Vygotskian Writings Теоретическая психология Выготскианские тексты

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  • And now

The Nomenklatura

The true secret of the deep structure of a Soviet-type society is that the organization of democratic centralism – in which the inner circle has po­wer over the outer circle under the condition that the former relinquishes power in favour of a still more inner circle – eventually encompasses the entire society.

It is to be remembered at this point that the relation between the inner and outer circles of the structure of a Soviet-type society is not identical with the relations between the upper and lower levels of a bureaucratic hierarchy. The inner circles house the subject of a collective charisma institutionalized for the entire society, while the outer circles house the medium of that charisma.

The charisma assigns some social power directly to a person, while the collective charisma assigns a set of powers to a set of people. This rela­tion is materialized in the nomenklatura which contains both the stock of powers that are set directly to persons in the more inner or more peripheral circles, and the list of persons to whom they are set. Voslensky argues in an excellent book that the relations materialized in the Nomenklatura are the class relations that determine the deep structure of a Soviet-type society.

The first historically decisive development with relevance to the futu­re emergence of the Nomenklatura as a class was the emergence of the cate­gory of the professional revolutionist in the course of the rise of a Bolshevik-type party. Viewed in purely economic terms, the persons belonging to this category subsisted differently from any of the three basic classes of the ca­pitalist society: they did not live by either the profit of their capital, the rent of their land or the wages for their labour. The nature of their subsistence was similar to that of the bureaucrat’s in the sense that they obtained it through activities concerning the State status quo; only, while the bureaucrat’s activity was aimed at preserving the status quo, the professional revolutionist’s was aimed at overthrowing it.

The second historically decisive development was the emergence of the organizing principle of democratic centralism, which provided the professional revolutionist with immense independence through, and partly against, the membership of the party organization he had helped to develop. How this principle acts was seen above.

At the time of the Russian Revolution the resulting organization was a mere tool even with all its immense independence and operativeness, and there was perfect consensus between the professional revolutionists and the Party membership as to the goal in view of which it could be judged to what extent the functioning of the organization was authentic and to what extent it wasn’t.

The third historically decisive development was the replacement of the Party membership, determined by the substance of a revolutionary socialism, by one that was determined solely by the form of democratic centralism connecting that membership with the old guard of professional revolutionists. This replacement was in part made necessary by the civil war that killed a large section of the authentic Party membership, and in part it was realized by Stalin’s initiative to appoint a new membership to the collective charisma of the Bolshevik party.

Finally, the fourth historically decisive development was the great terror of the years after Kirov’s murder, by which Stalin carried out the same replacement, now at that place of the structure which had so far been taken by the Leninian staff of the professional revolutionists. As a result of a sequence of bloody personnel changes, the new structure made sure no one could lay claim to certain power on truly substantional grounds (e. g. with reference to the fact that his past record testifies to his being really a revolutionist, an authentic Marxist, etc.).

As a consequence of the Stalinian transformation, the position of the structure developed by and for the professional revolutionists still was taken by people

a) whose social power was not the function of their position but assigned to their persons directly by a collective charisma,

b) to which they were, nevertheless, inaugurated as to a post

c) by “democratic” decisions made possible or impossible by the preliminary decisions of “centralism”, in social psychological games played in the forms of “unity” and “disunity”, while

d) for both the “Centrum” and the “Demos” this power structure becomes the end, while functioning in terms of the original value (socialism) the means.

And now?

In the light of the above we can better understand what is currently happening in Soviet-type societies and their Bolshevik-type parties.

We are to see two points now: one surprising and one preventing from a quite possible mistake.

What surprises most witnesses of developments in Soviet-type societies is the rapid disintegration of the Bolshevik-type party, while, at the same time, quick shifts of this tendency are guided (at least in Soviet Union and in Hungary, and at least in the beginning, but for a rather considerable period of time) by this very Party.

In the Soviet Union in a little over 5 years Gorbachev has succeeded if not to change, at least to query the totality of the 73 years of the Soviet history, including the Lenin’s revolution itself: all this in an empire where throughout those 73 years no querying was allowed even if referred to a trivial aspect of the system.

And in Hungary (though on a much smaller scale) in less than 2 years the Bolshevik-type party has had it in its power

to change at once the large majority of the Central Committee and the Politburo staff and the person of the secretary general (Kádár to Grósz);

to shift in the ideological judgment about very important items of the recent political history (1956: from “counter-revolution” to “popular insurrection”);

3. It has given up three fundamental doctrines and the social practice corresponding to these doctrines:

a. By renouncing the principle of democratic centralism the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party at its last Congress (1989, October) demolished its own organizational edifice based on that principle and set up a new one comprising not 800 thousands members of primary organizations in all economic, administrative, cultural and other offices throughout the country as earlier, only 50 thousands people organized the non-Bolshevik way of any parliamentary party.

b. By dropping the dogma of the Party being the vanguard of the proletarian class and of the whole society this latter was given (still by a decision of the Central Committee of the Party) the possibility to freely elect a new Parliament with a large (almost 90%) non-Communist majority.

c. By giving up the dogma of the dictatorship of the proletariat no protection of this class against prejudicial consequences (e. g., unemployment) of a certain economic development prevented any more steps to be taken to such a development.

Traditionally, normal political organisations are established by outside forces, and thus they may be eliminated in an organized way only by other outside forces. On the other hand, if an organization is destroyed from inside the revolutionary processes are either spontaneous and not organized or organized by another organization opposed to the one of the establish­ment.

An organizational suicide became realizable only through the perfectly efficient paradoxical feedback mechanism which I have described here. What has occurred is nothing but another manifestation of democratic centralism – this time, however, entirely reversed in functioning.


Now, as to a quite possible mistake: it is about the end of the communism. Thoughts aiming at this conclusion consider communism as a political establishment and its ideological spirit. In this sense communism seems indeed to come to an end.72

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