Nicolai Bukharin


The Economic Structure of Soviet Russia

(21 March 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 22, 21 March 1922, pp. 164–165.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The form of our economic life now coming into existence is commonly designated by the term “State Capitalism”. Our economic conditions are, however, so complicated that they cannot possibly be covered by one single term. Besides, the term “State Capitalism” has not in the literature of political economy the signification which our Russian literature has lately assigned to it. In the following essay I shall try to treat the problem of the different economic forms existing or developing in our country.

Enterprises of the Proletarian State

These comprise the enterprises nationalized by the proletarian state. They are state monopolies, but they are not state capitalist monopolies, since in the case of the state capitalist monopoly the bourgeoisie “that constitutes itself as the state power” (Marx) is the owner of the enterprises. With us, however, the working class is the owner of the nationalized enterprises. The forms of production being characterized according to the forms of property, it is evident that enterprises owned by the Workers’ State must not be designated as state capitalism. On the other hand, such enterprises are not yet Socialist productive units in the strict sense of the word, as the Socialist form of economy is, of course, based on a thorough and rigidly exercised systematization of the whole productive process. With us, however, and particularly under the conditions of the new economic policy, systematization, as compared with the adaptation to the conditions of the market, is of minor importance.

The fact that the enterprise is being carried on capitalist principles (principle of private property, payment of wages, production of a considerable part of the products for the market) does not make the enterprise a capitalist one, as far as the conditions of property are concerned.

Enterprises of Mixed Character

These comprise those concerns in which the proletarian state and capitalist groups are partners. In these so-called “ mixed ” enterprises part of the shares is owned by the proletarian state; the rest may be owed by Russian or foreign capitalists. It is evident, that such “mixed” enterprises are neither state capitalistic ones nor purely capitalist enterprises. The capitalists and the state are their owners at the same time. The workers’ state will receive part of the surplus value produced in these enterprises; the rest goes to the capitalist “partner”. In the course of the general economic development an incessant contest for domination will be carried on in these concerns, with the increase of the economic power of the proletariat the participation of the capitalistic groups will become of less importance, provided we avoid making blunders; and the state will in a constantly growing degree determine and conduct the whole process of development of these enterprises, similar to that exercised by the great banking concerns and trusts in their control of numbers or joint stock companies in the capitalist state.

Concessionnaire and Leased Enterprises

With regard to fundamental conditions of property in this group, the workers’ State is the owner. Still not all the means of productions in these enterprises are held by it as the concessionaires and lessees can increase the production apparatus by means of independent transactions, by importation of machinery, construction of new factories, and can thus become owners of a part of the same. In most cases, however, the original investments will be owned by the workers’ state. Here too, the surplus value produced will be divided into two parts, and the class-struggles will find expression in the changeable amount of these shares.

Private Capitalists’ Enterprises under the Control of the Proletarian State

These comprise the capitalist concerns in the true sense of the word, i.e., concerns exclusively owned by groups of capitalists or by a single capitalist. The development of these concerns will be regulated more or less from without, i.e., through the State Banks and the credit system, by way of the circulation of money.

Petty Bourgeois Units of Production and their Consolidation

To this class belong the productive units of the home producers, so-called “Kustarys”, the artisans and peasants, which are the strongest foundation for the development of purely bourgeois-capitalist conditions. To a great extent these productive units recruit themselves from the elements of pre-capitalist barter economy. These are particularly found in our eastern districts.

Of course, the freedom of production under the basic conditions of the existence of the innumerable petty-bourgeois productive units will inevitably bring about the enlargement of the sphere of capitalist conditions and the gradual strengthening of those important capitalist groups that are capable of competition with the enterprises of the purely governmental type and those of the mixed type.

These are the principle forms of production existing in our Soviet Republic.

It is necessary here to deal with another extremely important problem. Russian economy, considered as a whole, finds itself in the world market face to face with big capitalist systems This gives rise to the following situation. The conditions of the world market may cause a part of the surplus value produced by the Russian economic system – pure state enterprises included – to find its way in one form or another into the pockets of the bourgeoisie abroad. (Payments to other countries, losses in the international exchange of goods in consequence of the weakness of our social-economic position, etc.). It may thus seem that even those enterprises that are exclusively held by the workers will produce part of the surplus value lost to the working class. This circumstance, which exists owing to the temporarily weak position of Russia in world trade is by no means a proof of the capitalist character of our state industry. This circumstance only serves to show once more that the development of our economic system is at the same time a singular form of the class struggle. In Russia this struggle is going on in the form of a competition between state and private enterprises; of a contest for the best terms in contracts or concessions and leases, for the size of shares in the products, for power in the ‘mixed’’ enterprises, and for the best position in the goods market and credit, etc.

In world industry this contest is carried on as a struggle for the most profitable contracts, duties, loan conditions, special contracts, etc.

The part of the surplus value going to the proletarian state will inevitably grow in the course of our economy. In the case of failure in the contest the claim of the internal and external capitalist groups will reduce the claims of the working-class to nil.

The West European literature of political economy understands by state capitalism the highest form of capitalism, the means of production being held by the bourgeois state, the most perfect and most powerful organization of the capitalist class. It is unnecessary to say that our “State Capitalism” is altogether different from the one characterized above.

Of course, our economic system can be changed into the “true” state capitalism, if the class struggles in the sphere of direct processes of production and in the political sphere result in the loss of power by the working class. This question will be solved by the result of the class struggle, and we have sufficient reason to believe that in consequence of the crisis of capitalist world economy it will not end in favor of the capitalist groups.

In the event of this great historical strife being decided in favor of the proletariat, the capitalist groups inserted into our system of economy will objectively have played the part of the capitalist expert, and against their will they will have worked in favor of the working class.

The multiplicity of the economical forms in our republic is one of the fundamental influences of our economic life, and has always to be taken into consideration. Therefore, in treating the question of the part to be played by the trade unions under the conditions of the new economic policy, one has to consider before all the variety of our economic forms. It is evident that the tasks and the methods of the trade unions are dependent on the kind of economic form. In the same way as the forms of enterprise vary in many ways from proletarian state enterprises, the task of the trade union varies from its specially organizational part in the state factories, up to strike funds and strikes in private capitalist enterprises. The growing multiplicity of the economic forms determines the growing multiplicity of the tasks of the unions.

Top of the page

Last updated on 31 August 2019