[Marxism] [UCE] Re: [pen-l] Fwd: Debates within ecosocialism: John Bellamy Foster, Jason Moore and CNS | Louis Proyect: The
jgreen at communistvoice.org
Tue Jun 21 11:17:30 MDT 2016
Fred Murply wrote:
> I don't read the passage below in Foster's 2005 intro as "promoting
Foster also said in the same 2005 article that
"Yet, it [The Soviet Union] remained a post-revolutionary society
distinguished in many ways from capitalism. Competition between enterprises
played almost no role in the economic workings of Soviet society. Private
ownership of the means of production had been abolished. Unemployment was
virtually non-existent. Many basic social amenities were guaranteed.
"Despite its veering away from socialist goals, the Russian Revolution´s
expropriation of capitalist private property, followed by the creation of a
distinct post-revolutionary society, constituted a grave threat to
capitalism, especially if other peoples were thereby encouraged to follow the
So on one hand, Foster denounces some features of later Soviet society;
on the other hand, he still holds it's a "post-revolutionary society", a
threat to capitalism, etc. It's shameless when someone who knows the crimes
of the system apologizes for it; but that's what Foster does.
Indeed, Foster goes on to repeat the tired old propaganda from the Soviet
revisionists about themselves; he refuses to look deeply into these claims.
Thus, Foster writes that "Competition between enterprises played almost no
role in the economic workings of Soviet society." This is an important part
of Foster's view of late Soviet society; it's part of why he believes it's a
model for environmental planning which we need today.
But in fact, under the Soviet system of "Khozraschet" (self-financing),
both making a profit and competing with other enterprises were major facts of
the Soviet economic system. It worked in a somewhat different way than it
does in Western capitalism, and there was a somewhat cloaked form of
competition, but the rampant anarchy of production in the Stalinist and later
Soviet system are well-known. Serious economists studying the Soviet Union,
economists with varied political trends, recognized this, and differed mainly
in their explanation of why it took place.
You, FM, cite his criticism of the Soviet system and his historical account
(which is more like a series of apologies and excuses for what happened), but
you leave out the fact that he regards it as a model anyway.
Appendix: On competition between enterprises in the Soviet Union
It's a commonplace in certain circles to say, as Foster does, that there was
little competition between enterprises in the Soviet Union. But it's not
true. One serious study of the Soviet economy after another showed the
widespread anarchy of production that existed. It's widely known that it
wasn't true that competition had been overcome. Soviet managers themselves
knew it wasn't true. They had to compete, and compete hard, if they were to
survive in their positions.
In an article I wrote on the anarchy of production in the Stalinist and later
Soviet system, I pointed out the following situation:
"For one thing, when one looks closely at the Soviet system, one finds a
swirling struggle of manager against manager and factory against factory
underneath the overall planning by the ministries. ...
"In one form or another, this continued after the First Five Year Plan. It
was so widely recognized that managers openly wrote about it in the Soviet
trade journals and newspapers. They said that they had to violate the law and
the planning directives in order to fulfill their obligations under the plan.
Even during the height of the bloody repression of the mid-1930s, when
economic managers were among those most vulnerable to arrest, imprisonment,
or even execution, they continued to write about how they flouted the law.
One professor, David Granick, who has studied Soviet management extensively,
. " 'In actual fact, plant directors have possessed great authority. But in
theory, they have not; and so they have constantly struggled to legitimize
their power. During the course of this perennial battle, they have often felt
sufficiently self-confident to ridicule publicly the laws they were
violating. Even at the height of the 1930's purges, there were some plant
directors who went out of their way to write signed articles in the national
press describing how, in their own work, they had been violating both the law
and instructions from superiors, announcing that they considered these
violations to be quite proper, and stating flatly that in the future they had
every intention of continuing and even extending the violations. '(27)
"It might be said that this shows the extreme pressure to fulfill the
mandated plan. And indeed, it was one thing to write in the Soviet press
about how one moved mountains to fulfill the plan, and another to make
excuses about why the plan wasn't fulfilled. (28) However, if an enterprise
fulfilled the plan by obtaining supplies outside the plan, it thereby
disrupted the planned supply of other enterprises. If this became
commonplace, which it did, ... it made a mockery of the planned flow of
producer goods from one factory to another. This type of plan fulfillment
resembles the push of Western firms to make a profit no matter what the
effect on other firms. Moreover, the comparison extends even further. The
payment or prestige of the Soviet manager was just as dependent on plan
fulfillment as that of the Western manager is on profitability.
"This problem was never overcome right up to the dissolution of the Soviet
Union. The lack of guaranteed supply gave rise to a special type of
executive, the 'expediter', whose job was to actually obtain the raw
materials and supplies that the enterprise was supposed to receive under the
plan. The 'expediter' remained a part of the Soviet economy right up to the
end. The historian Alec Nove, writing in the 1980s about the Soviet economy,
" '. . . We will be repeatedly examining the causes of persistent supply
shortages in subsequent chapters. Their existence gives rise to the
phenomenon of the tolkach, the 'pusher,' expediter, unofficial supply agent,
who nags, begs, borrows, bribes, to ensure that the needed supplies actually
from "The anarchy of production beneath the veneer of Soviet revisionist
planning", March 1997
27. Granick, The Red Executive/A study of the Organization Man in Russian
Industry, 1960, Ch.10, "Bureaucracy and how to live with it", pp. 134-5.
28. Granick, Management of the Industrial Firm in the USSR/A Study in
Economic Planning, 1954, p. 117.
29. Alec Nove, The Soviet Economic System, third edition, 1986, ch. IV
"Industrial Management and Microeconomic Problems", p. 95. Professor Nove
attributes this problem to the supposed impossibility of the social planning
of production as a whole, a theme which he returns to repeatedly not just in
this book but in other ones as well, whereas I attribute it to the class
structure in the Soviet economy. Bourgeois ideologists, including serious
historians of a reformist bent, such as Nove, attribute to "planning" in the
abstract the specific features that flow from state-capitalism. I hope to
deal with this issue in the future. <>
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