It is way more complex than that.

The argument that socialism simply is an inferior mode of production doesn't explain why the USSR caught up technologically during the Lenin-Stalin era (just 29 years), and why, to this day, the USA considers communism by far the greatest existential threat to capitalism and, by extension, to itself. It also doesn't explain why, e.g. Russia is still a formidable enemy to the West, even though being merely a Third World country.

Soviet factories were not inefficient: the material arrived in time, stuff was produced in time etc. etc. The problem was how the CPSU did the calculations to establish the goals after post-Stalin: the workers and factory managers achieved the goals, but the goals were wrong - at least in the greater scheme of things, because basic necessities (food, shelter, healthcare, education) were satisfied.

The backwardness of the Soviet factory is also a myth. As mentioned before, the USSR quickly caught up and then surpassed the West in some areas during Lenin-Stalin-Krushchev. During WWII, the USSR surpassed Nazi Germany, arising from the conflict as the world's most powerful army and air force. During Krushchev, it pioneered space exploration. Innovation continued to thrive until the very end and beyond in the military sector (the Russian Federation is leader in many areas, such as missile, submarines, electronic warfare, etc. etc.).

The reason 9 out of 10 Soviet people in the street say their factories were inferior to the West lies in the fact that, for the common citizen, what matters is light industry, not heavy industry: their perception of technological advancement is fetishized in the durable consumer goods such as cars, phones, ovens, refrigerators, portable computers, fashion clothing, housing accessories and customization etc. In this sector there is no doubt, the USSR was inferior to the First World capitalist nations in all aspects: in fact, this inferiority was the main reason, if not the only reason, for Gorbachev's failed reforms. Just to give you the magnitude of the seriousness the communists treat this issue: that is the reason the CPC lets the private sector/free market to operate in China. So far, the socialists (Marxist-Leninists) haven't found a purely socialist solution to satisfy those needs; the answer is probably the still low levels of development of the productive forces, as socialism is still a very young system (just completed 105 years of existence).

I recommend the reading of Brazilian researcher Angelo Segrillo's PhD thesis on the fall of the USSR for a more complete explanation. To grossly oversimplify, the USSR wasn't able to jump to the Third Industrial Revolution, i.e. transit from Fordism to Toyotism because that would require a too deep and traumatic change of the system. In a context of direct competition with capitalism, it was unacceptable for the USSR to exist as a second-rate power, so it had to force its hand and, when it failed, it collapsed.

Note that the Soviet collapse was purely political. Its economy, albeit stagnated, was fine by historical standards. It could have existed as a stagnated country indefinitely if not for the pressure of the Cold War (other lesser socialist nations such as Cuba and North Korea still exist to this day). The USSR also was never militarily defeated, so that factor must be immediately ruled out (this factor still causes the USA much problem, as the Russian Federation still has a native elite that has a consciousness of sovereignty, best illustrated by the episode of the humiliation of the IMF of 1998). Besides, the USSR left a surviving heir: China.

Expand full comment

Obviously, very good example how the labour disciplin worked in the Eastern countries and in southern Europe. During the 70's labour unions have been differently organised in different regions and countries of Europe. One exceptional example is Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, where trade unions had very good relationship with Employers association, difficult labour market problems always resolved with common consensus approach, never with ruling governments intervention. Just a exempel of very unique Western trade unions relationship with Employers that was very effective for almost three decades untill strong neo-liberism influences in political ecosystems in Nordic and in particular Sweden.

Expand full comment

The key issue is missing in the argument. In the Soviet Union - despite the official narrative of the dictatorship of the proletariat - the workers never really had ownership of the means of production. Formally they were declared owners but it was state capitalism with party members running the show as directors. Viewed as a transitory phase the system never changed direction back to the marxist principle of democratic administration of the economy based on ownership of the means of production. Since the revolutionary movement gradually lost political momentum over the years there was no effort on labor’s end to go beyond the benefits granted in education, housing, job security etc. It would have been necessary to transform the bureaucratic system and push for a democratic model of socialism from below. This is exactly what Xi in his speech in the 20th party congress has been stressing with regard to various aspects of a continuos transformation towards socialism - party self criticism, grassroot democracy, strengthening of community organisation and services and raising living standards collectively for all of society. The Soviet system was sold out by sprawling corrupt bureaucracy and complacent labor, thus disciplining workers from the 1980’s on was enforced by

shortcomings in productivity and general lack of economic growth compared to the booming cycle of the 50’s and 60’s

Expand full comment

Limpide et totalement cohérent ! Une anecdote locale : à l’Arsenal de Toulon vers ces années là (1970/80) de nombreux employés dormaient dans la journée et avaient un autre job privé en plus du job public. Un employé d’un cousin ébéniste est embauché à l’Arsenal et naturellement se met au boulot comme il sait le faire. Au bout d’une semaine « on » lui conseille de se calmer et que sinon il arrive que des poutrelles tombent malencontreusement du haut des chantiers sur les trop zélés. La CGT ne transige pas avec les principes prolétariens. Mitterrand y a mis bon ordre et les « managers » ont gagné la bataille : il suffit d’observer l’effondrement du taux de syndicalisation en France pendant ses présidences.

Expand full comment