2004 The Soviet Question and Marx Revisited: A Reply to Mike Haynes [Chattopadhyay]

Historical materialism Vol. 12 N° 2 (2004)

We have read Mike Haynes’s criticism of our book (1994) with considerable interest. It is a serious and valuable piece which puts across the author’s point of view forcefully. We are grateful to him for drawing the readers’ attention — largely undeserved — to our work. He sets up an impressive six-point agenda for studying the `political economy’ of the USSR in which four points really concern our work (7-8): the nature of the 1917 revolution; the nature of the gradual shift of the régime during 1917-1928; the nature of the post 1928 régime and its early successes; the subsequent failure of the régime. In the process he has raised important theoretical issues. What is remarkable in the long essay is the paucity of references to Marx’s own work, although references to `Marxism’ and `Marxists’ abound, which perhaps is as it should be inasmuch as `Marxism’ and `Marxists,’ referred to in his text, had not much to do with either Marx’s (own) specific categories or Marx’s own position on capitalism as a mode of production and socialism as an emancipatory project. Let us clear up a point at the outset. Our book does not deal with the `political economy’ (of the USSR). Ours is a `critique of political economy,’ as the subtitle of our work clearly states, which studies the « anatomy of the society » in question with its basic focus on the mode of production, that is, the mode of exploitation of the immediate producers of the society, strictly following Marx’s categories. Quite pertinently, the opening section of the present paper deals with Haynes’s representation of Marx, even though references to him in his text do not amount to much. Four successive sections deal with, respectively, opposing approaches to the USSR, the 1917 Revolution, Russia between 1917 and 1928, and the civil war and the question of world revolution. We conclude by arguing how Marx proved right against the `Marxists.’

Haynes writes: « Having written the Critique of Political Economy, Marx was anxious to move on to analyse capitalism in Capital. » The statement, we suggest, is a very inaccurate representation of Marx’s position, to say the least. As a matter of fact Marx considers all his works on the economy — beginning at least with his Paris manuscripts of 1844 — as `critique of political economy’ which is erected as representing the proletariat against `political economy’ representing the bourgeoisie (Marx 1962a: 22). So it is not clear which specific work Haynes means by this term. If he means A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), the statement is still wrong. The Contribution itself deals with capital, that is, capitalism.1 The first section is entitled `Capital in general.’ It directly treats commodity and money which are here categories not of pre-capitalism, but of capital, commodity being its simplest form.2 In this work Marx presents money not in its pre-bourgeois existence but as the « general form of bourgeois labour » (1980: 166). The book, excepting its historical part, basically forms the first three chapters of Capital (second edition). In fact already in his economic works of late 1840s (1847-1849) Marx offers an outline of the essential features of capitalism, and in his vast manuscript of 1857-1858 — the first (draft) variant of Capital — as well as in his 23 notebooks of 1861-1863 — Capital’s second (draft) variant — he extensively `analyses capitalism itself.’

Haynes’s second inaccurate statement on Marx is the following: « Marx was primarily concerned to analyse capitalism as a privatized system in which state itself does not produce directly » (36-37). In a fundamental sense (in Marx) capital by definition is a `privatized system’ whether the ownership of conditions of production is under the private `juridical persons’ or under the state inasmuch as the « conditions of production » — taking the form of capital — monopolised by a minority of society, is the « non property » of the immense majority of labourers (Marx 1988: 77; emphasis in original). This is the « class property, » equated by Marx to « private property of a part of society » (1956: 21; 1966a: 71, 73; 1971: 75). On the other hand, Marx specifically spoke of the « abolition (sublimation) of capital as (individual) private property within the limits of the capitalist mode of production itself » (1964: 452; 1992: 502). The opposition of `capitalism as a privatized system’ to state ownership of the means of production leading to the equivalence of the juridical abolition of private ownership to the abolition of capitalism itself is the hallmark, not of Marx, but of the `Marxists’ of the Second and the Third Internationals. Again, contrary to Haynes’s assertion, Marx does speak of the state as the « capitalist producer » employing « wage labour » to produce commodities (1962b: 370; 1973: 101).3

Haynes starts by questioning our `studying the soviet economy abstracting from the international economic relations.’ He asks whether the `USSR could be analysed independently of its insertion in the world economy’ (40). Now, `analysing the USSR’ would literally mean analysing all its dimensions, not only economic but also demographic, historical, political, social, cultural, linguistic, literary, you name it! That was not at all our stated objective. We explicitly stated at the very beginning of the book that our aim was to study the USSR’s economy in the specific (unusual) sense of Marx, that is, in the sense of mode of production « forming the foundation of material life of society » (Marx 1962a: 96; 1965: 616). In support of his position Haynes cites Trotsky: `Marxism takes its point of departure from the world economy.’ Which `Marxism’ is in question here? And `point of departure’ for what? If by `Marxism’ Trotsky means his own ideas or those of other `Marxists’ it does not bother us too much. For us what is of singular importance is the position of Marx (himself) whose stated objective was to « reveal the economic law of motion of capital » and, consequently, to « investigate the capitalist mode of production and the relations of production and exchange corresponding to it » (1962a: 12, 15-16). His explicitly stated « point of departure » in relation to this fundamental objective (which is logically the only way to put the thing) is very different indeed. Thus after stating that commodity is the « elementary form of wealth » of the bourgeois society Marx adds, « Therefore our investigation begins with the analysis of a commodity » (1962a: 49; our emphasis.4 Marx nowhere refers to `world economy’ as his `point of departure’ for his investigation. Again, what is `the world economy’ (our emphasis)? Literally it should signify one single economy across the globe, and if we take `economy’ in Marx’s sense (as referred to above) it could, in the present context, only signify capital, that is, wage labour (again in the precise sense of Marx) presenting all over the earth or at least over its major portion (that is, involving the majority of its working population). This is of course far from being the reality even in these days of `globalisation.’

It should be emphasized that Marx, far from taking as the `point of departure,’ capital on a world scale established through the « original expropriation, » specifically mentions in the French version of his great work that his analysing of the genesis of capital and its subsequent development is in the context of a very small part of the globe — to wit, Western Europe in which it was, again, only in one country, England, where the process of expropriation of the immediate producers — the foundation of capital — took place in a radical manner (1965: 1170). Later in his letter to Vera Zassulitch — written in French (March 8, 1881) — Marx emphasizes this point (1968: 1558). Thus England being « till now the classic location of the capitalist mode of production and the corresponding relations of production and exchange » served for Marx as the « principal illustration of his theoretical development » (1962a: 12). Though England’s `insertion into the world economy’ was in all probability more dense than what the USSR’s was, the former’s `national’ capitalism, growing and establishing itself out of the original expropriation of its own immediate producers within its own socio-economic context could adequately illustrate Marx’s ideas about capitalism, without the need of his taking the `world economy as the point of departure.’

Haynes is of course right in saying that there is no `national capital.’ It is indeed a contradiction in terms. Capital’s aim being not use value but exchange value and, correspondingly, production for production’s sake, capitalist production involves « interlacing all peoples in the net of the world market, whence the international character of the capitalist regime » (Marx 1962a: 790) However, the entanglement of a country in the world market does not engender, nor does it determine, the specificity of its social relations of production which is in question. Hence, in order to study the specific character of the process of genesis and development of capitalism which takes place through the « expropriation of the self-sustaining peasants and their transformation into wage labourers » within a country, conditioned by the country’s history, taking the « country’s (own) colour » and « creating the country’s home market » for its capital, it is necessary, for methodological reasons, to leave aside the foreign economic relations which do not really belong to this inner process and would rather obfuscate it. Having said this, after we had analysed the specific form of the social relation of production of the USSR, we did take account of its rivalrous competitive relations with the `western’ capitalist countries (pages 61-62, 66, 91, 96-98 of the book), without of course giving the problem a dominant place unlike a certain school of `state capitalists.’5 This is seen in our reference to the transfer of technology from the West, in our attaching particular importance to the very logic of « catching up and surpassing » the West as the basis of the whole process of accumulation of capital in the USSR, on our explicit quantitative comparison of the USSR’s economic performance with that of the West. Haynes obviously did not pay attention to all this. Haynes ascribes to us the idea that one could `derive the basic features of capitalism from the activity of two enterprises competing with one another,’ the idea that there could be `one-street capitalism. In its place he wants `a concept of capitalism as a large totality . . . based on competitive relations across state boundaries’ because `to abstract from this is to abstract from the core process’ of capitalism which is a `system’ in `development’ (41-42). First of all, we submit that in this rather discursive-descriptive long essay Haynes rarely makes clear the concepts he uses — most of all the central concepts like `capital’ (capitalism), and `competition’ (of capitals). We start our book by devoting two full theoretical chapters clarifying the basic concepts rigorously following Marx’s texts.6 Haynes’s statements clearly show our basic difference with Haynes regarding `capital’ and `competition of capitals.’ Contrary to Haynes, we do not `derive’ capital’s basic features from competition of capitals, nor do we make the concept of capital dependent on the size of the geographical area. Competition of capitals itself is one of the `basic features of capitalism’ all of which arise from the « inner nature » of the capitalist mode of production itself which shows capital’s « necessary tendency, » its « tendency to draw out (ausspinnen) infinitely the value of surplus labour » (Marx 1953: 316; 1976: 157). Thus the « inner nature of capital, its essential determination » « appears and is realized » in competition as the « reciprocal interaction of many capitals » (Marx 1953: 316, 317). It is through competition that capital realizes surplus value after having produced it. Competition is the « relation of capital to itself as another capital, » it executes and realizes the « inner laws of capital, but does not create (erfindet – invent) them. Wishing to explain them simply from competition is to confess that one does not understand them » (Marx 1953: 638: our emphasis). Hence for competition of capitals to exist it is necessary and sufficient that more than one unit, of production based on « free » wage labour exist and confront one another as functionally independent and competing commodity producers (Marx 1953: 323; 1962a: 654). Given these conditions, geography here plays no role whatsoever for the existence of the competition of capitals. Geography becomes important only insofar as the spatial extension of the operation of capital helps the realization of surplus value of individual capitals on a bigger scale. `Competitive relations across state boundaries’ is relevant insofar as the competition between capitals takes place across the globe irrespective of boundaries — given capital’s free movement — which simply means the extension of competition already existing inside the boundaries, demonstrating that capital does not accept any spatial barrier to the realization of surplus value produced within the boundaries. Haynes also wants to posit a positive `role of the state as part of the competitive process’ (42) and `competitive leverage (as) a mixture of economic, political and military power’ (43). This looks like a terrible mixing up of issues. The relevant question in connection with capital as a mode of production is the competition of capitals, economic rivalry of the different independent units of production striving for maximum profit, not to be mixed up with political/military rivalry of states. For one thing, the political/military rivalry of states was very much present in Marx’s days without his taking account of this rivalry while analysing the competition of capitals. Indeed, this rivalry of states plays an important role insofar as each state promotes and helps the movement of `national’ capital across the globe and tries to obstruct the same movement for `foreign’ capital. But it plays little role in the explanation of the existence of competition of capitals itself, and bringing in this element would only obstruct a clear view of capital’s competitive process and thereby the nature of capital itself (as a relation of production).7 When state enterprises compete with `private’ enterprises inside or outside of a country as their economic rivals, they do so as units of capital, observing the rules of capitalist game, and not as units of state.

Haynes refers to the `core process’ of capitalism. Now `core’ signifies hard central part (of fruits containing seeds). If the `core process’ signifies fundamental process, then capitalism’s core process is the historically specific process of separation of the immediate producers for the conditions of production, and the development of capitalism as a `system’ is simply the enlarged reproduction of this separation where capital, naturally, does not accept any barrier. To explain this `core process’ what is relevant is not so much the extension of the geographical area as the expansion of what Marx calls the « home market. »

Haynes writes: `Chattopadhyay rejects the view that state property as a legal form precludes effective private ownership in terms of effective disposition’ (47). Well, not exactly. This is not our position. It is not a question of `legal form of state property’ (in the USSR) versus `effective private ownership in terms of disposition. In our book we cited soviet law itself which considered the enterprises as « juridical persons » through « possession of separate property » (book: 52). The soviet law conferred on the individual units of production — considered as « juridical persons » — the enterprise form as opposed to state form of property. Following the `Cliff formulation’ of considering the soviet economy as a `single workshop,’ Haynes is `puzzled’ by our position that the soviet enterprises had `effective control’ over their operation and thereby acted as competing capitalists, adding, a contrario, that they enjoyed only `controlled freedom’ (48, 49, 50). Let us first remark that the `single workshop’ argument would automatically, following Marx (1962a: 376), contradict the reality of commodity production and, given wage labour, the corresponding competition of capitals in the USSR. In order to maintain the capitalist character of the USSR, this contradiction is ingeniously `overcome’ by assuming that this whole process was simply imposed on the USSR from outside by the `global economy’ in order to be `transmitted internally by the centre’ (49)!

The `puzzle’ evaporates as soon as we realize that for competition of capitals to exist the relations between `centre’ and particular units of production is of little importance. It is not a question of centre versus unit, it is question of unit versus unit. What is fundamental is the functional autonomy of each unit in relation to the other units, independently of the question of the juridical ownership of the means of production and of the question of control from the `centre.’ It should be stressed that the essential reality of capitalism is social capital as a totality — in Marx’s words, « social total capital, » `owned’ in material form — to put it juridically — by the capitalist class as a whole, unrecognized by bourgeois jurisprudence. Social total capital has a « real existence different from particular capitals » (Marx 1953: 353), a particular capital constitutes only an « autonomised (verselbständigtes) fraction of social total capital just as each individual capitalist is only an element of the capitalist class » (Marx 1973a: 351-52). However, « capital exists and can only exist as many capitals » where « capital’s essential determination appears and is realized as reciprocal working of many capitals » (Marx 1953: 317; our emphasis), that is as competition of capitals. Hence each singular capital, as an organic part of the social total capital, is dependent — by definition — on the latter. But the singular capitals themselves are reciprocally independent and as such « confront one another as competing commodity producers » (Marx 1962a: 654).

Capitalism in the USSR was not an exception to this rule. The enterprises were of course under the thumb of the `center,’ that is, social total capital juridically owned by the Party-State. But as fragments of this totality they confronted one another as autonomous units based on wage labour whose products took commodity form. Their chiefs, though not juridically owning the means of production, were the « bearers » or « functionaries of capital » in Marx’s profound sense and, « as brother-enemies shared the booty of the appropriated alien labour, so that on the average the one appropriated as much unpaid labour as the other, » and « competition is nothing but the striving of the individual capitalists to divide among themselves the quantity of the unpaid surplus labour that the capitalists (together) have squeezed (auspressen) out of the working class » (Marx 1959: 21). In Marx we find a telling example of competition of capitals without there being a separate owner of each capital — five separate capitals « belonging to one man » that is, as fractions of « one single capital » — competing with one another and sharing the total surplus value among themselves, each one « getting one’s distinct aliquot part » (1964: 196; 1992: 235).

Put in a somewhat different way, the `puzzle’ disappears as soon as we understand capital’s totality — singularity configuration « neither recognized nor understood by the usual (ordinary) political economy » (Marx 1953: 353) — and set ourselves free from the juridical ownership fixation. It should be mentioned that inside the USSR itself voices were raised questioning the `single workshop’ image of the soviet economy. A very significant contribution in this respect we find in the unduly neglected soviet economist V.P. Shkredov who, already in 1960s, following Marx’s ideas closely, battled the soviet establishment economists for « mixing up the economic and juridical relations » and faulted their conceptualization of « property » as a « separate relation (osoboe otnoshenie), independent of the historically determined forms of social production. » He affirmed the reality of relative (reciprocal) independence of the soviet enterprises based on the « existence of commodity relations (tovarnikh otnoshenii) within the state sector » (1967: 3, 163, 179). Returning to the theme two decades later — in the context of Gorbachev reform of the law of enterprises — Shkredov reaffirmed the (reciprocal) separateness and relative independence of the soviet enterprises and specifically ridiculed the image of « (soviet) socialism as one giant factory » (1989:32). Similarly, the noted economist A.G. Aganbegyan ascribed commodity-money relations in the USSR to the « relative isolation (otnositel’noe obosoblenie) of separate enterprises within the state ownership » (1988: 184).

A word now on a related theme — the question of the existence of law of value in the USSR. Before we proceed directly to Haynes’s criticism on this question let us first note some inexactitude in Haynes’s theoretical position in this connection. On law of value he cites Sweezy’s formulation of this law as regulating exchange ratios of commodities, quantity of each commodity produced and allocating labour force across the economy. However this is not the law of value. These are only what the law does. Why not go back to Marx’s own more precise position? For the first time Marx speaks of Ricardo’s « law of exchangeable value, » that is, the « determination of value by labour time » (1965: 25).8 More than ten years later he offers more precision by bringing in « magnitude of value, » not simply « value, » as « determined by labour time » (in Ricardo) (1980: 137). Finally, Marx makes the « law » much more precise by adding the qualification « socially necessary » to « labour time » — absent in Ricardo — and offers his own definition of the concept in the first chapter of Capital (1962a: 53). So this is basically what Marx means by « law of value ». In short, law of value prevails when the exchangeable products of labour take « value form » or « commodity form. » Now a second point. While bringing up the question of value-price deviation in the soviet economy, Haynes approvingly refers to the `literature on the transformation problem’ which seems to have `established (that) commodities do not exchange at their values but at their prices of production’ (59). If, instead of the said `literature,’ Haynes had taken the trouble to go back to Marx’s own precise formulation — always infinitely more lucid than that of his feuding followers and interpreters — he could have found that commodities, in actual reality (Wirklichkeit), do not exchange at their « prices of production » either. They simply exchange at « market prices, » determined by supply and demand, which « perpetually oscillate » around prices of production — which Marx also calls average price (statistically) established over a long period (1953: 56; 1962a: 180-81; 1964: 188; 1992: 254).

Let us now take up Haynes’s criticism of our position on this question of value-price deviation in the USSR economy. Here he faults us for not `fully taking up the issue of the way that prices and values deviated and why’ and `bringing this to the centre of attention.’ This alleged fault of ours he connects with our `abstracting from the world economy’ (60). First of all, the `centre of attention’ of our investigation — already stated earlier — is expressly the social relations of production — and political and other relations (forms) arising from and corresponding to them — in the USSR. Exchange relations (and their forms) of a society — where these `deviations’ lie — are only the consequence of its production relations. If it is capitalist production (as in the USSR) then the exchange relations are necessarily value relations (`world economy’ or no `world economy’) and their specific mode of functioning is entirely governed by the exigencies of the extended reproduction of this reparation — inverse relation between the producers and the conditions of production themselves. It is not clear why these `deviations’ and not the social relations of production should have been our `centre of attention.’ Having said this, we have to affirm we have, in spite of `abstracting from the world economy,’ found no difficulty in our book in `fully taking account of the issue’ of the said `deviation’ pointing to the soviet authorities’ deliberate manipulation of the pricing system, basing ourselves entirely on the specificity of the soviet accumulation process in the situation of « war economy in peace time » (Nove 1982: 390) in conditions of backwardness with perceived military threat from outside (book: 58, 125, 126, 141, 143 of the book). The author seems to have `overlooked’ our discussion where we also show, citing appropriate authorities, that other capitalist countries situated in a more or less similar situation — like the earlier Japan and Nazi Germany (even before the war) — displayed the same kind of manipulation with the pricing system in order to create such deviation.

Finally, Haynes criticises us for allegedly holding that soviet workers were `always wage labourers’ (38), that we have not taken account of the `forced labour’ in the USSR (51). This, again, is a misrepresentation of our position. What we have said in the book is that for the major part of the soviet period labourers were `free’ wage labourers. However, we have also argued, citing data from the soviet sources, that over certain periods, both before and after 1928, forced labour prevailed, sometimes coexisting with `free’ wage labour (book: 51, 62, 63, 135, 156, 158, 162, 163). Obviously, here again, Haynes has `overlooked’ our discussion.

Haynes ascribes to us the idea(s) that `Russia remained substantially unchanged after 1917,’ that we `wrote the popular base of the Russian Revolution out of history,’ that in our `limited account of the revolution’ we ignored the `authentic’ character of the popular revolution in 1917 where the Bolsheviks gained mass support’ (62, 63).

The first point is a palpable misrepresentation of our position. A contrario, we speak specifically of « pre-capitalist, » « semi-feudal » Russia which the Bolsheviks inherited and of the development of capitalism under their rule right from 1917 (book: 60, 157, 161). As regards the `limited’ character of our `account of the revolution’ let us emphasize once more that far from being an `account of the revolution (`limited’ or otherwise), our book is an attempt to study Russia’s economy in Marx’s precise sense — as it functioned particularly during 1928-1990, serving as the `soviet model.’ Towards the end of the book we mention the 1917 revolution — very briefly — en passant just to signal its bourgeois character. As regards our alleged `writing the popular basis of the revolution out of history,’ we would hold, on the contrary, that this phrase far from representing our position, perfectly represents the position of « communism’s false brothers » in Russia — to cite Marx’s phrase (in Marx and Engels 1972: 96) — the Bolsheviks in the first place (more on this below).

Let us elaborate somewhat on the `Russian Revolution.’ This rather bland expression short circuits two qualitatively different moments of the revolutionary process that emerged in Russia in 1917 — in February and October. The revolutionary mass upsurge in February sallied forth spontaneously without any organized direction from above. As Trotsky writes in his monumental history: « The February revolution was begun from below, overcoming the resistance of its own revolutionary organizations, the initiative being taken on their own accord by the most oppressed and downtrodden part of the proletariat, . . . nobody summoned the masses from above to insurrection » (1987, vol. 1: 102). The first soviets arose immediately after the political victory, towards the end of the famous « five days » (February 23-27) and spread rapidly all across Russia. This was, again, a spontaneous mass phenomenon of the workers and soldiers. It was sometime before the peasants — without any directive from above again — launched the agrarian revolutionary movement whose basis was the old demand for the transfer to `people’ the ownership of land, and this meant the expropriation and distribution of lands belonging to the crown, the state, the church and the landlords. The peasants’ insurrection acted as a powerful lever to the Bolshevik seizure of power in October.9 Peasants’ soviets came later. Additionally, the soviet movement comprised more than these two kinds. The movement included in fact a « constellation of soviets » comprising the soviet of factory committees, the soviet of workers’ control, etc. (Ferro 1980: 19-20).

On the whole, the beginning `moment’ of the Russian Revolution, initiated and dominated entirely by Russia’s toilers without any party guidance, had all the basic features of the great popular revolutions of the past such as those of 1789-93 and 1871 in France. Targeting mainly the pre-capitalist social order, this revolution started out as an immense democratic mass movement in an open-ended, plural revolutionary process which the different political parties increasingly tried to bring under control advancing their own agenda as the agenda of the toilers. In fact the demands of the workers emanating from factory committees in March, 1917, mainly concerned their economic conditions of existence — an eight hour working day, higher wages, better sanitary conditions and opposition to piece wage. As to their political demands, they wanted most of all a democratic republic and the convening of the Constituent Assembly. « The workers wanted to improve their conditions of living, not to transform them, » and practically there was no demand for a transformation of production relations. In their turn the peasants wanted most of all the seizure of land of the state and the landlord — and not nationalization — and as to their political demands they wanted a democratic republic and a rapid and equitable peace (Ferro 1967: 183-88). To the extent that the Russian labourers aimed above all at the destruction of the pre-capitalist institutions of the country, February inaugurated a bourgeois revolution in a vast environment of mass spontaneity and initiative with a plural character.

How very different was the « second stage of the revolution » as Lenin called it in April, 1917! From a tiny party of twenty odd thousand in the spring of 1917, the Bolsheviks grew into a gigantic party of 300,000, obtaining a majority in many soviets, most importantly in the big urban and industrial centres by October (Shapiro 1960: 168). They continuously gained popular support because more than most other parties they could sense the profound revolutionary strivings of the increasingly radicalized workers, and captured in their popular slogan — `land, bread, freedom’ (formulated by Lenin in early March) — what the workers wanted. Lenin well understood the very close links, infinitely stronger than the influence of his party, connecting the workers and soldiers to the soviets. With the formula of the Bolshevik programme `all power to the workers and poor peasants » he united the popular formula `all power to the soviets’ (Anweiler 1958: 203).10 Indeed, what little we have said in the book about the 1917 events in no way contradicts either the `authenticity’ of the `popular character of the revolution’ or the increasing `mass support’ for the Bolsheviks who undoubtedly `counted on ruling by mass support’ (Haynes 63). What we have contested (without elaborating) is the contention of the proletarian character of the revolution, of the mass character of the Bolshevik seizure of power and the claim of establishing a proletarian dictatorship. It could not be a proletarian (socialist) revolution (at least not in the sense of Marx) in the absence of the necessary material and subjective conditions. As to the material conditions in which the country was summoned to plunge into `socialist revolution,’ Russia at that period was a predominantly agrarian land with only one-sixth of the population living in urban areas (Prokopovitch 1952: 22, 38; Davies 1991: 11-12). « The conditions of rural life and the whole labour process remained at a level which prevailed at some earlier century in Western Europe, maybe at the level of French rural life sometime in the 16th century » (Lewin 1985: 52).

Again, the (economic) historians have found little support for Lenin’s contention about irreconcilable class antagonism in the countryside of the epoch between petty capitalist `kulaks’ and poor peasants and hired labourers. In fact in 1913 the share of rural households relying mainly on hired labour counted less than 0.1 percent and a landless rural proletariat engaged only in hired labour in agriculture barely existed. In short there seems to be little evidence to support the view of a full-blooded differentiation in the peasantry in the period before 1914 (Davies 1991: 19; Merle 1991: 48, 64, 65).11 Generally speaking, Lenin’s own affirmation in 1921 of the existence of « medievalism, feudalism, serfdom » before the Bolshevik victory only confirms the state of material unpreparedness of Russia for socialist revolution. As regards the industrial proletariat, working dominantly under foreign capital, it constituted barely two percent of the total population (Grossman 1973: 493).

Even abstracting from the absence of the material conditions (in a situation of socio-economic backwardness) and considering only the subjective factor, Lenin himself stated in 1919 that Russia’s « labouring masses » being at a « low cultural level » were « incapable of participating in the (country’s) administration. » If we take the October seizure of power, an extremely negligible portion of the industrial proletariat — itself a drop in the vast ocean of the population — really participated in it as confirmed by most historians. The October insurrection in no way signified a real popular uprising with the active participation of the toiling masses — in sharp contrast with February. Trotsky writes on October: « The final act of the revolution seems too brief, too dry, too businesslike. There is no action of the great masses . . . (There was) the tranquillity of the October streets, the absence of crowds and battles » (1987, vol. 3, 232, 292, 293; our emphasis). From historians we know of the insurrection as « no rising of the masses » and of the « small scale of the dramatic events » where « it was a conflict between two small groups, neither of which had much taste for fighting. » Most people in Petrograd were unaware that this `popular’ insurrection was taking place. « Even the members of the Provisional Government did not see that power had (already slipped from their hands » (Taylor 1977: XVI; Heller and Nekrich 1982: 32).12

Lenin, while openly proclaiming `all power to the soviets’ had, in fact, no faith in the soviets wielding power. This is clear from his own pronouncements of the period. He was for his party’s gaining power alone and keeping it. Thus in the very first congress of the Soviets in June (1917) where the Bolsheviks were in a small minority Lenin declared that his party was prepared to take power by itself. On August 30 Lenin affirmed that once the party was in power they would not leave it. Lenin’s complete distrust of soviet democracy is seen even in the period when his party was giving or did gain a majority in the soviets of Petrograd, Moscow and several other urban soviets. At the end of september, in his piece « Crisis is Ripe, » he remarked: « `Waiting’ for the Congress of the Soviets would be utter idiocy or sheer treachery » for the « Congress will give nothing and can give nothing » (emphasized in original). Similarly, in his different letters of September and early October he asserted that « to wait for the Congress of Soviets would be a childish and disgraceful game of formalities and a betrayal of the revolution. » Ultimately, in conformity with this Leninist position, power was seized by the Bolsheviks, on the decision of a handful of persons — independently of the toilers’ organs of self rule and keeping them in the dark — in fact « not from Karensky but from the soviets » (Taylor 1977; XVII). Indeed, far from being the workers’ own creation, the « Bolshevik Party was Lenin’s creation . . . He was irreplaceable as that party’s leader . . . When sharp differences arose (about the seizure of power) Lenin’s threat to resign from leadership was more effective than all other arguments » (Medvedev 1979: 14). That the October seizure of power had nothing to do with the toiling masses seizing power on their own collective initiative (à la 1871 Commune) comes out starkly in Trotsky’s statement in his Diary in Exile: « If neither Lenin nor I had been present in 1917 in Petersberg there would have been no October Revolution « (cited in Knei-Paz 1978: 230). If this is the reality of the October insurrection — passing for a `proletarian revolution’ — then it is clear that it was Lenin and his comrades themselves who were, in Haynes’s words, `writing the popular base of the Russian Revolution out of history.’ It is clear from Trotsky’s own account that even the ardent supporters of the Bolsheviks including the party members wanted the seizure of power by the soviets and not by the party (Trotsky 1987: vol. 3; specially pages 282-83). Bolshevik delegates to the Second Congress of the Soviets, questioned on their views about the type of future government, replied majority-wise: » all power to the soviets. » « The idea of a Bolshevik monopoly of power never crossed the minds of the overwhelming majority » (Schapiro 1960: 170; 1968: 223). « Historians seem to agree that workers and soldiers voted for soviet power, they were in fact opting for a multi-party government of leftist parties » (Suny 1987: 17). The seizure of power and exercising it by the Party alone and not by the toilers themselves (through their own freely elected and revocable representatives) comes out very clearly in Lenin’s own very honest and candid statements of the period too numerous to mention here.

The last democratic obstacle on the Bolsheviks’ road to power was the Constituent Assembly the coming of which the Bolsheviks had been loudly championing till the seizure of power and, in fact, even immediately after this victory (October 26) Lenin reaffirmed this stand and added that even if the Socialist Revolutionaries were elected there as the majority, the Bolsheviks would accept it. However, when the Assembly met at the beginning of January, 1918, on the basis of « Russia’s first, last and only universal, free and democratic election » (Daniels 1967: 212), with the SRs gaining absolute majority, the body was declared `counterrevolutionary’ by the Bolsheviks and their allies and was dissolved by the government on the initiative of Lenin who alone took the decision on behalf of the `overwhelming majority of the people’ not yet capable of understanding the full meaning of the October revolution. « Six months later every political party but the Bolsheviks . . . had been outlawed, terror had commenced, and the new phenomenon of totalitarian dictatorship was beginning to take over the future of Russia » (Daniels 1967: 212-13; 1972: 175-76).

After the initial period of `triumph’ and the post war) massive demobilisation and rapid socio-economic decline of the country in winter, 1918, workers’ dissatisfaction with the nouveau régime — supposed to be their own — began to grow rapidly with increasing protests and demonstrations by thousands against the authorities. « A third stage began to unfold in the Bolshevik-labour relations leading to open conflict, repression and the consolidation of the dictatorship over the proletariat » (Rosenberg 1987: 117). At an `extraordinary’ meeting on March 3, 1918, the delegates of the biggest factories of Petrograd, railway workshops, electric power stations, printing presses said in a declaration, sent to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, that « We, the workers of Petrograd in our majority, have accepted the change of regime effected (in October) in `our’ name, without our knowledge and without our participation. The new power, declaring itself as the government of workers and peasants, promised to realize our will and respect our interest. After four months we see that a laughing stock has been made of our faith, our hopes trampled underfoot » (in Heller and Nekrich 1982: 47; our emphasis). « The turn of the masses away from the Bolsheviks, » as Medvedev calls it, was shown in the elections to the soviets in spring and summer, 1918 — the Bolsheviks were losing ground.13

People’s dissatisfaction with the installed power reached new heights towards the end of the civil war in 1920-21, coming to the fore in different urban centres. It had particular width and intensity in Petrograd specially in the factories, earlier Bolshevik strongholds. Even boots were not delivered to the Red Army soldiers lest they join the demonstrators. « February 1921 in Petrograd astonishingly reminded one of February 1917 » (Heller and Nekrich 1982: 89). Referring to the situation globally, Deutscher writes that the « bulk of the working class, not to speak of the peasantry, unmistakeably turned against the Bolsheviks. If the Bolsheviks had now permitted free elections to the Soviets, they would almost certainly have been swept from power » (1963: 504, 505).

The last scene in the drama of `writing’ the people `out of history’ was enacted in Kronstadt in February-March 1921.14 On learning about the Petrograd events a fact finding delegation from Kronstadt, elected by the crews of two ships went there. They made the round of factories and found the workers in great distress and in terror, many imprisoned. Returning to Kronstadt they reported their findings to a general meeting of the ships’ crew whereupon a 15-point resolution was adopted — of which some of the key points were: (1) new elections to the Soviets by secret ballot, the existing Soviets having failed to express the will of the toilers; (2) and (3) freedom of speech, press and assembly for all left organisations and for the toilers; (5) liberation of all political prisoners of the left parties, the toilers and imprisoned Red Army personnel; (11) Peasants’ right to cultivate their own land, but without hired labour. The resolution was adopted « almost unanimously » at a meeting on March 1 of about 15,000 sailors, soldiers and civilians. A delegation sent to Petrograd to inform the workers about the resolution was promptly arrested. Martial law was proclaimed throughout the province. Bolshevik authority denied all legitimacy to the grievances and denounced the Kronstadlers’ action as a counterrevolutionary movement led by the White generals. There was no shred of evidence to support this propaganda. Lenin himself admitted at the 10th Party Congress, then in session, that « they do not want the White guards and they do not want our power either. » Trotsky and Zinovier ordered the Kronstadters to surrender unconditionally, threatening to use force of arms and « shoot » then « like partridges » in case of disobedience. Military operations against them started on March 7. The next day the Provisional Revolutionary Committee issued a lengthy and moving declaration « What We are Fighting For » which said, among other things, that the October Revolution after having kindled the hope of emancipation in the working class had resulted in greater enslavement of the human personality, that the power of the police and gendarme monarchy had passed into the hands of the communist usurpers, that it was clear that the Russian Communist Party was not the defender of the toilers that it pretended to be, that it had created a new serfdom, that, at last, in Kronstadt had been laid the first stone of the third revolution striking the last chains from the labouring masses and opening a broad new road for socialist creativity. Naturally, « it was essential for the Communist Party to suppress the idea of Kronstadt as a movement which defended the principles of October against the communists — the idea of a `third revolution.' » (Daniels 1960: 144). In the event the authorities directing 50,000 combatants against a maximum of 5,000 Kronstadters defeated and drowned the rebellion in a pool of blood (Heller and Nakrich 1989: 91). Thus ended the `Red Kronstadt’ which had « produced a bustling, self governing, egalitarian and highly politicized soviet democracy the like of which had not been seen in Europe since the days of the Paris Commune » (Getzler 1983: 246).

IV. RUSSIA 1917-1928

Criticising us Haynes observes that `it makes little sense to present NEP Russia as a simple expression of capitalism,’ that there was `no immediate ascendency of capitalism in Russia’ between 1917 and 1928 and that `(rather) there was `a complex array of forces.’ (64, 65). This refusal to face the reality seems strange inasmuch as Lenin himself asserted at the party’s eighth congress (1918) that « even in Russia capitalist commodity economy exists, is functioning and developing. » And in more than one text of the period Lenin affirmed the desirability of the development of capitalism in Russia at least « to some extent and for some time, » of course, under the `proletarian state.’ The reality of the period 1917-1928 vindicated Lenin’s position. A government decree of September 10, 1921, described the wages system as a fundamental factor of industrial development, wages and employment being considered as a matter of relation based on freely consented contrast between the workers and the concerned enterprise. » In less than a year NEP had reproduced the characteristic essentials of a capitalist economy » (Carr 1963: 320, 321, 323). The data also support this. Thus while the share of independent commodity producers — in handicrafts and agriculture — in the total population (including non working dependents) remained constant at 75 per cent level between 1924 and 1928, the share of `workers and employees’ — that is, wage and salary earners — rose from 15 percent to 18 percent between the two dates (Narkhoz 1987: 11). As a particular indicator of the early phase of capitalist development we could note that in metallurgy and coal mining the share of workers originating from the peasant families increased from an average of 43.4 percent for 1918-1925 to 53.5 percent in 1926-1927. Taking the industrial production as a whole, its index rose from 39.5 in 1922-23 to 119.6 in 1927-28 (1913: 100) The number of industrial workers doubled, increasing from 1.4 million to 2.8 million during the same period (Prokopovich 1952: 279, 283). The total value of output of large scale industry, at 1926-27 prices, grew from 1.9 milliard in 1921 to 15.7 milliard in 1928 (Baykov 1970; 121; Narkoz 1922-82: 152). The development of the industrial economy was of course based on wage labour.

As an index to `qualitative change after 1928,’ which we allegedly neglected to deal with, Haynes stresses that the post 1928 regime found it `necessary to clear out factory committees and to turn trade unions into transmission belts’ (67). First of all, we did mention the increasing loss of regime of the factory committees along with that of the soviets right from the start of the Party-State rule in October (our book: 152, 153, 155), though we could not give a more detailed account, given the limited objective of our book. We can now say that the factory committees were firmly set on the road to being `cleared out’ and the trade unions turned into `transmission belts’ in the pre-1928 period, the process initiated by the power under Lenin himself. On October 26/27, 1917, the « Project of Rules on Workers’ control, » composed by Lenin, laid down that the decision of the elected representatives of workers could be cancelled by trade unions and their congress (point 5) and that in all enterprises of state importance the owners as well as the representatives of workers would be answerable to the state for maintaining order and discipline and for protecting property (point 6). In February, 1918, a joint meeting of the factory committees and the trade unions agreed upon the subordination of the former to the latter. An official announcement was issued (February 14, 1918) that the enterprise could not be taken over by the factory committees from the existing owners except by a joint decree of `Vesenka’ and `Sovnarkom’ (Dobb 1966: 90-91). Indeed, the Bolsheviks saw for the first time the danger of radical democracy confronting them at the level of enterprise following literally Lenin’s earlier words on workers’ self administration through factory committees. To help themselves the Bolsheviks called on the trade unions where they now had a majority. The trade unions not only prevented the convening of the All-Russian Congress of Factory Committees but also simply annexed them as their lowest level organ (Anweiler 1958: 277). This process of `clearing out the factory committees’ has to be studied along with the measures undertaken parallely by the authorities to `discipline’ labour, such as forced labour camps, one person management, Taylor system, piece, wage, labour books (Carr 1963: 198-216). At the 9th Party Congress (1920) Lenin spoke on the necessity of fighting against « notorious democratism » and of the need to sweep away « all this shoutings against appointees, all this old, pernicious trash. »

As to the trade unions, they were already `turned into transmission belts’ by none other than Lenin himself. Thus repeating and elaborating what he had said about one year earlier Lenin, in a draft resolution on the trade unions (January 12, 1922), compared the trade unions as the « transmission belts from the Communist Party to the masses » with transmission belts linking motors and machines. Dobb notes that by the beginning of the 1920s there was a growing suspicion by the workers of the trade unions as an apparatus designed to secure acquiescence by the workers in the government’s designs. « The trade unions have come to be looked upon as little different from any ordinary state department » (Dobb 1966: 118).


The failure of `socialism to come into existence’ in post-October Russia Haynes ascribes to civil war and the non-occurrence of the `revolution spreading rapidly’ internationally (64). Let us first say in a few words on the civil war. While rejecting the idea that there existed in 1917 the conditions for building socialism in Russia, we agree that the civil was stood in the way of what the Bolsheviks were trying to do. It would, however, be wrong to suggest that the civil war was entirely the work of the `counter revolutionaries.’ The Bolshevik policies also importantly contributed to it in the name of the `class war.’ To start with the objective factor, the Bolsheviks, almost exclusively an urban party, were practically isolated vis-à-vis the immense majority of the country. On the eve of October only around 500 peasants were party members. Even in the late 1920s, peasantry constituting about one-seventh of the party membership, « the soviet regime for most peasants was still an alien and external force » (Davies 1980: 52, 54). Now, the economic crux of war communism was the relationship with peasant agriculture. This relationship was marked by the forced requisition of the surplus grains from the peasants to feed the urban population in the name of the `class war.’ On May 13-14, 1918 — when the civil war had not quite started — the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets (TSIK) declared that the peasants having surplus grains but refusing to declare them at fixed prices to be declared `enemies of the people and deprived of rights of citizenship and brought to trial,’ while conferring extraordinary powers on People’s Commissariat of Food Procurement (NARCOMPROD), thereafter known as `food dictatorship.’ This was « a declaration of war against peasants with any surplus grain above needs » (Malle 1985: 361). Committees of village poor were established in July, 1918 to enforce requisition « at machine gunpoint. » Thus a « ruthless war was unleashed against the peasants which was thinly disguised as `class war' » (Schapiro 1960: 188, 189). Now, Lenin’s notion of `ruthless war against the kulaks,’ advanced before the civil way, had little real sense since the revolutionary action of the peasantry after February had « got rid of whatever little capitalist development the countryside had experienced before 1917 » such that « one wonders whether even the term `petit bourgeois’ could be applied to the peasants as a socio-economic definition » (Nove 1982: 54; Lewin 1985: 298-99).15 Dobb acknowledges that the policies of the regime « antagonized not only the kulaks — a small minority in the village — but the mass of middle peasantry who constituted the majority in the countryside » (1966: 105). These policies, adds Medvedev, « turned the bulk of the peasantry and former soldiers, as well as cossacks and urban petty bourgeoisie against the Bolsheviks and gave the counterrevolution the discontented masses it needed to unleash civil war » (1979: 180; our emphasis).

Let us now turn to the question of world revolution. The Bolsheviks — particularly Lenin and Trotsky — counted much on world revolution coming to the rescue of their regime which, left alone, would be unviable in the long run. In his different pronouncements during 1917-1918 Lenin already spoke of the « growth of world socialist revolution » and « international proletarian revolution ripening fast. » For Lenin the mutiny in the German navy illustrated this. However, it so happened that the mass of the German workers « did not want to overthrow the existing social order and replace it with one where ordinary workers would rule » (Moore 1978: 351). The Bolsheviks hugely exaggerated the revolutionary tendency of the European workers. Similarly, experiencing only a very backward capitalism, dominantly under foreign bourgeoisie, the Bolsheviks grossly underrated the enormous power of the European bourgeoisie which « could not be destroyed by even the most devoted and energetic leaders, nor by a disciplined party » (Pannekoek 1982: 141). Speaking of the « psychological incapacity of early Bolshevism » — as seen particularly in Trotsky — to acknowledge its own isolation in the world, » Deutscher observes that « Lenin was given to this illusion of (world) revolution not less than Trotskly, » but that Trotsky « with his foible for indulging in breathtaking predictions made the blunder even more egregious » (1963: 450, 452).

Of course the Bolsheviks had no direct hand in the non-occurrence of revolutions in 1917-18. However, since 1919 they initiated and led the task of spreading revolutions outside Russia in the image of their own `proletarian revolution’ by creating the Third International. Against the project of the so-called `reconstructionist’ current in the European working class movement envisaging the inclusion, in a new international, of all working class parties which had rejected social patriotism during the war or repented after it, Lenin succeeded — through a rigorous elimination process worthy of the famous `sieve’ of Eratosthenes — in excluding from the new body not only the `social patriots’ but also the pacifists in the labour movement. « The Bolsheviks instead of seeking friendly relations with the labour movement of other countries now set out to split them, (thereby) making the social democrats their irreconcilable enemies and depriving themselves of one support abroad on which they could otherwise have counted » (Borkenau 1962: 187). This of course importantly contributed to their own isolation. In fact the founding congress of the new International had hardly any representative character. No representative came from the large socialist organisations of Western Europe. An authentic workers’ representative came from the very small Spartacist party with the specific instruction from Rosa Luxemburg to oppose the immediate creation of a new International in the absence of the appropriate conditions for such creation, fearing also that the weight of the Russian experience here would be excessive (Kriegel 1983: 24; Deutscher 1963: 451; Borkenau 1962: 87, 89). A Trotskyist historian notes the non-representative character of the congress where the participants for the most part were « those who were already living in Russia and scarcely represented the real movement of the countries they were supposed to represent » (Frank 1975: 46-47). A number of the (in)famous 21 conditions put by the Russians for admission to the new body were simply unacceptable to the West European left-wing socialist leaders, otherwise sympathetic to the Bolsheviks. These were, for example, periodic purges in every communist party, organization of the communist parties with iron discipline verging on military discipline, recognition of the Comintern as the `unique world party’ of the workers, exclusion of all the outstanding labour leaders including anti-war and internationalist etc., etc. (Kriegel 1983: 77).16

There was even a Napoleonic touch in Bolshevik internationalism. While the second congress of the Comintern was in session the Red Army was in Poland expected to be soon carrying the revolutionary flame further west. Lenin told the French delegates: « Soon Germany shall be ours. . . The Balkans will rise against capitalism. Italy will tremble. Bourgeois Europe is cracking everywhere in tempest » (in Heller and Nekrich 1982: 80, citing the delegate L.O. Frossard). Disappointed with the failure of revolutions in the west, the Bolsheviks looked for the world revolution unfolding in the East, even more backward than Russia, Trotsky even envisaging a plan for the formation of an expeditionary calvary corps to be used in India (Deutscher 1963: 457).

The ultimate evaporation of the regime issued from October 1917 has to be analysed in terms of the specific type of capitalism it embodied, not in terms of the regime’s non-socialist character. Finally it proved to be a non-innovative, bureaucratically hemmed and inefficiently managed capitalism collapsing under the crisis of which Marx calls the absolute over-accumulation of capital (discussed extensively in our book). February, 1917 had inaugurated, as mentioned above, a bourgeois democratic revolution which, given its spontaneous mass character marked by open-ended plurality, had, it appears, the potential to go over, at a later date — given appropriate material conditions — to an authentic socialist revolution (in Marx’s sense) if the involved toiling masses had been allowed unfettered freedom — through their (own) self-administering organs — to continue their march forward. The Bolshevik seizure of power, putting a brake on the process, destroyed the democratic part of the revolution — derogatively called « notorious democratism » (Lenin) — and accelerated the bourgeois part, the pace of which would of course be dwarfed under Lenin’s successor with an unprecedented accumulation drive under the slogan — textually taken over from Lenin (September 1917) — of « catching up and surpassing » (dognat’i peregnat’) the advanced capitalist countries (Resheniya I 1967: 539).

Lenin (and Trotsky) completely overturned Marx’s materialism (and emancipatory) approach to the socialist revolution. In his Bakunin critique (1874-75), speaking of the socialist revolution, Marx writes: « A radical social revolution is bound up with certain historical conditions of economic development. The latter are its pre-conditions. It is therefore only possible where, with capitalist development, the industrial proletariat occupies at least a significant position. » Then he adds « Bakunin understands absolutely nothing of the social revolution, excepting its political phrases. For him, its economic conditions do not exist » (Marx 1973b: 633; our emphasis). Indeed, « new higher relations of production do not appear before its material conditions of existence have (already) been hatched within the womb of the old society itself » (Marx 1980: 101). These « historical (material) conditions » of socialist revolution — and correspondingly, of building a society of free and associated individuals — are not only the proletariat, « the greatest productive power, » occupying a « significant position » in society, but also the universal development of productive forces along with socialization of labour and production. And it is only capital which creates them. Indeed, socialism « comes out of the womb of the capitalist society. » (Marx 1953: 635-36; 1962a: 790-91; 1962b: 321; 1965: 135; 1966: 178).

Against this materialist perspective Lenin advanced the thesis (fully shared by Trotsky) of the possibility of socialist revolution breaking out in a backward capitalist country, the `weakest link’ in the chain of world capitalism. « Things have happened differently from what Marx and Engels had expected, » he asserted in January, 1918.17 Lenin’s `weakest link’ argument became a canon of the dominant Left as well as of those sympathetic to the Bolshevik regime. In our book we have referred to Carr, Deutscher and Sweezy as siding with Lenin against Marx on this point. Similarly Gramsei observed shortly after the Bolshevik victory that as opposed to Capital’s « demonstration of the fatal necessity of the formation of a bourgeoisie and the inauguration of a capitalist era « before the proletariat could have its own revolution, « facts have left behind the ideologies, . . . the canons of historical materialism » (1973: 130).

However, they were dismissing Marx too soon. As Lenin quickly realized, given Russia’s backwardness, there was no other way to go forward, but to « catch up and surpass » the advanced capitalist countries — which implied a rapid growth of the productive forces and an advanced working class, and this necessitated precisely the development of capitalism in a largely pre-capitalist country where the inauguration of socialism was an impossible project.18 The measures undertaken by the new regime on Lenin’s initiative and leadership as well as Lenin’s own pronouncement of the period clearly showed — as we argued above — that the country was following a capitalist path.19 All this demonstrates that a society’s « natural development phases can be neither jumped over nor legislated away » (Marx 1962a: 16). In fact the so (mis)called `socialist’ revolutions of the twentieth century have only confirmed Marx’s profound prognosis: « If in the society as it is we do not find in a latent (verhüllt) form the material conditions of production and corresponding relations of circulation for a classless society, all attempts at exploding it would be don Quixotism » (1953: 77). Marx, indeed, had the last laugh.


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______. 1973b. « Konspekt von Bakunins Buch `Staatlichkeit und Anarchie' » in MEW, volume 18. Berlin: Dietz.

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______. 1980. « Ökonomische Manuskripte und Schriften (1858-1861 » in MEGA, Section 2, volume 2. Berlin: Dietz.

______. 1988. « Ökonomische Manuskripte (1863-1867) » in MEGA, Section 2, volume 4, Part
1. Berlin: Dietz.

______. 1992. « Ökonomische Manuskripte (1863-1867) » in MEGA, Section 2, volume 4, Part 2. Berlin: Dietz.

Di Lisa, Mauro. 1986. « Antinomio del capitalismo e ruolo dello stato in Marx » in Critica Marxista, no. 5: 149-178.

Medvedev, Roy. 1979. The October Revolution, New York: Coilumbia University Press.

Merl, Stephan. 1991. « Socio-economic Differentiation of the Peasantry » in R.W. Davies (ed.) From Tsarism to the New Economic Policy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press

Moore, J.R. Barrington. 1978. Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt, White Plains, New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Narkhoz 1922-1982. 1982. Narodnoe khoziaistvo SSSR 1922-1982: Jubileinyi Statisticheskii ezhegodnik, Moscow.

Narkhoz 1987. 1987. Narodnoe khoziaistvo SSSR za 70 let. Moscow.

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Pannekoek, Anton. 1982. Les conseils ouvriers, livre 1, Paris: Spartacus.

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Rosenberg, William. 1987. « Russian Labour and Bolshevik Power: Social Dimensions of Protest in Petrograd after October » in Daniel Kaiser (ed.), The Workers’ Revolution in Russia, 1917: The View from Below. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Resheniya partii i pravitel’stva po Khoziaistvennym Voprosam, Volume 1, 1967. Moscow: Politizdat.

Schapiro, Leonard. 1960. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union. New York: Vintage books.

______. 1968. « Discussion on Dietrich Geyer’s Paper » in Richard Pipes (ed.) Revolutionary Russia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Shkredov, V.P. 1967. Ekonomika i pravo, Moscow: Ekonomika.

______. 1988. « Sotsializm i sobstvennost' » in Kommunist, no. 12: 28-37.

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1 pace Istvan Meszaros

2 As Marx says in a letter to Engels (July 22, 1859), which is analyzed in the book in the form of commodity is the « specifically social, in no way absolute character of the bourgeois production » (1972: 100, emphasis in original).

3 Marx clearly stressed the state’s direct intervention in capital’s production process itself — in the interests of capital’s own survival and extended reproduction — by « imposing on it coercive laws, » as in factory legislation in England, as society’s « first conscious and planned reaction to the spontaneously grown form of its production process » (1962a: 504, 505). See the interesting paper in this regard by Mauro Di Lisa (1986: 149-178)

4 In the French version of Capital as well as in Capital’s so-called `sixth chapter’ the precise expression « point of departure » replaces « begins. » See 1965: 561; 1988: 24.

5 Genuine anti-Stalinists, they would rarely broach the question of USSR’s social relations of production — the question of « lordship and bondage » configuration (to use Hegel’s well-known expression) during 1917-1928.

6 It must be emphasized — and it can be easily shown that these two central concepts are not exactly the same in Marx as those advanced by most of the `Marxists’ of the Second and the Third Internationals.

7 Conceiving competition of capitals — as Haynes does (48) — as something imposed on the USSR by the `global economy’ from outside — acting like the demiurgos — seems to be a way of escaping the dilemma: on the one hand characterizing the USSR as capitalist, which would imply the existence of autonomous units of capital competing with one another, while, on the other hand, denying the autonomy of the units of production in the USSR on the basis of the assumption of single state ownership over the means of production. The Trotskyists seem not to face this dilemma by their consistent denial of the existence of capitalism in the USSR.

8 Ricardo never called his formulation a « law. » It is Marx who called this Ricardian formulation a « law. »

9 « The Bolsheviks came to power on the floodtide of peasant revolt » (Nove 1982: 49)

10 « Offering their party as a vehicle for the most uncompromising popular demands, the Bolsheviks were rewarded with a great spurt of growth » (Daniels 1967: 34).

11 For a rigorous and detailed critique of Lenin’s thesis of the differentiation of peasantry in Russia see Löwe (1984: 72-113).

12 A well-known historian summed up the evidence: « What (the insurrection) amounted to was just a changing of guards in front of a series of buildings, usually with some arguments or a bit of token resistance » (Moore Jr. 1978: 374).

13 See Medvedev 1979: 148-49 for some election details.

14 Perhaps the best documented book on Kronstadt (1917-1921) is by the noted historian Israel Getzler (1983) on whose account the following is largely based. See also R.A. Wade 1993: 202-206 for a brief review of the documents.

15 Earlier we referred to Lenin’s overblown tableau of capitalist development in Russia’s countryside before 1917 as established by the historians.

16 Contrast with Marx’s approach to the First International could not be starker.

17 Trotsky affirmed that the Russian revolution conformed to Marx’s position. Referring to Marx’s statement that no social formation disappears without having exhausted all its potential, he wrote that the imperialist war had shown that the « capitalist system had exhausted itself on a world scale » and that « the revolution in Russia was a breaking of the weakest link in the system of world wide capitalism » (1987, vol. 3: 176).

18 In his correspondence with the Russians (written in French) Marx affirmed, (1877, 1881) with astonishing clairvoyance that, given the gradual decomposition of Russia’s rural communes — following the tsarist legislation of 1861 (on the `emancipation’ of serfs) — Russia would be compelled to traverse « all the vicissitudes of the capitalist regime » before its social transformation (1968: 1552-1573).

19 Outside of Russia, within the Leninist tendency, A. Bordiga seems to have been about the only one — at least among the front rankers — who understood this. In the period immediately following the Bolshevik victory, Bordiga wrote: « The stateization of factories, enterprises, banks and agricultural farms are already revolutionary measures, but of the capitalist revolution » (1980: 144; emphasis in text)

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