The Mandel vs. "socialism" debate -- a good way to hide from reality

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at
Wed Jan 1 19:42:57 MST 2003

Mark Jones:

>Soviet socialism could have been saved by a process
>of political renewal and by a cultural revolution. As a matter >of fact, Gorbachev's
first period in power was marked by >policies aimed at achieving such a thing;
the future was not >written on stone tablets. But as events
>unfolded it became clear that Gorbachev lacked both the >political will, the
organisational support and the >capabilities and the institutional basis for

>the onslaught on the bureaucracy which was really necessary

I remember reading Gorbachev himself and the economist Aganbegyan (?) associated
with him, and watching the Soviet press pretty closely in 1988-89, as well as
spending a couple of weeks in the country. The Gorbachevites argued for renewal
above all in terms of the market. The model was Lenin's NEP -- of which they
presented an idealised version, avoiding the reality that NEP was a retreat
and involved quite obvious concessions to private capitalism.

The Gorbachevites talked of empowering workers through perestroika (restructuring),
but just as in the west, it turned out to mean "workers' participation" rather
than workers' control. It put you in charge of exploiting yourself, while real
power was held higher up. Workers began to see that this "renewal" would mean
speed-up and reduced job security. No wonder I found it hard to find anyone
in Moscow or Leningrad who had a good thing to say about Gorby (he had more
fans in the trendy suburbs of Melbourne.)

So workers rightly resisted perestroika just as we resisted restructuring in
the west, whereupon the key power brokers in Russia turned to someone with more
"political will", by the name of Yeltsin.

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