This is the translation of 소련 붕괴에 대한 맑스주의적 분석
Marxist Analysis on the Collapse of the Soviet Union
On May 17, 2015, at the “Marx Communale” symposium at Sungkonghoe University, the Bolshevik Group held a discussion on “A Marxist Analysis of the Collapse of the Soviet Union.”
This article is a slightly expanded version of the paper presented at that discussion.
Since our last presentation and the publication of “Has Socialism Failed?”, the debate over the nature of Soviet society has been rekindled by the expressions of views by Workers’ Solidary, Pak Noja, Association of Workers’ Politics and others. The recent interest in the social characteristic of the USSR is very welcoming, as “the USSR was humanity’s greatest historical experiment, and only by scientifically analyzing the data left by this experiment can we correctly set the course for socialism and overcome the defeatist attitude towards socialism within the working class.”
1. From Russian Revolution to Collapse
2. Life of People in the Eastern European and the USSR, Before and After the Collapse
4. Meaning of the USSR and the Correct Position of the Working Class
5. Stalinism and the Theory of State Capitalism
1. From Russian Revolution to Collapse
October 25, 1917
Russian Revolution: Establishment of Workers’ Power & Abolishment of Private Ownership
Foundation of Comintern
War for Defense of Revolution against imperialist & domestic bourgeoisie
Failures of revolution in Italy, Germany, etc. (Luxemberg, Liebknecht murdered)
Uprising failed in Germany
Anti-Trotsky Troika led by Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev formed
Death of Lenin
13th Congress of the Russian Communist Party:
1)Trotsky ousted from his position
2)Left Opposition formed
United Kingdom General Strike: 1)Betrayal of Trades Union Congress(TUC)
2)Anglo-Russian Committee provides left-wing guise for TUC
Membership Figures: 470,000 -> 1,070,000
Portion of Party Members who had membership in 1917: under 1%
Chinese Revolution: Chinese Communist Party(CCP) merger to Kuomintang (Popular Front) Massacre of Chiang Kai-shek
Anti-Stalin United Opposition led by Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev formed
Leaders of United Opposition expelled from the party, Zinoviev & Kamenev surrender to Stalin
Collectivization of Agriculture
Third Period: Ultra-Leftist policies raised & theory of “Social Fascism”
Three times of Moscow Trials in a row, sparked by Assassination of Sergei Kirov
-Only Stalin, among members of Lenin’s central committee, survived
-98 among 139 central committee members of 17th Congress of the All-Union Communist Party in 1934 were shot
-1,108 among 1,966 delegates of 17th Congress were purged
Adolf Hitler’s rise to power
Left Opposition declares Bankruptcy of Comintern
France escapes revolutionary situation by utilizing Popular Front
Publish of “The Revolution Betrayed”, an analyzation of Soviet Union’s degeneration
Spanish Revolution: Popular Front Policy & Francisco Franco’s rise to power
Fourth International found in 1938
“The Transitional Program” adopted
Beginning of World War II
August 21, 1940
Trotsky murdered by Stalin’s assassin at his place of exile in Mexico
German invades Soviet Union
Dissolution of Comintern
Establishment of a number of workers’ states(Eastern Europe & North Korea): Transplant of Soviet system in the regions where German & Japanese imperialism were defeated
Soviet victories in Western Front (Germany) & Southern Front (Japan)
CCP triumphs in Chinese Civil War
Death of Stalin
Khrushchev speeches “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences” at 20th Party Congress
Sino-Soviet split, ignited by demotion of Stalin
Mao Zedong claims Soviet Union a State Capitalism
Fall of Khrushchev, Rise of Brezhnev
Indonesian Revolution falls due to the Popular Front
Suharto’s rise to power, massacre follows
Internal contradictions deepen, economic stagnation ensues
Prague Spring in Czech
Vietnam Socialist Republic established
Chilean Revolution fails due to the Popular Front
Augusto Pinochet’s rise to power, massacre including murder of Allende follows
“Solidarność” led by Lech Wałęsa launched in Poland
Mikhail Gorbachev initiates Perestroika & Glasnost
Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan
Renunciation of Brezhnev Doctrine & Declaration of Soviet non-interference in Eastern Europe
“Solidarność” legalized in Poland & rise to power in 1990
Fall of the Berlin Wall & Christian Democratic Union rise to power in 1990
Execution of Nicolae Ceaușescu & National Salvation Front rise to power
Failure of coup led by State Committee on the State of Emergency
Boris Yeltsin’s rise to power
Destruction of State Ownership
Five processes to catch from the last 100 year history of revolution
1) After 1924, revolutionary forces were castrated and the bureaucracy seized power in the Soviet Union and the hegemony of the international revolutionary movement.
2) The defeat of revolutionary movements in China, Britain, Germany, France, Spain, India, Chile, and elsewhere due to Stalinist lines(Popular Front or ultra-leftism).
3) Anti-imperialist national liberation movements in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Vietnam, and elsewhere combine with the achievements of the workers’ revolution represented by the Soviet Union and proceed to eliminate private ownership.
4) From Left Opposition to the founding of the Fourth International, degeneration of the workers’ state, which is an unprecedented phenomenon, was scientifically explained and Marxist-Leninist revolutionary tradition defended against bureaucracy and various opportunism.
5) The collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
The core task of those who seized power after the fall of the old regime: ‘Privatization’
Composition of Reactionary Forces: Imperialist Finance Capital(U.S. Germany, etc.), Indigenous Subordinate Partners(Yeltsin, Wałęsa etc.) pushing for return to capitalism, Capitalist Social Climbers(a portion of old bureaucracy, etc.)
Dismantling Nationalized Property: Making private ownership the dominant system & Rapid privatization to make return of “socialist” system impossible.
Establishment of agencies pushing privatization, such as State Committee for State Property Management or Ministry of State Property.
Key Role of the IMF: Before the collapse, Poland and Hungary borrowed money from IMF and most of Eastern European countries did so after 1990. Loans with strings attached to implementing certain policies agreed upon with the IMF, such as “Price Liberalization, Trade Liberalization, Privatization, and Fiscal Reform” (IMF programs, “Structural Adjustment”)
Harvard professor Jeffrey Sachs: Godfather of privatization (led IMF restructuring of Latin America in the 1980s, Eastern Europe in the early 90s, and the Soviet Union after 1991)
Jin Seung-Kwon's description of the nature of privatization in Eastern Europe in the 1990s
[Jin's diagnosis is that the changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s were “social revolutions” that were “comparable to the radical social transformations in Russia after the 1917 Communist Revolution and in Eastern European countries after World War II.” This is a far cry from the diagnosis of the state-capitalists, such as Jung Sung-jin or Workers’ Solidarity, that the social changes in the early 1990s were “no big deal”, “a step sideways from state-capitalism to private capitalism” and “not different from the shock of IMF restructuring.”]
“Reform of Eastern European system in the 1990s was a massive undertaking, comparable to the radical social transformation of Russia after the Communist Revolution of 1917 and the Eastern European countries after World War II.”—The Political Economy of Post-Socialist Economic Reform in Eastern Europe
“The privatization of state enterprises in Eastern Europe was very different from the privatization of public enterprises in Western and developing countries which are based on market economies. First of all, the privatization of state-owned enterprises that was planned in the Czech, Poland, Hungary, and other Eastern European countries at the beginning of the economic reforms was on a scale unparalleled in any other cases in the West.”—Ibid.
In 1990, the number of state enterprises Poland 4,500 Hungary 2,200 decided to privatize 50% within five years
Two Types of Privatization
a. Lucrative enterprises: Sold to Foreign Capital
b. Unprofitable enterprises: Free Distribution of shares (in form of vouchers) to employees of those companies, “In any case, the form of nationalization should be minimized!”
Comparison to privatization in Korea under IMF rule: By 2004, Korea Telecom, Korea Tobacco & Ginseng Corporation, Pohang Iron and Steel Co., Ltd, Korea National Textbook Inc., Korea Technology Banking, Daehan Oil Pipeline Corporation, Korea Integrated Chemical Inc., Korea Exchange Bank, and Korea First Bank were privatized, resulting in the highest suicide rate and lowest birth rate among the OECD countries. This gives us an idea of the scourge that befell the people of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
2. Life of People in the Eastern European and the USSR, Before and After the Collapse
Before the Collapse
“Basic necessities such as job security, food, housing, and transportation are made available to the population at affordable prices through state subsidies, as are health care and education.” -The Political Economy of Post-Socialist Economic Reform in Eastern Europe, Jin Seung-Kwon
“Full employment, economic security, even at low levels, and “cradle-to-grave” social welfare.”
“Levels of income inequality: highest income in the USSR in the mid-1960s: 300 times of minimum income, 100 times of average wage/ Contemporary US 11,000 times average wage”
“Eastern Europe’s Gini Coefficient in the 1970s was Half that of Western Industrialized Countries”
“There is no doubt that it was a society that successfully achieved a much higher level of economic equality than capitalist countries, if not a classless society.”
“A social welfare system that guarantees basic education, healthcare, housing, and job security to all citizens, and provides basic household goods and services and equal distribution of income.”
“Russia: A Capitalist Dystopia”
Politics & Economics of Counterrevolution
The UNDP’s 1999 study observed: [First, it’s important to note that this is a study conducted by the United Nations, not anyone else. Then compare the words “high degree of basic security”, “full, lifetime employment”, “food security …… adequately clothed and housed”, “free guaranteed access to education and health” and “assured pensions when they retired” to our living conditions in South Korea in 2015.]
“Before the 1990s, countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS were notable for providing their populations with a high degree of basic security....People’s right to full, lifetime employment was guaranteed. Although cash incomes were low, they were stable and secure. Many basic consumption goods and services were subsidized and regularly supplied. People had food security and were adequately clothed and housed. They had free guaranteed access to education and health. They were assured pensions when they retired and regularly benefited from many other forms of social protection.”
Mikhail Friedman, an “oligarch” described by Freeland as “one of the biggest winners in the capitalist casino,” certainly recognizes the qualitative change since 1991, and even evinces a certain nostalgia for the old days:
“My life was very carefree, just as life was for everyone in the Soviet Union....Materially, of course, people did not live very well, but no one had to worry about anything. The main thing, what was really intense, was friends, spiritual interests, books. The relations between people were far more open. People did not compete. There was not the same disproportion or envy. People today are far more stressed.” —Freeland, op cit
After the Collapse
Russia’s demographic problems: population plummeted from 148 million in 1991 to 142 million in 2006; 36 suicides per 100,000 (2005/ South Korea in 2003: 33, tops in OECD); 100,000 more abortions than newborns (2005); 2.1 million abortions per year; number of drug addicts has increased more than 20-fold in the last decade; number of tuberculosis patients jumped from 42 per 100,000 in 1985 to 91.5 in 2000.
Unemployment rates in Eastern European countries(%)
Source: Crane(1995: 39).
Changes in wage, income, consumption of three Central European countries (1989)
Average real wages
Average real wages
Average real wages
Source: Adam(1999: 106).
Consumer price inflation in former socialist countries in Eastern Europe
Source: Crane(1995: 40), Slay(2000: 51).
In 1993, Ukraine's inflation rate was over 5,000%. The lowest inflation rate that year was 21% in the Czech Republic. That was enough to cause riots.
Survey of GALLUP: “Former Soviet Countries See More Harm From Breakup”
“Reflecting back on the breakup of the Soviet Union that happened 22 years ago next week, residents in seven out of 11 countries that were part of the union are more likely to believe its collapse harmed their countries than benefited them.…Overall, residents of these former Soviet republics are more than twice as likely to say the breakup hurt (51%) than benefited their countries (24%).”—GALLUP Dec 19
Russia: A Capitalist Dystopia [Please read carefully. The resurgence of capitalism had been a gateway to hell and a Pandora’s box, but from what height are those who assessed it as “a step sideways” observing events taking place on earth?]
Under capitalism life is both nastier and shorter. Between 1991 and 1995 life expectancy for Russian males dropped precipitously—from 63 to 58 years. The rate of population growth fell from 2.4 percent in 1990 to negative 5.4 percent by 1996. (This figure does not reflect the millions of skilled young people who emigrated in this period.)
The near collapse of public healthcare (currently budgeted at a meagre one percent of GDP, a level found only in the poorest neo-colonies) has led to a resurgence of tuberculosis and other communicable diseases that had previously been brought under control:
“Many of the diseases that are re-emerging could be contained by standard immunization programs. For example, polio cases, now rare in industrialized western countries, have begun to re-appear....”—UNDP, op cit
Between 1989 and 1995, the number of AIDS cases soared, while syphilis rates went up 40-fold:
The destruction of the planned economy deprived millions of working people of the ability to feed themselves and their families. This led to an increase in every sort of social pathology from drug abuse to wife beating. Between 1991 and 1995, the number of suicides almost doubled and homicide rates increased dramatically:
“Under-employed young men took to advertising their eagerness to become assassins in the classified ads, using the blunt code phrase ‘willing to take on any dangerous work for a high fee’. Petty criminals began to murder for pathetically small trophies: real-estate shysters killed gullible pensioners in order to inherit their apartments; one crime ring, posing as a car-repair shop, killed and dismembered owners just to steal their vehicles.”—Freeland, op cit
The impact of Russia’s social counterrevolution hit the disabled, pensioners, children and women particularly hard. The ideological bias of the authors of the UNDP report are evident in their apparent amazement that:
“the advent of more democratic [i.e., capitalist] regimes has led paradoxically to lower percentages of women in [positions of authority]. Women have found themselves progressively pushed out of public life. Simultaneously, their access to paid employment has declined and their total work burden both within the household and outside it has increased.…“Violence against women has been on the rise with physical abuse from spouses...and a rising number of women becoming victims of crime. Also, many women who have been desperate to find employment and a better life have found themselves forced into prostitution...by organized crime networks.”
Freeland cites an infamous survey from the early 1990s which reported that “hard currency prostitute” was the top career choice for female students at Moscow State University, Russia’s equivalent of Harvard or Oxford.
Capitalist restoration is estimated to have created more Russian orphans than World War II. According to a 1 June 2001 BBC News Report, in Russia today:
“More than 2.5 million children live on the streets—many of them abandoned by parents who can no longer afford to bring them up.”
The BBC also mentioned that:
“Nearly all Russian children suffer from one or more chronic diseases by the time they leave school and many are on the way to alcoholism, according to a report published by Russia’s Ministry of Health.…Only one child in 10, it says, can be considered healthy by the age of 17.”
The UNDP report provides the following summary of the results of capitalist restoration:
“There is no longer any secure entitlement to a decent education, a healthy life or adequate nutrition. With rising mortality rates and new and potentially devastating epidemics on the horizon, life itself is increasingly at risk.”…“The ‘transition’ in most of the countries in the former Soviet bloc...is a euphemistic term for what in reality has been a Great Depression. The extent of the collapse in output and the skyrocketing nature of inflation have been historically unprecedented. The consequences for human security have been calamitous. By conservative estimates, over 100 million people have been thrown into poverty, and considerably more hover precariously just above subsistence.”
Contrary to the rosy prognostications of free-market utopians, Russia’s parvenu bourgeoisie has shown remarkably little interest in retooling, introducing new efficiencies or expanding production:
“The only people prospering in the New Russia seemed to be a narrow layer of the super-rich....Its fortunes were not based on new technologies, more efficient services or more productive factories. Instead, they were built by capturing pieces of the collapsing Soviet state: the country’s oilfields and nickel mines, its television channels and export permits and even the government’s bank accounts. And once Russia’s home-grown capitalist conquistadors had secured their loot, they whisked it away to safer havens abroad as quickly as they could. Between 1991 and 1999, experts estimated that between $100bn and $150bn in flight capital left Russia.
“Russia had created a market economy, but of a distorted kind. With its ten-year economic depression, dying and increasingly deprived underclass and extravagant and parasitic elite, Russia had become a kind of capitalist dystopia, a Soviet ideologue’s lurid fantasy of life in what used to be called the ‘rotting West’.” —Freeland, op cit
Collapse of one of the key pillars of the proletarian camp → radical shift in global labor and capital relations
Prevalence of ideological defeatism: number of socialists plunge, Trade Unionism spreads, social science publishers/bookstores shrink & publications out of print
Neocolonial wars of aggression: Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine
Explicit plunder of the Third World: South America, East Asia, South Korea, etc., imposing IMF policies (structural adjustment, flexibilization of labor market, privatization of state-owned enterprises, welfare cuts)
On the other hand, for imperialist finance capital like the US, it was an unprecedented ride. [The phrase “Unification Bonanza” is not for nothing. Capitalist unification (of Korea) has proven to be a “Bonanza” for the capitalist class, including imperialist finance capital. On the other hand, for the working class, it is not only a disadvantage, but also a bankruptcy. Therefore, “all kinds of unification is good” is false.]
The historic boom in the US came after World War I, after World War II, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“In the 24 years since reunification(1990), BMW’s stock price has risen 1,000% and Volkswagen’s 530%.”—Chosun Ilbo, 25 March 2014, Unification is the future: BMW stock price jumped ten times…Germany avoided economic senescence like Japan
1) Poor productivity:
“The lowest stage of Communism”, to employ the term of Marx, begins at that level to which the most advanced capitalism has drawn near. -Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed
“A development of the productive forces is the absolutely necessary practical premise [of Communism], because without it want is generalized, and with want the struggle for necessities begins again, and that means that all the old crap must revive.”—Marx cited from The Revolution Betrayed
Thus, in the realm of “abstract theory,” “the lowest stage of communism” begins at “that level to which the most advanced capitalism has drawn near.” But “concrete, real-world history” was not so kind. The countries that broke the capitalist chain - Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, North Korea, China, Cuba, and Vietnam - were all regions that barely reached the level of capitalism. As a result, “the struggle for necessities” began again and “all the old crap” revived. This is a formidable historical background for the formation and consolidation of bureaucracy and for the fact that, despite the overthrow of the bourgeois state, the state did not disappear, but rather grew bigger. [Those were weak links of global capitalist system. De-capitalist revolutions took place at a time when imperialists upholding global capitalism were weakened and in regions where their power was weak. b. The initial society formed by the socialist revolution is said to be a society in which private ownership of the means of production disappears, but uneven distribution is still preserved. Therefore, it is a society that needs the organization of violence to enforce uneven distribution. In the Marxist tradition, this is called a “bourgeois society, without the bourgeoisie.” Those backward countries, however, were backward societies without bourgeoisie, but with severe uneven distribution, which was the thing that “needed more than two generations to be overcome”(Lenin).]
The contradictions of the “de-capitalzied”(socialist) countries in history, while different from those of the global or advanced capitalist countries, were just as serious and had to be addressed sooner or later. Here's how they look.
Degenerated/Deformed Workers’ State
over-capitalist level of Productive Forces VS
Capitalist Relations of Production (Private Ownership)
pre-capitalist level of Productive Forces VS
Socialist Relations of Production
This contradiction make “de-capitalzied”(socialist) countries impossible to uproot elements, hiding within the system, that eager to get back to bourgeois society. Gradually, those grow bigger enough to threaten the workers’ state itself, and eventually lead to a restoration of capitalism, as we saw in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
2) Advent and Rise of Bureaucracy(Seize of Power and Hypertrophy):
It was a society where revolutionary forces were castrated, workers’ democracy was destroyed, and the “creativity and independence” of the working people were excluded and even suppressed. Moreover, it was a society that operated unpredictably, illogically, and capriciously. Under these conditions, political disillusion and cynicism spread among the working class, and loyalty to society declined inexorably.
Background of its emergence and persistence
1. The loss of advanced section of working class and the rise of backward workers in the course of a civil war [For a deeper understanding on this issue, read “Lenin's Fight Against Stalin”]
2. Prevalence of demoralization and defeatism among Russian working class due to failure of revolutions in advanced capitalist countries of Western Europe & Problem of productive forces unsolved
3. Backwardness of productive forces and resulting uneven distribution: the formation of privileged stratum
4. International class struggle: the hostility of capitalist states led by imperialist states push the defense of the system to a top priority
5. Inadequate recognition and response of revolutionary vanguards such as Trotsky in the early days of the formation of bureaucracy
3) Failure of subsequent revolutions in the developed countries:
It was the most revolutionary solution that could stimulate the revolutionary forces of the working class in the existing workers’ states, drive them to overthrow the bureaucracy, positively change the international class dynamic to provide impetus for proletarian revolution, and raise productive forces. [Productive forces are largely determined by the level of science and technology, and this is not something that can be solved by militancy or endeavor. The share of high-quality science and technology through revolutions in advanced capitalist countries is the most promising way to solve the problem, and since that didn’t work, the movements mobilizing entire productive forces of society along with idolizing willpower occurred (Stakhanovite Movement, Great Leap Forward, Chollima Movement, etc.), but Eventually it didn’t work, so the most dangerous method, “the import of advanced capital through market opening”, was introduced.] It is the most fundamental factor.
4) Arms race against imperialist countries:
Just as all the feudal reactionaries in Europe united against France for overthrowing the feudal system, the Soviet Union for abolishing private ownership was the arch-enemy of all the imperialist countries. Direct and indirect military hostilities ensued. After the Second World War, the leader of the imperialist camp was the United States, whose finance capital colonized most of the world and siphoned off its excess profits, which is why it could and must spend the world’s highest defense budget. Nevertheless, a backward Russia managed to roughly achieve military equilibrium with the United States in the three to four decades after the revolution.
And it is significant that this balance was achieved without the feast of excess profits siphoned off from the colonies. This was only possible because private ownership was abolished in those countries and the profit margin was eliminated. But on the other hand, this constant military tension forced a huge portion of social goods to be devoted to the maintenance of military power, which was an obstacle to the enrichment of the people’s standard of living.
Factors of 1)~4) exacerbate the following conditions
1) Increased propensity for private ownership:
Characteristic of bureaucracy is inherently twofold: they parasitize on state ownership and undermine it at the same time. The system of state ownership is the source of their privilege, but it is also the limit that restricts their privilege. As a result, part of the bureaucracy is inclined to perpetuate its privileges, away from the instable and capricious circumstances (which the one can be dragged down at a moment’s notice and shot, leaving all those riches and honor behind). So they seek (consciously or not) a system where privilege can be inherited, a system of private ownership.
2) Deterioration of the working class:
Meanwhile, defeatism among the working class is widespread due to the prolonged rule and oppression of the bureaucracy. Cynicism about revolutionary ideas is intensified by the bureaucracy’s pretension on Marxism-Leninism. As a result, loyalty to the state-owned system and the willingness to defend it decreases. Under this circumstance, it is difficult for working class to recognize that the state-owned system belongs to them. On the other hand, the illusion of the high quality of culture and consumer goods in advanced capitalist countries can lead to political disarmament.
These factors continue to accumulate and intensify at the bottom of society. The energy for social change that had been building up due to internal contradictions eventually exploded like an earthquake during the 1989~91 period. The very foundation of society that had seemed stable vehemently staggered and precariously constructed state apparatus crumbled. Due to the long and harsh repression, there was no working class organized around alternative ideas. There were no forces to deter the intervention of imperialist finance capital and the internal forces inclined toward capitalism. Thus, the collapsing society tilted toward capitalism, and some debris of the former state were recycled in the construction of a new (capitalist) country. [State capitalists might argue that “the new building is same as the old one” because some parts of the old structure were used to construct the new one, like: “Yeltsin, Putin, etc. were former top Communist Party officials, so the system before and after 1991 is essentially the same.” By the same logic, one might argue that South Korea is a feudal society. This is because the mainstream of the South Korean ruling class can trace its roots back to American pawns, which had been Japanese stooges just before its fall, which stems mainly from feudal aristocrats of Joseon dynasty. Since the Joseon era, the mainstream of the South Korean ruling class has never been fundamentally overthrown, therefore its personal connections were never harmed, even though it has experienced crises such as the Donghak Peasants’ Uprising, the Japanese Annexation of Korea, the Fall of Japan and the April Revolution. So, is South Korea a feudal society ruled by aristocrats? Marxism takes the ownership of the means of production as the basis of social analysis. However, state capitalists use human connections as the basis for social analysis.]
4. Meaning of the USSR and the Correct Position of the Working Class
Social characteristic of USSR
“The degenerated workers’ state”: A society mixed of positives and negatives: to be defended and overthrown at the same time.
1) Established through a proletarian revolution: A system found by workers’ vanguard Bolshevik Party that led an armed uprising to vanquish capitalism and set up workers’ democracy (in form of the Soviet)
2) Elimination of private ownership: Nationalization of industry after 1918, collectivization of agriculture after 1928 [Contrary to Jin Seung-kwon’s chart, the Workers’ Solidarity argues that “many major industrial enterprises in the West were also state-owned and state-managed. These capitalist state-owned enterprises still account for one-third of market-oriented economies, including the United States and the United Kingdom.”(Kim Young-ik, “Is Professor Park Noja slipping into factional logic?”, May 25, 2015) While this is a far cry from Soviet Eastern Europe, the “one-third” figure for the US and UK is hard to believe. We would like to hear the basis for this claim.]
Comparison of Public Sector Share Between Different Economic Systems
Share of Public Sector(%)
The Political Economy of Post-Socialist Economic Reform in Eastern Europe
3) Rapid growth of productive forces and rapid expansion of people’s welfare: This is what we described earlier. This was almost entirely due to the fact that the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was a system based on the “2) abolition of private ownership.”
4) Bureaucratically degenerated state: After 1924, an opportunistic bureaucracy seized power under the “tolerance” of backward section of working class, along with the castration of revolutionaries and advanced section. The ensuing purges were a process of consolidation of monopolistic power by a faction of the bureaucracy that had won the power struggle. Therefore, workers’ democracy was paralyzed and the Soviet was formalized. [The present Hyundai Motor Trade Union and Korean Metal Worker’s Union are “miniature bureaucratic system” that offer a glimpse into the dynamics of how bureaucracy emerge and persist.]
5) Weakening of the role as a headquarter or a military logistics base of international struggle of working class: The bureaucracy, driven into political panic by fear of imperialist aggression, begins to immerse itself in myopic self-defense. Abandoned internationalism in favor of “Socialism in one country.” It forced working class struggles around the world to be limited to “democratic” struggles which aid “capitalists friendly” to Soviet Union, rise of to power. It was expressed as the “Popular Front” policy. Its unscientific understanding of fascism led to the ultra-leftist theory of “Social Fascism” that helped Hitler’s rise to power. Instead of Marxist science, panicked bureaucracy became the “international leadership.” As a result, the international revolutionary line zigzagged, depending on the circumstances, causing defeats in the decisive battlefields of the class struggle in China, Germany, France, and Spain. Then, in the midst of World War II, the Comintern was dissolved as a “guarantee” to the Allied Power.
The Position of Working class toward Degenerated/Deformed Workers’ States such as the USSR:
1) Stubborn opposition to imperialist aggression and capitalist counterrevolution & Defense of the workers’ state
2) Overthrow bureaucracy that turn the objective interests of the working class into a means of maintaining their own private privileges & Establish a revolutionary government: Three Principles of Political Revolution: Defense of the Nationalized Economic System / Workers’ Democracy(Soviet) / Internationalism
5. Stalinism and the Theory of State Capitalism
Stalinism: Equate the bureaucracy with the state. Insist that “Overthrowing Stalin is collaborating with the Nazis; overthrowing the bureaucracy is a counter-revolutionary slogan.”
The reason why we call for the overthrow of bureaucracy is because, as we saw with the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the bureaucracy fosters capitalist counter-revolution within the social system and undermines workers’ loyalty to the system. Therefore, the very existence of the bureaucracy is counter-revolutionary. Only by overthrowing the bureaucracy can the gains of the revolution be properly defended.
Will bringing down pro-company union bureaucracy destroy union? or strengthen it?
First of all, we will never stand idly by or assist the capitalists in their sabotage, even if the union is controlled by pro-company bureaucrats or opportunistic leadership. We will stand on the same side against their attacks. For example, we will unconditionally defend the Unified Progressive Party against the repression of the capitalist government, regardless of the rightness or wrongness of its line, regardless of the goodness or badness of its past actions. At the same time, however, we will expose and explain why the pro-company bureaucrats or National Liberation faction work against the interests of the working class or are unable to fully realize them, so that they do not gain credibility within the working class. We will promote the awakening of the working class, and through it we will overthrow the opportunist leadership and bureaucracy and replace them with a revolutionary leadership, because only then can the power of the working class be strengthened and its interests fully defended within a single workplace or country.
Theory of State Capitalism: The basic line of State Capitalism towards existing workers’ states is like “Those are capitalist system, so there’s no need to defend it.” In the conflict between the Soviet Union and imperialism centered on the United States, state capitalists have taken a neutral position, saying that the Soviet Union is also an “imperialist country.” The Korean War is a prime example of this. Since then, they have avoided identifying imperialism as an aggressor in various conflicts and have avoided the slogan "defeat imperialism.” At best, it has almost exclusively shouted “No to war.” [There was only one exception, and that was the Vietnam War. It was a war with almost exactly the same international and domestic relations as the Korean War, but the International Socialist Tendency sided with the North Vietnamese because at that time the global working class was turning left and neutrality was unpopular but siding with the North Vietnamese was much more popular.] This attitude is eventually siding with imperialism.
During the 1989~1991 collapse of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, they supported and cheered capitalist counter-revolutionary forces like Yeltsin and Wałęsa, disguised as “democracy.”
The seemingly obvious phrase “revolution from below” is a key slogan of the Workers’ Solidarity. Here’s what it means “If there is no proletarian revolution from below or democracy is not realized, it is capitalism even though private ownership was abolished. Therefore, in the end, there is no state to defend. As a result, the events of 1989~91 were not a counter-revolution.” To rationalize the claim that “the collapse of the Soviet Union was by no means a historical regression of the Soviet Union, a regression from socialism to capitalism, but a process of a step sideways from state capitalism to market capitalism.”
“The core feature of the proletarian dictatorship is the democratic control of the government by the working masses.” Sounds plausible, isn’t it? But this plausible quote is not from a Marxist. This is the a word of Kautsky, the “traitor of proletariat.” He said it to tell a reason why he denies Soviet Union and its defense.
This attitude is in line with the line of state capitalists, such as Workers’ Solidarity. It is completely incompatible with the Marxist, Leninist, and Trotskyist tradition that it is not democracy that determines the character of a society, but the relations of production, i.e. the system of ownership.
The force relationship of classes in particular regions are shaped by global class relationship of forces. Private ownership gets abolished among the areas where working class prevails. In Eastern Europe, North Korea, China, Cuba, Vietnam, etc., although not fully matured, but, with the full support of the working people fighting against pro-imperialist reactionaries(Eastern Europeans vs. indigenous fascists, Chinese people vs. Chiang Kai-shek, North Koreans vs. Japanese stooges, Vietnamese-Cubans vs. pro-US comprador regimes), states that overthrew pro-imperialist regimes and abolished private ownership were established. [Under the dynamics of lacking momentum to push revolution and prevailing fatigue, but enough forces to defend existing gains still retain, Napoleon was the one with the most buoyancy. Thus, Napoleon rose drastically after the Thermidorian Reaction, which eliminated the most radical wing of the French Revolution symbolized by Robespierre. Napoleon was the embodiment of the Thermidorian Reaction, but he did not undo the achievements of the social revolution of 1789, which had overthrown feudalism and established bourgeois ownership. He himself became an emperor, but contrary to his will, in Europe, an symbol of bourgeois ownership, which is the basis of his power. Napoleon and the French army were supported by the people of France and Europe, who longed for emancipation from the yoke of feudalism. That was perhaps the most important factor in their early victories. The same is true of Stalinist bureaucracy. Where it fought and won against the imperialists, it destroyed the ownership system of its opponents, i.e., private ownership, and implanted its own system of nationalization, the basis of its power.
For deeper understandings of this aspect of Stalinism and the question of “Bonapartism”, read Lenin’s “The State and Revolution” and Trotsky’s “The Workers’ State, Thermidor and Bonapartism.”]
Just as individuals can grow on their own, but only in social relationships, so too do nations move toward revolution in the context of international relationship of forces. From the perspective of the International Socialist Tendency’s tradition, working class in each countries should sever ties with one another and fight on their own in isolation, despite the fact that every capitalist states are upheld by imperialist physical force.
Under this one-country perspective, State capitalism and Stalinism come across again.
“The idea of exporting a revolution is nonsense. Every country if it wants one will produce its own revolution, and if it doesn’t, there will be no revolution. Thus, for instance, our country wanted to make a revolution and made it…”—Stalin
How should we evaluate Napoleon’s European War and the liberation of occupied territories, and also Lenin's invasion of Poland?
Revolutionary action is impossible without the proper revolutionary theory.
Revolution is a surgery on society. Just as a botched operation inflicts severe damage to a patient, the failure of a revolution has devastated working people and workers’ vanguard.
The scientific analysis of the so-called “existing socialist states” such as the USSR is the most important and critical task for the succession of Marxism in our time. It is necessary to draw the right conclusions from a huge historical practice.
The scientific analysis of the historical practice took place 25 years ago, the formulation of a revolutionary program based on it, and the construction of a revolutionary party based on it, are the biggest task of the Marxist in present days.
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