"Crisis of Leninism"; Conference Course
Louis R Godena
louisgodena at ids.net
Tue Sep 10 21:39:17 MDT 1996
Sometime this year, I would like to see some sort of an informal
cybercourse on one of the lists that deals with issues arising out of the
period 1985-1993 in the history of Communism. We on the Left are, I
believe, woefully lacking in analytical skills in dealing with this seminal
period. Louis (P) has suggested some points in common with such an
enterprise. I would like to offer the following prospectus, with
possible sources, for a fruitful course of study.
This course would be intended as an overview and analysis of the origins,
rise and decline of communist political and economic institutions in the
twentieth century, primarily in the Soviet Union (the first major communist
power and progenitor of the model) and China (currently the remaining major
The focus would be morphological rather than historical; the aim being to
clarify the essentials of communist party organization as a system of
political power and the command economy as a system of production and also
as a foundation for a distinctive form of political rule. We shall
discuss the conditions under which these two institutions took shape, and
their successes and pathologies after they were consolidated.
We shall then examine the ways in which, and the reason why, these
institutions eventually began to unravel or collapse. We will therefore
focus upon the deeper institutional forces behind the rise, consolidation,
evolution, and eventual decline of these party-states.
The following is a suggested list of possible readings. Feel free to add
Chirot, Daniel, ed. *The Crisis of Leninism and the Decline of the Left*
University of Washington Press, 1991
Kaminski, Bartlomiej. *The Collapse of State Socialism* Princeton
University Press, 1991.
Lewin, Moshe. *The Gorbachev Phenomenon* [revised ed.] University of
Kornai, Janos. *The Socialist System* Princeton University Press, 1991.
Nee, Victor, and David Stark, eds. *Remaking the Economic Institutions
of Socialism* Stanford University Press, 1989.
Szelenyi, Ivan. *Socialist Entrepreneurs: Embourgeoisment in Rural
Hungary* University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.
Walder, Andrew. *Communist Neo-Traditionalism* University of
California Press, 1986.
Also, Barrington Moore's *Soviet Politics--the Dilemma of Power* (new ed.,
1987), Chalmers Johnson's *Changes in Communist Systems* (1970). There
is an excellent article on "The Social Background of Stalinism" in Robert
Tucker's *Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation* (1984). I
would suggest as wide a range of readings as possible; people could unearth
their own sources and join the discussion along the following outline,
Part I. Introduction
Part II Defining Political Instutions Under Communism
Part III Defining Economic Institutions
Part IV "Stalinism"
Part V Economic Institutions and Economic Performance
Part VI Political Change
Part VII Group Perspectives
Andrew Arato, "Solidarity and the Reemergence of Civil Society in Poland."
*Theory and Society* (1980) is an excellent source on this general topic.
Part VIII Institutional and Bargaining Perspectives
cf Charles Sabel and David Stark, "Planning, Politics, and Shop Floor
Power: Hidden Forms of Bargaining in Soviet Imposed State Socialist
Societies," in *Politics and Society* (1982)
Part IX The Polish Pattern
cf. David Ost, *Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics (1989)
Part X The Russian Pattern
Part XI The Chinese Pattern
Part XII "Transition to Capitalism"? Social and Political Perspectives
Part XIII "Transition to Capitalism"? Economic Perspectives
That's a general outline. People could of course change it to suit a
particular interest or follow a particularly interesting thread.
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