This one has Zizek as a keyword. Never a good sign.
This one has Zizek as a keyword. Never a good sign.
Pardon my heavy use of direct quotes in this post. I find it necessary to do this because I want to demonstrate in detail my chain of reasoning that leads to the admittedly controversial conclusion that the Soviet Union was not “dismantled”, as certain Marxists allege, but collapsed owing directly to the operation of the law of value. –Jehu
This is the final part of a series.
What led to what Bronson calls “the tacit abandonment of the Soviet commitment to providing for a continually shorter workday and workweek” and ultimately to a fully developed communist society? And how might this tacit abandonment have contributed to the collapse of the Soviet mode of production?
In his essay, “Lessons from the Demise of State Socialism in the Soviet Union and China”, the writer, David M. Kotz argues that the Soviet Union did not in fact collapse. It was dismantled by a group of persons committed to creating a capitalist society in its place:
“As we show in Kotz and Weir (1997, ch. 5), the Soviet planned economy did not collapse. Despite some disruptions from economic reform legislation that took effect in 1988, real output and real aggregate consumption grew continuously from 1985 through the first half of 1990. … The record shows that the Soviet planned economy did not collapse — it was dismantled through political means, as power shifted from Gorbachev to Boris Yeltsin and the pro-capitalist coalition.”
The argument by Kotz rests on the assumption the reforms of 1988 were not themselves an expression of the collapse, but is this true? I want to suggest that the collapse of the Soviet Union began long before the events of 1989-1991. The collapse of the Soviet Union began with the tacit abandonment by the Soviets to continually shorter labor time and a fully developed communist society.
The collapse of the Soviet Union begins, in other words, long before the attempt to reform the economic mechanism; it begins in the 1960s with the decision by the Soviets to forego reduction of hours of labor in favor of maximizing output.
The undeniable fact of the life of modern capitalism is the phenomenon of the mass occurrence of superfluous wage labor, i.e. those that do not contribute to the efficiency of resource management in any direct (or not even indirect) manner (or do not produce useful value).
What is the relation between artificial intelligence and Marx’s general intellect?
“According to Marx, the general intellect – i.e. knowledge as the main productive force – fully coincides with fixed capital – i.e. the ‘scientific power’ objectified in the system of machinery. Marx thus neglects the way in which the general intellect manifests itself as living labour.”
If you are one of them, you can contact me directly at email@example.com
(Continued from part one)
Obviously the Soviet Union never made it to a fully communist society, but what is unclear is why the SU failed to achieve its goal and why it subsequently collapsed. Moishe Postone has suggested that the collapse of the Soviet Union has to be seen in the context of the global failure of the workers movement after 1970 or so. This makes sense, but it is only a suggestion, not an explanation. It suggests that the same forces leading to neoliberalism in the West were at work within the Soviet Union as well, although perhaps in a different form.
What we know are the historical facts: first, Khrushchev was replaced by Brezhnev and the goal of communism by 1980 seems to have disappeared from the literature sometime after this. Second, between 1961, when the CIA wrote its report, and 1968, when the SU was scheduled to have reduced hours of labor to 30-35 hours per week, no further substantial reduction of hours of labor took place. A number of targets for labor hour reduction were proposed, but between 1961 and 1989 it appears working hours in the Soviet Union remained more or less at 40 hours. The work week was reduced from 6 days to 5 days, but the working day was increased from 7 to 8.5 hours. This change in the pattern of labor hours seems to reflect a desire on the part of the Soviets to maximize output, not to reduce overall hours of labor for the working class.
The story of how this change may have led to the collapse of the Soviet Union likely has never been told until now.
I am deleting my account on twitter. Twitter has limited my account and is making demands on me to censor myself. I find this unacceptable and will never comply. If you follow people I do, let them know.
In the aftermath of World War II and the post-war reconstruction effort, the Soviet Union was beginning to look beyond reconstruction following the devastation of the world war to describe, in terms of concrete practical steps, the material conditions it had to meet to transition to a fully communist society.
How it tried to get there and why it failed has never been explained until now.
This is the stark question raised by a recent article by an anonymous PhD student in theoretical astrophysics who blogs at Cold and Dark Stars. In a recent blog post titled, “Red giants: statistical fat tails and revolutions as inverse risk-management”, the author takes on the problem of devising a credible path to communism.
The problem identified by the writer is this:
“Revolutions are abrupt changes: extreme, highly variable, non-linear, almost unpredictable, but usually under-predicted – in short, they are black swans. I’ve talked about the black swan before – basically it is a pop-finance/statistics term that describes highly impactful but unpredictable events, like the invention of the internet, the publication of Ulysses by James Joyce, or the October Revolution. Other black swans are earthquakes, nuclear meltdowns, and terrorist attacks. This “black swan” dynamic makes revolutions incredibly epistemically opaque to us, and also bounds the type of questions we can ask about them.”
Communists, on the other hand focus on long-term historical analysis to develop their radical program. There is thus a profound disconnect between the events on which we base our strategy and spontaneous events like a revolution. The question raised by author is what do you do when the event you want to exploit to get to communism has an extremely low probability of happening.