Workers Vanguard No. 917

4 July 2008


Economic Planning and Workers Democracy

(Quote of the Week)

While pointing to the great advances that working-class property forms brought to the Soviet Union, Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky emphasized that the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy that usurped political power from the Soviet proletariat acted as a brake on the development of that society’s productive forces. Writing in 1938, Trotsky underlined the need for workers political revolution in the USSR, and the return to workers democracy, as key to the defense and extension of the gains of the 1917 October Revolution. Amid hostile imperialist encirclement, decades of Stalinist misrule led to the final undoing of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92, a world-historic defeat for the international proletariat. Trotsky’s analysis and program applies today to the remaining deformed workers states of China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba.

In and of itself the preservation of state ownership of the means of production is of enormous progressive significance, inasmuch as with the aid of planned economy this permits of attaining a swift development of the productive forces. True, the economic statistics issued by the bureaucracy do not merit any confidence: they systematically exaggerate successes while concealing failures. It is nonetheless unthinkable to deny the fact that even today the Soviet Union’s productive forces are still developing at a tempo that was not and is not known in any other country in the world. Whoever refuses to see this side of the case, identifying the Soviet regime with fascism…throws out, as the Germans say, the baby with the dirty bath-water. The development of the productive forces is the fundamental factor of human culture. Without increasing man’s power over nature it is impossible even to think of destroying the rule of man over man. Socialism cannot be erected on backwardness and poverty. The technical premise of Socialism has taken an enormous forward step in the Soviet Union in the course of these twenty years.

However, least of all is this the merit of the bureaucracy. On the contrary, the ruling caste has become transformed into the greatest brake upon the development of the productive forces. Socialist economy must by its very essence take as its guide the interests of the producers and the needs of the consumers. These interests and needs can find their expression only through the medium of a full-flowering democracy of producers and consumers. Democracy, in this particular case, is not some sort of abstract principle. It is the one and only conceivable mechanism for preparing the Socialist system of economy, and realizing it in life.

—Leon Trotsky, “Does the Soviet Government Still Follow the Principles Adopted Twenty Years Ago?” (1938), as reprinted in Fourth International (March 1945)