Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

27th August 1991


Russia, the so-called Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is in turmoil. Its Empire is breaking-up as several of the constituent republics seek independence. Failing to retain the backing of united armed forces, the leaders of the Russian Communist Party are losing their dictatorial grip on power, and spokesmen of other political groups struggle for leadership in the new democratically elected “Parliament”.

The upsurge of revolt against the old leaders had been largely the outcome of gross inefficiency of transport and industry under the Russian system of nationalisation. It has nothing to do with Socialism Nationalisation in Russia, as in Britain, is state capitalism. The economic backwardness of Russia in the backwardness of Russian state capitalism, in comparison with the capitalism of Western Europe, the U.S.A., Japan and so on. So the new rulers of Russia declare their intention of copying more or less closely the Western pattern of “private enterprise capitalism” with relatively little nationalisation, as in British industry following the privatisation measures of the Thatcher government.

The version given to us by British politicians and the media is that it is the failure of “Communism”; the monumental falsehood that there has been a Communist social system in Russia for the past three-quarters of a century since Lenin and his followers, backed by armed force, seized power in 1917.

The basic essential of capitalism is the ownership of the means of production and distribution by the capitalist class (or by the government on their behalf), wealth being produced by the non-owning working class. Backed by state power the capitalists, though themselves non-producers of wealth, are able to extract, in the form of profit, interest and rent of land, part of what is produced by the wage and salary earners.

Capitalism is a commodity producing system; that is to say all the goods produced are sold in the market. The worker’s labour-power also takes on the form of a commodity, wages being the price of labour-power.

In Socialist society (for the socialist Party of Great Britain, Communism and Socialism are the same) there will be no owning class and working class; no rent, interest and profit; and no wages or salaries. Goods will be produced not for sale but solely and directly for consumption. As it was put by Marx and Engels in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO (1848), it involves “the abolition of buying and selling”. No one can seriously claim that this has been the system in Russia.

It remain to state the attitude of the socialist party of Great Britain to past and present happenings in Russia. We have nothing to withdraw or apologise for. We did not at the beginning suppose that it was possible for that semi-feudal country, with its largely peasant population, to be ready for Socialism. An article – The Revolution in Russia – Where it fails, published in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD in August 1918 contained this statement:

“What justification is there, then, for terming the upheaval in Russia a Socialist revolution? None whatever beyond the fact that the leaders in the November movement claim to be Marxian Socialists”.

We showed also that they had no backing in the writings of Marx for their claims.

Over the years we consistently disputed their claim to be able by means of dictatorship, repression and censorship to impose Socialism on a population overwhelmingly opposed to it.

What of the future? Assuming that Russia goes over to a “democratic” political system similar to that of the Western countries; does this entail the ending of the class struggle between capitalists and workers? By no means. The class struggle will continue as it has in the rest of the “democratic” world.

Whatever may be the political complexion of governments elected in Russia they will invariably come into conflict with the working class. Capitalism cannot be run in any other way than by resisting the efforts of the workers to raise their wages sat the expense of profits. Nor can governments prevent periodic depressions with high unemployment.

We, therefore, do not congratulate the Russian workers on their new found enthusiasm for “democratic” capitalist political parties. What is urgently needed, in Russia as in Britain and in every other country in the world, is Socialist political parties having the replacement of capitalism by Socialism as their sole objective.

In July 1917, the SOCIALIST STANDARD contained this declaration:-

“we of the Socialist party of Great Britain make it plain that we are not prepared to congratulate the Russian peasant upon assisting the Russian capitalist class to a more complete dominance”.

Now that the peasants have largely become factory workers, we call on them to form Socialist parties. We are not prepared to congratulate them on supporting the political parties aiming to modernize Russian capitalism.

Camden/Bloomsbury & North-West London Branches
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