The Soviet Union Under Stalin and Khrushchev (sov)
1. Marxism and the Russian Experience
Marxism contends that labor is the source of all value.
Capitalism is a system in which owners do
not pay workers the full value of their labor; they hold on to it either for their own use or to invest in other
enterprises which will enable them to exploit the labor power of other workers.
Marx argued that once
workers, who make up the vast majority of the population in an advanced industrial economy, recognized this
situation and acted upon it, they would be able to overthrow the owners and to own and run their enterprises
cooperatively and to enjoy the full fruits of their labor.
Since workers would no longer be dependent on the
owners to survive, workers would finally be able to exercise the right to speak freely without worrying about
what their employers' would say.
Lenin reinterpreted Marxism to fit early twentieth-century Russia, a repressive regime based upon a
First, faced with a police state, Lenin argued that the Communist party which opposed it
had to be a secret, hierarchical organization.
While argument and discussion were permissible within the
party before a policy was laid down, once the party, drawing upon the "science" of Marxism, set a policy,
there was no room for debate.
Party discipline was based on both the historical situation--a tsarist police
state--and a belief in the infallibility of its science of society.
Second, borrowing from the experience of Western European socialist parties, Lenin (implicitly)
argued that Marx had been wrong about workers.
Workers were primarily interested in bread-and-butter
issues and would not on their own risk all to overthrow their bosses and establish socialism.
Only the party,
led by intellectuals versed in the Marxist science of society, could see clearly what needed to be done to
make a revolution and to establish a socialist society; this insight would not come from workers themselves.
The party was to be a vanguard
; it was not, in democratic fashion, to act in the workers' expressed interests.
It was instead to bring workers to consciousness of their "true" interests and to lead them into battle.
Third, early twentieth-century Russia was far from the kind of industrial nation in which Marx had
envisaged the workers' revolution taking place.
And, in fact, in such countries as Great Britain, Germany and
the United States, the chances for socialist revolution looked slim: the class of property-owners was too
strong and the class of workers too divided or too content.
Therefore Lenin proposed that in a nation like
Russia at the dawn of industrialization, the proletariat could take advantage of its weak bourgeoisie and make