Lebowitz discusses the Yugoslav experience in ) He calls these structures “real socialism,” picking up on a term coined in 1973 and used by defenders of these structures.The words functioned as a euphemism, acknowledging that these societies, which claimed to be socialist, did in fact deviate from the socialism envisaged by Marx and Engels.
An Alienated Society Regardless of how the economic surplus is invested, Lebowitz contends, this system is based on exploitation, because workers have no control over how the surplus is utilized. However, in contrast to the dynamic Soviet experience in the 1920s, “real socialism” evolved toward stagnation, making the social contract with workers increasingly untenable.
Even if workers benefit from this surplus, the vanguard system is based on the “inherent deformation of people.” Lebowitz sums up the results: That is a society with a profound difference between thinking and doing, one where workers do not develop their potential because they do not engage in protagonistic activity. Managers strove to be freed from the constraints of both workers and planners, Lebowitz says.
Managers send incorrect information to their ministries, designed to understate their enterprises’ potential and to overstate its needs, in order to keep production quotas well below what was possible. But attempts to introduce such mechanisms in “real socialism” (often called “market socialism”) ran up against constraints flowing from the relations of both planners and managers with the working class.
Planning can be no better than the information on which it is based, and in this case, “false information flowed upward,” Lebowitz says. A Social Contract with Workers In the countries of “real socialism,” the capitalist ruling class had been dispossessed and the traditional mechanisms of social control dismantled.
The economy must be nationalized and placed under hierarchical control.
Production must be expanded to ensure that the social contract is met.Lebowitz limits his inquiry to the social structures in the USSR and the Eastern European states that took the Soviet Union as a model from 1950 to 1990.(The latter states are presumably Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.He quotes British economist Alec Nove: “To expect unbiased information from those interested in the results to which the information is put is to live in cloud-cuckoo land.”But tricking the planners was only one of many illegal techniques used to meet quotas. The new regime’s fragile stability rested on its claim to rule on behalf of working people.Among others: “stockpile inputs and hoard materials . Workers surrendered some political rights they had fought for under capitalism, such as freedom of speech and association and representative democracy, but they received other hitherto unobtainable rights in return.Quotations from Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez set the tone., by contrast, analyzes the failure of the most concerted attempt to launch a transition to socialism, which took place in the Soviet Union and, after 1945, in allied states in Eastern Europe.As late as the early 1960s, the Soviet Union was widely hailed for setting the pace in economic growth among industrialized countries. Its downhill course from (stagnation) and collapse took only 34 years.The Problem of Economy Lebowitz maintains that the cause of this economic failure is to be found in the realm of governance — the manner in which political and social power was exercised. Historical Origins But why did this surrender to capitalism take place with so little resistance, particularly from the layer of planners identified by Lebowitz as, at least initially, dedicated partisans of socialism?He proposes an alternative: “a community of associated conductors” in which workers share in guiding society and economy. At the very moment of the USSR’s collapse, the Communist leadership in Cuba made common cause with Cuban workers to defend their revolution, even though living standards were driven sharply downward.Their conflicting interests, he says, produces the distinguishing economic characteristic of “real socialism”: pervasive shortages and the consequent hoarding by enterprises of productive inputs.Under “real socialism,” all but the smallest enterprises were state-owned and typically received direction from state ministries regarding production, raw materials procurement, and product delivery from state ministries.