Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism: The Shanghai Textbook on Socialist Political Economy Edited with an Introduction and Afterword by Raymond Lotta (Banner Press USA, 1994)
This book is part of a larger work published in China in December, 1975 under the title Fundamentals of Political Economy. The first part which dealt with the political economy of capitalism and imperialism has been omitted. However, the reprint includes the opening chapter of the original as it deals with the "content and method of political economy". From the second part of the original, a chapter on China's external economic relations has been deleted. The publisher tells us that this chapter was "less a continuation of the work's theorization of socialist society than it was an accounting of certain diplomatic, aid and trade policies during the early and mid-1970s, and the presentation of the class nature and possibilities for economic development of independent Third World states (which) departed in significant ways from the theoretical framework of the rest of the book." The deletion of this chapter robs us, especially those of the so-called Third World, of an opportunity to have a look at Maoist China's external relations with "third world" states, the presentation of their class nature, etc., particularly so in the light of the controversial and once highly influential "theory of three worlds." It would have lent us an insight into the way in which China looked upon and discharged its internationalist duties, as, in the words of Lotta, "a 'base area' to support and spread the world proletarian revolution."
This book, in our opinion, merits a close attention and one can hardly give it a summary treatment. An at length discussion would be outside the scope of a single article. Here we will exclusively focus on the 'Introduction' by Raymond Lotta (a leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA) and the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement) which is as much a brief critique of Soviet Socialism of the Stalin period.
In contrast to the 'productivist' Stalin, Lotta is full of concern for men and wears his lofty sentiments on his sleeves. Here he is - "A liberating economics? You will search in vain in bourgeois economics for concern with, much less solutions to, great social problems such as poverty, inequality or environmental degradation." (iv)
Lotta's concerns are very much "addressed" by bourgeois economics: 'development economics', 'growth with equity' and 'environmentalist' concerns, 'sustainable development' and what have you. In fact, we Marxist-Leninists of the so-called third world are awash with such sentimentalese. Lotta's sentiments are in league with such crap as say, for instance, E.F. Schumacher's Small is beautiful: A Study of Economics as if people mattered.... The sentimental drivel goes on:
"This (Chinese socialist experience) was a socialism that dared challenge not only the brutal profit-above-all calculus and stultifying methods of organisation of capitalism but its whole 'me first' mind-set as well. 'Serve the people' was not just a slogan...; it was an ideological benchmark against which tens of millions judged themselves and others. This was a revolution that promoted initiative, creativity and daring... but for the sake of the collectivity not for oneself." (vii)
Now let us listen to Marx and Engels:
"...Communists do not oppose egoism to selflessness or selflessness to egoism, nor do they express this contradiction theoretically either in its sentimental or in its high-flown ideological form; they rather demonstrate its material source, with which it disappears of itself. The Communists do not preach morality [we use bold letters for emphasis in the original] at all... They do not put to people the moral demand: love one another, do not be egoists, etc.; on the contrary, they are very well aware that egoism, just as much as selflessness, is in definite circumstances a necessary form of the self-assertion of individuals. Hence, the communists by no means want,... to do away with the 'private individual' for the sake of the 'general', selfless man... They (communists) know that this contradiction is only a seeming one because one side of it, what is called the "general interest", is constantly being produced by the other side, private interest and in relation to the latter it is by no means an independent force with an independent history - so that this contradiction is in practice constantly destroyed and reproduced. Hence it is not a question of the Hegelian "negative unity" of two sides of a contradiction, but of the materially determined destruction of the preceding materially determined mode of life of individuals, with the disappearance of which this contradiction together with its unity, also disappears (The German Ideology, CW-5, p.247)
It is exactly to the materially determined mode of life of individuals that Marx and Engels draw our attention. And it is to the important change in the materially determined mode of life that the Soviet Union (we speak here of the Soviet Union of the Lenin and Stalin period) directed its efforts and did not replace sentimentalese for the genuine conditions of socialist transformation. For Lotta, "the conscious activism of the labouring people, not the capital stock (sic) or level of technology" "are important for socialism". Very r-r- revolutionary that this 'conscious activism' may sound it is but mere phrase-mongering. Socialism is a system and not a 'mental state'. Lotta's lofty state of mind cannot tolerate mundane Stalin and 'his' socialism which as an economic system challenged the most advanced capitalist countries. In his 'socialist' transmutation of bourgeoisdom's propaganda phrase against Soviet success - "Man does not live by bread alone", Lotta accuses Stalin of seeing "things not people". In his solicitous concern about man Lotta goes back from communism to humanism, i.e. he talks of abstract men, not real, historical men. So he keeps on with his incessant chatter about men, about the antithesis of their collectivity and individuality and wants to have the collectivity but not the individuality. But such lack of (or suppression of) individuality can only be found in the pre-capitalist epoch. As Marx says - "Man becomes individualised through the process of history." (For a complete exposition see Grundrisse, ME/CW-28/p. 399 et seq.)
The Soviet Union in its magnificent and glorious efforts to build socialism thought it only fit to create the material prerequisites of socialism i.e., one only on which could be based that higher socio-economic formation (socialism). To contrapose moral ends to this is to smuggle in sentimentalism for a scientific basis of socialism. Marxist political economy keeps morality out of consideration and for it socialism is a historical necessity, a system which supercedes capitalism. Marx criticised Sismondi who held that "political economy is not simply a science of calculation but a moral science." (We will return to this point again). It is in this sentimental vein that Lotta carries on his tirade against Soviet socialism and Stalin.
Lotta wants to subject growth to social and political criteria (xi). What does this mean? It means that he considers growth in the abstract and not under definite historical social relations. He criticizes the hankering after efficiency, wants to take care of the distributive aspects etc. Rather we would be more precise if we say that when Lotta talks of growth he can visualise it only as capitalist growth because to him development can only take place in a contradictory form (as under capitalism). Just as capitalist development produces misery, want, poverty, degradation, apathy etc. so also must all development. He takes the contradictory form in which social labour manifests itself in the capitalist world as eternal. Naturally Lotta with his humanistic concern wants to subject growth to political and social criteria, thinks efficiency can only worsen the worker's lot as it does under conditions of alienation in capitalism. Alter having got into this contradiction he can wriggle out of it only by appealing to morality. His recurring theme is that socialism is a mental, moral idea. He cannot differentiate between the laws of capitalist development and the political economy of socialism. He cannot think of the laws of socialist development existing independently of the will of man. It was this aspect that Stalin emphasized when he penned his Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R. henceforth Economic Problems) (More on this later).
Maligning Soviet socialism under Stalin forms the leitmotif of the 'Introduction'. So here are some of Lotta's pearls of wisdom:
"...once production is taken as the key link in moving society forward and the 'most efficient' methods of production become the all important yardstick, then what sets in is production for its own sake, the domination of dead labour (means of production produced by previous labour) over living labour... and that puts you on the capitalist road. Once planning is construed as a technical activity of administering and controlling, then the plan begins to dominate the proletariat rather than the other way around... and that puts you on the capitalist road." (xxxiv)
And Lotta in a footnote in fine print puts Stalin in the dock (in fact, this fine print runs through out the 'Introduction'):
"Stalin veered very much in the direction of these erroneous approaches and many of the economic policies he promoted gave oxygen to the forces of capitalist restoration." (xxxiv) But then he has some sops for poor Stalin:
"...for all his mistakes Stalin was attempting to build socialism not capitalism..." - ln short, Stalin's policies were building capitalism, but then for all his misdeeds, he was a man of Lotta's moral fibre and intended to build socialism (Stalin must be turning in his grave at such a compliment).
Now, what is this "domination of dead labour over living labour" etc. that Lotta speaks of here? Dead labour is nothing but the products of previous useful work which serve as means of production, as objects of labour, instruments of labour and means of subsistence. All this is used by living labour under any system, under any given relations of production. When dead labour confronts the worker as capital it "dominates living labour". What has using "most efficient methods" of production got to do with this? "Most efficient methods" of production are methods of the labour process and unless and until the conditions of labour confront the worker as alienated conditions, as relations of capital, they cannot "put you on the road to capitalist restoration." All efficiency is but economy of time (Here Lotta is obviously not referring to efficiency in the use of material - in fact, he quite unjustifiably calls pre-Khrushchevite Soviet planning wasteful). Perhaps socialist society is lackadaisical in its approach to efficiency? Socialist society must promote efficiency. In this again, Marx cannot measure up to the great communist Lotta:
"Ultimately, all economy is a matter of economy of time. Society must also allocate its time appropriately to achieve a production corresponding to its total needs.... Economy of time, as well as the planned distribution of labour time over the various branches of production, therefore, remains the first economic law if communal production is taken as the basis. It becomes a law even to a much higher degree. (Grundrisse, CW-28; p. 109).
Not only was efficiency promoted, it was the outcome of the "conscious activism" of the masses. Tremendous mass enthusiasm was witnessed and recorded by very many writers on the Soviet Union - both communists and bourgeois intellectuals. The "shock-work team" movement was initiated in 1926 by workers and greatly increased productivity. The Stakhanovite movement succeeded it and not only reorganised labour and developed teamwork but also improved technique and technology leading to great increase in productivity and quality output. And all this took place at the initiative of the workers and over the objections of conservative engineers and technical personnel - bourgeois experts. Such a great increase in productivity under capitalism would have resulted in unemployment but in the Soviet Union unemployment had become a thing of the past. Then there was 'counterplanning' by the workers who revised the plans. This was mass initiative; this was mass enthusiasm which could mean the fulfillment of the 5-year Plan in 4-years at which the revisionists would shout - "away with shrieking enthusiasm".
Lotta must be well aware of all this and yet... Earlier, bourgeois economists thought that anything like a socialist economy just couldn't. They produced tomes showing the impossibility of efficient economic calculation under socialism. Right from the 1920s Ludwig Von Mises, Brutzkus and other bourgeois economists raised this question again and again. Later, the revisionist economists of the Soviet Bloc - Oskar Lange, Ota Sik, Voznesensky, Liberman et al took this up in order to advocate the restoration of the market, without which, they opined, economic calculation (and efficiency) was not possible. The socialist restriction of the operation of the law of value was dubbed as "bureaucracy." Charles Bettelheim in his Economic Calculation and Forms of Property also raised this 'problem' saying that socialist society had not developed "concepts adequate for the measurement- of social labour, which is never given in the dimension of physical labour." Later, this same Bettelheim veered to a "Leftist" position like that of Lotta. It is well known that Von Mises and his ilk had believed that socialism would engender inefficiency. But when the Soviet Union came up with a highly efficient, technologically advanced society, moreover, one in which development had not taken a contradictory form as under capitalism, the whole world looked in disbelief. It was living propaganda and agitation against bourgeoisdom. It gave the lie to the bourgeois claim that capitalism was the ultimate system and the only one which promoted the development of the productive forces. Bourgeoisdom had to malign this success. Various propaganda themes were taken up - we were told that man's soul was killed, there was no liberty, no spiritual life in the Soviet Union and so forth. We in the "third world" also heard that old people were systematically exterminated in the Soviet Union because they couldn't work and hence, promoted inefficiency! It is in keeping with this propaganda that the Bettelheims discovered that this efficiency was not socialism. Socialism was a high moral state of mind! This insidious anti-Stalin, anti-Soviet propaganda can be found in most of the writings of these 'leftists'. Here is a specimen:
"...Liu and others stressed the need to focus all energies on promoting the productive forces. This they did in a way deeply marked by the Soviet model of development." And "From its (CPC's) founding in 1921, conflicts within the party have in one way or another been linked to individuals who favoured the orthodox Russian conception of revolution. The defeat of Li Li-san in the 1930s, Wang Ming in the 1940s, Kao Kang (Gau Gang) and P'eng Te-huai (Peng Deh-huai) in the 1950s, and Liu Shao-Chi in the 1960s have all entailed controversies over the nature and applicability of the Soviet model." (Emphasis added) - (In short, all the revisionists in China in one way or the other owe their revisionism to the Soviet and 'Stalinist' conception)
(See James Peck's 'Introduction' to Mao Tse tung's A Critique of Soviet Economics published by Monthly Review Press; pp. 16-17&8)
As for the insinuation "...once production is taken as the key link in moving society forward" and the goal being rationally organising the productive force", here is the debate that took place in the Soviet Union and Stalin's reply as laid down in Economic Problems
Yaroshenko held views similar to those which Lotta here rails against:
In socialist society "men's production relations become part of the organisation of the productive forces, as a means, an element of their organisation". (Quoted from Economic Problems; p.61).
"...under socialism the basic struggle for the building of a communist society reduces itself to a struggle for the proper organisation of the productive forces. and their rational utilisation in social production...." (ibid; pp.61-62)
[Mark it, dear author, you are imputing these ideas to Stalin]
Stalin comes down heavily on Yaroshenko and says:
"...Comrade Yaroshenko reduces the idea to an absurdity, to the point of denying the role of the production, the economic, relations under socialism; and instead of a full-blooded social production what he gets is a lopsided and scraggy technology of production...." (ibid; p.65)
For Stalin relations of production, classes and their contradictions are very important and there can be no question of production being the key link and the goal - "rationally organising the productive forces."
Before we deal with the real significance of Stalin's understanding we must clear up the matter regarding 'Stalinist' Soviet Union's one-sided emphasis on productive forces and production. Here is Stalin:
Criticizing Yaroshenko, he says:
"The aim of socialist production" is not profit, but man and his needs..." "maximum satisfaction of the constantly rising material and cultural requirements of the whole of society is the aim of socialist production; continuous expansion and perfection of socialist production on the basis of higher technique is the means for the achievement of the aim" (ibid; pp. 79 & 80)
And Stalin emphasizes the need for cultural re-education of society. (p. 68)
It is alleged that Stalin did not see any contradiction between productive forces and relations of production, whereas in his Economic Problems he explicitly says:
"There certainly are, and will be, contradictions, seeing that the development of the relations of production lags, and will lag, behind the development of the productive forces". (p. 69)
In fact, Stalin's last work dealt with the problem of changing the production relations. Of course, Stalin did not view the whole affair in a petty-bourgeois manner but posed the question scientifically. We will have occasion to deal with this again.
Lotta conjures up the following conception of socialism which he attributes to Stalin - "...socialism was equated with the attainment of a certain level of development of the productive forces under public ownership." (xxiv)
"And the destruction of the legal basis of private property in the major means of production and the establishment of state ownership were seen as the guarantee that the process of industrialisation would serve working class rule." (xxiv)
Lotta's 'Introduction' is to introduce us to the political economy of what he calls "a visionary and viable socialism". Though he has omitted the first part of the original work, he has retained its first chapter, the Introduction (not to be confused with Lotta's 'Introduction') to the whole book, deliberately. This chapter avers:
"The form of ownership of the means of production is the most important aspect of the relations of production and the basis of production relations." (p.2)
And yet Lotta says not a word on it. Engels held the view that:
"The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into state property." (Socialism: Utopian & Scientific; ME-SW-3. p.146)
Again Engels writes:
By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital they have thus far borne, and gives their socialised character complete freedom to work itself out". (ibid; p.151)
This is the importance of public ownership, which is the only form in which their character as capital can be ended. But we Marxists of course do not remain content with the legal aspect.
Marxists consider property relations not in "their legal aspect as relations of volition but their real form, that is, as relations of production." (Marx to Johann Baptist Schweitzer; January 24, 1865)
That is not to forget that Lotta makes a one-sided presentation, it appears that he wants to say public ownership under the bourgeois state is no different from that under the proletarian state. The form may appear to be the same, but the content is different and the whole essence is in the difference. State ownership in the pre-Khrushchevite Soviet Union meant ownership under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The proletariat can give to its common interests only this form, "the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society", as Engels put it. (op. cit; p.147)
The dictatorship of the proletariat is decisive in this regard and that includes everything that this concept involves. Lotta chooses not to talk of state ownership under the dictatorship of the proletariat, but of state ownership in general, in the abstract. More, he contraposes state ownership with the interests of working class rule! A dictatorship of the proletariat which works against working class interests. The working class ensures its interests through the dictatorship of the proletariat, its own state. Lenin was sanguine regarding even state capitalism under the dictatorship of the proletariat (see Reports to the 11th Congress of RCP(B)) but strict Lotta would have none of it.
As we have seen, Marxists do not cling to the legal aspect of property relations. Marx wanted to study property relations in their real form, as relations of production. He warned against juridical illusions. May we remind Lotta that Stalin in his discussion of Economic Problems warned that the laws of political economy, which deal with the social relations of men in production i.e., the relations of production, should not be confused with laws made by governments which have only "juridical validity." What is but public ownership in this case? It is the legal recognition of the fact that the means of production belong to the proletarian state. Under the socialist system of ownership, they no longer remained commodities (Stalin; op. cit.; p. 53). Thus Stalin considers means of production and their ownership in terms of relations of production. Commodity relations are relations of production and reach their apogee under capitalism. (Marx calls the commodity, the basic cell of capitalism). Stalin here notes that means of production are no longer held by this relation of production. This was the meaning of their state ownership under socialism. Stalin was forthright in his understanding that if the means of production were to behave as commodities it would lead to the regeneration of capitalism (op. cit.; p. 96).
Contrary to assertions of the "Leftists" Stalin made no fetish of state ownership under socialism and viewed the matter in the process of its change and development. We quote:
"The fact is that conversion into state property is not the only, or even the best, form of nationalization, but the initial form of nationalization, as Engels quite rightly says in Anti-Duhring. Unquestionably, so long as the state exists conversion into state property is the most natural initial form of nationalization. But the state will not exist forever. With the extension of the sphere of operation of socialism in the majority of the countries of the world the state will die away, and, of course, conversion... into state property will consequently lose its meaning... Hence, the heir of the public property will then be not the state, which will have died away, but society itself, in the shape of a central, directing economic body." (op.cit.; pp.90-91)
Let us make a slight digression and briefly deal with the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism. "Socialism is inconceivable unless the proletariat is the ruler of the state. This also is ABC", wrote Lenin. And further, "politics is the concentrated expression of economics." "Politics must take precedence over economics. To argue otherwise is to forget ABC of Marxism". (Once Again on the Trade Unions, CW-32: p. 83)
If we say that the question of socialism means the question of relations of production (or what is their legal aspect the question of property relations) - the relations of producers to the means of production and with each other, then, it implies the abolition of property, of progressive restriction of the operation of law of value, etc. For that the domination of the proletariat is necessary. Only this class can in its own class interests establish the new relations of production through the instrument of its dictatorship. This involves the fiercest struggle of the classes. The class struggle is the political struggle. Hence "politics must take precedence over economics". Again, "without a correct political approach to the matter the given class will be unable to stay on top, and, consequently, will he incapable of solving its production problem either." (ibid.; p. 84) Yes, the production problem also requires that the correct political approach be taken. It essentially involves the question of class domination, whether the proletariat can organise production on socialist lines or whether capitalism will triumph. Putting the whole thing in context:
"One of the fundamental differences between bourgeois revolution and socialist revolution is that for the bourgeois revolution, which arises out of feudalism, the new economic organisations are gradually created in the womb of the old order, gradually changing all the aspects of feudal society. The bourgeois revolution faced only one task - to sweep away, to cast aside, to destroy all the fetters of the preceding social order. By fulfilling this task every bourgeois revolution fulfills all that is required of it: it accelerates the growth of capitalism.
"The socialist revolution is in an altogether different position. The more backward the country which, owing to the zigzags of history, has proved to be the one to start the socialist revolution, the more difficult is it for that country to pass from the old capitalist relations to socialist relations: New incredibly difficult tasks, organisational tasks are added to the tasks of destruction. (Seventh Congress of RCP(B), CW-27; p. 89)
Hence the utmost importance of politics - that the task of the conscious domination of the proletariat is ensured. Lotta also talks of politics, but like the petty-bourgeoisie he wants to smuggle in morality, certain standards from without into the development process. For the Bolsheviks and Stalin it was a question of acting according to necessity, not that of importing "criteria" into blind necessity. Of this later
Lotta repeatedly brings up the above-discussed charge in his short 'Introduction'.
For instance, he says:
"For the Soviet leadership, socialism came to be identified with two things; the elimination of antagonistic classes, and the establishment of modern, large-scale industry under state ownership." (xxiii)
Yes, Lenin was also guilty of this sin. This mechanical productivist man reduced Lotta's lofty communist vision to:
"Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country." (CW-31, p. 516. Emphasis in the original.)
"Indeed the power of the state over all large scale means of production, political power in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasantry, etc. - is this not all that is necessary to build a complete, socialist society out of co-operatives, out of co-operatives alone..." (CW-33; p. 468)
Actually, the original sin was committed by Marx and Engels when they ate out of the tree of historical materialism, and we will discuss that shortly. What emerges out of Lenin's 'conception' of socialism? One could hook on to any of the above statements and blast Lenin. It is in this vein that Stalin has been condemned for coining slogans like 'cadres decide everything' and 'technique decides everything'. These slogans like that of Lenin's were slogans of the day and meant to figure out and emphasize the chief tasks of the time. Can one draw one-sided conclusions from them and deliberately hammer out a 'thesis' or 'conception' of 'Leninist' or 'Stalinist' socialism? Yet, that is how Stalin is defamed - "he knew only technique, only cadre, no masses" and so on.
Of course, one finds the stress on productive forces and state power in all the above statements. Why this so-called emphasis on productive forces? For that we must recount the features of the materialist conception of history. Before we do that we must point out that Lotta takes a dualist position. For him on the one hand there is development of the productive forces, and on the other, the masses; the spirit of the masses must enter this development to usher in socialism. For Marxists socialism is a system which supersedes capitalism and its very political economy should reveal the essential unity of the process - the "conscious activism" of the masses and the "capital stock" or developmental process are not in contradiction to each other. Under capitalism, the conditions of labour confront the labourer as alienated conditions, hence alienation of labour, disinterest in work, work as burden. Under socialism, the means of production belong to society, do not confront the worker as alienated conditions and hence the mass enthusiasm. The "conscious activism" of the masses is not to be imported from without.
In passing we must note some of the features of the materialist conception of history which have an important bearing on our discussion. In his famous Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx says:
"In the social production of their existence men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relation of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness... At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution...."
So the relations of production are determined by the character of productive forces at the given stage of development of society. In the words of the Shanghai Political Economy - "the form of production relations is not determined by man's subjective will but by the level of development of the productive forces." (p. 3) Marx in a letter to Engels put it this way "...our theory (is) that the organisation of labour is determined by the means of production..." (July 7, 1866).
And Marx put it starkly in his Poverty of Philosophy:
"In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production, and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist." (CW-6; p. 166). The historical necessity of socialism, its scientific basis derives from the fact that the productive forces can no longer develop under the capitalist relations of production, that they have turned into fetters. Hence the necessity of the socialist revolution. So said productivist Marx and Stalin. One thing that may he pointed out here is that it is Lotta who, in criticising Stalin's alleged "theory of productive forces", forgets that Stalin also considered men as part of productive forces. In his Dialectical and Historical Materialism Stalin says:
"The instruments of production wherewith material values are produced, the people who operate the instruments of production and carry on the production of material values thanks to a certain production experience and labour skill - all these elements jointly constitute the productive forces of society."
So this 'productivist' is also concerned with man, of course, not Lotta's humanistic man, i.e., abstract man, but historically posited man - one involved in production and at a given stage of society.
Marx also speaks of property relations ("expressing the same thing in legal terms"). He also speaks of the conformity of the relations of production to that of the productive forces as Stalin mechanically underlined ("from forms of development of the productive forces"). Stalin also did not mean absolute conformity as he outlined in his Economic Problems. Productive forces are the most mobile element of production and productive relations lag behind.
For Stalin, socialism is based on higher productive forces and their growth which Lotta finds reprehensible:
"But (yes, that infamous but which means no matter what, you are decidedly wrong) by and large the political economy had a decidedly productivist and technicist edge to it... the most rapid expansion of state industry resting on modern technique... was seen as the underlying foundation of socialism." (xxvii)
This charge of 'productivism' crops up again and again. Literature by 'creative' Marxists (Marxists who don't think much of Marx's historical materialism) speaks of the orthodox Marxist view of productive forces and production relations as 'productivist', 'economistic' and 'mechanical', so let us hear Marx himself holding forth on this:
"...in the degree in which large-scale industry develops, the creation of real wealth becomes less dependent upon labour-time and the quantity of labour employed than upon the power of the agents set in motion during labour time (By agents Marx means science and technology).
"The theft of alien labour time, which is the basis of present wealth, appears to be a miserable foundation compared to this newly developed one, the foundation created by large-scale industry itself. As soon as labour in its immediate form has ceased to be the great source of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and therefore exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value. The surplus labour of the masses has ceased to be the condition for the development of general wealth, just as the non-labour of a few has ceased to be the condition for the development of the general powers of the human mind. As a result, production based upon exchange value collapses, and the immediate material production process itself is stripped of its form of indigence and antagonism. Free development of individualities, and hence the not the reduction of necessary labour time in order to posit surplus labour, but in general the reduction of the necessary labour of society, to a minimum to which then corresponds the artistic, scientific, etc., development of individuals, made possible by the time thus set free and the means produced for all of them." (Grundrisse, CW-29, p. 90&91)
How vividly Marx lays down the scientific basis of socialism arising from the development of the productive forces, from the use of science and technology. It is not man in general, but historical men that he refers to, he shows the possibilities of the growth of artistic, scientific and other faculties of the masses. No wonder then that Soviet socialism appears to Lotta to be 'productivist' and 'technicist'. One finds the blossoming of the arts and the sciences with mass participation in the Soviet Union. The very growth of productivity was accompanied by mass enthusiasm. The various 'movements' that we talked about became possible because of changed material conditions, the fact that the conditions of labour no longer confronted the workers as alien conditions. Stalin accounted for the roots of the Stakhanovite movement thus:
l) "the radical improvement in the material welfare of the workers";
2) "people do not (have to) work for exploiters for the enrichment of parasites, but for themselves, for their own class, for their own Soviet Society";
3) new modern technique and cadres.
(Speech at the First Conference of Stakhanovites; 17 Nov. 1935)
We see that this mass enthusiasm was based on the changed material conditions of life and not on moral exhortation. Moral exhortation, technique of work motivation, "scientific" management techniques abound in bourgeois society. They try to offset and fight work alienation among the workers. Lotta wants to replace the genuine material conditions of socialist transformation by the moral preaching of the bourgeoisie - be selfless, work hard for a better society and so on.
Do the communists then reject all morality? Communists definitely reject all supra-class or eternal concepts of morality. For us, all morality is historical i.e. based on the concrete conditions of the time. We do not speak of eternal moral concepts which abstract from the material conditions of time. As Engels says, "all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and the interests of the ruling class, or, ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed. (Anti-Duhring, p.111)
Our morality stems from the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat. This morality is very different from Lotta's abstract moral preaching which we have criticised. Our moral precepts are based on the material conditions of life and the demands of the class struggle therein. Let us illustrate our point - We communists stand for a classless, stateless society. We envisage a society where there is no need for violence against people in general, against the subordination of one man to another. But we do not think that we can conjure up all this at the twinkle of an eye. We can think of achieving such a state of affairs only when there is a new generation reared in "new, free social conditions", when people would have become "accustomed to observing the elementary conditions of social life without violence and without subordination." And we can achieve this only on the economic basis of communism. Unlike Lotta we cannot demand the morality of the 'New Man' any day. We should remember all this when we discuss bourgeois right.
It is in this moralising vein that Lotta speaks of subjecting growth and development to social and political criteria. He wants to take care of the distributive aspect, says "mere increase in productive forces (economic development) will not in and of itself eliminate exploitative relations" (xxx); and upbraids Stalin:
"Stalin recognised the need to overcome such differences as between town and country and mental and manual labour. But he approached the problem mainly from the standpoint of developing production. The task of restricting these differences and relations to the greatest degree possible within the existing material conditions... was not sufficiently grasped (xxviii-xxix)
Let us first deal with distribution. It is well known that distributive justice is the slogan of the bourgeoisie which wants to socially engineer and reduce the differences in wealth. This bourgeois slogan which appears to be very appealing to the petty-bourgeoisie, wants to fight exploitation by redistribution of wealth. The bourgeois decrees the capitalist mode of production as eternal and then wants to fight its "ill-effects". It wants to subject growth and development to social and political criteria. But all such efforts come to nought.
Marx has pointed out that "the particular mode of men's participation in production determines the specific form of distribution, the form in which they share in distribution."
We have seen that all sorts of redistributive mechanisms adopted by the Indian state has not prevented greater and greater concentration of wealth in the hands of a few - the result of the capitalist relations of production. The stringent Anti-Trust laws in Lotta's own country has not been able to prevent monopoly. Marx had this comment to make:
"Vulgar socialism... has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution." (Critique of the Gotha Programme; ME, SW-3. p. 20)
As we have pointed out Lotta imagines a growth which takes place outside the social relations. He talks of exploitative relations without reference to these social relations. Capitalist relations of production are exploitative, i.e. extractive of surplus value is the aim here. So the growth of productive forces under capitalism cannot eliminate exploitation. What exploitation does Lotta speak of outside of, and abstracting from, all relations of production, nay outside of all production because no production can take place outside certain social relations.
As for the need to overcome the differences (we should properly say antithesis) between town and country and mental and manual labour that Lotta speaks of, we must take into account the restrictive material conditions. That would mean a short excursion into the concept of bourgeois right.
Marx speaks of the existence of bourgeois right in the first phase of communist society (or socialist society as we call it) Marx writes:
"What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society, which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges." (Critique of the Gotha Programme)
The first phase of communist society or socialist society inevitably carries "the birth marks of the old society" and Marx makes us aware of this limitation. We cannot impose upon it economic, moral and intellectual "standards" which do not take into account these material conditions.
In socialist society means of production belong to the whole of society. Every member of society, after performing a certain part of the socially necessary work, receives from society, after deductions are made of the amount of labour which goes to the various heads of the public fund (for wear and tear of means of production, expansion of production, common needs as health, education, insurance, etc., etc.), as much as he has given to it. This corresponds to the exchange of equivalents, the principle which regulates the exchange of commodities.
"Hence, equal right here is still in principle bourgeois right... this equal right is still constantly stigmatised by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labour they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labour" (ibid) and
"This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labour. It recognises no class differences because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognises unequal individual endowment and thus productive capacity as natural privilege. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content like every right." (ibid.)
It applies an equal measure for different people, who are not alike. One is strong, another weak; one has a large family, another is unmarried and so on. So even with an equal share in the social consumption fund received on account of equal performance of labour one receives more than another, one will be richer than another and so on. So Marx comments - "To avoid all these defects, the right instead of being equal, would have to be unequal..." (ibid.)
Marx is well aware of the limitations inevitable in socialist society. Differences will be there and society is "compelled to abolish at first only the "injustice" of the means of production seized by individuals, and... is unable at once to eliminate the other injustice, which consists in the distribution of consumer goods "according to the amount of labour performed, (and not according to needs)" (Lenin)
From Lotta we learn: "Restricting bourgeois right in the realm of distribution under socialism involves such measures as developing more social forms of consumption; providing vital services like health care, regardless of individual income, taking social initiatives to overcome inequalities between men and women, and narrowing wage differentials." (xliii)
The whole statement is quite inane. Firstly, as an insinuation against Soviet socialism it comes up against facts which call his bluff. Services like education, health care, child care, recreational facilities were of a very high standard in the USSR and from day one, this expenditure, this part of the social product grew in proportion. Can Lotta controvert the accounts of various authors and observers on the Soviet Union? The 1936 Soviet Constitution also bears testimony to this and all this advancement was based on higher material production. The provisions of the 1936 Constitution were not of a declaratory nature. That is why Stalin said of this constitution that it was "the registration and legislative embodiment of what has already been achieved and won in actual fact."
What does Lotta mean by his statement regarding bourgeois right in the "realm of distribution"?. Marx in his Critique of the Gotha Programme from where Lotta has picked up his "bourgeois right" criticized Lassalle for making a fuss about distribution. "Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves," Marx observed. And all talk of bourgeois right takes place "after all the deductions from the social product" for the above-mentioned public funds have been made. But Lotta muddles all this up.
He wants to cross this bourgeois right in the realm of distribution regardless of the conditions of production, he rails against relating the over- coming of this bourgeois right with the growth of production.
But Marx opines that:
"In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished after labour has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly - only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" (ibid.)
But revolutionary Lotta can only heap scorn at such a productivist view. Stalin also linked the abolition of the antitheses between town and country and mental and manual labour with the growth of productive forces along with cultural re-education. He did not take a subjective idealist view. Engels pointed out to the exact material basis of the abolition of the antitheses of mental and manual labour, and town and country in criticizing Duhring's economic communes. That Stalin was well aware of the problem can be seen from the measures taken in the Soviet Union with the steadily rising technical and cultural standards of the people and the life in the collectives. Khrushchev proved to be a greater revolutionary and sought to abolish the anti-thesis between town and country with his agri-towns. (Khrushchev suggested that the existence of small villages be done away with and the population of the villages transferred to large "agri-towns" where whole families would live together communally in large houses. He proposed the immediate nationalisation of the collective farms. Khrushchev gave these suggestions in his capacity as Chairman of the Special Council for Collective Farm Affairs. His proposals were first sounded out in Izvestia, 22 November, 1950. Later, his article with the above proposals appeared in Pravda, 4 March, 1951. Subsequently. an editorial in the newspaper (dated 5 March, 1951) made it clear that the ideas expressed were Khrushchev's personal views. Following criticism in the Party, he made "self-criticism" which appeared in Pravda, 29 September, 1952.)
But Stalin, the kill-joy, immediately shot the idea down calling it a leftist mistake and bullied Khrushchev into self-criticism. But Khrushchev was not to be cowed down, with the twentieth Congress, he came on top and saw his agrarian expertise put to good use. (One of Khrushchev's first steps for the restoration of capitalism was the sale of state-owned Machine Tractor Stations (MTS) which provided the use of latest, modern agricultural machinery and other agronomic services to the collective farms. Stalin had opposed the sale of MTS to the collective farms as that would mean strengthening the private element, creating a deeper gulf between public property and collective farm property. With the collectives becoming the owners of the basic instruments of production a gigantic quantity of the means of production would come within the orbit of commodity circulation. It would enlarge the sphere of operation of the law of value which the Soviet Union was then progressively restricting. It would mean the restoration of capitalism.) Only this time it was in the 'Right' direction revealing the eternal kinship of the Rightists and the ultra-Leftists.
Then what is this "greatest degree possible"? (See quote above) A mere phrase? Or does it mean something else? It only means a sort of crude communism, a leveling down. Marx speaks of this communism - of restricting differences and relations to the "greatest degree possible" within the existing material conditions as a "leveling-down proceeding from the preconceived minimum. It has a definite limited standard. How little this annulment of private property is an appropriation is in fact proved by the abstract negation of the entire world of culture and civilisation, the regression to the unnatural simplicity of the poor and crude man who has few needs..." (Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844)
Lotta praises revolutionary China for what he calls a developmental strategy... "utilising simple and intermediate technologies" which along with people's creativity could "achieve sustainable and balanced growth." (xi) All this was in the nature of a "visionary and viable socialism" in contrast to 'Stalinist' unviable and affluent Soviet socialism. So, the concern of the modern petty-bourgeois economists (and even the World Bank) for simple technology and sustainable development is also addressed by Lotta's visionary socialism. (We have an Indian alternative - Gandhian socialism: simple technology and sustainable development with the remoulding ("change of heart") of the masses)
lt is this petty-bourgeois socialism that Stalin fought against. Let us take for example, the question of the agricultural artel and the agricultural commune in the Soviet Union. He criticised the leveling "achieved" by the commune and showed why it was doomed in practice. He showed that the real content of the communist demand for equality is the demand for the abolition of classes. He said that "equalization in the sphere of requirements and personal, everyday life is a reactionary petty-bourgeois absurdity worthy of some primitive sect of ascetics but not of a socialist society organised on Marxist lines...." and "the future commune will arise on the basis of a more developed technique and of a more developed artel, on the basis of an abundance of products." (See Report to the XVIIth Party Congress)
The same Stalin who gave the above report in 1934 suggested measures for the elevation of the collective farms into public property, into a higher level of socialist organisation in keeping the advance in productive forces and through measures relating to the progressive restriction of the sphere of operation of commodity circulation, of the sphere of operation of the law of value, in 1952 (See his Economic Problems)
In all this Stalin was following the materialist conception of history as outlined by Marx and Engels. As we have pointed out he warned against confusion of laws by governments, which have juridical validity, with laws of political economy, which were independent of the will of man. He knew that communism cannot be decreed and that:
"Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby" (Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme)
Lotta again and again criticizes Soviet planning:
"...planning tended to be approached as technical activity... mainly as a means of rationally organising the productive forces..." (xxvii) and "Stalin in his 1952 essay, 'Economic Problems of Socialism' defined planning as a practical, policy-oriented enterprise, as opposed to political economy, a theoretical pursuit." (xxx)
This is what Stalin said:
"The rational organisation of the productive forces, economic planning, etc., are not problems of political economy, but problems of the economic policy of the directing bodies... political economy investigates the laws of development of men's relations of production. Economic policy draws practical conclusions from this, gives them concrete shape, and builds its day-to-day work on them." (Economic Problems; pp. 74-75)
The political economy of socialism, by discovering the objective laws, can utilise them in the interests of society. These laws cannot be created or transformed i.e.. they have objective validity, they are independent of the will of man. These laws do not depend on the sweet will of the proletariat or any class but they must be discovered and utilised so that one can move in the desired direction. Freedom is the appreciation of necessity. Only by cognising this necessity (laws) can we utilise them in the interests of the proletariat. As Engels says - 'As long as we obstinately refuse to understand the nature and the character of these social means of action - and this understanding goes against the grain of the capitalist mode of production and its defenders - so long these forces are at work in spite of us, in opposition to us, so long (as) they master us...
But when once their nature is understood, they can, in the hands of the producers working together, be transformed from master demons into willing servants. The difference is as that between the destructive force of electricity in the lightning of the storm and electricity under command in the telegraph and the voltaic arc; the difference between a conflagration and fire working in the service of man. With this recognition, at last, of the real nature of the productive forces of today, the social anarchy of production gives place to a social regulation of production upon a definite plan, according to the needs of the community and of each individual." (Anti-Duhring; pp. 320-21)
Engels was criticising subjective idealism in political economy that Duhring peddled in view of the "economic communes", Lotta wants to subject planning to political and social criteria without reckoning with necessity, the objective laws of political economy. He thinks that freedom precludes this necessity. By arguing for planning as conscious activity which can have the force of objective laws he is betraying his kinship with the Soviet revisionists (look how the ultra-leftists veer around to the rightist positions). Voznesensky (Nikolai Voznesensky was Chairman of the State Planning Commission (Gosplan). He advocated the expansion of the sphere of operation of the law of value. Subsequently, this revisionist was dismissed from all his posts, arrested and executed. Stalin's Economic Problems contains a critique of his views. He was posthumously rehabilitated by Khrushchev.) averred:
"the state plan has the force of a law of economic development... is in itself a social law of development and as such a subject of political economy." (War Economy of the USSR in the Period of the Patriotic War; pp. 115 & 120)
It is this view that Stalin was fighting against when be said that the 5-year Plans ought to be a reflection of the laws of political economy of society. Neither the Soviet State nor the masses of the USSR could give state plans the force of an "economic law". Economic laws are, to be cognised and utilised and then plans can be drawn on this basis.
Explaining his point Stalin wrote - "It is said that some of the economic laws operating in our country under socialism, including the law of value, have been 'transformed', or even 'radically transformed', on the basis of planned economy. That is likewise untrue. Laws cannot be 'transformed', still less 'radically' transformed... The thesis that laws can be 'transformed' is a relic of the incorrect formula that laws can be 'abolished' or 'formed'.... The sphere of action of this or that economic law may be restricted... but it cannot be "transformed" or "abolished" (Economic Problems; pp. 7-8)
in view of the tremendous successes achieved by the Soviet Union there was a feeling that the Soviet government could of its conscious will create, abolish or transform economic laws. This view was strengthened due to the specific role that the Soviet government had to play. The Soviet government had to abolish exploitation and to that end it had to create new, socialist forms of economy, the ready-made rudiments of which were nearly absent in that country. It did not mean that the Soviet Union could do away with objective economic laws working independently of the will of man. Stalin struggled against the prevalent subjective idealist views on political economy.
But the deeper significance of Stalin's criticism became clear when the Khrushchevite revisionists came to power. It was asserted that the state plan could by its own, conscious activity transform the law of value. Such transformed laws made possible the existence of "transformed" economic categories of capitalism - socialist commodity, socialist profit and so on. It actually meant that the economic laws of capitalism had freedom to work themselves out and the state plan having the force of an economic law would transform them into socialist categories. For instance, commodity production would exist, but there would be no conflict between the use value and the exchange value of the commodity (as Voznesensky had earlier asserted). That is to say commodity production would not lead to its inevitable results under socialist planning. Socialism would be achieved by importing political and social criteria from without, by the "conscious action" of the state organs and the masses!
Such "conscious action" was in fact bowing to blind necessity. For necessity is blind in so far as is it is not understood. To Stalin, conscious action did not preclude necessity. It was through discovering the objective laws (necessity) and utilizing them in the interests of the proletariat, that he could provide leadership to the masses in building socialism, in taking up the key links at crucial turns and thereby leading the class struggle.
Lotta accuses Stalin of not drawing the masses into the political struggle against bourgeois forces. It is said that he did not wage ideological struggles and thought that "the transformation of social relations, division of labour and ideologies inherited from class society... (were expected to follow almost as automatic adjustments to socialist industrialisation." (xxiv)
It is well known that the Seventeenth Congress of the CPSU (1934) gave the call "to overcome the survivals of capitalism in economic life and in the minds of the people." Stalin pointed out that a classless socialist society "has to be achieved and built by the efforts of all the working people, by strengthening the organs of the dictatorship of the proletariat, by intensifying the class struggle, by abolishing classes, by eliminating the remnants of the capitalist classes, and in battles with enemies both internal and external." And he criticised the theory of "spontaneity" in socialist construction. (Report to the XVIIth Party Congress. Emphases added)
Inspite of all this, Lotta says that the "political and ideological struggle was not recognised as the essential aspect". And he writes - "Motivationally, the system relied too much on material incentives..." (xxix) Whereas Mao writes:
"In the time of Stalin there was excessive emphasis on collective interest; individual gain was neglected.... Now they have gone to the opposite extreme overemphasizing material incentive, neglecting collective interest". (A Critique of Soviet Economics, p. 94)
'Stalinist' Soviet socialism is accused of political passivity. Can it be asserted that the task of socialist industrialisation, the great Stakhanovite movement, collectivisation of agriculture, victory in the 'Great Patriotic War', the struggle for the restriction of the sphere of operation of the law of value etc. took place apart from the class struggle? That there was no politics involved? What is the dictatorship of the proletariat? Why doesn't Lotta say that there was no dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union?
Perhaps Lotta calls the 'Stalin period' politically passive because large slogan shouting masses were not seen converging on Red Square in Moscow. But then Gorbachev effectively fits the bill - we witnessed huge demonstrations for peace all over the Soviet Union during his 'Peace Initiative'!
How can Lotta account for the fact that in 1956 the leading communist parties in the world criticized Stalin for fanning the class struggle? Here is the Communist Party of China's criticism:
"After the elimination of the exploiting classes one should not continue to stress intensification of the class struggle, as was done by Stalin, with the result that the healthy development of socialist democracy was hampered. The Communist Party of Soviet Union is quite right in resolutely correcting Stalin's mistakes in this respect." (at the 20th Congress). (Once More on the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat; p. 30)
And inspite of all the class struggles waged in China we learn from Lotta:
"China's socialist revolution met defeat and came to an end in 1976 when a military coup overthrew working class power". (iii; emphasis added)
How very prosaic! After earth-shaking class struggles, an overthrow a la Soviet Union "bypassing" the class struggle!
Let us not delude ourselves by phrase mongering. The problem of restoration of capitalism in the socialist countries should not be dealt speculatively and through thesis-mongering. Up to now we have had quite a number of accounts describing the process, but this description does not give a full explanation. This task remains for us and cannot be replaced by a few answers which are more ingenious than profound. We must stand on the shoulders of the Soviet experience.'Proletarian Path,' New Series, Vol. III, No. 1, Calcutta, December, 1996.
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