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Bureaucratic collectivism

From Academic Kids

Bureaucratic collectivism is a theory of class society. It is used by some Trotskyists to describe the nature of the Soviet Union under Stalin, and other similar states in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Like in state capitalism, a bureaucratic collectivist state owns the means of production, while the surplus ("profit") is distributed among an elite party bureaucracy, rather than among the workers. Also, most importantly, it is the bureaucracy - not the workers or the people in general - who controls the economy and the state. Thus, the system is not truly capitalist, but it is not socialist either. It is a new form of class society which exploits workers through new mechanisms. Most who hold this view believe that bureaucratic collectivism does not represent progress beyond capitalism - that is, that it is no closer to being a workers' state than a capitalist state would be. Some even believe that certain kinds of capitalism are more progressive than a bureaucratic collectivist society.

"Bureaucratic collectivism" was first used as a term to describe a theory originating in England, shortly before the First World War, about a possible future social organisation. After the war, the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalin, Hugo Urbahns and Lucien Laurat both began to critique the nature of the Soviet state in a similar manner. Their theory was probably first named "bureaucratic collectivism" by Christian Rakovsky.

This theory was first taken up within Trotskyism by a small group in France around Yves Craipeau. It was also taken up by Bruno Rizzi, who believed that the Soviet, German and Italian bureaucracies were progressive and celebrated "the class which has the courage to make itself master of the state". It was with Rizzi that Trotsky debated in the late 1930s. Trotsky held that the Soviet Union was a degenerated workers state and that if it did not undergo a new workers' revolution, it would move towards bureaucratic collectivism . However, Trotsky believed that before that state was reached, in the absence of a political revolution, a comprehensive counter-revolution would return the nation to capitalism.

Soon after the Workers Party in the USA (later the Independent Socialist League), led by Max Shachtman, split from the Fourth International, they adopted the theory of bureaucratic collectivism and developed it. As a result, it is often associated with Left Shachtmanism. Their version had much in common with Craipeau's, as developed by James Burnham, but little with Rizzi's.

The theory of bureaucratic collectivism was maintained by socialists such as Hal Draper, and is now held by sections of Solidarity in the USA and Workers Liberty in the United Kingdom and Australia.

George Orwell's famous novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" describes a fictional society of "Oligarchical Collectivism".

See also: coordinatorism, new class, state socialism, state capitalism, degenerated workers state and deformed workers state.

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