The Need for a Balanced Reappraisal of the USSR: A Review Essay

Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union.

By Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny.
New York: International Publishers, 2004. 236 pages, cloth $25.00, paper $14.00

Erwin Marquit (editor NST)

Note from the author: the NST sources are Nature, Society, and Thought, vol 16, #4 (2003): 473-506, for my review, vol 17, #3 (2004): 343-54 for their rebuttal, and 355-62 for my response. The numbers in the text follow the standard US author-date academic referencing system as outlined by our bible of academic publishing, The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. A parenthetical reference (for example Chuev 1993, 364) refers to the Reference List entry at the end of the article for work by the author Chuev published in 1993 on page 364. Subsequent page citations from the same work are given without the author-date information. And if the author is clear from the text, then the year and page is given without the author's name. Single bracketed numbers relate to notes and references in the Keeran-Kenny text.

The authors of Socialism Betrayed state in their introduction: "This book is about the collapse of the Soviet Union and its meaning for the 21st century" (1). Placed in this perspective, the book can be viewed as an effort to use the experiences of the first attempt at socialism as a warning against the current efforts of China, Vietnam, and to a lesser extent Cuba to pursue policies of socioeconomic development within a framework that the Vietnamese call a market economy with socialist orientation. "Given the actual history of market socialism under Gorbachev," write Keeran and Kenny in their concluding remarks, "it would seem that the real lesson of the Soviet collapse leads . . . to the conclusion that socialism requires central planning, public ownership, and restricted markets"(194).

The authors open their discussion of the collapse as follows:

The collapse of the Soviet Union did not occur because of an internal economic crisis or popular uprising. It occurred because of the reforms initiated at the top by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and its General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It goes without saying that problems must have existed in the Soviet Union, otherwise no need for reforms would have arisen. (14)

Keeran and Kenny argue that the history of the CPSU from the earliest days of the 1917 October Revolution is a history of struggle between the Left and Right. After Lenin's death, the leading figure on the left was Stalin. At crucial moments in the history of the USSR, the leading figures on the right were Bukharin, Khrushchev, and Gorbachev. The principal conflict that characterized the division between Left and Right was a socialist planned economy versus opening up the economy to market forces. In the view of authors, the prelude to Gorbachev's betrayal was the growth of the second economy, which Keeran and Kenny define as legal and illegal "private economic activity for personal gain" (53). "After being restrained under Stalin, it [the second economy] emerged with a new vitality under Khrushchev, flourished under Brezhnev, and in many respects replaced the primary socialist economy under Gorbachev and Yeltsin" (53).

I shall argue in this review that growth of the second economy was the unplanned consequence of the utopian model of a centrally planned economy, which was introduced prematurely in the Soviet Union and which, in its necessary interaction with the world economy, proved unable to match the pace of market-driven technological development in the West. Keeran and Kenny give insufficient attention to the shaping of the Soviet economy in the 1920s and 1930s. A more detailed analysis is necessary to understand the damage done to the Communist Party by the mass extermination of veteran Bolsheviks, and the subsequent failure of the postwar leadership to overcome the bureaucratization of the structure and practices inherited from the Stalin period. This latter failure prevented serious consideration of a shift to a market economy with socialist orientation along the lines being pursued today in China and Vietnam.

Ignoring the progress of industrialization under Lenin's New Economic Policy (NEP), Keeran and Kenny focus on Stalin's policy of crash industrialization and collectivization initiated with the first two five-year plans that began in 1928, in the course of which the Soviet economy was almost fully socialized, industry being firmly consolidated in the state sector and agriculture divided between the state and collective (co-operative) sectors.

According to Keeran and Kenny, Bukharin viewed the concessions in Lenin's New Economic Policy "to the peasants, the market, and capitalism, as long-term policy: Stalin viewed them as a temporary expedient that the revolution had to jettison when able" (18). It would have been useful here for the authors to have provided more background to the NEP, which was introduced by Lenin in 1921 at the end of the Civil War.

The NEP replaced the extreme measures known as "war communism," under which, in Lenin's words, "the confiscation of surpluses from the peasants was a measure with which we were saddled by the imperative conditions of war-time" (1965, 187). Under NEP, confiscation of the surplus was replaced by a tax in kind that amounted to only a portion of the surplus, so that the peasant would have the assurance "that, while he has to give away a certain amount, he will have so much left to sell locally" (187). In this way, market relations were re-established in the countryside.

Lenin felt that these market relations were needed until the infrastructure for a fully socialized economy was established. "Since the state cannot provide the peasant with goods from socialist factories in exchange for all his surplus, freedom to trade with this surplus necessarily means freedom for the development of capitalism." He did not view this as "dangerous for socialism as long as transport and large-scale industry remain in the hands of the proletariat" (457).

He also supported joint ventures with foreign capitalist firms provided that the state-owned industry remained dominant. He saw these as only temporary measures that would obtain "extra equipment and machinery that will enable us to accelerate the restoration of Soviet large-scale industry" (458).

Developments in the 1920s following Lenin's death shaped, to a great extent, what was to come in the 1930s. Keeran and Kenny's discussion of this period is far too brief, ignoring the ideological battles in the Soviet Party and the way they were handled. I shall therefore sketch briefly here some of the ideological history, which is essential for understanding the later events.

The Left Opposition

Until his expulsion from the Party in 1927, Trotsky was the leading figure in the opposition to the policies put forth by Stalin. The policies in dispute covered every problem in socialist construction: relations with the peasantry, pace of industrialization, relationship of the state and the Party, nature of the dictatorship of the proletariat, implementation of democratic centralism, possibility of building socialism in one country, and policies of the Communist International in regard to the social democrats and divisions in other Communist parties.

Trotsky continually formed oppositional factions on issue after issue despite the ban, instituted in Lenin's time, on factional activities in the Party. Nevertheless, in 1925-26, two members of the Politburo, Lev Kamenov and Grigory Zinoviev, concerned about Stalin's growing dominance, consolidated an oppositional faction with Trotsky, formalizing it in 1926. After a personal attack on Stalin's leadership at the Party's Fourteenth Congress in 1925, Kamenev was reduced to candidate member of the Politburo, and Mikhail Kalinin and Kliment Voroshilov were added as full members (Conquest 1991, 136). The initial focus of what became known as the Trotsky-Zinoviev bloc or Left Opposition was to attack Stalin's thesis of building socialism in one country (McNeal 1988, 96). Kalinin, Voroshilov, and the other members of the Politburo, Nicolai Bukharin, Aleksei Rykov, Mikhail Tomsky, supported Stalin's position, which was then overwhelmingly reaffirmed by the Party's Central Committee in 1926, with only a handful of Central Committee members opposing (Conquest 1991, 137).

Thereupon Zinoviev was removed from the Politburo; a few weeks later Trotsky was also removed from that body and Kamenov from Politburo candidate membership. The Trotsky-Zinoviev bloc persisted in their opposition, switching from one issue to another, determined to gain a victory against Stalin. The Central Committee continued the tradition established by Lenin that those taking a position strongly opposed by the majority should continue to retain positions of responsibility as long as they were willing to implement Party policies.

In July 1927, Stalin placed the question of the expulsion of Trotsky and Zinoviev on the agenda of a Central Committee meeting, but lacked the votes and had to settle for a warning to them (McNeal 1988, 104). He raised the question again in October in view of their continued factional activity. Trotsky and Zinoviev were then removed from the Central Committee, but not from Party membership (105). In November, Stalin claimed that reliable evidence showed the opposition had been planning a coup for 7 November (during the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution) but called it off because the Party was ready to deal with it.

The Trotskyites and Zinovievites did, however, join the main street demonstrations on 7 November, both groups bearing their own slogans (Conquest 1991, 139; History 1939, 285). On 14 November, the Central Committee expelled Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Party; Kamenov and other members of the opposition were expelled from the Central Committee. Later in November or early December, the Politburo rejected Stalin's subsequent call for their arrest (McNeal 1989, 105-6).

Ideological issues were a prime concern of the preparations for the Fifteenth Congress of the Party in December 1927. The Trotskyites and Zinovievites illegally printed and distributed their own programs. A key issue was their assessment that the October Revolution was the completion of the bourgeois revolution in Russia rather than a socialist revolution. They rejected the notion of an alliance with the middle peasantry and called for accelerating the pace of industrialization (super industrialization) by increasing the demands on the peasantry. “During the discussion in the ranks of the Party, which preceded the Congress, the opposition received about 6000 votes as against 725,000, who voted for the theses of the Central Committee (Popov 1932, 323).

The Fifteenth Party Congress in December 1927 (which lasted about two weeks) again overwhelmingly rejected the position of the Left Opposition. Seventy-five leading members of the opposition (including Kamenov) were expelled from the Party. The next day, the Zinoviev group, but not Trotsky and his supporters, submitted a statement in which they acknowledged their violation of party discipline and the incorrectness of the view that denied the socialist character of the revolution, the socialist character of state industry, the socialist path of development of the countryside under the conditions of the proletarian dictatorship, and the policy of the alliance of the proletariat with the great masses of the peasantry on the basis of socialist construction and proletarian dictatorship in the USSR. They did not, however, say that these were their views (Popov 1934, 327-38).

The Congress replied that reinstatement to Party membership would require individual statements, after which six months time must pass to ensure that they were conforming to pledges of compliance with Party policy (328).

In 1928 Trotsky and many of his supporters who did not request readmission under these terms were deported to Siberia and other regions of the USSR (Trotsky to Kazakhstan). In 1929 Trotsky, not abandoning his efforts to maintain an organized opposition from afar, was expelled from the USSR. The Fifteenth Congress laid out directives for the path of economic development. It decided that with respect to the elements of private capitalist economy which have increased absolutely, although to a lesser degree than the socialist sector of economy, a policy of even more determined economic squeezing-out can and must be pursued. (Popov 1934, 344)

The socialist sector was to be strengthened through the drafting of a five-year plan, rapid industrialization with special emphasis on heavy industry, and the collectivization of agriculture. As one can see from these events, there was still collective leadership on the level of the Politburo, which was still accountable to the Central Committee in a meaningful way. Strong disagreements were tolerated without personal recrimination. Within the Party, Stalin's emerging tendency to physical repression of opposition was constrained by the Politburo.

The Right Opposition

As Keeran and Kenny point out, Bukharin emerged as the leading figure of the Right Opposition. After the defeat of the Left Opposition, the Stalin leadership had to confront what it considered to be a danger from the right, in domestic and international policies.

The international side of right-wing tendencies was the prime concern of the Sixth World Congress of the Communist International (Comintern), convened in July-August 1928 under the chairmanship of Bukharin. The Congress gave very strong support to anticolonial struggles. It served as a forum for African American Communists who were sharply critical of the lip-service given to antiracist struggles by the right-opportunist leader of the CPUSA, Jay Lovestone.

But it also adopted the position put forth by Stalin, couched in the phrase 'class against class', that the greatest enemy of the working class was not the capitalists, but the social democrats, the left social democrats in particular, who were the principal agents of capitalists in the working-class movements. During the First World War, Lenin had referred to the social democrats who supported their imperialist governments as social imperialists. The term social fascists was now to be applied to the social democrats.

This proved to have disastrous consequences throughout the world Communist movement, leading to the underestimation of the fascist danger. It was bad enough that the leaders of the Social Democratic Party of Germany were not interested in forming an antifascist alliance with the Communists, but it would be quite impossible to pursue an antifascist united-front strategy with the rank-and-file social democrats if one referred to the organizations to which they belonged as social fascist. The extreme that it took in the United States is exemplified by the 1930s Gropper cartoon in the Daily Worker in which Floyd B Olson, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party candidate for governor, was labeled a social fascist. A left-populist leader widely supported by progressives, Olson is characterized by a mainstream source as follows:

Olson won national attention in 1933 by threatening to declare martial law and confiscate private wealth unless the legislature enacted relief measures to deal with depression conditions. A strong supporter of the New Deal, he ordered a two-year moratorium on mortgage foreclosures of farms, secured relief for the unemployed, and openly sided with labor in a series of strikes that occurred after 1934. (Columbia Encyclopedia 2001)

At Georgi Dimitrov's urging, the Comintern abandoned the "class against class" concept at its Seventh World Congress in 1935 to adopt the successful strategy of the Popular Front. In Minnesota, the Communist Party brought forces into the Farmer-Labor Party and succeeded in electing a Communist Party sympathizer, John Bernard, to the U.S. Congress in 1936. (Bernard actually joined the Communist Party at his eighty-fifth birthday celebration in Minnesota in 1978, on which occasion he disclosed that he and American Labor Party Congressman Vito Marcantonio sang the International on the steps of the Capitol after their arrival in Washington.)

In line with the decisions of the Fifteenth Party Congress, the first Five-Year Plan, 1928-32, was put into effect, calling for intensive industrialization. The goal for grain production was set at 250 percent of the preplan level. The plan envisaged that 20 percent of peasant households would join collective farms.

Bukharin favored a slower process in agriculture and industry and became the leading ideological figure among those who opposed Stalin's policies of rapid economic development. Keeran and Kenny note that "Bukharin viewed the NEP concessions to the peasants, the market, and capitalism as a long-term policy; Stalin viewed them as a temporary expedient." In 1927-28, "Bukharin wanted to rely on the free market and to encourage peasants to grow more grain by offering them more consumer goods." Further, "Bukharin opposed speeding up industrialization if it meant adversely affecting the peasants" (18-19).

Keeran and Kenny mention the subsequent forced collectivization merely in passing, ignoring its consequences and its character as a turning point in the way Stalin was allowed to deal with opposition to his policies.

The move to collective farms at this time had a twofold purpose. The lack of products on the market led many peasants to produce only for family consumption. Where they had a surplus, they would try to hide its size to avoid state appropriation of the surplus and also held it off the market to get higher prices. The state needed agricultural products to feed the workers and as a resource for industrialization. In the case of collective farms, it would be easier for the government to determine the size of the harvest and where it was stored. A second aspect, probably considered as of equal importance, was the role of collective farms in the development of a socialist consciousness among the peasantry.

A resolution at the Sixteenth Congress of the CPSU in 1930 considered the collective farms to be only the beginning of a new social discipline, of the task of teaching the peasants socialist construction. In the collective farms, the peasants will not finally outlive their petty proprietor psychology, the desire for private accumulation, inherited from generations of small private owners, except as a result of years of persistent work directed towards placing the collective farms on a basis of large-scale mechanised farming, of persistent work for the creation of cadres from the ranks of the collective farmers and for raising the cultural level of the whole mass of collective farmers. (Popov 1989, 422)

The results were immediately disastrous. The local authorities set quotas for procurement that were implemented by seizure of the crops on the basis of their own assessments of what the peasants should have harvested. Since the incomes of the peasants entering the collectives were to be based on work-day units and were independent of the size of the land or amount of livestock they brought into the collective farm, the peasants, not generally motivated by socialism as an ideological cause, often slaughtered their livestock prior to entering the collective farm. Moreover, in light of the more recent experience of China and Vietnam, one must consider what advantage there was likely to be in the creation of collective farms under conditions of the low level of mechanization that persisted in Soviet agriculture through the 1950s.

Vietnam in 1981 (and subsequently China) decreed that its collective farmers could choose to remain in the collective farms (or communes) or return to family farming. Overwhelmingly, the farmers chose family farming. In the case of grain production, even in the highly mechanized agriculture of the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, the dawn-to-dusk labor available on a family farm proves to be more advantageous than the labor of rural proletarians on a large-scale corporate farm; thus corporate farms are still a rarity in grain production.

Keeran and Kenny do acknowledge, citing Vietnam and China's shift away from collective farming, that "agriculture may be the great exception to the general rule that in the first stage of socialism, the socialist state works to restrict the market over time." Without any attempt at explanation in the entire book, other than their statement that Stalin felt that to make an exception would encourage petty capitalism among the peasantry (20), they say that the Soviet Union did not have this luxury (198).

An argument for collectivization put forward by Lenin was that it would solve a real problem that arose in the wake of the land reform that followed the October revolution: the decrease in the average size of the individual peasant holdings as the land was divided up among the siblings after the death of the parents. The way this problem was dealt with in socialist Poland, which only minimally collectivized its agriculture, was to pass on the land to the oldest child, who was obligated by law to compensate his or her siblings for their shares unless they were willing to switch roles in the inheritance.

Accompanying the plan for collectivization was a program for restricting the role of the kulaks, the richer peasants. Richard Conquest notes that in 1927, the most prosperous peasants had two or three cows and up to twenty-five acres of sowing area for an average family of seven people (1991, 144). The richer peasants were generally more skilled in farming, and although some exploited peasant labor when additional hands were useful, the poorer peasants often relied on their assistance during bad harvests because of drought, floods, or other disasters.

The strategy for collectivization provided no substitute for the kulak's role as a cushion for the poorer peasant in hard times. The risk of premature elimination of the wealthier peasants in a patriarchal rural economy is borne out by the experiences of the Marxist-led government in Afghanistan. An East German acquaintance who served as an adviser to the Afghan government and accompanied the Afghan military officers to the villages during the struggle against the CIA-supported counterrevolution described to me the grave mistakes made by these officers, who were sent to the villages to distribute the land of the bigger landowners to the poorer ones. She said the lectures they gave the poor peasants about class struggle fell on deaf ears because so many of the peasants felt that there was a symbiotic relationship between them and the Afghan variety of kulaks. The peasants would then end up aiding the counterrevolutionaries, especially since many of the mullahs were from the 'kulak' families.

Three members of the Politburo, Bukharin, Rykov, and Tomsky, and many lower-level Party leaders, were greatly concerned about the strong push toward collectivization and the preparations for a struggle against kulaks. They proposed lower goals for industrial and agricultural production and greater utilization of market forces. Their proposals for dealing with the peasantry would have led to a much greater agricultural output than did in fact result under Stalin's agricultural policies. Despite their call for a slowdown in industrialization, their proposals for dealing with the peasantry would actually have made more grain available to allow for an even greater pace of industrialization during the five-year plans.

While there was strong support for the call of the new opposition to give more freedom to market forces in the countryside, their demand to slow the pace of industrialization found little support among other members of the Politburo and especially in the lower levels of the Party.

As the arguments continued through 1928 and 1929, relations between Bukharin and Stalin worsened, and what was to become a Right Opposition to Stalin's economic policies coalesced around Bukharin. Despite the fact that Stalin at a joint meeting of the Politburo and the presidium of the Central Control Commission in February 1929 accused Bukharin of seeking 'a bloc with the Trotskyists against the Central Committee', the concern about political stability in the potentially explosive situation in the countryside was strong enough in April that Stalin had to settle for a relatively mild rebuke, namely removal of Bukharin and Tomsky from their non-Party posts - Bukharin from the editorship of Pravda and head of the Comintern and Tomsky from the head of the Trade Union Council - but they retained their membership in the Politburo (McNeal 1989, 120-24).

The idea of accelerating the socialization of production relations in the countryside, where the majority of the population lived, was attractive to Party members everywhere. The initiative for collectivization was bound to come from the working class and its party, and not from the peasantry. Once the process of collectivization was begun, the temptation to push ahead with it in any way possible was strong among the workers, even if it violated the principal that that process was to be a voluntary one, Despite the limited goal of 20 percent in the Five-Year Plan, the desire to exceed the plan took hold among Party officials in many regions of the country, causing peasants to slaughter their livestock before being herded into the collectives. At the beginning of 1930, fourteen million peasant households, voluntarily and by force, joined the collective farms (Conquest 1991, 160).

On 2 March 1930, an article by Stalin entitled "Dizzy with Success" was published "as a warning to all who had been so carried away by the success of collectivization as to commit gross mistakes and depart from the Party line, to all who were trying to coerce the peasants to join the collective farms" (History 1939, 308).

Shortly afterward, the assigned quotas for collectivization were reduced; nine million peasant households were allowed to leave the collective farms; the statute governing collective farms changed the character of the collectives from communes, in which all tools and livestock were held in common, to artels (McNeal 1989, 128; Conquest 1991, 160), "in which only the principal means of production, chiefly those used in grain growing, are collectivized, while household land, dwellings, part of the dairy cattle, small livestock, poultry, etc. are not collectivized" (History 1939, 308).

Toward the end of January 1929, Stalin had already announced the change of policy from restricting the kulak to eliminating the kulak. The kulaks were to have their property confiscated; the kulak families, including the less prosperous "subkulaks": were deported to remote areas, kulaks considered less pernicious were resettled on smaller plots outside the collective farms (McNeal 1991, 128-30; Conquest 1991, 158-61).

Stalin presented the rationale for eliminating the kulaks as follows:

The last hope of capitalists of all countries, who are dreaming of restoring capitalism in the USSR, 'the sacred principle of private property', is collapsing and vanishing. The peasants, whom they regarded as material manuring the soil for capitalism, are abandoning en masse the lauded banner of 'private property' and are taking to the path of collectivism, the path of Socialism. The last hope for the restoration of capitalism is crumbling. (cited in History 1939, 305)

It is worth noting that the economic development of Yugoslavia and Poland, without collectivization of agriculture, was not retarded in relation to the other socialist countries. There was very little capitalist accumulation among the peasantry arising from their privately held homesteads.

The kulaks, of course, resisted the expropriation of property by every means possible, including destruction of their own livestock and harvested grain, sabotage, bribery, and even murder, exacerbating the chaos already being produced by forced collectivization. To offset the decrease in agricultural products available to the state sector through the normal sale at regulated prices and taxation, the forced collectivization was resumed, the goal being tripled in relation to the original plan so that the grain would be more readily accessible for seizure, in amounts that did not always leave the peasants the minimum needed for subsistence.

To prevent the flight of the peasants to the towns, a system of internal passports was introduced for the workers, but passports were not given to the peasants - in effect, the peasants were reduced to semifeudal status. Millions perished in the resulting famine in 1932-33. In the 1920s, Stalin, in rejecting the proposals of the Left Opposition and Right Opposition, urged moderation in regard to the peasantry in the spirit of Lenin's NEP policy of alliance of the working class with the peasantry in which the power of the kulaks would be restricted.

In 1930, Stalin, in launching his policy of elimination of the kulaks and forcible collectivization, discarded Lenin's policy of alliance and replaced it with what turned out to be a class war against the peasantry.

At the end of the first five-year plan, grain production was lower than before the October Revolution, while livestock holdings had dropped in half. The published figures on the fulfillment of the plan, as Khrushchev was later to reveal, had been falsified by a change in the way agricultural statistics were handled, and even through the early 1950s, grain production had barely risen above the pre-Revolutionary level.

By the end of the second five-year plan, agriculture was still stagnating, but vast improvements were achieved in the living conditions of the working class. The great advance in industrialization increased the availability of consumer goods and provided resources for the extension of social services in education, health care, and culture. As mentioned earlier, however, the experiences of China and Vietnam showed that with low levels of mechanization collective farms cannot match the productivity of family homesteads, so that the opportunity for still greater advances in industrialization in the USSR was wasted. The alienation of the peasantry, not their commitment to socialism, was increased.

The implementation of target goals for collectivization required the use of extreme brute force. From then on, Stalin increasingly used incarceration and extermination as the means for dealing with opposition to his policies.

The usual rationale for the forced collectivization is that it facilitated the seizure of the crops from the peasantry as a principal resource for industrialization. But there is no reason why taxation of individual homesteads could not have been used for the same purpose.


Nikita Khrushchev follows Bukharin in Keeran and Kenny's roster of the principal betrayers of socialism in the USSR. The authors quite sweepingly assert that "all of Khrushchev's major domestic policies failed to produce the results intended" (27). They cite too many examples to discuss one by one here, and it is true that by the time of his removal from Party leadership, Khrushchev was associated with what were characterized as "hare-brained schemes."

One of these that Keeran and Kenny mention is his call for a spectacular leap forward in the production of milk, meat, and butter in order to surpass the West in three or four years (26). They might have compared Khrushchev's boast with Stalin's failed boast that with his plan for large-scale collective farms "our country will, in some three years' time have become one of the richest granaries, if not the richest, in the whole world" (Conquest 1991, 156).

Some of Khrushchev's policies for which he was criticized were actually not unreasonable if they had been implemented correctly. Keeran and Kenny fault Khrushchev for the "dismantling of state tractor stations" (2004, 27), which they regard as an ideological repudiation of "Stalin's last statement on the Soviet economy." They state that "Stalin had said that the direction of Soviet development should be toward the enhancement of the state sector (rather than the collective farms)." They conclude that the policy of shifting the machinery to the collective farms "amounted to an unadulterated failure" (29).

Two issues are involved here. One is related to productivity in agriculture. Although perhaps implemented in the USSR without adequate preparation, collective ownership of farm machinery cannot be viewed as a hare-brained scheme. Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Hungary, and Bulgaria all did the same thing shortly afterward with no subsequent complaints that it did not enhance production. Albania and Romania retained state ownership of the machine and tractor stations and their agriculture was a disaster.

The second issue, the transfer of state property to collective property, is raised as an ideological one. The state-owned machine and tractor stations were first established after the collectivization process got underway because the machinery provided to the collectives was being damaged by the peasants owing to their lack of skill with machinery. Each machine and tractor station was staffed with trained workers whose services were then contracted for by the collective farms.

In the absence of market forces or competitive alternatives, the stations, with staffs on fixed wages and salaries, had no material incentive to provide efficient services on the dawn-to-dusk schedule that grain production required. Khrushchev therefore proposed turning over the machinery to the collective farms, since by that time skilled operators had come from the ranks of the cooperative. These operators would have a material interest in providing good service because their incomes could be more related to the results of the work they performed.

In Keeran and Kenny's view, the formal status of the property should have taken priority over the increase in production. In their mechanistic view of socialist construction, turning over state property to a farming collective is a retreat toward capitalism despite any possible economic benefit.

Keeran and Kenny identify the cultivation of virgin lands as one of the centerpieces of Khrushchev's agricultural initiatives (27). They state that "as a policy, the virgin land campaign was a disaster" (29). Here is what one encyclopedia says about it:

The Virgin Lands campaign had its faults. It was expensive in labor and machinery, and droughts left the harvest far below target levels several times. Still, the program succeeded in permanently increasing the USSR's grain production, which rose from an annual average of 84 million metric tons from 1950 to 1954 to an annual average of 131 million metric tons from 1960 to 1964. With the additional grain, the USSR had more feed for livestock, and meat and dairy production increased rapidly. Food consumption for the entire Soviet population increased. In 1970 the new lands still supplied 35 to 40 percent of the country's total grain crop. (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2002)

High on Keeran and Kenny's list of Khrushchev's treasonous acts is his "exaggerated, one-sided, and incomplete" treatment of Stalin at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU. They write:

In 1956, Khrushchev concentrated on Stalin's alleged repression of Party leaders and claimed that half of the delegates to the Seventeenth Party Congress and 70 percent of the Central Committee were killed. Stalin's biographer, Ken Cameron, concluded that it is "difficult to believe that Khrushchev's figures are correct." (Using the recently opened Soviet archives, scholars have numbered the total of executions from 1921 to 1953 at 799,455, far below the millions estimated by Robert Conquest, Roy Medvedev, and other anti-Soviet scholars.) (27)

I cannot understand how it is possible for Keeran and Kenny to downplay or justify the murder of hundreds of thousands of Communists (not to mention ordinary citizens who were not in the Party) with phrases above like "alleged," and "difficult to believe" or even the suggestion that 799,455 instead of the figure of millions make these mass murders more acceptable. I cannot understand how Keeran and Kenny can cite sympathetically the views of Molotov, Malenkov, Kaganovich, and Voroshilov (themselves signatories of lists containing execution orders for tens of thousands of people) that Khrushchev's report was unbalanced because it gave Stalin no "credit for his positive contributions nor acknowledged the legitimacy of some repression" (23).

Actually, Khrushchev did say, "We must affirm that the party had fought a serious fight against the Trotskyites, rightists and bourgeois nationalists, and that it disarmed ideologically all the enemies of Leninism. This ideological fight was carried on successfully, as a result of which the party became strengthened and tempered. Here Stalin played a positive role" (Khrushchev 1962). In his speech at the Twentieth Congress, Khrushchev stated:

It was determined that of the 139 members and candidates of the party's Central Committee who were elected at the 17th Congress, 98 persons, i.e., 70 per cent, were arrested and shot (mostly in 1937-1938). What was the composition of the delegates to the 17th Congress? It is known that 80 per cent of the voting participants of the 17th Congress joined the party during the years of conspiracy before the Revolution and during the civil war; this means before 1921. By social origin the basic mass of the delegates to the Congress were workers (60 per cent of the voting members).

For this reason, it was inconceivable that a congress so composed would have elected a Central Committee a majority of whom would prove to be enemies of the party. The only reason why 70 per cent of Central Committee members and candidates elected at the 17th Congress were branded as enemies of the party and of the people was because honest Communists were slandered, accusations against them were fabricated, and revolutionary legality was gravely undermined.

The same fate met not only the Central Committee members but also the majority of the delegates to the 17th Party Congress. Of 1,966 delegates with either voting or advisory rights, 1,108 persons were arrested on charges of anti-revolutionary crimes, ie, decidedly more than a majority. This very fact shows how absurd, wild and contrary to common sense were the charges of counterrevolutionary crimes made out, as we now see, against a majority of participants at the 17th Party Congress.

Khrushchev might have also mentioned that of the seven members of the Politburo in 1924, Stalin was the only one who died of natural causes; he was responsible for the execution or suicide of the other six.

On what basis can Keeran and Kenny cite Kenneth Cameron as an authority to show that Khrushchev exaggerated the number of Central Committee members and Congress delegates that that were executed? In the reference they cite, Cameron states that from a speech by Andrei Zhdanov at the Eighteenth Congress of the CPSU in 1939 it seems clear that a number of pro-socialist people were imprisoned and some of them were executed. But there is no indication in Zhdanov's speech or the proceedings of the Congress of anything of this magnitude.

The positive note struck by Molotov was the dominant note. Is it possible, then, in view of the obviously high morale of the Congress and its support for the Party leadership, that Khrushchev's figures are correct? (Cameron 1987, 130-31)

Here Cameron is citing the high spirits of two Soviet leaders closely associated with measures of physical repression as evidence of Khrushchev's exaggeration! I do not know how many execution orders Zhdanov signed. According to Conquest, the 383 lists (mentioned also in Khrushchev's report) containing thousands of names of people to be executed were countersigned by Molotov—on 12 March 1937, the two of them approved 3,167 death sentences (1991, 203). Kaganovich alone signed death warrants for some 36,000 individuals (Davies et al. 2003, 35). Cameron does not mention Kaganovich, but I am sure that he too shared the high spirits of Zhdanov and Molotov.

In the three pages of Cameron that precede the pages cited by Keeran and Kenny, we find a pitiful defense of the massive executions carried out in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, in which Cameron merely repeats the charges in the indictments against those executed: "wrecking machinery, making the wrong parts, sending materials to the wrong places, planning railway sabotage to build up to the immobilization of the railways in the coming war: sabotage that appears to have been the most massive in history, was coordinated with Nazi and Japanese war plans and with terrorism" (Cameron 1987, 129).

Cameron ignores the fact that the defendants were denied the right to legal counsel and that no corroborating evidence was introduced to support the charges other than the confessions extracted from some of the defendants through physical and psychological torture.

Khrushchev stated in his report that most of the executions of the members of the Central Committee and the participants in the Party Congress that elected them occurred in 1937-38. He presented the background to the trials as follows:

After the criminal murder of Sergei M Kirov, mass repressions and brutal acts of violation of socialist legality began. On the evening of December 1, 1934 on Stalin's initiative (without the approval of the Political Bureau (which was passed two days later, casually), the Secretary of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee, Yenukidze, signed the following directive:
"1. Investigative agencies are directed to speed up the cases of those accused of the preparation or execution of acts of terror.
"2. Judicial organs are directed not to hold up the execution of death sentences pertaining to crimes of this category in order to consider the possibility of pardon, because the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR does not consider as possible the receiving of petitions of this sort.
"3. The organs of the Commissariat of Internal Affairs are directed to execute the death sentences against criminals of the above-mentioned category immediately after the passage of sentences."

This directive became the basis for mass acts of abuse against socialist legality. During many of the fabricated court cases, the accused were charged with the 'preparation' of terroristic acts; this deprived them of any possibility that their cases might be re-examined, even when they stated before the court that their 'confessions' were secured by force, and when, in a convincing manner, they disproved the accusations against them. (Khrushchev 1962)

There is ample evidence that force was used to extract phony confessions in major trials starting with the Shakhty trial of fifty Soviet and three German engineers in 1928 (McNeal 1988, 115). Although the practice was common without official sanction, it was given official status when the Stalin leadership had the Central Committee of the Party specifically authorize torture for the trials that began in 1937. That was the year of the open trial of Bukharin and other formerly prominent Communists. Again, their conviction on charges of sabotage, assassination, espionage, and conspiracy with Japan, Germany, and Poland to exchange Soviet territory for their support was based entirely on the confessions obtained by physical and psychological torture without other corroborating evidence. A circular from the Central Committee to the NKVD and some Party bodies in 1939 reads:

The party central committee explains that the application of methods of physical pressure in NKVD practice is permissible from 1937 on, in accordance with permission of the party central committee. It is known that all bourgeois intelligence services use methods of physical influence against the representatives of the socialist proletariat and that they use them in the most scandalous forms. The question arises as to why the socialist intelligence service should be more humanitarian against the mad agents of the bourgeoisie, against the deadly enemies of the working class and of the collective farm workers. The party central committee considers that physical pressure should still be used obligatorily, as an exception applicable to known and obstinate enemies of the people, as a method both justifiable and appropriate. (Cited in Conquest 1990, 122)

We know from the discussion around the use of torture in Iraq and Guantánamo that many intelligence people doubt the reliability of information obtained as product of torture. But its usefulness to impress the gullible like Cameron is apparent. It is now well established that what we are dealing with here is the use of torture to force the victims to confirm confessions fabricated by the torturers.

Keeran and Kenny fault Gorbachev for his rehabilitation of Bukharin (2004, 115), convicted in another trial in which torture was used to extract confession. Although the trial was not mentioned by Khrushchev in his speech at the Twentieth Congress, here is what he wrote in his memoirs:

Just before the Twentieth Congress, I summoned the State Prosecutor, Comrade Rudenko, who had been involved in many cases during the purges of the thirties. I asked him, "Comrade Rudenko, I'm interested in the open trials. Tell me, how much basis in actual fact was there for the accusations made against Bukharin, Syrtsov, Lominadze, Krestinsky, and many, many other people well known to the Central Committee, to the Orgbureau, and to the Politbureau?" Comrade Rudenko answered that from the standpoint of judicial norms, there was no evidence whatsoever for condemning or even trying those men. The case for prosecuting them had been based on personal confessions beaten out of them under physical and psychological torture, and confessions extracted by such means are unacceptable as a legitimate basis for bringing someone to trial.

Nevertheless, we decided not to say anything about the open trials in my speech to the Twentieth Party Congress. There was a certain ambiguity in our conduct here. The reason for our decision was that there had been representatives of the fraternal Communist parties present when Rykov, Bukharin, and other leaders of the people were tried and sentenced. These representatives had then gone home and testified in their own countries to the justice of the sen-tences. We didn't want to discredit the fraternal Party representatives who had attended the open trials, so we indefinitely postponed the rehabilitation of Bukharin, Zinoviev, Rykov. (1970, 352-53)

The Stalin leadership group was apparently fearful that many of the veteran Bolsheviks in the military high command might be apprehensive about the unbridled power they were accumulating. Suggestions of involvement of some military were inserted into the proceedings of the open trials in an apparent effort to lay the basis for extending the purges to the military. The story now takes a strange twist.

For reasons that have not yet been clearly established (perhaps involving his enmity with the German high command), Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the German Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst or SD), arranged for forged correspondence containing the signatures of Soviet Marshal Mikhail Tuchachevsky, Jakob Suritz (the Soviet ambassador to Berlin), Trotsky, and the German generals Hans von Seeckt and Kurt Hammerstein-Equord to reach the Soviet government.

From German archives, the details on how the documents were forged - even the name of the forger - are now known (Erickson 433-36, 456-57). The arrest, trial (with confessions beaten out of Tuchachevsky and others), and execution of the most of the seasoned Soviet military commanders immediately followed. The senseless extension of the arrests and executions to the Red Army severely weakened the defense capability of the USSR. By December 1938, three out of five marshals were executed, all 11 deputy commissars of defense were eliminated, 75 of the 80 members of the Military Soviet were executed, almost all of the most senior naval commanders were shot, as were 57 of the 85 corps commanders and 110 of the 195 division commanders (Erickson 1984, 505).

Keeran and Kenny criticize Khrushchev for the "relaxation of censorship" that allowed the publication of some previously banned novels. "This openness," they say, "brought an inevitable underside in the spread of bourgeois economic ideas to Soviet academic circles" (31). Actually, literature by Western economists had long been available in special libraries open only to academics or government researchers, but not made available even to economics students. The so-called 'thaw' was a very limited one.

Even as late as 1980, as a visiting professor at Moscow State University, I asked the deputy editor of a leading philosophy journal, Filosofskie Nauki, if he could direct me to recent literature on the dialectical law negation of the negation, stating that I thought there were interesting political implications in the aspect of the law known as spiral development. His reply was, "It is best to stay away from political issues in philosophy." The atmosphere of censorship was particularly heavy in the technical fields, even when completely unrelated to military questions, inhibiting international exchange among scholars. Well after the Twentieth Congress, working in socialist Poland as a physicist in a field that had nothing to do with possible military applications, my colleagues and I found it nearly impossible to exchange information with Soviet colleagues except through personal contact at conferences or exchange visits.

Although Khrushchev introduced a limited decentralization, which apparently initially caused some havoc, no introduction of market forces in the state sector was associated with it. The reason for the decentralization was that the principal from each according to one's ability, to each according to one's work could not be implemented because workers too often remained idle while the factories waited for supplies that the planners had (or had not) planned for without adequate forethought about where they would come from.

The second economy

A large part of Socialism Betrayed is devoted to discussion of the growth of the second economy. This growth was not due to a growing influence of the Right in the CPSU, as Keeran and Kenny would have us believe, but to the inability of the planned economy's service sector to provide necessary goods and services to the working population, whose needs increased along with their education, occupational skills, and culture.

Already in the mid-1970s, the infant mortality rates vanished from the statistical yearbooks as they began to rise because of problems in the health- and child-care services. Owing to the continuing lag in fodder for livestock, the planned delivery of meat products to the state food shops could not be maintained, so that many families turned to the second economy to meet their needs. On a conference visit to the USSR, I found that the only way to get an urgently needed replacement of a heel on my shoe was to make my way, with the help of a Soviet friend, to a third-floor apartment whose occupants were using their flat for surreptitious shoe repair. The state shoe repair required a wait of thirty days.

The final blow

I do not disagree with Keeran and Kenny about their assessment of the treachery of Mikhail Gorbachev in carrying out the coup de grace that ended in the dissolution of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism in the USSR. In retrospect, it is clear that the economies of the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries were in crisis at the time Gorbachev came into the leadership of the CPSU. One can only speculate whether or not it was already too late to save the socialist system with the model that we now see in China and Vietnam.

According to Keeran and Kenny, continuation of the reforms associated with Yuri Andropov in the early 1980s could have put the Soviet economy on the right track. Andropov's reforms, however good they were, were still constrained by a centralized planning that could not replicate the incentives for market-driven technological development that we see in the capitalist economies.

It was unfortunate that the most vocal opposition to Gorbachev was left to the ultra-leftist wing of the Communist Party, which exacerbated, rather than impeded, the collapse. For example, Yegor Ligachev, the leading opponent of Gorbachev in the Politburo, allowed himself to be drawn into the defense of Nina Andreyeva's letter of 13 March 1988 in Sovietskaya Russia, in which she vigorously defended Stalin and attacked Khrushchev as the arch villain. Keeran and Kenny write:

When the Andreyeva crisis over the letter ended a month later, Gorbachev had routed and discredited his left wing opponents on the PB. Hence, the Nina Andreyeva crisis constituted the decisive turning point in the transformation of perestroika from an Andropov-inspired reform effort within the traditional context of Soviet socialism to an open attack on the major pillars of socialism: the Communist Party, socialized property, and central planning. (116)

It is true, as Keeran and Kenny say, that Gorbachev used Ligachev's support of the Andreyeva letter as a pretext to strike at Ligachev and throw the opposition into disarray. Nina Andreyeva subsequently became general secretary of the ultra-leftist All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks. She views the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a model for socialist construction, praising Kim Jong Il for convincingly leading the Korean people in the socialist cause, giving full play to the people's intelligence and strength under the banner of the juche idea (KCNA 2000). She rejects any association of Stalin with a cult of personality.

In a 1992 lecture at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, she maintained, as do Keeran and Kenny, that "the starting point of the degeneration of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union into opportunism was its 20th Congress." She continued, "The ideological prelude and ideological premise here was the anti-Stalin campaign, which was launched under the false slogan of the criticism of the 'Cult of Personality.' Comrade Kim Il Sung rightly says that the driving force of the revolution and socialist construction is 'none other than the unity of the leader, the party and the masses'" (1992). Here she is actually justifying the cult of the individual as reflected in the slogan unity of the leader, party, and people that has been embodied in the DPRK juche philosophy to sustain the DPRK variant of the cult of individual (for a discussion of the philosophically idealist character of the juche concept, see Erickson and Marquit 2002).

Keeran and Kenny deny that Andreyeva's letter was anti-Semitic. Use of anti-Semitism by the dogmatic wings of the Communist parties in the USSR and Eastern Europe was not uncommon after the World War II. It was used openly in the Rudolf Slansky trial in Czechoslovakia in 1952. I saw it used in a leaflet distribution at a Polish factory to turn workers against a Jewish Communist who opposed the dogmatists during the Party crisis in 1956.

In his memoirs, Khrushchev tells of Stalin's strong remarks against Jews in private conversions, including derision through exaggerated mimicking of Jewish accents in speech. Stalin's daughter writes that after the purges of the old Bolsheviks, many of whom were Jews, "anti-Semitism was reborn on new grounds and first of all in the Party itself. To this my father not only gave his support; he even propagated a good deal of it himself" (Alliluyeva 1969, 153).

The Stalin leadership's most notorious manifestation of anti-Semitism was in the dissolution of the Jewish Antifascist Committee in 1948, the secret murder of its president (the actor Solomon Mikhoels), the subsequent secret trial and execution of twelve more leaders of the Jewish Antifascist Committee in 1952, and the imprisonment of the other leaders and members, mostly long-time Communists and world-famous cultural figures and scholars (Jennick 1999). The near execution of the nine doctors, six of whom were Jewish, in the Doctor's Plot in the Soviet Union was stopped only by Stalin's death.

Keeran and Kenny say that "Andreyeva's letter fell far short of a 'rabidly anti-Semitic, frontal attack' on perestroika from a 'neo-Stalinist nationalist point of view'" as portrayed by "Gorbachev, his apologists, and many Western commentators" (116). Keeran and Kenny assert, "The charge of anti-Semitism came from American journallists who saw a hidden meaning in her use of the word 'cosmopolitan' to criticize 'nationality-less international-ism.'" (117)

I am sorry that that Keeran and Kenny's sense of urgency to defend Ligachev's position on the letter interfered with their ability to give Andreyeva's letter a careful enough reading. There is no hidden meaning in the Russian use of the world 'cosmopolitan'; its meaning would have been clear to all. In 1948, it started to become a code word for Jew, to present Jews as an ethnic group unlike any other Soviet people—that is, a people not associated with any national territory in the Soviet Union (Pincus 1988, 150-60). If 'cosmopolitans' could not be considered Zionists, then they were presented as cloaking their national rootlessness in a fictitious 'internationalism'. In her letter she used both devices. She used the second device by invoking the Jewish ethnic background of Trotsky as follows:

Another peculiarity of the views held by 'left-wing liberals' is an overt or covert cosmopolitan tendency, some kind of non-national 'internationalism'. I read somewhere about an incident after the revolution when a delegation of merchants and factory owners called on Trotsky at the Petrograd Soviet 'as a Jew' to complain about oppression by the Red Guards, and he declared that he was 'not a Jew but an internationalist', which really puzzled [the] petitioners. In Trotsky's views, the idea of 'national' connoted a certain inferiority and limitation compared with the 'international'. This is why he emphasized October's 'national tradition', wrote about 'the national element in Lenin', claimed that the Russian people 'had inherited no cultural heritage at all', and so on. We are somehow embarrassed to say that it was indeed the Russian proletariat, whom the Trotskyites treated as 'backward and uncultured', who accomplished—in Lenin's words - 'three Russian revolutions' and that the Slav peoples stood in the vanguard of mankind's battle against fascism.

Here is something else that also worries me: The practice of 'refusenikism' of socialism is nowadays linked with 'militant cosmopolitanism'. The term refusenik was applied to Jews who were denied ('refused') employment in certain jobs after applying for exit visas to emigrate to Israel. Cannot Keeran and Kenny understand that she is indeed railing rabidly against Jews? Perhaps another example will convince them. In a 1989 interview with an American journalist, she says:

In our society there are less than one percent Jews. Just a few, fine, so then why in the Academy of Sciences, in all the branches, and all the prestigious professions and posts in culture, music, law, why are they almost all Jew? Look at the essayists and journalists, Jews mostly. At our institute, people of all different nationalities defend their theses, but the Jews do it illegally. (David Remnick, Gorbachev's Furious Critic, Washington Post, 28 July 1989)

Although Jews are often to be found in the professions she mentions, it is nowhere true that they dominate any of them. In denying Andreyeva's recourse to anti-Semitism, Keeran and Kenny state that "even the Politburo's official rebuttal failed to charge Andreyeva with anti-Semitism" (117). One explanation for this failure was the persistence of a latent anti-Semitism among Soviet political leaders even after the Stalin period, which, despite Andreyeva’s assertions, reflected itself, for example, in unpublicized quotas on the admission of Jews to universities and on admission to membership in the Academy of Sciences. No Jews have served on the Politburo since the removal of Stalin's sole Jewish long-term ally Kaganovich in 1957.

Around 1980, I participated in a meeting of members of the CPUSA who were associated with publication or distribution of Marxist literature. One of the participants worked at Imported Publications, the principal distributor of Soviet books in the United States. After reading out loud an example from one Soviet book about how the Zionists control the US financial institutions, CPUSA leader Gus Hall demanded that Imported Publications cease distributing Soviet books with an anti-Semitic content.

Dictatorship of the proletariat and socialist democracy

Keeran and Kenny state that Khrushchev favored broadening the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat to put other sectors of the population on an equal footing with the workers (32). Although the 1970 constitution characterized the Soviet state as the 'state of the whole people', it never, in fact, had that character. The state remained a dictatorship of the proletariat in the sense that the class character of the proletariat was reflected in the dominant property relations in which the interests of the working class were given priority.

The problem in the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries was that a contradiction existed between the class nature of the state as a dictatorship of the proletariat and the form of the state, which was a state administered by the Communist Party on behalf of the working class but without its participation. The main dynamic for this situation was the replacement of a democratically elected Central Committee as the highest organ of the Party by a self-perpetuating Politburo that Stalin ultimately ruled with an iron fist.

After the Twentieth Congress, the Politburo in the Soviet Union and other European socialist countries retained the same character: self-perpetuating bodies that selected their Central Committees and were not accountable to these committees except under a few special circumstances. Through its extensive membership, one-quarter to one-third of the working population, the Communist parties, in theory, were to reflect the pulse of the working class, while serving as its vanguard. In practice, the rank-and-file Communists were denied this role.

The competing political parties in the bourgeois parliamentary democracies reflect the interests of the different classes and serve to establish a modus vivendi among groups in the ruling class with conflicting interests. In the socialist countries, the mass organizations were supposed to be the main vehicle for the democratic expression of the interests of the various overlapping segments of the population: trade unions, women's organizations, associations of cultural workers, youth organizations, athletic associations, etc, with direct representation, together with the Communist Party, in the legislative bodies. These organizations were not allowed to fulfill their main functions.

The trade-union members had no say over the union agreements or basic working conditions, and the unions were reduced to social-service organizations. During the fifteen years that I spent in Poland and the GDR between 1951 and 1987, I was a member of three different trade unions, even serving a stint as shop steward in the Polish steelworkers union, where my main function was the allocation of wonderful, heavily subsidized vacations, but I never saw a union contract put before the members for discussion or ratification in any of the unions.

The women's organizations were transformed into peace organizations, and were denied elementary information on the wages of women in relation to the wages of men (suppressed from all the statistical yearbooks except Hungary's). I was explicitly denied this information in the GDR in 1978 when I tried to obtain it for writing that I was doing about common features of the socialist countries. I was told by the Central Committee member responsible for the Party's liason with the national womens' organization, that she could not give them to me because they would be used against the GDR by West German propaganda.

Even in Cuba, I was told by the vice chair of the Cuban Women's Federation in 1989 that they had just received this information for the first time. My best estimate was that the average women's wage was generally about 80 percent of the men's wage in all of the socialist countries that I visited, higher than in the United States, France, Germany, Britain, or Japan. But these data were withheld for internal, not external, political reasons, not because of their possible use by Western propaganda, but to prevent the women's organizations from pushing the issue, which was seen as something only to be dealt with from the top down. In actuality, the fact that the ratio of women's to men's earnings was higher than in the capitalist countries was indeed a very positive achievement of socialism.

Keeran and Kenny are right when they say that deficiencies in socialist democracy were not the cause of the collapse. But not for the reasons they cite, because they falsely claim the mass organizations generally played their proper role (215-22).The failure of the mass organizations to fulfill their proper role restricted the ability of the populations to rely on their organizations to reflect their needs, leading to a situation of alienation during the time of political crises. The violation of democratic centralism in the Party prevented the members from effecting the changes in leadership that were necessary to redirect the economies onto a proper path.


The Italian Marxist philosopher Domenico Losurdo has presented a number of good arguments about why the collapse of the Soviet Union cannot be attributed to a betrayal by one or another leader (2003). He views the failed attempt at the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union as a learning experience.

It seems quite apparent that the abandonment of the NEP was premature. In the mid-1920s (just before the first five-year plan), during which there was also an influx of foreign - capitalist -investment, the rate of industrialization was comparable with the rate of industrialization achieved during the first and second five-year plans, in the course of which the foreign investment was eliminated (Conquest 1991, 161). As we see from China and Vietnam today, this strategy of economic development could have been successful in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. We have seen that the collectivization of agriculture was a disaster from which the Soviet Union never recovered, even when significant mechanization became available. The Chinese and Vietnamese experience with family farming has shown that this too would have been a useful course to pursue.

The fact that all the European socialist countries collapsed, one after the other, indicates that the problem was not just Gorbachev or Khrushchev.

The goal of creating a communist society will be reached only through the replacement of production for private profit by production for need, through the creation of a productive base sufficient to allow distribution by need. Until this is reached, commodity production will continue. In the Soviet model, production, but not distribution, was prematurely based on need, and the commodity form was used only for the distribution of that part of the product of production intended for direct consumption by the people.

A market economy with socialist orientation is characterized by commodity production for profit in the socialized sector as well as in the capitalist sector, not only for products consumed by the people, but also by other enterprises. In view of the fact that socialist countries today do not have economies that are developed enough to cut themselves off from a world market dominated by capitalism and the international agencies that govern its rules, they must resort to mixed economies.

Recognition that the Marxist principal of dictatorship of the proletariat is the necessary content of the class nature of the state and proletarian democracy is its form will make it possible for the state to guide the direction of economic development toward a growing dominance of the socialized sector. It is premature to speculate about the point at which the curtailment or absorption of the capitalist sector will occur.

Despite its failure, the first attempt at socialist construction in the USSR and Eastern Europe has demonstrated the potential of socialism for advancing the social welfare of the people. The achievements of the socialist countries in free education, free medical care, child care, access to culture, recreation, and adequate pensions were unprecedented. The elevation of the social role of women in society still serves as a model for women's rights activists in the capitalist countries.

The liberation of women from their extremely oppressive status of subjugation in the Central Asian republics of the USSR in the face of fanatical opposition from the Moslem fundamentalists was an exceptional achievement. The policy of full employment is still unmatched in the most developed capitalist countries, in which such a policy is quite feasible economically.

These achievements were possible not because of the centralized planned economy free from market forces, which, as it turned out, could not sustain them. Progressives in the capitalist countries are struggling to win these same benefits within the framework of the capitalist market economy. The capitalists are aided in resisting these demands because they control the state. The social-welfare achievements in the USSR and the European socialist countries were possible because of the class nature of the socialist state. And with sufficient development of the economy, they are attainable under the conditions of a market economy with socialist orientation.

Full socialization of the means of production is, of course, the goal of all revolutionary Marxists. With no experience behind them, it is not surprising that the Bolsheviks were eager to fulfill that dream quickly. Words of Fidel Castro in 1976 are appropriate here. Discussing problems caused by the leveling of wages in Cuba, he said:

Revolutions usually have their utopian periods, in which their protagonists, dedicated to the noble task of turning their dreams into reality and putting their ideals into practice, assume that the historical goals are much nearer, and that men's will, desires and intentions, towering over the objective facts, can accomplish anything. It is not that revolutionaries should have neither dreams nor indomitable will. Without a bit of dream and utopia there would have been no revolutionaries. But the revolutionary also has to be a realist, to act in keeping with historical and social laws, and to draw on the inexhaustible wellspring of political science and universal experience in guiding revolutionary processes. (1976)

Vietnam has already shown that it has been developing economically at a much faster rate with its socialist-oriented market economy than with its previous centralized planned economy (Marquit 2002). China’s economic development, despite its many problems, has been phenomenal, as we can read in the daily press. The coming years will be the test of the sustainability of this path to socialist development.

School of Physics and Astronomy
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis


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