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Separation of power and the collapse of socialism

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Soviet cogitations: 25
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 05 Jan 2014, 00:40
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 02 Feb 2014, 02:51
Bourgeois democracy often has separation of powers and a system of checks and balances to maintain capitalist rule. In the developed countries, the complexity of these checks and balances seem to allow the concerns of the people to be mitigated without causing the entire system to collapse.

Socialist democracy is based on collective ownership of the economy by the working people. Incorporating representative democracy (Soviets), direct democracy (national discussion of major issues), and "every citizen as an administrator", this monolithic "state of a new type" is supposed to be united and more responsive to the needs of the people. "The people are the state" is the slogan.

But when socialism collapsed at the end of the 1980s, some claim that mass protests showed that the people weren't being listened to. For example, former DDR Defence Minister Heinz Kessler told The Telegraph:
Quote:
"There wasn't enough criticism and self-criticism. There was a general sense of complacency. We, myself included, stopped caring what the people thought."
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/6527413/Berlin-Wall-anniversary-former-Stasi-man-sickened-by-collapse-of-communism.html

There's didn't seem to be much of an 'escape valve' to deal with discontent, nor many institutional mechanisms to prevent pro-capitalist renegades running wild once they were in positions of power.

Could separation of power and more "socialist checks and balances" helped to save socialism? Discuss.
— Crìsdean R.

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In following the revolutionary road, strive for an even greater victory.
Soviet cogitations: 216
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 27 Jul 2013, 05:04
Ideology: Other Leftist
Pioneer
Post 02 Feb 2014, 09:22
I would argue that that the problem of “revolution from above” is a serious one for traditional socialist states and there has to be some force to counteract this trend. The Soviet Union, for example, was overturned by liberal members of the party elite that used the “totalitarian” apparatus of the Soviet state against socialism itself. The transition of the People’s Republic of China to capitalism is a somewhat similar development.

There was little that working people and peasants could do to stop these trends because there were so few centers of power outside the state and the party. The only way to stop “revolution from above” is through a coup by conservatives (see the GKChP and the 1991 Soviet coup attempt) or by direct action of the people. Both options are inferior to having institutional mechanisms that make “revolution from above” extremely difficult in the first place.

Under capitalism, there are many centers of power, so it is much harder for the system to be overturned. Worker’s councils and other forms of direct democracy are probably a step in the right direction. This is why I am interested in theories such as guild socialism and syndicalism because they are anti-capitalist but they are also critical of the excessive centralization that historically plagued traditional Marxist-Leninist states.
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Soviet cogitations: 146
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jun 2013, 09:08
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 02 Feb 2014, 12:08
I do not favour having full time paid members of the party. I would never under any circumstance favour that. Denied the benefit of 10,000 Comrade Deltas--we can still make better headway under our own steam. Nor do I welcome party slates. Many is the time we have seen left or more accurately ultra left Baboons tearing up the grass and surrounding vegetation. Cannot even agree even whose name is to be chalked. Union, parliament and EU elections, only to see some other chimp romp home. Our governance will not come from 'talking shops' but places where work is undertaken. Beyond which I start to splutter, undoubtedly all ideas will need to be thrashed out collectively. In the situation we may find ourselves. I'm all ears.
The world is riven by class — not race, gender, age or disability. There is only one human race, and any ideas that promote divisions between us do the work of capitalism.
Soviet cogitations: 724
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 01 Mar 2011, 14:10
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Komsomol
Post 03 Feb 2014, 07:09
The low cultural level of the masses of the USSR, Albania, etc. had a significant impact on making party membership synonymous with administrative power. Lenin, Stalin and Hoxha warned against party members monopolizing administrative positions, since they are only meant to hold such positions until non-party persons can take them over on one hand, and because it undermines the grassroots work of the party cadre to begin with.

Lenin in 1919:
Quote:
Here we are suffering from the fact that Russia was not sufficiently developed as a capitalist country. Germany, apparently, will suffer less from this, because her bureaucratic apparatus passed through an extensive school, which sucks people dry but compels them to work and not just wear out armchairs, as happens in our offices. We dispersed these old bureaucrats, shuffled them and then began to place them in new posts. The tsarist bureaucrats began to join the Soviet institutions and practise their bureaucratic methods, they began to assume the colouring of Communists and, to succeed better in their careers, to procure membership cards of the Russian Communist Party. And so, they have been thrown out of the door but they creep back in through the window. What makes itself felt here most is the lack of cultured forces. These bureaucrats may be dismissed, but they cannot be re-educated all at once. Here we are confronted chiefly with organisational, cultural and educational problems.

We can fight bureaucracy to the bitter end, to a complete victory, only when the whole population participates in the work of government. In the bourgeois republics not only is this impossible, but the law itself prevents it. The best of the bourgeois republics, no matter how democratic they may be, have thousands of legal hindrances which prevent the working people from participating in the work of government. What we have done, was to remove these hindrances, but so far we have not reached the stage at which the working people could participate in government. Apart from the law, there is still the level of culture, which you cannot subject to any law. The result of this low cultural level is that the Soviets, which by virtue of their programme are organs of government by the working people, are in fact organs of government for the working people by the advanced section of the proletariat, but not by the working people as a whole.

Here we are confronted by a problem which cannot be solved except by prolonged education. At present this task is an inordinately difficult one for us, because, as I have had frequent occasion to say, the section of workers who are governing is inordinately, incredibly small. We must secure help. According to all indications, such a reserve is growing up within the country. There cannot be the slightest doubt of the existence of a tremendous thirst for knowledge and of tremendous progress in education—mostly attained outside the schools—of tremendous progress in educating the working people. This progress cannot be confined within any school framework, but it is tremendous. All indications go to show that we shall obtain a vast reserve in the near future, which will replace the representatives of the small section of proletarians who have overstrained themselves in the work. But, in any case, our present situation in this respect is extremely difficult. Bureaucracy has been defeated. The exploiters have been eliminated. But the cultural level has not been raised, and therefore the bureaucrats are occupying their old positions. They can be forced to retreat only if the proletariat and the peasants are organised far more extensively than has been the case up to now, and only if real measures are taken to enlist the workers in government.
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Soviet cogitations: 4405
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 03 Feb 2014, 09:49
Welcome to the forums csrothach.


I very much agree with your postulation about the separation of power problem in the Soviet-type system. I have always admired the American political system, with its three tiers (plus the constitution, although lately it's playing less and less of a role in protecting the tenants of the American republic). Over its history, the American system of separation of powers has shown again and again that no matter how reformist one branch of government becomes, the other two are always there to moderate, limit and/or halt that branch. Of course, capital itself plays its own massive role in protecting its interests via financial and other forms of influence, but the formal system of separation of power does play a very important role in preserving the US as a liberal capitalist, bourgeois-democratic republic.

In the USSR, the other branches never gained enough influence to counter that of the Party, and its hierarchical organization. This in my view was the greatest structural flaw of the Soviet system, and it was something built into the system right from the beginning. Stalin, arguably the chief architect of this structural flaw, did have a mind to change things, proposing in the early 1950s the separation of the party and state mechanisms, leaving education and agitation work to the party, with state functions assumed by technocratic administrators. This explains the enlarged, transitional 'technician and administrator'-based Politburo of the early 1950s. After Stalin died, Khrushchev abandoned the reform, and solidified the control of the party over the state. While Party men became more and more educated and technically proficient over time to take on complex administrative tasks, the structural problem of concentration of power in one hierarchical institution was never solved, eventually leading to a small group of counterrevolutionaries climbing their way to the top and using the hierarchical 'totalitarian' apparatus to topple the system, as Piccolo alluded to.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
Soviet cogitations: 2407
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 01 Nov 2003, 13:17
Ideology: Other
Forum Commissar
Post 03 Feb 2014, 16:07
A lot of the reforms which took place did so under the banner of socialism. It is arguable that Deng Xiaoping was a communist just that he had a different viewpoint on what policies would be best. How can something like this be prevented?
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Soviet cogitations: 9264
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 19 Mar 2005, 20:08
Embalmed
Post 03 Feb 2014, 16:18
By either forcing Mao Zedong into retirement in 1949 or developing super-science to keep him alive for another 20 years.
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"Bleh, i don't even know what i'm arguing for. What a stupid rant. Disregard what i wrote." - Loz
"Every time is gyros time" - Stalinista
Soviet cogitations: 216
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 27 Jul 2013, 05:04
Ideology: Other Leftist
Pioneer
Post 03 Feb 2014, 20:56
Political Interest wrote:
A lot of the reforms which took place did so under the banner of socialism. It is arguable that Deng Xiaoping was a communist just that he had a different viewpoint on what policies would be best. How can something like this be prevented?


And this, I believe, is the problem with traditional Marxism-Leninism. There is no institutional arrangement to prevent the restoration of capitalism if the state/party leadership is set on it. Even if Deng sincerely meant to lead China along the correct path to socialism, his successors clearly favor state capitalism. I agree with soviet78 that some sort of institutional arrangement like the American system of separation of power is needed to prevent "revolutions from above" from toppling socialism.

Socialism will be harder to eliminate if the interests of workers and peasants are actually represented in bodies such as worker's councils. There can also be constitutional prohibitions on the privatization of means of production and the employment of wage labor. Those are just some possible ways to prevent a backslide into capitalism.
[+-]
Soviet cogitations: 589
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Dec 2013, 14:24
Ideology: Democratic Socialism
Unperson
Post 03 Feb 2014, 23:35
But all the rules and regulations will not prevent capitalism from coming back if that is what the majority want. What would you do if 95% of the people got fed up with socialism and wanted it back? Keep shooting them until they gave up and went back to socialism again?
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Soviet cogitations: 589
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Dec 2013, 14:24
Ideology: Democratic Socialism
Unperson
Post 03 Feb 2014, 23:38
soviet78 wrote:
Welcome to the forums csrothach.


I very much agree with your postulation about the separation of power problem in the Soviet-type system. I have always admired the American political system, with its three tiers (plus the constitution, although lately it's playing less and less of a role in protecting the tenants of the American republic). Over its history, the American system of separation of powers has shown again and again that no matter how reformist one branch of government becomes, the other two are always there to moderate, limit and/or halt that branch. Of course, capital itself plays its own massive role in protecting its interests via financial and other forms of influence, but the formal system of separation of power does play a very important role in preserving the US as a liberal capitalist, bourgeois-democratic republic.

In the USSR, the other branches never gained enough influence to counter that of the Party, and its hierarchical organization. This in my view was the greatest structural flaw of the Soviet system, and it was something built into the system right from the beginning. Stalin, arguably the chief architect of this structural flaw, did have a mind to change things, proposing in the early 1950s the separation of the party and state mechanisms, leaving education and agitation work to the party, with state functions assumed by technocratic administrators. This explains the enlarged, transitional 'technician and administrator'-based Politburo of the early 1950s. After Stalin died, Khrushchev abandoned the reform, and solidified the control of the party over the state. While Party men became more and more educated and technically proficient over time to take on complex administrative tasks, the structural problem of concentration of power in one hierarchical institution was never solved, eventually leading to a small group of counterrevolutionaries climbing their way to the top and using the hierarchical 'totalitarian' apparatus to topple the system, as Piccolo alluded to.



In other words it was a 'workers state' run, not by the workers themselves, but by the party
.
Soviet cogitations: 216
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 27 Jul 2013, 05:04
Ideology: Other Leftist
Pioneer
Post 04 Feb 2014, 00:15
Yami wrote:
But all the rules and regulations will not prevent capitalism from coming back if that is what the majority want. What would you do if 95% of the people got fed up with socialism and wanted it back? Keep shooting them until they gave up and went back to socialism again?


People generally like socialism once they have had a taste of it. Most people wanted to keep the Soviet Union intact. More than three-quarters of Soviet citizens voted to maintain the USSR in the 1991 referendum.

http://en.ria.ru/infographics/20110313/162959645.html

Most of the historical anti-socialist reforms have been forced through by elites. Heck, even in Western Europe most people oppose austerity and the destruction of the welfare state but the European political leadership is in the pocket of capital, so there is not much that can be done to stop the neoliberal reforms.

I suppose if everybody really wants capitalism they can certainly choose that system, but by and large, when people get a taste of socialism or even mild social democratic reforms, people generally like it and want to preserve what they have. Even most of the members of the American Tea Party, a pretty radical right-wing group, want to keep Social Security and Medicare and oppose cuts to these programs.

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2011/11 ... -security/
Soviet cogitations: 724
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 01 Mar 2011, 14:10
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Komsomol
Post 04 Feb 2014, 06:17
What you're all talking about is making the decisions of the Party and whatnot more accountable to the rank-and-file and/or society. Separation of powers is a bourgeois doctrine and refers to the relationship between government bodies. Marx and Engels called for government bodies combining executive and legislative functions, something which the Soviet system was based on, as were all subsequent countries claiming fidelity to the October Revolution.

In practice the government in the USSR and other countries largely just existed to transform Party directives into law. I don't think anyone here actually takes issue with how the Supreme Soviet and whatnot operated on paper, just that in practice they did little apart from the Party.

The organization of Albanian's organs of state power was largely similar to the USSR's, so this explanation of how it worked and its theoretical underpinnings is of interest: http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/a ... st.htm#chv
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Soviet cogitations: 589
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Dec 2013, 14:24
Ideology: Democratic Socialism
Unperson
Post 04 Feb 2014, 12:11
There was never any socialism in the USSR, just meat and potatoes state capitalism.

Social security and medicare are also not socialism. They are, respectively, liberal and conservative inventions. So it’s no wonder the Tea party with to keep them. They are cruel, confidence tricks on the working class.

My point is that I hope to, that once we finally get socialism the majority will want it, but if they don’t then all the laws and regulations will not prevent them going back to capitalism. How could it? As for leaving, most people were desperate to get out of USSR and Eastern Europe but were prevented to do so by force, barbed wire, walls, bullets etc.

As for the situation in Europe, comrade that is capitalism, please don’t think that a change of government will alter things, we need to change the system not those running it. If the current crop of politicians are in the pocket of capital what makes you think that will change if we elect a new lot? Nothing! That is what Marx said all those years ago...
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Soviet cogitations: 9264
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 19 Mar 2005, 20:08
Embalmed
Post 04 Feb 2014, 13:55
Ismail wrote:
Enver Hoxha is the greatest.

The thing that matters when it comes to keeping state institutions separate from the Party is that this means essentially, keeping corruption and bureaucratism out of the party membership's activities, which makes it out of the party's interests. Otherwise there would be no real need to waste time and money on things like the Supreme Soviet, Council of Ministers, etc. when the Central Committee and the Politburo can just take care of everything.

The implications of this are then that party members have no interest in restoring capitalism as that would mean making even more money from corruption, as well as having positions of political and economic power, which is exactly what happened in the now-former USSR from the late Khrushchev years to today. It's also something that is somewhat widely talked about in Russian political circles, liberal and communist (not United Russia, because, well, you know.)
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"Bleh, i don't even know what i'm arguing for. What a stupid rant. Disregard what i wrote." - Loz
"Every time is gyros time" - Stalinista
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