mechanism and the masses. There is always extra coexistence of different ownership schemes amongst which the exchange always applies to the goods, conflicts between manual and intellectual work, between managers and steered between the workers and peasants … These divisions are a source of reproduction of the bourgeoisie.

Lenin had presented this phenomenon: „Our worst inner enemy is the bureaucrat, the communist who holds a responsible position in the Soviet institutions, surrounded by the respect of all, a conscientious man. […] He did not learn to fight against the paper, he does not know how to fight against it, and he covers it. We must get rid of this enemy, and with the help of all the conscious workers and farmers we will succeed. „

The proletarian State ought to be an instrument that allows inequality to be reduced, but it is obliged to tolerate seeing the protection of the depots of Capitalism that it cannot be abolished with a decree. The field of class struggle within the State is located there. Those who follow the capitalist road will struggle to maintain inequalities.

We see that the question of the State is that: it is a revolutionary organ from above, giving the proletariat the material means of its power. But at the same time it remains a „State machine“ that protects and reproduces the bourgeoisie to a certain extent. The masses must therefore use the means guaranteed by the state’s power against the State itself to transform it to its withering. And that is not easy done by simply transforming the soviets into executive bodies of power.

Faced with the problems, the reformists line recommends setting new mechanisms to control previous ones. But this strengthens the evil, separating even more the mechanism from the masses, strengthening the position of executives and specialists, eventually the background of the restoration of the bourgeoisie.

In 1921, Lenin states that the Soviet State was not purely „a labor one,“ and the proletariat had to both defend it and defend itself against it. He speaks „for a labor State in bureaucratic distortion“. In order to perform this struggle, Lenin put all the weight on the education of the proletariat.

Not a purely theoretical and technical education, which could only create some workers to new „specialists“, who would then be themselves formed into executives cut off from the masses and then into new bourgeois. But an education in the direction of creating a new man, not cut off from the production, the proletariat and the class struggle. It is in this direction that Lenin will propose to set up a „Labor and Rural Inspection“, which was created in 1920 to mobilize the workers to control the state mechanism and learn to manage it on their own. Under peaceful circumstances, the direct task must be to adhere to the transformation of the State so that they can begin their own control. He writes: „It is important to improve the general living conditions that millions and hundreds of millions of workers have to go through the Labor and Rural Inspectorate and learn how to manage the State (because no one has taught us how to) to replace the hundreds thousands of bureaucrats. „

The line to be followed is the one of enhancing the exercise of actual power by the proletariat first, and then by the working masses. The power of the Party to gradually expands into the power of the conscious proletariat, then of the wider working masses. The dictatorship of the proletariat is actually the exercise of power by the proletariat to the extent that it is capable of replacing the State’s own mechanism.

We thus meet with Lenin the basis for the continuation of the class struggle in socialism that will concentrate on the „letter in 25 points of the Communist Party of China“

a) The old exploiters will try to regain power

b) The petty bourgeois mentality creates everyday new bourgeois elements

c) The imperialist encirclement also determines the class struggle

d) New bourgeois elements appear on the lines of the Party and the State.

We have not studied more thoroughly the class struggles in the USSR between the mid-1920s and the mid-1930s. However, we believe that they are the beliefs of the bourgeoisie that prevail in the drafting of the 1936 Constitution, which refers to „State of all the people, „denying its contradictory nature. During the 1930s, the bourgeoisie has become the ruling class in the USSR. When in 1936 it was argued that „all the ranks of the exploiters have been cleared,“ that is obviously false. In a society in which the law of value, trade, manual / intellectual divisions lie, it is a lie to pretend that we know who will prevail, that the matter is finally resolved. At the 19th Congress in 1952, it will later be argued that there are no more competitive classes and that the distance between the social groups is decreasing more and more.

The statements of party representatives between 1936 and 1952 converge in identifying the interests of the revolution with the strengthening of the State and the growth of productive forces. In 1952, it was said at the 19th Congress that the virtues of a Communist are „to put the interests of the State above all“.

In the field of the economic base, what impresses in the reformist theories is not only the insistence on promoting commercial production, the law of value, the preservation of the social division of labor, but also that they refuse to cope with the need of class struggle to eliminate these manifestations of capitalism.

Stalin had supported this position in 1936, stating „the essential duty of our State is to do a peaceful job of economic organization, learning and education.“ He had begun to criticize this view in the „Economic Problems of Socialism“ (written in 1952), responding to Yaroshenko who stated that „the political economy is concerned not with productive relations in socialism but with the elaboration and development of a scientific theory of productive forces , a theory of national planning etc. „. Stalin replies that „Replacing economic problems in the political economy of socialism with the problems of organizing the productive forces, ends up eliminating the political economy of socialism. (Which) studies the laws of the development of productive relations between to the people.“

But Stalin, by putting that phrase that socialism in the economic sphere is the revolutionary transformation of production relations, did not really push the struggle in that direction. „The economic problems of socialism“ restrict the struggle for the transformation of production relations into struggle for the transformation of forms of ownership.  For him, even if these relations are still incomplete in the USSR, it is due to the preservation of cooperative ownership. Passing everywhere to the property of the entire people, the state’s property would allow for the abolition of commodity trade and the passage to the upper phase of communism. But it is a mechanistic critique and incomplete. Because if the state mechanism is already dominated by a new bourgeoisie and not by the proletariat, the increase in the degree of nationalization of the economy does not stop at all the restoration of Capitalism.

If we consider that there are no competitive classes in the USSR, we explain the failures and errors not from the persistence and reproduction of bourgeois ideology, but above all from the action of external enemies. These problems are no longer regulated by class struggle, but by the reinforcement of counterintelligence, police, and the state mechanism in general. The Experts are favored. At the 19th Congress, bureaucracy was attributed to an „ideological delay“ and external influences, but never to the development of internal contradictions in Soviet society. According to this explanation bureaucracy has no material basis. This denial of the class struggle and the material basis of the reproduction of a new bourgeoisie obviously “decommissioned” the proletariat.

Stalin used a method of strengthening the state mechanism to fight against defects that are inherent in the existence of the mechanism itself. In this way he used a recipe that aggravated evil, strengthened the division of labor for the benefit of the executives, accelerating the formation of a new bourgeoisie instead of limiting it. When Khrushchev took over, it is this class that already has the power in the USSR.

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