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How could you ensure a successful USSR?

Hendryk

Nothing ever ends
Published by SLP
Location
France
@Makemakean suggested a retired Zhukov and that has potential. He's undeniably a competent leader of men and has the patriotic war credentials to rally people to him. Maybe Zhukov, but minus the coup?
One problem though is that the Soviet leadership was historically terrified of "Bonapartism" and had set up systemic obstacles to military officers getting too involved in politics.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
Can't help but think that when you're talking about a senior General who didn't have any particular pre-existing political career to speak of* (beyond the fact that being a senior general involves politics) you've kind of got to have a coup to put them in power. Especially if they're actually going to be making massive reforms/purges off their own back rather than just serving as the figurehead for others.

*He's not even got the 2.5 years Defence ministry position under Khrushchev in this situation if it's literally straight after Stalin.
Maybe Krushchev does try his hands at it though, and just doesn't get as far with reforms, while opening the door for Zhukov? You're right that it's not an obvious road.

One problem though is that the Soviet leadership was historically terrified of "Bonapartism" and had set up systemic obstacles to military officers getting too involved in politics.
Yeah that's definitely an issue. The truth is that they just got out of under their Bonaparte, he just came from the bureaucracy and blindsided all of them while the army remained loyal despite being the target of the purges. But I'm not sure they can accept that truth.
 

Sulemain

Brush NOT Benzo
Location
Coventry
As pointed out upthread, Gorbachev saying to the ministries 'perform economic reforms' and the ministries actually doing those are two very different things and Gorbachev didn't really have any ability to force them to.
I think a lot of people think of the central Soviet state apparatus as having the complete power and authority it liked to project itself having.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
Yep, that's why I put new talents as the big priority.

Maybe Khrushchev having a long running struggle he wins by bringing in new kids loyal to him instead of a string of reforms then removal and rollback? Struggle to pass his agenda would give him reasons to bring more people in who can challenge the status quo.
I wouldn't give any credence to the notion that any of the Soviet Union's problems can really be resolved by just bringing in "new talent". Fundamentally, administrative and political talent, in particular ambitious such, tend to modify their views so that they may reach power. Or, at the very least, haggle, be open for intellectual compromise with themselves.

And such men could advance to positions of power in the USSR. The notion that there was this vast pool of talent just sitting there going, "I would join the Communist Party and work for them if they just allowed for a little more deviation from the official party line, but until then, I'm going to go for a different career" is one that I say is not rooted in reality. If for no other reason, then because from the fifties onward, there really weren't those kinds of strictly ideological tests for positions of authority that you saw in, for instance, Maoist China, the kind characterized by slogans like "Better red than expert!".

To illustrate what I mean, consider Alexander Lukashenko, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Islam Karimov, and Boris Yeltsin. These were people who were longtime members of the Communist Party, who had careers in the Communist Party, who rose to become the leaders of their constituent republics in the USSR when the Soviet Union was still ongoing. And who, once the Soviet Union fell, continued to be prominent politicians if not outright heads of government of their respective countries, leading parties having denounced Communism. I think that it's fair to say that none of them, not even Lukashenko, were doctrinaire, true-believing Marxists. They were career politicians, men wanting power. And such men could and did reach prominence in the old system.

The problem here is the system itself when it comes to running the show, and reforming itself when it needs to, not that it is ideologically distasteful to talented potential.
 

Hendryk

Nothing ever ends
Published by SLP
Location
France
I think a lot of people think of the central Soviet state apparatus as having the complete power and authority it liked to project itself having.
I'm reminded of that soundbite which the screenwriters of Chernobyl had Gorbachev say: "Our power comes from the perception of our power."

And then there's this historical quote by Khrushchev, complaining about the failure of his reforms to Fidel Castro in 1963: "You’d think I could change anything in this country. Like hell I can. No matter what changes I propose and carry out, everything stays the same. Russia is like a tub full of dough, you put your hand down in it, down to the bottom, and think you’re master of the situation. When you first pull out your hand, a little hole remains, but then, before your very eyes, the dough expands into a spongy, puffy mass. That’s what Russia is like."
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
I wouldn't give any credence to the notion that any of the Soviet Union's problems can really be resolved by just bringing in "new talent". Fundamentally, administrative and political talent, in particular ambitious such, tend to modify their views so that they may reach power. Or, at the very least, haggle, be open for intellectual compromise with themselves.

And such men could advance to positions of power in the USSR. The notion that there was this vast pool of talent just sitting there going, "I would join the Communist Party and work for them if they just allowed for a little more deviation from the official party line, but until then, I'm going to go for a different career" is one that I say is not rooted in reality. If for no other reason, then because from the fifties onward, there really weren't those kinds of strictly ideological tests for positions of authority that you saw in, for instance, Maoist China, the kind characterized by slogans like "Better red than expert!".

To illustrate what I mean, consider Alexander Lukashenko, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Islam Karimov, and Boris Yeltsin. These were people who were longtime members of the Communist Party, who had careers in the Communist Party, who rose to become the leaders of their constituent republics in the USSR when the Soviet Union was still ongoing. And who, once the Soviet Union fell, continued to be prominent politicians if not outright heads of government of their respective countries, leading parties having denounced Communism. I think that it's fair to say that none of them, not even Lukashenko, were doctrinaire, true-believing Marxists. They were career politicians, men wanting power. And such men could and did reach prominence in the old system.

The problem here is the system itself when it comes to running the show, and reforming itself when it needs to, not that it is ideologically distasteful to talented potential.
It's not that they wouldn't join, it's that they'll have to bend backward further to get to the top, which favours the sycophants over the people you could use to shift things down the line. It doesn't select for orthodox Marxists as much as for compulsive liars. Which is worse, actually.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
It's not that they wouldn't join, it's that they'll have to bend backward further to get to the top, which favours the sycophants over the people you could use to shift things down the line. It doesn't select for orthodox Marxists as much as for compulsive liars. Which is worse, actually.
But again, to what extent was the ideological purity/loyalty dimension really that much of a problem when it came to recruiting new talent?

Because unlike the Chinese, the Russians didn't have ideological tests about prospective officials' views on class contradictions and the different stages of socialism, etc. The ideological straitjacket just wasn't there in the same sense.

And when it comes to "reopen the door to different interpretations of communism", what different interpretations are you thinking about? There's not going to be a pool of Trotskyist or Bukharinist talent just sitting waiting out there, because those writings had all been banned. When it came to Maoism, it was all very much controlled how much Maoist writing was allowed to circulate.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
But again, to what extent was the ideological purity/loyalty dimension really that much of a problem when it came to recruiting new talent?

Because unlike the Chinese, the Russians didn't have ideological tests about prospective officials' views on class contradictions and the different stages of socialism, etc. The ideological straitjacket just wasn't there in the same sense.

And when it comes to "reopen the door to different interpretations of communism", what different interpretations are you thinking about? There's not going to be a pool of Trotskyist or Bukharinist talent just sitting waiting out there, because those writings had all been banned. When it came to Maoism, it was all very much controlled how much Maoist writing was allowed to circulate.
There wasn't an ideological straightjacket but writings that would broaden understanding of communism were banned.

Can you see the contradiction?

Though the bigger problem isn't ideological enforcement, it's as I've said, selection specifically for sycophants.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
Sorry, I could have been clearer. What writings do you have in mind that would have broadened the understanding of communism?
Meme answer: read Bordiga!

Less meme answer: I've heard good things about Bukharin, but it's probably going to be outdated considering he was writing about the pre Stalin industrialization era. Might be worth broadening up the curriculum with stuff various Marxists have written everywhere I guess. There's a lot of it.

I think exactly what they end up reading matter less than opening the door to people acknowledging multiple possible paths again rather than having to hide it and pretend the party line is the only one until they can coup the people spouting the party line. You can't clean up the mess if everyone is lying everywhere.
 

Joshuapooleanox

electoral asbestos
Location
Newcastle, innit
Pronouns
they/them, she/her
I know it’s cheating but just swap in whatever the left SR’s would do, even if that means something that isn’t the USSR in the way we know it. Technically a successful post-Russian empire socialist state.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
I know it’s cheating but just swap in whatever the left SR’s would do, even if that means something that isn’t the USSR in the way we know it. Technically a successful post-Russian empire socialist state.
The question is post 53 for a reason.

Pre-Stalin is much easier.

Edit: oh by the way, something we didn't mention is the sino-soviet split. Not having that would probably help tremendously.
 

neonduke

Ernst Röhm's Twink Island
Meme answer: read Bordiga!

Less meme answer: I've heard good things about Bukharin, but it's probably going to be outdated considering he was writing about the pre Stalin industrialization era. Might be worth broadening up the curriculum with stuff various Marxists have written everywhere I guess. There's a lot of it.

I think exactly what they end up reading matter less than opening the door to people acknowledging multiple possible paths again rather than having to hide it and pretend the party line is the only one until they can coup the people spouting the party line. You can't clean up the mess if everyone is lying everywhere.
Bukharin's writings ended up being somewhat influential on Dengism didn't they?
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
Bukharin's writings ended up being somewhat influential on Dengism didn't they?
If so, that would make him roll in his grave.

He was very much a committed communist, not a capitalist roader, he just wanted a more gradual transition to deal with the fact that the Bolsheviks had only reached power through an alliance with the peasantry and Russia lacked a large proletariat.

Dengism is very much like potential post Stalin reforms and unlike perpetuating the NEP in that collectivization was already done with.
 

neonduke

Ernst Röhm's Twink Island
Not really, no.
Can't remember where I picked that up, I definitely read it somewhere. I'll have to check the books, could well have been someone talking out of their hat to discredit his ideas.

EDIT: Its discussed in Deng Xiaoping: a revolutionary life by Steven Levine and Alexander Pantsov that Deng was influenced by the NEP and considered that "perhaps" it was the most correct model of Socialism. For clarity I haven't read the book personally but I have seen it discussed and this point was raised ,as well as that a number of Bukharin's works being translated for Chinese audiences in the early 1980s.
 
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Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
Can't remember where I picked that up, I definitely read it somewhere. I'll have to check the books, could well have been someone talking out of their hat to discredit his ideas.

EDIT: Its discussed in Deng Xiaoping: a revolutionary life by Steven Levine and Alexander Pantsov that Deng was influenced by the NEP and considered that "perhaps" it was the most correct model of Socialism. For clarity I haven't read the book personally but I have seen it discussed and this point was raised ,as well as that a number of Bukharin's works being translated for Chinese audiences in the early 1980s.
In Ezra Vogel's Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, it is mentioned that Deng Xiaoping's time in the Soviet Union was in the 1920s, and that he was impressed by the state that was being built under the NEP, and Vogel does mention that on account of Deng's time being spent during the heyday of the NEP and Chen Yun's time in the Soviet Union happening later during the era of Stalin and the First Five Year Plan, this might explain why Deng was more pragmatic in his attitude to economic policy to Chen Yun who remained very much wedded to the principle of a planned command economy.

That said, Deng Xiaoping was never one who was particularly interested in the high theory of dialectical materialism and the like. He was interested in how to make China a stable and prosperous nation. When it came to actually providing intellectual justification for his reforms within the framework of Marxism-Leninism and all that, he pretty much wholesale outsourced that task to Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, and the various "think tanks" that they were running (Vogel calls them think tanks, but it really should be mentioned that these things operated in a whole different fashion from how western think tanks operate). They were the ones who wrote the papers and speeches, and as far as I can ascertain, there doesn't really seem to be any evidence that Bukharin's writings ever really came up there.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
Pronouns
Logical, unlike those in German
Meme answer: read Bordiga!

Less meme answer: I've heard good things about Bukharin, but it's probably going to be outdated considering he was writing about the pre Stalin industrialization era. Might be worth broadening up the curriculum with stuff various Marxists have written everywhere I guess. There's a lot of it.

I think exactly what they end up reading matter less than opening the door to people acknowledging multiple possible paths again rather than having to hide it and pretend the party line is the only one until they can coup the people spouting the party line. You can't clean up the mess if everyone is lying everywhere.
And then you're back to the problem of the legitimacy of the Party's rule of the country. You've locked up countless people on the grounds of them being Bukharinites and Trotskyites and Zinovievites and etc., etc., and now if you are to say that, actually those things aren't that bad, well... that will erode faith in the party.

Furthermore, even if the country is prosperous, that does not mean that opening up for further pluralism intellectually speaking will translate into intellectual support for the Party. China really did take off considerably during the 80s economically speaking, but when Hu and Zhao started to liberalize the intellectual sphere, voices immediately started to be raised about further reforms.

And of course, there is the question as to whether or not the Communist Party leadership can be made to feel that pluralism really is the way to go at this juncture in history. Khrushchev did open up a little, and all that really accomplished was to turn much of the Party leadership against him.
 
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