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  1. #1
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    Was the USSR socialist?

    We have 3 judges, GoldPhoenix, Czahar and Talthas. Thanks to them for volunteering.

    poached the intro from the old one...

    This formal debate will between manc and Squatch The format will be as follows;

    Each party will get 1 definition post and one rebuttal/clarification post

    There will then be a statement of position post from each party followed by a back and forth of three replies.

    Finally there will be a summation post followed by the announcement from the judges.

    I expect the format to look like this;

    manc Definitions
    Squatch Definitions
    manc refinement/questions
    Squatch refinement/questions

    manc OP
    Squatch OP

    manc 1
    Squatch 1
    manc 2
    Squatch 2
    manc 3
    Squatch 3

    manc final post
    Squatch final post

    Judges summary


    There is a 7 day max waiting time between posts, violation will result in forfeit.
    Excess posts will be deleted.
    Judges will base their decision on clarity of argument, soundness of logic, strength of support and persuasiveness.


    Oxford English Dictionary:
    • a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
    • policy or practice based on the polical and economic theory of socialism.
    (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of Communism.

    The term ‘socialism’ has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism, Soviet state Communism, and social democracy; however , it necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammelled workings of the economic market. The socialist parties that have arisen in most European countries from the late 19th century have generally tended towards social democracy
    my emphasis
    This is far from ideal, but that's what the whole thread is about so it will do for now.

    Oxford English Dictionary
    the ideology and policies adopted by Stalin, based on centralization, totalitarianism, and the pursuit of communism.
    This is a pretty pathetic definition, as I will expand on later, so I can't say I agree with it. In fact I will be proving this definition wrong where it says 'pursuit of communism'.

    Here is the first bit from the Marxists Encylcopedia (part of the Marxists Internet Archive, MIA)
    In contemporary parlance, the word “Stalinism” has come to embody a range of ideologies, specific political positions, forms of societal organization, and political tendencies. That makes getting at the core definition of “Stalinism” difficult, but not impossible.

    First and foremost, Stalinism must be understood as the politics of a political stratum. Specifically, Stalinism is the politics of the bureaucracy that hovers over a workers' state. Its first manifestation was in the Soviet Union, where Stalinism arose when sections of the bureaucracy began to express their own interests against those of the working class, which had created the workers' state through revolution to serve its class interests.
    This is better and this is the direction I will be arguing.

    Workers' State

    This isn't in the dictionary but it means roughly the same as socialism. However it also gets used to describe a just a planned economy (as in the MIA definition of Stalinism above), it depends on the context. The phrase was used by Trotsky, describing Stalinist USSR as a "degenerated worker' state"

    Oxford English Dictionary
    a theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs. See also Marxism
    Bit rubbish, but it will sort of do as a starting point. Marx famously said "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" I will be using the word communism to mean the end goal of socialism. This is how Lenin used the words and ties in with the Oxford English Dictionary's third definition of socialism.
    Not to be confused with Communist Party (CP) which is basically Stalinism after about 1925 or so.

    note that Lenin and Trotsky used slightly different terminology to Marx, I will discuss this more later.

    Social Democracy
    Oxford English Dictionary
    a socialist system of government achieved by democratic means.
    Another not particularly great definition. I will use this phrase, if I use it, to mean the same as reformism, ie gradual reform of capitalism into socialism. In actual fact a lot of social democrats gave up on the idea of actual socialism. Note that this phrase has changed it's meaning and in those days it meant Marxist.

    Forget the dictionary. People who wanted to go straight to communism.

    Oxford English Dictionary
    an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
    Oxford English Dictionary
    the dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service , and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants (villeins or serfs) were obliged to live on their lord's land and give him homage, labour, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection.
    Oxford English Dictionary
    an elected local, district, or national council in the former Soviet Union
    Committees which sprang up spontaneously among the workers. They were democratic initially.

    Oxford English Dictionary
    nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government
    the civil government of a country:
    Marxists Encyclopedia definition (more at link)
    The state is the institution of organised violence which is used by the ruling class of a country to maintain the conditions of its rule. Thus, it is only in a society which is divided between hostile social classes that the state exists:
    so, in Marxist parlance, State means army, police prisons etc.
    There is also the phrase nation state which is a bit more like the dictionary, nation states were created by the bourgoisie

    bourgeois revolution (tasks of)
    this is a phrase I will use quite a bit, it's a Marxist phrase to include getting rid of colonial rulers, establishing a democracy and a proper nation state, getting rid of feudalism, and land reform.

    social revolution
    changing the ownership of the means of production from private to public

    political revolution
    changing the regime in power or form of government without changing property relations

    dictatorship of the proletariat MIA
    Not a term I would use nowadays. In those days it actually meant democracy. It meant the dictatorship of the working class over the capitalist class.

    OK a few basic names

    Bolsheviks - the Marxist party which led the Russian revolution
    Mensheviks - they split from the Bolsheviks (both were originally in the Russian Social Democratic Party)
    Socialist-Revolutionaries - a major party in Russia, actually they spit at the time of the revolution into two distinct parties, the Left SRs and the Right SRs
    Whites - counter-revolutionaries

    ok that will do for now
    Last edited by manc; December 31st, 2010 at 02:48 AM. Reason: added comma for clarity

  2. #2

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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    Good Afternoon everyone,
    I believe there really to be four primary definitions that are important to this debate.
    Firstly, capitalism. I will largely agree with Manc’s definition provided above. The standard definition is I think good enough for either of us;
    an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

    Secondly, socialism which is largely and sadly undefined in the Marxist cannon. Marx for instance when asked about specifics as to how the socialist state would run said: “[I] do not write recipes...for cook-shops of the future". http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Karl_Marx
    The Oxford English dictionary requires a subscription so I will post something (IMO) that is very similar to Manc’s proposed definition here.
    From the World English Dictionary;
    — n 1. Compare capitalism an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state. It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels 2. any of various social or political theories or movements in which the common welfare is to be achieved through the establishment of a socialist economic system 3. (in Leninist theory) a transitional stage after the proletarian revolution in the development of a society from capitalism to communism: characterized by the distribution of income according to work rather than need
    I picked this definition as it appears to be a bit more specific than the one at the top of the page, but in the relevant points it is the same as Manc’s or the other definitions offered on the page.
    I would point out that my opponent largely agrees with what I have said here as evidenced in this post,
    Quote Originally Posted by manc
    I don't know how it will be organised exactly, it's something you can't predict. If we had a socialist party elected in the UK they would start nationalising companies. Then the boards would be replaced with elected people as I explained. The government would certainly have hundreds of elected representatives, and at work you would be electing your management. Socialism requires the state to be taken over by the workers.

    Thirdly, I will agree with the Oxford English Dictionary’s (as Manc quotes it) definition of “state.” It is a territory and people organized under one government.
    The Marxist Encyclopedia definition though is unsatisfactory. It necessitates that violence of one form or another be required for a “state” to exist. I don’t see any reason that that is necessary nor is some subliminal class warfare. It is certainly conceivable to create a “state” without either of those requirements. The latter condition for example would preclude a direct and complete democracy from inclusion in the “state” category. If everyone in the nation directly voted on every issue (as impractical as it would be) then there would be no “class oppression.”
    Finally, Stalinism. Obviously this will be the main bone of contention for this debate. I think we can gleen a bit from Manc’s definitions that we can both agree with. Primarily that Stalinism is characterized by a planning bureaucracy. IE production and labor or allocated by government officials rather than private citizens. Both the Oxford Dictionary definition and the MIA definition point this out so I would submit that we all agree on that point. To submit a formal definition the basis of which I doubt my opponent will disagree with (even if he wishes to stipulate more) can come again from the World English Dictionary;
    — n the theory and form of government associated with Stalin: a variant of Marxism-Leninism characterized by totalitarianism, rigid bureaucracy, and loyalty to the state
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.

  3. #3
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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    Opening Post

    "Was not the abolition of private property possible at an earlier time?
    No. Every change in the social order, every revolution in property relations, is the necessary consequence of the creation of new forces of production which no longer fit into the old property relations."
    Engels, Principles of Communism

    I'm not going to try and cover everything in this post, as we have 3 more each (plus summary) and it would just water everything down to repeating stuff.

    NB. I have hyperlinked some background stuff, definitions and 'support'. You do not need to read them.

    First a brief outline of what I want to cover during the course of the debate

    1. What is Marxism - a few vital basics necessary to understand the debate
    2. The causes of the Russian revolution - again, vital background without which you cannot follow the debate
    3. How the revolution ended up as it did, ie a Stalinist dictatorship
    4. The character of Stalinism and its relationship with the rest of the world.

    In particular with reference to the latter two, I will demonstrate two key things:

    1. that Stalinism was not some natural, inevitable consequence of either Marxism or Bolshevism
    2. that not only was the USSR NOT socialist or communist ( or even trying to be, after the late 1920s), but that the Stalinist leadership went out of their way to make sure socialism never happened anywhere in the world. In this I will be proving the Oxford Dictionary wrong where it says Stalinism involved the 'pursuit of communism'. Before the late 1920s, the USSR was trying to move towards socialism. After Stalin consolidated power in the late 1920s or soon after, it was trying to suppress socialism.

    There will be many points we can debate but I think the above two will probably be the main ones.

    What is Marxism?

    I need to cover a few basic bits of what Marxism is about. I will be as succinct as possible. This is all vital though, and I urge the reader to carefully try to follow all of this. Otherwise you will not understand the debate.

    Marx started studying philosophy (and history), in particular Hegel who was an idealist who employed dialectics. Idealism is a branch of philosophy. Marx thought the dialectics was useful, rejected the idealism, and combined it with materialist philosophy to form a new way of looking at the world - dialectical materialism. With this came historical materialism, Marx's analysis of history. In a nutshell, as man's level of technology developed from stone tools onwards, his social structures evolved to suit a certain level of production. So in a primitive paleolithic hunter-gatherer society you had a form of 'primitive communism' in most tribes. People lived by hunting together, building houses together, things were by necessity mostly egalitarian. There may have been some hierarchy but there were no classes. A class is where one group owns the means of production. Stone tools could not be owned, they were made when needed. People lived from day to day, they did not really have any possessions to speak of. After man built up technology to a level where a surplus could be extracted, the powerful could sit on their backsides and get other people to provide for them. At first it was probably religious leaders who did this. Some of the earliest class society appears to have been established and then been overthrown, consciously replaced with an egalitarian society, but this is fairly academic at this point as Marx did not know that at the time. Later you had full blown slave empires like the Egyptians and so on, and monarchical dynasties. In the middle ages feudalism evolved. As modern production and trade grew, the capitalists came into conflict with the feudal order and in the end overthrew it in revolutions such as the English civil war, the French revolution and one in Holland. These were more or less classical 'bourgeois revolutions'. Capitalism was established in these countries. There was a brief period where mercantilism became popular during this changeover, mainly during the feudal period but also into the capitalist era for a few decades. Mercantilism was a sort of early capitalist policy or theory.

    So we had bourgeois revolutions in England, France and Holland. These meant that capitalism was the dominant system and this enabled modern production and trade to be introduced much faster. It was very progressive in its day, and gave a huge edge to these countries, enabling them to have massive empires, especially Britain where everything started. The industrial revolution was a consequence of the bourgeois revolution, which itself was a consequence of the growth of production. So a few countries, especially Britain, raced ahead. Britain totally dominated, it controlled world shipping, trade and finance pretty much, the largest empire in world history. I am not going to start discussing the causes of WW1 in depth, as this was done in the last FD Socialism vs Capitalism. However we cannot discuss the Russian revolution without mentioning WW1.

    Marx had spotted the dialectical relationship between the development of the productive forces, and the type of society that existed. Slavery was progressive compared to primitive communism several thousand years ago (in terms of its ability to develop the means of production), and then feudalism was progressive compared to slavery(of course slavery still existed much later, but not as the dominant system), and later capitalism replaced feudalism, because it represented progress at that time. It's ironic that while Marx was explaining all this, Darwin published Origin of the Species, explaining evolution and speciation, a similar dialectical process where new species emerge from the accumulation of small genetic changes. Quantitative changes accumulate and lead to qualitative changes. The increase in capitalism within feudal England led to the English civil war (bourgeois revolution).

    What is dialectics? It is the study of change, and it goes right back to the ancient Greeks and Hindus. Marx studied it and developed it within materialist philosophy. Materialism means our ideas are shaped by the physical world. Materialist philosophy was quite rigid though, and when Marx applied dialectics to it, he could make it clear how in addition to that, our ideas can influence change in our world.

    So, for Marx, what was the future evolution of society likely to be? Capitalism forever? Unlikely. Everything is constantly changing. Nothing ever stands still or lasts forever. Capitalism had created the urban working class, people who were educated (to some extent at least), who worked together in large factories, often of over 1,000 people. These people all had a common interest, and it was not in common with the bosses. It was a class society, just like in feudal or slave societies. The ruling class was creating an exploited class capable of taking over. It's own gravedigger.

    Dialectics shows that everything contains it's opposite, or contradiction, and that tiny changes can accumulate, almost unnoticed, until a sudden qualitative change occurs. Capitalism grows within feudalism until a revolution happens. Darwin unwittingly employed the idea during Marx's life to explain evolution of new species. In science this happens all the time. I studied geology which is all about change. In dialectics, everything is constantly changing.

    So Marx came to realise that these urban workers could one day take over the running of society from the bosses. Property (the means of production) would be publicly owned and controlled. Then came the Paris Commune. A short lived revolution in France, but it showed the theory in practice.

    Meanwhile of course, the American civl war happened. Marx was very supportive of the North. Stage two of the American bourgeois revolution (although different from the classical ones in that there was no feudal structure to overthrow, just the native people, slavery and colonialism. )

    Marx was not a utopian. He did not imagine some ideal world and then think 'how can we achieve this ?'. He described how society had evolved and what processes were at work at any given time. He reckoned that the future society, which he called communism, would be a workers state, a democratic one, but he did not spend too much time trying to predict it in detail. I can expand on why later. He did of course think about the changeover from capitalism to communism, and began working practically to this end. Marx predicted that communism would probably start in the advanced countries, because you need a reasonable sized working class to do this. It is the industrial urban working class who are the primary force which can achieve socialism. Rural peasants and petty bourgeois (small shopkeepers and tradesmen etc) are too dispersed, do not have the collective consciousness, the ability to organise and take power to create a planned economy).

    I think that's enough of the theory for now. Now onto the background of the Russian Revolution.

    The causes of the Russian revolution.

    Russia was completely backward compared to much of Europe and America. It was mostly a peasant society. Feudalism had been technically abolished a few decades earlier, but the land was not given to the peasants, it was made available for sale at ridiculous prices the peasants couldn't afford. They were probably worse off than before. Peasant revolts became more common. At one stage 75% of Russian provinces were hit by peasant uprisings. But Marx had predicted that peasants could never play more than an ancillary role to a communist revolution. The working class in Russia was very small but it was relatively advanced. The factories tended to be big, modern, built with foreign money, but there were not many of them.

    In 1905 there was a failed revolution, but it was a good rehearsal.

    Marx of course had expected or hoped that the revolution would start in an advanced capitalist country like England or Germany (which was rapidly catching up). These had the required numbers of urban workers (actually Germany was still mostly petty bourgeois), Russia did not.

    Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution

    "The Perspective of permanent revolution may be summarised in the following way: the complete victory of the democratic revolution in Russia is conceivable only in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, leaning on the peasantry. The dictatorship of the proletariat, which would inevitably place on the order of the day not only democratic but socialistic tasks as well, would at the same time give a powerful impetus to the international socialist revolution. Only the victory of the proletariat in the West could protect Russia from bourgeois restoration and assure it the possibility of rounding out the establishment of socialism."
    Leon Trotsky
    The Permanent Revolution


    "Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?
    No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others."

    Engels, Principles of Communism

    In 1905 Trotsky developed some of Marx's ideas. He reckoned that should a revolution be on the cards in a backward country like Russia, which it seemed to be at the time, then it might survive if it spread quickly enough to advanced ones. The revolution could kick off in a backward country, and then consolidate in the advanced ones. On it's own it would perish. Marx and Engels had also stated that socialism (they called it communism) would have to be international. Trotsky said it could carry out the tasks of the bourgeois revolution and continue with the tasks of socialism at the same time (not exactly the same time but not separated by a long phase of capitalism), what he termed permanent revolution.

    The 1905 revolution failed but the theory was developed. The Marxists formed the Russian Social Democratic Party in secret (the country was ruled by a reactionary Tsar). This party then later split into the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.

    Then in 1914 WW1 started. This was debated in the previous thread. My version is that it was a massive imperialist carve up, precipitated by Germany's late but forceful arrival onto the industrial and colonial scene, but you can read the detail on the other FD. Actually Trotsky released all the Tsar's secret treaties on that.
    Trotsky explained brilliantly how the war was one of the reasons that a revolution happened in Russia:
    "A crude illustration: the Great War, the result of the contradictions of world imperialism, drew into its maelstrom countries of different stages of development, but made the same claims on all the participants. It is clear that the burdens of the war would be particularly intolerable for the most backward countries. Russia was the first to be compelled to leave the field. But to tear itself away from the war, the Russian people had to overthrow the ruling classes. In this way the chain of war broke at its weakest link."
    Trotsky, In Defence Of October, speech to Social Democrat students in Copenhagen, 1932.

    Lenin by the way, was bitterly opposed to the war, believing that Russia was being used as a tool of British and French imperialism.

    There were other reasons for the revolution:

    Trotsky listed 8 main reasons, which I will paraphrase and / or quote

    1) "The rotting away of the old ruling classes - the nobility, the monarchy, the bureaucracy."
    2) "The political weakness of the bourgeoisie, which had no roots in the masses of the people."
    3) "The revolutionary character of the agrarian question."
    4) "The revolutionary character of the problem of the oppressed nationalities."
    5) "The significant social burdens weighing on the proletariat."
    To these can be added
    6. the 1905 revolution, a "dress rehearsal" to quote Lenin.
    7. WW1, as mention earlier
    8. The Bolshevik Party - the subjective factor, the surgeon, who can deliver by ceasarian section, the communist baby, as Trotsky once put it! Note that the surgeon only delivers the baby, he does not create it. The masses have to create the revolutionary situation, and want change.

    The feudal regime was finished, more or less. His second point is an important one to get straight for this debate. Once capitalism has developed like it did other countries, it often tended to hold back the development of a local bourgeoisie in the less developed countries. The investment is coming in from outside. The local bourgeois have never organised and developed on their own. They have no foundation, no history of conservative politics, nothing. They never supported the peasants uprisings against the landowners for example. In these backward countries, as was becoming clear at the time, the indigenous bourgeoisie is clearly showing its total impotence for carrying out the 'tasks of the bourgeois revolution' (see definitions), and clings to the coat tails of both the remnants of the feudal regime, and the foreign imperialists / investors. Point 4 is the national question which again was a historical job for the bourgeois (the classical bourgeois revolutions created the modern bourgeois nation state) but was never going to happen. Half the population of the empire were not ethnic Russians, and there were many tensions. The Bolsheviks supported the right of all nations to self determination.

    So, capitalism broke, not in the most convenient place for socialism (England), but in the worst place really, it's weakest link, a semi-feudal backward country which could only establish socialism by spreading to advanced countries.

    First was the February revolution in which the Tsar abdicated. This was a fairly spontaneous uprising. Trotsky and Lenin, in exile abroad, hurried back to lead the revolution forward. At this stage the Bolsheviks were a very small party. A provisional pro-capitalist government was set up (self appointed), but it rapidly lost support from anyone, as it did nothing about land reform, the war, anything. It basically wanted Russia to stay in the war. Over the summer support for it crumbled.

    In the soviets, support for the Bolsheviks increased and there was a dual power situation, the Provisional government on the one hand, and the soviets (democratic committees of workers) on the other. Some of the generals in the Russian army wanted a dictatorship, to prevent revolution.

    By October it was clear to Lenin that the time was ready for insurrection, so they proposed this at the second congress of soviets, agreed on it, and took power the same day with the loss of only two lives. Not bad for a revolution.

    One last bit of terminology before we move on. Marx called the future workers' state communism. He described a transition from capitalism to a lower stage of communism and then ultimately a higher stage. By the time of the Russian revolution, Lenin was calling the first stage socialism. This would not be straight after the revolution, it would happen after a transitional phase. Ultimately it would lead to communism. In communism there is no state (in the Marxist sense, see definitions). The socialists only need a state to defend from counter-revolution during the transition. Once socialism is established, the state will 'wither away' as Marx and Engels put it.

    "The state is not “abolished”. It withers away.” Engels, Anti-Dühring

    The revolution

    "What will be the course of this revolution?
    Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat."
    Engels, Principles of Communism

    The Bolsheviks introduced democracy into Russia in practice. Before the revolution, people had hoped for a Constituent Assembly. However in the February revolution soviets started to spontaneously form in workplaces etc like they had done in 1905. The Bolsheviks saw this spontaneous form of workers democracy as the best form for socialism, so they campaigned on a slogan of 'all power to the soviets'. During the summer there was dual power between the democratic soviets and the unelected Provisional government, which was promising a Constituent Assembly. After the October revolution the elections for the Constituent Assembly were held. The Bolsheviks easily won in the cities and among the soldiers on the Western Front, but the countryside (most of Russia) was Socialist -Revolutionary. So the SRs got the most votes and got a President elected. However in November the SRs split into Left and Right. In January 1918 the Constituent Assembly met. The Left SRs were prepared to form a coalition with the Bolsheviks, but the official (Right) SR leadership was not. The Bolsheviks walked out. Lenin reckoned the election had no chance to reflect the split of the SRs. Some might call this a cheeky move. Anyway, the Bolsheviks saw the soviets as the main form of democracy in Russia, much more suited to socialism, which requires mass participation and decision making, not just the odd election. Wikipedia says : "scholars have argued that the Constituent Assembly had not properly represented the will of the peasantry. The ballots for the Assembly had not differentiated between the Right SRs, who opposed the Bolshevik government, and the Left SRs, who were coalition partners with the Bolsheviks. Thus many peasant votes intended for the Left SRs elected Right SR deputies." citing E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923, London: Penguin (1966), p. 121. (Carr wrote a 14 volume history of the Russian Revolution)

    During the spring of 1918, the counter-revolutionaries (pro-capitalists) started a civil war to smash the revolution. Various generals in the Russian army started ordering their troops to turn on the government. They wanted to keep the war going with Germany, as did the previous Provisional government and all of the other political parties (even the Left SRs). The capitalist countries aided the Whites (counter-revolutionaries) with 150,000 troops and £ millions of weapons etc. The government had to quickly build an army from scratch, led by Trotsky, and make their own weapons. The capitalist countries later started an economic boycott of the country which contributed to the famine of 1921. Winston Churchill said that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle".

    The Bolsheviks came to power on the slogan 'bread, peace and land'. They started negotiating a peace treaty with Germany (the debate was done openly and democratically) and eventually secured it. But many in the opposition parties were trying to sabotage the peace deal. The Left SRs resigned from the government and tried to sabotage the peace by killing the German ambassador. Several million Russians had already died in WW1 prior to the revolution. Peace was a priority for the Bolsheviks and most Russians. The other parties all rendered themselves irrelevant.

    The people in the other parties tended to either join the Bolsheviks, or fight them. At first only the proto-fascist party the Hundreds was banned, and then the Kadets who were very much opposed to a peace deal with Germany. The SRs became irrelevant and the Mensheviks were very small anyway.

    "Proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any bourgeois democracy; Soviet power is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic." Lenin, 1918, Bourgeois And Proletarian Democracy

    Unfortunately because of the civil war, democracy had to be gradually put on hold as a temporary measure, the Mensheviks being finally banned in 1921. This was around the time of a crucial mutiny at Kronstadt fortress, which protected Petrograd. The mutiny was carried out by conscripted peasants who were whipped up by people plotting on behalf of the Whites and maybe some misguided anarchists. Trotsky ordered them to put down their weapons but they refused. To cut a long story short, it was absolutely vital to squash this very quickly as the ice over the water was about to melt, and if it did the Red Army could not attack and the fortress could let in British battleships and so on. So the Reds crawled over the ice and attacked. Kronstadt was the main defence of the capital city at the time, St. Peterburg (renamed Petrograd in 1914).

    Brief note on the anarchists. They were a mixed bunch, sometimes fighting on the side of the Red Army, sometimes against it. Makhno ended up setting up what you could call a state, defeating the whole ethos of anarchism, but it was really a gangster state, and ended up being such a thorn in the side the Reds had to attack his army. For example the anarchists would capture trains and so on.

    The Bolsheviks had been forced to requisition food off rich peasants who were hoarding it to raise prices. They needed to feed the Red Army and the workers in the cities. Unfortunately this too contributed towards the famine as the peasants were not incentivised to grow food. The Bolheviks then began the NEP which basically privatised agriculture. Russia was just not ready for collectivised agriculture. However this had its own risks of creating a rural middle class who would oppose socialism.

    In 1923 Trotsky began warning that the party (there was really only one left in Russia after the civil war, most people in the other parties either joined the Bolsheviks or fought against them) was becoming too bureaucratic and losing its internal democracy. Lenin died, Trotsky got ill, and things started to go wrong. I will write about Stalin's Russia more in my next post. Trotsky was deported into exile in 1929. From Lenin's death in 1924, Stalin (a high up Bolshevik, but one with little grasp of theory) started all sorts of deceit and manoeuvres to sideline Trotsky. Trotsky and others formed the Left Opposition to fight the trend towards dictatorship, but they did not succeed. The forces of history were against them, as I shall explain later.

    The Bolsheviks were counting on spreading the revolution to advanced countries. There were a few close calls. In Germany a revolution happened in 1918-19 but it was totally sold out by the Social Democrat Party (SPD) leadership, who had given up the idea of socialist revolution. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg, the two best German Marxists, were murdered by proto-fascists on the orders of the SPD leaders. A Soviet Republic of Bavaria was set up, but this was brutally crushed by 30,000 troops - a section of the German army and the right wing paramilitary Freicorps. One or two other revolutionary situations developed, another later in Germany again, and in 1926 a General Strike in Britain (four million out of the five and a half million organised workers struck for nine days), but no real leadership, no revolutionary party that I know of. Others included the Hungarian revolution of 1919 which collapsed when Romanian forces occupied Budapest.

    So to summarise so far: the revolution happened in a backward country. The Bolsheviks did not choose it. A revolutionary situation occurred because of the particular history of Russia. The masses created it. The Bolsheviks had two choices. Do nothing, and leave Russians dying in WW1 in their millions, or lead this revolution and hope it can spread internationally and survive (and of course bring an end to the war). Trotsky, in exile in New York when the revolution started in February, and Lenin in Zurich, headed back to Russia.

    So, we know why the Bosheviks had to do various things including clamping down on democracy (the Left SRs walked out of the government though, during the Fifth Congress of Soviets - because they did not agree with a peace treaty with Germany), during the civil war. We know that by the end of it there was only the one party. But why did Stalin get into power and why did the bureaucratisation get so much worse? How did Stalin get to put all the best socialists on trial and execute or imprison them?

    You already know that Marxists believed that socialism could not survive in a backward country in isolation, lets just sum up why.

    I have explained the general historical process, that capitalism must come before socialism in the world as a whole. And I have explained that in backward countries the bourgeois tend to be too weak to fulfil their historic role. So the socialist revolution has to carry out the tasks of the bourgeois revolution AND the socialist revolution. But in addition to all the sabotage, the revolution is going to face direct economic comparison with the advanced countries. In Russia before the revolution people earned a tenth of what they did in America. The Bolsheviks did not have a magic wand that could modernise the country overnight. Revolutions are very tiring for the masses, and after a while they are worn out. And their lives are not what they hope for. The Bolsheviks faced the task of educating the masses (most couldn't even read and write) and building industry and infrastructure. They faced the war and then the civil war and they faced the backwardness of industry, agriculture and the people themselves (the peasants). A backward culture to be blunt.

    "Having taken over the state, the party is able, certainly, to influence the development of society with a power inaccessible to it before; but in return it submits itself to a 10 times greater influence from all other elements in society."
    Trotsky (Stalinism and Bolshevism)

    Here Trotsky puts it in a nutshell. Those who argue that Stalinism arose out of some inherent feature of Bolshevism or Marxism ignore the historical, material and social reality of the situation, as if Bolshevism evolved into Stalinism by its own forces, in a vacuum. A revolutionary party is an important factor in a revolution, but it is not the only one.

    Trotsky again: “One nation conquers another” continued Lenin at the same congress, the last in which he participated ... “this is simple and intelligible to all. But what happens to the culture of these nations? Here things are not so simple. If the conquering nation is more cultured than the vanquished nation, the former imposes its culture on the latter, but if the opposite is the case, the vanquished nation imposes its culture on the conqueror. Has not something like this happened in the capital of the RSFSR? Have the 4700 Communists (nearly a whole army division, and all of them the very best) come under the influence of an alien culture?”. This was said in 1922, and not for the first time. History is not made by a few people, even “the best”; and not only that: these “best” can degenerate in the spirit of an alien, that is, a bourgeois culture. Not only can the Soviet state abandon the way of socialism, but the Bolshevik party can, under unfavourable historic conditions, lose its Bolshevism."

    I think here Lenin is talking about the communists being fooled by bureaucrats. (link below)

    Essentially it boils down to this. In a backward country, in particular an isolated one, the revolution can become overpowered by that culture. The Bolsheviks had to privatise agriculture and this meant a middle class in the countryside. In the cities there was the bureaucracy (often specialists who had been privileged before the revolution). Many Bolsheviks were killed in the civil war, and many middle class careerists flooded into the Bolshevik Party, or CP as it was later called. The revolutionary consciousness was becoming diluted down.

    Lenin: "I doubt very much whether it can truthfully be said that the Communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth they are not directing, they are being directed." Eleventh Congress of the CP, 1922

    The party degenerated with the near impossible social, material and cultural conditions they faced in Russia, following the defeat of the German revolution. A bureaucracy began to emerge which was not Marxist, which wasn't interested in socialism, it was interested in it's cushy numbers. Stalin came to personify this trend.

    In further posts I can expand a bit and explain the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism in the world, some aspects of the Cold War, and a bit more on how Stalin took power and revised, or to be more precise turned on its head, Marxism to justify abandoning socialism.

    My opponent in this debate, Squatch, is correct when he points out that Marxists do not try to offer a blueprint for socialism. As I said, Marx started from the reality of the world, not some idea in his head. I can talk about that more later.

    "In working out for his own use in 1905 a scheme of the correlation of classes during the course of the revolution, Lenin characterised in the following words the situation which must be formed after the liquidation of landlord proprietorship: “The proletariat is already struggling to preserve the democratic conquests for the sake of the socialist revolution. This struggle would be almost hopeless for the Russian proletariat alone, and its defeat would be inevitable ... if the European socialist proletariat did not come to the help of the Russian proletariat ... At that stage the liberal bourgeoisie and the well-to-do (plus a part of the middle) peasantry will organise a counter-revolution. The Russian proletariat plus the European proletariat will organise the revolution. In these circumstances the Russian proletariat may win a second victory. The cause is then not lost. The second victory will be the socialist revolution in Europe. The European workers will show us ‘how it is done.’”
    History of the Russian Revolution

    edit - footnote. According to the MIA, most of the Left SRs, who walked out of the government in the summer of 1918 (some then started various plots to sabotage the peace deal with Germany) later joined the Soviet government. I already inferred this but just wanted to make it clearer.
    Last edited by manc; January 6th, 2011 at 11:55 PM.

  4. #4

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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    My opponent’s OP did a thorough job summarizing the Marxist view of history and did an excellent job supporting that socialism is difficult to maintain (in the Marxist world view) in a backward or poor country. I will point out to the judges though that he has not shown in any way that the Soviet Union was not socialist. Rather, we have seen that after its initial founding as a socialist state the Soviet Union discovered there were a plethora of problems with organizing the production of millions of uneducated peasants. Its solution was to implement a bureaucracy as we both agree. What is left unsaid is how that makes it a non-socialist state. Rather, we are left to infer that since Marx predicted it would be difficult, any and all outcomes allow for a self reinforcing conclusion.

    Rather than subscribe to this rather circuitous historical rout to ignore what I feel is the obvious, why don’t we simply list the traits agreed upon in our definitions and see how the USSR fairs?

    A side note about comparisons first. It should be pointed out that my opponent will likely point out areas that are not defined within the scope of socialism explicitly as proof that the USSR wavered from the true faith. But we can see this not to be the case with a couple of common definitions.
    Person: a human being, whether man, woman, or child
    Irishman: a man born in Ireland or of Irish ancestry.
    Obviously an Irishman is a type of Person, but has characteristics not present in the latter’s definition. This is because we are discussing nested categories. Just as I believe we are in this debate. Nested within the broad category of Socialism is one particular subset called Stalinism, of which the USSR is a good example.

    So we bring ourselves to socialism. My opponent and I largely agree that socialism was ill defined by its early founders. This is why early proponents like Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin created their own implementation manuals as it were. Going from the definitions above we see that socialism is a transitory state replacing capitalism and markets with some kind of state or community control over the means of production. In essence Socialism is a view of the end goal, control over production for the benefit of society rather than for capital appreciation or profit. The method for those means is allowed to be largely in the mind of the implementer, hence no “recipes” as Marx put it.

    Marxism though does call for some kind of facilitator. Be it, self organization into small groups or a national level government, production is organized in socialism via some kind of government or authority. Marx viewed the state as being necessary and the primary difference (politically) between the capitalist state and socialist state as the political power as shifting from the minority Bourgeoisie to the majority Proletariat. Certainly this was true of the USSR which went from a Monarchy to a centralized bureaucracy run by the “Communist Party” which was determined through a hierarchy of voting systems based on a town and province model which elected by universal sufferage, http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/...04.html#chap11

    From a relatively Pro-Trotsky site:
    Also, in Marxist theory, communism is the final evolutionary phase of society (coming after socialism), at which time the state would have withered away. Marx specified that the workers should rise up to destroy capitalism and replace it with socialism, a transitional stage during which the state holds the property of the means of production (property over the objects used in economic activities, not over items meant for personal use) on behalf of its citizens

    The Leninist take on socialism is not too much different, if a bit more centralist:
    Leninist theory, developed by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, emphasises the role of a well-organized group of revolutionaries (usually called a Communist party) in planning and carrying out the revolution. According to Leninism, a Communist party must be organized along the principles of democratic centralism in order to maximize efficiency.

    So what should we expect to see if our socialist state came into existence?

    Collectivization: We see that the NEP under Lenin was replaced by Stalin with a more centralized economic policy.
    The lion’s share in the net product of Russian industry and trade was taken by the state and not by private capitalists. The state centralised the resources of Russian society and used them, according to the principles of Communist economic policy, in a more or less planned manner for the reconstruction of industry.
    And while I don’t agree with the author’s overall conclusions on the subject he makes it quite clear that collectivism increased during Stalin’s consolidation of power.

    Our friends at Marxists.org have laid out under the definition of Socialism the criteria mentioned in “The Communists Manifesto” by Marx and Engels.
    1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
    5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
    6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
    8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

    1)From the 1930s onward (note here the 1930s, not 1917) the Soviet Constitution had acknowledged the State (as trustee for the people) as owner of all land, virtually all productive resources and the vast bulk of materials. http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPag...v=24&id=&page=

    2)The USSR had a bit of a problem here living to the socialist ideal. While income tax rates were in fact heavily progressive, these rates became largely obsolete due to high inflation (largely wage inflation) rates. Still, it was the policy of the USSR to tax progressively. http://www.okno.com/ewltr/archive/vo...rends-v1n3.pdf

    3) It wasn’t until the 80s that the USSR allowed inheritance rights back into practice. http://www.jstor.org/pss/840295

    4) Article 58 of the Soviet criminal code defined confiscation of property for all individuals that were deemed “counterrevolutionaries” http://www.cyberussr.com/rus/uk58-e.html

    5)While the central bank laws were loosened a bit by Lenin as part of the NEP, they were retightened under Stalin to match this Marxist ideal. http://www.masterandmargarita.eu/arc.../statebank.pdf

    6) Transport: “The transportation system during the Soviet period was organized in the form of vertically integrated monopolies controlled by the central government.” http://countrystudies.us/russia/65.htm
    Communication was controlled by the Ministry of Communications which directly owned most of the major communication mediums in the USSR. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministr...oviet_Union%29

    7) This was the USSR’s main economic activity following the NEP. Several five year plans beginning with as Stalin called it, “the Great Turn,” focused on industrial capacity, unused farm land and farming efficiency. It did so through collectivization and redistribution of industrial capacity. http://www.marxists.org/archive/strauss/part5.htm

    8) Well described below, the obligation to work was legally enforced as was the distribution of that work;
    The image of an inflexible LABOR market comes from the Stalinist period (1930s) when workers were forbidden to quit their jobs. Jackman and Rutkowski (1994) describe the Stalinist LABOR market by five distinctive characteristics. First, workers had not only a right, but also an obligation to work, and staying out of the LABOR force was considered 'parasitism'. Second, the State had the right to assign graduates to a specific location for a few years, often in remote areas (although non-compliance was relatively high). Third, a certain degree of forced LABOR did exist, and concentration camps were used, mainly for construction, mining and forestry.
    Fourth, the state utilised mass mobilization campaigns, particularly of youth, to carry out special tasks such as construction or agricultural projects. Finally, the Government strictly controlled LABOR migration, particularly to urban areas through a system of internal passports or permanent residence permits - the notorious 'propiska' system, which has only recently been abolished in many of the former republics (Jackman and Rutkowski, 1994, p.122-123)
    Lawrence Becker describes that obligation (very briefly) here, http://www.jstor.org/pss/2380369

    9)This subject was covered much more extensively than I had imagined. Soviet populations dramatically changed between 1930 and 1990. They became more Urban, less European and less distinctly rural. Beginning on page 9 is an excellent description of this trend (though it only covers to 1975). http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Admin/PUB/Doc.../RM-75-074.pdf
    This information covers more recent trends from 75 till the fall of the Soviet Union, though in less specific terms. http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-12481.html From this article though and most importantly is a concerted effort by the Soviet State to comply with Marx and Engels’ tenets.
    Starting in the 1970s, an active campaign was mounted to reduce and consolidate the number of rural populated places in the Soviet Union. The number of rural places in the nonchernozem region of the Russian Republic alone declined from 180,000 to 118,000 between 1959 to 1979. Nationally, a reasonable estimate of the numbers of phased-out ("future-less settlements" in Russian) populated places, most with fewer than 200 inhabitants, was more than 100,000.
    Finally, Chapter X here, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=102063221, describes early Soviet efforts under Lenin and Stalin to distribute the population away from rural farmers and towards urban industrial workers.

    10) Child labor was not allowed: “In socialist countries, the concept of child labor does not exist. F. Engels wrote: “On the first day immediately following the seizure of political power, the working class must take more decisive measures for curbing female and child labor than the bill for the ten-hour or even eight-hour working day” (ibid., vol. 7, p. 242). One of the first decrees of Soviet power was that on the eight-hour day, which outlawed child labor and limited adolescent labor. These provisions were included in the RSFSR Labor Codes of 1918 and 1922. The labor legislation in force in the USSR and in other socialist countries sets a high age for beginning work. For instance, the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of Dec. 13, 1956, forbids hiring people younger than 16, except that in exceptional cases 15-year-olds can be hired with the permission of the factory, plant, or local trade union committee.” http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Child+Labor
    Education was free to all Soviet citizens: “Education in the Soviet Union was organized in a highly centralized government-run system. Its advantages were total access for all citizens and post-education employment. The Soviet Union recognized that the foundation of their system depended upon complete dedication of the people to the state through education in the broad fields of engineering, the natural sciences, the life sciences and social sciences, along with basic education.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educati...e_Soviet_Union

    So in quick summary what have we found through this short exploration?
    I believe we have seen that my opponents’ circuitous historical essay to be a bit of bet hedging. If the Soviet Union had survived it would have been a masterful triumph of socialism against all odds, but since it failed it clearly wasn’t a socialist country.
    We explored the fact that socialism in practice was not defined by its early thinkers, who preferred to allow the revolutionaries to write their own “cookbooks.” They did just that in the Soviet Union, writing a revolutionary guide that follows all of the tenets they laid out. And while it did other things as well, I have shown that this does not preclude it from inclusion in the much larger category of socialism.
    Last edited by Squatch347; January 12th, 2011 at 04:44 PM. Reason: Formatting
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
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  5. #5
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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    Post 1 of 3

    So far I have shown how the revolution became isolated in a backward country, and under those circumstances socialism is not possible. Socialism can only exist where the productive forces are developed enough for scarcity to be eliminated.

    "this development of productive forces … is an absolutely necessary practical premise because without it want is merely made general, and with destitution the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business would necessarily be reproduced"
    Marx, The German Ideology

    Stalin's rise to power

    "I was often asked, and even now I still am asked: “How could you lose power?” In most instances, the question covers a naive conception of letting some material object slip from one’s hands, as if losing power were the same thing as losing a watch or a notebook. But as a matter of fact, when the revolutionaries who directed the seizure of power begin at a certain stage to lose it, whether peacefully or through catastrophe, the fact in itself signifies either a decline in the influence of certain ideas and moods in the governing revolutionary circles, or the decline of revolutionary mood in the masses themselves."
    Trotsky, My Life

    At the end of the civil war the party membership tripled as the careerists and even counter-revolutionaries flooded in.

    The people who opposed the revolution lost the civil war. Many of them had expertise and had to be incorporated into the system. They attacked by stealth, from within, rotting the regime like a cancer. They took over the bureaucracy and the party. Stalin became their leader.

    In 1921 there was a purge of these elements. Thousands of careerists were expelled from the party. Nobody was tried or executed, just expelled. But later these people crept back in.

    By 1927 only about a third of the 1.2 million Communist Party members were actually workers. The rest were officials, former workers, or peasants. The forces hostile to the workers included the richer peasants, the bureaucrats and specialists, mostly left over from the Tsar's regime, and the remnants of the old capitalist and middle class. The Bolsheviks did not so much implement a bureaucracy as Squatch puts it, they inherited it. They had to make use of thousands of administrators, government functionaries, military commanders and factory managers from the Tsarist Russia. Most ordinary people couldn't even read and write. This is why socialism is so difficult in a backward country. In America today, by way of contrast, the average person can not only read and write but probably has a computer and maybe a degree. Russia in 1917 was mostly illiterate peasants. Another thing is that many socialists died defending the revolution in the civil war.

    So far I have discussed the objective conditions which gave rise to the revolution and the impossibility of establishing socialism once it was isolated. However key players can play a pivotal role at times. Obviously the Bolsheviks did in the revolution, in particular Lenin and Trotsky. Later it would be Stalin determining events to a not inconsiderable extent. However, let's be clear. Had Lenin survived things would have been better, but ultimately it would not have been enough to stop a counter-revolution, all else being equal (ie the revolution being isolated). It might have gone differently and suffered a direct capitalist counter-revolution, or just degenerated later.

    An organisation called Rabkrin was set up to fight corruption, but it became dominated by Stalin and his associates. Later, just before he died, Lenin wanted Rabkrin wound down as he did not like the way it was going (it was originally headed by Stalin). It was merged with another organisation which ended up being headed by an associate of Stalin, hence it came to serve the opposite purpose to what it was set up for. Stalin became chief spokesman for the bureaucracy.
    "Let us say frankly that the People’ s Commissariat of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection does not at present enjoy the slightest authority." Lenin 1923

    Before he died Lenin wrote a letter recommending that Stalin should be removed from office. He wanted it read out at the CP congress. However his wife did not present it to congress, hoping that he would survive (it was his testament). After he died she passed it to the party. Stalin and his accomplices did not dare suppress it completely so soon after Lenin's death, but they made it available on a very limited basis, eg read out to a few people, no note-taking allowed. The letter recommended Stalin's removal from office. Lenin's wife wasn't happy that this was the way it was dealt with.

    Stalin had worked his way up the party. In 1922 he was made General Secretary of the Communist Party. Everyone thought it was a dull job, but he used it to get his friends into top positions. He was good with people (in some ways, crafty anyway) but no theoretician. Trotsky on the other hand was brilliant at theory, maybe less good at getting on with people who were, to be blunt, intellectual inferiors. Unfortunately Trotsky got ill and also did not want to fight the suppression of Lenin's letter so soon after his death. Stalin manoeuvred against him and lied and formed alliances (with Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin) and so on, and managed to sideline him.

    Some say Trotskyists overemphasise the objective conditions and underestimate the key payers. It's certainly true that leaders can pay a critical role. Stalin would never have dared attempt much in the way of open manoeuvres against Lenin and Trotsky together, but with one gone and one ill it was a different story.

    Socialism in One Country

    Stalin began putting forward a new 'theory', that they could build socialism without spreading the revolution. This suited some people. To Stalin, it was a way of stopping the revolution going further, and also creating a political divide with Trotsky. To do this he had to scour stuff Lenin had said to try to find something which could make it sound Leninist. He found one or two statements which he took out of context. The main one was "Hence, the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country alone." However at the time he said that (1915) Lenin did not even believe a workers state was possible in Russia before it happened in the West, only Trotsky had seen the possibility (see above link). Also, what he meant was obviously the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' (the transitional stage from capitalism to socialism) rather than actual socialism. Not that Stalin cared. He also had to work around what Marx and Engels had said, so he said that they didn't know that capitalism would develop unevenly, which is total rubbish, but never mind. They would concentrate on building socialism where they already had power. Various political arguments developed. Trotsky wanted to bring an end to the NEP (the temporary privatisation of agriculture after the civil war), whereas Stalin did not (at the time). In fact Stalin's base was within that private sector. By the way, earlier in 1924 Stalin had explicitly rejected socialism in one country: “Is it possible to attain the final victory of socialism in one country, without the combined efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries? No, it is not. "
    Here, just a few months earlier, he was saying this because it was standard Marxism and Bolshevik theory, and Lenin had said many times that it would not be possible to build socialism in Russia without being backed up by the west. A few months later he revised this into it's opposite. The opposite of Marxism.

    Political counter-revolution

    So Stalin managed to sideline Trotsky and eventually got him out of the country. Trotsky and thousands others had fought back, forming what was called the Left Opposition. Factions had been banned in the CP during the civil war, to avoid dangerous squabbles, but Stalin kept this rule and used it against the Left Opposition. Eventually they were expelled from the party.

    During the early 1930s, Stalin forced collectivisation of agriculture and declared socialism complete! It is true that the economy did grow fast compared to other countries from 1917 to the early 30s, despite the bureaucracy. It was mainly industry that grew, because of the benefits of a planned economy.

    Stalin carried out a civil war against socialism, under the name of fighting 'traitors'. He carried out a bloody political counter-revolution. The revolution was drowned in a river of blood. All the best Marxists who still survived were rounded up, put on show trials, and imprisoned or executed. This mainly happened from 1934 to 1938. Tens of thousands of Trotskyists (Left Oppositionists) were murdered. Also several hundred thousand kulaks (rich peasants) and various ethic minorities. Contrary to what Squatch says, Russia was not a democracy in 1936.

    Stalin's terror was written about by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Probably some readers will have heard of him. He won a Nobel literature prize. He never mentioned that the main defendants in the Moscow Trials were Trotsky and his son Leon Sedov. He scandalously underestimated the role of thousands of Trotskyists. He tried to demonstrate that Stalinism was a product of the Bolshevik regime. Many others have tried to do so as well. The latest is Robert Service, who repeatedly refuses to discuss his book with Trotskyists in Britain. Finally in 2009 the English edition of a book by Russian historian Professor Vadim Z. Rogovin came out. He quotes new material and according to reviews the book is extremely thorough. The publisher's review says that he "argues that the ferocity of the mass repression was directly proportional to the intensity of resistance to Stalin within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), particularly the opposition inspired by and associated with the exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky."


    This was a political counter-revolution. A one sided civil war. The first directive alone involved the plan to arrest 250,000 people, convict 72,000, and shoot 10,000. Tens of thousands of Trotskyists were imprisoned in Siberia. They fought back, as best they could, using a hunger strike to win status as political prisoners. Ultimately Stalin of course had Trotsky murdered in Mexico. Trotsky's son Leon Sedov was murdered by Stalin's agents in Paris. Trotsky had three other children. Sergei was shot in 1937. Zinaida was allowed to leave Russia, but only with one child. She committed suicide (she had TB and depression). Her daughter Alexandra stayed in the USSR and was exiled to Kazakhstan. The son who made it out with her eventually ended up in Mexico with Trotsky. Trotsky's other daughter Nina died of TB. Trotsky's first wife was also shot in Stalin's purges. After Trotsky died his second wife stayed in Mexico and wrote a biography of him, with well known Russian revolutionary Victor Serge, the Belgian ex-anarchist who went to Russia in 1919 to join the Bolsheviks. It's interesting that they wrote a book together, Serge was a libertarian socialist, often on the fringe of Bolshevik thinking. For instance he criticised them over Kronstadt, siding with the anarchist view, and then came round to the Bolshevik view. He was always his own man, never toeing any line. At times he criticised the Red Terror (defence of the revolution against the White armies and sabotage) and the NEP (temporary privatisation of agriculture). In 1923 he joined the Left Opposition with Trotsky.


    Two Stage Theory

    After Socialism in One Country, Stalin had another major theoretical revision to suit his anti-socialist policies, the Two Stage Theory. This was based on taking some things Marx said and twisting them. Basically it was going back to pre- permanent revolution ideas and inserting them into the modern context. In his theory, backward countries were not ready for socialism, they needed capitalism first. So socialists should join forces with capitalists to carry out the bourgeois revolution. Trotsky of course opposed all this. This theory would be used time and again to smash any attempts at socialism, and defeat workers movements worldwide. In actual fact Marx had warned against his general historical outline becoming
    "a historico-philosophic theory of the general path every people is fated to tread, whatever the historical circumstances in which it finds itself"
    and had foreseen that Russia was likely to take a different path:
    "Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeaval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West? The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development." Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Preface to Russia edition of 1882.

    Stalinism and it's role in the world


    Even before he consolidated power in the purges of the 1930's, Stalin was carrying out an anti-socialist policy globally. An early example was the 1926 general strike in Britain. The strike was betrayed by the TUC(Trade Union Congress) leaders. Trotsky demanded that Russia should break of ties with them, Stalin refused.


    In the Chinese revolution of 1925-7 Stalin ordered the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to join the Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT), a capitalist party. This revolution was a classic one, ie carried out by millions of workers. Stalin's policies killed it. The KMT used British troops to attack the workers. Moscow ridiculed Trotsky's warnings about the counter-revolutionary nature of the KMT. In March 1926 Chiang's troops massacred workers at Canton and set up a military dictatorship. The KMT was already designated a sympathising section of the Comintern. In April 1927 they attacked workers on strike in Shanghai. The workers had taken control of the city in a general strike. The CCP had agreed to Chiang’s order to send away troops loyal to the workers. Thousands of communists were killed. Later a left section of the KMT, now supported by Stalin and the CCP, carried out a similar massacre. In all, 35,000 CCP were massacred in 1927. On the bones of the revolution, the KMT set up a capitalist-sponsored government. Stalin pretended nothing had happened, ordered another rebellion which was brutally crushed. This was just for show, to coincide with the Russian CP congress in December. Only 6,000 lives were lost to cynically mask Stalin's role in the betrayal of the Chinese revolution. After that, Stalin even managed to blame a Chinese CCP leader who had OPPOSED the merger with the KMT!

    After these defeats the CCP leaders escaped to the countryside. Their view was that the KMT dictatorship meant it was impossible to organise in the cities. Instead they began organising among the peasants. They got very little help from Moscow. Mao didnt have much to do with Stalin, but the CCP retained several key features inherited from Stalin's influence: the two stage theory, popular frontism, nationalism, and a bureaucratic centralist regime within the party. Mao did not want a complete break with the USSR because a connection there gave him massive authority among millions of Chinese to whom the Russian revolution made a deep impression. In the 1930s the CCP built a mini state in the region, a sort of soviet, but not a true one, it was headed by the CCP.

    The capitalist KMT tried to starve them, and eventually attacked. 1,000,000 people were killed.

    As Trotsky had predicted, the KMT was incapable of fulfilling the tasks of the bourgeois revolution. Chiang returned land to the landowners, could not unify the country, left feudal warlords in place, wasted half the state budget on the military, and did not develop the economy. Despite the nationalist rhetoric, China was dominated by imperialism. For example in 1936, 40% of coastal and river cargo moved under the British flag.

    Following the defeat at Jiangxi, Mao led a heroic band of about 100,000, in the 'long march', a one-year retreat involving battles almost daily. At the end only a few thousand survived. 7-8,000 survived and arrived in Yanan in the Shaanxi province, where they set up base, gave land to the peasants and rebuilt the Red Army.

    Incredibly, Stalin again in 1935 ordered the CCP to form an alliance with the KMT against Japan. This was a global policy, to fight fascism (of course in Germany they had left it too late), and the model was the Popular Front in Spain. Mao agreed. In contrast to Spain, he kept his own army though, as the massacres of the past were still fresh in their minds. From now on, the policy of the CCP was national independence - socialism was something for the long term. Some opportunities were missed. There was a mutiny in the KMT verging on civil war. A general leading 170,000 took Chiang Kai-shek prisoner. Their demands were similar to the CCP views, land reform and a more aggressive struggle against imperialism.
    Stalin panicked and begged general Chang to spare Chiang’s life. Stalin, who regarded Chiang Kai-shek as the only viable leader of China, threatened to break with the CCP if they did not insist on his release. In return the CCP would get new negotiations with the KMT.

    Japan started an all-out war to occupy China in 1937. The KMT were hopeless at resisting them. The KMT demanded that the CCP abandon the class struggle and close down the Red Army. Mao however agreed but mainly in words. He did not surrender the army to the KMT as Stalin wanted. War supplies sent from the USSR went to the KMT, not the CCP. Chiang still saw the CCP as his main enemy and there were still clashes with them.
    Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Japan in 1941, but this folded when Germany attacked the USSR. After the war, Stalin wanted to keep his deal going with America. Chiang was put in power in China by America. Russia was occupying Manchuria's main city, this they handed to the KMT. The KMT and Moscow signed a formal friendship treaty in 1945. Both America and the USSR pushed for negotiations between the KMT and the CCP. Mao had no intention of that.
    After the war, imperialism was weakened but the USSR was strengthened. They got control of eastern Europe.
    All around the world, imperialism was relying on Stalinism to prevent revolution.
    Stalin wanted the CCP to merge into the KMT. In other countries the Stalinists had formed coalition governments with capitalists. In Greece, with Stalin's acceptance, Communist troops were militarily defeated by British and domestic counter-revolutionary troops. The KMT preferred this strategy. Mao didn't like any of these options, fearing another 1927. A new civil war commenced and this time Chiang had 500 American planes, Mao had none. However the masses backed Mao, who had given them land. In parallel to the war ran a social revolution, and the KMT collapsed. In contrast to the Russian revolution, power was taken by a peasant army. Mao talked about a 'democratic' stage between KMT rule and socialism, but events, the masses, propelled him. There was no chance of an alliance with imperialism or the bourgeoisie. This regime didnt degenerate like the Russian one did, it was degenerated form the start, modelled on Stalin's Russia. Mao’s regime carried through land reform and abolished capitalism as a means to hold power and develop the country. The economy was devastated after 25 years of war.

    Stalin of course pretended to be a socialist. Mao's China was rapidly being propelled in a 'socialist' direction. Stalin played a classic move. He agreed to provide some assistance on condition that Mao rewrite history, and explain how Stalin had been guiding the socialist revolution all along! The fact that as late as 1948 Stalin wanted Mao to dissolve the army (now called the People's Liberation Army) was not mentioned!

    In 1950 the Korean war started, compelling Mao to move even faster in nationalising the economy, partly because of the fear of imperialist intervention, partly because it stiffened the resistance of the old feudal gentry.


    I might as well briefly mention Korea at this point. Japan tried to colonise Korea and Kim Il Sung led a guerilla war of national liberation. After WW2 the country was chopped in half by America and Russia. The Koreans did not want that. The Russians put Kim in charge of the north and America struggled to find anyone to run the south as the people hated the local bourgeois. So America had to get someone who had been living in America for decades. The Russians pulled out but America troops remained. The dictatorship in the south kept on talking about invading the North, so the north made a pre-emptive strike and entered the south, with quite a bit of support in the south. They nearly drove the US troops out but ran out of steam having captured 80% of the south. America got general MacArthur over from Japan and assembled a massive task force. MacArthur went further than just retaking the south, and took the north, driving the PKA into the hills. He went right up to the Chinese border, flattened the north, and installed a brutal government which tortured and killed communists. This is where China and Russia were forced to get involved. MacArthur actually wanted to drop nuclear bombs on China, and in the spring of 1951 nukes were ready in Okinawa. The PKA fought back, retook the north, and established a military dictatorship which borrowed from the Stalinist models of the USSR and China. Pseudo-socialism. In fact North Korea has now officially dropped 'communism' as an aim in it's constitution.

    Workers' Democracy

    In future posts I can show how Stalinism tried to sabotage socialism around the world using more examples.

    Also I can discuss the ultra-left zig zag between 1928 and 1934 (at precisely the worst possible time) where Stalinism adopted a crazy policy which facilitated the rise of Hitler. Also the crucial difference between a united front and a popular front.

    In his opening post, Squatch talks about how collectivisation deepened under Stalin, giving the appearance of 'communism.' I will explain that the reasons for this had nothing to do with wanting socialism or Stalin having any 'Marxist ideal'!

    It is true that Marx did not try to write a blueprint for socialism (what Marx called the lower phase of communism) in great depth. He did not attempt a precise recipe, to do so would be arrogant and foolish. But he certainly described the cake. And it was not Stalinism.

    In the State and Revolution, written in the summer of 1917, Lenin sums up: "In reality, this period inevitably is a period of an unprecedently violent class struggle in unprecedentedly acute forms, and, consequently, during this period the state must inevitably be a state that is democratic in a new way (for the proletariat and the propertyless in general) and dictatorial in a new way (against the bourgeoisie).
    Further. The essence of Marx's theory of the state has been mastered only by those who realise that the dictatorship of a single class is necessary not only for every class society in general, not only for the proletariat which has overthrown the bourgeoisie, but also for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from "classless society", from communism. Bourgeois states are most varied in form, but their essence is the same: all these states, whatever their form, in the final analysis are inevitably the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The transition from capitalism to communism is certainly bound to yield a tremendous abundance and variety of political forms, but the essence will inevitably be the same: the dictatorship of the proletariat."

    In December, Lenin said:
    "One of the most important tasks today, if not the most important, is to develop this independent initiative of the workers, and of all the working and exploited people generally, develop it as widely as possible in creative organisational work. At all costs we must break the old, absurd, savage, despicable and disgusting prejudice that only the so-called "upper classes", only the rich, and those who have gone through the school of the rich, are capable of administering the state and directing the organisational development of socialist society."
    Lenin December 1917

    This was why democracy was vital for socialism. In socialism, democracy is not ticking a box every 5 years to decide which bourgeois politicians run things. Socialist democracy is mass participation. The people run things. Without that mass participation (democratic planning and control) you will have a bureaucracy making all the decisions, and that is going to be a fetter on the development of the productive forces.

    "The Bolsheviks, however, did not have to wait for the Moscow trials to explain the reasons for the disintegration of the governing party of the USSR. Long ago they foresaw and spoke of the theoretical possibility of this development. Let us remember the prognosis of the Bolsheviks, not only on the eve of the October Revolution but years before. The specific alignment of forces in the national and international field can enable the proletariat to seize power first in a backward country such as Russia. But the same alignment of forces proves beforehand that without a more or less rapid victory of the proletariat in the advanced countries the worker’s government in Russia will not survive. Left to itself the Soviet regime must either fall or degenerate. More exactly; it will first degenerate and then fall. I myself have written about this more than once, beginning in 1905. In my History of the Russian Revolution (cf. Appendix to the last volume: Socialism in One Country) are collected all the statements on the question made by the Bolshevik leaders from 1917 until 1923. They all amount to the following: without a revolution in the West, Bolshevism will be liquidated either by internal counter-revolution or by external intervention, or by a combination of both. Lenin stressed again and again that the bureaucratisation of the Soviet regime was not a technical question, but the potential beginning of the degeneration of the worker’s state."
    Trotsky, Stalinism and Bolshevism, 1937

    Last word to Lenin (same source as last):

    "The workers and peasants are still "timid", they have not yet become accustomed to the idea that they are now the ruling class.."

    coloured emphasis to quotes is mine
    Last edited by manc; January 15th, 2011 at 10:30 AM.

  6. #6

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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    I think we should start out with a brief clarification. I think my opponent has confused people with policies. This is an easy mistake to make given the naming conventions within socialist circles. Everything is Marxist, Stalinist, Leninist or Trotskyesque. This is evident in the fact that he often will confuse internal political squabbling for cogent differences in political philosophy. Because there was infighting between communist leaders does not necessarily mean that their respective views of the world were incompatible. Much like two children fighting over a toy they disagree about who should get to play with it, not about the nature of the toy. My point on this is that conflicts within a party or society do not reflect inherent incongruities within their respective views, only that there is a disagreement in application of those views, be it who should apply them or exactly to whom they apply, etc. My opponent’s attempt to show that Stalinism is not Socialism by pointing out that members of the Russian government had power struggles is not a sufficient proof that they are fundamentally different.
    I would also point out to the judges that much of the historical claims made by my opponent are unsupported or at best buried vaguely in long articles and subject to varied interpretations. When reading through his historical account I would like to frame one thing in context. Manc’s argument presupposes that he has proved Stalinism is not a form of Socialism and is attempting to explain how Socialism was destroyed, not that socialism was destroyed, which is the point of this debate.
    To reframe and summarize his argument in a larger context I would say that Russia implemented collectivist policies, engaged in internal conflict (during which opponents of the victor were destroyed or exiled), and following the consolidation of power, more collectivist policies were engaged. I’m not sure how that implies that a fundamentally different system was employed. I’m not sure how my opponent can maintain that going from the NEP which had several market oriented reforms to the 5 year plan, which was completely collectivist is somehow a move away from socialism. Rather, my opponent admits that the economy under Stalinism was in fact more planned than before him.
    Quote Originally Posted by manc
    During the early 1930s, Stalin forced collectivisation of agriculture and declared socialism complete! It is true that the economy did grow fast compared to other countries from 1917 to the early 30s, despite the bureaucracy. It was mainly industry that grew, because of the benefits of a planned economy.
    The section of my opponent’s argument concerning Stalin’s “anti-communist” policies relies, at best, on his opinion of those policies. He disliked them (presumably) and so they are de facto anti-communist. They are not anti-communist based on some objective definition of communism. You’ll note that he does not say: “these are communist nations because they had policies A,B,C or because they followed this type of government.” Rather, we are to take his word for it that they were socialist (my opponent occasionally uses the term communist for them, despite his earlier definition). The categorization however, is inconsistent, they are socialist countries one minute, deformed workers’ states the next. And lets remember, the workers’ state that my opponent is describing is a completely separate category from the socialist nation according to his OP. For example, he condemns Stalin’s lack of support for the Chinese Red Army during the civil war, but of course he has here and in other places called Mao a Stalinist and Mao was already referring to his movement as Maoist (which Manc has likewise disassociated with socialism without support). So we can see that when it is convenient these countries are socialist, when it is inconvenient they are not.
    My final point. Manc takes his final section as an attempt to rebut my premise that the Soviet Union met all the necessary conditions of a socialist (note that I said socialist uniformly) state. There are several flaws here which I will summarize briefly.
    First, he never once quotes Marx or Engels. Rather, he solely refers to Lenin and Trotsky (both of whom had political rivalries with Joseph Stalin). This reinforces my earlier point that my opponent in confusing personal actions with ideologies. Never once does he quote Marx or Engels as saying: socialism is X, here is how the Soviet Union didn’t meet X. Which leads to my second point.
    Nothing that he quotes in any way affects my argument. His entire argument is a critique of the proletariat in the Soviet Union, not an explanation as to why they are not the proletariat.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.

  7. #7
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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    Post 2 of 3
    So far I have explained the following:

    Marxist theory predicts that socialism in a backward country in isolation is impossible.

    However, capitalism is often incapable of taking such countries forward and is most likely to 'break' in such countries.

    The solution to the riddle is to attempt to spread the revolution to more advanced countries.

    Stalin invented the theories of Socialism in One Country, the Two Stage Theory (capitalism must come before socialism), and waged a bloody war against the socialists, a political counter-revolution, representing the interests of the middle class. 300,000 were expelled from the Party, tens of thousands of Left Opposition (mostly Trotskyists) were arrested and sent to concentration camps and mostly killed. All of Lenin's Central Committee were got rid of one way or another. 5 million in the youth movement were barred from politics, and the death penalty was introduced for anyone over 12. 30,000 members of the armed forces were executed, including 50% of all officers. Stalin also waged war on the middle class and rich peasants, who he had originally based himself on, killing hundreds of thousands.

    All told, 681,692 people were shot. The true figure is probably in the region of double that.

    A million dead. Marxism rewritten.

    The Third Period - forced collectivisation

    From 1928 to 1934 Stalin lurched to an ultra-left position. From 1924 the Left Opposition (Trotsky supporters) had called for an end to the NEP, some collectivisation of agriculture, investment in industry, and democratisation of the party. Stalin had based himself on the middle classes. In the NEP, the Bolsheviks had deregulated prices in agriculture as a temporary stimulus to encourage production. But by 1928 there was inevitably a layer of rich peasants growing, and rich people speculating on grain prices. There was also a food shortage - a 2 million ton shortfall of grain purchased by the state.

    Stalin concluded that the richer peasants were hoarding grain to push the price up. Instead of raising the price he forced requisitions, which made them reluctant to grow more and made the problem worse.

    Additionally Stalin claimed that the richer peasants were attacking Communists and State farms and bureaus etc, and this is probably true.

    These wealthier layers became a dangerous challenge to Stalin. This was an embryonic bourgeoisie. Another problem was lack of investment in industry. In addition, as I explained in my last post, Stalin's insistence that the Chinese CP collaborate with the capitalist KMT had led to disaster, the massacre of thousands of communists by the KMT. This combination of factors forced Stalin to make a huge lurch to an ultra-left position, making a rapid dash to collectivise the economy. On paper it looked like the CP had adopted the policies of the expelled Left Opposition. In reality it was just a survival game for Stalin and his cronies. Of course Stalin carried out collectivisation and industrialisation in a repressive and brutal way. If the Left Opposition hadn't still had some influence, Russia probably would have gone capitalist at that point.

    Coincidentally, capitalism was going through a massive global crisis. It seemed on it's last legs to communists world wide. The Comintern reckoned that capitalism was about to collapse. So a shift to the left for them seemed correct.


    The fact was that in Germany a temporary working unity of the Communists (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who were at least nominally a Marxist party also, could have kept out the Nazis. Trotsky repeatedly urged a united front between them, not to be confused with the Popular Fronts (with capitalists) that Stalin would again later advocate.
    Everything the Comintern did was wrong, isolating communists from the rest of the workers movement. In Germany the KPD denounced the SPD as 'social fascists'.
    The result was that the capitalists aided Hitler into power, the socialists and communists were all rounded up and killed or put in concentration camps, the unions closed down, and Hitler began to prepare for WW2 and the holocaust.

    In 1934 Stalin and the Comintern did another 180 degree lurch, to the right, ending the Third Period.

    Popular Frontism - class collaboration

    From then on the policy was back to alliances with the capitalist class. There was no chance for socialism in backward countries, according to Stalin, so the CPs should unite with local bourgeoisie, to complete the tasks of the bourgeois revolution. Socialism would have to wait. Capitalism was needed first. I already described how this unfolded in China, with Stalin wanting the CP to merge with the capitalist KMT. Mao did not toe the line completely though, scared of another 1927 massacre. As well as being influenced by the defeat in Germany, Stalin was also worried about actual socialism breaking out. This would destroy the credibility of his corrupt regime. Also, Stalin did not want to fall out with the big imperialist powers who had started to recover from the Great Depression, and had not collapsed after all.

    Spain - "defeat snatched from the jaws of victory"

    In Spain the CP formed a Popular Front with the capitalists. The Two Stage Theory meant applying the brakes to any revolutions. The Stalinists in Spain smashed a revolution which had a very good chance of success, and paved the way for the victory of fascism. Spain had a Popular Front government of anarchists, Stalinists and capitalists. The working class were in the middle of a revolution, and the Stalinists sabotaged it. 200,000 died in the civil war and 200,000 in its aftermath. Thousands went to Spain to fight, including George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway. Orwell, a socialist, commented, "in reality it was the Communists above all others who prevented revolution in Spain."


    The anarchists also made the same mistake as the Stalinists. Class collaboration allowed the capitalists to regroup and grow in power. Even the leader of the anarchists admitted they could have taken power, but did not do so because they did not 'believe in doing so'.

    "The consequences of the alliance with the ‘republican’ bourgeoisie, of the People’s Front programme, are now apparent. The fascists have reached the Mediterranean. They have split the remaining anti-fascist forces in twain. For the time being the race between Franco and the regroupment of the proletariat has been won by Franco. The Stalinists, the Prieto and Caballero socialists, the anarchist leaders, have proven insurmountable obstacles on the road to regroupment, immeasurably facilitating Franco’s victory."
    Felix Morrow, Revolution and Counter Revolution in Spain

    Aftermath of WW2

    During WW2 the USSR of course had a brief non-aggression pact with Germany and then fought them, losing 24 million people. After the war, Stalin wanted to keep on good terms with the west, and the west relied on Stalinism to help stop a potential revolutionary wave after the war.
    "Between 1944 and 1948, there were working class or anti-imperialist uprisings in Albania, Algeria, Bulgaria, Burma, China, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Korea, Malaya, Palestine, Poland, Rumania, Syria, Thailand, Vietnam and Yugoslavia and powerful movements of the working class in countries like Britain and Australia."

    Stalin, Churchill and Truman got together at Postdam and Yalta etc and divided up the world. Stalin agreed with Churchill to split Yugoslavia 50-50 (in terms of 'predominance' in Churchill's words) and allow King Peter to be restored. However Tito had other ideas and declared a People's Republic.

    During the war, Stalin had instructed Tito to form a popular front with capitalist parties. But the 800,000 partisan army led by the CP was not only fighting 40 divisions of the German army, but the royalists and bourgeois who were collaborating with the Nazis! In the election after the war, Tito won 90% of the vote. A short lived coalition with capitalists failed and then the government began nationalisation. Nationalisation of the property of former Nazi collaborators and enemy nationals brought 80% of the economy under government control. The land was given to the peasants who were 93% of the population, it was not collectivised. Stalin had wanted a capitalist Yugoslavia, but the People’s Committee movement of the masses forced Tito to defy Stalin. The country began to be modelled along the lines of Stalinist USSR DESPITE Stalin's wishes to the contrary. Stalin was not pleased and in retaliation expelled Yugoslavia from the Comintern. After that, Tito began to develop ideas of 'market socialism' and workers cooperatives.

    The Baltic States of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia had been part of the Russian Empire, 'retained' by the Provisional government, liberated by the Bolsheviks. Stalin annexed them at the end of WW2.

    In Bulgaria the masses rose up, forming soviets etc, in front of the liberating Soviet army. Stalin and Churchill had agreed that Russia would have 75% control of Bulgaria. Stalin declared "'We are building a democratic country based on private property and private initiative'." The Bulgarian CP said there would be no nationalisation. The masses had risen up and removed local officials etc, and raised red flags. The Russians told them to reinstate the old officials. They were told to form a popular front with the bourgeois. However the bourgeoisie had collaborated with the Nazis.

    Stalin had dissolved the Polish CP earlier, but during the war sent some Polish communists back to try to get support from the working class. One of them, Wladyslaw Gomulka, survived and became the popular leader of the Polish Workers Party and organised a Polish Army to fight the Nazis. Land was broken up and given to peasants and big companies were nationalised between 1944 and 1946. The Polish capitalist class had not collaborated with the Nazis, but had been virtually eliminated by them, so after WW2 there was a workers government which Stalin had no choice but to recognise.

    Hungary had fought on the side of the Nazis, but later tried to swap sides. The Germans moved in and sent all the Jews to Auschwitz. Then came the Red Army. All across the country the masses rose up against capitalism. The Red army set up a provisional government, they started land reform but the idea was solely to finish feudalism, not to go any further. Elections were held in 1945 with the Smallholders party getting the most votes. In Hungry the capitalists had collaborated with the Nazis, and faced the vengeance of the masses. There was little chance of a capitalist government on a coalition basis. I think also there was an element of Russia acting like an imperialist country, wanting buffer states and spheres of influence, and resources and so on.

    In Czechoslovakia, the CP had led the anti-fascist resistance and had the support of the great majority of the working class, won a commanding position in parliamentary elections. CP leader Klement Gottwald headed a coalition government, and the Soviet troops were withdrawn.

    Churchill and Stalin had agreed that the USSR would have 90% control of Rumania. The King took the throne as the Red Army arrived. For three years the Stalinists ruled with a collaboration with right wing elements including wealthy bankers. Stalin was interested in securing his Eastern front, not spreading socialism. But again in Rumania the Nazi collaborators, who were in government with Stalinists, were far from popular!

    So you see a pattern emerging here. In some countries the capitalists had collaborated with the Nazis and so the people did not want them. In others the workers and peasants had organised to fight the Nazis and had built up organisations which wanted to go in the direction of socialism, and Stalin had less control of these types. In some there simply WAS no bourgeoisie.

    In Italy, as the Allies moved in to smash the Mussolini regime, CP-led partisans and workers took large areas of the country. The capitalists formed a government which the west did not recognise but Stalin did. He sent back a CP leader the provide left cover. The Stalinists disarmed the workers and worked with the capitalists.
    "He returned to his native country in 1944 and it was under his direction that the PCI carried out the svolta di Salerno, the "Salerno Turn" — this change in policy was the turn of the party to support of democratic measures of reform in Italy (the birth of the Italian Republic), and the refusal to engage in armed struggle for the cause of Socialism. In effect, the turn moved the party to the right, in contrast with many demands from within; it also meant the disarmament of those members of the Italian resistance movement that had been organised by the PCI (the Garibaldi Brigades). Togliatti briefly served as Justice Minister."
    Likewise in France, the CP were favourably placed, having played a big role in the resistance, but here too they formed a coalition government with the capitalists under General de Gaulle. In the October 1945 election the French Communist Party and Socialist Party polled between them more than 50% of the votes. They could have had socialism. De Gaulle understood that the Stalinists wanted to build French capitalism, and gave top cabinet posts to Stalinists including Cabinet portfolios for National Economy, Production, Labour and Defence. France and Italy were not backward countries, Stalin just wanted cosy relations with the west, no trouble, and NO SOCIALISM! Previously in 1936 the Stalinists had sabotaged a good chance for a socialist revolution. Their actions included REMOVING the call for nationalisation from the popular front programme. In June 1936 the popular front got elected, The first thing the new premier did was to declare that socialist policies would not be implemented. Many workers had been on strike and were persuaded back to work by the fact that they had this supposedly left wing coalition government. However nothing changed so the workers went back on strike, it was a revolutionary situation. Union leaders called for a return to work, but the workers refused, and said that if their demands to the bosses were not met they would go much further and demand workers ownership and control of industry. The bosses conceded to one demand after another, and the government sped through some reforms. The French CP leader said the time was not right for socialism and they must have capitalism. This was a country on the brink of socialist revolution, with the workers controlling the factories, support in the countryside, and support growing among the troops and even police.

    The CP leader declared "we must know how to end a strike."

    In Britain there was a huge swing to the left, and the Labour Party was technically a socialist party. Incredibly the CP campaigned against Labour and for a 'national government' (ie coalition with the Conservatives). The workers ignored them and elected the LP. The CP enthusiastically worked to dampen down the class struggle.

    Of course not everything went to plan for Stalin and some CPs found themselves to the left of Stalin, eg in Australia.

    Cold War

    Stalin had agreed with Churchill that Britain would have 90% control of Greece. But the Greek CP had played a leading role in the resistance and were well placed to run the country. Stalin wanted them to form an alliance with royalists. However the Greek CP leader ignored Stalin and launched a bid to take the 1/3 of the country held by the royalists. This led to a 3 year civil war, with Britain and the USA backing the royalists. The capitalist side won and the long term after effect was a military dictatorship. One of the reasons for defeat was the split between Stalin and Yugoslavia, which was backing the Greek CP forces. In Greece, Stalin sealed defeat by expelling the leader of the CP-led liberation army.

    During this civil war US President Truman decided that Stalin was unreliable at prevention revolutions, and so he started the Cold War. The US was launching it's bid for global hegemony. The Marshall plan was announced to shore up western Europe for capitalism. The US could get into military intervention in Greece. Later of course America would intervene in Korea. Marshall aid was offered to eastern Europe but the whole thing was so anti-USSR (Russia was expected to be a contributor not recipient, despite suffering hugely in the war) that the eastern European countries withdrew under Soviet pressure. America was about the only country not broke after the war, so relatively they were greatly strengthened.

    So, America rescued European capitalism, thanks to a lot of help from Stalin. Much of eastern Europe did not go to plan and slipped into a Stalinist direction, DESPITE Stalin's wishes to the contrary.

    Never bothered about Truman's declaration of the cold war, Stalinism helped with the establishment of Israel, America's massive proxy military base in the Middle East.

    America built up it's world domination through friendly governments like Britain, puppet and proxy governments around the world, with military bases in many countries.

    Marshall Aid was used to attack the working class, including the CP. For instance France got its aid within hours of sacking it's CP ministers. Not too blatant then. A clear message that America would not tolerate even Stalinism let alone socialism.

    I already explained how Korea and China went Stalinist, because there was no bourgeoisie capable of running those countries. In fact the KMT deputy leader had deserted to head up a Japanese occupation of China in 1940!

    So, after the war, even though the cold war had started, CPs were still instructed to follow the Two Stage class collaboration approach, ie abandon any ideas about socialism. I can give more examples in later posts.

    Stalin's plan of class collaboration fell apart under the pressure of the revolutionary mood of the masses on the one hand, and the counter-revolutionary pressure of America on the other. One by one the countries of Eastern Europe slipped into becoming Stalinist - type regimes, CONTRARY to Stalin's wishes. He split with Tito in Yugoslavia for this reason. In Czechoslovakia, the CP formed a coalition government with other parties, but were losing popularity and expected to lose the next election, and under these contradictory pressures, took over completely. Stalin did back this because he needed to keep Czechoslovakia within his sphere of influence for it's important industries. Basically America had forced this either-or situation and disabled class collaboration.

    In East Germany there was obviously Soviet occupation. The German Democratic Republic was set up with a range of artificial bourgeois and workers parties. The Nazis of course had destroyed all the real parties. Small scale private industry and agriculture was allowed, but the Soviets took over the bulk of industry, which had been run by Nazi sympathisers. Germany had been split at the Yalta conference where Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Stalin met.

    "I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man.*... I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace."

    —Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1943

    The ruling party was made from a merger of the remnants of the SDP and KPD, and called the SED. They basically needed the backing of Stalin and the Soviet army.

    Stalin had wanted genuine class collaboration in these eastern European countries. This proved impossible. They set up artificial popular fronts. They still tried to manage capitalism, but failed, and one by one the countries became some form of Stalinist state.

    The difference between the united front Trotsky called for in Germany to stop Hitler getting into power, and the popular fronts Stalin called for at various times, is huge, and needs to be clearly understood. Popular fronts abuse workers' natural desire for unity and sabotage any revolutions, stressing that the agenda is capitalism. It's a question of class character. Only workers' struggle can cut across fascism. Therefore a united front of workers organisations to achieve that is possible on a temporary basis. A popular front of capitalist and workers organisations is just a means of shackling the workers' organisations to a bourgeois policy (which will be incapable of stopping the fascists).

    To summarise - Stalin's vision of CP collaboration in building CAPITALISM in the eastern European countries failed because of the fundamental antagonism involved, the contradiction of a planned economy or workers state trying to develop capitalism, it will always lead to the threat of counter revolution and end up suppressing it. Either you have capitalism or you have socialism. To have capitalism you have to have a capitalist class capable of ruling, and allow it to rule (with as much state intervention as is necessary for it to function). To have socialism the workers have to rule until such time as there is no threat of counter-revolution. A workers government cannot manage the development of capitalism while simultaneously suppressing both capitalists and workers.

    In my final post before summary I will write about Vietnam, Indonesia and Cuba, plus some other countries

    source for much of the above
    Stalinism: Its Origins & Future Andy Blunden 1993

    Trotsky on the Popular Front

    Russia: From Revolution to Counter-revolution, Ted Grant

    all checked as far as possible with the usual sources, wikipedia, Spartacus school history etc. I even chatted to a bloke in the Czech republic.

    Regarding Squatch's post 1, I would mention the following. He has said that much of my post is unsupported, he does not specify anything. Well I could support all of it if I and the reader had infinite time. I did in fact include about 14 references. I don't always support everything because it spoils the flow and is largely not necessary. But it's all easily verifiable. The reader is most welcome to cross check here and there and make up their own mind. The main thing is the big picture. Everything I have said and will say will fit together, make sense. Squatch stresses that Stalin collectivised in the 30s, I have explained that in the above (see Third period). He talks about mass murder of tens of thousands of the political opposition by referring to two kids fighting over a toy. I think I have covered that. He mentions the fact that in the last section, on workers democracy, I only quote Lenin and Trotsky and not Marx or Engels. This is because they led the revolution I was describing. However I began the post with a quote from Marx warning how a revolution could degenerate in a backward country, and in my OP I quoted Engels several times from Principles of Communism, including one which said socialism would be democratic. Marx and Engels get mentioned or quoted many times in the thread but unfortunately they were not around in 1917.

    "We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy."
    Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels

    In fact in Lenin's State and Revolution, which I quoted, he was discussing this and other things Marx and Engels said. Squatch says "So we can see that when it is convenient these countries are socialist, when it is inconvenient they are not. " I have never said any country was socialist, ever. The terminology can be a bit confusing. For one thing the meaning of some of the words or phrases has changed over time, even the meaning of the word socialist. Secondly you have to take context into account, For instance if I say 'the communists did this or that' in some country where the CP was largely in charge, I mean CP members, who were largely Stalinists for the most part. Squatch says "The categorization however, is inconsistent, they are socialist countries one minute, deformed workers’ states the next." As I say I never said any country was socialist. To be precise, Russia was a degenerated workers state. China never degenerated, it was born deformed. A workers state here means a planned economy, publicly owned. One of the three ingredients of socialism (the other two being workers democracy and internationalism). Degenerated means that instead of workers democracy it ended up with a bureaucratic dictatorship and an anti-socialist policy internationally.

    Squatch says "His entire argument is a critique of the proletariat in the Soviet Union, not an explanation as to why they are not the proletariat." I really don't know why Squatch is saying this. The proletariat are the working class, who in Russia were a small percentage of the population. That was the main problem. The rest of the population were mostly peasants. Marx and other Marxists constantly explained over and over how the working class are the only class which can lead a move toward socialism, as I explained in depth at the start of my OP. The peasantry can only play an ancillary role. The whole crux of the debate is that socialism in Russia did not happen because the country was so backward, and being a backward country, the proletariat (working class) was a small minority.

    Let's be clear, a 'socialist revolution' is a long process, not just an event. Socialism does not start the next day, or even the next year. And it is not possible in a backward country in isolation, as predicted by Marxism and proven in Russia.

    "The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time."
    The Civil War in France, Karl Marl

    Marx describing how the Paris Commune showed the way socialism could develop.
    Last edited by manc; January 25th, 2011 at 04:14 AM.

  8. #8

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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    My apologies for the delay in my post, the capitalists have been extracting even more labor from me than usual. As a result I will keep this brief. First I would like to point out a few discrepancies in my opponent’s last post.
    Quote Originally Posted by manc
    From 1928 to 1934 Stalin lurched to an ultra-left position. From 1924 the Left Opposition (Trotsky supporters) had called for an end to the NEP, some collectivisation of agriculture, investment in industry, and democratisation of the party.
    Here Manc is saying that Stalin is to the Left of Trotsky, if anything that would make him more socialist than Trotsky.

    Quote Originally Posted by manc
    This combination of factors forced Stalin to make a huge lurch to an ultra-left position, making a rapid dash to collectivise the economy…. Of course Stalin carried out collectivisation and industrialisation in a repressive and brutal way.
    Again, Stalin is a collectivist. No one said brutality wasn’t socialist or made it inherently not socialist.
    Quote Originally Posted by manc
    As I say I never said any country was socialist.
    Then Manc has absolutely no argument. His argument was that the USSR wasn’t socialist because it didn’t help other socialist states. If the other states weren’t socialist then this objection is meaningless. I think the magnitude of this error cannot be minimized. If these other states were indeed deformed non-socialist states then Stalin had an absolute duty not to support them!

    On a side note, my opponent also claims that the judges are free to search his “citations,” I would encourage them to do just that. When you do, note that virtually no references were given, and the link he did give was to Marxists.org and their citation was a private individual.

    I would also like to briefly go over our 10 descriptions of what a socialist state is from Marxists.org derived directly from Marx and Engels;

    1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
    a. Property rights were largely the same in 1990 as in 1931, http://www.springerlink.com/content/p8p820lk722w82g7/

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
    a. Income tax rates didn’t significantly change until Perestroika

    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
    a. Likewise as pointed out in first post, though there were changes in how exactly it was implemented the law was practiced continuously until the late 80s, this is despite a wide variety of Soviet leaders

    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
    a. Article 58 of the Soviet Criminal code which deals with the above was in effect till the end of the Soviet Union

    5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
    a. Part of Perestroika liberalization was the loosening of bank laws, the centralization of capital was a central principle of the Soviet Union throughout its entire existence.

    6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
    a. The Ministries of Transportation and Communication controlled both industries, especially the latter until 1991. Communication in Russia is still tightly controlled.

    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
    a. The Soviet agency GOSPLAN was tasked with coordinating the Soviet economy in the form of five year plans. It is centralization in the extreme. A direct hierarchy that all economic production and figures flowed to and from. The established offices in all regions and industries. The coordinated military and civilian production and was the primary Soviet institution for 70 years. “Gosplan remained the primary planning body of the Soviet Union until its collapse in December 1991.” http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Gosplan.aspx
    Initial scope of the institution is given at length below from the Russian perspective. This guidance was expanded throughout the Soviet Union’s existence, but never significantly changed.
    http://www.uea.ac.uk/his/webcours/ru...gosplan1.shtml Especially see the note at bottom.

    8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
    a. Obligation to work was increased and retirement ages pushed back as GOSPLAN realized employment positions were regularly being unfulfilled. Specifically they kept building plants in Eastern Europe where the birth rates were low rather than in the Islamic countries where the birth rate was high.

    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
    a. The data available is still only as recent as 1970, yet this ideal was still implemented through every soviet administration until then.

    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.
    a. Education was increased to college levels, including international travel through the 70s and 80s.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.

  9. #9
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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    Post 3 of 3

    First I will reply to my opponent's last post, before carrying on. His main point was that if there were no socialist countries, Stalin had no need to support them ("an an absolute duty not to support them"). There were no socialist countries, true, but there were lots of countries where people WANTED socialism, as I have shown. If the USSR was socialist, as Squatch asserts, it should be helping other countries BECOME socialist, not sabotaging their chances as I have shown in various examples. This is clutching at straws by my opponent, and makes no sense. He says "If these other states were indeed deformed non-socialist states then Stalin had an absolute duty not to support them!" But we have barely discussed the time in history when they were deformed workers states, I have been talking about the period before and during the process of the formation of deformed workers states. States which were born deformed largely thanks to Stalinism. He also mentions the left turn in 1928. I explained why this happened. Stalin was forced to adopt an ultra-left position to defend his own interests. First he attacked the socialists (the Left Opposition), and then the rising bourgeoisie, the right opposition. There are other factors in the left turn and I refer the reader back to the section called the Third Period in post 7. Ultra-left does not mean 'more socialist', it means that Stalin adopted policies which divided the workers in Germany, leading to their defeat by fascism. Ultra-left means refusing to work WITH SOCIALISTS. Lenin first coined the term, you could say, in Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder, in which he criticised sectarians for refusing to work with the main workers organisations, e.g. criticising Sylvia Pankhurst for refusing to work with the Labour Party. However while she was a genuine person on the left, fighting for democracy, Stalin was an opportunist on the right, playing a pseudo-left game which had no principles except the survival of his regime. I should add that probably up to about 1928, Stalin wasn't deliberately trying to sabotage world socialism, but after the Third Period ended in 1934, he definitely was. Squatch offers nothing new, no attempt to discuss Stalinism's destructive activities, sabotaging revolution after revolution. Instead we just have this list of points from the Communist Manifesto. As I explained, on paper Stalin was forced to adopt many of the demands of the left opposition. After he had killed them. He just forgot to include workers democracy and spreading socialism. The two most vital ingredients together with a planned economy.


    At the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, Stalin agreed with Churchill and Truman to allow Vietnam to be taken over again by the French. Vietnam was a classic backward country, semi-feudal, ruled by France. The local bourgeoisie were incapable of carrying out the bourgeois revolution, ie land to the peasants, removing colonial rule and so on. Ho Chi Minh was a Stalinist who formed the Viet Minh, which was an all-class national resistance. In WW2 Japan occupied, and the Viet Minh fought against both Japanese and French rule, assuming power, with mass support, at the end of the war. In Saigon, Trotskyists played a key role as well as the Viet Minh. British troops entered Japan, and initially America was opposed to Vietnam going back to French rule, preferring an international trusteeship. America was jostling to enhance it's position in the colonial world. Then the French, in agreement with the British, moved in to take over, kicking out the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) government.

    In 1945 in the North, the capitalist KMT forces of China's Chiang Kai Shek rampaged. Ho Chi Minh agreed to let the French in for a temporary period, to kick out the Chinese. Note that Ho Chi Minh did not approach Mao. However an attempt at coexistence with the French broke down and guerilla war recommenced.

    America was fairly neutral at this point. A guerilla war began. The Viet Minh officially withdrew and called for 'restraint', but the Trotskyists, communist workers (refusing to accept the party line), Buddhists and so on fought the French. As the Viet Minh retreated they killed most of the Trotskyists. The Viet Minh were being told by the French CP to keep a lid on things, in line with the general world wide Stalinist policy in 1945 of preventing revolution around the world. The French government contained CP ministers at the time, in fact the leader of the French CP, Maurice Thorez, was vice Premier.

    “French conservative politicians rose in the National Assembly during a crucial appropriations debate from March 14-18, 1947, to thank their own Communist colleagues and the Soviet Union for leaving France to fight its war in Indochina without outside disturbance.”
    Bernard Fall, The Two Vietnams, p308

    Ho Chi Minh was a bit like Mao in China, a peasant leader with limited, nationalist horizons, influenced by Stalinism. These types feared the mobilisation of the working class (the Marxist policy) and instead grafted a thin veneer of 'Marxism' on to their petty- bourgeois ideas. Like Mao he did not set off with a conscious policy to break landlordism and capitalism. Ho Chi Min wanted independence, but would have been quite happy to be an ally of America, independent from Russia, and have a capitalist country, at least for the meantime. Historian Michael Maclear writes in Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War: “The United States, with this early intelligence, failed to recognise in Ho Chi Minh a potential Asian Tito.” Tito, in Yugoslavia, had steered an independent course from Stalin. His regime ended up similar, but it was still backed by America at times. But America, or it's leaders, was paranoid about what Eisenhower later called the 'domino effect' which was that a country might go socialist and this could spread rapidly around the world.

    So a guerilla war against the French was pursued. The Viet Minh were supposed to include the mythical 'progressive bourgeoisie', but in reality most of the capitalists sided with the French. Ultimately of course America was drawn in to a long war and when it lost, Vietnam ended up as a Stalinist type state.


    There was a revolutionary situation in Indonesia in 1945. Sukarno declared an Indonesian Republic. The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) had fought with Dutch colonial rulers against Japanese invaders. After the war the Dutch government flew the PKI leaders back to Indonesia, free of charge, and these PKI leaders were in favour of re-establishing Dutch rule! However the masses were having none of that, so the PKI joined the independence struggle. After 4 years of fighting Dutch and British imperialism, the country was recognised as independent. During this war, Dutch communist soldiers refused to fight, but got no backing from their CP leaders. The revolutionary situation in Indonesia was wasted by the PKI leaders and by 1952 there was a capitalist government. However a new generation of communists began to struggle against the new regime.

    In 1965 class tensions mounted. Peasants were seizing land and rubber workers were occupying US-owned factories. The PKI tried to keep a lid on things but there was a danger of revolution. The CIA organised a bloody military coup by General Suharto, in which a million socialist were murdered. The CIA even gave Suharto lists of communists to be killed. Afterwards the country was divided up by western multinationals. At a 3 day conference in Geneva, led by David Rockefeller, multinationals such as the major oil companies and banks, General Motors, Imperial Chemical Industries, British American Tobacco, Siemens, US Steel and many others joined Suharto's US-trained economists to carve up the country. This mass murderer was described by Thatcher later as "one of our very best and most valuable friends". While Suharto was killing a million socialists, the Stalinist PKI leadership together the CP leaders in Australia, China and Moscow told communists to offer no resistance.


    In line with Stalinist policy, the CP were in government with Batista, the hated capitalist dictator, faithfully following the Two Stage Theory, ie forget about socialism. The Stalinists did not support Castro or a revolution. The Stalinists only began to withdraw support for Batista as his regime crumbled. Castro was not a Stalinist, but he was not a socialist either, and seemed to want Cuba to be a capitalist country friendly to America. Of course Che was more of a sort of Marxist and many of the people in the revolution had left wing views. The revolution was to kick out Batista and American imperialism, not to establish socialism. Following the revolution though, America pursued it's policy of paranoia and blockaded and attacked Cuba, forcing Cuba to nationalise stuff and turn to Russia for oil and tractors and so on. Also, the revolution was done by a peasant guerilla army, not by the organised industrial workers, so a top-down bureaucratic structure is inevitable from the outset.

    Ok, I think that's enough examples to give a clear picture, which you can follow in any country. WSWS has a whole book on the Stalinist betrayals just in Indonesia alone. In India we see the Stalinists propping up the Gandhi regimes and so on. "The CPI and CPI (M) have for decades maintained that imperialist oppression binds together the antagonistic social classes that comprise Indian society and that the working class must support the "progressive" or "anti-imperialist" sections of the national bourgeoisie." (WSWS)

    Bolshevik Russia

    To end, I want to go back to the difference in character between Russia under Lenin and Trotsky, and under Stalin.

    In Lenin and Trotsky's era, the leaders did not have privileges. They only got a basic wage, the same as everyone. They lived in small partitioned apartments, they walked the streets like anyone else (shame really, that's how Lenin got shot). The started with maximum to minimum wage differential of just 1:1.75, later this had to be increased to attract specialists. The Communists were only allowed the wage of a skilled worker.

    Arthur Ransom, the famous author, went to Russia several times to interview Lenin for a British newspaper. One time he visited a prison and said that the prisoners got better food than the guards!

    Victor Serge:
    "In the Kremlin he [Lenin] still occupied a small apartment built for a palace servant. In the recent winter he, like everyone else, had had no heating. When he went to the barber's he took his turn, thinking it unseemly for anyone to give way to him." (Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary 1901-1941, p. 101.)

    "During the first days of the Bolshevik revolt I used to go every morning to Smolny to get the latest news. Trotsky and his pretty little wife, who hardly ever spoke anything but French, lived in one room on the top floor. The room was partitioned off like a poor artist's attic studio. In one end were two cots and a cheap little dresser and in the other a desk and two or three cheap wooden chairs. There were no pictures, no comfort anywhere. Trotsky occupied this office all the time he was Minister of Foreign Affairs and many dignitaries found it necessary to call upon him there... Outside the door two Red Guards kept constant watch. They looked rather menacing, but were really friendly. It was always possible to get an audience with Trotsky." Louise Bryant, Six Red Months in Russia

    This is a stark contrast to the extravagant lifestyles of the top bureaucrats after Stalin's takeover.

    Was Russia socialist? Not according to Lenin:

    "But we have not finished building even the foundations of socialist economy and the hostile power of moribund capitalism can still deprive us of that. We must clearly appreciate this and frankly admit it; for there is nothing more dangerous than illusions (and vertigo, particularly at high altitudes). And there is absolutely nothing terrible, nothing that should give legitimate grounds for the slightest despondency, in admitting this bitter truth; we have always urged and reiterated the elementary truth of Marxism - that the joint efforts of the workers of several advanced countries are needed for the victory of socialism." (Works, vol. 33, page 206, our emphasis)


    Did Stalin finish the job, with his collectivisation? Of course not, he collectivised to remove a threat, because he needed to. He then spent his time after 1934 sabotaging any revolutions that happened around the world.

    Socialism requires mass participation. Democracy on a massive scale. A planned economy cannot be run by a few bureaucrats at the top. That was never what Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky had in mind. For more on this, refer back to the section Workers Democracy in post 5.
    Last edited by manc; February 6th, 2011 at 12:07 PM.

  10. #10

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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    First, I will save my rebuttal of Manc’s opening for my final post. Instead, I would like to offer up a few points from my opponent’s argument to highlight, what I believe to be the mental gymnastics required to accept his position.
    Quote Originally Posted by manc
    Ultra-left means refusing to work WITH SOCIALISTS.
    Apparently the Soviet Union was so far to the Left that it refused to work with the Left?
    Quote Originally Posted by manc
    Was Russia socialist? Not according to Lenin:

    "But we have not finished building even the foundations of socialist economy and the hostile power of moribund capitalism can still deprive us of that.
    Being finished with a thing does not mean that you are not pursuing it or not part of it. In fact, as we both defined it earlier you cannot be socialist if you are finished with its agenda, since the conclusion of that agenda isn’t socialism, but Communism.
    Further, if Lenin was more socialist then Stalin, and Lenin favored free markets(during the NEP) more than Stalin, doesn’t that imply that free markets are more socialist than collectivization? That is obviously an absurd claim, but it is the natural conclusion of my opponent’s argument.
    Quote Originally Posted by manc
    Squatch offers nothing new, no attempt to discuss Stalinism's destructive activities,
    This is because he is arguing a no true Scotsman fallacy. If it is bad it isn’t socialist. Manc has offered no evidence that those tendencies arise from anything but socialism and certainly not that they are inherently opposed to socialism or impossible under socialism.
    It would be as if I said, a steak is made of protein and fat, it comes from a cow and is generally accepted as delicious. To which my opponent responds, but it can create plaque in your arteries so it isn’t a steak. The destructive tendencies of the USSR are manifold and horrific, they are however not prohibitive by any definition of socialism offered during this debate.

    I will keep this post short. My hope is that during the time you would normally be reading my rebuttal that you will go back and review my opponent’s position. Go back through it and ask yourself after if you have a clear vision of what a socialist state actually is. Further, and most importantly, when you go back and read his posts, whenever you read the words “idea” or “policy,” ask “what policy? Exactly what ideas?” I think you’ll find that these terms are bandied about quite often with no detail. While this might seem a minor point, I contend that it is central to the debate. Because my opponent offers no real tangible definition of what he is describing, he cannot possibly maintain that something is not described by that definition.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.

  11. #11
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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    "What will be the course of this revolution?
    Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat."
    Engels, Principles of Communism

    First, a reply to Squatch's last post. He says "I will save my rebuttal of Manc’s opening for my final post."

    The last post of the thread, one which I cannot reply to (debunk), my opponent promises us his grand finale, the killer argument, actually too feeble to stand scrutiny and reply.

    No matter. Squatch says "Apparently the Soviet Union was so far to the Left that it refused to work with the Left?"

    I explained what 'ultra-left' means, it means dividing the working class in a sectarian manner, refusing to work with other socialists (no of course this does not imply that the USSR was socialist, but obviously the rank and file of the CP (KPD) believed that they were socialists/communists). It means labelling socialists as the enemy. 'Social fascists' they were called. The German communists refused to work with the SDP against the Nazis, probably the greatest mistake in history. The SPD were originally a Marxist party, their leadership was rotten and had even attacked the 1919 revolution and had the two best Marxists, Karl Libeknecht and Rosa Luxembourg, murdered. But the fact is the party was still supported by millions of workers who still saw it as the best vehicle for socialism (much like workers who still cling to the Labour Party in Britain today), and it had left wing factions. The KPD was a breakaway from the SPD, but of course not everyone breaks away at the same time and many cling to the old party hoping to reclaim it. It was a temporary alliance that was needed, to defeat fascism. Stalin split the CP's from the rest of the working class, just at a time when alliances were vital to prevent fascism. Incredibly, at one point, the KPD even collaborated with the Nazis in the infamous 'Red Referendum' of 1931. The KPD had actually offered the SDP leaders a deal but were turned down, but instead of approaching the rank and file, the ordinary workers, they turned to the fascists! Trotsky wrote at the time:

    "The mistakes of the German Communist Party on the question of the plebiscite are among those which will become clearer as time passes, and will finally enter into the textbooks of revolutionary strategy as an example of what should not be done."

    1931 July 21: KPD leaders present ultimatum to sPD coalition leaders in Prussia: make a united front with us or we’ll back the Nazis. SPD leaders reject it. The KPD backs the Nazis, despite the fact it might put the Nazis in power—though now the KPD calls it the “Red referendum”. Nazis and German Communists campaign together to remove Prussia’s SPD-led government.

    Squatch says:
    Originally Posted by manc
    Was Russia socialist? Not according to Lenin:

    "But we have not finished building even the foundations of socialist economy and the hostile power of moribund capitalism can still deprive us of that."
    "Being finished with a thing does not mean that you are not pursuing it or not part of it. In fact, as we both defined it earlier you cannot be socialist if you are finished with its agenda, since the conclusion of that agenda isn’t socialism, but Communism.
    Further, if Lenin was more socialist then Stalin, and Lenin favored free markets(during the NEP) more than Stalin, doesn’t that imply that free markets are more socialist than collectivization? That is obviously an absurd claim, but it is the natural conclusion of my opponent’s argument."
    (emphasis added)

    Well of course Lenin was pursuing socialism! It goes without saying. Ok so socialism is never fully 'complete', but Lenin was going out of his way to say that they had not even started. Not even built the foundations. I notice Squatch missed this bit out of the quote from Lenin:

    "...we have always urged and reiterated the elementary truth of Marxism - that the joint efforts of the workers of several advanced countries are needed for the victory of socialism."

    Bear in mind that Stalin advanced the Two Stage Theory and the theory of Socialism In One Country.

    As for the NEP thing, again either Squatch has not understood any of this, or he does not want to for the purposes of the debate. This is a classic example of the kind of crude argument you do not get in genuine Marxism, which always analyses the processes at work. You only have to look at the process to understand the event. Let's be clear. To Lenin, the NEP was a temporary retreat.

    "A Strategical Retreat
    At that time, when in the heat of the Civil War we had to take the necessary steps in economic organisation, it seemed to have been forgotten. In substance, our New Economic Policy signifies that, having sustained severe defeat on this point, we have started a strategical retreat." Lenin, 1921


    Obviously the NEP was moving in the opposite direction of socialism, it was a strategic retreat. Trotsky was not keen, pointing out that the NEP contained a danger of reaction, and as I have described, this prophecy came true. Stalin, originally based on the rising middle classes and wealthier peasants, people making money from the NEP, found himself in 1928 being threatened by them, one reason for his 6 year 'leftward' lurch.

    Finally Squatch brings up his 'no true Scotsman' defence, Russia wasn't socialist because Trotskyists say it wasn't. Never mind the conscious sabotage of revolutions around the world, on which Squatch has said nothing apart from one rather tortuous bit about Stalin having a duty not to support them because they were deformed workers states, which is of course putting the cart before the horse! If Stalin was a socialist he would help countries become socialist, not destroy any revolutions that arose. They were not deformed workers states when Stalin was sabotaging their revolutions!

    Finally I shall point out that Squatch's position is the typical capitalist point of view, that the USSR was socialist. It also just happens to be the same as Stalin's point of view. This of course is no coincidence. Calling the USSR socialist was very advantageous for both the Stalinist bureaucracies, who did very nicely out of their grotesques caricatures of socialism, and the capitalist elites in the west, who were able to tarnish genuine workers movements with the Stalinist brush. Both America and the Stalinist bureaucracy feared the same thing - genuine independent workers' movements which could lead to genuine socialism.

    Of course when the facts are examined, neither view has an ounce of validity.

    Finally Squatch asks whether the reader has a clear vision of what socialism is. Well I hope they can by now differentiate between a democratic, internationalist workers state, and a grotesque dictatorship by a bureaucracy. As far as Marx was concerned, the working class had to take power, and work out for themselves the best way to proceed in the given circumstances.


    I will briefly remind the reader of the main points I have covered. First I outlined the basic Marxist theory necessary to understand the debate. It is vital to read and understand this bit for a full understanding of the debate. It explains the historical processes at work, and how Marxists interpret them.

    Next I explained why the Russian revolution happened in one of the worst possible places, ie a backward country. Again, this section is vital to understanding the whole debate.

    I described how democratic revolutionary Russia was, with a huge conference of elected representatives from different parties voting on the peace deal with Germany for example.

    "Proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any bourgeois democracy; Soviet power is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic." Lenin, 1918, Bourgeois And Proletarian Democracy

    I explained why and how the revolution, isolated in a backward (underdeveloped, semi-feudal) country, had no chance of achieving socialism on it's own, and so either had to collapse back to capitalism, or degenerate over a period of time before finally collapsing back to capitalism. Of course this was the first proper attempt at socialism after the short lived (crushed) Paris Commune and 1905 Russian revolution, so no-one could foresee exactly how it would degenerate.

    In 1936 Leon Trotsky predicted that "the fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, if it were not replaced by a new socialist power, would thus mean a return to capitalist relations with a catastrophic decline of industry and culture". (Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, p. 251.)

    I explained how personalities can play crucial roles at times, and how the revolution lost Lenin and Trotsky got ill, and how Stalin, a man with no principles, came to be the 'leader'.

    After taking power, Stalin brutally crushed the Left Opposition (mostly Trotskyists), including all of the original leaders.

    Stalin then lurched from right to 'left', to right again, reacting to events in order to preserve his regime.

    Following the disastrous 'left turn' in 1928, which unfortunately Squatch does not comprehend, and the defeat of the German working class which was the result, Stalin launched a right turn. From 1934 onwards, his main policy was to stop socialism from happening anywhere. I gave loads of examples, China, Cuba, India, all of Eastern Europe, Spain, France, Greece, Britain, Italy, Indonesia, Vietnam and others. My opponent could not challenge any of this, as it is all historical fact. The Communist Parties around the world were the saboteurs of socialism, contributing to defeat after defeat.

    However despite Stalin's wishes, some countries slipped in a 'socialist' direction, but with Russia as the supposed main socialist country, with the CP's dominated inevitably by Stalinists, they tended to end up as copies of Russia to some extent. Stalin was so annoyed he even disowned Yugoslavia for daring to go in a socialist direction, and tried to have Tito killed.

    Stalin wanted Eastern Europe to be capitalist after WW2. He wanted friendly trade with America and so on. But his plan failed, some of those countries had no bourgeois left after the war, in some the bourgeoisie had collaborated with the Nazis and were not supported by the masses, in others the communists had led the resistance, and basically just naturally assumed power after the war. They were popular, winning elections. Stalin lost control, Washington wasn't happy, especially with the civil war in Greece (which Stalin tried to sabotage), so Truman started the cold war.

    After that we all know what happened. Except most people actually don't. Cuba for example was led by Castro who repeatedly said he was not a socialist. The CP were in government with Batista. Cuba was never supposed to go 'socialist' (though Che had different ideas), but was pushed towards the USSR by the American leadership's paranoia. Actually it wasn't paranoia completely as the truth is if genuine socialism took place it almost certainly WOULD spread quickly as they feared.

    I have not tried to cover much of the period after the 60's, as the point has clearly been already made. The USSR was not socialist, and Stalin pursued an anti-socialist policy around the globe. Even though his post WW2 plan failed, Stalin still did a huge favour to western capitalism, providing the excuse for America to back one disgusting dictator after another (Suharto, Saddam etc), to overthrow one democratic government after another (Iran, Chile and so on). Of course the arms industry in America had a field day, and who would question rule by capitalism, if it protected honest Americans from the nasty evil Russians?

    One last thing, in an earlier post, Squatch says "I think my opponent has confused people with policies. This is an easy mistake to make given the naming conventions within socialist circles. Everything is Marxist, Stalinist, Leninist or Trotskyesque. This is evident in the fact that he often will confuse internal political squabbling for cogent differences in political philosophy."

    Well, I haven't heard the term Trotskyesque before. And I never use the term Leninist apart from very rare, specific occasions. Lenin was a Marxist.

    We use the terms Stalinist and Trotskyist for obvious reasons. The personalities have nothing to do with it (although Stalin did cultivate a personality cult). Trotskyism is Marxism after 1924. Trotskyism stands for everything Marx stood for, and for good reason, it is the only way to achieve socialism. Stalin stood for himself and the bureaucracy which emerged and killed off the revolution. He stood for killing off workers attempts at revolutions all around the world. His theories - 'socialism [sic] in one country' and 'popular frontism' and the two stage theory (capitalism next, class collaboration, forget socialism). Trotsky stood for permanent revolution (internationalist socialism). Trotsky's ideas were such a threat, Stalin's agents finally went after him, with an ice axe.

    "Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?
    No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others."

    Engels, Principles of Communism

    "The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

    Working Men of All Countries, Unite!"

    Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto
    Last edited by manc; February 9th, 2011 at 10:56 AM. Reason: punctuation only

  12. #12

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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    To rebut my opponent's first section I will point out the relatively simple logical error in his entire argument. He assumes that the USSR knew it wasn’t socialist. If the USSR believed, and no one has argued that it didn’t, that it was implementing socialist policies, why would it support movements that , as Manc has shown, were inimical to that movement? Rather, wouldn’t they rather have moved to implement more systems like themselves? Like Cuba, N. Korea (originally), and others?

    Instead he is begging the question. He is relying on the assumption that the Soviet Union was not socialist to show that they were not socialist. However, his entire story line is explained just as easily by my first post. That Socialism is in fact a big tent (because there is no “recipe”) and that conflicts of how to go about implementing socialism within the group do no necessitate that one party is somehow not socialist. Rather, Manc is falling for the same error that Stalin did. He is assuming that because others disagree with him on points that they are completely different, just as Stalin did to Trotsky.

    I maintain that it is unreasonable to assert that differences of form mean differences of kind. Former President Clinton and President Obama disagree on implementing the Democrat agenda (just as former President H.W. Bush and former President W. Bush disagreed on Republican agendas), that does not mean that one or the other or both are not Democrats.

    It is far more logical to take the basic elements of socialism, the elements all parties agree (especially since those elements are the ones proposed by some of the first thought leaders within socialism) and use those elements to judge whether or not a country is Socialist. So I will again take us to the question at the heart of the this debate. Was the Soviet Union different enough from category of socialist so that would label it a different kind of entity? Is the Soviet Union a “cat” to Socialism’s “feline?” Or is it something distinctly different? I have argued here that my opponent has not only shown no difference between the two, he has failed to describe what a “feline” is. I’ll leave the judges with these 10 points, the only working definition of Socialism presented in this debate. Read them abstractly and ask yourself if the Soviet Union could be described by them or not.
    1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
    5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
    6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
    8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.

  13. #13
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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    I hope this is a reasonable format.

    Judge's Opinion (just to mention the most important things, imo):

    Positives: I think your strongest argument against manc is that Marx never laid out a "cookbook" for ruling a nation. I think you argued this point cogently; given that Marx did not outline the exact actions of a socialist state, one might expect that there will be deviations from other things Marx has said because of a performative contradiction or a simply inability to enact all the precepts of Marxism at once. All in all, I think this is the strongest counter that you lodged against Manc's argumentation.

    Negatives: Several things spring to mind here as problematic to your overall argumentation. Firstly, you claim that there's a difference between political figures and political philosophies. I find this an incredibly hard pill to swallow, at least at the level of the people who the philosophies are named after. When I say that "Neitzsche was a Neitszchean philosopher", this is tautological. The standard for which any Neitzschean philosophy can be compared is to the father (or mother) of that theory. Therefore Stalinism and the philosophy (partially including the statements and actions) of Stalin the human being, are one and the same.

    Secondly, I have a hard time parsing out what the proposed definitions from Marxist.org would do to differentiate socialism from, say, Fascism, which is manifestly not socialist, would fail to not meet these criterion or how Anarcho-Syndicalism, which is manifest form of socialism, wouldn't utterly fail to meet these criterion. I understand that you didn't make them, but they don't appear to be very good definitions, either.


    Pros: Obviously very researched, well-presented arguments. You provide a cogent case that Stalin was not a Marxist. You rightfully point out that the actions of Stalin ought to be considered a part of Stalinism, and that Stalin had "odd views" from the point of Marxism. You also, I think, effectively conveyed your view that Stalin actively worked against Marxism at certain points in history.

    Cons: You really fail here to take into account the fact that political grandstanding, such as some of Stalin's speeches was probably just pandering to certain demographics of the Russian population. Squatch more or less called you out on this, and you sort of just waived it aside. Granted, you did provide other evidence (by way of showing that Stalin had stopped socialist revolutions in his own country, for instance), but this was a bit of a weak link in your argument.


    Overall, however, I'm a bit dissatisfied with the direction that this debate took. From manc's first post I was annoyed with his tacit assumption that "Socialist == Marxist." Again, anarcho-syndicalists might be described as Marxist, but this would be superficial. There's more to the Leftist universe than Marx's opinions. But Squatch... You never called him on this. You just let this assumption go without question (I can only guess because you aren't familiar with a lot of Leftist philosophy). So rather than press him on this issue, you started arguing about other things.

    But seeing as how I can't hold this against a particular one of you without holding the other person accountable --since you both let this go on-- I'm bound by the rules to simply use the definitions you guys agreed upon.

    So the question became: "Was Stalin a Marxist?"


    I believe that Manc made the more persuasive argument that Stalin was not a Marxist and therefore by the rules not a socialist. He clearly grasped the tenets of Marxism the most strongly here, gave very thoroughly researched explanations, and for the most part countered Squatch's objections.

    Squatch, your initial argument was your strongest --political leaders sometimes do things they themselves don't want to do, but instead must do. Therefore, in order to enact Marxism in reality, Stalin may have been forced, for practical reasons, to scrap certain tenets of Marxism in favor of others. But rather than continue to ride on this point, you instead chose to make weaker arguments about Stalin vs. Stalinism and though you occasionally hinted at your first point, it was lost in much of the time that you had to counter manc. If you have a strong argument, keep it going. In my opinion, your lack of understanding of Leftist theory also hurt you.

    Ruling: For these reasons, manc gains my vote.
    "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." --Voltaire

  14. #14
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    Re: Was the USSR socialist?

    After a long delay for which I apologize sincerely, I have come to a decision as to my ruling on who has won this debate. I will present a breakdown of the arguments I found compelling and why, and which parts I found lacking. A ruling will follow.

    Compelling arguments:

    Squatch presented what seemed to me to be a much better and universally applicable definition of "socialism" and "communism" that does not rely upon sympathy with a particular strain of thought within those schools of political persuasion but instead focuses exclusively on the objective characteristics shared by socialist states.

    Manc presented a very coherent argument as to why socialism and communism were not viable unless they arose in multi-national constellations and had sufficient infrastructure and economic strength to weather the crises that would follow the revolution. I believe this was one of the strongest arguments manc had in his entire series of posts.

    Squatch then presented what ultimately proved to be an underlying theme that remained strong throughout his line of argument: specifically, that though Marxist-Leninist Communism is not the same as Stalinism, the two systems both possess the agreed-upon qualities in the most common definitions of socialism and communism (which were shared by both debaters.) Further, Squatch argued that since Marx never made a "recipe" for "communism," and "socialism" was very ill-defined by its early founders, the fact that Stalin's approach disagrees with Marx and Engels in its views on how to achieve the communist state and what it should look like does not mean that it is "not socialist." It just meant that there was a disagreement between two socialist/communists who believed in different ideas within the same spectrum of political practice. Also, the principle of "collectivization" was introduced at this point, which defined an important principle within the communist/socialist agenda.

    Squatch continued on to list the qualities of a socialist/communist state as listed in the Communist Manifesto and proceeded to explain how the USSR met each criterion in turn. This, in my opinion, was the most telling blow in the entire thread made by either party. For me, this set the tone and direction of the rest of the debate, which hinged on semantics from this point forward.

    Manc attempted to counter with a very well-researched history of Stalin and how he usurped the Leninist movement for his own ends, thus derailing what manc espoused as "real communism" and not the self-serving agenda that Uncle Joe put into place. He did an excellent job of detailing the causes and effects of how and why Stalin's rise to power put an end to the Leninist elements of the revolution.

    Unfortunately for manc, this move was quickly answered by Squatch, who used the very momentum of Stalin's aggressive social policies as a hinge upon which a different form of socialism arose. While admittedly different from the Marxist-Leninist view of "how things should be," Stalin's forced collectivization and aggressive central planning certainly qualified as "socialist" in their leanings. Most important in this section of the argument was the reassertion and clarification that simply because one faction of communism doesn't agree with another faction's ideas doesn't mean that they're not both Communist/socialist.

    Manc's counter was nearly effective at disarming this thrust. He argued that if Squatch's argument were true, then there is no way to explain why Stalin intentionally sabotaged Socialist efforts in several countries throughout Europe at a time when they were all ripe for revolution. He went on to discuss the effects this had on creating the Cold War and presented a good argument as to why calling the USSR a successful communist state is simply not reasonable. In fact, it could be reasonably asserted that *no* socialist country has ever properly existed. A telling blow, indeed, backed up by mountains of support and well-researched arguments. This, however, was the fatal error in manc's arguments, which Squatch capitalized upon to great effect.

    Squatch asserted that if there were no countries that could reasonably be called "socialist" in europe, then Stalin had an *obligation* to sabotage them, thus turning what should have been a major weapon in manc's arsenal against the heart of his own argument. He went on to capitalize on this advantage by listing the 10 principles in Marxist communism and explaining how they not only were around in Russia in the 1930's but persisted until the end of the USSR or the beginning of its decline.

    Manc attempted to regain footing by contrasting successful Leninist-Marxist revolutions and comparing Russia under both Leninist and Stalinist rule to demonstrate that the two systems should not be compared using the same name. This was a reasonable argument and would have been successful, except for Squatch's rebuttal.

    Squatch's rebuttal consisted of pointing out the formal fallacies implied in the logic of manc's argument if taken to its logical conclusion. Most chiefly, Squatch argued - as he has from the first, though not explicitly stated - that manc's argument relies almost entirely upon a "No True Scotsman" fallacy that assigns arbitrary additional qualities to an ideological spectrum in order for an idea that would otherwise fit to be "truly qualified" to count as a member of that ideological spectrum. The next point I found telling was his assertion that simply because a movement does not successfully achieve its aims doesn't mean that movement can't be defined by what those goals are. Just because socialism never took hold properly, even if manc's assertion is correct, doesn't mean that the movements attempting to create it weren't, by definition, "Socialist." Last, he pointed out that there was a distinct lack of clear definition in most of manc's terms, which renders his claims about whether or not a specific faction's ideas fell into the political spectrum of socialism/communism fairly meaningless. This was, for me, the coup de grace.

    Now for the other half of the coin:

    Weak arguments/flaws

    Squatch's primary failure was one of research, I think. Manc had a huge advantage on him as regarding Russian history and the history of Marxist/socialist thought and political evolution, and he used that advantage as a lever to drive his arguments forward. It was very nearly effective at its aim, and I believe it would have succeeded if not for Squatch's astute observations of the flaws within manc's arguments.

    Manc's primary failure was one of semantics and internal consistency. He was so focused on the fine differentiation between various colors of Communist/socialist thought that he was unable to discern that both pictures he painted were just done in different shades of red. Manc was never able to effectively address the problem that Stalin's USSR effectively met all of the criteria contained within the Communist Manifesto, even if they were met for different reasons and by different means than Lenin/Trotsky/Marx intended. This was ultimately the Achilles heel in his otherwise very well-researched argument.

    My ruling

    I judge Squatch to be the winner of this debate, by reason of a greater number of points to withstand rebuttal, a stronger overall debate structure (by virtue of his intense focus on the issue at hand), and a more compelling position. Manc's argument failed because its force was too dispersed over a wide range of points which he was never able to properly tie together into one compelling summary to contest Squatch's more direct thrust to the heart of the matter.

    Thank you to both debaters for an interesting and educational discussion.
    Last edited by Talthas; March 2nd, 2011 at 02:23 PM.
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