Perestroika: The Need for Class Analysis

By Cartwright, Perry | Monthly Review, July-August 1989 | Go to article overview

Perestroika: The Need for Class Analysis


Cartwright, Perry, Monthly Review


Perry Cartwright is a long-time activist in the labaor, press, civil rights, and civil liberties movements

A class analysis of perestroika and glasnost can no longer be postponed if Marxism is to remain a credible method of explaining historic developments.

As I see it, openness and restructuring are mandatory steps for a socioeconomic class. The Societ managerial class, in order to preserve its rule, is making concessions which no one thought possible. To understand these changes we must first of all understand that the Soviet-bloc countries are not egalitarian "socialist" societies in the classic Marxist tradition. They are class societies dominated by the "nomenklatura." This group of politicians, military officials, and industrial managers of publicly owned property have controlled Soviet society since at least the time of Stalin.

The managerial class now finds itself in a crises comparable to that faced by the U.S. capitalist class in 1932. The old methods just won't work anymore. And just as the smarter, more realistic, Rooseveltian wing of the capitalist class saw that they must make concessions in order to save their system, so the smarter, more realistic, Gorbachev wing of the managerial class in the USSR sees that they must replace social arrangements that time has made unworkable. Gorbachev, is not leading a capitalist counter-revolution any more than Roosevelt was trying to lead a socialist revolution. Gorbachev wants to rationalize his publicly owned property system by introducing certain appropriate market features, just as Roosevelt saw the need to borrow certain socialist features in order to save an imperiled capitalism.

The essential feature of perestroika is permitting individual factories and farms to make production decisions based on consumer demand. This is not incompatible with a publicly owned economy. …

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