“New debate of Russian Scholars about socialism” – Opinions and Comments
14/5/2015 17:19' Send story Print story

Socialism keeps on being debated in Russia

Perhaps, there should have one more point of view about the reasons why Russian scholars proposed the model “New Socialism”, thus their explanation can be understood based on historical materialism.

In our opinion, there are four main reasons or starting points as follows:

Firstly, it is based on Russian Scholars’ research and findings about the reasons of the crisis of the Soviet Union. Karl Marx pointed out that the development of revolution is not taken root from victories but mainly from failures. Although the collapse of the Soviet Union socialism is painful, the rationality and sensibility of socialism are still remained. This is due to the fact that objective reasons for the journey of human development to socialism have existed and the burning desire about a fair, democratic and developed society that is still in mind of many people. The very promising practice of real socialism in renovation and reformation is a considerable encouragement. It is important that if failures in practice such as socialism construction are scientifically considered and analyzed, these will lead to success. Probably on the basis of this idea, Russian Scholars and another nation proposed “New Socialism”.

Secondly, it is due to the disappointment to transforming process in Russia and to a neo-liberalism that the Western countries have disseminated in this land over twenty years. Nothing is more persuasive than real-life experience. The experience and losses of Russia and SNG (Sodruzhestvo Nezavisimykh Gosudarstv) over twenty years may be enough for insider to gain their own judges and get rid of illusions about the development model such “neo-liberalism”. There are not few papers of different authors in this book discussing about the model of modern capitalism and its variants in Northern America, Latin America and Russia recently. These reflect experience and intensively analyze limitations, shortcomings and disappointments of the model. Obviously, like inevitable development of logical thought, if previous socialism model was negated and the model of neo-liberalism is negated, it will be a starting point of searching and debate of the model of “new socialism”.

Thirdly, the searching – restudy of Marxism or as saying by Russian scholars as the "ideological rearmament" (Vasilij Coltashov, p.317 and p.326) (2) with the emphasis on values: development, justice, democracy and society with new forces such as working class and intelligentsia,…is a source of inspiration that should be counted. Western scholars rediscovered Marxism in recent economic crisis while in the East, in Russia, there is an interesting return of Marxism from the model of New Socialism.

In this book, there are many papers recognizing scientific value of Marxism, for example the author Vasilij Coltashov’s an intensive research paper like a summary of scientific socialism- “Communism and Revolution” (p.317 - p.326). Or the papers show critical thinking about opportunity ideology such as “Is Marxism dead?” the author S.G. Kara-Murza (p.165 - p.177) or criticizing “the people waiting for the collapse of Marxism” (p.99 - p.104). The author summaries nine features or values of Marxism (P.99-104) and also list 11 points that “are viewpoints, conclusion and principles with scientifically fundamental nature, thus, without those Marxism will not be Marxism with innovative and complete changes” (p.127-p.128). We think that these papers are fairly interesting.

Fourthly, the sentiment of ideals of socialism and the painful experience of the people - intelligentsia who went through the two regimes of old socialism and neo-liberalism should be considered as a reason of the serious and bold proposal of a new model. Typically, it is B.F.Slavin’s opinion: “in recent years Russia has undergone the second invasion of capitalism, so it is necessary to need socialism” (p.219).

In our opinion, these are typical reasons that Russian scholars propose new socialism and also are reviews …...The content of socialism is extensively mentioned but in this paper, we only mention the model and measures to develop “new socialism” - that are two main issues of which create theoretical ideology of socialism. In the process of developing the thinking of socialism in Vietnam, we think that, the proposals of Russian scholars, at least are “material” that is useful and valuable for researchers.

The conception of “new socialism” through Russian scholars’ proposals

“What is new socialism?”

This is a conception mentioned repeatedly in this book on purpose of proposing a model of socialism that is different with “Bolshevik socialism” (p.32) that Vietnamese theoreticians call as “the model of Soviet Union socialism”. According to Russian scholars, the model is “detached from narrow Marxist dogma” (p.43); is different from neo-liberalism and “is in harmony with the thought of third way” (p.33). Even there are detailed proposals with nine “basic theoretical principles” (p.56 - p.57). Accordingly, we see that although the thought is being debated, it mentions many aspects of a new socialism. The perception of Democratic socialism made a strong impression but this is not a reason preventing us from approaching this thought.

In this book, There are several proposals for naming “new socialism” or approximate conceptions, such as: people socialism (p.145), humanitarian socialism, democratic socialism, socialism of the 21st century...Not to mention the debate of concept, we study the opinion of authors. According to them, firstly the new socialism is “as a supplement to Marx” (p.165) and differences from the socialism that is based on the model of Soviet Union or “Bolshevik socialism” (p.32); is different from “superficial socialism” (p.166) with the purpose of criticizing the limited acknowledge of Soviet Union socialism. Even from some aspects, it is detached from “narrow Marxist dogma” (p.43) for vivid examples of socialism in Latin America with the model of Hugo Chaves (p.85 and p.254)....

So what is the nature of this model?

The theoretical principles of creating the model of “new socialism” are mentioned intensively. Starting with 9 basic theoretical principles Alecxandr Dughin points out in p.56 and 57 with the principle of “the dependence of economy on society” (p.58). He said that “an economic regime of society have to be naturally based on the specific conditions of its history, culture, morality, geography, religion and state. It is risen from the concretization of traditional institution” (p.56). It can be seen that, this is a long list of factors that are non-economic and sprung from tradition (not present) and are a base of which is called as an economic regime.

Another opinion of B.F. Slavin: “Regime that is based on the power of workers, the impartial interests of mass may tackle the most serious problem of exploitation of one group of people to another; eliminate the gap of living standards between the North and South; build a normal living environment, stop terrorism and violence, establish a peaceful world. This society is socialism…” (p.219).

Generally, these opinions are fairly diffused. However, A. Laroslavtxev’s theoretical viewpoint about the model is clearer with the assertation: “is democratic socialism. This is a society with a multi-sectoral,  socialist-oriented market economy, with State’s adjustment of market for people’s interests and the supervision of social organizations whose mission is to guarantee the morality of interests, humanism, and social justice against the egoism of individuals and groups” (p.65)

However, there are also perspectives that reveal and reflect by themselves the previous opinions about socialism, so we can intensively understand about new opinions. B.F. Slavin: “when discussing new perspectives of socialism, it is necessary to clearly understand the shortcomings of the previous theories about the socialism that had been risen in social consciousness after VI.Lenin passed away. At least there are three following major shortcomings: firstly, detaching the theory of socialism from reality; secondly, humanism in the explanation shows extreme power about socialism; thirdly, the closure and isolation from the world’s democratic and socialist thoughts” (p.234-p.235).

Foundation and economic features of “new socialism”

Generally it is still multi-owned economy: “This economy encourages the competition between different owned forms in order to guarantee needs and interests of society. According to new socialist, advanced ownership is an owned form stimulating higher labor productivity and caring labor. We support the organic combination of individual and social interests, support the development of ownership forms that enable to remedy the character of hired labour”  (Caraev. A.K; p.162).

 Manufacturing skills are determined as: “ new socialism is a society whose technology is associated with transitional phase in the development of post-industrial society ….basing on using technology of robots, increasing the rate of electronics in manufacturing, basing on manufacturing without  waste and friendly environment, eliminating manual labour, decreasing accident and occupational diseases, which creates conditions to make people from being "screws" become "commander" (management, inspection) of manufacturing. In this phase, the decisive factors are not only labour skills, also are their creativeness” (Caraev. A.K; p.162).

In general, the Russian scholars’ opinions about the economic features of new socialism are not different from that of modern democratic socialism.

Social foundation and political - social features of new socialism

Russian scholars choose intermediary class to be social foundation, instead of the working class as K.Marx’s thought. With a statement: “socialism of the 21st  century - is the socialism of intermediary class” (Gavriiln Popov, tr.59). They are intelligentsia. “For them, criteria such as conscience, morality, duty, individual responsibility sometimes become a unique fulcrum….The criteria of conscience, morality, duty will be main adjustment. Replacing K.Marx’s opinions by a new one in which morality is not a result of duties of socialism, on the contrary morality goes earlier and controls the duties. In the new opinion about morality, basically new socialism approaches what have been done and have been developed in religious ideologies” (Gavriiln Popov, p. 62).

Society has a mass democracy including the existence of pluralism in both politics and thought” (Caraev. A.K, p.163). “Constructiveness of Parliamentary, political pluralism, existence of freedom of speech and religion, competition of thoughts are considered as natural constant of life… Developing democracy, eliminating its capitalistic, abolishing private possession - are considered as the duties of communists (Alecxei Prigarin, p. 28).

The traditional values of democratic socialism are dignified in new socialism: democracy, justice, equality, humanity. In addition, in the world many global issues have been emerging, thinkers of new socialism reconsider the opinion about class: “for us, there is no scientific basis to refuse the priorities to the values of human-being against class as well as the class - conscious opinions and assessments against realistic situations. If class still exists, thoughts of class will not be abolished. Meanwhile, it should consider the use of thoughts of class that must be limited. It does not work, for example, in global issue, in environment field, conquering universe, science - technology and natural science” (B.F. Slavin, p.238)

Governmental model of new socialism, in the paper “new socialism is historical inevitability” V.G.Matreev points out “constructing socialist-oriented government on the purpose of developing capacity and ability of individuals in the society” (p.33). The quality of officials - leaders is emphasized: “They are aware of interests and prestige of nation. This requirement includes not only morality and politics, but also economy severely which are capacities of science and technology that only can be developed on the base of history, culture and spirit” (V.G. Matreev, p.34). So, it seems that they are representatives of nation’s interests instead of the interests of working class and people.

Recommendations on solutions to construct “new socialism”

The questions of where and how new socialism are constructed have been unanswered. Like another society model that is utopian, this is a big problem of theory. Generally, through the issues introduced in this book, we can see that thinkers often focus on presenting and debating the opinions or the features of new socialism rather than discussing how to construct it.

There are two methods discussed:

Firstly, the thinkers often discuss socialism as measures to address the problems of capitalism. “Socialism grows following the rules from the post conflicts of capitalism and is in capacity as necessary measures to resolve these conflicts. Obviously the conflict between labor and capital is the main one.

To complete the opinion of socialism through experience about old ones is a way for Russian scholars to discuss fields and methods used to develop new socialism. For instance, adding Caraev’s opinion about ecological protection, protection of people interests, emerging issues in developing process such as urban land, health protection, health service, transport, art, agriculture...(p.188 -p.189)

Secondly, criticizing private possession, trend of privatization in Russia and establishment of social possession. The possession mentioned is inclined to guarantee productivity rather than against the exploitation and towards equality in labor. About the relation to market: “socialism generally is not necessary to eliminate market, but socialism will not be a product following market logic” (p.339). Another opinion: “the 21 century is considered as a century which products basically are manufactured by capitalist mode and distributed by socialist mode. In other word, capitalism will dominate in production while socialism will dominate in distribution” (L.L. Veger, p.268). Till now, we can see clearly that “the third way” is exactly the method of new socialism.

Experience of constructing real socialism in Russia before 1991 is considered as a recommendation of method to constructing new socialism. “In order to understand future society should not exclude the useful experience of socialist construction which is accumulated through out-of-existence socialist countries as well as existing ones” B.F. Slavin, p. 230).

Asked questions and some arguments

There are some questions to be asked from the opinion of Russian scholars about new socialism as follows:

Recognizing Marxism, scientific socialism but like their predecessors in the middle of 19 century, the key of Marxism was cut, for example, the ideas attacking capitalist private possession, state of capital class, and working class occupying state...However they contradict themselves when they recognize the limitations of private possession, capitalist market economy and undemocratic status of capitalist state. So how does new socialism address social equality?

New socialism is characterized more or less by Russian nationalism, even thought it is more radical, it is limited by the thought of global issues that new socialism cannot neglect. In the whole book, there is no word discussing the global historical scale and mission of working class, so who will address global issues with new condition and quality?

It seems that the argument, one hundred years ago, between V.I Lenin, Bonsevik and Mesevick about socialist revolution in Russia is re-happened. The thinkers of new socialism cannot be unknown about it. What do they learn from the thought of V.I.Lenin who many scholars in this book respect and quote?

In general, it is not hard to see that the ideological stand of the scholars in this book follows left and center- left social democrats.  The model and measures they mention are not new compared with the thinkers of social democrats in Western and Northern Europe nowadays.

The attribution of this book is to enhancing awareness of socialist requirements in developing process. It is not only an economic process, but also is inevitability of society, ecology, culture and history. This is an assertation of objective reality of socialist development process in Russia nowadays. There is a noticeable forecast that, at the end of the 21 century: “There is a paradox: while the US will step into the path of socialism, then Russia will enter the stronghold of capitalism.” (L.L. Veger, p.270).

Probably, according to Karl Marx’s thought, this is the way Russian capitalism is creating a condition for the society that will negate it./.

Assoc.Prof. Nguyễn An Ninh


Translator: Hong Ha

Proofreader: Assoc. Prof,Dr. Hoang Van Nghia


Comment Form