This text merits a number of considerations and substantive criticism.
1) The bureaucracy in the USSR did not constitute a class, but was part of the dominant, capitalist class.
The bureaucracy, understood as a group of state officials, included that of the Bolshevik party and other elements, to a large extent from tsarism and the bourgeois period from February 1917 to October of that same year. But the capitalist class, the general network of capitalist interests, went beyond the bureaucracy quantitatively and qualitatively, insofar as in addition to state capitalism there was private and cooperative(?) capitalism, something which was very noticeable above all in the agrarian milieu.
Even at the time when state capitalism had enormous weight in the USSR, it always shared bourgeois-type links with these other two expressions of capitalist property. Numerous cooperatives and private capitalists existed, in contradictory but real links with state capitalism. Their members were mostly not state bureaucrats, and within the state bureaucracy there were also differentiated levels
The conception of bureaucracy as a class is limited, one-sided and reductionist. Neither can the system be defined economically as bureaucratic, being capitalist.
2) I won’t go into the various vicissitudes and formalizations of the bureaucracy in the beginning and development of capitalism, but I will note what Engels says about Bonapartism:
“It is becoming more and more clear to me that the bourgeoisie has not the stuff in it to rule directly itself, and that therefore unless there is an oligarchy, as here in England, capable of taking over, for good pay, the management of state and society in the interests of the bourgeoisie, a Bonapartist semi-dictatorship is the normal form. It upholds the big material interests of the bourgeoisie even against the will of the bourgeoisie, but allows the bourgeoisie no share in the government. The dictatorship in its turn is forced against its will to adopt these material interests of the bourgeoisie as its own.” (Friedrich Engels to Karl Marx in Margate, 13 April 1866)
It should be pointed out that in the USSR the system of economic relations came from a czarism that constituted a tributary Asian mode of production, with an incipient capitalist influence, largely from foreign investments and influences. The revolution purged a considerable number of private bourgeois elements and the state bureaucracy, but the proletariat was unable to sustain its own communal, semi-state apparatus in a self-controlled manner. The gap between the limited private bourgeoisie was gradually filled (agreements on legal action by private capitalists and specialists with bourgeois functions) and also that of the state bureaucracy , to which the growing Bolshevik party bureaucracy and many elements without a party, who had recently joined the RCP (b), as well as other political tendencies and the old bureaucracy of tsarism and the demobourgeois transition, were added.
The bureaucracy has played a considerable role in the creation of the bourgeoisie’s replacement and facilitating apparatuses of its social domination and the deployment of capitalist relations, but it has never been alone and has never monopolised exclusively the surplus labour extracted from the working class.
3) In the USSR, the revolutionary process did not come from the state bureaucracy, from the civil service, which before October 17 opposed the revolution of the proletariat.
To say that, to define Bolshevism as an emanation of the bureaucracy, even if it is the “minor” one, is wrong and does not allow to explain in depth and critically what happened.
4) The social democratic milieu had and maintained an abundant civil service, Karl Kautsky argues:
Karl Kautsky says: “We cannot get along without civil servants, both in the party and in the trade unions, and in the state administration. Consequently, our programme does not demand the suppression of state officials, but their eligibility by the people”. (The road to power)
The Bolshevik party, and Lenin in particular, claimed to want to break the bureaucracy and carry out the Programme of the Paris Commune (1871), but neither the general conditions nor its way of functioning and relating to the working class permitted this. As the initiative of the soviets wanes, the Bolshevik party tries to stabilise the situation and gain time in case the revolution develops in Germany and elsewhere, and confronts the white and imperialist counter-revolution by means of a discipline that demands a disciplined and militarised bureaucracy, creating very serious problems in the economic and social life of the so-called “war communism”, from whose failures and contradictions the NEP emerges, with its needs for private capitalism, trade, taxes … and of a Bolshevik party bureaucracy at the head of the growing and enormous state bureaucracy. The soviets are obviously no longer the key to power, although for a time they elect their delegates, usually bureaucrats, as Kautsky said, but these same soviets had elected a Bolshevik majority in the face of mistrust of those they had once trusted, and had also approved the People’s Commissars’ scheme of government and Soviet centralisation. In these conditions, Bolshevism critical of Kautsky ended up carrying out its programme.
Bolshevism does not start as a counter-revolution that gives a coup d’état to stop and eliminate a revolutionary process. Bolshevism became the majority in, the soviets and the revolutionary military committees. The agrarian structure was only in deficit and reduced, compared to the S[ocial]R[evolutionair]-ists.
By clinging to state political power the Bolshevik Party became more bureaucratic, its leaders were great state bureaucrats and the whole process followed and served the capitalist dynamic, the accumulation of capital.
They did not want to go over to the opposition (as demanded by the KAPD, for example) and were mystically enthusiastic about the possible control of state capitalism, which Lenin himself said it was leading them … but from which he still extracted illusions that he conveyed with all kinds of rhetoric mixing the left social democratic type with the Blanquist substitutionist type, arguing that on a national scale socialism could be “built” on the basis of state ownership of the means of production, cooperatives and a cultural revolution that would support intense industrialisation and electrification… What followed is known.
5) On self-management…what does it mean for you?
Bakunin argues that “every individual, every association, every commune, every province, every region, every nation enjoys an absolute right of self-determination, to enter or not to enter into association, to ally with whomever they wish, and to break alliances without regard to supposed historical rights or the convenience of their neighbours”. Quoted in: Marx, Bakunin, and the question of authoritarianism – David Adam
This anarchist position is totally reprehensible, and prevents a general self-administration of the proletarian class, a self-management on the basis of the general interest, which is replaced by a process-model in which the federation can be broken, and each party can do what it wants, self-managing elements that have to be the property and common business of the whole collective. In other words, general property must not consist of a federalist sum of private properties that can do what they want, even if doing so contradicts the rest. It is the ideal of the petty bourgeoisie, and in particular of the craftsmen, in short… and it allows the development of a capitalism where inequalities are deepened.
The proletarian movement needs the centralisation of its forces controlled by the base from which it emanates, and not autonomous from it, as is the case with the typically political organisms of the bourgeois world.
6) The atmosphere created by Bolshevization in the parties of the Third International copied the scheme of the Russian capitalist apparatus: for instance, in his 1924 letter to Togliatti, Tasca, Terracini and others, Antonio Gramsci expressed this anti-Marxist atmosphere camouflaged as ‘restored revolutionary Marxism’, as Leninism:
“The mistake of the party has been to put in the foreground and abstractly the problem of organisation, which has meant not only the creation of an apparatus of orthodox officials for the official conception; but it was and still is believed that the revolution depends only on the existence of such an apparatus, and it is even believed that such existence can determine the revolution (…). Any participation of the masses in the activity and internal life of the party that was not the great occasion and by formal order of the centre has been seen as a danger…”. (Antonio GRAMSCI (1981) Political writings (1917-1933). 21st Century Publishing House. Mexico)
7) For Marx:
“The abolition [Aufhebung] of the bureaucracy can consist only in the universal interest becoming really – and not, as with Hegel, becoming purely in thought, in abstraction – particular interest; and this is possible only through the particular interest really becoming universal.”.
“The bureaucracy has the being of the state, the spiritual being of society, in its possession; it is its private property. The general spirit of the bureaucracy is the secret, the mystery, preserved inwardly by means of the hierarchy and externally as a closed corporation. To make public -the mind and the disposition of the state appears therefore to the bureaucracy as a betrayal of its mystery. Accordingly authority is the principle of its knowledge and being, and the deification of authority is its mentality. But at the very heart of the bureaucracy this spiritualism turns into a crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, of trust in authority, the mechanism of an ossified and formalistic behaviour, of fixed principles, conceptions, and traditions. As far as the individual bureaucrat is concerned, the end of the state becomes his private end: a pursuit of higher posts, the building of a career.”. (Criticism of Hegel’s philosophy of law).
For more information, see:
Aníbal ( foro inter-rev), 10/12/2020