Paresh Chattopadhyay has published an interesting article in the latest issue of Science and Society, the theoretical journal long associated with the Communist Party. In “On the Question of Soviet Socialism,” he replies to an extremely hostile review of Marcel van der Linden’s Western Marxism and the Soviet Union by David Laibman, the journal’s current editor.
Unfortunately, Chattopadhyay states that he has not read van der Linden’s book (see this review in News & Letters for a more sympathetic view than Laibman’s), but he takes Laibman to task for the theoretical underpinnings of his review. While I disagree with Chattopadhyay’s analysis of Lenin, the long discussion of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program is well worth studying. I am making available a brief excerpt below. For readability, I have edited out Chattopadhyay’s citations to Marx’s works
(from “On the Question of Soviet Socialism” by Paresh Chattopadhyay, Science and Society, January 2011)
I will focus on only one issue: Laibman’s position on Soviet socialism, specifically, his contention that Soviet socialist development is compatible with Marx’s Gotha critique, more particularly in the sense of the lower phase of communism, the “protracted period of evolutionary transition” based on “successful proletarian revolution and establishment of workers’ power” while retaining “the crucial features of the forces and relations” of capitalism such as “wage-labor” and “money and prices . . .” The following development is exclusively based on Marx’s own categories.
In the Gotha critique “wage labor” and “money and prices” are not among the “birth marks” of the old society which the lower stage of the new society carries over. (Of course these were the standing features of Soviet “socialism”). Does not Marx in the same text denounce the “system of wage labor” as a “System der Sklaverei” (a system of slavery)? In fact, in Capital I, Marx equates capitalism as such with the “society of wage labor”, and, in the French version, as the “system of wage labor” or simply “wage labor”, as he had done earlier in the 1857–58 manuscript. Again, “labor as wage labor and conditions of labor as capital are the expression of the same relation, only viewed from different poles”. It would simply be a contradictio in subjecto to consider the existence of wage labor on the basis of the “associated mode of production” precisely replacing the capitalist mode of production. And it would be strange to suppose that after the disappearance of the capitalist class wage labor continues to exist. Did not Marx remind the workers in 1865 that the “abolition of the wages system” is identical with the “emancipation of the working class”?