Council Communism: A Cavalcade of Humor

So workers.councils responded to my essay, only this time not only did he not say he responded on his instagram account, he also never messaged me to tell me that he had responded, so if he was trying to educate me or have a real discussion with me I haven’t the clue how he thought I would find out about his essay, but I did find it so let’s begin. The author first asserts,

“The first thing Ben does is spend a long time trying to debunk my claim that the party officials had it better than the workers by using statistics wages from the Soviet Union.  It doesn’t relate to my main point, but I feel that it is worth noting that the fact that wage labor was dominant in the USSR shows that it was not socialism.  Though Ben might try to claim that wage labor still exists under socialism, he would be directly contradicting Engels, who wrote that “The more [the state] proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers – proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with” [1].  Anyway, moving back towards Ben’s claim that the party officials’ wages show that they were treated the same as proletarians.  They were treated better simply because they were not proletarians (as I will explain later) and yet they had more political power than the proletarians.”

[1] https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch24.htm

So our author tries to assert that the amount of money that people get paid has nothing to do with how well off they live. By me showing in my original essay that party officials were paid around, if not less than the average worker, that pretty much debunks the claim that the officials were treated “so much better” than the workers, given if they were, and if they had so much power over the workers, wouldn’t they just vote to raise their own salaries at the expense of the workers? If they had all this power and the working class was so alienated, why didn’t they? Our author never addresses this sadly. Next, that quote from Engels does not suggest that wages cannot exist under socialism, what he is saying is that the state simply controlling the means of production is not socialism, which in the USSR it was not just the state that controlled them but also the “workers’ councils” if you want to call them that of the trade unions [1]. In fact, Marx himself describes in his critique of the Gotha Programme how wages under socialism could work when he states,

“…the individual producer receives back from society—after the deductions have been made—exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.” Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme

From this, there is a key sentence “after the deductions have been made” which indicates that the society, or state in the case of reality because “society” is merely an abstract concept and can only be represented by an institution if you want it to make decisions, is allowed to take from what the worker produces and it can still be socialism. It is also important to understand when Marx says “The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another” it can be interpreted that he was suggesting that even if you don’t get paid exactly what you produce, you still realize the full fruits of your labor through the benefits given to you by the socialist society, which certainly happened in the USSR [2] The Red Phoenix further explains Marx’s views of wages under socialism [3] which you can read if you’d like, but we have more pressing matters to get to. The next thing our author states is,

“A small final note on this section: Ben points out that I didn’t address his point about Stalin trying to resign four times.  This is because I didn’t feel it was relevant to my argument, since Stalin’s attempts at resignation had no effect on his lifestyle.  Of course, he clearly wants me to address it, so I will, briefly.  It doesn’t matter that Stalin tried to resign.  He still controlled the state, which oppressed the workers.  He still had a lavish lifestyle [2].  And he was still not a proletarian.”

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/08/joseph-stalins-former-holiday-home-pictures/

My argument about Stalin was most certainly relevant to the discussion given that if Stalin had simply held all this power and was so much better off than the average worker and therefore he was no longer proletarian, why would he try to leave his position so many times. Stalin, along with most party officials, had one vote, so he was hardly an all powerful dictator [4]. Anyways, that was a smaller point, let’s move on. The next thing our author states is,

“Ben then says that the vanguard party was necessary to create a revolution in Russia because most of the country was made up of the peasantry.  This is entirely correct.  It also proves my point; that a vanguard party creates a revolution before the conditions are ideal for one.  A nation cannot become socialist if a revolution is carried out by a proletarian minority [3].  The fact that the USSR had to resort to the non-socialist NEP and Stalin’s disastrous policies of industrialization only show the flaws with the vanguard party starting a revolution before the material conditions are suitable [4].”

[3] https://www.marxists.org/archive/gramsci/1917/12/revolution-against-capital.htm

[4] http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/coll.html

This argumentation by the author makes absolutely no sense. He is implying that the vanguard party was the cause for the premature revolution, but that is simply historically incorrect. Vanguard parties are not the cause for premature revolution, rather the reason the revolution happened in Russia was because of mass Tsarist repression and the fact that the Tsar was growing weaker and weaker [5]. Next, the first time I read this I thought it was a joke because of how awful the claim, our author attempts to assert that the NEP was implemented because of the vanguard party, however this is simply false. The NEP was put into place to build an industrial base for Russia because of how backwards the country was because of Tsarist rule [6] even if the workers directly controlled the means of production and councilism was attempted in Russia, thet would’ve had to do the same thing because you cannot have a modernized country without industrializing.

I would also like to debunk the nonsense claim that Soviet Industrialization was disastrous. Soviet industrialization led from the illiteracy to literacy, from the NEP to socialism, from archaic agriculture to collective cultivation, from a rural society to a predominately urban community, from general ignorance of the machine to social mastery of modern technology. – Between the poverty stricken year of 1924, when Lenin died, and the relatively abundant year of 1940, the cultivated area of USSR expanded by 74 percent; grain crops increased 11 percent; coal production was multiplied by 10; steel output by 18; engineering and metal industries by 150; total national income by 10; industrial output by 24; annual capital investment by 57. During the First Five-year Plan, 51 billion rubles were invested; during the Second, 114; and during the Third, 192. Factory and office workers grew from 7,300,000 to 30,800,000 and school and college students from 7,900,000 to 36,600,000. Between 1913 and 1940, oil production increased from nine to 35 million tons; coal from 29 to 164; pig iron from 4 to 15; steel from 4 to 18; machine tools from 1000 to 48,000 units, tractors from 0 to over 500,000; harvestor combines from 0 to 153,500; electrical power output from two billion kWh to 50 billion; and the value of industrial output from 11 billion rubles to more than 100 billion by 1938. If the estimated volume of total industrial production in 1913 be taken as 100, the corresponding indices for 1938 are 93.2 for France; 113.3 for England, 120 United States; 131.6 for Germany, and 908.8 for the Soviet Union [7]. Furthermore, under Stalinist industrial policy, the USSR became #1 in the world in regard to tractors, machines, and motor trucks; and #2 in regard to electric power. In the same decade between 1929 in 1939, in which the production of all other countries barely mounted, while even dropping in some, Soviet production was multiplied by 4. The national income mounted between 1913 in 1938 from 21 to 105 billion rubles. The income of the individual citizen was increased by 370% in the last eight years–with only irrelevant income taxes and reasonable social security contributions imposed upon them–while it dropped almost everywhere else in the world [8].

The arguments of the “left” and right opposition groups that their actions were justified because the Party policy was undermining the state are belied by the economic and social record. Between 1928 and 1934 iron production rose from 3 million to 10 million tons, steel from 4 to 9 million, oil from 11 to 24 million. The figures, though stark and simple, have social as well as economic significance. “We inherited from the past,” Stalin noted in 1935, “a technically backward, impoverished, and ruined country. Ruined by four years of imperialist war, and ruined again by three years of civil war, a country with a semi-literate population, with a low technical level, with isolated industrial islands lost in a sea of dwarf peasant farms.” The figures show that this impoverished and largely feudal country was pulling out of the ruins and establishing the economic foundations of socialism. In 1933 Stalin could announce that (in the midst of the world capitalist depression) “unemployment has been abolished” [9].

A detailed description of the achievements of the planned economy of soviet industrialization can hardly be fully realized in one essay. Only a brief statistical summary can be given here, in which the strength of Russian industry in 1928-29 is compared with that of 1937-38, i.e., towards the end of the second and the beginning of the third five-year plan. In the course of that decade the output of electricity per annum rose from 6 to 40 billion kwh, of coal from 30 to 133 million tons, of oil from 11 to 32 million tons, of steel from 4 to 18 million tons, of motor cars from 1,400 to 211,000. The value of the annual output of machine-tools rose from 3 billion to 33 billion rubles (in ‘stable prices’). (In 1941 the total output of the Soviet machine-building industry was 50 times higher than in 1913). Between 1928 and 1937 the number of workers and employees rose from 11.5 million to 27 million. Before the revolution the number of doctors was 20,000; it was 105,000 in 1937. The number of hospital beds rose from 175,000 to 618,000. In 1914, 8 million people attended schools of all grades; in 1928, 12 million; in 1938, 31.5 million. In 1913, 112,000 people studied at university colleges; in 1939, 620,000. Before the revolution public libraries possessed 640 books for 10,000 inhabitants; in 1939, 8610 [10]. So how one can call this “disastrous” is beyond me. Anyways, moving on, the next claim given by our author is,

“Ben’s description of a socialist society is true.  Unfortunately, the USSR was not one, as the dominant form of production was directed by state planners and not in the interests of the proletariat [7].  Sure, there were some social democratic policies that had benefits for the proletariat.  But this doesn’t mean that power itself was in the hands of the proletariat, and so it was not actually socialism [8].  It is clear from his asking what policies I expect from proletarian dictatorship that he doesn’t understand what a proletarian dicatorship is.  You can read my essay on it here, but basically the dictatorship of the proletariat means the entire proletariat exercises control over society using whatever policies they see fit.  They do not merely intervene in the affairs of the capitalist mode of production, as social democrats do, but actively destroy capitalist production relations [9].”

[7] http://www.sinistra.net/lib/upt/compro/lipo/lipoebubie.html

[8] https://www.marxists.org/archive/mattick-paul/1935/01/capitalism.htm

[9] https://libcom.org/library/when-insurrections-die

For his claim that “the dominant form of production was directed by state planners and not in the interests of the proletariat” our author links to his 7th citation which is a link to an article by the International Library of the Communist Left, which after giving a read I can tell is complete nonsense. They go as far to cite Khrushchev for information about the Soviet economy, even though almost all of his claims have been debunked before [11] and that essay as well as our author misses the fact that the USSR was indeed driven by a socialist mode of production due to the fact that the workers controlled the state, and the state directed planning in the interests of workers [12]. And I have already stated many times how the state planned in the interests of the people rather than there own, so in the spirit of our author’s writing style, rather than explain, I’ll just let my source do the talking for me [2]. He also continuously insists that the workers had absolutely no say in economic planning, however he is certainly misguided in this view given how effective the trade unions, workers’ clubs, and local communes were in ensuring the rights and interests of workers were met [1]. Moving onto the next claim given by our author,

“Ben then says that I don’t explain my point about the workers in the USSR being exploited, since I cite this article.  The article proves my point by demonstrating how the workers were exploited, but if I have to write it out I will.  The workers were exploited simply because state planners directed production with the law of value in mind and the workers had neither political power nor the full value of what they produced [10].  The fact that trade unions existed and that the state provided benefits to workers don’t make the USSR socialist.  These are true of many capitalist countries such as Denmark and France today [11] [12].  He also says that living standards went down in capitalist countries as a result of industrialization but that in the USSR they went up.  I don’t dispute that they went up in the USSR, and he has a citation to prove it, but he cites no source for the claim that they went down in capitalist countries, whereas I have sources to show that they did [13].”

[10] https://www.marxists.org/archive/james-clr/works/1950/08/state-capitalism.htm

[11] http://www.worker-participation.eu/index.php/National-Industrial-Relations/Countries/Denmark

[12] http://www.worker-participation.eu/index.php/National-Industrial-Relations/Countries/France

[13] http://www.crei.cat/wp-content/uploads/users/working-papers/voth_livingstandards.pdf

Our author seems to not understand what Marxist exploitation is. He seems to think that “because state planners directed production with the law of value in mind and the workers had neither political power nor the full value of what they produced” therefore the workers were exploited. However, as described before, Marx states in his critique of the Gotha Programme that in the socialist mode of production “[t]he same amount of labor which [someone] has given to society in one form, he receives back in another” which means that you don’t have to get paid exactly what you produce, that really would only happen under a type of market socialism or worker owned capitalism, rather you can get paid in other forms. The USSR, as well as almost all socialist countries, interpreted this other form to be in the form of benefits and rights; which were most certainly present in the USSR [2] and especially so in the Eastern Bloc countries [13]. Next, our author asserts that many capitalist countries offer the same benefits the USSR did, and even have trade unions and they’re not socialist; therefore the USSR was simply a social democracy. However he is missing one thing, the USSR was not in any way like Sweden or Denmark given they have two different modes of production. As already stated, the USSR was driven by the socialist mode of production [12] meaning that the worker owned state planned in the best interests of the people [2]. Although workers in Sweden and Denmark may vote, they are at the mercy of bourgeois democracy, meaning there is political corruption because of candidates being bought off [14] [15] whereas this was not the case in the USSR, and especially is not the case in modern socialist countries like Cuba [16] [17]. Lastly I guess he decided to prove my point with a source, so thanks? Anyways, moving on. Next, our author states,

“Another of Ben’s unsubstantiated claims is that the Kronstadt Rebellion and the Makhnovite Revolution were not proletarian.  His source on the Makhnovite Revolution claims that Makhno’s movement was not proletarian because it was poorly organized, and his source on the Kronstadt Rebellion mentions Kronstadt exactly once, in a footnote explaining that Stalin was against attacking Kronstadt and Trotsky was for it.  As far as the Makhnovites go, I’ll admit they were poorly organized, and I wouldn’t even support them.  Still, what the Bolsheviks did to them was unforgivable.  In terms of Kronstadt, while it’s true that Stalin was against attacking them, it doesn’t make the movement any less proletarian.  In fact, the demands of the Kronstadt workers were far more proletarian than those of the Bolsheviks.  They supported free elections for the Soviets, freedom for trade unions to organize and assemble, liberation of imprisoned workers, and various other proletarian causes that the Bolsheviks opposed [14].”

[14] http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/russia/mett/petro_eve.html

It should be understood that Makhno’s revolution was not proletarian, and in fact all attempts that he made to establish communes along the anarchist methodology failed because it was not what the majority of the people wanted, and he could not correctly industrialize the country without a central government [18]. So the claim given by “The Makhno Myth” essay was not that it wasn’t proletarian because it was poorly organized, but rather that it was poorly organized and executed because it was not proletarian it did not follow the Bolshevik’s method of the NEP [18]. Onto Kronstadt, the source he cites for it does nothing but make assertions and use anecdotal evidence, it doesn’t even reference a single credible historian on the event, so I am just going to dismiss it especially given how biased something as simple as the website name is. Even if we go with the claim that Kronstadt was proletarian in nature, that doesn’t stop the fact that because the USSR was controlled by the workers (as I’ve explained at length before) any uprising against the interests of the mass proletariat, just as they were during the Hungarian uprising against the soviets [20]. Lastly, our author claims,

“The last paragraph of Ben’s essay claims that the USSR was in the right by crushing dissent during a famine, and implies that they did not crush dissent at other times.  Disregarding the fact that a true dictatorship of the proletariat would allow all proletarians to express their views even during a famine, it is just not true that the USSR under Stalin was ever lenient on dissent.  The Soviet Criminal Code states that any action deemed to be against the state is a punishable crime [15].  He then says that party officials were proletarians because “they were instructed how to plan the economy by the state officials who were elected by the people with consideration of what the trade unions wanted”.  Even if this was true, they wouldn’t be proletarians since they didn’t actually take part in labor.  And it’s not even true.  The planners very clearly did not plan society for proletarian interests, as source 7 elucidates.”

[15] http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1924-2/socialist-legality/socialist-legality-texts/first-soviet-criminal-code/

Firstly, I never stated that the USSR did not crush dissent. They most certainty did so, especially during the party purges [21] and the military purges [22]. His assertion that “a true dictatorship of the proletariat would allow all proletarians to express their views even during a famine” is simply false. A proletarian dictatorship does not allow proletariat to discuss their views if they are inherently anti proletarian, and as [17] expands further on, much of Stalin’s opposition actually was able to express their views. The social and economic policies of the Stalin administration were subjected to continuous criticism under such slogans as “incompetence in administration,” “uncontrolled bureaucracy,” “one-man, one-party dictatorship,” “degneration of the old leadership” and so on. No attempt was made to suppress Trotsky’s agitation until it had openly exposed itself as, in fact, anti-Soviet and connected with other anti-Soviet forces. From 1924 until 1927, in the words of Sydney and Beatrice Webb, in Soviet Communism — A New Civilization, “There ensued what must seem surprising to those who believe that the USSR lies groaning under a preemptory dictatorship, namely, three years of incessant public controversy. This took various forms…. There were hot arguments in many of the local soviets, as well as in the local Party organs. There was a vast [Oppositionist] literature of books and pamphlets, not stopped by the censorship, and published, indeed, by the state publishing houses, extending, as is stated by one who has gone through it, to literally thousands of printed pages.” The Webbs add that the issue “was finally and authoritatively settled by the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party in April 1925;… after these decisions, Trotsky persisted in his agitation, attempting to stir up resistance; and his conduct became plainly factious” [23]. To sum up the allowance of political opposition: The bans on other political parties were in place but, during the period of the New Economic Policy (1921-1928) there was a relatively high level of tolerance for diverse perspectives in Soviet society. Restrictions on the press were relaxed and scores of private printing houses and non-party journals were founded. In the 1924-25 period nomination rules were relaxed in order to make it easy for candidates not approved by the Communist Party to win elections to the local Soviets. In new electoral instructions issued in early 1925, Party organizations were told to cease to ‘impose their list at election meetings’ and no longer to insist that voters ‘be excluded merely because they have been critical of local Soviet authorities.’ As a result the majority of those elected to the village Soviets in the rural areas of the Ukraine and Russian republic were non-Party. After the 1927 elections about 90 percent of the delegates and 75 percent of the local Soviet chairmen in both Republics were non-Party. The ban on organized factions in the Party was not rescinded, but a vital internal party life, as well as toleration of widely diverse viewpoints within the Party, continued throughout the period of the New Economic Policy…. While the center-right alliance of those around Stalin and Bukharin had the upper hand in the period after Lenin’s death (they were united on the continuation of the New Economic Policy and a fairly moderate international line), their left opponents continued to occupy leading positions [23]. Lastly, the economic planners were proletarian given their relation to the means of production was the same of the workers due to the fact that they planned the economy together and the workers even had more power at times [1]. However, the job of planners was to plan the economy, that is still a job and you cannot expect the workers to know how to do it, hence why the soviets made sure that they included worker decisions when possible, but that the needs of the people and in turn economy, came first [1].

References:

  1. Costello, M. “Workers’ Participation in The Soviet Union” 
  2. https://gowans.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/do-publicly-owned-planned-economies-work/
  3. https://theredphoenixapl.org/2011/11/18/myths-about-socialism-under-socialism-is-everyone-equal/
  4. http://bit.ly/2pn6yd0
  5. http://www.history.com/topics/russian-revolution#
  6. https://espressostalinist.com/the-real-stalin-series/time-of-nep/
  7. Schuman, Frederick L. “Soviet Politics”
  8. Ludwig, Emil, “Stalin.”
  9. Cameron, Kenneth Neill. “Stalin, Man of Contradiction.”
  10. Deutscher, Isaac. “Stalin; A Political Biography.”
  11. Furr, Grover. “Khrushchev Lied
  12. Szymanski, A. “Is the Red Flag Flying? The Political Economy of the Soviet Union Today”(1979)
  13. Murphy, Austin. “The Triumph of Evil
  14. “Motståndskraft, oberoende, integritet – kan det svenska samhället stå emot korruption?”
  15. “Sweden to the EU Anti-Corruption Report”
  16. PSL, “The Revolution Manifesto
  17. Furr, Grover. “Review of Robert Thurston’s “Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934 -1941”
  18. Colin Darch, “The myth of Nestor Makhno
  19. http://www.isreview.org/issues/53/makhno.shtml
  20. Aptheker, Herbert. “The Truth About Hungary
  21. https://espressostalinist.com/the-real-stalin-series/party-purges/
  22. https://espressostalinist.com/the-real-stalin-series/military-purges/
  23. Sayers and Kahn. “The Great Conspiracy”
  24. Szymanski, Albert. “Human Rights in the Soviet Union.”
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