>Y-yo-you can't just justify Stalin's actions, that's illegal!
<Just read this and I will join you if you can refute what is said here
In what sense was the USSR socialist?
Here we base ourselves on the classical Marxist analysis of society. In Marx’s view, the most basic distinguishing feature of different modes of social organisation is the manner in which they ensure the ‘extraction of a surplus product’
from the direct producers. This requires a little explanation. The ‘necessary product’, on this theory, is the product required to maintain and reproduce the workforce itself. This will take the form of consumer goods and services for the workers and their families, and the investment in plant, equipment and so on that is needed simply to maintain the society’s means of production in working order. The ‘surplus product’, on the other hand, is that portion of social output used to maintain the non-producing members of society (a heterogeneous lot, ranging from the idle rich, to politicians, to the armed forces, to retired working people), plus that portion devoted to net expansion of the stock of means of production. Any society capable of supporting non-producing members, and of generating an economically progressive programme of net investment, must have some mechanism for compelling or inducing the direct producers to produce more than is needed simply to maintain themselves. The precise nature of this mechanism is, according to Marxist theory, the key to understanding the society as a whole—not just the ‘economy’, but also the general form of the state and of politics. Our claim is that the Soviet system put into effect a mode of extraction of the surplus product quite different from that of capitalism. To put this point in context, some more general historical background may be useful.
Consider, first, the distinction between feudal and capitalist society. Under feudalism, the extraction of a surplus product was plainly ‘visible’ to all. The specific forms were various, but one typical method involved the peasants working their own fields for so many days in the week, and the lord’s land for the rest. Alternatively, the peasants might have to surrender a portion of the produce of their own fields to the lord. If such a society is to reproduce itself, the direct producers must be held in some form of direct subordination or servitude; political and legal equality is out of the question. A religious ideology that speaks of the distinct ‘places’ allotted to individuals on this earth and of the virtues of knowing one’s proper place, and that promises a heavenly reward for those who fulfill their role in God’s earthly scheme, will also be very useful.
Under capitalism, on the other hand, the extraction of the surplus product becomes ‘invisible’ in the form of the wage contract. The parties to the contract are legal equals, each bringing their property to the market and conducting a voluntary transaction. No bell rings in the factory to announce the end of the portion of the working day spent producing the equivalent of the workers’ wages, and the beginning of the production of profits for the employer. Nonetheless, the workers’ wages are substantially less than the total value of the product they generate: this is the basis of Marx’s theory of exploitation. The degree of exploitation that is realised depends on the struggle between workers and capitalists, in its various forms: over the level of wages, over the pace of production and the length of the working day, and over the changes in technology that determine how much labour time is required to produce a given quantum of wage-goods.
Soviet socialism, particularly following the introduction of the first five-year plan under Stalin in the late 1920s, introduced a new and non-capitalist mode of extraction of a surplus. This is somewhat obscured by the fact that workers were still paid ruble wages, and that money continued in use as a unit of account in the planned industries, but the social content of these ‘monetary forms’ changed drastically.
Under Soviet planning, the division between the necessary and surplus portions of the social product was the result of political decisions. For the most part, goods and labour were physically allocated to enterprises by the planning authorities, who would always ensure that the enterprises had enough money to ‘pay for’ the real goods allocated to them. If an enterprise made monetary ‘losses’, and therefore had to have its money balances topped up with ‘subsidies’, that was no matter. On the other hand, possession of money as such was no guarantee of being able to get hold of real goods. By the same token, the resources going into production of consumer goods were centrally allocated. Suppose the workers won higher ruble wages: by itself this would achieve nothing, since the flow of production of consumer goods was not responsive to the monetary amount of consumer spending. Higher wages would simply mean higher prices or shortages in the shops. The rate of production of a surplus was fixed when the planners allocated resources to investment in heavy industry and to the production of consumer goods respectively.
In very general terms this switch to a planned system, where the the division of necessary and surplus product is the result of deliberate social decision, is entirely in line with what Marx had hoped for. Only Marx had imagined this ‘social decision’ as being radically democratic, so that the production of the surplus would have an intrinsic legitimacy. The people, having made the decision to devote so much of their combined labour to net investment and the support of non-producers, would then willingly implement their own decision. For reasons both external and internal, Soviet society at the time of the introduction of economic planning was far from democratic. How, then, could the workers be induced or compelled to implement the plan (which, although it was supposedly formulated in their interests, was certainly not of their making)?
We know that the plans were, by and large, implemented. The 1930s saw the development of a heavy industrial base at unprecedented speed, a base that would be severely tested in the successful resistance to the Nazi invasion. We are also well aware of the characteristic features of the Stalin era, with its peculiar mixture of terror and forced labour on the one hand, and genuine pioneering fervour on the other. Starting from the question of how the extraction of a surplus product was possible in a planned but undemocratic system, the cult of Stalin’s personality appears not as a mere ‘aberration’, but as an integral feature of the system. Stalin: at once the inspirational leader, making up in determination and grit for what he lacked in eloquence and capable of promoting a sense of participation in a great historic endeavour, and the stern and utterly ruthless liquidator of any who failed so to participate (and many others besides). The Stalin cult, with both its populist and its terrible aspects, was central to the Soviet mode of extraction of a surplus product.
t. Cockshott, who is pretty much a libsoc, very much so in fact, but unlike you has the brain to think for himself and not get all his facts from CIA