Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist League

Class Struggle in the USSR

First Published: People’s Tribune, Vol. 6, No. 6, June 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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More and more the revolutionary movement is becoming polarized. One of the aspects of this polarization is the attitude of the revolutionary toward the Soviet Union. In years gone by, the attitude was to give some very simple answers to some very complex questions. This attitude of simplicity (for example, the U.S.S.R. is a capitalist country) does not allow us to correctly unite with the revolutionaries of the U.S.S.R., nor does it allow us to correctly struggle against the bourgeois imperialist elements who hold state power.

Lenin once wrote that theory is truer than truth itself because it is the summation of many truths. Our brief history has certainly proven this true. It is impossible to understand complicated political phenomena without theory, thus we must go into some theoretical aspects of the struggle within the Soviet Union.

Engels states, “The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure – political forms of the class struggle and its consequences, constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc. forms of law, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the combatants; political, legal, philosophical theories, religious ideas and their further development into systems of dogma.”[1]

Thus, we see that we can fundamentally divide the superstructure into its dialectical entities, both the objective and subjective parts. The objective part of the superstructure is consciously developed by the victorious class after a battle; that fundamentally is the State. The State is represented by a constitution and the necessary laws to define that constitution, and the military and police apparatus, the prisons, etc. which enforce those laws. This conscious element is constructed to safeguard and develop the productive relations which are the basis of the specific society. Alongside of the conscious aspects of the superstructure, there arises a reflection of the subconscious class struggle – art, literature, political forms, etc. What we want to emphasise is that the subconscious element arises on the basis of the established productive relations, and over a period of time tends to reflect and coincide with those relations of production.

At the time of the socialist revolution and the development of the dictatorship of the proletariat, relations between people for the first time are stood on their feet. During all previous historical epochs the base arose, at least in part, under the superstructure of the class about to be overthrown. But the dictatorship of the proletariat leaps into existence without any base whatsoever. In fact, the main task of the superstructure – that is, the dictatorship of the proletariat, is to form the base for it to develop on.

So we see that no anti-socialist ideas can arise out of the dictatorship of the proletariat precisely because, in the early stages, there is no base for these ideas to arise from. On the contrary, the, reactionary cultural ideals, the reactionary forms of political activity are all hangovers of capitalism and do not arise on the basis of socialist relations. In fact, the more the socialist relations are formed, the more the state – the objective aspect of the superstructure tends to wither.

Therefore, describing the bourgeoisie that has usurped power by means of an armed coup d’etat as a “new bourgeoisie”, in the sense of arising on the basis of socialist productive relations in the USSR, is entirely incorrect. Lenin said, “Under Soviet rule, your proletarian party and ours will be invaded by a still larger number of bourgeois intellectuals. They will worm their way into the Soviets, the courts, and the administration, for Communism cannot be built otherwise than with the aid of the human material created by capitalism, and the bourgeois intellectuals cannot be expelled and destroyed, but must be vanquished, remoulded, assimilated and re-educated, just as we must – in a protracted struggle waged on the basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat-re-educate the proletarians themselves, who do not abandon their petty-bourgeois prejudices at one stroke, by a miracle, at the behest of the Virgin Mary, at the behest of a slogan, resolution or decree, but only in the course of a long and difficult mass struggle against mass petty-bourgeois influences. Under Soviet rule these same problems, which the anti-parliamentarians are now so proudly, so haughtily, so lightly and so childishly brushing aside with a wave of the hand – these very same problems are arising anew within, the Soviets, within the Soviet administration, among the Soviet “attorneys” (In Russia we have abolished, and have rightly abolished, the bourgeois legal bar, but it Is reviving again under the guise of the ’Soviet’ ’attorneys’). Among the Soviet engineers, the Soviet schoolteachers and the privileged, i.e., the most highly skilled and best situated, workers in the Soviet factories, we observe a constant revival of absolutely all the negative traits peculiar to bourgeois parliamentarism, and we are conquering this evil – gradually – only by tireless, constant, prolonged and persistent struggle, proletarian organisation and discipline.” [2]

Marx points out that the entire period of socialism is the period of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin shows over, and over again that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the necessary condition for the social revolution to unfold and that revolution must be driven forward all the way to communism. Hence, we have Lenin’s thesis that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not the end of the class struggle, but its continuation in new forms.

Therefore, it is quite necessary for us to see that the entire period of socialism, i.e., the dictatorship of the proletariat, is a period of fierce class struggles, class struggles that are not always won by the proletariat, but historically are lost by the bourgeoisie. In history it appears that social progress is an upward and onward motion. However, in life, progress is an extremely jerky process that is characterized by leaps, backsliding, crisis, the destruction of the negative followed by another great leap. It is as much wishful thinking for revolutionaries to believe that Communism can be achieved without this process, as it is wishful thinking on the part of the bourgeoisie that they can by minor victories, forestall Communism.

It was from this point of view that Lenin wrote, “To picture world history as advancing smoothly and steadily without sometimes taking gigantic strides backward is undialectical, unscientific and theoretically wrong.”

One of the extremely harmful tendencies inherited from the period of the victory of revisionism and the rise of the anti-communist “new left” is the tendency to see events only in their polarity and disregard the struggle between the poles which condition the polarity, as well as, determine their relations. Therefore, as regards the Soviet Union, there are the childish expressions that the US3R is either “socialist” or “capitalist” without ever taking time to study the forms that the class struggle takes.

In the struggle against Soviet revisionism and social-imperialism it is only natural that there should be reference made to the writings of Lenin to support one’s position. It is also only natural that the enemies of Marxism who have managed to nestle within Marxism should also find ways to utilize the writings of Lenin. Such a ploy was used by Lin Piao and is being used by those who yet support him today. One of his favorite quotes was, “Lenin also stated that, ’the new bourgeoisie’ was arising from among our Soviet government employees...”[3]

The use of the broken sentence is a time honored device, but it can be easily dealt with by presenting the entire quote.

The entire paragraph reads: “To be international, our programme must take into account the class factors which are characteristic of all countries that capitalism is still developing in a great many places. This is true of the whole of Asia, of all countries which are advancing toward bourgeois democracy; it is true of a number of parts of Russia. For instance, Comrade Rykov, who is closely familiar with the facts in the economic field, told us of the new bourgeoisie which have arisen in our country. This is true. The bourgeoisie are emerging not only from among our Soviet government employees – only a very few can emerge from their ranks – but from the ranks of the peasants and handicraftsmen who have been liberated from the yoke of the capitalist banks and who are now cut off from railway communication. This is a fact. How do you think you will get round this fact? You are only fostering your own illusions, or introducing badly digested book learning into reality, which is far from complex. It shows that even in Russia, capitalist commodity production is alive, operating, developing and giving rise to a bourgeoisie, in the same way as it does in every capitalist society.”[4]

The Lin Piao gang and their henchmen refer to this quote over and over again in a wild attempt to make it appear as if the capitalists arise out of the socialist bureaus. And since it is impossible to have Socialism without bureaucracy, then there can be organization, socialist construction. This is akin to Trotsky’s infamous so-called theory of “permanent revolution” – a stupid theory that states that since capitalism arises daily from the countryside, the new capitalists would constantly overthrow the proletarian dictatorship.

At the very worst, the bureaucracy is the condition for the development of capitalist commodity production and exchange, but in no way can provide such a base because the bureaucracy is an administrative body and not a productive process.

The real turning point in the USSR was Khruschev’s doing away with the dictatorship of the proletariat and substituting for it the “state of the whole people.” Of course, this meant the dictatorship of this privileged bourgeoisified strata that had existed since the birth of the USSR, but which lay dormant under the heavy hand of Stalin.

Our Communist League has set for itself the most difficult and drawn out task of organizing the proletariat of this country for the overthrowal of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. The comer-stone of such a task is the unity of the international proletariat. The most important aspect of this task is the defense of the socialist camp. It is from the perspective of a participant and not that of a spectator that we examine the tragic developments within the Soviet Union. Leninism teaches that, “The categorical requirement of Marxist theory in investigating any social question is that it be examined within definite historical limits, and, if it refers to a particular country, that account be taken of the specific features distinguishing that country from others in the same historical epoch.”[5] Space does not allow for the fulfilling in a complete way these requirements. But in the examination of the development of the victory of capitalism in the superstructure and the offensive of capital against the productive relations, the specifics of history of the USSR should be born in mind.

It is utopianiam of the worst kind not to recognize the inevitable birth marks of capitalism on the early stages of socialism and how the class struggle includes the fight to do away with these birth marks as soon as possible. In as backward a country as the USSR was in 1917, the subsequent destruction caused by the wars, the blockade, etc, could not help but to intensify and prolong that struggle. Running the newly acquired state required technical experts and there was no place to get them except from the human material bequeathed by capitalism. Thus, Lenin wrote, “It is not enough to ’get rid’ of the capitalists; it is necessary to employ them in the service of the new state. This applies to the capitalists, as well as to the higher bourgeois intellectuals, office workers, etc.”[6]

Lenin said in 1922, “We took over the old machinery of the state, and that was our misfortune. Very often this machinery operates against us. In 1917, after we seized power, the government officials sabotaged us. This frightened us very much and we pleaded: ’Please come back.’ They all came back, but that was our misfortune.”[7]

Further, Lenin said, “For the landlords and capitalists have not been destroyed and do not consider themselves vanquished; every intelligent worker and peasant, sees, knows, and realizes, that they have only been beaten and have gone into hiding, are lying low, very often disguising themselves by a ’Soviet’ protective covering.”[8]

Lenin very well understood that the danger of the restoration of capitalism was a very real possibility and a very grave danger – a danger that could be overcome only with the development of the socialist man. In this sense Lenin wrote “...without all sided state accounting and control of production and distribution of goods the power of the toilers, the freedom of the toilers, cannot be maintained and a return to the yoke of capitalism is inevitable.[9]

It was inevitable that it was in the sphere of state centralized control that the first blows by the revisionists had to be struck.

How that the necessarily narrow theoretical base has been laid to evaluate the situation in the USSR, we have to direct ourselves to the point, “Is there capitalism in the USSR?” Yes, there is, and plenty of it. The Soviet state is an imperialist state. The imperialists hold state power and are rapidly and aggressively attacking the socialist relations of production. In a sense of the word, the Soviet capitalists are faced with the problems of the capitalist of 500 years ago – that is – how to accumulate funds into the hands of a few and how to expropriate a freeholding producer and reduce him to the level of proletarian. This can not be done simply by a law or decree, but by theft, extortion and rip-offs of the worst kind and by separating the producer from the means of production.

As we have seen, the question of state accounting and state control of production and distribution is absolutely essential for the development of socialism, and without such strict accounting and control the restoration of capitalism is inevitable. We can only indicate with a few facts the struggle of the capitalists to decentralize the economy, for they very well understand that this represents the lynchpin of the entire process.

The capitalists had to set up pilot projects, especially in light industry, in order to undercut the socialist relations in heavy industry and to corrupt the masses with all the hangovers of the previous system. To carry this out they had to enhance the independent power of the factories, as opposed to the State. Thus, a whole series of laws to decentralize the economy were passed. In 1960 the tractor stations were done away with and the machinery was distributed to the individual collective farms, rather than the property of the state for all to use when needed.

The key to this decentralization of the economy is the decentralization of funds. In accordance with this, the Transport Experiment was developed. In these factories there was only one central figure set in the State plan as the amount of profit to be turned over to the State budget. Any additional profit was to be divided between the State and the individual enterprise (60% to the enterprise and 40% to the State). Under such possibilities of enriching the management, profit for the factories in the Transport Experiment rose from 200 rubles in 1961 to 72,900 rubles in 1965. During this period, the salaries of the management rose 40% and the workers’ share in the product fell 9%. The Soviet capitalists made no bones about what they intended to do, as they were shoving their economic reform laws through the legislative units. Thus Leonid, Pekarski (head of the Research Institute of the State Planning, Committee) reported, “The real content of the reform consists of the expansion of the economic independence and initiative of the factories which opens the way to the better use of production possibilities.”

Of course, the real result is that profits become the main regulator of the economy. Thus, we see the frantic manipulation of factory prices In the battle to secure a maximum profit. As far as the role of profits in the state economy is concerned, in 1929 15.9% of state income was from profits. In 1950 this was reduced to 9.5%. By 1969 this had shot up to 34.3%.

During 1964, further inroads were made into the socialist base. In July 1964 a law was passed that tied the premiums of the factory managers to the profitability of the factory, and in light industry, production was geared to orders, rather than to an overall plan.

By 1965 W. Garbusov (Finance Minister) said, “The figure profit must be the criteria for the efficiency of the work of every collective and must become the main economic incentive. Profit raises the interest of the collective in the best work results and in the technical perfection of production. Out of profit the fund for material incentive and the fund for the development of production are fed. These become the main source for the payment of premiums to the workers, to the engineering and technical workers and to the managers and for bringing in consultants, etc. But of these means the collective will get a material recognition for the good results of work in the factory. The greater the profit the factory achieves, the higher the amount of money that goes into the material incentive fund and the fund for the development of production.” Profit is thus made the main criteria for the effective use of work; the main lever to the leadership of the economy. To raise the productivity of the factories, a fund for material incentive is built, the size of which is dependent on the size of profit.

This material incentive – premiums – has been used to create a labor aristocracy and to alienate workers from their socialist ideals. The laws of rationalization of labor are taking effect. Pravda of Jan. 20, 1971 complained about the workers who shift places of employment to more profitable industries in order to get more wages.

We see, that even a cursory synopsis of the theoretical and objective situation in the Soviet Union shows that what we are dealing with is an exceedingly sharp class struggle. As the workers and other laboring strata within the USSR more clearly see that what they are dealing with is not a deviation from socialism but a rejection of it, they will move in a more concerted manner. All of us are aware or the sharpness of the struggle – the strikes, the shooting of strikers by the army, the refusal of some collective farms to deliver grain to the state, the sharpening contradictions within the imperialist clique, etc. However, many of the anti-revisionists fail to see that the key to the struggle is the isolation of the Brezhnev gang in the international communist movement.

We have a gigantic role to play in this isolation. It can only be played by an organization of advanced theoreticians, an organization that makes the exposure and isolation of their “own” revisionists their central task. It is precisely because the situation in the USSR is building toward a climax that the Communist League must not follow the path of seeing the worrisome “new left” as the main revisionist danger, but carry out their international duties to the Soviet people.

The Communist League has a tremendous respect and love for the Soviet working class and people. Led by the immortal Lenin, they blazed the trail that all revolutionary humanity today is following. The unparalleled self-sacrifice and heroism in the Great Patriotic War, their unselfish assistance to the peoples of the world after their great victory, has made them near and dear to us. Such a heroic peoples, such a glorious Party will not be thrown back into the epoch of capitalist barbarianism.


[1] Bagels, “Letter to J. Bloch, Sept. 21, 1890”, Selected Correspondence, Int. Pub., 1942.

[2] Lenin. Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder, FLPP, 1970, pp. 122-123.

[3] Important Documents on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. FLPP, 1969, pp. 122-23.

[4] Lenin, Collected Works. Vol. 29, p. 189.

[5] Lenin, Questions of National Policy and Proletarian Internationalism, Progress Pub. p. 50.

[6] Lenin, “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power”, Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 269.

[7] Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 33, p. 428.

[8] Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 29, p. 556.

[9] Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. 7, p. 327.