See discussion question below from Professor Guinevere Liberty Nell.


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Apologies for the delay in replying - I'm still getting set up on the website and didn't get a notification. I did not intend to say that having officials "subject to recall" requires a centralized state (I mentioned it because in the context of the workers state that they were describing it shows that they had other policies in mind that they intended to be applied across the whole nation), however having workers paid only the same wage as other workers, if this applies all across the nation, in fact does require a certain amount of centralization: it requires a centralized wage policy. Think about it. In order to ensure that all wages are set at a certain level across the entire nation means that all wages must be set by a centralized wage policy - this is really all that I was saying here - but it is important. Although a policy such as recall being set across the country is a nationwide policy it is the kind of policy that still may leave other democratic decisions to the local level, not so for a centralized wage policy. A policy like minimum wage may similarly leave most everything to the local level, but a fixed wage for all areas, industries, and jobs requires much more centralization. Fixed wages for all different kinds of jobs will require, for example, strategies to induce workers into industries and positions that would normally be enticing due to higher wages -- and, as the Soviet leaders learned (and market socialists are now aware) this is something that central government needs to be involved in, because if it is left to local governments they cannot ensure that the whole nation is able to produce what is required to keep the whole citizenry fed and clothed. With free wages and prices the market can take care of this, but when all wages are set by a single wage policy in order to be equal, the market cannot perform this function. Glad to have you on board, and please let me know if you still disagree! Thanks for the queston!

Your response expanded commentary is helpful, however I still agree with the author of the original comment above. The way I interpret the quote in the context it is presented here is that the wages of the state officials would be average wages, but the wages of all other workers throughout the entire system are not addressed here -- simply those of officials. Perhaps it is clear elsewhere in the literature that Lenin did indeed intend for all wages to be set centrally, but, to me, this quote only acknowledges that the officials were to be kept humble by nature of their wages, so as to keep them close to the workers they were expected to represent (lest they be recalled at any time). Might you be able to point to other examples where Lenin indicated his plan for a planned/centralized wage policy?

Apologies for not seeing your comment! From now on I will check in for comments rather than expecting the emails I was promised... Anyway,no, Lenin was quoting Marx in order to support his own call for all workers in the future society to be at the same level - he interpreted Marx's words as a call for equality of wages, in addition to worker control of the government. Here is a quote from my book Spontaneous Order and the Utopian Collective (with footnotes):

Lenin (1918: 15) valued classlessness as a precondition for the unity and harmony of the new society. He often referred to the ‘principles of the Paris Commune and of any proletarian rule, which demand the reduction of salaries to the standard of remuneration of the average worker’, which was a call for classlessness. He made serious attempts to institute this policy once in power, using wage-scales.[17] However, as early as 1918, facing chronic shortage of specialist labour, the Soviet government began to provide exceptions. By 1920 a new wage-scale introduced exceptions for skilled workers to earn eight times the wage of the lowest paid worker; and although Bolshevik leaders made many later attempts to level wages, wage differentials were deemed necessary every time. Soviet leaders were unable to ensure that skilled workers were employed where they were needed, nor that workers would be willing to gain new skills, unless higher wages were offered for skilled positions and for those positions where labour was most urgently required.[18] Privileges and rewards were also critical to ensure hard work, and quality work; perhaps this was only true because the people were not yet enlightened, but, nevertheless, it was the case.

[17] Payments in factories during ‘war communism’ were equal to all workers in a given enterprise, and although wages differed between firms and between industries, maximum wages were limited by a series of wage-scales to as low as two to three times the wage of the lowest paid worker. Because rationed goods and free services made up the primary source of real income, equalization in real terms was even greater. (Bergson, 1944: 181-184).

[18] As planners struggled with labour allocation, wage differentials were deemed necessary not only for material incentive but also to induce labour into industries facing labour shortage. Several later polices attempted to equalize wages (though none as dramatic as the early attempts), and each of them had to be abandoned. A ‘wage-scale reform’ was made in 1927-1929, which incrementally introduced a leveling of wages, but ‘by late 1930 the ill effects of the egalitarian trends on the skilled labor force were alarming enough not to be overlooked.’ That reform, like the others, was soon reversed. (Kuromiya, 1990: 225). See also Nell 2010.

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Show 1 Answer (Ryan Heerwagen's answer approved by Guinevere Liberty Nell)
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Because this gave grounds for economic planning due to a perceived lack of difference between private monopoly and public ownership, and because it was perceived as laying the ground work for the transformation into socialism, the next phase of society.

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Good answer. Keeping in mind what Lenin and/or other Bolsheviks saw as the key differences between this concentrated capitalism - monopoly private ownership - and socialism (can you name a few?), and what the key similarities were (which they clearly saw), do the differences outweigh the similarities? Was there plan viable in theory--in other words, if they were able somehow to force through a "transformation", would the resulting "socialism" be significantly different and better than (a) the private capitalism, and/or (b) some less monopolistic, less concentrated, version of capitalism that might instead be brought about (at least in theory)?

Guinevere Liberty Nell approved 1 year 9 months ago.
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