Turning Power into Money, the End of the Soviet Union – RAI with A. Buzgalin (4/12)

Turning Power into Money, the End of the Soviet Union – RAI with A. Buzgalin (4/12)


PAUL JAY: Welcome back to Reality Asserts
Itself on The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay and we’re continuing our
discussion with Professor Buzgalin. Thanks for joining us again. Alexander Buzgalin is Professor of Political
Economy and Director of the Center for Modern Marxist Studies at Moscow State University. So, in the last segment you said you did join
the Communist Party in 1988. Gorbachev becomes leader in ‘85, so what
was it about Gorbachev and perestroika, what did that period represent, and why is it a
time to join the Party? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Well, it was a very contradictory
and very interesting period. We had transformation. And the slogan of the 1980s, late 1980s, was
very beautiful. More democracy, more socialism. More humanism, more transformation towards
a new society. Acceleration of development. Key slogans. 1987, special law- we must, in the Soviet
Union, we must create self-management in all spheres, regions and production. This was and almost unique experiment when
state enterprises, by law, was necessary to create a council of workers, of specialists,
with main power to make decisions inside frameworks of plan. And to elect direct. It was a very contradictory experience, because
bureaucracy was creating self-management. It’s very funny. From above, by bureaucratic methods, through
terrible party and state bureaucrats, create self- management from below, and it’s like
a stupid contradiction. It’s a new category of dialectic, I think,
stupid contradiction. But, what can I say? And in this period, we participated as consultants,
as intellectuals- PAUL JAY: As you’re teaching at the university. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yes, but we created a
special team, and we were working with relatively small, one thousand workers, and big ones,
one hundred thousand workers enterprise. PAUL JAY: So, give a specific example of what
you did, how they were trying to accomplish this. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: So, one of the examples,
it was an enterprise producing electronic equipment in Lithuania. It was enterprise producing trucks, huge trucks,
Kamaz, Volger Region. In Belarus, it was enterprise producing watches,
only two thousand workers. In Moscow, we didn’t participate active,
but it was great enterprise producing robots, first robots in 1980s. And the idea was that self-management is impossible
to build like a building, to construct. It is necessary to help to grow up from below. PAUL JAY: What does it mean, self-management? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: It means enterprise has
plan. But then you can decide how to minimize- PAUL JAY: So, state says, produce so many
of whatever you’re producing. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yes. For example, you must produce five thousand
robots per year, and you have such and such resources. But then, it is not all your agenda. Fifty percent of your production you can cooperate
directly with another enterprises. It got into state rules. But then you can decide how to produce, how
to minimize costs, how to organize labor process, how to organize management how to distribute-
wage was fixed, but it was surplus, plus thirty, forty percent, and this can be distributed
to the collective. So, how to control bureaucrats? All this were in the hands of the worker’s
collective. It was assembly, assembly-elect council, and
council was a key organ, like a council of directors in a stock company. PAUL JAY: Can you elect the manager of the
company? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yes, and even the director
of the company. PAUL JAY: But who had the power, the council,
the manager of the company, or the Party representative? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Well, it was an experiment,
and it was different forms, and the law was not completed. But there were different variants. When assembly of workers elect a director,
when council had agreement with director and director was like an employee of the worker’s
collective- different forms. In, let’s say, eighty percent of the cases,
it was formal self- management, but in some cases, it was really working. PAUL JAY: Well- that was my question. Did it work? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: In some cases, and it
was only the beginning. It was two years of experiments, but the second
year was in a period of the total destruction of the country. That’s why it is difficult to say, was it
working or not? PAUL JAY: So, Gorbachev brings in perestroika,
it’s another Spring, the bureaucratic system was getting paralyzed, the economy wasn’t
very productive. You get excited by it, you joined the Party. And then, not too many years, you’re actually
on the Central Committee of the Party. How does that happen, that you just join and
you’re on the Central Committee? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: More or less. It was a fantastic story, and still a majority
doesn’t believe me, but it’s true. Central Committee is- for people who don’t
know what does it mean, in Soviet Union, Central Committee of the Communist Party was more
powerful than Parliament. So, to be a member of Central Committee, it
was three hundred people, it was to be among the bosses of the country. And the story was falling. We had opposition inside Communist Party,
and it was Bourgeois opposition who then led to the collapse of the Soviet Union inside
the Communist Party. It was pro-Stalinist opposition, it’s necessary
to have again, dictatorship, and stop all Gorbachev experiments. PAUL JAY: Well, they argued that the Gorbachev
experiment was naïve and would lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: So, Stalinist opposition
did not say that it will lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union, they said it is the wrong
direction because it’s not the Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin writings. Strange logic of thinking, but it was the
case. And we created so-called “Marxist Platform,”
Marxist fraction in Communist Party, and the idea was, we do need more democracy, protection
of human rights, but the road must be not to liberal model of economy, liberal model
of political system, not road to the capitalism. It should be road to new model of socialism. It’s nearly revolution from below with assistance
of maybe some bureaucrats, but a few. PAUL JAY: Well, Gorbachev must have liked
this line of argument, to put you on the Central Committee. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Well, not- he and Central
Committee doesn’t like this. Why? Because they had these slogans, but real intentions
were not this. Really, these intentions- who started this
process? Gorbachev was maybe naïve, maybe not smart
enough, I don’t know. But a real motor of all these changes was
a young generation of nomenklatura, of Party bureaucrats and State bureaucrats. Thirty, forty years old, sons and grandsons
of the Party bureaucrats from the past. And they had very simple and a very, I can
say, very terrible idea, to change power into property and money. We have power, but we have a lot of restrictions. Bureaucrats, even on the top level, had a
lot of restrictions. They didn’t have a lot of privileges. PAUL JAY: They couldn’t accumulate a lot
of private wealth. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: No opportunities to accumulate. A lot of formal ideological restrictions,
and so on. They want to be rich and to have real power
without any formal restrictions. And it was real intention. And they were behind all these Gorbachev slogans,
and they used these slogans partly for propaganda, partly to tell lies to realize their ideas. And partly because they had very strange consciousness,
it’s- I will give you, maybe an American example. If you ask any billionaire, what is the main
goal of his life, he will tell you, “To satisfy needs of the Americans. Without me, these ten, twelve, twenty thousand
workers will not have opportunity to work. Without me, people will not have jackets. Without me, people will not have cars. So, I satisfy the needs of people, this is
the goal of my life.” Is it true? PAUL JAY: Yeah- ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah, it’s true? PAUL JAY: They’re called the “job creators.” ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: And he is honest for himself. What is the paradox? His real aim is money, money and money and
more money, but he believes that he is creating something for people. He believes in this, or she believes in this. The same with this cynical generation of nomenklatura. PAUL JAY: But then, who gets you onto the
Central Committee? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Well, this is a funny
story, I’ll tell you very briefly. We created this platform, and it was period
of very rapid growth of social creativity from below. We published document with name, Marxist Platform,
Program, and this program received, extremely quickly, big popularity- without internet,
by the way. It was published- PAUL JAY: It went viral before “viral.” ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah, it was made in the
Xerox, but it appeared everywhere in Party organizations, then it was published in one
of the regional newspapers, another regional newspaper, then we made conferences. During three months, all this was done, even
less. And after this conference, T.V. came, because
it was freedom of speech, real freedom of speech, not like now. And then it was published in Pravda, in post
we received fifteen, twenty percent of support of the Communist Party, that was nineteen
million. PAUL JAY: And what was the main point of the
platform? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Main point was real grassroots
democracy, socialism, market as a form which can be used but under the supervision of a
democratic social state, and the movement towards self-management, socialism and so
on. PAUL JAY: So, what does Gorbachev think of
this? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: I don’t know, really,
but we were not, I’ll say, supported from the top. PAUL JAY: Okay, so how’d you get on the
Central Committee? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: We were invited, three
persons, we were invited to be guests of the Congress, 28th Congress of the Communist Party,
not even delegates, we were sitting on the balcony with five thousand people, but it
was microphones everywhere, it was a lot of press, and we were talking openly. And finally, we received the right to speak
from the tribune, to present our platform. And it’s a funny story, I was thirty-five
years old, then. At the last minute, we understood that we
will speak. And then, when I was running through the long
corridor from the balcony stairs, and long corridor to the presidium, I had terrible
feelings in my stomach. And when I came, whole five thousand people,
in stations from all over the world, not simply from the Soviet Union, it was open translation- PAUL JAY: Doesn’t Gorbachev have to sign
off to allow you to speak? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yes, because it was a
requirement of the delegates. Not to me, but also to Stalinist opposition
and Bourgeois opposition. And I don’t want to advertise myself, but
it was four times the applause of the whole hall. After that was to interview for Central Committee,
and the portrait of Buzgalin in the main square of Russia, it’s true. Not main, but on the Information Agency. And delegates proposed to elect three members
of, three representatives of the Marxist Platform to the Central Committee. One lady, my friend, who was an elder, and
me. So, I became one of the youngest members of
the Central Committee, and it was really funny to, after two years of membership in the Party,
to be a member of the Central Committee. PAUL JAY: So, what year are we in? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Oh, it was 1990. PAUL JAY: So, 1990, you walk into your first
meeting of the Central Committee, you are there with the most powerful people in the
country- ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah, but really, Central
Committee didn’t have- Central Committee had power, but real power was in the hands
of the political bureau and leaders. So, we received access to the media, and so
on. It was very useful, but finally, it was too
late. And one of the plannings of the Central Committee,
where everybody was together, we had the opportunity to tell if we will not change, radically,
the situation, the Communist Party, Soviet Union, will collapse. And after that, when the Soviet Union was
collapsed, many people from Central Committee came and said, “Buzgalin, you’re responsible. You said that we will be collapsed.” PAUL JAY: But if I understand it correctly,
a lot of the other Stalinists and others blamed the Gorbachev reforms for the collapse. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: It’s true, yeah. You know, collapse was not inevitable from
objective point of view. It was not so deep crisis of economy. We had zero growth, stagnation, at the end. In Russia, we had now minus two and minus
ten and no collapse. In the United States you had, in 2008, minus
five, and no collapse. So, it’s not an economic reason. PAUL JAY: Yeah, the whole political system
doesn’t have to fall. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah, I gave the image-
you know, bureaucratic construction is like a steel bridge. A steel bridge is strong, it can work ten
years, fifty years, one hundred years, but then construction will be tired. No bumps, and then construction, boom. Destroyed. Why? Because of tired bureaucratic construction,
the same with the Soviet system. It was necessary to change radically, the
system. Our system could not work more in a modern
situation. But this is a long story. PAUL JAY: But it sounds like, it wasn’t
inevitable, but the choice is, either this democratization and socialism you were talking
about, or privatization and actually capitalism. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: It was two roads towards
capitalism, roads back in this direction. One of which we had, the name is shock therapy. We received the shock, but we didn’t receive
therapy. So, radical Bourgeois transformation which
led to the primitive accumulation of capital, criminalization, feudalization, and so one. Terrible consequences. And the decline of production, incomes, a
real catastrophe. Or, it was a choice to move in the direction
of Chinese, let’s say, model, with bureaucratic power, but bureaucratic power was self-destroyed. And the interest of the top officials was
not to have Chinese model, where top officials, again, has restrictions, control, and can
even be arrested, killed in the stadium. The idea was to receive a change for primitive
accumulation of capital. PAUL JAY: Get rich. ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Yeah, get rich and get
powerful in another form. PAUL JAY: What role did the Americans play
in determining the outcome? ALEXANDER BUZGALIN: Very big, but not decisive. And not Americans, but- I like Americans,
by the way, I have a lot of friends among Americans. The problem is global capital and political
institutions of global capital. Washington, Brussels, NATO, WTO, all these
organizations had big intentions to destroy Soviet Union, of course. PAUL JAY: Okay, we’re going to stop here,
and we’ll pick up in the next section, this very decisive period. Please join us for a continuation of our discussion
with Professor Alexander Buzgalin on Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.

25 Comments on "Turning Power into Money, the End of the Soviet Union – RAI with A. Buzgalin (4/12)"


  1. I feel bad for Russians got duped by counter revolution in the name of democracy and human rights got liberal market Bolshevik fucking central command Bolshevik . China today cites Russian example as what not to do
    Always change slow with caution with full control . This dude seems confused to me no coherent thought maybe all the brave people died in revolutionary and ww2 struggle

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  2. Great interview. When I have asked Russians about this topic, they have also said that the bureaucrats wanted to get rich and that is why the us sr collapsed. Note that Fidel warned Gorbachev in 1985 that his reforms would lead to collapse. Fidel understood the Soviet system better than gorby. A few tears later, gorby was making commercials for Pizza Hut while a lush ran the kremlin.

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  3. It sound's like he said the next step 4 "The Soviet Union" 2 him would've been some social democracy..again..I would have 2 see the rest

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  4. This is a very interesting series. I’m glad there aware still 8 more segments left. Thanks for these.

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  5. This is a great series and another example of how valuable TRNN is. Dmitry Orlov wrote a book about life in the USSR after its collapse and although a lot of people died their sense of the collective in terms of family and culture saved a lot of lives. The US is headed for a similar collapse very soon and we're terribly unprepared. This is just one of the contradictions that is leading to collapse. Marx got it right.

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  6. I've wanted stuff like this on the USSR – from the inside, free of the usual over-simplifications and propagandistic distortions, and with the benefit of hindsight – for the last 30 years. Thank you Real News Network for giving it to me.

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  7. It's amazing that a small news outlet like The Real News invites such informed, high profile guests and yet doesn't attract large audiences. I know its because you refuse corporate advertising and donations…and that is precisely the reason I tune in and plan to donate. You have an awesome staff of professional journalists who try to dig out the truth. Thank you.

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  8. Imagine what a safe and more peaceful and more wealthy world we COULD have had if Carter and Gorbachev had power at the same time.

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  9. If TRNN doesn't put together all these into 1 big interview, someone should afterwards. And if add a subtitle that would be great.
    Gosh, you guys are the real news network, literally. Rest are either party propaganda or political opinions, no news in any other media.
    I am yet to see any single network, cable media or youtube media that provides news. This is the only one.

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  10. why don't you just upload the whole interview instead of us having to search for each segment. what a great interview!

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  11. Paul should have asked about workers' self-management in Yugoslavia. It's my understanding Yugoslavia had it before any other part of the Soviet Union. In fact, I'd never heard that the Soviet Union had it until listening to this interview.

    I said Yugoslavia was part of the Soviet Union, I don't know if that is true or not. Yugoslavia was sort of an independent socialist country, I think. Perhaps why it had a different policy than the rest of the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia was also one of the leaders in the Non-Aligned Movement. Although, some said the Non-Aligned Movement was really a movement lead by allies of Russia sort of trying to claim to be something else.

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  12. "Stupid contradiction", Buzgalin is correct. The bureaucracy creating organizations supposedly representative of "from below". Faux socialism, a lesson from a pro-capitalist play-book. Which, if played today, will find stony ground and very little germination.

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  13. Not entirely accurate about the genuine motivations of wealthy people. Of course in many cases what Prof. Buzgalin says is true. On the other hand, it can be really about having great ability in business and using this for good.. I saw a program about an American billionaire who gave large sums to hospitals, research organizations, and other worthy causes – he didn't even own a car. I know a person who runs a milk company and lives in an average house (and is very generous).

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  14. Buzgalin asserts that Stalin. Mao, Pol Pot, et al, were "aberrations" on "Day 2 of the Revolution" because these "Revolutions" didn't take place in society's advanced enough in their Capitalism, per Marx's instructions.
    So basically, only after Capitalism has brought a nation into a position of strong institutions and economic elasticity, only THEN can Absolute Centralized Power really take hold and unburden the working class from…well, having to work…lol
    This kind of Utopian Statist vision isn't only fantastical in its naivety, breathtakingly biased in it's historical narrative; and hauntingly void of human imagination; it is, at it's very core, a sickeningly deceptive, intellectually dishonest ploy for desperate elitism, and fascistic ends…
    I can see how it appeals to both young dreamers, and Globalist Authoritarians alike…

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  15. For anybody interested, i created a sequential playlist of this series.
    Just copy/paste after the-> .com/
    playlist?list=PLWLSesWEg5c7d6RhOrnCBJ8c62vGxpsfl

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  16. The discussion of the experimental running if state enterprise by the workers is reminiscent of similar worker owned co-ops that have developed in the west, which Richard Wolff writes about and actually consults for. Again, I've wondered whether Buzgalin knows Wolff or his work.

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  17. Buzgalin's hypothetical US rich business owner who says that he does what he does in order to provide for the people, which Buzgalin assumes would be the claim of such a person in the US. Starting in the 1980s, the wealthy in the US are often quite open about saying that their only motivation is to make money, to get rich, nothing else, damn the population.

    Reply

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