“Bureaucratic distortions”

“How and why is it, however, that the enormous economic successes of the recent period have led not to a mitigation, but on the contrary to a sharpening, of inequalities, and at the same time to a further growth of bureaucratism, such that from being a ‘distortion’ it has now become a system of administration?”

Trotsky (August 1936) Revolution Betrayed. 1937: 63; 1972: 59

Lenin coined this formulation:

“What I should have said is: ‘A workers’ state is an abstraction. What we actually have is a workers’ state, with this peculiarity, firstly, that it is not the working class but the peasant population that predominates in the country, and, secondly, that it is a workers’ state with bureaucratic distortions’.”

Lenin (19 January 1921) The Party Crisis. LCW 32: 48]

Trotsky and other Left Oppositionists made it a key signifier for their assessment of the USSR:

“The appropriation of surplus value by a workers’ state is not, of course, exploitation. But in the first place, we have a workers’ state with bureaucratic distortions. The swollen and privileged administrative apparatus devours a very considerable part of our surplus value. In the second place, the growing bourgeoisie, by means of trade and gambling on the abnormal disparity of prices, appropriates a part of the surplus value created by our state industry”.

Trotsky (September 1927) Platform of the Joint Opposition. Challenge (1926-27). 1980: 312

“When, following Lenin, we point out the growing bureaucratic distortions of our proletarian state, the Stalin group attributes to us the opinion that our Soviet state is not proletarian at all. When we announce before the entire Communist International that “anyone who, attempting either directly or indirectly to support us, shall at the same time deny the proletarian character of our party and our state and the socialist character of construction in the Soviet Union, will be ruthlessly opposed and rejected by us” – the Stalin group conceals our announcement and continues its slander against us”.

Trotsky (September 1927) Platform of the Joint Opposition. Challenge (1926-27). 1980: 384

“The property relations in the USSR, like the reciprocal political relations of the classes, prove incontestably that the USSR, in spite of the distortions of the Soviet regime and in spite of the disastrous policy of the centrist bureaucracy, remains a workers’ state”.

Trotsky (4 April 1931) Problems of the Development of the USSR. Writings 1930-31, 1973: 230

Thus, in spite of monstrous bureaucratic distortions, the class basis of the USSR remains proletarian. Although it undermines these achievements, the bureaucracy has not yet ventured to resort to the restoration of private ownership of the means of production.

Trotsky (1940) Stalin. 1946: 405-06; 1969 vol2: 233; 2016: 690

I think this is well worth discussing in future sessions.

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