Sergey Gubanov replies on state-capitalism
and the economic nature of the USSR

Communist Voice #46, November 2011, carried two articles on the ongoing debate among left-wing activists in Russia and Ukraine over the nature of the old USSR plus an article by Mark Williams about developments in Cuba. It introduced them as follows:

What is the nature of the despotic but supposedly socialist regimes, like the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union yesterday and the present-day regimes in Cuba and China? Is it socialism or state-capitalism that forms the basis of the oppressive political systems in various countries that called themselves “communist” but gave no voice to the working class? This issue of Communist Voice carries material relevant to this question, which still is one of the central issues in the theoretical crisis in left-wing thought. It deals with the on-going privatization in Cuba, which shows how market fundamentalism is growing in Cuba and with the debate in Ukraine on the nature of the former Soviet Union.

These articles were

Sergey Gubanov was a member of the executive committee of the Workers' United Front in Russia, and his article was part of a series in the journal What Is To Be Done? He has continued working on the theory of state-capitalism, and now, several years later, has written to the Communist Voice replying to these articles. While I don't agree with his viewpoint, I thank him for writing in and think it is helpful that he has again set forward his views. The more discussion on these issues, the better. The Communist Voice will carry more about these issues, including an assessment of the points raised by Gubanov in his recent letters, in a later issue.

Gubanov claims that Yury Shakhin misrepresented his views, and he outlined his views in two letters to me, of July 16 and 21, 2015. The points from his letters are reproduced below.

- Joseph Green, editor of Communist Voice

From the July 16 and 21, 2015 letters of Sergey Gubanov

July 16, 2015:

1. The main point in my understanding that state capitalism is the first negation of whole capitalist formation and historically highest and final stage of capitalism.

2. I don't pose an absurd such as formal and real nationalization; I differ formal socialization from real one. In much the same way I differ formal state capitalism from real one.

3. I see nationalization (as well legal, as economic) like process within the capitalist mode of production;

4. The starting point of socialization is achievement of economic nationalization, not merely legal;

5. The main features of state capitalism, taken in economic aspects, are a) social capital as dominant and expanded reproduction of social capital; b) integral state capitalist as dominant class figure, which rooting out class of bourgeoisie, or class of private capitalists; c) straight appropriation of surplus value by the state in the specific forms another than profit, for the sake of accumulation; d) planned mode of resource allocation, including workforce, and price formation; e) reproduction's regulator in form of profitability of whole social capital, not private; g) reproduction aim in form of value added (broad approach), not only surplus value (narrow), and so on. 

6. State capitalism as such is negation of financialization too.

7. State capitalism is exploiter society, but with more and more social orientation in connection with planned expansion of social capital, interested in minimizing of social costs (including ecological), and of course organized class struggle.

8. In reality the "clear" state capitalism is impossible, but it can be the dominant socio-economic structure in coexistence with another.

9. Formal state capitalism is reversible (experience of USSR), real one is irreversible.

10. Working class will take state power at the stage of real state capitalism. Hence the task of working class is clear: enforcing its class organization and united political party; supporting expansion of social capital, green movement, anti-imperialist movement, labor democracy, de-commercialization of education, public health and so on. 

July 21, 2015:

1. I have no illusions about so-called Stalinist period 1930s-1950s.

2. By the way, the Stalinist period had begun more early than 1930s.

3. The state capitalist reforms were prepared and conducted in the 1929-1933s - by those, who lately undergone the Stalin's repressions. So, the Soviet model of state capitalism in essence was not the Stalinist one.

4. The main feature of the Soviet state capitalist system was its formal, non-economic nature. It had not an integrated economic basis adequate to the high and final stage of capitalist formation (in sense of the law of vertical integration, chain of value added, value added multiplicator, input-output regulation, labor productivity stimulus  and so on). Also it had not historically new economic stimulus for working class, relying on the old one, taken from the old private capitalism. At last, it had not new form of organization the social reproduction too.

5. None other than Stalin gave start to the encroaching deconstruction of Soviet state capitalist system after WWII, by turning from system of social capital and "higher profitability" to system of unsocial capital, profit making enterprises and "lower profitability". Once began, this counter-revolution upheaval was accomplished under Khrushchev and Brezhnev.

6. I say little about Soviet class structure because of clearness this point for me. From my point of view the analysis of socioeconomic nature of the USSR was more urgent and more complicated (denial the wrong Stalin's formula about "victory of socialism", the arguing exploiter nature of USSR and so on).

7. According the Lenin's view the non-usual state capitalism (nationalization of commanding heights, Soviet power as proletarian dictatorship, state planning committee, state systemic monopolies such as bank monopoly, corn monopoly and so on) is the inevitable and main economic factor of transition period. 

8. I said clearly and more than enough about opportunistic nature of so-called left and "communist" parties in the post-soviet Russia in my other publications.

9. I made some efforts (not unsuccessful, I dare to think) to research the fundamentals of new theory of transition period and new vision of communist mode of production.

10. I am finishing now my work of many years upon the criterion, laws and contradictions of usual and non-usual state capitalism. <>

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Last modified on August 15, 2015.