Article 17
October 6, 1988



Gorky in 1921 on weakness of proletariat. Lenin restored capitalism in early '20s to revive working class. Workers today are majority in USSR. International position of USSR vastly improved. Why go back to NEP? Bourgeois hostility tempered in periods of U.S.-USSR detente: World War II alliance, Khrushchev, Gorbachev periods. Imperialism today interested in changing economic and political orientation of Soviet government. Trade, loans and investment. Why detente of 1970s fell apart. Big loans from imperialist banks conditional on broader accommodations. Summary of three political tendencies in USSR. Gorbachev admits reforms haven't worked. Problem is disruption of socialist planning. Individual vs. collective incentives. Orwellian view of Soviet state disproved by present disintegration of bureaucracy.

Taking any phase of economic and political development out of its historical context almost always does it violence or creates distortion. Thus, it is quite impossible to examine the period of the Gorbachev administration without considering the October Revolution in general, and more particularly the period of the New Economic Policy (NEP) which Lenin introduced in 1921. The latter has been brought up by the Gorbachev reformers again and again. They draw an analogy between that period, when Lenin won over the Party to the urgent necessity of reintroducing market relations in the Soviet Union, and the present. The reformers argue so vigorously for a new NEP that it is virtually impossible not to give it extensive consideration. We hope we have done so throughout this series.

Nevertheless, there is a singularly cogent argument almost always overlooked by the reformers, particularly those with strong leanings towards the capitalist market. That is the difference in the numerical relationship between the basic classes as they existed during the NEP period and as they exist today in the Soviet Union, some 65 years later.

Maxim Gorky (1868-1936), the great revolutionary novelist, writer and playwright, is worth quoting on this point. During the course of his entire life, Gorky was not only friendly to the Bolshevik grouping around Lenin but was a member of it. Frequently he clashed with Lenin--for example, on philosophical questions during the pre-October period. He also wavered on the question of the insurrection, but later came out in full support of the Soviet socialist republic. He always, however, remained somewhat independent and aloof and often his moods reflected pessimism in relation to the progress of the revolution. During the early period of the NEP, Gorky's outlook on the revolution and the cause of socialist construction was quite pessimistic. In the summer of 1921, he expressed some of his views to a French correspondent.

Hitherto the workers are masters, but they are only a tiny minority in our country: they represent at most a few millions. The peasants are legion. In the struggle which, since the beginning of the revolution, has been going on between the two classes, the peasants have every chance of coming out victorious. . . . The urban proletariat has been declining incessantly for four years. . . . The immense peasant tide will end by engulfing everything. ... The peasant will become master of Russia, since he represents numbers. And it will be terrible for our future. 1

Gorky was merely expressing the mood that prevailed during the first period of the NEP, a fear that it might undo the revolution. This view was certainly not shared by Lenin, who on the contrary saw the NEP as an imperative necessity in order to save the revolution.

Let us note how Lenin viewed the same phenomenon that Gorky referred to, but from an entirely different light. In a speech in October 1921 on the New Economic Policy (some of which we have quoted earlier), Lenin said:

The issue in the present war [he called the struggle a war--S.M.] is--who will win, who will take advantage of the situation: the capitalist, whom we are allowing to come in by the door, and even by several doors (and by many doors we are not aware of, and which open without us, and in spite of us), or proletarian state power? . . .

In this connection we must remember the peasants. It is absolutely incontrovertible and obvious to all that in spite of the awful disaster of the famine--and leaving that disaster out of the reckoning for the moment--the improvement that has taken place in the position of the people has been due to the change in our economic policy.

On the other hand, if capitalism gains by it, industrial production will grow, and the proletariat will grow too. The capitalists will gain from our policy and will create an industrial proletariat, which in our country, owing to the war and to the desperate poverty and ruin, has become declassed, i.e., dislodged from its class groove, and has ceased to exist as a proletariat. The proletariat is the class which is engaged in the production of material values in large-scale capitalist industry. Since large-scale capitalist industry has been destroyed, since the factories are at a standstill, the proletariat has disappeared [our emphasis--S.M.]. It has sometimes figured in statistics, but it has not been held together economically.

The restoration of capitalism would mean the restoration of a proletarian class engaged in the production of socially useful material values in big factories employing machinery and not in profiteering, not in making cigarette lighters for sale, and in other `work' which is not very useful, but which is inevitable when our industry is in a state of ruin.2

Thus Lenin, more clearly than Gorky, saw the virtual disappearance of the proletariat, but he also saw in the partial restoration of capitalism a source for reviving the working class in order to proceed to the eventual abolition of capitalism and the triumph of socialism. This partial restoration of capitalism made it possible to go forward with the industrialization of the USSR. Without it, that might have been utterly impossible.

But what is the situation today? Today the proletariat is not a small minority but has become the absolute majority of the population. It is the class that creates the material values. It is the class that has laid the basis for and realized the great technological and industrial feats exemplified by the Soviet space program, atomic energy and the natural gas pipeline. At the 19th Party Conference in June-July 1988, even though it was packed by the bureaucracy and the administrative apparatus generally, the majority of the delegates were workers.

The proletariat is the revolutionary agent with the capacity and wherewithal to bring about change. In the USSR today, there is adequate science and technology for the building and perfection of a socialist order of society. Why should it be necessary to go back to a capitalist emergency measure taken in the 1920s? Can it be justified on the basis of the exigencies of the international situation? Is that so unfavorable as to make it incumbent on the USSR to make vast domestic concessions of a bourgeois character?

Such a view is utterly inadmissible. During the NEP period, the Soviet Union was surrounded by capitalist powers, some of whom were still carrying out war and intervention against it. It was completely isolated in the sense that no proletarian revolution in the West had succeeded, and in the East the potentials were still emerging. Indeed, the USSR was a besieged fortress at the time.

Can this be said to be true today? Merely raising the question is to answer it. There are now a number of socialist countries. Whatever their problems may be, and many are very severe, the USSR can in no sense be regarded as an isolated fortress struggling for its existence. This is true not just militarily but also from the viewpoint of diplomacy and economics.

After all is said and done, the 20th century has been in the main dominated by the emergence of the Soviet Union as a great world power. Just as significant--and maybe more important in the long view of history--is the rise of a revolutionary working-class wave as a challenge to the world capitalist system. Along with it and in part flowing from it has been the awakening of millions upon millions of oppressed peoples living under the yoke of imperialist domination. This subsequently gave rise to such phenomena as, for instance, the Chinese Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, the revolutions in southeast Asia--Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea--as well as the revolution which gave birth to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Much of Africa was eventually to rise up. Central America is today convulsed with struggle.

The socialist revolution in the USSR gave impetus to the oppressed peoples struggling to free themselves from colonial domination. Indeed, there is no spot on earth which in one way or another has not been touched by the sparks generated by the Russian Revolution. So it would be preposterous to say that the international situation today demands a return to capitalist market relations in the USSR.

When Gorbachev was elected general secretary of the CPSU in March of 1985, the imperialist press at first took a very cautious attitude. It was almost universally recognized that a break in the chain of political development had taken place. To a large extent it was recognized that a new generation of leaders was moving into the summits of Soviet power. Of course, a generational change need not necessarily connote a deep social or political change. Older leaders can supplant younger leaders and vice versa. It may accelerate development or retard it, bring innovative practices or a return to older ways.

Immediately following the death of the previous general secretary, Constantine Chernenko, there began the usual speculation in the imperialist press, and especially in the U.S., as to who would succeed him. Such "old hands" as Harrison Salisbury, who had spent many years in the USSR, predicted that Andrei Gromyko, the long-time Soviet foreign minister, would be the natural choice. Others had different choices, equally erroneous. Only one researcher, Jerry Hough, author of the book Opening up the Soviet Economy, predicted correctly that it would be Gorbachev.

The capitalist press, which had taken a cautious view, began to build up momentum to put Gorbachev in a favorable light. Margaret Thatcher had started it most publicly with her "I like him" statement when he visited England. Slowly and gradually, praise for Gorbachev's style, his demeanor with respect to the West, and finally his political and economic program began to proliferate in the capitalist press.

For over 70 years, the attitude of the bourgeoisie toward the Soviet Union and its leaders has been one of class hatred and opposition. But it has gone from the wildest orgies of anti-communism to times here and there when it was expedient to drop the unbridled attacks and take a more cautious and pragmatic view.

During the Bolshevik period, the hatred of the capitalist class for the Soviet leaders was unmitigated. It was directed against Lenin as well as Trotsky and Stalin. However, it is interesting to note that during the period when the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky was reaching its d‚nouement and Stalin was consolidating his power, that is, before the collectivization of agriculture began, the capitalist press for the moment regarded Stalin in a more favorable light than Trotsky. He was seen as more pragmatic, more practical. Trotsky, the proponent of world revolution, was castigated for adventurism. However, when the factional struggle ended and Stalin embarked upon the vast collectivization of the peasantry, with all its dire consequences, the capitalist press turned wildly against him. Notwithstanding all the twists and turns of Soviet diplomacy during the entire tenure of Stalin's office, the press maintained the hostility which its class role dictates.

Of course, there have been short periods of moderation. One was the years of the Second World War. The imperialist Allies were in it together with the USSR. The imperialist bourgeoisie had to orient itself into a collaborative position, necessitating a change in the tenor of its propaganda. Later, during the Khrushchev era, some elements of the bourgeoisie looked upon him more benevolently and held him up as a liberalizer of the regime who was willing to arrive at an accommodation with the West. At no time, however, was he ever regarded in the same favorable light as is the Gorbachev regime at the present time.

The diplomatic and political relationship between the U.S. and the USSR has now again undergone significant changes. For a considerable period, particularly during the 19th Party Conference in June-July 1988, elements of the capitalist press and media and especially some of its liberal specialists have waxed eloquent over the openness in the USSR and Gorbachev's innovative economic reforms. There was the signing of the INF treaty on nuclear weapons, and also a variety of exchanges of scholars, scientists, and even military leaders. The defense minister of the USSR was permitted to visit nuclear missile sites in the U.S. and was taken into the cockpit of a B-1 bomber. Then U.S. Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci received the same treatment when he went to the USSR. This attests to a new relationship, for the time being at least.

What accounts for the favorable treatment that the Gorbachev administration is receiving in the U.S. and in the world bourgeois press at this time? Some say it is merely the result of the period of openness, known as glasnost. The democratization aspects of the reform are universally regarded as progressive. It would be very difficult for the imperialists to act otherwise. We have covered the democratization aspect of the political process. It has brought an invigorating element into Soviet society and is beyond question an indispensable element in the further development of socialism, which in fact is inconceivable without proletarian democracy.

During the entire Leninist period there was full-scale socialist democracy, but it never got any praise in the bourgeois press. There was broad freedom for the bourgeois parties as well, until they resorted to terrorism, to the attempted assassination of Lenin and a coup d'etat as well as a counter-revolutionary insurrection--not to speak of their support for open military intervention by the imperialist powers. The fact that later a severe restriction of political freedoms occurred, followed by the abolition of proletarian democracy, must first of all be seen in the historical character of the epoch. The imperialist bourgeoisie was intransigent in its attempt to overthrow the young socialist republic and allied itself with all the leftovers of the reactionary propertied classes. This is not to excuse Stalin's repressions, but his unlimited use of terror during the entire period of his tenure didn't just fall from the sky; it had a material basis.

Thus, today's democratization process should be explained as a resumption of what normally would have been a continuous development of socialist democracy under the proletarian dictatorship. While all hail the democratization process, in the West as well as in the Soviet Union, it is not really the democratization process as such that the bourgeoisie is so much concerned with, as we will show. What they're most concerned with is the economic and political orientation of the government itself and most of all the perspective of the economic reforms.

The Gorbachev administration led off its program by embarking upon what is now popularly called perestroika, meaning a thorough restructuring of the USSR. Precisely what does this mean? Does it entail mostly accelerating the pace of change in the technological apparatus of the USSR? Does it entail merely catching up with the West in technical and scientific progress? Does it entail overhauling what is said to be an outdated scientific and technological apparatus? Is that what it reduces itself to? If that is the case, why would the Western capitalist press be so favorably concerned with it? The Soviet Union has become the second greatest industrial power in the world. It is ahead in several scientific fields of endeavor, including space. Why would the capitalist class be concerned with the success of its technological overhaul, with making the USSR stronger technologically and modernizing its industry? Is that not against the fundamental class interests of imperialism?

For well over 60 years, the imperialist ruling class has been most hostile toward the transfer of any type of technology to the Soviet Union, not just military. True, the capitalist class will sell even the rope used to hang them, as Lenin said. Nevertheless, viewed over a period of decades, one can see how little help the capitalists have been in the modernization of the Soviet technological apparatus. Most of the trade has consisted in selling the USSR grain and buying from it gas and oil. It is true that the strategic interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie would dictate a total boycott rather than any trade, but they are constrained by their own avaricious and predatory chase for super-profits. That has compelled the imperialist bourgeoisie to deal with the USSR in trade and the sale of some technology.

Their present interest in the modernization of the Soviet Union does not lie in enthusiasm for the reequipment of its technological infrastructure. What they're really interested in is whether the reforms will facilitate the penetration of finance capital on a huge scale. They are probing the increased opportunity for the big multinational superbanks to lend vast sums of money to the USSR, either as part of trade or in connection with the sale of some technology. It is said that the Soviet Union now offers the greatest market in the world for banks and industry from the West. They call it a three-trillion-dollar economy, while the U.S. has a four-trillion-dollar economy.

The role of the banks as lenders of funds to the socialist countries has to be seen from two different points of view. So far as the lender is concerned, the payment of interest and/or part of the principal on time is the main concern. If a country is credit-worthy and can make its payments on time, there is no danger. A problem arises only if there is a financial or economic crisis in the capitalist countries which makes it necessary to liquidate their loans and cover their own obligations or makes it difficult for them to extend further credit or reschedule or readjust the existing obligations.

Relations between the imperialist banks and many of the less-developed countries illustrate the magnitude of the problem, however. In some cases amounting to billions, imperialist banks have been forced to reschedule the loans, perhaps write off the debt altogether, and at other times make cooperative agreements with other banks and debtors on how to reach a new accommodation in the light of the economic crisis.

However, capital import could be just as advantageous for the socialist countries as it was for the U.S. when for many decades the latter was a capital importer. In fact, the U.S. was a debtor country all the way up to the First World War. In those days, however, the loans were incurred to finance an enormous expansion of the economic infrastructure. The present huge indebtedness of the U.S. is the result of the degeneration of monopoly capital rather than its expansion. When considered in the light of today's advances in technology and the worldwide restructuring of industry going on, this huge indebtedness becomes even more symptomatic of decay.

The crisis within the capitalist monopoly banks is only one problem. Extending large loans to a socialist country is for them a very incongruous situation. As experience has shown with the loans to Poland, Hungary and above all China, they extend them either prior to or in connection with a rearrangement of economic, diplomatic and political relations. They look for political advantages and levers to control the economy, not just through loans but through joint ventures and other arrangements. But in the USSR these investments have not been of the magnitude to lead to broad collaboration, even with the Gorbachev regime. So that under the present circumstances it is still touch and go. Thus, while the value of the Soviet market is inestimable, the loans that have thus far been extended are negligible by the standards of the Soviet economy. Ten, fifteen or even twenty-five billion dollars is small when one considers the vast technological and industrial capacity of the USSR.

True, the USSR has proven that, in the jargon of the bankers, it is a very credit-worthy debtor. Its rating is excellent. No wonder that imperialist banks are forever chasing the USSR to take out loans, and every other plane landing in the USSR has one or two bankers aboard it. But truly expansive lending to the USSR is prohibited, either directly by law, which usually cites national security, or by an understanding within the capitalist ruling class.

So that the loans many Wall Street bankers are waxing enthusiastic about are in expectation of further acceleration of so-called innovative, free enterprise reforms in the USSR. Joint ventures are expected to be a fundamental lever for imperialist penetration.

They are not exactly a new endeavor in the USSR. During Lenin's time, the Soviet government eagerly sought joint ventures or outright imperialist investment by banks and industries. These did not avail themselves of the opportunities offered. On a very meager scale, this was also attempted during the Stalin period. It was resumed during the Khrushchev period, and in the early 1970s Pepsi-Cola signed a contract with the Soviet government, followed by other multinationals. As the Wall Street Journal commented: "Indeed, for a while it seemed [the 1970s] could be the decade of the Americans." 3 These joint ventures and business agreements seemed considerable. Such companies as International Harvester, Crowell-Collier, Macmillan, Kaiser Industries, Upjohn, General Electric, Philip Morris, Control Data, General Dynamics, PTG, Swindell-Dressler, NBC, the American Foreign Insurance Association, ITT, Arthur Andersen, and Bechtel (the giant multinational engineering and construction company) signed agreements of intent. Eventually, however, it all fell apart. Why?

In our view, there was no political agreement on the propriety of opening up the USSR to the penetration of U.S. finance capital on a massive scale in return for political and economic leverage. On both sides of the class barricade, so to speak, it became unviable. Unquestionably, the struggle between the so-called conservatives and the reformers made it impossible for the U.S. and other capitalist countries to get the kinds of agreements that would satisfy both the needs of the reformers and the ruling imperialist circles in the U.S. Detente in the political and diplomatic sense was abandoned by the U.S. in the interest of embarking on a vast militarization, especially following the collapse of the U.S. adventure in Vietnam.

There were reasons in both social systems why it was destined to fail. However, most important was that the leadership in the USSR at that time took a dim view of the presence of international monopolies and saw them as a political hazard. This should be taken into account in evaluating the course pursued at the present time by the Gorbachev administration.

At the present time, the surge of U.S. capital investment into the USSR that began early in 1987 continues but is slowing down. However, its future depends upon the further development of political accommodation, on the so-called new relationship between the U.S. and the USSR and between imperialism and the socialist countries as a whole. This, of course, is the meaning of the new strategic relationship, particularly the military relationship, between the U.S. and the USSR.

The Gorbachev administration has opened up an arena for political struggle which has long been undercover but has now come to the surface. There are three easily identifiable political currents. One of them is the Shmelyov tendency. These are outright bourgeois reformers, like the economist Nikolai Shmelyov, who are clamoring for the opening of the capitalist market on a wide arena. Of that there can be no doubt. They are strong proponents of joint ventures and the strengthening of what they call economic cooperation with the West, meaning more and more inducements for foreign capital to enter the USSR.

Shmelyov, in the article we referred to earlier in the June 1987 issue of Novy Mir, advocated unemployment as a "medicine to cure sloth and drunkenness," the establishment of free economic zones for foreign capital, organizing the economy "on a totally bottom-line basis" by raising the prices of food and housing, and relying on profit as the measure of economic activity.

This grouping looks forward to a convertible Soviet ruble, but until such becomes possible, they are for making all sorts of inducements so that foreign currencies--the dollar, the deutschmark, the yen, the pound, the franc--can be legally convertible in the USSR. They are, needless to say, strong supporters of accommodation with the U.S. Some of them, like Zhores Medvedev, are open admirers of U.S. imperialist statesmen like President Kennedy and even of Reagan. When Reagan met with Soviet journalists, as a sort of counterpart to Gorbachev having met with U.S. journalists, Medvedev's opinion was that Reagan won the debate with the Soviet journalists! Reagan's performance was actually considered so poor by the U.S. media that it was barely covered by them.

These reformers are not opposed (openly) to public ownership of the means of production as long as there is a free, bourgeois market, as long as individual material incentives and bourgeois norms for decentralization of industry are strengthened and agriculture is decollectivized. That's as far as bourgeois reformers can go at this time in the Soviet Union. Those who stand for a full-scale restoration of capitalism are too insignificant a minority. The real extremist and counterrevolutionary elements, like the writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn who now lives in Vermont, offer little hope to the imperialists.

At the other end of the spectrum are the forces presumably coalesced to some extent around Yegor Ligachev, a member of the Politburo and secretary of the CPSU Central Committee. He is more representative of those called "conservative," in the sense that they would conserve the socialized, centralized economy and are opposed to the opening up of the capitalist market and the extension of privileges to imperialist monopolies. Most of all, they act as a brake on the Gorbachev reforms. To get a view of their position is more difficult, since most of them are Party members high in the hierarchy of the Soviet political structure. But a general idea of where they stand was given by Ligachev to a meeting of the Gorky Province Party organization, excerpts of which were reprinted in Pravda on August 6, 1988.

In his remarks, he endorsed using "all the best things that have been accumulated through the historical experience of organizing exchange and the market." But he cautioned that "copying the Western model of the market, which is based on private property, is fundamentally unacceptable for the socialist system of economic management, the foundation of which is public property."

"It is impermissible to forget," continued Ligachev, "that the capitalist market, after all, is not just a market for goods and capital. An integral part of this model is the manpower market, with its merciless laws and chronic unemployment. One cannot help seeing that market relations are inevitably accompanied in capitalist society by deep social stratification, the deepening of inequality and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small segment of society. Should we really reproduce all this in our own country?" 4

It must be remembered that everything Ligachev says has to be within the framework of supporting the restructuring and the general policies of the Gorbachev administration. He and the others are constrained to do so on the basis of Party discipline. It is otherwise with Shmelyov, who represents more the nonparty groupings and can speak more freely, as witness his article in Novy Mir. Rather than speak out openly with a definitive program, the conservatives hide behind acceptance of the general line, and that in turn weakens their position. Of course, they are regarded as conservative also in the sense that they want to conserve a great deal of the Stalin legacy, but are caught in a trap since they have all been obliged to denounce it.

At the present time, three years after the reforms began, Gorbachev is admitting that they have come to a virtual standstill. "We are going slowly, we are losing time, this means we are losing the game," Gorbachev told a group of Soviet editors. "In a word, it turns out there is a gap between our goals and our work." 5 He blamed the Soviet press and media, whose assertions are nonetheless true. "In some speeches and publications, you almost get the idea that restructuring has aggravated the economic situation, thrown finances out of balance, worsened supplies of food and goods and sharpened housing and other social problems," he said. The fact of the matter is that the democratization process, glasnost, has made it possible for each of the factional groupings to take advantage of the continuing failure of the restructuring process.

What is the cause of the aggravated economic situation, of the financial imbalance and growth of inflation? What lies behind the worsened supplies of food and goods and sharpening problems in housing and other social areas? The fundamental cause is the disruption of socialist planning. What do self-financing and accounting, catchwords of the reforms, mean except a throwback to individual gain at the expense of the general welfare of the socialist economy? There is an attempt to deepen individual acquisitiveness and open up, even if partially and spasmodically, elements of the capitalist market, to decentralize the economy by encouraging the perilous trend toward more and more autonomy for managers of the industrial enterprises, which could ultimately undo socialist planning altogether.

When Gorbachev took over as general secretary, he had a choice: go along with prior administrations by deepening social inequality and fostering material incentives and individual acquisitiveness at the expense of collective solidarity, or reopen the Leninist struggle for socialist collaboration on the basis of moving in the direction of social equality. The problem all along has been how best to abolish the social classes in the struggle for communism. Gorbachev chose the road of deepening and widening social differentiation in the Soviet Union. Zhores Medvedev says Gorbachev champions the better-paid workers as against the lesser-paid. Unfortunately, this is all too true. This inevitably leads to a weakening of the socialist economy.

After three years, his restructuring reforms have slowed the economy and not accelerated it. By contrast, three years into the first five-year plan (1929-1933), it proved so successful that Stalin turned it into a four-year plan, precisely because it had largely met its targets already. Were bureaucracy and repression responsible for the success of the economic plans throughout that period, or was it the principle of socialist planning and the solidarity of the workers, whose enthusiasm and eagerness carried the economy forward in spite of the repression?

The Gorbachev restructuring has met with little enthusiasm from the broad masses. The enthusiastic ones are the self-seekers, those who see gain for themselves as against the collective.

It is easy to reawaken and stimulate personal incentive as against the collective. Every worker knows that. Think what happens in the U.S. today with lotteries. Doesn't every worker know that this means billions taken away from them just so a few will get an advantage? The struggle for socialism has to overcome the age-old trap in which private property pits the individual against the collective of the mass of workers. The Gorbachev program for developing and accelerating the economy is to deepen bourgeois individual incentives, which Marxism recognized a long time ago as necessary for a period of time but which socialism aspires to overcome, not to perpetuate.

Marxism doesn't deny the significance of material incentives. On the contrary, it recognizes them. But it also shows that the collective effort of the workers will in the long run redound to the benefit of all the individuals involved.

Marxism does not establish an antagonism between the individual and the collective. It merely tries to abolish the material basis for the antagonism which capitalism and private property have fostered all these many centuries. The capitalists seek to divide the instinctive solidarity of the masses and replace it with bourgeois individual acquisitiveness, which ends up in the exploitation of the overwhelming majority of the masses in the interests of a few exploiters, as capitalism has shown.

Three years is plenty of time in which to prove a policy bankrupt. The question is how long it will take to reverse it. But we have seen historic reversals in the Soviet Union before. We have seen how during the Stalin period the bourgeois theoreticians were convinced that socialism was rapidly becoming a thoroughgoing totalitarian state which would sweep the world, which would be autocratic, tyrannical, and without any shred of democracy--and therefore a danger to humanity. This Orwellian conception of socialism became so popular that it was embraced by large sections of the intellectuals and even the radical petty bourgeoisie. No one knew where the Stalin cult would ultimately lead.

But what does the present Gorbachev era show? Instead of the stultification and ossification of political life in the USSR, instead of the bureaucracy becoming more omnipotent, it is in reality disintegrating. It is giving way to democratic processes. It is splitting up into groupings and factions, letting fresh air ventilate the system.

Of course, the democratization is still limited. It is still democracy exercised in the main by and for the bureaucracy. But in its divisions and rifts, the bureaucracy is forced more and more to appeal to the mass of the workers on the basis of their class interests. This is the meaning of the split, to the extent that it can openly exist, between the so-called conservative forces epitomized by Ligachev, the classical centrist grouping around Gorbachev and the more outlandish bourgeois reformers of the Shmelyov type.

Finally, the Gorbachev reforms come at a time when the attempt of the Reagan administration to regain worldwide geopolitical hegemony by means of military might is sinking in a sea of revolutionary conflagrations, from Haiti to the Philippines, from south Korea to South Africa, from Central America to the Middle East. This explains the accommodative stance of the U.S. ruling class at this time. Once again, as in the 1970s, they have been forced to resort to detente, the so-called new relationship, as an instrument of foreign policy in relation to the USSR and other socialist countries. However, it is just another phase in the worldwide struggle between the two antagonistic social systems, imperialism and the socialist countries. The one great certainty is the advance of the cause of the socialist revolution. All else is temporary, conditional and most of all illusory.


1. E.H. Carr, Vol. 2, p. 290, fn.

2. V.I. Lenin, "The New Economic Policy and the Tasks of the Political Education Departments," Collected Works, Vol. 33, pp. 65-66.

3. Wall Street Journal, September 9, 1988.

4. Excerpts from speech by Yegor Ligachev, Pravda, August 6, 1988.

5. Speech by Mikhail Gorbachev, Pravda, September 25, 1988, quoted in the New York Times, September 26, 1988.

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