• Paul Bellis


Trotsky’s analysis of the nature of the Soviet social formation and of its party-state bureaucracy, of which The Revolution Betrayed represents the most fully-formed exposition, continues to provide the most coherent framework for an understanding of the socioeconomic and political development of the first workers’ state since the October Revolution. His problematic of the ‘bureaucratically degenerated workers’ state’ is complemented by the insights developed by Preobrazhensky in The New Economics, in which he located the dominant contradiction of the transition period between capitalism and socialism in the ultimately irreconcilable dynamics of the plan and the market, which respectively correspond, in the last instance, to the antagonistic class interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. This contradiction itself represents the immanent form of the underlying contradiction in the transitional social formation: the non-correspondence between the dominant social relations of production and the productive forces, whereby the inadequate development and still intrinsically ‘capitalist’ character of the latter continue to prevent their fully social appropriation and conscious setting in motion by the associated producers. Its resolution coincides with the suppression of the reproduction of all the conditions of existence of capitalist social relations, which can only be realised in the context of an authentic proletarian political practice intervening at all levels of the transitional social formation.1


Productive Force Social Formation State Apparatus October Revolution Capitalist Mode 
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  1. 3.
    Grahame Lock, Introduction to Althusser (1976), p. 24. It is interesting that Lock conceives the ‘withering away’ of the state not in terms of the expansion of democracy (cf. SR, p. 337), but rather as a process whereby ‘certain of its Ideological Apparatuses — especially the Party, the Trades Unions, and mass popular organisations of all kinds — are transformed into non-State organizations capable of “controlling” and eventually of replacing the State’. (p. 30; cf. Therborn (1978), pp. 69–70, for a very similar treatment of this theme). He thereby ignores the fact that the fusion of party and state, and the subsumption of the trade unions and ‘mass popular organizations of all kinds’ under the party-state apparatus, was a result of the Stalinist degeneration, effectively conflating the disappearance of the transitional state per se with the destructuring of that monstrous mutation of it which was the creation of Stalinism.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    It is by no means necessary to follow Althusser in regarding this thesis as involving a ‘historicist’ conflation of the historical development of the real with the theoretical process of the elaboration of analytic categories. (See Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading Capital (London, 1970) repr. 1975, pp. 124–6)Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Simes points out that, according to the Soviet Central Statistical Agency, in 1974 only 3.5 per cent of all manufactured goods and 1.4 per cent of consumer goods received a State Quality Mark, which itself signifies no more than that the goods in question conformed to international standards: see D. K. Simes, ‘The Soviet Parallel Market’, Survey, vol. XXI, no. 3 (Summer 1975), pp. 42–52.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Branko Horvat, Towards a Theory of Planned Economy (Belgrade, 1964), p. 80.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Stuart Holland, The Socialist Challenge (London, 1975), p. 143.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    For a recent attempt to develop the official ‘analysis’ of Stalinism propounded by the C.P.S.U., see John Gollan’s pathetic apologia Socialist Democracy — Some Problems: The Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Retrospect (London, 1976), repr. from Marxism Today (January 1976).Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    Yevgeny Yevtushenko, ‘Stalin’s Heirs’, in Poetry of the Committed Individual, ed. Jon Silkin (Harmondsworth, 1973), pp. 227–9.Google Scholar

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© Paul Bellis 1979

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  • Paul Bellis

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