Communism and Self-Management

Samary, Catherine
Date Written:  2018-07-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23388

A look at workers' self-management in past regimes and their relevance to current debates.



For Lenin and the Bolshevik Party of the 1920s, the USSR was "socialist" only in its aims, not in its existing form. It was a society in transition between capitalism and socialism, driven by a process of "permanent revolution" as analyzed by Trotsky and caricatured by Stalin. The starting point for that analysis was the notion of "combined and uneven development" of social formations on the capitalist semi-periphery, like Russia and its dependence on the imperialist countries.

The socialist transformation of such a society depended on three interelated processes: 1) the transformation of the democratic February revolution into an anti-capitalist rupture in October, solidly anchored in the dynamics of class struggle (David Mandel, 2016); 2) the radical transformation of the old society that benefited the ruling classes towards a classless society (without specifing how this would happen); 3) The spread of the world revolution against capitalism. Is such an analysis still valid? (Michael Löwy 2000)

Such an approach would draw all the lessons of imperalism while highlighting aspects of Marxist thought that Stalinism ignored. This method analyzed capitalism as a hierarchical system, rather than one where all states followed the same path to industrialization. Doing so would allow us to begin to update Marx's observations about resistance from parts of the British empire. (K.B. Anderson, 2010)

After the isolation of the revolution and the Moscow purge trials of the 1930s, Stalin decreed that thanks to forced collectivisation, and the advent of centralized planning, complete with all the features of Great Russian national oppression, the USSR had become a socialist society. The repressive measures that Lenin had taken during the civil war were solidified, in spite of his last struggle against the drift toward a totalitarian Stalinist system. (M. Lewin, 2015)

Subject Headings

Insert T_CxShareButtonsHorizontal.html here