The working class in the Khrushchev-Brezhnev period was no longer the owner of the means of production
a. Socialist production relations were replaced with capitalist production relations
It is known that “no matter what the economic forms of production are, the workers and the means of production remain always its factors” and that “for production to take place they must unite” (K. Marx). The essence of this relation in the production process, that is, the essence of the production relations is determined by the ownership relations – the form of ownership is the essential and the main feature of the production relations – which social class has the ownership of the means of production and how the union of the producers with the means of production is realized and this is precisely what distinguishes the different epochs of social organization: “the particular way that this union is realized distinguishes the different economic epochs of social structure” (K. Marx): slave-owning, feudal, capitalist and socialist-communist system (ownership is here a historical-economic, not a legal, category).
After the victorious October armed uprising, and the complete smashing of the bourgeois state machinery, the working class of Russia took the political power, established the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and, over the next years, proceeded gradually to all the necessary revolutionary changes in the sphere of economy, the socialization of all means of production abolishing the capitalist relations of production and thus making the new socialist-communist relations of production.
Upon the establishment of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the working class became the dominant class in the socialist Soviet Union not only politically but also economically: it became the owner of the means of production. As a social class, it possessed and controlled the means of production through the Dictatorship of the Proletariat guided by the communist party:“the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is complete only if it is led by one party, the Communist Party, which does not and cannot share power with other parties” (Stalin).
In this way, the separation of the direct producers, i.e. of the working class, from the means of production was terminated – a characteristic feature of the capitalist mode of production and the proletariat – and the historically last form of exploitation, the capitalist, was eliminated.
The abolition of the capitalist ownership (private-state) in the means of production eliminated the antagonistic contradiction between production forces and production relations.
In contrast, the overthrow of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat after the death-assassination of Joseph Stalin (March 1953) and its replacement with the dictatorship of the emerging bourgeois class not only resulted in the loss of power from the working class – it was not any more the dominant class in the Khrushchev-Brezhnev period – but also in the loss of control over the means of production; the working class was not any more the owner of the means of production which hitherto controlled and possessed as a class through the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
A few years later, in the 22nd Congress of CPSU (1961), even the soviet revisionists themselves admitted that there was neither a state of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the Soviet Union after 1953 nor a communist party and that these had been replaced by, respectively, the “all people’s state”, that is, the dictatorship of the new bourgeoisie, and the “all people’s party”, that is, a bourgeois social democratic type of party.
The fact that the working class in the Soviet Union of the Khrushchev-Brezhnev period had lost its historical mission as a leading social force and that, moreover, had been permanently removed from the management of the economy, and, therefore,was not any more the owner of the means of production is reflected in the following:
First, in the overthrow of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat – through which the working class owned the means of production – and its replacement with the dictatorship of the new bourgeoisie, that is, from the change of the state’s class character: transformed from a state of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat to “all people’s state”, i.e. the dictatorship of the new bourgeoisie.
Second, in the change of its party’s class character: from a revolutionary communist party – that expressed, defended its interests and led the Dictatorship of the Proletariat – it became an “all people’s party”, that is, a bourgeois social democratic type of party, which no longer was guided by the worldview of the proletariat, the revolutionary Marxism, i.e. Leninism-Stalinism but by the bourgeois ideological-political current of the Khrushchevian revisionism. This party was on the forefront of the capitalist reforms that eliminated socialism-communism and brought about the restoration of the capitalist production relations.
Third, in the loss of control over the means of production that obviously deprived the working class of the capacity to “have a say” in the state and in the economy, that is, in the control and management of the production
Fourth, in the industrial units where, according to the 1965 reforms, only the manager decided what would be produced, determined the wages and, in addition, how many workers would be hired and how many would be fired, leaving the working class as simple production force, like in the traditional capitalism of the western countries
Fifth, in the appropriation and distribution of the social product which the working class also did not influence in the least.
In the process of capitalist restoration, the overthrow of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and its replacement with the “all people’s state” was unavoidably accompanied with the elimination of the socialist-communist production relations and their replacement with capitalist ones. The change in the class character of the state was the cause of the complete change in the content of the property relations – the most important element of the production relations – that is to say, the transformation of socialist to capitalist ownership that preceded the change of the other elements of the production relations like the distribution, the exchange relations etc. which were also converted from socialist-communist to capitalist relations. It could not happen otherwise since the character and the content of ownership is dependent on and determined by the state’s character (in this case by the “all people’s state”).
Of course, the state property in the economy of the Soviet Union for a number of reasons that are beyond the scope of the article was not divided in smaller parts but it retained its form. However, the content of this property had radically changed: it had lost the socialist-communist character and it was transformed to state-capitalist property.
1. The capitalist character of the state enterprises and cooperatives
1.1 State enterprises
During the Leninist-Stalinist period (1917-1953), especially after the construction of the economic foundation of the socialist-communist society, the state property constituted of the two forms of socialist-communist property (state and collective/cooperative). It was the dominant and the most advanced form of property in the socialist economy of the Soviet Union to the level of which the collective/cooperative property was developing so that they will be finally merged in the unified communist property through the tractor stations. The latter were abolished by the bourgeois-socialdemocratic CPSU in 1958 and as a consequence not only the merging of these two forms of property was cancelled but their content was radically altered.
The state enterprises were socialist because they constituted collective social property of the working class that controlled and managed through the Dictatorship of the Proletariat under the guidance of the communist party. It was the presence of the state of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat which determined the socialist character of the state enterprises because, as it is known, state property is not by itself socialist (due to belonging to the state) but because it is in the hands of the state of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, thus, in the hands of the working class.
Precisely for this reason, the state property in socialism-communism has a completely opposite social content and orientation than state property in the capitalist and revisionist countries being in the hands of the exploiting bourgeoisie. It is obvious that the bourgeois nationalization has nothing in common with the socialist nationalization of the means of production carried out by the state of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and results in the abolition of capitalist exploitation.
For as long as the capitalists remain the ruling class, state property is a form of capitalist property, a state monopoly property, in which exploitation of workers prevails: “as long as the proprietor classes stay in power, nationalization does not amount to elimination of exploitation but only to the change of its form” (Fr. Engels), because the bourgeois state is still the state of the capitalists, the defender of capitalist exploitative system.
The course of Soviet Union in the path of socialism-communism was halted when the Dictatorship of the Proletariat was overthrown and replaced by the bourgeois “all people’s state” resulting in the loss of the control-property of the state enterprises from the working class.
The change of the state’s class character radically altered the content of the enterprises in the economy of the Soviet Union: from socialist they were transformed to capitalist enterprises since it is the state’s character that determines the character of state enterprises, in this case the bourgeois “all people’s state” , that is, the dictatorship of the new bourgeoisie.
The anti-Marxist claim made by the Khrushchevian revisionists, that socialism was allegedly preserved in the Soviet Union after 1953 due to presence of state enterprises, does not have any basis because it was precisely the new state, i.e. the bourgeois “all people’s state” that determined the capitalist character of the state enterprises during that period. If one accepts this false and totally baseless claim, then one is obliged to regard as “socialist” state enterprises of the western capitalist countries or to regard as “socialist” even the “Bismarckian kindnationalizations” or to call socialist “the institutions like the Royal Maritime Company or the Royal Porcelain Manufacture”(Fr. Engels: “Anti-Dühring”, 1877).
Besides the fact that the character of the state enterprises is primarily determined by the character of the political power, that is, by which class has the political power and the corresponding class state, the capitalist character of the state enterprises is also reflected in how they function and the purpose of the production. The state enterprises of the Krushchevian period were fully autonomous commodity producers that worked on the basis of complete economic self-sufficiency (= «Chosrastschot» = «Wirtschaftliche Rechnungsfuehrung») guided by private-financial criteria (Profit-Efficiency) and had profit as their exclusive purpose. More accurately, the purpose of the state enterprises was the maximization of profit, like in the traditional capitalism of the western countries, and not, any more, the satisfaction of society’s ever increasing needs. The profit maximization, pursued through the price increases, was admitted by the soviet revisionists themselves: “there are enterprises the directors of which do not see only the reduction of expenses as the source of profit but also the illegal determination of prices. The directors of enterprises who set higher prices in their own orders, place their own private-business interests above those of the whole society and, in this way, they cause damage to the state” (“Soviet Science”, 8/1969).
So, after the launch of the capitalist reforms, the large enterprises of various branches in the economy of the Soviet Union and the other revisionist countries that could increase their profit not through the increase of production and the decrease of expenses but through the increase of prices “in the example of the capitalist monopolies” (O. Lange) ended up to that point correctly predicted, already from 1957, by the world famous Polish revisionist economist Oscar Lange: “in the case of the larger enterprises, it is feared that they will come to an agreement among themselves and set high prices. If this happens then the enterprise will lose its socialist character and we will have a syndicated monopoly. Every enterprise, or group of enterprises, in an agreement among themselves, would be de facto owners of the means of production and not managers of the total social product and would pursue to extract the maximum profits through the determination of prices favorable to them. In this case, production would not serve the best possible fulfillment of the whole society and the driving force of production would be the pursue of profitby these individual enterprises, of their staff or the united enterprises and this would have nothing in common with socialism” (O. Lange) (our underlining)
This development was observed, and openly confirmed and admitted after published articles in the revisionist press: “our experience shows a dangerous trend for arbitrary determination of prices” («Voprosi Ekonomikii», 6/1970) “the producer dictates the prices… and often maintains shortages of special goods to increase pressure on the consumer”(«Ekonomicheskije Nauki», 11/1971).
Besides, one of basic goals of the capitalist reform of 1965 was, among other things, the establishment in various branches of the economy of the Soviet Union of large monopolistic enterprises and complexes, monopolistic unions that took the form of combines, trusts and cartels or as it was often mentioned “one combine, one trust” in «Verordnung ueber den sozialistischen staatlichen Produktionsbetrieb» (4 October 1965) and permanently repeated later in various other publications «Organizacija Upravlenija Promishljenih Objedihjenjij», p. 16, Kiev 1980), etc
The cooperative and collective farm property was the second and less advanced form of the socialist-communist economy of the Soviet Union at its socialist stage in the Leninist-Stalinist period (1917-1953).
Cooperatives in socialism is not of course a new phenomenon since they also exist in capitalism where they have, however, a completely different character: they represent a capitalist form of economy, because the means of production belong to the capitalists who control the economy and exploit the farmers while, at the same time, constitute the politically dominant class organized in the bourgeois state: “in the capitalist state, cooperatives are no doubt collective capitalist institutions”(Lenin: “On Cooperation”, 1923).
What determined the socialist character of the cooperatives in the Soviet Union of Lenin-Stalin was the working class rule, i.e. the presence of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat the state of which owned the basic means of production. In connection to this, Lenin pointed out: “the system of civilized cooperators, given social ownership of the means of production, given the class victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, the system of civilized cooperators is precisely the system of socialism” (Lenin: “On Cooperation”, 1923) “under our system, cooperative enterprises differ from the private-capitalist enterprises because they are collective enterprises, but do not differ from socialist enterprises if the land on which they are situated and means of production belong to the state, i.e., the working-class” (Lenin: “On Cooperation”, 1923)
Therefore, the element that determines the character (capitalist or socialist) of the cooperative property is the class nature of the state.
Following the prevalence of the Khrushchevian revisionist counter-revolution the overthrow of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and its replacement with the “all people’s state” in the Soviet Union, the working class and the peasants lost the power, while at the same time the character of the cooperatives changed: from a socialist form of property, cooperative property became a capitalist one, the cooperatives were converted to a capitalist form of economy and operated, too, as individual autonomous commodity producers, as the state enterprises, on the basis of complete economic self-sufficiency and guided by the private-financial criteria of Profit-Efficiency.
Besides the presence of state and cooperative capitalist property in the economy of the Soviet Union, the capitalist reforms paved the path to the development of a private capitalist sector in agriculture, small industry, services, in different professions etc. Next to the state-cooperative sector, the emerging private sector became an important part of the economy thanks to the financial support from the state (laws, credits, etc). The development of the private sector was such that the small capitalist property was formally recognized in various articles of the new Brezhnev constitution (1977). This capitalist property took much larger dimensions since: “small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. XXV, pp.173 and 189).
The private capitalist sector under the form of “auxiliary household of the collective farmers” and “workers and employees” – terms that the Krushchevian-Brezhnevites used to conceal the private capitalist businesses in agriculture, in small industry and elsewhere – was under constant expansion and development, achieving an increasingly bigger contribution in the production of agricultural goods: “according to 1970 data, 38% of all vegetables, 35% of meat and 53% of eggs were produced in the auxiliary households of the Soviet Union” (Political Economy, v. 5, p. 310, Athens 1980). According to “Liternaturnaja Gazeta” (11/5/1977), the private capitalist sector includes 3.6 million hectares of arable land which produce 31% of dairy products, 59% of potatoes etc. Towards the middle 1970’s, the arable land increased to 7.5 million hectares yielding the 64% of potatoes, 42% of meat, 40% of milk, 65% of eggs, 20% of woolen of the total production. What must be noted is the constant increase of the volume of production coming from the private capitalist sector at the expense of the production coming from the cooperatives.
In the 1977 constitution – the constitution of the capitalist restoration – despite the abundant “socialist” demagogy, it was openly formulated and, for the first time, legally established that the “soviet” state of that period was not the Dictatorship of the Proletariat but the bourgeois “all people’s state”, i.e. the dictatorship of the new bourgeoisie. In addition, all the capitalist reforms were legally ascertained including (article 16) the capitalist principles of “economic autonomy and initiative of the enterprises” (p. 47), of the “economic self-sufficiency” (p. 48), the “profit, cost and other economic levers and incentives (p.48).
Apart from the establishment of state and cooperative property as forms of capitalist property in various articles of the new bourgeois constitution, the right to forms of private capitalist property was also established (articles 13 and 17) using phrases such as “supplementary part of land”, “parts of land provided the state and the collective farms according to the law on the supplementary household for tree and vegetable growing” (p. 46), “private labor in the sphere of small industry, agriculture, services… and other forms of labor activity” (p. 48) which doesn’t include only small pieces of land but it constitutes a large private sector of the economy.
One thought on “Anasintaxi on the Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union (Part 1): The working class in the Khrushchev-Brezhnev period was no longer the owner of the means of production”
So you’re basically saying that, somehow, the party stopped representing the working class, and that socialism thus ceased to exist. But isn’t this a “legal” explanation. What happened specifically that made the conditions of production different and how did they differ?
“a. Socialist production relations were replaced with capitalist production relations”
How is this determined? I.e. irrespective of rhetorics and irrespective of what they call themselves (e.g. “all-people’s state”).
What changed exactly? Your approach seems to be to look at the party. But how do you determine that the dictatorship of the proletariat was overthrown in 1953? On what grounds was there socialism before 1953 and not after? What is the difference between the party pre- and post? Didn’t workers produce surpluses in the period 1917-1953 just like they did after? They went to their jobs, left their products and walked home? Did they have any role in deciding where their surplus labor went? Did they control the distribution of it, if so how?
With the party approach, they would have done this indirectly at best, but why does that argument not apply post 53? And does the party approach apply? Wouldn’t workers have to manage and own the work place locally themselves for it to be socialism?
“Fourth, in the industrial units where, according to the 1965 reforms, only the manager decided what would be produced, determined the wages and, in addition, how many workers would be hired and how many would be fired, leaving the working class as simple production force, like in the traditional capitalism of the western countries”
Is that true? But what was the situation before that, and 53-65?
Finally, I guess that some quotes in the text are conclusions, but it would be much more interesting and convincing, as it would be possible to follow the line of thought, to include or describe the reasoning behind as well.