The violent overthrow of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat from the traitorous clique of Khrushchev-Brezhnev-Mikoyan-Suslov, etc. in 1953 after the death-murder of Joseph Stalin (on 5th March 1953), ushered in a completely new period in the history of the Soviet Union: the period of the reactionary process of destruction of socialism-communism and the progressive restoration of capitalism completed in the mid-60s – when the most comprehensive capitalist economic reform was implemented (Plenum in September 1965) – with the complete elimination of socialism in that country.
In the period after 1953, when the economic reforms of capitalist character were gradually introduced in, the still socialist, economy of the Soviet Union under the direct guidance of Khrushchev-Brezhnev bourgeois social-democratic CPSU, two reactionary anti-communist bourgeois theories were developed on international scale that attempted to disguise this regressive process i.e. the gradual but, in due course, the complete all-round restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union: the one was proposed by the traditional bourgeois anti-communist defenders of capitalism-imperialism. The theory of “convergence” of the two opposite economic-social systems in general and more particularly those seen during the historical period after 1953, claiming, in other words, that the “socialism” of the Soviet Union and the capitalism of the western countries were mutually approaching to each other. The second theory was put forward by the anti-communist Khrushchev-Brezhnev revisionist social democrats representing the new bourgeoisie of the Soviet Union (originally under development and subsequently fully shaped bourgeoisie): the theory of the so-called “developed socialism”.
Both of these theories concealed for decades the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union because they presented the objective historical social-economic reality in the Soviet Union and other revisionist countries at that time (1953-1990), primarily in the field of state power and the ideology as “Socialism” (!) showcasing the reactionary bourgeois-fascist power (prohibition of works of Stalin, etc.) of Khrushchev -Brezhnev-Gorbachev period 1953-1990 as the “power of the working class”(!) and claiming that the dominant ideology was “Marxism-Leninism”, although it had already been replaced from Khrushchevian revisionism (a variant of bourgeois ideology) and number of other traditional bourgeois trends, including the ultra-reactionary philosophy of Nietzsche, German Romanticism, etc. In field of economics, they presented any “changes” in the Soviet economy as an indication that the two allegedly “different” economic-social systems come close to one another. From these views flows directly and explicitly hide the regressive process of restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union – a phenomenon that was discovered and denounced from the outset only by the revolutionary Marxists who analyzed it, not completely, but at least in its basic aspects*
Moreover, the theory of “convergence” put forward by the western bourgeois reaction, and had supporters even in the revisionist countries of the reinstated capitalism, as admitted by revisionist theorists**, and the theory of “developed socialism” put forward by the Khrushchevians were both anti-communist reactionary bourgeois theories because, during the period of their dominance (1955-1990), they were directed against the communist perspective of the Proletariat, obscured the communist prospect, presenting the restored capitalism of the Soviet Union as ‘the communist’ future, but at the same time they were in total breach with the objective historic progress of society toward socialism-communism.
Both of these reactionary, anti-communist theories dominated for decades the ideological “pseudo”-conflicts and controversies inside the ranks of imperialism, between the Western capitalist camp led by the imperialist U.S. and the eastern camp of reinstated capitalism during the Khruschev-Brezhnev-Gorbachev period led by the capitalist-imperialist Soviet Union (1953-1990). Having disoriented the international workers’ and communist movement for many decades under the appearance – from both sides – of a conflict between “capitalism” – “socialism”, these theories were buried under the ruins of the collapse of the revisionist capitalist camp and the final dissolution of the Soviet Union***.
The class character and content of the two theories is based on the defence of capitalism: for the theory of “convergence” it was traditional capitalism of the Western countries, while for the theory of “developed socialism” it was the restored capitalism of the Soviet Union and the other revisionist countries.
A. The reactionary anticommunist bourgeois theory of “convergence” capitalism-socialism
From the mid-1950s, among the bourgeois defenders of capitalism began to emerge various views suggesting a “new phase”, a “new stage”, in the development of the society. These views gave rise subsequently to the theories of the so-called “industrial society”, or the theory of “convergence” of the two economic-social systems (capitalism-socialism). Initially, the main representatives of these theories were Raymond Aron (French), Jan Tinbergen (Dutch) and later John Kenneth Galbraith (U.S.) with his work: “The New industrial State” (Boston 1967), etc.
First, let us note that the term “convergence”, in addition to being deceptive, has been transferred from the natural sciences (geometry, biology, medicine, etc.) to the field of social sciences to describe a kind of “synthesis” between capitalism-socialism and a supposedly “inevitable process of amalgamation of the two economic-social systems in general. Yet, we should note that the theory of “convergence” is not identical with the theory of “industrial society”, whose core position is also the denial of the deterministic replacement of capitalism from socialism-communism, but it results from it.
Raymond Aron formally expressed these views in his work: “die Entwicklung der Industriegesellschaft und der sozialen Stratification” (1957), although it followed his earlier book “L’Opium des intellectuels” (The Opium of The Intellectuals) (Paris 1955), in which he declared that “In the West, the controversy between capitalism and socialism loses its actual intensity” and his Sorbonne lectures (1955-1956), later included in his work: «Dixhuit lecons sur la societe industrielle» (Paris 1962), in which he attempted for the first time to formulate the key features of ‘industrial society’ and present “socialism” and “capitalism” “as two versions of the same kind of industrial society … the Soviet and capitalist societies are only two species of the same genus, or two versions of the same social type, namely, the progressive industrial society “(Greek 1972: p.46-47), emphasizing, at the same time, the main purpose of this “theoretical”, reactionary, bourgeois and anti-communist approach i.e. “to avoid ahead of the opposition socialism-capitalism “(!)
Among the most important representatives of the theory of “convergence” in the economic and sociological field were Jan Tinbergen (economist), Pitirin A. Sorokin (Russian-born American sociologist) and Walter Buckingham (American economist).
Since most of, if not all, subsequent versions of the theory of “convergence” have incorporated the anti-scientific views of Walt Whitman Rostow’s famous anti-communist work: «The Stages of Economic Growth – A Non communist Manifesto» (1960, German 1961), we need to make a very brief reference to it. Rostow was had an ultra-reactionary adviser of the most aggressive militaristic circles of the American imperialism during the John F. Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson period, (within a very short time, his book was translated in 17 languages, and Rostow himself was hailed as the theorist -savior” of capitalism).
Rostow’s infamous “five stages of development” (= “traditional society”, “preconditions for take-off”, “take-off”, “drive to maturity”, and “high mass consumption. In German: “traditionelle Gesellschaft”, “Anlaufperiode”, “Aufstiegperiode”, “Reifestadium” ,”Zeitalter des Massenkonsums”, German p.18-27) – that were distinguished from one another according to the different level of development of production and consumption (!) – represent a pseudoscientific construction, because firstly, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual historical evolution of society, and secondly, because this completely arbitrary construction has completely omitted the “productive forces-productive relationship” and the dialectical relationship between them, the “property relations” and the corresponding “class relations”, class interests, class conflicts, etc., that would allow a scientific approach to the historical progress of society as successive economic-social formations. Of course, the term “class struggle” is also not mentioned, because, as known, it is the driving force of historical development and all revolutionary changes in society.
The omission of all these does not mean at all that Rostow makes no attempt to provide a scientific-like form to his pseudoscientific construction by creating the misleading impression that he supposedly “accepts” the Marxist concept of “productive forces”. However, the theory of “five stages” is based only on “technique” and it is, thu, in contrast with Marx who notes regarding this question: “Social relations are closely linked to the productive forces. By attaining new productive forces, people change their mode of production and by changing the mode of production, how to earn their living, they change all their social relations. The hand mill yields a society with the feudal ruler, the steam mill yields a society featuring the industrial capitalist… The production relations of every society form a whole” (MARX / ENGELS: Bd. 4, p.130).
In the description of the last “stage”, i.e. the “era of mass consumption”, the main PURPOSE of production in capitalism is completely transformed to its opposite: instead of a production system for PROFIT (especially for maximum profit), capitalism is presented as production system for consumption, i.e. for the alleged “satisfaction” of the needs of “all” classes in a bourgeois society. The maximization of profits is not related of course to the “nature” – “substance” of a nonexistent, abstract “man,” not even with the “psychology” of the bourgeoisie as a social class in general (anti-Marxist approaches) but it is connected, instead, to the objective economic laws underlying capitalism, in particular the Law of SURPLUS VALUE and the law of capitalist accumulation.
In this essay-manifesto, Rostow calls Marx “a 19th century romantic” (p. 186). When he “evaluates” the contribution of Marx, he argues that supposedly “nothing really important in Marx can be found after the year 1848” (p. 187), while “communism” is characterized as “a transition disease” (p.193). In this formulation, we see, in embryonic form, Rostow’s first attempt to “biologise” social life, socio-economic-political phenomena and social sciences that is promoted later in his work: «Politics and the Stages of Growth», Cambridge 1971, p 410). In this book, a failed effort is made to revive certain old views on “biologisation” of social life, in other words Rostow searches for a “biological science of politics”, promotes a “fusion” of “political science with psychiatry,” and proclaims that “political science may be, at best, only a variant of biological science and art.”
Besides the subjective-idealistic approach, the “scientific” value of Rostow’s is such that he achieves the impossible: he includes in the concept of «traditional society» three (3) modes of production: the primitive communism, slavery and feudalism, while the two others, “capitalism” and “socialism-communism”, are presented as variations of a “single industrial society”. These are completely unfounded and unsubstantiated claims on a theoretical level. Worse still: they have no connection whatsoever with the actual historical development of society.
Nevertheless, Rostow’s book, bearing the characteristic subtitle “A non communist manifesto”, has been widely used by the international bourgeois-imperialist reaction to invalidate Marxism – it was showcased as a “counterweight” to the “Communist Manifesto” – and more specifically the Marxist theory of the development of social-economic formations. Even Rostow himself does not deny this fact when he writes that that the “stages” theory is “an alternative account to the Marxian theory of modern history”: “Alternative zu der Marxschen Theorie der modernen Geschichte” (p. 16), a view presented in the last chapter (p. 174-198). Needless to note that, despite the bourgeois reaction’s boasting that the theory of Rostow succeeds in “refuting” revolutionary Marxism, this extremely naïve and unreasonably ambitious endeavour is a grand fiasco and expresses the profound crisis of bourgeois “thought” in that historical period.
One of the earliest representatives of the theory of “convergence”, the American economist Walter Buckingham: «theoretical economic system» (New York 1958), argues that the capitalist system has radically changed, the “non-capitalist systems are still present”, “and that in the future a “single economic system” will emerge through the mutual convergence of capitalism and socialism. In relation to the ongoing capitalist economic reforms in the Soviet Union, there was an article from the Executive-Director of the U.S. Congressional «Joint Economic Committee» Dr. Grover W. Ensley in 1957 – after coming back from Moscow where he met Soviet economists – with the feature title “The revolution in the economic thought of the Soviet Union”in which, among other things, he wrote that, according to Soviet economists, productivity growth will be achieved through the ” Profit motiv” (in: «Nation’s Business» 1/1957 and German: «Die Revolution im wirtschaftlichen Denken der Sowjetunion» in: «Konjunkturpolitik» 5-6/1957, pp. 301-314).
Pitirin A. Sorokin developed his views on the US-Soviet Union convergence in the sociological and cultural sector in his article «Soziologische und kulturelle Annaeherung zwischen den Verinigten Staaten und der Sowjetunion» (Zeitschrift fuer Politik » 4/1960, p.341)
Jan Tinbergen wrote his famous article in 1960 entitled: «Do Communist and Free Economies Show a Converging Pattern» (in: Soviet Studies, Vol. 12, Oxford 1960/61, p.333 and in German: «Kommt es zu einer Annaeherung zwischen den kommunistischen und den freiheitlichen Wirtschaftsordnungen?» in «Hamburger Jahrbuch fuer Wirtschafts-und Gesellschaftspolitik » (1963) pp. 11-20), where he put forward the view that both systems “change”, that “there are certain trends of convergent development”, and that “these changes involve, in certain respects, a convergent development”, “changes” that lead to a desired “optimal, mixed economic system”. He had already published in 1959 his work entitled: «The Theory of the Optimum Regime» (in Jan Tinbergen: «Selected Papers», Amsterdam 1959) in which thoughts about a “perfect economic status” were developed for the first time. This was also argued in other articles later, including:: «Die Rolle der Planungstechniken bei einer Annaeherung der Strukturen in Ost und West», 1966, etc. Taking into account all the capitalist economic reforms implemented in the Soviet Union, Tibergen says in this article: “Since the objectives of social and economic policy of the West and the East – in my opinion – come ever closer to each other, and among many structures only one is excellent, the two structures will gradually fuse into this Optimum. This kind of convergence will be achieved through a better knowledge of the social forces and the application of planning techniques respectively”. A year later, he wrote: “the systems of West and East are dynamic: they are undergoing constant changes … generally these changes are converging, thus the differences between the two systems are reducing” (Jan Tinbergen: “Roads to the Ideal Socio-Economic System» in:« The Oriental Economist», February 1967, p.94).
The reactionary anti-communist theory of “convergence” presents three basic claims: a) a general claim according to which the two social-economic systems, “capitalism” and “socialism-communism” will “converge” in the future to form an alleged “unified” industrial system, b) one specific claim according to which Soviet Union’s “socialism” in the 1950’s and 1960’s borrows certain “elements” from capitalism (“profit”, “interest”, “capitalist price of production” etc) while the capitalism of the western countries borrows from “socialism” “elements” like “planning” leading to the convergence of the two systems towards each other that will result in the formation of a “joint” “capitalist-socialist” system(!) c) a secondspecific claim according to which this “unified-” economic system will constitute the future “ideal economic formation”(!).
A few short but essential comments that rebut the totally unfounded and unscientific claim of the reactionary bourgeois theory of “convergence” from the viewpoint of revolutionary Marxism, i.e. Leninism-Stalinism.
1. The theory of “convergence” is based on a subjective-idealist approach to the study of social-economic formations and on various unscientific views of vulgar bourgeois political economy that has lost its scientific character long time ago: i.e.“Thenceforth, the class struggle, practically as well as theoretically, took on more and more outspoken and threatening forms. It sounded the knell of scientific bourgeois economy. It was thenceforth no longer a question, whether this theorem or that was true, but whether it was useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient, politically dangerous or not. In place of disinterested inquirers, there were hired prize fighters; in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience and the evil intent of apologetic… It is a declaration of bankruptcy by bourgeois economy (Marx). And elsewhere: “vulgar bourgeois economy becomes more and more openly apologetic… Its last form is the professorial form… Such essays appear only when the course of political economy as a science has reached an end ,representing at the same time the grave of this science”(Marx).
These scientific evaluation from Marx allowed Rudolf Hilferding, when he was still a Marxist in the beginning of the 20th century, to conclude his very important polemical article «Boehm-Bawerks Marx-Kritik» (Marx-Studien, Wien 1904) with the famous sentence: “the last word of the bourgeois political economy is its self-annulment”: «diese oekonomische Theorie bedeutet die Leugnung der Oekonomie; das letzte Wort, das die buergerliche Nationaloekonomie dem wissenschaftlichen Sozialismus antwortet, ist die Selbstaufhebung der Nationaloekonomie».
2. The general claim about the “convergence” of the two social-economic systems, “capitalism” and “socialism-communism”, was a completely unfounded and arbitrary one – it can never be proved – because they are diametrically opposite systems. Each one has its own fundamental attributes in all sectors (economic, political and ideological) and develops according to its own objective laws both conforming to the inevitable general historical course of the replacement of capitalism from the classless communist society by means of a violent Proletarian Revolution. Moreover the assertion made by this reactionary theory regarding the “convergence” of the two diametrically opposite systems has also been refuted by the objective historical fact of the simultaneous presence of capitalism and socialism (the first stage of communism), during the existence of the latter for more than 35 years in the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin without being any sort of “convergence” between the two social-economic formations.
3. The first specific claim about the “convergence” between the “socialism” of the Soviet Union and the other eastern countries, during the Khrushchev-Brezhnev-Gorbachev period, with the capitalism of the western countries towards a “joint” unified system which would combine the positive features of “socialism” and “capitalism” was from the very beginning completely unfounded because what happened in reality was not the “exchange” of elements between one system and the other but, on the contrary, something totally different. And this was the restoration of capitalism, as confirmed by the subsequent historical course of the Soviet Union, with the introduction of capitalist features (“profit”, “interest”, “capitalist price of production”) in the socialist economy of the Soviet Union by means of the capitalist economic reforms that were implemented – after the death-murder of Stalin and the triumph of the Khrushchev’s revisionist counter-revolution – under the direct guidance of the bourgeois CPSU. The goal of these reforms was the elimination of socialism in the sphere of economy and the gradual restoration of capitalism that was completed in the middle 1960’s with the more comprehensive capitalist reforms approved by the Central Committee Plenum of CPSU in September of 1965. In the political level, the Proletarian Dictatorship had already been overthrown while in the ideological level, the bourgeois counter-revolutionary ideology of Krsushchevism was dominant. It was this restored capitalism that collapsed at the end of 1980’s (1990-1991) bringing about the complete and final dissolution of the imperialist Soviet Union.
4. In addition, the second specific claim made by the “convergence” theory about the formation of a “unified system” which would evolve to an “excellent economic system” was not only unfounded and unproved but it was consciously misleading because what happened was NOT the mutual approach between the economies of the capitalist countries and those of the revisionist countries to form a supposed “unified”, let alone “optimal”, economic system but, on the contrary, the inevitable regression of the Soviet Union to the capitalist exploitative system after the overthrow of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, in 1953.
5. Because the reactionary and anti-communist “convergence” theory misleadingly regarded the restored capitalism of the Soviet Union of the Khrushchev-Brezhnev-Gorbachev period as “socialism”, it discredited the socialism-communism built in that country during the period of Lenin-Stalin – according to the Marxist conception of communism. Socialism-communism was thus presented as a system, which, not being able allegedly to work on its own basis and with its own economic laws, was compelled to “borrow” capitalist elements (“profit”, “interest”, “capitalist price of production”). In other words, it was presented as an allegedly “failed” and “bankrupt” economic system in an attempt to “prove” the nonexistent superiority of capitalism over socialism-communism.
6. By presenting the Soviet Union’s regression to capitalism as “socialism”, the “convergence” theory deliberately confused the communist viewpoint of the proletariat for many decades. Instead of communism, the proletariat was made to envision the exact opposite: the reactionary process of capitalist restoration as this was going on in the Soviet Union during that period (1953-1990).
7. The “convergence” theory denied the inevitable replacement of capitalism by socialism-communism and the laws underlying this change by attacking the Marxist theory of social development seen as a necessary succession of social-economic formations.
8. The “convergence” theory rejected the character of the 20thcentury as the historical era of transition from capitalism to socialism-communism. Instead, it adopted the unfounded claim that the 20th century was the era of the “unified industrial society” and the alleged “capitalism-socialism fusion”. Both had absolutely nothing to do with the reality of that historical period because the only thing that happened then – that was confirmed historically – was the return of the Soviet Union to capitalism.
Finally, by supporting the view that the two diametrically opposed social-economic systems were “approaching each other” and converged towards an “optimal economic system”, the “convergence” theory denied the irreconcilable contradiction between capitalism and socialism-communism and attempted without success to corroborate this arbitrary claim also made by the theory of “unified industrial society”, as formulated by one of its chief representatives, Raymon Aron, namely: to get around in advance the socialism-capitalism contradiction.
Closing, it is necessary to point out that the aim of this very short and incomplete article was not to shed light on all, or even most of, sides of the reactionary, anti-communist “convergence” theory but to show what is relevant to our main discussion, i.e. the concealment of the regressive process of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union and the other eastern countries.
* The initial scientific prediction and the later evaluation made by the revolutionary Marxists, i.e. of Leninists-Stalinists regarding the return of the Soviet Union to capitalism from the time when the Dictatorship of the Proletariat was overthrown, after the death-murder of Stalin, was confirmed by: a) the complete restoration of capitalism in the middle of 1960’s and b) the subsequent overall historical course of the Soviet Union until the total collapse of the restored capitalism at the end of 1980’s and the final breakup of the Soviet Union (1990-1991).
** Like, for example, the Soviet L. Leontiev, (Moscow, 1972) who mentions: “an unprecedented exaltation of the convergence theory”, the East-German H. Meissner (Berlin-DDR, 1969): “It is not surprising that these views (he means concepts of the theory of “convergence”) were endorsed by some socialist theorists whose Marxist foundation was not so stable …”, the Czechoslovak J. Filipec in: Freyer/Bossle/Filipec (Mainz 1966) and another Soviet, Lew Alter, who admits that the theory of “convergence” is based on new phenomena («Pr. d. Fr. u. d. S.», 9/1968).
*** The true historical course of the Soviet Union during the period 1953-1990 did not confirm any of the two bourgeois anti-communist theories, i.e. the theories of “convergence” and of “developed socialism” but, on the contrary, refuted both. Not only the claim that “socialism” was built in the Soviet Union during the Khrushchev -Brezhnev-Gorbachev period (1953-1990) but also the other claim that the soviet economy was “approaching” the economy of the Western capitalist countries both converging at an “optimal economic system”, collapsed “overnight” simultaneously with the fall and the final dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990-1991 exactly because none of the two claims was realized. As mentioned before, what did happen was the return of the Soviet Union to capitalism, as predicted, albeit incompletely and along general lines, right from the beginning (since the middle 1950’s) by the revolutionary communists.
However, despite the complete refutation of these two reactionary anti-communist theories, the discussion about the causes that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union – especially the discussion about the character of the post-1953 reforms, without which is obviously impossible to determine the nature of the soviet economy of that period – does not have only historical interest but it is entirely timely and of great importance for the correct orientation of the working and communist movement, i.e. for its socialist-communist prospect because it is directly related to the Marxist (or anti-Marxist) conception of socialism.