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Thread: The Soviet Union - Capitalist from the very beginning?

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    Default The Soviet Union - Capitalist from the very beginning?

    It's a view which isn't as common as I would have imagined, but still there are those who hold it. This post mainly concerns these two questions:

    1. How was production organised in the early days of the revolution, and of the RSFSR/the early Union? That is, what relations to the means of production existed in these times? What role did the Bolsheviks have in this? What good, first hand accounts describing the above exist?
    2. When did the bourgeoisie clearly and demonstrably take power?

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    I'll try and answer your questions, but I'm not expert so I maybe wrong.

    1. In the very early days of the Revolution, the Soviets held most of the power in the USSR. As the Civil War escalated, more power was concentrated into Lenin's hands as he implemented War Communism and eventually the NEP, which had elements of capitalism in it. That being said it could very well be argued that all of those polices were necessary for the USSR to survive and that Lenin and Trotsky meant to restore power to the Soviets once the crisis was averted.

    2. The bourgeois took power openly when the USSR collapsed and capitalism was reinstated. However, some socialists such as Trotskyists, have argued that the USSR was a state capitalist nation and that the bureaucracy was a new ruling class, though they wouldn't be bourgeois in the sense that we have in the U.S. or other capitalist states.

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    As to first hand accounts you could read Lenins leftwing childishness, in 1918 well before NEP, from section III, section IV includes as an example;


    "...........our task is to study the state capitalism of the Germans, to spare no effort in copying it and not shrink from adopting dictatorial methods to hasten the copying of it. Our task is to hasten this copying even more than Peter hastened the copying of Western culture............"


    http://www.marx2mao.net/Lenin/LWC18.html



    And from Trotsky 1922;

    "..........this is explicable in part by an incomprehension of an expression frequently used by us, that we now have state capitalism. I shall not enter into an evaluation of this term; for in any case we need only to qualify what we understand by it. By state capitalism we all understood property belonging to the state which itself was in the hands of the bourgeoisie, which exploited the working class. Our state undertakings operate along commercial lines based on the market. But who stands in power here? The working class. Herein lies the principled distinction of our state ‘capitalism’ in inverted commas from state capitalism without inverted commas.


    What does this mean in perspective? Just this. The more state capitalism say, in Hohenzollern Germany, as it was, developed, the more powerfully the class of junkers and capitalists of Germany could hold down the working class. The more our ‘state capitalism’ develops the richer the work ing class will become, that is the firmer will become the foundation of socialism............"


    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trot...outh/youth.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by eric922 View Post
    I'll try and answer your questions, but I'm not expert so I maybe wrong.

    1. In the very early days of the Revolution, the Soviets held most of the power in the USSR. As the Civil War escalated, more power was concentrated into Lenin's hands as he implemented War Communism and eventually the NEP, which had elements of capitalism in it. That being said it could very well be argued that all of those polices were necessary for the USSR to survive and that Lenin and Trotsky meant to restore power to the Soviets once the crisis was averted.

    2. The bourgeois took power openly when the USSR collapsed and capitalism was reinstated. However, some socialists such as Trotskyists, have argued that the USSR was a state capitalist nation and that the bureaucracy was a new ruling class, though they wouldn't be bourgeois in the sense that we have in the U.S. or other capitalist states.
    That's pretty much bang on.

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    Thanks, I'll read that later

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    The article is spoiled by the author's insistence that in Russia it was the task of the proletariat to carry through the historic tasks of the bourgeois revolution.

    I really find this a contemptible POV. It could only have led back to NEPism and the establishment of a dictatorial bureaucracy.

    Russia was a unique situation, and an unlikely choice for revolution. Having expropriated the bourgeoisie and Tsarists, it was up to the Socialists to find a new way to accumulate capital, innovate, create and invent, whilst allowing Russia to mature politically by allowing the widest range of participation of the working class and those of the petty-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie who were willing to forgo any counter-revolutionary sentiment (given that the bourgeois revolution would have been skipped, it would be essential to have included such a wide cohort group in the political, and more importantly, economic process).

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    Quote Originally Posted by eric922 View Post
    I'll try and answer your questions, but I'm not expert so I maybe wrong.

    1. In the very early days of the Revolution, the Soviets held most of the power in the USSR. As the Civil War escalated, more power was concentrated into Lenin's hands as he implemented War Communism and eventually the NEP, which had elements of capitalism in it. That being said it could very well be argued that all of those polices were necessary for the USSR to survive and that Lenin and Trotsky meant to restore power to the Soviets once the crisis was averted.

    2. The bourgeois took power openly when the USSR collapsed and capitalism was reinstated. However, some socialists such as Trotskyists, have argued that the USSR was a state capitalist nation and that the bureaucracy was a new ruling class, though they wouldn't be bourgeois in the sense that we have in the U.S. or other capitalist states.
    1. That's irrelevant. Whether politically 'necessary' or not, the USSR could still have been Capitalist, as it was through the 1920s with the NEP. Saying that Lenin and Trotsky meant to restore power to the Soviets is an unsatisfactory answer, from a historical POV, as it's based on mere 'hope', and really isn't indicated from anything written by the sectarian Lenin and the iron-ruler (as evidence by his red army organisation) Trotsky.

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    Russia was a unique situation, and an unlikely choice for revolution.
    I think you're reading history backwards here.

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    The author openly states at the end of the article that the working class in some time through its soviets and factory committees could have risen to the point of seizing power at their own mass initiative, without being presented a fiat accompli by the Bolshevik party (and its admittedly popular Petrograd coup). So Stammer and Tickle's point is quite moot.

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    I do not understand how people could really see the USSR as capitalist. Lenin did indeed refer to the USSR as "state-capitalism" ie, the old adage of the USSR being "state-capitalism with a thin veneer of socialism" - and perhaps "state capitalism" can apply to the early USSR - but I feel later on, after Stalin, at least, it is a completely different story.

    For one - what are some of the marks of the capitalist mode?
    -Private ownership titles held by individuals over property, accumulations of capital and the means of production.
    -The individuals which hold these property titles and accumulations of capital constitute a decentralized but hegemonic class in contemporary society, the capitalist class, which strives for the ultimate goal of the accumulation of capital - in the process exploiting domestic and foreign markets while also manipulating domestic and foreign state apparatuses, still the end-goal of this class is always the same; the pursuit of more private accumulation of capital by private individuals - the process of the manipulation of the state by large quantities of accumulated capital results not in the strengthening of the state, but the weakening of it in favor of private pockets of power based on property and capital.

    In the USSR, however, there were no private deeds of ownership on property, vast accumulations of capital, or the means of production. All of these things were owned "by the people" which really meant the economically and socially monolithic Party bureaucracy which found a centralized and strong state apparatus the best fit mode for wielding its power as a ruling class, entirely unlike capitalism which seeks to always weaken the centralized state apparatus while increasing the power of private capital (except for in times of crisis when fascism emerges - here too though, the capitalist class retains its status as the economically hegemonic class in society).

    It is true that the USSR, especially in the years after Stalin, began to "lease" out factories to "companies" or administrative divisions of the state apparatus that it created, and gave them an amount of autonomy in the production process - but still - profits and actual ownership was not based on privately held rights of ownership - any gains that came to an individual bureaucrat were granted and awarded by the way of the individual bureaucrats affiliation with the larger bureaucracy's Party/state apparatus, and not by way of the process of private capitalist accumulation, or ownership deeds.

    Thus, the USSR was really more of a bureaucratic managerial state - more a kin to the Imperial Chinese state apparatus than capitalism - in Imperial China, under Qin Shi Huang, for example, all property, all land, all wealth, resources, labor, etc, was under the explicit command of the Emperor. Lesser nobility's power was based on landed estates GRANTED to them by the central Imperial government - and not theirs as hereditary right, or as personal property under the protection of the law - the state could, and would often expropriate entirely officials and nobility who had fallen out of favor with the Imperial court - kind of like how Khrushchev went from state granted dachas to having to relocate from apartment to apartment after he was outed from party favor. You would think if we was a state capitalist (Mubarak was a good example), he would have had plenty of wealth he accumulated using state power stashed away somewhere to afford better.
    "If conquest constituted a natural right on the part of the few, the many have only to gather sufficient strength in order to acquire the natural right of reconquering what has been taken from them." The Nationalisation of the Land Karl Marx

    "To belittle the socialist ideology in anyway, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology." What Is To Be Done? V.I. Lenin

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    I take it you've never read Soviet Millionaires then?

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Idler View Post
    I take it you've never read Soviet Millionaires then?
    No, I never have read it, but actually, I found it and going to read it now.

    Provisionally, I have these comments from reading the first few paragraphs:
    What kind of power could these alleged "Soviet Millionaires" really wield against the power and state ownership privileges of the Party as the dominant force in society? It seems like their contributing to Soviet War loans shows they were subject to broad tithes taken from their supposed "private wealth". In the old Caliphate too there were heavy taxes levied on private capital accumulations which could sometimes be quite large - in fact the larger an accumulation was, the more the official who was accumulating so much wealth feared being expropriated by the state. Yes, accumulations of private capital could and does exist under bureaucratic centralism - but that does not make it a capitalist society in that the state bureaucracy was still hegemonic over a marginalized emerging capitalist class that could be exploited, or expropriated if it so seemed like it might be accumulating too much power based on independent pockets of private accumulation.
    Last edited by Astarte; 7th September 2011 at 20:30.
    "If conquest constituted a natural right on the part of the few, the many have only to gather sufficient strength in order to acquire the natural right of reconquering what has been taken from them." The Nationalisation of the Land Karl Marx

    "To belittle the socialist ideology in anyway, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology." What Is To Be Done? V.I. Lenin

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    The sum of slightly more than one million roubles which Berdyebekov subscribed to the Soviet war loan represented the life savings of this family. Soviet conditions and laws do not permit of these savings being invested in private enterprises abroad, and there are no private enterprises suitable for investment in the U.S.S.R. The savings cannot be used either directly or indirectly for the exploitation of others. Neither can they be used for speculation. To what better purpose, then, could they be put than to devote them to their country's war effort? Berdyebekov's gesture lead to similar subscriptions being made by seventeen other Kazak farmers.
    Sounds pretty much like what I have been saying. The conditions of capitalism are absent. Accumulation does not equal capitalism. Furthermore, it seems Berdyebekov created something of a trend - a gesture of complete obedience to the Stalinist state, a wise decision to follow in the face of purge trials.

    Actually, the facts are as follows:
    Since 1934, the members of collective farms have been encouraged to retain in their private possession a certain number of dairy cattle, sheep and goats, pigs and fowls, they have been urged to cultivate a garden or allotment for their own use, this varying between half an acre and two acres in extent. The produce of these private holdings has gone in the main to the feeding of the farmer's own family. Any surplus he has been able to dispose of, at whatever it would fetch in the open market.
    Petty free-markets like the above mentioned do not constitute capitalism as a dominant mode either - that is unless you also believe Babylon, Egypt, Imperial China, etc also constitute capitalist or state capitalist modes of society because they too had petty free-markets which could be heavily leaned upon/exploited by the state at the will of the central government?

    Of course, in the areas under siege, or where the rations could not be fulfilled, all private trading ceased and goods were commandeered to meet basic requirements.
    ...as I was saying.

    "As a shepherd of souls, I deeply mourn the fate of our brothers and sisters who fell under the yoke of the fascists in areas temporarily occupied by the Germans and who have suffered unparalleled atrocities and tortures at their hands.

    Being eager to help the Red Army to defeat the enemy as speedily as possible and to clear our sacred Russian land of the fascist vermin, I have deposited with the State Bank all my savings, totalling 73,000 roubles in cash."
    It seems the Soviet Banking system was just a mechanism used to acquire capital and redistribute to avenues the bureaucracy desired - like lending to collective farms at 2% interest. This kind of low interest rate does not seem to fit in with the goal of the bureaucratic class as being ultimately geared towards the accumulation of capital - thus, even though the Soviet bureaucracy used low interest and war bonds to acquire capital - this acquired state capital did not go to private individuals and was not used in the pursuit of the ends of accumulation of more private capital for individuals, but the mass investment into state property - thus why, yes, this aspect of Soviet finance does portray some aspects of capitalism; it is a far cry to really call it "capitalism" or "state capitalism".

    The thing is an oligarchy of capitalists did not control the state - state bureaucrats controlled all real economic activity and emulated some aspects of capitalism as a way to further secure total state power with the Party at the helm - allowing for aspects of capitalism to exist under a centralized command economic mode with the state as the only productive property does not constitute state-capitalism. If you argue "the Party was the only capitalist in society", I would argue that this is not capitalism, and not even state capitalism since the economic and social role of the Party superceded, directed, and could heavily lean on or end whatever quasi-capitalist relations it may have created and not under-go any kind of real social or economic upheaval because of it (until the late 1980's and 90's when they went too far and actually did create a situation of dual capitalist-power).

    There is only one kind of private property in the U.S.S.R., that is personal property (e.g., money, furniture, a house, etc.). There being no such thing as private property in wealth-producing enterprises or in land, these cannot be transferred by legacy.
    Hence why it was not capitalist or state capitalism. Even if an individual did have a large accumulation of capital - there were really no mechanisms of the capitalist mode which could serve to reproduce this capital via production. All there was to do was invest in the state.

    Exploitation and speculation were things of the past. The energies of the whole State were diverted to raising the standard of life of the whole people, and making them prosperous and happy.
    These were the said goals of the Communist bureaucracy - accomplishing this is what the bureaucracy based its legitimacy on - as long as it could continue to do this and still skim off from the top in the form of state granted privileges it could still continue to function as a legitimate, distinct and alternative ruling class from the capitalists.
    "If conquest constituted a natural right on the part of the few, the many have only to gather sufficient strength in order to acquire the natural right of reconquering what has been taken from them." The Nationalisation of the Land Karl Marx

    "To belittle the socialist ideology in anyway, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology." What Is To Be Done? V.I. Lenin

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    Quote Originally Posted by Astarte View Post
    ...even though the Soviet bureaucracy used low interest and war bonds to acquire capital - this acquired state capital did not go to private individuals and was not used in the pursuit of the ends of accumulation of more private capital for individuals...
    "Private" is a legal category, not a social one. You're dealing in Hayek's terms, here, not Marx's.

    The thing is an oligarchy of capitalists did not control the state - state bureaucrats controlled all real economic activity...
    I'm always surprised at the superhuman feats that people are willing to attribute to the Soviet bureaucracy. You have to wonder how the thing came apart if they had men of such awesome capabilities as to micro-manage a large national economy at the helm...

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    Quote Originally Posted by tim finnegan View Post
    "private" is a legal category, not a social one. You're dealing in hayek's terms, here, not marx's.


    I'm always surprised at the superhuman feats that people are willing to attribute to the soviet bureaucracy. You have to wonder how the thing came apart if they had men of such awesome capabilities as to micro-manage a large national economy at the helm...
    o.k.
    "If conquest constituted a natural right on the part of the few, the many have only to gather sufficient strength in order to acquire the natural right of reconquering what has been taken from them." The Nationalisation of the Land Karl Marx

    "To belittle the socialist ideology in anyway, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology." What Is To Be Done? V.I. Lenin

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