Written by: Davide Ferri
Written in November 2011
The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time. Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workman's wage. The vested interests and the
Was what all Marx espoused in his works (that alas few "Marxists" read) the political democratic spirit of the USSR of Maoist China?
Of course not.
But this issue will not be discussed here.
In fact, it has already been done in my article on the problems of Stagism and the question of Frontism, which also discusses my political stances in a more specific way. In the above mentioned article, I argue that Leninism entails three problems: an philological problem implicitly entailing an epistemological one and a logical problem.
As I try to explain in on the problems of Stagism and the question of Frontism, the philologico-epistemological question represents a minor problem, whereas the logical question is a major humbug.
However, returning to this article, I wish to premise that I will discuss my political position in a simple and general way; which, I hope may not generate political misunderstandings.
Politically speaking, I contextually may support Marxism-Leninism — the dominant version of Communism in the world — as a doctrine having, within itself, one of the greatest dialectical potential in circulation. On the other hand, I cannot define myself as a Marxist-Leninist, for 4 main reasons:
•The first reason lies in the simple general premise that whilst Marxism represents a general science — divided into Historical Materialism, Marxist Economics and Dialectical Materialism — on which to expand a determined contextual praxis, the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism — and with it all its important historical insights and errors (political, economic, social etc.) — remains, strictly speaking, an "empirical" doctrine.
Marxism-Leninism, in its purest form, is contextual to the economic and political conditions of a country rising from the material scarcity of a feudal mode of production (that of Tsarist Russia).
By no accident, I regard Lenin, in broad terms, as a Marxist (though with his own problems, which I shall discuss later), who made his anti-Marxist errors and not as a Marxist-Leninist. I wish to remind the reader that for further details on my Marxist stance and further clarifications upon Marx's doctrine as opposed to the economic and political character of Leninism, you may conveniently read my article The problems of Stagism and the question of frontism.
It must be said that attacking Communism for the atrocities committed by a group of Bolsheviks (remarkably, against their own Bolsheviks party too!) is like attacking Capitalism for the atrocities committed by (pro-monopoly capital) Nazi-Fascism;
such an attack would bring along the same communicative fallacy!
In fact, someone who desires to attack Communism or Capitalism "in general", at least with the slightest intellectual consistency, should do that with the power of political economy and its multi-disciplinary implications. Not by means of rhetoric attacks on comedy personas à la Hitler, Breznev, Stalin and Mussolini.
The acts of these queer statesman - as horrible as they may appear - cannot falsify Marx's Labour Theory of Value and the concepts of Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, as conceived by Marx and Engels; just like they cannot demolish the fundamentals of bourgeois economics.
I am not here to justify Lenin's policies, which were often conditioned by the material scarcity surrounding him (e.g. civil war, invasions, famines, counterrevolutionary attempts etc.) and whose outcomes may have contributed to bureaucratic degeneration.
In this regard, there is still a lot of debate within the Marxist movement on the fact that Lenin's (pro-State Capitalism) New Economic Policy [NEP] may have fomented the rise of kulaks (Russian rich peasants) after the period of War Communism — allegedly necessary for the USSR's survival — was over. In fact, few years after Lenin's death, the growing political power of the kulaks, created and "fed" by the long-term application of the NEP, would urge Stalin to suppress the entire class, as the rich peasants began to strike at the detriment of all large sections of the Soviet population; who had fallen into potential and real starvation.
Mr Stalin - undoubtedly a non-Marxist with an irrational fetishism for "National Socialism" - had to "strengthen" bureaucracy so as to oppress the kulaks, (as oppression is material, and doesn't drop from the sky!). Bureaucracy, as proved by history, would be the same "caste" taking power after few decades of surplus appropriation of the Soviet people's social labour.
How could this happen?
I shall return on this point later, in a far more detailed way.
It must be remembered that the negative contribution of Stalin's regime in dialectical terms — the misery of Stalin's "socialism in one country", tolerance of USSR inequalities and "profit" * , privileges to bureaucracy etc. — may have been "moderate" in the short-run, though quite determinant in the long-run.
It must be said, however, that until Stalin and his crew were in "business", Centralisation e.g. remained largely "intact", though with growing inequalities and political injustices.
Kruschev and Kruschevism — in a way a "produce" of Stalinism — would give the final blow to the hope of socialist renaissance in the USSR "thanks" to his revisionist emphasis on "profit" and "decentralisation", which would confer the bureaucrats the huge power to make money on the basis of the profitability of bureaucratically administered decentralised regions. With his beloved decentralisation, transfers of value from profitable sectors to unprofitable sectors were no more possible like during Stalin's regime. Besides, inequalities would exponentially grow after Stalin's wretched regime.
•The second reason is that much probably, if "Lenin" was born in the historical era subsequent to, say, "Kruschevism" and could evaluate all the historical problems of the Soviet Union "from above", he would have merely implemented other policies and — without acting as a "Marxist-Leninist" — would have acted as an orthodox Marxist evaluating the empirical importance of history and making genuine choices accordingly. In such case Lenin, as an insightful dialectical materialist, would probably not have carried out the same exact policies without thinking twice, given all the USSR's problems relative to NEP and War Communism implementation.
It goes without saying that — aware of many negative and positive dialectical results obtained both in Maoist China and "Leninist/Stalinist/Kruscevist/etc. USSR"  — Communists can now formulate better political and economic theses.
This is the power of negative dialectics, which is never really "negative" in the common sense of the word; this is the power of the motion of history,
All in all, revolutionary praxis is "labour" as mechanised by dialectical knowledge.
•The third reason is relative to the short-run and long-run implications of Lenin's politico-economic choices. The War Communism scarcity, allegedly compelling Lenin to carry out the New Economic Policy (NEP) to give relief to impoverished peasants and to the economy in general, was not a negligible factor. One should recognise, however, that this "relief" was quite relative, insofar as a policy mix of Capitalist agricultural enforcement and party-led expropriation of the peasants'surplus was irresponsibly carried out. Such a process fostered discontent and the contradictions, which will be exponentially augmented by Stalin's regime.
It is important to point out that the historical "necessity" of going through the phase of Capitalism so as to mainly boost the productive forces for Communism is nowhere advocated by Marx (See my article on Stagism and Frontism); who, like Mr Preobrazhensky (alas, a victim of anti-bolshevik purges), reckoned that the development of productive forces in general was possible in Socialism only, through Socialist praxis, far from the contradictions of Capital and Wage-Labour.
Only within this context, Marx's and Preobrazhensky's stance reflected that of the "controversial" Esers (suppressed by the Bolshevik forces) which supported the Collectivisation of Land and opposed Bolshevik's "individual farming", a practice that maintains peasants in a Capitalist mentality.
Leaving aside the question of "who supported who and who supported what", the gradualist pro-Capital approach of Lenin is not only "philologically inconsistent" with the tradition of Marxism (a minor problem), it is simply illogic.
Why is Stagism illogic?
Because Socialist planning is merely superior as compared to the Capitalist anarchy of production, as Marx's considerations on bourgeois economics tried to prove. It must be remembered that Socialism — though carrying the burden of the ghosts of the past — would a more economical and more equitable system as compared to commodity production, in which prices, among other things, don't reflect the social need of the vast majority of wage-labouring population.
I shall return on the matter with an apposite article on the economic planning, which will outline possible methods for the achievement of little social waste and high social utility.
Socialism, according to the scientific approach of dialectical materialism as designated by Marx and Engels, is a higher human product, in terms of development of superstructure, productive forces, production relations consciousness and therefore income distribution. Building Communism with "State Capitalism" a' ;a Lenin bears the huge opportunity cost of not building it with Socialism, with a rational economic planning; which may ward off waste and the anarchy of Commodity production in general.
As for the concept of cost, it is very important to point out that the capitalist entrepreneur carries out a reduction of cost per commodity (through production mechanisation e.g.) only whenever the value of total capital has been written-off. In Socialism, conversely, a cost per commodity reduction would occur whenever it is socially desirable, insofar as private profit is not there and a rational economic planning; accountable to the people, is set into motion.
Capitalism, in general, has a very high social cost. In commodity production, whether in the form of "State commodity production", "Monopoly Capitalism" or "libertarian Capitalism", the private initiative and the private profit are the engine behind the social good.
Hence — within the narrow limits of the private sphere; where production for profit (and not needs realisation) rules — the economic potential opportunities of one society are lost, at least in terms of full employment, "planned" regulation of pollution, more equitable income distribution (therefore fair prices), lack of inflation and so on.
The maximum production curve attainable in Capitalism e.g. does not reflect the maximum production attainable by human society, insofar as private profit, private ownership and inter-competitor/inter-oligopolist competition hinder this goal, although it is socially desirable.
"Pure" Capitalism or State Capitalism, brings along a huge social waste.
Commodities embodying use-values are stored in warehouses until the Capitalist does not realise a profit on them. Whenever sales realisation does not occur, for whatever reasons (say, falling rate of profit as a result of growing constant capital) part or the whole of these use-values goes to the devil.
Also, a Capitalist knowing that s/he is going to be historically displaced by a Socialist State or Communist community, perhaps expecting the Capitalist demise within few years or decades - would feel like operating in a unfriendly environment, under the constant threat of seeing the usefulness of his/her investment fading away.
This scenario would not compel him to produce efficiently.
These are the general reasons that compel me to reject State-Capitalism, as a transitory phase to be implemented by a Communist party so as to achieve Communism; just like it occurred in the USSR and in China. As a Marxist post-Capitalist I do not see Lenin's "historically necessary" State Capitalism as a gigantic step forward (just to recall his own words).
The USSR political problems were not produced, as many statophobic Anarchists would say, by the "Socialist State"; which may certainly be accountable and whose members can be elective/fairly remunerated as in the case of the Paris Commune.
Conversely to what it's widely "believed", the political problems were largely (dialectically) produced by pro-capitalist Leninist State; which went on repressing workers' attempts to destroy Capitalism and realise a post-Capitalist society. I discuss all these dynamics in my article on Stagism and Frontism, in a far more detailed way.
•Leaving aside the economic framework, the fourth reason lies in the fact that I am still not completely convinced about the genuine character of a Leninist legal framework.
Could a better-conceived "institutional framework" — as the legal framework, in a post capitalist country that was still far from having achieved Communism, was still necessary —prevent Stalin from taking power and also making an abundant (bureaucracy-feeding) negative use of the "legal" Troika and other legal tools? 
Could a better-conceived institutional framework — in the light of the important experience of the Paris Commune as treasured both by Marx and Lenin— give at least more political and economic power to the workers?
Lenin himself, increasingly aware of the bureaucratic real and potential degeneration  in the USSR, in his testament laments the elitist character of the Central Committee, "national Socialism" à la Stalin etc. etc. all factors that contributed not a little to the fall of the USSR.
Further, a State Capitalist Leninist stage — where owners are fully legitimised under "workers' control"— would easily provide a non-genuine membership for the party as well as an impetus to institutionalisation, as many Leninist parties in the world went through, under the pressure of Capitalist ideology with which they decided to coexist.
It must be remembered that the character of party membership often determines the party's political decision. Consider the historical burden of the Bolshevik party membership, a party institutionalisation gradually occurred in the USSR too, under the unconditional support of pro-capitalist stagism, as well as in most of the Leninist countries whose ruling elites have become pro-IMF gangs in the early 1990's.
Besides, the very existence of capitalist owners merely "controlled" by workers entails the growing and self-feeding necessity of bureaucratic intermediation between the interests of Capitalists and those of the workers. It is actually quite weird to confirm nowadays that this kind of problems — with all its negative consequences — could happen in "post-Capitalist" countries like the USSR and China, where Capital should have been abolished, as intelligently suggested by Marx.
The effect of the pro-Capitalist politics, as implicitly suggested above, contributed not a little to the growth of bureaucracy and eventually led to the systemic collapse in both the countries; unlike what Leninism, Stalinism and Trotskyism e.g. believe. Leninism, alas, played his role in this pseudo-Communist historical humbug.
Take a look at India!
"Feudalism" in India - a developing Capitalist industrial country with very high surplus values - has become by now a "paper tiger" as compared to the daily attacks of Neoliberal Capitalism on workers, though it represented in the past a serious hindrance to Capitalist development.
Yet, it's difficult to convince Leninist CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML) & "friends" to cut it out with their all-out support towards bourgeois social democratic policies for the sake of "victory over feudalism".
These parties let themselves gradually fall into embourgeoisement by developing a religious passive attitude towards the Bourgeois Democratic Phase, accepting it as necessary and overlooking the growing party institutionalisation, given the growing number of non-proletarian elements within the party.
As hinted above, their stagist is a priori flawed and anti-dialectical: as history simply doesn't work with meta-gradualism, once revolutionaries' political consciousness has reached a Postcapitalist stage. We already discussed - in very broad terms - the general reasons why Communist Economic planning is superior as compared to the anarchy of Capitalist production.
Such Economic planning could do - in a revolutionary process - "the anti-feudal job of Bourgeois democracy" much better than the Capitalist market, against what all of Feudal is still left in Hindustan.
On the other hand, the concept of "State Capitalist economy" is different from that of "Politburo-based State Capitalist economy", in which the party gradually falls into embourgeoisment by balancing the interests between Capitalists and Workers.
The laws of dialectics strictly forbids a gradualist/stagist approach in history, within the discourse of progressive history.
A vanguard with socialist consciousness simply cannot decide to apply pure "State Capitalism", as Lenin believed.
Why does a superior consciousness, aware of the practical advantages of Economic planning, fall into the temptation of endorsing State Capitalism? Perhaps because it is not a superior consciousness, it simply believes to represent that.
A Leninist party trying to apply Stagism for the sake of Communism would not really end up generating, with its investor-friendly and (seemingly) at the same time worker-friendly approach, a pure State Capitalism. Conversely, its political approach, as previously said, would lead to a Politburo-based State Capitalist economy.
Due to the problems of its non-purely-proletarian consciousness, amplified by the Mechanised Labour (see my article on the matter)of the political apparatus a Leninist vanguard is going to inherit, a Leninist party would generate a mere "delusion" of State Capitalism, namely, a deformed wretched State Capitalism with a Socialist bureaucracy and all its long-run negative consequences.
Such imbroglio would by no means represent a naturally progressive historical development but a coerced wretched one, delaying the coming of Communism.
The scope of this article doesn't allow us to deal with the matter in details. However, I discuss the various variations of Communism in my article on Stagism and Frontism, in a far more detailed way.
It is sufficient to have a glance at his Address of the central committee to the communist league, his The Civil War in France and many other Marx's works to realise it.
For the above mentioned reasons, the concept of "Marxism-Leninism" gives me a sense of ambiguity and suggests me, strictly speaking, an anti-historical and anti-Marxist character.
That's why I end up defining myself with the simple attribute "Marxist", without tons of attributes ahead of it.
At least for the moment, I remain a Marxist-"Marxist", but not in the naive "purist" sense.
I remain a Marxist-Marxist insofar as I take into - with the help of the general science of Marxism - the failure of Leninism and the negative historical step of ex-Leninist countries, which is not really "negative dialectics" but a lesson for all of us.
* E. Mandel's analysis in Marxist Economic Theory is worth reading.
 The term "Stalinism", when used to indicate the character of all the regimes who took power during the history of the USSR, becomes actually a very reductive and chilidish one. Kruschev's regime e.g. doesn't have the same political and economic character of Stalin's. Kruschev's emphasis on profit and the "production principle" — which allowed bureaucracy to boost its revenues according to the administered (decentralised) production — contributed a lot to increase inequalities in the USSR. It is quite disappointing that Liberals, non-Liberals and (especially) Trotskyists keep using, overusing and misusing such term to define the character of any "bureaucratic" regime, whether it is a liberal one carrying the banner of "Communist party" or a Communist one with internal political and economic dynamics that should be analysed one by one and should not to be categorised under a general categorisation. An extreme categorisation and simplification by means of the term "Stalinism" can lead to a serious negligence or misinterpretation of economic and political events occurring in "bureaucratic" regimes, whose character is continuously subject to different dialectical forces and historical circumstances.
 See Preobrazhensky's concept of Socialist Primitive Accumulation. Preobrazhensky, of course, has his own ideological "problems"; which I won't discuss here in the endnotes.
For the record, the Troika was created in 1918
Should be pointed out that the proportion between the lowest wage and the highest wage was kept at 1:5, during Lenin's supervision.