Understanding Soviet Revisionism
20 February 2023
Table of Contents
The death of Stalin was a crucial moment in the history of the global socialist movement – not because his leadership would have been irreplaceable, but because the influence of his successors would split the socialist world into two opposing camps. One side, first represented by the Chinese Maoists at the time, claims that Khrushchev and later Brezhnev restored capitalism in the Soviet Union, and that it had become a social imperialist power exploiting other nations. We call people holding this position restorationists. The other side argues that the Soviet Union remained socialist until its dissolution in 1991. More than 60 years after the Sino-Soviet split, the question of whether the Soviet Union had become state-capitalist after Stalin still manages to divide communist forces around the world. Even the LLCO used to take a clear stance against the “new capitalist class” of the Soviet Union.1
The fact that this question is still being discussed among Marxist-Leninists is somewhat embarrassing since today we have access to a wide range of tools that were not available to many communists during the 1960’s up until the 1990’s. In particular, certain aspects of our age urge us to reassess this question and to try to solve it once and for all. Namely, these are: the huge body of literature and research published in over 60 years since the Sino-Soviet split; the ability to quickly access and review sources and data using the Internet; and the gradual opening of Soviet archives.
Many publications on the Soviet Union after Stalin thus far are stand-alone works because they often failed to relate to each other. For example, one of the most extensive publications in favour of the restorationist argument, The Restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union by German communist Willi Dickhut, is hardly ever mentioned in US publications. Likewise, European communist organisations rarely address US research on the topic. This paper is also meant to overcome these barriers, and to foster international scientific dialogue.
Our research is based on the wide consensus among Marxists-Leninists that the Soviet Union under Stalin was socialist. Traditionally, not even Trotskyites would call it capitalist. Trotsky criticised Stalin for establishing a “bureaucracy” and a degenerated workers’ state; but decidedly did not call it state-capitalism.2 We will examine whether or not Khrushchev and Brezhnev really introduced reforms capable of transforming the socialist economy into a state-capitalist one, with all its negative effects on the working population, and on the relations between the Soviet Union and other countries. We will evaluate the most important arguments from both sides, and we will specifically focus on the questions of capitalist appropriation and social imperialism.
But a purely economic approach is not sufficient to settle the debate. It would leave many questions open, such as: why did the Soviet Union fall under Gorbachev? Why did Khrushchev turn against Stalin? How did the official ideology change in the course of Soviet history? Therefore, we must dive into Marxist theory and look at societal change from a dialectical angle. In the first chapter, we will define some guiding terms of this research. In the second chapter, we will summarise briefly how societal change works from a Marxist perspective. Chapter three will examine the Soviet economy; and chapter four the Soviet political system. The fifth chapter will investigate whether or not the Soviet Union was imperialist. Chapter six will reassess the development of Soviet society from a dialectical perspective and draw a conclusion on the nature of its society. In the final chapter, we will summarise our methodological insight that can be used in future research.
This work will focus solely on the Soviet Union and its relations to other countries. It would be too simplistic to make assumptions about other countries based on the findings on the Soviet Union. Each state deserves its own analysis before we declare it socialist or something else. But we hope that the findings in this work can guide future case studies.
Commodity (Production) – We are used to the view that every product of human labour is a commodity; but this is only because we live in a capitalist system where commodity production predominates. It does not always need to be the case, and it was not so in much of the human history. What is a commodity then? In short, it is something produced for exchange on the market (exchange value) rather than for direct use (use value). If a prehistorical person sharpens a stick in order to use it as a weapon to hunt animals, it is not a commodity. But if he or she sharpens this stick, or 100 sticks for that matter, in order to exchange them on the market for other commodities to fulfil his or her own diverse needs, then that is when it becomes a commodity. Commodities have both use value (otherwise no one would want to buy them) and exchange value. We can talk about commodity production wherever goods are manufactured mainly for exchange.3
Class – The concept of class was unthinkable in times before private property came into existence. It will also, according to Marxist theory, cease to exist when private property is abolished under socialism.4 Therefore, class is closely linked to one’s relation to property and to the means of production. The conflict between owners and producers has been the motor of history, as famously stated by Marx: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”5 In this article, however, we will apply the concept of class to capitalist society as this is our area of focus. There are two main classes in the capitalist system. One of them, the bourgeoisie, own the means of production (factories, land, tools, etc.), and do not need to perform any actual work. Instead, they buy the workforce of proletarians who do not own any means of production and are forced to sell their own labour as commodity. Although the proletarians produce everything we use, they are dispossessed. At the same time, the bourgeoisie reap all the benefits without contributing anything to the productive process, and function in a parasitic manner. These unjust relations and tensions drive class struggle under capitalism. There exists a middle class in addition to the other two classes, but they constitute a wavering element between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, siding with either one of them depending on the circumstances.6
Exploitation – This concept, similar to the notion of class, is closely related to the rise of private property. Simply put, those who perform work for the owning classes (be it proletarians for the capitalist bourgeoisie or serves for the feudal lords) receive less as a reward than what they actually produce. Without exploiting the producing classes, the owning classes would not be able to maintain themselves or to accumulate wealth. Exploitation can take different forms, but we will be focusing on how it works under capitalism. Here, the relation between the owner and the labourer is legally constituted in the form of a contract between two nominally free parties. This stands in stark contrast to the early feudal system, for example, where an alternative system of serfdom existed. As opposed to serfs, proletarians in a capitalist system are theoretically free in their choice to work for their “master”, but in practice their lack of ownership of means of production coerces them into working for the capitalists.7 They receive their reward in the form of a monetary wage which amounts to less than the value they created through their labour. The remaining surplus is appropriated by the capitalists, not only to maintain themselves but also, and more importantly, to accumulate capital for future investments.8
Capitalism – This mode of production came into existence after the bourgeois revolutions overthrew the existing feudal order. It had first been established in England, arguably by the year 1661, and since then it spread all over Western Europe within a century. In capitalism:
- commodity production is predominant as most goods are produced for exchange on the market rather than for immediate use
- the bourgeoisie is the ruling class by the virtue of privately owning the means of production (such as factories, tools, etc.)
- exploitation is disguised as a “voluntary” job contract between nominally free parties, as opposed to serfdom, slavery, etc.
- the proletariat, since they do not own means of production, must sell their labour power to the capitalists
- workers’ wages do not constitute the full value they produce; the missing part, which is called surplus value, is appropriated by the capitalist class
- profit is the main incentive of economic life and is derived from the surplus value; the bourgeoisie uses profits to sustain itself and to invest further
- proletarians are the progressive class as they have an interest in overcoming the systemic exploitation
- there exist middle classes which are not proletarian because they own small means of production and make profits, but still need to work themselves; they are less relevant in comparison and tend to either become dependent on the bourgeoisie or to eventually join the ranks of the proletariat
- production and capital are increasingly being monopolised and centralised, which has some implications but does not constitute any qualitative difference from what has been outlined above
- the economic limits of the state eventually necessitate imperialism to avert an economic crisis, which in turn causes an even greater crisis through perpetual wars
- strong competition for profits promotes investing in advanced technology, allowing the bourgeoisie to win against the primitive and stagnant production methods of feudalism
- relations of production themselves have become an inhibiting factor on the development of productive forces: high degree of division of labour means that production is more and more socialised, while all the property remains in the hands of a minority, which leads to perpetual crises and inefficiency.
State-Capitalism – The term has many different meanings across time and fields. It “has the advantage that nobody knows exactly what it means,” wrote Trotsky.9 In the context of our research it describes a nationalised economy with the state acting as one big capitalist business. The state generates profits for the sake of reinvesting them and generating even higher profits, thus enriching a capitalist class. This antagonistic relationship between the capitalist state elite and the workers might result in authoritarian measures to counter workers’ resistance. But it is also possible for state-capitalism to turn imperialist, and thus to ease this domestic contradiction by exploiting other nations.
Socialism – This mode of production comes into existence after the proletarian revolution has overthrown the existing capitalist order. It was first established in the Soviet Union, arguably by the year 1936, and spread all over Eastern Europe after World War II. In socialism:
- political power lies firmly in the hands of the proletariat and their allies (such as the peasantry in the case of the USSR)
- private property has been abolished, and the means of production have been socialised in the form of either state or collective property
- the economy is centrally planned in order to avoid the anarchy of production and to consciously fulfill the needs of the population
- exploitation is abolished and producers receive the value they produce either directly in the form of wages, or indirectly as subsidies, social services, or future investments
- differences between strata, the money economy, and the state apparatus itself start to wither away gradually during the transition to a communist society
- intellectuals, specialists, officials, etc. do still exist as a distinguishable stratum, but ideally stem from the ranks of the working class, are subordinate to the socialist cause, and do not have interests that are antagonistic towards those of the workers – as opposed to the reactionary intellectuals of capitalist societies
- economic growth no longer depends on oppressing other nations, and military conflicts cease to be a systemic necessity.
Revisionism/Right-Opportunism – A previous definition by the LLCO says:
“Revisionism is to revise the revolutionary heart out of Marxism. Revisionists are those who turn revolutionary science into its opposite. It is putting a ‘Marxist’ face on counter-revolution and oppression. Revisionists ‘wave the red flag to oppose the red flag.’ There are different kinds of revisionism. They often overlap and imply each other.”10
The main types of revisionism are, among others: reformism, social imperialism, and First-Worldism. We would like to add the definition used by Keeran and Kenny11 that identifies revisionism as theoretical justification for right-opportunism. Right-opportunism, in turn, is an unnecessary ideological retreat, in other words, an easy way out when confronted with practical problems. Right-opportunism is usually characterised by seeking reconciliation with, rather than struggle against capitalism. It is the desire to achieve socialism and communism fast and without facing hardships. The issue with right-opportunism is that it may be hard to identify at first because retreats are often necessary on the way towards socialism. To some, Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP) might have looked like right-opportunism, a simple solution to the problem of building a socialist economy. But it later turned out to be the correct path, a retreat that was the basis for a later advance. Another example: a socialist revolution involves the violent overthrow of the capitalist system. Early in the history of scientific socialism, people argued that capitalism could be reformed peacefully. This idea is clearly right-opportunism as it neglects the fact that a violent revolution is, under the given circumstances, the only chance for a socialist revolution to succeed. It is an obvious retreat since it plays directly in the hands of the capitalist class that controls the electoral process. Any attempt to theoretically justify this idea is, therefore, a form of revisionism. In the same way, social imperialism is revisionism as it justifies exploiting other countries to solve domestic economic issues. But in the long run, it will delay a global socialist revolution. First-Worldism is revisionism because it tries to force a revolution in the First World when there is not enough revolutionary potential, effectively doing nothing in the end.
Social Imperialism – Forcing other nations into unfavourable economic or political relations for nationalist purposes and sugar-coating it with socialist rhetoric. Some socialists dislike this term since it departs from Lenin’s definition of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. Lenin originally used the term “social imperialism” to describe social democrats who opportunistically cheered on their respective capitalist-imperialist states during World War I. But since imperialist behaviour is not unique to capitalism (the Roman Empire is an obvious example), we need a term that can also describe right-opportunist foreign policies of socialist states.
2 Dialectics of Societal Change
Societies consist of two parts: the economic base and the superstructure.12 The base is the mode of production – whether it be feudal, capitalist or socialist, to name a few examples. It conditions the superstructure which can be understood as the ideological component of a society. This superstructure, in turn, further reinforces the mode of production.
Each economic mode so far has always produced inherent contradictions which are the prerequisite for its overthrow. As workers oppose the capitalist system because it is exploiting them, the superstructure tightens its grip. Laws become more authoritarian, intellectuals wage a war against revolutionary ideas, and the media degenerates into a mere propaganda machine. But this inherent conflict also bears the seed of the new society. Marx wrote that the old society is pregnant with the new one.13 Workers that were deprived of nearly all material belongings overcome the egoistic mentality of capitalism and start thinking in terms outside of the present superstructure. They organise in more democratic ways unknown to the current system. Lenin called these phenomena a second culture14 and dual power,15 referring to their ideological and institutional aspect respectively. The LLCO summarises them as New Power.16 This constant fight between the old and the new, between the present order and the new one developing within the framework of a given system, is the driving force of human progress. These internal contradictions give rise to quantitative changes which are best understood as “increases,” as the strengthening of the New Power relative to the old one. Increases in New Power have a disintegrating effect on the current mode of production, but they do not yet overthrow it. Instead, this process can be understood as a change in the balance of power.
For example, in the economic mode of feudalism, production took place mainly for immediate private consumption rather than for exchange on the market. This reflected the very logic of early medieval systems where the feudal lord’s estate was the most basic economical unit. Political decentralisation, dominance of the countryside, and primitive methods of production that allowed for very little surplus made it worthwhile to use manufactured goods locally, rather than exporting them. This approach, while perfectly reasonable, did not only reflect on the exploiting class currently in power, but also did not offer much opportunity for progress. Instead, it only reinforced the old order. One of the progressive classes back then were traders based in cities. Feudal estates were the traders’ biggest market because the ruling class was obviously also the wealthiest one. Local goods produced within estates could not compete with the work of town artisans. Their products were of better quality, and it was easier and more convenient to just buy their commodities instead of producing them locally and much less efficiently. As a result, the merchant class grew in importance, and inefficient local production for use was gradually replaced with production for the market. Even estates themselves reorganised their production to manufacture commodities. Money economy became predominant and ground rent rose to be the main form of feudal dependence in the most developed parts of Western Europe. All of this is an example of quantitative changes, which came as results from the progressive class gaining ground within the existing system and promoting its own methods of production and political organisation. That is how a new society develops within the womb of the old order.
If quantitative changes build up and reach a critical mass, they lead to a qualitative change where political power is taken away from the ruling class, the old state machinery is smashed, and is replaced with new institutions that serve the new ruling class. State institutions, which are by their very nature instruments of compulsion, are then used to reorganise obsolete class relations to account for the new means and methods of production. That is what we call a period of social revolution, and it is how a new mode of production is born. It needs to be emphasised that this is a process. To merely overthrow the old state power does not necessarily amount to revolution because that is only the beginning. We cannot really speak about the revolutionary period ending until the dominance of a new economic system is established.
Throughout Marxist history,17 the industrial proletariat is seen as the driving force behind a socialist revolution. This is because the New Power emerges where the contradictions of capitalism are greatest. During Marx’s time, these were the advanced industrialised nations where the exploitation of the urban proletariat had been perfected and carried to extremes. It would have made perfect sense that they start the first successful revolution. But capitalism turned out to be more complicated, and a successful revolution never took place in these countries. These reflections will be important when analysing Soviet society.
3 Economic Analysis
In order for the Soviet Union to be capitalist, it must have a capitalist economy. On first glance, this seems not to be the case because Soviet enterprises were state-owned. Restorationists, however, seldom argue that the Soviet Union restored liberal, free-market capitalism; but rather, that it built a new type called state-capitalism. Much could be said about the Soviet economy. We will try to keep this section short as there is not much new insight our work can deliver. The restorationist theory of state-capitalism can be summarised as:
- There is a new capitalist class consisting of the state and party elite that controls the means of production.
- This new capitalist class finances itself through profits.
- Profitability is the main determinant of economic decisions. The capitalist class invests profits in order to receive even higher profits in return.
- Managers receive a share of the profits through the system of material incentives and are thus motivated to exploit workers more and more.18
From these theoretical assumptions we can deduce the following hypotheses about the Soviet Union:
- There was a transfer of wealth from the working class to the state and party bureaucracy.
- The state invested in profitable rather than in non-profitable but vital industries.
- Workers’ exploitation increased to maximise profit.
The following subchapters will deal with these hypotheses one by one.
3.1 Distribution of Wealth
Wages in the post-Stalin USSR were in fact converging.19 Restorationists, however, argue that inequality was produced via the system of bonuses which favoured managers, as bonuses were paid in relation to base wages.20 This is a valid idea, since managers did in fact earn more incentives, both in absolute and relative terms.21 A contemporary study analysing income inequality in modern day Russia, however, shows that inequality of actual household income did not increase under Khrushchev or Brezhnev compared to the Stalin period. In fact, income inequality even dropped slightly after Stalin. It went somewhat upwards under Gorbachev; and finally skyrocketed after the dissolution of the USSR.22 The Soviet Union’s Gini coefficient23 was generally slightly higher than that of other socialist countries in Eastern Europe, but slightly below that of the United Kingdom.24 Although one might argue that such capitalist measures are inadequate to evaluate inequality in a socialist society (we will address this again later), the data leaves no room for arguing that there was relevant capitalist wealth appropriation.
Further, the Soviet practice of centrally determining most prices reduced actual financial inequality, even after Stalin. Necessities were made artificially cheap by subsidising them, and thus, consumers paid much less for these basic goods than what their production actually costed. On the other side, the prices of luxury goods were set artificially high. This way, and with the provision of social services, wage differences became even less pronounced in daily life.25
3.2 State Investment
If the state and party bureaucracy after Stalin had essentially become a capitalist class that used economic measures to maximise its profits, this should be reflected in the state’s investment decisions. The adoption of profit as a measure of economic performance did not only cause a commotion in the socialist camp, but in the capitalist world as well. Western observers thought of this as an admission that socialist economic planning did not work.26 Other authors, such as Josef Wilczynski, qualified this perspective.
- First, profit was not a consistent measure. There were multiple ways of calculating it, and it differed not only between but also within socialist countries.27 Profit was not even objective since the state fixed prices often below or above value.28 This is impractical if one wants to use it as the basis of investment decisions.
- Second, profit was by far not the only measure for enterprise performance. Other indicators sometimes even contradicted profit; and enterprises often received additional directive tasks to fulfil.
- Third, major economic decisions were planned centrally with little attention given to profitability. Among those were the share of national income that goes into investment or private or social consumption, the shares of centralised and decentralised investment, and the broad distribution of investment between branches and regions.29 Compared to other fields of economic decisions, investment decisions were the ones most influenced by non-commercial considerations.30
- Lastly, loss-incurring enterprises were often subsidised and were in fact a common aspect of economic planning.
Wilczynski concludes with: “Fundamentally, profit has not been accepted as an end but merely a means.”31
Capitalist exploitation means that capitalists do not pay their workers the surplus value they produce, but keep, at least part of it, for themselves. However, even under socialism, workers will not be paid the full value they produce. On an enterprise level, there needs to be constant capital to finance machines and resources. On a societal level, part of the surplus value needs to be collected to provide services like health care and public infrastructure. In order to prove that workers in the post-Stalin Soviet Union were exploited in a capitalist sense, there would have to be certain conditions to be met:
- The state retains surplus value created by the workers.
- This retained surplus value must then be used to enrich a certain strata of society, and to expand production.
- All of this must happen in a systematic manner: production is expanded, especially in sectors that yield a lot of profits, to further and further enrich a certain group of people effectively controlling the means of production.
In a socialist society, one cannot talk about exploitation because everything that is being produced benefits workers either directly or indirectly. If workers were systematically robbed of the fruits of their labour, we would see increasing inequality, and the wages of workers decreasing in relation to the wages of managers and bureaucrats. This, however, was not the case in the Soviet Union, as already examined in chapter 3.1.
However, after the economic reforms, work intensity in some cases increased faster than workers’ wages. For Dickhut, this was proof that the exploitation of workers in the Soviet Union did actually increase under the new leadership. However, he did not prove that there was systematic exploitation to begin with. He started his argument by proclaiming that the Soviet Union was capitalist, concluding that since it was capitalist, the work relationship between workers and the state was exploitative.32 But he fails to present evidence that the increase in value created by the workers was being appropriated by the bureaucracy or the managers. Our analysis so far does not provide sufficient proof to support this claim. The additional value created might just as well have ended up as part of social consumption and was thus not reflected in a corresponding wage increase. Dickhut did make the argument that an increasing portion of the enterprise profit was being put into funds for material incentives; and since managers did gain relatively and absolutely more out of those funds, this practice systematically robed the workers of the fruits of their labour. This argument is logically coherent, and therefore one might wonder now why our earlier analysis of income inequality in the Soviet Union seems to contradict the implications of Dickhut’s argument. There is one fact that Dickhut did not consider. The money from incentive funds was only partly distributed on an individual basis. About one third was distributed either on a collective basis or among people with special needs. It is hard to prove that this could actually mitigate the disparity between the incentives paid to managers and the incentives paid to workers because the details of the distribution of incentives varied among enterprises. But the details were decided on either by workers’ councils, factory committees or by special meetings of all workers, hinting that the workers themselves did have some say in it.33 A considerable increase in work intensity would thus be a fact which could be criticised as right-opportunism; it could also have been even necessary for the economic development of the country. But either way, it is not proof of capitalist exploitation. Similarly, pointing to overtime work is not sufficient proof for capitalist relations either. Economic inefficiency in the Soviet Union and other planned economies did entail some undesirable side-effects. For example, at the end of production cycles, directors often forced their workers to work overtime in order to make up for shortcomings that happened during the month. But this problem was not unique to Khrushchev and Brezhnev, it had already existed under Stalin. Forced overtime was illegal and on the radar of newspapers and courts.34 It was not a result of capitalist appropriation, but rather it was due to flaws in Soviet economic planning.
3.4 The Black Market
Restorationists are justified in pointing to the black market where one could find capitalist economic structures. The black market does not resemble the restorationists’ idea of state capitalism, but we can build upon their model. In the Soviet Union, especially since Khrushchev, there was a huge second economy working according to capitalist logic and providing consumer goods based on market incentives. This would take on several forms. Sometimes, people were just stealing goods from their workplace and would sell them on the black market. Others would not steal products but would steal machinery and start producing themselves. And still, others would open underground factories and even hire workers. These underground factories often involved the management of state enterprises and operated under the same roof. But these factories could not go unnoticed without bribing state officials. From a restorationist viewpoint, the second economy might seem like an extension of the state capitalist model previously explained. Managers could now maximise profits by increasing exploitation as they were not bound to plan requirements and workers’ rights. State officials let it happen and in exchange received bribery – everything while still claiming a socialist facade.
There is, however, no reason to believe that the black market was an intentional feature of the post-Stalin Soviet economy, whether it was socialist or capitalist. The black market did not complement the legal economy; but it was hindering the state plan from being executed effectively because materials stolen from the workplace reduced the output of state enterprises, which would then report distorted numbers back to the central planners – thus painting a wrong picture of input and output requirements. Private economic activity did also increase income inequality, which resulted in public resentment.35 This could hardly be in the interest of any political elite, be it capitalist or socialist. Therefore, being a capitalist could be punished by death, as was indeed done.36 Workers and peasants were as much involved in the black market as managers, and sometimes made considerable money for themselves.37 Most small offences were, however, tolerated by the state to lift the pressure of consumer goods production from them. It seems that actual capitalist activities were the main focus of state repression. The failure of Khrushchev and Brezhnev to fight the black market should be criticised as right-opportunism; but since the party and state bureaucracy as a whole did not profit from the illegal economy, it is hardly evidence for capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union.
For our later conclusion it is relevant to mention the role that the black market played in fostering capitalist free-market ideas. Illegal economic activity allowed some people to get very rich and thus created a stratum of people interested in social-democratic reforms. This stratum would also become a source of funds for critics and opponents of the socialist system.38
3.5 A New Kind of Capitalism?
Thus far, we could not find sufficient evidence to support the idea of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union. But Willi Dickhut, who wrote one of the most elaborate and most scientific works in favour of the restorationist argument, did not actually believe the Soviet Union resembled a traditional capitalist state, but a “capitalism of a new type.”39 A recent publication by the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD), which Dickhut founded, talks about this “bureaucratic state monopoly capitalism of a new type,”40 and thereby uncovers the shortcomings of this conception. The MLPD argues that the restoration of capitalism was a process which was only completed with the fall of the Soviet Union and the reintroduction of liberal capitalism in its former member states. In this process, “bureaucratic capitalism” (what we call state capitalism in this paper) was a transitional state between socialism under Stalin and liberal capitalism after Gorbachev.41 The question that must logically follow from this idea is: why should we define something as capitalism that is not yet capitalist because it is only on the way of becoming capitalist? Why is a socialist society that is in the process of becoming capitalist called “bureaucratic capitalism” and not “bureaucratic socialism”? In order to justify the MLPD’s terminology, it would have to be proven that the Soviet Union after Stalin resembled a capitalist society already more than a socialist one. Only then would it be justified to speak of a transitional type of capitalism or state capitalism. Our research so far does not provide for such a possibility. From the MLPD’s point of view, however, their argument makes sense because they define socialism using a directional approach, the same one that earlier LLCO writings used, whereby socialism must move into the direction of communism in order to be socialism. But as we will show in the last chapter, this approach has some serious scientific shortcomings.
Let us take a short look at the claim that the bureaucracy was essentially a new capitalist class.
In traditional Marxist-Leninist theory, class is decided by one’s relation to the means of production. If one owns means of production, her or she is a capitalist. If one doesn’t, he or she is proletarian. The restorationist argument asserts that the bureaucracy is a class because it collectively owned the means of production. However, the line between bureaucracy and non-bureaucracy in the Soviet Union was blurry. Who was part of this new capitalist class? Was it all party members? Was it all state officials? If not, which position in the party or the state did you have to reach in order to be considered a part of the new capitalist class? As we in the LLCO evaluate science by its usefulness, we reject the idea that there was a new capitalist class in the Soviet Union. Since it is impossible to precisely determine who was or was not part of this class, this theory cannot provide us with any additional insight into the nature of Soviet society. To be fair, the LLCO itself in the past did not always strictly adhere to the Marxist-Leninist definition of class. Since we realised that the differences between “First” World and “Third” World workers are more relevant nowadays than the differences between “First” World workers and their domestic capitalists, we sometimes defined class as position in the global production process. At times we therefore called people who are net consumers part of the global bourgeoisie, while we considered net producers the global proletariat.42 We nowadays reject this terminology and refer to the First World proletariat as “labour aristocracy” in order to highlight their special place in the global production process.43 Still, the old definition was somewhat justified since it gave us much more clarity on the current state of the world and where its main contradictions are to be found. The restorationists, however, did not only keep the old definition of class – that contradicts their terminology – their theory also does not shed any light on contradictions within socialist societies. While we wholeheartedly agree that there were contradictions between a bourgeois bureaucratic mindset and a socialist proletarian mindset, we find it misleading to define them as contradicting “class” interests. A bourgeois mindset was not limited to the bureaucracy. Likewise, a proletarian mindset was not limited to working class people, as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution showed with its massive initiative from students. Even within the alleged “ruling class” there were still principled communists.
Lastly, some people promote the idea that a state without principled communist leadership cannot be socialist. It is usually found among people adhering to the directional definition of socialism. But this argument is equally faulty. It is true that socialism, since it has to compete against the already entrenched, world-dominating system of capitalism, is quite vulnerable, especially shortly after its establishment. Therefore, it is also true that a social-democrat leader in a capitalist country cannot destroy capitalism, but that unprincipled leadership in a socialist country could indeed endanger the system. However, what could destroy socialism is not unprincipled leadership itself, but the changes to the system it might make. Socialism can turn into capitalism after the leadership decides to re-introduce market incentives on a large scale, brings back private ownership, solidifies the bureaucracy as an economic and social class, centralises political power at the cost of a broad participation of the people, etc. In both cases, capitalism and socialism, the system cannot be destroyed without destroying its economic relations and its societal institutions first. This happened to socialist Eastern Europe only under Gorbachev and the new leaders (also known as the “New Guard”) of the former socialist bloc.
4 Political Analysis
On a political level, the restorationists’ main argument is that the state and party bureaucracy – as a new capitalist class – concentrated political power into their hands. If that were true, we would expect a decrease in political and participatory rights of working people. Hence, in the following chapter we will analyse whether Stalin’s successors did in fact change the nature of Soviet political institutions to disempower the working class. We will take a look at different political institutions; and where there were shortcomings that disadvantaged the working class in favour of the bureaucracy, we will analyse whether they were the result of a capitalist takeover or not.
4.1 The Communist Party
One claim made by the restorationists is that the revisionists consciously decreased the percentage of workers in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) to make them politically powerless.44 While it is true that the ratio of workers to intelligentsia was most favourable under Stalin, the trend towards over-representation of higher educated people had already begun after WWII in the 1940s and was in fact a deliberate effort by the Stalin regime.45 There is evidence that throughout the 1960s and 70s, the social composition of the Communist Party trended towards a higher percentage of workers again.46 Still, white-collar workers and the intelligentsia were clearly over-represented in the CPSU,47 and this has to be criticised as a right-opportunist failure of Stalin and his successors. But despite this technocratic distortion, the social composition of the Communist Party did not match a capitalist class society of any kind.
On the enterprise level, the party was a tool for workers to participate in the management of production. The enterprise branches of the Communist Party were mainly comprised of production workers, and around 20-25 percent of industrial workers in major enterprises were likely to be party members. The enterprise party committee had to ratify the appointment of administrative personnel, and a committee consisting of the party branch, the Young Communist League, and union representatives evaluated the work of management. This committee could transfer, reward, or even remove administrative personnel.48
4.2 Trade Unions
Soviet trade unions played an important role in enabling workers to participate in production and other decisions affecting their everyday life. Unlike in capitalist countries, Soviet trade unions had a broad range of responsibilities, ranging from settling conflicts between workers and management, negotiating wages with the state, using enterprise funds to build communal facilities, and much more. Trade union district committees could sack each member of management, and they reportedly made use of this right. Through trade unions, employees could directly influence matters of their workplace, giving them participatory possibilities and considerable political power. Their institutional role did not diminish under Khrushchev or Brezhnev.49 Membership in a trade union was usually compulsory, which is why nearly all working people in the Soviet Union were organised in unions. We realise that some sources speaking highly favourable of Soviet trade unions likely have a pro-Khrushchev or pro-Brezhnev bias. But even the most anti-communist sources we consulted do not deny that unions were responsible for a broad range of social services and played a significant role in the protection of workers’ interests and in production decisions.50 Western observers further often noted that workers in the Soviet Union felt much more connected to their workplace than Western workers.51 Dickhut, in his work arguing for capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union, claims that the trade unions after Stalin were effectively controlled by bureaucrats,52 but does not provide evidence that the nature of trade unions fundamentally changed under Khrushchev or Brezhnev. There are, however, instances in which trade unions failed to protect workers’ rights because they felt obliged to facilitate plan fulfilment. They sometimes let directors’ violations of workers’ rights slip in order to reach production targets. Depending on the individual case, this might or might not have been in the interest of the workers themselves.53
4.3 Soviet Democracy
The Soviet political system of the Stalin era did not undergo fundamental institutional changes under Khrushchev and Brezhnev. Only Gorbachev attempted some reforms54 before his policies collapsed under the weight of their own contradictions. The post-Stalin political system of the Soviet Union was not inherently undemocratic, but it suffered from the overall political stagnation of the time.
To give a very brief description, Soviets on multiple levels of government were the core of the USSR’s political system. Soviets combined legislative as well as executive powers so that the deputies that were elected by the people could be held responsible for implementing the changes they proposed. Deputies’ mandates were imperative, which means that the people could recall them for not acting in their interests. Although it did not happen often, it was indeed a possibility that even members of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR could sometimes be recalled.55 Usually, one candidate per constituency was eligible to be a deputy at the Supreme Soviet after he or she had been determined by public deliberations. At election day, the candidate had to receive at least 50 percent of votes to be able to enter the election. If a candidate received less than 50 percent of the votes, the election process had to be repeated. But this rarely happened. Candidates did not have to be members of the Communist Party, and at times there was not even a majority of elected deputies who were members of the party.56
Aside from the electoral system, the Soviet Union had various institutions that enabled the people to influence the running of the country. There were for example directly elected and recallable People’s Control Groups concerned with economic performance of enterprises and enforcing state law, as well as addressing workers’ complaints. Such groups or committees existed on all levels of government and were a tool of the people to check on the administration.57
Another important aspect of Soviet democracy was its press. Newspapers received numerous letters from the people with complains about societal grievances, such as the misdemeanour of party and state officials. Newspapers were obliged to reply to each letter, and to either investigate the matter themselves, or to forward it to the responsible institutions. Often, they gave legal advice. In any case, the author of a letter had to be informed about what had been done to correct the matter of his or her complaints.58
Despite all this, the Soviet system possessed some undemocratic flaws. First, criticism of the socialist system in general and personal attacks against its top officials were prohibited.59 This was mostly a reaction to the fact that the Soviet Union had to defend itself against Western destabilisation attempts. However, this method is only second-rate compared to thoroughly inspiring and developing the revolutionary consciousness of the masses, as well as structurally eradicating elements of society that would side with the imperialists. But as this is criticism on a high level, the historic use of certain undemocratic measures in this regard seems justifiable from a Soviet perspective. A second point of criticism often mentioned in liberal critique of socialism are the harsh restrictions on emigration and travel in the Soviet Union.60 There are two aspects to this matter. On the one hand, since Khrushchev and Brezhnev were unable to inspire the people with socialist ideals, and instead promoted a desire for material comfort, it was clear that they had to act against people leaving the country for economic reasons. This is a consequence that stems from a right-opportunist error. On the other hand, even if the Soviet Union did not have to restrict the mass emigration of people, there would have likely been restrictions on travel into capitalist countries, since it would have enabled foreign spy activity and consequently posed a security threat.
Therefore, looking at the institutional level alone, it cannot be claimed that Stalin’s successors systematically reduced the rights of the working people to participate in politics. It is true, however, that Soviet politics did undergo qualitative changes – that is a gradual bureaucratisation. Although Khrushchev and Brezhnev did not restrict fundamental rights, the actual participation of the people was gradually limited by a process of bureaucratisation. Restorationists would argue that this was a deliberate attempt to concentrate the power in the hands of the “new capitalist class.” However, another explanation seems more plausible. As the Soviet economy grew bigger and more complex, the need for professional knowledge increased. This affected the People’s Deputies, who lost their influence to the Soviets’ executive committees, and who had their role reduced to giving formal approval to decisions made by these technocratic executives. Processes became formalised, and critique and initiative from the deputies was less and less welcome.61 Again, it is first and foremost a right-opportunist error if one fails to elevate the people to a point where it can manage itself without relying on a technocratic strata.
5 Relations with other Countries
In this chapter we will look at the economic and political relations of the Soviet Union with other countries. Some communists become confused over their definitions of capitalism and imperialism. While it is the consensus among most Marxist-Leninists that capitalism at a certain stage of development necessitates imperialism, imperialist behaviour by itself is not enough to prove capitalism. Imperialism can just as well be driven by political motives, and even socialist states can have short-term gains from imperialist behaviour. As defined earlier, when a socialist country engages in imperialism, we call this social imperialism to differentiate it from capitalist imperialism. Social imperialism is right-opportunism, and any attempt to justify social imperialism, for example, with the theory of a socialist division of labour, is revisionism. Revisionists mostly ignore the fact that even socialist states can engage in imperialism, and consequently become cheerleaders for revisionist foreign policy. Because social imperialism is not driven by capitalist economic motives, it looks different from traditional imperialism. With this in mind, we will examine the political and economic foreign policy of the Soviet Union to determine whether it was imperialist, and if so, if this imperialism was driven by capitalist economic motives or by right-opportunism.
5.1 Economic Relations
5.1.1 With Socialist Countries
Restorationists claim that the Soviet Union was exploiting other socialist countries like colonies. They would achieve this by making them economically dependent and by forcing them into unfavourable trade deals. They say socialist division of labour was used to extract their resources and to sell them overpriced finished goods in return.62
We will first examine Soviet trade with European members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA or Comecon). Looking at economic data from 1946 to 1968,63 we see that in the whole period, the ratio of imports to exports by the Soviet Union was fluctuating. In some years, the USSR would export more than it imported, in other years it would be the other way round. If the accusation of capitalist imperialist exploitation was true, we would expect the Soviet Union’s export surplus to increase after Khrushchev came to power in 1956. However, the data shows that the Soviet’s export surplus stayed almost exactly the same, at roughly 4.7 percent of their imports. If the Soviet Union was imperialist in a capitalist sense, we would also expect the share of raw materials in total imports to increase after Stalin. In fact, the opposite was the case. The share of raw materials (including foodstuffs) was decreasing constantly throughout the whole period after 1955. However, the amount of raw materials imported by the Soviet Union is not really a reliable measure since the Soviet Union was rich in resources.
When analysing the USSR’s trade with socialist countries in general, including those who are not part of CMEA, we see that the USSR’s export surplus decreased notably in the period between 1956 and 1969. From 1946 to 1955, the Soviet Union exported roughly 13.3 percent more than it imported. In the following period until 1969, their export surplus fell to 6.7 percent. We do see a spike in export surplus in the last years of the table, but such spikes did also occur under Stalin.
Trade deals between the USSR and other CMEA countries were indeed favourable for the CMEA partners. The prices for goods that were traded between CMEA countries were roughly guided by world market prices. The socialist countries did not have any other objective measure to determine the prices of their goods since prices were set by the state and reflected national conditions. European CMEA members also effectively subsidised Cuba, Mongolia and Vietnam by providing them a market for their goods which they bought at above-market prices.64 Restorationists point to the fact that in some cases, world market prices did not actually serve as basis for trade between CMEA countries and the USSR. This is indeed true. In some cases, prices were above world market level, in others they were below. Restorationists see this as proof that the Soviet Union was choosing prices arbitrarily in order to exploit CMEA countries by charging them high prices. This question was investigated in empirical studies, taking into account prices and quantities of all goods that were traded. The results are that, overall, the Soviet Union paid CMEA countries much more for their goods than what they would have gotten in the west for world market prices. Even after adjusting their oil prices, which was criticised by restorationists as imperialism,65 the Soviets still charged the CMEA countries only one third of the world market price.66 Additionally, socialist Third World countries received approximately 5.865 billion USD in economic aid from the Soviet Union in 1985 alone, consisting of direct cash, credit disbursements, or trade subsidies.67
Restorationists can name many individual examples of unfavourable trade deals between the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. The book by Willi Dickhut is a good source for these. Therefore, it is true that in many instances, the Soviet Union did not bother to help other countries to further develop their own industries the way it could have been done because it was probably more convenient for them to just import the resources, and to produce manufactured goods themselves with the factories that already existed. But it is also worth mentioning that the CMEA countries did indeed suffer from too much autarky, creating problems that could have been solved by a mutually beneficial division of labour.68 Still, certain unfavourable trade deals might have been the result of a narrow nationalist mindset and deserve to be called right-opportunist, and if one argues that they resulted in the CMEA countries‘ long-term dependency on the USSR, then they might also be called social imperialist. But in order to argue that the Soviets aimed for long-term, economic dependency of other socialist countries on themselves, one would first have to define dependency. After that, one must explain whether dependency is automatically an act of imperialism. For example, is mutual dependency putting one single country in a favourable position? Likewise, is the fact of dependency alone already enough to prove that one country is exploiting another if the relation is still mutually beneficial? In short, people that argue the Soviet Union was exploiting other socialist countries like colonies would have to prove that their trade practices systematically fostered one-sided, unfavourable economic dependency. We do not see this as a given fact. Soviet trade with other socialist countries benefited these countries in many ways. Still, the Soviet Union did surely commit right-opportunist errors that reflect a lack of ideological commitment. The economic system of a country can dictate only to a certain degree the way it trades with other countries, and the post-Stalin leadership lacked a proper socialist mindset. However, we still see that profits were not the main incentive of trade. Nor did instances of Soviet right-opportunism resemble capitalist imperialism. Generally speaking it is of course more than justified to be cautious about dependency on an ideologically uncertain partner such as the post-Stalin Soviet Union since dependency, although it does not yet constitute imperialism and exploitation in itself, is the prerequisite for it to happen.
5.1.2 With Non-Socialist Countries
Soviet foreign trade with non-socialist countries, especially with the Third World, does not match what we would expect from a capitalist-imperialist country. However, we can still find patterns of social imperialist behaviour.
As Albert Szymanski pointed out, Soviet foreign trade practices were very distinct from the practices of capitalist-imperialist countries. But before even talking about the quality of Soviet economic foreign relations, it should be mentioned that foreign trade only played a minor role in the Soviet economy. In 1985, exports and imports each accounted for only 4 percent of the Soviet GNP. Additionally, between 1965 and 1988, trade with non-socialist Third World countries made up only 10-15 percent of total foreign trade.69 The main motivations behind trade with Third-World countries were either to foster friendly relations with bordering countries, or to support ideologically like-minded governments. Trade with Third World countries was concentrated on relatively few partners, mainly: India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Argentina, Egypt, Turkey, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Malaysia.70 The trade with countries of a socialist orientation benefited the USSR rather politically than economically.71 Profit was generally not used to determine foreign investment.72 It should also be mentioned that goods produced in the Soviet Union could be immediately used domestically since there was full employment and no surplus production. Foreign trade was thus actually a burden to the Soviet economy. The main features of Soviet foreign economic relations were:
- Soviet trade deals usually consisted of bilateral clearing agreements, meaning they agreed to exchange goods rather than to buy them with or to sell them for hard currency.
- The Soviet Union was a market for the industrial goods of Third World countries, thus giving them a reason to invest in modern factories.
- The Soviet Union showed to be very flexible with payments, both for their goods and their credits.
- The Soviet Union did not own transnational corporations in the Third World, except for very rare instances of joint ownership and production.
Likewise, Soviet foreign aid (often in the form of repayable credits) did not yield direct economic benefits for the Soviets. The interest rates of Soviet foreign credits, usually around 2-3 percent, were much lower than domestic economic growth, meaning that the capital used for the credits could have been better invested at home. Other features distinguishing Soviet aid from capitalist-imperialist aid are:
- The Soviets took repayment for their credits in the form of locally produced goods, often from the enterprises they helped to build with their credits. This way, the Soviet Union could, among other things, ensure that their aid is used properly and beneficially. The West took repayment in the form of hard currency and this way forced the recipients to develop their export sector.
- While Soviet aid almost exclusively went into the state sector and focused on industrial projects, US aid almost always assisted the development of raw material production and related infrastructure.
- Soviet foreign investments helped its recipients to industrialise, thus hindering an international division of labour; while the West forced countries to export resources. This point will be qualified later when we talk about the social imperialist tendencies in Soviet foreign trade.
- The Soviets trained local technicians, thus reducing the dependency of their trading partner.73
While this does indeed not qualify as capitalist imperialism driven by the profit motive in the Leninist sense, there are, however, some aspects of Soviet foreign trade that point to social imperialism driven by right-opportunism:
- The Soviet Union mainly exported machinery and armaments to non-socialist countries in exchange for tropical foodstuffs and raw materials.74
- The USSR sometimes exported weapons even to governments that used them to suppress their own people, or specifically communist movements.75
- Until the mid-1970s, trade with Third World countries consisted primarily of bilateral clearing agreements. But by the early 1980s, the Soviet Union preferred hard currency payments.
- In the 1970s, the import of manufactured goods from Third World countries declined even further.
- And lastly, throughout the 1980s, the Soviet Union exported more than it imported.76 But this point is rather ambiguous since the Soviet Union often made generous donations to certain countries.
Of special interest is the role played by Soviet foreign banks since they could make capitalist operations abroad. Foreign banks can fulfil different purposes for a socialist country. They are mainly used to facilitate foreign trade,77 but can also be a way of financing progressive groups abroad. The Soviet Union had foreign banks already under Lenin and Stalin. Their quantity and their profit, however, increased significantly after Stalin, which was a result of the growing economic integration of the Soviet Union into the world capitalist system. In the context of exploitative relations, Soviet foreign banks served mainly as creditors to so-called Third World countries. The credits granted were then often used to buy machine equipment from the Soviet Union. And as mentioned above, the USSR had those credits often repaid with tropical foodstuffs and raw materials.
5.2 Political Relations
So far, neither our analysis of the Soviet economy nor of Soviet foreign trade point to a capitalist economic mode of production. Some aspects of the USSR’s trade relations did, however, have a right-opportunist and social imperialist character. In this sub-chapter we will finally examine whether such a social imperialist character can also be found in the Soviet Union’s political foreign relations. While this question would require us to make a detailed analysis of Soviet foreign relations with all countries in their sphere of influence, that would certainly exceed the scope of this paper. Instead, we will start from the assumption that the Soviet Union was not inherently social imperialist. If it was, it would have invaded Yugoslavia or Albania after they split from their hegemony. It also would not have allowed Romania to join the IMF and maintain good relations with the People’s Republic of China. While the USSR’s example did certainly have an influence on the policies of allied socialist countries, they still maintained political autonomy within the boundaries of socialism.78 This complements the findings of our trade analysis which points to some social imperialist trends within overall principled behaviour. We should also mention that throughout its existence, the Soviet Union often played a progressive role internationally by supporting progressive movements.
Most socialists agree that military interventions and socialism are not mutually exclusive. For example, Marxist-Leninists generally regard the Chinese use of military against the uprising in Tibet as progressive and justified, and not as an act of social imperialism. And yet, restorationists often refer to Soviet military involvement in other countries as exactly that. That said, every Soviet intervention needs to be analysed individually to determine whether they were legitimate from a principled socialist point of view, or if they were motivated by right-opportunism to achieve nationalist goals.
The following historical accounts are brief. We also did not include all instances of the Soviet Union flexing its military muscle for political gains. A more detailed analysis of the events could have answered a few interesting questions and given more nuance to them. However, since this was not necessary to determine their nature, we kept this part short to save time. Each of these events, as well as the minor ones we omitted, are quite interesting and instructive, and do certainly deserve their own analysis.
5.2.1 East Germany 1953
Although it is an often-overlooked incident, we want to address the suppression of the so-called “East-German uprising.” Some restorationists list it as example for Soviet imperialism, even though it happened only a few months after Stalin’s death, at a time when Khrushchev had not yet ascended to power and Stalin’s supporters were still running the USSR.
On June 16 and 17 of 1953, East German construction workers went on strike to protest against increased work quotas. The spontaneous actions were joined by the broader population to voice criticism against the socialist regime in general. The protesters eventually even marched against state institutions. Like most socialists back then, the East German Socialist Unity Party (SED) looked at political opposition through the police paradigm, which means that any resistance to the system was seen as the work of outside forces trying to sabotage socialism, instead of the result of contradictions within socialist society. Therefore, the authorities did not have any better solution to the protests than to suppress them with the help of Soviet military stationed in the country since, so shortly after WWII, East Germany had limited security forces of their own.79 This incident cannot be accurately described as either capitalist imperialism or social imperialism. If anything, the Soviets did only defend their legitimate security interest in East Germany at that time. They did not act in their own economic or nationalist interest, but to support the East German regime. Even if we assume that the Soviet leadership directly succeeding Stalin was already deeply revisionist, it is hard to see how a principled socialist administration making the same error of the police paradigm would have acted much differently. The incident is still a clear example of right-opportunism since it is easier to ignore popular demands and to suppress them violently once they get too big to engage with the population. But we will save this debate for a later research paper dealing with the German Democratic Republic.
5.2.2 Hungary 1956
The so-called “Hungarian Revolution” of 1956 was in its nature similar to the East German uprising, but much more advanced. As in the GDR, workers and the broader population were unsatisfied with the course of the ruling Hungarian Workers’ Party (MDP). And as in the GDR, the protests started spontaneously. But this time, they continued for weeks with anti-communist propaganda and violence, until the Hungarian Workers’ Party had de facto fallen apart. The old bourgeois parties were ready to take its place. This situation was a serious threat to socialism and the security of the socialist camp. In this context, the Soviet intervention in Hungary of November 4 seems justified, even though it was carried out using military and anti-popular means, as the Soviets even opposed the anti-party workers’ council movement. Back then, even China and Yugoslavia defended the intervention as an act of international solidarity.80 Of course, it can be argued that the intervention – although justified by the Soviets’ security interest – suffered from right-opportunist errors in its implementation. We should for example question critically why the Soviet Union saw it fit to oppose the generally socialist-minded workers’ council movement. By entering into dialogue with the people, it might have been possible to create a new socialist ruling party less alienated from the people than the last one that was basically overthrown.
5.2.3 Czechoslovakia 1968
In the period between 1966 and 1968, the Czech regime implemented reforms that would heavily favour the intelligentsia, and that had neither the support of the working class, nor were in its interest. The reforms were mainly economical, aimed at increasing the autonomy of managers while cutting down on workers’ participation and labour rights. These plans, if fully implemented, would likely have amounted to a capitalist restoration in Czechoslovakia. From 1966 onwards, the working class protested these reforms, sensing that they were in clear contrast to their interests. Starting from 1965, Czechoslovakia also approached the West politically, allowing US TV to be broadcasted, and trying to build friendly relations with NATO countries while distancing itself more and more from the Warsaw Pact. On August 21, 1968, after issuing repeated warnings, the Soviet Union, the Polish People’s Republic, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, and the Hungarian People’s Republic invaded Czechoslovakia to remove the liberal-minded reformers from power. Although the Czech people had opposed the military intervention, they later welcomed the policies that the Soviets forced onto the new government. Again, the Soviet Union did not have any direct economic gains from the intervention, but they fought off a realistic threat to socialism and the security of the socialist bloc.81
5.2.4 Afghanistan 1979
The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan is, along with the intervention in Czechoslovakia, probably the most frequently cited example of “Soviet imperialism.” But a closer look at the events and their background is necessary to determine how apt this characterisation really is.
Afghanistan, throughout changing governments, had been one of the earliest allies of the Soviet Union as their relationship went as far back as the 1920s. On April 26, 1978, the socialist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) came to power by mobilising its supporters in the military, after the former Daud regime had ordered the leaders of the PDPA to be arrested in the face of growing popular support for the communists. This event, also known as the Saur Revolution, took place without any Soviet involvement.82 The PDPA had good relations with the Soviet Union, but it was divided into two hostile factions: the hardline Khalq, and the moderate Parcham. After the revolution, the Khalq secured power and purged Parcham members from relevant positions. The PDPA delivered far-reaching reforms like land reform and literacy campaigns, benefiting especially peasants and women. But the party, whose main base of support was in the urban areas, underestimated the conservative mindset in the countryside, and so its reforms were met with resistance. Under the influence of wealthy Mullahs and landlords, the Islamist reaction in the countryside, for example, killed teachers and burnt schools. Instead of changing its approach, the PDPA tried implementing its reforms by force. Fourteen times before the Soviet intervention, the Afghan government requested military support from the Soviet Union against the reactionary forces. But the Soviet Union declined since it was critical of the Khalq’s hardline approach and favoured instead a more moderate course. While on visit to Moscow, Afghan leader Nur Muhammad Taraki agreed to moderate the regimes approach, but he was killed upon return to Afghanistan by supporters of the hardliner Hafizullah Amin who then occupied the most important government positions himself.83 Around that time, the Soviet Union might have started to see Amin more as a liability than as an asset, and thus they may have made plans for replacing him with a more moderate politician, as often suggested by Western historians.84 Whether Amin’s murder was long plotted by the Soviets or was the result of an internal struggle in the party stands for debate. However, on December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union agreed to intervene on the side of the Afghan military; and shortly after, Amin was replaced by the moderate Babrak Karmal.
It is safe to say that the Soviet intervention was necessary to prevent Afghanistan from being taken over by violent reactionaries. Perhaps the Soviet Union also feared the radical Islamist ideology of the reactionaries spreading over to Muslim regions in its own territory. The intervention does hardly classify as imperialist since the Soviet Union had only small strategic interest in the country. Also, as with other allied countries, the USSR maintained generous economic relations with Afghanistan.85 Even the fact that Soviet forces might have directly killed Amin seems at least partly justifiable: not only did his unpopular policies threaten the stability of Afghanistan, but the PDPA and the Soviet Union also had good reasons to believe that Amin was a CIA asset, which even Western sources suggest.86
5.2.5 Poland 1981
In the face of continued anti-regime protests, the Soviet Union urged Poland in 1981 to restore order, which eventually resulted in the imposition of martial law. For that purpose, the USSR sent stern warnings to Polish leaders, and even mobilised troops around the Polish border, signalling that it would be ready to invade if necessary.87 To determine whether this behaviour can be considered social imperialist, we have to provide some context.
The Solidarity movement, although it emerged from genuine workers’ struggle against the failures of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR), was soon co-opted by liberal and rightist populists. In an effort to unite as much of the population behind them as possible, its leaders made contradictory promises, such as more consumption with less work. While originally demanding only economic reforms similar to those in Yugoslavia, Solidarity later became increasingly pro-Western and promoted more and more the overthrow of the socialist system, as well as leaving the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet Union allowed all this to happen, and only decided to intervene after the security of the socialist bloc had become endangered. It was the bureaucratic and sometimes corrupt PZPR that is responsible for these events since it ignored the discontent of the people that had already been surfacing for decades. Only its negligence allowed a pro-Western movement to emerge at all. What the Soviet Union did was essentially damage control. While right-opportunism was ultimately the reason for the (threat of an) intervention, it was really the right-opportunism of the Polish, and not the Soviet leaders. The Soviet intervention seems therefore justified from the point of view of the USSR since it prevented Poland from slipping into a liberal disaster and helped maintain the security of the socialist bloc in Europe. The Soviet Union did also not make any short-term economic gains from the intervention since it continued to subsidise the Polish economy as it had done before.
6 Dialectical Analysis of Soviet Society
In the first chapter, we deliberately chose the growth of the capitalist economy inside the feudal mode of production as an example to show that Marxists did not simply invent these laws out of thin air to justify their own endeavours. The Bolshevik revolution was not just another coup which only brought superficial change in the ruling elite but without touching the fundamentals of society. Quite the contrary, it developed according to the same principles of quantitative changes building up within the old society as outlined earlier in the case of feudalism. The conditions leading up to the Bolshevik revolution should be well-known to every Marxist reader, which we will outline here briefly. The growing importance of the modern, industrial bourgeoisie brought about a sudden increase in productive forces which was hindered by the existing state form of Czarist absolutism. This aggravated the Russian Empire’s internal contradictions and gave birth to its gravediggers: the modern industrial proletariat. The class struggle intensified and led to the creation of new forms of political organising, like the system of workers’ councils (soviets) with its separate alternative government. Additionally, the peasant class, which lagged behind Western agriculture due to technological backwardness, and which was experiencing stark oppression from the landlord and kulak class, proved to be an important ally of the proletariat in overthrowing the system. Moreover, the war weariness contributed a lot to the rise of the popular anti-Czarist sentiment which the Bolsheviks used in order to gain people’s support for their cause. This gradual gaining of people’s support meant that the proletarian class expanded its social base, exploited the Czarist system’s contradictions one by one, and prepared ground for the actual takeover in 1917. It is a misconception among some Marxists to view revolution as a single event, when the Bolshevik party took political power. It stands in opposition to what the Soviet authorities themselves believed in. In 1921 Lenin wrote:
“No one, I think, in studying the question of the economic system of Russia, has denied its transitional character. Nor, I think, has any Communist denied that the term Soviet Socialist Republic implies the determination of the Soviet power to achieve the transition to socialism, and not that the existing economic system is recognised as a socialist order.”88
Following the directional model of socialism, certain Marxists and some earlier LLCO writings identify this transitional period as the new mode of production itself. Russia somehow became immediately socialist just by the virtue of being in this transitional state, by moving “in the direction” of Communism. As can be clearly seen from the above quote and countless others, this view was held neither by Soviet nor Chinese authorities at that time. In fact, it dates much later and is a departure from the classical Marxist theory. The earliest signs of the socialist mode of production can be traced to the launch of the first Five Year Plan in 1928 which ended the New Economic Policy of the Soviet Union. But Soviet authorities themselves did not really talk about the end of the revolutionary period and the establishment of the socialist society until 1936, when the second Five Year Plan had already long been pursued, and the so-called Stalin constitution was adopted. Let us take them at their word and assume that 1936 is roughly when the socialist mode of production was firmly established.
In this way, the first successful socialist revolution took place in a country that Marx would not have predicted it would happen in. Russia’s economy was neither fully industrialised, nor was there a proletarian majority. Now, history has shown that a socialist revolution is not only possible in a backward country plagued by imperialism, but that it is also more likely to happen earlier in these countries when compared to other countries where capitalist development is more advanced. A significant reason for that is because the bourgeoisie of the advanced capitalist countries have much stronger ideological ties to capital and thus their resistance against socialist revolutions will be tougher; meanwhile, in pre-Soviet Russia, capitalist development was immature and weak. Although the relatively small proletariat played a leading role in the Great Socialist October Revolution, the country was still left with a peasant majority that had previously lived under feudal conditions. Knowing that the New Power emerges from the proletariat, we can now see why historical socialism was seemingly plagued by a lack of ideology. It is a re-occurring theme in its whole existence. The cult of personality around Stalin, Mao, and other leaders was, to an extent, a substitute for class consciousness.89 And the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, for example, directly addressed the lack of socialist consciousness in China.
In a sense, the ideological decay in the post-Stalin era was not a result of Khrushchev’s policies, but a lack of class consciousness preceded them. Despite their efforts to promote self-management and to fight the bureaucracy, Soviet socialism under Lenin and Stalin failed to institutionalise bottom-up initiative by the masses. This error would later be addressed by Mao who knew that socialism is and must be a dynamic process in order to avoid bureaucratisation. Further, in the Soviet Union, socialist society was seen as a machine that works exactly as it is supposed to unless it is sabotaged by outside forces. This metaphor shaped the policing approach of the Stalin era. But the bureaucratisation, that would have to follow the lack of mass initiative and the ignoring of internal contradictions, was averted for a while due to Stalin’s principled leadership and personality. It was only a matter of time until the gap left by him would be filled by opportunists. After Stalin, we see a huge working class that a few decades ago were still largely peasants. It never truly knew the exploitation of the industrial proletariat under capitalism, and therefore it lacked a proper socialist mentality. Additionally, the Soviet people had just finished fighting a gruelling war against the Nazis and experienced the more authoritarian years of Stalin’s leadership.90 It is no surprise that a charismatic opportunist like Khrushchev came to power under these circumstances. And although he used lies and deception to consolidate his position, he did appeal to popular sentiments. He measured the economic success of the Soviet Union against the United States and thus shifted the focus away from communist principles towards consumerism. Since the people had already enough reason to be satisfied with the current state of Soviet society, and often lacked a proper socialist mentality, it was easy for them to redirect their attention towards their own immediate material conditions, and away from abstract egalitarian goals. Khrushchev further sought peaceful relations with the capitalist world. We can imagine such a policy to be popular in a society that only ten years earlier had lost 27 million people to a war. Factoring in the possibility of a nuclear confrontation, his position is even somewhat reasonable, especially if we bear in mind that the Soviet Union continued to support promising liberation movements in the Global South, despite what was said publicly.91 Many people would also still remember the civil war a little more than 35 years before Khrushchev came to power. And so, the people might have liked his revisionist idea of a “state of the whole people,” because it promised a peaceful social environment. Khrushchev addressed not only the people’s desire for peace and consumer goods, but also the party and state officials’ desire for safety, as they were the main victims of Stalin-era repression.92 After Stalin, the Soviet leadership had to choose between two roads: the revisionist road that sought to manage and preserve the socialist state more or less on its current level by the tried and tested means, and that would eventually lay the groundwork for capitalist restoration – or the socialist road that seeks to inspire new revolutionary consciousness in the masses and continue to transform society from below, even at the cost of stability. From our historical analysis it is clear why the Soviet Union went on the revisionist road. During his lifetime, Stalin failed to institutionalise his fight against the bureaucracy.93 Soviet socialism became stagnant. It could reasonably be argued that the Soviet Union took a revisionist turn already during the later years of Stalin’s leadership. Although it was Khrushchev introducing the doctrine of peaceful coexistence, Stalin had already been very cautious about supporting progressive movements abroad since he did not want to risk a war with the United States.94 Under Stalin, the economic relationship between the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies had some clearly imperialist tendencies. This policy was seen by the Soviets as compensation for the damage they suffered during WWII. For example, the USSR demanded harsh economic concessions from Yugoslavia although it had not even collaborated with Nazi Germany. It was only after Stalin in the mid-1950s that the Soviets put an end to this practice.95 Another example of Stalin’s shift towards revisionism is his infamous support for Israel.96 However, Khrushchev’s revisionism would entail new revisionism, and problems would spiral upwards. Khrushchev’s emphasis on consumerism would incite bourgeois desires in the people he could not fulfil in the long term. His idea of a state of the whole people had the working class lower its guard against the possibility of capitalism to re-emerge. Brezhnev’s reluctance to fight the second economy which provided consumer goods allowed it to become a breeding ground and a financial source for capitalist sentiments and ideas.97
Still, societies do not change by someone snapping their fingers. Capitalism is not over just because the proletariat undermines the market by establishing community gardens. Likewise, socialism did not end until Gorbachev gave in to the influence of a proto-bourgeoisie lurking in the shadows of the black market and extending its claws into politics and academia. Revisionist policies produced an economic base that fostered a more and more bourgeois superstructure. The restoration of capitalism was a process that could have been stopped. The Stalin government had nationalised the economy after the NEP period, but its ideologically weak successors were unable to react properly to economic challenges. The policies of Khrushchev and Brezhnev were not a restoration of capitalism, but right-opportunism – a simple and unprincipled solution to a complex problem. We can say that because even after those reforms, that undoubtedly fostered a capitalist mindset, the Soviet economy still lacked vital features of capitalism, for example production decisions being made solely on profitability, and appropriation of wealth that could be measured in growing inequality. The idea that Khrushchev and his small clique of party elites single-handedly restored capitalism is a symptom of the liberal “great man theory” and it fails to look at societal development from a dialectical perspective. Quantitative changes in favour of capitalism do not yet amount to a capitalist restoration. Restorationists might give compelling evidence pointing out numerous occasions where the post-Stalin party and government leadership acted in an opportunistic manner, and in this way prepared ground for the capitalist restoration to happen in the last years. But they should not be taken for anything more than they were: quantitative changes, an increase in the strength of the counter-revolutionary social base inside of an imperfect socialist society. They were indeed a long-term cause for the actual counter-revolution to happen in the later years, but they were not necessarily counter-revolution themselves. Just because the Soviet Union had lost its progressive momentum, and that society started moving back towards capitalism, that does not yet equal capitalism itself. The process of switching from one mode of production to another is rapid in the relative sense, hence why it is called a social revolution. But it does not happen instantly. The qualitative change happens relatively faster than the gradual build-up of quantitative changes. We cannot really speak about any organised counter-revolution happening in the Soviet Union until at least the 1980s.
Finally, we want to stress that the right-opportunism of Khrushchev and Brezhnev did indeed bear the potential to transform the Soviet Union into a state-capitalist country, if Gorbachev had not allowed liberal capitalism to return first.
- Household income, as used in chapter 3.1, is an incomplete measure for inequality because it does not account for the privileges enjoyed by the party and state elite as a channel for personal enrichment.
- The problem of nepotism, especially in the Union Republics, could have consolidated the bureaucracy as a class in the long run.
- The technocratic character of Soviet politics, if further institutionalised, could have rendered the working class powerless within the political system.
- The ideological decay of the post-Stalin era was likely to continue, and to end up as sheer self-serving opportunism.
But despite all this, our research suggests that these problems had not yet been institutionalised. The Soviet Union stayed socialist at least until Gorbachev came to power, and definitely ended its transition to capitalism when it was broken apart in 1991.
7 Theoretical Conclusions and Outlook
When defining a political system as capitalist or socialist, democratic or authoritarian, federalist or centralist, etc., people are tempted to come up with a list of characteristics. For example: A socialist country must be democratic, have a nationalised economy, and be ruled by a single party. This approach is the standard way of classifying political systems in contemporary bourgeois social sciences. But this approach is mere empiricism. To be clear, empirical observations are necessary to understand an object of interest. But from a dialectical point of view, it is impossible to grasp the true nature of anything by looking at its empirical characteristics alone. The problem is that conceptions like democracy are impossible to measure. There is no definitive checklist that can define democracy. Marxists understand that the nature of a political system depends on your perspective. Socialism is called the dictatorship of the proletariat because it is a dictatorship, for the capitalists. It is democratic only for the proletariat. Likewise, countries in Western Europe do match the bourgeois criteria of democracies. But these “democracies” are compromised by the influence of capitalism that has its agents in literally every institution of decision-making and finances all major parties with “donations.” Therefore, capitalist democracy is democratic only to wealthy business owners, not to the proletariat. If we want to define socialism, we encounter another dilemma. On the one hand, we have ideas what a socialist society should look like and are thus tempted to include qualitative measures like class consciousness and democracy. On the other hand, we want to apply our definition to actual cases. But vague concepts like democracy are not quantifiable, at least not without flaws. For theory to be scientific, it must be falsifiable. Let us for instance assume that socialism is always democratic. From this assumption, we derive that if a country is not democratic, it cannot be socialist. But since democracy is not quantifiable and therefore not measurable, we end up at a dead end. If we rely on those concepts, socialism could be anything. That is why in the end, we must confine ourselves to characteristics that are empirically measurable while still paying attention to their specific context. This is not to contradict the Maoist idea of politics in command. However, radical change in the ownership of the means of production must precede mainstream ideological change in the superstructure. After all, we know only too well that you cannot bring about socialism by simply teaching people to be more compassionate towards others.
Another aspect to consider in determining the nature of a system is power. If capitalism is in power, it will unavoidably restore the institutions of the market. This did not happen after Khrushchev took on the leadership in the USSR. Dickhut himself admitted that the revisionists could not immediately restore capitalism without facing resistance by the people.98 Then how can one argue that capitalists are fully in charge? Do the US capitalists ask for consent before they trample over labour rights? Do the Chinese capitalists ask the workers before they commit yet another human rights violation? They do not. Although concessions are a tool of the capitalist class to keep the people quiet, they do not extend to fundamental decisions about the nature of the system. Dickhut himself claims that systems can be in a transitional state, like the German Democratic Republic directly after 1949 which, according to him, was a “People’s Democracy,” and not yet socialist.99 If the GDR, despite having a working class government, did not immediately turn socialist, then the Soviet Union can remain socialist for a certain period despite having a revisionist leadership.
The extreme focus on the trajectory of a post-revolutionary state in determining its nature, i.e. what we called the “directional approach”, is unscientific. It is purely qualitative insofar as you cannot express in numbers to which degree a society is progressing towards communism. Let us look at an extreme example. The socialist Soviet Union shortly after the death of Stalin was certainly progressing slower towards communism than the “People’s Democracy” (to borrow Dickhuts terminology) in the GDR. If we define socialism purely by the speed in which a society progresses towards communism, the 1949 GDR would have to be considered more socialist than the 1953 Soviet Union. Of course there is arguably no restorationist that would actually make such an argument. Why not? Because even restorationists using the directional approach to prove that the post-Stalin Soviet Union was capitalist do rely on additional quantitative data to analyse the nature of a political system. The simplest kind of quantitative data is whether something exists or not. In the case of socialism we might ask: Is there private property or not? Are there prices determined by the market or not? and so on. Of course, in reality the answer to these questions will be more nuanced than simply yes or no, but they can be put into numbers and therefore be compared. At least since Lenin, we define socialism as the stage between capitalism and communism. It is therefore understandable why many people define socialism not on the basis of concrete reality, but as a trajectory. Taking into account this trajectory, although it cannot be definitely determined, does even have certain advantages. For example, it allows to express the difference between the revisionist Soviet Union and the revolutionary People’s Republic of China although their economic and political systems were quite similar at times. It does also have some merits for socialist organisations and future socialist societies. If we acknowledge that socialism does not necessarily always progress forward, this will urge society to be more critical and to constantly re-evaluate the current state, and thus to be more cautious about the possible restoration of capitalism. In summary, even restorationists have always used qualitative and quantitative measures to define socialism. This approach is also generally useful, but restorationists have given too much weight to the qualitative side of the definition when it was ideologically convenient. Taking this into account, the correct term to describe socialism in the Soviet Union after Stalin would be revisionism, meaning a socialist economic base tainted by a right-opportunist leadership – an economically socialist society which has lost its revolutionary momentum on the way towards communism, and which, according to historical evidence, was on the way to capitalist restoration. One might also call this stagnant socialism, as opposed to dynamic socialism which still progresses towards communism. We can approximately access the trajectory of a socialist society by critically looking at the theory guiding its political decisions, although this will always stay a qualitative approach and can only give us a hint; it cannot put into numbers how fast a system is progressing either to communism or to capitalist restoration. Stagnant socialism can be the result of certain historical circumstances that favour right-opportunist tendencies. It is not a failure for the socialist movement to admit that this is possible. Not everything we are ashamed of must be labelled capitalist. The Chinese Maoists who accused the Soviet Union of being state capitalist often made exaggerated or outright false claims about the Soviet economy.100 It is unclear whether this was sloppy and ill-intended research, or the Maoists just had such a great insight in societal development that they instinctively predicted the restoration of capitalism under Gorbachev. Either way, it was a scientific error. In the same manner, Soviet-aligned ideologues claimed Mao was a capitalist.101 A correct understanding of revisionism was hindered by the politics of the Sino-Soviet split.
The last question that remains now is how a dynamic socialist country should deal with stagnant socialist countries. We want to assess this question very carefully since historical evidence is lacking. It is clear that the Sino-Soviet split posed many difficulties to both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. These difficulties were for example clearly visible when both countries found themselves on different sides of the Afghan War. However, it would probably be too much to say that solidarity between socialist countries should transcend all theoretical and practical differences. It seems reasonable to propose that socialist countries have to make decisions on their relationship to one another on a case-by-case basis. The important difference between a stagnant socialist country and a capitalist one is that the stagnant socialist country does still possess most of its institutions that theoretically allow the working class to exert power over the state. The working class of a stagnant socialist country can still ignite the revolutionary flame once again without smashing the current state institutions. Even within the state bureaucracy there are still revolutionary communists who are simply slowed down by the bureaucratic process.102 It is therefore vital to determine how far the stagnation has already progressed in the socialist country under review. If it is likely that a dynamic socialist country can exert positive influence over a stagnant one, then collaborative relations should be maintained. Only if a stagnant regime is already firmly in power, and collaboration would mean strengthening this regime against the working class, then a political split is justified.
Our research is not only important because it addresses a decades-old conflict and common misconceptions held within the communist movement. It also showcases the rules for how any progressive organisation should go about their theoretical stances. We have clearly shown that dogmatism, opportunism and ignorance all blunt the sword of revolutionary science and cloud one’s perception of the world. Only the uncompromised and self-critical acknowledgment of past mistakes can prevent us from repeating them. This does also include the LLCO. While our late founder Prairie Fire acknowledged that the organisation still lacked a scientific assessment of Soviet revisionism,103 he still made exaggerated criticisms about the post-Stalin Soviet Union. This was clearly a mistake. The leap from capitalism to socialism and on to communism is a historical task that will be everything but easy. Even with the most scientific assessment of the past, mistakes will be made in the future. That is why it is even more important for us to stand on a firm scientific basis that helps us to understand and correct those mistakes. While writing this article, honest communists, whether or not they thought of the post-Stalin USSR as capitalist or socialist, have always agreed that the failures of the revisionist Soviet Union are not to be repeated. As already mentioned in the introduction, the purpose of this article is to unite and to foster collaboration based on revolutionary science. It is not our goal to deepen the split in the socialist movement even further.
Revolutionary Science in Command!
We want to thank our dear comrades, Isaac, Janelle Velina, Jonathan Meadows, Rivaldo “Djuma” Cardoso, and Uziel Stryker, for their help with this article.
1 LLCO (2016a).
2 Trotsky (1936).
3 Sweezy (1942), p. 28.
4 Marx and Engels (1969), p. 6.
5 Ibd., p.14.
6 Ibd., pp. 15, 18.
7 Sweezy (1942), p. 39.
8 Ibd., pp. 59-62.
9 Trotsky (1936).
10 LLCO (2016a).
11 Keeran and Kenny (2010), pp. 233-234
12 Marx (1977).
13 Marx (1887), p. 534.
14 Lenin (1972).
15 Lenin (1964).
16 LLCO (2016d).
17 Mao (1945), p. 19.
18 Dickhut (1988), pp. 108-109.
19 Hough (1974), p. 13.
20 Dickhut (1988), pp. 121-122.
21 Wilczynski (1973), p. 155.
22 Novokmet et al. (2018). pp. 213, 216, 219.
23 Indicator for income inequality that can take on values between 0 and 100 → the higher the value the higher the inequality.
24 Novokmet et al. (2018), p. 218.
25 Szymanski (1984), p. 134.
26 Wilczynski (1973), p. vii.
27 Ibd., p. 44.
28 Ibd., p. 154.
29 Ibd., pp. 44-48.
30 Ibd., p. 169.
31 Ibd., pp. 44-48.
32 Dickhut (1988), pp. 132-136.
33 Wilczynski (1973), pp. 136-137.
34 Conquest (1967), pp. 130-132.
35 Keeran and Kenny (2010), pp. 77-78.
36 Aurthur (1977), p.65.
37 Kurkchiyan (2000), pp. 86-87.
38 Keeran and Kenny (2010), p. 63.
39 Dickhut (1988), p. 199.
40 Engel (2022), p. 119.
41 Ibd., pp. 119-120.
42 LLCO (2016b).
43 Pobedy (2020).
44 Dickhut (1988), pp. 342-343.
45 Rigby (1968), pp. 275-289.
46 American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (1976), p. 53; Szymanski (1984), p. 145.
47 Szymanksi (1979), pp.88-89; Zickel (1991), p. 322.
48 Szymanski (1984), pp. 145-146.
49 Costello (1977).
50 Zickel (1991), pp. 228-229.
51 Szymanski (1984), p. 144.
52 Dickhut (1988), p. 369.
53 Conquest (1967), pp. 131-132; Szymanski (1984), pp. 142-143.
54 Barabashev and Sheremet (1989), pp. 20-21.
55 Davidow (1982), p. 73; Bechtel et al. (1978), p. 143.
56 Davidow (1982), pp. 155-159; Szymanski (1979), pp. 81-82; Bechtel et al. (1978), p. 145.
57 Turovtsev (1973), pp. 110-136.
58 Davidow (1982), pp. 162-164, 167.
59 Szymanski (1979), pp. 83-84.
60 Allen (1987), pp. 58-59.
61 Barabashev and Sheremet (1989), pp. 10-12, 16; Szymanski (1979), p. 83.
62 Dickhut (1988), pp. 218-227.
63 Marer (1972), pp. 24, 34, 87, 111.
64 Zickel (1991), p. 603.
65 Dickhut (1988), pp. 377-379.
66 Szymanski (1979), pp. 124-125.
67 Zickel (1991), p. 592.
68 Wilczynski (1972), p. 289.
69 Zickel (1991), pp. 591-592.
70 Ibd., p. 612.
71 Ibd., pp. 612-616.
72 Wilczynski (1973), p. 218.
73 Szymanski (1979), pp. 151-161.
74 Zickel (1991), pp. 591-592.
75 Dickhut (1988), p. 292.
76 Zickel (1991), pp. 613-615.
77 Szymanski (1979), p. 160.
78 Ibd., pp. 98, 147-148.
79 CIA (1953a); CIA (1953b).
80 Szymanski (1979), pp. 146-147.
81 Ibd., pp. 140-146.
82 Feifer (2009), p. 21.
83 Szymanski (1984), pp. 216-226.
84 Feifer (2009), pp. 2-3, 7.
85 Szymanski (1984), p. 224.
86 Braithwaithe (2011), p. 78.
87 Szymanski (1984), p. 97.
88 Lenin (1965).
89 Arthur (1977), pp. 205-206.
90 Losurdo (2020), p. 109.
91 Gowans (2012).
92 Allen (1987), p. 77; Brzezinski (1956), p. 106; Getty and Manning (1993), pp. 156-159.
93 Dickhut (1988), pp. 35-36.
94 Gowans (2012).
95 Szymanski (1979), pp. 134, 138.
96 LLCO (2016c).
97 Keeran and Kenny (2010), p. 63.
98 Dickhut (1988), p. 43.
99 Ibd., pp. 206-207.
100 Szymanski (1979). p. 37.
101 See for example Hafemann et al. (1980).
102 Allen (1987), pp. 124-125.
103 LLCO (2016e).
Allen, Vic L. (1987). The Russians Are Coming: The Politics of Anti-Sovietism. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/TheRussiansAreComing
American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (1976). The CPSU in Figures, in The Current Digest of the Soviet Press 35(28), pp. 1-5. Retrieved from: https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13635687
Arthur, Jonathan (1977). Socialism in the Soviet Union. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/JonathanArthurSocialismInTheSovietUnionPdfa/page/n11/mode/2up
Barabashev, Georgi; Konstantin Sheremet (1989). Soviets of People’s Deputies: Democracy and Administration. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/sovietspeoplesdeputies1989
Bechtel, Marilyn; David Laibman; Jessica Smith (Ed.) (1978). Six Decades that Changed the World: The USSR After 60 Years. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/SixDecadesThatChangedTheWorld
Braithwaite, Rodric (2011). Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-1989.
Brzezinski, Zbigniew K. (1956). The Permanent Purge: Politics in Soviet Totalitarianism. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/permanentpurgepo0000brze
CIA (1953a). Comment on East Berlin Uprising. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP79B01737A001600060001-7.pdf
CIA (1953b). East Germany. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP79R00890A000100060013-6.pdf
Conquest, Robert (1967). Industrial Workers in the USSR. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/industrialworkersussrconquest
Costello, Mick (1977). Workers Participation in the Soviet Union. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/WorkersParticipationInTheSovietUnion/mode/2up
Davidow, Mike (1982). Working Versus Talking Democracy. Retrieved From: https://archive.org/details/WorkingVersusTalkingDemocracy
Dickhut, Willi (1988). Die Restauration des Kapitalismus in der Sowjetunion.
Engel, Stefan (2022). Die Krise der Bürgerlichen Ideologie und des Opportunismus.
Feifer, Gregory (2009). The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan.
Getty, John A.; Roberta T. Manning (Ed.) (1993). Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives.
Gowans, Stephen (2012). Khrushchev’s Revisionism. Retrieved From: https://www.greanvillepost.com/2012/12/29/khrushchevs-revisionism/
Hafemann, Jürgen; Bernd Jordan; Rainar Mielke (Ed.) (1980). Die Volksrepublik China 1949-1979: Eine Kommentierte Chronik.
Hough, Jerry F. (1974). The Brezhnev Era: The Man and the System, in Problems of Communism 23(6), pp. 1-18. Retrieved from: https://www.unz.com/PDF/PERIODICAL/ProblemsCommunism-1976mar/3-20/
Keeran, Roger; Thomas Kenny (2010). Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Retrieved from: https://valleysunderground.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/socialism-betrayed.pdf
Kurkchiyan, Marina (2000). The Transformation of the Second Economy in the Informal Economy, in Ledeneva, Alena V.; Marina Kurkchiyan, Economic Crime in Russia, pp. 86-87.
Lenin, Vladimir I.  (1964). The Dual Power, in Collected Works, Vol. 24, pp. 38-41. Retrieved from: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/09.htm
Lenin, Vladimir I.  (1965). A Tax in Kind, in Collected Works, Vol. 32, pp. 329-365. Retrieved from: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/apr/21.htm
Lenin, Vladimir I.  (1972). Critical Remarks on the National Question, in Collected Works, Vol. 20, pp. 17-51. Retrieved from: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/crnq/index.htm
LLCO (2016a). What is Revisionism? Retrieved from: https://llco.org/what-is-revisionism/
LLCO (2016b). On Definition Mongering. Retrieved from: https://llco.org/on-definition-mongering/
LLCO (2016c). Molotov, MIM, Dogma, and Stalin’s support for Israel. Retrieved from: https://llco.org/molotov-mim-dogma-and-stalins-support-for-israel/
LLCO (2016d). Old Power, New Power, Reform versus Revolution. Retrieved from: https://llco.org/old-power-new-power-reform-versus-revolution/
LLCO (2016e). On Counter-Revolution: Just Pointing to Revisionism is not Enough. Retrieved from: https://llco.org/on-counter-revolution-just-pointing-to-revisionists-is-not-enough/
Losurdo, Domenico (2020). Stalin: The History and Critique of a Black Legend. Retrieved from: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5ed33bcd368e221ec227cacd/t/5ee39a1731781f54f197c5f7/1591974443348/Domenico+Losurdo+-+Stalin.pdf
Mao, Zedong  (1960). The Situation and Our Policy After the Victory in the War of Resistance against Japan, in Selected Works, Vol. IV, pp. 1-27. Retrieved from: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4_01.htm
Marer, Paul (1972). Soviet and East European Foreign Trade, 1946–1969: Statistical Compendium and Guide. Retrieved from: https://muse.jhu.edu/book/94932/
Marx, Karl; Friedrich Engels  (1969). Manifesto of the Communist Party, in Selected Works, Vol. One, pp. 98-137. Retrieved from: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf
Marx, Karl  (1977). A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Retrieved from: https://sites.middlebury.edu/econ0450f10/files/2010/08/Karl-Marx-grundrisse.pdf
Marx, Karl  (1887). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1. Retrieved from: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Capital-Volume-I.pdf
Novokment, Filip; Thomas Piketty; Gabriel Zucman (2018). From Soviets to Oligarchs: Inequality and Property in Russia 1905-2016, in The Journal of Economic Inequality 16(2), pp. 189-223. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10888-018-9383-0
Pobedy, Medved (2020). Overturning Vulgar Third-Worldism: A Practical Internationalist Approach to Revolution. Retrieved from: https://llco.org/overturning-vulgar-third-worldism-a-practical-internationalist-approach-to-revolution/
Rigby, Thomas H. (1968). Communist Party Membership in the U.S.S.R.: 1917-1967.
Sweezy, Paul M. (1942). The Theory of Capitalist Development. Retrieved from: http://digamo.free.fr/sweezy42.pdf
Szymanski, Albert (1979). Is the Red Flag Flying? Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/IsTheRedFlagFlying/page/n13/mode/2up
Szymanski, Albert (1984). Human Rights in the Soviet Union. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/HumanRightsInTheSovietUnion
Trotsky, Leon (1936). The Revolution Betrayed: What is the Soviet Union and Where is it Going? Retrieved from: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/revbet/
Turovtsev, Victor (1973). People’s Control in Socialist Society. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/PeoplesControlInSocialistSociety
White, Stephen (1974). Contradiction and Change in State Socialism, in Soviet Studies 26(1), pp. 41-55. Retrieved from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/150968.pdf
Wilczynski, Josef (1973). Profit, Risk and Incentives under Socialist Economic Planning.
Zickel, Raymond E. (Ed.) (1991). Soviet Union: A Country Study, Second Edition. Retrieved from: https://loc.gov/item/90025756/