Thursday, October 19, 2017

Class Society in Poland (1967)

From the February 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Gt. Britain holds to be false the claim that in Russia and East Europe have been established classless societies in which there is no exploitation of man by man. What exists there is a form of capitalism best called “state capitalism” in which a privileged minority exploit the wage-labour of the propertyless majority.

Despite years of propaganda, censorship and suppression the rulers have not been able to get everybody there to believe their claim. Milovan Djilas, as former Vice President of Yugoslavia himself once a member of the privileged class, is one of the best known demolishers of the myth. Expelled from the Communist Party in 1954 and jailed, he later wrote The New Class in which he argued that “a new class, previously unknown to history, had been formed”.

Now comes the news that there are a handful of people in Poland who also reject the claim that they live in a classless society. In 1966 they were expelled from the Communist Party and later tried and jailed. Their crime apparently was to circulate a document expressing their views. A summary of their views, written by two of them, appeared in the Polish √©migr√©  journal Kultura at the end of August. Basing themselves on this, Solidarity (Vol. 4, No. 4) has been able to give a general account of their views.

They deny that Socialism exists in Poland, saying rather that what exists there is capitalism. State ownership there is “just another form of ownership” and the worker is no better off than in the avowedly capitalist countries. The real owners of the nationalized industries are, they argue, a group they call the “Central Political Bureaucracy . . . The worker is exploited because he is denied ownership rights. He’s got to sell his labour power in order to live". What he produces belongs to those who buy his labour power and exploit him, namely, the Central Political Bureaucracy. This bureaucracy is a new ruling class as it uses, for its own benefit, the workers' labour and product against them.

Although it is true that these people’s other political views are probably confused (after all the fact that Djilas declared himself a gradualist does not detract from his significance), what is important — and heartening — is to see that the Polish rulers have not been able to deceive everybody. It is also a sign of the awakening of the working class, so long subdued and intimidated. As time goes by the rulers in Russia and Bast Europe will find themselves increasingly under pressure, industrial and political, from the working class. We can expect to see the emergence of working class organisations which are independent of the bureaucracy. Of course these won't be socialist but, in the conditions of this part of the world, they would be a great step forward.
Adam Buick

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