Class structure and production relations in the U.S.S.R.

Littlejohn, Gary (1981) Class structure and production relations in the U.S.S.R. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis analyses the extent and forms of class relations
in the Soviet Union. The theoretical approach adopted to the
analysis 'of the Soviet class structure is based on a critique of
the classical Marxist approach to class, as well as of common
sociological approaches to class, particularly the Weberian
conception of class. These issues are the concern of the
Introduction, which outlines an alternative approach to class
structure based on a conception of relations of production which
differs from the classical Marxist approach, particularly in
avoiding any reliance on the labour theory of value for defining
relations of production and hence for demarcating class boundaries.
Chapter One provides an outline of developments in the Soviet
rural class structure in the 1920s, and by criticising common
conceptions of such developments argues that the strategy of
socialist transformation adopted in the policy of forced
collectivisation was economically unnecessary and politically
disastrous. The purpose of this Chapter is to throw the
contemporary class structure of the Soviet Union into historical
relief, by indicating the historical context out of which many
contemporary features of the Soviet Union developed. It is
hoped that this will indicate that many features of the contemporary
social structure are historically specific, rather than being
necessary features of a state socialist society.
Following from this, the analysis of relations of production
in the 1960s and 1970s is begun in Chapter Two, where the relations
between different kinds of economic agents, particularly collective
economic agents (economic units) are examined, using the approach
developed in the Introduction to analyse the relations of production
as relations between economic agents, which affect the relative
economic capacities of agents. It is argued that, because such capacities are always subject to change through processes of
struggle and negotiation, an important but hitherto rather
neglected aspect of the relations ,of production concerns the
policies of economic agents. Consequently, the manner in which
agents at various levels in the economy calculate both their own
internal state and the course of action which they adopt with
respect to other agents is subjected to detailed scrutiny in
this Chapter.
Chapter Three analyses the legal and political conditions
of the relations of production, since in the Soviet Union such
economic relations are operative primarily between state agencies,
or collective agencies whose relations to the state agencies are
legally and politically regulated by the state. Consequently,
the issue of the 'withering away of the state' with the decline
of private property is considered, as well as various common
Western conceptions of Soviet politics. Following on from this,
the analysis of politics in terms of a series of 'arenas of
struggle' is proposed, and in the light of this approach the
capacities of the main central party and state agencies to
regulate the economy (and hence to determine the relations of
production by implementing effective economic plans) is reviewed.
The conclusion from this review is that there are serious limits on the capacity of such central party and state agents to
co-ordinate the division of labour, so that theories of an
all-powerful totalitarian party or elite dominating Soviet
politics and the economy are misguided. Nevertheless, it is
argued that there is sufficient central control of the state
agencies for one to be able to say that various state agencies
do not pursue autonomous objectives. In other words, political
relations between state agencies are not such as to preclude
socialist planning of the overall economy.
Chapter Four examines welfare and social policy as a means
of assessing the importance of non-wage forms of income, and
concludes that the overall effect of such forms of public
expenditure is probably, as intended, to equalise incomes.
This point is taken up again in Chapter Five, where the occupational
structure and wage differentials are examined, prior to an overall
assessment of the distribution of income, which concludes that a
policy of income equalisation has been pursued fairly successfully
over the past twenty-five years or so. While such a policy may
now be running into difficulties of various kinds, in so far as
it has been successfully pursued, it has meant that the connection
between the distribution of income and the access of agents to the
means of production has been partially undermined. Hence class
relations have been seriously weakened in the Soviet Union, and
it is concluded that they are non-existent within the state sector
of the economy. However, this does not mean that there is no class structure in the Soviet Union since collective farm members
are still in a different class position from state employees.
There may also be capitalist relations in the so-called 'parallel
economy' but their extent must be severely limited by the official
prohibitions on such activities which means that, if resources are
diverted from official purposes, this is largely done on an
individual 'self-employed' basis. It is also argued that the
'intelligentsia' cannot be considered as a single, separate stratum
from the state employed 'working class' or the collective farm
members. Consequently, the official theory of the Soviet class
structure must be considered to be seriously deficient.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: Precurrent Departments
Supervisor's Name: Ticktin, Hillel
Date of Award: 1981
Depositing User: Miss Louise Annan
Unique ID: glathesis:1981-4949
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2014 10:22
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2014 14:34

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