Second American Revolution, Anyone? (was Re: Faux on Cockburn)

Russell Grinker grinker at
Thu Jan 6 12:19:13 PST 2000

Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:
>it just so happened that ex-socialist countries were never
>'totalitarian,' in the sense of leaving _no_ agency to people. What went
>wrong there was that workers' discontent and militancy were significant
>enough in a few places to help destabilize the regimes, but workers were
>not well organized, nor were they independent of 'populist' leaders
>(dissident intellectuals of various varieties -- some sincerely
>'socialist-humanist' [well-meaning, but, alas, politically clueless], some
>reactionary, others liberal) whose social positions and interests were not
>the same as workers'. Neither did the workers have their own clear
>political vision of how to survive the demise of the regimes without
>capitulating to imperialism & becoming recolonized (in fact, they seemed
>unaware of the fact that their countries were surrounded by imperial powers
>ready to exploit any openings).

I think this analysis emphasises too much the role of mass struggle in the demise of Stalinism and under-estimates the role played by the bureaucracy in the process. The transition process in the Soviet Union/Eastern Europe was initiated from the top downwards. It was ironically the bureaucracy - not the masses - which concluded that it could no longer carry on in the old way. The bureaucracy was a social stratum in search of a new identity and a new role in society. This led Gorbachev and his fellow travellers to chuck "Marxism-Leninism" and the leading role of the Party out of the window and introduce the market, hoping that they could transform themselves into a new ruling class running a restored capitalism. While the masses became active as a result of this, they were in almost all cases excluded from real power. They did not "destabilise the regimes" - it was the bureaucrats' experiments which achieved this. A visit to any of the Soviet Bloc countries at the time would also have made clear that, if anything, it was the intelligentsia and not the working class that was mobilised around Gorbachev's experiments.


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