Introduction by the editor
The following text is based on a recent book published in spanish language, as a second edition of the book “Against the tide”, including new parts, and correcting and changing others because the authors have studied new texts. As such it is a work in progress and unfinished. At the same time I believe it is worth while to be published for an english reading audience and to be discussed amongst those hat refer to the Communist Left, be it the italian or the german-dutch left.
Anibal has translated the text from spanish into english with help of automatic translations. Lacking the means of correcting, this translation is not perfect. The many quotations from classical texts have been machine translated from spanish as well. As an editor I would prefer quotes from english versions, but in this case, the time is lacking and I prefer to publish this text in its present form, with some formatting:
- Fragments by Anibal or Materia have been put in default font.
- Supporting quotations from other text are indicated as such.
- Supplemental quotes have been added by hyperlinks.
- Editorial comments are between square brackets. All titles are by the editor.
F.C., November 30th 2020.
Anibals contribution is written at the occasion of the (incomplete) translation into Spanish*) of the following article: Fredo Corvo, The G.I.C. and the economy of the transition period. An introduction. We refer here to the (complete) English version: part 1, part 2 (links to A Free Retriever’s Digest – An internationalist Articles Selection & Review). Following fragments may be unknown to Anibal because they have been left out in the Spanish translation (by the IGCL), before the chapter “Misunderstandings and anti-critique”:
Jan Appel and the GIC
The first step of this text by the German-Dutch Communist Left was made by the experienced German revolutionary worker Jan Appel, member of the SPD, later chairman of the revolutionäre Obleute in Hamburg, co-founder of the Spartakusbund, member of the KPD(S), co-founder of the KAPD, in the Netherlands co-founder of the GIC in 1927 and after the Second World War member of Communistenbond ‘Spartacus’. (Jan Appel 1890-1985) He came to his first ideas because of the economic chaos both in Germany immediately after the First World War, and in Russia after the October Revolution. As a delegate of the KAPD to the ECCI in 1920, and to the Third Congress of the Communist International in 1921, he saw how the workers of the Prokhorof textile factory and the gigantic Putilov metal factory were powerless against the chaos that the Bolsheviks caused in the economy, and inparticular how wage labor persisted. (Notes of a conversation of F.O. with Appel about 1977. collection AAAP)
An interview with Paul Mattick shows that he and Jan Appel were in contact with each other in the wake of the revolutionary wave in the German Ruhr area. Jan Appel was arrested by the police for robbing a black trader. His comrades ofthe KAPD were worried he would be recognized as a revolutionary wanted by the police and condemned to a long prison sentence for the hijacking of a ship to Russia in 1920. Armed with pistols and hand-grenades, Appel’s comrades, including Paul Mattick, appeared in the courtroom to liberate him if necessary. It was not necessary; he was not recognized as a ‘hijacker’ and was initially sentenced to only a short term in prison. (Plutte, Geoffroy (Hrsg.), Die Revolution war für mich ein großes Abenteuer. Paul Mattick in Gespräch mit Michael Buckmiller. Münster, 2013. S. 41/43. La révolution fut une belle aventure : Des rues de Berlin en révolte aux movements radicaux americains (1918-1934) / Paul Mattick; traduit de l’allemand par Laure Batier et Marc Geoffroy; préface de Gary Roth; notes de Charles Reeve. – Montreuil : L’Echappée, 2013) There Appel could read Das Kapital and was able to collect and work out his ideas on the basis of Marx’s fragments about the transitional period. Later he was still recognized and he had to serve a severe prison sentence in Hamburg for ‘hijacking’. After a general amnesty he was released and emigrated to the Netherlands at the turn of the year 1925-1926 to work at the shipyard Conrad in Haarlem. Appel took his notes on what would become the Fundamental Principles with him to the Netherlands. In 1926 he presented his ideas for communist production and distribution in two
meetings. The first one, in which Appel gave an introduction, took place during Pentecost and a second meeting was held two weeks later. The participants were some members and ex-members of the KAPN: Henk Canne Meijer, Piet Coerman (Bussum), ir. Jordens (KAPN section Zwolle) and Herman Gorter. The latter reacted extremely critically. Gorter appealed to Lenin’s The State and Revolution and said that production should
be organized like the postal services and the railways. According to Appel, Gorter became so emotional that Appel asked other participantswhat was wrong with him. Gorter was already ill then. (On the basis of notes of a conversation by F.O. with Appel around 1977. Collection AAAP) On September 15, 1927 he died. The GIC
was then formed with in particular Coerman, Canne Meijer, Appel and Herman de Beer. The GIC further developed the basic text by Jan Appel, with Canne Meijer taking care of its redaction.
Three preliminary studies
This led to three preliminary studies, parts of which were included in the first printed edition of the text, published in 1930 by the Allgemeine Arbeiter Union in Berlin. These preliminary studies are extremely important because they show the political framework of the Fundamental Principles more clearly than the 1930 edition of the main text.
Jan Appel’s source text appeared in 1928 in three episodes in Klassenstrijd under the pseudonym Piet de Bruin as “Aantekeningen over communistische economie”. The text refers directly to the practical experience of the revolution in Russia:
“The attempts that have been made in Russia to construct communism have drawn a field into the scope
of practice that hitherto could only be treated by theory. Russia has attempted to build up economic life,
as far as it concerns industry, according to communist principles… and has completely failed in doing
so.” (For the complete original text in Dutch see: Aantekeningen over communistische economie. The first
part has been published in in AFRD Vol.1#04, August 22nd, 2017: “Extracts from: ‘Notes on communist
economy’ by Piet de Bruin (Jan Appel), 1928. Part 1 of 3”)
Secondly, the GIC published a study on the problem of the relations between industry and the agricultural sector, and thus between workers and peasants, a major obstacle to the Russian Revolution. The GIC supplemented the Russian experience with the attitude of the peasants in the German revolution. From this study the GIC derives
the following important political conclusion:
“The social revolution, which communism regards as a new law of movement for the distribution of products, has something to offer the peasants. In addition to the exemption of all leases, mortgages and corporate debts, the even distribution of the national product brings the direct equality of city and country, which in practice leads to favoring of the farmer. But the agrarian proletariat, this pariah of capitalist society, is making a mighty leap forward, so that it has every interest in bringing agriculture into communist production.” (GIC, Ontwikkelingslijnen in de landbouw. Ontwikkeling van het boerenbedrijf. 1930. See for a recent position: Over het agrarische vraagstuk.)
This approach to the peasants is completely different from the Bolsheviks’ inconsistent attitude: reassuring, shortly before October 1917, the distribution of land ownership over the peasants; compulsory supply of the cities after the revolution; concessions to private ownership of land during the NEP; finally forced collectivization under
Stalin and, consequently, lasting problems with food supply. The political perspective mentioned above was derived from the GIC’s investigation of recent developments in the agricultural sector. This topic followed an old discussion in Dutch Social Democracy before the First World War, (See: Eenige opmerkingen bij de voorstellen van de agrarische commissie / Ant[on]. Pannekoek [Met een antwoord van H. Gorter] in: De Nieuwe Tijd, 1904, p. 409-
420.) and Gorters well-known remark in his Open letter to comrade Lenin about the different importance of the peasants in the revolution in east and in west. This investigation gave the GIC the following insight:
“(…) that the current agriculture is characterized by specialization and thus has developed completely into
‘commodity production’. An increase in productivity has been achieved through modern technology, with out companies concentrating in one hand. This develops in parallel with the development of agricultural cooperatives, which combine farms into communities of interest, but farmers often lose their ‘freedom’ (for
example, in many cases, disposing of their product). It is typical, although very understandable, that the
current labor movement does not want to see this capitalist development in agriculture. Understandable, because these growth lines do not fit into their state-communist theory. The farm is socialized, the farms are forged together and act collectively and yet they are absolutely not suitable for state administration. Of course, the so-called socialist working-class movement does not infer from this that its state-communist theory is wrong, but concludes that communism is impossible unless agriculture develops along the lines it ought according to scholastic Marxism.
(…) The position of the Group of International Communists in relation to the nature of the proletarian
revolution originates in no small part from the development that the peasant enterprise has assumed in
the highly developed capitalist countries. It is precisely the fact that agriculture has optimally become
involved in social labor, that agriculture has been integrated in the process of the social division of labor,
that it has advanced to industrial production and yet cannot not organically be integrated into ‘socialism’
or ‘communism’, that casts strong doubts on the coherence of the ‘communist’ theories. The whole of ‘nationalization’ or ‘socialization theories’ appear to benothing else than a reformist distortion of the proletarian goals.” (GIC, Ontwikkelingslijnen in de landbouw. Ontwikkeling van het boerenbedrijf. 1930)
The third preliminary study by the GIC was only published in the Netherlands in 1932, as the pamphlet Marxisme en staatscommunisme; het afsterven van de staat. (GIC, Marxism and State Communism; The Withering
Away of the State – Amsterdam: Groepen van Internationale Communisten, 1932. – 18 p.) Jan Appel had already published this text in German in 1927. In Marxisme en staatscommunisme, the GIC criticizes the identification of nationalization with socialization and of state capitalism with socialism, which Lenin had adopted from reformism in The State and revolution. In contrast to the strengthening of the state that ensued from it, and that contrasted with Lenin’s expectation of the withering away of the state, the GIC sticks to Marx’s view that the association of free and equal producers, that is the workers’ councils, takes over the means of production. For the GIC it is therefore only natural that the workers’ councils exercise their dictatorship over society economically as well, namely by controlling production and distribution as an association of free and equal producers. In this way
it is possible that this dictatorship (‘proletarian state’) actually dies off in the further development of communism.
(F.C., The G.I.C. and the Economy of the Transition Period. An Introduction, two parts not translated into Spanish)
Period of transition, socialism, communism. Points and explanations of balance
In another text below, by means of various notes, we expand on the explanations and provide additional data on what has been analysed in these sections:
-1- Class character of the October Revolution 1917
The specificity of the October Revolution 1917 can be explained by the particular characteristics of Russia, its class structure (with a large number of elements of non-proletarian agrarian classes), and the level of integration of the economy into the world market. And this is obviously in relation to the picture that presented the correlation of forces between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie on an international scale.
It was not a bourgeois revolution of the kind that took place in February 1917 with the succession of the Tsar, where despite the development of the workers’ struggle, the most decisive political results were favourable to the bourgeoisie that wanted to achieve a provisional government and a Constituent Assembly, as agreed by the newly formed Provisional Committee of the Duma and Executive Committee of the Petrograd Service.
“The state power has passed in Russia to the hands of a new class: the class of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois landowners. To that extent, the bourgeois democratic revolution in Russia is finished”.
(“The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”. 28 May 1917.)
October 1917 was a proletarian revolution, a powerful social and political movement led by broad sectors of the working class tired and fed up with the bourgeois government and the war, together with revolutionary soldiers and sailors (many of them coming from the agrarian milieu). A revolution that longed for socialism, and in which internationalist approaches abounded, but found itself locked in a limited capitalist environment with backward features in its surroundings, with an abundant percentage of peasantry in its population, with deep-rooted relations typical of the past Asian and tsarist system, and with very abundant tears and sufferings from war, both direct and indirect .
Because of this, the attempt to bring to the surface a proletarian communist social and economic content was not met with adequate conditions, thus making possible the development of capitalist relations, with all the peculiarities that they acquired in those concrete conditions, and with a limited, reduced and widely discredited bourgeoisie. This, broadly speaking, was what dominated the panorama after the first moments of intense chaos, warmongering and social agitation; and without the international development of other triumphant proletarian revolutions that could have created a different picture, more prone to a joint advance towards socialism.
Bolshevism claims that the fundamental tasks are sometimes worker-peasant, and other times it claims that they are directly and purely socialist.
It is very significant as presented by Lenin:
“The soviet of soldiers and workers’ deputies is the realisation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the soldiers, and as the majority of the latter is formed by peasants, it means the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasants”.
(Lenin: POSDR Conference (b) of Petrograd, O. C., volume XXIV, p. 134. April-May 1917).
“This revolution is socialist. The abolition of private ownership of land, the introduction of workers’ control, the nationalization of banks are all measures that lead to socialism. It is not yet socialism, but they are measures that lead to it in giant steps. We do not promise the peasants and workers a cage country from one day to the next, but we say: The close alliance of the workers and the exploited peasants, the firm struggle, without any fatigue, for the power of the Soviets leads us to socialism.
(Lenin. “Selected Works”, Vol. 2, p. 508-509).
But neither workers’ control as such, nor its practical Bolshevik version, nor the nationalization of production and banking, nor that workers’ and peasants’ alliance where land had been granted to a peasant sector that fragmented it and used it in an autonomous or small and medium capitalist way, without private property being abolished on it (contrary to what Lenin said), favoured proletarian independence or socialism, and much less on the scale of the USSR “in giant steps”. In all the descriptions of socialist measures Lenin avoids talking about surplus value and wage labour, and as for the de facto relation of the proletariat with the means of production, he equates nationalisation with social property by the proletariat, which is not and was not true, as revealed in the facts themselves and their development.
-2- The period of war communism
The so-called “war communism”, did not make the USSR communist, but developed urgent measures dominated by social rationing, belonging to a disastrous situation, with shortages, war, diseases, weakening of the proletariat and various social contradictions. In that period, the Bolsheviks were enthusiastic about the requisitioning of the peasantry, with “the work of 8 hours accompanied by the contribution of the workers of more hours devoted to social and political activity” (Lenin, in “The Immediate Tasks of Soviets Power), with measures of equal allocation of consumption rations in kind to the proletariat and prohibiting trade, with which they claim to “directly build communism”, when this was not the case, and when black market, pillage and inflation were also generated, together with abundant shortages and miseries for the working class, and a rising peasant unrest, together with a decline in proletarian enthusiasm and a certain discontent in its ranks.
But “war communism” was a failure, even though it increased the power of the state over industry, commerce and banking. The RCP(b) admits this. Lenin claims:
“…on the economic front, in our attempt to make a leap towards communism, we have suffered, in the spring of 1921, a more serious defeat than we have ever experienced before”.
(Quoted by Hirshleifer, Disaster and Recovery, p. 19)
After the generated social and economic chaos, sharpened by the military effort and the war against the white and imperialist reaction, comes the NEP, widely placed by Lenin himself in the bourgeois terrain of private property and trade:
“Now a withdrawal must be made. The pressure under which we have put the peasantry with requisitions etc. cannot continue anymore. The peasantry must be convinced to increase production on a voluntary basis. We abolish the requisitions and replace them with a tax in kind. We allow the peasant to sell the surplus of his agricultural production and we relaunch a private trade”.
-3- The NEP period
In such a situation the NEP enthrones the Bolshevik “tactical” bet on capitalism, with all the illusionist alibis of the Bolshevik leadership, of Lenin, Trotsky and so on. It was maintained until 1927.
A year and a half after its beginning, Lenin says:
“…at the same time, we grant only a small part of the means of production, which our state keeps almost entirely in its hands”.
(Speech given at the Peno of the Moscow Soviet. 20 November 1922).
This broad state control led not to socialism but to capitalism.
-4- The weakness of the Soviets and the Factory Committees
The Soviets had no strength to modify or oppose the Bolshevik policy, nor did the Factory Committees (let alone the trade unions).
In the midst of social and economic-military chaos, this facilitated the rapid application of Bolshevik measures typical of the statist tendencies of social democracy, in a left-wing version, of a proletarian Blanquist and bourgeois Jacobinist nature, both tendencies being outdated and inappropriate, for reasons explained by Engels and Marx (in texts such as The Class Struggles in France and The Blanquist Communist Exiles – Exile Literature)
These measures were not motivated by international isolation, but were rooted in the Bolshevik ideology and programme and in conditions of backwardness of the economic and social formation prevailing in Russia, presenting diverse economic relations and a limited contingent of proletariat in relation to an overwhelming importance of the peasantry. Isolation favoured their maximisation, their deployment by companies and their rapid and stultifying implementation.
The positions on state capitalism were not improvised, coming from the Kautskyist tradition (social democratic centre) which did not exclude them, and from the social democratic right, which advocated them. The social democratic centre reproduced as a strategic indication the particular programme of revolution in permanence that appears in the demands of the Manifesto of 1848, adapting itself in fact to the rise of the right. And it made it compatible with various Marxist illusions, weaknesses and inadequacies, in a mechanistic formulation of historical materialist determinism, where state property is identified with socialisation and leads by its progressive development to socialism.
These expressions of social democracy held positions that Lenin will repeat on state capitalism as the (supposed) only prelude to socialism.
-5- Bolshevism before and after October 1917
In the Bolshevik action we have two very marked moments:
a) Before October 1917
In our book “Countercurrent…” we tell:
“The Bolsheviks were the main promoters of the factory committees and were in fact the first organizations to win at their side. The Mensheviks looked down on these committees, which they considered to be anarcho-syndicalist bodies; however, they did their best to incorporate them into the national unions they dominated. They did not value the committees’ representativeness and their close ties to the working class. The Bolsheviks for the They were even organized nationally. At the first Petrograd Factory Committee Conference in May 1917, the Bolsheviks had two-thirds of the delegates. By forming armed units to defend the factories against looting, plunder, and sabotage, the factory committees contributed to the armed organization of the working class into small red guard detachments. With this direct link, the factory committees would serve the Bolsheviks in their struggle to win the working class over to their side, which in turn would enable them to win the majority in the soviets and the units of the Petrograd military garrison.”
“In June 1917, the first meeting of committees of delegates was held. By this time the committees had hardly spread outside of Petrograd. It was a remarkable meeting, made up of the delegates from the present base, most of them Bolsheviks, some of them anarcho-syndicalists; and its raison d’être was to protest against the unions’ tactics. In the political world, the Bolsheviks repeated that no socialist had the right to participate in a coalition government with the bourgeoisie. The committee delegates’ meeting itself took the position of having the same attitude towards industry. In other words, employers and workers have no common interest; no class-conscious worker can be a member of an arbitration or conciliation board saved to let employers know the workers’ demands. Industrial production must be absolutely controlled by the workers. At first the unions fought fiercely against the Factory Committees. But the Committees, which were in a position to take control of industry, easily consolidated and extended their power. Many workers may not have seen the need to unionize, but all of them saw the need to participate in the elections of the committee that controlled their jobs immediately. On the other hand, the Delegates’ Committees recognized the value of unions; no new worker was employed unless he or she could show a union card; it was the Delegates’ Committees that applied the rules of the different unions locally. At that time, the unions and the Factory Committees worked in perfect harmony, each in its own area.
(Reed, John. “Soviets in Action”. “The Liberator”, Oct. 1918.)
b) After October 1917
A period in which Bolshevism opposed everything that distorted the programme of entrenchment, supposedly necessary before socialism, of a strong State capitalism …
“that stabilizes disorder and channels small production and trade”.
(Lenin, “Texts on State Capitalism and Socialism”, Moscow, 1938).
Thus, they systematically used the accusation of “deviation proper to the disintegrating petty-bourgeois tendencies”, a catch-all where there was room for everything from disintegrating petty-bourgeois tendencies to initiatives with a revolutionary proletarian base, both centralizing but with advice or trade unionists not subordinated to the RCP(b), and workers’ anarcho-self-management, often assimilating them to those of SR [Social Revolutionary] populism or popular libertarian communalists.
Hence the RCP(b)’s preference for trade unions and their conversion into the party’s transmission belt, and above all the organised annulment of the independent capacity of the soviets, by the majority of Bolshevik slimmers. In this sense, taking advantage of the proletarian and soviets’ weaknesses, Bolshevism turned them into a formalist and administrative substitute for a workers’ parliament, emptying them of substance and revolutionary power against de facto capitalist relations. The highest council, the All-Russian Soviet Congress, was basically derived to the condition of a branch of economic and political intervention subordinated to the RCP (b), and in particular to the Council of People’s Commissars or Sovnarkom, the real executive power of the USSR.
Under these conditions, Lenin defended that the soviets could not be organs of the working class but …
“for the working class”…” through the directive presence in them of its organised vanguard.
(Quoted in https://edicionesinterrev.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/contracorriente.-2a-edicion.pdf )
The Leninist theses on workers’ control are eloquent: the working class should watch over the private bourgeoisie and work to strengthen state capitalism.
In the evolution from one period to the other, the drama of the class struggle in that time and place is manifested. A working class weakened by military and socio-economic circumstances, together with the prominent role of the schemes and practice of intervention of the Bolshevik Communist Party, relatively stabilizing a situation of political and military domination on the basis of the ascending predominance of capitalist relations over the remnants of pre-capitalist Asian formations, and further limiting the functions of the weakened councils, already enlisted as structures of a state necessarily at the service of such de facto capitalist development, although ideologically mystified as the “struggle for the transition to socialism”.
The lesson is that if the workers’ response is isolated in the industrial base, in the enterprise, if it is not possible to coordinate a proletarian force that generates revolutionary councils; the better organised and centrally compacted state and party structures occupy the social space totally and overwhelmingly.
The workers’ response either developed with superior strength, cohesion and centralisation, or was defeated, as it happened.
After the Bolshevik suppression of Parliament, the so-called “democratic solution” demanded by Mensheviks and social revolutionaries served to give hope for the recovery of apparatuses and tendencies that had hard and irreversible functions bourgeois policies (Mensheviks and social revolutionaries of the centre and right), or advocated the pre-eminence of the peasantry and a confused return to the mir already in agony (social revolutionaries of the left). Hence, the social revolutionary and Menshevik responses were not a valid alternative for the revolutionary proletariat.
Anarcho-syndicalism criticised Bolshevik measures and policies, advocating workers’ self-management in the factories, self-managing federalism on a basis, and free elections to the soviets, a demand supported by Mensheviks and social revolutionaries when the Bolshevik discredit was growing, and often accompanied by freedom of peasant trade.
As a lesson from all this and from the tendencies of the communist left, it is necessary to consider the limitations and unilateralism in party communism and council communism, and the consequences of these.
The proletariat needs powerful, structured and efficient council structures and a strong party in which the vanguard elements will dynamise the process of independence expressed in these councils and other forms created by the proletarian class; and all on the broadest international scale, with the aim of becoming world-wide. This dynamisation is theoretical and practical, in struggle against the various bourgeois influences, and its aim is not to achieve political power for the party, but for the councils that promote the revolution, but not for councils that are adaptive to the capitalist order or merely reformist from it, but exclusively for the revolutionary and internationalist councils.
Party communism and councils have constituted biased and unilateral answers to complex and terrible problems, which are still being raised and with great intensity.
In the USSR, avant-garde partisanship became substitutionist in a process in which the ascending capitalist dynamic irreversibly determined the state and the communist party, turning them into anti-proletarian forces, Therefore, a part of the revolutionary vanguards became convinced of the necessity of dispensing with the party tool and state or semi-state structures in the struggle for socialism, evolving towards unionism, revolutionary syndicalism or anarchism, or else towards the communist left of councils from which councilism would later emerge. But in Germany 1918 and the following years the councils not only did not lead the revolution, but mostly joined the anti-revolutionary democratic reform from which the social democratic, liberal and bourgeois nationalist counter-revolution would emerge.
The Communist International, in the Leninist Bolshevik wave, did not manage to solve the problem, which is still open in the class struggle. Neither did the Italian Communist Left and the tendencies in its wave, nor the communist councils in the German-Dutch Communist Left and its council drifts.
-6- The semi-State or Commune-State
For internationalist Marxism, after the victorious revolution the proletarian power must be constituted by the working class situated in a dominant role, socially dictatorial since there are still classes, but without copying the structures and models of management, relation and functioning of the bourgeois state. That is why Engels says that it is preferable to talk about “semi-state” or better about Commune.
Unlike anarchism, we defend the fact that the State is not abolished (neither by its own will nor by a decree of abolition), but that it is essential to fight for its extinction, for it to cease to exist, because its functions have been absorbed and incorporated in a different way, not separated politically or alienating from proletarian energy and capacity, in the social praxis of the association of free and equal producers.
“Only in an order of things in which there are no longer classes and class contradictions, will social evolutions cease to be political revolutions”. (Marx, Karl. “Misery of Philosophy”)
And in socialism and communism:
“Government over people is replaced by the administration of things and the direction of the processes of production. (Engels, F. “Anti-Dühring”)
Therefore, this semi-state, this revolutionary Commune, is the workers’ councils and, it must be said, all its components, not only its centralisation structures; revolutionary conditions for its world extinction.
This extinction of the semi-state Commune is a necessary result of the revolutionary struggle that has managed to do away with classes, which is why both results point already to the beginning of socialism, and therefore to the success achieved in overcoming capitalism during the period of revolutionary transition, which thus comes to an end. The workers’ councils that constituted it became councils of social producers, dedicated fundamentally to administering over things and to directing the processes of production and reproduction of material existence, seeking an adequate metabolism with nature adjusted to such an end of species. Metabolism that requires the science of collective practice and scientific practice.
-7- The party substituting for the class
The communist party, which needs to be established on an international level, must not exercise power by substituting the class, nor must it arrogate to itself the decision making by the councils. If there are parts of the proletariat that are reticent, hesitant, even backward, it is a problem that cannot be solved by the resolute and voluntary action of a minority, no matter how good a programme and even declared internationalist intentions it may have. Social transformation requires the action and lucidity of the broad proletarian masses.
For Lenin and the RCP (b) it is the party that “conquers political power”:
“We are going into battle, that is, we are fighting to conquer political power for our Party”.
(Lenin, “Materials for the Revision of the Programme of the Party”, June 1917)
For Marx and Engels this was characteristic of Blanquism, which could be criticized and overcome in the history of class struggles:
“The era of surprise attacks, of revolutions made by small conscious minorities at the head of the unconscious masses has passed. Where a complete transformation of the social organisation is at stake, the masses must intervene directly, they must have already understood for themselves what it is about, why they give their blood and life. The history of the last fifty years has taught us this. And for the masses to understand what needs to be done, long and persevering work is needed.
(Engels, F. (1981) “Introduction for the 1895 edition” to “The Class Struggles in France from 1848 to 1850”, Selected Works, Vol. 1, Progress, Moscow)
-8- Statification typical of reformism
It should be noted that the conception that the state-owned companies were socialist is typical of reformism in social democracy, which is revived in the Bolshevik versions (Leninist, Trotskyist and Stalinist are the main ones) by formally adopting revolutionary left-wing workerist presentations, when in fact they are practically alibis to justify capitalism, aimed at hiding the fact that the party and the state serve capitalism, and therefore they must attack, exploit, and dominate the proletariat, repressing particularly the rebel and critic, as the RCP(b) and the state of the USSR did (where, in fact, elements of the czarist past, and Menshevik or right-wing Serist sectors were incorporated, together with individuals of the bourgeois class with business, bureaucratic, military, police, legal, or industrial and agronomic technical functions).
In relation to this, the solution is adequately described by Engels:
“This solution can only consist in effectively recognising the social nature of the modern productive forces, that is to say in putting the mode of appropriation and exchange in harmony with the social character of the means of production. And this can only be done by admitting that society takes openly and directly possession of the productive forces that are already overflowing any address other than your own. With this, the social character of the means of production and of the products – which today turns against the producers themselves, periodically breaks the mode of production and of exchange and imposes itself only, violently and destructively, as a blind natural law – will be used with full consciousness by the producers, and will be transformed, from a cause that is of periodic disturbance and collapse, into the most powerful lever of production itself. The active forces in society act exactly like the forces of nature – blindly, violently, destructively – while we do not discover them or count on them. But when we have discovered them, when we have understood their activity, their tendency, their effects, it is up to us alone to progressively submit them to our will and to achieve our ends by their means. This is especially true of the present gigantic productive forces. As long as we stubbornly refuse to understand their nature and character – and the capitalist mode of production and its advocates vigorously refuse to do so – these forces will have their effects in spite of us, against us, and will dominate us as we have set out in detail. But once understood in their nature, they can cease to be the demonic masters that they are and become, in the hands of associated producers, effective servants.
(“Anti-Dühring. II. Theoretical Questions“. )
-9- National socialism
The Bolshevik party and Lenin himself maintained contradictory dual positions: both deny that socialism can be “built” in the USSR without the necessary international revolution, and claim that it was possible to do so in the USSR if over time there is “the necessary industrialization, the agrarian cooperativization and a powerful cultural revolution” (Lenin. “On Cooperation”, 1923).
It is false that Lenin maintained a constant rejection of “national socialism”:
“The victorious proletariat…, after having expropriated the capitalists and having organized socialist production in its country, would rise up against the rest of the capitalist world, calling to its side the oppressed classes of other countries, making them rise against the capitalists, and intervening if necessary with the force of arms against the exploiting classes and their states”.
(V. I. Lenin: “On the slogan of the United States of Europe”. First published in “The Social Democrat of Zurich” on 23 August 1916. Quoted by Victor Serge in: “The First Year of the Russian Revolution” Pp. 150 ).
“No communist has denied either, in my opinion, that the expression “Soviet Socialist Republic” means the decision of the Soviet power to carry out the transition to socialism; but in no way the recognition that the new economic regime is socialist”.
(Lenin, V.I. “The Main Task of Our Times”, 1918)
It also affirmed the possible transition to socialism on a Russian scale, the opening of a period of transition from capitalism to socialism on a national scale:
“In connection with this peasant revolution and on its basis, new actions of the proletariat in alliance with the poor elements of the peasantry are possible and necessary, actions aimed at achieving control of production and distribution of the most important products, the introduction of ‘compulsory labour service for the whole population’… As a whole and in their development, these steps would be the transition to socialism”.
(Lenin: O. C., vol. XXIII, pp. 340-341)
In “Will the Bolsheviks Hold on to Power?” Lenin argues:
“A single state bank… with branches in every district, in every factory, already accounts for nine tenths of the socialist apparatus” (O.C., volume XXVI, p. 94.)
In relation to the period of transition, this erroneous theory is contrary to internationalist communism which excluded ‘national socialism’ and considered such a transition possible only if the proletariat held power in the main civilised capitalist countries and then generalised it worldwide (‘Principles of Communism’, 1847, drawn up by Engels for the League of Communists).
This erroneous theory of ‘national socialism’ is still manifest in some internationalist circles today, as well as in significant silences on the question of such a transition period.
And in relation to banking socialism, this is another aspect of the camouflage as socialism of state, monetary and mercantilist capitalism. This position of Lenin could peacefully be Bernstein’s or Kautsky’s.
-10- Democracy and dictatorship 1/2
Democracy has many facets. As a dynamic of citizen participation in social life, communism incorporates and overcomes it, by eradicating the capitalist bases that promote parliamentarism and the alienating characteristics of bourgeois democracy, which favours and covers up the de facto capitalist dictatorship, based on bourgeois ownership of the means of production and distribution.
Democracy is in historical and dialectical relation with the dictatorship.
In capitalism such a de facto dictatorship of the bourgeois class, its networks and structures, are camouflaged by democracy; where, without questioning such a de facto dictatorship, the citizenry is called upon to elect the representatives that the bourgeoisie segregates or needs, whether or not they come sociologically from its ranks. These political representatives manage a part of the capitalist interests from state and governmental instances, ensuring both a state defence of the common interests and favouring the reproduction of the system to avoid that frictions and struggles between bourgeois factions could weaken it or tear it apart towards its functional collapse.
The revolutionary proletarian dictatorship on the contrary does not hide its intention and its authoritarian and despotic character in front of the bourgeois relations, networks and apparatuses. The proletarian democratic aspects and processes do not seek to reinforce the current status quo, but to alter it towards communism; they do not seek to passivate the population to delegate to their elected representatives, even if these were even communists, but to encourage the rotating and non-specialised participation of the producing population in collective affairs. The objective is to make socialism emerge, to free from the entrails of capitalism and its contradictory conditions the classless society where there is no need for a specialty of government of the social, previously called politics, where the state constitutes an unnecessary burden of the past and where the participative aspects of democracy are carried out leaving aside the alienating and passivating aspects, being therefore that specialty denied and overcome to reach a historical and progressively superior modality of social participation, freed from class determinations. The procedures of discussion and decision making are not necessarily limited to democratic electoral formalism, nor to the style of order and command of the bourgeois leadership. Agility and unanimity with regard to essential needs and objectives are found to be better conditions for development, and particularities can be expressed without entering into direct or indirect contradiction with these needs and objectives. Under such conditions dissent on non-essential issues collectively is not destructive but enhances and enriches. And above all, there is constant activity to ensure that those who decide do so with rigorous and thorough knowledge, and not because of prejudice or ideological bias.
-11- Democracy and dictatorship 2/2
The proletarian class dictatorship is necessary for the reasons given by the original communism: between two rights only force can decide. Thus:
In “The Capital” Marx argues:
“Violence is the midwife of every old society that carries in its bowels a new one. It is, in itself, an economic power”.
Marx and Engels say:
“Political power, properly speaking, is the organised violence of one class for the oppression of another” … “Communists consider it unworthy to hide their ideas and intentions. They openly proclaim that their aims can only be achieved by overthrowing the whole existing social order by violence. The ruling classes can tremble before a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose in it but their chains. They have, instead, a world to win.
(“Manifesto of the Communist Party”. 1848)
“Since the state was born out of the need to curb class antagonisms and, at the same time, was born in the midst of the conflict of those classes, it is usually the state of the most powerful class, of the economically dominant class which, with its help, also becomes the economically dominant class, thus acquiring new means for the repression and exploitation of the oppressed class”…
“Mr. Dühring does not know a word about the fact that violence plays another role in history, a revolutionary role; that, according to Marx’s word, it is the midwife of every old society that is pregnant with a new one; that it is the instrument with which the social movement imposes itself and breaks up dead and angry political forms.
(Engels, “Anti Dühring”).
“In politics there are only two decisive forces: the organised force of the state, the army, and the unorganised force, the elemental force of the masses of people” (Marx and Engels. “Texts on Poland”)
“…a revolution is undoubtedly the most authoritarian thing that exists; it is the act by which one part of the population imposes its will on the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannons, authoritarian means if any; and the victorious party, if it does not want to have fought in vain, has to maintain this dominance by means of the terror that its weapons inspire in the reactionaries”.
(Engels, “Of Authority”).
The proletarian class dictatorship does not exclude or secondarize democracy within the proletarian class and even on a certain level to the bourgeoisie that does not manifest itself as counter-revolutionary.
The aim of the proletarian dictatorship is to eradicate and positively overcome the capitalist relations at all levels.
The freedom of speech and discussion is basic in the workers’ councils and in the mutual relations with the party of communist revolution.
-12- Centralization and councils
The basis of such a revolutionary Commune, of such a proletarian dictatorship, is the organisation in councils, where the representatives are accountable to the base and relations are structured like the ones defended by Marx and Engels after the Paris Commune, with provisional and concrete mandate from which they are accountable in general and in the structures from which they emanate, possible revocation, rotation and non-specialisation.
The ownership of the means of production and distribution, and the use of the land must be social, collective, without any intermediary or structure above it to represent and manage them. It does not consist of a fragmented network of basic units that are partially owned and federated on that basis.
The basic units of society directly manage their corresponding social, productive and human implantation-socialisation areas. The central units coordinate the general process and unify the basic energies for collective development, managing the common general needs. And together they form an organized body where centralization and management autonomy are harmonious and favor socialist development. In other words, the ownership lies with the social whole, not with the centralizing bodies or the grassroots organizations. This is what differentiates Marxism from anarchism, social-nationalism and state-capitalism in these matters.
-13- The party and the councils
The party acts through its members and structures, and must be represented in the bodies of the Commune, with a voice but without a vote. And similarly if it has not been possible to generate a single party due to existing differences.
If there are repeatedly excessive limitations to intensify the revolutionary process, the party must remain and act combatively in the opposition by exercising a critical, enlightening and collective role of the most advanced tendencies of the working class, and by including people from other classes in an individual capacity when they express themselves in favour of communism.
Its necessary function of political and social leadership of the movement must be achieved by the practical example of its activities in the struggles, defence, organisation, clarification and coordination of the proletariat; and by the proletarian conviction.
Such a struggle for communist leadership must not be waged through the Blanquism substitutionist route or through the swindles that imitating sects often sponsor. The ravages of Bolshevik substitutionism have been disastrous, and have left a horrible and mystifying burden on subsequent generations of communists.
If the party of communism does not promote the independence of the working class, it is an obstacle, a counterproductive tool.
Likewise, the party of communist revolution must make an effort to know when general conditions are met which make it impossible to fulfil communist tasks of socio-economic leadership and regulation both for the workers’ councils and for the party itself, fighting lucidly and resolutely so that the former do not become bodies for the capitalist system and so that the party itself passes to the revolutionary opposition avoiding being swallowed up by processes of involution of the class struggle.
-14- Under certain conditions and with certain content, advice can be an obstacle
In response to the same reasons, the councils of action and organisation in the proletarian labour environment and in unemployment, of conglomeration and of proletarian class social coordination, if they are only organic forms that make compatible with capitalism and do not promote such independence, are also obstacles, tools that are also counterproductive, that either radically modify their attitudes or have to be displaced and overcome by other new ones that are adequate and adapted to revolutionary ends.
-15- Consequences of taking power when the conditions for a transition to socialism are not mature
The communists have to take into account what Engels said in “The Peasants’ War in Germany”, in relation to the primary communism of Thomas Münzer and other supporters of “omnia sun communia” (everything belongs to everyone):
“There is nothing worse for the leader of an extremist party than to be forced into power at a time when the development is not yet ripe for the class domination it represents… What he does does not depend on his will… What he must do, what his own party asks him to do, does not depend on him… Therefore, he necessarily faces an insoluble dilemma, what he can do contradicts all his previous action, his principles. And what he must do cannot be achieved. In a word, he is obliged to no longer represent his party, his class, but the class for which the development of supremacy is already mature. He must, in the interest of his own movement, realise the interests of a class that is his enemy and try to convince his own class with phrases and promises, persuading it that the interests of the enemy class are its own interests… He is hopelessly lost”.
-16- The period of transition: international, violence, socially average working time
As for the period of transition from capitalism to communism, we must remember the positions of classical communism:
Is this revolution possible in one country?
“No. Big industry, by creating the world market, has already so closely united all the peoples of the earth, especially the civilised peoples, that each depends on what happens on the other’s land. Moreover, it has levelled out social development in all civilised countries to such an extent that in all these countries the bourgeoisie and the proletariat have become the two decisive classes in society, and the struggle between them has become the main struggle of our days. Consequently, the communist revolution will not be a purely national revolution, but will take place simultaneously in all civilised countries, that is, at least in England, America, France and Germany. It will take place in each of these countries either more quickly or more slowly, depending on the degree to which industry is more developed in each of them, where more wealth has been accumulated and more productive forces are available. It will therefore be slower and more difficult in Germany and faster and easier in England. It will also have a considerable influence on the other countries of the world, and will alter and accelerate their previous development. It is a universal revolution and will therefore have a universal scope.
(Engels, “Principles of Communism”, 1847)
For genuine communism:
“The emancipation of labour is not a national or local problem, but a social problem that involves all the countries in which modern society exists and needs the theoretical and practical support of the most advanced countries for its solution” (Marx, K. “General Statutes of the International Workers’ Association”. Written between 21 and 27 October 1864)
The transition period must therefore necessarily be international, though not necessarily global. When the revolution triumphs in the main states of the planet, the political-military task of putting an end to the power of the bourgeoisie elsewhere will be of prime necessity. It is in this situation that communist measures must be applied as broadly and powerfully as possible, without the need to first bet on the “stage of consolidation of state capitalism”.
In relation to the role of violence:
“…violence plays in history another role [besides that of an agent of evil], a revolutionary role; that, according to Marx’s expression, it is the midwife of every old society that carries in its entrails a new one; …violence is the instrument with the help of which the social movement makes its way and breaks the dead and fossilised political forms.
(Engels, F. “Anti-Dühring”)
The military struggle is carried out against the capitalist forces and their defence structures, and against the bourgeois opposition to communism. But it is not carried out against the struggle of the working class, understanding that, since bullets cannot end the capitalist relations, the fundamental function of violence is to serve as an effective anti-bourgeois force and parapet so that the determinant social and economic struggle can hit the law of value and come as close as possible to the widest and most comprehensive application of the criteria that. For example, the GIC states and explains in the “Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution”, in the wave of Marx and Engels (“Criticism of the Gotha Programme”, “Anti Dühring”, “The Capital”, etc).
The criterion of “socially average working time” and that exercised by each producer remains necessary to regulate production and consumption in the lower phase of communism, in socialism, in which there is no longer any class or law of value, no longer any state. Marx’s positions in the “Critique of the Gotha Programme” are still valid.
In the higher communism, society uses working time for calculation purposes, as “the wealth-creating substance, and the measure of the cost of its production” as Marx says, but the criteria for consumption change (“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”), the measure of happiness and social progress being “the free time for the development of human potentialities”, also in the words of Marx, who adequately sustained:
“Working time will be adapted, on the one hand, to the needs of the social individual, while it will help, on the other hand, to such an increase in the productive forces that free time will increase for everyone, considering that production is calculated for the wealth of all. True wealth being the full productive power of all individuals, the standard of measurement [will no longer] be working time, but useful time. To adopt working time as the norm of wealth is to base it on poverty; to want free time to exist only in and through opposition to working time is to reduce the whole time to working time alone…”.
(Marx, Karl. “Grundrisse”, Gallimard Ed., Pléiade, volume 2, p. 308)
“As a creator of use values, that is, as useful work, work is therefore a condition of man’s life and an independent condition of all forms of society, a perennial and natural necessity without which the organic exchange between man and nature, and consequently human life, would not be conceivable”.
(Marx, Karl. “The Capital”)
“…the measure of wealth will no longer be working time, but free time.
(Marx, Karl. “The Capital”).
“Free development of individualities and therefore not reduction of the necessary working time with a view to generating surplus labour, but in general reduction of the necessary work of society to a minimum, to which then corresponds the artistic, scientific, etc., training of individuals thanks to the time that has become free and the means created for all.
(“Grundrisse. Fundamental elements for the critique of political economy”. 1857. Siglo XXI Editores, 12 edition, 1989, volume 2, pp. 227)
Marx also develops in this way:
“Working time, even when the exchange value is eliminated, always remains the wealth-creating substance, and the measure of the cost of its production. But free time, the time available, is wealth itself, partly for the enjoyment of the product, partly for free activity, which – unlike labour – is not dominated by the pressure of a foreign goal, which must be satisfied, and whose satisfaction is considered either a natural need or a social obligation, depending on one’s inclination”.
(“Theories of surplus value”, Volume III ed. Carthage, “Opposition to economists”).
The GIC held:
“Marx assumes that this system of social accounting is generally applicable to a process of production in which labour is social; that is, it is equally applicable whether communism is still at an early stage of its development, or whether the principle ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’ (the higher stage of communism) has already been achieved”.
(“Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution”).
This approach will be further developed in the future.
Lenin, in contradiction to the Marxist approaches (in particular the “Critique of the Gotha Programme”), put forward the fallacious thesis that at this lower stage, socialist, the workers’ state still exists (in his outstanding work “The State and the Revolution”). He thus expressed a partial and insufficient reaction to the centre and right-wing social democracy.
We explained this in our book “Countercurrent…” (see also the note under point 16).
In the Bolshevik practice, the integration into the state was carried out in the opposite way to the necessary one, according to the lessons of Marx and Engels in reference to the Paris Commune. The Russian state operated as a conventional state headed by the RCP(b), in which various former czarists, opportunists and reformists of all kinds, adventurers, bureaucratic officials of yesteryear and different specialists, whose functions were based on criteria that coincided with those of the bourgeois states, were integrated. The counter-revolution came in part from such state structures in the face of which the proletariat lacked effective power and control.
In this so-called “workers’ state” (a mystifying rhetorical expression), the workers co-opted into its structures were not representatives of the proletarian base who were accountable to it and coordinated with others of the same condition, but were new bureaucrats of various ranks, separated from the proletarian condition and grief. Thus the state was strengthened as a structure favourable to capitalist accumulation, not to its communist elimination.
-17- Labour certificates require socialist relations
Work bonuses or certificates and the measurement of working time require socialist relations, without the law of value.
We are no longer in the transition period, but in socialism, the first phase of communism, a communism that is still limited and crude, but which is no longer capitalism, since there is no longer either wage labour or capital. In addition, the requirements for overcoming the division of labour, the antagonisms between city and countryside, the existence of nations and states, of enterprises necessarily based on the law of value and competition for the market and profit, domestic work and its various institutional expressions have been fulfilled.
-18- International and economic aspects
In the struggle to initiate such a transition period, the political elements, of the struggle for the generalisation of the destruction of the capitalist state on a world scale, are essential. On the basis of the existence, still, of wage labour, market and currency; and in a situation of proletarian power in a country or group of countries, without having achieved In order to achieve a world-wide generalisation of the revolution, there are still necessarily determining conditions in terms of the use of money and money wages, but their use must be limited as much as possible, as well as the extraction of the surplus value generated, in order to reduce it and give it back to the proletariat in an increasingly social way, adjusted to ensure precise material conditions to develop such a process of generalisation: weapons, food, housing, health, communications, time to organise and to struggle-reflect are basic needs.
In other words, it is a question of avoiding as much as possible that surplus value goes to the accumulation of capital in order to valorise it, which is obviously not possible if the class does not organise itself radically and in a generalised way.
Thus, it is essential to organise the process of reducing the wage share and expanding the free social share, and to wage an intense struggle for the second phagocyte coordinated and planned to the other so that the process is controlled by its protagonists and not by structures above them.
On this basis, and compatible with the struggle for such a world-wide generalisation, it is decisive and necessary to socialise production and distribution in the areas in the hands of the proletariat to the maximum, articulating the forms that allow to approach such a general average calculation of working time and entering as widely and forcefully into such a process. This will be aided by the appropriate use of information technology.
Unemployed people and people from other classes who are capable of working are being integrated into the productive and distribution process, also on the basis of the real strength of economic necessity.
In short, the reduction of surplus labour as much as possible, an increasingly socialised and pro-communist proletarian use of labour and surplus labour, and the process of general socialisation as broad and radical as possible; these are imperative needs, which depend on the self-organised independent capacities of the working class and also on the level of deployment achieved by the revolution.
Obviously in an isolated country the process is less capable, and even less so if it does not have a strong economic structure. A period of international transition from capitalism to socialism has not therefore been opened up.
If the process takes place in the main countries, economically and politically and militarily speaking, an initial phase of such a transitional period is opened, still weak because it is restricted. The proletariat needs to generalise the internationalisation process in an agile way, at the risk of seeing the process ebb, returning to a general domination of capitalism.
When world generalisation is achieved, the best conditions are produced for going beyond the lines of action set out above and the measures that will make them concrete, which are necessarily more limited and insufficient the narrower the scope of proletarian power. Then the factor of the independent capacity of the proletariat becomes even more important. Measures, protocols of action and organic forms that do not fit the measure of “average social working time” are discarded, and the that they do are actively promoted in a coordinated manner. Likewise, those that do so in a primary way are reinforced and expanded to deploy more effectively.
Work processes are radically modified by increasing direct control organised by the workers themselves, as are working conditions and particularly safety at work, how installations change and how tools and machinery improve in terms of harmonious adaptation to those who use them. The insertion and linkage of all this with diverse human settlements, their infrastructures, energy modalities and the varied ecosystems is being revolutionised. The time spent in all phases of the process is being minimized, and the one-sidedness that the system of wage labour and capital creates in those who work is being replaced by the empowerment of multiple qualities in expansion. Different sectors are eliminated as unnecessary and inconvenient, while others are increased as necessary. Some are reformulated and others appear again in response to new human needs.
It is essential that the production and distribution units do not constitute companies, entities that value capital, with their own calculation and interested in accounting, with their costs and benefits, but units that generate use values and socially necessary services.
This is how, in the transition period, the emancipatory elimination and overcoming of social classes and the law of value is fought for: use value and land, with its fertility to be cared for and promoted, and its general natural function, come to dominate the scene. The calculations for generating and distributing these use values in an increasingly dynamic and socialised way can be carried out in full; the process is consolidated and conditions are created that cannot be reversed, because the associated producers communistically manage to integrate the dynamics of initiative and grassroots power with their centralised coordination in order to intensify the common achievements that society needs. Thus, in this process, it is possible to enter socialism.
For this reason there is no longer a semi-state and the functions of domination by the proletarian class that it fulfilled have been overcome since there would be no dominant proletariat or dominated bourgeoisie, but the association of free and equal producers that does not need any state structure or semi-structure above it and dominating it. The last expressions of state structures are effectively and globally extinct. It is in this situation that the work bonds or certificates referred to by Marx, Engels and communist tendencies such as the ICG and others are fully generalised; certificates that are not money, that neither circulate as a sign of exchange value nor give the right to buy labour from anyone, certificates where the working time of each producer is recorded and give the right to a quantity of means of consumption, also making possible the collective protection of those who do not work, and ensuring the calculation and the control of the productive increases for which the international communal association bets.
This process of generating abundance is the determining material condition for the passage to the higher phase, integral communism, where bonuses are not necessary, where their necessity has been overcome and where working time is still calculated but linked to a different economic dynamic, as Marx and Engels adequately explain, working time operates as:
“wealth-creating substance, and the measure of the cost of its production. But free time, the time available, is wealth itself, partly for the enjoyment of the product, partly for free activity”.
(“Theory of surplus value”, Volume III, Carthage Publishing House)
-19- Engels on the collective management of production (1847)
This other scientific and revolutionary communist position, also written and developed by Engels for the “League of Communists”, in “Principles of Communism” (1847), should also be emphasised:
The collective management of production cannot be carried out by men as they are today, men who each depend on a particular branch of production, are attached to it, are exploited by it, develop only one aspect of their abilities on behalf of all the others, and know only one branch or part of one branch of the whole production”… “Therefore, on the one hand, society organised on a communist basis is incompatible with the existence of classes, and on the other hand, the very construction of that society provides the means to abolish class differences.
It follows that the opposition between town and country must also disappear. The same men will be engaged in agricultural and industrial work, instead of being left to two different classes. This is a necessary condition of the communist association and for very material reasons. The dispersion of the rural population engaged in agriculture, on a par with the concentration of the industrial population in the big cities, corresponds only to an even lower stage of development of agriculture and industry and is an obstacle to progress, which is already strongly felt.
The general association of all members of society for the purpose of the collective and rational use of the productive forces; the promotion of production in sufficient proportions to meet the needs of all; the liquidation of the state of things in which the needs of some are met at the expense of others; the complete suppression of classes and antagonism between them; the universal development of the powers of all members of society through the elimination of the previous division of labour, through industrial education, through the change of activity, through the participation of all in the usufruct of the goods created by all and, finally, through the merger of the city with the countryside will be the main results of the suppression of private property”.
-20- On Blanquism
In 1874, Engels criticised the Blanquists in this way:
“From the Blanquist Party’s idea that every revolution is the work of a small revolutionary minority, it automatically follows that a dictatorship is necessary immediately after the success of the insurrection, a dictatorship not of the whole revolutionary class, the proletariat, as is logical, but of the few people who have carried out the coup and who, in turn, are already subject to the dictatorship of one or more people. As we see, Blanqui is a revolutionary of the past generation”.
(Engels, F. “The Programme of the Blanquist Emigrants of the Commune”. Article II of the series “Literature of the emigrants”. )
“Between the capitalist society and the communist society, the period of the revolutionary transformation of the former into the latter was mediated. And to this period corresponds also a political transition period whose state cannot be other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”.
(Marx, Karl. “Critique of the Gotha Programme”. 1875)
-21- Marx on the economy of time
Marx is clear about the “economy of time and the planned distribution of working time among the various branches of production”. He develops it in this way:
“…the economy of time and the planned distribution of working time among the various branches of production are always the first economic law on the basis of collective production. It is even valid as a law to a much higher degree. However, this is essentially different from the measurement of exchange values (jobs or labour products) through working time. The jobs of individuals in the same branch and the different types of jobs vary not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. What does the purely quantitative distinction of objects entail? Their qualitative identity. Thus the quantitative measurement of jobs presupposes their qualitative equality, the identity of their quality.
(Marx, Karl. “Grundrisse. Working Time and Social Production”)
The GIC is faithful to this interpretation.
-22- Engels on the appropiation of the means of production
Engels, for his part, holds up well:
“The social appropriation of the means of production eliminates not only the present artificial inhibition of production, but also the positive waste and destruction of productive forces and products that are today inevitable companions of production and reach their peak in crises. This social appropriation also makes available to the community a mass of means of production and products by eliminating the senseless waste of the luxury of the currently dominant classes and their political representatives. The possibility of ensuring for all members of society, thanks to social production, an existence that is not only entirely sufficient from the material point of view, but which, in addition to being richer every day, guarantees to all their full and free formation and the exercise of all their physical and intellectual dispositions, exists today for the first time, incipiently, but it does exist”.
… “With the taking over of the means of production by society, mercantile production is eliminated and with it the dominance of the product over the producer. Anarchy within social production is replaced by conscious and planned organisation. The struggle for individual existence ends. With this man separates himself in a certain sense from the animal kingdom, and passes from the animal conditions of existence to the really human ones. The encirclement of the conditions of existence that hitherto dominated humans now falls under the control of humans, who for the first time become conscious and real masters of nature, because and in so far as they become masters of their own association. Humans now apply and thus master with full real knowledge the laws of their own social making, which before were confronted with them as natural laws alien to them and dominant. Human association itself, which before seemed imposed and granted by nature and history, now becomes free and its own action. The objective and strange powers that until now dominated history are now under the control of humans themselves. From that time on men will make their history with full consciousness; from that time on they will have predominantly and increasingly the social causes which they set in motion the effects which they desire. It is the leap of humanity from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. The historical mission of the modern proletariat is to carry out this liberating action in the world. The task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, the task of socialism.
(Engels, F. “Anti-Dühring”)
-23- Engels “… as a means of life and enjoyment”
Engels, in “From Utopian Socialism to Scientific Socialism”, argues accordingly:
“And the capitalist regime of appropriation, in which the product enslaves first those who create it and then those who appropriate it, will be replaced by the regime of appropriation of the product which the character of the modern means of production is demanding: on the one hand, directly social appropriation, as a means of maintaining and expanding production; on the other hand, directly individual appropriation, as a means of life and enjoyment.”
Aníbal – Materia (October 2020)
Notes referring to numbered theses in part B
“The main mission of the proletariat and the poor peasants, on the other hand, guided by it, is, in every socialist revolution – and therefore also in the socialist revolution begun by us in Russia on 25 October 1917 – the positive or constructive work of forming an extraordinarily complex and delicate network of new organisational relations, covering the planned production and distribution of the products necessary for the existence of tens of millions of men. A revolution of this nature can only be crowned with success when the majority of the population, and above all the majority of the workers, demonstrate an independent, historic creative initiative. The victory of the socialist revolution will be assured only when the proletariat and the poor peasants achieve a sufficient degree of consciousness, ideological firmness, self-sacrifice and tenacity”… “we are only at the beginning of the transition to socialism, without having yet taken the decisive steps in this direction. What is decisive here is the organisation of very strict accounting and control of the production and distribution of products, carried out by the whole people”… “If we wanted to continue today to expropriate capital at the previous rate, we would certainly suffer a failure, since our work in the field of the organisation of proletarian accounting and control has clearly been delayed (this is obvious to anyone who thinks) from the direct work of “expropriation of the expropriators”… “By concluding such an agreement with the bourgeois cooperatives, the Soviet power has defined in a concrete way its tactical tasks and its peculiar methods of action in the present phase of development, namely: by leading the bourgeois elements, by taking advantage of them, by making certain partial concessions to them, we create the conditions for an advance which will be slower than we initially supposed, but which will at the same time be firmer, with a more solidly secured base and channels of communication and with a better fortification of the positions conquered. “… “As far as the second question is concerned (the meaning precisely of one-person dictatorial power from the point of view of the specific tasks of the present moment), we must say that every great mechanised industry – that is, precisely the origin and the material, production, base of socialism – requires an absolute and very rigorous unity of will that directs the common work of hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of people. This need is evident from three points of view – technical, economic and historical – and those who thought of socialism have always recognised it as a condition for achieving it. But how can the most rigorous unity of will be ensured? By subordinating the will of thousands of But today, that same revolution, in the interest precisely of its development and strengthening, in the interest of socialism, demands the unconditional subordination of the masses to the single will of the leaders of the working process. “Conclusion An extraordinarily harsh, difficult and dangerous international situation; the need to manoeuvre and to withdraw; a period of waiting for new revolutionary explosions, which are maturing very slowly in the Western countries; within the country, a slow constructive period of relentless “stinging”, of prolonged and tenacious struggle of severe proletarian discipline against the threatening elements of petty bourgeois relaxation and anarchy: such are in a few words, the distinctive features of the peculiar stage of the socialist revolution we are going through”.
(Lenin. “The immediate tasks of Soviet power”. Published on 28 April 1918, in Pravda No. 83 and Izvestia No. 83 of the All-Russia CEC)
In “Six Theses on the Immediate Tasks of Soviet Power” Lenin writes about economic tasks as follows:
4. ”In the field of the economic construction of socialism, the key to the moment is that our work of organising the popular and universal accounting and control of production and distribution and implementing the proletarian regulation of production has lagged far behind the work of direct expropriation of the expropriators: the landlords and capitalists. This is the fundamental fact that determines our tasks. It follows, on the one hand, that the struggle against the bourgeoisie enters a new phase, namely: the organisation of accounting and control becomes the centre of gravity. Only by this means can all the economic achievements against the capital and all the measures of nationalization of some branches of the national economy that we have achieved since October be strengthened; only by this means can the happy ending of the struggle against the bourgeoisie be prepared, i.e. the total strengthening of socialism.
(Published on 9 May 1918, in the Bednotá newspaper, no. 33)
It should be noted that for many anarchists, in Russia, after October 17, the possibility of socialism, also conceived as “edification”, opened up. Piotr Archinof expresses it in this way:
“On the other hand, the aim of the October social revolution did not end with the overthrow of the capitalist power. A long period of practical achievements, of social self-management and socialist construction was opening up before the eyes of the workers”.
… “The factories to the workers, the land to the peasants”. Here are the slogans with which the revolutionary masses of the cities and the countryside participated in the overthrow of the state machine of the possessing classes in the name of the new system The social movement was founded on the basic cells that were the factory committees and the economic and social services”.
(“The Two Octobers”. October, 1927)
“…the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be realized through the organization that brings together the whole of the proletariat. Because the proletariat is still so fragmented, so despised, so corrupted in some places (by imperialism, precisely, in certain countries); not only in Russia, one of the most backward capitalist countries, but in all the other capitalist countries, that the integral organisation of the proletariat cannot directly exercise the dictatorship of the proletariat. The dictatorship can only be exercised by the vanguard, which concentrates the revolutionary energy of the class in its ranks”.
(“On the Trade Unions, the Present Moment and the Errors of Comrade Trotsky”, in Collected Works, Vol. 42)
Such a position maintains what is defended by Lenin the “State and Revolution”:
“The dictatorship of the proletariat is the dictatorship of the vanguard of the proletariat”.
For the “Workers’ Opposition” the key was in the unions, not in the soviets:
“Communism cannot be imposed by decree. It can only be created in a continuous search, occasionally incurring in failures, and always by means of the creative force of the working class”… “Who should hold the reins of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the field of economic construction? Should it be the organs which by their composition are organs of the class, united by vital links with production in an immediate way, that is, the unions, or should it be the apparatus of the soviets, separated from the immediate and vital productive-economic activity which, moreover, is a social compound of various social strata? This is the root of the differences of opinion. The workers’ opposition defends the former. The elites of our party declare themselves in peaceful agreement for the second, even if in some points there are points of friction between them”… “The party that is at the top of the Soviet state, composed of socially mixed layers, must necessarily accommodate itself to the needs of the autonomous peasants, to their typical small holder habits and to their anti-communist habits, and must also accommodate itself to the strong layer of the petty-bourgeois elements of former capitalist Russia, it must also count on all the species of hoarders, small and medium sized merchants, sellers, small autonomous craftsmen and employees who have been able to quickly accommodate themselves to the Soviet organs… It is this layer, which floods the institutions of the serviets, the layer of the petty bourgeoisie, of the petty bourgeois spirit with its animosity against communism, its fidelity to the immovable rights of the past, its repulsion and its fear of revolutionary actions, which It destroys our soviet institutions and brings with it a spirit completely alien to the working class.
(Kollontai, Alexandra. “The Workers’ Opposition”, in the book “Workers’ Democracy or Party Dictatorship”)
Trotsky states in “Terrorism and Communism”:
“The young socialist state requires trade unions that are not dedicated to the struggle for better working conditions – a task that is incumbent on the social and state organisations as a whole – but to organising the working class for the purposes of production, to educate, discipline, distribute, group, retain certain categories and certain workers in their posts for certain periods. In a word, hand in hand with the state, to exercise its authority to direct the workers within the framework of a single economic plan”.
And it defends the dictatorship of the party:
“…even if this dictatorship temporarily runs into the passing mood of workers’ democracy”.
(Trotski, L. “Intervention at the 10th Party Congress”, quoted by Deutscher in “The Armed Prophet”)
For the left-wing Bolshevik Miasnikov, on the other hand, the unions had lost their usefulness because of the existence of the soviets. The soviets, he argued, were revolutionary, not reformist, bodies. Unlike the trade unions, they encompass not this or that sector of the proletariat, nor this or that sector or occupation, but all workers across the various productions or professions. The unions had to be dismantled, said Miasnikov, along with the National Economic Council, in which bureaucracy and formalism reigned; the management of industry had to be handed over to the workers’ subserviors.
(Quoted by Paul Avrich, statements by Zinoviev, Partiia and Soyuzy edition, 1921)
The problems were manifold between the party and the state, the workers and the peasantry, with other bourgeois sectors in between. Archinov said:
“One of these measures was the militarisation of labour during the years of wartime communism; militarisation of the workers, while millions of lazy, luxurious and lazy people were able to live in tranquillity. Another one of these measures was the burning war between the city and the countryside, caused by the party’s policy that considered the peasants as unsafe elements and strangers to the revolution”. (“The two octubres”.).
“We go to battle, that is to say, we fight to gain political power for our Party. This power would be the dictatorship of the proletariat and poor peasants. By taking the power, we do not fear in any way to go beyond the limits of the bourgeois regime, but on the contrary, we say loudly, clearly, directly and exactly that we will go beyond those limits, that we will march without fear towards socialism, that our way will go through a republic of the Soviets, through the nationalisation of the banks and consortiums, through workers’ control, through general compulsory labour, through the nationalisation of the land, through the confiscation of the labouring cattle and farming tools of the landowners, etc., etc. It is in this sense that we have formulated our programme of measures for the transition to socialism”.
(“Materials for the Revision of the Party Programme”, June 1917)
We have written:
“Lenin and Trostki’s scheme worked militarily, although it contributed to degrade the relationship with the working class and the peasantry. But it responded to a need… that brought consequences. They won the war against the whites, but at the end of 1920, peasant revolts broke out in Tambov province, in the Middle Volga, in the Ukraine, in Western Siberia and in other regions. The rapid demobilisation of the Red Army added fuel to the fire as armed peasants returned to their home villages. The central demand of these rebellions was an end to the system of requisitioning grain and the right of peasants to dispose of their own produce. And, as we will see, at the beginning of 1921 the impulse of the revolts extended to the workers in the cities that had been the epicentre of the October insurrection: Petrograd, Moscow… and the revolt in Krondstadt arose, which by including demands for free trade and soviets without Bolsheviks, raised the tremendous mistrust of the communist party.
… “the party unity resolution of the last 10th Congress. Another sign of the degradation of the communist party and its leadership, with galloping bourgeois positions and an internal regime that stifles and distorts proletarian and Marxist criticism, believing itself to be ultra-powerful communists, when in reality they continue their uncritical and sectarian following of capitalism… for which they must disfigure the genuine Marxist conception of it and prolong its insufficiencies, emphasising typically social-democratic theories. Lenin does not tolerate one who bothers and tolerates much more allies, of lesser or greater convenience. He does not hesitate to disfigure, to pontificate unilaterally”.
(“Countercurrent. Proletarian revolutionary process, transition period, communism. Its economy and society. Communist councils, internationalist communist left, councils, Bolshevism. (One hundred years after the Revolution in Russia in 1917)
The atmosphere within the RCP(b) in 1922 is described as follows in the “Appeal of the 22”, “To the Members of the International Conference of the Communist International”. Copy to the CC RCP(b):
“Because the forces of the bourgeoisie put pressure on us from all sides, as they even infiltrate our party, whose social composition (40% of the workers and 60% non-proletariat) favours this, our leading centres wage a dishonest and ruthless struggle against all those who have their own opinions – especially proletarians – and all kinds of repressive measures are applied against the expression of these opinions within the party. The attempt to bring the proletarian masses closer to the government is declared as “anarcho-syndicalism” and its supporters are persecuted and discredited. In the trade union movement, the same situation exists – suppression of the spontaneous action of the workers, struggle by all means against heterodoxy. The unified forces of the party and the trade union bureaucracy, taking advantage of their position and authority, ignore our congress decision about sitting on the foundations of workers’ democracy. Our communist trade union fractions, even entire congress fractions are deprived of the right to express their will in the election of their own leaders. Bureaucratic tutelage and pressure have gone so far that party members are under threat of expulsion and other repressive measures if they choose those they want instead of those their superiors want. Such methods of work lead to careerism, intrigue and subservience, to which the workers respond by leaving the party”. Zinoviev declared that “any criticism of the party line, even a so-called leftist criticism, is now objectively a Menshevik criticism”. Miasnikov, he added, maintains that “the worker is against us and we are against him. Such a notion is “rubbish” (id)
The party must not follow sectors of the class that are mistaken or present illusions; but neither does it generate adequate conditions, that the party impose itself by force or by its capacity to set up state apparatuses (in capitalist functions) on the proletarian sector that does not succeed in collectively revolutionizing the capitalist relations on which these state functions are based. “Everything by the class, but without the class” led in Russia to a party that believed itself to be a certain leader, in fact to lead the accumulation of capital and the exploitation of the proletariat, to camouflage these bourgeois functions of the state as workers, and to claim that there were “fragments of socialism” (Lenin) and “workers’ socialism in state industry” (Trotsky), which is a doctrinal attack and a practical crime against communism. Lenin sometimes recognised this accumulation of conflicting realities, but his scheme was: first to put an end to the problem of the petty bourgeoisie and its “unionist and anarchist” reflexes in the class and the Party, and then, after an economic consolidation, changes could be made. The economic changes will come, under the form of the NEP. The internal regime of the party remained similar. The NEP was a mixture of certain demands of Kronstadt and the peasantry, of SRs and Mensheviks, plus the control of the state by the party, which was the essential thing “in the face of the enormous dangers of the moment” as Lenin said. Charles Bettelheim provides abundant data on this process, which he calls “autonomy”.
In the dispute with Trotsky over the question of the state-union relationship, Lenin says
“…and meanwhile, by committing this lack of seriousness, comrade Trotsky commits, on the spot, a mistake. It turns out, according to him, that the defence of the material and spiritual interests of the working class is not the mission of the trade unions in a workers’ state. This is a mistake. Comrade Trotsky talks about the “labour state”. Let me say that this is an abstraction. It is understood that in 1917 we talked about the working state, but now a clear mistake is made when we are told: “Why defend and against whom defend the working class, if there is no bourgeoisie and the state is a working class? Not entirely working class: that is the crux of the matter. This is one of the fundamental mistakes of comrade Trotsky […] In our country, the state is not a worker but a worker and a peasant, and many things come out of this (Bukharin’s interruption: “Which state? Worker and peasant?”). And even if comrade Bukharin shouts from behind: “What State? Worker and peasant?”, I will not answer him. Whoever wants to, can remember the Congress of the Sóviets that has just taken place and will find the answer there. But there is more. In the programme of our party – a document that the author of the “ABC of communism” knows very well – we already see that our state is a bureaucratically deformed workers’ state. And we have had to hang – so to speak – this pitiful label on it. There you have the reality of the transition period.
(“On the trade unions, the present moment and the mistakes of comrade Trotsky”, in Collected Works, volume 42).
Lenin speaks of a period of transition… in a country!… that in fact neither was nor could be from capitalism to socialism, but from the capitalist forms typical of the absolutist years, scarcely reconverted by the bourgeoisie from February to October 917, to a developed capitalism, with an important presence of state capitalism together with other capitalist forms.
When it says that the unions must defend the workers from their own state, such a “theory” squeaks, it expresses at the same time the painful situation and the desires to reform it without altering its basis, and it enters into contradiction with the most basic Marxism. The workers had to defend a state that they assured was formally, legally, their own, but which attacked them and which guaranteed conditions in which they were extracted from the surplus value and alienated from the collective class control over production, distribution and conditions of existence.
If we look at the critical interpretations of the communism of advice, for example Paul Mattick is right in saying:
“Lenin conceived the Russian revolution as an uninterrupted process that would lead from the bourgeois revolution to the socialist revolution. He feared that the bourgeoisie itself would prefer a commitment to tsarism to a radical democratic revolution, and therefore it was up to the workers and poor peasants to lead the imminent revolution, a view shared by other observers of the Russian situation, such as Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg. In the context of the First World War, Lenin considered the Russian revolution from an international point of view, facing the possibility of its expansion towards the West, which should offer the opportunity to destroy the rule of the Russian bourgeoisie exactly at its root. It was therefore essential not to let power escape, regardless of the compromises and violation of principle that this might entail, until a Western revolution completed the Russian revolution, and allowed a form of international cooperation in which Russia’s lack of objective preparation for socialism would be a lesser factor. The isolation of the Russian revolution eliminated that perspective. Remaining in power under the conditions of this meant assuming the historical role of the bourgeoisie, but with different social institutions and a different ideology”….. The management of production by the workers presupposes a social revolution. It cannot be done gradually, through working class actions within the capitalist system. Wherever it has been introduced as a reform, it has proved to be an additional means of controlling the workers through their own organisations. The legal workers’ councils, in the wake of the German revolution, for example, were mere appendices of the trade unions and acted in the scope of their restricted activities”. … “In Germany, the opposition to the war was expressed in workers’ strikes which, due to the chauvinism of social democracy and trade unions, had to be organised clandestinely in the workplaces through action committees coordinated by several companies. In 1918, workers’ and soldiers’ councils spread throughout Germany and overthrew the government. The class-collaborationist workers’ organisations were forced to recognise this movement and integrate into it, although only to numb the revolutionary aspirations. This was not difficult, because the workers’ and soldiers’ councils were composed not only of communists, but also of socialists, trade unionists, apoliticians and even members of bourgeois parties. The slogan “All power to the workers’ councils” was therefore suicidal with regard to the revolutionaries, unless the character and composition of the councils obviously changed.
(“Workers’ Management”. 1967)
In the Communist Left in Italy, which remained longer in the Leninist International and was later politically influenced by Lenin, we find critical reflections such as the following:
“In the economic field, we have already explained at length, taking up ‘Capital’, that the socialisation of the means of production is not a sufficient condition for to safeguard the victory won by the proletariat. We have also explained why we must revise the central thesis of the 4th Congress of the International, which, after considering “socialist” the state industries and “non-socialist” the rest, came to this conclusion: the condition of the victory of socialism is based on constantly increasing the “socialist sector” by eliminating the economic formations of the “private sector”. The Russian experience shows us that at the end of a monopolistic socialisation of the entire Soviet economy, we will not see at all an extension of the class consciousness of the Russian proletariat and its role, but the conclusion of a process of degeneration that threatens to integrate the Soviet state into the capitalist world, which has been able to defeat it – from the political and revolutionary point of view – precisely to the extent that the state’s monopolistic power in the economic and political field increased. We have put in the foreground, not a notion of the structure and organisation of proletarian society in the transition period, but a notion of the inner life of the economic process, emphasising that the state, even the proletarian one, far from moving towards safeguarding workers’ interests, tends to transgress what for us is the basis of a proletarian economy”.
(Bilan No. 26, Party-International-State / VII – Part 5: The Soviet State).
All these are limited brushstrokes but convenient to give themselves a much wider and more complex understanding, in relation to the USSR as outside it. Brushstrokes that make it possible to understand important aspects of the situation of class struggles, their conditions and their numerous contradictions.
Says Lenin, in a state where the population is mainly peasant:
“Fractionation, the dispersion of the small producer, his misery, his lack of culture, the lack of communication, illiteracy, the lack of exchange between agriculture and industry, the lack of linkage and interaction between them. This is largely a result of the civil war”.
(“On the Tax in Kind”, Selected Works, cit., volume XII, pp. 89-90)
This is how we have analysed it in https://edicionesinterrev.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/contracorriente.-2a-edicion.pdf :
“After various ups and downs, with a growing consolidation of the party bureaucracy and its higher leadership, Lenin, in confluence with Trotsky, proposes the new economic policy (NEP) which says in substance: “Now a withdrawal must be made. The pressure under which we have put the peasantry with requisitions etc. cannot continue any more. The peasantry must be convinced to increase production on a voluntary basis. We abolished the requisitions and replaced them with a tax in kind. We allow the peasant to sell the surplus of his agricultural production and we relaunch private trade”… “In 1921-22 a very particular situation is known for a society that wants to build socialism under the leadership of the working class. In fact, the working class has only 1.5 million industrial workers, while the army has 5.5 million members (who have just been demobilised)… The civil service apparatus has almost 6 million members, and let us remember that the peasantry is essentially made up of 25 million families… The very sharp fall in the number of workers in the factories can be explained by the enormous contribution made by these workers to the effort to defend the workers’ state, having enlisted massively in the Red Army”.
(Toussaint, E. “Lenin and Trotsky against the Bureaucracy and Stalin”. Russian Revolution and Transitional Society. 25 / 01/ 2017 http://vientosur.info/spip.php?article12143 )
The real situation in the USSR in isolation, without the help of the revolution in Germany and Europe (apart from the USA) leads to the strengthening of the bureaucratic tendencies and the administrativeism of order and command of the state, of the Communist Party, and within the party itself, of the CC.
… “On 21 January 1921 Lenin stated:
“Today I see that I was wrong and that Bukharin was right. I should have said: “The workers’ state is an abstraction, what we have in reality is a workers’ state, first, with the particularity that what predominates in the country is not the workers’ population, but the peasants, and second, it is a workers’ state with bureaucratic deformations”. Anyone who wants to read my entire speech will see that this correction does not change the thread of my argument or my deductions”.
(“The Crisis of the Party”, published in Pravda on 21-1-1921, in Collected Works, t. 42)
Lenin had argued:
“This whole revolution (1917) can only be conceived as a link in the chain of proletarian socialist revolutions provoked by the imperialist war.
(Lenin, Preface to The State and Revolution, OC, Vol. XXVII, Akal Editor)
Thus, in the district soviets, where there is more peasant and other parties’ influence, “in 1920 and 1921 the delegates without a party are even more numerous than the communist delegates”.
(Anweiler, Oscar. “The Soviets in Russia”. Scanned in pdf at: http://es.scribd.com/doc/199778191/Los-Soviets-en-Rusia-1905-1921)
General source: https://edicionesinterrev.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/contracorriente.-2a-edicion.pdf
“From the enormous problems in the so-called “war communism”, the New Economic Policy (NEP) was arrived at, which the RCP(b) affirms on a capitalist mercantile basis. Lenin stated in 1921 that this was “a necessary step backwards”, and adds
“We have gone too far in nationalising trade and industry, in blocking local exchanges. Was this a mistake? Yes, it was. We can to some extent admit free local exchange, without destroying the political power of the proletariat but, on the contrary, consolidating it. (…) The peasant can and must work zealously in his own interest since he will no longer be asked for all his surpluses but only for a tax, which must be fixed as soon as possible in advance. The fundamental thing is that the small farmer is stimulated, encouraged, incited”.
(Lenin’s speech at the 10th Congress. 1921).
It poses a series of tasks:
“As soon as we have effectively finished with the external enemy […] another task arises: the economic alliance between the working class and the peasantry”.
(V. I. Lenin, “Complete Works”, vol. 32, p. 293, according to the French edition (Oeuvres complètes, Editions sociales, Paris, 1958-1972).
The second argument, raised in the same text by Lenin, is that it is necessary to reconstitute and develop the country’s industry and electrification:
“The only effective basis […] for creating a socialist society is big industry. Without the big factory, without a big industry of high level, it is not even possible to talk about socialism in general, even more so if it is a peasant country”.
(Lenin, op. cit., t. 32, p. 402).
The third argument is that it is central ‘to attract foreign capital, not only for technological reasons, but also because it is imperative to try to open up a gap within the world of foreign (imperialist) ‘big capital’ by allying with some large countries The aim is to prevent the crystallisation of an Anglo-American interimperialist agreement of a strategic nature in the post-war period from dragging down the rest of the industrialised countries. The NEP is the way to establish regular economic relations between the countryside and the city in backward Russia, under the conditions of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. NEP is the way to transform state capitalism into socialism”.
(Bettelheim, Charles. “The class struggles in the USSR. First period (1917-1923)”, Siglo XXI, Madrid, 1976.
Cohen, Stephen. “Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, Siglo XXI, Madrid-Buenos Aires, 1976)
Lenin thus elaborated on the NEP in 1921. It was a year of hunger and industrial production was not progressing. The RCP(b) then took a new step within the NEP to “widen the monetary market relations between the countryside and industry”. In October of that year, in a report presented to the 7th party conference, it already modified the definition of the NEP:
“We said this spring that we would not fear a return to state capitalism, and we stated that our task was precisely to structure the exchange of goods […] we planned to carry out a more or less socialist exchange of industrial goods for agricultural products throughout the country, and thanks to this exchange to re-establish big industry as the only foundation of socialist organization. But what happened? […] that the exchange of goods failed and took the form of buying and selling. We must admit that the retreat was not enough, that it is indispensable to go back a little further, to take another step back in the transition from state capitalism to state control of buying and selling and the circulation of money.
(V. I. Lenin, “Complete Works”, t. 32, p. 293, according to the French edition (Oeuvres complètes, Editions sociales, Paris, 1958-1972. t. 33, p.83).
In 1928 Stalin states:
“By going on the offensive on all fronts, we do not yet renounce the NEP, because private trade and capitalist elements still exist and finance is not a dead thing, but by unleashing our offensive we end the initial phase of the NEP and develop the present phase, which is the last one”.
(Quoted in Julio Godio “Reflections on the New Economic Policy in Russia”. https://es.scribd.com/document/278304958/Reflexiones-Sobre-La-Nueva-Politica-Economica-en-Rusia
General source: https://edicionesinterrev.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/la-revolucion-debil..pdf
Lenin stated in 1922 that Russian society has left “the capitalist rails… but has not yet entered the new rails”:
“It is necessary to remember something fundamental: that in no theory, nor in any publication, is state capitalism analysed in the way we have it here, for the simple reason that all the notions commonly related to these terms refer to bourgeois power in capitalist society. And ours is a society that has already gone off the capitalist rails, but has not yet entered the new rails. But this state, in this society, is not being ruled by the bourgeoisie, but by the proletariat. We do not want to understand that when we say ‘State’, this State is us, it is the proletariat, it is the vanguard of the working class. State capitalism is the capitalism that we will know to limit, to which we will know to put limits, this state capitalism is related to the state, and the state is the workers, it is the most advanced part of the workers, it is the vanguard, it is us.
(Intervention at the 11th Congress of the Bolshevik Party. 1922)
The aberrant and anti-communist illusion that they would control and limit state capitalism operated as pure mystification, as did the statement that “the state is the workers…, the vanguard is us”.
Lenin continued with this statement on NEP and the state, which he opportunistically did not oppose as something contradictory to what he had defended before, the alleged capacity of control of state capitalism:
“Well, one year has passed, the state is in our hands, but has the New Economic Policy fulfilled our will during this year? No. And we do not want to admit it: the State has not fulfilled our will. What will it have fulfilled? The car is going out of control; it seems that a person is driving it, but the car is not going where the driver is driving it, but where someone is driving it, something clandestine or something that is out of the law, or that God knows where it came from, or perhaps some speculators, perhaps some private capitalists, or maybe both; but the car is not going where it should and very often in a completely different direction than the one imagined by the person sitting behind the wheel.”
Lenin used the rhetoric crudely to save the hegemonic situation of the Bolshevik party in the service of capitalist accumulation.
Trotsky explains himself in this way:
“The economic objectives of the power of the soviets are mainly reduced to sustaining the war industries and taking advantage of the existing rickety reserves, in order to to fight and save the populations of the cities from hunger. War communism was basically a regulation of consumption in a besieged fortress. It must be recognised, however, that its early intentions were broader. The Soviet government tried and tried to obtain from regulation a directed economy, both in the field of consumption and production. In other words, it thought to move gradually, without modification, from the system of war communism, to true communism. The programme of the Bolshevik party adopted in 1919 stated: “In the field of distribution, the power of the soviets will persevere inflexibly in replacing trade with a nationally organised distribution of products, on a global plan”. But the conflict was increasingly between the reality and the programme of wartime communism: production was constantly falling and this was not only due to the disastrous consequences of the hostilities, but also to the disappearance of the stimulus of individual interest among producers. The city asked for wheat and raw materials from the countryside, without giving it anything in return other than pieces of multicoloured paper called money by an old custom. The mujik buried their reserves and the government sent detachments of armed workers to take over the grain. The mujik sowed less. Industrial production in 1921, the year after the end of the civil war, was at best one-fifth of what it had been before the war. Steel production fell from 4.2 million tonnes to 183,000 tonnes, or 23 times less. The global harvest fell from 801 million quintals to 503 in 1922. Foreign trade collapsed from 2.9 billion blonds to 30 million. The ruin of the productive forces surpasses anything known in history. The country, and with it, power, found themselves on the brink of the abyss. The utopian hopes of war communism were subsequently subjected to extremely severe and fair criticism in many concepts. However, the theoretical error committed by the ruling party would be completely inexplicable if it were forgotten that all calculations at that time were based on a forthcoming victory of the revolution in the West. It was considered natural that the victorious German proletariat, through further reimbursement in foodstuffs and raw materials, would help Soviet Russia with machines and manufactured goods; and would also provide it with tens of thousands of highly skilled workers, technicians and organisers. There is no doubt that if the social revolution had succeeded in Germany – and only social democracy prevented this triumph – the economic development of the USSR, as well as that of Germany, would have continued in giant strides, so that the destinies of Europe and the whole world would now be presented in a completely favourable light. However, it is safe to say that even if this happy scenario had been realised, it would have been necessary to give up the distribution of products and return to commercial methods. Lenin argued for the need to restore the market to ensure the existence of millions of isolated peasant farms accustomed to defining their relations with the surrounding world by trade. The movement of goods should be the weld between the peasants and the nationalized industry. The theoretical formula for welding is very simple: industry will provide the countryside with necessary goods, at such prices that the State can waive the requisitioning of agricultural products. The restoration of economic relations with the countryside was undoubtedly the most urgent and thorny task of the NEP. Experience quickly showed that industry itself, even if socialised, needed monetary calculation methods developed by capitalism. The plan could not rely on simple intelligence. The game of supply and demand remained, and will remain for a long time, the indispensable material basis and the corrective saviour. The legalised market began its work with the help of a reorganised monetary system. From 1923, thanks to the first impulse from the countryside, industry was revived and soon showed signs of intense activity. Suffice it to say that production doubled in 1922 and 1923 and reached, in 1926, the pre-war level, meaning that it had increased fivefold since 1921. Harvests increased in parallel, but much more modestly. From the crucial year of 1923 onwards, the divergence of views on the relationship between industry and agriculture, which had been apparent before, became more acute within the ruling party. Industry could only develop, in a country that had exhausted its reserves, by borrowing grain and raw materials from farmers. Too much “forced borrowing” stifled the incentive to work; the peasants did not believe in future happiness and responded to the requisitions by striking the sowers. The farmers did not believe in future happiness and responded to the requisitions by striking the sowers. The differences of opinion within the party began with the problem of knowing what to take from the countryside for industry, in order to move towards a dynamic balance. The debate was complicated by problems concerning the social structure of the countryside. In the spring of 1923 the representative of the Left Opposition – which, incidentally, did not yet bear that name – speaking at the party congress demonstrated the gap between the prices of agriculture and those of industry by means of a disturbing diagram. This phenomenon was then called scissors, which was later to enter the world’s vocabulary. If, the informant said, industry continues to lag behind, and the scissors continue to open up more and more, the rupture between the cities and the countryside will be inevitable.
The peasants made a clear distinction between the democratic agrarian revolution carried out by the Bolsheviks and their policy of giving a basis to socialism”.
(“War Communism”, “The New Economic Policy” (The NEP), and the orientation towards the affluent peasantry”, in “The Revolution Betrayed”)
Lenin would later say, on the occasion of the 4th Congress of the Communist International on 13 November 1922:
“I wrote in 1918: State capitalism would be a step forward in comparison with the situation existing today in our Soviet Republic. If in about six months’ time We did not overestimate either the embryonic forms or the principles of the socialist economy, even though we had already made the social revolution; on the contrary, we recognized then, in a way: yes, it would have been better to introduce capital sooner. I must particularly stress this aspect of the question because I believe that only on this basis is it possible, first, to explain what current economic policy represents and, second, to draw very important practical conclusions from it, also for the International Communist Party. I do not want to say that we had prepared the withdrawal plan in advance. There was no such thing. Those brief lines of a controversial nature did not in any way mean a withdrawal plan at that time. There was not even a mention of such an important point as, for example, the freedom of trade, which has a fundamental significance for state capitalism. However, this gives the general, vague idea of retreat a boost.
We can read:
“The antidote [to wartime communism], familiarly known as NEP, consisted of… a series of measures that were not conceived in one go, but gradually developed one after the other. First it began at the point of greatest danger, as an agricultural policy to increase food supply by offering new incentives to the peasants; then it evolved into a trade policy to promote trade and interchange, including a financial policy for a state currency; and finally, facing the deepest problem of all, it was transformed into an industrial policy aimed at increasing industrial productivity, a condition for the construction of a socialist system. The main feature of the NEP was the negation or reversal of the policies of war communism”.
(E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, p. 272)
“The reform was comprehensive. The first major change was the elimination of the requisitioning of grain and the replacement of a proportional tax, first in kind, then in currency, set aside for individual farmers. Farmers could now keep a portion of their surplus production and sell it on the markets that emerged as a result of the measure. The production incentive was a tonic that had immediate effects. The 1922 harvest was very favourable, and in 1925 agricultural production returned to its pre-war level. In addition to the change in the tax, other measures were enacted to facilitate the recovery of free trade. When the collectivisation of agriculture met with resistance, private land ownership was allowed, and farmers were free to cultivate the land as they wished and were given security of tenure. At first, there was only the leasing of land and the hiring of labour on a clandestine basis, but by the end of 1922 this was allowed by the new agrarian code. Compulsory labour was abolished and wages were linked to productivity. Workers could be dismissed by their employers. One of the most significant events was the spontaneous emergence of a class of intermediaries – called NEP men – to coordinate the buying and selling of surplus peasant produce. This entrepreneurial element is one of the defining characteristics of a market economy. Central planning was abandoned and money accounts were re-established. In 1922 and 1923, private commerce accounted for 90% of distribution.16 The nationalization of industry was completed. Some companies were nominally owned by the state, but were leased to individuals and started privately. State subsidies ended, and companies were to make their way only by buying and selling on the market. Heavy industry, which represented a minority of enterprises, was ordered to give priority to the state, but was often allowed to sell on the free market. During this period, combinations of companies called trusts were formed, which were allowed to make a profit. In 1924, industrial production returned to a level equivalent to about half of that in 1913”.
(Hirshleifer, Disaster and Recovery, p. 19)
“At the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in November 1922, Lenin boasted: ‘The peasant uprising which in the past, before 1921, was, so to speak, a feature of the Russian environment in general, has practically disappeared completely. The peasantry is satisfied with its present situation… what has been achieved in the course of a single year’.”
(Quoted in E.H.Carr. The Bolshevik Revolution, p. 295)
Rosa Luxemburg expressed herself in this way in 1918:
“The Leninist land reform has created a new and powerful layer of popular enemies in the countryside, enemies whose resistance will be far more dangerous and persistent than that of the large noble landowners.
(Rosa Luxemburg. “The Russian Revolution” 1918)
In short, a capitalist environment in industry and agriculture. No socialism… but plenty of deception and mystification. For example, in his book “The Economy of the Transition Period”, the Bolshevik leader Bukharin argued:
“In reality, when we are faced with an organized national economy, all the basic problems of political economy such as price, value, profit, etc., simply disappear”.
Let us see what happened later, when the capitalist mercantile kingdom developed further and needed in those particular conditions an agrarian reordering:
“The relative peace of NEP was replaced by the violence of Stalinism, under which 5 million kulaks and their families disappeared. Land and industry were brutally collectivised and central planning was imposed on the economy. However, having learned at least a partial lesson from the resounding failure of 1918-1921, Stalin never even considered a return to the moneyless economy of war communism.
(Sheldon L. Richman. “Study of War Communism to NEP: The Road from Serfdom“)
In the past:
“At that time, Russia was a country of 140 million people, 113 million of whom lived in the countryside, and where, according to data from Charles Bettelheim, in 1919 there were no more than 2,100 agrarian communes with some 350,000 members, which during the civil war in 1920 were reduced to 1,520 establishments with a clear downward trend towards smallholdings, which is indicative of the repudiation of peasants towards collective land work:
“Hostility, which is encouraged by the kulaks and sometimes goes as far as the murder of commune members by the peasants of neighbouring villages”
Bettelheim: “Class struggles in the USSR. First period 1917-1923”, 21st century edition, 1974, p. 205).
“The collapse of the productive forces surpassed anything that history had ever witnessed. The country and, along with it, its government were on the brink of the abyss. “Leon Trotsky, referring to war communism”. (idem)
Von Vollmar says that:
“one should not stick to the reactionary programme of defence of private property, which will soon be overtaken by the process itself … the future for social democracy is state property, the expression of maximum socialisation, the prelude to socialism”.
(Quoted in “Marxism in its texts. Politics”. Edition Zero-Zyx
We have also written:
1.17/ Critical evaluation of this period of the class struggle in Russia
“As it can be seen, the contradictions were huge. The long series of tendencies, facts and positions that we have shown, gathered from various sources, show that:1) Contrary to the views of most Bolsheviks, there was not and could not be in that situation a period of transition to socialism.2) The Bolshevik leadership oscillated between the assertion that such a period of transition to socialism had indeed been opened (thus implicitly entailing the acceptance of possible national socialism), and the position more that the “period for building its necessary material preconditions” was open. It is Lenin who is most committed to this line, emphasising the destruction of private property, centralisation in the hands of the state and the raising of labour productivity. This reveals the degree of degradation of the Marxist thought in the social democratic period, and its effects on Lenin and Co.
There are three main forms of capitalist property. Private property is one of them, but there is also the associated collective and state property. This had been made clear by Marx and Engels, but was in fact secondary. The general idea was that by doing away with private property, capitalism would be eradicated. The formula that communism was the end of private property was widespread. It was linked to the old positions of Marx and Engels, with their initial limitations. And the other two forms, then… and especially the state form? The Bolshevik leadership and many of its bases continue with this wrong scheme. Lenin was enthusiastic about state capitalism, partly because of this, but whether it was done or could be done in one way or another, with one organisational scheme or another at the base, in the intermediate organisations and in the leaderships, the important thing is that such an effort, if successful, could only generate state and associated capitalism… unless private capital was completely eradicated, as they believed, in the cities and especially in the countryside. Lenin represents the partisan wing that knows that a scattering of grassroots initiatives would not win the war, or at least would take longer and thus create the conditions for a military degradation of the Russian state, which would obviously be taken advantage of by the capitalist powers to charge it militarily. Therefore, it is deeply committed to making the state apparatus work on the basis of concessions to elements of the old bourgeoisie, technicians and others; introducing the principles of order and command by the party structures, as well as individual management in companies, justifying it when possible in decisions, decrees, regulations, points of agreement of congresses and meetings, etc.; and when not, in deception and trickery.
Despite resistance that has many shortcomings, it was the winning position, which led to the NEP and provided improvements in the economic situation, respecting capitalist relations and mystified about its own action and its historical and The class struggle, even if it clashed with the working class and its own party base. The number of workers will increase, but also the contradictions within and with former workers, and in fact the economic improvement was based on the increasing extraction of surplus value by the intensification of exploitation and by this increase of the working class ranks.
The councils are not capable of opposing a coordinated and general class action, and neither are the anarcho-syndicalist tendencies, which are attached to the degrees of factory and local initiative of the Committees, which although they sometimes tried to organise themselves better on a higher class and social level; besides not giving a clear political alternative, they did not succeed in fermenting an alternative to the party, and this not so much because of the incapacity of its members or the presence of anarchists, but fundamentally because the factory base is not suitable for this, being necessary, but at the same time limited and limiting. Likewise, the soviets, by not presenting massive proletarian revolutionary activity and clarity, could not represent an alternative to the party. In fact, we do not find an open struggle between the councilist and party structures, with two clearly marked, differentiated and confronted positions. And the trade unions could not be either. Even given the wide membership and their numerical growth, the majority were workers without a party, members of the trade union scheme, which is limited by nature. The tragedy continued and the German revolution not only did not emerge victorious as an alternative and oxygen for the process in Russia, but the attempts to carry it out voluntarily failed and generated splits, purges, confrontations and disillusionments . Besides preparing the ferment for the opportunist tactics of Lenin, Zinoviev and Trotsky, trying to turn the state of defeat, confusion and reformism of the working class into a real and mobilizing energy, by means of maneuvering tactics and alleged shortcuts that really led to dead ends, defeats or to reproduce voluntarist illusions that generated losses of radical vanguard elements. In short, the typical opportunist type of manoeuvres, sometimes right-wing, sometimes left-wing. 3) The unquestionable effectiveness of decisions taken by the leadership led Lenin and his company to sacralize and fetishize the principle of the single leadership, of individual decision, etc., which converge in the idea of the dictatorship of the party, which indirectly hides a mystifying idealization of workers’ democracy, the representation of the masses. The party, although it did not encompass the entire proletarian class, claimed to represent it… not in the traditional bourgeois democratic way, but through a new formula, democratic centralism. By adhering to Marxist formulas taken in an ideological, unilateral and poorly contextualised way, they realised the ideal of Blanquism, which in a context of ebbing class struggle could only generate a political scheme formally similar to later Stalinism, and previously somewhat similar, with a struggle between bureaucratic sectors such as that evidenced by the Trotskyite opposition when the situation in the correlation of forces turns against them, while few workers support them, fed up with so much militarisation to obtain bourgeois results: paid work of one kind or another but wages at the end, no or limited decision-making capacity for procedures and organisation to produce more and more what they commanded from “above”, rhetoric and more rhetoric as opposed to the necessary It takes into consideration facts and their consequences, depending on the existence of capitalist relations, tinged by the tandem of state and bureaucratic-volunteer pressures-mystifications, which disgusted many working class sectors and generated occasional revolts, reluctantly and therefore, to counteract them, more pressure from above as the state’s response.
And all this in a state that was not the proletarian dictatorship, but a capitalist state politically led by the communist party in de facto and de jure alliance with an army of bureaucracy coming from the former ruling classes and their specialist and entrepreneurial offspring. An alliance in which these bureaucratic sectors had more and more power, and both they and the party were servants of capitalist relations.
Frictions were the order of the day, and the mystifying ideological mists were increasing. We read:
“Lenin declared in particular at the 11th Congress of the Bolshevik Party (1922):
“If we consider the bureaucratic machine, who leads and who is led? I very much doubt that it can be said that the communists are leading. To tell the truth, it is not they who lead. It is they who are directed”. (Works volume 33, p. 293).
So who is leading this bureaucratic machine? It is the mass of civil servants who in large part come from the former tsarist state apparatus that was destroyed. Soviet power has had to keep a whole series of specialists and even office workers from tsarism. There are mind-boggling figures on the level of the proportion of Tsarist civil servants in parts of the new state apparatus. Lenin commissioned Stalin to study this situation. The results are as follows: in the Viatka region, out of 4,766 permanent officials, 4,430 were already under the Tsarism. It is naturally a mass of officials who are difficult to lead from a communist point of view”.
“On the other hand, the services of a large number of former tsarist bureaucrats willing to collaborate were used, and it can be said that the bulk of the administrative posts were left in the hands of the old bureaucracy.
(Jacoby, Henry: “La burocratización del mundo”, Siglo XXI Editores, Mexico, 1972, pp. 190-192
“It is evident that such a measure constitutes a compromise, a deviation from the principles upheld by the Paris Commune and by every proletarian power…”.
(“The Immediate Tasks of Soviet Power”, Selected Works, volume VIII, Progress Publishing House, Moscow, 1975, pp. 99-102)
“On May 5, 1918, we did not have this problem. Half a year after the October Revolution, after having smashed the old bureaucratic hulk upside down, we still did not feel this scourge. Another year passed. At the 8th Congress of the CP of Russia (18-23 March 1919), a new party programme was adopted, in which we spoke openly, without fear of recognising evil, and with the desire to discover it, to unmask it, to put it on the pillory, to awaken consciousness and will, energy and action for the fight against evil, we already spoke of the ‘partial rebirth of bureaucracy within the Soviet regime’. Two more years passed. In the spring of 1921, after the 7th Congress of Soviets (December 1920), where the problem of bureaucracy was discussed, and after the 10th Congress of the Russian CP in March 1921), which summarised the discussions closely related to the analysis of bureaucracy, we already saw this scourge more clearly and precisely, we saw it rising more threateningly before us. What are the economic roots of bureaucracy? … Fractionation, the dispersion of small producers, their misery, their lack of culture, the lack of communication, illiteracy, the lack of exchange between agriculture and industry, the lack of linkage and interaction between them. This is largely a result of the civil war”.
(“On the Tax in Kind”, Selected Works, cit., volume XII, pp. 89-90)
“Our public administration is in such a deplorable, not to say detestable, state that we must first reflect deeply on how to combat its shortcomings, remembering that they lie in the past, which, although it has been subverted, has not completely disappeared, and has not remained in the phase of culture belonging to remote times. I am raising the problem of culture here precisely because in these things only that which enters into culture, into everyday life, into customs, should be considered to have been achieved. And in our country, it can be said, what is good in social organisation has not been thoroughly meditated upon, understood or felt, taken on board, checked, tested, confirmed by experience or consolidated, etc. It is natural that it could not be otherwise in a revolutionary era and given the dizzying speed of development that has taken us in five years, from czarism to the Soviet regime.
(“Little is better and good”, in Selected Works, cit., volume XII, page 396)
Only in the past? It was in a present of reproduction of capitalist relations that another source of permanently bourgeois bureaucratization was found. This vision of Lenin is that of the ideology and bureaucratic situation of the left, on which the communist party was largely based. The Jacobin and Blanquist traits had a material, political and social breeding ground, adequate to prosper in such particular conditions, generating the substitutionist ideology as a mystifying ratification of the really existing, capitalist, practical experience. Trotsky exemplifies this perfectly: a former critic of substitutionism, he now ratified it as the quintessence of communist sanity The party, which according to this ideology represents communism, carries it out practically alone, creates its premises alone, directing everything… when in fact it serves capitalism, it is directed by it and by many of its former officials, technicians and entrepreneurs, and it adapts itself to this by transforming the communist programme into a heterogeneous and ideologically mystifying compendium, where voluntarism and typically petty-bourgeois rhetoric triumph. Such a “dictatorship of the proletariat” is a mere dictatorship of camouflaged capitalism. The Stalinist form represents a later concretion. To repeat Lenin, we could reply: dictatorship… for what?… adding: about what, and for what?. Because in order to generate and reproduce capitalism, it “mounts both” democracy and dictatorship.
“In a resolution of the XIth Party Congress in December 1921, which said: “The Party organisations are in the process of being systematically overtaken by a great apparatus destined to serve the party organisations. This apparatus, which is continually growing… has come to absorb a very considerable part of the party’s energies”. In this way, the political power of the central party apparatus was concentrated on the general secretary. Then the local party secretaries were subordinated to the central party, who took orders from the central party, which even promoted or deposed them, forming the hierarchy of the secretaries, by this procedure, a special group within the society”.
(Jacoby, Henry: “The Bureaucratization of the World”, opus cit., p. 199).4)
From Marxist criticism and theory, in such a process, tatters were torn away that were repeated as the culmination of revolutionary wisdom, in the fundamental sense of stabilisation, centralisation and dictatorship. But the essential parts of the critique of the exploitation of the proletariat, of the wage and market relationship as an expression of certain material and social relations, of the division of labour and its link with the maintenance and reproduction of such relations were left aside… as well as what Lenin himself recognised, the Marxist principles on the division of labour, the collective and revolutionary social assumption of the functions of the communal form of proletarian class rule and the important teachings emanating from the Paris Commune. Likewise, Lenin’s widely published text “The State and Revolution”, despite restoring important parts of Marx and Engels’ approach, introduced a wrong position, consisting in ensuring that the state would still be in force in socialism, “first stage of communism” or “lower communism” (see a specific section in this book, criticizing such a position of Lenin). This ratified ideologically the practices carried out by the party and the state. The insistence on workers’ control, workers’ democracy and grassroots initiative, as alternatives; could not be an adequate option either, operating in the same restrictive framework of expression of the shortcomings and limitations of the class and its vanguard… in such restricted material and historical conditions. Hence the limited validity of the left opposition alternatives in the party, their shortcomings, their immediate policy and, except for some specific cases, the inability to elaborate an outstanding theoretical critique, which would be the basis for a coordinated, lucid and solid militant action”-. Hence the ideas of transition to socialism, of the construction of socialism, of the state as a necessarily existing structure in socialism, of the one-person, partisan dictatorship, of the existence of the “workers’ state” despite all the deformations that have existed and will exist. Such an ideology could not give more than it did, and the consequences continue to be paid for in full.
(Contracorriente: Proceso revolucionario proletario, periodo de transición, comunismo. Su economía y sociedad. Comunistas de consejos, izquierda comunista internacionalista, consejismo, bolchevismo. Cien años después de la Revolución en Rusia en 1917)
In our book “Countercurrent…” we include the section:
1.18/ On factory committees in Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 128
It is worth remembering:
“This state power is, in fact, the creation of the bourgeoisie; it was the instrument that served first to destroy feudalism, then a tool to drown the emancipatory aspirations of the producers, of the working class. All the reactions and all the revolutions have only served to transfer this organised power, this organised force of the slavery of labour, from one hand to the other, from one fraction of the ruling classes to another. It had served for the ruling classes as a means of submission and profit. It had sucked new forces from each new change. It had served as the instrument to crush every popular uprising, to beat the working classes after they had fought and been ordered to ensure the transfer of that power from one group of their oppressors to another group. This was not, therefore, a revolution against this or that form of state, legitimised, constitutional, republican or imperial power. It was a revolution against the state itself, this supernatural abortion of society, the resumption by the people and for the people of their own social life. It was not a revolution that was made to transfer that power from one faction of the ruling classes to the other, but a revolution to put an end to the very horrendous machinery of class domination. It was not one of those dwarf struggles between the executive and parliamentary forms of class domination, but a rebellion against these two forms together, which are integrated into each other, and of which the form was but the misleading appendage of the Executive. The second Empire was the finished form of this state usurpation. The commune was its ultimate negation, and thus the initiation of the social revolution of the 19th century”… “But the proletariat cannot, as the ruling classes and their various rival factions have done in their successive moments of triumph, simply take the existing state apparatus and put it to work for their own ends. The first condition for the maintenance of political power is to transform this existing machinery, to destroy this instrument of class domination. This huge government machinery, twisting like a boa constrictor the real social body into the ubiquitous networks of a permanent army, a hierarchical bureaucracy, an obedient police, the clergy and a servile magistracy, was first forged in the days of the absolute monarchy as a weapon of the nascent bourgeois society in its emancipatory struggle against feudalism”… “But the working class cannot be satisfied with simply taking the ready-made state machine and making it work for its own purposes. The political instrument of its slavery cannot serve as a political instrument for its emancipation”. … “The working class knows that it must pass through different phases of the class struggle. They know that the replacement of the economic conditions of slavery of labour by the conditions of associated free labour can be achieved only through progressive labour of time …. that they need not only a change in the distribution, but also a new organisation of production, which frees them from the present organisation of labour, from its present class character, and which allows national and international coordination. They know that this work of regeneration will be delayed and resisted by the vestiges of class interests. They know that the spontaneous action of the natural laws of capital and land ownership can only be overcome by the spontaneous action of the social economy of associated free labour through a long process in which new conditions develop … But they know at the same time that great progress can be made through the communal form of political organisation and that this time is coming for them and for humanity.
(“Drafts of the Civil War in France”, written in 1871) .
“The free people’s state has become the free state. Grammatically speaking, the free state is a state that is free with respect to its citizens, that is, a state with a despotic government. All that talk about the state should be abandoned, especially after the Commune, which was no longer a state in the true sense of the word. The anarchists have thrown more and more in our face this “people’s state”, despite the fact that already the work of Marx against Proudhon, and then the “Communist Manifesto” say clearly that, with the establishment of the socialist social regime, the state is dissolved and will disappear. As the state is a merely transitory institution, used in the struggle, in the revolution, to subdue the adversaries by violence, it is absurd to speak of a free people’s state: while the proletariat still needs the state, it will not need it in the interest of freedom, but to subdue its adversaries, and as soon as one can speak of freedom, the state as such will cease to exist. That is why we would propose replacing the word State everywhere with the word ́comunidad’ (Gemeinwesen), a good old German word equivalent to the French word Commune’.
(“Letter to Auguste Bebel”. London, 18-28 March 1875. https://www.marxists.org/espanol/m-e/cartas/e18-3-75.htm)
With regard to nationalisation and socialisation we have written in the referenced book “Contracorriente…)”:
“Lenin correctly differentiates nationalization from socialization. The first is “the passage to state ownership” of the means of production, and the second “the control and real management by the collectivity” of these means (OC, T 29, p. 87). In the Russian CP it was not clear to everyone. Let us bear in mind that the social-democratic atmosphere had muddled everything. One example: Bauer introduced a socialisation programme – criticised by Pannekoek – which proposed the nationalisation (state purchase) of big industries and state control over the rest, along with heavy interest taxes and the creation of a Central Bank. In the context of post-war Austria, this programme was supported by Schumpeter. Bauer was in favour of a form of “trade union socialism”. Lenin continues: “Yesterday, the main task of the moment was to nationalize, to confiscate, to bring down and annihilate the bourgeoisie and to end the sabotage; all with the greatest possible determination. Today, only the blind cannot see that we have nationalised, confiscated, shot down and finished more than we have had time to calculate. The difference between socialisation and simple confiscation is that it is possible to confiscate only with “decision”, without the ability to calculate and distribute correctly, while without this ability it is not possible to socialise”. (“The Childhood Disease of ‘Leftism’ in Communism”, 1920)The task of the Russian CP was: “… the most vital and urgent problem of today’s politics: to expropriate the capitalists, to transform all citizens into workers and employees of a single ‘consortium’, i.e. the entire state, and to completely subordinate the work of this entire consortium to a truly democratic state: the state of the Soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies”.
(Lenin. “The State and the Revolution”)
Gostiev, referred to the “economic sabotage, not only of the bourgeoisie, but of the whole working class”.
Shlyapnikov, the labour commissioner and future head of the “Workers’ Opposition” complained about the behaviour of workers and factory committees in 1918:
“In short, things are in the hands of a multitude who, due to their ignorance and lack of interest in production, literally put the brakes on all work”.
(Quoted in: “Documents of the World Revolution”, Edit. Zero-Zyx, Madrid, 1971)
Anton Pannekoek explained, appropriately:
“Of the two main transformations brought about within production by socialism, the suppression of exploitation and the organisation of the economic system, the first is the main and most important for the proletariat. An organisation of production on a capitalist basis could be conceived; it would then lead to state socialism, to a more complete enslavement and exploitation of the proletariat through the centralised force of the state…. This socialisation replaces private capitalism with state capitalism; the state assumes the task of extracting profits from the workers and giving them to the capitalists. For the workers, little will change; they will have to create an income without work for the capitalists as before. The exploitation remains exactly as before…”. The abolition of exploitation with a dispersed production was the ideal of the old co-operators and anarchists, but …. one must immediately deal with the organisation of the production. “Socialization”.
(“Die Sozialisierung” in Die Internationale, vol. I, no. 13-14, September 1919. http://www.geocities.ws/cica_web/consejistas/pannekoek/socializacion.htm )
“Public property is the property, i.e. the right of disposal, of a public body representing society, of the government, the state power or some other political body. The people who form this body, the politicians, officials, leaders, secretaries, managers, are the direct masters of the production apparatus; they direct and regulate the production process; they command the workers. The common property is the right of disposition by the workers themselves; the working class itself – taken in the broadest sense of all those who share the really productive work, including the employees, peasants, scientists – is the master of the production apparatus, managing, directing and regulating the production process which is, in fact, their common work. Under public ownership the workers are not masters of their labour; they may be treated better and their wages may be higher than under private ownership; but they are still exploited. Exploitation does not simply mean that the workers do not receive the full product of their work; a considerable part must always be spent on the production apparatus and for the unproductive but necessary sections of the society. Exploitation consists in the fact that others, forming another class, dispose of the product and its distribution; that they decide which part will be allocated to the workers as wages, which part they retain for themselves and for other purposes. Under the public ownership this belongs to the regulation of the production process, which is the function of the bureaucracy. Thus, in Russia the bureaucracy as the ruling class is the owner of the production and the product, and the Russian workers are an exploited class.
(“Public Property and Common Property”, 1947)
He defended Bakunin:
“We hasten to add here that we strongly reject any attempt at social organization that does not admit the widest freedom of both individuals and organizations, or that requires the establishment of any regime of power. In the name of freedom, which we recognise as the sole foundation and only creative principle of organisation, economic or political, we will protest against anything that remotely resembles Statist Communism, or Statist Socialism”.
(“Socialism without the State: Anarchism”. https://www.marxists.org/espanol/bakunin/socsinestado.htm )
And Bernstein defended:
“Feudalism with its rigid and immobile institutions must have been destroyed almost everywhere by violence. The liberal institutions of modern society, on the other hand, are distinguished from those of modern society precisely by their ductility, their ability to transform and develop. They do not need to be destroyed, they just need to be further developed. All the practical activity of social democracy is directed towards the creation of situations and requirements which make possible and guarantee the transition to a higher order without violent breaks in the modern social order.
(“Premises of Socialism”. http://www.radicalismochileno.cl/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Bernstein-Eduard-Las-premisas-del-socialismo-y-las-tareas-de-la-socialdemocracia.pdf )
We explain this in our book “Countercurrent…” in reference to Lenin, which he develops in this way:
“We set as our final goal the destruction of the state, that is to say, of all organised and systematic violence, of all violence against men in general.
We do not expect the advent of a social order in which the principle of the subordination of the minority to the majority is not observed. But, aspiring to socialism, we are convinced that it will gradually become communism, and in connection with this any need for violence against men in general will disappear, any need for subordination of some men to others, of one part of the population to another, because men will get used to observing the elementary rules of social coexistence without violence and without subordination. … “yes, therefore, in the first phase of communist society (which is often called socialism) the “bourgeois right” is not completely suppressed, but only partially, only insofar as the economic transformation already achieved is concerned, that is to say, only as far as the means of production are concerned. The “bourgeois right” recognizes the private property of individuals over the means of production. Socialism turns them into common property. In this sense -and only in this sense- the “bourgeois right” disappears. However, this right persists in another aspect, it persists as a regulator of the distribution of products and the distribution of labour among the members of society. “He who does not work, does not eat”: this socialist principle is already a reality; “to an equal amount of work, an equal amount of products”: this socialist principle is also already a reality. However, this is not yet communism, nor does it yet abolish the “bourgeois right”, which gives an equal amount of products to men who are not equal and for an unequal (in fact unequal) amount of work. This is a “defect”, says Marx, but an inevitable defect in the first phase of communism, for, without falling into utopia, it cannot be thought that, by overthrowing capitalism, men will learn to work immediately for society without being subject to any rule of law ; moreover, the abolition of capitalism does not suddenly set the economic premises for this change either. Other norms, outside those of “bourgeois law”, do not exist. And so there still remains the need for the state, which, by ensuring common ownership of the means of production, will ensure equality of labour and equality in the distribution of products. The state is extinguished as long as there are no longer any capitalists, no longer any classes, and therefore no class can be suppressed. But the state has not yet been completely extinguished, because the protection of the “bourgeois right”, which sanctions de facto inequality, still exists. The economic basis for the complete extinction of the state is that high development of communism in which the contrast between intellectual and manual labour will disappear, thus disappearing one of the most important sources of modern social inequality, a source of inequality that cannot be suppressed in any way, suddenly, by the mere passage of the means of production to social property, by the mere expropriation of the capitalists.
(Lenin. “The State and the Revolution”. Chapter Four, page 55. http://archivo.juventudes.org/textos/Vladimir%20Ilich%20Lenin/El%20Estado%20y%20la%20Revolucion%20UJCE.pdf )
In other words, the state would become extinct when classes are no longer in session. Correct, this is what Marx and Engels maintain. But… “not at all” (curious (i)logic). Extinction would be partial, and total extinction would occur in higher communism. Incorrect interpretation of Lenin. We find nothing of the sort in Marx and Engels, who make it clear that socialism already presupposes the absence of the law of value, of exploited and exploiting classes and classes in general. There is no longer a division of labour between manual and intellectual labour, and Engels clearly tells Dühring that the one in which there are masons and architects is a caricature of socialism:
“In socialism, which will emancipate human labour from its position as a commodity, the discovery that labour is worthless is of great importance. With this discovery, all attempts … to regulate the future distribution of the means necessary for life in the form of wages are collapsing. And from it also comes the conviction that distribution, since it is regulated by pure economic considerations, is regulated by the interests of production, and this is determined by a mode of distribution, which enables all members of society to develop and use their abilities in all possible directions. It is true, that for the way of thinking of the educated classes from which Mr. Dühring comes, it must seem monstrous that in the future there will no longer be masons or architects, since the man who during half a day of instruction as an architect will also have to carry materials for a period . . It is a very particular form of socialism that perpetuates the existence of masons.
(Engels F. “Anti-Dühring”)
There is only one association of free and equal producers, and there are no longer any capitalist relations. The state therefore no longer exists, and it has been extinguished in the period of transition to socialism, as Engels explains: society progressively assumes the functions that the state used to exercise, and there is no longer any need for a special body to hold society together by the force of law and the law of force, also tending to overcome it. The parasitic aspect of the state and its bureaucracy is systematically denounced by genuine Marxism, for which
“It is the state that is held together by civil life”.
(Marx, K. and Engels, F. “The Holy Family”, Werke, t. II, p. 127)
Let us read more genuine communist theory:
“As soon as, in the course of time, class differences have disappeared and all production is centred in the hands of society, the state will lose all political character”.
(Marx, K. and Engels, F. “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, 1848)
Lenin, in his text of struggle against the supporters of “Kommunist”, repeats his interpretation:
“…As the highest stage of communism arrives, the socialists demand the most rigorous control by society and by the state over the measure of work and the measure of consumption…”.
(“About “Left-wing” infantilism and the petty-bourgeois spirit”. https://www.marxists.org/espanol/lenin/obras/1918/mayo/05.htm )
Countercurrent. Proletarian revolutionary process, transition period, communism. Its economy and society. Communist councils, internationalist communist left, councilism, Bolshevism. One hundred years after the Revolution in Russia in 1917 . Chapter 3) Lenin. A limited restoration of Marxism accompanied by harmful objectively bourgeois positions and practices. 3.1/ Errors and inadequacies of substance on the state and socialism. Pages 443 to 448.
a) Anton Pannekoek, “The Workers’ Councils”
It brings many insightful developments on new socialist forms and relations:
“The great task of the workers consists in the organisation of the production on a new basis. It has to start with the organisation within the factory. Capitalism also had a carefully planned factory organisation; but the principles of the new organisation are totally different. The technical basis is the same in both cases; it is the discipline of work imposed by the regular running of the machines. But the social basis, the mutual relations between men, are the exact opposite of what they were. The cooperation of colleagues on an equal level replaces the command of the bosses and the obedience of the followers. The sense of duty, the devotion to community, the praise or reproach of comrades according to effort and achievement, take the place of fear of hunger and the perpetual risk of losing one’s job as an incentive. Instead of being passive tools and victims of capital, the workers are transformed into confident owners and organisers of production, exalted by the proud feeling of actively cooperating for the emergence of a new humanity”… “The dominant body in this factory organisation is the whole body of the workers who collaborate in it. They meet to discuss the issues and in those the workers who collaborate in it. They meet to discuss the issues and at these meetings they make their decisions. All those involved in the work then participate in regulating the common tasks. All this is self-evident and normal, and the method seems to be identical to that followed when under capitalism groups or unions of workers had to decide by vote on common issues. But there are essential differences. In the unions there was virtually a division of tasks between officials and members; officials prepared and devised proposals and members voted. With tired bodies and exhausted minds, workers had to leave the conception of ideas to others; they only partly or seemingly managed their own affairs. However, in the common management of the workshops, the workers had to do everything themselves, the conception, the ideation and also the decision. Devotion and emulation not only play their part in the work task of each individual, but are even more essential in the common task of regulating the whole. Firstly, because this is the most important common cause, which they cannot leave to others. Secondly, because it deals with the mutual relationships that are established in their own work, a subject in which everyone is interested and has competence, and which therefore requires profound considerations on their part and a thorough discussion to clarify it. Thus, it is not only the physical effort, but even more the mental effort that each one brings in by participating in the general regulation, that constitutes the object of competence and appreciation. Furthermore, the discussion must assume a different character from that in societies and trade unions under capitalism, where there are always differences of personal interest. In the latter case, everyone is concerned, in their deepest awareness, with their own safeguarding, and discussions have to adjust and smooth out these differences in common action. In the new labour community, by contrast, all interests are essentially the same and all thoughts are directed to the common purpose of effective cooperative organisation.
In large factories and plants workers are too numerous to gather in a single assembly, and their simultaneous attendance would not allow for real and comprehensive discussion. In this case decisions can only be made in two steps, through the combined action of assemblies of the different sections of the plant, and assemblies of central committees of delegates. The functions and practice of these committees cannot be established exactly in advance; they are entirely new and constitute an essential part of the new economic structure. When faced with practical needs, workers will develop the practical structure. However, some of their character can be derived, broadly speaking, from comparing them with the bodies and organizations we know.
In the old capitalist world, central committees of delegates are a well-known institution. We have them in parliaments, in all kinds of political bodies, and on the boards of companies and trade unions. They are invested with authority over their constituents, or even govern them as their own. With such characteristics, they are in agreement with a social system in which there is a working mass of people exploited and commanded by a ruling minority. Now, without However, the task is to build a form of organisation for a body of free producers who collaborate with each other and really and mentally control their common productive action, regulating it as equals according to their own will; in a word, a totally different social system. In the old world, too, we have trade union councils that manage the day-to-day affairs after the members, meeting at long intervals, have set the general policy. These councils have the task of dealing with day-to-day trifles, not with vital issues. Now, however, they are the basis and essence of life itself, of productive work, which they occupy and have continuously occupied the minds of all as one of the highest goals of their thoughts”… “The organisation of a factory is the conscious ordering and linking of all the separate procedures to form a whole. All these interconnections of mutually adapted operations can be represented in a well-ordered scheme, a mental picture of the actual process. Such a picture was present in the first planning and in subsequent improvements and extensions; it must also be present in the minds of all the workers working together and they must be thoroughly familiar with what constitutes a matter of common concern. Just as a map or a graph fixes or shows in a clear and intelligible picture all the connections that exist in a complicated whole, so too the state of the whole enterprise at any given time, in all its developments, must be made visible by appropriate representations. In numerical form this is done by means of accounting entries. The accounting records everything that happens in the production process: what raw materials enter the factory, what machines are purchased, what products yield, how much work is applied to the products, how many hours each worker works, what product results. Accounting follows and describes the flow of materials through the production process. It enables the results to be continuously compared, in comprehensive reports, with the previous estimates made during planning. In this way, factory production is transformed into a mentally controlled process.
The capitalist management of enterprises also knows the mental control of production. Here, too, the procedures are represented by calculations and accounting procedures. But there is this fundamental difference: capitalist calculation is entirely adapted to the point of view of profit production. It handles prices and costs as fundamental data; labour and wages are only factors in the calculation of the resulting profit in the annual balance sheet. In the new system of production, on the other hand, working hours constitute the fundamental data, whether they are still expressed, at the beginning, in monetary units, or in their true form. In capitalist production, calculation and accounting is a secret of the management, of the office. It does not interest the workers; they are the objects of exploitation, they are only factors in the calculation of cost and product, accessories that are added to the machines. In production under common ownership, accounting is a public affair; it is exposed to everyone’s view. The workers always have a full picture of the course the whole process is taking. Only in this way are they in a position to discuss various issues in the sectional meetings and in the factory committees, and to decide on what to do. In addition, the numerical results are made visible by means of tables, statistics, graphs and charts that display the situation before your eyes. This information is not limited to factory staff; it is a public issue, open to all outsiders. Each factory is only one member in the social production, and also the connection of its actions with the outside work is expressed in the accounting. Thus, detailed knowledge of the production being processed in each company is a matter of common knowledge for all producers”.
(“The workers’ councils”. First part. Chapter one: the task. The organization of the factories)
… “Social production is not divided into a number of separate enterprises, each of which constitutes the restricted life task of one person or group; instead it forms an interlinked whole, an object of care for all workers, occupying their minds as a common task of all workers. General regulation is not an ancillary issue left to a small group of specialists; it is the main issue, requiring the attention of all as a whole. There is no separation between politics and economics as the daily activities of a body of specialists and the bulk of producers. For the single community of producers, politics and economics have been merged into the unit of general regulation and practical productive work. Its unitary character is the essential object for all” ( Id, Ch 7)
… “The main problem, which forms the basis of all the rest, is production itself. Its organization has two aspects: the establishment of general rules and standards, and the practical work itself. General rules and standards must be established for mutual relations at work, for rights and obligations. Under capitalism, the norm is the order of the owner, the director. Under state capitalism it consists of the most powerful order of the leader, of the central government. But in the new society all producers will be free and equal. In the economic field of labour the same change will occur as in previous centuries in the political field, with the rise of the middle class. When the government of the citizens came to take the place of the absolute monarch, this could not mean that the arbitrary will of the latter was replaced by the arbitrary will of all. It meant that henceforth laws established by the common will would regulate public rights and duties. Thus now, in the domain of labour, the order of the owner will give way to the rules set in common, to regulate the social rights and duties in production and consumption. Formulating them will be the first task of the workers’ councils. This is not a difficult task or a question of deep study or serious disagreement. These rules will immediately arise in the consciousness of each worker as the natural basis of the new society: the duty of each to take part in production according to his or her strength and capacity, the right of each to enjoy his or her proper share of the collective product.
How will the amounts of work invested and the amounts of product to which each is entitled be measured? In a society where goods are produced directly for consumption there is no market for them; and no value is automatically established as an expression of the work contained in them, from the processes of buying and selling. In this case, the work invested must be expressed in a direct way through the number of hours. The administration keeps a book (record) of the hours of work included in each piece or quantity of units of the product, as well as the hours invested by each of the workers. The averages for all workers in a factory, and finally for all factories in the same category, attenuate personal differences and make personal results comparable.
In the first period of transition, when many devastations have to be repaired, the first problem is to build the production apparatus and keep people alive. It is quite possible that the habit imposed by war and famine, of distributing indispensable foodstuffs without distinction, will simply continue unchanged. It is very likely that in times of reconstruction, when forces must be used to the full, when in addition the new moral principles of common labour are only gradually being formed, the right to consumption will be equated with the output of labour. The old popular saying, that he who does not work should not eat, expresses an instinctive feeling of justice. In this precept is found not only the recognition that labour is the basis of all human life, but also the proclamation that capitalist exploitation and the appropriation of the fruits of others’ labour through the property titles of an idle class are over.
This does not mean, of course, that the total product is distributed among the producers according to the time each one spends. Or, expressed in another way, that each worker receives, in the form of a product, exactly the amount of hours invested in the work. A considerable amount of work must be devoted to common ownership, to the improvement and expansion of the productive apparatus. Under capitalism part of the surplus value served this purpose; capitalism had to use part of its profit, accumulated in the form of new capital, to innovate, expand and modernize its technical equipment, driven in its case by the need not to be outdone by its competitors. Thus, progress in technology occurred in forms of exploitation. In the new form of production, this progress is in the common interest of the workers. It is in their immediate interest to be kept alive, but building the foundations of future production is the most glorious part of their task. They will have to establish what part of the total work will be spent on making better machines and more efficient tools, on research and experimentation, on making work easier and improving production.
Furthermore, part of the total time and work of society must be spent on non-productive but necessary activities, in general administration, in education, in medical services. Children and the elderly will receive their share of the product without the corresponding contributions. People who are unable to work must be supported; and especially In the early days there will be a lot of human waste left over from the former capitalist world. The rule will probably prevail that productive labour is the task of the younger part of adults; or, in other words, it is the task of all during the period of life when both the tendency to vigorous activity and the capacity for it are at their highest. Through the rapid growth of labour productivity this part, i.e. the time needed to produce all the goods required for subsistence, will continually decrease, and an increasing part of life will be available for other purposes and activities.
The basis of the social organization of production is careful management, in the form of statistics and accounting. Statistics on the consumption of all the different goods, statistics on the capacity of industrial plants, machines, soil, mines, means of transport, statistics on the population and resources of cities, districts and countries, together form the basis of the whole economic process in well-ordered rows of numerical data. Under capitalism the statistics of economic processes were already known; but they were imperfect because of the independence and narrow vision of private traders, and found only limited application. In the new society they will constitute the starting point in the organization of production; to produce the right amount of goods, it is necessary to know the amount used or desired. At the same time, statistics as a compressed result of the numerical recording of the production process, the overall summary of the accounts, expresses the course of development.
The general accounts, which include and encompass the administrations of the various enterprises, combine them in a representation of the economic process of society. At different levels it records the entire process of material transformation, following it from raw materials at their origin, through all factories, from all hands, to ready-to-eat goods. By bringing together the results of companies of a certain type that cooperate with each other, bringing them together as a whole, it compares their efficiency, averages the working hours required and focuses attention on the paths to progress. Once the organisation of production has been carried out, administration is the comparatively simple task of a network of offices interconnected by computers. Each enterprise, each linked group of enterprises, each branch of production, each municipality or district has its office for production and consumption, responsible for administration, for collecting, processing and discussing the figures and then putting them into perspective so that it is easy to cover the whole. Their combined work makes the material basis of life a process dominated by the mind. As a clear and intelligible numerical image, the process of production is exposed to the view of all. Through this system humanity can contemplate and control its own life. What the workers and their councils devise and plan in organised cooperation is shown, in its character and result, in the figures of the accounts. Only if they are kept continually in the eyes of the individual worker will the management of social production by the producers become possible.
This organisation of economic life is totally different from the forms of organisation developed under capitalism; it is more perfect and simpler. The complications and difficulties of capitalist organisation, for which the very celebrated contribution of the genius of great traders was necessary, always concerned their mutual struggle, with the arts and tricks of capitalist warfare, aimed at subduing or annihilating the competitors. All that will have disappeared. The frank purpose, which is to provide for the vital needs of humanity, will make the whole structure open and direct. The administration of large quantities is not fundamentally more difficult or complicated than that of small quantities; only a couple of figures need to be added to the previous numbers. The rich and multiform diversity of need and desire which in small groups of people is hardly less than in large masses, when it becomes massive, can be more easily and more completely provided for. The conditions will be totally different when the workers are the masters of their work and as free producers organise production. Administration through accounting and computing will be a special task for certain people, just as forging steel or baking bread will be a special task for others, all equally useful and necessary. The workers in the computer offices will not be servants or masters. They will not be civil servants in the service of workers’ councils, who have to obey their orders, but groups of workers, who like other groups collectively regulate their own work, dispose of their implements, fulfil their obligations as all groups do, in continuous linkage with the needs of the whole. They are the experts who have to provide the basic data for the discussions and decisions in the workers’ assemblies and councils. They have to collect the data, present it in an easily intelligible form of tables, graphs or charts, so that each worker at all times has a clear picture of the state of affairs. Their knowledge is not a private property that gives them power; they are not a body with exclusive administrative knowledge that can therefore exercise decisive influence. The product of their work, the capacity for numerical perception required for the progress of the task, is available to all. This general knowledge is the basis for all discussions and decisions of the workers and their boards, through which the organization of work is achieved. (id, chap. 4 )
b) Council communism
Councilism as a particular ism presupposes an evolution in some aspects of council communism, opening up to libertarian postulates. We analysed this in the book on “The Weak Revolution. Germany-Russia 1917-23”:
“Following Panekoek, in 1920 he made a criticism of the GIC, at the same time as he considered Russia to be:
“The example of a state in which the working population is the dominant one, where they have abolished capitalism and are committed to the construction of communism”.
The ICG, which declares itself to be internationalist, however criticizes the Bolshevik economy as inadequate and aberrant for internationalist Marxism. In its “Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution”, it asserts
“Neither the absence of world revolution nor the maladjustment of individual smallholdings to state management can be held responsible for the failure of (the Russian Revolution)…” in the economic field.
(“Grondbeginselen der communistische productie en distributie”, 1935; reprint “De Vlam”, Spartacusbond Editions, Amsterdam, 1970, p. 10)
In other words, if the Bolsheviks and the Soviets had employed a proper approach to workers’ administration with control of production and distribution on the basis of socially necessary working time… socialism could have developed in Russia, in national isolation… This is alien to the thesis of Marx and Engels that socialism must appear when power is in the hands of the proletariat internationally and a period of transition, of struggle, of proletarian dictatorship develops in order to eradicate and overcome capitalist relations of property, production and distribution.
Cajo Brendel states in “Anton Pannekoek, a redefinition of Marxism”:
“Capitalism as an economic-political system cannot be overcome if the private capitalists are removed from the midst but the state is kept as the leader of production; wage labour and the production of surplus value, i.e. the dependence and exploitation of the working class, remain. Socialism means the self-management of the workers in the factories (not to be confused with the ‘self-management’ of Yugoslavia, of course)”.
The first part is correct and in accordance with the revolutionary practice, but the second part is not so for Marxism. Self-management in the factories does not have to engender communism, which requires the unification, coordination and centralisation of the class at the level of its existence not merely labour, but social and political, and therefore on a world scale. And in this process, the levels of autonomy that are harmoniously inserted and strengthen general centralisation, and those that are not, must be questioned, confronted and overcome, but not with autonomy of some parties with respect to others, but through unified action based on clear common criteria and objectives, and a sufficient level of self-empowerment of the parties if they are integrated in this direction and cover the particularities that specifically affect each fragment from this. The Self-management was understood by anarchism as the full autonomy of each working class or popular commune, who were supposed to be endowed with a sense of harmony and fair federalism that would solve any problem without the intervention of regulatory centres or directors, without a state or non-direct and non-libertarian bodies. In capitalist conditions, and when one is in a hypothetical transition to socialism, this necessarily engenders and fosters inequalities, competition and inequalities, as Marx critically expressed in evaluating the Bakuninist theses.
Engels in “On Authority” (1873) stated:
“It is therefore absurd to speak of the principle of authority as an absolutely bad principle and of the principle of autonomy as an absolutely good principle. Authority and autonomy are relative things, whose spheres would be seen in the different phases of social development. If the autonomists would limit themselves to saying that the social organisation of the future will restrict authority to the strict limit in which the conditions of production make it inevitable, we could understand each other; but, far from this, they remain blind to all the facts that make the thing necessary and they attack the word with fury.
The autonomist reaction to Bolshevik stateist centralism, in the service of the development of capital, was biased and limited, unilateral and imprecise, constituting a characteristic of some tendencies of councilism and other ultra-left ideological systems. For that reason there are evident influences and they have taken elements from anarchism and revolutionary socialism, not necessarily compatible in all cases and moments with historical communist materialism, nor suitable for resolving with radicalism and lucidity the deep problems that were presented at each moment. This question was better understood and raised by the Italian Communist Left and its allies internationally. And it should be noted that Lenin and the Bolshevik sectors in their best moments were quite clear about this, although they were not always the sectors of the left… as in the case of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk and the question of the “revolutionary war”.
Aníbal-Materia, October, 2020