Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Swedish comrades reply on the question of Soviet history: What is state capitalism and why has it arisen?

First Published: The Workers’ Advocate Supplement, Vol. 6, No. 4, May 15, 1990.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following article is a reply by the comrades of the Marxist-Leninist League of Sweden to our article How to approach the study of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union, which appeared in the August 10, 1989 issue of the Supplement. How to approach was our comment on two articles in the Swedish journal Red Dawn on Soviet history which were also reprinted in the Supplement. The Swedish comrades translated our article into Swedish and printed it in issues #7 and 8, 1989 of Red Dawn. And they replied in issues No. 9 and 10 (November and December), 1989 of Red Dawn.

We thank the Swedish comrades for the English translation, which is reprinted below. All underlining is as in the original.

Our comments on their reply appear elsewhere in this issue of the Supplement.

The question of how to define the prevailing system in the Soviet Union and similar countries, as well as to establish wherein its mechanisms lie and why it has arisen, is a perpetually current issue. The deepening crisis of imperialism, the appearance of the working class as an independent class force engaged in militant struggle in. several countries all over the world in a way and on a scale as never before, and, not least, the heaven-storming mass mobilizations which we witness in the so-called "socialist" countries, parried by the most astounding maneuvers from; the ruling revisionists, are things that make this issue more burning than ever. We are living at a time of great breaches! Perhaps we are facing the end of the more than 60 years long parenthesis, that has been characterized by defeats for the working class, by roundabouts of history, by state capitalism, deflected permanent revolutions and dominance of reformism and revisionism?

Both the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA, and the Marxist-Leninist League of Sweden have a background in the so-called Marxist-Leninist movement, which, when we now are in the position of summing it up, must be regarded as one of the various currents within modern revisionism, despite its anti-revisionist slogans and subjective aspirations. The political-ideological difference between Stalin and Mao, on the one hand, and Khrushchev, Deng and company on the other, was in reality merely a quantitative one, and thus in fact illusory, while that which has happened among the remnants of the movement, to which we belong, is a really qualitative process of break-up–a break-up with the very Stalinist tradition of ideas, which we have inherited and which has been the cornerstone of modern revisionism.

It is a tremendous merit of the MLP,USA that they have initiated this process of break-up, that they have cleared the path for it, and acted as standard-bearers in it. In the same way as one can grow with a task, the American comrades have penetrated further and deeper in the various, questions that they have been confronting–from the foreign policy of Albania to the 7th Congress of the Comintern to the degeneration of the Soviet Union. The process has, so to say, adopted its own dynamics, but that has also led to an uneven development, for various reasons, on certain points. The American Marxist-Leninists do not have exactly the same analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet Union and of the Comintern as that one which we have arrived at–in some aspects there are quite considerable differences. Now, this is nothing strange in itself, and that comrades fighting shoulder to shoulder for the, same cause are involved in a serious and pertinent debate, is just simply a rebirth of a tradition from the revolutionary working class movement before Stalinism turned it into a heresy. It enables communist militants and class-conscious workers to grasp the issues, to compare the different points of view and thus take a stand on their own. And it enables those who are in possession of knowledge and experiences, that may be of use, to share with us, thereby contributing to the clarification.

That is the background against which this article is to be seen In Red Dawn no. 7 and 8, 1989, we published a commentary by MLP,US A (originally published in the Workers’ Advocate Supplement, no. 7, 1989) on two articles that we had written on the degeneration of the Soviet Union in no. 7 and 9, 1988. We will here try to answer, briefly, this commentary, thus making our stand precise.

Transitional measures

One thing, which is like a main thread in the commentary by the American comrades as well as in their materials from the Third Congress of the MLP, is discussion on the transition towards socialism after the victory of the revolution, i.e., how the workers’ state is to organize socialist construction and thereby overcome remaining rests [remnants?] from capitalism. To take an example, they write: "The study of Soviet history is above all a study of a society in the midst of various transitional stages." [August 10, Supplement, page 3, col. 1]

They establish that the Bolsheviks pretty soon after the October Revolution were forced, by various reasons, to make some departures from what Lenin called "the principles of the Paris Commune", but that the measures which instead were adopted in 1918, like one-man management in the enterprises, the piece-work system, labor books, privileges for bourgeois specialists, etc.–Lenin even used formulations like "state capitalism under the dictatorship of the proletariat"–nevertheless were a real step forward, compared with the chaos and disorganization that was threatening. The American comrades point out that such seemingly authoritarian methods do not necessarily have to be in contradiction to workers’ democracy if they are carried out in the interests of the working class.

Alluding to the purely empirical examples from the situation at the workplaces during the first 5-year plan, that we had used to show the establishment of state capitalist relations at that time, the American comrades write:

"As a result of the need for transitional measures, it is not: enough to discover that the Soviet economy had many features in common with state capitalism, because this is characteristic of the transition period. It is not enough to see that various Soviet decrees or Bolshevik resolutions do not implement the principles of a full socialist society in order to conclude that the economic roots of capitalist restoration are being laid." [Ibid., page 4, col. 1]

After having pointed out that importance of a more careful analysis of the (essence of these measures, the American comrades proceed to scrutinize our examples, one by one, in and for itself, each time arriving at the conclusion that this existed already in 1918 and why, that was already discussed by Lenin. Each single case of course does not prove that the first 5-year plan is counterrevolutionary! And then they wonder whether we really have understood properly the essence of Lenin’s transitional measures.

But such a method leads nowhere, it becomes a blind groping. Instead of grasping a concrete point of departure, from which one can get a general picture, they tend to see only trees, not the forest. Each phenomenon is regarded and judged in isolation, and thus the concepts, the criteria, become fluid.

How shall one, by using the method of the American comrades, be able to establish exactly which transitional measures promoted the development of proletarian power and which obstructed it and pushed it backwards? To only look for the result gives little, since one and the same result can mean different things in different situations, and since they, moreover, can be observed only for a rather limited period of time, considering that the historical period in question, as a whole, is fairly short and shows fast changes.

Further–where is, according to their definitions, the border of when "state capitalism under the dictatorship of the proletariat" instead turns into state capitalism without the dictatorship of the proletariat? Is that decided completely by the subjective factor–the general line of the Party? Does the class character of state capitalism change solely by a simple turn in the political course of the Party leadership? But what about the class struggle then–how does it express itself in this transitional society?

There seems to be unclarity on the part of the American comrades on these questions, something which also reflects itself ill diffuse distinguishing between the quantitative process of degeneration and the qualitative counter-revolutionary leap:

"It is possible that such questions will not be answered by precise dates, because we are dealing with social processes that may have taken years or even decades to evolve." [Ibid., page 2, col. 2]

Is it perhaps so, that they mean that a transitional society is some kind of gliding between different modes of production, while it itself is neither this nor that, but rather a hybrid construction which may move forward, backwards, yes even be a standstill for a longer period? Well, now we do not mean that one can put the serious and profound attempts of MLP to map out the degeneration of the Soviet Union down as equal to the theorizations of the revisionist Mandel. But confusions of the above-mentioned kind might clear the path for such kinds of ideas. For something like that the workers’ state degenerates, then is a "degenerated workers’ state" for a longer period of time, to finally turn over into "pure" state capitalism: i.e., a spectrum with different shades, glidings between different conditions. Or, as a variant of that, something a la the theory of KPML(r) (a revisionist party in Sweden, claiming that the revisionists took power in the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin, but without being able to restore capitalism; instead the society remained with a socialist base but a bourgeois-revisionist superstructure, while now "perestroika" has fulfilled the counterrevolution, carried it through the end by liquidating the base as socialist–note by Red Dawn for the English translation) of "dualism". Thus, it is of tremendous importance to be clear and firm on this point.

Base and superstructure in society

Nonetheless, the American comrades used to mention a turning point having occurred in the mid-1930’s, with the "institutionalization of the revolution in a bourgeois direction" and the leadership’s turning away from revolutionary Leninism. But, as far as we can see, they do not necessarily mean, by that, a quantitative process of degeneration then began, which later on led to a qualitative leap into state capitalism. It seems rather to be the question of a gliding forward in the transitional society which at this turning point was turned into a gliding so to speak backwards.

They disassociate themselves from the view–and rightly so–that the leap would have been taking place in the 1950’s, after the death of Stalin and in connection with the 20th Party Congress:

"...such a view cannot explain the depths of bureaucratic corrosion that had already been reached when Khrushchov took power in the mid-1950’s. It cannot explain the basic continuity in the economic and political system in the Soviet Union during the years of Khrushchov and Brezhnev with the one already existing for a number of years while Stalin was still alive."

Sure. But if it thus is the basis of society that is the decisive thing–when was it changing, then, in a fundamental way? Or does "state capitalism under the dictatorship of the proletariat" mean that there are no fundamental changes, and that the decisive thing is who is administering the state capitalism and for what purpose? Is it the superstructure that is the decisive thing?

Further. In an article in the Workers’ Advocate no. 8, 1989 [August 1, 1989] (p. 11), it is said:

"By World War II the Soviet leaders had abandoned revolutionary Leninism and replaced it with maneuverings suitable to a bourgeois state; this was part of the process of restoring capitalism in Russia."

Thus, we suppose they mean that the Soviet Union at that time had not yet become wholly state capitalist. It must thus have happened either by the end of the war or during the next following years. But what fundamental changes took place then?

It may be stressed, that we do not allow ourselves this scrutiny because we are pedants or because we are entrenched in some mechanical, formalist schemes, which demand that reality at all costs has to be forced into ready-made, academic curves. But it is necessary to have a strict scientific method of analysis, based on the firm ground of dialectical and historical materialism. A counterrevolution can not–if it really is a counterrevolution, carried out after the victory of a revolution–take place in such a way as to, so to say "run backwards the film of reformism". What we want is to show that a methodology such as that which the American comrades try to use, is unsustainable, leads nowhere, just providing obvious problems when to deliver concrete accounts.

If the socio-economic relations prevailing in the Soviet Union several years before the death of Stalin were the same as those which Khrushchov and Brezhnev administered when they were in power, and which only now are beginning to mellow, and if there was no qualitative leap in the relations of production during either the 1930’s or the 1940’s, then we can not but reach the conclusion that if the first 5-year plan was a construction of socialism, then the gains of this construction have not been ruined. These may have "degenerated", of course, but do nevertheless remain. In such case, it will even be difficult to have theories of transitional societies gliding and sliding in one way or another. It would rather be adequate to suppose that the transitional society only now is about to turn over into capitalism. But if so, it becomes quite pointless to operate with the term state capitalism. "State capitalism" is, then, reduced to what Lenin believed could be applied under the dictatorship of the proletariat Thus we would end up finding ourselves in The terminus of the Marxist-Leninist movement–KPML(r) and the Party of Labor of Albania have already drawn the consequences of it For us it would just remain to replace the phrases about the Stalin era and to replace the date 1956 with, let’s say, 1934. (See Red Dawn no. 8, 1989, "Albanian Stalinism and State Capitalism".)

But of course the MLP does not draw such conclusions. Quite the contrary: the American Marxist-Leninists do stick to their characterization of the Soviet Union and similar countries as state capitalist. But that makes it necessary for them to go further ahead in their break with the Maoist-Stalinist theory of state capitalism, because, the main theme in that version is to try to prove how similar the Soviet Union is to western countries. Phenomena like e.g. state capitalism without any market reforms, is to that version something of an anomaly. That is why many Maoists earlier vacillated on how to characterize Kim II Sung’s North Korea, since its economy is as strictly regulated as in the Soviet Union under Stalin, or even on Ceausescu’s Romania, where market reforms actually have been implemented, but to a rather limited extent. And that is also the reason why some of these Maoists, who continued to support China after Deng carried out the 1979-80 market reforms, also have begun to vacillate in relation to the Soviet Union, especially after the introduction of "glasnost" and "perestroika". As well, the fact that ruling Castroite revisionists of Cuba even have been able to take back most of their market reforms, which had been introduced a long time ago, with the argument that "socialism can not be built with capitalist methods", now instead beating the drum for "mini-brigades" and "the economic thought of Che Guevara", seems to have been mystifying some, not least the pro-Albanian Stalinist party the Communist Party of Columbia (Marxist-Leninist).

Of course, Lenin’s views and stands on transitional measures for the construction of socialism have to be carefully studied and examined. We admit that we have not paid enough attention to this; the criticism, so far, from the American comrades, is thus just and well-deserved. But, first, there are strong reasons to believe that much of what might have been correct in Russia then does not necessarily have to be the right way for highly developed countries today. And, second, we do not think that one can abstract the internal class relations in one single country from the international class struggle, from the relations of strength on a world scale. On the contrary, seen in a somewhat longer perspective, the last-mentioned factor is the one that plays the decisive role. Thereby, we arrive at the concrete point of departure, which we think one has to grasp in order to get an overall picture of what state capitalism is and how it has come about.

A result of pressure from encroaching imperialism

At the time of the revolution, Russia was still a very backward country. If the proletarian revolution had been victorious in, say, Germany, then plenty of means of production and qualified labor power, know-how etc. could have poured into Russia to help solve the tasks of modernization and industrialization for the construction of socialism. But now this was not the case; at the beginning of the 1920’s, Soviet Russia was the only surviving workers’ state, encroached upon by imperialism. Already during the civil war, the Bolshevik Party was forced by the circumstances to introduce "state capitalism under the dictatorship of the proletariat" and to make use of the old czarist state apparatus in order to administer the country. As well, they were later compelled to make concessions to the market forces, too: NEP [New Economic Policy]. The entire situation was playing into the hands of the non-socialist class forces. The pressure from them and from imperialism resulted in a change in the nature of the Bolshevik Party, in its perspective, from having emphasized the necessity of spreading the revolution internationally to be able to survive, to emphasize the construction of "socialism in one country", as Stalin and company preached from 1924 on.

At that time, the bureaucracy talked about this construction taking place "at a snail’s pace" and in harmonious collaboration with kulaks, the urban petty-bourgeoisie and NEP-capitalists, for which one concession after another was made. "Peaceful coexistence" with the surrounding capitalist world was, of course, despite the anti-imperialist rhetoric, a pre-supposed precondition. This program and these perspectives were the bureaucracy’s "realistic" alternative to world revolution. However, reality proved to be another. The drastically sharpened international situation which appeared in 1927 with ah increased threat of war, brought everything to a head. The bureaucracy, which by this time already had gradually developed into becoming an independent social force, now had no choice but to revise its line, cut off the country from the world market, beat down the class forces which comprised the agencies of the world market directly or indirectly, and introduce an all-embracing state-run planned economy. To be able to defend the Soviet Union, industrialization was necessary, but an industrialization in isolation meant a huge primitive capital accumulation, which was possible only by a brutal exploitation of the working class and by driving away many peasants from their land to the mines and the steel mills. That was the aim with the first 5-year plan and the collectivization of agriculture.

This does not mean that we are determinists. It is clear that the bureaucracy was unable to act in another way, since an industrialization of this kind hardly could have been possible with its first "program". That would have led to a capitulation before imperialism, to integration into its world economy, which does not provide any space for national, independent accumulation of capital. The Soviet Union would step by step have become a kind of neo-colonial country, and the bureaucracy would either have been integrated or, more likely, been outdone and removed. This is the very same mechanism as in many so-called "third world" countries, where the only way for a national construction, a national capital accumulation, has been to screen off the world market by means of economic planning and monopoly on foreign trade, i.e. to introduce state capitalism, since there has not existed and cannot exist any space for the "national bourgeoisie" to build up a classical competitive capitalism on an independent basis.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Left Opposition stood for a practical way according to a proletarian class stand. It rejected from the very beginning the theory of "socialism in one country" and stressed the decisive importance of the world revolution for the survival of Soviet power. The working class struggle abroad should not be obstructed and adapted to the national interests of the Soviet bureaucracy, but on the contrary be supported and encouraged. Meanwhile, class struggle was to be waged against the domestic bureaucracy and the other anti-socialist class forces alike, by mobilization of the toiling masses. From the rich, from the market, a surplus was to be taken out for investment in industrial construction. This would give the Soviet Union a respite until the working class in the west had arisen, thereby breaking the isolation of the country. Considering the deep-going economic depression after 1929 in the entire capitalist world, a Comintern under a revolutionary, Bolshevik-Leninist leadership would surely have been able to guide the working class forward, without committing treacheries as the Stalinists did. Objective preconditions for revolutions did actually appear in many places, like in Austria in 1934 or in France and Spain in 1936, and for sure there were possibilities to make victories out of them. Perhaps a real struggle against fascism in Germany would have resulted in a breakthrough there, too. To be sure, if this had still not happened, most likely even a Soviet Union under the leadership of the general line of the Left Opposition would, as a result of the national isolation, have been forced to submit to the Stalinist logic of state capitalism sooner or later. But industrialization connected with a mass mobilization for class struggle from below would, as mentioned, probably have delayed that.

As the reality now was, the goal of production in the Soviet Union from 1928 on was accumulation, not consumption. The most characteristic feature of capitalism– that the society is dominated by capital accumulation– became an iron-hard forcing necessity, and even worse than in most other places since the task was to catch up with the tremendous lead of the imperialist countries in a considerably shorter time. As Stalin himself put it in a speech in 1931:

"It is sometimes asked whether it is not possible to slow down the tempo somewhat...No, comrades, it is not possible! The tempo must not be reduced! On the contrary, we must increase it as much as is within our powers and possibilities.... To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind. And those who fall behind get beaten. But we do not want to be beaten. No, we refuse to be beaten!... We are 50- 100 years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in 10 years. Either we do it, or we shall go under." ["The Tasks of Economic Executives. Speech delivered at the First All-Union Conference of Leading Personnel of Socialist Industry," February 4,1931. We have replaced the English translation from the Swedish edition of Problems of Leninism with the English edition from Peking, 1976, pp. 527-9. –Supplement]

It is not the bureaucrats’ own wishes, but furthermore the logic of world capitalism, that forces the bureaucracy to accumulate for accumulation’s own sake. And verily, it did that properly! Real wages were pressed down and labor productivity was pressed up. Investments in industry rose during the five 5-year plan 6 times in comparison with the 1923-28 level, and was then doubled during each of the following 5-year plans. Accumulation of capital absorbed more than 20% of the national income during the first 5-year plan, and this figure was later to rise even higher. That was a higher figure than for any of the imperialist countries, but about the same as for the US. and Japan when these countries were at a comparable stage of development.

But, one may ask, if we now define state capitalism according to its relation to the surrounding world, does that mean, then, that a society like the Soviet one could not be characterized as state capitalist if it had been something completely on its own? Yes, obviously. The Soviet Union is what it is because it submitted to the laws of capitalism, to the mechanisms of capitalism. Without them, it would be totally different. The features necessary for a capitalist accumulation is, first, separation of the workers from the means of production and, second, competition between capitalists. That the first criterion applies to the Soviet Union is a fact–the repression of the totalitarian police state makes it even more obvious. But as far as the second criterion is considered, the Soviet Union does not have, in and for itself, mechanisms for competition. True, the so-called Marxist-Leninist movement has heavily stressed the features of the market system, the reforms that have been carried out before the "perestroika". But as we have already mentioned, these do not exist in all those countries and have at the beginning not existed at all. As well, these reforms have not–except for in some cases–neutralized the general planned character of the economy, but seem rather to fill the task of making the production a bit more "effective" and more flexible, in order to be more competitive in relation to the surrounding world. Thus, the second criterion does not apply–perhaps with the exception of Poland and Hungary–in any other way than as against the west. Within the Soviet Union, there is a division of labor similar to that within an individual capitalist enterprise.

Let us for a moment assume that a giant multi-national company would ruin, buy up, and take over all the others, thus in the end be solely ruling the roost in the entire world. To then talk about a world market, about capitalism etc., would of course be completely pointless. Without competition between different capitals, there would be no more accumulation for accumulation’s own sake. Surely, this would not be socialism, but rather a new class society, and as such a historical anomaly: an industrial slave society but without a slave market.

That would also be the case with the Soviet Union if it had been totally unaffected by the rest of the world or, in one way or another, had been able to take it over. What, then, would force the Soviet economy to accumulate? The aim of production would rather have been the creation of use values. But the hierarchical class structure would, nevertheless, have existed! That, too, would thus have been something as absurd as a Pharaoh’s Egypt or the like– with industrialism. A completely stagnating society, which hardly would remain for any longer time.

Capitalism is a process in continuous movement, not a static, unchanging thing. We identify it not by its form or by abstracting each country for itself without its coherence, scrutinizing it with a magnifying class. No, we identify it by connecting it to the totality, looking for its dynamic. That is why we look to the Soviet Union’s accumulation for accumulation’s sake, based upon competition with western capitalism, as the point of departure from which we define the character of the Soviet system.

In other words: we do not derive the Soviet Union’s relation to the world market from the state capitalist character of the Soviet economy, but we derive, on the contrary, the state capitalist character of the Soviet economy from the Soviet Union’s relation to the world market.

Marx himself reasons in the same way when he in Grundrisse analyzed the slave economy of the plantations in the south of the USA before the civil war. As is well-known, Marx regarded wage labor as a precondition for capitalism. The worker himself owns his own labor power, which he sells like a commodity to the employer. But slavery was not like that; there was no labor market on the plantations, and the slave-owners did not buy the labor-power from the slaves. So, regarding this slave economy, this system of plantations, in and for itself, then it clearly was not capitalism. But this was precisely what Marx did not do–no, he looked to the whole, looked at this system’s ties with the surrounding world, and came thus to the conclusion that these plantation owners actually were capitalists:

"Negro slavery presupposes wage labor, and if other, free states with wage labor did not exist alongside it, if, instead, the Negro states were isolated, then all social conditions there would immediately turn into pre-civilized forms." (Marx, Grundrisse, English ed., London 1973, p. 224)

Marx’s methodology is very clear here. Looked at purely on their own, the slave states lacked an essential aspect of capitalism. But within the context of a coercive world economy, the position changes. On the surface, there is no free wage-labor, but because the plantation owners have to compete, for instance with cotton-producing landlords from Egypt in the British market, they are compelled to exploit their slaves to a certain degree, to mechanize and so on. External competition, therefore, enforces on the plantations a capitalist dynamic. It turns the slaves into producers of surplus value for capital accumulation.

For Marx, it was never necessary to look for a separate set of laws to explain the economy of the southern slave states; it was sufficient to show that the plantation owners were forced to act as heads of capitalist enterprises as a result of external coercion from rival capitalists.

By applying the very same methodology, one arrives at the conclusion that the character of the Soviet economy is state capitalist. Now, of course, the Soviet workers are no slaves (although slave labor played an essential role during the first 25 years of primitive accumulation); they get their wages in roubles and kopeks; as far as is possible, they can choose what they want to buy in the stores; they have certain possibilities to chose where they want to work and with what, etc. However, since the Soviet Union in fact is like one huge enterprise, it is the state which bears all the costs of the upkeep of its workers from the cradle to the grave, and in turn reaps nil the benefits from their laboring activities. In this respect, the plantation owners in the American South at the time of slavery and the Soviet bureaucratic class, the nomenclatura, are in comparable positions. What makes the Soviet Union a part of the capitalist world system is not that the workers are paid wages or can change work place, but the fact that everything is subordinated to the needs of capital accumulation.

Surely, one may point out that while the plantation owners produced mainly for selling on the world market, the foreign trade has always played a marginal role in the Soviet economy. That is right. But, as we already have seen, the aim of Soviet capital accumulation was above all to be able to keep and safeguard an independent economy, to avoid integration in the world market which would result in the country having been reduced to some semi-colonial status. Accumulation created the heavy industry and those arms [weapons], that could guarantee that the bureaucratic class would not lose the means of production it controlled to world imperialism.

Actually, this was the very same kind of choice that every non-capitalist ruling class in the world was facing from the middle of the 19th century onwards. As capitalism developed in Western Europe and North America, there was a world-wide expansion which threatened the positions of all other ruling classes, threatened them with perishing or, at least, being integrated and given a comprador position. The only way for them to avoid such a fate was to radically change their way of exploitation, to turn it into accumulation of means of production in order to accumulate more means of production and so on. Such attempts were actually made in some places, like in Egypt, but the only one which didn’t fail, was Japan. The ruling feudal class there had attempted to cut the country off from the expanding world market, but was forced to give that up because of U.S. gunboat diplomacy. There were not enough developed productive forces to set themselves against penetration. At this point, a section of the ruling class then carried through the so-called Meiji Restoration, by which it took control of the state and used it to subordinate the entire Japanese society to an industrialization on a domestic capitalist basis.

It is by means of such a mode of procedure in our analysis, that we have reached our conclusions on when and how the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union took place, as well as the reasons for it.

The sources

The American comrades devote a big part of their criticism to scrutinizing our facts and figures, in order to put against them other facts and figures, which seemingly contradict ours. We must admit, that we unfortunately have not been able to find most of the material that the MLP have studied, except for the books written by Schapiro and Getty.

Obviously, Leonard B. Schapiro was–to be said frankly –a falsifier of history, a lawyer of counterrevolution. By that we do not mean the Stalinist counterrevolution, but the open one, the white one! It is enough to compare the version given by serious bourgeois historians like E.H Carr to see this. Schapiro’s book The Communist Party of the Soviet Union is an attempt to prove that Stalinism is the logical continuation of Leninism. He derives Stalinism back to the stands put forward by Lenin in What Is To Be Done? and to the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in 1903. He asserts that the October Revolution was a coup d’etat and that Lenin during the following years systematically suppressed all opposition both within and outside the party, that the trial against the Socialist Revolutionary Party leadership in 1922 (revisionists who had been engaged in counterrevolutionary terrorist activity) was a show trial like the so-called Moscow Trials of 1936-38 etc. He even hints that Lenin had consciously made use of the agent of the czarist Okhrana, Malinovsky, since "the immediate aims of Lenin and the police were identical–to cause the maximum of disruption and disunity in the social-democratic movement". And he says that it was "very probably" that the Bolsheviks were paid by Germany in 1917. So, we are really skeptical to whether even the facts and figures put forward by Schapiro are to be regarded as serious and correct. We think that the best thing would be if the American comrades could avoid using such a source. It is, as far as we can judge, not a good one.

As concerns J. Arch Getty and his doctoral thesis The ’Great Purges’ Reconsidered: The Soviet Communist Party 1933-39, that seems to be a serious and well-documented attempt (he bases himself on the so-called Smolensk Archives, which were captured by the Germans during the war and later fell into the hands of the western powers) to deal with the purges in the 1930’s. He draws the conclusion that it in essence was a power struggle between the central and the regional bureaucracy, as well as between those who wanted to speed up the pace of accumulation as fast as possible and those who tried to moderate it somewhat. But that just confirms that the terror was a result of the subordination of everything to the needs of capital accumulation. Nevertheless, one may wonder why Getty has nothing to say about e.g. the extensive purges of the Comintern apparatus, the role of the slave labor camps for the economy, etc., or why he presents the butcher-in chief N.I. Yezhov (nominally responsible for internal affairs in 1936-38) as rather sympathetic, yes, even left-radical.

It even to be underlined, that we write this not in order to in any way to make unfair insinuations, to slander the American Marxist-Leninists by any kind of hints. Their ambitions in the studies of Soviet history are serious and honest, and we do not aim to throw mud but, on the contrary, to together with the MLP comrades reach the truth. But we have to point out that their eager search for facts and figures contradicting ours, to show that we are running ahead too fast, may lead to getting into the wrong box.

Neither do we try to say that the other sources used by them also would be either reactionary, like Schapiro, or serious but with strange aspects, like Getty. It may very well be the case that the figures etc. that are presented are fully correct. As is known, researches can be carried out in various ways, with different results, and it is the same thing, as the comrades themselves showed, with statistical figures. Of course, these are issues that must be taken into account. The problem, however, is, that even with the most proper facts as basis, it would be quite impossible to get a clear and understandable general picture for the reason that we have already explained. Categories and definitions will in any way be fluent [must in any case be appropriate?]. It is obvious that the traditional methodology of the so-called Marxist-Leninist movement is no more applicable when one has abandoned the policy, which the methodology in question existed to serve.

The facts and figures that we have presented have rather had the function of confirming and illustrating what we have concluded by using another method, the method of Marx. And there are reasons to believe that these facts and figures are in correspondence with reality, because they are taken from Soviet publications: papers, journals, books, speeches and discourses etc.–and then not from the years of "glasnost" but from the Stalin period itself. More concrete specifications are to be found in Tony Cliffs State Capitalism in Russia, which has been a basis of a great part of our articles on the Soviet Union.

Finally: we hope that this public debate hitherto has helped to clarify the essence of the differences between the respective views On the degeneration of the Soviet Union. There remains still a lot to thrash out, and we are happy that open discussions on these issues are also being carried out by other forces, like the Communist Party of Iran or the Communist Organization/Workers’ Policy in Portugal. We, for our part, see the differences between us and the American comrades as an example of how important it is to once and for all break not only with the theory and practice of Maoism and Stalinism, but also with its very way of thinking. In the first part of the 1980’s, in the break with opportunism and revisionism within the pro-Albanian "world movement", the MLP,USA launched the slogan "Back to the classics of Marxism-Leninism". It is in this spirit that we now, during the winter and spring, in some articles in Red Dawn on various themes will go forward with the task of carrying through to the end the break with the tradition of the Maoist-Stalinist movement. In doing this, there is plenty to learn form the International Socialists tendency, from which we also are going to publish a lot of interesting material.