degenerated workers states

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Thu Aug 1 10:02:19 MDT 1996

Philip L both qualifies and clarifies his position in his latest posting.
One or two points still reamin, though.

He writes:

>The stalinist counterrevolution was POLITICAL.  My point was the as the
>process of degeneration (political which begain to effect the economic)
>accumulated quantity at a certain point to assumed a quality: "outright
>counterreovultion", by which I meant overthrwoing the worker state &
>establishing capitalism.  This is not ahistorical.  It is a point that
>Trotsky makes often (how the political degeneration was a fetter to economic
>production & how it could eventually end in capitalist restoratatioin).

OK, now you've defined what you mean by 'outright counterrevolution', I can
follow your argument better.

Let's look at it.

I maintain that there was no new counterrevolution in 1989-92, although
there was a qualitative 'change from counterrevolution on the basis of a
workers' state to counterrevolution on the basis of a restored bourgeois

Philip says:

>This has grains of truth in it but it is too simplistic. Yes, the roots
>of the 1989-92 are in the orginal stalisnist political counterrevolution in
>the 20's & 30s.  But other fcators cam einto account.

OK so far.

>It alos requires a understanding of the totally
>different world situation opened up after WWII that trotsky did NOT analize.
>It is incorrect to trace events of the post-war upswing, or post-1973 era
>(complettly new eras) to trostskys analsis of the 20's & 30's.  Yes it is
>still very important -- in the same way an alysis of europe 1880s -1914 is
>important for understanding 1914-1923.  But the new period also requires
>new, fresh analsis.

In the first place the world situation was hardly 'totally different'.
There was definitely a new period based on the upsurge and victory (heavily
qualified but victory nonetheless) of revolutionary forces, popular and
proletarian, unleashed worldwide in the struggle against colonial,
imperialist and fascist oppression. But the world was still in the same
basic situation as it had been since 1914, with global warfare constantly
on the agenda as the imperialist solution to the inter-imperialist
contradictions of the decaying capitalist mode of production, and socialist
revolution as the solution of the international proletariat, and a spectrum
of all sorts of blends of warfare, independence and revolution strung out
between these fundamental poles.

The basic characteristic of the postwar period was the entente between
Stalinism and imperialism, which could be called a counterrevolutionary
alliance for 'peace' and 'democracy', with the slogans of 'peaceful
coexistence' and 'mutual deterrence'. It's main objective was to manage and
contain the revolutionary upsurge within the limits of status quo (Yalta,
Potsdam). On the whole (Western Europe) it succeeded. It's most significant
failures were Yugoslavia, China, Cuba and Vietnam, where the victories of
revolutionary wars all changed the world status quo and expanded the
international base of workers' states. Of course all these new workers'
states were deformed from the start and reflected in various ways the
degeneracy of the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union, and as soon as they
could they climbed onto the status quo, 'peaceful coexistence' bandwagon.

Philip clarifies another point where our differences are mainly terminological:

>The political freedoms you mention are because it was a "democratic"
>counterrevolution (installed a bourgeois democracy).  How could the
>political, workers organizations get smashed when they did not exist
>allready due to stalinism?  It was a economic counterrevolution primaryly;
>overthrowing the workers state (fuelled by popoluar revolut against
>stalinist regime) and restoring capitalist relations.

I would agree that bourgeois-democratic counterrevolution and economic
counterrevolution are important strategies of imperialism today. I would
also argue that they reveal a weakness of the bourgeoisie in relation to
the working class, in that the oppressors no longer have the same capacity
to impose their will by brute force as they have had in previous periods of

But there is a clear and very important point of disagreement:

>>As I see it, the FSU is still in the throes of an attempted restoration.
>No.  It has been with it.

I would cite the extreme circumspection with which Trotsky presented his
analysis of the Soviet Union under the degenerated, counterrevolutionary
Stalinist regime  in The Revolution Betrayed. It was history still in the
making, a process that was by no means consummated. The battle between
imperialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat was international and
unfinished, to say the least.

Compare this with the situation in France after the great bourgeois
revolution of 1789. By 1830, feudalism was utterly smashed and totally
incapable of any sort of comeback. The same thing happened earlier in
England after the English revolution of the 1640s -- by 1688 feudalism in
England was nothing but a storybook decoration.

The defeat of capitalism cannot be accomplished on this national basis, it
has to be brought about by an international federation of workers' states
gaining global social and economic hegemony. Until this happens, the war
will continue and the fortunes of battle will ebb and flow with the
relative strengths of the combatants.

The most significant factor in the war is the strength of revolutionary
leadership of the international working class. This is still very much in
the process of formation after the double destruction wrought by the Social
Democrats in 1914 and the Stalinists in 1933 and bitterly defended by them
against the beginnings of a new leadership initiated with the foundation of
the Fourth International in 1938

The historical pressures for a socialist solution to the contradictions of
world society are enormous, but because of the weakness of revolutionary
socialist leadership they're poorly formulated in the consciousness of the
labour movement and the working masses.

This means that a restoration of capitalism -- against the grain of history
and the class interest of the masses -- in the former Soviet Union (FSU)
cannot be an instantaneous event. It will be long and painful, and that is
why I say it is still happening. Of course I have to live with history like
everyone else, only I prefer to live with real history, and in this case
real history is by no means clear-cut.

The following disagreement is based on a fundamental misunderstanding.

Concerning the difficulties of capitalist restoration in the FSU I wrote:

>>One of the greatest signs of this is the resistance of the workers of the
>>FSU to proletarianization. In the workers' state they had a relationship to
>>the means of production by right, as citizens of their own class state (I
>>gave a long list of these conquests of October in my last posting). Now the
>>new regime is attempting to reduce this relationship to the classical
>>proletarian relationship of having no link with the means of production
>>except throught the sale of their labour power. This is provoking huge and
>>growing resistance.

Philip answered:

>Of course there is resistance; there is resistance in Capitalist Germany today.

Now this shows he missed my point.

Workers in the imperialist countries, and in bourgeois states in general,
are thoroughly proletarianized. They have nothing to live on but the sale
of their labour power. The qualifications to this that have to be made
(access where it exists to health, education and welfare including say
pensions) are symptoms of the pressure for socialist solutions I referred
to above, and represent concessions to the interests of the working class
made by capitalist governments to buy off the revolutionary extinction of
the bourgeoisie as a class.

Workers in the workers' states had a qualitatively different relationship
to the means of production. Their right to work, education, health, leisure
etc was not a temporary concession wrung from an unwilling bourgeois state,
but a constitutional right they had as citizens, a birthright. This was a
first step away from the division of society into bourgeois and
proletarian. Now, it is one thing to remove a temporary concession like the
welfare state provisions in the West. It is quite another to remove a
birthright. We can see the resistance workers in bourgeois states are
putting up to the removal of welfare concessions. The resistance of
citizens of workers' states to losing their rights will be more comparable
to that of feudal barons losing their land or capitalists losing their
title to profits.

The apparent lack of mobilization is due to two factors:

1) very inadequate and slanted reporting of the mobilizations which do
exist, which are often huge (strike movements involving whole regions with
politicized coordinating committees, such as many of the miners' or
industrial workers' actions in the FSU and Ukraine)

2) an initial inability to grasp what was actually happening. As a
birthright, the rights of the workers in these countries were taken for
granted. The Stalinist stranglehold on education meant that the citizens of
the FSU acquired no conscious historical appreciation of their unique
position vis-a-vis workers in bourgeois states. They had no conception that
the security their common-ownership relationship to the means of production
provided them was historically dependent on the victory of October and the
existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

They too confused the Stalinist regime with the foundations of the workers'
state, and discovered their mistake pretty soon after the restorationists
started tinkering with these foundations. They were throwing out the baby
with the bathwater.

What we are witnessing at the moment is a struggle in the restorationist
states to come to grips socially, intellectually and politically with the
process of *proletarianization* of de-proletarianized workers.

If you read Marx's sections on Primitive Capitalist Accumulation in
Capital, and on Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations in the Grundrisse,
you'll see how bitter and long-drawn-out the struggle was to strip away the
birthright relations people had to the means of production and leave them
as naked proletarians with nothing but the sale of their labour power to
live on. It'll be no easier today.

This point about the process of *proletarianization* in the FSU is the most
important point I have to make. It accompanies the process of trying to
create a stable and legitimate bourgeoisie. You can't create a bourgeoisie
without creating a proletariat. But the consequences of this process of
re-proletarianization are never discussed so that the full socio-historical
impact of it hits home.



     --- from list marxism at ---

More information about the Marxism mailing list