‘War Communism’

Preparation of the 1947 Draft of the Programme of the of the CPSU(B)

Vijay Singh

The central objective of Lenin and the Bolsheviks was the formation of a communist society.

This is evident from the programme adopted by the Russian Communist Party in March 22, 1919. The document accepted that the dictatorship of the proletariat had been established in Russia having the support of the poorest peasantry and the semi-proletariat. It had in the main expropriated the bourgeoisie so that means of production and exchange became the common property of all the toilers.

It was imperative to establish a uniform national plan which could engage in the rational and economic utilisation of the material resources of the country.

So far as the handicrafts were concerned producers’ co-operatives were to be established which could carry out a painless transition to the higher forms of big mechanised industry.

In the agrarian sector, private property in land had been abolished. The state was inaugurating a number of measures to encourage large-scale socialist agriculture: establishing cooperative farms, state farms and agricultural communes[1].

It was recognised that only the first steps had been taken for the transition from capitalism to communism so that until there had been a complete organisation of communist production and distribution of products it was impossible to abolish money. It was considered possible in the meantime to extend the area of transactions without the use of cash by the deposition of money compulsorily in the people’s bank; the replacing of money by the use of cheques; and the issuing of short term notes which entitled the possessor to receive products.

The programme of 1919 illuminates the economic policies of the period of the civil war, known as ‘war communism’.

In those three years, from June 1918 through to March 1921, further expropriations took place of the small sections of the industrial bourgeoisie. Such was the case also in transport, communications and distribution.

In agriculture private property in land had already ceased to exist; through the appropriation of agricultural surplus the socialist state controlled a part of the surplus; an attempt was made to bring the peasant farms under the purview of the plan[2].

Some fifty industrial sectoral boards were established termed glavki which controlled industry under the formal writ of the Supreme Council for National Economy.

The attempt was made under war communism to abolish commodity-money relations. The expenses of enterprises were decided by centralised planning and covered by the state budget. The products of the enterprises were at the disposal of the central bodies. Centralised financing was replaced by the centralised supply in kind. Distribution of products was conducted by the centralised allocation of goods. Commodity exchange was ended between town and country by decreeing the compulsory delivery of surplus grain. Taxation was abolished. The state distributed gratis housing, telephones, water, gas, electricity for workers and employees. Similarly, the urban populace was supplied differentiated food rations on the basis of class with priority given to the industrial workers performing dangerous and heavy labour[3].

But commodity-money relations could not be abolished but they were driven underground. The state continued print currency notes whose value continued to shrink. Working people were compelled to use the extensive black market for the bulk of their purchases.

It proved impossible to sustain the economic policies of military communism once the civil war ended. In its place the policies of the New Economic Policy were introduced which utilised widespread commodity-money relations until such time as the economy revived in the period 1925-26 when industrial and agricultural production returned to the levels of 1913. This laid the basis for the socialist offensives which established directive centralised planning, incepted socialist industrialisation based on the production of the means of production (with the lead being given to production of the means of production of production of Department1, and introduced socialist collectivisation based on the poor and middle peasantry with the agricultural instruments and means of production remaining in the socialised sector. Collectivisation ended the existence of the last section of the most numerous class of the bourgeoisie, the rich peasantry.

In such conditions Stalin argued in his Speech on the Draft Constitution of the USSR in 1936 that the Soviet Union had achieved the construction of the foundations of socialism in the main. Stalin had earlier said in the 17th Congress of the CPSU(B) in 1934 that the task of building a classless socialist society remained for the future.
Extensive discussions took place at the 18th Congress of the CPSU(B) in 1939 on the building of the classless socialist society and the transition to the communist society [4]. It was suggested by Voznesensky that while it had taken two decades for the Soviet Union to construct socialism a lesser period would be required for the transition to communism. Detailed discussions on this question were held at the congress and a commission was set up to draft a new programme for the party.

In conjunction with this a new 15-year perspective plan was drawn up by Gosplan in two volumes for the period 1947-1953. This considered the need to surpass the per capita production of the capitalist countries in pig iron, steel, oil, electricity, machinery and the means of production and articles of necessity. In terms of social relations it was planned to raise the level of the workers and collective farm workers to that of the workers in the technical and engineering sectors.

The perspective plan for the transition to communism naturally had to be ended with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union but it was immediately resumed in 1945 on the lines suggested at the 18th Congress of the party in 1939 and subsequently.

Instructively Stalin in September 1946 argued that it was possible to construct communism in one country in the Soviet example.

At the foundation of the Inform-buro in Poland in September 1947 Malenkov stated that the CPSU(B) was elaborating a new party programme.

That draft programme is published in the journal ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ (October 2023) for the first time.

The version selected there has the notes of Stalin.

Aside from the detailed discussions on this draft by the party leadership, Gosplan was involved in working out the implications of the new programme for the planning mechanism. Voznesesnsky argued in the Central Committee for a 20- year plan for establishing communism in the Soviet Union. This was necessary to bring the preparatory steps to communism to fruition and to expand the productive forces and the construction of new, large construction work: railway lines, metallurgical factories. These would lead to the Soviet Union overtaking the advanced capitalist countries in terms of per capital industrial production.

The party authorised such a plan in August 1947. The Gosplan, the Academy of Sciences and local Soviet and Party organisations analysed the productive strength of the economic regions of the country and formed the framework of a perspective for the economy for the period 1951-70.

Gosplan was rightly concerned with the development of the forces of production[7]. The relations of production were discussed by Stalin in Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR. The significance of his remarks is that he sought to concretise the gradual steps necessary for the transition to a communist society in the Soviet Union. Stalin argued that the existence of group property in the collective farms and therefore of commodity circulation hampered the full extension of state planning to the whole of the national economy especially in agriculture. It was necessary to gradually convert collective farm property into public property and replace commodity circulation with products-exchange between town and country (which meant the end of Soviet trade). This would be to the benefit of the collective farm peasantry as they would receive more products from state industry[8].

After March 1953 the CPSU was guided not by Marxism-Leninism but the ideas fought by Stalin in Economic Problems and his related writings: Bogdanovism, Bukhari-nism, Trotskyism; and specifically in the realm of political economy the ‘market socialist’ notions of Notkin, Venzher and Sanina. The ideological rupture with Marxism-Leninism spread internationally in the bulk of the people’s democracies and the majority of the international communist movement. The Soviet state no longer carried out the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat formally positing this in 1961 when it was accepted that the Soviet Union was now the ‘state of the whole people’. Parallel to this the majority of the people’s democracies no longer carried out the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat after 1953[9].

The programme for communist construction in the Soviet Union involving the development of the productive forces and changes in the production relations was ended. The question of having a higher rate of expansion of Department 1 for the purposes of social reproduction was downgraded. The perspective of the gradual conversion of collective farms to agricultural communes was terminated. The plan of replacing commodity circulation by products-exchange was swiftly discontinued.

The archives of the State Planning Commission, Gosplan, establish unequivocally that the foundations of a system of generalised commodity production was established in the years 1953 to 1958. Directive centralised planning which had constructed socialism and which was being utilised for the transition to communism was terminated and replaced from March 1953 by a system of “co-ordinated planning” involving the economic negotiations between the central and union republic governments. The state planning commission itself was divided into two organisations. The sphere of influence of Gosplan was reduced by expanding the powers of the directors of the enterprises who were now required to accept that the criterion of efficiency was the principle of profitability. The commodification of the instruments and means of production was enacted both in industry and agriculture. While under the socialist system the products of industry were allocated under the plan after 1958 these products were now designated as commodities which circulated in the state sector. Some twenty agencies were established under Gosplan to sell the commodities produced by Soviet industrial enterprises. In agriculture following the example of Yugoslavia the instruments and means of production, the Machine Tractor Stations, were sold to the collective farms. This signified that in the Soviet Union (and in People’s China) a section of the socialised means of production now became part of the group property of the collective farms (and later the People’s Communes) thereby massively expanding the area of commodity circulation. In such a situation there was an inevitable reemergence in the Soviet Union of such categories as labour power as a commodity, surplus value, profit and the average rate of profit.

The programme for communist construction which was put forward by the CPSU in 1961 in the time of Khrushchev envisaged the further deepened expansion of commodity-money relations including wide independence of the enterprises and profit until such time as there was a single communist form of property when commodity-money relations would become outdated. No concrete steps were proposed to bring about a single communist property as had been in evidence in the 1919 party programme or right through to Economic Problems and the 19th party congress in 1952. Indeed, it was considered necessary that farming on the collective farms had to be based on the principle of profitability. As in People’s China in the People’s Communes it was to be proposed to submerge social property in the state sector into the semi-socialist group property of the collective farms. Earlier the Machine Tractor Stations, which Stalin had defended from the Venzher and Sanina suggestion to commodify them by selling them to the collective farms, had been vended to the collective farms in 1958. It was now the policy to merge the collective farms, the state farms and the industrial enterprises which would have at a wider level reduced the social property of the state farms and industry to group property[10]. It contradicted the programme advocated by Khrushchev of building up a single communist property in the Soviet Union.

The CPSU and Khrushchev made the transition from the construction of commodity ‘socialism’ in the period 1953-1958 to projecting a commodity ‘communism’ in 1961.

1)    Programma i ustava VKP (b), (1919), Partizdat TsK VKP (B), Moscow 1936, 64 pp. This publication was printed in an edition of two hundred thousand copies.
2)    László Szamuely, First Models of the Socialist Economic Systems: Principles and Theories, Akademiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1974. p11.
3)    Ibid. 15, 17.
4)    Vijay Singh,The CPSU(B), Gosplan and the Question of the Transition to Communist Society in the Soviet Union 1939-1953, Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. III, No. 1, April 1997. https://www.
5)    Informatsionnoe soveshchanie predstaviteleye nekotorykh kompartiye, v Pol’she v kontse Septyabrya 1947 goda, Ogiz Gosizpollit, Moscow, 1948, p.153.
6)    Stalinskoe ekonomicheskoe nasledstvo: plany i diskussii 1947-1953gg. Dokumenty i materialy, Compiled by V.V. Zhuravlev and L.N. Lazareva, Rosspen, Moscow, 2017, 640 pages, pp. 118-138. See also the volume: V.V. Trushkov, Neizvestnaya Programma VKP (b), Moscow, 2018, 288pp.
7)    See also: M.I. Rubinstein, O sozdanii materialn’o-tekhni- cheskoye bazy kommuniszma, Molodaya Guardia, Moscow,1952, 40pp, and his Soviet Science and Technique in the Service of Building Communism in the USSR, FLPH, Moscow 1954, 236pp.
8)    I. Stalin, Economicheskie problem sotsializma v SSSR, Moscow, 1952, pp. 204-221. See also: N. Smolin, Rudimentary Forms of Products Exchange.
9)    Vijay Singh, Some Questions of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the People’s Democracies, Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. I, No. 1, (New Series), April 2022.
10)   Programma Communisticheskoi Partii Sovetskogo Soyuza in XXII S”ezd Kommunisticheskoi Partii Sovetskogo Soyuza, 17-31 Oktyabrya 1961 goda, Stenografi-cheskiye otchet, III, Gospolitizdat, Moscow, 1962, pp. 229-335.

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Vol 56, No. 17-20, Oct 22 - Nov 18, 2023