30th anniversary of fall of USSR

Harsh Thakor

Progressives around the world commemorated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the USSR in December 2021. In actual fact what collapsed 30 years ago in the former Soviet Union was state capitalism or revisionism, not true Socialism. The path had already been paved by leaders like Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev earlier who eradicated the roots of Marxist or Socialist principles at the very base.

USSR from 1917-1956 could boast of achievements unprecedented in history and giving power to the working class as never before. The first genuine workers state was established, with workers owning the means of production. Unemployment was unheard of, literacy was given to all, health system surpassed that of any bourgeois democracy, and production figures attained record heights. In no place in the world did workers receive as much facilities for leisure and holidays, better housing, or as adequate transport and electricity facilities. Through collectivi-sation peasants could integrate to produce for the collective good and serve the industrial labour community. No party ever constituted such a strong fraction of members of worker or peasant origin. Russia industrialised at a rate 4 times quicker than any Western power. The planned economy of USSR was a model for the entire world.

The important features from 1917 to 56 were the first establishment of the Soviets, as an instrument of working class power, Brest Litoskv treaty of 1918, Civil War of 1918-21, the New Economic policy of 1921 which introduced capitalism within a workers state, the collectivi-sation of agriculture from 1928, the Great purges of 1933-38, War production from 1935, the introduction of the Constitution of 1936, Publication of History of CPSU in 1938, re-building Soviet Russia after 1945, and 1952 self criticism of the party in ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’.

No doubt major errors or violations of Marxist practice occurred in Stalin era from the 1930’s. Tremendous excesses occurred in the purges. Innocent party members perished in the purges with democratic centralism lacking. Revolutionary democracy was suppressed to an extent from below leading to bureaucratism. Agriculture was neglected to an extent with too much emphasis on industry. Attention was given single-handedly to the base, neglecting the superstructure. On the basis of the transformations in ownership that had gone on, there was a push for greater discipline and stepped-up production in the factories. But the development of the productive forces came to be seen as the guarantee of socialism. Leadership relied less on the conscious activism and initiative of the masses. The radical social and cultural experimentation of the 1920s and early 1930s was reined in—and things got consolidated in a way that strengthened more traditional relations. Socialism in the Soviet Union had to be defended. But the Soviet leadership tended to see the defence of the Soviet Union as being one and the same as the interests of the world revolution without any contradiction—and thus increasingly promoted national patriotism instead of proletarian internationalism.

After 1956 hypocritically Khrush-chev launched a tirade against Stalin and derailed Russia from Socialist path. A private plot, profit motive concept was introduced, with economy decentralised. Managerial structures were re-introduced within factories. Kruschev significantly was part of the Trotskyite faction in the 1920’s. Kagonovich thoroughly exposed this fact. In 1964 Khrushchev was ousted and Brezhnev attempted to reverse it through some initiatives but all his methods were superficial. Gorbachev through Perestroika and Glasnost from 1985 gave revisionism another shape. Till the final official fall all these leaders virtually undid what Lenin and Stalin installed. Still even revisionist USSR possessed semblances of a Socialist state in terms of employment, literacy, health facilities, sports facilities and child care. It was less racist than any Western democracy.

On the International level Stalin did display big brother treatment towards Eastern European Countries and China in his time and took a wrong stand in advising the CCP to adopt the path of urban insurrection. Still USSR gave a sustained resistance to Apartheid in South Africa, supported Palestinian liberation against Israel, gave moral support to Cuba and Nicaraguan revolution, and supported anti-colonial movement of Angola and strongly supported Vietnam in the war against America. Today Russia is an imperialist country, even though it challenges hegemony of superpower America.

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Vol 54, No. 32, Feb 6 - 12, 2022