Mechislav Rakovski, ‘Changes and Chances of Socialism’, (in Russian), Warsaw, 2000.
The ideological development of the communist and workers’ movement in the countries of Eastern Europe is a topic of great interest to the revolutionary movement in general, and the workers’ and communist movement in Russia, in particular. The Polish and Russian people are linked to each other by countless ties that have evolved over the centuries. The development of the Polish revolutionary movement is, therefore, an issue of great concern to the organized workers of Russia. The ideological and organizational questions that arise in the course of the development of the workers movement in Poland are of great interest to those who hope for the emergence of a powerful workers’ movement free of the ideological burden inherited from the rule of revisionism for over four decades.
The book by Mechislav Rakovski, (‘Peremeni i shansi sotsializma,’ in Russian, Warsaw, 2000) represents a document of great interest. The fact that this document has been translated into Russian greatly eased our task. In his book Rakovski concisely reviews the history of socialism from its foundations in 1917, and tries to explain the factors that created the conditions for the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe. The author concentrates his analysis of the socialist economic system on the development of China, which Rakovski regards as a socialist country. The author praises the role of what he calls ‘market socialism’ in economic development and draws far-reaching conclusions as to the type of economic development socialism should lead to. In this book the author leaves no room for misinterpretation by the reader as to his position concerning questions of history and political economy. However, he says little about the level of organization of the Polish working class and the perspectives for organized struggle against capitalism. We are, therefore, forced to concentrate on the ideological and theoretical thinking of the author as manifested in this document.
The position of the author towards the historical role of Stalin is interesting in the present historical context. The restoration of the historical figure of Stalin by the Russian communist and workers’ movement, despite the misinterpretation of Stalin’s contribution to the theory of Marxism-Leninism by today’s revisionists, has played a major positive role in the development of the revolutionary trends, not only in Russia but in other republics of the former Soviet Union. We need to better understand the essence of the author’s position towards Stalin’s contribution to theory.
To our knowledge the support for Stalin in the left movement in Eastern Europe is still rather limited. In the countries of Eastern Europe support for the role of Stalin is not as common as it is in Russia. Probably, the overwhelming support for Stalin in Russia has more to do with the fact that not only the revolutionaries, but also the revisionists, the ideological heirs of the revisionist CPSU, have adopted Stalin as a point of reference. We will not discuss in detail this issue; probably it has more to do with the strength of open anti-communism in Eastern Europe, so that the revisionists in these countries do not have to mask themselves as supporters of Stalin. The opportunists in Russia have reduced Stalin’s contribution to history and to the theory of Marxism-Leninism to a hollow façade convenient to the political agenda of revisionism, which lately is serving the interests of the Russian monopoly bourgeoisie. It is no surprise that Stalin’s role in history has been adulterated by revisionism. Stalin has been transformed into a lifeless icon for the remembrance of the golden times of a mighty country while his theoretical contributions have been ruthlessly vulgarized or, at best, pushed into oblivion. It is no surprise that the heirs of the revisionist CPSU, friends of today’s President Putin, have set Stalin to serve the interest of social-chauvinism and social-fascism. This is not the first time in history that the exploiting classes have used the ideology of the revolutionary class to serve the interests of domination.
Apparently, revisionism in Poland has not yet resorted to using Stalin to help the bourgeoisie fool the working masses. However, it is very encouraging that the number of Stalin’s supporters in the countries of Eastern Europe is steadily growing. It is important to know whether Rakovski will help us understand where Stalin stands among those who claim to support him in Poland. We need to know whether this stand represents genuine support for Stalin’s contribution to the theory of Marxism-Leninism, whether the author’s ideology is in accord with Marxism-Leninism. Support for Stalin as a historical figure, by itself, is not, in our view, a sufficient condition for a movement to be genuinely revolutionary. The author’s understanding of Stalin’s contribution to theory helps us get an insight into the class essence of his ideology.
Despite the hysterical campaign to demonize Stalin fostered by the bourgeoisie and revisionism in Poland, the author takes an overall positive attitude (in relative terms) towards Stalin. However, the author is quite far from distancing himself from the pressure of the bourgeois propaganda with regard to Stalin’s historical role:
‘If Lenin had lived 10-15 years more, a number of serious mistakes committed by Stalin’s group, which had a negative influence on the development of socialism, would have never taken place’ (p. 8).
According to the author, during Stalin’s time a number of mistakes were made, both in the management of the economy and in the structure of power and leadership of the party and the socialist state. The author is adamant about pointing out what he regards as the essence of Stalin’s mistakes:
‘The main mistake committed by Stalin’s group… was the introduction of the principle of the one-person management in the factories… the concession of privileges to the administration of the factories and the party apparatus’ (p. 12).
Also, the author makes clear what he considers the outcome of these mistakes to be. He argues that Stalin represented the interests of the working class and genuinely fought for the construction of socialism, that Stalin was a class enemy of the party and state bureaucracy, which took over after his death. However, Stalin’s mistakes, according to the author, opened the way for the restoration of capitalism and the demise of socialism:
‘In the end these mistakes helped socialism in the USSR and the socialist countries of Eastern Europe to collapse’ (p. 8).
The author’s attitude towards Stalin is plagued with stereotypes from bourgeois propaganda. However, this aspect of the book is not the focus of our analysis. The author’s stand actually represents a relatively positive attitude towards Stalin as opposed to the ideological violence and terror which the figure of Stalin has generally been subjected to in the countries of Eastern Europe.
We need to understand the ideological implications of the author’s stand in relation to the economic issues touched upon in his work. The author makes his stand on political economy clear starting with his criticism of the Stalinist economic system, which the author calls the: ‘centralized-command system in economy’ (p. 19).
The author considers that the establishment of this ‘model’ of economic development in Soviet Russia corresponded to some extent to the concrete historical conditions of the epoch. The author regards the Stalinist political economy of socialism as having a temporary character whose application and validity is not universal; on the contrary, it is limited to concrete historical situations. The author states clearly that these principles of the Soviet economic model were not applicable to the countries of people’s democracy in Eastern Europe:
‘However, the transformation of these policies (the economic policies of the Soviet Party in the 30’s. My note) into a theoretical dogma applicable to all times, together with the postulate that the production of means of production should always grow faster than the production of the means of consumption, which resulted in an inflexible system of centralized planning and the monopoly of state ownership, subsequently became one of the main causes of the collapse of the socialist system’ (p. 13).
The author objects to a fundamental ‘dogma’ of the socialist economic system, namely the priority of the production of means of production over the production of means of consumption as a primary condition for sustained socialist economic reproduction. Needless to say, the author objects to the policies of ‘forced’ collectivization of the countryside accomplished in the 30’s in the Soviet Union and believes that this model is not applicable to the conditions of the Polish countryside. Overall, the author acknowledges the successful economic development in the Soviet Union in Stalin’s time. However, the author regrets that this success took place at the cost of excessive sufferings by the Soviet people:
‘Additionally, the sufferings of the people in the course of the accomplishments of the five-year plans and the existence of a large number of forced labour camps were concealed from the West’ (p. 14).
The author touches upon the significance of Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR. It is worth noting the author’s attitude to Stalin’s stand on commodity-money relations. He points to what he calls Stalin’s dogmatist stand on this issue:
‘Stalin considered commodity-money relations and the action of the law of value a necessity during that concrete stage in the development of the Soviet economy only (emphasis by M.R.) due to the existence of collective property along side of state-owned property…’ (p. 40).
This is a rather standard criticism of Stalin’s views on commodity-money relations put forward by Soviet economists of the revisionist period in the mid-50s to undermine the socialist economic system. This argument is not at all new to us. This type of argumentation had been preserved in the Soviet economic ‘science’ over the years of the post-Stalin period, despite the fact that the official ideology of the revisionist regime tried as much as possible to avoid touching upon the economic discussions of the second half of the 50’s and the early 60’s. That socialist production is a production of commodities is a dogma that the ideologists of modern revisionism had very clear in their minds. The revisionist economists of the period of the ‘developed socialism’ of Brezhnev and company did not return to these issues, since the commodity character of socialist production was unquestioned. However, this type of argumentation has survived these years and has been revived by certain sectors of the revisionist movement in Russia. Apparently Rakovski is also following that trend.
The attitude of the author towards Voznesenskii is enlightening, although it creates a great deal of despair in our minds.
‘The trial of Voznesenskii created a great deal of division and hatred among the members of the politburo… In my opinion the reason (for his execution. My note.) was his support for the introduction of some elements of market economy in the country, propagandizing for this against the viewpoint of the majority of the members of the politburo and Stalin personally…’ (p. 38).
The author is right in identifying Voznesenskii’s economic reforms and the views expressed in his book ‘War Economy of the USSR in the Period of the Patriotic War’ with the introduction of market reforms in the Soviet economy. It is interesting that the author has touched upon this issue as it makes clear to us that we are dealing here with a consistent ‘marketist’:
‘Returning to the content of the work under scrutiny it is necessary to say that Stalin, as well as Marx, Engels and Lenin, regarded commodity production, the action of the law of value and the utilization of money as not compatible with communism… Stalin, however, turned out to be too much of a dogmatic Leninist. It is possible that Voznesenskii’s divergence from this thinking was the cause of his tragedy’ (p. 40).
Whether Voznesenskii’s ‘marketism’ took away his life is still an open question; but what is clear to us is that Voznesenskii’s agenda contained within itself the basics of the political economy of the revisionist economic system. Not only have we corroborated this in a number of works published in Marxist-Leninist organs; Voznesenskii’s role in the history of the economic reforms in the Soviet Union has been praised by the ideologists of the revisionist system.
The author touches upon the political economy of the post-Stalinist period. His criticism is not in our view one of principle, even though he makes clear his disagreement with the official economic line of the Soviet revisionists. The author does not object to the market-type character of the economic relations between the revisionist Soviet Union and other countries of the so-called socialist bloc.
‘The idea of a world socialist market was correct in principle but it did not need to be isolated from the capitalist market. A controlled market within the framework of the international cooperation of socialist countries, which embraced 1/3 of the world population, was potentially superior to the anarchic capitalist market of that time (time of the XX Congress. My note.) and it allowed a number of countries to rid themselves of their dependence on the capitalist market and develop within the world socialist market. However, in order for this market to become genuinely independent and benefit the member countries it would have been necessary to establish prices not in an arbitrary manner, as happened in practice…’ (p. 41).
While supporting the idea of a ‘world socialist market’, the author complains about the character of the economic relations that linked the Soviet Union with the rest of its allies. The author does note a qualitative change in the character of these economic relations after the establishment of a new leadership in the Soviet Union.
‘Subsequent developments showed that the ruling circles (after Stalin. My note) in the USSR gave up the principles of cooperation with the international communist movement, and also with China, a result of a process of class degradation and also of the strengthening of imperialist tendencies’ (p. 42).
The author’s attitude towards the theory of the political economy of socialism leaves us no doubt on his ideological orientation. Now we understand better the author’s stand on the historical role of the so-called Chinese path of development that he praises so much. His stand towards China is indeed very enlightening. Based on generalization of the ‘Chinese experience,’ he draws far reaching conclusions about the political economy of ‘modern’ socialist economy towards the end of the book.
‘It has been shown in practice that the step-by-step development of the principles of a controlled market economy, a system that gives broad independence of action to state companies and other socialized companies too … leads to excellent results…’ (p. 98).
The author acknowledges the need to support the development of private capital in China and regards it as part of the socialist economy.
‘Private companies are an important part of China’s socialist market economy and it is therefore necessary to boost this sector further, i.e. to help citizens who work on their own and the owners of private companies…’ (p. 101).
The author’s stand on this issue is based on the most dangerous statements of the political economy of the revisionist system, namely the equation of socialism with state ownership regardless of which class holds state power:
‘From the point of view of the strategy of the state it is decisive that the state controls the majority of the shares of socialized companies’ (p. 101).
Without addressing the issue of the class character of the Chinese state, the author assumes the socialist character of the economy. This stand opens the way to the theories of social-fascism, and therefore these kind of statements, from someone who claims to be a Marxist in a complicated historical epoch such as the present, is utterly unacceptable.
The author for some strange reason is driven by the illusion that market relations boost democratism in the relations of production, in society and in the political life of the country in general:
‘The example of China … shows that a market economy managed by
the state may also be socialist, that a political system can exist that is
democratic for the people and that creates the conditions for the people to
participate in the management of the economy and the state at all levels’
The author makes this preposterous statement without apparent proof. We would like to know when, in the history of the development of the market relations of production, did the sellers of the main commodity in production, labour power, become more involved in the management of the process of production, distribution and consumption or become more influential in the matters of the state. It is not dogmatism that makes us stick to the opposite view, but overwhelming scientific evidence. We wonder if the author could provide scientific evidence that the Chinese working class and peasantry are the lords of the economy and hold political power in China or, on the contrary, whether the development of the ‘free’ market economy has resulted in the enrichment of the old and new capitalist classes and the enslavement of the broadest masses of Chinese toilers to the dictates of this market.
The author’s analysis of the economic system of modern China is a consequence of the ‘marketism’ of the economic school he adheres to. It is well known that one of the ‘contributions’ of modern revisionism was that of reconciling with socialism the utilization of economic forms that gained their highest development under capitalism and served as instruments for exploitation of the toiling masses. Needless to say, the ideologists of revisionism could not by any means reconcile these elements within Marxism. Much to the contrary, they were impelled to create a pseudo-science filled with lifeless citations from the classics and dressed up with Marxist phraseology. The author in some sense wishes to develop further the ideas of this pseudo-science in the conditions of a quasi–‘free’ market economy as it now exists in China which has a level of development of the classical forms of capitalist economic relations never achieved by the revisionist states.
‘In the modern market type of socialist state the labour market is not a form of expropriation of the toiling masses in favour of a class of capitalists’ (p. 117).
The textbooks of political economy published during the revisionist period hardly dared to speak of free labour market within the revisionist system. However, the author seems to be willing to develop further the ideas of modern revisionism and, in a way, complete them in an economic system that went further in the development of the classical forms of capitalist relations of production under the disguise of neo-Marxist propaganda. He attempts to reconcile the existence of a free labour market and circulation of capital with the political economy of socialism. He attempts this by reproducing the methodology of modern revisionism under new historically concrete conditions.
It is important to point out that the Chinese economy was based on market principles long before the death of Mao. It was under Mao, as early as the second half of the 50’s, when the Chinese, together with the Soviet revisionists, changed their minds about the character of the means of production under socialism. Mao and the Soviet revisionists agreed on the commodity character of the means of production, a fundamental pillar of the restoration of capitalism. In this respect, we do not see a difference of principle between the political economy before and after Mao’s death. It may argued that the modern Chinese revisionists have somehow resolved the internal contradictions of the political economy of early revisionism by finally acknowledging labour power as a commodity and allowing free circulation of capital. Rakovski apparently supports this ascendant line in the development of revisionism, never achieved in the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe, that is now in progress in China.
Finally, the author makes a dreadful conclusion:
‘Today the future of socialism, not only in China but in the whole world, depends a great deal on how successful the path led by China will be’ (p. 97).
With this the author takes a further step in his analysis of the historical epoch following the collapse of the revisionist states. According to the author, the future of socialism is dependent upon the success of the path of economic development followed by China, not on the struggle of the oppressed masses of the world against capitalist and imperialist oppression. It is no wonder that he has devoted so little attention to problems of the workers’ movement in his country, as he probably does not believe in the feasibility of the organization of the exploited masses.
As to the character of the economic development in China, there is no doubt among Marxist-Leninists that it has as little to do with socialism today, as revisionism had to do with socialism in the past. No Marxist-Leninist is able to find a hint of Marxism in a statement like this:
‘The theoretical basis of the party (the Chinese Communist Party. My note) is Deng Xiao Ping’s theory of socialist construction, a theory which corresponds to the specific character and needs of China and is based on Marxism-Leninism and the thought of Mao-Tse-Tung’ (p. 100).
However, the author should not be blamed more than the ‘post-Soviet’ revisionists in Russia. Definitely, neither the structure of thought nor the ideological and practical conclusions drawn here differ significantly from the theses of the new revisionist movement in Russia. The author has come to very similar conclusions to those of Andreevism in Russia:
‘The 14th Congress of the Communist Party of China, CPC (1992) has formulated the theory of the construction of socialism with the Chinese specificity, that is based on the consideration that between socialist economy and market relations there do not exist differences of principle, that the coordination of the planned economy and market relations makes it possible to do away with the possible constraints on the development of the forces of production and gives an impulse to economic development. The congress has called for the formation of the system of Socialist market relations in China’ (Cited in Revolutionary Democracy, Volume III, No. 2, p. 87).
Andreevism also concludes that the centre of the revolutionary movement in the world today has shifted towards the East, and more concretely to Asia:
‘… Based on the analysis of the current concrete-historical situation, the AUCP(B) (All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik). My note.) draws the conclusion that the centre of the world revolutionary movement is moving to Asia and in part to Latin America’ (Ibid. p. 89)
The character of these views was considered in more detail in a previous article ‘Reply to Comrade Mironyuk….’ published in Revolutionary Democracy Volume III, No. 2. In this article the anti-Marxist essence of Mironyuk’s economic views was exposed. Mironyuk’s views, in their revisionist stand, were probably more sophisticated than those put forth by Rakovski in his book. The latter from the very beginning has left us no doubt about the ideological line that he is pursuing. However, both authors, despite differences in the exposition of their views, have not gone beyond the essence of Andreevism in Russia. We hope that this critique of their views, written in a comradely and constructive manner, will help them understand the ideological essence of ‘marketism.’ We also hope it will help them concentrate on the current issues posed by the development of the workers’ movement in their countries, rather than postponing the issues of today’s struggle for the organization of the working class, and ultimately for socialism, based on the false illusion that the development of capitalist relations in China under the disguise of false neo-socialist phraseology will help the development of socialism in the world.
We would like to draw the author’s attention to the fact that the political line of Andreevism in Russia, whose ideological stand is very similar to the stand of Rakovski as expressed in his book, has been characterized by a complete bankruptcy organizationally. What promised in the earlier days of the collapse of the Soviet Union to be a movement which would return to the working people the traditions of the Bolsheviks, turned out to be a representative of one of the many fractions into which the revisionist CPSU collapsed. They remained revisionist and, as a result, they have been isolated from the dynamics of today’s workers’ movement in which their presence is negligible. We are hopeful that the author and those who adhere to his ideological line will realize the consequences of persisting in the line of today’s revisionists.
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