Rules of the road

Kasama

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April 17, 2006

Comments

ShineThePath

Lets first put out that Nicolaus wrote "Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR" in 1975, which is 3 years before Teng Hsiaoping solitfied power within China. Fundamentally, this book by Nicolaus examines two things, The economic liberalization of the Soviet economy (I.E. Capitalist Restoration), while also examining the political line that the USSR had (I.E. Political Character, Class Character).

Raymond Lotta's debate largely reflects this too.. It essentially makes the same arguments that are made by Nicolaus in terms of the economy. In the debate, Lotta largely looks at the economic liberalization that Kosygin began. It also looks into the Soviet Imperialist character, in the Leninist understanding. He rather just does not state in some stupid Trotskyist or Anarchist diatribe that the Soviet state is Imperialist because it has military prescense in the Eastern Bloc, or because Communist parties or just agents of the Soviets. He analyzes the economic character of Soviet Imperialism, and its movement of blocs of capital into the third world with conditions to buy products only from the Soviet Union.

Now if you look at CP (ML), yes it did indeed embrace Hua and Teng; however CP (ML) was short lived and its embrace of thr Chinese Revisionists brought it to its end. It could no longer be hidden, the Chinese State was indeed Revisionist and began its own liberalization of the planned economy. Many of those "Maoists" who joined CP (ML) immediately either denounced the Revisionists and once again joined the revolutionary camp or became Teng Apologists.

On the question of the Soviet Union. Lenin himself admitted to NEP being State-Capitalist policy. This is something to which he freely admitted. The USSR became a Dictatorship of the Proletariat, with a Capitalist economy. No one can deny this, and to actually say this is Socialist, is to actually confuse the matter even further...it leads to the Buhkarinites and Revisionists that we have to oppose. You have to clearly say to the people, This is a Proletarian State; however this is a Capitalist economy. Lenin made no secrets of this fact. The economic revolution, the Socialist Revolution in fact takes place with Stalin, against the Bourgeois lines represented in Trotsky and Buhkarin.

It is even fact, that Mao himself admitted in the early 1950s', that essentially the Chinese economy was Capitalist. It was carrying out Capitalist economic policy under the State. China too was a Proletarian State with a Capitalist economy. This was true until the Great Leap Foward.

Why is it that many Maoists put the date for Restoration in 1956? Why not put the date at 1954, when Khruschov replaces Malenkov as head of state? Khruschov's policies began as far back as this date...so why isn't the date put in the year 1954..can any of you please anwser this? Or why isn't the date put in 1957, when Khruschov purges the Politburo (who in the majority upheld Stalin). Why is the date of Revisionism more closely around the date of the denounciation speech of Khruschov?

Also, why don't you also consider the years after the Great Leap Foward and the days before the height of the Cultural Revolution, when Liu Shaoqi, Teng Hsiaoping, and others like Peng Chen (who controlled all political affairs within the City Party Committees) had control over policy and began implementing their plans for restoration of capitalism. Why isn't this this a date of revisionism? Maoists themselves admit that the majority of the party that had active political power were revisionists, and it is obvious during this time, the anti-Mao line and the Bourgeois line was indeed in command. So why isn't this a date of Revisionism?

The point is, to analyze the situation with Materialism and not Idealism. The Class Struggle does just not change things in one swoop. When the Bolsheviks took power, they did not take a primitive capitalist country into a socialist economy over night..nor did this happen in China. As well, when Khruschov came to power, he did not immediately destroy Socialist society and create Capitalism. It took a class struggle within the Party for a few years to come.

Law of Value, the accumulation of Capital, the Capitalist exchange all are the main components of Capitalism. Private ownership is not essentially the main character of Capitalism. I would think the Revisionists could teach us atleast about that...so Captialist economic restoration in the Soviet Union does not happen in 1990', but shortly after the 1957 Coup...After the 1976 Hua Coup, this shortly happened as well.

Nick says we can't assume that Mao did not feel the USSR was Capitalist until 1963, but maintains we can assume he did feel this way by 1963. This is just absurd...Mao and his group was not critical of Soviet Revisionism until the early 60s', and even then, the CPC did not attack the Soviets as Capitalists. The CPC uses indirect attacks on the Soviet system by attacking the Yugoslavian capitalist system (to which Khruschob was close too and commended). The CPC and Mao did not come out against Khruschov long after the denounciation speech of Stalin, and after the fall of Khruschov, the believed for a short while Socialism had won out!! (Read on "Why Khruschov Fell" which was written during 1964.)

nick

shinethepath: I appreciate that you have dug into these questions, and are struggling to dig through to a way of understanding the process of capitalist restoration.

I read your post closely, and would like to reply to various points.

"Lets first put out that Nicolaus wrote "Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR" in 1975, which is 3 years before Teng Hsiaoping solitfied power within China."

Yes, this is true.

"Fundamentally, this book by Nicolaus examines two things, The economic liberalization of the Soviet economy (I.E. Capitalist Restoration), while also examining the political line that the USSR had (I.E. Political Character, Class Character)."

Perhaps. The question I'm raising is the content of its analysis of that process -- and the difference between Nicolaus' revisionist line and the line of maoism on exactly these matters.

"Raymond Lotta's debate largely reflects this too.. It essentially makes the same arguments that are made by Nicolaus in terms of the economy."

No, it doesn't. The two works represent opposing and distinct lines. Nicolaus (as the RCP said at the time of his book) views the key moment as "the overthrow of the plan by the private economy."

Lotta views the seizure of power (the rise of revisionism to power) as the key moment in the restoration of capitalism.

These are very different views. They become concentrated in the different view of the relative importance of the Kosigin "reforms" (which codified profit at the enterprise level as the key determinant of the economy). And it is concentrated in the difference of "1956 seizure, versus 1960s 'reforms.'"

But in essence, it concentrates very different views of what socialism is, what the process of restoration is, what the importance of line is, and what the importance of state power is for the proletariat.

Can you have a socialist society with revisionists in OVERALL power?

That is a major dividing line question (between maoism and revisionism).

"In the debate, Lotta largely looks at the economic liberalization that Kosygin began. It also looks into the Soviet Imperialist character, in the Leninist understanding."

Well, Lotta and Nicolaus look at the same history, the same moments, the same events.... But that is not the issue we are discussing.


"Now if you look at CP (ML), yes it did indeed embrace Hua and Teng; however CP (ML) was short lived and its embrace of thr Chinese Revisionists brought it to its end."

This is true. But I don't see the relevance of this to our discussion.

Nicolaus was part of a trend that (ONLY THREE YEARS LATER!) looked at the Deng coup in china and said "cool!" and embraced it.

Lotta was part of Avakian's trend, that looked at these events and said "revisionists are revisionissts and must not be supported."

And the struggle (three years earlier) over HOW to view the Soviet events revealed and concentrated the differences in these two trends over this decisive question.

And (not to put to sharp a point on it), the line of Nicolaus is the one you are defending in this discussion.

"Many of those "Maoists" who joined CP (ML) immediately either denounced the Revisionists and once again joined the revolutionary camp or became Teng Apologists."

Uh, this is wishful thinking. I don't know of anyone in the CPML. There may have been individuals... but mainly they drifted into apolitical careers, or became defacto social democrats (like their leader Mike Klonsky or those who are now concentrated in the FRSO).

"On the question of the Soviet Union. Lenin himself admitted to NEP being State-Capitalist policy. This is something to which he freely admitted. The USSR became a Dictatorship of the Proletariat, with a Capitalist economy."

This is a bit of an exaggeration. But leaving that aside: This is actually MY point. The key question is the question of overall state power. The Soviet Union was a socialist state (even if the process of developing a socialist economy took a decade). And WHAT precisely made it socialist? It was the political character of the forces leading the state, society and its vanguard party.

Without that understanding, you get the views of Charles Bettelheim (to mention one theorist) or the ISO (to name another) who claim that the character of the Soviet Union was essentially state capitalist from the early twenties.


"No one can deny this, and to actually say this is Socialist, is to actually confuse the matter even further..."

Hehehe. Actually, as you can see, it is leninism to deny this. The base may have had powerful elements of capitalism (in agriculture, and even as Lenin said, in the fragile and struggling industry). However this was (fundamentally) a socialist society. Why? Because of the direction the leading forces in society were taking things -- because of the "road" it was on.

The fact that you think the USSR was capitalist (while I think it was socialist) concentrates, i believe, what is confused about your thinking.

Now it is true that the USSR had tremendous tasks facing it (through that NEP period) to continue and deepen the socialist revolution.

And it is not like there were absolutely no socialist elements in the base (already). For example the state monopoly on trade is an important way that the newborn socialist state was maintaining revolutoinary control at key points in the economy! There was foreign (capitalist) investment -- but it was confined and monitored at every level by a SOCIALIST state, led by a COMMUNIST vanguard.

"You have to clearly say to the people, This is a Proletarian State; however this is a Capitalist economy. Lenin made no secrets of this fact. The economic revolution, the Socialist Revolution in fact takes place with Stalin, against the Bourgeois lines represented in Trotsky and Buhkarin."

This is confused, and it is in fact not what Lenin actually said.

When the USSR was founded (in the earliest twenties) they called it "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics."

What do you propose? That this was a lie that only served the Bukharinites? Should it have been named "Unoin of Soviet State-Capitalist Republics Still Waiting for Socialist REvolutoin"?

"It is even fact, that Mao himself admitted in the early 1950s', that essentially the Chinese economy was Capitalist. It was carrying out Capitalist economic policy under the State. China too was a Proletarian State with a Capitalist economy."

This is similarly half-true.

First: The main productive arena in china was agriculture. And the 1949 revolution unleashed the agrarian revolution (one of the most sweeping and liberating revolutionary mass movements in history). It divided the land and broke the backs of the landlords. However, if you think about it, it was also the larges moment of creating private property in human history. In other words it was an antifeudal revolution, that had still not broken beyond a framework of private ownership.

However the 1949 revolution also created a state owned industrial economy by expropriating "bureaucrat capital" which was the great majority of Chinise industry.

Now it is also true that just "nationalizing" the property form does not simply and directly produce socialist relations. As Avakian discusses we need to "expand the we" that is holding state power -- and so seizing property in the name of "the whole people" still does not automatically ensure all-sided socialist relations (including in the way that central planning takes place, or in the ways that production itself takes place at the enterprise level.)

"Why is it that many Maoists put the date for Restoration in 1956? Why not put the date at 1954, when Khruschov replaces Malenkov as head of state? Khruschov's policies began as far back as this date...so why isn't the date put in the year 1954..can any of you please anwser this? Or why isn't the date put in 1957, when Khruschov purges the Politburo (who in the majority upheld Stalin). Why is the date of Revisionism more closely around the date of the denounciation speech of Khruschov?"

This is because the 20th congress represented a key turning point. A key change of power and a key change in line. And this was concentrated in their wholesale denunciation (and reversal) of the policies of the Sovialist period... and their promotion of the three peacefuls (peaceful coexistance, peaceful transition, peaceful comptetition), which ruled revolution out of order on the planet earth.

"Also, why don't you also consider the years after the Great Leap Foward and the days before the height of the Cultural Revolution...revisionism?"

This is a good question. The period you are talkinga bout (associated with the Eighth Party congress) was a powerful right wind, where the revisionists had beaten back the revolutionaries in many ways, and were rampantly putting forward their revisionist approach in many arenas.

The answer to your important question is: Because they had not yet seized OVERALL POWER. Mao and the revolutoinary communists he led were still at the helm of the state and society, they were still in the mix and in the struggle, (as the events after 1965 showed.)

Mao said that 90 percent of enterprises were on the capitalist road, and a similar percentage of the cadre. So in socialist China, the revisionists were on a roll, and a new revolution was much needed. But it was (as Mao said) "a revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat." In other words: what was neede dwas not an overthrow of the Chinese state, army and party -- because the revisionist were not yet in firm overall control of that state, army and party.

OVERALL, the leadership was still revolutionary (concentrated in Mao -- who, whether you like it or not, was a unique and irreplacable leader who stood in the way of their ascent to power!)

"Maoists themselves admit that the majority of the party that had active political power were revisionists."

This is not quite accurate. Mao and the Maoists say that the majority of cadre were follwoing the "capitalist road" -- not that they were defined as "revisionists." Many were not hard-core capitalist roaders, but were mislead, and there was a major posibility of winning them over from this road. And there was major struggle over whether the party cadre were all a bunch of revisionists, or whether they were basically good and could be won over. The view you are putting forward is sharply opposed to Mao's and represented a very dangerous and wrong view during the GPCR (though I'm sure you personally are trying to grasp and put forward a revolutionaryu line.)

"The point is, to analyze the situation with Materialism and not Idealism."

No shit.

"The Class Struggle does just not change things in one swoop."

Well, that is true on one level. But the overall character of things, and of societies, CAN AND DO change in one swoop -- when the secondary aspect becomes the principal aspect.

"When the Bolsheviks took power, they did not take a primitive capitalist country into a socialist economy over night."

Not to a "socialist economy." But the society became (fundamentally and essentially) a socialisst society, because the dictatorship of the proletariat was in command, and THE OVERALL DIRECTION OF SOCIETY WAS TOWARD COMMUNISM.

What was in command of the society DID change "in one swoop." That "swoop" is called THE REVOLUTION.

(more in a sec)

nick

(part 2)

Let me give you an example:

You are dying of cancer.

Organs are "shutting down."

Collapse of ordinary social life.

Inability to maintain daily life and job.

Kidney failure.

Digestive failute.

Unable to breathe without oxygen.

Buiding toward heart failure.

Then, the heart pumping stops.

The blood in the brain stops circulating.

The brain stops functioning.

And then all the other parts start dying.... the skin, the eyes, the cells stop dividing, the blood coagulates and so on.

If you want to "harvest" organs, you have several minutes (before they start suffering damage and necrosis).

Some parts of your body keep functioning. (Nails and hair sometimes keep growing for weeks (!) after death.)

Now, what was the moment of death?

Obviously there is a process. (There is ALWAYS a process to everything in the real world.)

But in the process of death there are nodal points. And there are points that are key -- because they are irreverable, decisive and lead to the change in the balance between life-and-death.

No one denies that restoration of capitalism is a process (and a struggle).

Throughout the socialist period there is intense struggle with capitalism. It starts with the sharp struggle with the OLD capitalist relations (overthrowing state power, then existing forms of ownership and production, social norms, law, etc.)

And then it takes new forms, after those initial victories.

But there is a decisive point, a nodal point, a chance of character that happens. It is not just a slow gray decline into capitalism. There are points where OVERALL the proletarian revolutionary forces hold state power, and then there is the moment when that changes, when something qualitatively different rises to power, and unleashes a whole different process and social dynamic (restoration and capitalism.)

"As well, when Khruschov came to power, he did not immediately destroy Socialist society and create Capitalism."

Yes he did. Not in the sense that capitalist relations were "suddenly" everywhere. But in the sense that he established a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and initiated the process that unleashed the (already existing and widespread) capitalist forces and relations in society.

Socialism is rife with capitalist relations and dynamics. It is not like it is a huge leap from socialism to capitalism... That is one of the lessons Mao took from this soviet experience. He said "if people like Lin Biao come to power, it will be RELATIVELY EASY to rig up the capitalist systam."

"It took a class struggle within the Party for a few years to come."

Well, there was ongoing struggle (though unfortunately not that much). But the decisive moment had passed. It was the struggle of the bourgeoisie-in-power against forces opposing their moves. There was class struggle after 1956, but it was class struggle within a society under the dictatorhsip of the bourgeoisie.

"Law of Value, the accumulation of Capital, the Capitalist exchange all are the main components of Capitalism. Private ownership is not essentially the main character of Capitalism."

This is a little confused. The law of value operates in commodity society (including under socialist society, which has considerable elements of commmodity exchange.)

What is different under socialism is that (overall, and essentially) labor power has ceased to be a commodity -- and so the law of value does not (because of proletarian state power and planning) covern the allocation of labor power (and the devlopment of society).

"Nick says we can't assume that Mao did not feel the USSR was Capitalist until 1963, but maintains we can assume he did feel this way by 1963. This is just absurd...Mao and his group was not critical of Soviet Revisionism until the early 60s', and even then, the CPC did not attack the Soviets as Capitalists. The CPC uses indirect attacks on the Soviet system by attacking the Yugoslavian capitalist system (to which Khruschob was close too and commended). The CPC and Mao did not come out against Khruschov long after the denounciation speech of Stalin, and after the fall of Khruschov, the believed for a short while Socialism had won out!! (Read on "Why Khruschov Fell" which was written during 1964.)"

Heh. disagree with me and the RCP is you want. But just calling us absurd kinda makes the discussion harder.

The fact is that Mao and the CCP didn't PUBLICLY and OPENLY call the USSR capitalist until 1963. But Mao had (obviously) been studying (and struggling!) over this question from the moment of the 1956 denunciation of Krushchev. They were LEARNING what it all meant. It was NOT obvious (to them or anyone else) that capitalism had been restored.

But it is also clear (from the historical record) that Mao felt very early that Krushchev (like Lui or Peng, who Mao was directly struggling with) was on the capitalist road. That is why the Chinese party quickly took its distance from the 20th congress.

the public record is published here: http://marx2mao.com/Other/Index.html#CPC

My point was (and is) that the PUBLIC announcement of their understanding was the result of a period of intense investigation, and a period of sharp struggle WITHIN the Chinese party, and a period of intense NON-public struggle between their two parties.

The Soviet revisionists had FUCKED the Chinese revolution long before 1963 -- unknown to the outside world. They had sabotaged all kinds of joint projects, demanded military based on chinese soil, intrigued with revisionists inside the chinese party (building up to the famous Lushan conference).

I hope this provides a basis for us to struggle over this some more.

nick

A note to chris:

As i'm sure you know, this question you are raising goes right to the heart of differences between us. That doesn't mean that we can't discuss this, or (even) win each other over. But it does mean that this is a major theoretical and ideological question -- and it is tied to all the issues of "political agency."

I will try to say it in a concentrated way:

There are two different ways of talking about "the proletariat."

One is the way that Avakian calls "reified." Where you see a specific sociological class, in a particular society, at a particular time -- a group of individual workers in real time.

The other way is "from the mountain" -- where you look at the sweep of human history, with all its contradictions and developments, and oppression and struggle. And then, at a certain point, you see a group of peole emerge, the proletariat, who, for the first time (as a class, as a historical force in the most sweeping sense) have historic interests in eliminating all oppression.

Let me let Avakian speak for himself here. (from http://rwor.org/a/1262/avakian-epistemology.htm )

"What is the "godlike position of the proletariat," as I referred to it in "Strategic Questions"?5 On one level, you’re sort of sitting on a hill watching this procession go by of the development of humanity. Some of it you can see more dimly and some more clearly—-you look at this whole sweep and then at a certain point this group called the proletariat emerges from within this set of social relations that can take it to a particular place, to a whole different world. But you shouldn’t reify the proletariat: Yes, it’s made up of real people, but it’s not a matter of individual proletarians but of the proletariat as a class, of its position in society and of where its interests lie, in the most fundamental sense, as a class."

So let's go to Chris's question:

"How [is] Kruschev's ascent to power after Stalin's death is "bourgeoisie overthrows the proletariat." Is this shorthand for "bourgeois line overthrows proletarian line" or is the argument that the actual proletariat, a class composed of real people with names, was in power and was overthrown by a new bourgeoisie?"

Look, the "dictatorship of the proletariat" means that the HISTORIC and SWEEPING interests of the proletariat AS A CLASS are in command. This is not the same as "the workers, as they currently are, decide everything in a dictatorial way."

Do the workers themselves uphold and represent their own "historic and sweeping intersts"?

Well, as we all know, that depends.

Overall, the workers themselves have many contradictory views, and even contradictory interests (if you look at it narrowly) because of the way capitalism brings them into mutual competition "as commodities."

Societies are socialist to the extent that these largest interests of the proletariat (seen historically, not in a reified way) are in command -- i.e. that the society is moving in a revolutionary way to restrict the 4 alls, to overthrow oppression, class relationships, ideology...

And of course, no society moves LINEARLY toward communism. Repeater raised the example of the 8th Party Congress period (in China) where a rightist and pro-capitalist line gained great strength (for a while). And in its own way, the USSR (in the depth of World War 2's horrors, and even before) had intense anti-socialist currents and forces in powerful places.

But OVERALL (in a sweeping sense), the Soviet Union (and the forces in power) were fighting for, and moving toward, overthrowing oppression. (And, as Avakian says in Conquer the world, in this case, intentions count.)

Again, I'll allow him to speak for himself:

"And as to the question of socialism in the Soviet Union, well, it’s ironic but in a certain way intention does count for a lot. Because in the period, and particularly up to the early ’30s, what was the leadership in the Soviet Union trying to do? I’m sure the Trotskyites would love to hear this because it sounds extremely subjective, but what the leadership was trying to do and what the masses were being mobilized to do is extremely important, because what is capital? Is capital simply the fact that you work in an office and have more influence than I who work in a factory? That doesn’t make you capitalist, that’s not capital. The essence of capital is that the labor power of the workers is controlled by a force alien to them and it’s handed over to an alien force; and if it’s alien (and even beyond that, antagonistic) it means that that labor power is controlled and utilized on an expanded basis to reproduce relationships which are alien to them and opposed to them; otherwise capital has no meaning. And it is not identical with a mere division of labor, though capitalism cannot be completely overcome and the bourgeois epoch cannot be completely transcended till that kind of oppressive division of labor is transcended. Of course, I don’t believe there will ever be a complete or absolute elimination of all division of labor either, but the division of labor characteristic of capitalism and class society will have to be transcended. But even the mere existence of the division of labor characteristic of class society, though it must be transformed throughout socialism, is not identical with nor the same thing as capitalism. And the question is, what were the Soviet masses being mobilized to do at least up through the early ’30s? They were being mobilized to transform society in the direction of socialism, and for the purpose of contributing to the world revolution; and for that reason I believe that that was not capital, but socialism was in fact the dominant relation."

(http://rwor.org/bob_avakian/conquerworld/)

Chris writes: "I appreciate the significance of the October Revolution as a proletarian seizure of power, but I am not convinced that Kruschev's ascent is analagously unambiguous."

I don't want to put words in your mouth. But i suspect that the fact that the high point of revolution had mass democratic forms (i.e. the soviets) is part of why you can see the proletarian conquest of power. And I also suspect that the fact that the advanced workers (who had given the soviets life and leadership) then created a STATE AND ARMY and rallied to form the expanded ranks of the VANGUARD PARTY then makes it harder for you to see this proletarian power.

The proletarian character of the state, the party and the society is NOT decided by the formal democratic aspect of how decisions are made, or even by the degree of mass participation in the making of decisions -- but something more abstract (in the best sense of that disparaged term).

It is determined by the overall character of the social process that DEFINES the society -- that gives it is very nature, that directs its transformation and production (HOWEVER CONTRADICTORY such a "nature" always and inevitably is.)

In other words, just like we have to "go up on the mountain" to even SEE the proletariat (in the non-reified sense Avakian is talking about) -- so we have to go up on the mountain, and look at what is guiding and directing a society, at what is defining its essence, making it essentially socialist or capitalist.

What I'm saying is: if you can't see why Krushchev is the restoration of capitalism, you probably can't "see" why the Stalin period is still socialist. And you probably can't really see what made the October revolution a "proletarian revolution."

Chris writes: "It seems to me that by the the time Kruschev comes to power, proletarian power has been completely hollowed out in the Soviet Union. Why am I wrong?"

Well, on one level, I don't agree. By the time of Krushchev, revisionism was VERY strong and entrenched, in both the CPSU(B) and in the international movement they led. The forces opposing the restoration of capitalism were weak, and not particularly conscious of what was happening or what was needed. The Molotov group was VERY different in its stand and actions from Mao's group (the so-called "Gang of Four.")

But though it may have been (in one sense) "hollowed out" in many ways (and here I, at least, DON'T mean the non-communist talk of "popular agency) -- though the dictatorship of the proletariat may have been usurped, undermined and prepared-for-the-slaughter in many arenas, institutions etc..... despite ALL THAT, it was not actually OVERTHROWN, reversed, and replaced with something else, until the events associated with the 20th congress.

As for the role of the people -- there are many crucial ways in which the masses MUST be involved (and increasingly involved) in the actual exercise of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

avakian points out that it has proven impossible to maintain particular "Mass" (commune-like) forms of rule except in particular high tides of struggle. The soviets were a movement for power, but could not be maintained as the organs of power (for reasons we have discussed.)

But I don't make that point to negate or deny the importance of "expanding the we" -- of finding the ways for the masses to act and create, on the basis of a deepening COMMUNIST understanding of their situation and tasks and goals.

to the extent that the masses of people grasp what the proletariat (as a historic force, seen "from the mountain) stand for, and to the extent that the communists LEAD THAT PROCESSS (which is the only way it can happen), that is a crucial part of actually taking the socialist revolution to the next level. Without that, it won't happen.

But again, this is not a matter of just "taking a poll" of the masses' mood, or "having workers control" -- it is a far more complex proces of the masses (through struggle) learning their own historic interests, learning to differentiate between the road that leads to further liberation, and that road that leads back to oppression, and ON THAT BASIS "expanding the we" and further transforming society.

Soviet society (under Stalin) did not do so well on moving in that direction. As Avakian points out (in conquer the world) there was a great deal of demobilizing the people, a rise of cynicism and careerism. If that's what you mean by "hollowing out." then I agree.

And I think it is worth looking closely at Avakian's synthesis on this -- on creating the kind of political relationships and alliances and climate that allows "solid core with a lot of elasticity" -- that will learn from the experiences (both positive and negative) and fight so that the next wave of proletarian revolutions takes this whole process higher.

nick

I realized that I didn't clearly answer Chris' question (though I think it is implicit in everything above):

"bourgeoisie overthrows the proletariat -- Is this shorthand for "bourgeois line overthrows proletarian line."

It is not shorthand.

When the state and the party (at their highest levels) are no longer characterized by a proletarian line -- then the nature of society, at the most fundamental level, has changed.

It is (as i said in response to repeater) a process, but a process with a nodal point.

And, in particular, it is in the nature of socialism (as a process) that without state power for the revolutoinary communist forces, there is no socialism.

So the overthrow of the proletarian line (which inevitably is not just a matter of line, but of overthrowing political forces and leading cores, imposing reactionary military moves etc.) is, yes, the rise to power of the bourgeoisie.

repeater

Nick:

Sorry to interupt, but I haven't posted any comments in this thread. The person who made the points you abscribe to me was Shine The Path.

ShineThePath

I thank Nick for his thoughtful response, but I have many criticisms still. It really goes to the nature of what is Socialism and what is the material basis of Socialism. Fundamentally Nick upholds that the fundamental character of Socialism is dictated by the political line of those who control repressive state power. I uphold that is the material conditions of the economy and social system which makes Socialism. My position of the state is that it can have class character, but it in itself does not mean Socialism. I believe my position is indeed a materialist approach to the question, and I rather believe that Nick’s approach is rather Idealist because it really is a line that the ideas of a few people in power create Capitalism or Socialism (I will point to the Denunciation Speech here as a point, for it is, in my opinion, just rather loosely put forward that this is the defining moment of Capitalist Restoration).

Now Nick has said that the U.S.S.R. was fundamentally Socialist after the Proletarian Revolution in 1917. I disagree; believe Soviet society was fundamentally capitalist until the end of NEP. It took till Stalin’s five year plans to take an economy which was bound to small agricultural-capitalism, Capital accumulation, profit motives, and essentially a society which Capital and Profit was an ends to itself in the economy. NEP was a system in which worker’s initiative was stifled in exchange for upper hand management. Investment in Industry was reliant to the profitability of Industry. It relied on Capitalist exchange, especially in foreign trade, and even allowed foreign capital investment and leasing of state owned mines and oil fields. Lenin described this all as necessary, but it was also a step backwards. This Lenin freely admitted. Nick said that NEP was “deepening” the socialist revolution, this entirely contradicts Lenin…and it takes up a Buhkarinite approach.

Nick jokingly stated “When the USSR was founded (in the earliest twenties) they called it ‘Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.’ What do you propose? That this was a lie that only served the Bukharinites? Should it have been named ‘Unoin of Soviet State-Capitalist Republics Still Waiting for Socialist REvolutoin’?”

While clearly Nick presents an issue jokingly, this was a SERIOUS issue in the USSR when it took on this name. In fact Lenin addressed those who criticized the RCP (B) for deciding to name the nation, the USSR. Lenin responded “No one, I think, in studying the question of the economic system of Russia, has denied its transitional character. Nor, I think, has any Communist denied that the term Soviet Socialist Republic implies the determination of the Soviet power to achieve the transition to socialism, and not that the existing economic system is recognized as a socialist order.” (The transitional character being NEP).

This is all a matter of fact. Lenin knew that the road that the USSR was on during NEP, was that of Capitalism. He even said that NEP means we give “room for the Bourgeiosie.” So in fact it is LENINISM to admit that NEP was Capitalism. Lenin says

“It was called a New Economic Policy because it turned things back. We are now retreating, going back, as it were; but we are doing so in order, after first retreating, to take a running start and make a bigger leap forward. It was on this condition alone that we retreated in pursuing our New Economic Policy. Where and how we must now regroup, adapt and reorganise in order to start a most stubborn offensive after our retreat, we do not yet know.”

Now if you look into China, Nick is correct about the huge land reforms that were made under Mao. The Land to the Tiller moments were certainly quite liberating for the masses of people, being the peasantry in this case. This is all true! However it was “Liberating” in a Capitalist process. You broke up the land of feudal landlords and gave it to the peasantry. This is not a Socialist agricultural system. In fact, relying on small farming in a socialist system has grave contradictions (this is why the CPSU liquidated the Kulaks).

But it goes far beyond this as well! Heavy Industry in the coastal sections was certainly also ran on a Capitalist model…though State-Capitalist, Capitalist nonetheless. Mao speaks on the subject in “On State Capitalism,”

“The present-day capitalist economy in China is a capitalist economy which for the most part is under the control of the People's Government and which is linked with the state-owned socialist economy in various forms and supervised by the workers. It is not an ordinary but a particular kind of capitalist economy, namely, a state-capitalist economy of a new type. It exists not chiefly to make profits for the capitalists but to meet the needs of the people and the state. True, a share of the profits produced by the workers goes to the capitalists, but that is only a small part, about one quarter, of the total. The remaining three quarters are produced for the workers (in the form of the welfare fund), for the state (in the form of income tax) and for expanding productive capacity (a small part of which produces profits for the capitalists).”


So now I move from the economic intrigues about the nature of the economy during NEP and in the years before the Great Leap Forward in China.

Lets look at the Khruschov Speech at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. Nick claims that the CPC and Mao immediately distance themselves from the speech. Nick also linked me to the Marx2Mao website to further prove his case that it is all a matter of “public record.” Well first, from the same website you can immediately disprove Nick. If you read “The Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” one can see the CPC praising the actions taken by Khruschov in his speech. CPC was not distancing themselves from the CPSU at all. It gives justification for the speech. But it also goes just beyond the Denunciation Speech of Stalin, but the CPC congratulates the CPSU for trying to have friendly relations with Yugoslavia, and this was correcting “Bad foreign policy.”

So the CPC first UPHELD Khruschov and the CPSU after the congress, and justified it.

Khruschov had been in prominent power since 1953, he replaced Malenkov in 1954 in his position as head of state. He purged the Politburo in 1957 of those who upheld Stalin, and wanted to rid themselves of Khurschov. (This was a date of the coup led by Khurschov and Zhukov). Khruschov and his clique really were in a struggle with those who upheld Marxism-Leninism until this Coup date. Can we really say Khruschov was in OVERALL power because he makes a speech in the 20th congress? I don’t think so. We should understand that this Speech was made in complete secrecy from the rest of the party, and it was not supported by the majority of the politburo.

Now you claim in the situation of the CPC with their “Khruchovs,” and “Capitalist-Roaders” was different because Liu Shaoqi, Teng Hsiaoping, Peng Chen, and others were not in “overall power.” Well lets really examine that…most municipal committees were ran by “Capitalist Roaders” and “Revisionists.” Teng Hsiaoping was General Secretary of the Party. Liu Shaoqi was Head of State of China, and President. None of the “Gang of Four,” were apart of Politburo or even the Central Committee until 1969. It seems that Lin Piao and Chou Enlai were the only ones in the politburo besides Mao himself to actually support Mao after the 3 Bad Years…and it is known that Lin Piao became a counter-revolutionary, and the RCP claims Chou Enlai was a revisionist himself.

If Mao is the only person that upheld a REAL revolutionary society in the politburo after the Great Leap Forward and he was the only “OVERALL” leadership that was letting Socialist society exist, then you can bet that the road that was being led was indeed a Capitalist-Road. That is what happened after the 3 Bad Years, but just because the Capitalist Road was being pursued does not mean that the Revisionists consolidated power and destroyed the Proletarian Dictatorship and Socialist society. There was indeed a time before the Cultural Revolution, a line struggle between Mao and Liu (in which Liu’s line briefly won out)…The revisionist line of Liu Shaoqi was in charge, until the beginnings of the Cultural Revolution, which would begin a new class struggle and line struggle within the party (and the subsequent defeat of Liu).

This goes back to Khurschovs’ speech. The Speech itself at the 20th congress does not mean the end of Proletarian Dictatorship…actually what it was a continuing of the class struggle that began after the death of Stalin, and it were to end in the late 50s’ with the defeat of the Proletarian Line, the Marxist-Leninist line. I believe it is rather Idealist to believe that the Speech itself constitutes the end of Proletarian Dictatorship.

Now let us examine the idea that the Revolution represents a “swoop” and a change in society. This is true…I actually agree that Proletarian Revolutions represent “swoops” in society, that change the fundamental character of certain things. However I view events like the Bolshevik Revolution in a more concrete sense. The seizure of power represents just that, a Revolution in the state-apparatus. It means a new class has come to power, and has monopolized the legitimacy of power. But has this changed the character of the economy? Has this changed Culture? Has this changed the thinking of people? Has it changed the relations between people? No…seizing state power does none of this, it only allows a class TO BEGIN changing society, it does mean society has already been changed. Indeed the attitude that seizing state power was an ends to itself as the problem with the Bolsheviks and the CPC. People became complacent, and rather they “Sat on their Laurels” to quote Mao.

In his analogy about a person dying, Nick says, “But in the process of death there are nodal points. And there are points that are key -- because they are irreverable, decisive and lead to the change in the balance between life-and-death.

“But there is a decisive point, a nodal point, a chance of character that happens. It is not just a slow gray decline into capitalism.”

With this I agree fully; however the point is to decide what the decisive point is, or even if such a decisive point can be pointed to clearly. The Denunciation Speech is sort of a symbolic moment more than a “Decisive” moment of the end of Socialist Society and the Proletarian Dictatorship. The reality is, that after Stalin’s death, this battle began. It heightened when Khruschov replaced Malenkov in his position in 1954, it culminated with a military coup that helped expel the majority of the Politburo in 1957. It ended all in the beginnings of massive liberalization of the economy in the late 50s’ and early 60s’. So my “decisive moment” for the end of the Proletarian Dictatorship and the beginnings of the build up of the capitalist system would be 1957.

If you want to uphold that Khruschov immediately ended Socialist society with his ascent to power…why not put the date of Capitalist Restoration in 1954? This is the date he takes power… so why not this date in history, rather than a full two years afterward?

Nick says “There was class struggle after 1956, but it was class struggle within a society under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” So basically what it comes down to is “Strong Man Theory.” This is the basic concept of Nick, in my opinion. Mao, by himself in thought alone, upheld Socialist society…he was in fact the “OVERALL” Leadership of Chinese Society. Khruschov ended the Dictatorship of the Proletariat; because he too was the “OVERALL” leadership of society…let us all neglects to mention the Politburo of each Party, and the fact the real OVERALL (basically meaning on the whole) leadership of the CPSU was AGAINST Khrsuchov until 1957, and in China the leadership was split (with the plurality in Liu’s favor).

Christopher Day

Nick,

Thanks for that thoughtful response. I think you make some assumptions about my views on this based on my anarchist past that are wrong, but that is secondary.

I agree completely with what Avakian says about not reifying the proletariat and fetishizing its consciousness at a particular moment and the need to see the big sweep of its historical development. Lukacs gets into this question in considerable depth in "Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat" (which appears in History and Class Consciousness). His study of Lenin is also illuminating on this score, as Zizek notes.

My problem is NOT that the more participatory Soviets gave way to a state led by a vanguard party. Its the question of what is the RELATIONSHIP between the actual consciousness and agency of the proletariat and the proletarian line and how is that relationship developing. I'm not interested in fetishizing formal democratic decision-making here or ascribing revolutionary consciousness to the proletariat when in fact the situation is more contradictory. What I want to get at is whether or not the people who do possess the proletarian line (presumably the leadership of the party) are successfully winning the proletariat over to it, getting them to embrace it and to take up the direction of societry guided by it. And if they aren't succeeding in this, if the actual proletariat in all of its contradictions isn't moving forward (understanding of course that this is not a simple linear process and that there are inevitably setbacks) is there a point where this should be taken as an indication that the line in command isn't as proletarian as you might have thought and that it needs to be revised in light of this experience?

I agree that the question is really one of what road you are taking society down. But if you aren't actually winning over the actual proletariat to the need to take up the fight for socialism as it own then it suggests to me that the turning point goes back further than the nodal points you've identifies. I'm not arguing for a particular date here. Rather I'm questioning whether the line that was replaced at the 20th congress was a proletarian one anymore or whether the very real crimes of Stalinism hadn't foreclosed the possibility of the actual proletariat stepping up to its historic tasks much earlier.

What I'm getting at here is what is the basis for characterizing a line as proletarian if it can be completely detached from the living breathing proletariat's process of coming into full consciousness of its mission? It is critical to get the view of things from the mountaintop, but its not sufficient. There is a constant need to scramble up and down the mountain, to take in the big picture AND to see if the folks at the bottom of the mountain are actually benefitting from the insights you are passing on to them.

the burningman

Indeed, Chris.

Another way of approaching that same set of questions is to look hard at the process of "proletarianization."

Do we seek to universalize the proletariat.... OR help lead the proletariat (of which the communist "we" is often part and parcel) towards its own class suicide?

Amilcar Cabral's concept of "class suicide" was intended for the middle classes and elites who subjectively side with the masses -- BUT, is not the fight TO socialism FOR communism exactly about ending the immiseration and alienation that IS the proletariat?

Is this not the objective? For the proletariat's historical subject to kill its object-reality?

And did not Stalin, and many including the Trotskyist/revisionist opposition, embrace this same "proletarian" line -- as if the goal was to BE proletarian in lieu of destroying the proletariat as a class?

Marx was not one to place a halo on the working classes. Nor are the working classes themselves.

So here, exactly, is where this elusive concept of popular agency unfolds, cries out for clarity -- and distinguishes between the communist road and the capitalist reality.

For more examples, the experience of Eastern Europe (from liberation through Kruschev and on) is most illuminating.

Was there EVER a "dictatorship of the proletariat" in any form save rhetorical in the countries of Eastern Europe?

And to further complicate the issue... what then do we make of reactionary movements like Solidarity and the Afghan Islamic resistance to the Soviets that make use of popular agency on THEIR terms?

In these contradictions, we can see both the necessity for a vanguard party AND that vanguard's responsibilities as such to maintain what is called the "correct line" AND an "organic" connection to oppressed people.

This set of issues, I would advance, is deeply connected to the "epistemological leap" that Avakian's forces are arguing -- even if they have not articulated it as such.

And this leap is something that those seeking "refoundation," often in alliance with more or less open revisionism have not thought through, let alone fought through in their own circles.

Maoist forces within the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and the "second camp" (parties in the Philippines, India, and Turkey among a very few others are the range of parties that will re-found a new, revolutionary communist international.

The basis on which that happens means far more than may be immediately obvious. Only a few years ago, the left was written off as spent force -- the masses "removed" from history.

How quickly things change. And how easy it will be for us, under a variety of "incorrect lines" to fight bravely and righteously for a re-run in place of an end run.

can we get a Nepal thread?

Um, there's a revolution unfolding on in the streets in Nepal. Seems like this is it. Can we get a thread to talk about it? Thanks!

the burningman

It might appear at first that there is a dispute between the restoration theory that puts the "line at the heights of power" as decisive versus "popular agency" that runs "deeper and lower."

But there is not. They are, in both theoretical construction and political/social fact the essence of the communist road. One cannot exist, as such, without the other.

Here we get to the messy science of revolution, and its art.

In this way we can develop the terms for this brewing debate.

Let's not play dates and confuse the issue. Dates are what one comment above called "nodal points." They are not the just "facts" in the positivist sense. They are culminations of tendency, or what has been called "roads" defined by "line."

The natural motion of class society is towards its own replication. But being people, there is nothing "natural" about our conscious choices. For all the mockery of dialectical materialism and science -- it is here, too, that we see the nexus of both "objectivity" in our understanding and "subjectivity" in our will and line.

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