Class Structure and Power in the USSR and the Effect on Policy


unpopular opinionzzzz

Read More

There’s a pretty good argument to be made that the USSR and US were not equally bad, because the countries had incredibly different class structures which resulted in radically different principles and policies.

Political Advocacy Rights

Human rights are fundamentally based on the security of the ruling class of society. When threatened by internal or external forces, the political advocacy rights extended to people are restricted in every country.

I list these factors in this post:

I still need to do a post implementing this framework and showing how it applies to the US and USSR’s policies, but let me know if you want examples.

Foreign Policy

The USSR was hegemonic in its relationship with Eastern Europe and Asian socialist countries, but it was not economically exploitative. All trade deals were based on trading goods, and the USSR traded at a loss of about 1.5-2x depending on how underdeveloped the country was.

In its relationships with Third World non-socialist countries, it wasn’t hegemonic or economically exploitative. Countries like Egypt had considerable leeway to play both the US and the USSR and make independent domestic and foreign policy decisions.

The USSR did not behave in an imperialist fashion in the way Marxists understand it.

Domestic Policy

Except for the illegal second economy and the bureaucrats they paid off, nobody benefited from the exploitation of labor. The illegal second economy first started growing rapidly under Khrushchev, and exploded under Brezhnev when he refused to enforce the laws against illegal exploitative businesses.

However, there was a considerable amount of employee influence over how their workplaces were run on a day-to-day level in the legal economy. This is from a 1970 study on worker feelings of influence in their enterprises:

  • Managerial personnel and specialists: 76-87% said they felt they had influence
  • Machine Operators: 55-78% said they felt they had influence
  • Skilled manual workers: 33-68% said they felt they had influence
  • Unskilled: 32-33% said they felt they had influence

While this leaves considerable room for improvement, it is important to remember that this was under a structure where, under capitalism, these workers would have had no influence whatsoever.

Here’s a post I made about the role of trade unions in the USSR:

This amount of control over the workplaces should be compared with the workplace control that workers had in Yugoslavia while it had so-called workers’ councils. In reality, these councils were a democratic varnish on the intelligentsia’s iron grip. The following numbers are from 1970, the peak of liberalization:

  • 98% of all decisions were identical to proposals originally made by experts and managers, and less than 1% of the time was it fundamentally different
  • Administrative staff consumed 80% of the total time in meetings and made 75% of all proposals
  • 81% of the discussion time was used by those with higher or polytechnical education and only 5.1% of the time was used by skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled blue-collar workers
  • 87% of accepted decisions were made by those with higher or polytechnical education and only 5% were made by skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled blue-collar workers
  • Only 8% believed the workers as a whole played a leading role in long-term planning, 63% believed managers played the leading role.

It is fair to say that the levels of worker control over enterprises isn’t reflective of enterprise structure, but of class power.

Books used: Class Struggle in Socialist Poland and Is the Red Flag Flying, both by Albert Szymanski


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s