The publication for the first time in any language of an account of the conversations of J.V. Stalin with leading Soviet economists in the pages of the Indian magazine, Revolutionary Democracy is of great significance. (A shorter account of the first conversation, dated January 29, 1941 was published by Prof. Richard Kosolapov in a compilation of materials of J.V. Stalin, ‘Slovo Stalinu’, Moscow, 1995, pp. 161-168). These materials contain the record of five meetings of J.V. Stalin with leading Soviet economists on the subject of key theoretical questions under discussion in the course of establishing the basic laws of functioning of the socialist economy, the role of economic categories inherited from capitalism in Socialism, and other relevant questions directly regarding the writing of the textbook of political economy. Needless to say, these documents are most valuable not only for the clarification of relevant key points of the political economy of socialism, to some extent these materials complement the classical work of Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, but also represent by themselves one of the most valuable accounts in the English language of a crucial time in the history of the political economy of socialism. The modern understanding of the political economy of socialism has been inherited mainly from the fundamental propositions posed by J.V. Stalin in Economic Problems. However, an aspect which is left in the air is the historical and ideological background to the publication of this classical work. This question is by far not obvious and it is through it that some crucial propositions of Economic Problems acquire a deeper significance. In fact Economic Problems, despite its laconic style is a result of a titanic effort for the generalization of a tremendous amount of concrete material: the laboratory of the Soviet experience for over three decades of socialist construction. The concrete historical material that Stalin generalizes in Economic Problems comprises the establishment and consolidation of the socialist relations of production in the Soviet Union. This is the substance to the greatness of the theoretical and historical significance of Economic Problems.
The founders of Marxism-Leninism, Marx, Engels, Lenin considered the basic features of the economy of socialism, and extracted some basic guidelines for its development. However, the founders of Marxism-Leninism were never in a position, either to concretize these basic guidelines, these abstractions, or to develop them on the basis of their concretization and the generalization of the concrete historical material of a concrete socialist experience. A misconception prevails that the principles and statements of Marxism-Leninism are to be treated as golden rules and immutable abstractions, not to mention the fact that theoretically these abstractions are built up on the basis of simplifying assumptions. For instance, the classical considerations delivered by Engels in Anti-Dühring in regard to the question of commodity-money relations in Socialism, were made on the assumption that the working class has achieved socialization of all the means of production. The fact of the matter is that the concrete form through which socialism emerged historically comprised the existence of a sector of the economy that was not socialized. The concretization of the basic principles of the socialist economy under these circumstances represents by itself not only a milestone for revolutionary practice but also is a step towards the enrichment of the theoretical framework of Marxism-Leninism, a step towards the development of this theory, makes it correspond to the level of historical development, prepares it for the achievements of higher stages of historical development. The concretization of the basic principles, the starting point for revolutionary practice, is the first step towards the development of theory since it opens the way for the enrichment of theoretical categories. The path towards the enrichment of theory is complex, it is made of multiple steps that make up the ladder of the, so to say, extended reproduction of the process of cognition. This is what comprises the essence of the creative character of Marxism-Leninism that its founders had devoted their thinking to.
The economic discussions in the Soviet Union represent a systematic effort by the Soviet party to push forward the economic thinking and bring it to the level of the social and economic transformations which operated in the Soviet society. J.V. Stalin had taken a leading role in this collective effort to bring the theory of Marxism-Leninism to the level of the historical development; in this way, a new pre-eminent sub-discipline of economic science, the political economy of socialism was born. To think that the political economy of socialism, as conceived today, was a result of the mechanical application of classical statements in the framework of a concrete whole, is just a reflection how many underestimate the complexity of reality, of how metaphysical is their understanding of the relation between theory and practice, between the abstract and the concrete.
In Russia the revisionists of today have revived the historical figure of Stalin, but by doing so they are just appealing to the great statesman and general of generals. In fact, the most valuable tribute to Stalin’s role in history for generations to come are not only the actions that made him be remembered with respect and reverence by those who were directly involved in the historical process he had led, but the elevation of the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism to a point corresponding to a new historical epoch, the epoch of the victory of proletarian revolutions, socialist construction and consolidation of the socialist formation, and the first steps of the transition to the communist society.
There are several theoretical issues tackled in the Five Conversations. The practice of the socialist construction in the Soviet Union posed tremendous practical and theoretical problems for the Marxist-Leninists. The Five Conversations are a reflection of the richness and profoundness of the theoretical discussions in an effort to understand the laws of functioning of the new society, the evolution of economic categories and the path for the construction of a new society in the Soviet Union. Socialism emerged in the Soviet Union in a concrete form, namely, the socialized sector, the state sector of the economy, which had to coexist with a large sector of collective enterprises, the artels, more commonly known as kolkhozhi, collective farms. In the collective farms, even though the main means of production were in the hands of the socialist state, the product was the property of the peasant collective; this sector of the economy was not subject in a direct way to the socialist plan. This is one major aspect of the concrete form in which socialism emerged for the first time in history. However, being a circumstance that made the socialist formation in the Soviet Union acquire certain specific features, this does not prevent the analysis of the economic whole from tackling fundamental questions of the so to say purely socialist economy. In fact, a great effort was made to understand the essence and forms of appearance of the contradictions in the socialist society, therefore the sources of development of this society. This question was never and could never have been developed in depth by the founders of Marxism-Leninism. It was Lenin, in his controversy with Bukharin, who posed the famous statement: ‘Antagonism and contradiction are not at all the same thing. The first disappears, the latter remains in socialism’. (‘Lenin’s Remarks’, in Nicolai I. Bukharin, ‘Economics of the Transformation Period’, New York, 1971, p. 214). This classical statement became a milestone for the foundation of the political economy of socialism, made it possible to overcome anti-Marxist views that prevailed in the 20s and lay the first bricks of the building of the political economy of socialism. However, from the point of view of the political economy of socialism in particular, this became a major methodological point, but in itself was no more than a formal abstraction that had to be concretized in the framework of a complex economic whole. This classical consideration helped the Soviet economists to start to understand contradictions in the socialist economy, the dynamics of the transition to higher forms of organization of production and distribution.
This present paper is devoted to one major aspect of the political economy of socialism raised in the materials of the Five Conversations. As will be shown below, these documents contain a valuable account of Stalin’s views on the question of socialist extended reproduction. The scheme of socialist extended reproduction by itself is a complex concept that contains simpler concepts. The question of extended socialist reproduction requires the clarification of more elementary concepts such as profit, necessary and surplus labour, necessary and surplus product in socialism. The theory of socialist reproduction had become a touchstone of the political economy of socialism as the science that studies the economic relations of socialism, at the same time it became an expression of the level of maturity achieved by the economic science in the Soviet Union, in general, and Stalinist economic thought in particular.
The economic science of the 30s had just got rid of the countless threads that chained it to the different bourgeois and petty bourgeois economic and philosophical thinking that in one way or another prevailed in the 20s. The year of the ‘great change’ signified a great leap towards the liquidation of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, which also expressed itself through a major breakthrough in the economic thinking in the Soviet Union. The most eminent representatives of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois economic thinking were exposed as part of the underlying class struggle that was advancing towards the consolidation of the supremacy of the socialized character of the ownership of the means of production, the collectivization of the countryside. The economic theories of Trotskyism and Bukharinism, the representatives of the ‘left’ and right-wing revisionism, had been exposed as revisionist, anti-Marxist tendencies, that stood against the socialist construction in the Soviet Union. With the victory of the process of massive collectivization of the countryside, existing forms of private ownership of the means of production, private trade (excluding the commodities put to the market by individual farmers), accumulation of goods in the hands of private owners etc, were liquidated during the first half of 30s. This led to a substantial shrinkage of the sphere of commodity-money relations in the economy, namely the sphere that was controlled by capitalist elements. From now on all forms of trade, commodity circulation, apart from that emanating from the surplus of production of peasants, fell in fully in the hands of the Soviet state. Trade and commodity circulation under the control of the Soviet state basically lost one of its attributes, so characteristic of capitalist societies, its spontaneity and chaotic forms of development, dictated by the unconstrained interplay between supply and demand, (here we refer to pre-monopolistic capitalism) the concentration in private hands of commodities, etc.
For years the Soviet state was preparing the conditions for the establishment of the supremacy of the social character of the ownership of the means of production. During the 20s the relative weight of the socialist state sector, socialist industry, was constantly growing against a background of a sea of independent producers, preparing the conditions for a qualitative change in the character of the development of the whole economy. From the point of view of the economic thinking of that time the central point of discussion became the forms that the struggle between the socialist state sector and the private sector of the economy would adopt. The transitional or transformational economy, as it was called by the economists of that time, would in essence reflect the interplay between the socialist plan and the chaotic character of the development of the sea of independent producers, trading according to the spontaneous laws of the market, not to mention the growing tendencies of accumulation of some sectors of the peasantry, the creation of a layer of small capitalist owners. The Trotskyite ideologists in the 20s had posed the anti-Marxist theory of the two regulators of the Soviet economy, following metaphysical mistakes so common to Trotskyism, leading to an anti-Marxist understanding of the transition to the socialist society.
Partly due to the strong influence in the economic science of that time of bourgeois and petty bourgeois thinking, partly due to the specific character of the economic development of that time, the economists of the 20s lacked the knowledge of methodological principles of what became afterwards the political economy of socialism, they displayed a very abstract and formal knowledge of the laws of functioning of the socialist economy, of key concepts of that form of economic development. It was with the liquidation of the private sector of the economy and the overwhelming victory of the socialist sector when the Soviet economists started to give a serious thought to the major concepts and categories of the socialist economy, started to develop a separate economic discipline, the political economy of socialism. Bukharin’s views according to which political economy studies only economies based on commodity production, ruled out the necessity for the existence of political economy in socialism and communism. This view was pretty well spread and accepted among Soviet economist in the 20s. This resulted, among other things, in the underestimation among Soviet economists of the theoretical and practical significance in socialism of economic laws, economic categories, etc. It was believed that with the liquidation of the element of chaos and spontaneity that emanates from the existence of capitalist elements and the petty-bourgeoisie, when the socialist plan would embrace the whole national economy, all economic processes would be dictated by a preconceived plan, consciously applied by the organs of economic planning, etc. The economic laws of socialism would become just a reflection, an expression of the will of the central economic organs, the issue of economic categories in socialism, in the so-called ‘organizational societies’, would be transformed into transparent economic objects, deprived of their own evolution and subjugated to the organizational principle that made the socialist society evolve harmoniously according to economic laws determined by the central planning organs.
‘With the liquidation in 1930 of mechanicism and idealism in political economy, the bourgeois idea that in socialism there will be no need, there cannot exist the science of political economy, was rejected’ (A.I. Pashkov, ‘Pod Znameniem Marksizma’, 1936, No. 1, p. 107. Translated from Russian).
The Soviet economic theory of the 20s could not seriously consider the issue of the existence of value categories, the law of value under socialism, furthermore, the issue of necessary and surplus labour, necessary and surplus product, profit, simple and extended reproduction in a society that has liquidated class antagonisms. In the turn of the 30s, with the creation of a new objective reality imposed by the liquidation of the capitalist elements and the extensive collectivization of the sea of independent producers, the Soviet economic science had to face the task of interpreting the new reality and developing the basic features of a new economic discipline on the basis of the generalization of the practice and experience of a new economic system. However, the Soviet economists were divided over some key issues crucial for the building of the political economy of socialism. Apart from the relative broad spectrum of approaches developed by the Soviet economists towards the role of commodity-money relations, trade, money, law of value, etc in the socialist society, which by itself constituted a relevant topic for the whole history of political economy in the Soviet Union, the issue of the existence of the concept of necessary and surplus labour, necessary and surplus product proved a crucial one for the construction of the theory of the socialist reproduction and extended reproduction.
Some economists believed that the concept of surplus and necessary labour and product, should not have a place any longer in a socialist society. In this respect many Soviet economists would refer to the classical considerations of Marx in the Critique of the Gotha Programme:
‘In the socialist society the producer works the whole working day for himself and for the collective, for the whole society, an inseparable part of it, in which there is no exploiting class of capitalists. Therefore all time is to be considered necessary for life and development of the socialist society. Any difference between necessary and surplus labour, necessary and surplus product disappears’ (Politicheskaya Ekonomiya M-L, 1932, p. 296. Translated from Russian).
It would be stated that the whole labour exerted by the working class in the socialist society would be necessary, that the concept of surplus labour, surplus time, surplus product, that existed under capitalism would not be applicable to a society that has liquidated class antagonism, where labour is no longer a commodity that is sold by the worker and bought by the capitalist, the owner of the means of production, on the contrary, it is the working class who holds the property of the means of production. As will be seen below, this basic consideration, the social character (directly social character of labour or ‘neposredstvenno obshestvennii kharakter truda’) of labour in socialism should remain in force, represents by itself a basic economic relation in the socialist economy. The core of the question is based on the fact that the concepts of surplus and necessary labour, necessary and surplus product develop under the conditions of the new economic system, in the sense that in the socialist society the labour for the whole society and the labour for oneself confront each other in a direct way. In capitalism the worker, deprived of the means of production, stands in front of the capitalist, the owner of the means of production as the seller of labour power. In this sense as soon as the worker, who in this system of relations of production acts in production as the physical holder of labour power, remains active in it just as long as he is in a position to develop the creative power of his labour power: surplus value. In this respect the worker in capitalism views his participation in production as a means to secure the necessary means of subsistence and procreation. For the worker the physical activity developed during the process of capitalist production is a torture, from the time he starts work he wishes it was already lunch time, once lunch time is over he wishes the work day was over, once the work day is over he wishes it was the weekend and so on. Between individual labour and labour for society in capitalism stands a great wall, the private character of the appropriation of labour. It is only with the elimination of the capitalist mode of production that the labour for society and the labour for oneself are interrelated directly, in the sense that the conditions are given for individual labour to develop as a form of development of social labour without mediation. In this light, it will become clear that the concepts of necessary and surplus labour, necessary and surplus product in socialist society will be of a different nature than in capitalism, will be interrelated differently accordingly to the new system of relations of production. The evolution of the concept of necessary and surplus labour in the socialist society is closely related to the new interrelation between social and individual labour that emerges in this new system of economic relations.
On the other hand, many Soviet economists understood the necessity of dividing the social labour, the total labour of all the members of the socialist society into different portions, a basic requirement for the construction of the theory of socialist reproduction and extended reproduction. The division of social labour into necessary and surplus, at the scale of the whole society, the division of the social labour in the production of the means of production and the production of means of consumption are required for the implementation of the Marxian schemes of simple and extended reproduction applicable to the socialist economy. As Marx pointed out in the Capital:
‘Whatever the form of the process of production in a society, it must be a continuous process, must continue to go periodically through the same phases. A society can no more cease to produce than it can cease to consume. When viewed, therefore, as a connected whole, and as flowing on with incessant renewal, every social process of production is, at the same time, a process of reproduction.’ (K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I [Chapter XXIII], Moscow, 1986, p. 531.)
The study of the most elementary scheme for the flow of labour in a concrete mode of production, and the simplest cell of the continuous process of flow of labour, the scheme of simple reproduction, under the conditions of concentration of production requires the division of the social labour into two main sections, the production of means of production and the production of the means of consumption. The division of the social production into two main sectors, requires the establishment of the way labour is interchanged, of how labour flows back and forth between these two sectors. Therefore certain proportions of the flow of labour are established consistent with the laws of development of the concrete economic formation. There is no such thing as a golden rule for the determination of the portions of labour among sectors of the economy that would be applicable to all social modes of production, as the right revisionist economic theory tried to put forward in the 20s. In fact, the economic theory of the right wing deviationists pursued the perpetuation of the law of value as regulator of the proportions of labour among sections of the socialist economy. The statement of the necessity of the establishment of certain proportions among the sectors of the economy, or the socialist economy in particular, is by itself a very important consideration, a starting point of the study of this central question of the political economy of socialism. However it is also true that this statement comprises an abstraction that carries within itself only the potentiality of the solution of this problem, a first logical step towards it. However, one of the tasks of the economic science is to concretize this simple abstraction in the new system of economic relations.
The Soviet economic science of the 30s was aware of this problem:
‘When studying the question of socialist reproduction one should start from the immortal analysis of reproduction given by Marx and from the genius theory proposed by Lenin and Stalin regarding reproduction in the Soviet society. The Marxist-Leninist theory of reproduction shows that the scheme of reproduction in the socialist society is based on the division of the total social product into the production of means of production and the production of means of consumption, on the one hand, and into c, s and v, on the other. These parts of the total product have a different content than in capitalism. But the analysis of the process of reproduction is definitely based on this division of labour. It is not a coincidence that Lenin noted that ‘even in pure communism at least the relation I v, + s to IIc? And accumulation?’ (‘O predmete i prepodavanii politicheskoi ekonomii sotsializma, B. Borilin. Problemy ekonomiki No. 1, 1937, page 40. [See also: ‘Lenin’s Remarks’, in Nicolai I. Bukharin, op. cit., p. 213, ed. R.D.])
The division of the social labour and social product into the production of the means of production and the production of the means of consumption, the division of the social labour into a constant, variable and surplus part, had become a question of discussion over many years in the Soviet Union. This problem became more acute when the Soviet economists had to interpret the existence in the Soviet economy of certain forms of commodity-money relations, commodity production, the law of value, that persisted after the liquidation of forms of capitalist exploitation in the country. The question of the role of profit, economic accounting in the Soviet economy became an issue of long discussion over decades of economic development. The socialist and communist construction raised burning theoretical and practical problems, and made the Marxists of that time think hard about the meaning of certain economic categories: What is the role of profit in an economy whose goal is no longer the extraction of surplus labour, of surplus product of the working class? What is the role of economic accounting under these conditions? What is the regulator of the portions of labour among sections of the economy, so necessary to establish the dynamics of the development of reproduction, extended reproduction in the socialist economy? Is it true that with the liquidation of the private character of the appropriation of labour, with the liquidation of the capitalist form of circulation of labour, such categories as necessary and surplus labour, necessary and surplus product cease to exist? And, if in the communist formation indeed such categories exist, are we dealing here with the mechanical transplanting of the capitalist categories, as the right-wing political economy of the 20s, and following and later up to certain extent developing it under different historical conditions, the political economy of modern revisionism proposed?
The dialectical method applied to political economy indicates that the objects of study should be considered in its development, in the process of constant changing, from the point of view of the union of opposites, from the point of view of the dichotomy of the form and content of the economic categories they comprise. The dialectical method indicates that the economic categories in socialism are not immutable objects, on the contrary, they undergo constant changes. For instance, the concept of necessary labour may be defined in its most general way, so to say, as a general abstraction that may be applicable to the concrete study of all modes of production. However, this simple abstraction, does not determine by itself the form that this category adopts in a concrete mode of production, for example in the socialist mode of production. The necessity of counting the amount of socially necessary labour for the production of the product in the socialist society, is something that from the one hand may be proved theoretically, on the other hand arises from the practice of the development of the socialist economy. However this simple and, at the same time, fundamental statement for the political economy of the new system of relations of production does not solve by itself the question of the interrelation of this category with other categories that arise from the division of the social labour into different constituents, does not solve the problem of the interrelation of individual and social labour in the socialist economy. Since the economic category, although having a general expression applicable to all modes of production, has become a form that new economic relations adopt, therefore the economic category has undergone an integral change. The way this change in the substance of the economic category is to be inferred from the analysis of the concrete system of socialist economic relations, cannot be inferred ‘in abstracto’, in a purely theoretical way, as a result of the ‘logic of theoretical abstractions’. From the point of view of the dialectical method it is equally wrong to deny the existence of such economic categories as necessary and surplus labour, necessary and surplus product, as to mechanically transport those categories from capitalism.
It should be noted, in order to avoid some confusion around the question economic categories in socialism, that in capitalist society necessary and surplus value is understood within the boundaries of the individual labour, as the part necessary to cover the wage and the part that is deprived from the worker and appropriated by the capitalist respectively. This elementary relation is the basic cell of capitalist production. However, the term necessary and surplus sometimes is ‘allocated’ to this basic economic relation that embodies the basic relation of exploitation of capitalist society. Some Marxists, by establishing such ‘allocation’ come to the conclusion that the principle of division of labour between necessary and surplus is not valid in the conditions of the lack of capitalist exploitation, that this division does not apply to social labour, to the labour produced by the members of the socialist society as whole, that this division is obsolete. On the other hand, and up to some extent as a result of the same methodological mistake, the ideologists of right-wing revisionism, do not conceive the question differently than reproducing this interrelation of portions of labour throughout the whole process of production, they conceive the total social necessary, the total social surplus labour as the arithmetic sum of individual necessary and surplus labour, respectively, therefore the goal of the socialist society, as in capitalism, would be that of extracting maximal amount of surplus labour as the sum of the extraction of individual surplus labour, etc. This point, the major difference in the treatment of the categories of necessary and surplus labour and necessary and surplus product between the Marxist-Leninist theory and the theory of right-wing revisionism, that became the official economic theory in the revisionist countries, will be developed further below.
The Five Conversations reflect the state of affairs of the economic thinking in the Soviet Union in the first years of the consolidation of the socialist mode of production and the taking of the first serious steps towards the formation of a new economic discipline, the first systematic attempts to formulate the basic guidelines of the economic development of the new economic system. With regard to the concrete question that we are dealing with at present, the First Conversation reflects how the Soviet economists were unclear and divided over key issues:
‘QUESTION: Should we have in the textbook that there is surplus product in the socialist society? There were differences of opinion on this matter in the Commission…
ANSWER: Without surplus product you cannot build the new system. It is necessary that the workers understand that under capitalism they are interested in what it is that they are getting. But under socialism they take care of their own society and this is what educates the worker. Income remains but acquires another character. The surplus product is there, but it does not go to the exploiter, but towards increasing the welfare of the people, strengthening defence, etc. The surplus product gets transformed…
REMARK: Surplus product in a socialist society - the term is embarrassing.
Answer: On the contrary, we have to educate the worker that the surplus product is needed by us, there is more responsibility. The worker must understand that he produces not only for himself and his family, but also for creating reserves and strengthening defence etc.
REMARK: In the Critique of the Gotha Programme Marx did not write about surplus product.
ANSWER: If you want to seek answers for everything in Marx you will get nowhere. You have in front of you a laboratory such as the USSR which has existed now for more than 20 years but you think that Marx ought to be knowing more than you about socialism. Do you not understand that in the Critique of the Gotha Programme Marx was not in a position to foresee! It is necessary to use one’s head and not string citations together. New facts are there, there is a new combination of forces – and if you don’t mind – one has to use one’s brains.’ (Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. IV. No. 2, pp. 98-99).
These lines are extremely rich in content, of very relevant and interest considerations which are not only significant for the understanding of the history of the formation of the political economy of socialism but throw light on this particular question that we are dealing with in the present paper. These relevant lines reflect the level of discussion around the understanding of the key of such an economic concept such as surplus product, how the Soviet economists of that time were striving to understand the essence of economic categories of socialism in general, of categories that had been inherited from capitalism in particular. On the other hand, a crucial question of method is raised by Stalin, namely the necessity for the generalization of the socialist experience of the Soviet Union. Stalin with all his might fought for the Marxists of his time to understand the creative and developing character of the theory of Marxism in general and of political economy in particular, the role of the general consideration, the classical statement, their interaction with the analysis of the real practice of the socialist construction in the Soviet Union.
To the question of whether surplus product exists in the socialist society, Stalin replies affirmatively. It is a well known fact that Stalin had established as a starting point for the analysis of the question in the concrete conditions of the Soviet socialist economy, Marx’s consideration drawn in Capital. Marx, had devoted Capital to the study of the capitalist society, however by doing that, in many places he establishes the guidelines for certain economic categories and the laws of development of the future society that would have overcome the capitalist form of development, socialized the means of production, liquidated the private character of the appropriation of labour, etc. In this respect Capital represents not only a scientific work for the study of the capitalist mode of production but also contains so to say a rough draft for the political economy of the future society, a starting point for the analysis of the new economic system.
Marx had studied the capitalist mode of production in its basic constituents and as a complete whole. Being a mode of production based on the exploitation of labour power, based on the appropriation of the surplus labour for the enrichment of a small fraction of exploiters, capitalism is an economic system that not only reproduces itself, but reproduces itself in an extended manner. Despite its disproportionate form of development and the chaotic and spontaneous manner of its economic development, the capitalist mode of production represents, after all, a form of movement of social labour, of inflow and outflow of social labour, conforms a form of development of the social forces of production. One major aspect of Marx scientific method, as opposed to the bourgeois economic thinking, is that he approached the capitalist mode of production as a result of the historical development, as a mode of production that is bound to leave its place to other more advanced forms of economic organization. The capitalist mode of production, the capitalist relations of production have an historical character. People get in relation to each other, establish their relation to nature through forms of economic development that change with time, that have historical character. From this point of view, capitalism as an economic system is viewed as a form of development of the activity of the society to secure its material needs, which makes possible its existence and perpetuation according to historically-concrete laws of social development. The study of the capitalist mode of production from this perspective opens up the opportunity to study more general questions of the economic activity of all modes of production in general, helps to enrich the understanding of economic categories that are present in all modes of production, economic categories that existed in a less developed stage in previous economic formations. It also helps to understand the basic features of the laws of development of the mode of production that will come to replace the capitalist mode of production. In the course of the study of the capitalist and pre-capitalist modes of production, Marx came to the conclusion that there exist some basic features of economic development that are applicable to all modes of production. For instance Marx concluded that in all modes of production there is a process of reproduction of production, in general a process of reproduction of the forces of production and the relations of production. This major question of method developed in a classical way by Marx in Capital is grasped by Stalin and utilized for the treatment of key question of the political economy of socialism.
Stalin in Economic Problems gives more complete formulations of fundamental points of the political economy of socialism at a time when a large-scale rightist deviation had, to a significant extent, taken over the Soviet economic science. Economic Problems is a condensed modern textbook of the political economy of socialism, and, at the same time, contains the Marxist-Leninist exposure of the economic theory of modern revisionism, in which right-wing revisionism is exposed from the point of view of its most immediate sources, the revisionist economic and philosophical thinking of Bukharin and Bogdanov. Stalin once again appeals to the Soviet economists to pay attention to fundamental considerations of method in order to approach the most complicated theoretical problems posed by the socialist construction in the Soviet Union. At this time he faces another side of the coin of revisionist thinking which as far as the Marxist method is concerned. Stalin criticizes Yaroshenko for his stubborn anti-Marxist stand which in essence reduces the problems of the political economy of socialism to problems of the rational organization of the productive forces, á la Bogdanov. Concerning the question of socialist reproduction Yaroshenko argued that Marx’s schemes, the ‘formula v+m of Department I and c of Department II’ are not applicable to socialism since Marx in Capital studied the economic laws of the capitalist mode of production. In reality this was just a subterfuge, a backdoor for the old theory of right-wing revisionism to flow in:
‘Of course, Marx’s theory of reproduction, which was the fruit of an investigation of the laws of the capitalist mode of production, reflects the specific character of the latter, and, naturally, is clothed in the form of capitalist-commodity value relations. It could not have been otherwise. But he who sees in Marx’s theory of reproduction only its form, and does not observe its fundamentals, its essential substance, which holds good not only for the capitalist social formation alone, has no understanding whatever of this theory. If Comrade Yaroshenko had any understanding at all of the matter, he would have realized the self-evident truth that Marx’s scheme of reproduction does not begin and end with a reflection of the specific character of the capitalist mode of production, that it at the same time contains a whole number of fundamental tenets on the subject of reproduction which holds good for all social formations, particularly and especially for the socialist social formation. Such fundamental tenets of the Marxist theory of reproduction as the division of social production into the production of means of production and the production of means of consumption; the relatively greater increase of production of means of production in reproduction on an extended scale; the correlation between Departments I and II; surplus product as the sole source of accumulation; the formation and designation of the social funds; accumulation as the sole source of reproduction on an extended scale - all these fundamental tenets of the Marxist theory of reproduction are at the same time tenets which hold good not only for the capitalist formation, and which no socialist society can dispense with in the planning of its national economy. It is significant that Comrade Yaroshenko himself, who snorts so haughtily at Marx’s ‘schemes of reproduction,’ is obliged every now and again to call in the help of these ‘schemes’ when discussing problems of socialist reproduction.’ (J.V. Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R., Peking, 1976, pp. 82-83).
The existence of general features common to all modes of production, and, therefore, the concrete mode of production may be viewed as a form of movement and organization of labour, is vulgarized by the ideologists of right-wing and ‘left’-wing revisionism. This vulgarization is based on the non-dialectical treatment of the concept of abstraction, its role in the process of cognition, the interrelation between the concrete and the abstract as developed by Marx in the course of his economic studies. In particular, Bukharin, a great classic of right-wing revisionism, had mechanically transferred the applicability of the law of value as the regulator of the distribution of proportions of labour among branches of the socialist economy, based on his metaphysical treatment of Marx’s classical statement on the necessity of the existence of a certain regulator of the proportions of labour applicable to all modes of productions. This was called by Bukharin, the law of labour expenses (‘zakon trudovikh zatrat’), that would adopt the form of the labour of value in the economies based on commodity production. In socialism, the law of labour expenses would shake off its capitalist appearance, the law of value and would start to operate in a direct fashion. In reality the ideologists of right-wing revisionism substantiated the transportation of the operation of the law of value into the socialist economy as the regulator of production. And this is a conditio sine qua non for the liquidation of socialism and the restoration of the capitalist mode of production. They would infer that the principle of exchange of equal amount of labour is a universal principle of production, any outflow-inflow of labour should be operated according to the principle of equal portions of labour. In the capitalist mode of production, in the commodity production, this principle is called the law of value. However, in reality the law of value is transported into the socialist economy without the name. Thanks to Stalin’s contributions to political economy Marxists today understand the role of the commodity production in the socialist society, its sphere of operation, the sphere of operation of the law of value, the extent of its influence on production.
Stalin had started off based on the classical consideration that surplus value, surplus product is a concept that would remain after the capitalist mode of production would have been overcome, with the establishment of the new system of economic relations:
‘This surplus-labour appears as surplus value, and this surplus-value exists as a surplus-product. Surplus-labour in general, as labour performed over and above the given requirements, must always remain. In the capitalist as well as in the slave system, etc., it merely assumes an antagonistic form and is supplemented by complete idleness of a stratum of society’. (K. Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1986, p. 819).
This is a most relevant consideration for the topic of this present paper, which is corroborated in other passages of Capital. The concept of surplus labour (time, product) as the labour (time, product) performed over the given requirement is a concept that will remain in the communist economy. Needless to say, this formulation does not solve the complexity of the problem of the understanding of the role and place of the concept of surplus in a socialist or communist economy; here, on the other hand, the differences between the socialist and communist economy is something that we do not need to concentrate on for the time being. From the analysis of various modes of production Marx deduces the existence of a simple economic relation, that it is necessary for a society to accomplish its cycles of reproduction and extended reproduction, that this simple relation, adopts an antagonistic form in the other modes of production, something that will be liquidated by the establishment of the new economic system. The necessity of the creation of labour above some given level, determined by the level of development of the mode of production remains in socialism, communism, is a basic relation that adopts different forms in different social modes of production.
Marx is categorical in several places of Capital regarding the necessity of the preservation of the concept of surplus labour, surplus time in the communist mode of production, that this concept does not disappear with the abolition of antagonistic relations of production. Marx studied the continuous process of reproduction and extended reproduction in the capitalist society and concluded that the future mode of production will need to establish forms of distribution of social labour not only to make possible simple reproduction of the process of production, the satisfaction of the needs of the society, including the needs of those that do not produce, but also the necessity for the creation of social funds of accumulation, in order to secure the reproduction of the process of production in an extended way:
‘...if furthermore we reduce the surplus-labour and surplus product to that measure which is required under prevailing conditions of production of society, on the one side to create an insurance and reserve fund, and on the other to constantly expand reproduction to the extent dictated by social needs; finally, if we include in No.1 the necessary labour, and in No. 2 the surplus-labour, the quantity of labour which must be always performed by the able-bodied in behalf of the immature or incapacitated members of society, i.e., if we strip both wages and surplus-value, both necessary and surplus-labour, of their specifically capitalist character, then certainly there remain not these forms, but merely their rudiments, which are common to all social modes of production.’ (ibid., p. 876).
And even more categorical:
‘...This is also the only portion of surplus-value and surplus-product and thus of surplus-labour, which would continue to exist, outside of that portion serving for accumulation, and hence expansion of the process of reproduction, even after the abolition of the capitalist mode of production’. (ibid., p. 847).
Upon the necessity of the reproducing the process of production in an extended way, Marx generalizes about the wealth of societies, about the basic cell of the engine of creation of wealth that will remain in the communist mode of production as well:
‘... it depends upon the labour productivity how much use-value shall be produced in a definite time, hence also in a definite surplus labour-time. The actual wealth of society, and the possibility of constantly expanding its reproduction process, therefore, do not depend upon the duration of surplus-labour, but upon its productivity and the more or less copious conditions of production under which it is performed’. (ibid., p. 820).
A major complication for the Marxist economist who faces the task of laying the bricks of the building of the political economy of the new social economic system, is to concretize these basic economic relations valid for all social modes of production. This is even more complicated by the fact that the socialist mode of production historically emerges from capitalism. The general abstractions of necessary labour, necessary time, surplus labour, surplus time adopt concrete forms in the capitalist mode of production, they adopt ‘their specifically capitalist character’. A major task is to determine what are the new forms that these ‘rudiments, which are common to all social modes of production’ will adopt in the new economic system. This had been a central point in the development of the political economy of socialism, for which solution Stalin’s contribution, Stalin’s economic thinking, has played a crucial role. That the social labour, the compound labour of all members of a society determined by the monopoly of the social character of the ownership of the means of production has to be divided into different portions, namely the portion necessary for the compensation of the labour spent in production, the labour necessary to meet the needs of society, the creation of the funds for making possible the extended reproduction of the process of production, is something that the Soviet economists had somehow understood, at least in its most general and abstract formulation. But what had not been obvious, that required a great Marxist-Leninist to solve, which the Soviet economists were not able to solve on their own, no matter how much the ideologists of modern revisionism, these bunch of hopeless parasites, might have tried to convince the Soviet working class and the whole world. It was Stalin who laid the means for the solution of the problem of the concretization of economic categories in socialism, thus making possible the creation of the political economy of socialism. The passage from the abstract notions and concepts, the starting point of the study of the concrete whole, to the concrete notions and categories is a complex transition, that requires among other things, the knowledge of the essence Marx’s scientific method. This transition is not straightforward, it is a result of a complex interplay between synthesis and analysis, between the simple and the compound, between the lower and the higher, is a multi-step movement full of changes and transitions. Stalin had posed to the Soviet economists the necessity of the implementation in political economy of basic philosophical principles, principles of the scientific method. In the concrete documented instance of the Five Conversations this is expressed in a simple way by calling the attention of the economists to the existence of new ‘facts’ and a ‘new combination of forces’. This is the deeper content of Stalin’s assertion to the Soviet economists of that time.
The founders of the ‘new’ economic and philosophical ‘science’ of the post-Stalinist period also gave their own interpretation of the evolution of views in the economic thinking in the Soviet Union. There is an overall tendency among these revisionist professors to view the evolution of the economic thinking in the Soviet Union as the result of the self-evolution of the economic thinking. One has the impression that the Soviet economic theory had its own laws of development, that the Soviet economic thinking had evolved independently of the social forces that existed in the Soviet Union in various historical moments. Their approach to the different economic discussions that took place in various stages of the history of the Soviet Union is completely anti-Marxist. The passage from the political economy of the 20s to the political economy of the 30s was viewed as a result of the necessary evolution of the concepts created in the 20s, a necessary result of the evolution of the economic thinking independent of the underlying class struggle that went on in the Soviet Union at that time. For instance they do not view the strong bourgeois and petty bourgeois influence in the economic thinking of the 20s as an expression of the class structure of the Soviet Union at that time. The same would apply to what these revisionist professors would treat as a decisive leap forward in the history of the political economy of socialism, that took place in the second half of the 50s and later. They viewed this process as a result of the overcoming by the Soviet economic science of the shortcomings of the Stalinist economic thinking, as a result of resolving the ‘internal contradictions’, and ‘inconsistencies’ of the economic science of the Stalinist period. The most liberal of them approach the Stalinist economic thinking as a temporary framework that corresponded to some extent to the low level of development of the Soviet science of that time, so to say, it was a ‘naive’ start to the construction of the political economy of socialism. Needless to say, this had to be a ‘naive’ start at least for the fact that the Soviet economists of the post-Stalinist period had to face a rather complicated talk, namely to reconcile the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union with socialist phraseology, to try make look socialist an economic whole that started to function according to radically new economic laws, which were definitely not socialist. In this respect the Stalinist economic thinking would have appeared to be too naive, since one has to be a ‘really developed Marxist’ in order to solve the most complicated problem of trying to substantiate the commodity character of all products produced in socialism and still make it look socialist, of trying to convince the Soviet working class that the social surplus product was distributed fairly, according to the economic laws of the socialist economy, etc.. The Stalinist economic system had become a burden for the transformation of the economic theory of the Soviet economy into a socialist phantom, what really became an outrageous eclecticism, a shameless expression of bourgeois political economy dressed up with socialist phraseology and phrasemongering about the construction of the developed socialist society.
The first steps towards the solution of the problem of the concretization of the general classical statements of the founders of Marxism-Leninism to the economy of socialism were made by Stalin. Regarding the particular question dealt with in the present paper, it is most relevant to point out to a basic concept that was developed in application to the political economy of socialism by Stalin, namely the concept of the transformation of the economic categories:
‘The surplus product is transformed.’ (Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. IV. No. 2, pp. 98-99).
The concept of the transformation of economic categories applied to the political economy of socialism, in its initial formulation, in the 30s played a fundamentally positive role. This term was not only applied, as in this particular instance, to the concept of surplus product, surplus time in socialism, but also to commodity-money categories, the law of value in socialism etc. The concept of transformation embodied the basic statement that the many concepts and categories in the political economy of socialism had undergone an integral change, that these concepts and categories now reflected economic relations of a different type. For instance the Soviet economists in late 30s had come to the conclusion that the law of value operated in the Soviet Union in a transformed way (‘v preobrazhovannom vide’), that it did not reflect, as in capitalism, the chaotic character of development, the fluctuations of the market, on the contrary, it was believed that the law of value was utilized by the Soviet state consciously as a constituent part of the socialist plan. This formulation played a positive role at a time, during the 30s when many economists believed that commodity production and its laws of development had been overcome with the liquidation of private property and the establishment of the hegemony of the social character of the ownership of the means of production. This formulation helped the Soviet economic science of that time to approach certain economic categories from the point of view of the evolving interaction between form and content, their constant evolution towards higher forms of development. What had been predicted by the founders of Marxism-Leninism, that the socialist society, the lower stage of the communist society had been born with the birthmarks of capitalism, was thus concretized in the particular instance of the political economy of socialism.
As seen above Stalin started off with the assumption that in the socialist economy, as well as in the economy of communism, there remains the concept of surplus labour, surplus time. Stalin indicated that the surplus product, the surplus that remains to society after subtractions, is not appropriated anymore by class of the bourgeoisie, this surplus product, on the contrary, is appropriated directly by society and distributed by it in order to fulfill the requirements of the development of the socialist society. The working class is no longer exploited, anything that is produced above certain requirements is allocated by a central economic organ that embodies the rule of the working class in a concrete stage of historical development. In capitalism, the owners of the means of production appropriate the surplus product produced by the working class, which in capitalism adopts the form of surplus value; this is part of the process of self-expansion of capital. Part of the surplus value produced by society in capitalism is spent to support the parasitic classes of society, another part is used to reproduce capitalist production in an extended way, thus perpetuating capitalist exploitation with all its consequences. With the liquidation of the capitalist mode of production, as in the Soviet Union, the basic principle that functioned in the capitalist mode of production remains, for it is common to all social modes of production: society should produce more than it spends, the social economy should constantly expand to meet the growing needs of society. The Stalinist concept of transformation of the surplus product of society in the socialist economic system played a major positive role in the creation of the theory of socialist reproduction, socialist extended reproduction.
On the other hand, the formulation of the transformation of economic categories contained within itself the potentiality for ambiguous interpretations, as became clear later in the second half of the 40s. Many Soviet economists had wrongly understood the theoretical and practical significance of the concept of transformation of economic categories in socialism, giving it a subjectivist interpretation. Some economists in the Soviet Union interpreted this statement of transformation of economic categories, of economic laws in socialism not taking into account that the dialectical process of this transformation has an objective character, is not the result of the power of the consciousness of the people or the greatness of the influence of the central planning organs. Basically, the objective character of the laws in socialism was underestimated. In the example of the law of value, many started to believe that the law of value was transformed under the conditions of the socialist economy, that it would therefore operate in the socialist sector as well, that the law of value had an universal character in the conditions of the socialist economy. As Stalin pointed out later in Economic Problems by appealing to the objective character of the economic laws in socialism, that economic laws cannot be created nor transformed, it is just that the sphere of its application is constrained or skewed by the economic policies of the central planning organs. Under the pressure of Stalin the term ‘transformation’ of economic categories, economic laws was dropped. The understanding of the ambiguous character of the concept of transformation of economic categories and economic laws corresponds already to the, so to say, level of the Economic Problems, in the sense that this work reflects a higher stage of the theory of the political economy of socialism as a whole, and its basic key constituents.
It should be noted here that the economic discussions around concrete and separate questions and aspects of the political economy of socialism, for instance, commodity production, law of value, profit, surplus product etc are all interrelated. The concept of surplus labour, surplus time is a simple concept, however it presupposes the existence of other concepts that are simpler with respect to it. In order to determine the role of the category ‘necessary and surplus labour’, it is necessary to have clarification of the concept of labour in socialism, individual and social labour, their mutual interrelation. It is also necessary to clarify the question of the concept of value in socialism. The economic discussions of these questions are a constituent part of a greater whole; it is not possible to reach a reasonable understanding of a particular question, for example, the issue of necessary and surplus labour in socialism, without understanding other simpler economic categories operating in the socialist system. This is a crucial point to understand not only the way the economic categories are conceived in general, but also, surprisingly enough, to grasp the way revisionism emerges and builds up its revisionist economic theory. This is clearly seen in the economic theory of modern revisionism. Before coming to crucial conclusions with regard to the particular question of necessary and surplus value in socialism, the ideologists of modern revisionism spent several years after the death of Stalin to come to the conclusion that all products in socialism adopt the form of commodities, that all products in socialism are to be treated in essence as commodities. In fact this was the most serious ‘theoretical problem’ that the revisionist ‘science’ faced was to somehow come to some kind of consensus as to why the socialist economy is a commodity economy. The rest of the revisionist thinking regarding commodity-money relations, etc, came about in a relatively straightforward manner. In their cunning Marxism, the ideologists of modern revisionism did their best to provide the new economic theory with a tint of self-consistency: It was not possible to substantiate the restoration of the principle of profitability as the leading criterion for the effectiveness of the economy, without having beforehand proclaimed the commodity character of the product in the socialist economy:
‘Since the products of labour in socialism are commodities, commodity circulation is a necessary step for socialist extended reproduction’ (‘Politicheskaya ekonomiya – Uchebnik’, Third revised and enlarged edition, Moscow 1959, p. 639).
This short statement contains within itself in a straightforward and concise manner the essence of the eclectic logic of the economic theory of modern revisionism. Within the framework of the political economy of modern revisionism the argument is stressed unambiguously. Since the products of the socialist economy adopt the form of commodity, (this applies now not only to the means of consumption, that were formerly, in Stalin’s times regarded as commodities, but also to the means of production), the flow of labour between sections of the economy between state enterprises, should go through commodity circulation. In general the process of reproduction, the exchange of labour between the enterprises of Department I and Department II should be made through commodity circulation, since socialism, according to the revisionists, does not know any other form of labour flow other than through the form of commodity circulation. The law of value, for it is the law that determines the way commodities are exchanged among each other, has become the regulator of outflow and inflow of labour among sectors of the economy. The Bukharinist law of labour expenses comes into operation dressed up by the ideologists of modern revisionism. The necessity of commodity circulation for securing the process of extended reproduction in the revisionist system is just a result of the former statements.
This modernization of the Bukharinist law of labour expenses had been stated years earlier during the post-war period by one of the leading economists of that time, the head of the Central State Plan, N. Voznesensky in his famous book, the ‘War Economy of the USSR in the Period of the Patriotic War’. This book had spurred the emergence of right-wing revisionism in the Soviet economic science during the post war period and contains within itself the main guidelines of the political economy of modern revisionism:
‘If we divide socialist production in the USSR into Department I, producing means of production, and Department II, producing articles of consumption, the value of the means of production set aside by the Soviet state for enterprises in Department II must obviously in a certain measure defined by plan correspond to the value of the articles of consumption set aside for enterprises of Department I. Indeed, if enterprises of Department I were to be deprived of the articles of consumption, and enterprises of Department II, of the means of production, Socialist reproduction on an extending scale would be impossible, inasmuch as the workers of enterprises producing means of production would be deprived of articles of consumption, while enterprises producing articles of consumption would be deprived of the means of production, i.e., fuel, raw materials and equipment.
‘Thus, the law of value in Socialist economy is the transformed and most elementary law of the costs of production, distribution and exchange of products, a law placed at the service of state planning. (N. Voznesensky, ‘War Economy of the U.S.S.R. in the Period of the Patriotic War’, Moscow, 1948, p. 118.)
This citation is also an illustration of the historical background that determined the publication of Economic Problems, in the sense that, unlike in the 30s, Stalin was facing a massive right-wing deviation in the understanding of key issues of the political economy of socialism. This illustration is of assistance in order to understand Stalin’s stand on key questions of the political economy of socialism that led to the publication of Economic Problems, some fundamental formulations given in that precious work, the evolution of Stalin’s views in his scientific effort to analyze and generalize the Soviet socialist experience, for the creation of a general theory of the socialist economy.
The proof of the capitalist character of the economic system based on the universality of the commodity character of the products is not something that can be achieved by simply asserting the commodities are bad since they are the simplest cell of the capitalist production. The law of value, commodity-money relations in general are basic concepts in capitalist production. ‘Left’- wing ‘Marxists’ had long ago interpreted the existence of commodity-money relations, even if the sphere of commodity production was restricted as it was in the Soviet Union in Stalin’s time, as a proof of the capitalist character of the Soviet economy, or at least to prove the existence of elements of capitalism in the Soviet socialist society. Most commonly these ‘Marxists’ infer from the existence of commodity production the inevitability of capitalist restoration, the impossibility of having socialism as long as commodity-money relations exist (it should be noted that Stalin in Economic Problems stresses that the preservation of commodity-money relations is incompatible with the perspective of the communist construction). Needless to say, these economists are just scratching the surface of the most complicated economic phenomena that operate in the socialist economy, moreover, their objection is more a question of terminology rather than a result of the Marxist analysis of the form and content of economic relations in socialism.
The assertion of the commodity character of the socialist economy, one key point of the political economy of modern revisionism is without any doubt an expression of a radical change in the character of the mode of production, the restoration in essence of the capitalist mode production. However the proof of the restoration of the basic relation of the capitalist mode of production, the private character of the appropriation of surplus value is something that requires still another additional step in the study of the relations of production in the Soviet Union in the post-Stalinist period. The capitalist mode of production is a whole complex system of economic relations, the highest form of organization of commodity production, based on the private character of the appropriation of surplus value. The transformation of all social products into commodities lays the grounds for the restoration of capitalist exploitation. These pro-market reforms were accomplished after the death of Stalin in the Soviet Union late 50s.
The Soviet economists of that time, doing away with decades of Marxist-Leninist traditions and scientific effort for the construction of the political economy of socialism, set to serve the interest of the new emerging class lead by a revisionist clique. On the other hand, in some respect, the task of the Soviet economists of that time was also to interpret the new economic reality created by these economic reforms. Their economic theory is more or less a developed interpretation of the objective reality. The leap towards marketism developed in the Soviet economic thinking after the death of Stalin was a reflection of the changes operated in the Soviet economy, namely of the fact that the Soviet enterprise was transformed into an independent producer whose motto is to create individual profit, which trades with other enterprises according to a ‘plan’ established by the central economic organs of the state, apart from the fact that the leadership of the Soviet enterprise had become more and more ‘independent’ over the years, but this at this stage is a secondary question. Needless to say, this new concept of ‘plan’ it is radically different in essence to the plan that operated in the Soviet Union in Stalin’s period, a plan that embodied the social character of the appropriation of social labour and operated its distribution according to the laws of development determined by the necessity of satisfying the needs of the socialist society. Furthermore, the concept of profit in the new economic system corresponds to a radically different content than it had in Stalin’s time. The Marxist-Leninist critique and exposure of the capitalist character of the revisionist economy of the post-Stalinist period is not based on the argumentation that there existed the economic category of profit in the Soviet Union or even on the fact that the revisionists had officially declared profit of the individual enterprise the leading criteria for the effectiveness of the economy, etc. The Marxist-Leninist analysis dismembers the concept of profit in the conditions created by the economic reforms envisaged by the revisionist clique, in order to unveil its new content, that the concept of profit embodies economic relations of a different type, economic relations of an antagonistic type, not of a socialist type. That the socialist economy requires a certain profit, necessary for the creation of reserves, funds of accumulation, etc is something that Stalin had proved scientifically, is today an important statement of the political economy of socialism. The core of the question here is what type of economic relations are embodied by these economic categories, whether the category of profit in the Soviet Union was an economic form of social surplus labour meant to be distributed according to the laws of development of the socialist economy, or an economic form that embodies the appropriation of surplus value of the working class, to be distributed according to the economic laws of the capitalist mode of production. This is way the question stands here, as a Marxist should be able to distinguish between the form and content of the economic categories, to understand the evolution of these economic categories and the new meaning that they acquire under the new economic system.
The fallacious eclecticism of the revisionist economic ‘science’ was based on the cheap assumption that all the economic categories in the revisionist system embodied socialist relations of production, denied the radical change operated in the relations of production in the Soviet Union, mainly the fact that the relations of property, and therefore the relations of distribution and consumption, had changed in its nature. A Marxist-Leninist cannot conceive of the social character of the property of the means of production in a system that has liquidated the dictatorship of the proletariat, replaced by the dictatorship of the revisionists. The axiom of the modern revisionists, their holy fallacy, the social character of the property of the means of production in the revisionist system, finally reduces to the Trotskyite conception of the state of the workers. In particular, today’s defenders of modern revisionism, some of whom are dressed under the disguise of false Stalinism and the truly and only defenders of the principles of Marxism-Leninism, resort to the Trotskyite argumentation of the deformed workers’ state, the theory of the measurement of the proportion of socialism and capitalism in the revisionist mode of production, the theory of the socialist society with cancer, etc.. in order to substantiate the socialist essence of the revisionist regime. Needless to say these theories are no more than a pitiful expression of vulgar eclecticism, which have nothing to do with Marxism. Here what is more relevant for the purpose of the present paper, they embody a non-Marxist, metaphysical method in political economy.
As stressed above economic thinking is a more or less developed expression of the objective reality of economic relations of a concrete mode of production. The leap towards marketism in the economic thinking in the Soviet Union after Stalin is a reflection of the changing character of the economic relations which operated in the post-Stalinist period. In this paper we are interested in a particular and crucial question of the theory of the political economy of socialism, the theory of socialist reproduction, viewed from the point of view of the Stalinist economic thinking, more concretely speaking, viewed as a result of Stalin’s scientific effort build up the political economy of socialism. It is also relevant to us, how the ideologists of modern revisionism ‘solve’ this particular question of the political economy of socialism and make it suitable to the new revisionist economic system. This also helps us to understand the punch line of Stalin’s economic thought and its crucial relevance for the modern Marxist economic thinking.
The economic theory of modern revisionism is in some way a self-consistent whole of conceptions. As stressed above the existence of the category of profit in the Soviet Union is not to be considered by a Marxist economist as a proof of the capitalist character of the revisionist economy, however, the revisionist understanding of commodity production, commodity, law of value, profit, necessary and surplus labour, etc. is very specific and radically differs from Marxist-Leninist understanding. In this respect one could assert that the socialist character of the relations of production does have an impact on the economic categories and concepts. The Marxist-Leninist understanding of the commodity in socialism is different from the revisionist understanding, etc. In this connection the study of the revisionist economic thinking is also useful for the clarification of key questions of the political economy of socialism. In particular, this is also useful to understand the evolution of Stalin’s economic thinking regarding the question of necessary and surplus product, necessary and surplus labour in socialism. The economic thinking of modern revisionism is the result of the development of the preceding economic theory of right-wing revisionism in the Soviet Union. So to say the economic thinking of modern revisionism is a good specimen for the study of the economic theory of right-wing revisionism, for it became its most developed form. The struggle of Stalin against the rise of right-wing revisionism in the economic thinking of the post-war period, is to be fully understood when this outrageous monster of the economic theory of modern revisionism settles down. Stalin was the first to grasp the capitalist essence of the tendencies that started to appear in the post-war period. We have been able to corroborate the correctness of Stalin’s ideological struggle over decades of revisionist rule and subsequent restoration of savage and barbarous capitalist exploitation, an abomination and a necessary outcome of the revisionist rule.
The starting point of the revisionist theory of socialist reproduction is the axiom of the commodity character of all products in socialism. This of course had to face some serious and obvious contradictions, namely, how to reconcile the fact that all products in socialism are commodities with the assurances that labour power is not a commodity, with the direct social character of labour in socialism, with the fact that the sale-purchase of commodities should be done between economic objects that belong to the same owner, the socialist state, etc. This obvious contradiction was ‘solved’ by the new economic theory by asserting that the commodity in socialism displays no longer a contradiction between concrete and abstract labour, a fantastic transformation of the socialist commodity into something that is not a commodity but at the same time circulates like a commodity, has become an instrument to perpetuate in socialism the principle of exchange of equal labour, effectively the law of value, etc.
The economists of modern revisionism had criticized as too naive the conception of the division of the social labour into various social funds, that had been developed in the 30s based on the classical indications of Marx given in the Critique of the Gotha Programme:
‘Let us take first of all the words ‘proceeds of labour’ in the sense of the product of labour; then the collective proceeds of labour are the total social product.
‘From this must now be deducted:
‘First, cover for replacement of the means of production used up.
‘Secondly, additional portion for expansion of production.
‘Thirdly, reserve or insurance funds against accidents, disturbances caused by natural factors, etc.
‘...There remains the other part of the total product, intended to serve as means of consumption.
‘Before this is divided among individuals, there has to be again deducted, from it :
‘First, the general costs of administration not directly appertaining to production.
‘...Secondly, that which is intended for the common satisfaction of needs, such as schools, health services, etc.
‘...Thirdly, funds for those unable to work, etc. in short, for what is included under so-called official poor relief today’. (K. Marx, ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’ in K. Marx and F. Engels, ‘Collected Works’, Vol. 24, Moscow, 1989, pp. 84-85.)
These are classical statements in the sense that for the first time an abstract structure of the division of the social labour in the communist economy is given. This is also the starting point for the development of the theory of socialist reproduction. The ideologists of modern revisionism had cunningly taken over Stalin’s argumentation on the role of abstractions in the political economy, but doing this more as an excuse to do away with the terminology of the social funds and its replacement with terminology that would be more suitable for the transportation of the capitalist categories to the socialist economy. In fact the ideologists of modern revisionism had been pretending to have a deeper understanding of the philosophical foundations of political economy. Some efforts were made to analyze the philosophical foundations of Marx’s Capital, which the publication of several key monographs to Soviet professors bear witness to. Needless to say, their academic efforts are much more useful to us than they were in practical terms for the political economy of modern revisionism.
The concept of social funds is unsuitable for the transportation to the socialist economy of the capitalist concepts of necessary and surplus labour, for the establishment of the interrelation between wages and necessary labour of the workers, between profit and surplus labour of the workers. Moreover, as was pointed out above the obvious contradiction between the universal commodity character of the socialist production and the directly social character of socialist labour is ‘solved’ by the revisionist economists by stating that the commodity in socialism does not contain the contradiction between its two sides. This way the revisionists preserve the directly social character of labour in socialism and see no longer a contradiction in translating the capitalist treatment of necessary and surplus labour to socialism. The basic cell of the capitalist interrelation between the concept of necessary labour and the wage, between the profit and the surplus labour of the worker, the extra time exerted over the time necessary to cover the value of the means of consumption. The working day of the worker in the revisionist system would be divided into the portion of time that the worker has to spend in order to qualify to get a wage and the time, surplus time that the workers works above that portion of necessary time:
‘This portion of the social labour (the funds for the satisfaction of the needs of labourers. Note of translator) is the necessary product, created by the necessary labour, i.e. the labour of the labourers for themselves.’ (‘Politicheskaya ekonomiya – Uchebnik’, op. cit., p. 525).
It should be noted the concept of social labour in the revisionist economic thinking is no more than the mechanical addition of individual values created by the members of society. Since the social labour is a result of the summing up the various values created by the members of society the various portions into which the social labour is subdivided, the social necessary labour and the social surplus value is also the result of the purely arithmetical summing up of the individual necessary labour and individual surplus labour of all members of society respectively. In the analysis of the capitalist mode of production it is relevant to know what part of the individual labour should be spent in order to cover the cost of the commodities that the worker needs to subsist, perpetuate itself, etc, the wage and a part that constitutes the surplus labour that the worker is exerting above that necessary portion. Further, the surplus labour of the individual workers makes up the total social surplus value that is split into two parts, the profit of the enterprise and the centralized income of the state through a tax exerted on the profit of the enterprise and wages:
‘The national income, created by the state sector of the national economy consists of two main parts. One part of this income, the necessary product created by the labourers of the material sphere of production, adopts the form of wages of workers and servicemen of state enterprises. Another part is the surplus product, or income. The income of the state sector adopts two main forms: 1) the form of income of the state enterprises (the so-called profit of the enterprise) 2) the form of the centralized income of the state (the so called ‘tax on circulation’, which is deducted from profits, wages, in order to secure social insurance, etc.) (‘Politicheskaya ekonomiya – Uchebnik’, ibid., p.641).
On the one hand the motto of production becomes the extraction of the maximum difference between the amount of individual labour required to pay the wages of the workers and the total amount of labour exerted during the working day. On the other hand, the surplus labour of the working class is subdivided into two portions, into the profit of the production unit that is hosting the productive activity of the worker and the so-called centralized income of the state, which is a tax on circulation (whatever the form of the portion compound labour that is directed towards the central state organs adopted is irrelevant here. In fact, in the revisionist times there were long and heated discussions as to what would be the most suitable form that the centralized state income would adopt, but this is more a reflection of the internal structural contradictions of the revisionist economy, a topic that is not covered in the present paper). Needless to say this type of division of the social profit does not correspond to the socialist mode of production. In socialism there is no need to establish a rift between the profit of the enterprise and the profit of the state, simply for the formal reason that the enterprise is owned by the whole society through the state. In monopolistic capitalism, things stand in a different way as in socialism. The state enterprise in capitalism is an independent entity of production, that functions according to the laws of capitalist production, is bound to produce a profit by means of exploitation, part of which is directed to meet the requirements of extended reproduction, and another part of which is transferred through the form of taxes to the capitalist state. In addition in capitalism the working people are bound to pay taxes, a fraction of their necessary labour, to the capitalist state mainly for the purposes of perpetuating the state of oppression. In the socialist mode of production as opposed to the capitalist mode of production state assets are social property, and are meant to directly satisfy the needs of the whole society, to materialize the conditions of socialist reproduction according to the growing needs of the socialist society, therefore in socialism there is no need to establish a rift between the reproduction and extended reproduction of the enterprise and the reproduction and extended reproduction of the whole economy.
It should be noted that in the Soviet Union in Stalin’s time there existed the concepts of the profit of the socialist enterprise and the taxing on the income of the socialist enterprise that was mostly comprised by the tax on circulation, which historically arose in the times of the construction of the Soviet state back in the early days of the Bolshevik rule. In this respect the State budget makes up the social material resources for further reproduction of the socialist economy. The bulk of the social funds at the disposal of the Soviet state originated in the income of the socialist enterprises. Taxes on the population ceased to be a relevant fraction of the state budget from the early days of Bolshevik rule in contrast to pre-revolutionary Russia. Formally speaking the centralized state budget of the Soviet state originated mainly from the taxes applied on the income of the socialist enterprise, which numerically speaking in the context of the economic accounting of the individual enterprise would become an additional expense and therefore had to be calculated for by the accountants of the enterprise. Generally speaking the social income historically emerges in the socialist economy in two main forms, the centralized income of the state by means of taxes on the economic achievements of the socialist enterprises and the net income of the individual enterprises. The laws of the development of the socialist economy require the unity of these forms of social income for the purpose of securing extended reproduction of the socialist economy as a whole. The revisionist rule transformed the Soviet enterprise into an individual centre for the extraction of profit, the socialist unity of the various forms of social income collapses, and with it the socialist extended reproduction of the whole economic system.
As established by Stalin, the concept of profit in socialism is different from that operating in the capitalist mode of production. It is true that the concept of profit of the individual enterprise, or even the profit of a individual sector of the socialist enterprise remains, the activity of the enterprise may be also interpreted in terms of the profit expressed in value terms. This concept, as Stalin pointed out will be useful for some time in socialism, schematically speaking is still one way of controlling the productive activity of the socialist enterprise. Stalin spoke of the profit in terms of the profit of the whole of society, in terms of the effectiveness of the socialist apparatus taken as a whole. This is the reason why in socialism unprofitable enterprises can exist and still be profitable for the whole of society. There are sectors of the economy that will not be profitable but that are indispensable for the whole socialist productive system to function and make possible the process of reproduction and extended reproduction of the socialist economy. There are whole non-productive sectors, like education, which, while not producing profit for the socialist society, are indispensable for the future development of the forces of production, and are therefore also necessary for society. The same applies to sectors of the socialist economy like the military sector. The military sector provides the socialist armed forces with the material basis for the defence of the interest of the socialist country against the belligerent capitalist encirclement in order to create the conditions for a continuous and unconstrained process of extended reproduction of the socialist economy, the further development of the communist construction. Therefore, profitability, is to some extent a useful tool to determine the effectiveness of the socialist enterprise, from the point of view of an independent productive object, something that should not be neglected for a long time, it is not, however, an element that determines the character of the process of extended reproduction of the socialist economy, does not determine the way social labour flows back and forth among different sectors of the economy, the so-called socialist regulator of the proportions of labour. This is one of the major advantages of the socialist mode of production in contrast to all preceding modes of production based on exploitation, that it is for the first time in the socialist society that the social labour is meant directly to meet the growing needs of the whole society. The new revisionist system, along with the new economic thinking effectively liquidates this fundamental element on which the superiority of the socialist system over capitalism is based: the effectiveness of the revisionist system is based on the mechanical addition of the profitability of the individual productive objects of the economic system, what matters is to maximize the difference of the value used for the means used to meet the established at that time material needs of the society and the total amount of value created by the productive sectors of the economy, in the sense of the arithmetical addition of individual activity of the different economic objects. This corresponds to a capitalist character of the management of the economy. The direct result of the liquidation of the socialist character of the reproduction and extended reproduction was the drastic drop in the yearly rates of growth of the Soviet economy, that affected all major sectors of the economy, which took place in the second half of the fifties. The astounding 10-15% growth of the socialist industry that was developed during the post-war period and the first half of the 50s was cut short in the 60s down to 2-5% depending on the sector. The yearly rate of industrial growth dropped to zero sometime in the second half of the 70s and eventually became negative sometime in the 80s.
K. Marx in Volume III of Capital analyses the capitalist law of the declining of the rate of profit and unveils the fundamental contradictions of the capitalist mode of production. In particular, Marx exposes the fundamental limitations imposed in the capitalist mode of production over the increase of productivity, an integral contradiction that is supposed to be overcome in the socialist mode of production by virtue of the social character of the relations of production. Marx illustrates in a simple numerical example the limitation applied to the increase of the productivity of labour in the capitalist mode of production: imagine that a certain commodity in a certain line of a capitalist plant has a given cost price. The cost price of the commodity is well known by the capitalist, since he knows what is the cost if the fraction of the constant capital spent (the usage of the machinery and the raw and auxiliary materials), and the fraction of the variable capital spent (wages for the workers). But now suppose that the capitalist acquires some new machinery that improves the productivity of labour. Therefore with more efficient techniques the worker will be able to produce more of that commodity in the same amount of time. In other words, the relative fraction of the variable capital spent to produce a unit of that commodity will decrease. On the other hand, the relative fraction of constant capital spent to produce the commodity has increased after the introduction of the new technique. However, if the change in the relative fractions of the constant and variable capital cancel each other, so that the absolute cost-price of the commodity remains the same, the capitalist, who is in the end concerned about the rate of profit will not find this interesting. For the capitalist things will not change, since the capitalist is concerned about the absolute difference between the value of the commodity and the cost-price of that commodity, so to say he is only interested in vulgar arithmetic, in reality he is not interested in anything but getting the right hand side of the equation right. In this respect Marx carries on and generalizes the character of the increase of productivity of labour in the capitalist mode of production:
‘The law of increased productivity of labour is not, therefore, absolutely valid for capital. So far as capital is concerned, productiveness does not increase through a saving in living labour in general, but only through a saving in the paid portion of living labour, as compared to labour expended in the past’, (K. Marx, Capital, III, ibid., p. 262).
The capitalist is concerned in saving in living labour, in expending less in wages for the workers, is concerned in the increase of surplus labour-time. Therefore, the capitalist is not always interested in the increased of the productivity of labour as opposed to the socialist mode of production.
‘The limit of capitalist production is the excess of time of the labourers. The absolute spare time gained by the society does not concern it. The development of productivity concerns it only in so far as it increases the surplus labour-time of the working-class, not because it decreases the labour-time of the material production in general.’ (ibid., p. 264).
Today’s defenders of the revisionist system, disguised under the false appearance of fervent advocates of Stalin’s legacy, interpret the dramatic drop in the rates of growth of the Soviet economy in the post-Stalinist period as a result of the deformation of the socialist principles of management, they, on the contrary, do not want to see this as a result of the implementation of a qualitative change in the character of the management of the economy, in the character of the process of reproduction and extended reproduction. In particular, one of the most spread argumentation in favour of this thesis is based on the eclectic view that the problem with the Soviet economy in the post-Stalin period was the fact that wholesale prices were arbitrarily inflated, that there was a gap between the wholesale price of the product and its real value. The director of the enterprise in the revisionist system had to fulfill the plan for the creation of product in terms of prices, a certain amount of rubles should be produced yearly and so on. The way the price and the real value of the commodity were related to each other was to a great extent determined by the director of the enterprise, somehow supervised by the central state organs. Obviously there are two ways of creating profit, either through the improvement of the productivity of labour, this way creating relative surplus value, while wholesale prices are kept fixed, either productivity of labour remains the same and the wholesale prices are artificially inflated, so that the amount of product-rubles is provided according to the requirements of the growth of the national economy as dictated by the Ministry of Economy. As a cure to the this ‘deformation’ of the socialist management they propose that the state fix prices, this way forcing the enterprise to increase productivity. At the same time the foundations of the economy of the revisionist system would be untouched, the conception of the commodity character of the product in socialism, the revisionist conception of social labour, etc. The revisionist market economy would function, so to say, under a stronger control of the state. But this is just a preposterous variation of the whole revisionist system, whose basic premises are nothing but the political economy of modern revisionism. What seems to be a naive suggestion is the perpetuation of the theory of modern revisionism after its unavoidable and irreversible demise. Moreover, they do not see that this so called ‘deformation’ of the principles of socialist management, the artificial inflation is no other than an expression of the capitalist character of the revisionist economy. As in capitalism the revisionist economy is not interested in the ‘the absolute spare time gained by the society’.
These pseudo-theories advocated by today’s false followers of the teachings of Stalin foster the illusion of the possibility of restoring the revisionist Soviet Union as a lesser evil to the present capitalist regime. Firstly, they do not understand that the specific character of the revisionist regime, namely the fact that it retained certain economic forms and restrictions to the development of capitalist relations of production as existed in the West, is a direct result of the fact that the revisionist system arose historically from socialism, where there existed no unemployment, the corollary of social benefits, no free circulation of land, means of production, etc. The preservation of certain restrictions to the development of the capitalist essence of the revisionist mode of production should be interpreted as a reflection of the strength, the strong social roots of socialism of the socialist system under Stalin. From the strictly economic point of view the revisionist regime brought the gradual dismantling of system of social welfare built up in Stalin’s time for the working class and the toiling masses in general, the reforms following the disintegration of the USSR finally dismantled it and established a system of savage capitalist, pseudo-slave exploitation. The restoration of the revisionist regime is no more than a childish illusion, one would need at least to restore socialism first and then restore the revisionist system then, which is preposterous at this point. The preservation of the private character of the property of the means of production, and such is the goal of opportunism regardless of the forms that it may adopt, at this stage of historical development will not make it possible to ease the level of exploitation of the working class, return to the population, at least partially, certain social benefits that were historically gained by means of a socialist revolution. Only a socialist revolution, with all it consequences, will be able to give hope in the present state of affairs. Secondly, the revisionist system is not a separate social mode of production, in the sense of an intermediate mode of production between capitalism and socialism. It is transitional in the sense that it retains certain forms inherited from the socialist times that come into contradiction to the capitalist essence of the character of the relations of production. In this respect, the revisionist system carries within itself some additional contradictions apart from the fact that, as a capitalist system in essence, it had restored certain contradictions that are inherent to the classical capitalist mode of production. The collapse of the revisionist system is a direct result of the unfolding of its internal contradictions, the necessity of finally liquidating the hurdles that lay before the free development of the capitalist relations of production. The collapse of the revisionist system is not to be interpreted by a Marxist either as a collapse of the socialist system, the death of the socialism with cancer, etc. Much to the contrary, this should be interpreted as part of the crisis of the capitalist system, a step towards the final collapse of capitalism in the former republics of the Soviet Union. Politically speaking, these ‘theories’ are meant to divert the communist movement and the working class from the tasks of the organization of forces for the accomplishment of the socialist revolution in the former republics of the Soviet Union. These are not just theoretical considerations from the point of view of discussion for the sake of discussing the history of the Soviet Union. Much on the contrary, a major strategic issue is at stake here.
The economists of modern revisionism give a capitalist interpretation of the basic concepts of necessary labour, surplus labour, to make them fit into the revisionist system. The revisionists do not go beyond the narrow boundaries of bourgeois political economy, they seem to be unable to view the process of interaction of the individual labour and social differently from the bourgeois economists. The only difference here is that, unlike the classical bourgeois thinking, the revisionists are aware of Marx’s theory of surplus value. But other than that, what is left of the economic theory of the revisionists after subtracting its Marxist phraseology has little to do with the Marxist-Leninist political economy.
The concept of social profit in the socialist economy is not the result of the mechanical summation of the concept of the profit of individual enterprises. Numerically speaking, the total amount of available social labour is equal to the arithmetic summation of the individual labour of all members of society. But what seems to be straightforward arithmetic, in reality encloses the essence of the interrelation between social and individual labour, the essence of the character of the transformation of the individual labour into social labour and social labour into individual labour, in general, the essence of the interrelation the part and the whole in the socialist economy. This is a process that occurs constantly, the simple abstraction of the constant process of reproduction. The workers in socialism come to production, add their individual labour to the chain of the social process of production. On the other hand, the worker gets a wage in money form, with which he acquires the necessary means of subsistence, etc. Wages in a socialist society (at least at a stage of development of the socialist society that is known to us, which implies the existence of two forms of property) adopt the form of wage-money, the goods that the working class consumes adopt the forms of commodities. The workers of the sectors of industry that produces means of production have to exchange a certain amount of labour with the workers of the industry that produces means of consumption. The workers of the industry that produces the means of consumption need means of production that are produced in the industry that produces means of production. The workers of the industry that provides means of production need means of consumption. A theoretical and practical problem is posed herein, the problem of the form and content of the economic relations of socialism. However, the ideologists of modern revisionism, cannot conceive the character of the exchange of labour other than through commodity circulation, other than according to the principle of exchange of equal amount of labour. The ideologists of modern revisionists cannot conceive the transformation of the individual labour of the worker into social labour other than through its capitalist form: the worker has worked for a certain amount of time, necessary time, in order to secure his wage and the rest of the time, surplus time goes to form the surplus time of the whole of society. But this is, so to say, a capitalistic way of viewing things, the result of the refusal from the side of the revisionist economists to go beyond the surface of the economic phenomena.
The worker in the socialist society adds the whole labour exerted during the working day to the apparatus that moves the socialist social labour, the labour of the whole society. In this respect, if viewed from the point of view of the capitalist concepts of necessary and surplus labour, the working day of the worker in socialism is no longer divided into necessary and surplus time, since in socialism there is no need to determine how many hours that particular worker has worked to earn his wage. From the point of view of the socialist production all portions of the labour exerted by the worker during the working day are equally necessary. However, this essential economic relation appears in a different form as opposed to communism. The worker in the socialist factory gets his share of the social production in a form of a wage. In addition the principle of distribution in socialism differs from the communist principle of distribution. Needless to say the form of wages in the end should enter into contradiction with this basic interrelation between the individual and social labour that opposes socialism to capitalism, therefore the form of wage also undergoes certain changes: it gets transformed step by step into a communist to fit the communist principles of distribution. The Stalinist plan for the step-by-step transition to communism thoroughly considered this point. The fact that at some point the activity of the socialist enterprise might be interpreted in terms of counting the time necessary for the workers to qualify for a wage and the rest of the time as the surplus time that makes up the individual share of the worker to the profit of the enterprise does not by any means change the essence of the interrelation of social and individual labour in socialism. The same applies, for instance to the concept of social funds of consumption: the revisionists claim that the social funds of consumption are mainly made of the addition of the necessary portions of labour of all the productive workers. This is just, so to say, straightforward arithmetic that contains as a basic cell the capitalist interpretation of the interrelation between individual and social labour. The revisionist economic theory failed to understand for reasons that are understandable to us nowadays, the complexity of the interrelation between the economic forms in which certain basic aspects of the political economy of socialism and the economic relations themselves. The fact that the worker in the socialist society earns a wage to subsist does not necessary imply the application of the capitalist interrelation between the individual and social labour that the revisionists envisaged to be applicable in socialism.
In this respect Stalin’s stand on the applicability of the term ‘necessary labour’ and ‘surplus labour’ in the socialist economy comes out clear to us. Here, of course Stalin means the mechanical transportation of the capitalist concepts to the socialist economy. That was the impending danger at that time, what later on became what we know today as the political economy of modern revisionism:
‘Absolutely mistaken, therefore, are those comrades who allege that, since socialist society has not abolished commodity forms of production, we are bound to have the reappearance of all the economic categories characteristic of capitalism: labour power as a commodity, surplus value, capital, capitalist profit, the average rate of profit, etc. These comrades confuse commodity production with capitalist production, and believe that once there is commodity production there must also be capitalist production. They do not realize that our commodity production radically differs from commodity production under capitalism.
Further, I think that we must also discard certain other concepts taken from Marx’s Capital – where Marx was concerned with an analysis of capitalism – and artificially applied to our socialist relations. I am referring to such concepts, among others, as ‘necessary’ and ‘surplus’ labour, ‘necessary’ and ‘surplus’ product, ‘necessary’ and ‘surplus’ time. Marx analyzed capitalism in order to elucidate the source of exploitation of the working class – surplus value – and to arm the working class, which was bereft of means of production, with an intellectual weapon for the overthrow of capitalism. It is natural that Marx used concepts (categories) which fully corresponded to capitalist relations. But it is strange, to say the least, to use these concepts now, when the working class is not only not bereft of power and means of production, but, on the contrary, is in possession of the power and controls the means of production. Talk of labour power being a commodity, and of ‘hiring’ of workers sounds rather absurd now, under our system: as though the working class, which possesses means of production, hires itself and sells its labour power to itself. It is just as strange to speak now of ‘necessary’ and ‘surplus’ labour: as though, under our conditions, the labour contributed by the workers to society for the extension of production, the promotion of education and public health, the organization of defence, etc...’(J.V. Stalin, op. cit., pp. 16-17).
For the sake of the self-containedness present paper it is proper to notice at this point that the ideologists of modern revisionism had claimed that Stalin contradicted himself in a number of points. For instance the revisionists do not understand Stalin’s conception of the dying off of commodity-money categories, see a contradiction between the fact that, on the one hand, Stalin had proved the existence of commodity-money relations in the Soviet economy, and on the other hand, had expressed that one of the conditions for the transition to communism is to liquidate commodity production. Regarding the issue of socialist reproduction the revisionists see a contradiction in the fact that Stalin replies affirmatively to the question of whether or not the concept of surplus labour exists in the socialist economy and the fact that in Economic Problems he categorically denies the applicability of the concept of necessary and surplus labour, understood as the mechanical transportation of the capitalist concepts. From the point of view of the non-Marxist understanding of economic categories inherited from capitalism, it is not possible to conceive profit, the source of socialist accumulation, without the transportation of the basic capitalist relations to the socialist economy. It profit exists, then social profit is the summation of individual profits, therefore the time of the worker in production is divided into necessary, the time necessary to earn a salary and the rest of the time that makes up the surplus labour of the whole society. They cannot conceive that the concept of profit in the socialist society is in essence much different from the profit in the capitalist mode of production, that what seems simple arithmetic in reality is something much deeper than that.
In this respect, precious for us are the following paragraphs from the last of the Five Conversations in which Stalin throws some light as to how to understand in socialism the concept of necessary and surplus labour of the socialist worker, helps us to grasp the unity of concepts of the Stalinist economic thinking:
‘QUESTION: How do we call those parts of the National Income of the USSR which were given the name: ‘the necessary product’ and ‘ the surplus product’?
ANSWER: The concepts of ‘necessary and surplus labour’ and ‘necessary and surplus product’ are not suited for our economy. Does all that which goes towards welfare and defence not constitute necessary labour? Is the worker not interested in it? In a socialist economy we should be making the distinctions in approximately the following manner: Labour for ones own self and labour for society. That which in relation to a socialist economy was earlier termed as necessary labour coincides with labour for oneself, and that which earlier was called surplus labour is labour for society’ (Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. IV. No. 2, p. 120).
The capitalist concept of necessary and surplus labour cannot fit a system in which labour is directly social. The directly social character of labour in socialism impels individual labour to have a different character than in capitalism. This poses a theoretical question, that of understanding the character of individual labour in socialism and its interrelation with social labour. Neither the formal denial of the existence of any kind of division of portions of labour or the mechanical transportation of capitalist categories to socialism solves the problem. Stalin following Lenin’s indications, on the contrary, posed and solves a fundamental general problem of the political economy of socialism: the interrelation of the form and content of the economic categories in socialism, gives the key to the solution of the most complex questions of the political economy of socialism, opens the way to the study of the forms of the transition from socialism to communism. The concrete question of the theory of the socialist reproduction is central for the political economy of socialism, also a central point in the Stalinist economic thought shows the scientific power of dialectical materialism. The economic forms are to be studied from the point of view of changing economic conditions which determines a concrete interplay of the form and content of the economic categories inherited from capitalism developed in a system based on a radically different system of economic relations. The question of the theory of socialist reproduction is solved by Stalin within the framework of his extensive effort to understand and solve this broad question.
The socialist economy as it emerges historically is a complex of economic forms that were unknown formerly. This posed to the Bolshevik party non-trivial problems in the course of the socialist construction. The Stalinist economic thinking comprises the concretization of the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism and the generalization of the economic praxis over a whole new historical epoch. The implementation in new economic forms of the basic principles of the socialist economy as conceived in the classics of Marxism-Leninism before socialism emerged historically turned out to be a complex enterprise at least for the fact that the construction of the theory of the political economy of socialism, the formulation of its main laws of development took a whole generation of creative experience. On the forefront of this tremendous effort stands the economic thought of Stalin whose legacy to future generations of Marxist-Leninists is incalculable and indispensable.
Click here to return to the April 2000 index.