Poll: Which best describes the economic nature of the Soviet Union?

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    Default Economic nature of the Soviet Union

    All revolutionaries that aren't Stalinists tend to agree that the Soviet Union was not socialist, but it's what comes after this conclusion where the divergence occurs. There seems to be two main views on this: that the Soviet Union was a capitalist state, or that it was neither capitalist nor socialist. Both of these views come up frequently in any discussion involving the Soviet Union, but what I have not seen is both these views compared to each other and the theory behind them. So with that in mind, I wanted to create a discussion for specifically this purpose where the merits(or lack thereof) of both views can be debated.

    Those who claim that the Soviet Union was capital often cite things like the existence of generalized wage labor and commodity production, but those against this view claim that that the Soviet bureaucrats could not be considered capitalists because they did not organize production for the accumulation of capital. Both sides seem to make some valid points, so what this seems to boil down to is a more nuanced view of what defines a capitalist state and the capitalist class. Personally I lean more towards the view that the Soviet Union was capitalist, but I look forward to seeing what those who hold that it was not have to say. Hopefully this can be a constructive discussion.

    EDIT: Here is an addendum I wanted to add: For those that argue that the Soviet Union was not capitalist, but also not Socialist; does this make it worth "defending" or should it be condemned just as any ordinary capitalist state should be?

    Who this thread is for:
    -People who want to debate and critically analyze the social and economic state of the Soviet Union citing relevant statistics and portions of Marxist theory.

    Who this thread is not for:
    -People who want to argue that the Soviet Union was socialist(which is not to say that Marxist-Leninists are unwelcome to participate in critiquing these views, just that your argument runs contrary to the purpose of this thread. Your propaganda already fills dozens of threads daily: if I was interested in it then I wouldn't have posted this.)
    -People who want to make claims without backing it up with sources
    -People who want to make one liners
    -People who want to debate the revolutionary cred of irrelevant dead people
    -People who want to use neologisms like "deformed worker's state"
    -People who want to quote Trotsky(Not that Trotskyists are unwelcome, I expect them to be the primary proponents of the view that the Soviet Union was neither socialist nor capitalist, but the point of this thread is to back up claims with Marxist theory rather than simply regurgitate Trotsky's opinions)
    Last edited by Grenzer; 17th March 2012 at 20:27.

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    This is a good idea, hopefully this won't derail. Of course, I say that the Soviet union was a capitalist state as there was capital accumulation and commodity production. If it wasn't capitalist, i.e. if these two traits don't characterize a capitalist economy, then why aren't these two characteristics sufficient conditions for a capitalist mode of production?

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    I have recently heard that the Soviet Union wasn't even socialist because the workers did not control the means of production.
    Also that Stalin "run the hole show" and workers did not have much power.
    So I am going with the fact that USSR was capitalist. I can't say anything other without getting proven wrong =)
    "No force, no torture, no intrigue, no deception can eradicate Marxism-Leninism from the minds and hearts of men."
    - Enver Hoxha

    "All men are born with a nose and ten fingers, but no one was born with a knowledge of God."
    - Voltaire

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brospierre View Post
    This is a good idea, hopefully this won't derail. Of course, I say that the Soviet union was a capitalist state as there was capital accumulation and commodity production. If it wasn't capitalist, i.e. if these two traits don't characterize a capitalist economy, then why aren't these two characteristics sufficient conditions for a capitalist mode of production?
    Explain to me the idea of commodity production as a purely capitalist institution. Not trying to be funny just think that we are talking different deefinitions.

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    Commodity production isn't a purely capitalst phenomenon, capitalism is generalised commodity production and wage labour. Commodity production did exist in other forms of economy, it was just subordinate to other production (eg in feudalism or Asiatic despotism, which primarily produced forms of tribute rather than commodities, and didn't primarily use wage labour anyway); and even in antique slavery, when there was more commodity production (along with the trading of a lot of opportunistic surplus) the main portions of the economy were for use rather than trade, and not produced primarily by wage labour - labour itself hadn't become a commodity.
    Critique of the Gotha Programme, Pt IV: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch04.htm

    No War but the Class War

    Destroy All Nations

    Lucius Accius (170 BC - 86 BC): "A man whose life has been dishonorable is not entitled to escape disgrace in death."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brospierre View Post
    This is a good idea, hopefully this won't derail. Of course, I say that the Soviet union was a capitalist state as there was capital accumulation and commodity production. If it wasn't capitalist, i.e. if these two traits don't characterize a capitalist economy, then why aren't these two characteristics sufficient conditions for a capitalist mode of production?
    It would help if you elaborated on this.

    "Capital accumulation" is rather ambiguous, however, I'm definitely not looking for a "definition" argument.

    "Commodity production" is not something that is exclusive to capitalism. Stalin admitted that commodity production was something that was present in the USSR (http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/EPS52.html#c7)

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    I would argue that the Soviet Union was a coordinator society. The means of production were controlled by state planners who gave orders to the workers. The workers did not control the means of production, but production was not organized on a capitalist basis. Although, I believe this is just a general overview of the Soviet Union. There are different times in it's history were it was more socialist (like right after the October Revolution where most power lied in the workers councils, or soviets) more state capitalist (NEP period) etc.
    "The exploited are not carriers of any positive project, be it even the classless society (which all too closely resembles the productive set up). Capital is their only community. They can only escape by destroying everything that makes them exploited...Capitalism has not created the conditions of its overcoming in communism-the famous bourgeoisie forging the arms of its own extinction-but of a world of horrors." -At Daggers Drawn

    "Our strategy is therefore the following: to establish and maintain a series of centers of desertion, or poles of secession, of rallying points. For runaways. For those who leave. A series of places where we can escape from the influence of a civilization that is headed for the abyss." -Tiqqun, Call

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    Quote Originally Posted by dan74 View Post
    ...
    "Commodity production" is not something that is exclusive to capitalism...
    As I explain a couple of posts above, no-one's saying only capitalism produces commodities.

    Quote Originally Posted by dan74 View Post
    ...Stalin admitted that commodity production was something that was present in the USSR (http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/EPS52.html#c7)
    But most of us think the USSR was capitalist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anti-Capitalist View Post
    I would argue that the Soviet Union was a coordinator society. The means of production were controlled by state planners who gave orders to the workers. The workers did not control the means of production, but production was not organized on a capitalist basis. Although, I believe this is just a general overview of the Soviet Union. There are different times in it's history were it was more socialist (like right after the October Revolution where most power lied in the workers councils, or soviets) more state capitalist (NEP period) etc.
    Why?

    I mean, why do you support co-ordinator theory? OK, I'm a marxist, I think that class is the determining factor here; but co-ordinator theory is drivel. It doesn't make sense. Where does this new class come from? What is its economic power-base, that isn't already capitalism? Engels in the 1880s and Wilhelm Leibknecht in the 1890s fought against the notion that 'managerial' capitalism was anything other than capitalism.

    It's ironic that 'co-ordinator theory' has caught on with Council Communists and Anarchists (those sworn enemies of the Second International). You do realise that it was invented by Trotskyists to explain why the USSR was not state capitalist, don't you? The whole thrust of 'The Managerial Revolution' is a kind of (again, already) Bernsteinian reformism based on the idea that capitalism can grow into a co-ordinatorist mode of production. The rest of us (non-Trotskyist, non-Stalinists that is) think that the 'co-ordinatorist mode of production' is just a different arrangement of capitalism.
    Last edited by Blake's Baby; 13th March 2012 at 22:38.
    Critique of the Gotha Programme, Pt IV: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch04.htm

    No War but the Class War

    Destroy All Nations

    Lucius Accius (170 BC - 86 BC): "A man whose life has been dishonorable is not entitled to escape disgrace in death."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blake's Baby View Post
    As I explain a couple of posts above, no-one's saying only capitalism produces commodities.
    Then why did Brospierre use it to argue that the USSR was capitalist?


    But most of us think the USSR was capitalist.
    Then provide actual evidence for that rather than dropping vague terms and expecting us to figure out what you're talking about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brospierre View Post
    This is a good idea, hopefully this won't derail. Of course, I say that the Soviet union was a capitalist state as there was capital accumulation and commodity production. If it wasn't capitalist, i.e. if these two traits don't characterize a capitalist economy, then why aren't these two characteristics sufficient conditions for a capitalist mode of production?
    A commodity economy necessarily implies private property. Capitalist production is the highest stage of commodity production, but commodity production is not necessarily capitalism and existed in slavery-societies and feudal societies.

    In the Soviet Union there was no Capitalist class. Capitalism simply can't exist without capitalists exploiting wage-laborers. Production in the SU wasn't for the sake of extracting profit from workers. And Labour itself wasn't a commodity in the SU, not in the same sense as in capitalist societies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blake's Baby View Post
    As I explain a couple of posts above, no-one's saying only capitalism produces commodities.



    But most of us think the USSR was capitalist.



    Why?

    I mean, why do you support co-ordinator theory? OK, I'm a marxist, I think that class is the determining factor here; but co-ordinator theory is drivel. It doesn't make sense. Where does this new class come from? What is its economic power-base, that isn't already capitalism? Engels in the 1880s and Wilhelm Leibknecht in the 1890s fought against the notion that 'managerial' capitalism was anything other than capitalism.

    It's ironic that 'co-ordinator theory' has caught on with Council Communists and Anarchists (those sworn enemies of the Second International). You do realise that it was invented by Trotskyists to explain why the USSR was not state capitalist, don't you? The whole thrust of 'The Managerial Revolution' is a kind of (again, already) Bernsteinian reformism based on the idea that capitalism can grow into a co-ordinatorist mode of production. The rest of us (non-Trotskyist, non-Stalinists that is) think that the 'co-ordinatorist mode of production' is just a different arrangement of capitalism.
    I don't support coordinatorism. I am opposed to the Soviet Union. I never said I support it. To me, coordinatorism is just as bad as capitalism. I just think it is a different system than capitalism, that's all. Just because the Trots agree with the theory does not mean it is wrong nor should I abandon what I think is a good theory. Stalinists think capitalism is bad, does that mean I should lose my convictions to anti-capitalism? Of course not! So why should I drop coordinatorism because the Trots believe it too?
    "The exploited are not carriers of any positive project, be it even the classless society (which all too closely resembles the productive set up). Capital is their only community. They can only escape by destroying everything that makes them exploited...Capitalism has not created the conditions of its overcoming in communism-the famous bourgeoisie forging the arms of its own extinction-but of a world of horrors." -At Daggers Drawn

    "Our strategy is therefore the following: to establish and maintain a series of centers of desertion, or poles of secession, of rallying points. For runaways. For those who leave. A series of places where we can escape from the influence of a civilization that is headed for the abyss." -Tiqqun, Call

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    Quote Originally Posted by dan74 View Post
    Then why did Brospierre use it to argue that the USSR was capitalist?..
    Because socialism doesn't produce commodities. Therefore, if the SU did, it wasn't socialist.

    Feudalism produces some commodities. Was the Soviet Union feudal?

    Antique slavery produces some commodities. Was the Soviet Union an antique slave economy?

    Even Asiatic despostism produces some commodities. Was the Soviet Union an Asiatic despostism?

    Not sure if the Germanic mode of production does produce commodities, perhaps I'll leave that one.

    Quote Originally Posted by dan74 View Post
    ...
    Then provide actual evidence for that rather than dropping vague terms and expecting us to figure out what you're talking about.
    Wasn't aware 'capitalism' was a vague term.

    As I explained above, about 6 posts ago in a very pithy and well-argued post that you seem to have missed, capitalism is generalised wage labour and commodity production. As the Soviet Union had generalised wage labour and commodity production, it was capitalist.
    Critique of the Gotha Programme, Pt IV: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch04.htm

    No War but the Class War

    Destroy All Nations

    Lucius Accius (170 BC - 86 BC): "A man whose life has been dishonorable is not entitled to escape disgrace in death."

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    from socialism to hybrid now going for more capitalism.. even today's russia has lots of remnants from socialism

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anti-Capitalist View Post
    I don't support coordinatorism. I am opposed to the Soviet Union. I never said I support it. To me, coordinatorism is just as bad as capitalism. I just think it is a different system than capitalism, that's all.
    I'm not saying you cheerlead the co-ordinator class, I'm saying you support the theory that the co-ordiantor class is real.

    Why?
    Critique of the Gotha Programme, Pt IV: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch04.htm

    No War but the Class War

    Destroy All Nations

    Lucius Accius (170 BC - 86 BC): "A man whose life has been dishonorable is not entitled to escape disgrace in death."

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    The soviet union was capitalist. The capitalist mode of production prevailed under the USSR; wage labour (and all of what that implies; ie a divorce from the direct producers from the means of production, labour as a commodity, etc), a forced division of labour (or what Marx called, a natural division), classes, states, the profit motive (need for constant accumulation), generalised commodity production, etc. This shows that the means of production could not have been held in common, or in other words, it could not have been socialism.

    Also, we don't begin out investigation of what mode of production prevails by looking at how surplus value is distributed, but by how it is extracted and in the capitalist mode of production, it is through generalised wage labour. So this means that no matter how many free schools you have, no matter how many free houses or healthcare, it won't be socialism unless the means of production are held in common.

    To quote Marx about this:
    The specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers, determines the relationship of rulers and ruled, as it grows directly out of production itself and, in turn, reacts upon it as a determining element. Upon this, however, is founded the entire formation of the economic community which grows up out of the production relations themselves, thereby simultaneously its specific political form. It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers — a relation always naturally corresponding to a definite stage in the development of the methods of labour and thereby its social productivity — which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state. This does not prevent the same economic basis — the same from the standpoint of its main conditions — due to innumerable different empirical circumstances, natural environment, racial relations, external historical influences, etc. from showing infinite variations and gradations in appearance, which can be ascertained only by analysis of the empirically given circumstances.
    from http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...94-c3/ch47.htm

    And here Marx also says that the appearance of the economic basis can seem different in different circumstances.

    And to paraphrase Engels in Anti-Duhring, it's not about how things in society are distributed but how they are produced, the economic basis, that determines the mode of production. I think that this a common thing to do within leftist circles; to say that distribution based on need or some sort of fairness + a nationalised economy = socialism, or as some would say, the lower phase of communism. This idea of it being the lower phase of communism doesn't present us with a neat break at all in the mode of production. Implying that the rest of society can change through political action rather than through economic change.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yefim Zverev View Post
    from socialism to hybrid now going for more capitalism.. even today's russia has lots of remnants from socialism
    I think you might be confusing what socialism is with capitalism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blake's Baby View Post
    I'm not saying you cheerlead the co-ordinator class, I'm saying you support the theory that the co-ordiantor class is real.

    Why?
    Well, I think that societies such as the Soviet Union had a system that was different from capitalism, while still retaining the authoritarian and non-socialist nature of capitalism. One main tenant of capitalism is competition and in these coordinator societies there wasn't competition in economic spheres usually (although there was in the political sphere). Some can argue that state capitalism would be a monopoly and therefore the coordinator approach is really just monopoly state capitalism but I would disagree still with this point. Capitalism utilizes price signals to have capitalists make decisions about production. While these societies had major flaws and were highly authoritarian, they based their decisions on production not just on price signals but on social needs, industrialization, living standards, etc. This isn't to justify these societies but it is just to point out that they were different than capitalism. At the same time, coordinatorism is just as bad as capitalism in my opinion!
    "The exploited are not carriers of any positive project, be it even the classless society (which all too closely resembles the productive set up). Capital is their only community. They can only escape by destroying everything that makes them exploited...Capitalism has not created the conditions of its overcoming in communism-the famous bourgeoisie forging the arms of its own extinction-but of a world of horrors." -At Daggers Drawn

    "Our strategy is therefore the following: to establish and maintain a series of centers of desertion, or poles of secession, of rallying points. For runaways. For those who leave. A series of places where we can escape from the influence of a civilization that is headed for the abyss." -Tiqqun, Call

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    There is no commodity production in socialism because all production is done along the lines of use and not exchange.

    How can there exist wage labor without capital accumulation? A wage means that the surplus value of unpaid labor is expropriated somehow. This is in no way compatible with the socialist mode of production.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blake's Baby View Post
    Because socialism doesn't produce commodities. Therefore, if the SU did, it wasn't socialist.
    Now the arguments been changed from "the USSR was capitalist" to "the USSR was not socialist." The new accusation might be true. I'll follow up on this when I have more time.


    Wasn't aware 'capitalism' was a vague term.
    I was not referring to this. Sorry if I was not specific.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dan74 View Post
    Now the arguments been changed from "the USSR was capitalist" to "the USSR was not socialist." The new accusation might be true. I'll follow up on this when I have more time.
    To be clear, I don't think Blake's Baby is not changing his line from the assertion that the Soviet Union was capitalist. Rather he's first establishing that it was not socialist, and then when you have an understanding on that level, he planned on asserting the characteristics that define it as a capitalist state.

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    I highly recommend the book Western Marxism and the Soviet Union as it details the various theories of the USSR (and includes critiques of each)

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