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Rick Grimes of Class Consciousness Project

Jan 29, 2024

Communist success and Soviet Industry

One of the key issues that brought us to create the Class Consciousness Project was to try, in some way, to combat decades of poor understanding that had developed within our class. Activists like ourselves would have found that, on any sort of campaign, you would find a reluctance, or even aggression, towards socialism. You may find yourself trying to convince people about the benefits of socialism before the issue you were there to campaign for. Sometimes you would even use trickery in your language, explaining socialism in simplistic ways, using real-life situations, that people can get behind, or even completely hiding your intentions behind the campaign.

The challenges in convincing the masses often leads to cynicism – many political groups opt instead to tread the easier path of opportunism and social democracy, as we saw in the political party to which we all affiliated at one time. This cynicism stems from their own lack of understanding, or their inability and unwillingness to create understanding, within the working class.

Our project does not believe that we can vote our way to socialism through bourgeois democracy. Opportunism and social democracy is a complete dead end. We believe that, if we are to create class awareness, then we need to go for the jugular. Years of the political waters being muddied by the ruling class means wading through it is often tiring and sometime demoralising, but we must strive to remain steadfast and to guard against disillusionment. Fighting these lies head-on is the only way to convince people. If we are coy in our language or opinions, it only serves to create indifference in those we are trying to convince.

“Communism doesn’t work, does it?”

Everyone has heard this at some point. Some may have even repeated it. Alongside the damning of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba or the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (known in the west as North Korea). Some may even have the additional knowledge to throw Venezuela into the mix, but very rarely will go as far as to mention the vast array of countries who have been halted in their fights for socialism. The likes of Burkina Faso, Chile, Nicaragua, Vietnam, East Germany, Afghanistan and more of varying stages of success. We could go further and mention how many communist and socialist parties there are working away in capitalist countries.

Surely this does not point to a failed experiment. When socialists talk about capitalism, we don’t say that capitalism doesn’t work, but that it doesn’t work for us. The contradictions within capitalist competition will always pit worker (proletarian) against owner or ruler (bourgeoise). Capitalism creates the working class and gives it the tools with which to create socialism. To combat this, it creates propaganda to make the worker believe that the politics created to emancipate his or herself are actually unworkable as it is in our nature to compete, rather than co-operate, even though our daily lives are a co-operative process.

Every part of our life is a social relationship and requires the social element to create the resources we need or the products we use. Nothing is created by the individual, but by the co-operation of many people. This is something that the British worker should be helped to understand – the key differences between socialist and capitalist production. Workers must realise that capitalist industrialisation may still be creative, and in its formative years was very inventive, but its sole purpose is the enrichment of a tiny minority of people. Even when innovations that are made in capitalist industry, it is still within the competitive market, so innovations are predominantly to increase production and so decrease labour cost, whereas socialist industry has no profit motives. The creation of an industry in a planned economy is for the betterment of the worker. The worker also takes on a higher level of responsibility and control in the process of production which the capitalist worker does not have as a wage slave. The socialist workers’ endeavours will directly be for his or her class.  

A planned economy emphasises the social aspect of industry and uses this understanding to full effect when creating a socialist industry. This was only a theory until the great October revolution on 1917. When the revolutionary Bolsheviks began the process of building the Soviet Union, they understood the need of building up the Soviet industry with that in-built social aspect to combat against the inevitable attacks from the capitalist states.The Soviet Union is correctly heralded as the first and most successful socialist state ever founded by communists, but the western media will have you believe that it was failure. Prior to the October revolution, Russia was a rich country full of poor people. It was an agrarian state of peasants, with little to no industry and no working class worth speaking of. Within twenty years of the socialist revolution, Russia and the Soviet Union had become a powerful state capable of withstanding attacks from exterior and interior forces. If it hadn’t been for World War Two, perhaps the Soviet Union would have been even stronger before Comrade Stalin’s death and arguably could have avoided the years of revisionism that sought to reverse the successes of the revolution.

“It has to be seen to be believed. Our own wartime efforts are flea-bites to what has been done in Russia. Americans admit that even in the greatest rush days in the West there could have been nothing like the feverish building activity that is going on in Russia today. One sees so many changes in the Russian scene after two years that one gives up trying to imagine what Russia will be like in another 10 years.”

These words are from the British “left” magazine Forward in 1932. In this the writer is talking about great changes that occurred during Stalin’s 5-year plan. Stalin’s five-year plan was to convert the Soviet Union from an agrarian state into an independent and industrious one, capable of being fully self-reliant without the interference of capitalist countries, and a defence capability able to withstand any attack from a foreign aggressor.

The five-year plan started with the creation of heavy industry (machine building, tractors etc). In capitalist countries, heavy industry was funded by the pillaging of other countries, even the infamous Attlee years (1945-1951) was funded by the plunder of the colonies. The socialist revolution of the Soviet Union swept away the legacies of imperialism and funded their own development. As Josef Stalin said:

“…with a Soviet government at the helm, and the land, industry, transport, the banks and trade nationalised, we could pursue a regime of the strictest economy in order to accumulate sufficient resources for the restoration and development of heavy industry.”

In actual fact it didn’t take the planned five years but only four to turn the U.S.S.R. from the aforementioned agrarian state into an industrial one, creating industries from nothing and turning the Soviet Union into a rival to the world’s leading capitalist countries. In those four years, Soviet industry had risen 219% whilst leading capitalist countries such as Britain and Germany saw continuous falling output. In the case of Britain, it started to deindustrialise.

By the 1930s, the great industrial revolution of the Soviet States was making strides that were completely unparalleled. The Dnieper hydro-electric scheme was in motion to create a modern hydro-electric power station which could kick-start the massive industries that were forthcoming. The five year plan yielded triumphs in heavy industries that led to the construction of the famous soviet tractor plants and agricultural machinery, the Lugansk locomotive works (modern day conflict may lead people to forget how important the Donbass and Ukraine was to within the U.S.S.R.), Gorlovka iron and steel works. 

An immense tractor works sprung up in the Steppe near Stalingrad in the space of eleven months. In the erection of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station and the Stalingrad Tractor Works, the workers beat world records in productivity of labour.”(History of the CPSU)

By 1932, Comrade Stalin was able to announce that the five-year plan had been completed within four years and the Soviet Union was now capable of holding its own against the advanced capitalist countries that once looked down upon the peasants of Russia and the Soviet states. 

What many people don’t understand is that communism is steeped in industry. The proletariat only came into existence from the capitalist creation of industry in which it gives workers the tools to shape its own future. The Soviet Union’s great successes in industry spit all over the idea that capitalism breeds innovation. Capitalism is stunted. The need for profit trumping the need for innovation and no capitalist industry can ever be as successful as those socialist industries because of this stunted growth.

The capitalist worker also is affected by this stunted growth. The worker has little or no interest in what his labour produces beyond his own wage. His only thought is to get through the day the best he can, without complete exhaustion or injury, and receive his wage, which will often be spent on the necessaries of life leaving him, if he is lucky, with a small fund, which may be spent on numbing the mind with alcohol. This utterly ignores the potential of the masses for great industrial expansion and creativity.

Stalin’s five-year plan was not completed in four years because the workers were in a rush to get to the pub. The Soviet workers knew that they were building a state for themselves with no managerial class to profit from their labours. Their work and innovation was building a modern and happy future for their class. Once the working class know their work is imperative and they are in control of their own future, workers are capable of incredible things.

So when this mantra of “communism doesn’t work” is banded around, just point to this great success of Soviet industry.

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