This study first appeared as a series of articles in the New York weekly, The Guardian, under the title, "Is the Soviet Union Capitalist?" The complete series is reproduced here without alteration apart from a more logical breakdown into chapters, as noted below.
The study does not aim to answer every important question about the U.S.S.R. The situation of the minority nationalities and of women, the state of Soviet agriculture, U.S.S.R. foreign policy and a number of other topics are merely touched on. The investigation concentrates on the bare minimum elements of political economy necessary and sufficient to answer the question posed in the original title. Which class holds state power? What are the basic relations of production? On these topics the work is concentrated.
In approximately the first half of the study (parts 2-15) the approach is chronological. The chief political battles and economic changes in the U.S.S.R. since 1917 are sketched in, with emphasis on the crucial 1956-65 transition period. The second part of the study applies
a magnifying lens to the post-1965 production relations, especially in regard to labor power, means of production, finance, planning, and the division of the social product among different classes.
The general thesis defended in this work runs counter to the dominant opinion -- the opinion of the dominant classes -- in both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. In the latter it has been made a crime against the state to disseminate the opinion that capitalism has been restored there. The motives that incline most U.S. and other western Sovietologists to collude with the fiction of Soviet socialism are more subtle and diverse. Anti-communism, opportunism, ignorance, and metaphysics all play a role. The sum of the factors is that it presently serves the interests of the ruling circles in both superpowers to present the relation between them as one between different social systems. Like so many other propositions on which both superpowers agree, the theory of Soviet socialism today is based on falsehoods.
Uncommon as the view here defended is in rival "establishment" circles, it is not the author's alone by far. The general thesis that a capitalist restoration has taken place in the U.S.S.R. is today a common point of agreement among Marxist-Leninists in scores of countries. This study forms part of the growing international Marxist-Leninist literature on the topic, a literature which testifies to the increasing vitality and unity of the movement.
Many people, on first becoming acquainted with the Marxist-Leninist point of view, refer to the thesis of capitalist restoration in the U.S.S.R. as the "Chinese view" or the "Albanian view." This is correct in a way, but basically it is a misconception.
It was the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labor
of Albania who stood up first, most firmly, clearly, and consistently in defense
of Marxism-Leninism against the revisionist line initiated by Khrushchev. It is
they also who did the pioneer's work on the thesis of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union, leading the way to solving the most difficult problems of theory and in marshaling reliable data. All Marxist-Leninists acknowledge their contributions, past and present.
But this does not mean that the thesis of capitalist restoration arises chiefly out of some "national" experience of China or Albania, or would not have been discovered without the Chinese and Albanian parties. The thesis is based on international experience -- not least, that of the Soviet workers and oppressed nationalities -- and has objective validity independently of its first proponents. It has become, as was mentioned, the common property of Marxist-Leninist all over the world.
Readers should also be aware that not all those who are often labeled "Maoists" or "pro-Chinese" hold to the view that there has been a restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. It is not uncommon in this period to encounter experiments in wearing the "Chinese" jacket while walking the "Russian" road. The position of the editors of the newspaper in which this study first appeared is a case in point. While sprinkling their writing with occasional references to the "other superpower" and Soviet social-imperialism," they took care -- in a preface atop each installment in the series of articles to state that they did not believe the U.S.S.R. had become a capitalist country. In this way the editors did a brisk business for a time cultivating a prestigious "Chinese" image while acting as apologists for Soviet social-imperialism on every burning question of world affairs.
This whole topic obtains a vital urgency from the clouds of world war now gathering on the horizon. In many parts of the world, the question whether the Soviet Union is a big socialist country or whether it is an imperialist superpower like the U.S. has become a shooting question. One has only to think of Angola or to recall such cases as Czechoslovakia, Bangladesh, and Chenpao
Island; or the violent repression of Marxist-Leninists instigated by the
pro-Moscow parties in India, the Philippines, Portugal and other countries. All these and other incidents are only the forerunners of a more general conflict in which, to judge by the scale of the preparations, Soviet social-imperialism will attempt to displace its superpower rival on the whole of the Eurasian land mass and its flanking seas, and to grab a larger share of Africa and Latin America as well. To evade, minimize, or conceal the capitalist character of the U.S.S.R., and to paint this power as less evil, bloody and reactionary than U.S. imperialism, is to abandon scientific thought and to enlist in the ranks of the other superpower's offensive.
Note: The study is here divided into 24 chapters rather than the 28 installments of the newspaper serial. From installment 18 on, the newspaper installments sometimes began in the middle of a chapter of the original manuscript. In such a case the newspaper inserted a few lead-in lines for continuity. At other times the newspaper ran the beginning of a new chapter into the end of the previous chapter without indicating a break. This practice naturally caused some readers to lose stride. In the present edition the material added by the newspaper, as well as some superfluous footnotes, is deleted and the chapters follow the manuscript. The text is otherwise unaltered.