From the January 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard
It has always been an effrontery that the Russian “Communists” should have joined the name of Lenin to those of Marx and Engels in the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, and that the opportunist theories of Lenin, claimed to be an extension of Marxist thought, should have been perpetuated by such a connection. For the purpose of emphasizing the drift of the Russian Revolution from alleged Socialism (which the Communist Party once claimed was the preliminary transitional period before the coming of Communism) to avowed Capitalism, we have no hesitation in de-Leninising Lenin and substituting the name of Professor Y. G. Liberman, a Kharkov economist.
Some months ago Mr. Khrushchev announced that arbitrarily planned production should give way to control by means of self regulating economic leaders, by which he meant the forces of supply and demand.
According to The Times, the new Soviet leadership has approved implementation of these “economic reforms” which means “a victory for the supply and demand system advocated by Professor Y. G. Liberman.” The report goes on to say that the Soviet Government is considering a major decree to introduce the “Liberman System” in a large part of the consumer goods sector and that factory directors will have much greater freedom of action to plan output according to orders received and to fix retail prices. They will also have greater autonomy in raising money by way of bank loans for the purpose of improving or reconstructing their factories.
Wages will be determined by the factory managers instead of by remote planning agencies and “factory performance, instead of being measured in terms of fulfilment of gross output in roubles, will be gauged in terms of volume of goods actually sold in the stores, and in terms of profits.”
It is said that this decree is being drafted at the end of a four month experiment in two clothing factories, as a result of which more clothing and shoe factories are to be converted to the “New System.”
If factory performance is to be gauged in terms of profits arising from the volume of goods sold may we ask, without appearing too naive, what is “new” about that?
There is, of course, nothing new about it — what is new is that the Soviet Government is openly recognising that Capitalism exists in Russia and that the motive for production in the Capitalist System of Society is the realisation of profit on the sale of goods.
Also, what is new is the decentralisation of the point at which the profits are garnered.
The greatest antagonism which the Soviet Government has had to face has come from the agricultural interests. After the persecution of the Kulaks (peasant proprietors) in the earlier days of the Soviet administration, and the conversion of their smaller holdings into collective farms, the profit motive was still there, to such an extent that the apologetic booklet Soviet Millionaires had to be written!
Now, apparently, the realisation of profit in manufacture is to be the prime motive force for production in the smaller units of production. Soviet Millionaires dealt with the growth of personal fortunes among the Russian agriculturalists — is the time far distant when we can envisage a pamphlet being published to apologise for the growth of personal fortunes among the industrialists of Russia?
In the 1920s Lenin wrote that “State Capitalism would be a great step forward . . . that our enemy is the small capitalist, the small owner . . . the small bourgeoisie, with its economic customs, habits and position.” He also wrote that “To bring about State Capitalism at the present time means to establish the control and order formerly achieved by the propertied classes.” Then after (mistakenly) referring to the existence of State Capitalism in Germany he transforms the words “State Capitalism” to “State Socialism” and says that, “If we possessed it in Russia the transition to complete Socialism would be easy, because State Socialism is centralisation control, Socialisation — in fact, everything that we lack. The greatest menace to us is the small bourgeoisie, which, owing to the history and economics of Russia, is the best organised class and which prevents us from taking the step on which depends the success of Socialism.”
The fact which this completely ignores is that in 1917 the population of Russia did not understand, or want, Socialism. As this understanding and desire is a pre-requisite to the establishment of Socialism, nothing could proceed in Russia except the consolidation of Capitalism.
The Russian Revolution is the equivalent, allowing for the social and historical differences in the centuries of the English Revolution, the French Revolution, the German Amalgamation of Principalities, and the more recent Chinese Accession of the “Red Star Over China.” In short, it is the breaking away of the nascent capitalist class from the feudal bonds which previously bound it.
The cry for “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” of the French Revolution is today echoed, in a way, by the factory managers of the clothing and shoe industries in Russia. They want liberty to fix the wages of their employees, something akin to the freedom of contract now operative in the Western World: they require equality to compete with their commercial brothers in the same industries, and fraternity which, in the capitalist world, means peace to produce goods for sale on home and export markets at a profit.
Never has there been a greater bamboozling of the World Working Class than that perpetrated by the Russian Communist Party. A whole generation of workers have been distracted by the chimera of Socialism in Russia from their true task of seeking their emancipation from the slavery of Capitalism.
Communists in all countries have completely mistaken the nature and social significance of the Russian Revolution and their propaganda, supporting every twist and turn of Russian politics, has deluded the working class for over 40 years. Labourites once generally accepted that the economic system in Russia was an advance over “private” or laissez-faire capitalism, although in more recent years they have deplored the dictatorial administration. Conservatives have easily been deluded into accepting that Communism was established in Russia, although their delusion is manifested in opposition, because they are automatically opposed to any organisation paying lip service to Marxism, Socialism or Communism.
Socialism did not exist and could not be established by the Bolsheviks in Russia. Perhaps the theories of Professor Liberman will help to finally bring about acceptance of the fact that Capitalism exists there.
Such acceptance will probably make easier our task of explaining the true nature of World capitalist society, it will clarify working class understanding of Marxist theory and convince the workers of the necessity to establish Socialism in five-fifths of the World.