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News ::
04 Nov 2003
Modified: 05 Nov 2003

[This was written in response to a reader in Britain, who asked about
Workers World's position on the
socialist countries.]
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Oct. 30, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


[This was written in response to a reader in Britain, who asked about
Workers World's position on the
socialist countries.]

Dear Bertolt:

On your question as to whether Workers World considers "the former
Soviet Union, the Eastern European countries before 1989, North Korea, Cuba, etc. as socialist countries," the answer is yes. But let me elaborate.

Beginning with the 20th century, the relentless expansion of the
capitalist system generated imperialist wars, socialist revolutions and national liberation struggles, as Lenin put it. The period of transition from capitalism to socialism on a world scale began with the Russian Revolution, but it has lasted much longer than he and earlier Marxists expected, and has seen grave setbacks for socialism. In this period, however, no third social system and no new propertied class have appeared in the world.

We broadly define as socialist those countries where the old state of
the exploiting classes was smashed and the new regimes expropriated the means of production and established some form of planned economy. Freed of the profit motive, economic development could be reorganized to satisfy basic human needs. This generally came about through the
revolutionary intervention of the masses (USSR, China, Cuba, Vietnam,
Korea and others). However, in most of Eastern Europe, the destruction of the old state structures came not through mass revolution but through military defeat of the bourgeois fascist regimes by the Soviet Red Army at the end of World War II.

There have been other very significant revolutions that we do not
characterize as socialist. They have remained within the framework of
capitalist property relations but have achieved much greater
independence from imperialist control--the bourgeois nationalist
revolutions in Iraq and Libya, for example.

Those who argue that the growth of bureaucracy and political repression in the USSR represented a new form of class society cannot explain why it collapsed. The answer is that the bureaucracy was not a new class but a privileged grouping with a dual character. On the one hand, it was a drag on the struggling new socialist system, but on the other it organized the economy at a time of many remarkable gains for the workers and peasants. Because of its planned economy, the Soviet Union was able to grow from a semi-literate, semi-feudal society to an industrial space-age power in just two generations, and despite suffering immense destruction in World War II. But it could not sustain its socialist development against the hostility of the entire bourgeois world, fascist and "democratic" alike.

The governing group before Yeltsin had no special property rights in the Soviet system--that is, it was in no way a ruling class in the Marxist sense of the word. But it did have privileges, both legal and illegal, that separated it from the masses and whet the appetite of many in its ranks for ownership of the means of production they managed. The imperialists alternately threatened the Soviet leaders with nuclear extinction and tried to seduce them with grandiose promises. Once the workers' state was dismantled, many members of this stratum of Soviet society found it easy to make the transition to capitalism. But it was only then that they were able to take possession of the country's wealth, and even then it was often through trickery and gangster tactics.

They had been members of a grouping that enjoyed privileges within the workers' state. Some then made the transition to being members of a capitalist owning class that has usurped the workers and reintroduced the most vicious forms of exploitation.

The pulling down of the Soviet state and the looting of what had been
socially-owned property--much of it done by the same imperialists who
had been totally concentrated on its destruction--has brought a world of woes to the workers there and the revival of the most bitter national antagonisms, pulling apart the union itself. All the social indices prove what a devastating development this has been.

It has also created great hardships for oppressed, underdeveloped
countries trying to progress economically that had greatly benefited
from the existence of a socialist bloc, which helped them acquire
technology and hold the imperialist robbers at bay.

We feel totally vindicated in having been staunch supporters of the USSR against imperialist intervention and internal reaction, even as we warned again and again of the growth of bourgeois elements within, and differed with the policies of the leadership on many world questions. If you look at our web --you will find a very comprehensive analysis of the USSR by the founder of Workers World Party, Sam Marcy.

In his book "Perestroika: A Marxist Critique," for example, Marcy wrote:

"From the point of view of administration, the Soviet state is in the
hands of a vast bureaucracy. But the ownership of the means of
production, meaning the bulk of the wealth of the country including its natural resources, is legally and unambiguously in the hands of the people--the working class, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population. Those in the governing group are merely the administrators of the state and state property. ... The ownership of the means of production in the hands of the working class is truly the most significant sociological factor in the appraisal of the USSR as a workers' state, or socialist state as it is called in deference to the aspirations of the people."

That was written in late 1989, before the breakup of the Soviet state
led to the widespread selling off of the people's wealth.

Each socialist revolution has been shaped--and, in that sense,
limited--by the material and social conditions it has inherited from the past and by whether it has any allies to turn to or is isolated in a sea of hostile capitalist states. Whatever subjective failings one can point to flow from these hard facts.

The fall of the USSR has had a profound effect on working-class
movements and national liberation struggles around the world. It has
especially emboldened the U.S. monopoly capitalists, who now openly
flaunt their imperial ambitions. But it has in no way negated the class struggle. That is on the rise again, driven forward by the insatiable need of the capitalists to extract greater surplus value from the workers, especially as technology advances and competition for markets becomes more vicious.

We are confident that the worldwide struggle for socialism must revive, not only in oppressed countries but especially in the imperialist centers. What the oppressed all over the world need in order to shake off their chains are strong working-class movements that can challenge the imperialists at home--right in the belly of the beast, as our Cuban comrades say. It will happen. The spread of capitalist globalization--capital moving to where wages are lowest and destroying local economies, forcing workers and peasants from around the Third World to seek jobs in the imperialist countries--makes international class solidarity and struggle all the more needed by workers of all nationalities.

Let's fight for socialism as we want it to be, and as it can be when
imperialism is defeated, while valuing and learning from the great
sacrifices and struggles that have been taking place all over the world.

Deirdre Griswold

Editor, Workers World newspaper

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe
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Oh, okay... (english)
05 Nov 2003
So the USSR, including under Stalin, was socialist, and so is North Korea. Real workers' paradises there! But we can just blame all that on the influence of imperialism, and defend it all anyway.

Another world IS possible, but I definnitely ain't thinking about the one the Workers' World is talking about.