Class Analysis of the Stalinist State [formerly, Old M...]
Mohammad J Alam
alam.m at neu.edu
Sun Feb 3 16:04:44 MST 2002
In relation to the debate over Serbia, NATO, and Milosevic, and
specifically in relation to the outstanding differences between Crde.
Proyect's position and mine on this issue, I wish to prepare an outline for
the basis of my argument here.
The composition of the Stalinist, or "deformed socialist" states, has been
defended by Crde. Proyect, on the basis that such states are progressive in
comparison to privatization and imperialism. Though I am not a
state-capitalist, I take issue with this position for several more pressing
To speak in broad terms, I believe that the degeneration and ultimate
collapse of the USSR, its satellites, and similar states, stands as proof
that "the first wave" of socialism has failed. I think that this failure
can be attributed to a long-standing contradiction between Marx's idea of
capitalism from a Euroecentric viewpoint, and the reality of capitalism as
an international tendency that initiated Third World colonization to
sustain itself instead of simply dissolving into socialism in the advanced
During the period of 1890-1970, ie. the capitalist-colonial period of Latin
America, Asia, and Africa, the political development of the world speaks
volumes about the effects of colonization. The class antagonism in core
countries lessened as the core capitalists could afford to satisfy some of
the workers' demands, ie. unions, growth, employment, or simply smash any
burgeoning movement with its massive repressive network. Meanwhile,
periphery proletariat and peasantry ended up on the other extreme in class
struggles, coming up with deformed states lead by guerrilla heirarchies or
dictators, as a result of their lack of material forces.
It is really in this context that we can see that deformed socialism was a
byproduct of a certain period, where international class solidarity was
crippled by the huge economic stratification between core and periphery
workers, and also by the objective control core countries held over
periphery ones in direct military-economic terms. Without a socialist
counterpart in the advanced countries the Third World attempts limped and
laggered, hobbled by the lack of productive forces, even with the presence
of Red China and Soviet Russia. Few if any of the satellites became
independent politically or economically; they lacked industry or the
development of industry and simply outsourced raw materials or agricultural
to USSR. Meanwhile, the two big socialist countries themselves could only
increase their productive forces and progress at the expense of workers'
democracy and freedom, a contradiction that lead to their collapse.
So, speaking from the standpoint of a generation whose political
consciousness arose after the demise of the USSR, why should we defend
these old, antiquated, and seemingly outdated relics from a failed period?
At least today, we can call imperialism a system without direct military,
economic and political occupation of some countries over others [as far as
it concerns the big capitalists], a situation which heightened national
tensions and lessenned class ones during the colonial period. Today, we can
point to IMF-World Bank as signs that capitalism is bursting out of its
nation-state role. We can see investment and speculation in the poorer
countries and the expanding of businesses which, in the face of depression
and failure, will actually effect the First World proletariat in severe
ways under globalization. We can see from entities meant to police the
world where the Core cannot, like Israel, bin Laden, and [possibly] KLA,
that the transition from colonialism qua colonialism to modern imperialism
just a smooth readjustment towards stability, but another step towards the
implosion of the world.
In short, I think we are about to reach "the second wave" and we should not
drown ourselves with all this talk about defending this or that deformed
state against imperialism. Marx supported colonialism objectively in a
historical-materialist sense, because he thought it would create a
socialist basis in the long run. And while instead what happened was that
the Europeans went and plundered these countries instead of bringing them
to socialism, indeed in the last analysis these countries have now been
forced to stand on capitalist ground, paving the way for a world capitalism
that is subject to a truly world revolution. Similarly, I think the
"cleansing" of USSR and Eastern Bloc from deformed socialism towards
capitalism will actually heighten class contradictions. Deformed socialism
is like Arafat in that sense. It is a bloody bottleneck that prevents the
liberation movement from undergoing the processes necessary to reach a
higher, sharper stage.
For Serbia in example, of course we should fight against IMF and World
Bank, but, for all the aforementioned reasons, I think we should be
forward-thinking and not backward-obsessed. If staying neutral between
Serbia and IMF is academic moralizing, then defending Milosevic and his
system is false nostalgia.
Looking at In Defence of Marxism, and L.T.'s defense of Russia as a
worker's state, we can see a number of things. The first thing we see is
that he made this assessment 50 years ago: the world's political
development has changed quite a bit since then. Namely, instead of the
predicted political revolutions, and fascism as a sign of capitalism
immediately doomed, both of which Trotsky thought would all emerge out of
WWII, core capitalism survived without resorting to fascism and the USSR
clique grew stronger, and, its tension with property relations having
intensified, ultimately collapsed and brought the property relations down
with it. Trotsky talked of the USSR as a car that was damaged but could be
repaired. Now all the dozens of such deformed states are left as smoldering
heaps of cars in the junkyard. In other words, he made these formulations
with certain assumptions and under certain conditions, both of which no
I think the fixation with property relations as the sole determining factor
is an unwarranted obsession. It is abstracted and castrated from the
concrete political plane of modern imperialism, and does nothing to help
form the international proletariat as a class-concious political force
working towards genuine socialism. From some quotes from Trotsky in IDOM, I
am not so sure that he would really disagree today:
"The primary political criterion for us is not the transformation of
property relations in this or another area, however important these may be
in themselves, but rather the change in the consciousness and organization
of the world proletariat, the raising of their capacity for defending
former conquests and accomplishing new ones." L.T.
"The statification of the means of production is, as we said, a progressive
measure. But its progressiveness is relative; its specific weight depends
on the sum-total of all the other factors". L.T.
"It is impossible to free oneself from those contradictions with the help
of terminological sleight-of-hand ("workers' state" -- "not workers'
state"). We must take the facts as they are. We must build our policy by
taking as our starting point the real relations and contradictions." L.T.
"The Kremlin has never and at no place represented the question as if it
had been constrained to sacrifice Poland. On the contrary, it boasts
cynically of its combination, which affronts, rightfully, the most
elementary democratic feelings of the oppressed classes and peoples
throughout the world and thus weakens extremely the international situation
of the Soviet Union. The economic transformations in the occupied provinces
do not compensate for this by even a tenth part!"
There is a reason that the Fourth International split into pieces after
Trotsky's death and WWII; these things do not happen without an objective,
underlying problem with the theoretical underpinnings that bound the FI.
The failure to admit this by most Trotskyists is, in my view, a failure to
apply Marxist thinking to our own historical and theoretical development.
I eagerly await replies from what will undoubtedly be a number of people on
this topic, especially Crde. Proyect.
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