Centralization

Jamal Hannah jamal at bronze.lcs.mit.edu
Thu Sep 21 13:38:40 MDT 1995


Louis wrote:
> I recently got a hold of Moshe Lewin's new book "Russia USSR Russia". He
> has a chapter which basically makes the case that what Stalin did was not
> planning at all. He overrode the recommendations of all of his engineers,
> statisticians and economists when he embarked on the industrialization of
> the 1930's.

I sometimes get the impression that the whole debate in which "central
planning" was the _main_ culprit in the USSR is a big farce.  Centralization
is quite common in Corporate and Military structures in the USA, and
capitalists dont complain about this.  It is questionable as to whether
the Bolsheviks really had some effective centralized system, or if they
just botched things somewhere.  (It seems difficult to narrow down
exactly what the problem was in simplistic terms, except to say that
something major was screwed up early on.)

I repeatedly asked my woman friend from the CPUSA what "Democratic Centralism"
meant. It sounded like an oxymoron to me.  She said that it's a system
in which the party votes on decisions and the majority wins.  Once
the vote is over, _everyone_ agrees to go with the decision and
not criticize or hinder it.  Criticism is kept internal and not flagrantly
done in public, as such to disrupt everything and make the party a circus.
A CoC fellow I explained this to later said that the CPUSA (in his
opinion) does not even fit up to _this_ definition of democracy, which
would have at least been a OK version of democracy.   (and one can see
that it is a, theoretically, highly effective decision-making process
for a group that has to deal with constant attack and infiltration
from the state.. but it's no way to run a whole country!)

I observe that groups and corporations seem to switch from centralization
to decentralization and back again when they dont have some other fix
for general woes.  In general, corporate tendency is toward creeping
centralization, especially when a new "hot blooded" entripenaurial
president comes in to "streamline" things.  This is probably
a very simplistic observation, but I have noticed something
like this.    I just think that, for propaganda purposes, there
was always alot of emphasis from the USA on how bad the "centralization"
and "control" in the USSR was... I mean, obviously if the USSR
"let down it's guard" during the cold war, the USA did more
to destabilize the country.  (This is why socialism in one country
tends to force one to have a police state.  Since the level of production
will be slower than the hard-assed capitalist countries, people will
be drawn to the other markets, esp. the "better skilled".. advertising
has a way of really suckering people like this.  If there were
 "no where to run to", there would be no point in a police state either.
Thats why there would need to be a worldwide revolution, or no revolution at
all.  (Along with the fact that capitalism is worldwide-interdependent.))

Thus, while one cannot necessarily support what the USSR was, one can
see that the USA was quite underhanded during the cold war and helped
make the USSR a worse place to live.

 - Jamal H.



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