Surplus in Russian Communism

Dear Prof. Wolff, why did the Russian Communism ignored what I understood to be the most important part of Marxism: the distribution of wealth or surplus? Thank you so much

Official response from submitted

I do not think that most Russian Communist Party leaders thought about or focused policy on the surplus as it functions in Marx's economic theory. For them, following Stalin, socialism meant the replacement of private capitalists as key decision-makers in the economy (and society) with Communist Party/Soviet state functionaries as "representatives of the whole people." Simply put, in place of private property and markets, the USSR favored public or state property and state planning. Notice here that the precise organization of the production and distribution of surpluses inside enterprises was NOT the theoretical or practical focus. This was not merely a Russian or Soviet problem; the whole history of Marxism and socialism after Marx died in 1883 focused on the state versus private dichotomy much, much more than on the organization of the production and distribution of surpluses. These points are all dealt with in great detail and empirical specificity in the following book that I strongly recommend to you: S. Resnick and R. Wolff, Class Theory and History: Capitalism and Communism in the USSR, New York and London: Routledge Publishers, 2002.


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  • responded with submitted 2017-01-03 12:15:12 -0500
  • published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-01-03 10:27:22 -0500

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