Soviet Marxism

Jorn Andersen ccc6639 at
Sun May 5 19:19:09 MDT 1996

William Aviles wrote:

> I am writing to this list in the hopes of having some
> questions answered concerning Marxism and the totalitarian
> centrally planned state of the Soviet Union.
> Is it true that within Marxism one can find ideas supportive of
> undemocratic planning or even democratic planning within
> a Communist society?

A communist society would certainly have democratic planning
in the full meaning of this term.

But Marxism also operates with the concept of "dictatorship
of the proletariat". This is a type of planning which is much
more democratic than what we know today. It means that the
vast majority of people, the workers, are doing the planning
in the most concrete way possible. It does however exclude
our former rulers. The privileged minority which runs society
today will be deprived of their privileges and their ideas
will be excluded from the way democratic planning will take
place in a workers' state.

I find this very democratic - and it has nothing to do with
how "planning" was decided in the former stalinist regimes.
There "planning" was much more like "planning" in the coun-
tries where you and I live: Decided upon by a privileged
minority for the benefit of this minority.

This stage of "dictatorship of the proletariat" will "wither
away" as the privileged minority ceases to exist as a social
and ideological force and as people develop their ability to
run society. Classes and the state (in the sense of an
oppressive tool) will disappear.

> I have recently come under attack by a professor when I
> suggested that the development of the Soviet state is more a product of
> historical context in which it originated (hostility from the Western powers,
> rural and unindustrialized economy) and Stalin manipulations rather then some-
> thing inherent within Marxist theory.

You are absolutely right. On this list you will find
diferent opinions on how and why this happened.

> My conversation with this professor
> then proceeded to another disagreement in which he stated that the United
> States already has examples of socialist companies or economically democratic
> companies (e.g., Avis) in which the workers have bought the companies.  Would
> these companies be consistent with what socialists and Marxists consider to be
> worker controlled companies?

Go and ask the workers how much they think they control.
It'll be pretty little, I think. If workers had a say
then we wouldn't be working 40 hours a week or more.
We wouldn't be working at extreme pace and with risk
of fatal accidents etc. etc. So the answer is: No.

But the argument is a very convenient one for ultra-
liberals: Workers can't run society - Look: they can't
even run a single factory.
The point is that workers need control of society as a
whole to be able to run their own factories. Without this
workers still are competing with each other and any
"slacking the pace" would mean that other companies would
crush you.

> Forgive the simplicity of such questions, as my
> knowledge of Marx is still quite rudimentary.

A lot of well scholared people still have a lot
of problems with this - so go on.


Jorn Andersen


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