The Communist League: Response to ‘Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?’

For the original article, “Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?” look here.

Dear Comrades,

Our delegate has reported to us the decision of the ‘Committee for the Marxist-Leninist Party’ to publish in the Committee’s journal the article entitled ‘Why Did The Soviet Union Collapse?’ the author of which is Comrade Ted Talbot, a former member of the Committee.

We have now read and considered the article concerned, and we give below some of the reasons why we consider that this article is contrary to established and agreed Marxist-Leninist principles. We feel that the article should not be published unless together with a critical commentary.

The ‘Traitors Thesis’

The article concerned begins by attacking what its calls the ‘traitors thesis’, which, according to the article,

“… . at its crudest.. .argues that the USSR was on track for socialism until the death of Stalin when a group of traitors to socialism, who had managed to worm their way into the top echelons of the Party, took control”. (Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ p.1).

The article attributes this thesis to Cathy Majid, apparently on the basis that attacks on its content will be more acceptable if it is said to emanate from a source whom members of the Committee have learned from their own experience to distrust.

In fact, since the 1960s this so-called ‘traitors thesis’ has been a key thesis dividing Marxist-Leninists from revisionists.

At this time, for example, the ‘People’s Daily’, the principal organ of the Communist Party of China, published the seminal article ‘Leninism or Social Imperialism?’ which stated:

“How was it possible for the restoration of capitalism to take place in the Soviet Union… and.. .to become social-imperialist? If we examine the question from the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism,… . we shall be able to understand that this was mainly. . . the result of the usurpation of the Party and government leadership by a handful of Party persons in power taking the capitalist road”.

(‘Leninism or Social Imperialism?’, in: David Milton, Nancy Milton & Franz Schurmann: ‘People’s China: Social Experimentation, Politics, Entry onto the World Scene: 1966 through 1972’; New York; 1974; p. 454).

By October 1964, the differences between tile Soviet and Chinese parties had become, in the words of the Albanian Marxist-Leninist leader Enver Hoxha,

“…this great historic battle between Marxism and revisionism”.

(Enver Hoxha: ‘An Open Letter to the Members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 3; Tirana; 1980; p. 631).

In his letter to the Committee dated 4 August 1998, Comrade Powell (Comrade Talbot’s close collaborator) endorses this characterisation, speaking of

“…the great struggle waged by the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania during the 1950s and 60s against Soviet-style revisionism”.

(Harry Powell: Letter to Committee of 4 August 1998; p. 1).

And chides the ‘Partisan’ comrades for allegedly having been

“…enthusiastic supporters of Soviet social imperialism right up until its final collapse in the early 1990s”.

(Harry Powell: Letter to Committee of 4 August 1998; p. 1).

At the recent Congress of the ‘Communist Party of the Soviet Union’, Viktor Ampilov endorsed the ‘traitors thesis’, declaring that

“The break up of the first state of workers and farmers in the world started with the revisionism of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”.

(Viktor Ampilov: Political Statement at the Congress of the CPSU. In: ‘North Star Supplement’; p. 1).

and in a lecture at Kim 11 Sung University in Pyongyang in October 1992, Nina Andreyeva, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Bolshevik Communist Party, declared that the AUBOP held

“… the degradation of the CPSU into Right opportunism and revisionism started from the end of the 50s when the leadership of the Party and state was seized by Khrushchev and his associates. The starting point of the degeneration of the CPSU into opportunism was its 20th Congress”.

(Nina Andreyeva: Lecture at Kim Ii Sung University, Pyongyang (6 October 1992), in:

‘Unpresented Principles’; Leningrad; 1992; p. 305).

Thus, the so-called ‘traitors thesis’ is completely in accord with the general outlook of’ the International Communist Movement.

We must, therefore, draw the Committee’s attention to a paper submitted to the December 1997 conference of the organisation ‘International Struggle – Marxist Leninist’ by Ted Talbot and Harry Powell, which lays down the following important principle for ‘a serious pre-party grouping’, namely that

“…at the initial stage of its existence,.. .certain basic theoretical principles need to be agreed. In particular adherence to the general outlook of the International Communist Movement”.

(Ted Talbot and Harry Powell: ‘International Struggle – Marxist-Leninist’, No 4, 1998; p. 41).

The article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ is in clear violation of that principle.

The ‘Real Guilty Parties’

“…But if ‘revisionist traitors’ can be exonerated from causing the collapse of the Soviet Union, who are the ‘real responsible guilty parties’?.

The writer of ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ is here in some difficulty. He wishes to say that the guilty parties are Lenin and Stalin’ but when he joined the ‘Committee for the Marxist-Leninist Party’ h& went on record as saying that a serious pre-party grouping’

(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: ibid.; p. 41).

must be based on

“…the general outlook of the International Communist Movement which developed under the leadership of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin.

(Ted Talbot & Harry Powell: ibid.; p. 41).

He therefore feels compelled to imply that the real guilty parties responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union are Lenin and Stalin without naming them directly. He alleges-that the revisionist ‘productive forces theory’, which he blames for the collapse of the Soviet Union,

became explicit during the Khrushchev period in the Soviet Union, but it was always an underlying trend” (Our emphasis — Communist League).

‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’; p. 2).

He claims that through adopting this revisionist theory, Lenin and Stalin were guilty of

“.. failure throughout to revolutionise the relations of (‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’; p 2).

The Relations of Production

Marxist-Leninists define relations of production as the relation of men to each other in the process of production”.

(‘History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheiks) Moscow; 1939; p. 120).

In October 1917, the working people of Russia created new socialist relations of production”

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, in; ‘Selected Works’; Tirana; n.d.; p. 580).

so that

“…the basis of the relations of production under the Socialist system which . . . has been established . . . in the USSR is the social ownership of the means of production. Here there are no longer exploiters

‘Selected Works 7’; Tirana; n.d.; p. 590).

Thus, the charge of the writer of article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’that under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin there was a

“failure throughout to revolutionise the relations of production”. (‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’; p. 2).

is thus a gross and baseless slander.

The ‘Productive Forces Theory’

The article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ alleges further that, in’ the time of Stalin, the Soviet Union implicitly’ adhered to

“the ‘productive forces theory’ of socialism, which relies on the simple notion that all that is required for socialism is a ‘superabundance’ of consumer goods. . . . This idea became explicit during the Khrushchev period in the Soviet Union, but it was always an underlying trend (our emphasis — CL)”.

(‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’; p. 2).

But this again is totally untrue.

Stalin devotes several pages of his work ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’ to demolishing precisely this theory as put. forward by the revisionist economist Yaroshenko:

“Comrade Yaroshenko’s chief error is that he forsakes the Marxist position on the question of the role of the productive forces. . . . He inordinately overrates the role of the productive forces.

Comrade Yaroshenko thinks’ that we have only to ensure a rational organisation of the productive forces and we shall be able . . to pass from the formula ‘to each according to his work’ to the formula to each according to his needs’, This is a profound error, and reveals a complete lack of understanding of the laws of economic development of socialism.

(. . Comrade Yaroshenko does not understand that before we can pass to the formula ‘to each according to his needs’, we shall have to pass through a number of stages of economic and cultural re-education of society

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, in:

‘Selected Works” Tirana; n. d.; p. 587-88, 593).

The implication in the article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ that Lenin and Stalin accepted the ‘productive forces theory’ is thus completely untrue.

‘Focus on Consumer Goods’

The article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ further implies that socialist development under Stalin was narrowly focussed on competing with capitalism in the realm of consumer goods”.

(‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’; p. 2).

In fact, Lenin and Stalin emphasised, in contrast to the revisionists, the necessity of giving primacy to the production, not of consumer goods, but of means of production.

“What would be the effect of ceasing to give primacy to the production of the means of production? The effect would be to destroy the possibility of the continuous expansion of our national economy, because the national economy cannot be continuously expanded without’ giving primacy to the production of means of production”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, in:

‘Selected Works’; Tirana; n. d.; p. 560).

The implication in the article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ that under Stalin primacy was accorded to the production of consumer goods is blatantly untrue.

Lenin ‘decomposes the Working Class’

According to the article ”Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’, Lenin’s support for “bourgeois modes of labour organisation” (‘Why did the Soviet Union Collapse?; p. 2). . one-man management, piece work and Taylorist work practices”, (‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?; p. 2).

failed

“to achieve the high level of political consciousness necessary for socialism to be built”.

(‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?; p. 2).

and began to decompose the working class”.

(‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?; p. 2).

But, in fact, the adoption in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin of one-man management, piece work and Taylorism, and their adaptation to Soviet conditions, were completely in line with Marxist-Leninist principles.

One-Man Management

In March 1918, Lenin declared:

“Neither railways, nor transport, nor large-scale machinery and enterprises in general can function correctly without a single will linking the entire working personnel into an economic organ operating with the precision of clockwork”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: Original Version of the Article ‘The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government’, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 27; Moscow; 1965; p. 212).

In March/April 1918,

“Unquestioning submission to a single will is absolutely necessary for the success of la1~ur processes that are based on large-scale machine industry”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government’, in:

‘Selected Works’, Volume 7; London; 1946; p. 342).

And in May 1918:

“Obedience, and unquestioning obedience at that, during work to the one-man decisions of Soviet directors, of the dictators elected or appointed by Soviet institutions, vested with dictatorial powers, is demanded”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Six Theses on the Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government;’ in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 27; Moscow; 1965; p. 316, 269).

This support for one-man management was continued under Stalin. The translation of an economics textbook written by Artashes Arakely and published in 1947 by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR asserted:

“One of the basic principles in organising the administration of socialist industry is unity of management. This is a system of the administration of production in which there is direct subordination of all workers to the single will of the manager and in which, each worker is fully responsible for the business entrusted to him and is subordinate to one definite person — the one-man chief.

Modern large-scale production cannot be conducted without a director. Large scale machine industry requires the strictest unity of will directing the joint work of the group (hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of persons). This unity can be attained only by subordinating the will of all worker pesonnel to the will of one director”. (Artashes Arakelyan: ‘Industrial Managenent in the USSR’; Washington; 1950; p. 87).

Piecework

Marx held that under socialism distribution should be based on the principle ‘to each according to his work’, that is:

“the same amount of labour which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another”

(Karl Marx: ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 2; London; 1943; o, 563).

However, after the socialist revolution of November 1917 in Russia,

“piece work was almost everywhere superseded by a time system of payment, which had an adverse effect on labour productivity and labour discipline

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 27; Moscow; 1965; p. 583)

In March/April 1918, Lenin wrote:

“We must raise the question of piece work and apply and test it in practice. . . . We must make wages correspond to the total amount of goods turned out, or to the amount of work done”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government’, in:

‘Selected Works’, Volume 7; London; 1937; P. 332).

On Lenin’s advice, therefore,

“the introduction of piece work, which came closest to the socialist principle of ‘to each according to his work’, began at the first nationalised enterprises. . . . The principle of payment according to the piece was finally endorsed by the publication in December 1918 of the Soviet Labour Code”.

(Note to: Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 27; Moscow; 1965; p. 583).

Stalin adhered to the line of Lenin on this question, as he said in June 1931:

“Marx and Lenin said that . . . under socialism ‘wages’ must be paid accordin8 to work performed and not according to needs. . . . Who is right . . . ? It must be supposed that it is Marx and Lenin who are right”.

(Josef V. Stalin: ‘New Conditions — New Tasks in Economic Construction in: ‘Works’, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p. 59).

and in his debate with revisionist economists in January 1941 (recently published in the Indian journal ‘Revolutionary Democracy’),. Stalin insisted:

“The workers are neither idealists nor ideal people. Some people think that it is possible to run the economy on the basis of equalisation. You will not move production forward by all this. The worker fulfils and over-achieves the plan because we have piece-work for the workers, a bonus system for the supervisory staff and bonuses for farmers who work better”.

(Josef V. Stalin: Discussion with Economists (January 1941), in:

‘Revolutionary Democracy’, Volume 4, No. 2 (September 1998); p. 100).

‘Taylorism’

‘Taylorism’ is named after the American engineer Frederick Taylor, who systematised ‘time and motion study’, that is, the detailed analysis of the use and cost of men, materials and equipment in an organisation”, (‘Encyclopedia Americana’, Volume 15; New York; 1977; p. 112).

Its purpose was to maximise profits, as Taylor himself writes:

“The principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer”

(Frederick W. Taylor: ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’ New York; 1911; p. 9).

But one way, to maximise profits is to maximise productivity. Thus, Taylor holds that

“maximum prosperity can exist only as the result of maximum productivity”

(Frederick W. Taylor: ibid.; p. 11).

But socialism also requires maximum productivity, and Lenin correctly points out that this aspect of Talorism is as a applicable to socialism as to capitalism.

He wrote as early as March 1914:

“The Taylor system — without its initiators knowing or wishing it –is preparing the time when the proletariat will take over all social production

Workers’ committees, assisted by the workers unions, will be able to apply these principles of rational distribution of social labour when the latter is freed from its enslavement by capital”.

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Taylor System — Man’s Enslavement by the Machine’, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 20; Moscow; 1964; P. 154).

and in April 1918:

“After the proletariat has solved the problem of capturing power,

there necessarily comes to the forefront the fundamental task of creating a social system superior to capitalism, viz., raising the productivity of labour, and in this connection (and for this purpose) securing better organisation of labour.

We must raise the question of applying much of what is ‘scientific and progressive in the Taylor system.

The Taylor system, the last word of capitalism in this respect, like all capitalist progress, is a combination of the subtle brutality of bourgeois exploitation and a number of its greatest scientific achievements in the field of analysing mechanical motions during work, the elimination of superfluous and awkward motions, the working out of correct methods of work, the introduction of the best system of accounting and control, etc. The Soviet Republic must at all costs adopt all that is valuable in the achievements of science and technology in this field. The possibility of building socialism will be determined precisely by our success in combining the Soviet government and the Soviet organisation of administration with the modern achievements of capitalism. We must organise in Russia the study and teaching of the Taylor system and systematically try it out and adapt it to our purposes.”

(Vladimir I. Lenin: ‘The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government , in:

‘Selected Works’, Volume 7; Moscow; 1937; p. 330, 332-33),

Marxism-Leninism and Revisionism

Of course, we Marxist-Leninists do not regard the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin or Stalin as ‘infallible holy writ’ which cannot be challenged.

But we are Marxist-Leninists, and we do not discard an established principle of Marxism-Leninism unless it can be demonstrated beyond doubt by documented evidence that this principle is no longer valid. To discard such established principles of Marxism-Leninism without even attempting to present documented evidence, as does the author of ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’, is unacceptable, reactionary revisionism.

The author of the article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ submitted to the Committee at a previous meeting a basically correct resolution opposing the expression of Trotskyist views in the Committee or its publications. However, the article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ goes beyond anything which Trotsky said about the Soviet Union in alleging that there was in it a

“… failure throughout to revolutionise the relations of production”. (‘Why did the Soviet Union Collapse?’; p. 2).

Even the counter-revolutionary Trotsky never went as far as this. As his sympathetic biographer Isaac Deutscher states. Right up until his death, says Deutscher,

“… on this point, that the Soviet Union… remained a workers’ state Trotsky was adamant…This view Was often challenged,… but he was never to compromise over it or to yield an inch from it…The Soviet Union, Trotsky reasserted, remained a workers’ state, social ownership of the means of production prevailing, Soviet society was engaged in the transition from capitalism to socialism…Trotsky “insisted with the utmost firmness that the Soviet Union remained a workers’ state”.

(Isaac Deutscher: ‘The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940’; Oxford; 1963; p. 44, 203-04, 459).

Thus, since it goes beyond Trotsky in its characterisation of the Soviet State under Stalin as one in which there had been

“failure throughout to revolutionise the relations of production”. (‘Why did the Soviet Union Collapse?’; p. 2), the article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’ may legitimately be described as a manifestation of ultra-Trotskyism!

Conclusion

We believe that the foregoing analysis, although it touches upon only a part of the contents of the article ‘Why did the Soviet Union collapse?’, is sufficient to demonstrate the reactionary. anti-Marxist-Leninist- revisionist character of the article.

We therefore request the Committee to consider publication of this article only together with a critical commentary. We feel that this is the only way to prevent the otherwise inevitable confusion of readers, bringing the Committee into disrepute nationally and internationally, and holding back the Committee’s aim of building a Marxist-Leninist Party. We disagree profoundly with the concept expressed at a recent meeting of the Committee that a member of the Committee has the right to have any material published in the Committee journal.

With fraternal regards.

The Communist league

John Puntis, Secretary

The Communist League

Advertisements

3 responses to “The Communist League: Response to ‘Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?’

  1. My outside opinion is: the article should be removed as it adds nothing new to the debate on the collapse of USSR apart from adding more confusion, critical commentary or no critical commentary.

    [Comment that begins with “We in the 21st century…nuff said. Facts are facts, no matter what century we are in, and I’m not going to tolerate anti-scientific “new age” proclamations on my own blog. — E.S.]

    The article in question is unwarranted from any standpoint, even from a democratic standpoint.

    Regards

    Manu

    • My outside opinion is: the above comment you made should be removed as it adds nothing new to the debate on the collapse of USSR apart from adding more confusion, critical commentary or no critical commentary.

      The comment in question is unwarranted from any standpoint, even from a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of the proletariat standpoint.

      Regards

      Espresso Stalinist

  2. Espresso I’m Ivan Liukin on YT and I appreciate everything you do with this blog.Thx for the article, with or without the haters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s