Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

Debate Held: Has Capitalism Been Restored in the Soviet Union?

First Published: The New Voice, Vol. IX, No. 6, May 26, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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San Francisco, April 18–At a public forum here, 250 people learned that an equivocal position on the Soviet Union leads to apologies for reformism and aggression.

The New Voice (TNV) and the Soviet Union Study Project (SUSP) held a debate on the question, “Has capitalism been restored in the Soviet Union?” TNV developed a Marxist-Leninist analysis of the objective situation in the USSR; the SUSP countered with cries of “show me” and “prove it” or, as a last resort, “that needs more study.” Under cover of this agnostic umbrella, the SUSP trotted out a position which embraces the Kremlin’s new tsars.

For some years a loose conglomeration of groups called the “anti-dogmatist trend” has trafficked in pro-Soviet innuendos. Claiming to be Marxist-Leninists, the “anti-dogmatists” create divisions within the left while confusing many about the nature of socialism and how to achieve it. The SUSP is the first such group to openly deny that capitalism has been restored in the USSR. It is good that the issue is out for all to see.


The debate was significant on two fronts: preparing for World War Three and understanding socialism the better to win it in this country.

As war clouds gather over many parts of the globe, the mailed fist of, Soviet social-imperialism appears in nearly every conflict. The New Voice and other Marxist-Leninists see that the Soviet Union’s rulers stand at one end of the principal contradiction in the world today, with the world’s people at the other. Far from being a socialist country upholding proletarian internationalism, the USSR embodies the most aggressive and dangerous force pushing toward global war.

“Anti-dogmatist” leaders do not think the Soviet Union is an imperialist power. They apply artificial and metaphysical tests in defiance of reality. In this case the phony logic says: imperialists export capital, the USSR does not, therefore the Soviet Union is not imperialist.

The social-imperialists certainly do throw rubles around the world for investment purposes. A New Voice speaker at the debate called attention to situations in Guinea and India as examples of foreign Russian investments under the cover of “aid.” (See “Why China is a Friend, Soviet Union is Not” in our preceding issue.)

But imperialists do things besides export capital. The USSR subordinates other nations to its own economic interests. Are not the one-crop economy in Cuba and the “division of labor” enforced by the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance just as much imperialism as the U.S. involvement in Iran?

The Kremlin’s drive to dominate Middle Eastern oil fields–not because it needs oil now but to gain a stranglehold over Europe–represents imperialist lust to monopolize sources of raw materials and get the jump on competitors.

And what explains the invasion of Afghanistan? The “anti-dogmatists” hint or even say that the Soviet army is a liberating force there. Such sentiments place them squarely in the camp of the long-exposed and revisionist Communist Party USA! Unable to see a practice of genocide in all its brutality, these agnostics are really outright apologists for social-imperialism.


On economic questions of socialism versus capitalism, the Study project again tried to force the debate into rigid and dogmatic patterns. Recognizing no historical changes in the forms of capitalist domination, the agnostics demand a situation identical to the U.S. or Britain before they will admit, restoration in the Soviet Union.

For instance, during the debate the SUSP said: before we admit there is capitalism in the U.S.S.R., you must show us that the means of production are in private hands.

A spokesperson for The New Voice reminded the audience that the essence of capitalism is an exploitative class society with a proletariat. (Exploitative means that a minority ruling class seizes the surplus produced by the laborers to increase its own economic power instead of applying that surplus to benefit society.) Even in traditional capitalist countries like Britain and Sweden, there is a degree of state capitalism. The important thing is not what the state owns, but who owns the state.

Both sides agreed that a proletariat exists in the Soviet Union. The SUSP, however, denied any exploitation by a minority ruling class. TNV speakers pointed to wide personal income differences, the unequal application of bonuses, and the vast amount (10-13% of GNP) spent on aggressive military weapons as primary examples of the exploitative relationship. When an industrial manager receives seven bonuses in one month totalling more than two years’ worth or ordinary worker’s wages, the situation differs little from the U.S.!

So it went with other topics. TNV showed the existence of a minority, ruling class and a proletariat in the Soviet Union. The SUSP made little if any definite contributions in this area, relying on their clarion call: “show me.”


Socialism requires the dictatorship of the proletariat. That was Lenin’s view and that is the view of The New Voice today. Yet the Soviet Union Study Project prefers a different approach.

One problem is pinning the SUSP down. At the debate it took two hours and some sharp questions from the floor to get them to deal with the issue of state power. When they did, their answers hit all around the mark. In fact, no one admitted to speak on behalf of the Study Project at all; SUSP members carefully explained they spoke only for themselves.

One spokesperson outlined the following conditions in the Soviet Union as he saw it; the dominant mode of production is socialism; the proletariat is the ruling class; the class nature of the prevailing line of the CPSU is “revisionist”; and the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat is still open. Boiling this down, the picture is one of socialism in the economic sphere and capitalism (consolidated bourgeois ideology and programs) in the political arena.

The New Voice speaker charged, “The agnostics do not understand that politics and economics are interrelated and that politics is the concentration of economics. This is the source of their opening the door to the view that the Soviet Union is supposedly, despite the oppression and the imperialism of the Brezhnevs, a socialist or partly socialist society.”

What did Lenin and Stalin say about the dictatorship of the proletariat? They stressed that a true proletarian revolutionary party must administer that dictatorship. The Chinese today uphold Communist Party leadership and the dictatorship of the proletariat as two of the four basic points which may not be questioned. On this basis alone the SUSP’s view of political class rule in the Soviet Union crashes down around their ears. They admit that a bourgeois (“revisionist”) party, in leadership and ideology, controls state power, yet they think that the workers are the ruling class and that socialism prevails in the economy.

What at first appears to be fuzzy and muddled thinking turns out to be a complete repudiation of the views of Lenin and Stalin. In fact, audience members pointed out that the SUSP’s line is identical to the Trotskyite notion of a “degenerate workers’ state.”


The SUSP seeks to “lead” the working class by turning our attention back and endlessly rehashing settled questions. The SUSP spent 18 months to get where it is today and appears to be ready to devote years to further botched study before taking up the questions of socialism in the U.S. The working class has no more time to waste on this; approaching world war and revolution demand our attention.

What many people really want is information about the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. The rulers in the Kremlin talk a lot of socialist rhetoric; facts and analyses of the real state of affairs are needed to expose the reality of exploitation and oppression.

The New Voice will publish its statements on capitalism made at the debate along with questions and answers based on the discussion that followed. Announcement of this pamphlet will be made soon in this newspaper.

As for the SUSP and other “anti-dogmatists,” Lenin taught that it is impossible to sit between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Unprincipled centrism means in effect capitulation to the bourgeoisie. The SUSP’s theories rest firmly with the capitalist class.