[GegenStandpunkt Index]

From 1917 to Perestroika
The Victory of Morality over Socialism

Karl Held and Audrey Hill

Table of contents


Nobody in the West believes the communists in charge of the Soviet Union when they insist they are trying to create a truly democratic workers’ paradise at home and to promote peace abroad. People here notice that the Communist Party has been ruling for over seventy years without having anything to do with opposition parties contesting their point of view in elections. They remember Stalin, and camps or worse for dissenters. They know about shortages of housing, bread and meat, while the military has carte blanche and the Party leaders get fat. And so for western democrats Soviet society is written off in one word: slavery. It remains a mystery, however, why the Party leaders would choose this form of rule, when any Somoza or Marcos can amass a far greater personal fortune without at all disturbing the sleep of the NATO high command.

The same story can be told in regard to Russia’s foreign relations. Hungary, Berlin, Cuba, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the PLO and the Sandinistas: either a people’s alleged struggle for western style freedom is “ruthlessly squashed,” or a “Moscow controlled” front fights for power in defiance of the world peace established by western power. In a nutshell, an “evil empire bent on expansion.” And again the strange mystery of political domination which obviously does not payoff for those in power. It would appear that the communists just want to rule, period.

This is all on the one hand. On the other, the West is now presented with perestroika and glasnost, the withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan, and for Washington and London some embarrassing proposals for disarmament. According to the new directions for Soviet society, firms will have greater freedom in implementing the five year plans, prices will be set more “realistically,” debt will have a greater role to play and even some bankruptcy may be allowed. In the public sphere, debate already rages in the press and in the streets. The various nationalities are openly demanding their rights, and Party Conferences show a liveliness never seen at western political conventions. Even the Bible is getting a new printing. To the mind at ease with capitalism and democracy, this turn of events can be nothing other than a movement towards the western way of life in the face of a massive western show of force and the “obvious superiority of free markets.” Except that the communists, in the person of General Secretary Gorbachev, have firmly insisted that all this is for socialism, true to the spirit of Lenin and the October Revolution. And Richard Nixon, now a statesman for this occasion, warns about the danger of a revitalized Soviet power for the future of the West.

So, Mr. Jones, something is happening but you don’t know what it is! Nothing in the old image of the Russian bear or in the new slogans of “restructuring” or “openness” counts as an explanation of what the Soviet comrades have been up to, or still have in mind for their own people and the rest of the world. The recent literary attempt by the General Secretary is no help in that matter either. For that you simply have to read this book.

Part l
Glasnost and Perestroika: Instead of materialistic criticism of the system just another moral campaign

Chapter l
How to correct an unplannable brand of planned economy

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union is notoriously dissatisfied with the successes of the economic system it has created, and this is especially true at present. It considers its society’s material interests to be insufficiently served, and above all wants higher productivity to improve matters.

However, the economic “reconstruction” the Party has embarked on has nothing to do with a communist planned economy, in which the necessary deployment of labor is properly planned and the procurement and use of the means of production that make the work easiest are organized. Instead, it is reshuffling the contradictory duties it has imposed as economic goals on its state-owned firms and working population. It demands a livelier circulation of exchange-values (commodities considered as the proportions in which they exchange for other commodities) — as a means for improving, more or less automatically, the production and distribution of use-values (commodities considered in terms of their useful physical properties). It pays tribute to the fetish “profit” as if profitability were the same thing as more output with less expenditure of work — although it itself abolished private property, the basis for the rule of profit over society’s production. It believes with new determination in the “law of value” that Marx criticized capitalism for, as if he had actually wanted to recommend it to communists for them to emulate and improve.

The CPSU is thus using the mistakes of its anticommunist lever economy to “correct” it.

Proof for the necessity of economic reconstruction is being dished up in abundance. Again and again, firms and the population fail to be supplied with what they need because there are too few goods. Or the goods are barely fit for consumption or use due to bad quality. On the other hand, production materials are wasted in transport, in use, or even by not being used at all. Technological developments which could increase productivity and improve the quality of the products exist, but they are not applied … All this, according to the Party, really need not be.

But as soon as the CPSU sets about changing things, it regards all its outrageous findings as problems. Its casual manner of pointing to obvious absurdities, as if only a little good will and common sense were required to remedy them, proves to be deceitful. Amidst the reality of its planned economy, the Party seriously considers it a great difficulty to find out what the people and the firms need, and an even greater difficulty to control production in such a way as to ensure that there is enough of everything.

And it is actually right about that in so far as it does not even try to do either. The Party acts very differently in order to harmonize demand and supply “better and better.” Instead of simply counting things up and giving the commands, it tinkers around with an “economic mechanism” which, all by itself, is supposed to determine needs, control production, ensure supply, promote innovations, make the deployment of labor more effective and God knows what else. Of course, the business about a “mechanism” is only meant figuratively. In reality, the planners, managers, etc., must focus their minds and wills on prescribed results. But the Party would evidently feel helpless if it “just” made needs the rule and introduced the best possible production methods for satisfying them. Its commands are based on all kinds of other things —indicators, norms, cost-accountancy, etc. — which, if followed properly, are supposed to act as an ingenious mechanism and bring about the optimum production results according to their own “inherent logic,” without the participants having to make these results their business.

This way of giving orders is intended to be somehow indirect and for that reason, strangely enough, one hundred percent effective. It is based on the idea of a money circulation which, by purchase and sale at just the right prices, is supposed to direct goods to exactly where they are needed. At the same time this is supposed to bring about financial surpluses which in turn define what is possible for the planning agencies. This roundabout is really most peculiar. After all, with its victorious revolution the CPSU not only put an end to the rule of the czars but also abolished the rule of money — the minted power of private property. And it had pretty good reasons for doing this. The laws by which money circulates and accumulates reduce the workers to poverty and make their exploitation all the more forceful — this is the capitalist annoyance the CPSU was out to, and did, abolish. And it was quite aware that in capitalism the “distribution” of goods only comes about as a final effect of the circulation of money — a corresponding “distribution” which gives rise to rich and poor.

However, at the same time the CPSU made an anticommunist mistake, as the results of its efforts prove. It did not object to the rule of money over society’s production, but merely to the effects it considered unfair. It expropriated capitalist private property and thus actually abolished the capitalist laws of the circulation of money, intending to put these very laws back into force without private property and without unfair effects. This turns everything upside down. The desire for a fair distribution of goods is the first thing. Then the prices are fixed. They are to be used by the firms to make a profit, as if it were still a matter of making a profit, as if the firms functioned as private wealth bent on accumulating and not just as production sites owned by the state. And the duty to make money is somehow not to be directed against anyone, not against the workers or the buyers or the suppliers or other firms that produce the same thing. It is to benefit the state, which collects ever larger sums of money to be used for expanding production … All the instruments of capitalism are resurrected, no longer as expedient means of capitalist accumulation but as rather awkward means — putting it mildly — of taking care of the people, and as fairly suitable instruments for securing the state its rule over society’s wealth.

There is no question about it, this is one way of running an economy (as to how it works, see Chapter 4). But how absurd it is that the CPSU uses its revolutionary freedom to plan production to engineer, of all things, a system of “objective restraints” for the profitable management of exchangeable values. These utterly fictitious “objective restraints” do not stand for any real social “mechanism” of exploitation and accumulation of private wealth. Each price, each profit norm, etc., represents only the Party’s will to have things that way. The Party’s commands to its producing population thus take on the most irrational form imaginable, a form which has furthermore proved its effectiveness under capitalism in serving the interests of the enemy of the working class — under capitalism it really acts as an objectified law without any system of directives from the state.

This disguise is revealing. It shows what these communists apparently like about capitalism, in spite of all “social injustice.” It is the wealth that seems to grow all by itself, alienated from the workers from the very beginning and existing as a powerful sum. The CPSU does not want to abolish this “achievement of capitalism,” but to nationalize it. It wants to provide the state with wealth which from the start presents itself not as a quantity of goods for satisfying society’s needs, but as a monopolized surplus that is available, as if by an “objective law,” to no one but the state. It is as if the Party wanted to drag the state with might and main into the economic role of the universal exploiter. In any case this practice makes quite a farce of the party ideal of an economic democracy in which each working person participates in deciding on the product of society’s labor.

But none of this bothers the CPSU a fraction as much as the abundance of disturbances and inconveniences which its peculiar economic mechanisms necessarily involve for the commanders themselves. Throughout the system, experience shows that the planning directives will not take effect “behind the participants’ backs,” so to speak. For the directives to have any effect at all, they must all be linked with “incentives” — a ridiculous idea in the world of capitalism, from which the Party has copied so much for its set of economic instruments, and a remarkable admission of how well the CP has, above all, made sure that the producers are not the beneficiaries of their labor. A system of “stimulation” of managers and staff makes the firms, which are no longer tools of a capitalist interest in enrichment, into economic quasi-subjects with an artificial interest of their own in making a profit. However, they are supposed to pursue this interest for the benefit of the whole, not at the expense of others. For this purpose the Party imposes “cost-accounting” on them, in which it lays down its ideal of a successful accumulation process — quite heedless of the fact that the money values it deals with are interrelated in an objectively necessary way only when they are effects of capitalistic competitive efforts. As directives they thwart all the calculations the firms are supposed to make.

Surplus production pure and simple is one state order; at the same time cost guidelines demand that means and materials of production be used thriftily; but the firms are also expected to be permanently interested in improving or restructuring production, for there are target figures for the increase of labor productivity to be achieved; the products are to be improved and become cheaper while at the same time the profit plan must be fulfilled and costs reduced … The imperative of the plan is thus “Produce more and more, better and better, using less and less!” — quite as if a constant level of production could not involve an increase in the means of production. Because the orders conflict with each other, the firms are necessarily induced to calculate which norms they can fulfil to their advantage at the expense of others, or which norms they can ignore in order to show tremendous successes in other areas.

This is why the activities of the firms lead to all kinds of undesirable effects. In order to ensure that the targets are fulfilled and over-fulfilled, it is advisable to secure plenty of means of production and manpower, which may possibly go unused while shortages exist elsewhere; sparing use of material can in turn be achieved at the expense of the product quality; the introduction of new material saving production methods — involving a cost increase — is a risk that one would rather avoid; the demanded improvement in product quality, which is rewarded by price increases, can also be obtained by a slight change in the product without the risk of a reconstruction and reorganization of production which could possibly make the firm look bad (in terms of the relation of costs to surplus). The Party registers all this as “negative phenomena” — and devises “levers” which are supposed to manipulate the whole business once and for all into functioning ideally in accordance with the directives. For seventy years now the CPSU has launched one economic reform after another and consistently refused to consider the intentional irrationality of its planning and control system as the reason for all the tenacious deficiencies which plague its people on the one hand, and bother the Party itself on the other.

Gorbachev’s perestroika is absolutely in keeping with this general policy. The Party is tinkering with its old ideal of firms that fulfil all the state’s desires of their own accord. And it claims to have discovered the recipe for this: to let the firms do things themselves more than before. With new determination it is pursuing the neither communist nor capitalistic plan of increasing the productivity of labor by making higher demands on the profitability of the firms’ efforts. This plan is not communist because the planning obeys the fetish of profitability; it is not capitalistic because profitability here is nothing but an ideal planning criterion, the basis for “stimulating the material interests” of the managers and their working staff. Thus, the CPSU is pushing its people into a new round in its absurd endeavor to wrest a more or less functioning production and distribution of goods from the prescribed automatic economic control mechanisms.

The ideologies the Party puts into circulation for this purpose are a disgrace to every communist. The most stupid ideals of bourgeois managerial economics, which would have everyone believe that without profiteering no straight nail or wearable shoe could ever come into the world, are given official certification in the current reform debate. The incessant emphasis on the firms “themselves” revives the legend of “private initiative,” as if mere ingenuity and energy were the sources of profit. Of course, an entrepreneurially-minded individual’s real “achievement” in causing profit to materialize, the extortion of services from all people without property to increase other people’s property, cannot be reminted into a socialist guideline.

“Cost consciousness” is praised for being the guarantor of all effectiveness — as if saving gave rise to abundance, and as if the capitalistic calculation of cost aimed at producing profits were afraid of costs, for instance the lavish deployment of low-cost labor. The “market” is celebrated by Soviet economists as a most ingenious institution for optimally providing for every need as soon as it appears — as if the point of competition for the buyers’ solvent demand were not that the solvency of a whole class is somewhat limited by their wages, so that a great deal of needs can wait indefinitely to be satisfied. “Market economy elements” are now invoked by Soviet planners as a method of harmonizing production and consumers’ needs — as if it were an incredibly complicated problem to find out what is needed where, a problem that is unsolvable for a planning authority but child’s play for firms with prescribed profit interests.

Finally, the reform debate has also discovered “competition” as a kind of beneficial constraint on the firms, to prompt them once and for all to attain the productive achievements that were lacking up to now. This is a new economic recipe which, like the other borrowings from capitalist ideologies, expresses nothing but a moral requirement: managers and collectives should simply make much greater efforts and manage their affairs better. In line with this, the Party experts are considering using the closure of firms, a consequence of capitalist competition, as an ingenious lever — not as the economic fact that competition for limited solvency inevitably produces losers, but as an educational measure. In an economy which continually demands means of production and labor, these things simply cannot be the tremendous moral means of applying pressure the Party would like them to be. Just as ineffective is the much-touted unemployment which the Soviet system does not produce at all, and whose theoretical popularity is based on the peculiar belief that it has an enormously motivating effect on the employees’ will to work. The fact that even the greatest will to work still needs production facilities before it can translate into productivity is never worthy of mention in these flights of fancy. Conversely, these flights of fancy stand as a political superstructure over the economic basis, when it comes to economic reform as well.

For it is one thing to ideologically “deduce” from exemplary productive achievements the existence of a master figure called “entrepreneur” or a kind of materialistically acting providence called “market and competition.” And it is another thing to bring these morally desired entities into being in the form of directives to the state-owned firms. In reality, the Party is once again merely tinkering with the guidelines for cost-accountancy and the division of profits. The guidelines should be pared down to allow the firms to make more decisions and perform more “themselves,” while at the same time the Party does not completely trust its own recipe for success.

“The problem of a system of indicators as a link between central economic management and autonomy of the enterprises is not yet solved,” announced General Secretary Gorbachev at the “trend-setting” plenary meeting of the Central Committee in June, 1987. This too is a declaration that the CPSU intends to remain true to its mistake of trying to benefit its people by providing them material goods without wanting to introduce a planned economy for this purpose. After all, a “link” between economic management and firms is only a “problem” when the economic directives are not simply the result of planning for the benefit of the producers, when one cannot rely on the producers’ interest in the directives being carried out properly. The “link” is necessarily a “problem” when a socialist party is of the opinion that it can only do some good for its people if it uses means of pressure to induce them to perform useful work; and when it uses as these means of pressure a kind of calculation borrowed from capitalism, bringing into being an imaginary self-interest on the part of the firms, and then being forever dissatisfied with the results. This of course also makes the search for an optimum link a permanent moral-economic task.

Chapter 2. Complaints as an economic resource

The CPSU appeals to its masses’ dissatisfied materialism as a motive for making thorough changes. This would be as revolutionary as the Party constantly claims it is if the free materialism of the working population were really the matter at issue. But, instead, the CP speculates on the people’s desires for improvement, people who have made themselves at home in the system of state-created “objective restraints.” They are to support a reform which consists mainly in demanding more “flexibility” from people — from each in his place — so they can contribute more to the economy. The “bureaucracy” is attacked as the main obstacle to general improvements, but for only one practical purpose: no one should be able to excuse his or her actions with a good conscience by referring to directives from above, when these actions have not produced the desired results. The Party’s criticism is aimed at the “bureaucratism in us all.” It gives its people permission to gripe, because it is bent on making people’s morale the supreme and most effective of all society’s productive forces.

The CPSU has launched a campaign criticizing the planning and control bureaucracy that it itself created and entrusted with its tasks.

This bureaucracy does deserve criticism: for everything it does. It wages the paper war over the fulfilment of quotas, which is a necessary result of the contradictory norms of “cost-accounting,” of “stimulating material interests.” But this is exactly what the Party does not attack. It instead takes the economically substanceless viewpoint that the mere issuing of planned targets and the large number of them are themselves nothing but obstacles to the expedient functioning of their planned economy. There has supposedly been far too much “administrating,” on the one hand — so that no one bothers to observe all the regulations, on the other. Instead of criticizing the bureaucrats’ actions, the Party cultivates the cheap — and very bourgeois — suspicion that their paperwork is one big brake for the really much more dynamic dynamics of the Soviet economy.

This theoretical stupidity has the practical advantage that the “concrete suggestions for improvement” result quite automatically — which is the whole point of this stupidity in the first place. The general message is: don’t wait, tackle it yourself whenever the need arises. And this imperative is by no means as empty as it sounds and would be under the conditions of bourgeois society. It is supposed to stimulate the desire to eliminate all the everyday deficiencies. People are to start looking for the next best eliminable failure. And no Soviet person has to look for long. It is a necessary phenomenon — in this system of universal and complex stimulation of self-interest — for zealous people everywhere to do what is prescribed without bringing it into any reasonable relationship with the useful material effect that the plan aims at, what with its convoluted value-based methods. And at the same time nothing is easier than to regard these necessary “phenomena” in each individual case from the simple commonsense standpoint of a goods economy without money and to condemn them as being quite superfluous, or even outrageous, absurdities, while the planning and control system invented by the CPSU treats them as complex problems of commodity-money relations or cost-accounting.

It is hard to outdo Gorbachev’s cynicism when he, the leading comrade, publicly heads this complaint program that has been part of Soviet socialism as long as it has existed. For if this call for complaints were meant seriously, anyone with his wits about him would sooner or later have to make up his mind whether he wants to take the part of people’s wants and the best way of satisfying them, or to side with the system of economic control by values. But this decision is the last thing the Party is putting on the agenda. It wants people to get busy within the system and combat, by way of compensation, the closest reachable mistakes this system produces. This is why it agrees with all complaints, even invites them, only to hand them back to its complaining people — or, even worse, to people who have not even presented any specific complaints — with instructions to attend to them promptly.

After seventy years of experience the Party naturally knows the dodges of the complaint business as soon as it is taken literally — which is certainly no brand-new idea of the new General Secretary. Just as everyone has enough sense to be able to denounce a concrete nuisance, if necessary, everyone of course also has his norms, regulations and stimuli which make it impossible for him to do away with any annoyance on his own responsibility. And of course this too is always true: when everything goes by rules, they are inevitably what is in the way — unless a case of criminal breach of duty is exposed. And then the person responsible is in for it, which is not exactly a criticism of the so very breachable duties either. But this scapegoat game, also rich in tradition, is not enough for the Party at the moment. It is therefore declaring the bureaucracy as a whole to be the main and general scapegoat, to deprive its people quite fundamentally of the argument of quoting the regulations when bad results come about. It agrees globally with the lament over “the apparatus,” which every individual is disappointed with and can use as an excuse — no matter where he is in “the apparatus,” — only to reject this same lament by an overriding super-regulation: whenever someone discovers a deplorable state of affairs conforming with the regulations, from now on it is the will of the Party that he is right and the regulation is wrong.

In terms of its logic, this method is the way rulers shut grumblers up; hut this is not how the CPSU means and practices it. It actually does want change — in its compensatory sense. And it knows the place well enough to find out which departments could do with a global relaxation of planning directives: these departments are promptly given new directives and liberties. Thus, that lousy practice, congenital to the lever economy, of overcoming deficiencies and bottlenecks by the art of “organizing,” of trading or working “underground” at the enterprise and even higher levels, obtaining preferred delivery by bribery, etc., wins honor in the new law on enterprises. It permits lend-lease contracts between firms, special prices for special services and the like, that is, it legalizes quite a bit of what has been customary up to now but prohibited. It is already certain today that the Party will soon have to deplore the abuse of these liberties to the detriment of normal firm activities. And it is unfortunately just as certain that this will not make the CPSU realize what nonsense its economic lever system is, but will lead it to continue undauntedly its search for an increasingly masterful set of liberties and regulations.

The Party’s imperative that common sense should be given priority over bureaucratic regulations in case of conflict is intended quite generally; and this by no means makes its citizens’ lives easier. After all, the regulations, globally relaxed in this way, still apply in each individual case in which one’s personal sense of responsibility is to come first. And if one’s personal commitment does not prove itself through material success, it does not help to cite the urging from those at the top: there is a breach of duty to be punished. To give private initiative a chance nonetheless, the Party has laid down another regulation: a ban on the ban on criticism. Not even this makes the CPSU notice how many quite unsensible relations of command and subordination it has carried into its society with its silly control “mechanisms.” It prefers to grapple with the apt problem of whether it is not opening the door to the querulous …

Beyond such “difficulties” it is clear what the Party is demanding of its people when it appeals to them to gripe and improve things. They are to prove themselves more efficient than before in performing the additional task of correcting the lever economy on their own initiative wherever its results leave something to be desired — which is just about everywhere, in view of the Party’s demands. In any case, for the CPSU itself this moral imperative has become such a fixture that it already sorts its people out conceptually in terms of this criterion. There are those who take an active part, and there are those who “brake,” for whom a whole typology exists, ranging from the malicious to the involuntary. In practice the Party is thus out to make its masses’ morale the economic lever for guaranteeing the useful operation of all the ingenious instruments which are supposed to give real existence to the paradox of a “socialist law of value” and thereby benefit the state. This is like an admission that the actual basis for the whole business about make-believe economic laws is simply its commands and its people’s obedience. But such an admission would already be the first step to improvement; it would be a chance to turn the abolition of private property seventy years ago into communism after all.

And it would be the opposite of the glasnost campaign the CPSU is deceiving its people with.

Chapter 3. A stimulus to production in higher spheres

With its call for uncompromising information and improvement, the CPSU has triggered a gigantic movement — in its intellectual and moral superstructure, which was already mammoth before. The originators themselves sometimes voice their doubts about whether all the things that are being discussed and fought about can still be booked under “productive forces” — in the widest and most benevolent sense. But they are responsible for this development themselves.

The CPSU has traditionally confused class consciousness with an unshakable sense of justice; it has confused knowing what’s what in order to achieve one’s goals with having a staunch world view. This is now paying off. Under a socialist roof there is also room for plenty of values that can fight each other just as bitterly and inconclusively as in pluralistic capitalism. And since the inventors and administrators of Soviet communism are still of the view that their people urgently need a solid moral interpretation of the world, they do not have much to say when the stimulated desire for improvement makes itself felt above all in these non-economic spheres. This certainly shows how miserable the official materialism of the Soviet government is.

The Party’s general call for the people to worry about glasnost everywhere and get themselves thoroughly involved by bringing forward their own ideas for improvement, is heard by people who do not need to be told twice. The belief that the unleashed intelligence of the people will inevitably be useful is given the appropriate response by the intelligentsia quite beyond the economy and the really decisive state interests.

The professional moralists of public opinion formation, the arts, and the relevant sciences regard themselves as the born interpreters of socialist construction, in fact as its actual protagonists. After all, this socialist state has always given them the self-awareness of being an extremely vital force in leading the masses, by inventing examples for them to follow and producing moral guidelines. It is precisely this exaggeration that has always led to the question of whether a work of art or some other intellectual product is “fitting” to socialism or not, and to the corresponding bans. There is thus plenty to do for glasnost here. Film-makers, literary people and thinkers who previously attracted little attention now speak out in droves. Works that were not published up to now have a claim for consideration for only that reason. Former enemies, who always only wanted the best for us all, cannot fail to react. And the General Secretary’s attempt at conciliation, that one should not confuse criticism with the settlement of personal accounts, naturally does not help much. How could the two be kept apart at all in this sphere?

The Party’s decision to put an end to whitewashing has led to particularly heated debates in the field of historical interpretation. The lousy practice of deriving the Party’s authority, not from arguments, but from honorable traditions and the glorious building of socialism produced those very “white spots” which people now fight so grimly and unproductively about filling in. The leading question, “How could Stalin happen?” (analogous to the one West Germans so savor in “overcoming their past”) has the same source as the earlier retouching efforts, namely, moral criteria which are useless for explaining anything but marvelous for fighting over how to fit things in. There is reason to doubt that corrections of this kind are of any use to the Soviet people and make production and distribution work better.

All this kind of rubbish is flourishing; there has never been a shortage of utopian values in the Soviet Union. Venerable schools such as the West fans and Russophiles pit themselves against each other with new impetus, in the form of computer worship and the invocation of productive forces versus an ecology-orientated love of the homeland. Inevitably, bourgeois ideologies are also “interesting” here; but there is no basis for Western hopes and Eastern fears that these ideologies, of all things, could shake socialism. The achievement of dulling the people’s minds by moral nonsense has already been attained by the Party itself. Furthermore, questions like whether one is more in favor of one’s native soil or of civilization, whether one classifies Trotsky as a hero or as a traitor to the revolution or as both before and after a certain date, hardly possess such practical importance that they could disarrange the edifice of the state.

But nevertheless the Party is now being paid back from all sides for never having bothered to do away with certain viewpoints among the people, even ones that it disapproves of. Religious and nationalistic interests that were previously suppressed, instead of being properly criticized, are demanding their due.

Just because of glasnost, some masses in the Ukraine have nothing better to do than have visions of the Virgin Mary. This is their way of demanding permission to renationalize their Church that Stalin united by force with the Orthodox one. When you officially declare atheism to be the state doctrine but adopt a tactical approach to the Orthodox Church in practice, that gives rise to such disputes as these. No one raises the question of why religion did not wither away as it was supposed to according to the Party’s teaching, and whether the Party might have made some mistakes in this area. The Russian communists are much more inclined to assume that there must be something good about religion, especially as the official state moralism finds so little fault with the catalogue of Christian virtues.

Of course, the Party cannot get rid of the fear that there is something disturbing about religion, especially when it allies with dissenting nationalisms. This is not remedied at all by its new idea on this problem, that its previous practice of issuing “formalistic prohibitions” led to an increase in religion’s attractiveness. Tolerance is still the opposite of confrontation, and one can hardly say that tolerance encourages an unwieldy world view to wither away. But this is precisely what is so rotten about a communist party that claims to have a materialistic point of view and does not know what that is. As the administrator of a mode of production that restricts the producers’ interests it is supposed to serve, this party is much too keen on morality as a necessary complement to these interests to be able to criticize it in the form of religion.

As for nationalism, the CPSU has not only not prohibited it, it has officially cultivated it. If one considers “sticking together” (meaning sticking by one’s state power) a tremendous attitude, this of course also applies to the local forms of state power in a multi-national state. Whenever some ethnic group had not yet noticed it was one, the Party enlightened it as fast as possible by supplying it with its own grammar books, popular poets and, if necessary, newly invented popular customs.

The exemplary achievement of the Soviet state is supposed to consist in guaranteeing all nations and nationalities their full right to recognition of their peculiarity and rallying them all to live together in peace. The contradiction in this is to want to have “national” without the “-ism,” as if civic pride could exist without its negative, contemptuous counterpart, as if there could be such a thing as natives without their corresponding foreigners. When Kazaks, Balts, Ukrainians or Crimean Tatars now seize the opportunity to demand some reparation or other or more consideration of their national honor, this is the response of the national character the CPSU has bred. The Party may thus apply itself to the permanent task of sorting out what is allowed and what is prohibited in this sphere and of appealing to the various peoples to love each other. The CPSU has no use whatsoever for the maxim that communists need no homeland because they adjust conditions to suit themselves.

Instead, it has met with an unsuspected reception on the part of its sound patriots, who are now asking leave to speak and — with all due respect to the good intentions of perestroika and glasnost — find that things are getting a bit out of hand. Decent Soviet citizens who cannot be reproached for anything, old ladies who have always said that young people are not idealistic enough, patriots who consider the Soviet people’s magnificent achievements to be simply unique, as well as people who have known the good life — the much-cited opposition in the Party — are not able or willing to see why everyone should be allowed to mock and betray the values they have always attached such great importance to. It is precisely because the CPSU has been so successful in politicizing its people into good citizens that the counter-critics are scandalized and consider the novel criticism and improvement business an insult to the standards valid up to now. They see criticism as nest-fouling, if not high treason; the new willingness to learn as groveling before foreign ideas not needed by the powerful Soviet Union; the new openness and tolerance as endangering the public order which is on the verge of disintegrating. They think it is high time to found associations for cultivating patriotism and the old values.

It is not very probable that the CPSU wanted and expected such disputes when it called for a complete overhaul of socialism. But it is extremely feeble in its disapproval. It has nothing more to say than that people should not exaggerate so much, should not criticize too much or too little and, above all, should always have the progress of socialism in view. Its statement that there is a limit to criticizing the unquestionable achievements and values of socialism is not terribly illuminating for the simple reason that in the Soviet Union every moral treatise and, in fact, every intellectual product presented with a responsible attitude can in good faith claim to be a service to socialism and the people. Now when the Party does not feel happy about the moral orgies it has unleashed and sometimes even doubts their practical usefulness — this skepticism is rather late; and it has no arguments on its side. Anyone who confuses communism with producing a new kind of person, who sets his stakes on morality not just as consolation for all the imposed restrictions but even as a makeshift productive force, need not be surprised that the corresponding inanity and moral nastiness have their own impetus when they are given free rein.

Chapter 4
Planning with levers: A review of the principles of the Soviet economy

1. The socialist commodity

As it does everywhere else, wealth appears in existing socialist societies in the form of use-values. It consists of products of labor which, depending on their properties, satisfy the needs of consumption or of production. That this simple and pleasing sate of affairs is not the whole story is revealed by the price that things also have. The socialist state, which controls the production and distribution of wealth, determines commodity prices. By doing so it dictates what it considers useful and fair relations of exchange between the various classes of goods.

a) This state is interested in fairness because its purpose in acting as the “agent in control of the economy” is to give the working class the justice that is denied it when it is used as a means of capital. Under capitalism, those who have things to sell set prices as a means of doing business, thereby restricting the availability of these things to those who produce the wealth. The socialist state will not allow such a market that stands between the masses and their vital necessities. It is an enemy of the power of money which characterizes the world of private property. It wants to secure the subsistence of the working population, and will not let anyone or anything but itself decide on both the level of wages and the affordability of the articles of daily use.

b) It is of course rather strange in view of this practice that the socialist state considers it at all useful to fasten a price form on the articles produced under its rule. The state administrators set a market going in order to plan it. They know how the existence of prices restricts people’s freedom to avail themselves of use-values. They are aware of the conflict of interests that inevitably exists between buyers and sellers (the desire for use-values conflicts with the wish to accumulate as much money as possible, money being the equivalent of every kind of wealth). But this does not stop them from subordinating use-values to exchange values in their own society as well. Of course, they also demand that the exchange of commodities for money conform with the distribution outcome desired by the state. In so far as the socialist state organizes a market without competition — no one is allowed to change prices as a means of doing private business — and at the same time subjects everything to the standard of money which it sets, it monopolizes the power of money.

c) This method, which is supposed to be the economic program of a useful kind of government, treats money, the measure of abstract wealth, as an excellent means for planning. A production and distribution of wealth to benefit the people is to be planned by making the use of money function only in accordance with state goals. This state utilizes its monopoly on force to acquire a peculiar kind of economic monopoly, when it installs a “planned price system” to define in practice the desired outcome of the circulation of wealth. It thus measures it’s economic results in money in order to decide, on the basis of sums of money in the national budget, how much wealth and how much work the producers can expect. It reserves for itself the goal of increasing money, and it makes its success here the precondition for everyone else’s share of material wealth. In order to be able to implement its welfare state program, it demands monetary services from its society.

d) One must agree with the fanciers of the “system of planning and control” on one point. The establishment Of such strange “commodity-money relations,” which are then used as a lever, is not to be confused with capitalism. The feat they want to perform from their “commanding heights of the economy” does not consist in simply subordinating use-values to exchange values, subordinating the production and distribution of material wealth to the purpose of accumulating money. They consider “cost-accounting,” which operates with units of abstract wealth, to be an excellent means for “stimulating” and “controlling” the production and distribution of real wealth. But here is one thing they must be told at this point: this awkward form of command is no planning of production. It makes a considerable difference whether a mode of production serves to promote units of value defined by the state or just simply creates more material wealth — as the various commissions and scientists notice when they lament the difficulties of assigning values and are forever chasing after an objective “law of value in socialism.”

e) There is another truth to be derived from the contradiction of a “planned market.” On the one hand, the workers’ advocates shrink from planning labor in accordance with natural conditions and for the benefit of the producers (which would make it more important to acquire technological know-how than to solve the riddle of how to “compare” workers, etc.) On the other hand, they have a tremendous need to establish “objective constraints” which no one can escape. They shun a well-founded imperative of expedient production, only to enforce “laws of socialism.”

2. Socialist profit

The socialist state has a measure for how effectively the firms use their raw material and means of production. This measure does not derive from the special nature of the production in question, but from the decision to make wealth, which is required for all good works, available to the state and, secondly, to do this in the form of sums of money which, thirdly, increase. This measure is called profit and, as an economic indicator, it is the directive to achieve a maximum in surplus over the costs of production. Since both the purchase prices and the sales prices are “planned,” the practical question arises as to how this indicator is to pass from its sad existence as a matter of mere arithmetic to the status of a calculation a firm makes in its own interests. And the contradiction inherent in the question is reflected in the “answers.” The lever which is supposed to bring about advances in the production of wealth “stimulates” a whole array of lousy practices, whose results give the partisans of capitalist exploitation so much to be malicious about.

a) It is absurd to suspect the planners and controllers of taking capitalism as their example when they introduced their indicator. Businessmen make profits, which increase their means. All their efforts in dealing with the “factors of production” serve this goal, for which the market is the proper instrument. State-owned firms realize a money surplus only when the relation between the state-decreed purchase and sales prices allows for it. They are not free to employ the techniques of competition vis-à-vis sellers and buyers. The money they earn is not available to them as materialized private power, but is the material for state decisions. Thus, managers of a firm basically have no motive at all for organizing their production in such a way as to make it a means for achieving business success on the market. And for this very reason, the drive optimize the relation between costs and surplus takes the form of a state campaign to “stimulate the enterprises” to use productive resources efficiently. The term, “main indicator of planning” is therefore no more apt.

b) The “initiative” the state calls into being only comes about, for the above reasons, if the state links the indicator prescribed to the firms with advantages which they can gain by complying with its wishes and achieving balance-sheet successes. It will not resort to the alternative method of threatening to impose sanctions on them, for reasons connected to the principles of this kind of socialist economy. The suspension of production is even less thinkable; production and its unfaltering progress are the whole point. After all, the “value”-based calculations are not the object of the exercise, but only the state instrument for developing the productive forces. And since the socialist state refuses to have anything said against the ultimate productive force, the workers, regarding “labor” as the prime source of all wealth and holding it in great esteem (despite Marx’ remark in the “Critique of the Gotha Program”), it considers the dismissal of workers a crime: they have a right to work.

c) The advantages the state offers to the firms to induce them to produce in a way conducive to its balance sheet consist in the allotment of resources from the national budget. Partly for the managers, partly for the employees, partly for production, it makes rights and money available which make it worthwhile for the collective to excel at making a profit. This stimulation normally takes the form of modifications in the relation between shares of profit to be paid over to the national budget and shares to remain with the firm. The latter make themselves felt via the firm’s payroll fund and via the fund it can use to renew and expand production (“investment”). Alongside, there is a premium system which draws its criteria from the definition of a target and whether it is fulfilled and over-fulfilled.

d) This means that there is an incentive to make a profit, but by no means that the calculation of the socialist state will work out right. The problem is not that the firms simply ignore the incentives and prefer to take it easy, but that they really take up the offer. They consistently apply the methods of making and increasing profits, which are discussed extensively in public. One must produce more in the same time, and save means of production! When choosing among different products, one must produce the cheapest one (to sell) and cut down on the others. Although new means of production would bring higher productivity and better products, they would conflict with the obligation to be thrifty. Therefore, one must try to exploit the given price relations to achieve “successes” that make it unnecessary to improve production. And even when the resources left in the firm’s fund are used properly and rationally, the planners and controllers notice a very peculiar kind of consequence: the “good” firms sometimes grow better by adhering to the lever — the bad ones keep getting worse since they never deserve any financial allocations.

e) The “firm’s egoism” which the plan calls into being provides its originators with many a problem. They have to pay the price for having failed to plan society’s production. Their value-theoretical love for money as a standard intended to raise the material productive forces to ever higher levels produces results which not even fanatical catcher-uppers and overtakers of capitalism can appreciate. This is why one hears explanations of the following kind:

“Profit as an economic indicator does not reflect the overall efficiency of production. Under certain conditions — as experience has proven — an increase in the profitability of an enterprise may be accompanied by a drop in production and by neglect of consumers’ interests.”

However, such findings do not testify to insight so much as to the intention to carry on in the same way and inaugurate an improvement in the “system of planning indicators.” The phenomena that someone with the name of “Experience” calls our attention to did not come about under “certain” conditions, but under those conditions presented to the firms by the chief political economists. The lament is directed toward nothing but the resolutely “stimulated” separation between the financial and material outcomes of production. Under this imperative, decent products and productive labor inevitably constitute a failure on the balance sheet. Conversely, substandard goods, made by outdated production methods, can be proudly presented as profit. And people who see no contradiction in the socialist decree that the firms should cut down on their own costs and investments but at the same time make all kinds of profit on “high quality products in the desired assortment,” will always be mystified by problems of the “proportionality” of the various departments of their economy. They think the problems are just there — no matter how often they have insisted that the principle of “self-financing of resources for expansion” should apply. Such advocates of the “law of value in socialism” simply overlook the fact that in some cases this self-financing does not merely fail to take place — the plan requires the state to hold back investable resources, thereby perpetuating what is considered unprofitable. This is why they apply themselves again and again to “economic reform” and devise new pricing and indicator systems by way of correction…

f) Due to the unmistakable “delay” in the “development of the forces of production” — these socialists are still fond of drawing a comparison with “rotting” capitalism, especially under the circumstances — they have come up with an idea. It is strictly un-economic and is expressed as a mission that can basically be accomplished much better in socialism than elsewhere, and therefore absolutely must be accomplished. Its name is “revolution in science and technology,” and is pure ideology. It expresses a need of the socialist state which its firms do not fulfil, in spite of all the indicators which are intended to “make the firm’s interests fuse with the state’s interests.” That “the technical level of the entire economy is lagging behind” is fairly worrisome, since “the progress of science and technology is the main lever for creating the material/technical basis of communism.”

Thus, it can only be hoped that the people concerned will start remembering how much “the forces of production” and “the relations of production” can interfere with each other at times. They can then stop bothering with the set phrases on the “process of struggle between the new and the old, between the progressive and the conservative.” This nonsense is not a lever for anyone or anything.

3. Socialist wages

The working population are intended to be the beneficiaries of the planned market. This is why a wage fund was set up in the state’s and firm’s accounting system. The size of this fund determines what the working people get out of life. And this is supposed to be more and more as the plan grows more successful.

The condition for this is the success the socialist state attains with its accounting system. And since there are considerable problems in this area, there is an “opposition between accumulation and consumption” and a need for a very special kind of achievement: the working people are not only expected to work, they are also supposed to perform services for production of such a caliber that the lamented defects disappear. This makes wages into a lever, and “planning and control” into a moral campaign.

a) It is a bad joke that, in this brand of socialism, wages appear as a cost factor to be kept low in relation to the resources of national income intended for the planned development of … This derives from the silly economic notion that the costs of “accumulation” and “consumption” must be paid out of the same “pot of money,” so that the decision in favor of “investment” must, according to plan, be made with a heavy heart in the name of future pleasures. Another fine “law,” which can be obeyed by the planners who invented it, is that productivity must increase first, and after that wages. No one ever demanded that it be the other way round, by the way, and the phenomenon, discussed so eruditely by political economists, actually consists in the simple fact that more and more working people produce more and more wealth without noticeably getting any more out of life for it. Furthermore, this wealth is not even suitable for making its administrators happy.

From the point of view of the working people, the joke becomes somewhat more serious. In view of the planned prices for the necessities of life, they experience the restriction on them in a different way compared to wageworkers in the West. They do not suffer from their wallets not being equal to the supply of goods; but have savings and the problem of when and where they can get something decent for once. It is of little use that rents and food prices are low and the few rags to wear are sold at reasonable prices, so long as the stuff is hard to come by and no good. By the way, these remarks are no Western vilification inevitably denouncing the lack of “private initiative,” but are more or less quotations from debates which are conducted officially in the Eastern bloc, in the commissions, journals and newspapers.

b) In order to eliminate the systematically levered “failures,” which all have to do with the separation between the state’s arithmetical and material output, the planners in charge thought quite early on of spurring a kind of “individual initiative.” This idea and its expert implementation in all kinds of special cases have provided Russian workers with a flourishing premium system and a continual socialist competition. The working people are constantly “stimulated” through and by their managers to earn a few extra kopecks or rights by special achievements. People who fight the “planned” idling, the inevitable spoiled work, etc., by their own efforts, preferably as a brigade, can be sure of praise and some compensation. However, the resulting premium, piece-wage and extra-shift system, in which threats compete with efforts to woo, that has become established alongside the still customary “dawdling,” does not guarantee the success aimed at by the state. In this area, the above-mentioned “egoism of the firm” can be combined very nicely with the deliberately induced opportunistic calculations of the working people. Decades of intense efforts to install and painstakingly justify a hierarchy of wages and hundreds of new, standardized “material incentives” have not produced the hoped-for miracle. With “responsible efforts” in exchange for small benefits, the workers cannot compensate for the mess systematically made by the lever economy. Not even the few exemplary activists who get into the newspaper can perform that feat.

c) Wages are not much good as a lever as long as the state guarantees people a modest existence and, on the other hand, they never have much more in prospect. The men and women of the Party have drawn telling conclusions from this fact. First of all, they have always decided to go on doing the same thing much more resolutely and exactly than ever, which is why there are still “movements” of all kinds. There is one for “innovators” who are not afraid to try out something new for a change and depart from the usual, established routine. There are others with slogans like “Involvement of the working people in the fight to cut down the production costs.” And there are also the customary extra shifts on the anniversary.

Secondly, there have been those who advocate less wooing of people with incentives and more threats, including the threat of dismissing them. But the leaders of the most powerful workers’ and peasants’ state do not agree. Although they have nothing against sanctions for restoring order when drunks, rowdies or, even worse, deviationists disturb the peaceful socialist mores, they will not let go of the “achievement” which distinguishes their society from capitalism in a way obvious to anyone. The right to work, and thus a guaranteed modest existence, must stay!

Thirdly, it occurs to them, quite in keeping with the traditional tenet of the good worker, that it might be some people’s moral immaturity that is hindering the progress of socialism. Laying the blame in public, accusing the working people of lacking discipline — from the speech of the first man in the Kremlin all the way down to the banner in the shop — this is how the “productive forces” are being made to work at present. This too is certain evidence that such a socialist economy involves neither planning nor capitalism

Part 2
Instead of world revolution: Peace-promoting interference in the business of Imperialism

Chapter 1
Cultivating hopeful relations with the enemy

The CPSU has never been able to build up its socialist state except under conditions of war, and faced by threats of war, that had to be answered by enormous armament efforts. There was Hitler to resist and, after the world war was won, the hostility of the allied democracies, even going so far as space armament. This is one matter.

It is quite a different matter to adopt an attitude of political do-goodism toward the world of imperialist states, as the CPSU does. Instead of aiming to overthrow the states whose hostility it is confronted with, it has decided to embark on the never-ending task of trying to exert a “moderating” and “easing” influence on the leaders of the enemy states. This does not spare it any war efforts or armament efforts. Instead, it secures itself a role in the imperialists’ continuing struggle to divide up the world, which means new constraints in the areas of foreign policy and arms policy.

And instead of explaining without embellishment to the people who must pay for this policy why it is so damned necessary to be ready for war, the CP cultivates a political consciousness that unites military pride in the nation’s “invincible” defense with an equally lively, honest and empty love of peace. By adopting the imperialist ideal of “friendship among nations,” the Party kills any memory of the project of world revolution.

With its program of establishing a socialist state of workers and peasants, the CPSU has opposed the world of bourgeois states and their freedom to expand their imperialist power. By dedicating itself to peace as its state goal, it rejects all the “good reasons” that again and again lead other states to consider military threats and actions necessary.

However, this goal at the same time makes it clear that the CP by no means simply intends to have nothing more to do with the world of states whose leaders are always making extortionary demands of each other and are therefore never at a loss for reasons for sending their peoples to war. The goal of peace conflicts with any intention to keep out of “foreign affairs” except for trying to incite workers to revolution elsewhere. After all, peace is a state affair and relates, even as an ideal, to the dealings of political rulers who have armies to command, with each other. The CPSU does not turn its back on this sphere; it attends to it, with the firm intention of having an ennobling effect on it and blessing mankind.

Nowadays the Party finds itself compelled to pursue this peace policy for a reason it considers incontestable and absolutely necessary. It regards total nuclear war, today more than ever, as the end of all higher civilization, including the socialism it is interested in. As trivial as this sounds, this “diagnosis” is already a lie. It suppresses the fact that it takes two to create the “total insanity” of nuclear war, the second one being the Soviet power itself that the CP would like to devote completely to the service of preventing war. The contradiction inherent in the ideology that nuclear weapons exist to prevent nuclear war is not any better when Russians propagate it. If they did not have the firm will to wage nuclear war on their side as well — if necessary … — the danger to be banned would not even exist. Why does the CPSU not stand up to its calculation of answering its imperialist enemies’ nuclear weapons by nuclear weapons of its own — this would at least be a clear point won over the democratic swindlers.

Of course, if the CPSU abandoned its hypocritical assessment of the situation it would have to abandon the intended consequence as well. The CPSU would have to confess that the point of departure and ultimate purpose of its peace policy is not “peace,” but the defense of its state against an enemy bloc armed with nuclear weapons. This would reveal the contradiction that the CP wants to derive its special responsibility for the project of sparing the world all war from, of all things, its ability and willingness not to spare the world nuclear war, if necessary. And this would jeopardize something crucial for the Party.

The CPSU does not want to pursue merely a policy of self-assertion in a hostile world. From its own point of view, doing this would mean failing to make its contribution to pacifying the world of states, which it considers itself obliged to do as a socialist state, and able to do as a world power. It would no longer be able to state the difference between it and any bourgeois government, could not pass off its own more or less secure existence as a qualitative enrichment of international life, namely as a victory for the ultimate goal of a more peaceful world. Ironically enough, the CP is thereby actually embracing the basic imperialist ideology of the state. Every bourgeois government is familiar with the major paradox that it will exert its own force only to put a check on the use of force between states — which is why its force can never be great enough.

In reality the CP has made a logical transition of its own when it speaks of its worldwide peace mission. The first thing it has to say in the international arena is still No, a refusal to go along with the war-ridden business of extortion whose agents are called diplomats. It is thus the CP’s own special contradiction to then announce its presence as a constructive power within this sphere. When Soviet communists theorize about the “seriousness of the situation” which makes it necessary for their state to get involved, they betray the actual negative point of departure for their policy of world peace. The CPSU does not have a claim to regulating the world on the basis of imperialist interests (it clothes such dogmatism in phrases about the special responsibility of the greatest powers for peace); it has a wrong answer to the allied capitalist democracies’ armed program of regulating the world, which defines the Soviet state as an exception, troublemaker and security problem.

This state must stand up to a power struggle whose final purpose, means and reasons are not determined in the least by the CP but by imperialist interests in using and controlling other states. It must arm and be ready for war because this is the minimum condition under which a society can at all gain the status of being an independent political subject in the modern world. However, the CPSU does not take this necessity to assert itself in the competition of military powers to be practical proof that the dealings between states must obey imperialist criteria and no others — although it does hold the view that by permanently maintaining and building up war-readiness it is submitting to a pressure which is basically foreign and hostile to its project of establishing a socialist order. The CPSU sees it exactly the other way round: it takes its state’s self-assertion within the imperialist arena and in accordance with the dictated criteria to be proof of the fundamental possibility of breaking the laws of imperialist competition and introducing different criteria of its own for the relations between nations.

The Soviet communists refuse to notice what a contradiction this is, so that the imperialist hindrance of their world-improvement schemes leads them to warn hypocritically of a danger of nuclear war that supposedly exists quite independently of their own war-readiness. This line is barely distinguishable from the ideologies the imperialist powers use to spell out their world rule as one enormous responsibility. And the CPSU goes so far in its world-improvement mania as to interpret the bourgeois phrases of responsibility as signs of a sensible love for peace on the part of the imperialists and as a positive response to its warnings. It actually takes them as confirmation, not as refutation, of its notion that the imperialist world “order” is being corrected by, of all things, the self-assertion of its dissenting state within this order, with the necessary nuclear weapons!

In this spirit the CPSU has become a champion of arms diplomacy. It approaches its archenemy with the demand that both sides stop preparing for nuclear war because neither can expect to benefit. The deceitful reference to the qualitative equivalence and quantitative profusion of its own nuclear weapons is intended to talk the U.S. out of wanting to build up a strategically decisive superiority of its own. The CP offers the sham transaction of taking all Western security worries constructively into consideration in return for the U.S. giving up its plan to make outer space into a war bastion. This is a sham transaction in so far as the Soviet side does not, and cannot, offer any equivalent for the strategic progress the U.S. is striving for. The offered “price” of putting all classes of nuclear weapons up for serious discussion merely formulates, in terms of other objects, the Soviet desire for the U.S. to refrain from threatening nuclear war.

This request has met with a clear American “No”; and any other answer is unthinkable for the imperialists. Nevertheless, the CPSU keeps up its request for peace; so stubbornly, in fact, that it has dismantled its sham transaction into its component parts and “obliged” the West with an accord on intermediate-range missiles without even negotiating a slowdown in U.S. space armament plans in exchange. What’s in it for the CP? Nuclear weapons remain a topic of conversation on the diplomatic level; that is all. The Russians threatened to break off talks only so that they could go on. Conversely, their boundless will to stay in contact with the West on the issue of nuclear war has given their imperialist enemies the freedom to blame the decision on whether talks continue or not on Soviet diplomats and to dictate in the most sovereign manner the conditions for a “feasible” accord. The imperialists deign to agree to arms limitations, and even to scrapping by each side, in areas and in a way they consider of minor strategic importance or even relatively advantageous, without allowing any restriction on the plans they regard as crucial. This Russian policy does not spare the U.S.S.R. one bit of preparation for nuclear war; and the only security it creates is that the West knows its archenemy will confront it only with offers and not with attempts at blackmail.

With their intention to pacify the world the Russian communists have created other fields of activity for themselves. They hold the entire world of diplomacy in the highest esteem, especially since they have a rather eccentric view of it. Imperialist governments and those committed to the imperialist world are constantly pursuing some interests or other which demand the compliance of other potentates, even to their own disadvantage. They therefore need brisk relations and an “exchange of ideas” for confronting each other with their interests and the extortionate reference to the levers they are ready to employ against each other. They need diplomatic missions for making treaties out of the momentary state of “balance” of their interests and power. They have created various diplomatic exchange centers, all the way up to the United Nations, for trading in mainly one commodity: peace terms for some states to obey so that others do not lose their patience — that is, conditional declarations of war. This is necessarily so because states which conclude treaties know only one reliable authority for guaranteeing that the partner fulfils the terms, even against its own interest: themselves.

Nothing in this lovely business is prevented or altered in its nature by the Soviet Union entering the stage as a power that is basically against conditional causes for war as the basis for dealings between sovereign states. On the contrary, its contribution to international diplomacy turns out to be nothing but its power fit and ready for war, which all other states must and can include in their schemes. Only this military might makes it eligible to compete with other states in the first place. However, its rejection of imperialist calculations of war does play a part — in fact an important part. It results, in the world of diplomacy, in an additional universal threat of war which promises some states protection for their attempts to assert themselves and accordingly causes others problems in exerting extortionate pressure.

And the CPSU has by no means failed to notice what this means. Its boundless desire for “peaceful solutions to conflicts” all over the world is not merely a confession of the real nature of the wonderful “international relations” it would like to ennoble. This desire also commands only as much respect as there is a concrete threat of war behind it. The CP has reacted to this — by ordering its military to make a sizable supply of means of power available for every kind of constructive intervention in the sovereign U.N. members’ constant harassment of each other.

Thus, the CP itself does everything to fully develop its power for world peace into another standpoint within the imperialist competition of states and make its state indistinguishable from the venerable imperialist powers. And it does not even have the imperialist interests a bourgeois government takes for granted as the basis for its honorable functions. From the point of view of a socialist society, what business do Red Fleet ships have being in the Persian Gulf, weapons from socialist production in the arsenals of the Egyptian or Indian army, soldiers of the Soviet armed forces in Angola or Ethiopia? All this becomes very necessary and consistent only in the course of the insane undertaking of supporting the world’s rulers in their quarrels in order to force more peace to come about. And if you consider diplomats a beneficial breed of people, you must necessarily send arms exports, warships, and military greetings before or after them.

That the governing communists have a divergent political point of departure for the interventions they launch often becomes apparent only because these interventions are a mockery of the cost-benefit ratio of every real imperialist calculation. Because the Russians are reluctant to deal annihilating blows, as the U.S. did in Vietnam and Israel demonstrates so classically, they usually do not obtain a military gain, whereby the cost in means of violence as determined so very peace-mindedly only becomes all the steeper. The truth of imperialistic peace policy — clearly superior military terror — is never what the alternative power for world peace wants to contribute to pacifying the world of states. But this does not even reduce the moral costs of this brand of socialist world politics — on the contrary. By the standards of diplomacy, the CPSU’s desire for peace appears to the “world public” to be a mere ideological cliché that, unlike the bourgeois ones, is implausible precisely because it is not simply a calculating embellishment of amply brutal successes.

If the CPSU cannot enforce the standard of peaceful relations between states in the reality of imperialism, it has succeeded in entrenching it in the minds of its masses. For them it paints a picture of a world of basically peace-loving nations in which no one really wants war except for an evil power-hungry and money-grubbing minority who do not deserve any theoretical explanation but only contempt. For a follower of this conception of the world, it must in fact remain an utter mystery why these bad guys can assert themselves so comfortably; so much so that the Soviet power is spared no military effort. But the Party, with its clichés about “contradictions” prevailing everywhere, has evidently managed to cure its citizens of criticizing its contradictory interpretations of the world in any way and of demanding sound explanations. The Party prefers to nourish the nationalistic idiocy of ‘regarding the Soviet Union’s path through world events as a triumphant advance of peace that is welcomed, if not cheered, by peoples everywhere, and of being surprised or indignant when someone does not share this view, no matter what his or her reasons are.

This also takes care of everything the CPSU associates with “international class solidarity” and every thing it does to cultivate this noble attitude. International class solidarity stands for the idealism of peace, whose advocate, the communist government, does all it can to boost other governments’ desire for peace. This makes Soviet patriotism and proletarian internationalism coincide — almost as in real bourgeois-imperialist thinking!

Chapter 2
Promoting socialism on the imperialist market

With its planned economy the CPSU basically put its resources and people out of the reach of the business interests of foreign capital. Conversely, the state-owned firms are also free from any business interest in the resources, people, goods and markets of other states. And nevertheless the Party has involved itself more and more in the world market, run up debts and now even invites capitalists to enter into joint ventures with socialist firms.

On the one hand, the CPSU cares so little about economic affairs in foreign countries that it is not about to bother any capitalist nation by “exporting revolution.” On the other hand, it finds the fruits of capitalist exploitation elsewhere so irresistible that it will set virtually no limits on exportation and importation. Foreign exploiters suit them fine as trading partners.

That is what this Party considers the proper form for a “competition of the systems,” in which it does not even intend to really outdo capitalism. It takes part in the world market as if this, of all things, were the way for the criteria and principles of its beneficial mode of production to spread by themselves throughout the world. It treats trade agreements as proof of the benefits of having good relations with socialist society; proof that is supposed to impress and convince the rulers and “economic leaders” in other countries —if not of socialism itself, at least of the advantages of peaceful relations with it.

In the name of this fantasy the CPSU allows the internationalized capitalists and their national guardians to get at quite a bit of what it initially put out of their reach. It takes part in destabilizing its own system.

The Party also sees to its masses’ internationalism — with socialist victories at the Olympics.

What business do communists have showing up at sports contests and opera festivals? What are they doing bringing children up to be gymnastic cripples and buying dress coats for their musicians’ trips abroad? Do they think such export articles are a proper substitute for the revolution they do not want to export? Why else should the CPSU need these ludicrous national accomplishments, which bourgeois states stage to feed their citizens’ patriotism and appeal to the nationalistic taste of foreign observers?

The CPSU has actually replaced communist agitation by enhancement of the national image. And this is not even the worst mistake of the general line of its foreign policy, which it calls “competition of the systems.”

What are communists doing trafficking on capitalist world markets? What are they doing buying pipes from West German steel companies in order to sell natural gas to West German power suppliers, helping West German banks earn money in the process? Why should they be importing grain from U.S. farmers — instead of making the gigantic territory they are in charge of into an independent, invulnerable paradise for working people?!

The CPSU has an explanation for all this that sounds materialistic but is not, and is certainly not communist: “International trade is of mutual benefit.” Has this Party no idea who it wants to benefit on the other side? And what benefit does it actually register on its own side apart from debts and a shortage of hard currency?!

When the CPSU tries to start up a flourishing trade with the capitalist West, it is behaving exactly like the other side in one respect. It does not care what kind of system, what goals and well-organized objective constraints it is involving itself in. It simply assumes that the other side is a slightly distorted mirror image of itself. Just as capitalists — along with their journalistic superstructure — take socialism’s planned economy as a business opportunity which is still lacking an open market and the many practical devices of the market economy, the CPSU takes capitalism as a system of levers for producing useful goods which can fit in magnificently with the planned economy according to the criteria of cost accounting, even if it does not meet the criteria of a planned supply of goods for the masses. These communists thus have no problem forever talking at cross purposes with their capitalist business partners, who have nothing but rates of profit in mind and don’t give a damn about supplying anyone, and end up striking a bargain over a bottle of Crimean champagne. This is how they succeed in disregarding all conflicts of interest they are in fact confronted with.

The conflict of interest they disregard most casually, in their eagerness to share in Western business, is the clash with Western workers that this business inevitably involves. With the self-assurance of a power that will not acknowledge any economic principles other than its own, the CPSU assumes Western wage laborers will derive a benefit from East-West business similar to the one it constantly promises its own working masses, namely more and better supplies of goods. Of course, it knows better when it makes occasional reference to the benefits of such trade for the workers in the West. The Party boasts not so much about the Ladas and fur caps its firms supply as about the jobs “protected” by its orders for Western goods. It is thus aware that capitalist wage laborers are vitally dependent on the business success of the company they serve. But as indicated by such boasts, it by no means finds this state of dependence fundamentally objectionable. Exactly those well-known aspects of capitalism which show that it functions totally differently to a Soviet plan are, for the CPSU, at most evidence that capitalism does not function properly — and in any case functions better when the CP provides it with orders for goods. It regards this as its contribution to improving the social situation of the working class in the West.

Above all, the Party is certain that it is doing a great favor for the “responsible” employers and economic and social policymakers in the West. For it imputes to them, quite in its own image, neither fierce competitiveness — although this is precisely what its trade pros play upon — nor the cynicism of the capitalistic calculation of labor costs. It thinks they simply have problems for which it can offer quite a bit of help in solving, notably its own system for them to emulate. It presents to the capitalistic business and politician mafia its state as an example of how well their state and economy could fare if they would only pay more attention to “social concerns.” This is all the “constructive criticism” these communists have of the capitalism they see flourishing everywhere. There is no greater, material “conflict of interests” they want to enter into with the states of this different kind of “social order.”

They do not even see any greater conflict where certain effects of worldwide trade and commerce attest to anything but the absurd notion that rulers and money owners in imperialist states are bothered by massive destitution. The Party knows the situation of the “Third World” well enough to emphatically repudiate any responsibility for it. It also points to the guilty party when it cites the statistics on the “net capital transfer” of billions of dollars out of the overindebted slums of the world primarily to the U.S., and lashes out at other shameful injustices of world trade. But this is by no means a reason for the CPSU to refuse to participate constructively in this system of imperialist pauperization. It merely sees injustices committed by the powerful and voices all kinds of recommendations about how to eliminate them — in the name of the victims and directed to those who ‘‘bear the responsibility.” Instead of criticizing the systematic imperialist grip on the wealth of the whole world, these communists subscribe to the downright counterrevolutionary nonsense of wanting the tools of the capitalistic world market to be used better. This would supposedly bring about what it imagines to be the actual purpose of trade and credit, GATT, the IMF and the World Bank, namely an “international division of labor” of universal social benefit.

The CPSU thus likes to interfere in the conflicts of interest of capitalistic economic life — not with an opposed material interest of its own, but from a strangely fictitious competitive standpoint. It speaks of a “competition of the systems ,” understanding that not as involving a really fundamental alternative, but more like a contest between different solutions to identical problems, namely efficient production, just distribution, etc.

This very view proves how incommensurate the two systems actually are. The CPSU recommends its “model” as the better solution to problems the capitalist world simply does not have. Rather, imperialistic business life creates all kinds of conflicts which are utterly foreign to a planned economy. One of these is a very real conflict of interest with the planned economy itself, as soon as the socialists let themselves in for trade and credit relations with the capitalistic business world. The desired transactions come about only to the extent that the socialist trade agencies behave and prove useful as perfectly normal competitors on the capitalist markets, with solid purchasing power in hard currency, on the one hand, and goods at competitive prices, on the other. This “objective constraint” includes criteria of profitability which do not fit in at all with socialist “cost accounting” and its comfortable bureaucratic production norms. It also involves the constantly renewed necessity of procuring hard currency, although the communists in charge should know what that means: as soon as it becomes a problem, it is already too late. One must run up debts, which only aggravates the problem by postponing its insolubility.

But this small insight is evidently beyond the grasp of the CPSU’s economic research institutes. The Party will not recognize this capitalist conflict with its own material interests as a conflict either, but prefers to translate it into a problem to be constructively solved. It sees it as another bit of “competition of the systems,” i.e., for solutions to identical problems. And the problem the CPSU sees its economy faced with is known utterly uncritically as the “fight for world standards.” The magnificent achievements of capitalist progress receive full marks, as if their economic essence were that they manage to solve a socialist productivity problem. Self-critically, these communists compare their own economy — thereby making it clear who is actually measuring himself against whom, beyond all ideological interpretation and beyond all the inevitable effects on the working classes.

For this measurement is a practical affair. It takes place through price comparison in dollars on world market terms and makes a mockery of all intentions to improve supply, accelerate technological progress, etc. Capitalists hardly need to reorient themselves when they make use of the range of goods and markets in the East bloc. They may have wrong ideas about the planned economy and its guiding principles, but they earn money and can thus achieve their goal as well as on any capitalist market. The governing communists, on the other hand, are confronted with movements in prices which lack any usefulness for their planned economic carryings-on. In the midst of their economic system they must set up special departments with preferential treatment for Western trade, to get the dollars rolling and not the rubles. And if they do not notice anything about their own firms, they could see by the Polish economy — and their own expenses for subsidizing it — how capitalist credit and the restraints of debt service work toward destroying their mode of production.

In fact the CPSU knows no such doubts. It speculates on the purchased progress — as well as on a clear political gain from its Western trade. By its international business deals, of all things, it wants to prove how badly leaders everywhere should want to preserve peace, since a war would put an end to the brisk traffic in goods and debts all around the globe. Everything about this proof is wrong.

First of all, the actors on the capitalist world market are not interested in its welfare, but in the success of their own wealth or that of their national business community, even if this involves the destruction of whole spheres of world trade and of numerous competitors. That is why a flourishing commerce with its merciless competitive struggles create material for all kinds of conflicts which are taken care of by the responsible politicians, i.e., raised to the level of competition between their political powers. And every such conflict may be the occasion for a government to become convinced that it must secure the conditions of its nation’s welfare by using force against other states. In short, what cause for war would the imperialist states have if they had not, by way of their worldwide capital turnover, drawn all nations into a perpetual, total struggle for existence that requires violent supervision?!

Secondly, this makes it one of the easiest of exercises for imperialist politics to put a temporary end to the business life it fundamentally ensures, for the sake of keeping the whole thing under control. Bourgeois politicians do not happen to share the idyllic view of their capitalists’ competitive struggle as a peaceful contest. They know the extortionate qualities of every successful transaction and of the business resources created and employed in the process, and know they themselves are not merely free enough but downright obligated to put the extortion before the transaction if the general situation calls for it.

Thirdly, business with the socialist bloc is that department of the world market which is utterly subject to a political proviso from the beginning. In this connection imperialist politicians, who normally think in terms of their national balance sheets on a dollar basis, suddenly start seeing things rather like their communist adversaries who are keen on easier technical progress, and proceed to slow down their business world — for example, by the “Cocom list” — in order to prevent such effects from coming about. The way they take care of their capitalists’ East-bloc trade fundamentally tends towards sabotage. And if this ruins some of their own businessmen — U.S. farmers, for example — this is one of the contradictions that governing democrats with their national responsibility can easily live with.

Consequently, nowhere in world trade is there a compelling objective reason for peace. On the contrary, it creates supervision requirements fraught with war, and demands for disciplining competitors. And vis-à-vis the Soviet Union the imperialist powers assert a common, global security interest that overrides all competitive disputes among themselves. This interest is brought to bear against the Soviet Union in all East-bloc trade the capitalist nations engage in. This means that the anti-Soviet viewpoint is often enough directed against East-bloc trade itself. But there is no greater mistake than to turn this around and regard the maintenance and expansion of East-West trade as a step in overcoming imperialism’s “policy of peace” toward the socialist camp. Instead, the deals that come about are invariably examined for possibilities of blackmail and sabotage. And when Western politicians, almost in unison with their communist adversaries, jabber about the peaceful nature of trade and commerce, this only reveals what they always think of first when it comes to East-bloc trade, namely the continuing conflict calling for war.

It is undoubtedly a supreme achievement of the CPSU’s peace policy that it resolutely ignores the political conflict of interests the West launches by taking up flourishing business relations with its planned economy. No matter what the West does, the CP has included trade in its planned economic system as a peace-promoting international benefit activity and — with an awareness of itself as the ruler over an empire that sets its own standards — it considers this view of trade to be objective. It sovereignly ignores the fact that imperialism functions totally differently to socialism in this respect as well — and thereby submits de facto to the standards that really hold in world trade, because imperialism sets and enforces them.

It does not spare its people anything, but lays an additional economic burden on them with the obligations of Western trade. It does not secure peace, but exposes its state to some more blackmail. With its offer of an exemplary system as an alternative, it does not impress any ruler — and there is no one else it attempts to exert influence on! — but only makes clear that it would not dream of engaging in any ruinous competitive struggle. The allied democracies are exposed to infinitely more and harder material pressure from each other than from their archenemy! And only in this ironical sense, if at all, does the CPSU really contribute to improving the world: hell would break loose in the competitive struggle between nations if the Soviet Union acted half the way its enemies do and answered every conflict of interest by adopting the corresponding fighting position. Should one praise the CPSU for having made its state such a comfortable adversary for imperialism?

Chapter 3
Supporting world communism to death

Western leftists accuse the CPSU of having gambled away the attractiveness of socialism with the bad example of its state, and of therefore having the failure of the world’s “revolutionary forces” on its conscience. This is unfair. Anticommunists — whether bourgeois or leftist — have never based their point of view on an objective examination of Soviet socialism. And people who let the Russians’ mistakes interfere with their criticism of capitalism are not interested in revolution anyway.

The CPSU has harmed world communism in a very different way: by its efforts to impress the world with splendid successes in its work to build socialism at home. Wanting to make the idea of the best of all possible states come true is the opposite of working toward world revolution. The way the CPSU has killed the communist world movement is by its policy of winning other sovereigns to aid and abet its will for peace. Not only has it sacrificed many a supporter for this, it has also shown its most vigorous sister parties the way to “Eurocommunism.”

And now there is no rebellion left anywhere in the world, not even any opposition worth mentioning, which “the Russians are behind.” This is what you get for replacing class struggle by foreign policy.

The CPSU does not have to worry about class struggle elsewhere. It could simply adopt the attitude that it has its hands full building up a flourishing communist society, and class struggle in other places has to be won by the communists and workers there anyway. Who would blame it? But once the CPSU decides it must worry about social conditions all over the world, it should at least do so without making life even more difficult for communists there!

Instead, communists in all states of the imperialist world system encounter world-traveling CPSU cadres at their enemies’ side, arm in arm with rulers and capitalists. And this is no coincidence, but absolutely according to plan. There is no Western statesman who cannot point out to communist critics how well he gets along with the head of the CPSU, how similarly they both see important world problems, and with what esprit de corps they both intend to overcome them!

This fatal outcome characterizes a success which the CPSU strives for and which it has achieved. Its aim is to gain respectability in the imperialist world for the anticapitalist overthrow it brought about in Russia and fought out against great imperialist hostility. This contradiction has become reality —logically enough, at the expense of rejecting the bourgeois system the overthrow was somehow directed against and whose state powers so detest communism. The CPSU itself does everything it can to diminish, or even deny, the revolutionary character of its rule. It acts as if it had not taken any step out of the bourgeois “family of nations” by establishing its new social order, but only fulfilled in an exemplary and trailblazing way a particularly progressive interest of this same world of states — found the optimal “answer to the questions of our time,” as these communists’ phraseology has it today. The CPSU acts as if the other states — unlike old Russia — no longer needed any revolution at all to follow the Russian example of conducting a modern state.

And it thus perverts — along with everything else — its relations with fellow communists who fight capitalism elsewhere and are quite aware that the abolition of private property is a social revolution and therefore requires an overthrow of the state. Instead of helping this opposition, the CPSU redefines their goals for them: communists are supposed to try to induce the political heads of every nation, especially the leading nations, to adopt the CPSU’s view of “world problems” and its “proposals for solutions.”

This assignment is anticommunist. Secondly, it is paradoxical because, even if the socialists ingratiate themselves to the nth degree, their definition of problems proves to be separated from the bourgeois state’s catalogue of tasks by nothing less than a social revolution. If the CPSU’s supporters around the world are not willing to admit this themselves, their own states confront them with this truth. And, thirdly, this assignment has a gigantic hitch. The communists are supposed to address a consciousness which fundamentally views politics as problem solving in the interests of national progress — i.e., the political standpoint for which the success of the nation is the greatest conceivable interest. This standpoint is then supposed to let itself be impressed, instructed, and guided by the national success achieved by another state, the Soviet Union. The interest in a glorious future of national society is supposed to be the common denominator between the “communist” references to the Soviet model and the political needs addressed — and this cannot work out. The national standpoint inevitably involves a disassociation from “the others,” a mistrust of foreign examples, and the spirit of competition. As everyone knows, there is only one national reason for really “learning from other countries” without reservation, and that is the competitive struggle for national survival.

This contradiction of wanting to arouse a nationalist’s enthusiasm for the more successful nationalism of another country hits first and foremost the parties following the CPSU line: they are accused of being “in Moscow’s thrall” and “traitors to their country.” And this forces them to make a decision. They must sooner or later choose between “Moscow’s point of view” and their “national colors.” Political crimes which the Soviet power may be accused of are never the reason for this dilemma; they only make it acute, if anything. And there is no question that every party that can afford to do so will divorce itself from the CPSU and completely adopt the standpoint of national progress, without anyone else “leading it by the nose.” There is nothing else the “Eurocommunists” ever learned from the CPSU! Conversely, the alternative of remaining true to Moscow’s example is equivalent to perpetual shipwreck on the rock of nationalism which one never criticizes, for which the mere suspicion that someone is “a slave to the Russians” suffices as a reason for dead certain anticommunism.

The CPSU’s real interest is not even to have pieces of its socialism introduced in other countries — how could that happen? Its propaganda for the Soviet example is intended above all to encourage other states to adopt the attitude that one can get along well with the Soviet Union and there is no reason for hostility. And this makes the agitation task assigned to the allied CP’s even more absurd. They are supposed to act as parties of the Soviet will for peace; and that is an extremely tough job in the world of democratic states. Even if pro-Soviet communists do not see it this way, “politics for peace” necessarily refers to “dangers” which are unthinkable without Soviet war readiness. Every national mind therefore knows that standing up for the Soviet love of peace means, strictly speaking, standing up for its reasons for war. Communist propaganda for peace is therefore not merely the continuation of Soviet foreign policy by means of a “fifth column” in the form of a party. It will also inevitably be taken as such and rejected for this very reason by every nationally-minded person — whom the communist message does not want to change! What lethal self-betrayal the CPSU demands from its sister parties!

And they cannot even be sure of their big sister’s gratitude. For the logic of this politics for peace entails readily sacrificing the efforts of like-minded allies if this provides better chances of inducing a pro-Soviet will for peace on the part of the government in charge. For peace, which it quite aptly translates into good diplomatic relations with other governments, the CPSU knows no bounds in its cynicism toward opposition movements that basically sympathies with it, and were maybe even built up by it. It of course regards the peace to be preserved as an overriding justification for every rotten thing it does. And it thereby reveals once again its irremediable mistake of wanting to gain recognition from other states for its different system. It does not prevent imperialism from taking this as a cause for war. Rather, it lets itself in for it.

With its general line of peaceful policy, the CPSU has killed what used to be a “communist world movement.” But this does not bother it. In its view of the world, it has a substitute. Nationalists who are concerned for any reason at all about peace and/or some “social question” without having ever thought about class struggle are nowadays almost as welcome to the CPSU as communist parties which canvass for it directly, and in any case much more welcome than just plain communists. The CPSU regards such unappointed “supporters” as all the more convincing advocates of the standpoint it wants to (merely) bring into the politics of the imperialist nations. And it does not mind if such fractions emphasize their anticommunism. In the name of peace and progress it will forgive even that.

Following this pattern, the CPSU for many years made allies of the anticolonial liberation movements, both spiritually and by military assistance. The result was easy to predict. As soon as they gained independence and turned to their “national construction” it was time to disassociate themselves from Moscow’s solidarity, unless imperialist subversion or a war forced them to request Soviet military assistance — and only if the CPSU considered it opportune to grant it. The only thing left over from these days is the imperialist habit of suspecting that the “Russians” are the wire pullers whenever something does not go the way the imperialist security fanatics want. On the one hand, the CPSU does not like to be accused of such nastiness but, on the other hand, it welcomes even this as proof that everything progressive, social and anti-imperialist has its true home in the Soviet Union.

As proof of this, the CPSU nowadays takes everything it can get. It invites Western celebrities to Moscow so they can testify to Soviet hospitality afterwards — as evidence that a more peaceful world is possible. It approaches the capitalist proletariat, who serve and go to the dogs in the great “economic powers,” only through their television darlings and philosophers. Is this any way to promote world revolution? Not even the CPSU can believe that. But it does not care; it wants no world revolution.

Part 3
Stalin — Who was that man?

He brought about “rapid industrial progress” in revolutionary Soviet Russia and completely changed its agricultural system. He led the Red Army to victory over German imperialism and established the so-called “Eastern bloc.” At the same time he treated the peasants badly, harassed the intelligentsia and raged murderously among his Party’s cadres, disregarding all principles of “socialist lawfulness” and “collective leadership.” These are the facts; there is no reason to doubt them and no need to “reveal” anything else.

However, these observations are not correct judgments about the man and his achievements. “Industrialization” characterizes Stalin’s socialist construction in Russia just as poorly as “economic miracle” characterizes postwar economic policy in West Germany. The fact that Stalin’s troops conquered Berlin says nothing at all about which cause won over there — or whether any cause won at all. And the accusation that Stalin’s style of governing was a crime is anything but an explanation of it, regardless of whether this accusation is made by democrats as a prelude to historical-philosophical or racist reflections about the deeper necessity of those “atrocities,” or whether it is used by Stalin’s successors to “come to terms with the past” as if they were emulating the West Germans.

Chapter l
Father of the Soviet economic miracle
From a revolution against capitalism to “socialist economics”

Stalin wanted to fight “private production” in agriculture and build up large-scale heavy industry and the machine-building industry as fast as possible. He defended this decision vis-à-vis his Party and before the people with the “theory” that it was necessary to build “socialism in one country,” namely, in the revolutionary Soviet country. Where else — after attempted communist takeovers had failed in Hungary, Germany and other states? Why not — now that the Bolshevist Party, after completing a revolution and putting a victorious end to civil wars and wars of intervention, had the country and people of the former czardom under control? Was it not the purpose of the mighty revolutionary effort to create socialist conditions there?

This was apparently not all that clear. The fact that Stalin saw a need to justify this program in principle and had to overcome opposition to it from all sides within his Party reflects a strange contradiction in the self-awareness and the politics of this victorious revolutionary organization. The Bolsheviks had indeed not merely “seized power,” but erected a completely new power —the councils (“soviets”) controlled by them — in place of the old state and the power of property it had put into force. They had broken the private power that capital and the ownership of land had exerted over society’s labor, and had created the freedom to plan production sensibly. They had not let go of this freedom either under the pressure of fellow travelers and opponents who only wanted a bit of progress in the form of reforms under bourgeois conditions, or in view of the lack of understanding for socialist “experiments” on the part of the numerically largest productive class, the rural population whom the Bolsheviks had at first made into independent private peasants.

However, they had derived their aim of a revolution without compromises not least from the idea that no one can ultimately check the course of history, which pushes every society from one “stage of development” into the next one. And in terms of this teleology of history it was not at all time for socialism in Russia, since capitalism, the fashioning of a country and its people into tools of business, was only beginning there. The Bolsheviks were troubled in all seriousness by the question of what kind of revolution was actually “on the agenda” for them. And they reached the conclusion that there was hardly any basis for much more than a “bourgeois” revolution like the French one of 1789, unless the real proletarian revolution soon took place in the countries where it was “due” and pulled backward Russia into socialism at the same time. This fundamental reservation toward their own plans turned out not to be a problem for the Bolsheviks when they decided to carry through the revolution. They never wanted to act as midwives for the bourgeois liberties of business. But they did not really feel called upon to simply go about building up socialist relations of production — “in one country.”

The first form this contradiction took was the “New Economic Policy” (NEP) introduced in 1920, which put the food supply of the cities as well as the supply of industrial consumer goods and of producer goods for the rural economy largely in the hands of private business. On the one hand, this policy was born of the need to make sure people had enough to eat. If that were the only alternative, saving the people would naturally justify every postponement of political plans. But this need had not arisen all by itself. It resulted from the refusal of the fairly independent peasants to hand over their grain, just as in wartime — the Bolsheviks could chalk that up as the repayment for the hardly socialistic “emancipation of the peasantry” that the revolution had brought the country. Scarcity also prevailed on the side of the proletarian state power, which could not make the peasants any material offers to replace the sheer compulsion to deliver. But this was no natural need either. After all, there was a whole class of well-equipped rescuers standing by to enrich themselves from the capitalistic trade and commerce opened up by the state.

The Bolsheviks regretted having to grant liberties to these people and to a minority of peasants skilled in business; they regarded it as a step backwards and a compromise made at the expense of their real program. On the other hand, they found it perfectly all right to give ground like this from the higher point of view of the course of history. They interpreted it as understanding the necessity of first “getting the nation going” with capitalist means. This “state capitalism” was supposed to teach the communists how to carry on trade, do commercial arithmetic, produce profitably, in short “operate an economy” — in order to make the resurrected businessmen superfluous some day and the communists their “heirs.” This was to be socialism’s next “stage of development.”

Thus, the “New Economic Policy” was indeed a program for building “socialism in one country.” And beyond being, or being represented as, a compromise and emergency plan, it certainly indicates what the Bolshevist Party meant by the “socialism” that was to allow for the transition to the more ideal forms of communism. It was a kind of capitalism in which state firms were to take over the supply function of private businessmen and the state would set prices so as to prevent them from endangering the sustenance of the masses. This project involved precious little “antagonistic” opposition to the capitalistic mode of production. It was based instead on considerable respect for the achievements in supplying goods that supposedly come about under a regime of properly controlled profit seeking. It was also based on the certainty that such control can make profit useful for the proletariat — a strange certainty as it conflicted slightly with the insight that a revolution was necessary to abolish capitalistic property and its “objective constraints” on economic activity.

This picture of “socialism” thus corresponded exactly to the Bolsheviks’ notion that the revolution they had achieved was not yet really proletarian, but rather could only be valid and an irreversible step toward communism as a prelude to world revolution. They never thought it impossible that there might be a “relapse” into the rule of capitalistic property that could no longer be restricted — especially in view of how the licensed business world was frolicking under the “New Economic Policy.”

This is why Stalin’s decision to strive for “socialism in one country” was by no means self-understood. After all, he was thereby rejecting the Party doctrine with its teleological view of history according to which the most one could do was to put a regulated state capitalism on the “agenda.” However, he did not at all reject the false historical idea contained in this doctrine — so that his decision on how to build socialism was no freer. If “blood, sweat, and tears” had to be, they could have been put to better use. Thus, Stalin declared that the “apprenticeship” in “economics” Lenin had recommended to his communist troopers was over after eight years; and not because the socialist firms and socialist trade had supplanted capitalistic competition, but for the opposite reason. The growing dependency of the proletariat’s subsistence on businessmen and a private peasantry was becoming a danger for the urban masses and for their state. The finances available to the state were also increasingly dependent on the “nepmen’s” business success and the private peasants’ surpluses, and this was inhibiting the progress of the state sector in economic life.

So Stalin inspired his Party, that was nevertheless still ruling, to remember its power over the economy and, without waiting for the state economy to achieve its gradual competitive successes, abolish the private power of money, replace capitalistic business life by a communist commercial system, and emancipate the construction of state industry from the limits of the state’s tax revenue. In this way, Stalin was actually going about liberating society from the restraints capital imposes on the economy, as the October Revolution had intended.

It is all the more striking that this freedom was not at all the point of view Stalin took in building his “socialism in one country.” Being a loyal disciple of the socialist program contained in the “New Economic Policy,” he took it for granted that, for the revolutionary Soviet power, “socialism” could mean nothing but the task of providing all of capital’s achievements in terms of supply and development without allowing progress to be impeded by private property! He defined his project as the historical task of bringing about no more and .no less than the accumulation of wealth and productive forces according to the capitalists’ example but without any capitalists.

Thus, Stalin utilized the freedom of the revolutionary power, that had gained control of all social relations, to expropriate the businessmen and peasants and take command of the workers, many of whom had not found any work at all under the “New Economic Policy.” However, the reorganization plan initiated at the Party’s command was based only very generally on the notion that large agricultural estates are more productive than many small farms and that the first thing a progressive country needs is industry for producing industrial facilities. It was not the task Stalin assigned to his supreme planning authority to work out what goods were required, calculate the optimum division and distribution of labor necessary for producing them and organize cooperation throughout society to this effect. Gosplan had to calculate on the basis of available funds. It tried its hand at “global control” by allocating funds to the firms and by setting prices, and thereby burdened the individual (large) firms with the task of using the allocated funds to set up a business in which technology and operating teams, raw material supplies and production equipment had to harmonize materially.

It was basically stipulated and planned that the firms should work together and the workers be supplied with the necessities of life, but in actual practice this was left to the firms’ “self-initiative” and their budgeting and use of the allocated funds or the proceeds from the sale of goods. And the use of money was subject above all to the dictate of “cost accounting,” i.e., the directive to achieve a constant surplus of funds to hand over from production and sale at state-administered prices. For the first time, the contradiction of planning with money was put into practice on a large scale — as if an allocated fund of fine new “red” rubles were the same thing as the means of production a firm was to procure with it; as if means of production and manpower were the same thing as sale proceeds out of which the firm and state funds were supposed to be renewed and expand all by themselves; and as if the overall relations of society’s production with its division of labor as projected by Gosplan and ordered by the state had to come about quite automatically by means of sums of money and the compulsion to make a profit.

The de facto result was a gigantic construction effort that was obstructed by shortages at every link between firms and branches of industry because “planning” was based on finances instead of on the actual articles needed. The only reason it came about at all was that there was one production factor which was highly flexible in terms of cost and could be used again and again to make the prescribed “cost accounting” work out right in spite of everything: labor-power and its payment in wages. Those who were supposed to become the beneficiaries of all this building-up first became its stopgaps, and this was by no means a voluntary matter. A system of premiums and penalties — going as far as unpaid forced labor — provided the socialist firms with labor in the form they needed it to fulfil the given financial and production plans: as a means of compensating the lack of production equipment, on the one hand, and as a flexible residual item in their “economic” calculation, on the other.

It is a favorite anticommunist line of argument to criticize the severity of the economic construction commanded by Stalin as being the necessary consequence of the “voluntarism” typical of a planned economy. Benevolent economic experts then like to add the compliment that this at least allowed Russia to catch up on “primitive accumulation” with its unavoidable privations. Both ideas are ridiculous. The brutalities of Stalin’s command economy are without exception due to the fact that the “language” of command was money. This was what made the “planning” so resolutely and consistently neglect all the material and technical requirements of a sensible division of labor. This was what defined labor-power from the start as that variable which could be sacrificed to make this “planning” work out somehow in accordance with the profit directives. This was what necessitated that degree of terrorization of the workers which the hypocritical friends of capitalist exploitation accuse Stalin of so excitedly.

The model case of anticommunist agitation when it comes to Stalin is the collectivization of agriculture under the pressure of Soviet power. It reveals most clearly this congenital defect of ‘socialism in one country” inspired by a “market economy.” Those in charge did not integrate the peasants — either as a whole or locally — to a new division of labor thoroughly organized in terms of the technology and goods required. Instead, they were “confident” that it was sufficient to concentrate the bit of money made available for agriculture on the big farms. Of course, this did not do the job. It brought about the very opposite of a technically expedient large-scale agricultural production, the state tractor stations being no real help either. Thus, the only “lever” left to use was the purely negative side of socialist construction, expropriation — which was ineffective, because extortion with the threat of hardship is a pretty poor productive force and did not impress the hard-boiled Russian peasants in the least.

So if there was anything about Stalin’s building of socialism that deserves to be called “voluntaristic,” it was certainly not the decision as such to “conjure up” an industry and quasi-industrial agriculture. And it was even less the concomitant decision not to wait for foreign “aid” in the form of credit. And it was not the attitude that everything is possible for communists, with which whole teams of workers marched enthusiastically into the “construction battle” in those days — that was definitely an echo of the revolutionary victory over the “objective constraints” that money and business impose on productive labor. What was “voluntaristic” in the worst sense was Stalin’s tacit understanding — which his Party never doubted! — that the proper way to conjure up a rational new production was for officials to juggle financial sums in conformity with indicators of the national economic accounts (which, honor to whom honor is due, the Gosplan experts already concocted before Keynes and in more detail!). It was “voluntaristic” and not a bit Marxist to trust in exchange-values and their “laws” unfailingly paving the way for the production and supply of useful articles to satisfy every wish.

Finally, the irony of the expert bourgeois accusation of “voluntarism” is that none other than Stalin himself brought it up and defended his project against it by insisting that his socialism complied with all the laws of economics — exactly because of its respect for the criteria of profitability learned from capitalism. This strange communist was bent on denying the standpoint of revolutionary freedom when creating relations of production. And he did this the way he had learned: in the form of general philosophical reflections on the problem of whether a socialist economy should be regarded fundamentally as the execution of given objective laws. Stalin’s answer is a boundless yes, and his reasons are apt.

“Hence the laws of political economy under socialism are objective laws, which reflect the fact that the processes of economic life are law-governed and operate independently of our will. People who deny this postulate are in point of fact denying science, and, by denying science, they are denying all possibility of prognostication — and, consequently, are denying the possibility of directing economic activity.” (from “Remarks on Economic Questions Connected with the November 1951 Discussion,” p. 320)

What Marx and Engels criticized about capitalism — the reification of the social relations of production, which makes exploitation seem to be an objective necessity — is for Stalin the ultimate truth even about the mode of production he himself initiated with his powerful command over workers, peasants and property. It is more or less irrelevant beside this “postulate” what laws are supposed to be holding ‘‘behind the back” of even the revolutionary Party and waiting to be “scientifically” deciphered. In any case, one of the main laws is supposed to be “the economic law that the relations of production must necessarily conform with the character of the productive forces” — which has no economic content at all but summarises, in a scholastic formula, the Bolsheviks’ basic belief that their own revolutionary program was nothing but a historical necessity. In formulating this pseudo-law they were announcing quite methodically their intention to pass off their command activity as a kind of natural necessity, in particular at all the points where this activity was devoid of any effort to organize production in a systematically expedient way.

Beneath this ‘‘fundamental law,” the Bolsheviks resurrected in particular capitalism’s “law of value,” along with a theory which reduces the value of labor-power as a commodity to an energetically defined minimum subsistence level. It is almost as if a bourgeois economist were voicing his elementary dogmas about correct management:

“As a matter of fact, consumer goods, which are needed to compensate the labor power (sic!) expended in the process of production, are produced and realized in our country as commodities coming under the operation of the law of value. It is precisely here that the law of value exercises its influence on production. In this connection, such things as cost accounting and profitableness, production costs, prices, etc., are of actual importance in our enterprises. Consequently, our enterprises cannot, and must not, function without taking the law of value into account.

“Is this a good thing? It is not a bad thing. Under present conditions, it really is not a bad thing, since it trains our business executives to conduct production on rational lines and disciplines them …The trouble is not that production in our country is influenced by the law of value. The trouble is that our business executives and planners, with few exceptions, are poorly acquainted with the operations of the law of value, do not study them, and are unable to take account of them in their computations. This, in fact, explains the confusion that still reigns in the sphere of price-fixing policy.” (ibid., pp. 326–7)

Lenin had wanted to apprentice his cadres to real capitalists. Stalin abolished the capitalists — and wanted to have his planners study “the law of value” itself. It was as if the forced relations of exchange resulting from private, capitalistic production — the very antithesis to a planned division of labor throughout society — were not merely still valid, but actually had a chance to come to full bloom due to the abolition of competition. The small contradiction between the law of value “operating” and the planners having to “take account of it” proves this “law” to be a self-created fetish of “socialist economics” — and this is just how Stalin wanted it. “Behind everyone’s back” he wanted to make profitability the leading force for “rational management.” Of course, with prices fixed by the state this inevitably brings about tremendous “confusion” in the production system both within the firms and throughout society! In the spirit of this “rationality” he was forever attacking the last comrades who still had any sense in this matter:

“He (Comrade Yaroshenko) plainly declares that in his Political Economy of Socialism ‘disputes as to the role of any particular category of socialist political economy — value, commodity, money, credit, etc. — which very often with us are of a scholastic character, are replaced by a healthy discussion of the rational organization of the productive forces in social production, by a scientific demonstration of the validity of such organization.’” (Concerning the Errors of Comrade L. D. Yaroshenko, May, 1952, p. 352)

Against such refreshing suggestions that exchange value as a principle of pseudo-planning should be dumped, Stalin usually presented the profound “argument” from Marx and Engels that productive forces and relations of production are two different things, attributed to the latter an inviolable autonomy and triumphantly declared nonsense of the following caliber:

“Comrade Yaroshenko has already done away with relations of production under socialism as a more or less independent sphere, and has included the little that remains of them in the organization of the productive forces. Has the socialist system, one asks, its own economic foundation? Obviously, seeing that the relations of production have disappeared as a more or less independent factor under socialism, the socialist system is left without an economic foundation … A rather funny situation …” (ibid., p. 355)

“If we followed Comrade Yaroshenko, therefore, what we would get is, instead of a Marxian Political Economy, something in the nature of Bogdanov’s ‘Universal Organizing Science’.” (ibid., p. 354)

And that would be bad because Stalin advocated a kind a socialism in which the producers were not to organize their social relations themselves, but to let them operate as an “independent factor,” just as under capitalism —a rather counterrevolutionary situation.

Nowadays there are whole libraries about the “role” of every single “category of socialist political economy,” testifying to the fruitfulness of Stalin’s dogma of the economic autonomy of the socialist planning business. The base corresponding to this superstructure in de-Stalinized Russia is an economic policy that has developed Stalin’s invention — state control of an economy without private property by means of money and profit from its crude initial forms — when the managers of unprofitable firms were still being shot and “wage differentials” ranged from labor camps to Stakhanov premiums —into a truly “complex” system of “planning and control.” Soviet industry was brought about by state-controlled workers and engineers; the strange mode of production that controlled them and made their life difficult is Stalin’s doing. He used all his power to make “socialism in one country” out of the Bolshevist critique of capitalism, that contained so little rejection of the capitalistic mode of production but nevertheless deprived it of its base.

The way this translation of a false critique into a real economic system functions is what annoys communists. The fact that it functions is what annoys bourgeois adversaries. The fact that the thing does not function better is what annoys Stalin’s successors. That makes one right and two wrong ways of looking at it.

Chapter 2
Inventor of the personality cult
From disputes about the Party line to a bloody Party purge

Stalin had a mausoleum built for Lenin very soon after Lenin’s death. This should not be criticized by democrats, who know and appreciate that posters with full-color portraits count as electoral arguments in the West. But this was strange for a party that had cleared away all the religious and moral rubbish that went along with czarist rule.

One cannot object at all to the fact that Stalin — and the whole Bolshevist Party — thought highly of Lenin as an authority in political matters. But it is not the same thing whether a group of revolutionaries have experienced the soundness of a member’s power of judgment often enough to trust him even when there is no irrefutable argument to decide the matter — or whether an embalmed body is put on display in solemn surroundings. The latter derives from the intention to establish a relationship of loyalty, thereby fundamentally replacing the standpoint of joint deliberation — “soviet” does mean “council” after all — by that of submission. This loyalty cannot be intended for the deceased person — he is dead. It relates to the cause the preserved body was committed to during its lifetime. And this cause is totally incompatible with a relationship of authority or submission. After all, it is a matter of the common revolutionary purpose the Party members must in any case set themselves. And this purpose happens to be such that it has nothing to gain by remembering people who also once shared it. That does not help anyone understand the critique of capitalism and how to abolish it one bit better.

Stalin himself certainly did not think a mausoleum and monuments to Lenin would win anyone over to communism. Conversely, the allocation of tight building material for such statues shows what kind of impression the General Secretary of this CP wanted to give people in general and his comrades in particular.

From the people, Stalin was demanding respect, namely for the ruling power which built such luxurious structures to honor its founder, so that by celebrating him it was honoring itself. Such respect is inevitably only as effective as the power the impressed subject must obey anyway. But respecting the great dead man involves the consolation that one is obeying not simply the power, but its founder’s ideals and his engaging personality. In launching a national veneration of Lenin, Stalin was thus speculating on continuing the tradition of an antirevolutionary mentality of submission.

For the Party, the introduction of an ideological relationship of loyalty to the chief of the revolution represented a means of discipline, in which the monuments played a far less important part than the technique which not only Stalin mastered — of using quotations from Lenin as an argument. The discipline in question had nothing to do with the indispensable functional virtue of (revolutionary) struggle based on the activists’ own standpoint that their success must not be contingent on moods. This standpoint also has nothing to gain by living or dead examples. Whenever examples (are to) have any effect it is a matter of something else, namely, identification with the cause the example personifies, which means that this cause has ceased to be dependent on whether people approve of it or not on the basis of their knowledge and will.

The fact that Stalin in this way institutionalized submission as a Party virtue among the Bolsheviks is often held against him in retrospect as a machination based on his aspiration for power. Significantly enough, this most respectable accusation disregards the fact that Stalin could only do this because he had a Party which agreed that such an attitude is a virtue. This indicates what the accusers really mean: basically they always mean that the wrong person gained control of the Party. Yet for the Bolshevist Party — unlike a democratic vote-catching club or a fascist movement which, each in its own way, demands nothing but successful leadership — it was in fact a contradiction to demand blind allegiance in order to replace the power of class society, put up with out of opportunism and morality, by something decent. This contradiction could never have been managed by Stalin if it had not already belonged to the Party’s own self-awareness — as well as his!

Indeed, the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary standpoint did not involve a rejection of bourgeois morality, which idealizes the dedication to binding values, to “higher” goals which one has by no means simply set oneself. Although this Party saw through the falseness of bourgeois phrases about equality, liberty and fraternity, it stood up uncompromisingly for these very ideals, regarding the revolution as the way to make these bourgeois values come true at last. And the idea of taking a historically necessary step forward for humanity — this being the “materialistic” base for the idealistic project of improving the world — is per se of a moralistic nature as it transforms the abolition of capitalist conditions from being the purpose the Party sets for itself and realizes as best it can, to being a kind of mission this Party serves.

Consequently, the discussions the Bolsheviks carried on about political and tactical decisions never consisted entirely in identifying obstacles and enemies and developing the best methods of realizing their goals. At the same time the Bolsheviks were animated by the idea that they were waging a just battle against forces which were both evil and doomed to ruin. They fought their revolutionary battle, paradoxically enough, in accordance with the idea that their plan was infinitely good, but that its practical validity was dictated and justified by the historical situation, so that it was dependent on its conditions of success.

From the point of view of this morality and teleology of history, the Party’s victories and defeats were never merely victories and defeats — which did in fact teach the Bolsheviks quite a bit about their tactics — but always an occasion to bring up ideological questions. Successes ‘‘proved,’’ in all seriousness, the historical justice of the revolutionary cause and gave the Party good marks for its prognostic abilities and its leadership. Failures raised doubts as to whether those in charge had not violated the historical “agenda.” This was cleared up either by revising the official Party “assessment” of the historical situation — or one had to conclude that a sin had been committed against the absolutely correct Party line.

Now, the reason why Lenin had been successful was certainly not that he had relied on an insight into objective laws governing the course of history — but, if anything, that he did not care about such theories at the critical moment. For the Party, however, the victorious revolution made its leaders the personification of the revolutionary science of history and of the only correct Party line. That is precisely what Stalin took note of. Conversely, a lot went wrong when the Party was building up its rule over Russia, but the reason was certainly never that the Party’s deductions about historical necessities were disregarded — it was rather out of respect for such imaginary laws. The Party inevitably regarded errors or failures as deviations from the objectively prescribed way to success — deviations which no amount of good will could excuse in the presence of the Party’s teaching about the inevitable. Stalin found this especially convincing. In this good Bolshevist spirit he wanted to lead Lenin’s Party onward.

Stalin thus went out of his way to grow into Lenin’s part. Although he had anything but a good head, he took great pains to demonstrate that everything he considered politically necessary for saving and securing Soviet power was historically necessary as well. Instead of simply trying to persuade the Party to make up its mind to build socialism in its own country, he used quotes from Lenin to convince people that “socialism in one country” was possible even in Russia in 1926 in view of all iron laws of history and its timetable. In 1927 he launched an attack on the kulaks, the “rich peasants,” because he wanted to counteract the danger represented by the private power of landed property and food-trading capital, which was once again gaining strength. However, he did not simply mobilize his Party for this goal. He wanted to gain support for the “theory” that an “aggravation of class struggle” was necessary according to the laws of history, especially with the increasing economic successes of socialist construction, and so the Party had to face this “simple and obvious truth.” And so on.

The fact that these “further developments of Leninist theory” clearly revealed their nature as ad hoc ideologies on political decisions gives Stalin good marks for his political judgment. He relied as little as Lenin did on the fetishism of an historical “agenda” in realizing his socialist construction program. But that is only one side of it. At the same time Stalin was very serious about this manner of proving the truth of his politics, mainly by using the suitably gilded words of dead Lenin, and knew that on this point his Party was in full agreement.

It was for this reason, and not out of cynical calculation, that he perfected this technique to the point of dominating the debates on the most important decisions in the Central Committee and at Party congresses, not so much with assessments of the political situation, as with breathtaking sophisms and know-it-all feats of interpretation. Again, it was hardly due to the persuasive power of his laborious derivations that the Party followed him in the most important decisions, and even less that it got its way in society and against the “classes” it attacked. But in the light of his Party’s view of history, Stalin’s successes automatically became proof that he was a firsthand authority on the dictates of “reality,” that he literally personified the identity of the Party line with the conditions and guarantees for its success, that the Party had thus found its new Lenin — the “Lenin of our time.”

Stalin conducted the dispute with representatives of a deviant Party line in the same spirit. The General Secretary was not at all content to make the alternatives clear, criticize false radicalism and compromisers, analyze the hurdles to be overcome, and bring about common insights and a consensus on a chosen course of action. He always fought for a majority for his line using the weapons of the historical moralism that held in his Party as “Marxism-Leninism.” Adversaries were made out to be deviationists from the revolutionary mission of world history in its momentary phase — at first, the proof consisted of real or supposed discrepancies between their views and quotations from Lenin — and suspected of not really endorsing the Party’s good cause.

Here is an example chosen at random. Zinoviev raised doubts about whether the motto that socialism should be built only in Russia was “a Leninist question” and did not smell of “national narrow-mindedness” (which was not exactly a brilliant contribution to the discussion). Stalin attacked him in the 1926 essay “Problems of Leninism” with the following deduction:

“Thus, according to Zinoviev, to recognize the possibility of completely building socialism in one country means adopting the point of view of national narrow-mindedness, while to deny such a possibility means adopting the point of view of internationalism.

“But if that is true, is it at all worthwhile fighting for victory over the capitalist elements in our economy? Does it not follow from this that such a victory is impossible?

Capitulation to the capitalist elements in our economy — that is what the inherent logic of Zinoviev’s line of argument leads us to.

“And this absurdity, which has nothing in common with Leninism, is presented to us by Zinoviev as ‘internationalism,’ as ‘100 percent Leninism’!

“I assert that on this most important question of building socialism Zinoviev is deserting Leninism and slipping to the standpoint of the Menshevik Sukhanov.” (p. l77)

The Party’s decision did not simply put an end to such a dispute; it put the defeated adversary historically in the wrong and found him guilty of a standpoint conflicting with the Party line, i.e., detrimental to the Party. The devastating thing about this verdict was that, in the great majority of cases, it did not fall on anyone really “evil”-minded who was out to sabotage the building of socialism, but just on good Leninists who, exactly like Stalin, were searching for the only correct answer to history’s orders — and actually did think Stalin’s success put them in the wrong. They themselves, again like their General Secretary, were not in a position to distinguish between error (if it was ultimately a matter of having a false view of history) and an offence (i.e., against the Party’s correct view). That a dissenter had to renounce his anti-Party standpoint with much self-accusation or was ostracized as an enemy of the Party and expelled, was thus part of the moral culture of Bolshevism, which no adversary of Stalin ever criticized.

It was Stalin’s very own achievement to go through the dialectics of moral suspicion right to the end. Being the consistent guardian of the Party line, he sooner or later had to start thinking that the disputes within the Party had not yet come to a satisfactory end when the loser declared his submission. Once a comrade was suspected of not really and honestly sharing the Party’s objectives, his belated consent to the prevailing policy inevitably met with doubts as to whether it was honest or just based on opportunism, so that the next deviation was just a matter of time, or whether it was even based on the calculation of being able to continue damaging the Party from within. The boss sensed treason everywhere. After the accusation “double dealer” had been introduced into Party life, not a single act of submission could be morally maintained any more: the more exhaustive it was, the more certain it was to be suspected of hypocrisy.

In this way, the examination of a Party member’s reliability was completely divorced from the dispute over alternative ways of building socialism. It was up to Stalin, as the incarnation of the correct line, to perform the unpleasant task of finally deciding when a suspicion of unreliability was correct or not on the basis of the comrade’s attitude to him. Logically enough then, the antirevolutionary compulsion to measure the Party’s actions by imaginary objective laws of history thus finally changed into the personal arbitrariness of the person whom the Party’s obedience and successes proved to be the “brilliant” authority on these laws. His moral judgment was then inflated enthusiastically into complete conspiracy theories, in which imperialist states regularly appeared as the sponsors. Many of the accused even ended up believing in such explanations themselves. At times they confessed to such things in public even without any personal conviction, in order to do their Party a (last) service.

This progress from morally waged disputes about the Party line to an increasingly uncontrolled Party purge was definitely promoted by the fact that the practical problems of rapidly building socialism “in one country” were by no means over, but became downright painful as the Party was otherwise rallying, completely and with standing ovations, around its General Secretary. No more doubts were heard about the absurdity of subordinating socialist planning to the dictate of finances and their accumulation. It appeared all the more obvious that sabotage must be the reason why cooperation between the firms and branches of industry was not going smoothly. The heads of the antisocialist conspiracy were clearly those comrades who had, at some time or other, expressed doubts about “socialism in one country,” the “necessary aggravation of class struggle” or some other doctrine and had -”evidently”! — never abandoned them. Since submission could no longer restore trust, there was nothing left for a consistent moralist to do but to liquidate the treacherous comrades — this too was a “historically necessary” development of the Party line, a new standard for measuring the required loyalty to the Party …

Inevitably, even those comrades who had never showed any real deviation at all were condemned. Out of 1,966 delegates to the Seventeenth Party Congress, who had unanimously cheered the total victory of Stalin’s line in 1934 —

“At the Fifteenth Party Congress it was still necessary to prove the correctness of the Party line and struggle against certain anti-Leninist factions; at the Sixteenth Party Congress a clean sweep of the last supporters of these factions was made; at this Congress we do not need to prove anything, and presumably there is no one who has to be defeated. Everyone sees that the Party line has been victorious. (Thunderous applause)” (from “Report and Accounts to the Seventeenth Party Congress”) —

1,106 had been arrested by the Eighteenth Party Congress in 1938, according to Khrushchev, and out of 139 members and candidates elected to the Central Committee in 1934, 98 had been liquidated.

The culture of suspicion did not stop at the non-Party masses. Stalin committed the contradiction of demanding even of people whom his Party had not won for communism that they unconditionally recognize the Party and its leader as guarantors for unfailing progress to communism. He was thereby following the highly moral self-awareness of his Party, which considered its cause the objectively highest duty for all decent people, even without them having to understand anything about it, simply because it was time for the transition to socialism as guaranteed by “history.” Everyone was measured by the standard of unreserved loyalty to Lenin’s Party and to the “Lenin of our time,” even if he had never thought about whether he agreed with their aim at all. Fairly enough, such people were not measured as strictly as Party cadres; account was always taken of an individual’s personal responsibility for social progress.

The chance of one day making the relationship between the Party and the masses dissolve in the identity of the aim pursued by society as a whole was regarded from a moral point of view as a situation that already existed — so that this chance was buried once and for all. Stalin thus established the Bolshevist morality of revolution as the ideology of a state power, which this communist ended up not wanting to see “gradually wither away” any more.

Instead, the General Secretary began to embody the only correct Party line even in questions somewhat remote from the building of socialism, such as the theory of heredity and a dialectical materialist brand of linguistics. Even in these rather ridiculous efforts, the man was only pursuing to its consistent end what the concept of an example entails: the ultra-bourgeois ideal of a “personal authority” never to be justified by reason.

When Stalin’s successors discovered that his example turned out not to be good enough for his body to be exhibited next to Lenin’s in that mausoleum, they were not disassociating themselves from his mistake but only from its radicalness, that no longer fit in with the socialist world power which had been built up to a certain extent in the meantime. Thanks to Stalin’s successes, his economic miracle can manage today without forced labor, and his morality of history without show trials — in fact they manage far better than bourgeois agitation does without a Stalinist image of the enemy.

Chapter 3
Grandfather of Eurocommunism
From the rejection of nationalism to the policy of forming “National Fronts”

In 1943 Stalin dissolved the Third Communist International, the “Comintern,” the alliance of revolutionary parties created by Lenin. In doing so he was at least solving one of the political contradictions he had inherited from the first Party leader and had consistently followed. This too was anticommunist —which no bourgeois democrat ever believed, much less thanked him for. Stalin’s explicit rejection of the project of world revolution was always considered a tactical ruse — which would make it the most ineffectual trick of world history! And the foundation of an “Eastern bloc” from countries occupied by the victorious Red Army is still regarded today as irrefutable proof of the “expansionist drive for world revolution” of Russian communism. These gigantic “misunderstandings” of Stalin are an expression of the unbroken imperialist will to treat the Soviet power, no matter what, as a disturbance of all “normal” world politics.

It was the Comintern’s founding idea that national states, whether governed by bourgeois parties alone or in coalition with social democrats, are the born enemy of communism. The insight that the imperialism of such states can only be broken from within, by the uprising of a revolutionary proletariat that realizes it is damaged by its rulers’ foreign policy interests — which are only intensified by military defeats — this was one more reason for the Bolshevist Party, victorious in its own country, to promote the alliance of revolutionary parties. The Bolsheviks had to fear for the very existence of Soviet power as long as the most important imperialist states were intact — which the latter had just forcibly demonstrated by their support for the “White” counterrevolution. For their part, the parties allied with the Bolsheviks recognized that it was their own cause that had won its first great victory in the October Revolution, and were accordingly interested in helping to consolidate this success. Their common wish was for world revolution, no more and no less.

In terms of this purpose, it was not particularly significant that the communists did not succeed at once in extending their Russian success to other countries. Failure by itself is no argument; and if a failure is due to mistakes that were made, one must eliminate these mistakes and try again — as long as one keeps to the purpose one has set oneself. But this “simple” view of things was not taken by the Bolsheviks and their General Secretary. They considered their success exemplary, by no means merely with respect to practical questions such as the best way to agitate impoverished war-weary peasants or rundown a czar, but in a more fundamental sense. They thought highly of their Lenin for his “genius” in hitting on precisely the right moment for subversion, namely the unique constellation of conditions which made a successful revolution possible. And this was just what the foreign comrades were supposed to learn from the experiences of the Russian revolution; after all, their failure “proved” that they were “evidently” lacking this “sense of what is feasible.”

This manner of “explaining” success and failure involves a strange game with the logical category of possibility. It sounds as if one is analyzing an existing political situation and looking for points where effective intervention makes sense. But, in reality, the interest in what is “possible” and “feasible” consists in an utterly empty idea of dependency: the very situation a revolutionary party wants to subvert is declared to be the condition on which the possibility of success supposedly depends. “The situation” in which revolution succeeds ends up appearing to be the cause for its success.

This false reasoning may be harmless if, in the course of their struggle, communists consider “the situation” to be “revolutionary” and then, like Lenin, do what must be done for the breakthrough. In this case the notion that one is acting in accordance with given conditions for success cancels out in practice. But as an “explanation” for a failure this idea is always fatal; it amounts to the brilliant insight that the thing was just not possible. This message can be filled with any “evidence” one pleases, for it transforms every identifiable difficulty into an impossibility. This may provide consolation — which is stupid enough for communists who have failed. But, above all, such a “lesson from history” contains the discreet hint that one had attempted to do the wrong thing in the first place. It ultimately boils down to a criticism of the intention, a criticism which is strictly opportunistic. When an overthrow fails this is due, from this point of view, not to this or that weakness on one’s own side and the enemy’s strength, but to the fact that the whole undertaking was altogether too revolutionary for “the situation.”

The Bolsheviks were masters of this idea of subordination and accommodation — even though they themselves had not at all submitted to any conditions. In their case the thing had worked out right, which confirmed their notion of having brilliantly grasped a “revolutionary situation” and made them proud of having accomplished a “historic mission” in accordance with all Marx’ and Engels’ supposed “predictions.” The fact that this “empirical” view instead boils down to a gigantic justification of political opportunism, the ultimate antirevolutionary standpoint, became more and more apparent in their Comintern policy as time went by — even though Lenin had held some correct views in the name of this mental attitude. For example, he had criticized the rather whimsical hopes of revolution held by some West European left extremists by pointing out the necessity of first waging their battle properly and not just enthusiastically declaring it was already basically won … In any case, Stalin only urged his foreign comrades emphatically to “learn from history” the lesson contained in this way of thinking per se: that their failure to overthrow society proved they had not addressed their politics to what was possible nor recognized their tasks properly; for them, revolution was simply not “on the agenda.”

What should be done instead? The question was not difficult; in fact, Stalin was most interested in the answer. It had started in Russia, the revolution that all communists want. So here was their task, one which did not ask too much of communist parties that had been unsuccessful up to then. What was required was anti-imperialist struggle with a more modest goal than world revolution that would crush the class states along with their imperialist interests: a “struggle” against :the anti-Sovietism of the bourgeois states. The reason why the victorious Bolsheviks had been so very keen on communist successes in other states — their interest in more secure conditions for building socialism — thus became the purpose the foreign revolutionaries were supposed to adopt. This task could certainly be attended to without a “revolutionary situation” existing. From now on revolution was thus struck from the communist catalogue of tasks; in order to restrain an imperialist government from anti-Soviet ventures, an overthrow would really not be the choice means. This was first made clear to the parties which actually reckoned they had chances for revolution in their countries. The plans of the German communists were puzzled over and confused so vigorously at the Comintern level that in 1923 nothing decent happened at all. The Chinese communists were ordered to submit to Chiang Kai-shek until he was able to take the offensive against them; the revolts which were then instigated on Stalin’s advice had actually no chance of success. Declared enemies could hardly have proceeded more effectively. For Stalin and his Party, all this only confirmed the “assessment” they had of the prospects of success for socialism outside their own country.

However, the “more modest” anti-imperialist goal dictated by Stalin, of trying to gain support for good relations with the Soviet Union, was not taken care of by the Comintern parties much more successfully. And that was by no means due to the circumstances against and under which they had to fight, but to the contradictory nature of this task itself.

These parties had split off from the Second International and opposed social democracy, because they maintained the position of “proletarian internationalism” opposed to national foreign policy, because they refused to participate under the “roof” of a national state, because they were fighting democratic reformism, etc. They were now supposed to support peaceful relations between their governments and the Soviet Union and involve themselves accordingly in national politics without revolutionary ambitions, even entering into alliances with the social democrats, and so on. That surprised the rank and file, and certainly cut no ice with their bourgeois and social democratic adversaries; masquerading did not make them into partners.

These pro-Moscow souls were not just masquerading, they also outdid themselves in self-betrayal. With their offers to participate and form alliances they quite explicitly gave priority to the party antagonisms existing within the anticommunist camp over the antagonism they wanted to establish between themselves and the other parties — and left it to the others to emphasize their anticommunism. They wanted to be opportunists, and thereby only kept on arousing suspicions as to the sincerity of their opportunism.

This was all the more so as they could not even keep up one pragmatic line, but were occasionally also urged to attack social democracy as the chief enemy, as if their greatest problem in the midst of capitalism was to settle accounts with false friends and “traitors,” as Stalin was doing in Russia. Later on, the common opposition of the democrats against the fascists was the loftiest goal for the Comintern. And communist ministers of Popular Fronts most dutifully saved bourgeois conditions, e.g., in France, from striking workers who had mistaken the communist participation in the government for the beginning of the end of the class state. The “time” was not supposed to be “ripe” for revolution. But Stalin thought it was just fine for communist fighters to bleed in Spain for the difference between fascism and a leftist-liberal republic that did not even permit a transition to communism, and these communists evidently had nothing better to do either.

At the same time Stalin himself, on a quite different level, took care of the task he had assigned to the allied communist parties: he pursued foreign policy. From one government to another he courted recognition — which important states granted in 1924 —, trade relations, nonaggression pacts and peace in general. He tried to make clear to the bosses of imperialist nations that revolutionary Russia could be a fine partner. The fact that this interference in the regular diplomatic competition between states contradicted the existence of a Moscow-controlled Comintern, which was still considered an agency of subversion and subscribed in its program to the international solidarity of enemies of the state, was made clear to Stalin by the rulers he was courting: they would close down an official Soviet mission for unseemly intrigues.

For a short while the Second World War helped. The General Secretary did not chalk up the fact that his state became the main victim of Germany’s unsatisfied imperialism as a glorious failure of his foreign policy of trying to appear acceptable to all his enemies — most recently to the Nazis themselves. He of course saw it even less as the penalty for having “neglected” to promote world revolution, which the founders of the Third International had still understood to be the only real guarantee for the survival of “socialism in one country.” Stalin utilized the antifascist military alliance as a ticket of admission to the circle of democratic imperialist states.

The allied communist parties were now instructed likewise to join with every kind of antifascist group, and to be content with playing the part of the best democrat. This made the Comintern an anachronism in two ways. As an international association of opposition parties it disturbed the democracies which Stalin no longer wanted to oppose politically. And as fully integrated pillars of national United Fronts (when they were allowed to be), the foreign communists themselves were burdened by the last remnants of internationalism and the duty to be pro-Soviet which their organization still symbolized. The dissolution of the Comintern was only logical — as was the victory of bourgeois patriotism in the remaining hammer-and-sickle parties. This patriotism was all that could become more radical when the bourgeois partners took the liberty of calling off their national unity with the communists.

It was time for this break when the alliance forced by the world war on the Soviet Union and the imperialist democracies came to an end. The initiative was once again taken by the enemies of communism. This left Stalin with the defensive position, namely that of a major military power: an East bloc instead of world revolution. These were Stalin’s last words on this matter.

Today, the freedom-loving world powers are of course just as outraged by this position of Stalin’s as they would have been by a world revolution of internationally organized communists. The only difference is that with a world revolution these world powers would no longer exist.

Part 4
Soviet socialism and democracy: A little comparison of the systems

In spite of perestroika and glasnost, in the area of political culture the Soviet people are still deprived of the nourishment that is consumed as a matter of course by every great people accustomed to democracy. The questions that dominate Western public opinion remain unanswered in the U.S.S.R. or, even worse, are not even raised.

For example, what does Gorbachev do in his spare time? When Shevardnadze is at the U.N. who does his wife see? Can Ligachev cook, and what does he like to eat? How does Raisa celebrate her granddaughter’s birthday?

It is left to Western reporters to peek through every imaginable keyhole and find out what “East bloc” politicians do when they’re not exercising power. Eastern-style press, radio and television do not quench this interest. The official biography of a Politburo member usually fails to mention his marriage or the number of his children. It contains nothing but the lean data of a typical functionary’s career. Simply nothing to feed the imagination!

The Soviet people have no choice but to put up with the ignorance forced on them by the Soviet media’s indifference in such matters. Unless they listen to the voice of the CIA, Radio Liberty, and long for the curiosity of democratic peoples, which is fully satisfied by fawning reporters’ inquiries into the private lives of those who rule this world.

But even more serious, highly political questions remain unanswered over there. For example, what coalition brought Gorbachev to power? Can Gromyko maintain his influence? What is Yeltsin plotting against Gorbachev? How many Central Committee secretaries support the new minister of defense?

No Soviet magazine minutely records the trends and political ups and downs of the competition for power, uncovers cabinet discussions, put-up jobs and electoral arrangements for or against candidates for party offices. All this too must be taken care of from abroad by the reporters from “Time,” “Newsweek,” “Der Spiegel” and “L’Express.” No Soviet TV report entertains the public with a “whodunit” about the rivalry between various Politburo candidates. Such highly educational attractions as the political tragedy of Gary Hart are simply unknown to Soviet viewers.

And of course, the Soviet people are thoroughly unacquainted with the most interesting and democratic questions of all: “Will Sakharov and his dissidents make it into the Supreme Soviet?” “How many seats will go to the National Ukrainian Party?” “And how many to the United Islamic Convention?” “Will Gromyko win in his constituency?” “How likely is it for Gorbachev not to be directly re-elected?”

There is no state interest in the U.S.S.R in exploring the problem of how the various figures in the governing elite appeal to the governed people. There is even less interest in conducting a test on this, whose outcome livens up the change of staff in the highest offices. There are no election campaigners who, by loudly proclaiming that they will beat their lousy rivals, arouse voting preferences among the people, and suspense until the first or last computer projection. Voters cannot flatter themselves that they have contributed their millionth to this suspense with their secret ballots. Even the “electoral decision” in the U.S.S.R. — against the ruling Party, of course — must be taken care of by Western democracies, unfortunately only in theory.

Yet the “East bloc” states do have their own democratic institutions such as elections, political culture and political prominence. Westerners are used to condemning the “inhumane regimes” of the East with their “mock elections,” their “rule by incompetent functionaries” and their “personality cult.” But it is worthwhile checking whether political life in the East bloc really comes off this badly in comparison with public opinion and the party system in the free world.

Chapter l
Personality cult as a question of voters’ taste vs. impersonal respect of power

When Soviet citizens are called upon to elect their “soviets,” they are at least spared the cynical swindle that the state power is putting itself more or less into their hands. The world’s bourgeois-democratic zones cultivate a human right to make a strictly personal choice among a few competitors for an office that is itself not up for election, and thereby determine a millionth of the outcome. The basis for this practice is not that voters have any say or that their interests are what counts once their choice is made. The high esteem for this basic democratic right derives instead from the lie that voters “somehow” control the function of the office in question by being allowed to pass judgment at the polls on the relative worthiness of the persons presented to them as alternatives. What is more, this lie is immediately disclaimed. When the ‘‘wrong’’ candidate wins, the basic right to electoral freedom is fulfilled by the fact that the “right” candidate, namely one’s own, could have been it …

By contrast, election campaigns in the Soviet Union seem almost like celebrations of national honesty. They are a gigantic polemic against the illusion that anything much depends on which figure, or the functionary of which political party, holds a position. And also against being proud of one’s own personal contribution to a decision that is contingent on a thousand accidents and idiosyncrasies. In the Soviet Union, the act of delegating a candidate to some council or other on the basis of vote casting — which is usually public, logically enough — is intended to be the culmination of one of many discussion processes between the Party and the voters in which the two sides come to an agreement about the “social tasks,” economic necessities and plans, political arrangements, etc., to be taken care of.

As if the Party constantly wanted to prove that it is neither interested in blind trust nor willing to tolerate indifference, it drags its voters to all kinds of election rallies — and registers proudly how’ many “masses” appeared, how many asked to speak, how many letters and petitions were received. In the Western realm of freedom, people’s opinions lead fruitless lives in the form of letters to the editor or big talk in pubs, testifying to the stupidity of thinking solely in terms of voting alternatives. In the land of the KGB and the Leninist Unity Party, the culture of complaining is promoted most fervently; it is actually made the voters’ duty. No one is supposed to rely on the illusion that his or her interests are taken care of in the best possible way by voting as such, i.e., just because one’s preferred candidate has become a representative, or only could have become one.

Soviet elections of course involve no competition between state programs either. But so what? The democratic mark on the ballot, indifferent to why it is put there or not put there, stultifies any reasoning, any reservation, any well-considered balancing that educated or uneducated, clever or naive, committed or skeptical voters may base their choice on. And this basic law of the democratic freedom to vote has long since been taken into account by the competing parties of the free world. No party bores its voters with explanations of an alternative legislative program, much less being “unreasonable” enough to demand that the voters should comment on such a thing rationally. The parties distinguish themselves by the stupidest ideological interpretations of the same political happenings: “freedom or socialism,” “solidarity or a push-and-shove society” …

The Soviet state spares its subjects such nonsense. At its election rallies you would — justly — make a fool of yourself by announcing you prefer to approach the world “with a Christian sense of responsibility,” or by asking what has become of the “critical liberal heritage.” Here, people argue about the fulfilment of the state program known to exist in the form of an economic plan for perpetually improving Soviet people’s lives; about production targets and supply gaps, over-fulfilment and dawdling — questions that adult democratic citizens loaded with human rights find ridiculously petty. After all, they are accustomed to settling the “question” of their “standard of living” in utter freedom with their payroll departments, their checkbooks and their supermarket prices.

Disputes about such specific material questions are of course no use whatsoever to a politician for gaining “stature” and demonstrating the “personality” that distinguishes a democratic “vote catcher.” Such “qualities” are based instead on the public believing that power is an art, that governing is the expression of great individual expertise and that someone’s personal characteristics therefore enable, and entitle, him or her to tell other people what to do. And this belief could never be confirmed if the rulers had to prove themselves by making sure all necessities of life and many amenities are available to everyone.

People have this belief because they are willing to be deceived by the intimate relationship between a person and the political power he or she has, to be mistaken both about the power and about its holders and enthusiasts. Responsible citizens do not judge their rulers, but admire them — which they are also doing when they “critically” question whether the figures in government are really entitled to have their official powers on the basis of their “personalities.” When people complain about such “discrepancies” they are only expressing their high esteem for the office. Furthermore, such criticism inevitably benefits the rival, whose arrogance happens to be more to one’s taste.

A personality cult as fundamental as this has no use for a clear idea of what politics is all about, much less an examination of what one gets out of one’s statesmen’s activities. What is required is the lie about an “important personality,” evidenced by the candidate’s own self-confidence (“You are looking at the next President of the United States!”), by family scenes and foreign visitors, by trips around the world and affability — and, above all, repeated every hour on the news, in television appearances; etc.

Soviet people probably do not even appreciate being spared all this, because they presumably cannot imagine how hideous a democratic interview with a politician or a Western election campaign is. They are only familiar with sober functionaries, whom democratic reporters regularly find to be wanting in “personality,” in the “charm” of worldliness — in other words, in the habitually demonstrated arrogance of power. Where should they have got such a thing? A Soviet official gets ahead by achieving successes in over-fulfilling plan targets, eliminating supply problems and abuses of state property — and not by gaining democratic majorities. When someone has managed to acquire a high position, this does not automatically make his or her private life a matter of public interest. No swarm of children, no adoring wife, not even a democratic “bath in the crowd” is cited as proof of the lie that the leading figure is a most sympathetic administrator of state affairs who should be trusted without any further arguments.

The Party greats over there are inevitably praised for the same dry, impersonal achievements and abilities: “loyalty to the Leninist principles of the Party”, “an untiring fighter for peace and communism”, “an ardent patriot”; has fulfilled such and such tasks, was given this and that distinction — and not “but above all a good person! father …” No anecdote or the like satisfies a servile democratic need for “human closeness” to the powerful. The funeral oration for Andropov made do with the same labels as the presentation of his successor Chernenko — why not? They are the only important qualities for the office they held. The Party’s laudations for its greats almost seem intended to defend them against being considered character masks of a social necessity all the way into their private lives.

The end of a politician’s career in the “East bloc” has just as little entertainment value. The mistakes registered are noticeable bungles in the “rapid development of socialism” to “ever higher achievements” — from a failure in organizing the harvest to poor planning of the “planned erection of an industrial combine” — and the people who register them are the Party and the bodies of employees in charge of economic and industrial control. If such bungles accumulate, a catastrophic harvest, for example, that cannot be attributed to the weather, this may very well cost a leading person, even a CC secretary, his or her post. And ministers do not merely vacate their offices but may lose their heads when they are convicted of large-scale corruption.

Thus, Soviet voters cannot flatter themselves that they have chased an unpopular leader out of office with their ballots; they do not have this human right. But is that any loss? Is life really only worth living if there is competition between parties, which are familiar with “mistakes,” if at all, only when it comes to showing off one’s morality, sympathy for the citizens and “strong leadership,” making such features the crucial issue for voters? Is that the worst kind of oppression when no judgment of taste on politicians’ achievements in hypocrisy — or its virtue, credibility — is asked for and treated as a means for coalition intrigues?

Chapter 2
“Political responsibility” as serving objective restraints vs. serving the people

In the “East bloc” too, “political responsibility” is one of those “burdens” that can be carried much more easily and pleasantly all one’s professional life than the dignity of a citizen, who must not only vote but also has quite a bit of work to do. Finding personnel for governing has thus never been a problem over there either. But “political responsibility” means something slightly different in these socialist countries. This is not because Soviet “party bosses” have a quite different morality of ruling; this morality is only as different as the political leader’s job itself.

For example, both Eastern and Western mayors, provincial leaders and ministers of housing declare themselves responsible for erecting such and such an amount of living space in the past and coming years. But this is where the similarity ends.

In one case, it is a matter of making corresponding demands on the overall national plan, the partial plans of the firms in charge of building, building material, transportation, etc., ensuring the necessary coordination, “stimulating” the firms and workers to keep to the promised deadlines … At the same time, those in charge must not merely demonstrate organizational skill, but must cope with an unconfessed contradiction. This contradiction is that the state plan obliges the firms, on the one hand, to work expediently to satisfy the existing need for living space — but, on the other hand, to produce a profit. The plan does not simply lay down the necessary accomplishments but decrees prices for them. It is not simply the material need that is registered, but a limited “purchasing power” brought about by allotted funds. And it is not simply the product that is important, but a maximum difference between the earnings and the financial expenditure of the firms — which are in turn at the disposal of the planning authorities for their calculations.

This state’s interest in meeting people’s needs with the necessary amount of labor thus transforms itself into amass of antagonisms. Between material need and financial resources. Between the paying orderer and the invoicing firms. Between the duty to perform as well as possible and the duty to earn a profit to supply a variety of funds. Between the firm’s interest in maximizing these funds for “stimulating” the achievements of its managers and staff, on the one hand, and the state’s interest in maximizing these funds for supplying the financial needs of the planning authorities, on the other. And so on.

Anyone who believes in the constructions of bourgeois economists and thinks money is an ingenious and practical invention of mankind for coordinating the production of goods in the best possible way with society’s needs, and vice versa, can learn a thing or two from the economic policy of the “East bloc” states. They do not conduct a planned economy, but put into practice in their economic plans this very lie that “money as an economic lever” is useful for improving planning and distribution, of all things.

Such antagonisms are no problem for housing politicians in the West, because their point of departure is not seriously the need for living space, but the market situation. There is nothing more natural for them than to measure people’s need by their ability to pay, and the business interests of house-building companies. They thus act out of respect for the real function and purpose of money, to enable property to increase, subordinating the needs of the public to this goal.

The administrators of the state power disclaim any responsibility for these “objective laws of the housing market.” They claim to be virtually powerless with respect to the profitable exploitation of people’s need for housing — a lie that is of greatest benefit to them. Who else is responsible for bringing into being the legal relationship of property, including real estate, and the lack of property, as well as the economic means for exploiting this relationship? Who supervises their functioning and punishes violations? The state power lets the social conditions which it arranges take effect: land ownership and rent, monetary capital and the building trade, the need for space and the lack of money. It then treats the result —a lack of affordable housing, which therefore only affects some people — as a problem that human existence happens to involve.

The politicians in charge “cope” with this “problem” by offering a strange kind of “help.” To the extent that it is crucial for the usefulness of the working people as a whole, they “organize” the procurement of housing. They set up government agencies. They subsidize the housing business out of everyone’s tax money to make many people’s rent halfway affordable. They take over the management of unprofitable projects. They assume no responsibility for the fact that the need for housing is all too often thwarted by the market and its “situation”; they are inevitably out to “improve” the market.

The only criticism they will hear is the highly uncritical accusation that they have done “too little” for the market — or perhaps “wasted too much tax money.” Whether or not they are forgiven for this does not depend at all on whether the housing trouble persists, but on whether they are personally credible with their lie that they have squandered away neither too little nor too much but exactly what was possible for their department. And as long as those affected believe and accept the “objective constraints” of the housing market, democratic politicians have an easy time of it with their joyfully assumed “responsibility for house building.”

There is no comparison at all with their Soviet colleagues. Not only does their “socialist planning and control activity” involve much tougher dilemmas than choosing between competing applications for building permits and requests for subsidies. They cannot justify the results of their policies by citing the “objective laws of the market” supposedly outside their province. At best they can hide behind the “failures” of all kinds of other offices, which in turn lay the responsibility on them. Their “responsibility for supplying the population with living space” is not just empty talk for Eastern politicians (as already evident from the low rent). And this is precisely their “bad luck” compared with the ease of democratic governing in and for the “market economy.”

It is no different with the political “responsibility” for “economic growth” and “full employment,” farmers’ income and education. Both Western and Eastern politicians want their citizens’ “standard of living,” along with all real or fictitious conditions for it, to be attributed to their prudent and successful supervisory activity. But they mean very different things.

The Westerners rely on the “silent force of circumstances” which they cement with their all too eloquent laws. They can be sure that, one way or another, the competition between the citizens committed to private property will guarantee an expedient distinction between “poor and rich” and an equally expedient cooperation between capital and labor. They can rely on their people behaving as opportunists toward all the necessities imposed on them — one can always credibly cite the “objective restraints” of money. Certain that they will not be held answerable for this finished world of pressures they constantly look after, they claim sole responsibility for regulating all resulting problems, both the real ones and the ones invented for the purpose of gaining status. Such efforts have nothing to do with eliminating the massive difficulties of everyday existence they have brought about.

The latter is what Soviet politicians want to do. When democrats portray their “objective constraints” as being unrelenting, but at the same time a system of conveniences their people has picked out for itself from the great assortment of models offered by world history, this is apologetic nonsense. The governing parties of the “East bloc,” however, have actually got rid of all “objective constraints of the market economy,” abolished the competition of capital along with its class of owners, and introduced general state control to allow the working people to enjoy the uncurtailed fruits of their labor. They have transformed this purpose from a hypocritical ideal of justice born of class society, into an organic law of politics.

The fact that the masses’ “enjoyment” leaves much to be desired is not due to the “gulf between ideals and reality” that bourgeois minds cite to explain (away) poverty and exploitation in the midst of the finest democracies. It is due even less to the decision to plan the economy. It is the Party’s failure to carry through with this decision that explains why it does not make its society happier. Even when “the commanding heights of the economy are conquered,” money and credit, prices and profits, wages and premiums are, once and for all, in spite of all bloc-bridging ideologies, no suitable means or “levers” for establishing the proper relationship between people’s needs, their means of production and their labor to benefit themselves. The responsibility that Eastern politicians assume for social production and satisfying all needs is no democratic hypocrisy that at the same time disclaims the state power’s real responsibility for the market economy. The trouble with the existing socialism is that its state managers make a mistake — and that they try to correct it with more mistakes.

Self-criticism can be found in every speech an “East bloc” politician makes to the people and voters. It is of a very different kind to that practiced by democratic greats. Western-style self-reproach will most likely relate to a lost election and regularly ends up in the accusation of having over-estimated the voters’ intelligence. And when it relates to other “misconduct,” everyone knows — and is told so, just to be sure — that the paraded remorse expects to be rewarded: by a high opinion and lots of votes at the next opportunity.

When Soviet politicians criticize themselves for having been careless in organizing the harvest or allotting raw materials to the firms, in realizing technical advances or utilizing the suggestions for innovations made by meritorious workers, for having tolerated corruption and negligence, they are not being hypocritical in the good old democratic tradition. People caught taking bribes are not given any opportunity to curry favor by making self-accusations! Eastern style self-criticism reflects the honestly mistaken attitude of having managed to bring about a proper planned economy by nationalizing the capitalist system of competition, but still having to combat frequent “errors of management” — which are referred to over there, rather awkwardly but quite sincerely, as “violations of the economic laws of socialism.” In this way, “socialist self-criticism” stimulates the circulation of both officeholders and reform programs, without the esteemed working population getting too much out of it.

Chapter 3
“Political morality” as a consolation vs. a solicitation

Oh yes, there is one thing people get out of it, but it is not good. The auspicious project of supplying everyone’s needs in a planned and effective way, of making labor inevitably payoff in the form of a greater abundance of useful goods for everyone, becomes an eternally unfulfilled promise in a brand of socialism which will not do without competition and a money economy as “control instruments.” It again becomes a matter of profit and state funds rather than a better and easier supply of goods; of purchasing power and wages rather than what goods are needed and how much labor they involve. The principle that labor must noticeably be worth it is not put into practice by good planning, but nevertheless continues to hold — as an article of faith.

Materialism becomes a moral title in whose name people are supposed to let their services be enlisted. This contradiction is not remedied by even the most fervent praise of the proletariat’s creative power. In their calculating celebration of it, these socialist rulers turn even the truth that the Soviet people have produced everything they have “themselves” into a moral attack on people who would rather enjoy everything they have to produce, for a change.

But not even here do “East bloc” leaders attain the standard of bourgeois/democratic hypocrisy. Customary Western morality, whose holy principles are not all that distinct from those of its Eastern counterpart, is nourished in every respect by the fact and the certainty that it is of no great importance in practice. In the homelands of the “freedom to choose a profession” and legal protection of ownership, free purchase, free competition and the like, the “labor market” ensures almost automatically that all the necessary sacrifices are made to serve wealth and its growth — quite without presupposing a massive ethos of serving and sacrifice. This ethos then arises on the basis of the circumstances, chiefly in the form of a fanatical sense of justice directed against anyone suspected of being treated preferentially without deserving it.

For it is an axiom of bourgeois morality that people who do honest work are suckers, but this morality is nonetheless recognized as a standard for passing judgment. It is consolation — fine notions which are thought to be valid, not really, but just “somehow.” And this is why morality, when used by those on top, is cynical: it idealizes governmental power as the dearest wish of all the people affected by it, against one’s better judgment but in the certainty — deriving from the habit of power — that any practical rebuttal will be answered by democratic violence.

Along with the laws of capitalist competition, the Soviet power also abolished this psychology of moral citizens. There is no right of property, no threat of dismissal, no prospect of poverty over there to force the “new person” to practice work discipline and the habits of doing without, which one can then be proud of as virtues — virtues that entitle one to all kinds of imaginary legal claims. Morality is in demand over there as a reason for working people to be self-sacrificing in spite of their liberation, and to do work that is not made worthwhile by any real planned economic system. The very state power that is dedicated to “proletarian materialism” has therefore set about trying to make every single bourgeois ideal come true, giving its citizens an education moralistic enough to allow them to prove themselves as useful Soviet citizens even without the “silent force” of need. Accompanied by a great moral fuss, there is perpetual “socialist competition” on all levels which, incompatibly enough, rewards proof of selflessness …

For democratic experts on the human soul, the insistent morality of Eastern state parties is the worst kind of tyranny. It supposedly even prevents people from thinking whatever they want. By democratic standards, this is very consistent. The mass of slogans is taken as a measure of the coercion these slogans are supposed to enhance. In reality, it is precisely the other way round. The Party keeps pestering its people with its maxims because it needs their free will and false decision to go along with the state project. The array of socialist values thus does not offer the people anything new but just some opportunities for jokes. The values of Western democracies are better off. They are elaborated most productively into opportunistic stupidities, by both those on top and those on the bottom, because nothing depends on their being taken to heart. They merely glorify the “objective constraints” of “social life” and are not intended’ to be the basis for the power that brings these constraints into being.

Thus, the peoples of the Soviet Union are not living in a dictatorship — nor is what they need democracy.