WeeklyWorker

24.09.2020
‘Young steel workers’ (1961) by Ivan Bevzenko. There was ‘socialist’ competition, but was this self-organisation or another form of exploitation?

Building models for the future

What is the relationship between democracy and socialism? Can bureaucracy and managerialism be overcome under present conditions? Levi Rafael replies to Mike Macnair

Mike Macnair, in his response to my article, ‘Bourgeois or proletarian democracy’ (Weekly Worker August 13), warns against the managerial coopting of workers’ organisations, and argues that overcoming managerial and bureaucratic tendencies is essential for working class political power (‘Property and the propertyless’, September 3).

On this point, I really have no objections, and in fact my entire polemic about the differences between bourgeois and proletarian democracy centres on this issue. It is also the reason why I place so much stress on the Yugoslavian model of a socialist republic. Macnair’s emphasis on this point is in fact very helpful to my point about the need to move beyond a merely popular democracy to one that begins the transition from the “administration of people” to “the administration of things”.

A main point that appears in my polemic with comrade Macnair is that the dictatorship of the proletariat is not merely a system of democratic governance, but that it is also the incubator for a new type of labour discipline - one based on the democratic self-discipline of workers’ associations. This association of the dictatorship of the proletariat with the self-discipline of the workers can be found in Lenin’s works, but also in some of Karl Kautsky’s, in particular The social revolution. In his article covering the first Subbotniks (voluntary teams of workers who completed extra hours of work for the civil war effort), Lenin describes how each mode of production is characterised by a certain type of labour discipline, and in what direction labour discipline will evolve under socialism:

The feudal organisation of social labour rested on the discipline of the bludgeon, while the working people - robbed and tyrannised by a handful of landowners - were utterly ignorant and downtrodden. The capitalist organisation of social labour rested on the discipline of hunger ... The communist organisation of social labour, the first step towards which is socialism, rests - and will do so more and more, as time goes on - on the free and conscious discipline of the working people themselves, who have thrown off the yoke both of the landowners and capitalists ...

This new discipline does not drop from the skies, nor is it born from pious wishes: it grows out of the material conditions of large-scale capitalist production, and out of them alone. Without them it is impossible. And the repository, or the vehicle, of these material conditions is a definite historical class, created, organised, united, trained, educated and hardened by large-scale capitalism. This class is the proletariat.1

In the excerpt he quoted from his book Revolutionary strategy, Mike Macnair claims that under the Soviet and other kindred regimes there was “neither institutional means in the regimes through which the ‘non-revisionists’ could resist revisionism, nor any objective tendency in the regimes towards ongoing mass working class self-organisation, on which opponents of revisionism could base themselves”.2 It is statements like these that cause me to place Macnair, and others who make similar arguments, in the Fukuyama consensus. At the very least, it repeats the dogmas of what in the academy is called the ‘totalitarian school’ of interpretation of Soviet and communist history. Even amongst contemporary bourgeois historians, this school of thought is considered to be increasingly inaccurate and outdated - a relic of state-department anti-communism, which was bent on painting communist-led regimes as essentially some new form of slavery. One does not have to be an apologist for Stalinism to challenge this caricatured view of Soviet society.

Self-organisation

Another example of this way of thinking can be found in Macnair’s ‘Theses on the fall of the USSR’, where he states: “Without a labour market - which implies freedom of movement of workers and of capital - a working class is not a proletariat in the sense of Marx’s analysis, but an urban serf class.”3

But, even while taking a highly critical view of Stalin’s regime, do we need to accept this idea that workers in the Soviet Union were merely “urban serfs” who were incapable of political self-organisation? A study by Robert Thurston challenges these assertions of Macnair (and of Hillel Ticktin) and shows how, even in the harshest days of the Stalin regime, workers still felt empowered to criticise managers and officials, at least at the enterprise and local level.4 Furthermore, unlike the restricted mobility of serfs, Soviet managers actually struggled with out-of-control turnover of labour, and managers found that they had a hard time attracting workers and keeping them at important industrial jobs.5

Thurston’s study is interesting in examining the reality of workers’ organisational culture under the Soviet regime. The situation was certainly a very far cry from an ideal workers’ democracy, and participation and criticism were generally permitted only on the local and enterprise level. Those who criticised higher-level officials faced greater risk of repression. Nevertheless, Soviet workers were not blind and mute automatons, incapable of self-organisation.

The production communes during the first five-year plan in 1930-31 are a good case in point. Since the advent of the five-year plan, workers in various enterprises began organising themselves into various associations - such as work brigades - that engaged in voluntary competition with other workers. Contemporary consensus generally agrees that these initial campaigns were the result of grassroots efforts by the workers themselves to exceed quotas and to increase production.

By 1931, workers were using production conferences to initiate ‘counter-planning’ campaigns. Counter-planning involved workers in revising quotas established by planning authorities, thus developing into a mass movement of workers making decisions on economic planning. That these mass production campaigns and socialist competitions were at least partially an expression of grassroots workers organising is evident by Stalin’s eventual crackdown on the “production communes”.6 These communes not only collectively organised to make decisions on planning and work, but also distributed earnings to members in an egalitarian manner. Stalin criticised this egalitarianism as detrimental to incentivising production and as a challenge to managerial authority. Nevertheless, the Soviet regime continued to encourage socialist competition and the organising of workers into cost-accounting brigades, which participated in counter-planning. These brigades continued throughout the history of the Soviet regime, being revived under Khrushchev and were later codified as official institutions (workers’ collectives) in the 1977 constitution.

This is not to ignore the very real bureaucratic inequities and autocratic managerialism that existed. On the whole I still endorse Trotsky’s criticisms of Stalinist bureaucracy. Nevertheless, I think it is a disservice to Soviet workers, and those in similar regimes, to imply that there were no alternatives for internal reform. Many Soviet workers developed various organisations that facilitated mass participation in monitoring production, amending economic plans, inspecting citizens complaints, etc. True, the bureaucracy ensured that these projects never presented much harm to the existing elite of intelligentsia, bureaucracy and worker-peasant aristocracy. But even these rudimentary forms of organisation demonstrated the capacities of the Soviet working class.

The other thing to consider is that the vast majority of workers, despite all of the very real problems, had generally considered themselves supportive of the regime and therefore looked to existing Soviet institutions, such as trade unions and control commissions, as a means for popular participation.

But, lest I be considered an apologist, I will say that I am in full agreement with Macnair’s point about the relationship of the intelligentsia to the bureaucracy and Soviet society:

Classes continue to exist after the fall of capitalism and until the petty proprietors are absorbed into the proletariat. The “petty proprietors” includes not only peasants and artisans, but also the owners of intellectual property, particularly the intelligentsia/professional middle classes. The absorption of this segment of the petty proprietors into the proletariat occurs through the skills, which they monopolise as a class, becoming devalorised through all proletarians acquiring them (universal education/higher education; workers’ control leading to workers’ management; rotation of managerial and state posts; abolition of all forms of state and commercial secrecy and confidentiality; etc).7

I am in complete accord with Macnair on this point. The same ideas can be found in Trotsky’s writings on Soviet bureaucracy, as well as in the critiques levelled by the Yugoslav communists against the Stalinist technocratic system. I would argue that it is this truth that separates Stalinism from Leninism. Whereas Lenin recognised that classes and the class struggle continue under the dictatorship of the proletariat, Stalin bureaucratically declared that socialism had been “achieved” and that classes had been “obliterated” by Soviet development.

But it is also because of this agreement that I have to depart from Macnair on the question of “extreme” democracy, which in every case that I’ve seen it presented really just means a more radical version of a “people’s democracy”. In his criticism of Stalin’s attempt to gloss over class inequalities in the USSR, Trotsky connected this with the adoption of the 1936 ‘Stalin’ constitution, which essentially abolished the soviets as organs of proletarian dictatorship in favour of an essentially ‘above-class’ form of state:

In the political sphere, the distinction of the new constitution from the old is its return from the Soviet system of election according to class and industrial groups to the system of bourgeois democracy based upon the so-called “universal, equal and direct” vote of an atomised population. This is a matter, to put it briefly, of juridically liquidating the dictatorship of the proletariat. Where there are no capitalists, there is also no proletariat - say the creators of the new constitution - and consequently the state itself, from being proletarian, becomes national. This argument, with all its superficial lure, is either 19 years late or many years in advance of its time.

In expropriating the capitalists, the proletariat did actually enter upon its own liquidation as a class. But from liquidation in principle to actual dissolution in society is a road more prolonged, the longer the new state is compelled to carry out the rudimentary work of capitalism. The Soviet proletariat still exists as a class deeply distinct from the peasantry, the technical intelligentsia and the bureaucracy - and moreover as the sole class interested right up to the end in the victory of socialism. The new constitution wants to dissolve this class in ‘the nation’ politically, long before it is economically dissolved in society.8

Petty bourgeoisie

Comrade Macnair’s arguments about the relationship of the bourgeoisie seem to confirm many of the reasons why I argue that a democratic republic could in fact be coopted in the interests of capitalist rule.

I am actually surprised that Macnair did not use a stronger argument against my statement that democracy is not inherently antithetical to bourgeois rule. He is correct in saying that democracy is the most inconvenient form of state for bourgeois rule, as the empowering of the vast majority of people to participate in politics gives far too much leeway to the proletariat. Macnair would be right to say that one would be extremely hard pressed to find a truly democratic republic since the French Revolution that operated under bourgeois rule. But his description of how the bourgeoisie rules (and I am in general agreement with most of his points here) seems like a very strong argument for the case that democracy can be coopted by the bourgeoisie if that democracy is not institutionally committed to ensuring proletarian representation and discipline, and suppressing bourgeois influence.

Macnair argues that the bourgeoisie is able to rule by virtue of its power over the creation of wealth. He also argues that the bourgeoisie does not rule directly, as did the feudal class before it. The bourgeoisie is quite content to delegate both state and managerial authority to members of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia. He also argues that the bourgeoisie, because it is an ever declining minority, must gain the support of the petty bourgeois layers - both its salaried and propertied variants. By virtue of its power over wealth, it is able to frustrate the functioning of the state, or it can fund alternative sites of power, should the state act against its interests. Furthermore, Macnair argues that the control that capitalists exercise over the media also expresses its influence on politics. On all of these points I am in absolute agreement.

But these arguments should be turned back on Macnair’s contention that the bourgeoisie must always rely on the rule of law to retain its power. He would be on stronger ground if he said that there have been hardly any points in history where the bourgeoisie was willing to tolerate a fully democratised republic. But all of the points he listed are reasons why a state based on universal suffrage, with authority concentrated in a unicameral elected body, would not prevent bourgeois rule. The fact that the bourgeoisie does not need to rule directly means that, given the right circumstances, it could tolerate a highly popularised government, so long as its power over the creation of wealth was preserved. It can afford to be relatively indifferent to the form of state, so long as it is able to maintain its social position.

While it is true that the bourgeoisie does not depend on direct rule, and to an extent requires a certain distance from the state, in concrete reality it does not at all hesitate to take a direct part in state rule. Thus, under the majority of circumstances it will seek to maintain power through some sort of limited democracy, with strong state checks on how powerful this democracy can be. But this still does not mean that the bourgeoisie could not maintain its rule within even a radically democratised state. In all likelihood, a truly bourgeois democracy could only come into being in the face of a very strong proletarian movement threatening to seize power. Such a democracy would probably have to be ruled by some sort of social democratic party, or else some petty bourgeois or pseudo-left civil libertarian party, as an attempt to form a political compromise with the masses so as to neuter any independent workers’ movement (a ‘Pirate Party’ government, for example).

But this is all hypothetical. The point is that the bourgeoisie does not necessarily need to maintain direct control over the state, as Macnair correctly points out. Therefore, maintenance of rule-of-law checks on democracy are not absolutely necessary for bourgeois rule. They are certainly the most ideal and convenient methods of rule for the bourgeoisie. But, should they be forced to compromise, they are capable of adjusting their relationship to democracy.

The other point where I agree with Macnair is that the bourgeoisie must rely on the petty bourgeoisie for political stability. But democratic-republican radicalism has been historically associated with this class. It could be argued that the only real basis for a bourgeois democracy exists within this class. This too is problematic, as the modern petty bourgeoisie, facing far graver threats to its stability than in the 19th century, tends towards fascist and neo-fascist political movements, doubting the efficacy of even petty bourgeois democracy. But, if there is a class that could be said to have an interest in a fully democratic republic, it would be this class. This should be even more reason for the need to draw a clear line of demarcation between a bourgeois and a proletarian form of democracy.

The weakest part of Macnair’s argument is the point about the relationship of bribery to the state. He accuses me of focusing too much on the subjective motives of individual capitalists instead of seeing it as a broader system. But this is exactly the weakness that I find in Macnair’s argument about the bribery of officials. He says that democracy makes it much harder for the capitalist class to bribe officials, because they can be recalled at any time. But these points only focus on how the capitalist class bribes individual officials, and does not really get to the heart of how the capitalist class can use its wealth to influence democracy.

I find this argument surprising, given Macnair’s otherwise spot-on observations about how capitalist power over wealth means that they can influence power without direct control over the state. The problem is not merely the bribing of individual officials, but the influence that the capitalist class, in whole and in part, has over officials, as well as the electorate. An “extreme” democracy that does not go beyond bourgeois ‘popular’ relations at best makes exercising this influence inconvenient. But it does not address the more systematic problem of potential bourgeois influence on democracy.

But there are several other factors that Macnair neglected to mention that make “extreme” or ‘pure’ democracy problematic for proletarian dictatorship. For one thing, there is the problem of ruling ideology, which does not require any direct action on the part of the bourgeois class, as it is constantly reproduced even amongst the proletarian masses. Religion, bourgeois political and cultural ideology, and above all the continued division of labour provide fertile ground for the reproduction of bourgeois relations.

This point about the division of labour in capitalist society is part of the reason that I put so much emphasis on the need to include the occupational franchise in a programme for a proletarian democracy. In the final analysis, it is the division of labour brought about by the existence of bourgeois relations, and the longstanding division between mental and manual labour that creates obstacles preventing the proletariat from effective democratic participation. It is this division of labour that a proletarian democracy must tackle directly, and that the programme for a merely popular democratic republic, however “extreme”, does not adequately address. I intend to go into more details on these problems in a future article.

Managerialism

Usurpation of workers’ democracy by managerial authority is the central theme of Macnair’s argument against my interpretation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But, as with the arguments for ‘unfettered’ democracy, these arguments should be points in favour of my argument for a democracy that does not merely grant ‘equal rights’ and universal suffrage. It should be an argument for a democracy based on workers’ organisations that are guaranteed representation and state support, and that begins to transform economic relations in the direction of socialisation and proletarian self-discipline.

Take the example of the occupational franchise. Macnair has said that this might be a feature of a workers’ democracy. He says he is for workers’ management and “councils of action”, but only “when the need for the struggle poses them”. But the need that poses these forms of workers’ democracy is precisely the prevention of the bureaucratic and managerial usurpation of workers’ power. As Macnair says, this is a fundamental political problem. And it is precisely because of this fact that a democratic republic - established on a purely territorial basis, with no clear distinction of class relations and an indirect connection to the organisation of labour - is an inadequate form of democracy for the proletariat to solve this task.

Earlier, I referenced Trotsky’s passage from chapter 10 of The revolution betrayed, where he argues that the Stalin constitution of 1936 more or less juridically liquidated the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is because it replaced the original constitution, based fundamentally on workers’ associations and their occupations, with a purely territorial system of pseudo-parliaments with little to no connection to the organisation of workers. The original Soviet system was replaced by a Bonapartist hybrid, which atomised the population into individual citizens operating in an economic vacuum. This is a feature of bourgeois rule, which maintains a purely artificial separation between the operations of government and the division of labour: ie, the ‘economic’ or ‘civic’ sphere of society. This was pretty explicitly the case with the Stalin constitution, which was created precisely to give the illusion that a classless society had been achieved, when in fact the old division of labour remained. This constitution was a major victory for the bureaucratic and managerial intelligentsia. It was this constitution, not the pre-1936 soviets, that the later ‘people’s democracies’ (with the exception of Yugoslavia after 1963) and other bureaucratised workers’ states used as their model.

It is precisely this problem of the relationship of managerialism to workers’ power that I argue is insufficiently addressed by Mike Macnair, the CPGB and its programme for a “democratic republic” that, while laudable for its level of democracy, does not yet cross the border into the division of labour and the structure of social relations. Though certainly the CPGB has in mind a more authentically democratic system than Stalin’s, the democratic republic that the CPGB advocates is in form not much different from the 1936 constitution. For this reason, it requires significant revision in the direction of occupational franchise, quotas for workers’ representation, a workers’ and not a civil militia, state aid for independent workers’ organisations, safeguards against petty bourgeois (including managerial) influence, regulation of bourgeois representation, etc, in order to constitute a real proletarian dictatorship that will begin at once to address the issue of managerialism.

I disagree with comrade Macnair on two further points: the first, that mere democratic association is enough to train workers in the spirit of socialist discipline; and the second, that the factory organisation has only a minor influence on this discipline. In reality, socialist discipline must be a synthesis of the two. Mere democratic organisations teach one how to make decisions collectively, but they do not show how the division of labour can be transcended.

At the library where I work, the local neighbourhood association holds monthly meetings that operate on a democratic basis. Residents of the neighbourhood are free to join this association and make decisions within it. But the association has no real connection to how the library in that community is operated, how the various shops in the area provide basic consumer services, how managerial authority is delegated, etc - in other words, with the fundamental labour that keeps that neighbourhood running. The association may organise a community garden or a trash clean up, but it is otherwise divorced from any real process of social labour. Furthermore, its merely democratic character makes no distinction of class amongst its members. Although in theory it is open to all residents, most of the membership is made up of retirees with time on their hands, and the attendees are typically petty bourgeois, or of the better-paid and educated layers of the proletariat. Socialist discipline is not merely democratic. It is also a democratic method of collectively organising social labour - a step which begins to break down the division between mental and manual labour.

This is why the “factory” - or more accurately the workplace or enterprise - cannot be dismissed so easily as it is by Macnair. The modern workplace not only shows the worker that they cannot labour individually, but it connects it with modern labour processes that hold the potential to gradually liberate humanity from the necessity to labour in general. In Lenin’s time, the focus was on getting workers’ organisations to adopt Taylorist methods of management. This was because, despite the dehumanising and bourgeois aspects of Taylorism, the system of scientific management also held out the possibility of simplifying the administration of the labour process and reducing the necessary hours needed to work. This dual process - simplification of administration and reduction of working time - constituted the value of incorporating Taylorism into workers’ democracy.

Scientific management subordinated to the workers’ state should aim to bring administrative skills within the grasp of ever broader numbers of workers, and increase the available time for creative administrative work. For today’s purposes, I think that Taylorism has been superseded by far more modern versions of scientific management: namely the Kaizen system, often used in manufacturing; and the Agile system, used in the growing software and knowledge economy. Unlike Taylorism, these systems of management depend on circles of workers who make collective decisions on their work processes. To be sure, these systems are tools of bourgeois exploitation, but, like the Taylor system, these management methods can and should be incorporated into a workers’ democracy with the goal of harnessing them for socialism.

Hopefully it will be clear now that not only do I agree with comrade Macnair on the need to tackle managerial distortions within workers’ democracy, but that the thrust of my arguments against his idea of a democratic republic as the form for a workers’ state is precisely on the basis that a mere democratic republic is inadequate to solve these issues. Any form of democracy that is divorced from the real relationships between classes, and from the real division of labour, will inevitably fall into managerialism. The problem of division between a formally democratic organisation of state with an undemocratic division of labour will remain unsolved.

Taken by itself, an issue such as occupational franchise would be a distraction if it were divorced from the broader programme of proletarian dictatorship. But this could be said about all of its features, including its purely democratic aspect. The fundamental aspect of the dictatorship of the proletariat must be that it is not merely democracy. It must be a democracy that explicitly recognises class inequalities between proletarian and bourgeois, proletarian and intelligentsia, and proletarian and petty proprietor. It must be a democracy committed to the progressive breakdown of the division between mental and manual labour, and therefore the incubator of socialist labour discipline. It is for this reason that measures like the occupational franchise and the restrictions on the bourgeois and petty bourgeois layers are so fundamental, and not merely “possible” forms of proletarian dictatorship, as Macnair argues. It is precisely these measures that are best suited for reducing the managerial distortion of democracy.

Pace of change

The final disagreement, though, is about the pace of overcoming managerialism and bureaucracy. Comrade Macnair says that we must solve the problem of managerial distortion now. I understand the thrust of his argument to be that we must fight bureaucratic and undemocratic practices that exist in party, labour union and other types of workers’ organisations. I do not disagree that this is a pressing issue, and that failure to address it in the present will prevent any future victories. But to say that we must completely solve the problem of managerialism is to confuse the higher stage of communism with the tasks of proletarian dictatorship. The only way that managerialism and bureaucracy will be completely eliminated from social relations will be through the development of the productive forces and the subsequent abolition of the division between mental and manual labour that high communism will bring. But managerialism and bureaucracy cannot be abolished under the proletarian dictatorship, let alone before such a state is established.

I believe that it was one of the greatest weaknesses of the Bolsheviks that they believed that this problem could be solved faster than it actually could. I would even argue that this naive view probably contributed to the need for unfavourable compromises with the bourgeois specialists. Nevertheless, as time went on, it became apparent to the Bolsheviks that bureaucracy could not be abolished under the proletarian dictatorship. All that could be done was to mitigate it and lay the foundations for its eventual abolition. Even in a highly developed capitalist country like the UK or the US, some level of managerialism and bureaucracy will be necessary.

This is one of the reasons that I defend the Yugoslav model, despite the existence of bureaucratic distortions. Post-war Trotskyist groups tore themselves into pieces, arguing over whether or not this or that state (eg, Cuba) was a ‘healthy’ or a ‘deformed’ workers’ state. But the reality is that a purely ‘healthy’ workers’ state (as in a state without bureaucratism) is an impossibility. If it were possible, there would be no need for proletarian dictatorship as a transitional state to socialism. Bureaucracy and managerialism find fertile soil on the cultural underdevelopment of the masses created by capitalism, and the continued division of labour brought about by as yet underdeveloped productive forces.

Macnair acknowledges that classes and the class struggle continue under the proletarian dictatorship, and that the petty bourgeois layers of the intelligentsia and small proprietors cannot be abolished in one stroke. A socialist state will inevitably inherit the cultural and economic legacy of capitalism, and will even have to use these remnants to some extent until bourgeois norms of distribution can be overcome. Until socialism becomes a global system, it will be impossible to operate otherwise. In the transition period, the focus cannot be on immediately abolishing bureaucracy, but on mitigating it by drawing the working people directly into participation in state and administrative functions.

This, of course, excludes the possibility of completely solving the problem of managerialism before the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship. Undoubtedly, we cannot use this as an excuse to ignore bureaucratism and violations of democracy within workers’ organisations. But, while radically mitigating these tendencies, we must have a sense of reality and proportion. This is the defect that I find with most of the ‘libertarian’ left - they demand an impossible level of egalitarianism that is only possible, on a large scale, under fully developed communism. This also means that, while not refraining from criticising even the best of communist-led states, we cannot criticise them for not achieving the impossible.

The Yugoslavian self-management system did not create a classless society, and a combination of bureaucratic practices and market influence did allow for a degree of managerial capture of these bodies. But it would be wrong to ignore the fact that the Yugoslav communists probably did more than most other communist-led states to address the issue of bureaucracy under a workers’ state (what the Yugoslavs called ‘technocracy’).

Overcoming bureaucracy is a long-term project that can be completed only under fully developed communism. Until then, practising the maximum level of democracy possible within workers’ parties and organisations, and later applying this democracy to administrative functions normally restricted to the private sector, is the best way to mitigate the influence of managerialism.

Political parties

The issue of the one-party state is not really part of my contention over the differences between bourgeois and proletarian democracy. Nevertheless, I should try to clarify my stance on this issue. My defence of the one-party system really extends only to historically existing states like Yugoslavia, and to a more conditional extent in the USSR, Cuba, China, etc.

Unlike the other measures of proletarian dictatorship, I do not believe that a one-party system is a universal necessity for a workers’ state. I even think it highly unlikely in a future workers’ state. One-party states - whether communist, non-communist or even anti-communist - tend to arise in nations with semi- or pre-capitalist economies, enforced underdevelopment, and often with a recent legacy of semi-feudalism or colonialism, where bourgeois-democratic revolutions and ideology (Enlightenment) either never occurred or were severely unstable. In such contexts, as in the volatile context of rival nationalisms in Yugoslavia, any government - whether proletarian or bourgeois - was very unlikely to have developed into anything but some sort of authoritarian state.

This touches on the disagreement over managerialism that I have with Macnair. Like managerialism, authoritarian state practices cannot be overcome through proletarian willpower alone. They can only be overcome in regards to the development of the productive forces. Productive forces here mean not simply the level of technological advancement, but also the cultural and material wellbeing of the labour force - primarily the proletariat. When these factors are underdeveloped due to the legacy of an agricultural economy, semi-feudalism, monarchy, colonial or imperialist oppression, etc. social contradictions are aggravated.

But this should not be interpreted as an ideal scenario. In countries like the United States, with a long history of advanced capitalist development, as well as an established, yet beleaguered, democratic political culture, a proletarian state would and should be far less authoritarian. The issue of a one-party state is not a contention that I have with the CPGB programme, and I do not hold that a one-party state is a necessary feature of every proletarian dictatorship.


  1. VI Lenin A great beginning: marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jun/19.htm.↩︎

  2. M Macnair Revolutionary strategy London 2010.↩︎

  3. M Macnair, ‘Theses on the fall of the USSR and the nature of Soviet and Soviet-type regimes’, London 2004.↩︎

  4. RW Thurston. ‘Reassessing the history of Soviet workers: opportunities to criticize and participate in decision-making, 1935-1941’ in S White (ed) New directions in Soviet history Cambridge 1992, pp160-88.↩︎

  5. L Siegelbaum, ‘Production collectives and communes and the “imperatives” of Soviet industrialization, 1929-1931’ Slavic Review Vol 45, No1, pp65-84.↩︎

  6. Ibid↩︎

  7. M Macnair, ‘Theses on the fall of the USSR and the nature of Soviet and Soviet-type regimes’, London 2004.↩︎

  8. L Trotsky The revolution betrayed chapter 10: marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/revbet/ch10.htm.↩︎