Socialism in East Germany? Is Obama Then Sorta Socialist Too?

In our discussion of Heresy: On New Demarcations & Coherent Theory, a commentator (T1) argued strongly saying that East Germany (the GDR) should be considered socialist. Selucha responded that despite "socialist elements," East Germany could not be considered a revolutionary society.

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I would say that the three claims of socialism in East Germany were not that remarkable for capitalist countries:

  • welfare state features,
  • state ownership of industry,
  • government party self-labeling itself "socialist"

And that we can't consider a society "socialist" based on just the presence of those "features" -- i.e. socialism is not defined by either forms or official rhetoric.  And this becomes clear when you start to compare societies.


Certainly Scandinavian countries have (in many case) put themselves forward as their own form of "socialism."

And, when I was in West Germany during this period (i.e. the 1960s), the ruling party there was the SPD (known as "die Roten", "the Reds") and headed by Willy Brandt (who like Honecker had a resume with the anti-Nazi resistance, and was described as a "socialist.") And so on...

Were those "socialist elements" in West Germany as well? There is in such designations a tendency to see modern capitalist welfare states as somehow "socialist." And in particular to see public social services as those "socialist elements."

The DDR did have some social benefits. The whole place felt like a big intramural sports league -- with group fitness and team-building being a particular fascination. In the DDR (German Democratic Republic, in the east) there was a system of day care centers, for example. Is that what we are talking about?

But was it really different in that regard to its neighbors just to the West? (I.e. Denmark, West Germany, Sweden, etc.) Was that a "socialist" thing, or a development of all (capitalist!) countries in that region of north central Europe? Were these welfare systems a way highly socialized modern European capitalism defended itself (in a social-democratic counterinsurgency way) from the advance of radical proletarian revolution -- or were they signs of the socialist revolution itself?


Similarly the eastern countries had a relatively high degree of state ownership compared, say, to the U.S. or Sweden. (Sweden has a famous welfare state system, but a very low degree of state nationalization of industry.) But industry and agriculture were not particularly nationalized in Eastern Europe compared to some western countries. I have seen for example comparisons between "socialist" Poland and capitalist Peru in the 1970s. Poland did not have a higher degree of state ownership of industry than Peru (i.e. basic industry were state owned in both). Peru had a network of state owned farms in the 1970s -- while Poland's agriculture remained largely uncollectivized and almost completely small capitalist family farms.

In fact, it is true of MANY "developing" countries in the Third World that their basic industries were nationalized in the 1960s (before the later "neo-liberal" changes) and that foreign capitalist investment then came through international loans to the state and its state sector. And in fact that feature of capitalist third world industrialization is tied to Mao's conceptualization of "bureaucratic capitalism" as a major (oppressive) feature of semi-feudal, semi-colonial countries.

Such state ownership of basic industry was at that time a common (even typical) feature of developing capitalist economies in much of the world. India's state steel sector, for example, received investment loans from the Soviet Union in a rather typically imperialist and exploitative way.

Erich Honecker's public image: officious, tidy, exuding very German efficiency

And yes, East Germany had an oppressive apparatus of organized informants and state surveillance -- but it was not that much different from the operations of many governments in the west in its intrusiveness and semipermanent threat. In other words, the anti-communist Cold Warriors were wrong in their bogus distinction between "authoritarian" good guys versus the "totalitarian" bad guys.

Experiences in the Soviet Bloc

I spent a month traveling in the East Bloc country of Czechoslovakia (officially CSSR -- CzechoSlovak Socialist Republic). And I was constantly struck by the way everyone spoke their mind. It was after the Prague Spring, and right after the 1969's Warsaw Pact invasion (that included Soviet, but also East German and Mongolian troops) -- and there, right in the middle of this occupation, people held rallies and debates wherever I was. They seemed to argue quite openly about the future and their political desires. The political level of these discussions was very low (comparable to the U.S.) -- largely because people had obviously been quite excluded from politics in the preceding decades. I suspect part of the political freedom they felt came from the fact that no one was supporting (or reporting back to) the hated new Husak government the Soviet invaders had just imposed.

But still, even under occupation, the Czechoslovakia I traveled through did not feel like a "sordid police state." But everyone I met (including Germans, Poles, Hungarians, Yugoslavs) said the same thing: "We couldn't talk like this across the border back in the DDR or in the USSR."


In other words: Sure East Germany had a social welfare system, but not one much more elaborate to its Swedish neighbor. And sure Poland had a state sector, but not much more developed than countries like Peru etc. Yes East Germany had low (or hidden) unemployment -- but not lower than West Germany (which then had a semi-permanent labor shortage).

And yes, the Eastern European governments used "socialist"  rhetoric to legitimize themselves -- but was that so different from the Mexican governments' rhetoric about "revolution" or anti-imperialism? Or the Manley government in Jamaica? Or the "socialism" of Burma/Myanmar's ugly military rulers? Or the dogmatic paper "communism" of the CPI(Marxist) that has run semifeudal West Bengal for decades? Or the popular front government in 1930s France?

Is it so hard to see that capitalist (and imperialist) societies can have nominally "communist" governments -- and yet not be socialist?

Particular Social Formations and Their Political Coloration

Out of the 1945 collapse of the Nazi expansion, and out of the fighting entry of the Soviet Army into that space, emerged a set of postwar social formations that had not had any real or deep radical transformations. They had the superficial trappings (the forms) of state ownership and "communist" political labeling (which were naturally demanded by the Soviet leadership). But they were, imho, as capitalist (in essence) as the countries to their west -- and in many ways their governments were even less popular and legitimized because they had been so obviously imposed externally. (We posted writings by the German communist Bertold Brecht on some of these developments -- particularly the east Berlin workers uprising of 1953.)

The exceptions in the East were (of course) Albania and Yugoslavia, where the new postwar governments arose from indigenous resistance movements (though with a lot more Soviet external help than they generally acknowledged). And those governments too had socialist and communist rhetoric. And, while I don't know much about the internal history and development of Albania (does anyone?) -- there is a lot of evidence that Yugoslavia was the very first example of this new kind of social formation -- a capitalist society with a government calling itself "communist."

In other words, this was not (as T1 asked) simply some mechanical matter of "it's externally imposed, so it can't be socialist."

Even in Yugoslavia, which had an indigenous anti-Nazi resistance movement creating a new multinational federation out of Nazi occupation, the resulting formation was capitalist. In fact Tito pioneered this new phenomenon in history: State capitalism with a phony communist veneer.

I wrote an analysis of this Yugoslav history in the 1990s when Yugoslavia shattered into vicious local wars, and the Clinton government then attacked Serbia. Some left forces argue at the time that Clinton's war on Serbia was an attack on the sole remaining "socialist' state. Check out How Capitalism Caused the Balkan Wars.

And in answer to the question asked earlier: this article is an example of how "state capitalism" is a category within materialist analysis, not not simply an "epithet."

Socialist Elements? What about Obama Then?

So are there "socialist elements"? Well it depends on your definitions.

Certainly the rightwing in the U.S. is on a rampage around this: They accuse Obama of being a socialist for wanting tiny state involvement in health care reform. They equate nationalized (west European style) health care with communism and Marxism. And some of them also consider income taxes, public schools, paper money, government firehouses, etc. to be "socialist elements."

Should we agree that "Obama has socialist elements in his program?" Should we (like some on the left) support him on that basis?

I think we should disagree with the rightwing -- and say "Obama is no socialist -- and we should know."

And overall, I also don't think we should treat "social welfare programs + government lipservice to communism" as semi-socialist. (I also don't think we should view neo-liberal privatization, say of the PRI-created structures in Mexico, as the dismantling of "socialist elements" in those societies.)

If we that, we would be conceding quite a bit in what we imagine (and expect) about genuine socialism.

Here is one way of looking at it: A society is either socialist or capitalist. Ultimately a society is either defined by capitalism (i.e. governed by the law of value), or its direction is defined by something else (the road of ongoing and deepening socialist transformation, where the people's interests are through various political mediations in command of the direction of society).

In my view, welfare benefits, state ownership of some industry, etc. are really common features of some modern capitalism -- reflecting its growing socialization, and the wealth of some imperialist countries (including both Germanies!). And these things also reflect, in some ways, features that show modern capitalism on the doorstep of new leaps in socialization. (And in that narrow sense alone they are, perhaps, "socialist elements.")

I don't think we should lower our sights and goals in that way -- or cheapen the word "socialism" by reducing it to "day care centers plus state ownership plus informants."

People in this conversation

  • Guest - Red Julie


    "And, while I don’t know much about the internal history and development of Albania (does anyone?)"

    I do. And perhaps it would do Kasama well to familiarize themselves with the Albanian experience of Socialist construction.

    "The exceptions in the East were (of course) Albania and Yugoslavia, where the governments arose from indigenous resistance movements"

    This is the only major common trait between the two states, other than the fact that they shared a border.

    Other than this, in terms of socio-economic organization, political organization, affirmation of rights for sections of the population (especially womyn and national minorities), and the basic priorities of the state (the law of value or socialist transformation), there was very little similarity between Albania and The SFR Yugoslavia (the two became mortal enemies),

    Both States left the Warsaw pact, but Yugoslavia did it on a basis of opportunism (and leaned more towards NATO), While Albania did it on a basis of revolutionary Marxism-Leninism, and found a common bond with Maoist China and their fraternal allies.

    "(with a lot more external help than they generally acknowledged)."

    You say that you don't know much about Albania, but then come to this conclusion. <i>No investigation, no right to speak</i>.

    Perhaps this was the case in Yugoslavia, but the Albanians were never shy about mentioning the role that the USSR played in aiding them, and in their industrialization. They did this in much official literature, and continued to do this even after they broke relations with the USSR following the revisionist coup.

    In one WW II narrative that I read, a former British soldier complained about how during the second World War (and the Albanian revolution), the Albanians were praising the USSR to the high heavens, even though much of their weaponry and aid was actually coming from Britain (although the post-war aid to Albania from the USSR was instrumental).

    Also, the implications of this message seem negative, to try and trivialize their national liberation struggles, and revolutionary credibility. Well, in Albania, the Soviet Red army did not set foot there. The Albanians may have recieved their guns from elsewhere, but they were held and fired by the Albanians themselves (men and womyn) against their oppressers.

    If external help carries a negative connotation, then remember how much external help the Peoples Republic of China recieved from the USSR as well. There is a difference between comradely solidarity and "imposing socialism" by external means.

    "And those governments too had socialist and communist rhetoric...there is a lot of evidence that Yugoslavia was the very first example of this new kind of social formation- a capitalist society with a government calling itself “communist.”"

    Again, the implication of this sentence is that Yugoslavia and Albania were politically and economically similar, if not identical.

    You are correct that Yugoslavia was a capitalist system masquerading as socialism (the first), but equating it with Albania is equating two polar opposites. The Albanians had a thoroughly Marxist-Leninist economy, and had nothing but contempt for the Yugoslavian "self administration" economic model.

    Here is an incomplete account of the Albanian analysis of capitalist system in Yugoslavia (Sorry. I couldn't find a completed text online.):

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Your ignorance of the Albanian experience is leading you denounce them vicariously through your knowledge of the Yugoslavian revisionists, a state which tried to assimilate Albania many times, and engineered acts of subversion against the Albanian state.

    Albania was a revolutionary state, possibly the most revolutionary state to exist on the planet earth to this day, and it would do contemporary revolutionaries well to absorb their analysis.

    - Julie

  • Guest - ex-kapd

    the problem here if you are still trying to argue from a Maoist perspective, is that the socialist claims of the post 1949 PRC can be demolished in the same way.
    after all it was Mao himself who pointed out that socialist china still had a graded wage system and its mode of production was based on the production of commodities, short of dubious claims about the subjective intent of the leadership ( which is a mode of argument quite contrary to historical materialism), China under Mao can only be described as a capitalist society.
    in fact and this was acknowledged by Lenin, the social democratic concept of socialism inherited by the third international, is no more then state capitalism under "progressive" leadership.
    in my opinion the dictatorship of the proletariat can only be conceptualized as a radical rupture with commodity production and the state, which is say the imposition of communism against the dictatorship of value.
    the history of the 20th century has shown that adherence to a methodology of "socialist transition" only serves the further development of capitalism on a world scale.

  • Guest - Red_Worker

    "Albania and Yugoslavia, where the new postwar governments arose from indigenous resistance movements (though with a lot more Soviet external help than they generally acknowledged)."

    Actually albania recieved little external help from the Soviet Union, it was the only communist nation that was liberated without soviet troops or soviet aid.

  • Guest - land

    Right now I would go anywhere where people are arguing quite openly about their future and their political desires.

  • Guest - chegitz guevara

    I would point out that Eastern Europe, especially the DDR, were areas of considerable activity by Western agents. William Blum's book, <i>Killing Hope</i> documents the massive level of espionage, sabotage, and down right terrorism that went on there. With trains being derailed, bridges being blown up, entire fleets of buses being burned, I can't imagine state security not becoming important. Clearly, the DDR went overboard, but we need to consider the context.

    The purpose of terrorism is to provoke a disproportionate response in the state that causes the state to become hated by its own population, who in turn overthrow it. I think we should consider Eastern Europe an example of a successfully run terrorist operation.

  • Guest - Eso

    These people, who "spoke their mind" in Czechoslovakia were "normalized" in the seventieth. Sorry, anyone, who compares situation in present USA a Soviet block really donesn't know what he are talking about.

  • Guest - observer

    Mike, the link you give is to Brecht's essay The Other Germany, written during World War 2. It is not about the 1953 events. Brecht did, famously, however, write a poem about 1953, in which he talked about the government "dissolving the people" and electing a new one.

  • Guest - marcuswinter

    The inclusion of the Brezhnev (whose name you spell incorrectly, BTW) and Honecker kiss seems incredibly pointless and smacks of homophobia.

    What does the fact that he kissed Brezhnev have to do with anything? You could have just as easily shown a picture of him hugging him, or meeting with him, or a thousand other pictures. Instead you chose the lowest-common-demoninator.

    It seems like nothing more than a shallow attempt at "lulz" using the lexicon of "hurr men kissing men" which you try to pass of as a political argument by saying it shows the fact that East Germany had relations with the revisionist USSR. Again, it was completely unnecessary, as you could've shown one of a thousand pictures and not this one.

  • Guest - Censored

    They weren't just "not socialist". They were "social fascist" (socialists in words, fascists in reality). So was Lin Piao. Its a vital concept, first clarified by Mao. Rejection or obscuring of that concept goes naturally with rejecting or obscuring other aspects of Mao's line.

  • Guest - saoirse

    Aside from the USSR and China were there any other socialist revolutions? After WWII the USSR mechanically imposed a system onto East Germany. There was no socialist revolution. But was there a socialist revolution in Cuba? Laos? North Korea?

    Other questions I don't disagree from Mike's assessment of Tito but was his path any different than many in Africa, the middle east, south america, etc? It would seem too that many countries were caught btwn soviet social imperialism and US imperialism. This is not to make excuses but to suggest that these countries were on a tightrope of survivalism. Drawing on ideas and models for practical and rhetorical reasons.

  • Marcus: You raise an interesting point, which I had not considered -- that the kissing picture might owe part of its controversy to the way it interacts with homophobia.

    it was a very famous image, with wide impact at its time -- because it captured something very specific (politically and culturally) -- and, in particular, something that a photo of routine hugging would not portray. In other words, it was not really me trying (arbitrarily)to make this image notorious for <em>current</em> impact, or to trigger negative reactions because it showed man-man contact. I was sharing a famous and revealing photograph that <em>both in its time and since</em> was a major symbolic event -- and was intended as such by the two men.

    The kiss took place in 1979, on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the GDR. But it also took place in the context of the Brezhnev Doctrine -- a rather nakedly imperialist proclamation by which the Soviets declared their right to invade any of their allies that had popular uprisings or where the government might want to step out of the alliance. It was, in form and content, quite similar to the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war -- in that it openly insisted that other countries had no sovereign right to their own policies and the superpower had some uber-right to invade to carry out "regime change."

    More: 1979 was a moment when the USSR was just launching its invasion of Afghanistan -- and where it stood again (as it had during its 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia) exposed -- looking very much like a colonial power with its own equivalent of the Vietnam War. So a public embrace (very public, very embrace) was a fervent endorsement of THAT.

    So it was symbolic that Honecker (head of East Germany) chose this particularly intimate form of honoring the Soviet leader. It was the opposite of "distancing" -- it was a declaration of common fate. And, of course, their fates <em>were</em> entangled -- including for the simple reason that the East German government could not last a minute without Soviet troops propping it up.

    And in many ways it was also a "kiss of death" because it revealed that desperate dependence -- below the pretense (a pretense embedded in the very name of German Democratic Republic.... for a government that could not hope to receive the loyalty or support of the broad mass of its own population in the absense of the <em>real politik</em> of Soviet occupation).

    You can contrast that kiss with a later one -- where Gorbachev was being asked to help suppress the rising disturbances of 1989 in East Germany, and was about to go the other direction, pulling back from its forward deployment. <a href="/" rel="nofollow">THAT kiss</a> was very awkward and half-hearted -- because the weakened and staggering Soviet leadership was about to cut Honecker loose.

    To end back on Marcus' point: I don't doubt that in the 1980s the widespread reprinting and discussion of the original Brezhnev-Honecker kiss played out on a political and symbolic landscape that included (among other things) a degree of homophobia. And that is worth deconstructing -- because it may played out in complex ways. What made the kiss remarkable is not its homoeroticism (which was, uh, zero) but rather that these men choose this form to declare <em>political</em> intimacy, actually flouting and ignoring the conventions and prejudices of viewers. And that was also seen (correctly) an assertion of <em>Russian</em> custom -- because while in our culture or in German culture, such a mouth-to-mouth kiss is unusual in public -- it is not particularly strange (or associated with gay implications) in <em>Russian</em> culture. In other words, this meant that in the East Bloc and to observers, that man-kiss was an expression of <em>Russian</em> cultural dominance, not just a <em>political</em> fealty to the Soviet imperium.

    * * * * * * *

    Sidenote on spelling: thanks for the correction. And please, if this site makes typos, inform moderators to help make correx. The names of russians appear differently in each language (in the transfer from the Cyrillic) so I often just jot down names phonetically. (i.e. his name is spelled Brezhnev, Breschnew, Brejnev, and Bresjnev in the various things I was reading -- go figger.

  • Guest - charles

    Social welfare policies, state ownership of certain means of production and "socialist" rhetoric does not make a country socialist any more than the existence of some private property makes a country capitalist.

    i.e. You can have the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with certain social programs and state ownership just like you can have the dictatorship of the proletariat with some degrees of private ownership. A specific example is obvious the NEP era Soviet Union. In these cases, the trajectory of society and class relations is in many ways more important than the specific state of class society at some fixed point in time. The small scale ownership of private property in the USSR was implemented to advance the backwards feudal country rapidly towards socialism and ultimately dismantle capitalist property relations, while the small scale social programs proposed by Obama (or those existant in parts of Europe) are implemented to retain capitalist property relations.

    From a Scientific Marxist point of view, Capitalism and Socialism have very specific characteristics in terms of the way the people relate to the means of production, and consequently to one another. It seems to me though that more work has been done laying a basis for rigorously defining what capitalism is and how it looks and functions (i.e. Das Kapital and Imperialism) than there has been for rigorously defining socialism.

    One of the challenges that we face, I think, is summing up historical events and from there establishing well-defined, unambiguous criteria to define socialism that can be universally applied without ignoring particularities unique to every revolution and time period.

    Also, Brezhnev is the most accurate transliteration of the Soviet leaders name from Cyrillic (Брежнев). The other three spellings maybe phonetically correct, but they aren't correct transliterations of the Cyrllic letters. I think Brezhnyev would also be acceptable, because the Cyrillic e is usually pronounced as "ye", while the letter "э" is the Cyrillic equivalent of the e that we all know and love.

  • There are many issues raised in this thread -- and they underscore that discussion of the <em>nature</em> of the Soviet Union (in its various stages) and the nature of its bloc of states remains a highly controversial question needing more and ongoing discussion. Let's bring it.

    In general, I think there has emerged a general default position in much of the left -- that says the Soviet Union may have been a bad socialist country with many flaws -- but it was (until 1989) a socialist country. (Sometimes in trotskyist circles, the word socialist is not used for idiosyncratic reasons, but the assertion of "gains of october" and "property forms" means that the verdict is functionally the same.)

    And as I tried to point out in the initiating piece above -- this is highly relevant now, even thought the Soviet bloc is long gone. Because this analysis is tied to a very particular view of "neo-liberalism" -- which sees the privatizing frenzy within the world capitalist system as the assault on "socialist elements" within many countries (the welfare states of Europe, the state sectors of third world countries, etc.) And understanding the <em>actual</em> nature of the (quite reactionary) neo-liberal reforms is important (and different analyses of the reforms lead to very different strategic implications).

    * * * * * *

    I'm hoping to get away from a situation where some people think (or say) "This is my view, it is obviously true, and if you don't get it.... you are an idiot." (Which is essentially what Eso said:

    <blockquote>"Sorry, anyone, who compares situation in present USA to a Soviet bloc really doesn’t know what he are talking about." </blockquote>

    In fact, i traveled from the west to the Soviet bloc and to my surprise, reached exactly that conclusion -- that the nature of the society, its depolitication of the people, the alienation of production and life, the texture of social relations (including man-woman relations) were simply indistinguishable (to me) from the world I had left behind. Forgive me, but in that sense, I do know what <em>i'm</em> talking about. I.e. I have real reasons for thinking this.

    You certainly may disagree and have good reasons for disagreeing, but then perhaps you owe everyone some thinking and evidence. Flyby dismissals are not particularly helpful, right?

    * * * * * * * *
    The Observor is correct (above) in saying i gave the wrong link to brecht's biting poem on the 1953 uprising. It was called <a href="/" rel="nofollow">"The Solution"</a> and said:

    <blockquote>"After the uprising on June 17th The Secretary of the Writers Union Had flyers distributed in Stalin Way that said That the People had frivolously Thrown away the Government's Confidence And that they could only regain it Through Redoubled Work. But wouldn't it be Simpler if the Government Simply dissolved the People And elected another?" </blockquote>

    Isn't this an important statement on the question of popular agency? Doesn't it point out (from very early in the process) the outcome of these historic attempts to impose socialism on the population in complete disregard to the mass line.

    No good came of it, and i believe no good <em>can</em> ultimately come of it.

    I have taken up Saoirse's points in a separate post on "<a href="/" rel="nofollow">The Experience of Exporting Socialism</a>."

  • Charles writes:

    <blockquote>"Also, Brezhnev is the most accurate transliteration of the Soviet leaders name from Cyrillic (Брежнев). The other three spellings maybe phonetically correct, but they aren’t correct transliterations of the Cyrllic letters. I think Brezhnyev would also be acceptable, because the Cyrillic e is usually pronounced as “ye”, while the letter “э” is the Cyrillic equivalent of the e that we all know and love."</blockquote>

    The other three spellings (Brezhnev, Breschnew, Brejnev, and Bresjnev) are the way it is done in German, Danish and French (which is what i was reading in the background as I was preparing these posts).

    The point is not whether they are "correct transliterations" or not. They are the correct (i.e. accepted) spellings <em>in those languages</em>. And it highlights a certain arbitrariness in how Russian names (and many other things) are spelled.

    Personally and politically -- I'm for simple fonetik spelling. And perhaps that will be part of how English is transformed in future revolutionary processes (as Russian was by the socialist revolution there). (Or perhaps u wll c English now phoneticized by the rapidly-texting generation <em>without</em> a revolution?)

  • Guest - heiss93

    [<strong>moderator note:</strong> the following is a bit confusing.... but it alternates an english passage with a german translation -- from a discusion of the MLPD, a German Maoist party. Understanding that makes it a bit less confusing. When one of us gets a chance, we will try to format it so the two languages are more distinct.]

    I think this discussion on the German Marxist-Leninist Party forum over the nature of capitalism in Germany would be useful to our analysis, being that some of the participants actually lived in East Germany.

    For my part I find the theory of instant capitalist restoration problematic in both its Trotskyist and Maoist guise. And even Mao did not adapt as hardline towards Eastern Europe which he differentiated against the Soviet Union itself. Without necessarily upholding DDR right up till 1989, I think it makes more sense to look at the historical process and evolution after 1953, rather than have a mechanistic view that the DDR was socialist when Stalin lived, capitalist when Stalin died.;sl=de&amp;u=;ei=eynrSvuFH43FlAeN4dj_BA&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=translate&amp;ct=result&amp;resnum=1&amp;ved=0CA0Q7gEwAA&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3D

    Too bad that the MLPD is in the eastern states still not very well represented.

    Ich glaube aber, dass sie sehr viel Potential vergibt, weil sie programmatisch die Auffassung vertritt - die DDR wäre ein "bürokratisch - kapitalistischer" Staat gewesen!

    But I think that it gives a lot of potential, because they represent the view programmatically - the GDR had been a "bureaucratic - capitalist" state!

    Ich kann mir gut die Millionen Gesichter und erst recht Millionen Gefühle vorstellen, wenn so etwas von Menschen gelesen wird, die sich für eine bessere Gesellschaft tatkräftig eingesetzt haben.

    I can well imagine the millions of faces and even more millions of feelings when something is read by people who have campaigned vigorously for a better society.

    Und da ist vielleicht nicht nur im ehemaligem "Osten" die Enttäuschung groß.

    And there is perhaps not only in the former "East", the big disappointment.

    Wenn wir untersuchen wollen, ob denn dieses Land wirklich kapitalistisch war, sollten wir fragen:

    If we want to investigate whether because this was really a capitalist country, we should ask:

    Was ist Kapitalismus? What is capitalism? Was ist Bürokratie? What is bureaucracy?

    Zuerst zu dem leichteren. Let us look at the lighter.

    Der Kapitalismus ist eine Wirtschaftsordnung die auf dem Privateigentum der Produktionsmittel beruht und über den freien Markt (Marktwirtschaft) gesteuert wird, so die allgemeingültige Definition.

    Capitalism is an economic order based on private ownership of means of production and is based on the free market (market economy) is controlled, the generally accepted definition.

    In der DDR gab es aber nun kein Privateigentum an strategisch wichtigen Produktionsmitteln, von kleinen Handwerks- und Gewerbetreibenden abgesehen.

    In the GDR, there was no private but apart now in strategically important means of production, from small craft and tradesmen.

    Die wichtigsten Produktionsmittel waren Eigentum der Arbeiterklasse, so genanntes Volkseigentum.

    The main means of production were owned by the working class, so-called people's property.

    Eine zweite gesellschaftliche Eigentumsform war das genossenschaftliche Eigentum der Landwirtschaftlichen Produktionsgenossenschaften (LPG), der Produktionsgenossenschaften des Handwerks (PGH), Wohnungsgesellschaften etc.

    A second form of public ownership was the co-ownership of agricultural production cooperatives (LPG), the production of craft cooperatives (PGH), housing associations etc.

    Und einen "freien Markt" gab es nun wirklich auch nicht, sondern eine (viel beschimpfte und oft gefürchtete) zentrale staatliche Planung und Leitung der Volkswirtschaft.

    And a "free market" were really not, but a (much abused and often dreaded) centralized state planning and economic management.

    Ja, nun sagt man, aber die "neue Bourgeoisie" hat die Arbeiter weiter ausgebeutet - welch ein hanebüchener Irrtum!

    Yes, now it is said, but the "new bourgeoisie" exploited the workers on - what an outrageous mistake!

    Wie bekannt sein dürfte - und das wird ja auch so oft belächelt, gab es in der DDR eine flache Einkommenspyramide (irrtümlicherweise "Gleichmacherei" genannt).

    As would be known - and this is indeed so often ridiculed, there were in the GDR a flat income pyramid by mistake ( "sameness" considered).

    Selbst ein Minister verdiente höchstens das Fünffache eines guten Facharbeiters und das bei wesentlich längerer Arbeitszeit.

    Even a minister earned five times more than a good skilled workers and with much longer working hours.

    Er musste 20 % Lohnsteuer abführen, während sie für einen Arbeiter 5 % betrug.

    He had to pay 20% tax on wages, while it amounted to 5% for a worker.

    Erich Honecker (einschließlich seiner Frau Margot) hatte am Ende seiner "Kariere" mal gerade 200 000,- Ostmark auf seinem Sparkonto, die waren nach der Währungsunion mal gerade 100 000,- Westmark und heute mal gerade lächerliche 50 000,- Euro wert.

    Erich Honecker (including his wife Margot) was at the end of his "career" time just 200 000, - East marks on his savings account, which were worth on the monetary union views just 100 000, - Westmark times and now just ridiculous 50 000, - Euro.

    Und Aktien oder andere Segnungen der Profitbeteiligung (oder besser gesagt der Ausbeutung) sucht man in der ehemaligen DDR auch absolut vergebens.

    And shares or other benefits of profit sharing (or rather the exploitation), it is sought in the former GDR also absolutely in vain.

    Ja wo hatte sich denn der Reichtum der "Neuen Bourgeoisie" versteckt?

    Yes, where it had hidden the wealth of the "new bourgeoisie"?

    Schau´n wir uns mal dagegen die Besitzstände der wirklichen Monopol- u. Finanzbourgeoisie an (zB in der BRD) - also das sagt ja wohl einiges!

    We Schau'n our times, however, the ownership of real estates and financial monopoly bourgeoisie (eg in Germany) - that is probably some says yes!

    Alles was in der DDR erwirtschaftet wurde kam auch allen zugute (entsprechend dem sozialistischem Leistungsprinzip - also mal keine Gleichmacherei).

    Everything that was earned in the GDR also benefit all came (according to the socialist principle of performance - ie time) does not egalitarianism.

    Jeder in der DDR hatte eine zweite (unsichtbare) Lohntüte - ja selbst die, welche keine Lohntüte hatten (vom Säugling bis zum Greis) hatten diese 2.(in der BRD von heute haben Millionen nicht mal die 1. Lohntüte und in der 2.???(Hartz IV) ist zum Sterben zu viel und zum Leben zu wenig.

    Everyone in the GDR had a second (invisible) pay packet - even those who had no pay check () from infancy to old age had these 2. (in Germany today have not even the 1 million pay packet and in the 2nd ?? (Hartz IV) is to die too much and too little to live.

    Was gab´s denn nun alles in der 2.

    What did you have now everything in the 2 Lohntüte der DDR? Pay envelope of the GDR?

    - es waren die Produkte der Arbeit der Werktätigen und die wurden umverteilt - von oben nach unten!- wie folgt: -

    They were the products of labor of the working people and were redistributed - from top to bottom! - As follows:

    Jahrzehntelang stabile Preise für Grundnahrungsmittel und Waren des täglichen Bedarfs, 20 Pfennig um mit Tram, Bus, S-Bahn oder U-Bahn zu fahren, Miete für Wohnungen von der man im wirklichen Kapitalismus nur träumen kann, Traum-Tarife für Post, Nah- u. Fernverkehr, Wasser- und Stromversorgung, flächendeckend vorhandene Krippen und Kindergärten für fast umsonst, kostenloses Bildungswesen, einschließlich Zirkel und Arbeitsgemeinschaften, kostenloses Studium, geschenktes Stipendium (Bafög), kostenloses Gesundheitssystem, Subventionierung von Kultur, Sport, Erholung uva selbst das Heiraten und Kinderkriegen war großzügig subventioniert mit zinslosen Krediten, von denen nicht mal alle zurückgezahlt werden mußten, man kann gar nicht alles aufzählen!

    For decades, stable ride prices for basic food and commodities of daily use, 20 penny by tram, bus, train or subway, dream homes for rent from the one in the real capitalism only can dream of tariffs for postal, local and long-distance transport, water and electricity supply, coverage existing nurseries and kindergartens for almost free, free education, including circles and associations, free study, gift-Scholarship (student loans), free health care, subsidies for culture, sport, recreation and many marriages and even the childbearing was generously subsidized by interest-free loans, of which not even all had to be repaid, you can not count everything!

    So einen "Kapitalismus" hat die Welt noch nie gesehen, nicht mal in Schweden!

    Thus a "capitalism" has never seen the world, not even in Sweden!

    Und wenn es hie und da im richtigen Kapitalismus (dem der westlichen Länder) auch mal zeitweilig nicht ganz so schlimm war mit der Ausbeutung und der Umverteilung von unten nach oben, dann war das den Kämpfen der Arbeiterklasse und nicht zuletzt dem Existieren des sozialistischen Lagers zu verdanken.

    And if now and then in the right of the Western capitalist countries () also once a time not so bad was the exploitation and redistribution from the bottom up, it was the struggles of the working class and not least the existence of the socialist camp . thanks

    Es wurde oft von BRD-Oberen beklagt, dass die DDR als unsichtbarer Dritter bei Tarifkonflikten mit am Verhandlungstisch saß. It has often complained of BRD-superiors that the GDR as an invisible third party in collective conflicts with sitting at the negotiating table.
    Soweit zum sogenannten "Kapitalismus" in der DDR. So much for the so-called "capitalism" in the GDR.
    Jetzt zum schwierigen Teil, der Bürokratie. Now the difficult part, of the bureaucracy.
    Was ist eigentlich Bürokratie? What exactly is bureaucracy?
    "Bürokratie („Herrschaft der Verwaltung“) ist die Wahrnehmung von Verwaltungstätigkeiten im Rahmen festgelegter Kompetenzen innerhalb einer festen Hierarchie." "Bureaucracy (" rule of administration ") is the perception of administrative activities within pre-defined skills within a fixed hierarchy." (Wikipedia) (Wikipedia)
    Ja und was ist daran schlimm? Yes, and what is bad? "Festgelegte Kompetenzen, feste Hierarchie, Verwaltungstätigkeit? "Fixed skills, strong hierarchy management activity?
    Schlimm ist daran, dass sie gleichgestellt wird mit der "angeblichen" Diktatur in der DDR. Bad thing is that it is equated with the "alleged" dictatorship in the GDR. Natürlich gab es in der DDR eine Diktatur - die Diktatur der herrschenden Klasse - der Arbeiter und Bauern. Of course, there were in the GDR a dictatorship - the dictatorship of the ruling class - the workers and peasants. Genauso wie es in der BRD auch eine Diktatur gibt, die Diktatur der herrschenden Klasse - der Bourgeoisie, des Finanz-und Monopolkapitals, im Mäntelchen der "Demokratie" in der man zwischen mehreren Übeln (alle sind Lakaien der Mächtigen) wählen kann. Just as in the FRG is a dictatorship, the dictatorship of the ruling class - the bourgeoisie of finance and monopoly capital, in the guise of "democracy" in which one of evils are all (lackeys of the powerful can choose).
    Nur, die eine Diktatur ist eine Diktatur der Mehrheit gegen eine Minderheit und der Verteilung des Erarbeiteten von oben nach unten (siehe oben). Only that is a dictatorship, a dictatorship of the majority against a minority and the distribution of what has been worked from top to bottom (see above).
    Die andere Diktatur ist die Diktatur einer äußerst kleinen superreichen Minderheit gegen die große Mehrheit und sorgt für die rigorose Umverteilung des, von ihnen nicht mal erarbeiteten, Reichtums von unten nach oben! The other dictatorship is the dictatorship of a super-rich very small minority against the majority and provides for the redistribution of rigorous, they do not even drafted, wealth from bottom to top!
    Nun kann sich jeder aussuchen in welcher Diktatur er gerne leben möchte. Now everyone can pick dictatorship in which he wants to live. Die Mehrheit bestimmt in der einen und die Minderheit bestimmt in der anderen. The majority determined in one hand and the minority determined in the other.
    Und eine Diktatur der Arbeiterklasse, ausgeübt durch ihre marxistisch-leninistische Partei, ist nun mal in der Übergangsphase vom Kapitalismus zum Kommunismus auf Grund der immer noch existierenden Klassenauseinandersetzungen und dem Bestehen eines starken kapitalistischen Staatenblocks unbedingt notwendig. And a dictatorship of the working class, exercised through their Marxist-Leninist party, is now needed in times of transition from capitalism to communism because of the still existing class conflicts and the existence of a strong capitalist blocs of states unconditionally. Wer´s nicht glaubt, sollte bei den Klassikern des Marxismus-Leninsmus nachsehen, oder glaubt jemand, daß die Reichen und Superreichen sich ohne Gegenwehr etwas wegnehmen lassen? Anyone who does not believe it should look at the classics of Marxism-Leninsmus, or someone believes that the super-rich can take away something without resistance?
    Manche fragen: Was soll das ganze Gerede von Diktatur und Klassenkampf - ist das heute noch modern? Some ask: What is all this talk of dictatorship and class struggle - is still modern? Und wie! And how! Ich zitiere: I quote:
    „Am 9. "On 9 November 1989 haben wir mit der Maueröffnung auch die Abrissbirne gegen den Sozialstaat in Stellung gebracht. November 1989 we have been associated with the wall opening, the wrecking ball against the welfare state in position. Hartz V bis VIII werden demnächst folgen. Hartz V to VIII will soon follow. Es ist ein Klassenkampf, und es ist gut so, dass der Gegner auf der anderen Seite kaum noch wahrzunehmen ist.“ It is a class struggle, and it is good that the enemy can be perceived on the other side barely. "
    Michael Rogowski am 12.12.2004 Michael Rogowski on 12/12/2004
    Michael Rogowski war als Nachfolger von Hans-Olaf Henkel von Anfang 2001 bis Ende 2004 Präsident des Bundesverbandes der Deutschen Industrie. Michael Rogowski was succeeded by Hans-Olaf Henkel, from early 2001 until late 2004, President of the Federation of German Industries.
    "Es herrscht Klassenkampf, richtig, aber es ist meine Klasse, die Reichen, die Krieg führt und wir sind dabei zu gewinnen." "There's class warfare, true, but it's my class, the rich, leading to war and we are here to win."
    Warren Buffet Warren Buffett
    US-amerikanischer Großinvestor und Unternehmer. U.S. major investor and entrepreneur. Mit einem geschätzten Privatvermögen von 37 Milliarden US-Dollar (Forbes, 2009) ist er der zweitreichste Mensch der Welt. With an estimated personal fortune of 37 billion U.S. dollars (Forbes, 2009), he is the second richest man in the world.
    Soweit zu diesem Thema. Where on this topic.
    Ach so, Bürokratismus. Ah, bureaucracy. Jeder sollte mal seine vielen Aktenordner zählen, welche er zur "Verwaltung" seines Lebens benötigt und dann mal einen "DDR-ler" fragen - der hatte seine Lebensverwaltung in einem einzigen kleinen grünen Büchlein...! Each time should count his many binders, which he needed to "manage" his life and then once a "DDR ask-ler" - who had his life management in a single small green book ...!
    Warum musste denn nun dieser so gute oder so schlechte sozialistische Staat untergehen? Why then had to go down this so good or so bad socialist state? Er stand doch angeblich auf dem 15.Platz der ökonomischen Weltrangliste, sogar noch vor der Schweiz und Österreich! He was supposedly on the the economic world rankings, even ahead of Switzerland and Austria!
    So wie die Kolonialherren des BRD-Finanzkapitals sich über die DDR hergemacht haben, so hätten die auch die Schweiz und Österreich platt gemacht. Just as the colonial masters of the BRD-finance capital dug into the GDR, the Switzerland and Austria have also flattened.
    Doch der Untergang wurde schon - und da hat die MLPD Recht - nach Stalins Tod eingeleitet. But the decline has already been - and since the MLPD right - after Stalin's death has begun. Nur nicht, dass die Diktatur des Proletariats in eine bürokratisierte staatskapitalistische mutierte, sondern dass die Diktatur des Proletariats und der wissenschaftliche Marxismus-Leninismus im heftigsten Klassenkampf von außen und von innen unterwandert wurde. Not only that the dictatorship of the proletariat into a bureaucratic state capitalist mutant, but that the dictatorship of the proletariat and the scientific Marxism-Leninism in the violent class struggle from without and from within has been infiltrated. Von außen durch Antikommunismus und von innen durch Sozialdemokratisierung, sprich Revisionismus. From the outside by anti-communism and from within by Sozialdemokratisierung, that is revisionism.
    Und als dann die Sozialdemokratisierung (sprich Konterrevolution) auch noch in der damaligen Sowjetunion Regierungscharakter annahm, konnte der Täuscher (und später selbst erklärte Sozialdemokrat) Gorbatschow mit seiner Clique dann das wirkliche Ende der sozialistischen Ära im Weltmaßstab lostreten. And when the Sozialdemokratisierung (pronounced counter-revolution) even in the former Soviet Union government assumed character, was the deceiver (and later himself a social democrat), Gorbachev declared, with his gang then sparking the real end of the socialist era in the world scale.
    Nach Stalin waren Ulbricht und auch Honecker immer noch überzeugte Kommunisten. Under Stalin, Ulbricht and Honecker were still convinced Communists. Alle wissen, dass Honecker nicht viel von Gorbatschow hielt - dafür zerrten ihn dann seine eigenen (konterrevolutionären), zu Sozialdemokraten mutierten, "Genossen" auch noch krank vor den Staatsanwalt. Everyone knows that Honecker had a low opinion of Gorbachev - that dragged him then his own (counter), to Social mutant, "comrades" still sick with the prosecutor.
    Die DDR und mit ihr alle anderen sozialistischen Staaten waren die bisher größte Errungenschaft der internationalen Arbeiterbewegung. The GDR and with it all other socialist countries, the biggest achievement of the international working class movement.
    Es waren die ersten wirksamen Versuche klassenlose Gesellschaften zu errichten, frei von Ausbeutung, Unterdrückung, Elend und Not. It was the first effective attempt to build a classless society, free from exploitation, oppression, misery and distress
    Es war gewiss kein leichter Weg und es wurden auch Fehler gemacht - aber es gab auch genug mächtige Feinde, die gerne wieder die alten Zeiten (und vor allem ihre verlorenen Besitztümer) zurück holen wollten und dabei weder Kosten noch Mühen scheuten und dabei auch viele irregeleitete Mitläufer fanden. It was certainly not an easy road and there have also made mistakes - but there were enough powerful enemies, who like to (again the old days, and above all their lost possessions) wanted to get back here and shunned no effort, while many misguided collaborators found.
    Soweit zu meinen Gedanken über den "bürokratischen Kapitalismus" in der DDR. So much for my thoughts on the "bureaucratic capitalism" in the GDR.
    Vielleicht sollte die Diskussion über die DDR und ihren Sozialismus nicht nur im Blog stattfinden. Perhaps the debate about the GDR and its socialist should take place not only in the blog.
    Vielleicht wäre das auch mal ein Thema der nächsten Programmdiskussion in der MLPD. Perhaps that would be sometimes a topic of discussion at the next program MLPD.
    Man sollte einiges aus der heutigen Sicht neu überdenken - und wäre damit bestimmt auf dem richtigen Weg zu einer so bitter benötigten marxistisch-leninistischen Massenpartei für die kommenden Kämpfe in unserer so kaputten Welt. You should reconsider some of the new term today - and would be determined on the right track for a so much needed Marxist-Leninist party of the masses for the coming struggle in our world so broken. Die MLPD hat dafür riesengroße Chancen. The MLPD has this huge opportunity.
    Ich glaube nicht, dass es zu massenhaften Austritten aus der MLPD kommen würde, wenn man der DDR ihren richtigen Platz zurück gibt, es werden dann aber bestimmt zahlreiche Eintritte in die MLPD erfolgen ua auch von vielen resignierten "Alten" und neuen Mut schöpfenden "Jungen", die dann besser wissen wo es hingehen soll und vor allem wissen sie dann, wo sie hergekommen sind. I do not think that there would be mass resignations from the MLPD when the GDR returns its proper place, it will then be determined, but many entries into the MLPD done by many others resigned "old" and new heart-creating "boy ", then better to know where to go and above all, they then know where they came from.
    Denn außer dem Thema "Bürokratischer Kapitalismus" ist die MLPD auf dem richtigen Weg. For besides the theme of "bureaucratic capitalism" is the MLPD on the right track.
    Übrigends, es gibt so was ähnliches wie "bürokratischen Kapitalismus" - aber erst nach der Wende, zB im heutigem neuen Russland oder im heutigem alten China - aber das ist dann mal ein anderes Thema für später. By the way, there is something similar as "bureaucratic capitalism" - but only after the turn, for example in today's Russia or in the today's new era of China - but that is another topic for a later time.

  • Guest - ex-kapd

    "Capitalism is an economic order based on private ownership of means of production and is based on the free market (market economy) is controlled, the generally accepted definition."
    since this is the definition of the liberal bourgeoisie, it is of course the "generally accepted definition" in our day and age, however like many "generally accepted" definitions its relationship to social reality is rather poor,considering that in our age of state monopoly capital, where individual private ownership plays little role, and still less the "free market", it would seem that we should be enjoying the fruits of socialism worldwide.
    a more realistic definition is an economic order based on wage labor and the production of commodities,railing against the excesses of private property and the free market is a debating prop for social democratic populism, and has little to do with the communist program.

  • Guest - ex-kapd

    the basic problem here is once you start to conceptualize the transcendence of the CMP as entailing more then nationalization plus "social state" measures,it becomes very difficult to view the development of the USSR and the PRC as anything more then the progressive development of capitalism propelled by the motive force of popular revolutions that developed to a great extent under bourgeoisie hegemony,this is not to minimize their significance,they were defining moments in the class struggle of the 20th century.
    however the French revolution was also a defining moment in the class struggle.
    none of these epic struggles has successfully overcome the domination of capital, all modern revolutions have in fact served as motors of accumulation and proletarianization,and both from that perspective and in terms of the moments of class autonomy that have occurred over the course of their development, have helped to lay the groundwork for communization,while at the same time deepening and universalizing the hegemony of the CMP

  • Guest - t1201971

    Mike, this thread's been developing kind of fast for me to follow it. I work three jobs, so I really don't have a whole lot of time to put into this. I'm just gonna address what you wrote in response to my second post and a bit of what you started this thread out with. I'm def gonna keep tabs on this debate, but I really don't have the time in my life to keep posting like this.

    So yeah...

    "As for Czechoslovakia- don't get me started." F that, don't get ME started on Czechoslovakia! You know, Mao understood the proletarian character of the Hungarian worker's state and so he supported the Soviet's crushing the 1956 counterrevolution there. What's so different about Czechoslovakia in 1968? If Hungary was a worker's state in 1956, what was so fundamentally different about the class character of the Czechoslovak state in 1968? When exactly was the counterrevolution that liquidated socialism for so-called "state-capitalism"? Who led it? What class came to power after the counterrevolution? What is this class' historic mission? I'd love for you to answer these questions (if you can). Dubcek wanted to establish diplomatic ties with Israel and was uncomfortable with even the tepid support the Soviets gave to the Palestinian struggle. He was also for improving Czechoslovakia's relationship with the Vatican- what do you think the implications of this would've been for women? He wanted to open up state-owned firms for "joint ventures" with western corporations. Dubcek was for paying technical "experts" higher wages than ordinary workers. In fact, his whole program look a lot like the Czech version of the Hua-Deng regime, including its orientation to Washington. Bad in China but OK in Czechoslovakia? Most importantly, Dubcek was for eliminating aid to the Vietnamese revolution, right when the Vietnamese struggle was heating up! As you know, Czechoslovakia was an important manufacturer of arms for the Warsaw Pact nations. A move like that would've had an extremely negative effect on the Vietnamese revolution. The problem with Dubcek for the Czech counterrevolutionaries you seem to love so well was that he was not moving to the right fast enough for their tastes (or Wall Street's either, which is what matters). Sam Marcy had this to say: "As in Hungary in 1956, the liberal capitalists of the United States have already begun to tell heart-throbbing stories about idealistic people in Czechoslovakia, spiritually crushed by the Warsaw Pact intervention. These stories are calculated to prove that the struggle is really between 'liberalism' and 'dictatorship'. But also, as in Hungary, Czechoslovak capitalism provides a slender reed for Czech liberalism. Just as the right-wing Communists and the Social Democrats quickly gave way to the bourgeois Smallholders Party in Hungary and the latter began to step aside for Cardinal Mindszenty and the fascists- so Czechoslovakia would have gone, and would still go, under Dubcek. ...Czechoslovak capitalist restorationism would thus not have the liberal democratic embroidery that the U.S. capitalists pretend to love so much- at least not for very long. Its dynamic and its historical logic both point in the direction of... fascism." Here's what Fidel had to say: "The essential point... is wether or not the socialist camp could allow a political situation to develop which would lead to the breaking away of a socialist country, to its falling into the arms of imperialism. And our point of view is that it is not permissible and that the socialist camp has a right to prevent this in one way or another. I would like to begin by making it clear that we look upon this fact as an essential one... A real liberal fury was unleashed; a whole series of political slogans in favor of the formation of opposition parties began to develop, in favor of open anti-Marxist and anti-Leninist theses, such as the thesis that the Party should cease to play the role which the Party plays within socialist society and begin to play the role there of a guide, supervising some things but, above all, exerting a sort of spiritual leadership. In short, that the reigns of power should cease to be in the hands of the Communist Party. The revision of certain fundamental postulates to the effect that a socialist regime is a transition regime from socialism to communism, a governmental form known as the dictatorship of the proletariat. This means a government where power is wielded in behalf of one class and against the former exploiting classes by virtue of which in a revolutionary process political rights, the right to carry on political activities- whose objective is precisely to struggle against the essence and the raison d'etre of socialism- cannot be granted to the former exploiters. A series of slogans began to be put forward and in fact certain measures were taken such as the establishment of the bourgeois "freedom" of the press. This means that the counterrevolution and the exploiters, the very enemies of socialism, were granted the right to speak and write freely against socialism."
    You attack the socialist camp with many of the same arguments that bourgeois liberals use, but with a thin layer of Marxist phraseology over the top. A lot of this is Cold War anti-communist propaganda that has unfortunately been internalized by parts of the communist movement in this country that weren't strong enough ideologically to hold out during the long night of the witch hunt period and the hangover from it. You say the sociaist countries of "Eastern Europe were awful societies, and they were generally hated as such by the people there." I really just don't believe that. There is a cultural phenomenon in eastern Germany called "Ostalgie". A lot of people who are old enough to remember are nostalgic for the good old days of the DDR, back when had real jobs, free quality education, housing and pensions, and were safe from attacks by fascists. The counterrevolutions of 1989 were a world-historic defeat for the proletariat and the oppressed that we are still trying to recover from. The counterrevolutions were really just an unmitigated disaster for the peoples of eastern Europe and the former USSR. According to Russian economist Vladimir Popov, the Russian economy lost 45% of its output in 1989-98. Inflation was at 84%(!) in 1998. Some of the former Soviet republics- Azerbaijan, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkministan and Uzbekistan FINALLY reached their pre-1989 levels of indutrial output by 2006. Russia's Human Development Index is way below the USSR's, and is even below Cuba's. Investment is still below 40% of what it was in 1991, the last year of the existence of the Soviet Union. Popov says that after the 1991 counterrevolution in the USSR, "...there was an unprecedented surge (in crime)- in just a few years crime and murder rates doubled, equalling or surpassing the highest levels in the world. By the mid-1990's the murder rate stood at over 30 per 100,000 inhabitants... Only two countries... had higher murder rates- South Africa and Colombia- whereas in Brazil and Mexico, the figures are 50% lower than Russia's. ...if these rates continue to hold, 1 out of 6 Russians born in 2002 will have an 'unnatural' death." So what would you say to these people? That they made a transition from capitalism to capitalism? If capitalism (in whatever form) existed in eastern Europe before 1989 and in the USSR before 1991, why would U.S. imperialism sink trillions into a military encirclement of the whole area while trying to undermine these states by all means at their disposal? You may have been confused about weather socialism existed in these countries, but Washington sure wasn't.
    And this whole thing with you comparing Poland and Peru- come on. This is just absurd. You're coming at this as if you were a bourgeois liberal who views the state as being this neutral body that stands above social classes in society- you know better than that (or at least I hope you do). As any Marxist-Leninist knows, the state is far from neutral, it is the instrument through which one class imposes its rule on another class. You sound like any bourgeois liberal when you equate state ownership with socialism (just like the right does) without mentioning the class nature of the state you are talking about. Leaving class out of the equasion is exactly the way a bourgeois liberal approaches anything. They (like you) talk about democracy in the abstract, without asking the most salient question: democracy for whom? I can't believe that someone who must've read State and Revolution at least a hundred times is capable of formulating things in this way. Here's yet another quote from Cde. Sam (Do I ever get sick of this guy? Nope.) about Poland: "...the People's Republic of Poland is legally and constitutionally structured as a socialist state. It can, however, be regarded as socialist only in a very narrow, restricted, and purely sociological sense. Its socialist character derives mainly from the public ownership of the basic means of production and elements of socialist planning that the government still retains, but much of which it has virtually abandoned. In most other respects the Polish government has succumbed to a bourgeois economy. This is most dramatically illustrated by the abandonment of collectivization of agriculture and the return to private, bourgeois methods of production to the point where more than 87% of all agricultural production is in private hands."
    There's one last thing about your response to my post that bothered me. Referring to my characterization of Nazi skinheads in eastern Germany who were physically attacking people of color, leftists and LGBT people in the streets, you said: "This language of calling people 'scum' and grinning as they are squashed is troubling..." Mike, you live in Chicago right? I moved to NYC a couple years ago from there. There was a Nazi skinhead in the Chi by the name of Clark Martell, who was the leader of a little terrorist organization called C.A.S.H. (Chicago Aryan Skin Heads). There was a woman who dropped out of C.A.S.H. who started dating a Latino man. Upon hearing of this, Clark Martell (who has a large German eagle tattooed on his forehead) broke into her apartment and stabbed her several times. He wrote on her wall "death to race-mixing"-- with her blood. Calling Nazi skinheads scum is an accurate political characterization- and I've squashed a few myself over the years, and best believe I was grinning as the squashing was being done.

  • Guest - t1201971

    Oops! One last thing. I was gonna include a quote from a certain Mr. Lev Davidovitch Bronstein on the subject of politically throwing out the baby with the bathwater in your analysis of the socialist countries, oops, I meant state capitalism. It's from In Defense of Marxism. As a gearhead, a chopper freak and a Marxist-Leninist, it really spoke to me... He says: "When an emotional mechanic considers an automobile in which, let us say, gangsters have escaped from police persuit over a bad road, and finds the frame bent, the wheels out of line, and the motor partially damaged, he might quite justifiably say: 'It is not an automobile- devil knows what it is!' Such an estimate would lack any technical and scientific value, but it would express the legitimate reaction of the mechanic at the work of the gangsters. Let us suppose, however, that this same mechanic must recondition the object he named 'devil-knows-what-it-is.' In this case he will start with the recognition that it is a damaged automobile before him. He will determine which parts are still good and which are beyond repair in order to decide how to begin work. The class-conscious worker will have a similiar attitude to the USSR. He has a full right to say that the gangsters of the bureaucracy have transformed the workers state into 'devil-knows-what-it-is.' But when he passes from this explosive reaction to the solution of the political problem, he is forced to recognize that it is a damaged workers' state before him, in which the motor of the economy is damaged, but which still continues to run and which can be completely reconditioned with the replacement of some parts."

  • Guest - Otto

    Despite a number of issues raised by t1201971, that we all agree would not be progressive for Dubcek’s Czechoslovakia, I find it hard to believe that Mao would oppose the Soviet invasion if it were to seriously hinder the socialist support for Vietnam. China actually gave more support to Vietnam than the Soviets did. I also find it hard to believe Mao would be blind to Dubcek’s Czechoslovakia falling into the hands of the US imperialist side. Mao never supported US imperialism. He did support a country’s right to determine its own socialist path. Dubcek may have had some bad ideas, but he never suggested leaving the Warsaw Pact. It was the Soviets who made this claim. Also, the US made it clear to the Soviets that they would not interfere if they invaded Czechoslovakia. If they really thought they could co-opt the government in Czechoslovakia, they would have made at least a token effort to support the Dubcek. US leaders told the Soviets to go ahead because they really didn’t want a country that didn’t fit the Soviet style dictatorships. They wanted to keep the world a black and white “capitalist democracy” vs. “communist dictatorship.” Any experiment to democratize a communist country would only create confusion as to what is needed for a democracy. That was not in the US imperialist and capitalist interest.
    Mao apparently understood the difference between a counter revolution (Hungary) and some minor reforms.

  • Guest - Selucha

    T1201971, if I can make one small point about your analogy... Unfortunately, it problematically bases its relevancy on the assumption that the East German state was, at some point, a workers' state, similarly to the way the wreckage was once an automobile. This itself is the primary issue of contention here, so the analogy fails.

    Secondly, the entire basis of your automobile analogy is false to begin with. Let's say that we have a Toyota Prius... better yet, let's say we have a fully-electric car (since we're talking about a radical rupture of societal formation here!). This car has certain parts that it requires that make it function as an electric car, right? Like, for example, an electricity-run engine. Now, let's say the car needs some repairs and we take it to the shop, where the mechanic starts to put in some parts from gas-operated vehicles. Once this is done, the electric car ceases to be something radically different from gas-operated ones! It, in fact, soon has to become a gas-operated car itself in order to function properly (if you keep adding regular car parts, eventually the electric engine won't function at all and it itself will have to be replaced). It continues to exist in name as it was, but only with the exterior and shell of its former self.

    I think this is a much more pertinent analogy.

  • Guest - nando

    To be clear: Mao did not think either Czechoslovakia or the USSR were socialist in 1968. The issue was not "one is more progressive or socialist than the other."

    The issue was that one of the world's imperialist superpower announced that it had the unilateral right to invade any of the countries on its borders and carry out regime change there. And it did so, first in the CSSR and then in Afghanistan.

    Dubcek, like Tito before him, was seeking a middle ground between blocs, the difference was that when Tito did it, there was a socialist camp (which he was leaving). And when Dubcek did it, he was moving out of one of the two rather sinister war blocs dominated by imperialist superpowers.

  • Guest - t1201971

    Otto, if the Soviets never intervened and had the Czech counterrevolution progressed, Dubcek would've been a transitional figure in the same way that Hua Guo-feng prepared the way for Deng Xiao-ping.

  • Guest - ex-kapd

    all the participants in this debate would no doubt like to claim the mantle of historical materialism,despite this,the lines of argument refer only to personalities and the intentions and policies of various prominent figures, the question of the class nature of a social formation hinges on its mode of production.
    the ussr and the prc were societies based on wage labor and commodity production, controlled by a professional managerial cadre, move along nothing to see there.

  • Guest - Otto

    To t1201971
    The people I’ve talked to from East Europe have told me those governments never even promoted Marxist-Leninist ideology to the people they governed. I have met communists from those countries who said they were just like military dictatorships. I would agree that Czechoslovakia was not much of a socialist state to begin with so how could Dubcek make it any more revisionist than it already was. The country was already following a type of Deng Xiao-ping. So how could Dubcek provide an even more Deng like regime than they already had? Did the Soviets actually restore socialism? In my opinion they didn’t. Since they were becoming a rather revisionist and just plain stagnant form of socialism, I really can’t imagine this superpower restoring socialism to Czechoslovakia. The whole idea that they did anything more than protect their “property” is a joke.

  • Guest - t1201971

    Dunno if anyone here speaks German, but if you do then check this out: it's Margot Honecker in Chile speaking on the DDR and the defense of socialism on the DDR's 60th anniversary.

  • Guest - David_D

    I would rather have a Honecker sitting as leader in Berlin than a Merkel. I've said that before. I believe that the GDR was, in the main, an anti-imperialist force. It made some errors with regard to Ethiopia/Somalia/Eritrea, but nonetheless made positive contributions. This is a controversial proposition to those who saw the Soviet "socialist commonwealth" as principally "social fascist" in nature, or, even, the "main enemy" in a Dimitrovite sense.

  • Red Julie's post above got caught in our spam filter -- and is now visible. But I don't want her points to get lost.

    And in particular she raises something that is worth talking about.

    * * * * * *

    First, i need to clear up a misunderstanding.

    I wrote:
    “And, while I don’t know much about the internal history and development of Albania (does anyone?)”

    And then Julie says:
    <blockquote>"I do. And perhaps it would do Kasama well to familiarize themselves with the Albanian experience of Socialist construction."</blockquote>

    Julie explains that Yugoslavia and Albania were starkly different, thinking (apparently) that I (or others) are under the impression that the development in Albania and Yugoslavia was similar.

    She writes that I imply "that Yugoslavia and Albania were politically and economically similar, if not identical."

    And says:
    <blockquote>"You say that you don’t know much about Albania, but then come to this conclusion. No investigation, no right to speak."</blockquote>

    Julie than goes on to give a number of useful links -- to Albanian histories and descriptions of the internal development.

    * * * * * * *

    I just want to make clear that there are some misconceptions here.

    First, I am not confused about the difference between Albania and Yugoslavia. The two countries had a very bitter split shortly after their liberation from German occupation -- it was very defining (for Albania in particular). And it led to very different international allignments (over the next thirty years), and very different paths of development.

    My article on the Balkans (cited above) describes the capitalist development of Yugoslavia. But I am not under any illusion that Albania is essentially the same. And (methodologically) Julie is right that it would be wrong (and absurd) for someone to say they don't know much about Albanian <em>and then assume that it is similar to some other country, which you have investigated.</em>

    That is not what I thought, or meant by the essay above. On the contrary.

    * * * * * * * *

    However there is a second misunderstanding. When I write "I don’t know much about the internal history and development of Albania" that does not mean that I have not read the official Albanian works written in the Hoxha era. I have. Like many other communists, I read the history of Albanian Party of Labor, and the writings of Hoxha, and his reflections on China, and his diaries on his struggle with the krushchevits, and his book on meetings with stalin. I read the Albanian descriptions of their economy and socialist relations. And their central committee reports, and so on.

    I am saying that AFTER having read those things (and <em>despite</em> having read them), that "I don’t know much about the internal history and development of Albania."

    So sending me back to those official writings is not really addressing the issues i'm raising.

    * * * * * * *

    And this seems to have come up a number of times in our discussion of several societies (north Korea, Albania, East Germany, USSR etc.)

    There are quite a few people who read the relatively official self-descriptions of these societies -- and think they are getting the full and real story. I met people in the RCP who thought that by reading Stalin's collected works they had a full and accurate history of Soviet events, and that by closely reading Mao's works they had a similar overview of the Chinese revolution.

    And there is a real methodological problem here (or rather several).

    For one thing, the official writings of quite a few of these forces is bullshit -- in the case of countries that are socialist in name, and capitalist in essense.

    I don't think that is the case with Mao, obviously. But even in the case of his writings, a number of them were reedited years later to correspond with changes in line -- so he would appear to be consistent, even though his views actually changed and developed. And (obviously) quite a few of his statements and speeches are not gathered in the official versions of his selected works. And so forth.

    But it is my opinion that (in the main) Mao's works reflect what he actually said. And what he said actually reflected reality as he saw it.

    But even then, there are huge chunks of the actual history (and reality) of Chinese society not mentioned or described in Mao's writings, or the various official writings of the Chinese state. It doesn't take creative genius to list them -- i.e. if you read in depth histories of China from many perspectives, you get issues around the military industry of china, the size of foreign aid, the actual policies in places like Tibet, the things that Mao called "our dark side" and so on.

    And if you read the official Chinese government reports and histories (even from the best and most revolutionary period) it is hard to conclude they are candid about problems, unevenness, unflattering statistics, and so on.

    And beyond that, for the countries that are most controversial in this discussion, the contradiction is even more acute than for China -- because in many of them there is a sharp (and antagonistic) contradiction between the official picture painted and the truth. (In other words, there is a deceitful public image projected.)

    And if you read the official publications and history, and convince yourself that they are simply true -- you will (quite naturally) have a very favorable impression of these societies. But the problem is that you too will not know much about the actual internal history and development of these societies.

    It actually takes a much more allsided investigation -- including the study of materials by hostile forces, and more academic forces, and so on. In which you sift through the materials, and compare competing claims, and reach conclusoins about what is true and what is not.

    And my point about Albania is not that I haven't read the official materials but rather that I have not found much information with which to judge and compare their claims. And in the absense of that kind of more complex investigation -- I feel I don’t know much about the internal history and development of Albania.

    But it isn't very helpful for Red Julie to then cite or link to the official statements of the Hoxha government. I think people should read that stuff. But it really doesn't answer what is true and accurate, does it?

    Red Julie's links do confirm that Yugoslavia and Albania were not on the same path -- but that is not particularly controversial for any of us who followed that history.

    Julie writes:

    "Albania was a revolutionary state, possibly the most revolutionary state to exist on the planet earth to this day, and it would do contemporary revolutionaries well to absorb their analysis."

    Ok. Can you describe for us how you know that? What you base that on?

    For example, I have made an effort to talk to people from Albania -- to try to get a sense of what they know and remember about the Hoxha years. And some of the feudal features of the previous society were certainly dampened -- for example the incredibly intense clan warfare and grudge killings of traditional Albanian society were suppressed under Hoxha. And they have now returned with a vengeance. (Similar things can be said, by the way, about Yugoslavia -- despite their other differences).

    But really, how do we determine the depth of Albanian socialism, how the economy actually ran? What the conditions of working people were, and how those things changes? If people have sources on those things (books, memoirs, analysis of planning, etc. please list them here).

    * * * * * * *

    There has been a tendency among some in the radical left to accept (a bit uncritically) the official self-images and literature produced by various countries that called themselves socialist. And for some it is tempting because those official self-images dovetail their own desires for a socialist world (while the official self-images of the U.S. or Israel, or Taiwan don't dovetail the desires of radical people). But we do need some real critical thinking and materialist methodology -- to look beneath such official claims, especially when we are talking about countries like Albania and North Korea that are notoriously closed and secretive about the slightest details.

    I think China was, for example, a genuine socialist country. I think the Soviet Union had a genuinely revolutionary and socialist period. But I don't think the official literature of either country told the full truth about their societies and their problems (to put it mildly).

    I remember speaking to a leading member of the RCP who suddenly said to me "What are you talking about? China didn't have a prison system during the cultural revolution. They didn't use police to solve these problems."

    Now (unlike Stalin) Mao didn't treat line struggle as mainly a police matter. There was a broad mobilization of the people for ongoing class struggle. And the forms of struggle during the Cultural Revolution were innovative and a bit "wild" (i.e. not tightly controlled). But there <em>were</em> prisons -- and some people <em>did</em> end up in prisons for their actions during the cultural revolution.

    And this remark was a confession of remarkable naivete, intellectual laziness, and uncritical thinking. This was not particularly typical of that party's leading people. But that kind of thinking is a current among the left -- where people sometimes see what they want to see, believe what they want to believe, accept constructed public images as the full truth, and so on.

    And that kind of self-delusion won't get to the truth -- especially when we are dealing with those states whose cynical and constructed "socialist" veneer contrasts utterly and deeply with their oppressive essence.

  • Guest - JuniusBrutus

    Hungary was indeed a workers' state in 1956, for a week or so until the Russian army crushed it. The Russian miners' strikes of 1989 and 1991 executed judgement upon the Russian empire.

  • Ti writes:

    <blockquote>"And this whole thing with you comparing Poland and Peru- come on. This is just absurd. You’re coming at this as if you were a bourgeois liberal who views the state as being this neutral body that stands above social classes in society- you know better than that (or at least I hope you do). As any Marxist-Leninist knows, the state is far from neutral, it is the instrument through which one class imposes its rule on another class. You sound like any bourgeois liberal when you equate state ownership with socialism (just like the right does) without mentioning the class nature of the state you are talking about. Leaving class out of the equasion is exactly the way a bourgeois liberal approaches anything."</blockquote>

    I think you misunderstand the argument.

    No one is leaving class out. And no one in this thread thinks the state is neutral.

    The argument is that by the end of the 1950s the countries of the Soviet bloc were state monopoly capitalist. They were ruled by monopoly capitalist ruling classes (formed within the state and ruling party). The previous socialist character of Soviet Union had changed in a counterrevolutionary way -- and in particular the law of value dominated the economic life and the production relations (even as it operated through the nominal framework of state planning).

    The state was not neutral in any of these state (nor is it neutral anywhere) but represented the state monopoly ruling classes.

    And the value of comparing Peru to Poland is that you can see the fallacy of argument by "form" -- i.e. thinking that the state ownership form means it can't be capitalist. Or thinking that having a ruling party with "socialist" coloration means it can't be capitalist. And so on.

    You have to look (precisely!) at the class essence of societies -- not the rhetoric of their governments.

    It is a basic and important insight of Marxism that you can't judge people by what they <em>call</em> themselves, or by what they <em>think</em> they are doing -- but by what they <em>are</em> (i.e. what they represent objectively).

    Certainly we cannot accept, on face value, the U.S. rhetoric of "of the people, by the people, for the people" (whether or not its spokespeople believe it).

    Or another example: Thomas Muncer, John Brown and Nat Turner all <em>thought</em> they were instruments of God, and said they were instruments of God -- but we need to judge their role and actions independent of their self-conception.

    We should use similar materialist methods and critical thinking in regard to an array of states in the Soviet bloc.)

    Mao had two theories that are valuable here. First he pointed out the trend in the world that gave rise to "bureaucratic capitalism" -- i.e. that in much of the third world, the state had emerged as a locus of accumulation, and the rulers of many (semicolonial or neo colonial) states were emerging as world-class capitalists in their own right. (I.e. Suharto, Marcos, Mobutu, Chiang Kaishek, the Saudi family and so on.) The fact that the state owned major resources and means of production in many countries (like Peru) did not mean that they were not "private" in a marxist sense.

    The second was his understanding of the process of capitalist restoration -- and the transformation of formerly socialist relations to capitalist ones through a process within the ruling party and state. (The emergence of state bureaucratic capitalist forces and headquarters within the socialist process.)

    Private (in this marxist sense) need not refer to a specific FORM of ownership -- it means that the locus of accumulation is divided into competing capitals, it is private in the sense that it is distinct from OTHER centers of accumulation. In some cases, that private character is expressed in the historically common form of individual ownership. But often in modern times it is not individual -- and takes more socialized and collective forms of private ownership (including state capitalist ownership and various forms of corporate ownership etc.)

    Private ownership is not the same as individual ownership. And capitalist ownership can be private (in the sense of the maniness of capital) without it being individually owned (in the typical european post-feudal way).

    And when the state owns the means of production (in capitalist societies) it is far from neutral -- it is in fact capital, and is extracting surplus value etc. from the oppressed (and using its state power to enforce that extraction).

    By the 60s (in countries like Poland, CSSR, USSR etc.) that process was long gone -- the USSR was an imperialist-capitalist country, and its eastern european allies were capitalist (and many of them had never had throughgoing socialist revolution to start with).

    The issue in the Czech invasion (1968) was not a socialist army suppressing an attempt at capitalist restoration -- it was an imperialist army carrying out regime change for geo-strategic reasons.

  • Guest - Erik Anderson

    I will correct a text under the picture frpm Prague 1968. GDR did not took part in the intervention 1968, did not bcause of historical reasons. But polish and hugarian troops did, But not troops from GDR. To say othervise is not corrcect. GDR /east Germany did not took part in events 1968.

  • Thanks for catching that factual error, Erik!

    Yes East German troops did not participate (and as Erik says, there were obvious "historical reasons" -- meaning that German troops had invaded Prague before, roughly thirty years earlier, at the start of World War 2.)

    Of course, the SED (the Socialist Unity Party of Germany) and the DDR government (GErman Democratic Republic) did support the invasion politically -- and saw the threat inherent in the Brezhnev doctrine as an important way of stabilizing their own rule.

    Also, while we are talking, it is usually not mentioned that there were Mongolian troops in the invasion. I can't find references to it in the literature. But the students I met in prague (a few months later) said that the initial troops they met had been Russian speaking Soviet troops, and they had tried to swarm the tanks and talk to them -- urging them to join in resisting the invasion, asking them "what do you think you are doing?" and "will you shoot us if ordered?"

    And the Czech students said that after a few days the Soviet command withdrew Russian-speaking troops and brought in Mongolian troops that did not speak Russian, so that the students could no longer communicate with the Warsaw Pact forces in the Prague streets. I can't confirm that this happened other than to say that I heard it often from students who had been active in these events.

  • Guest - David_D

    I'm not sure it's too important, but I do not think that there were ever Mongolian troops in Czechoslovakia. There were, however, likely troops from the Asian nations of the Soviet Union.

  • I understand that the standard histories don't mention Mongolian troops. I assume that's the basis on which you say "I do not think that there were ever Mongolian troops in Czechoslovakia."

    But our knowledge of the world doesn't simply come from books or official reports. I'm telling you that I was there in Prague, and quite a few people (speaking about personal experiences a few months earlier) described the arrival of Mongolian troops.

    Maybe they were mistaken, but maybe the official books don't have all the facts. Maybe the troops were (as you suggest) Uzbeks or Kazaks.

    The larger point is, of course, that the commanders of this invading force did not want their troops speaking with the people they were suppressing.

    That kind of relationship (between army and people) is a classic feature of bourgeois armies. And a different kind of relationship ("become one with the people," "rely on the people," "serve the people") is the hallmark of communist and revolutionary armies.

    Some leftists actively like it when "hardliners" in tanks ruthlessly roll over the desires of millions of people. I don't view those impulses and sensibilities as communist (or even progressive) politics.

  • Guest - James B.

    I guess I'm wondering how a fact like that wouldn't find its way into the "official" history books somehow. Is there any reason the major players involved wouldn't want it to come to light? Cuz it sounds like the kind of thing the student rebels and the Yankee/NATO imperialists alike could have used to score mad propaganda points against the social-imperialists (for the reason you pointed out--that to facilitate their aggression they had to prevent fraternization of army and people).

  • Guest - David_D

    This post caught my attention again. Mainly, the choice of photograph to accompany the criticism of the GDR in its latter years. What is so wrong with a group of people gathered around a personal computer? I would certainly hope that the part of the culture (personal computer ownership) would not be tossed aside as somehow reflective of reactionary class ideology.

    A criticism raised was "(t)he whole place felt like a big intramural sports league." What's so wrong with that? That sounds like a collective endeavor indeed, and potentially one befitting a socialist society.

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