Nothing we write should take away from the historical achievements of
the USSR under Stalin's leadership whatever differences we may have on his
interpretation of Marxist and socialist principles, policies and structure.
He succeeded in mobilizing the Russian people in defense of a worldwide
capitalist support for fascism and the German incursion on the Soviet Union.
Single-handedly the German armies were in defeat before the Western powers
opened an active Second Front in Western Europe opening an era of the
United Nations (though, at the same time, Churchill and the American Right
initiated the Cold War in 1947 ). Nor can anyone deny the exemplary success in education, cultural development and the most rapid continuous rate of development that the word had ever seen, matching technical development in space, nuclear power, aircraft and military material and equipment and state ownership and the collectivization of agriculture. All this in the name of socialism and Russian nationalism -- for the Motherland.
Did Stalin apply the basic precepts for building socialism as envisioned? This writer contends that he did not. Hence, they did not create "the socialist man" as contended in the late Brezhnev period.
In domestic economic policy, Stalin ruled out the Law of Value  as applicable to a
socialist system. Hence, planning was based on quantification of particular
products, raw, intermediary and ready for use. It was planning based on use values,
hampering true accounting of social values and losing sight of products circulated
and surplused as well as no provision for repair services and parts replacements,
since residue of any particular project was dropped out of any value system and unrepaired agricultural equipment stood ghost-like on the horizon. In fact, the war production manager, Voznezensky, wrote in 1946 that he applied the law of value in commodity production in planning wartime supplies of material and equipment as the real basis of their success. Stalin disagreed and insisted on nonpublication of the report released in 1947 followed by the execution of Voznezensky, my first inkling of systemic economic distortion in the "planned economy of the USSR." The Ruble was not based on any value system. International trade was based on international pricing systems; usually for raw products there was little other trade. Aside from rejection by the capitalist world, the USSR in its own structure was deficient in mechanisms for joining world economic integration.
Private property was never legitimized; personal possessions are quite different since they do not enter the sphere of production. Variations in personal income were outside the official system; hence, initiatives of individuals remained unharnessed, guided and controlled by the planned economy. It was inevitable that contradictory economic activity based upon individual capabilities would emerge and become endemic, a condition which Keeran, in his book on the subject, calls "the secondary economy." This does not reflect the image posited by Marx since psychologically these individuals were not developing in a socialist mentality.
The formation of independent corrupt Mafioso with ministerial collaboration would become a part of the system. While private property would be tolerable in the early stages of building socialism, the failure to incorporate it officially with controls and limitations left the door open to its own contrary development.
As for participatory democracy, very few new forms were developed except in the area of the collective farms. Very little within the communist party itself. Socio-political controls were basically by command.
Relations with Eastern European socialist countries reflected the command attitude of
the USSR. The Soviet model was pressed on the national developments of Bulgaria,
Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Yugoslavia in the relative order in which
they objected and deviated, resulting in Soviet interference in Czechoslovakia
and Hungary. This did not improve socialism, though East Germany was moving quietly
in new directions and Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union. The Soviet model
failed to accept the historical materialist concept of development in particularized
social formations, failed to accept pragmatic methodologies needed to ascertain
levels and stages of development in particular countries, each varying in
reflections from their history of feudal structures or the specific contours
of their class structure under capitalist relations, all of which presupposed
populations to historical and cultural reactions, capabilities and possibilities.
In each country, the question of a value system was quite different from the
Soviet Union because they had all emerged from commodity producing and
marketing systems which had validity and required new forms of control and
regulation in the early stages of socialist development with bourgeois rights --
not an un-Marxist concept. In 1973 the writer taught a course at the New School
on "Comparative Socialism" contending that the forms of socialism in each
country would vary as they reflect differences of historic and cultural
backgrounds, but that the socialist goal and forms of individual and
collective relationships would be molded in the direction of socialist image,
you can guess the reactions.
Are there contradictions in socialism? Of course. If we begin with the early stages in which there is mixed property rights, there continues the basis for class differences. If one recognizes that then rules, regulations and controls at progressive stages can be developed and progressively changed as the experience of collective, public and social ownership and control becomes more and more the dominant feature from stage to stage. Barring such an approach, the tendency of contradictory economic activity and group formations become a cancer on socialist development. This is not recognized either by Keeran or Azad, though Azad realizes in today's context that recognition of this problem is necessary without suggesting any solution.
As for planned expansion of production, in the sphere of military, space and other advanced technological areas, the application of new systems took place, however, in the area of socialized production for consumption, the introduction of new technology to improve the individual productivity of the labor force was neglected. Expansion of production was accomplished arithmetically instead of geometrically with the addition of X number of similar production equipment to create the same X number of addition commodities, just build another plant or ten with the same equipment. Ultimately, even the workers worked by rote with truncated productivity with everybody being paid equally. There was a saying, "I work like I get paid," since their wages in Rubles did not reflect the true value of their labor power and its utilization.
It is true that the Soviet Union was prevented from doing what the Chinese have been able to do, integrating into the world economy. However, where the Chinese had a window open in a new era as the USA sought to compromise and use China against the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union was not given the same opportunity. (In another context, a discussion of China's interpretation of basic Marxist visions of socialism is subject for another paper.)
The question of models of socialism is not academic. As Marx said, the workers in each nations "will settle their own scores with their own bourgeoisie," though at another place in the Manifesto "the working class has no nation," is slightly contradictory and could lead to some misunderstanding on the national character of revolution and open the door for a Stalinist concept of getting directly involved with the working class political forces around the world.
Note 3: The Cold War (often dated 1947íV1991) was a sustained state of political and
military tension between the powers of the Western world, led by the United States
and its NATO allies, and the communist world, led by the Soviet Union, its satellite
states and allies.
Note 4: The Law of Value is a central concept in Karl Marx's critique of political economy,
first expounded in The Poverty of Philosophy (1847). Generally speaking, it refers to
a regulative principle of the economic exchange of the products of human work.
Therefore, the varying exchange value of commodities (exchangeable products) is
regulated by their value, where the magnitude of their value is determined by the
average quantity of human labour which is currently socially necessary to produce them.
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For those you who don't have time
to read all our news excerpts about the Asian island
disputes (links above), you may find the following video,
"The economic impact of a war between Japan and China",
"This trial is another example of the Kremlin's attempts to discourage and delegitimize dissent. It is likely to backfire."
John Dalhuisen, Director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Programme
I am proud to announce that
the Commentary.com website is now carrying the technology updates
from Usman Khurshid's Technize.net.
Usman is a network consultant and works in a mixed environment
of Windows and Linux platforms.
He likes to study about the
latest advancements in computer technology and shares his views on his blog.
Oh, please do not get me wrong.
This new section is not about computers, electronics or
any engineering stuff, but rather I am currently constructing
a new corpus based on Spectrum, the monthly publication
from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers USA,
from July 2007 to date. Having been a member for
over 20 years since 1992, I am always fascinated by
some of the terms scientists use when they talk about or
envision their new inventions or methodologies. How many of
them eventually come into practice? Could there be
some insights we could possibly derive, from
the linguistics perspective?
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