“The socialist economy”: Marx, Lenin, Stalin… and Vietnam

 August 31, 2016. 


obama cina

Interview with the Professor Tran Hai Hac, directed by Ho Thi Hoa

Commented by Robert Bibeau. Editor (1).

Par  Robert Bibeau.

A few years ago the Vietnamese professor Tran Hai Hac has granted an interview to the journalist Ho Thi Hoa. The enclosed text succinctly presents the panoply of myths and rumors which circulates about the “socialist mode of production in the supposedly socialist countries, or still worse, in the communist countries“. 

Throughout the first paragraphs the Professor Hai Hac correctly shows the status of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, within an error – and it’s considerable – it is fundamental, we will say. The Vietnamese doc professor supports Lenin when he wrote “the State capitalism is a social form of production higher than the existing State-controlled economy and its development represents a step forward towards the socialism (and Lenin adds) the NEP as policy of labor – farming alliance, the working class must advance towards the socialism with the peasantry and not otherwise“. Lenin has effectively advanced these two erroneous theses. The error of Tran Hai Hac is similar to that of the Bolsheviks and the most sectarian parties within the Third International. The Russian revolution achieved by illiterate peasants in a country with the feudal mode of production in the course of trade and industrial capitalization, but not yet understanding that a minimal proletariat, inexperienced, poorly trained, in a world where the modern imperialism, far from collapsing, unlike what Lenin predicted in his book on imperialism, was growing rapidly and was beginning to conquer the rest of the world not yet industrialized (Africa, Latin America, China and India, the majority of the world population). The Russian Revolution was a bourgeois democratic revolution to establish the capitalist mode of production in a still largely feudal country.

It is true that every society must necessarily pass from the feudal mode of production to the capitalist mode of production before reaching – necessarily after the proletarian revolution – the communist mode of production. In this sense, just like the French Revolution marked a breakthrough for the French society, from the feudal mode of production towards the capitalist mode of production and therefore, eventually, towards the communism, the Bolshevik Revolution made the same in Russia, but nothing more.

The NEP was nothing more than the legislative and legal adjustment necessary to adapt the bourgeois State reports of production to the agrarian and industrial productive forces in development in backward Russia, what Lenin qualified union of the peasantry and the proletariat, under the yoke of the bureaucracy of the Bolshevik Party. The peasantry can’t absolutely constitute a basis for the construction of the communist mode of production – of which the Bolshevik Russia, backward industrially, economically, socially, was a thousand miles from approaching. The peasantry dreams only of appropriating the land which it cultivates, to pass on it in inheritance, to accumulate a savings that it will place at the bank to turn it to good account in its “savings” which it wishes consequently. Stalin, astute and wise, understood that the time of the homeland of the people freed from the feudal Czarist tyranny was counted before the horde of the European imperialist powers are being recovered from the Great War, launches again to conquer the land, resources and markets of all the Russia. Stalin therefore made what is needed to build a modern State capitalist industrial economy. In 1941, the homeland of the Little father of the people of all Russia expected the NAZI hydra firmly and managed to bring down him. Glory to Stalin for this patriotic bourgeois event of weapons. The new Soviet proletariat served as cannon fodder in this inter-imperialist war. This is not the “Soviet socialist” mode of production which faced the German capitalist mode of production (incidentally, such a socialist mode of production does not exist. The Socialism is at best a transitional mode of social relationship, containing the seeds of the elements of communism, but not completed. The Soviet socialism was from capitalism largely state-controlled, what could make better the Soviet political economy in the accelerated process of industrialization in the middle of a capitalist sea extending its standard on the whole world). These are two powers in the capitalist mode of production of slightly different State who were in confrontation in the plains of Russia and the most powerful industrially, economically, militarily, demographically prevailed.

The author, Mr. Hai Hac roams in fact, in law, and in political economy when he pretends to achieve “the study of the really existing socialism“. To date, absolutely no country on Earth has even started the building of a socialist political economy of transition towards the communist mode of production.

For many reasons, including, among others, that the capitalist mode of production has not been overturned in the whole world by the international revolutionary proletariat. 

Two antagonistic modes of production can’t coexist peacefully on the same shared ground. The capitalism has destroyed the feudalism gradually on the entire Earth. 

Until today, the capitalist mode of production, in its last modern, imperialist stage, had not yet reached its full maturity and full development. It is through the destruction and absorption of the last remnants of the feudal agrarian mode of production in China, India and Africa which he realizes it today. With the proletarization of hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indian and African peasants, the capitalist mode of production reached its ultimate deployment, and its end. Its global reversal is from now on the agenda. No isolated country, industrially and economically backward, even not the immense Russia (1917), or the colossal China (1949), have managed to build even if only the primer of the communist mode of production – thus think of Vietnam, North Korea, Albania, or Cuba! After having resisted for a few years, the State bourgeoisie of all these bourgeois nation-states ended up seizing the collective private – State – property of the means of production, exchange and communication.

The Professor Tran Hai Hac converses about the ownership of the workers on the production and distribution of goods. The important word in this phrase is the word “goods” and what it contains relationship of ownership – valuation – expanded reproduction of capital. The problem and the source of capitalist crisis are upstream to the relations of production and distribution of goods. The contradiction which prevails – mines – destroys – every mode of production does not reside at first in the nature of its relations of production – law, property law, case law, governance, ideology – but rather in the nature of the productive forces and their joints with the reports of production. A simple, concrete and contemporary example will be enough to illustrate this dialectic. In capitalist China, 350 million peasants have been already proletarianized. Their level of productivity increases making, thus, of China the first industrial power of the world. But now there are still 350 million Chinese peasants to be proletarianized. They migrate en masse towards urban megacities in search of a job. That is to say, these millions of farmers try to sell the only commodity which they possess, their labor force, against a required salary, knowing that they will abandon to the owners of the factory (State or private) their surplus labor, surplus value that will be realized only when the goods will be marketed and sold. But China has no job to be offered to these millions of newly urbanized peasants, because the market competition of other globalized imperialist powers forces the Chinese capital to automate its production to lower the cost and maintain the level of exploitation of the labor force and support the rate of surplus value (we are far from the communist mode of production as you can see). In 2016 China will have bought more than half mechanical robots produced in the world (in Japan particularly). This leads China to fire millions of workers already employed. Worse, all the world has not the money to buy all industrial goods produced in China and this production doubles every seven years. The Western capitalists pay the Chinese capitalists in dollar-credit-debt of cheap junk and tomorrow – when the major Western stock market crash – this funny money will fly away in smoke as well as the fortunes of the world’s billionaires, including those of the Chinese and Vietnamese billionaires fully integrated into the globalized imperialist economy. The State capitalist mode of production in China, or in the United States can’t absolutely solve such a contradiction, whatever is the clique of rulers who manages the Chinese “Communist” Party, or the White House. This is especially true for Vietnam, Cuba, Albania, North Korea, India, the European Union or Japan.

To the question of Dr. Hai Hac:Do the workers control really the production and distribution of the social product?” The answer is obviously no, and it is true in each and every country of the imperialist world. There can never be otherwise as long as the capitalist mode of production, and its bourgeois State will not have been overturned in the world by the revolutionary proletariat (you will have noticed that I did not write … by the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party). The revolutionary proletariat will not have to try to seize the bourgeois State as is made by all “communists and socialists” (sic) Parties previously. We know what happened to these “vanguard” communist Parties. The proletariat will have to destroy completely the bourgeois State. In terms of mode of revolutionary organization with which will be equipped the proletariat during the popular uprising, I do not really know, except that I’m sure that it will not be another dogmatic sect snooping in the texts of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky or Mao of 19th and 20th century to find a recipe for the “socialism with Chinese, Russian, Albanian, Korean sauce”.  The Socialism will be not the objective of the revolutionary proletariat. It is the creation of the communist mode of production that will be the unconscious objective of the revolutionary proletariat, a world of abundance in the mechanized – automated – computerized – miniaturized – technicized industrial production, what the humanity has hardly just begun. The Communism will not be the sharing of the famine between impoverished persons at a loose end. Last remark, the neoliberalism is not compatible with the political despotism as claimed by Professor Tran Hai Hac, the neoliberalism is the economic theory of political despotism. Robert Bibeau. Editor. Http://www.les7duquebec.com .

********** APPENDIX **********

Verbatim of the interview with the Vietnamese professor Tran Hai Hac, by the journalist Ho Thi Hoa (1)

Starting from the October Revolution of 1917 and especially after the Second World War, the Soviet Union and many socialist countries chose the Marxism-Leninism as the basis for the building of their planned economy. Can we then say that there is, from the theoretical point of view, a complete model of the economy in Marx and Lenin? What are the main essential theses of the general character of this model?

Beforehand, it seems to me necessary to distinguish, in terms of terminology, the theory of Marx, the Lenin’s theory and the Marxism-Leninism, term created by Stalin to qualify his own theory.

1.     First of all – it must be remembered – all economic Marx’s work is dedicated to the capitalist mode of production to which today euphemistically is called the market economy. On socialism, Marx has only sketched some perspectives (notably by his criticism of State-control in the Criticism of the Gotha program), but he has given no systematic analysis, that is to say a theory. Marx did not make the theory of socialism for the simple reason that, the socialism does not exist, he could theorize it. More, it is a confusion, a mistake than to identify the Marx’s theory with a model of socialism or any planned economy. Certainly, Marx refers to the communism by which he indicates, not an ideal to which the reality must comply, but the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. Because Marx claims to work by science, his study works what is – the capitalism, its reproduction and denial – and not what should be, an ideal of society conceived independently from the real movement of history. Hence, his constant refusal to formulate what would be the necessary laws of the future society (“the recipes for the pots of the future” of the Afterword to the second German edition of Capital).

2.     What the Revolution of 1917 puts on the agenda, it is no longer the question of the construction of socialism, but that one of the transition from capitalism to socialism. The Lenin’s writings don’t contain a theory of socialist economy – which will appear only in the 1930s – but only a “theory of the Soviet economy”, which qualifies him as state-controlled and not socialist. In the controversy which he leads within the Communist Party, Lenin denounces the illusion of “war communism” which suggests that the organization of production and distribution by the State establishes a new economic system of socialist character (Report to the seventh conference of the party in the province of Moscow). He argues that State capitalism is a social form of production higher than the existing state-controlled economy and that its development represents a step forward towards the Socialism (On left-wing infantilism and the petty-bourgeois ideas). Hence also his conception of the NEP as politics of working – farming alliance, the working class must advance towards socialism with the peasantry and not otherwise (Closing speech of the eleventh Party Congress). 

3.     The economic debates will continue until the “Great Turning point” of 1930 when Stalin, eliminating any position of divergence within the direction of Communist party, imposed by the terror the complete collectivization of campaigns, the priority development of heavy industry and the centralized planning of production and distribution (Questions of Leninism). The socialist nature of the state-controlled reports of production becomes a dogma and the Constitution of 1936 proclaims the removal of the regime of exploitation in the Soviet Union. At the same time, is launched the project of a manual of political economy that would codify the laws of the “socialist mode of production” – Stalin intervenes in its drafting whenever it was necessary (The economic problems of Socialism in the USSR). This famous work, published in 1954 under the title of political economy Manual of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, fixes the orthodoxy in terms of economic theory. It represents still today the reference – by its spirit and method – of the various “Marxist-Leninist” manuals of political economy in use in China and Vietnam.

How is explained the collapse of the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe?

I shall resume here the distinction posed earlier.

1.     For the Stalinist theory, this implosion of the Soviet Union is unthinkable. The Marxism-Leninism can’t explain it, except to invoke a conspiracy from abroad, that is to say an external cause to the socialist system. 

But if we accept this argument, it would mean that the socialism is not a stable system and, in this sense, it is not a new mode of production.

If the model of socialist economy can’t realize what happened in the Soviet Union and in the Eastern countries, it is because its construction evades the analysis of the real relations of production, their reproduction and their negation, that is to say, the study of “really existing socialism”. It is, essentially, built on legal formalism and the tautologies such as: There is no exploitation in the Soviet Union, because the means of production are the property of the whole society; this property is of socialist nature because it results from a collectivization of the means of production by a socialist State; this State is of socialist nature because the political power is held by a Communist Party; this party has a communist nature because he advocates the abolition of private ownership of the means of production … Thus, from the beginning, the issue of exploitation (do the workers really control the production and distribution of the social product?) is removed from the political economy of socialism.

I shall add that the model of a centrally planned economy, operating on the basis of only vertical social relations, is even unreal as the model of a decentralized market economy, only structured by horizontal social relations. In fact, the really existing market economies reproduce only by an instance of centralized control – the State – which allows them to overcome their instability. Similarly, the economies centrally planned, really existing are reproduced through the use of informal and underground markets that only allowed them to overcome their imbalances.

2.     We find in Marx’s work on the criticism of the fetishism of capital and the fetishism of the State the elements necessary for a deconstruction of the political economy of socialism by which any study of the really existing socialism has to begin. I only will mention here two elements.

*In the Capital, Marx continues to criticize the identification of the social relation of production to its form of legal event – the property report – form which hides the contents of the report of production and the same opposite: the capitalist exploitation appearing as non-exploitation. The Capital again shows that the public ownership of means of production is a legal form which can hide class relations: such is the case of community landed property in the “oriental despotism” of the State-control of the landed property in the capitalism, or even the watchword of nationalization of lands and land income – registered in the Manifesto of Communist Party – which is “a delusion” (Letter to Sorge 03.06.1881) if he leaves the salaried work or abolishes only formally (the Soviet constitution of 1936).

* Marx begins the criticism of the State from his earliest texts of 1843-1846 (Criticism of Hegel’s political right; About the Jewish Question, The German Ideology) and continues into these last writings (The Civil War in France; Criticism of the Gotha program). We read that in a society governed by private interests, the category of general interest is expressed in the form of the modern State, appearing as independent from the civil society and higher than it; at the same time, since the civil society is a society divided into social classes, the modern State represents the social form through which the ruling class maintains its private interests as public interest, which becomes illusory. The same contradiction crosses the functioning of the modern State: whether is the representative system where the separation between the citizens (reduced to the status of voters) and their elected representatives (which form the ruling class) dispossess the citizen of his political power; or still the bureaucracy whose members tend to put their own interests as the State’s interest of which they are only the servants. It is in this criticism of the modern State and his fetishism that Marx registers the perspective of the decay of the State (and sees an outline in the new political practices of the Commune of 1871) – the opposite of the bureaucratism and hypertrophy of the State apparatus to which has given rise to the really existing socialism.

3.     The Lenin’s writings – which are part of the history of the Soviet Union of the years 1917-1923 – show a constant concern to analyze the real relations of production, that is to say, to provide answers to the questions: who, in society, decides really on the allocation of the means of production? The labor organization? The distribution of the social product? Thus in 1918, Lenin indicates that the expropriation of the capitalists, as a legal or political act, does not resolve the question of socialism, since it is necessary still  to establish a mode of management other than capitalist – a labor management – of the social relationships in the economy (The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky). Then, when, threatened by a collapse, the Soviet power must make a series of steps back – especially to replace the labor control of factories by an administrative system of centralized direction of the economy, to appoint the business leaders previously elected, to open the wage scale 5 times beyond the minimum … – Lenin specifies that it is about measures of  circumstances of capitalist nature (by stressing that for capital, he does not mean a sum of money, but determined social relations – The immediate tasks of Soviet power). Now, these provisional, non-socialists, measures will endure beyond the death of Lenin, and will consolidate until becoming, after the Great turning point of 1930, the normal content of socialist relations in the management of production, the labor organization and the distribution of the product.

I would also remember of Lenin his questioning of the definition of the Soviet State as “labor State”: this characterization forgets first of all that who are majority are not the workers but the peasants; secondly, it loses sight that it is about a labor State with bureaucratic deformation (The crisis of the party). The opposition of interests between workers and State apparatus can’t be excluded, the independence of trade unions vis-à-vis the State becomes a necessity in order to defend the workers against their own State (the trade unions, the current situation and the errors of Trotsky). In his last texts, Lenin warns the communists against the illusion that they would possess the capacity to build a State apparatus truly deserving the name of Soviet or socialist (Better less but better). For Lenin, the Communists have become bureaucrats, and if the Communist power had to perish, it would be by its bureaucracy (“Our worst internal enemy: the Communist bureaucrat” – The international and domestic situation of the Soviet Republic).

4.     Certainly, to criticize the Marxist-Leninist political economy from the standpoint of Marx or Lenin does not mean that there is anything to criticize about the analysis of Marx or Lenin, and that these would escape the criticism. But this criticism is of a different order or at least it is situated at another level. I can’t treat it as part of this interview and I shall limit myself here to two brief remarks:

* What Marx said about socialism is reduced to a number of perspectives which he sketches starting from the analysis of capitalism and its class contradictions: a mode of production of freely associated workers (who does not oppose intellectual labor and manual labor, tasks of management and task of implementation); a mode of distribution of the social product according to the labor, then according to the needs. Nothing is said, however, of the social contradictions in the post-capitalism: the possibility and nature of social conflicts, their forms and their modes of resolution. Certainly, one could say, as Marx in the Criticism of the Gotha Program, which it is about questions to which only the science can answer – that is to say, which it have answer only on the basis of an analysis of the historical experience of socialism. Nevertheless, it is on this central question – regarding the existence of relations of power and democracy, the role of the State and the political organizations – that came to run aground the really existing socialism.

* Built on the experience of the early years of the Russian Revolution, the Lenin’s analyzes concern on the problems of the transition period, called “dictatorship of the proletariat”. By this term Marx simply indicates the political domination of the working class which replaces that of the bourgeoisie: it is about a class rule and not that of a revolutionary group; it does not imply absolutely a single party and even less a personal power. Yet it is the abandonment of democratic principles in politics, outside the Communist Party at first (prohibition of parties and the opposition press; divestiture of the actual Soviet power) then within the party (ban on the organized trends, the employment of police measures against the protesters) that will open – in Lenin’s lifetime – the way to Stalinism.

Why the collapse, produced in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe wasn’t there in other companies such as China and Vietnam?

Although being part of the same set, these companies can have different trajectories due to specific historical features, in particular the political conditions in which the Communist Party rose to power, has exercised and if is or not maintained. From this point of view, we can distinguish the case of China and Vietnam – which are relatively close – that of the Soviet Union, itself distinct from the case of the countries of Eastern Europe.

That being said, there are structural features, heavy trends common to these societies. To take the case of Vietnam, we know that the socialist economy has never been a reality. The centrally planned economic system is entered in crisis from the first five-year plan of 1961-1965: inability to supply with foods the non-agricultural population, falling the purchasing power of the workers and State employees by 25%. So, from the beginning, the preservation of the system implied that the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) gives up the State monopoly of resource allocation and tolerate the existence of the free market (15% of trade in 1965, 25% in 1975). Before even the reunification of the country, the system can’t check the increase in its midst of a parallel economy and has to ignore all “clandestine” practices in the agricultural cooperatives as in State enterprises. In the late 1970s, in front of the threat of an economic collapse and a social explosion, the VCP (9th plenum of 1979) begins a first turning point in its official line: it legalizes the “transgression of barriers” (failed of production in agriculture, plan number 3 of production in the State enterprises) and institutionalizes a hybrid economy combining centralized planning and market relations with the two price system (planned price and market price). In the late 1980s, the crisis of the hybrid system forces the PCV (6th Congress of 1986) to engage in the “Doi moi”: denouncing the error of centralized and bureaucratic model of allocation of resources, it recognizes at the same time the failure of the project aiming at putting the market relations in the service of the pursuit of a State socialism. Decollectivization of campaigns, empowerment of State enterprises, abolition of the two price mechanism marks the breaking of the Vietnamese economy with the old system and its transition to the market economy – according to a process of economic reforms rather close to those one which China began a decade earlier.

The Vietnamese Doi moi is launched in an international context marked by the Soviet Perestroika. But soon the direction of CPV (led by Nguyen Van Linh) closes the political aspect of the reforms: it puts an end to the discussions on the political system (removing the responsible for the theoretical studies Tran Xuan Bach) and regains the control of the press and intellectuals (removing the responsible for the culture and ideology Tran Do). The electoral victory of Solidarnosc in Poland, the Spring of the Beijing students, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the Soviet Union support the leaders of PCV in their rejection of any questioning of the single party, as well as any internal democratization of the party. We can analyze the current Vietnamese society – as well as the neighboring Chinese society – such as are working on an implicit compromise between the people and the Communist Party, a pact between the economic liberalism and political despotism: the party lets to the individuals the greater flexibility in the means of getting rich (including illegal means), however, no dispute of the political monopoly of the party is tolerated

In fact, such a pact is suspended from the ability of those in power to ensure a high economic growth. Having squandered its legitimacy conquered in the struggle for the national independence, the CPV tries to rebuild partially on maintaining an average economic growth rate of 6-7% for two decades. This new legitimacy seems now to be very fragile.

China claims to build an economy “socialist with the colors of China”. Vietnam also states to build “a market economy with socialist orientation” taking “the Marxism-Leninism as basis”. Do you see what connection between these choices and the economic theory of Marxism-Leninism? Does this one really establish the current economic policies of Vietnam? If so, what are the issues?

I do not see what there is of “socialist” or of “socialist orientation” in the current economic development of China and Vietnam. I would say rather that it is about a development of capitalism that the Chinese and Vietnamese communist parties pretend to hide behind the false neutral concept of “market economy”.

If we refer to the theory of Marx, it is precisely about the primitive accumulation of capital, which combines the State power and the most brutal violence. If we refer to Lenin’s analysis, it is about especially State capitalism, where the State ownership of the means of production covers typically capitalist relations of production. Compared to the former socialist countries, the specificity of China and Vietnam is that this institution of capitalism is made under the direction of a communist party, became that of a new bourgeoisie to which the bureaucracy is allied. The reference to “socialism” is invoked here only to justify the political monopoly of this so called Communist party.

As for Marxism-Leninism in force in Vietnam and China, it is about – we can say – a travesty of reality at the same time that a falsification of the concepts of Marx and of Lenin’s analysis. I will mention here the recent debate about the exploitation which took place in Vietnam: the PCV submitted to the discussion the question to know if the members of the party could have a capitalist private activity. From the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism, this question arises only for the capitalist private sector, since with regard to the “socialist” sector (State enterprises and cooperatives), the exploitation is declared abolished. Yet, it is on this State sector that would have    the priority to bring the issue of exploitation because the practices are there hidden, illegal, disguised under the clothes of socialism. 

While in the capitalist sector, anyway, the reports of exploitation correspond to accepted, legal practices and legitimated by the VCP as part of the “market economy with a socialist orientation”. On the other hand, the debate raised the issue of employees’ threshold (5 or 10) beyond which a boss would be considered as “exploiter”: it means to reduce the concept of surplus value in its form of the most immediate manifestation, the profit of enterprise. In other words, are left aside all other forms of surplus-value, those who seem disconnected from any report to paid work – interest, dividends and stock market capital gains, annuities and real estate gains – about which we know that they are now for most members of the party the essential of their income (the party, meanwhile, is currently the largest capitalist of the country). It’s pretend to forget that the capitalist exploitation is not a microeconomic relationship between boss and employees of his company, but it indicates a macroeconomic relationship between two social classes.

In your opinion, does Vietnam need or not a theory or a combination of theories other than Marxism-Leninism to develop? If so, what would be these theories?

I do not think that Vietnam to develop needs a theory or combination of theories, whether it is the Marxism-Leninism or anything else. What it needs is a critical approach to the theories, the Marx’s theory of course, but also the dominant economic theory in its different neoclassical, neo-Keynesian or Austrian versions. More, I would say that the danger which faces the economic reflection today is not so much the Marxism-Leninism, which is totally discredited, or the neoliberalism which tends to stand out as the new orthodoxy in Vietnam. Especially as the experience has shown that the neoliberalism is rather compatible with the political despotism.

End of the interview.

(1) Source: http://www.diendan.org/viet-nam/economie-socialiste-marx-lenine-staline-et-le-vietnam/

    Published in 2006.

“The socialist economy”: Marx, Lenin, Stalin… and Vietnamultima modifica: 2016-09-05T13:21:49+02:00da davi-luciano
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