Varga was a Hungarian political economist; he lived in the Soviet Union and was a member of the CPSU. For a long time he belonged to the outer circles of the Soviet Party leadership. He drew up the frequent economic analyses that Stalin used as a basis for his reports to the Party Congresses and for other documents.
Varga died in 1964 in Moscow. Shortly before his death he wrote down notes which, among other things dealt with the class relations in the Soviet Union. He did not write these notes to give them to anybody, but in the hope that they would be found later and published. They were published for the first time in the book by Gerhard Duda, Eugene Varga and the History of the Institute for World Economics and Politics in Moscow, 1921-1970. A later printing followed in the journal Streitbarer Materialismus [Militant Materialism] no. 19. The following quotes of Varga are taken from the latter publication.
We are concerned with this text of Varga not because we are in agreement with his political assessments. Quite the contrary. These political assessments are in our opinion partially very confused. In the conflict between the Khrushchevite Soviet leadership and the Chinese leadership around Mao Tsetung, Varga supported the Chinese position. That was done by almost all Marxist-Leninists in the whole world at that time, based on a mistaken assessment of the class character and the goals of the Chinese leadership. However Varga's reasons are partially abstruse and un-Marxist. Thus he makes the reproach that there was a lack of internationalism, that the Soviet Union supported China diplomatically, but "never militarily... on the question of Taiwan, on the question of the admission of China to the U.N.O. and the Security Council" (Varga, The Conflict between the Soviet Union and China, in German, p. 134). Should the Soviet Union have gone to war over this matter? At the same time Varga deplores "that since Stalin took power there has been a constant and successive decline of proletarian internationalism in the Soviet Union" (ibid). In general, it was Stalin's fault, according to Varga, that the negative changes that he deplores took place in the Soviet Union (ibid, p. 162).
This negative personality cult of Varga, according to which one man alone could be "at fault" for the fundamental development of a huge country, is only one example of the fact that Varga had lost his orientation. Of course, one cannot make this a personal reproach against him. The development of the communist movement at that time was so complicated and contradictory that anybody could easily lose his orientation, especially when he was personally quite isolated, as was the case with Varga at the time.
Nevertheless for two reasons Varga's notes are still valuable:
One is that he depicts certain facts that throw significant light on the class relations in the Soviet Union at that time. The other is because he depicts facts which, after all, are indications of what class stand Stalin took, namely that he turned against those who were taking a path that would change the dictatorship of the proletariat into a dictatorship over the proletariat. Varga decisively rejected Stalin at the time he wrote these notes, but by depicting the facts he involuntarily showed that Stalin fought against conditions that, in bourgeois propaganda are generally called "Stalinist."
Of course, only from the details related to us by Varga, one can not draw final conclusions, either about the development of class forces in the Soviet Union or about the class stand of Stalin. These details, however, can contribute to filling out a picture that one creates based on a multitude of facts and a totality of analyses.
Varga deplores a "far-reaching moral deterioration of Soviet society." "The people up to the upper stratum of the bureaucracy try to increase their incomes not only by greater work efficiency but by all possible means: by robbing from the state, speculation (N.I. Smirnov, the Secretary of the Crimean region), divulging military secrets (O.V. Penkovsky), theft of personal property, beginning in school to the appropriation of manuscripts. The exposition of the detailed methods of cheating, by means of which the riches and income of the socialist state and of other socialist organizations have been transferred into private hands, would require many books....
"A worker in a Sovkhoz [state farm] receives a monthly wage of 30-50 rubles, a member of an academy approximately 1,000 rubles, thus 20-30 times as much.
"And what is the real income of the highest peaks of the bureaucracy, the actually governing stratum? In other words, how much does the state spend on them a month?
"Nowhere is there any accounting! But everybody knows that they have dachas near Moscow, state-owned of course, where a guard of 10-20 men is stationed constantly; there are as well a gardener, kitchen personnel, maids, a private doctor and nurse, chauffeur, etc., up to 40-50 people. All paid for by the state. Of course, in addition there is a city residence with the same servants and at least another dacha in the south. They have personal special trains, personal airplanes, both with kitchens and kitchen personnel, personal yachts and of course a variety of automobiles with chauffeurs for day and night service for themselves and their families. They receive, or at least used to receive (now I do not know for sure), all their food and other goods that they request for free.
"What does all this cost the state? I don't know! But I know that a corresponding household in America would require the resources of a multi-millionaire! Just the pay for at least 100 people in their personal service would require at least 30-40 thousand dollars each month! Together with other expenses, that is over a half million dollars a year!
"In such conditions of distribution of income and the general striving for an ever higher 'Standard of life,' how can the transition to communism, to 'distribution according to need,' take place?
"It is said that there will be a surplus of everything!
"But will the people at the top give up a life with an army of a hundred servants and serve themselves? It is clear, that under communism no one can be anyone else's servant (with the exception of doctors, nurses, et al.).
"Is a transition from today's morally decayed [society], with strata of people with thousand-fold differences in income and innumerable privileges, to communism even thinkable?
"Or is today's condition a permanent one?
"I will die sadly!" (p. 122ff, Varga's emphasis)'
One can very well understand the emotions of Varga regarding these facts. However Varga, who knew the economic writings of Marx extremely well, lost his orientation as a theoretician completely when he made such relations of consumption the central point of the whole social development. He did this, when from the beginning of the '60s he used as his point of departure that "the means of productions are certainly socialized... but the differences in distribution of real income are just as large as in capitalist society (p. 121). For Varga the socialization of production was, before as well as after, not in question; the evil for him lay only in the relations of distribution.
The huge differences of income began in the '30s, and consequently Varga made Stalin responsible for the negative development in the Soviet Union: "The sins of Stalin, for which one can never make reparations, is the transformation of the 'worker's state with bureaucratic aberrations' (here Varga refers to a quotation from Lenin, RM) into a state of the bureaucracy, ..., by the abolition of the 'party maximum' (according to which party members with high incomes would have to make a contribution to the party of the greatest portion of the amount in excess of a certain upper level; in the '30s this was first undermined and then apparently abolished, RM), by breaking up Soviet society into classes and strata with enormous differences in income, by making a mockery of any thought of equality and self-denial and the consequent bourgeoisification of the way of life of the strata with higher incomes, especially the bureaucracy. The saying of Marx, that the social being of a person determines his ideology, without a doubt is also true for today's bureaucracy with high income,..." (p. 162, emphasis by RM).
Of course it is also true under socialism that social being determines consciousness – there Varga is undoubtedly right. However, for Marx it is not only, and not in the last analysis, the amount of income that determines social being.
"The structure of distribution is entirely determined by the structure of production. Distribution itself is a product of production, not only with regard to the object, [in the sense] that only the results of production can be distributed, but also with regard to the form, [in the sense] that the particular mode of participation in production determines the specific form of distribution, the form in which one shares in distribution." (Marx, Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, Chapter I, Section 2b, Marx Engels Works (MEW), vol. 28, p. 32-33, English edition)
Had Varga oriented himself on this reference of Marx, he would not have confined himself to the statement that the members of a certain stratum (which he defines without closer analysis as the "bureaucracy") take part in a certain way in the distribution, but he would have had to examine their "mode of participation in production." Then he would have shown among other things – as we will show further on – that these high differences of income at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s were the result of different production relations than existed in the 1930s. Thus Khrushchev and the stratum, or rather, class, that he represented, did not continue what Stalin and his comrades-in-arms had begun, but pursued opposite class interests. But more details about this later.
We first of all adhere to the view, to continue our polemic with Gossweiler (see the Appendix), that Varga, despite his crass distancing from Marxism on the question of the relations of production and distribution, still stands a thousand times closer to Marxism and to reality than Gossweiler. Gossweiler adheres to revisionism concerning the development of the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin in the following points:
"The first main line: class collaboration instead of class struggle" (Gossweiler, Strengths and Weaknesses in the Fight of the SED against Revisionism, p. 43, in German). What he means is the external class struggle, against imperialism. Of the class struggle within the Soviet Union Gossweiler does not speak of at all.
"The second main line: the propagation of imperialism as a model of the construction of socialism" (ibid., p. 48). Thus a certain propaganda in relation to the external enemy.
"The third main line: the exchange of the image of the friend and the enemy" (ibid., p. 50). By this Gossweiler means that the Khrushchevites talked nonsense about the alleged crimes of Stalin instead of denouncing the crimes of imperialism. If they had attacked imperialism externally in word and deed, but internally (anyway by and large) had they acted the way they did, then the world would be in order for Gossweiler, then there could be no talk of revisionism.
"The fourth main line: the destruction of communist party consciousness" (ibid., p. 53). As one can see, Gossweiler is a big friend of consciousness, while the material relations interest him much less. (Instead of "communist party consciousness" he would only have to say "proletarian way of thinking," and he could hold out his hand to the MLPD.) His points 2, 3 and 4 deal exclusively with content of consciousness, namely a "propagating," an "image" of a friend or enemy (thus a reflection of something objective in consciousness, where the objective phenomenon, the social relation, that produces the reflection, is not investigated any further), as well as a party consciousness (or rather its destruction). Only point 1 deals with the class struggle, or rather its alleged cessation, but only in relation to the external enemy.
If Gossweiler means that this struggle had been ceased, then the next assumption would be that this would be based on internal class relations, or rather, on the class interests of the people at the top of the Soviet Union. However, such an idea does not come to him. The "communist party consciousness" that Gossweiler swears by, or rather whose destruction by the Khrushchevites that he deplores, has nothing to do with any class relations, class interests or class struggle within the Soviet Union. It is classless, and this consciousness rests on itself, it is spirit of the spirit. However: "The 'idea' always disgraced itself insofar as it differed from the 'interest.'" (Marx/Engels, The Holy Family, Chapter VI, Section 1a, MEW vol. 4, p. 8, English edition) Gossweiler's "communist consciousness" differentiated from class interest, as well as the destruction of this consciousness differentiated of class interest, really disgraced themselves, for example, if one compares them to the facts that have been described very well by Varga.
Let us next consider what, according to Marx, the content of the transitional society to communism, namely socialism, consists in the last analysis:
"This Socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionising of all the ideas that result from these social relations." (Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850, Chapter III, MEW vol. 10, p. 127, English edition)
It is self-evident: as long as this socialism, this class dictatorship of the proletariat, is necessary, that is as long as communism has not been achieved, there will be class forces whose interests are directed towards preserving these relations of production, these relations and (for Marx at the very end!) these ideas. If one rejects this, then one replaces the study of these interests, or rather the opposed interests of the proletariat as well as the struggle between these two interests, by a "class struggle" a la Gossweiler, that is, by a struggle that almost exclusively has its driving force in external relationships as well as in ideas, and thus one revises in all fundamentals Marx's concept of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This revision serves objectively to shift the view of the working class about what is at stake in this struggle, and this further serves the class interests of those who want to prevent the abolition of all relationships based on class differences. We therefore should not be surprised that Gossweiler tells us how the revisionist Ulbricht "fought revisionism." We should not be surprised, since Gossweiler himself was and is a revisionist. All his chatter about the "fight against revisionism" is only meant to obscure the fact that he himself is revising one of the cardinal points of Marxism, namely the question of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The readers may perhaps wonder why we take the trouble to deal so thoroughly with Gossweiler. But Gossweiler incorporates here a whole tendency.
Take for example the book by Hans Heinz Holz, The Downfall and Future of Socialism [published in English by Marxist Educational Press, Minneapolis, MN 1992]. Holz is not just anybody, and this book is not just any book. Holz is a leading ideologist of the DKP [German Communist Party], and this book became the ideological foundation for the continued existence of the DKP, for its continued existence not as a left social-democratic party, but on the basis of its own revisionist traditions.
Holz deplores in this book "the changes at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU" and he relates these changes to "the state of thinking in the Soviet Union," which these changes, in his opinion, "permitted... and possibly even demanded" (Holz, p. 106).
For the contents of this consciousness he makes two material factors essentially responsible: the one, the low level of the productive forces, and the other, the pressure of imperialism. These factors existed, of course, and they also had a great effect, but Holz only talks of them in order to divert attention from the internal class interests. The class struggle is according to Holz replaced by the "struggle for the people's consciousness" (Holz, p. 111) and this struggle must be led by the party, or rather by the party leaders, that is by those very people who lived in the way that Varga described.
Holz deplores the fact that this struggle "was no longer pursued, but was bureaucratically replaced by decrees on political education" (ibid). The people who allowed themselves to be served, should have educated their servants in an unbureaucratic manner in the communist sense – a task that simply could not be solved, which Holz poses to the Soviet apparatchiks.
Holz deplores "the impoverishment of theory" in the period after Stalin. "Marxist theoreticians" according to him, "lost sight of the practical side of their analyses and goals" (ibid). The question, which class interests these theoreticians represented at that time, does not arise for Holz. The height of irony: a few sentences later, Holz complains that these theoreticians did not examine "the contradictions within their own society," namely Soviet society (ibid), a task which even today he can not set himself!
Holz: "Dictatorship of the proletariat could only be a long-lasting dictatorship of the Party;" the "broad masses" should, according to Holz, be satisfied with this kind of "socialism," because it could bring them "a clear improvement in living standards and material security" (Holz, p. 104).
We by no means deny that under the given backward circumstances great concessions had to be made, and that there were extremely great obstacles in the way of the development of the communist self-activity of the members of society.
However, Stalin in particular, to whom Holz and Gossweiler once again sing praises, never came to the conclusion that the dictatorship of the proletariat could only be the dictatorship of the party. On the contrary, he fought against such a conclusion in theory and practice. He explicitly opposed such a conclusion in the quote that we gave on p. 185 (SW vol. 8, p. 50-51 [from "Concerning Questions of Leninism," English edition]). In another place Stalin said:
"The fact that we have a group of leaders who have risen excessively high and enjoy great prestige is in itself a great achievement for our Party. Obviously, the direction of a big country would be unthinkable without such an authoritative group of leaders. But the fact that as these leaders rise they get further away from the masses, and the masses begin to look up at them from below and do not venture to criticise them, cannot but give rise to a certain danger of the leaders losing contact with the masses and the masses getting out of touch with the leaders.
"This danger may result in the leaders becoming conceited and regarding themselves as infallible. And what good can be expected when the top leaders become self-conceited and begin to look down on the masses? Clearly, nothing can come of this but the ruin of the Party." (SW vol. 11, p. 34, English edition) Indeed, it led to the downfall of the CPSU as a communist party and the downfall of the Soviet Union as a socialist country, and that took place irrevocably in the 1950s.
And today, forty years later, Holz tells us that the dictatorship of the proletariat could not have been anything but the dictatorship of the party, and for the broad masses, after all, the living standards had improved.
It must be clearly stated: the class stand of Holz and Gossweiler has nothing to do with that of Stalin, but is directly contrary to it. The class stand of Holz and Gossweiler corresponds to that of the Soviet leaders who arrogantly looked down on the masses, as Stalin pointed out in above quotation.
These are leaders who consider the masses to be stupid and backward and themselves to be irreplaceable, leaders who did not even think of working towards the abolition of class differences, but wanted to remain "on top" for all times and consequently to eternalize class differences, leaders who work in the direction of monopolizing all decision-making authority in their own hands and removing the proletariat permanently from exercising power.
The emancipation of a stratum of such leaders to a new ruling class, that was the content of the socio-economic events after the death of Stalin. But these people were of course already there long before Stalin's death and pursued their own interests. The sympathies of Holz and Gossweiler lie with these people. If at the same time they have a certain nostalgia for Stalin, then this is because from today's point of view it is easy to see that the decline of the Soviet Union began with the seizure of power by the Khrushchevites. And nostalgic people like Holz and Gossweiler would like to have a strong, powerful Soviet Union – with the type of leaders on top who monopolize all power and degrade the proletariat to a decoration. That is the reason why they, who are themselves revisionists, on the one hand decry the revisionism of Khrushchev and on the other hand are very concerned to sweep the class roots of this revisionism completely under the rug.
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