Stalin: Story of a Great Servant of Mankind who Belongs to the Ages

by ANDREW ROTHSTEIN, author of a History of the USSR 

“Man’s dearest possession is life, and since it is given to him to live but once, he must so live as to feel no torturing regrets for years without purpose; so live as not to be seared with the shame of a cowardly and trivial past; so live, that dying he can say: All my life and all my strength were given to the finest cause in the world – the liberation of mankind”.

JOSEPH VISSARIONOVICH DJUGASHVILI (Stalin) was born in the little Georgian town of Gori on December 21,1879.-

His father was a shoemaker, who put him to the local church school in 1888, and to the Stalin with Soviet kids
Theological Seminary at Tbilisi (Tiflis) in 1894.

After studying in secret Marxist groups (formed by students and Russian Marxists in exile), Stalin joined the first Georgian Social Democratic organisation in 1898, and helped to set up illegal Marxist groups among railway shopmen, writing leaflets and organising strikes.

In 1899 he was expelled from the seminary, on hints from the police, and began earning his living by giving lessons and taking readings at the Tiflis Observatory, while continuing inte
nse secret activity among the workers.

As leader of the revolutionary minority in the Georgian Social Democratic organisation, Stalin came into conflict with the majority who wished to confine its activities to prop
aganda; and in December 1900, directly Lenin’s Russian paper Iskra began to appear (illegally), Stalin became its ardent supporter.

After March 1901, however, he had to go “underground,” organising a May Day demonstration at Tbilisi in defiance of the police, starting the first Marxist illegal paper in Georgian (Brdz
) and being elected to the Tbilisi Committee of the Social Democratic Party.

Loyal to Marxist principles

In 1902, at the Black Sea port of Batum, he organised a secret printing press, wrote leaflets, led strikes, and marched at the head of a workers’ political demonstration – the most dangerous action possible in Tsarist Russia. On April 5, 1902, came his first arrest.

By this time Stalin was already widely known for his irreconcilable loyalty to Marxist principle, his powers of theoretical analysis, his blunt, close-grained logic, his energy and tirelessness.

At the very dawn of his activity, in an article, The Russian Social Democratic Party and its Immediate Tasks (November-December 1901) the 22-year-old Stalin wrote (of the years 1895-96): “The struggle began to reduce the working day, abolish fines, raise wages,
etc. The Social Democrats knew well that the development of the working-class movement was not confined to these petty demands, that the aim of the movement was not these demands, that they were but a means to the end.

“These demands may be petty, the workers themselves in various towns and districts may be fighting disunited today: this struggle itself will teach the workers that final victory will be achieved only when the entire working class goes forward to storm its enemy as a single, strong, organised force.

“The same struggle will show the workers that, in addition to their direct
enemy the capitalist, they have another, still more vigilant, enemy – the organised strength of the entire bourgeois class, the present capitalist State with its troops, courts, police, prisons, gendarmes.”

Stalin’s next 15 years were rarely paralleled, even in Russian revolutionary annals. Prison in Georgian jails for 18 months was followed by exile in eastern Siberia until January 1904. He escaped. A year of publication of illegal newspapers, writing pamphlets, propaganda among workers, culminated in leadership of the great three weeks strike of Baku oil workers (December 1904). It ended in the first collective agreement in Russian industrial history.

Ending national barriers

Stalin enjoyed three more years of “freedom” – underground – in which he took a full part, by Lenin’s side, in the great 1905 Revolution, in fighting anarchism in Georgia (1906) and in winning over the entire Baku working class from the Mensheviks (1907-8). Stalin’s, remarkable theoretical writings of these years – on the national question (1904) on dialectical materialism and the State (1906-7) – were in Georgian, and only became gener
ally available 40 years later.

On the national question, he wrote in 1904: ” The proletariat of Russia has long begun to talk of struggle. As you know, the aim of every struggle is victory. But for the victory of the proletariat the uniting of all the workers without distinction of nationality is necessary. Clearly, the breaking down of national barriers and the close gathering together of the Russian, Georgian, Armenian, Polish, Jewish, and other proletarians is a necessary condition for the victory of the proletariat of Russia. Such are the interests of the proletariat of Russia.

” But the Russian autocracy … persecutes the ‘alien’ nationalities of Russia. The autocracy deprives them of essential civil rights, oppresses them on all sides, sows distrust and hostility between them in Pharisee fashion, incites them to bloody conflicts, showing thereby that the sole aim of the Russian autocracy is to promote quarrels among the nations inhabiting Russia, sharpen national dissensions among them … and thus dig a grave for the class-consciousness of the workers, their class unity… It is clear that the interests of the Russian proletariat, sooner or later, inevitably had to clash with the reactionary policy of the Tsarist autocracy .”

In Anarchism and Socialism, after a brilliant exposition of dialectical and historical materialism developed by him 30 years later (in chapter IV of the History of the CPSU), Stalin went on to show how the class struggle of the workers cannot, if it is victorious, but lead to the establishment of the political supremacy of the proletariat over the capitalist class. He continued: ” The Socialist dictatorship of the proletariat is needed so that with its help the proletariat could expropriate the bourgeoisie, confiscate the land, forests, factories and works, machines, railways, etc. from all the bourgeoisie. The expropriation of the bourgeoisie – that is what the Socialist revolution must lead to .”

And what of the Socialist society for which such a revolution would be the foundation? Stalin wrote that: ” there will be neither capitalists nor proletarians: consequently there will be no exploitation. There will be only collectively working people…There will be no place for buyers and sellers of labour-power, hirers and hired…All private property in the implements and means of production will be abolished, there will be neither poor proletarians nor rich capitalists but only working people, collectively possessing all the land and its resources, all the forests, all the factories and works, all the railways, etc.”.

Thus he gave a picture of the Soviet Union 30 years ahead.

Organised first issue of Pravda

Then followed a long series of arrests and escapes:

– March 1908 – arrest and exile to the Vologda province, in Northern Russia;

– escape in June 1909, re-arrest in Baku (March 1910) and exile to Vologda again ;

– escape (September 1911) and re-arrest the same month in St. Petersburg, to be sent a third time to Vologda ;

– escape once more (February 1912).

He made a tour through Russia on behalf of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party (to which he had been elected in absence at the famous Prague Conference of the Party in January).

Then he organised the first issue of Pravda (May 5). He was re-arrested that same day and exiled to Narym, in a remote district of Siberia.

He escaped once more (September 1912) and directed the Bolshevik Party’s election campaign for the Fourth Duma (including several lightning appearances to speak at meetings in the factories).

He made two visits to Lenin at Cracow, but once again was re-arrested (February 1913). This was followed by four years exile in uttermost Siberia, near the Arctic Circle. This final political test ended only when Tsardom fell in March 1917.

But these 15 years meant far more in Stalin’s life than his terrific battle with the .Tsarist authorities. They were the years of his struggle, as Lenin’s disciple and supporter, for the Bolshevik Party.

After the second Congress of the Social Democratic Party in 1903 he sided irrevocably with Lenin against the opportunist Mensheviks.

Revolutionary use of Parliament

In the 1905 Revolution he tirelessly advocated armed insurrection, and fought for Lenin’s conception of the working class taking the lead in this essentially democratic, non-Socialist Revolution, in order to ensure that it would be carried through to the bitter end and clear the way to the struggle for Socialism.

In December that year, at the first all-Russian conference held by the Bolsheviks at Tammerfors, in Finland, Stalin had his first meeting with Lenin.

He combated the Mensheviks at the subsequent fourth Social Democratic Congress (Stockholm) in 1906, up and down Georgia In 1906-7, at the fifth congress (London) in 1907, and thereafter at Baku, as already mentioned, “my second revolutionary baptism,” Stalin called this period later on.

Throughout these and succeeding years, in jail or out of it, Stalin stood for Bolshevism against the Mensheviks and their off-shoot, Trotsky.

He was against the tendencies to “liquidate” the illegal Party during the years of reaction (1908-10), or to drown it in an unprincipled all-in bloc of everyone calling themselves Social-Democrats, as Trotsky proposed in 1912.

He stood for revolutionary use of Parliament by the workers, and for Socialist principles in the question of subject nationalities during the years of working-class revival (1911-14).

He stood for revolutionary opposition to imperialist war (1914-17).

After the overthrow of Tsardom he was the first to back Lenin in the fight for Soviet power and the Socialist Revolution.

Stalin’s outstanding writings in these years – his Instructions to a Social-Democrat MP(adopted at workers’ meetings in the election campaigns of 1907 and 1912), his Notes of a Delegate (1907) and Letters from the Caucasus (1909) directed against the Mensheviks, and his Marxism and the National Question (1913) – take their place among the finest Socialist writing of all time.

In the 1907 election campaign, the Instructions adopted by the Baku assembly of worker electoral delegates (the workers were not allowed to vote directly for their candidate, like the landowners and rich merchants) declared, on Stalin’s suggestion:

” The main task of the Social Democratic group in the State Duma is to promote the class education and class struggle of the proletariat, both for the liberation of the working people from capitalist exploitation, and to play their part as political leaders .”

The Instructions of 1912 – adopted at mass meetings of the workers in the largest factories of St. Petersburg – proclaimed:

” We send our deputy to the Duma, instructing him and the whole Social Democratic group of the fourth Duma to spread our demands far and wide from the Duma tribune, and not to engage in empty play at legislation in the bosses’ Duma.

” We would like the Social Democratic group of the fourth Duma, and our deputy in particular, to bear high the banner of the working class in the hostile camp of the black Duma.

“We would like the voices of the members of the Social Democratic group to resound from the Duma tribune on the ultimate aims of the proletariat, on the full and undiminished demands of 1905, on the Russian working class as the leader of the people’s movement, on the peasantry as the most reliable ally of the working class, on the liberal bourgeoisie as the betrayer of national liberty “.

Stalin’s work, Marxism and the National Question, which was highly praised by Lenin, contains many passages of the highest importance for Socialists.

Voice of brotherhood and unity

On the duty of the working-class movement in a period of reaction (at that time the Marxists called themselves Social Democrats), he wrote: ” At this difficult time a high mission fell to the Social Democrats – to give a rebuff to nationalism, protect the masses from the general ‘trend.’ For only Social Democracy could do this, opposing nationalism with the tried weapon of internationalism, the unity and indivisibility of the class struggle: and the more strongly the wave of nationalism advances, the more loudly should be heard the voice of the Social Democrats for the brotherhood and unity of the proletarians of all the nationalities of Russia.”

On the definition of a nation:

” A nation is a historically evolved stable community of people which has arisen on the basis of community of language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up, manifesting itself in community of culture… Only the presence of all the features, taken together, gives us a nation.”

On the attitude of Marxists to the rights of nations:

” Social Democratic parties in all countries proclaim the right of nations to self-determination. The right of self-determination means that only the nation itself has the right to determine its destiny, that no one has the right forcibly to interfere in the life of the nation, to destroy its schools and other institutions, to violate its habits and customs, to repress its language or curtail its rights.

” This is what essentially distinguishes the policy of the class-conscious proletariat from the policy of the bourgeoisie, which attempts to aggravate and fan the national struggle .”

In August 1917 came his historic declaration at the Sixth Party Congress:

” The possibility is not excluded that Russia will be the very country that will pave the way to Socialism. No country has hitherto enjoyed such freedom as there has been in Russia, no country has tried to adopt workers’ control of production .

” Moreover, the base of our revolution is broader than in Western Europe, where the proletariat stands utterly alone, face to face with the bourgeoisie. Here the workers are supported by the poorer strata of the peasantry .

” Lastly, in Germany the machinery of State power works incomparably better than the imperfect machinery of our bourgeoisie, which itself is a tributary of capitalist Europe. We must abandon the antiquated idea that only Europe can show us the way. There is dogmatic Marxism and creative Marxism. I stand by the latter.”

Won victories in every field

Directly he returned to Petrograd on the overthrow of the Tsar, in March, Stalin had been put in charge of the reborn Pravda. In May he was elected by the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party to its newly formed Political Bureau.

In October he was leader of the “Party Centre,” appointed to organise the workers’, sailors’ and soldiers’ insurrection of November 6-7, which overthrew the power of capitalism in Russia and transferred power to the Councils of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (Soviets).

After November 1917, Stalin’s history was the history of the Communist Party and of the Soviet State. His official posts can soon be listed:

– People’s Commissar for Nationalities (1917-23);

– People’s Commissar for State Control – later called Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection (1919-22);

– Member of the Political Bureau of the Party from May 1917, and General Secretary from 1922;

– Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (Prime Minister) from 1941 onwards;

– Chairman of the State Committee for Defence (War Cabinet), and Supreme Commander-in-chief during the Second World War;

– Leader of the Presidium of the Central Committee elected at the 19th Party Congress last October [1952].

But even more significant is the record of, political, economic and military leadership which brought Stalin to the front rank of history.

In the Civil War (1918-20) the Communist Party again and again sent him to reorganise and gain victories, where treason or incompetence had brought catastrophe.

It was to commemorate one such victory that Tsaritsyn was renamed Stalingrad. It was Stalin’s historic plan for a breakthrough to the working-class areas of the Donetz coalfield and the port of Rostov, adopted by the Party leadership in preference to Trotsky’s treacherous scheme for an advance through kulak territory, that defeated the White armies of Denikin.

In 1921, at the Tenth Party Congress, Stalin made a memorable report on the national question. His work in this sphere ever since 1904, unique in any country, made him the natural reporter, at the two Soviet Congresses in December 1922, on the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which was there decided.

The speeches on this occasion, included with other works; make his well-known Marxism and the National and Colonial Question, the greatest contribution to Socialist theory and practice in this field.

Preserved Party from disruption

Stalin fought, when Lenin’s active life ended, for preservation of the Party against disruption by Trotsky and his following (1923-24), by the Zinoviev-Kamenev group (1925-26), and by the amalgamated Opposition Bloc (1926-27).

It was an integral part of the fight to build up a Socialist large-scale industry, capable of transforming the whole economy of the USSR and making it independent of the capitalist world which went on in those years.

It developed into the fight for the famous Five-Year Plans after 1927-28.

Here of no less historic significance was his fight against the Right Opposition (Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky) from 1928 onwards – for collective farming, the liquidation of the kulaks (rich peasants) as a class, and the fulfilment of the Five-Year Plans.

Stalin inspired and organised the great wave of Socialist emulation which began in 1929 and reached a new height in the Stakhanov movement (1935). Stalin, in his address to a conference of the first Stakhanovites at once pointed out the significance of this movement as a step toward future Communist society. His speeches and writings during these years are collected in his fundamental work, Problems of Leninism.

At the 17th Congress of the Communist Party (January 1934), a year after Hitler’s advent to power, Stalin made a challenging remark on Marxism, which went straight to the roots of his own magnificent steadfastness:

” It is said that in some countries in the West Marxism has already been destroyed. It is said that it has been destroyed by the bourgeois-nationialist trend known as fascism. That is nonsense, of course. Only people who are ignorant of history can say such things. Marxism is the scientific expression of the fundamental interests of the working class. If Marxism is to be destroyed, the working class must be destroyed. And it is impossible to destroy the working class .

” More than 80 years have passed since Marxism came into the arena. During this time scores and hundreds of bourgeois governments have tried to destroy Marxism. But what has been the upshot? Bourgeois governments have come and gone, but Marxism still goes on. Moreover, Marxism has achieved complete victory on one-sixth of the globe. 

Socialist democracy in Constitution

The vast economic and social -transformations by now accomplished made it possible to effect the further advance to a full Socialist democracy in the Constitution associated with Stalin’s name, and written under his guidance (1936).

In the course of his speech on the new Soviet constitution, Stalin drew a brilliant contrast between capitalist and Socialist countries, of amazing importance today:

” Bourgeois constitutions tacitly proceed from the premise that society consists of antagonistic classes, of classes which own wealth and classes which do not own wealth; that no matter what party comes into power, the guidance of society by the State (the dictatorship) must be in the hands of the bourgeoisie; that a constitution is needed for the purpose of consolidating a social order desired by and beneficial to the propertied classes. Unlike bourgeois constitutions, the draft of the new constitution of the USSR proceeds from the fact that there are no longer any antagonistic classes in society; that society consists of two friendly classes, of workers and peasants; that it is these classes, the labouring classes, that are in power; that the guidance of society by the State (the dictatorship) is in. the hands of the working class, the most advanced class in society, that a constitution is needed for the purpose of consolidating a social order desired by and beneficial to the working people.”

The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, written under his editorship and with his own distinctive chapter on Dialectical and Historical Materialism (1938), was an outstanding development of Socialist theory, already greatly enriched by the speeches and writings previously mentioned.

Combined theory with practice

Stalin was indeed, from first to last, an exponent of the Marxist art of combining theory with practice at the level of genius.

This genius displayed itself to the full when, at the eighteenth Party Congress (March 1939), Stalin put before the Party and the Soviet peoples the practical economic problems involved in going forward from Socialist society – now solidly founded and fast developing – to Communism, the form of the society in which each would contribute according to ability and would receive according to need.

Stalin said on this occasion: ” As regards technique of production and rate of growth of our industry, we have already overtaken and outstripped the principal capitalist countries. In what respect are we lagging? We are still lagging economically, that is, as regards the volume of our industrial output per head of population. … We must outstrip them economically as well. We can do it, and we must do it.

“Only if we outstrip the principal capitalist countries economically can we reckon upon our country being fully saturated with consumers’ goods, on having an abundance of products, and on being able to make the transition from the first phase of Communism to its second phase.”

But the USSR had little opportunity to put Stalin’s stirring programme immediately into effect.

During the Second World War Stalin’s military strategy on fronts of unprecedented length and depth, combined with the solution of gigantic economic and political problems, ranged his name above that of the greatest captains of all time. His wartime speeches and Orders of the Day were a prime political factor in winning the war.

His far-sighted and consistent diplomacy, displayed at the Moscow and Teheran Conferences (1943), the settlement with Poland and the Armistice Agreements with Finland, Rumania and Bulgaria (1944), and at the Crimea and Potsdam Conferences (1945), laid the real foundations of the United Nations.

Post-war plan of reconstruction

Then came the difficult years of making good the terrible destruction caused by the war – a problem made far worse by the increasingly open hostility of the rulers of Britain and the US (behind the scenes it had made itself felt long before), and by a great drought in 1946 of which they took full advantage to try political and economic blackmail against the USSR. Stalin, true to his lifelong principle, took the bold course of trusting the workers. His election speech of February 9, 1946, was a programme of reconstruction, and a call to complete it and resume the advance to Communism.

” The main tasks of the new Five-Year Plan are to restore the afflicted districts of the country, to restore industry and agriculture to their prewar level and then to exceed this level to a more or less considerable degree. …

” As to plans for a longer period, our Party intends to organise a new powerful upsurge of the national economy which would enable us, for instance, to raise the level of our industry threefold as compared with the prewar level…

” Only under such conditions can we regard our country as guaranteed against any accidents. This will require perhaps three new Five-Year Plans, if not more. But this task can be accomplished, and we must accomplish it “.

It rallied the entire Soviet people as no other single statement could have done, and they responded by the triumphant over-fulfilment of the postwar Five-Year Plan of reconstruction in 1950.

In 1946, also, began the series of Stalin’s postwar statements of peace policy, addressed directly to the people of the world, which played a leading part in exposing the lying campaign of the warmongers in the US and in Britain and in rallying the peoples to the defence of peace.

In 1946 and 1947 came his replies to questions put by the Sunday Times’ Moscow correspondent, the president of the United Press of America, Elliott Roosevelt, son of the late President, and Harold Stassen, the Republican politician.

In these he underlined that he believed in the possibility of peaceful co-operation between the US, the USSR, and Great Britain.

He emphasised the necessity of prohibiting the atom bomb; putting the use of atomic energy under strict international supervision; rooting out fascism in Germany and re-establishing Germany’s unity as a democratic State; and meetings between the heads of the three Great Powers.

The latter point – first made in December 1946 – was repeated by Stalin (in answer to American correspondents) no fewer than four times.

The fact that all of them were left without a response only illustrated the stubborn optimism of ‘the man in the taxi-driver’s cap’ – as the soldiers of the British Eighth Army called him in the war years.

At the same time Stalin replied trenchantly to blatant falsehoods about the Soviet Union’s alleged war preparations. His stinging rejoinder to Attlee in this respect (February 1951) will long be remembered.

New contributions to Marxism

Stalin’s last years were also notable for their new and distinctive contributions to Marxist theory.

In July and August, 1950, came his writings on the Soviet discussions regarding the science of linguistics. They discussed a field far wider than that of the special subject which had made them necessary – the question of the economic basis of society and its superstructure, the history of nations, and other important questions which affected a number of other studies, notably history, philosophy and economics.

But undoubtedly the greatest contribution of all came on the very eve of the end, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, written during 1951 and the early part of 1952, was published on the eve of the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, last October. At the end of a long life of unsurpassed service to the working class and to humanity as a whole, Stalin saw his youthful dreams of a Socialist society fulfilled, Socialism in the USSR going ahead with giant strides, rising at great speed in the Peoples’ Democracies of Europe and coming well within the perspectives of People’s China.

The problems involved in the advance to the higher stage of Socialism – Communism – which Stalin had already touched on in the prewar years, now required deeper treatment.

Handbook for the new generation

Summoning together all his vast experience and knowledge of the working of a Socialist society and all his wonderful gifts as a creative Marxist, Stalin brought them to bear on these problems. He produced a guide and handbook for the new generation that is determined to build and work in a Communist society.

From the many passages of importance in this work, one is the statement of the prerequisites for Communism which is likely to serve as the signpost for years to come :

” It is necessary, in the first place, to ensure a continuous expansion of all social production, with a relatively higher rate of expansion of the production of means of production. 

” It is necessary, in the second place, by means of gradual transitions carried out to the advantage of the collective farms, and hence of all society, to raise collective-farm property to the level of public property, and – also by means of gradual transitions – to replace commodity circulation by a system of products exchange, under which the central government, or some other social-economic centre, might control the whole product of social production in the interests of society…

” It is necessary, in the third place, to ensure such a cultural advancement of society as will secure for all members of society the all-round development of their physical and mental abilities. …

” For this it is necessary, first of all, to shorten the working day at least to six, and subsequently to five hours. … It is necessary, further, to introduce universal compulsory polytechnical education, which is required in order that the members of society might be able freely to choose their occupations, and not be tied to some one occupation all their lives. It is likewise necessary that housing conditions should be radically improved, and that real wages of workers and employees should be at least doubled, if not more.”

This great book, analysing both the today and the tomorrow of the peoples already living in Socialist society – and, indeed, of those who will yet exchange capitalist wage-slavery and exploitation for Socialist freedom – was as it were Stalin’s bequest to the international working class.

Sixty years’ service to mankind

Thus ended a great and heroic life, seeking to the last to make its nearly 60 years of revolutionary service to the cause of mankind’s emancipation a source of practical guidance to those who came after.

In the same way Stalin himself had drawn strength and guidance from the man whom he always called his master – Lenin – and from the teachings and experience of Marx and Engels.

Of this gigantic figure in world history we may say what Engels said at Marx’s graveside in Highgate 70 years ago: ” His name and his works will live on through the centuries.”

Printed and published by the

Daily Worker Co-operative Society Ltd.,

at 15 Farringdon Road. London, EC1 –

Friday; March 6, 1953.




Stalin and the Question of ‘Market Socialism’ in the Soviet Union After the Second World War

By Prof. Vijay Singh

Stalin Lenin

The International Seminar ‘Stalin Today’ takes place in Moscow on the 77th anniversary of the October Revolution, after the final disintegration of the Soviet Union and when the working class of the states which have arisen on its ruins is taking its first steps directed against the renewed Rule of Capital. Does Stalin have anything to tell us about these developments ? It is suggested here that his last major work, ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R.’, is a central point of departure for examining the ‘market reforms’ which were introduced in the Soviet Union after 1953 and for coming to a conclusion about their economic and political character.

What was the context of the economic discussions ?

The C.P.S.U. (B) considered that the foundations of Socialist society had been laid in the main by 1935. The 18th Congress of the Party thought that the transition to Communist society was the path forward for the further development of the country. A committee was constituted to draft the new party programme and in 1941 the State Planning Committee was requested to formulate a 15 year programme of economic development designed to lay the foundations of Communist society. This perspective was disrupted by the Nazi invasion but it was resumed immediately in the post-war period. In 1947 Malenkov noted at the Nine Party Informburo Conference that the party was: ‘working on the preparation of a new programme of the C.P.S.U.(B). The existing programme of the C.P.S.U.(B) is clearly out of date and must be substituted by a new one’ (Malenkov, G.M. ‘The Activities of the C.C. of the C.P.S.U. (B)’ in For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy, Bombay, 1948, p.79.). The task was reiterated at the 19th Party Congress in 1952. Consonant with this, when presenting his Report on the Fourth Five Year Plan to the Supreme Soviet in 1946, N.A. Voznesensky recalled the task which had been entrusted to him in 1941. The plan, he argued:

‘envisages the completion of the building of a classless socialist society and the gradual transition from socialism to communism. It envisages the accomplishment of the basic economic task of the U.S.S.R. namely to overtake and surpass the main capitalist countries economically, as regards the volume of industrial production per head of the population’ (Voznesensky,N.,’Five-Year Plan for the Rehabilitation and Development of the National Economy of the U.S.S.R. 1946-1950′, Soviet News, London,1946, p.10.). Stalin concurred with this programmatic perspective as is clear from his response to a query by a British correspondent who asked whether he considered it possible to construct ‘Communism in one country’. Stalin replied that it was ‘perfectly possible, especially in a country like the Soviet Union’. (Stalin, J., ‘On Post-War International Relations’. Soviet News, London, 1947, p. 13).

Stalin’s critique in ‘Economic Problems’ of the Gosplan economist L.D. Yaroshenko indicated that pronounced survivals of the views of Bogdanov persisted into the post-war period. Yaroshenko did not represent an isolated viewpoint. Yudin suggested that there was a veritable trend amongst the scientific workers, the ‘Yaroshenkovschini’, which marked a recidivist throwback to ‘Trotskyism-Bukharinism-Bogdanovism’. Bogdanov it will be recalled was the author of influential pre-revolutionary textbooks of political economy. In philosophy he adopted the views of Mach and Avenarius which had prompted Lenin to pen a reply in the form of ‘Materialism and Empirio-Criticism’. In 1917 he had supported quasi-Menshevist positions to the effect that the material conditions did not exist in Russia for socialist revolution. In the field of culture he argued for a ‘pure proletarian culture’ which negated the pre-revolutionary heritage. In the last period of his life he developed an ‘organisational science’,which he called tektology, arguing that structural relations could be generalised as formal schemes as in relations of magnitude in mathematics (‘Filosofskaya Entsiklopediya’, Volume I, Moscow, 1960, p.177.). Such views were clearly distant from the propositions of dialectical materialism, historical materialism and Marxist political economy. Bogdanov commanded an extraordinary influence amongst the Russian left including Lunacharsky, Bukharin and Gorky. His views permeated the writings of Bukharin on questions of political economy, historical materialism and questions of science and technology.

Stalin pointed out that Yaroshenko underplayed the significance of the relations of production, overrated the role of the productive forces in the forward development of society and thereby reduced the relations of production to a component part of the forces of production. Yaroshenko virtually abolished the political economy of socialism by ignoring central questions such as the continuing existence of various property forms, of commodity circulation and value categories in general. The science of political economy was sought to be transformed into a classless rational organization of the productive forces reminiscent of Bogdanov. In contrast with this marked economism, Stalin reiterated that contradictions persisted in the U.S.S.R. between the relations of production and the forces of production. If the directing bodies implemented incorrect policies then conflict was bound to emerge and in such conditions the productive relations would retard the development of the forces of production. The views of Yaroshenko recall the attempt of Bukharin to turn a blind eye to the eruption of class conflicts in the countryside and his desire to freeze the then existing capitalist production relations in agriculture and turn attention to ‘technical revolution’. Bukharin openly stated in the 1930s that the `revolution of the proletariat in our country enters its own new phase: the phase of technical revolution’ (Bukharin, N.I., ‘Metodologiya i Planirovanie Nauki i Tekhniki’, Izbrannie Trudy, Moscow, 1989, p.135). Such views also became prevalent in the arid years after 1953. Socialism no longer meant, as it did for Lenin and Stalin, the abolition of classes and the advance to communism, but the preservation of the collective farm form of property, the development of the ideology of classless ‘scientific-technical advance’, and the generalized introduction of commodity-money relations. The views of Yaroshenko were entirely compatible with the establishment of market relations after 1953. The Soviet leadership was unconcerned with the retention or extension of the socialist relations of production and proved incapable of maintaining the continuously high level of development of the productive forces which were characteristic of the Stalin epoch. The experience of the economic policies followed after 1953 demonstrates the correctness of the understanding that the implementation of incorrect policies would lead to a situation where the relations of production would act as a brake on the productive forces. Yaroshenko would seem not to be unaware of the implications of his views. Writing in 1992 he did not care to take up the issues posed for Marxist political economy by the destruction of the U.S.S.R. He continued to stress the primacy of cognition of the laws of development of the productive forces above all social questions and reiterated his opinion of 1951 that the central task of the discussion on the Textbook of Political Economy of that year should have been to address the question of the rational, organizational functioning of the socialist economy. What was novel was that he took up the issue of productive relations under socialism and argued that the scientific organization of the economy presupposed the perfection of socialist productive relations which in contemporary parlance he identified as ‘social-organizational relations’ and the ‘economic mechanism’ (Yaroshenko,L.D., ‘Svidetel’stva Vremeni’ in Igor’ Troyanovskii (ed), I. Stalin, ‘Ekonomicheskie Problemy Sotsializma v SSSR’, Peredelkino, 1992, pp.100-104.). By this logic Yaroshenko openly advocated the political economy of the period of Perestroika.

The question of the continued existence of the social contradiction between the relations of production and the forces of production had wider ramifications. In ‘The German Ideology’ Marx held that the contradiction between the productive forces and productive relations lay at the root of class collisions. Stalin’s critique of Yaroshenko clearly establishes that in his last theoretical contribution he continued to recognise that contradictions and class struggle continued to exist in socialist society. As seen the criticism of Yaroshenko clearly stated that if incorrect policies were carried out then conflict would emerge that would retard the forces of production. At the same time Stalin considered that under conditions of socialism that matters did not usually come to such a pass that conflict would occur as it was possible for society to take timely steps to bring the lagging relations of production into conformity with the character of the productive forces. This was possible because socialist society did not contain obsolescent classes that might organise resistance. It did, however, contain backward and inert forces that did not realise the necessity of changing the productive relations. Stalin considered that it would be possible to overcome such views without bringing matters to a conflict. This understanding was consistent with that of Lenin who had argued that under socialism contradiction continued but that antagonism no longer existed.

The discussion on the persistence of social contradictions in Soviet Society had clear implications for Soviet philosophy. Yudin pointed out that many philosophers including himself by arguing that there existed full correspondence between the relations of production and the productive forces in Soviet society, denied the existence of contradiction between the two. The philosopher Glezerman in his brochure ‘Full Correspondence of Productive Relations and Productive Forces in Socialist Society’ of 1951 had come unabashedly to this conclusion and did not care even to analyze the economic relations, productive forces or productive relations of Soviet society. Yudin concluded that the negation of the existence of any contradiction had led Soviet philosophy to the construction of lifeless and metaphysical schemes (Yudin,P.F., “Trud I.V. Stalina ‘Ekonomicheskie Problemy Sotsialisma v SSSR’- Osnova Dalneishego Razvitiya Obshestvennikh Nauk”, Moscow, 1953, pp.23-24.).

Lenin in May, 1921 had emphasised that the product of the socialist factories was ‘not a commodity in the politico-economic sense’ and that it was already ‘a commodity ceasing to be a commodity’ (Lenin,V.I., ‘Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenya’, Volume 43, 5th edition, Moscow, 1963, p.276.) Yet we find in ‘Economic Problems’ that the Soviet economist A.I. Notkin expressed the view that the implements of production manufactured by the social sector were in fact commodities. Stalin rejected this understanding and stated that the implements of production were allocated to the enterprises and not sold, that the State retained ownership of the implements of production and that these were utilized by the administration of the enterprises as representatives of the State in accordance with the State plans. In 1948 a concerted attempt had been made by the Chairman of Gosplan, N.A. Voznesensky, which had materialised in the reform of wholesale prices in January 1949 designed to end the system of state subsidies in heavy industry and transport. Voznesensky sought to introduce a minimal principle of profitability, some 3-5% of cost of production, into the branches of production including heavy industry and railway transport, thereby laying the basis for the conversion of the means of production into commodities (Trifonov, D.K., et al, ‘Istoriya Politicheskoi Economii Sotsializma, Ocherki’, Leningrad, 1972, p.201.). This attempt to bring the law of value into operation in the basic means of production was swiftly ended. Voznesensky was removed from his position on the initiative of Stalin on March 5th, 1949.

In ‘Economic Problems’ Stalin asserted that the sphere of commodity production in the Soviet Union was limited and restricted: no bourgeoisie was in existence there being only associated socialist producers in the State, the cooperatives and the collective farms. Commodity production was limited to items of personal consumption. For this reason Stalin denied that commodity production in the Soviet Union could give rise to the economic categories of capitalist commodity production such as: ‘labour power as a commodity, surplus value, capital, capitalist profit, the average rate of profit’. (Stalin,J., ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, Moscow, 1952, p.21). Such notions were prevalent amongst a section of Soviet economists as is clear from Yudin’s critique of the anti-Marxist errors in the social sciences. Merzenev and Mikolenko upheld the opinion that labour power was a commodity in the Soviet Union just as in capitalist society. A. Yakovlev argued that the category of ‘capital’ was applicable to Soviet conditions. The noted economist Atlas expressed the view that the average rate of profit operated in Soviet economy (Yudin, op. cit. p.23.).

A fundamental transformation of economic policy took place in the period between the death of Stalin and the 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U. The planning perspectives of laying the foundations of a communist society were abandoned and replaced by a consumerist welfare programme. Stalin’s proposal, approved by the 19th Congress of the C.P.S.U., to gradually introduce products-exchange between town and country in place of commodity circulation was effectively ended from May 1953 and a programme for extending commodity circulation was adopted under the slogan of expanding ‘Soviet trade’. The sphere of Gosplan in the Soviet economy was progressively restricted with the expansion of the economic rights of the All-Union Soviet Ministries in April 1953 and by the extension of the powers of the Directors of Enterprises and the Ministries of the Union Republics in 1955. The system of centralized directive planning as law inherited from the Stalin period was ended from 1955 and replaced by a new system of ‘coordinative planning’ by Gosplan and the All-Union and Union Republic Ministries.

The two years after the 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U. witnessed further radical changes in the running of the Soviet economy. Under Resolution Number 555 of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. dated 22nd May, 1957 the system of allocation of the products of the State sector was brought to an end and a multitude of centralized sales organizations was created under Gosplan to sell industrial products manufactured by Soviet industry. The elimination of Molotov, Kaganovich and Saburov from the leadership of the C.P.S.U. had an immediate impact on economic policy. The transformation of the means of production into commodities was clearly accomplished by Resolution Number 1150 of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. on September 22nd,1957, by which enterprises was expected to operate on the basis of profitability.

The Third Edition of the ‘Political Economy Textbook’ which appeared in 1958 accurately reflected the new economic system by stating that the means of production circulated within the State sector as commodities (Ostrovityanov, K.V., et al, ‘Politicheskaya Ekonomiya, Uchebnik’, 3rd edition, Moscow, 1958, p.505.).

In his reply to the letters of A.V. Sanina and V.G. Venzher, Stalin had opposed the view that the Machine Tractor Stations, which owned the basic implements of production in agriculture, should be sold to the collective farms as, inter alia, a gigantic quantity of instruments of production would come within the orbit of commodity production. Sanina and Venzher were not isolated economists when they expressed their opinion. A year earlier A. Paltsev in his brochure ‘On the Paths of Transition from Socialism’ [Kiev, 1950] suggested that with the growth of agricultural techniques in the MTS and with the merger of the smaller collective farms that there might be established MTS departments under the collective farms which would be closely linked with the work of a given collective farm (Yudin, op. cit., p.31-32.). By this measure Paltsev suggested in effect that the property of the whole people, state property, should be subordinated to the group property of the collective farms. The preliminary condition for dissolving the MTS was that the system of allocating the principal instruments of production in agriculture be terminated. Under Prikaz Number 663 of Gosplan in July, 1957, Gosplan ended the system of allocation of agricultural machinery inherited from the Stalin epoch and created under its jurisdiction an organisation,Glavavtotraktorsbita, with the function of selling the machinery required in the agricultural sector. In 1958 while formally demarcating himself from the earlier proposal advanced by Venzher, Khrushchev implemented the policy of dissolving the MTS and selling the implements of production in agriculture to the collective farms. As a result the means of production in agriculture as well as in industry now circulated as commodities. The Soviet publicist Vinnichenko who was close to Venzher and Khrushchev projected the view that ‘distrust’ of the peasantry was at the root of Stalin’s opposition to the collective farms owning the basic implements of production in agriculture. This was not so. Stalin was merely upholding the Marxist position of Engels, who in a letter to Bebel in January, 1886, unequivocally stated that the means of production in agriculture had to be owned by society as a whole so that the special interests of the co-operative farmers did not prevail over the general interests of the whole of society (Engels to A.Bebel in Berlin, 20-23 January 1889, in K. Marks and F. Engels, ‘Sobranie Sochneniya’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1964, p.361.). Both Engels and Stalin, moreover, were of the view that the rich peasants would not be members of the collective farms. It is understandable that in those people’s democracies where the kulaks (and even sections of the landlords) were members of the agricultural producers’ cooperatives and where the principal implements of production in agriculture were owned by these cooperatives, Stalin’s critique of Sanina and Venzher would receive an icy reception.

Augmenting the writings of Yudin was the article by Suslov published in ‘Izvestiya’ on 25th December 1952 which touched on the implications of the views of N.A.Voznesensky as expressed in the brochure ‘War Economy of the USSR During the Patriotic War’ which had been published in 1947. The main gravamen of the charge against Voznesensky was that he had made a fetish of the law of value which was made to appear as though it regulated the distribution of labour in the different branches of the Soviet economy.

It is quite clear that this was so for we find the following passage in the work: ‘The law of value operates not only in the distribution of products, but also in the distribution of labour itself among the various branches of the Soviet Union’s national economy. In this sphere the state plan makes use of the law of value to ensure the proper apportioning of the social labour among the various branches of the economy in the interests of socialism’ (Voznesensky, N., ‘War Economy of the USSR in the Period of the Patriotic War’, Moscow, 1948, p.118.).

What is at stake here? So far as the operation of the law of value in Soviet society was concerned much indeed hinged on this from the vantage point of Marxist economic theory. Marx and Engels considered that the law of value was operative only in societies where commodity production was present. Value came into operation with the rise of commodity production and ended its activity with the end of the commodity system (Engels, Letter to Karl Kautsky in Zurich, in K. Marx, ‘On Value’, Belfast, 1971, p. 5.). From the argument that value regulated the allocation of labour in the economy the only logical conclusion which emerged was that a system of generalised commodity production, i.e. capitalism, was prevalent in the Soviet Union. Voznesensky, then, raised fundamental issues on the very nature of a socialist society.

For Marx and Engels the law of value operated in a society in which commodity production was in existence: ‘The concept of value is the most general and therefore the most comprehensive expression of the economic conditions of commodity production’ (Engels,F., ‘Anti-Duhring’, Moscow, 1978, p.376). A society of commodity production is composed of `private producers’ where commodities are `produced and exchanged against each other by these private producers for their private account (Ibid., p.240.). Logically, in a society where commodity production has been finished `with the seizing of the means of production by society, production of commodities is done away with and simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation’ (Ibid., p.343.), then the law of value is redundant. This is also the implication of the argument advanced in Marx’s letter to Kugelmann of July, 1868, where he argued:

‘That this necessity of distributing social labour in definite proportions cannot be done away with by the particular form of social production, but can only change the form it assumes, is self-evident. No natural laws can be done away with. What can change, in changing historical circumstances, is the form in which these laws operate. And the form in which this proportional division of labour operates,in a state of society where the interconnection of social labour is manifested in the private exchange of the private products of labour, is precisely the exchange value of the products’ (Marx,K., ‘Letters to Dr. Kugelmann’, London, n.d., pp.73-74.)

For in a society where the interconnection of social labour takes place in the absence of a system of commodities i.e. without private producers, then the allocation of social labour would take place without the operation of value. This is confirmed by Engels where he argues that under socialism:

“It is true that even then it will still be necessary for society to know how much labour each article of consumption requires for its production. It will have to arrange its plan of production in accordance with its means of production, which include, in particular, its labour-power. The useful effects of the various articles of consumption, compared with one another and with two quantities of labour required for their production will in the end determine the plan. People will be able to manage everything very simply, without the intervention of much-vaunted ‘value’ ” (Engels,F., Ibid., p.375.).

This is further corroborated by Marx in his last sustained piece of writing on political economy, ‘Comments on Adolph Wagner’sLehrbuch der politischen Okonomie’ in 1879-80, where he rejected the idea attributed to him by Wagner that value would operate in a socialist society. Marx criticized Wagner’s ‘premiss that in the “marxist social state” his (Marx’s) theory of value developed for bourgeois society will determine value’ (Marx,K., ‘On Value’, p.28.).

Marx and Engels clearly excluded the operation of the law of value in a socialist society. Nevertheless, they accepted that in a transitional socialist society value would be retained where the small peasantry continued to exist as a class. Engels spoke of such a condition in 1884 in his article on the ‘Peasant Question in France and Germany’:

‘When we are in possession of state power we shall not even think of forcibly expropriating the small peasants (regardless of whether with or without compensation),as we shall have to do in the case of the big landowners. Our task relative to the small peasant consists, in the first place, in effecting a transition of his private enterprise and private possession to cooperative ones, not forcibly but by dint of example and the proffer of social assistance for this purpose’.

In the U.S.S.R. even after collectivisation and the establishment of group property, private production in a restricted form continued to exist. While Gosplan could abrogate the operation of the law of value in the sphere of state industry, the state farms, and the MTS by regulating the allocation of social labour through a definite plan, that was not in the bounds of possibility in the collective farms, where even though the sown area, yield, the extent of tractor-work, the number of socially owned cattle, the gross production of agriculture, the volume of compulsory payments and the payments in kind to the MTS came under the scope of directive planning, the state could not plan the use of the surplus commodity production or the use of labour-power of definite periods on definite tasks (Smolin,N., ‘O zachatkakh produkto-obmena’, Voprosi Ekonomiki, No.1, 1953, pp.33-45.).

Voznesensky did not maintain the stand of Marxism for he held that the law of value operated in the distribution of labour among the various branches of the Soviet economy i.e. in the industrial as well as in the agricultural sectors. In propagating this view, Voznesensky stood apart from the general consensus of Soviet economists. In the editorial article of 1943 ‘Some Problems of Teaching Political Economy’ it had been argued that ‘the assignments of funds, and labour power to individual branches of production is effected in a planned way, according to the basic tasks of socialist construction’ (Pod Znamenem Markzisma,No.7-8, 1943.). Similarly, in the following year the doyen of Soviet political economy, K.V.Ostrovityanov, argued that in a socialist economy ‘the distribution of labour and the means of production among the various branches of the national economy takes place not on the basis of a fortuitous movement of prices and the pursuit of profits, but on the basis of planned leadership making use of the law of value’ (Ostrovityanov,K.V., ‘Ob osnovnikh zakonomernostyakh razvitiya sotsialisticheskogo khozaistva’, Bol’shevik, No.23-24, 1944, pp.50-59.). Value did not ‘direct the distribution of social labour’ then but it played ‘the role of an auxiliary tool of the planned distribution of labour and means of production among the branches of Soviet economy’.

Value did not govern the development of the production of the means of production for without its being restricted the allocation of the necessary funds for this sector could not be found. Yet Voznesensky in his discussion on establishing the appropriate proportions between production of the means of production and production of consumer goods for the purposes of reproduction on an extending scale argues in such a manner as to dispense with indicating the primacy of production of the means of production (Department 1) in relation to production of the means of consumption (Department 11) which was necessary for ensuring the continuous expansion of the national economy, relegating the matter to the section of the work relating to the post-war economy:

‘If we divide Socialist production in the USSR into Department 1, producing means of production, and Department 11,producing articles of consumption, the value of the means of production set aside by the Soviet state for enterprises in Department 11 must obviously in a measure defined by plan correspond to the value of the articles of consumption set aside for enterprises of Department 1. Indeed, if enterprises of Department 1 were to be deprived of articles of consumption and enterprises of Department 11, of the means of production, Socialist reproduction on an extended scale would be impossible, in as much as the workers of enterprises producing means of production would be deprived of articles of consumption, while enterprises producing articles of consumption would be deprived of the means of production, i.e. fuel, raw materials and equipment’ (Voznesensky, N., loc. cit.).

In contrast Ostrovityanov had recognised that value functioned only at an auxiliary level in planning the distribution of the means of production (Ostrovityanov,K.V., op. cit.). More emphatically, the author of the 1943 editorial had argued, giving the instance of the Kirov plant at Makeyevka, and the Magnitogorsk and Kuznetsk combines, that value did not govern the development of the Soviet metallurgical industry, which had operated for many years from funds from the state budgets without yielding a profit (Pod Znamenem Marksizma, op. cit.).

Suslov’s critique of Voznesensky’s booklet hit the mark. But Voznesensky was not just a theoretician for as Chairman of Gosplan under the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union he was in a position to implement a policy of extending the sphere of operation of commodity-money relations in the Soviet Union in 1948-49. The examination of the Leningrad case conducted under Gorbachev revealed that M.Z. Pomaznev who was the Deputy Chairman of the U.S.S.R. State Supply Committee had complained that Gosplan under Voznesensky had reduced the national industrial plan for the first quarter of 1949. Later Shkiryatov of the Party Control Commission reiterated the charge and the U.S.S.R. Council of Ministers noted the failure of Voznesensky to defend the planning directives of the government (Izvestiya Ts.K. KPSS No 2, 1989.). The charge of reduction of the industrial plan is entirely consistent with the raising of wholesale prices for the goods of heavy industry in January 1949 and the attempt to introduce the operation of profitability into the production of means of production and bring them into the sphere of commodity-money relations. The removal of Voznesensky from Gosplan on March 5th 1949 saw the beginning of the nullification of his economic policies by several stages so that wholesale prices were ultimately reduced to 30 percent below the 1949 level. Voznesensky became a hero of those who wished to remodel the Soviet economy on the lines of a market economy: he was rehabilitated soon after the death of Stalin.

Suslov’s article of 1952 took up one other question related to value. He criticised the long prevalent understanding among Soviet economists that under socialism value was ‘transformed’ or ‘altered’ in such a way so as to serve socialism. Stalin in ‘Economic Problems’ had rejected the view that under conditions of the socialist planned economy that this occurred for if value could be ‘transformed’ then economic laws could be abolished and replaced by other laws. The sphere of action of an economic law could be restricted but it could not be ‘transformed’ or ‘abolished’ (Stalin, J., op. cit. p.97.). The subjectivist notion of the ‘transformation’ of value categories under socialism permeated Soviet political economy. Voznesensky gave an illustration of this trend when he argued:

‘The commodity in the Socialist society is free of the conflict between its value and use value so characteristic of commodity-capitalist society where it springs from private ownership of the means of production’ (N. Voznesensky, ‘War Economy’, p.97). Was it possible that under socialism that the commodity could be emancipated from the conflict between use-value and exchange-value? In the U.S.S.R. value persisted because of the existence of two different types of property. If group property embodied mainly in the form of the collective farms, were elevated to the level of state property, then the basis for the operation of the remnants of value would cease to exist. But it was the commodity per se which Marx considered as the primary ‘cell’ or ’embryo’ of capitalism. It could not be ‘changed’ or`transformed’, only its scope could be limited and restricted.

Stalin’s understanding on this question corresponded to the Marxist position of Engels who wrote to Kautsky in September 1884 in the following terms when the latter was drafting an article on the economic theories of the German Katheder socialist economist, Rodbertus:

‘You do a similar thing (i.e. as Rodbertus) with value. Present value is that of commodity production but with abolition of commodity production value ‘alters’ itself also, that is, value in itself remains but in a changed form. But in fact economic value is one of the categories belonging to commodity production and vanishes with it (See Duhring, p.252-62), as it did not exist before it. The relationship between work and the product does not express itself in the form of value before commodity production, nor will it do so after it’ (Engels,F., Letter to Karl Kautsky in Zurich, in K. Marx ‘On Value’, pp. 5-6.).

For Engels a ‘changed’ value represented the oblique smuggling in of the operation of the law of value which was impermissible in a socialist society. In the writings of Kautsky this represented an isolated blunder, but Stalin faced a situation where virtually the whole of the economists in the U.S.S.R. endorsed this error.

The notion of ‘transformed’ value seems to have arisen as an expression of the dual need to criticise the idea that value could be arbitrarily terminated in the Soviet Union when the existence of the collective farms necessitated the continued preservation of commodity-money relations, and conjointly, to articulate the reality that under conditions of the socialist planned economy the operation of value had an auxiliary, subordinate and restricted role. Nevertheless the conception of ‘altered’ value had in the Marxian sense a clear ideological content which was the reason why Stalin considered that the formula despite being current in the Soviet Union for a long time had to be abandoned for the sake of accuracy. The notion of ‘transformed’ value bore a twin problem as it still carried with it the idea that value could be arbitrarily created or abolished, and because it could easily become a theoretical lever for justifying the extension, rather than the contraction, of the sphere of operation of commodity-money relations as had clearly occurred in the instance of Voznesensky.

With the rapid expansion of commodity-money relations in the Soviet economy after 1953 it was, perhaps, inevitable that the ‘transformed’ commodity would make a comeback. The ‘Textbook of Political Economy’ of 1954 argued that the socialist economy did not know the contradiction between private and social labour’ (Ostrovityanov,K.V., et al, ‘Politicheskaya Ekonomiya, Uchebnik’, First edition, Moscow, 1954, p.442). Such a ratiocination posed many problems. It suggested that in a society which still required to use commodity production in a restricted fashion that social labour could be said to exist in a full form despite the fact the working class still received payment in the wage form with which it purchased consumer goods. It tended to imply, moreover, that the contradiction between concrete labour and abstract labour, which in the understanding of Marx could only be ended in communist society had already been resolved. It would also appear that private labour did not require to be terminated by bringing the labour power of the collective farm peasantry, which was not fully in the sphere of socialist planning for definite periods on definite tasks and which still preserved some of the features of private labour as the relationship of work and product was fully expressed in the value form, to the level of the social labour of the working class at that historical stage, controlling the property of the whole people. The 1954 edition of the ‘Textbook of Political Economy’ brought Soviet political economy back to the contradiction-free commodity of Voznesensky and it rejected the position of Stalin in ‘Economic Problems’ that the social contradiction between the relations of production and the forces of production continued to operate in Soviet society.

In the years after 1953 the C.P.S.U. no longer considered itself as the vanguard party of the working class in the Leninist tradition but as a party of the whole people. The state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which Marx considered as continuing until the establishment of communism, was replaced by the state of the whole people. Before the economic reforms of 1953-58 it was possible to argue as it was done by Stalin that commodity production in the Soviet Union was of a special type:

‘commodity production without capitalists, which is concerned mainly with the goods of associated socialist producers (the state, the collective farms, the cooperatives), the sphere of action of which is confined to items of personal consumption, which obviously cannot possibly develop into capitalist production, and which, together with its ‘money economy’, is designed to serve the development and consolidation of socialist production’ (Stalin,J., op. cit., pp. 20-21.).

But after the market reforms of 1953-58 when the means of production began to circulate as commodities the situation qualitatively changed. The commodity forms of production which existed under socialism were of special type as Stalin pointed out. After the reforms the restrictions placed on commodity production were removed and commodity forms began to embody the economic relations of another type. Marx in ‘Capital’ had established that the commodity, the basic cell of capitalism, contained within itself the embryo of both wage-labour and capital. The logic of rapidly expanding commodity production meant that the economic categories, such as labour-power, surplus value, capitalist profit and the average rate of profit, would appear once again. It is in this context that the programme for the establishment of Communist society put forward by Khrushchev in 1961 has to be evaluated. In place of the contraction of the sphere of operation of commodity production and commodity circulation in the advance to communism the C.P.S.U. envisaged their further utilization. The programme withdrew from the task of the abolition of classes under socialism and refrained from restructuring the relations of production of Soviet society. The perspective put forward by Stalin of raising the group property of the collective farms to the level of the property of the entire people was ended. In place of this the notion of a future merger between collective farm property and the state property was adopted under Khrushchev.

Paper presented at the International Seminar “Stalin Today” held at the Moscow State University on 5th and 6th November, 1994.

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