Contributed Content (0)

Ask a Question

Show 1 Answer (Answer provided by Guinevere Liberty Nell)
user's picture

"Can you provide an explanation of how the events listed in the video could occur absent a power-hungry Stalin (or equivalent)?"


I think this is addressed a little in the next two sections and other sections on 'unity' - the ideology itself is one of unity and a single common will and the backing of a single party line, hence whatever that line is, any who dissent must fall in line with that party line, in order to maintain unity. Unless there are none who dissent, this will tend to cause the same problems, even if no individual chooses to take advantage of the power this offers. The only other way to avoid this kind of outcome (other than pure agreement and unity) is if the party is able to be extremely malleable and flexible.


This is true both within the top party committee debate on ideological questions (as addressed in this video) and in the area of planning: if the planning process were extremely malleable and flexible, with corrections and change happening as fast as markets respond, then many of the calculation problems and other planning issues may cease to exist -- if no planning period was required and errors in planning could be addressed and corrected immediately, before they affected other plan areas through shortage and surplus, then the problems could be contained and the plan might work as well as markets (so long as there were avenues to convey information via non-market mechanisms) due to the ability of trial and error to continually improve outcomes.


However responsiveness and flexibility tend to be very difficult for the system to produce, to say the least. The plan depends upon a plan period, in order to allow investment and - well - planning. The central committee depends upon a well-understood, well-defined, set of specific ideological principles and interpretation upon which to create the plan: planning an entire economy is extremely complicated - a modern economy is extremely complex. The party needs not only unity, but also a measure of, if not consistency then at least some set of--fixed or changing--set of principles, if it is to lead. Disagreement within the party puts on hold the chance for a clear interpretation of ideology upon which to base decisions, hence dissent within the party severaly disrupts the planning process.


As I write in my book Spontaneous Order and Utopian Collective, "Lenin, Bukharin, and Trotsky all understood the system required for transition to a utopian collectivist society: production and distribution decisions must be agreed to by both “the official group of representatives of the Marxist intelligentsia” and “the conscious proletariat,” and whether conceived of in some distant future society as top-down or bottom-up, in the meantime decisions about production and distribution would have to be coordinated by the party. Information must be communicated and resources be made available, and until such time as there was unity of will and spontaneously ordered production with commonly owned resources, plan instructions and adherence to the party program would have to be enforced."


"In other words, could the faith that Bukharin and Trotsky appeared to have in the party as non-dictatorial, as democratic or communally-sharing power, theoretically still be justified (ignoring evidence on Stalin's actual goals), even after these trials began?"

It takes time - a plan period - to get from interpretation of the socio-economic data and current state of affairs through to creating a plan, and then to implementing that plan. If there is dissent within the party about interpretation of ideology, all the party leaders agreed, this would not only disrupt their ability to plan and implement the plan for practical reasons, it would also disrupt the feeling of consensus and support for the plan that was so critical. This is why the party leaders were held to such a standard for maintaining unity within the party -- and yet, can such unity coincide with flexible democratic conversaton and decision-making?

There may be discussion and even debate among party leaders at the start of the 'plan period', or at least at the start of the transition to the new society, but once the party line is decided changing paths becomes 'impracticable'  -- at least if it requires conversation, debate, and open and transparent discussion about the reasons for change, things that are required for true democracy. Stalin was able to change party lines when convenient while avoiding discussion and debate and rewriting history rather than sharing the true reasons: Stalin (in addition to poor decisions which cost millions of lives) was able to use post-hoc justification and command decision-making to fix and amend, which allowed him to smooth over some of the plan problems, whereas true democratic decision-making, especially with contributions from the public, not just the party, would complicate matters immensely.

"What part must be due to the party's ideology, theory, structure, institutions; what part must be due to the personality of the one who has "risen to the top"; and can the causes of the various effects be distinguished?"

I would like to hear your answer to this question.

Or anyone else's -- these are just my conclusions. Please feel fre to argue against my reasoning.

Please register or login to answer a question
user's picture
Please register or login to answer a question
Please register or login to ask a question