Class nature of stalinist Russia (was Re: service workers)

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Wed May 1 09:57:33 MDT 1996

Jorn writes (on m2, so I can't answer him directly there, as I've been
unsubbed. This'll have to do.)

>> The confusion of the two [concepts of exploitation: capitalist economic
>>and >> 'common-sense'] has caused huge problems
>> in relation to Stalinism and its exploitation (common-sense
>> definition) of Soviet labour. The whole of the State
>> Capitalist theory is predicated on this confusion!
>I think you are wrong here. It is true that this has
>caused confusion "in relation to Stalinism and its
>exploitation" - but the State Capitalism theory is
>IMO the only theory that avoids this confusion.
>Stalinist exploitation was capitalist exploitation and
>not "common sense" (i.e. non-capitalist) exploitation.
>For the stalinist bureaucracies accumulation was forced
>upon them by competition. Or as Marx said:
>  "competition [made] the immanent laws of capitalist
>  production be felt by each capitalist, as external
>  coercive laws"
>The bureaucracy could not choose to accumulate or not.
>Stalin was very well aware of this. In 1931 he said:
>  "To slacken the pace would be to lag behind; and those
>  who lag behind are beaten ... We are fifty or hundred
>  years behind the advanced countries. We must make good
>  this lag in ten years. Either we do it or they crush
>  us."

and so on.

There are two main points here.

1.  The forced nature of Soviet modernization and industrialization can be
easily explained by the contradictory nature of a non-capitalist economy
under a regime of proletarian dictatorship in a world dominated by the
capitalist mode of production. The best book for understanding this
(economically rather than politically) is Preobrazhensky's The New
Economics, 1926. The thing is, that although the system was non-capitalist
in essence, the law of value of the capitalist world operated inexorably to
constrain and pressurize production in the Soviet Union. Preobrazhensky
uses the term 'primitive socialist accumulation' to indicate the framework
within which this took place. This pressure and perspective was there way
before the Stalinist bureaucracy got entrenched. A politically healthy,
non-capitalist dictatorship of the proletariat would be in the same jam.

2.  The brutal exploitation (in the common-sense understanding of
exploitation) of the Soviet workers by the Stalinist bureaucracy went
*completely against the grain of the new state*, which it would never have
done if the Soviet Union had been capitalist in character. Every bit of
chicanery made an open mockery of the ideals of a socialist society. This
more than anything else accounts for the special character of Stalinist
oppression. Since everyone had a place in production by right as a citizen
of the non-capitalist Soviet state, the expropriation of this right was
used as one of the harshest individual punishments -- unemployment was not
a natural course of events as it is in capitalist societies. Since everyone
had an equal position in relation to the means of production, inequality
and privilege were so much the more brazenly repulsive -- not a natural
state of affairs as they are under capitalism, where a  relationship of
ownership to the means of production is a golden ticket to wealth and
idleness. (Note that this doesn't preclude wage differentials based on
potentiated labour skills.) The same applies to the violations of socialist
democracy in political life.

Maintaining its privileges *against the historical grain* forced the
Stalinist bureaucracy to act in ways that were impossible to justify or

This whole perspective of the exceptional, historically repugnant character
of Stalinist oppression disappears with the adoption of a state capitalist



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