The Degeneration of the USSR: Part II*warning* Very long topic!
Welcome back comrades, I hope you enjoyed last night's part one of The Degeneration of the USSR. Last night's class laid out some basic fundamentals that need to be understood before reading this part so I highly suggest taking the time to go back and read it before we proceed.
Here are some responses and clarifications about some sections readers had questions about.
Q:“what defines the petty bourgeoisie? or is it just where everyone not distinctly in the proletariat or the bourgeois classes? does trotskyism take note of the lumpenproletariat?”
A:The petty bourgeoisie can be effectively defined as all without a distinct role in the means of production. This can be anyone ranging from students to shop owners. (shop owners distribute, not produce)to quote from last night; “This class is heterogeneous, meaning that it does not have one motive. The petty bourgeoisie can be described as anyone without a major influence on the means of production. This would be youth ,students, managers, peasants, and small shop owners, etc. It isn't a bad thing necessarily to be part of the petty bourgeoisie as you can see. Part of this class sympathizes and fights with the proletariat and part aspires to become the bourgeoisie, i.e. the ruling class.” Also, I did not include the lumpenproletariat in the class because it is not important in terms of the USSR's degeneration although it is recognized by trotskysists.
which brings us to the next question
Q: “Now, how would a proletarian that aspires to become like the Bourgeoise qualify? Let's work with an example, a mason (here in Mexico they're paid 2-3 dollars an hour) that lives in a communal house in the city away from his family (they're usually from small villages in mountains, jungle, valleys or forests) and just goes from that house where he lives with other workers to the construction where he works and back to that house (denoting he's in practice just a worker and not a petty burgeoise) but that aspires to become a rich man with a succesful business?”
A: “Now this returns us to the materialist understanding of reality. ESPECIALLY when discussing classes. It when I described part of the petty bourgeoisie as a section that “aspires to become the bourgeoisie, i.e. the ruling class” I meant fundamentally, not ideologically. This being that this part would be shop owners and wealthy peasants. As I stated in the class, their fundamental function is to increase the gap between the cost of labor and the price of commodities. I.e. to make a profit. As this shop owner or wealthy peasant accumulates capital, this capital is usually invested in more shops or farm land, more workers to hire, a general expansion as a business. These people are already launched into an economic process that binds them economically to the bourgeoisie. This is opposed to the proletariat that merely fights for a more of the surplus value appropriated by the ruling class. It is not merely a dream, it is a material fact that separates them. The the proletariat is already engaged in class struggle with the ruling class. As class antagonisms become more and more acute(sharp and distinct) the proletariat gains consciousness of his ability to carry out the revolutionary tasks of its class instead of dreaming of getting enough of that surplus back to invest in his own business (which is a very elusive dream). As the class line becomes visible, a split will be observed in the petty bourgeoisie between the side that has closes roots with the proletariat and sympathizes with it, vs. the side that sympathizes with the bourgeoisie and is already on the path to becoming the bourgeoisie. The general trend of the petty bourgeoisie is the gravitation towards the bourgeoisie.NOW onto part two
As I stated before, the major part of being a trotskyist is our materialist analysis of the USSR's degeneration of the soviet union and our DEFENSE of the USSR. In explaining this I hope to shatter any illusions about why the USSR fell or degeneration so here we go.
SORRY STALINISTS AND REACTIONARIES! Lenin did NOT pave the way for Stalin's rule. The only help he gave to Stalin was his death. The October Revolution of 1917, that created the first workers' state, was the first and only successful proletarian lead socialist revolution. Unfortunately, a civil war of all opposed to socialist revolution(including the aid of 14 imperialist nations) followed. Many like to claim that the Bolsheviks prior to Stalin's purges were a manipulative party that hoodwinked the proletariat, seized power and became bureaucratically corrupt. This is a foul slander. Prior to the revolution, the Bolsheviks slowly but surely, DEMOCRATICALLY won over the majority of soviets away from the Mensheviks and social democrats that were opposed to the seizure of state power. You can look up the historical record of the development of the Bolshevik majority of the soviets in Russia. In time, even Menshevik attempts at proletarian demonstrations resulted in thousands of workers carrying Bolshevik slogans. During the civil war, the most experienced and politically advanced party members died on the front lines of the battles that made the civil war. They were not bodies above the workers, they were organs of the proletariat that died to protect the workers' state. The Proletariat itself was almost driven to extinction in that war and the means of production were almost entirely destroyed. The civil war was a devastation of the proletariat and gave rise to a peasant based bureaucracy.
Before we proceed, I'm going to take a moment out to explain the class nature of the USSR. Prior to the October Revolution, Russia was the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie. This means, just like any capitalist nation, the state(specialized forces of armed men and the institutions of their organization) defends the property forms of the bourgeoisie, privately owned means of production. The state exists for the repression of the working class so that the bourgeoisie can exploit them. In fact, the state proves that the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat have irreconcilable interests. Other wise there would be no need for the state to defend the interest of one class against working class movements and class struggle battles against the ruling class. Anyways, the October Revolution smashed the dictatorship and created the dictatorship of the Proletariat. Property and Economy was collectivized and the workers defend these forms of property. Workers organized in a soviet style-that is the workers of the various means of production organize and democratically choose a worker to represent their interests and make sure the means of production are run accordingly. These soviets are not paid more than the workers, they have no state for the repression of the workers, and they can be immediately recalled. The soviets of a certain region elects more soviets among them to see to it that the interests of that region are being run in the interests of that region along the same rules. Then the Soviets of those regions elect soviets among them etc. Together they plan the economy, carry out the internationalist tasks of the world proletariat, and advance towards socialism. Such are the characteristics of a healthy Workers' State.
The USSR degenerated for a number of reasons. The industrial means of production were severely damaged, thus hindering the nations ability to produce for everyone. The proletariat was almost wiped out completely, which allows the petty bourgeoisie, specifically the rich peasants (kulaks) to rise. The German revolution did not occur, which also severely hinders the USSR's ability to produce for the population and exchange manufactured goods for agricultural goods with the peasantry. These conditions gave rise to the Soviet Thermidor (Stalinist bureaucracy). Because the USSR was in a weakened state, Stalin used his dogma of socialism in one country to justify hes departure from the internationalism inherent in Marxism. In accordance, the Bureaucracy purged the soviets of any kind of left opposition to the bureaucratic rule and pulled back many basic gains of the revolution. Schools were no longer a place for youth to discuss politics, but a place of conformity and worship of the infallible Stalin. Stalin pulled back women's gains and began to reinforce the housewife role for women. The Bureaucracy lead a POLITICAL REVOLUTION-that is the change of the political government style NOT the social nature of the workers state-thus making it a Bureaucratically Deformed Workers' State. NOT “state capitalist” or the other various “third camp” explanations of the USSR.
Why isn't it state capitalist? The notion of state capitalism is that the bureaucracy becomes the ruling class and exploits the workers using an extremely oppressive state for it's own gain, becoming a form of capitalism, I.e. the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie. This is an idealist depart from Marx' basic explanation of class and capitalism. So we are to assume that the Soviet Thermidor has created it's own property forms that benefit it as a class, that they appropriate the surplus value of the proletariat's labor, increases the gap between the cost of labor (that the bureaucracy must pay for) and the price of commodities for it's own accumulation of capital, Openly trades with other nations for it's own purpose, and becomes a fabulously wealthy minority. Not the case at all. In chapter 9 section 1 of The Revolution Betrayed by Leon Trotsky, he gives his understanding of State Capitalism. He comes to the conclusion that State Capitalism actually describes that of a fascist Bonaparte Regime thus proving it to be a totally inaccurate and idealist description of the Bureaucracy of the USSR. It is important to note that even fascist nations are capitalist nations and still defend the bourgeoisie, thus still carrying out the dictatorship of the proletariat, albeit not the preferred type of state of the bourgeoisie for exploitation.
The Soviet Thermidor has many traits that prove that it does not end the dictatorship of the proletariat. The difference between a capitalist and a Soviet Bureaucrat is that the capitalist runs the PRIVATELY OWNED means of production for his own interest , increasing the rate of PROFIT and producing according to the market, a bureaucrat still strives to meet quotas and increase the rate of PRODUCTION for the proletariat, within the still COLLECTIVIZED means of production to maintain his bureaucratic position. The Soviet Thermidor continued to defend the property forms of the Proletariat while still appeasing the world bourgeoisie by containing it's “socialism in one country” rather than carrying out the task of world proletarian revolution.
An accurate illustration of this concept would be Union Bureaucrats in a capitalist nation. Their job being to have the appearance of represent the interests of unions while they appease the capitalists by steering them away from class struggle and into the democratic party instead. The bureaucrats sit on the working class an hinders their ability to engage in class struggle, while still protecting their existence as a weapon made of the proletariat. They are not an exploiter of labor but they do damage the working class' ability to bring capitalists to their knees. The Soviet Thermidor continued to defend the collectivized property and economy which are absolutely essential for developing socialism, while still hindering the working class' ability to steer the degenerated workers' state in the correct direction.
Stalin did horrible treacherous things no doubt, but he still defended the USSR against capitalist restoration. Proof of this would be the New Economic Plan (NEP) which allowed for sections of production to produce on restricted terms in their own interest which was temporarily initiated by Lenin to stimulate the economy during the USSR's massive devastation in production. Lenin admitted it was a temporary defeat of the Civil war. Stalin exacerbated the NEP which also strengthened the Kulaks (wealthy peasants) The Kulaks gained an enormous amount of control on the USSR and were driving it towards counter revolution I.e. capitalist restoration in the 40s, not the 90s. Stalin recognized this and greatly restricted the Kulaks to prevent capitalist restoration thus defending the workers' state. While it was done to protect his position of social parasitism and privilege, he protected the gains of the proletariat against the aspiring bourgeoisie. Why would capitalists walk away from the chance to exploit labor? To ask the question is to answer it. The USSR is NOT STATE CAPITALIST.
Why defend the USSR? Because the October Revolution brought about the basic tools for building socialism that are far more advanced than Capitalism's anarchy of the market. It brought about collectivized property and a collectivized economy that can be run in the interest of the world proletariat IF the proletariat leads a POLITICAL revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies of all deformed workers' states.END CLASS
Hope you enjoyed! Excuse grammar mistakes.
Next class will probably be on the Kronstadt Rebellion to be released next week.
fan of the class?
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