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Practice of Soviet Socialism in the Thirties : Successes & Failures

SUJIT DAS

 

Failure of socialist systems all over the world has created a trend of trying to understand the problems of socialism, problems of communism, problems of developing Marxist theory in a new light. For the present moment it is a very necessary trend. Conservative Marxists do not like this. They think that it brings a tendency to negate Marxism itself. This suspicion [about this dangerous trend] is not without any basis. But as there is no alternative to this review, we have to do it. The blind thinking that whatever has happened in the countries with the history of successful revolution is axiomatically all right, has done more harm than good to Marxism. Hence there will be a natural tendency of overreaction against this trend. We have to be cautious about this. But what is more important is to break the inertia of unquestioning loyalty. This unenquiring mindset that has been in vogue till now has actually destroyed the very essence of Marxist philosophy. So, we should welcome this endeavor to break free of this mindset.

Naturally, the first thing that will become important in the process of this renewed inquiry is a deeper analysis of the successes and failures of the practice of socialism till now. Among such practices the erstwhile Soviet Socialist experience will demand the greatest attention. The reassessment of Soviet Socialism is most important not only because it is the first socialist country, but also because such varied experimentation, such colourful history, such intense ideological struggle, such intensity of failure and success as can be seen in the history of socialist experience in Soviet Union under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin is not to be found in any other country. And it is because of this that the most debates and researches centre on the formation, development and the fall of Soviet Socialism. The positive and negative lessons learnt from the practice of socialism in the first socialist country will act as the richest source with which to reassess socialism. In this article we will try to understand the positive and negative aspects of practice of socialism in Soviet Russia, so that we can come to some explanation of the debacle that occurred after the 20th Congress in 1956.

It is better to mention a few words at the very outset. First, there is an over-simplistic notion in vogue among the leftists in our country that everything was all right before æ ¡nd the entire problem started with Khrushchov. It is not at all correct. If everything were all right, the impact of just one Congress couldnà´µrn everything upside down. That such mediocre leaders as Khrushchov could jeopardize things proves that the source of disaster was already present. It may be difficult to accept this, but we have to face the truth without any prejudice.

Secondly, at the very outset one has to make a primary understanding of how to identify socialism. Though there are many viewpoints about this, everybody is unanimous on an essential point, that it is the re-establishment of the relation of the direct producer with the means of production made possible by step-by-step abolishment of the alienation of the direct producer from the means of production that had been created by capitalism. The subject is a complicated one. For, this ì©¥nationé³ not effectively reduced unless and until the direct producer class(es) starts effectively taking the decision-taking power of the production and distribution in its hand. To earn this power the class(es) needs political power; continuous decentralization of power is required. But if that is not done, mere formal statement that as the state and the government belongs to the proletariat (as the bourgeoisie is not in power) any decision taken by the state or the party is basically the decision taken by the proletariat, could well be deceptive. It is very important to try to always remain vigilant about the welfare of the proletariat. It cannot be maintained without political will. But to depend on this alone will not lead to the transfer of power to the proletariat. How intense was this push and pull in the Soviet Union surrounding this question is a point to ponder over.

Thirdly, if we are to discuss such a problem, we have to tune our mind to a philosophical question. The point in question is the inter-relation of the role of consciousness and historical necessity. We must admit the role of historical necessity, otherwise we will fall prey to 妴ᤶenturism. But we have also to keep in mind that in the whole phase of socialist and communist movement the role of consciousness is decisive. In this phase the consciousness will determine the material condition more than the other way round. In this phase, as the consciousness remains so overactive, on the one hand socialist human being zealously endeavors to make the impossible possible, on the other hand it candidly gives recognition to historical limitations. If there is any hesitation or reluctance in recognizing the limitations, we have to admit that it is due to backwardness of consciousness.

In the study of the Russian Socialism, the thirties is the most intense time. This decade is brilliantly shining with the success of the five-year plans, the collectivization in agriculture and big leaps in industry. The turmoil of the NEP in the twenties was over. The position of Comrade Stalin had become stronger in the inner-party struggle. But the stormy wind of war had not started blowing. One can be more objective in the study of the failures and successes of practice of socialism in this period that was relatively favourable for the experimentation of socialism. For the convenience of discussion we are choosing the agriculture as the first instance, and the industry will be taken up afterwards.

In the entire 20s, capitalism was dominant in the agriculture of the Soviet Union. Because of this, the agricultural labourers and the poor peasants lived in abject poverty, the middle peasantry was exploited ruthlessly and the rich peasantry (kulaks) were amassing more and more wealth and power. The arrogance of the kulaks was without limit, and many a time they unfurled the flag of armed rebellion against the soviet state. They posed a real threat to soviet socialism and the soviet state. In such a situation, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Soviet Russia under the leadership of Stalin took the historical decision of uprooting the kulak economy. The movement of collectivization began.

Innumerable small and mid-sized farms coalesced to form a few thousand collective farms. The size of each collective farm thus became large. The old owners of small plots started to cultivate them collectively. A part of the produce went to the state as tax, the collectives could sell the rest and disburse the amount accrued among themselves. The kulaks were the main obstacle against the collectives. The Soviet party undertook a programme of uprooting the kulaks as a class. This bloody struggle persisted from 1928 to 1933. The Party and the Red Army played an important role in this battle. At last, the kulaks were defeated. When this battle ended in 1933, two-thirds of the peasantry were already under collective farms. In 1934, the very next year, Stalin declared at the 17th Party Congress: ⯭ now on the socialist economy becomes the only driving force in the national economy.ﳰan>

We are more used to with the bright picture of success of this collectivization movement. And, why not? To remove capitalism from the vast rural area is a basic socialist task. In the process of implementing this program, huge obstacles were encountered, disasters ensued, the party had to fight intensely against both the left and the right deviations and succeeded at last. Of course, it is a ballad of heroism of socialist reconstruction. Hence, in the the-then government documents of Soviet Union, in its arts and literature, cinema, the success of collectivization movement was depicted with pride. This is certainly justified. But for a long time this success, this brighter side, masked a serious question. The question is: whether the alienation of the direct producer from the means of production gradually reduced throughout this entire period. The declaration of victory of socialism without evaluating it on the basis of this cardinal question might be the victory of a party or a state, but it does not follow that it would be the victory of socialism. Now we will present a brief summary of what happened beneath the ecstasy of the collectivization movement.

Just before the beginning of the collectivization movement the socialism in agriculture was so rudimentary that only 3.3% of the whole agricultural production used to come from state farms. The rest used to come from individual farms. It should be remembered that two-thirds of the peasantry were middle peasants. A more important fact is that middle peasants and small peasants jointly supplied agricultural produce at least 8 times of the supply of the rich peasants in the market. In the process of realizing the serious deviations in the collectivization movement these figures are essential.

After the soviet state completely failed in grain collection in 1927, in 1928 the party took the decision of taking some emergency steps in the rural areas. The main point was: the peasants would have to sell grains at a low price determined by the state. If any peasant denied doing this, he would be punished. Punishment included the confiscation of his property. To enforce this system, party cadres from the cities would go to the rural areas. Though in principle it was decided that only the kulaks would thus be forced, in practice it was enforced upon all the peasants, because, as we have already found, the lion೨are of the grains came from the middle peasants. In the spring of 1928 when the famine erupted, the repressive measures were heightened and as a result, even the poor peasantry went against the rural policy of the state.

In such a backdrop the collectivization movement started in 1929-30. From the very beginning, it suffered from the problems of vacillation of policy. In the 17th Party Congress in April 1929, the policy of offering more economic benefits to the middle and small peasants was declared. But in the next summer the target for compulsory supply of excess grain was fixed, which was so high that peasants were not able to meet it. It is true that the poor peasants tried to pass the lion೨are of the quota upon the rich peasants, but that would not fulfil their individual quota, and they would be punished. Frequently, for fulfilling the quota peasants would purchase high-priced grains from the market and to get the necessary money they would sell domestic animals, utensils, or even a part of the farmland. According to the official estimates of the Soviet State, in the year 1929 alone, the peasants sold 2.6 million horses and 7.6 million cattle. Thus, the overall development of the agriculture was sacrificed at the alter of quota fulfilment. Many such instances of extremes were cited not only by the strong critics of the Soviet system like Bettleheim, but also described with great pain by staunch Stalinists like Anna Louise Strong. For example, Strong said, è¥ farms were ruthlessly pressurized to give away fully the state grain dues in order to meet the impending short-fall. Grains due as tax, for equipment, were taken away. Whether the farms had any grains for themselves had not been taken into account.ï³°an>

In 1930, the next year, the plan for collectivization was jacked up. The new target far outstripped the target decided in the five-year plan. The target fixed in 1929 for the year 1933 was already fulfilled in the year 1930. Such rapidness is amazing. But there is also a flip side to it, which warrants our attention. Did the peasants attain such lightning speed voluntarily? There were cases where peasants were threatened with being branded as kulaksãµ£h instances did not escape the eyes of persons like Anna Louise Strong. She wrote, î ´he mean time, the organizers, in their zeal for surpassing others, forced the peasants into collectivization by threatening to brand them as kulaks. They started to declare the cattle, goats, chicken, even utensils and undergarments as common property.䨥 Central Committee had declared that the party wouldnà´²y to influence the collectivization movement by decrees from the above. But was this declaration adhered to in real life? The administrative steps for collectivization taken during the period under the supervision of the Party went against this declaration. The circular issued on 27th June 1929 by the Central committee to the administrative departments was not only about increasing the grain deposit in the state granary, it also included a declaration of inspiring the peasants in building 駒 or å°¥r big㯬lective farms. Apparently it looks like a benign proposal. But the fact is that the peasants did not want to do it. It is because in many cases the peasants had already built small and middle farms, and the administration of those farms was in their (peasants௷n hands. On the other hand, in the super-big farms they were more and more alienated from the means of production. Secondly, there was a contract system, which was in effect forced onto the peasants from above. This contract was about supply of industrial goods to the peasantry in lieu of compulsory grain supply. The contract was between the peasantsﲧanisation and the collector body constituted by the state. The peasants organizations had to agree to the collectorsಯposals, as otherwise they would not receive industrial goods. Again, once the organizations agreed to the proposal, every individual peasant was inevitably compelled to fulfil his individual quota by whatever means. In the whole process, pressure, not inspiration, became more dominant. In this way the שּׁective farm centresᮤ the â¡£tor centers祲e established. The first would supply equipments to the collective farms on loan, and in lieu of it would, frequently in collaboration with the Central Planning department, enact varieties of laws for the collective farms. The machine centers and the tractor stations were brought together to build tractor centers. These administrative steps produced more centralization. The power of the peasantry to take their own decision was curtailed and the importance of their opinion was diminished. The state intensified its pressure to increase the collection, and one-sided instructions began to be issued from above to expand the area under collective farms.

The administrative steps were also intermingled with Party initiative. Party cadres from the cities went to the rural areas in great numbers and they were inspiring the peasants. As a result the peasants were really inspired up to certain extent. But this process has its limitation. These urban cadres realised the peasantsಯblem very little. And the inspiration instilled from outside did not have any depth.

Two other processes should also be mentioned here. One of them was a propaganda movement, which branded any protest against the collectivization movement as 嬡k activityԨe situation became such that even in personal rivalry between two peasants these abusive words were used. For the peasants these adjectives became something to be afraid of. And the second process was punishments, which were supposed to be used against the kulaks only, but nonetheless had been used against whoever created problems for state plans.

In this phase the collectivization movement gathered great momentum. Whereas in 1929 only 4.1% of peasant families were in collective farms, in March 1930, 59.3% of the peasant families were in the collectives. But behind this success lay darkness. In the beginning of 1930, there were widespread agitation among the peasants, which in many places became near-revolts. As the situation could well go beyond control, Stalin decided to temporarily suspend the collectivization movement.

The article ﳰan>Dizzy with success⹠Stalin, published on the 2nd March, 1930, was the first pointer to there being any problem in the collectivization movement. The deviation from the Party line in this movement was first admitted here, though ordinary level Party cadres were held responsible for this. The Party cadres were displeased. But the peasants were happy. They thought that from now on, they would be ⥥ɮ replying to the dissatisfaction among Party cadres Stalin, in the article ﳰan>To Kolkhoz Comrades᤭itted that middle peasants were pressurized. But it is to be noted at the same time that the peasants who were pressurized, specially who were exiled, were not rehabilitated. The cadres who made those excesses were not demoted. It is as ideal example of the push and pull that existed in those days.

That a large number of peasants were subjected to force becomes evident from the fact that after a few months when the tempo of collectivization programme was on the wane, the number of peasant families under collective farms decreased markedly. In March 1930, 59.3% families were in the collectives, but in October of the same year the number dwindled to only 21.7%. But the collectives remained, though with some changes. In 1939 only 3.1% peasants remained as individual farmers, the rest were either under collective farms or under state farms. ⩧ht Victory of Socialism硳 declared, but there was a fallacy within it. Statistics clearly shows that the goal of the Party and the State was fulfilled. But what about the main orientation of socialism?

In this phase, it appears from the intense struggle that took place in the countryside that in many areas the collectivization went against the middle and the poor peasants. If we name the process of eviction of kulaks [as] 嫵lakisationੴ will be seen that in 1930, 50% families of Ukraine were put under dekulakization. This number is five times the number of kulaks. This clearly shows that a large number of middle peasants were also put under the dekulakization programme. There are recorded instances where quarrel among peasants were marked as subversive activity and the peasants involved were 嫵lakizedԨese were not just exceptions. The vast number of peasants who were transported by railways to new places as punishment seems to mean that such measures of repression was universal. But the fear of the peasants did not end with collectivization. On the basis of some old incident, or on the basis of some current mistake one may be branded a kulakist, and may be sent to exile. If one were found neglecting his work he would be branded a 嬡kistɦ one questioned some illogical administrative instruction, it would be branded as ᢯tage쯳pan>

A law enacted in August 1932 could send one to jail for up to 6 years for committing a crime of collecting grains from the field. In addition, there were various commissions throughout the rural area, which would punish the peasants then and there. Then they would be accused with such a section of law that they could easily be booked as a saboteur. In 1932-33, during the years of famine, these repressive measures became particularly harsh. Because of these the contradiction between the peasants and the administration became more intense. On the one hand hunger due to famine and on the other hand more and more grain collection (by the state) caused an irreconcilable contradiction. In spite of apparent success of collectivization movement, such a socio-economic-political situation was not conducive to taking the Soviet State towards building socialism.

Socialism cannot be ushered in automatically by only doing away with private ownership of property. On the other hand, socialism in real terms would take place as far as the alienation of the direct producer from the means of production is done away with. This second point, that is, doing away with the alienation of the direct producer from the means of production, is decisive in determining whether a system is socialist or not, because, in modern capitalism quite often it becomes difficult to identify who is the owner of the capital. But it doesnà­¥an that it is socialism. The collectivization movement in Soviet Union was of course a primary step towards doing away with private ownership of property. But to determine how much socialist content was brought in during negotiating this primary step, we have to find out to what extent the alienation of the peasants from their means of production was done away with. And it is precisely this question with respect to which we are drawn into some serious problems.

The collective farm can never be considered as a system directed towards socialism unless the role of producers, peasants become primary in policy making and decision taking. In the collectivization movement which took place in the Soviet Union in the ೬ not only the peasants didnਡve this role, but it was also highly saddled with interference and repression from outside, i.e., of the Party and the state.

Secondly, if the class organization, i.e. the own organisation of the producer class(es) is not growing day by day, the alienation of the direct producer from the means of production cannot decrease. But if the political power of this class is not developing, this power will be centralized in the hands of a coterie . And as the political power is the seat of all other power, economic power would also be centralized in the hands of a coterie – whatever else is said to the contrary. Then, how would this alienation of the direct producer be overcome? The soviets in the Soviet Union could have been the institution through which the political power of the direct producers could materialize. But during the whole period of collectivization movement it was seen that the role of the peasants㯶iets was marginal. Those institutions became gradually weaker and not stronger; the State and the Party became relatively stronger. In the whole period of collectivization movement, the role of the peasant committees was relegated only to nodding to the decisions coming from above, from the Party.

Thirdly, if decentralization of power is an important condition of development of socialism, to get rid of the differences between the rural area and the urban area is imperative. But the experience of the collectivization movement in Soviet Union mainly went to the opposite direction. There are many examples of deprivation of the rural area in this period. Vast soviet countryside was the place from where the needs of urban authorities were to be met. By increasing the arbitrary שּׁection沯m the countryside, by increasing the grain-rent for purchasing the equipment for the machine and tractor stations, by reducing the price of the agricultural commodities and by taking compulsory donations from the members of the collective farms, the rural economy was generally jeopardized. Sometimes rural labor force was forcibly sent to the mines and industries in the urban area and thus rural economy was further weakened. These steps hardly helped in developing socialism, they helped establishing capitalism instead.

To take away huge amount of grains through שּׁection⥣ame the backbone of the Soviet economic policy in that period. The dual compulsion of the import of necessary machinery by exporting grains and ensuring the food supply for the cities by any means was of the topmost priority to the Soviet leadership. Such policy was the result of one-sided endeavor of trying to ensure the development of heavy industry. No doubt, the result was tragic. In every step, on the outside the move was towards socialism, but underneath, in a deeper sense, the essence of capitalist economy was preserved. This self-contradictory dual tendency was the characteristic of the Soviet economy in the entire Stalin era.

How to view this complicated scenario, how to explain it, has become a very important issue today. The western theoreticians who brands the whole period as a period of primitive accumulation of capitalism, led by the Party, cannot explain the absence of the labour market and the capital market, which are two essential features of capitalism. On the other hand, the conservative Marxists, who like to state that the entire period was pure alismডil to explain the gradual increase of the alienation of the direct producers from the means of production. In reality, the whole period was a 鸥dﮥ. It cannot be taken to be capitalist, as the people in power were neither capitalist, nor capitalist-roaders. Their political goal was to build socialism, to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. We can call this period socialist in the same sense that Lenin called the Soviet Republic of 1918 or 1921 socialist. è¥ Socialist Soviet Republic indicates that it is firm in its determination to graduate to socialism. Itயt that the new economic system can be called socialist.âµ´ at the same time, the inherent limitations of this system, not only the remnants of but sometimes also the growing tendency of capitalism and the inability to recognise the problems, constitute a serious deviation. If we do not become conscious of these deviations, we wonࢥ able to draw any lesson for the future.

The error in judgment of the interrelation between principal and non-principal contradiction led to the impediment of a balanced development in Soviet economy, the proletarian dictatorship remained only on paper, in reality all political power was centralized in the Party, in the whole period the questions of decentralization of power and the withering away of the state were not dealt with theoretically – all these were basic limitations of practice of socialism in the Soviet Union. Now the time has come to pay attention to these points very deeply.

Like agriculture, the Soviet industry in the 30s also provides a complicated picture. On the one hand, there was great enthusiasm for the practice of socialism, which was genuine to a great extent. On the other hand, there was alienation of the direct producer from the means of production. During the whole period these two opposite trends went hand in hand. If we try to brand this complicated scenario in one dimensional fashion, we will learn nothing out of it. The situation has to be understood in its entirety.

First, we will start with the endeavors of the Party to cut down the alienation of the producers in industry. In the years just after the seizure of power, workers㯶iets were formed rapidly and spontaneously. These were real centers of political power – the Party did not interfere in their process of decision taking and policy making. In this phase the working class in their own initiative seized control of factories, which was later made legal by issuing state decrees. The ᢯tnik�ement started from such a living environment. In the hard days of civil war when Moscow-Kazan rail workers worked for extra hours without extra payments, it was due to nothing but socialist zeal to save the nascent soviets. Lenin described the Sabotnik movement as the 塬 beginning of socialism쯳pan>

In the next phase, in the 20s to the 30s, some party-directed movements took place, which were similar to the ᢯tnik�ement in form, but which nonetheless lacked its spontaneity. The ﳫreskin�ement which took place in the late 30s, was also a movement of performing extra hours of voluntary work, meant to collect money for the completion of the first five-year plan. 诣kwork Team�ement was started in 1926 to increase the productivity within regular work hours. 墬ic Tugboat�ement was started to help backward industries to move forward. It was started by a worker. A worker of the ⴥm�e was from the Navy. It was he who visualized the tugboat plan. Just like a tugboat which carries with it the boats which had lost their steam, a backward industry could also be taken to its destination. He started working on this idea. In 1930, the workers of Leningrad started a new movement named ﵮter-planningɮ this practice of counter-planning the workers attained so much expertise in the organization and administration of industry that some of them took special training and became specialists in different industries. As a result of this, the workers of a factory decided to finish their work scheduled in the five-year plan in 4 years, and the Central Committee of the Communist Party broadcast it in the radio. Work was done in such a speed that really the work of five years was done in four years and three months. The most famous movement of increased initiative of the workers was Stakhanovite movement. This movement, started in1935, depended not only on high spirits but also reorganized the division of labour and used creativity in work pattern and craftsmanship.

In opposition to the inertia of capitalist production, these movements brought speed and vitality in production. No doubt, the productivity of labour increased by 41% in the first five-year plan, by 82% during the second five year plan, when the Stakhanovite movement had started, and by 32% more during the third plan period. While at the same period the entire Europe was immersed in the great depression, this feat was undoubtedly worth mentioning. In the government documents of Soviet Union, in its arts and literature, this success has been described as the success of socialism. There is some truth in this assertion. The dark days of Tsarist autocracy was still not forgotten. People liberated from that dark regime were naturally inspired in engaging themselves into productive work, because till then they thought this state to be their own. They thought the party also was their own. But in agriculture we found that behind this visible reality lurked another deeper reality, which grew to shatter this first reality. In the case of industry also we shall see that behind this inspired work another process was also at work, which alienated the direct producer from the means of production. Political power was not being centralized in the hands of the working class, rather the working class was being changed into a social force subservient to the Party and the State. Trade unions, which were their own organization, were either withering away, or being made subservient to the Party and the State. The income differential among workers was increasing, not decreasing in most cases. We must focus our attention to the complicated scenario created by these two divergent pictures, so that we can at least locate the areas of the problem.

It should be reiterated here that the-then soviet economy could not solve the problem of unequal development. Instead of decreasing, the difference between countryside and cities went on increasing through large-scale urbanization. From 1926 to 1939, in the twelve years the urban population increased from 26.3 million to 56.1 million, that is, an increase of 112%. This incidence indicated a primary failure of socialist construction, because this increase was anarchic in nature. This increase of urban population was not consistent with the needs of economic planning or economic growth. The Government controlled newspaper ï³°an>Izvestia粯te: è¥ urban growth is too much. The food supply, the supply of housing and other needs of life has posed a serious problemÍ¡ny administrative and repressive steps were taken to stop this anarchy. For example, compulsory labour, internal passport etc. was imposed, but these yielded no result. The cities were gradually filled up, filled up with uprooted peasants from the far away countryside, who were unknown to each other. Thus endless poverty on the one hand and alienation from one another gave rise to indiscipline of various types. Alcoholism was on the rise. As the divided workers could not put up proper resistance, the authority used to have recourse to repressive measures, which had little resemblance with socialism. This was the common scenario of the cities and of the workers.

In this process of urbanization the number of workers went on increasing at a rate which was more than 50% above the government plan. But should only the increase of the number of wage-labourers be called socialism? Should that be called the strengthening of the working class? Mere increase in numbers does not signify that this was indeed a journey towards socialism. It should rather be searched in the daily life of the wage-labourers, in their work conditions, their rights and in the relations of production. Now we shall judge this.

Upto 1929 the trade unions of Soviet Union had an important role in the administration of the factories. They had some independence, which helped them take steps in the appointment or removal of workers, in opposing such decisions as went against the interests of the workers. The situation changed in the year 1930. The state started taking such steps in the name of economic plan that took away the rights of the workers 䨥y became the instruments for meeting the needs of the state. But as the working class of the Soviet Union was a bit accustomed to exercising their own power, they did not accept these steps. From 1931 onwards the soviet state had to take some harsher steps.

In 1932 the system of using internal passport for appointment was started. The worker had to show the passport to the administrator of the new factory. The administration thus could know why the worker had left the old job. In 1938 work book was introduced. Work book was opened when a worker started his first job. As long as the worker worked in that organization, the work book would remain with its administration. The administration would note all the punishments received by the worker in that work book. When the worker went to work in a new organization, the book was to be taken to the new manager. In June 1940 a new decree proclaimed that no worker could leave his job. If one leaves his job without permission, he would get an imprisonment of two to four months. New law was passed to enable the judges punish the workers without hesitation. In this way the authorities were taking away the rights of the workers to leave their job, and at the same time they were giving the administrators the power of retrenchment of workers. A few laws were passed in the name of ⥳ervation of labour power෨ich infringed upon the workers⩧hts. For example, the students who would take money for their vocational training from the finance department would have to compulsorily work in the factories earmarked by that department for three years. To make this system permanent and strong a directorate of labour reserve was created, which would admit eight to ten lakh students into the vocational schools.

The system that in determining the wage, administrative steps were more effective than trade union acted as a barrier in the path of independent decision-taking of the workers. In the whole of 30s the wage was decided in the condition that they have to meet the production target. It was decided what target the workers would have to [meet] to receive a fixed wage. Instead of bilateral contract administrative arrangement became more important. In this way, ï­­ission for Settling Labour Disputesॳtablished in 1918, basically a workersﲧanization, was abolished in the 30s. The management became all-powerful. The right to strike was not taken away. But if the workers would take any collective step against the decisions of the management regarding the wage, the method of work, or the work environment, they would be punished. The police could act in such situations, they would use the clause 58 of the Criminal Code, which said : æ ´he workers voluntarily shun their responsibility or voluntarily neglect their work, their independent status would be taken away from them for one year, their property may also be confiscated.ä¯ this was added the tendency to break the labour laws by the management itself. In the 30s itself all the rules of overtime were broken, the work hour was extended to 12 to 16 hours. And all these was done in the name of socialist competition.

The labour laws passed to do away with the scipline᭯ng the workers did not vest the power in the hands of the working class, rather they looked like capitalist arrangement. For example, according to the clause 47 of the labour law, if one got absent for 3 days in a month (and if he could not show satisfactory cause), he would be retrenched. In 1932 this rule was changed, according to the new rule if one was absent for just one day, the management was empowered to retrench him. If the worker was proved to be in the wrong, he and his family could be evicted from his home, even if it were winter, even if he had no alternate arrangement. There are many examples that to avoid the punishment of being late the workers would skip their lunch. All these are symptoms of centralization of excessive power in the hands of the management, who controlled the means of production. Again, this was the period when the government was declaring the victory of socialism, and on the outside, there was truth in this declaration. From the government documents it is found that the number of labour-days lost due to absent workers was 5.95 days in 1932, it was reduced to 0.93 days in 1933, and 0.67 days in 1934. How much of this was due to ideological inspiration and how much was the result of pressure from the Party or the state, is a complicated question [and cannot be ascertained from the partial snap-shots] It wonࢥ known from the part-pictures. The statistical figures can well be confusing. To understand the situation in its totality, one can try to understand the trade union rights of the workers.

Lenin advised that the trade unions are to be built as an independent organization so that they would not become lackeys of the state, they could be used as the instrument of the working class to safeguard their own interest from their own state. Lenin thought that it was also the first necessity for fulfilling the target of production. In the 14th Congress in 1925 this ideological position was adopted. But afterwards, when the programme of rapid industrialization was taken, this position became slackened. To achieve the target the trade unions themselves started to remove their old leaders. They started to regard the Party mandates as unchangeable. In the 16th Congress in 1930, these removals were recognized and it said that the opportunism of the old leaders didn৯ well with the needs of the period of reconstruction. From then on the unions became the instruments of making the plans successful rather than instruments of safeguarding the interests of the workers. At the same time the process of changing the structure of the union was started from above, through the Party. The power of the central council of the trade unions was reduced and the power was concentrated in the hands of the presidium led by the Party Polit Bureau. In the one-sided emphasis on the implementation of the Central Plan the welfare of the workers became so neglected that Stalin had to write in 1931 that for the increase of production a situation favourable to the work and livelihood of the workers is of prime importance.

But this warning from Stalin could not change the chain of happenings. To maintain the increase of production as the main target, the unions had to relegate the problems of the workers to a secondary position; in many cases they were turned into instruments of preventing the increase of wage of the workers. The workers lost their faith in the trade unions. In many cases spontaneous workers᧩tations started to take place. The trade unions were used for the repression of those agitations. From the 9th Trade Union Congress in 1932 the Trade Unions formally became the instrument of the State. Thus began the ⡤e Union Crisis쯳pan>

Practically the Central Committee of the Party was forced to place itself in a self-contradictory situation. On the one hand Stalin had declared 䨥 Trade Unions should mainly care for the human existence of workers, their housing, their cultural needs and the daily needs of the workers, and on the other hand the Central Committee didnथpend on the workers and themselves formed a committee [from above]. This committee headed by Kaganovich was appointed for reorganization of the Trade Unions. For the first few months the Trade Unions did not even know about the existence of this committee. The Committee first postponed the election of the Trade Unions, and convened a Conference of the Central Council. In this Conference they accepted that there was a crisis in Trade Union, and they declared the policy of developing the initiatives of the workers from below. Much self-criticism was undertaken. A few leaders following the Party line were made scapegoat and blamed for this.

In 1936 due to political and social unrest the Trade Union Crisis was put under the carpet. But the problem of alienation of the working class remained.

It goes without saying that if the Trade Union rights were curtailed in this way, the economic condition would become worse. But if we are to understand the situation in its entirety, a few points should be mentioned. Firstly, since 1926 the difference between the wages of skilled and unskilled workers could be noticed. Maurice Dobb has mentioned that in the 7th Trade Union Congress in 1926 in declaring the policy of reducing the wage difference Tomsky made an amazing statement. At first he explained how the wage difference between skilled and unskilled workers had increased disproportionately, and why a struggle should be lodged to decrease this difference. And next he said, 襮 foreigners come to visit our country, they are most surprised to see that in the revolutionary union under the dictatorship of the proletariat the wage difference between skilled and unskilled labourers is so great that it is not seen even in the West European countries.é® the following years piece rate work was formally recognized by the government and the basis of wage differential was further extended. Secondly, work-norm was made higher in a unilateral way. Hence the wage of the workers who failed to produce according to the target was decreased. Up to this time, work-norm was decided according to the production of an average worker. In the period of alist competitioné´ began to be decided according to the productivity of the Stakhanovite worker or the shock-work team workers. The Stakhanovite movement, which stands as an ideal for the great socialist work initiative, also shields the history of oppression of many workers. Quite a great number of workers could not meet the work-norm. In 1938, 60% workers of the metal smelting department could not attain work-norm. In all the departments taken together, the percentage was 22 to 32 per cent. Not only was the endeavor to decrease the difference of wage shelved, but the wage difference started to increase very rapidly. After the rationing system was abolished in 1935, the plight of the workers surviving on low wage became very acute. There was no role of the Trade Unions in deciding as to what should be the wage for which work, which worker should be appointed where. Hence the Party, the State and the management started to decide the target in a one-sided way and also decide the policy to reach that target. The productivity increased, the density of work increased, but the real wage started to decline, the different problems of livelihood started to increase.

In such a situation, the workers had chosen the path of passive resistance by increasing the absenteeism, by reducing the amount of work or performing their work badly. But this path cannot make the workers a united block, instead this had made them even weaker. In long absence of any trade union movement among the workers, and a large exodus of peasants from the countryside made them like fish out of water. On top of it, the party workers view them with suspicion because of their 嬡k㯮nection in the past. As a result, the goal of increasing productivity that was set by the party and the state, these large sections of the masses had no contributions to make in the entire state of affairs. In the final analysis, the productivity indeed suffered.

Yet, this was the period when the industrialization was a grand success. The inherent contradiction of the socialist construction of the Soviet Union most probably assumed the most intense proportion in this sector. How the apparent success in the process of rapid industrialization in the 30殢sp; and following that how the seeds of the future catastrophes were being sown is a matter to ponder over.

In that era, the backdrop of socialist competition that was created by the party was by no means an illusory affair. A part of the workers had indeed responded to the call and established various legendary milestones which we have read in the contemporary soviet literature. Those who had responded to the call consisted of a bunch of skilled old-time workers. They were loyal to the party and obviously they were earning a higher wage. And there was a bunch of young and ambitious workers. These two sections of the work force were the ones who had mainly organized the Shock Brigades and the Stakhanovite movement. These movements, in the sphere of industrialization, gave rise to many a splendid results. At the same time, it created a deep fissure in the society, it created a division within the working class. The socialist competition had two contradictory bearings. On the one hand, it had its declared objective 㣯mradely helping hand be extended by the advanced workers to the less advanced ones so that it would lead to a collective progressϮ the other hand there emerged as an offshoot a trend of replacing a group of workers by another group of workers thereby increasing the work-norm. Since those who emerged as victorious in this competition received bonus and [extra] commodities, the difference of income of those who received these and those who did not, led to a social contradiction. Those who belonged to Shock Work team were found to be usually alienated from the common workers. The management persons or the administrative persons were usually recruited from among them; as a result the alienation would further increase.

Similarly, this same internal contradiction was intensely present within the Stakhanovite Movement as well. Shock-Work movement while increased the density of work, the Stakhanovite Movement has changed the production processes and production techniques per se, thereby registered an unbelievable increase in the production. The coal mine where this movement had started for the first time, had teams comprising 23 workers; after the initiation of the movement, teams of 10 workers were made and the production was increased from 250 ton per shift to 330 ton per shift. The per capita increase in productivity was 3 times as much. This spectacular increase in the production had created a sensation in the entire Soviet Union and in no time this movement was spread in other engineering sectors and in the textile sector. The most interesting thing was that this movement had widened division of labour. Before this movement, the skilled workers used to share some of the jobs meant for the unskilled workers. But after this movement, the unskilled workers were confined to perform the jobs meant only for them. Previously, the teams were composed of 18 skilled and 5 five unskilled workers; now instead of this composition, the teams were composed of 6 skilled workers and 5 unskilled workers. Quite a number of sectors witnessed a composition in which there was one skilled workers per dozen of unskilled workers. Since the unskilled workers earn less amount of wage, these changes increased the disparity in the wage of the workers. This movement was created by the workers themselves, the determinant factor was workers鮩tiatives, consistent with socialist ideology; yet as a result of this movement, the work-norm and the density of work had started increasing in such a manner that the Stakhavites became far removed from the masses of the workers, the internal contradiction among the workers started intensifying. On the one hand workersï·® organization, which was supposed to look after workersï·® demands – the trade union- was virtually dead, on the other, most of the workers resorted to passive resistance against the elevated work-norm and fighting against the administration and the management. In this social backdrop the Stakhanovite movement both increased the production as well as the alienation of the workers from the means of production. This increase in alienation was responsible for the fulfillment of only 59% of the target production in 1936, the year named as the ä¡«hanovite Year쯳pan>

In such an alienated environment, the over-dependence on the skilled work force, the establishment of å®´ral Institute of Labouré® order to impart specialized training to a few workers to separate them from the rest of the workers, providing extra facilities to minority of the work force ᬬ of these steps were going against the principles and the methods of socialist development. In this phase, the gap between those among the workers who were members of the Communist Party and those who were not started widening. The high-handedness and the ambitions of the party members had assumed such a proportion that in the year 1933-1934 many among the party members had to be expelled from the ranks of the party. The representation of the workers within the party started diminishing slowly. The degree of reduction of such representation in 1939 has become 50% more compared to the corresponding figure in 1932. The fact remains that during the peak period of the socialist reconstruction, the alienation of the working class with the party continued to increase. Another significant incident was that during this period, alcoholism among the workers assumed a dangerous proportion. This cannot be explained unless one assumes that the workers were not only alienated from the means of production, but also they were suffering from a kind of a social alienation as well. In the entire phase of transition from the capitalism to socialism, the mix of capitalist and the socialist components that are present in the socialist society and the task of destroying the capitalist components and strengthening the socialist components is a very difficult proposition and this has been aptly made clear by the discourse of the history of socialism in Soviet Union. The socialist society inevitably retains the determinant force of ïµ²geois rightï¦ distribution of produced commodities and the distribution of labour among the members of the society. Marx mentioned this aspect as a defect, but in the primary phase of the communism this defect was inevitable because the overthrow of capitalism does not mean that the people without any criterion of rights will engage themselves into any kind of work. Besides, the abolition of capitalism cannot instantly fulfil the economic conditions of these changes. Marx said that indulging in such a thought is just utopia. The more complicated aspect of it is that in this phase, the capitalism not only can survive but can also develop over a certain phase, as it has happened during the NEP period. That is why identifying the society as capitalist by identifying these capitalist features within the society is over-simplification. There is a reverse trend against this which is more dangerous. Unbridled capitalism sometimes are passed off as socialism with the argument that in socialism, capitalism exists. Capitalism can be developed from the viewpoint of capitalism; it can be developed from the point of view of socialism as well. Again, with socialist intentions, capitalism can be developed by mistake. This process is an exceedingly complex one; thus the role of ideology, political clarity, the dynamics of consciousness play the determinant role. Any kind of slackness, limitation of thought / consciousness, lack of far-sight can easily off-set all the good wishes and can generate the reverse process, a return from which is very difficult. Again, if one gives rise to a reverse trend consciously, then as and when the need be one can change the course since one holds the key to control the process. That the role played by ﮳ciousnessé® the entire phase of socialism is determinant can be understood from these lessons. The struggle for socialism, is in effect, the resolution of innumerable contradictions. In the primary phase of world revolution (the same phase is continuing till date), the resolution of these contradictions in favour of socialism is the most difficult task, because in this phase, the habits and psyche of the old society would be the strongest one. Small scale production and the capitalist encirclement provide the material basis to strengthen these habits. This is a new experiment in the history of mankind. As a result, the chance of committing a mistake in this experiment would be high. Soviet Union embarked upon such an endeavour for the first time and hence chances of making an error in the Soviet experiment was also high over there. The practices in the Stalin era in the Soviet Union should be viewed from these perspectives.

The assertion that it is the consciousness that plays the determinant role subsumes an inherent contradiction that the then Soviet Communist Party could not resolve. One of the causes of the catastrophe of the Soviet Union at a later time and the catastrophe of the world೯cialist movement in general lies in the absence of the resolution of this problem. If ﮳ciousness衳 to play the determinant role, it has to become the consciousness of the ᮧuard`section of the working class must be the bearer and become the vanguard having this consciousness. This vanguard section would be the á²´yÏ® the contrary, the socialist revolution overthrows the capitalist class to install the working class as a whole and not any fraction of the working class, not the party itself. This leads to a contradiction. The determinant role was played by the vanguards, in other words, by the party, though, at least theoretically, the working class is in power. The party started thinking that the class is backward, the class retains the peasant and the petty-bourgeois components. Hence it cannot view the entirety. Hence the party started to impose its vision on to the class. On the other hand, the class started thinking that its own party is now neglecting its own class interest. This contradiction has been there in the Soviet Union since the days of the NEP. The trade unions or the Soviets were representing the interests of the workers and the managers implemented official policies of the state. One went against the other. The struggle became inevitable. This problem has become very acute in the decade of 1930. The vanguard of the workers thought that those backward section of the workers, who could not appreciate the necessity of the workersã´¡te, were fundamentally å´´y-bourgeoisï² å¡³antÂ¥cause had they been true workers (that is, had they been vanguards) they would have understood the imperatives of the moments. Hence if they were strengthened by means of trade unions and other channels, that would further the interests of the capitalism. Thus the activities of the trade unions were thwarted. As a reaction to that, the class became alienated from the party one again. This problem could not be solved in a proper fashion; it was thus decided in an implicit way in the history of socialism that the 졳sᮤ its ᮧuard鮥., the á²´y祲e one and the same. Thus the power held by the party was identified with the power held by the class. And hence for this reason, the soviets, the own power center for the class became superfluous, the class lost any of its independent organizations, party became the determinant of everything.

This situation gave birth to many crises. As the class failed to organize themselves into their own organization, hence it did not have an organized matrix, the class became numerous isolated entities. The party turned out to be divorced from the class, above the class, an organization outside the ambit of the class. The result was as it was expected to be. The ideological foundation of the Communist Party lays the foundation of the working class as a class and ensures that it derives its sustenance from the continuous struggle of the class. Thus a party, divorced from the class inevitably receives the favourable objective condition for inclining towards the bourgeois class. This process had started in the Stalin era. This was completed with Khrushchev and in the later days. Secondly, as the party was divorced from its class, hence the state and the means of production, run by the party was also divorced from the class. In the capitalist system, the worker is alienated from the means of production owned by the capitalists, the worker has no right to decide about the production process and distribution; and in the Soviet Union, the workers were alienated from the state-owned means of production. This situation had arisen because of the alienation of the workers from the party. And the contradiction between the vanguard and backwards had not been resolved successfully and thus the problem persisted. Thirdly, this situation gave rise to another serious self-contradiction. The working class is disorganized, the workers㯶iets were wound up, even the trade unions non-functioning, but in such a situation it was asserted that the form of the political power of the working class was the 飴atorship of the working classɮ the political literature of the Soviet Union, it was never mentioned that the 飴atorship of the working class篵ld be operationalised through the Ჴy dictatorshipɴ was never mentioned that the dictatorship of the working class and the dictatorship of the party is one and the same. But the contrary was asserted with all emphasis. Apart from the first few years of the October revolution when the Soviets were alive, despite repeated declaration of the dictatorship of the workers, we have never seen this form of the dictatorship. And if the dictatorship of the proletariat has not taken its shape, how could the democracy for the majority be established? Was it not that the failure to establish dictatorship of the workers from the 1930s contained the seeds of the party bureaucracy that had grabbed the Soviet Union in the later years?

Similarly, the contradiction between the existence of the state and its withering away could not be resolved by the then Soviet Union. Lenin had shown in his book, 䨥 state and Revolutionp; that more a state become democratic, more the situation would be conducive for its é´¨ering awayɦ the dictatorship of the workers does not take its shape, then that state can never offer democracy to its majority citizens. Because if the class does not have its center of political power, it would be impossible for it to become armed for protecting the state which provides democracy to the majority and to impose ï®´rolï® to the production and its distribution as well as to keep an 㣯untï¦ the labour and the commodity produced by the labour. If that be the case, then the bureaucratization and the centralism of the state would be increased, as a result instead of state getting withered away, the state would be strengthened as is the case in any capitalist system. The contradiction between the planned economy and the decentralization of the economic power remained unresolved as there was no class organization of its own. Unless there is a decentratisation of the economic power, the gap between the countryside and the cities cannot be reduced. Unless the capitalist curse of division of labour is dispensed with, the difference between the physical and mental labour cannot be reduced. Through the description of the experience of the Soviet Union during the 30s, we have seen how the failures in these sectors had also occurred.

ニューバランス スニーカー

The failure to a comprehensive resolution of interrelation between the party and the class and the absence of the development of their own class organization, there was a major gap in the experiments in the Soviet socialism since 1930s. We have already mentioned that if there is one signature specifica of the socialism, then it is the gradual termination of the alienation between the direct producers and the means of production. From the historical materialist point of view, this has a deep significance. The origin of the irreconcilable crisis of the capitalist production system is the contradiction between the socialization of the production and the expropriation of the means of production by the individual owners. The socialist revolution removes this crisis by establishing the social ownership over the means of production. Thus, the proper liberation from the capitalist production system lies in the establishment of the social ownership. And the fundamental key to social ownership lies with the degree to which the direct producers are able to control the production and distribution process. The extent to which the socialist practices are able to achieve this aspect, the success of the socialism will be achieved to that extent; on the contrary, the degree to which the socialist practice fails to achieve these aspects, the success of the capitalism would be attained to that extent. As socialist ownership is literally the ownership of the direct producers, hence no party or its supreme well-wisher state on behalf of the direct producers is able to take that ownership. The extent to which this happens, the direct producers in effect, would be deprived of its ownership and in a deeper sense of the term, the capitalism will take its place. The dictatorship of the workers is that political embodiment through which not the party, but the whole class can establish its hegemony and on the basis of that strength it exercises control over the production and the distribution process. The dictatorship of the working class is that political form whose continuous development would establish the socialist ownership, as opposed to private or group ownership. We have noticed that the most glorious period of the struggle for socialism in the Soviet Russia, namely during the 30s, the class was alienated from the production process, the class organization started becoming weakened and the concept of dictatorship of the workers had been reduced to mere words.

The practice of socialism is a unique and unprecedented experiment in the history of mankind. Though many an old practice will remain at this stage, the determinant practice would be the introduction of the new. Because for the first time in the human history, a new system would begin in which the power to exploit has not been transferred to another exploiting class; a new exploitation-free system had been established. For the first time a system began when the ownership of the means of production no longer remained at the private hand, but taken a course to become ally owned殢sp; Now all these é²³tsà´¨e beginning of all these å· features੦ they are to be successfully implemented would require extraordinary cautionary measures. Though these cautionary measures are fundamentally ideological in nature, but they should be expanded to the political, cultural and organization spheres. It is such a course of a social system in which the å­¯cracy篵ld be extended to such a degree that the å­¯cracy篵ld finally wither away. The various classes of the society will wither away, the difference between the mental and the physical work will be terminated. Men, at last marks of their own mode of social organization, consequently become at the same time masters of nature, masters of themselves- free.è…®gels).

ニューバランス 1300

In the social system where the programme of mankind is such, the interrelation of the advanced thinking and the backward thinking, the interrelation between the class and the party, the interrelation between the party organization and the class organization must all be looked into from a fresh and a new viewpoint. In all the previous social systems, consistent with the prevailing systems, the power had been concentrated continually to only groups ie, parties representing the class. That class had grabbed the power disregarding the class itself (fascism, in effect, had divided its class). All these were rather natural, because all these systems were (and are) based on private ownership and hence they are exploitative, master-centric, clannish and with centric tendency. But the charter of the socialism is exactly the opposite and thus its course must be towards an opposite direction.

Thus in socialism the ᮧuard穬l have to realize that its vanguardism is a historical objectivity on the one hand, on the other, the organic program of the vanguard would be to eliminate the difference between the vanguard and the backward; in other words, the vanguard must continuously diminish its very existence. Though in the human history, the role of the vanguard would remain for quite some time to come, yet the conscious effort to initiate the process to reduce this difference and the role of the vanguard to be limited only to the 䥯logical leadership�t be continued in an uninterrupted manner. The organizational form of this would be to reduce the importance of the party and continuous increase of importance of the role of its own class organization. The continuous development of the political-organisational form of the dictatorship of the working class must be consistent with it, because it will decide whether the democracy of the majority will be extended or not, whether the proper social ownership will be established over the means of production or not, whether the direct producers will have real control over the production process or not. On the contrary, the extent to which the difference between the vanguard and the backward will remain within the society, the extent to which the Ჴyﲧanization of the vanguards would be more powerful than the organization of the backwards, the extent to which the continuous assumption of power by the class will be thwarted, exactly to that extent in all social activities the party will come to the determinant position and the alienation of the class from the means of production will be increased. The concept of social ownership will become a mere word, the party and the class will move away from one another, the ownership of the state would no longer be treated as the ownership of the class. And party will become a group, de-linked from the class; the capitalist ideology will have an easy breeding ground in such a group.

The Soviet Union has been drawn into this problem since 1930s. If we have to learn a lesson from the past in order to build socialism in future, then we have to understand the Soviet experiment in an objective manner. Blind hate or unconditional loyalty- both of these are detrimental to learning process.

In the history of the world, Stalin established an unprecedented new order in a unique situation; if one cannot appreciate pressure of the circumsances, the historical compulsions it had, one can easily dub Stalin as a å­¯nÔ¨e Capitalist intellectuals are doing just that for their own class interest. But it is rather unfortunate that many a leftist intellectual is also doing the same thing owing to their one-dimensional viewpoint. As a result the forces which are against socialism are strengthened. On the other hand, in our country, the leftist movements view this Stalin era with a nostalgia charged with emotion that any attempt to understand and analyse it with a critical attitude is usually treated as a heresy. The time has now come when we have to defeat these two wrong trends to understand with ruthless objectivity that the glorious effort of Stalin to establish socialism had carried seed to destroy socialism, that the absence of a deep discourse of the ideological problem led to the thwarting of the development of working class as a class, despite the fact there was no dearth of good will towards the working class; that despite the continuous declaration of the dictatorship of the working class, the political-organisational form of it was getting abolished and finally despite the abolition of the private ownership, the direct producers were deprived of assuming their ownership. We have to understand with right earnest, that the Khrushchovs do not emerge from the blue. If we can identify the path they tread, then only we can advance a step further to resist their re-emergence.

The extreme catastrophe of the socialism might be laying the foundation of a more powerful reconstruction of the socialism.

 

References were collected mainly from the following books:

ニューバランス ランニングシューズ

Soviet Economic Development Since 1917 – Maurice Dobb, 1957, Class Struggle in the USSR 䨩rd Period 㨡rles Bettleheim, Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR �tin Nicolaus, History of the C.P.S.U. (B). CPSU, Stalin Era – Anna Louise Strong, Soviet Russia 䨥 Problems of Economics and Ideology (in Bengali) ᢨijit Lahiri

 

 

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