USSR, a new world and The world of socialism

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By GIULIA OLEANI BATAGLINI BENATTI*

Commentary on the reunion of two books by Caio Prado Júnior

Despite the unequivocal up-to-dateness of Caio Prado Júnior's thinking, a significant portion of the historian's works remained, for decades, without being republished. Coordinated by Luiz Bernardo Pericás and published by the Boitempo publishing house, the “Caio Prado Júnior” collection consists of a rich initiative, long overdue, to expand and facilitate the dissemination of Caiopradian work, in addition to the classics that formed their own current in the formation of Brazilian social thought. After publication of History and Development, combined, in a single volume, his two books about the Soviet Union (USSR) – USSR, a new world e The world of socialism.

1.

His first visit to the homeland of socialism, in 1933, resulted in USSR, a new world. Upon his return to Brazil, the historian presented two conferences at the Clube dos Artistas Modernos and was repeatedly asked for new lectures. In order not to repeat himself, without implying damage to the dissemination of information, he accepted the proposal of Companhia Editora Nacional and published in 1934 the work in question; in the same year that Caio Prado Júnior held the regional presidency of the National Liberation Alliance in São Paulo (1935), the book received a second edition, quickly withdrawn from circulation at the behest of the Vargas government.[1]

The writing takes place in a context of great interest in the USSR, with considerably biased publications, both in positive terms[2] how much negative.[3] A priori, the author proposes an “impartial testimony”.[4] One notes his concern to demystify the image conveyed by the propaganda of capitalist countries about the repressive character of the Soviet regime – a theme that opens the first chapter, on political organization. He narrates episodes in which he witnessed the active insertion of the masses in the political order and, starting from violence as a prerequisite for social transformations, he argues that democracy is inseparable from the dictatorship of the proletariat, given that the force and violence on which it is based, in terms of the definition Leninist[5], are monopolized by the proletarian class for the destruction of bourgeois society and construction of socialist society.

It is a direct criticism of the social-democratic parties, even going so far as to state that “socialism will only be realized by the party that follows in the footsteps of the Bolsheviks, that is, by armed insurrection”.[6] For Caio Prado Júnior, the organization of soviets – mobilization of the masses of workers for the effective exercise of political power and concentration of Executive and Legislative powers – evidenced the “visceral democratic content of the Soviet regime”,[7] that precisely by effecting the organization of the proletariat into a ruling class, it would make the realization of what he called the dictatorship of a party unfeasible. In this sense, the author points out that, although unique, the CPSU was structured in distinct cells and constituted the political vanguard of the proletariat – subject to strict control for entry and permanence – whereas the existence of another party would only be formed in the face of a opposition to the proletariat in order to materialize “an obstacle to the realization of revolutionary aims”.[8]

The repudiation of attempts at “communism by decree” gives rise to the discussion of the second chapter on the economic organization of the USSR. For the author, who noted how the transience of socialism implies the coexistence of typical elements of different modes of production, what was really interesting was understanding how the passage from capitalism to communism was actually operating.

Initially, he talks with great enthusiasm about planning, formed by five-year plans and control figures, as a strategy for economic balance. Then, it starts to deal more specifically with the evolutionary heterogeneity of Soviet socialization – only the industrial sector was under state monopoly, while agriculture and commerce were organized, mostly,[9] in cooperatives, owned and managed by their members.

According to the historian, these two sectors were influenced by remnants of the New Economic Policy, mainly agriculture. At the time, agricultural production cooperatives (kolkhoz) were divided between the artels and communes. In these, with the exception of personal consumption items, everything was collective. already us artels only the main production was collectivized, preserving individual and private work in small cultures. The communes are described as a kind of model farm, whose format remained in the minority because it constituted “an advanced stage of peasant ideology”[10] compared to the average peasant, still very attached to private property. Incidentally, the author points out that this “petty-bourgeois mentality of independent producers”[11] he was responsible for preserving the existence of colcozian markets, regulated according to supply and demand, where production not acquired by the State was sold.

The third chapter contains Caio Prado Júnior's position on different aspects of social organization. With regard to social relations, he considers that, despite the presence of material inequality, the socialist emulation of work avoided the hierarchization of the social order, a factor that, symbolically, reflected in the single treatment pronoun with which everyone was treated indistinctly – comrade .

Regarding the family, he identified a “double emancipation process of women and children from parental authority”,[12] from a reorientation of Soviet law in favor of the interests of each of the family members, instead of protecting the family institution. Before closing the chapter, he elaborates some comments on religious activities in the USSR, with emphasis on the coexistence of intense anti-religious propaganda and the freedom of the population to profess their faith, whatever it may be.

The most expressive criticisms of the USSR are concentrated in the fourth chapter, which provides a certain balance of the regime's achievements. In summary, he recognizes the leap forward in heavy industry, but he does not ignore the problems in terms of quality and production efficiency, which he essentially attributes to the lack of directors, technicians and qualified workers. In addition, he lists a series of misconceptions with regard to the logistics of distributing goods. For Caio Prado Júnior, the possibility of reversing this situation would lie in the intellectual progress that had already begun in the USSR, with the increase in access to formal education and the reduction of the illiteracy rate to levels below 10% of the Soviet population.

2.

The historian returned to the USSR in 1960 – on a journey that extended to Popular China –, a few months after founding, together with intellectuals such as Florestan Fernandes, the União Cultural Brasil-Soviet Union.[13] In that 27-year period between the two visits, the world witnessed the triumph of the Chinese revolutions, with the beginning of the Great Leap in 1958, and the Cuban one – declared socialist from 1961 –, not forgetting, of course, the victory of the Soviet army about the Nazis in 1945. With regard to theoretical production, until 1960, in addition to USSR, a new world, Caio Prado Júnior published works that revolutionized Brazilian historiography (Formation of contemporary Brazil e Brazil's economic history); entered the philosophical field with dialectic of knowledge e Introductory notes to dialectical logic; received the title of Habilitation Professor with the thesis Guidelines for a Brazilian economic policy; and published Outlines of the foundations of economic theory.

With the first edition dated 1962,[14] the first lines of The world of socialism they denote the intellectual maturity of their author, who at the outset renounced any attempt to appear impartial and immediately declared himself a communist. The book focuses on confronting capitalism and socialism from the point of view of their essential and historical distinctions, which reside fundamentally “in the form of appropriation of the means of production”.[15] The antagonistic nature of capitalism, in which the drive for profit generates both an interclass and an intraclass conflict of character, is contrasted with the elementary cooperative organization of socialism.

Concerned with providing concrete answers to concrete problems, Caio Prado Júnior did not instrumentalize his right rejection of mechanistic readings to avoid the theoretical elaboration of constitutive elements of socialism. The replacement of private free enterprise, as a consequence of the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, “by ordering and coordinating economic action in terms of the collective interest”,[16] would be, according to him, the invariable characteristic of socialism, even if it was not reached by a single path, given that it would be up to the socio-historical particularity of each formation to reveal the specific solutions for the realization of such an objective. At this point, there is a difference in relation to the first book, in which armed struggle is presented as the only feasible revolutionary path..[17]

The discussion around private ownership of the means of production and economic freedom as key features of the capitalist mode of production is presented in the second chapter, entitled “The problem of freedom”. In summary, Caio Prado Júnior makes a comparison between formal freedom and concrete freedom. He points out that, in capitalism, the legal-political form consists of bourgeois democracy, which presupposes legal equality, and, as a result, recognizes everyone, without distinction, as subjects of rights, free to enter into exchanges.

To this end, an abstraction exercise is required that removes individuals from their concrete conditions, given that material inequality is unavoidable in a structure determined by the split between holders of the means of production and holders of the workforce. On the other hand, in socialism, freedom would be regulated based on the collective interest, so that the individual “even when contradicted in his claims, will be based on a general interest, not on individual and particularistic wills and decisions”[18]. He concludes that freedom is a means and not an end, defining it as “the faculty […] of the individual to realize himself, that is, to give vent to his potentialities and set his aspirations according to them, achieving them”.[19]

The socialist state is the object of analysis in the third chapter. Caio Prado Júnior states that the presence of the state apparatus requires the existence of a dominant class. The essential distinction presented resides in the fact that, while the purpose of the bourgeois State is to establish and ensure the legal order to perpetuate the capitalist mode of production and, at the end of the day, the domination of one class over another, the socialist State aims to realize socialism, in the sense of eliminating the class division of society and, “to the extent that it fulfills its purpose, it also loses the essential characteristic of a “State”, namely, that of an organ of class domination”,[20] progressively limiting itself to administrative tasks.

In the fourth chapter, the theme of the Communist Party (PC) is resumed, already presented in the previous work. According to the historian, contrary to what happens in bourgeois and even social-democratic parties, the Communist Party must be composed of the political vanguard of the proletariat, since, with the beginning of the socialist transformation, it is raised to the condition of “conducting and directing body of every historical process of social transformation.[21], whose responsibility it is, based on the unity between theory and practice, to reorganize the country on socialist bases, both in economic and political terms, and for the construction of the “new man” of socialism, that is, “to make the individualist man of today , product of capitalism, the socialist man of tomorrow”.[22]

Finally, the last chapter is dedicated to the march towards communism. In light of the conclusions of the XXII Congress of the CPSU, the author divides the analysis according to the two parts of the communist adage – “from all according to their possibilities” and “to all according to their needs”.[23] As for this, wages were still proportional to the productive effort of each individual and the social contribution resulting from their work. However, Caio Prado Júnior points out that a portion of the social product with public services was already being distributed free of charge.

Thus, in this regard, the path would not lie in forced egalitarianism, but in the “increase and extension of these goods and services made freely and indiscriminately available to an ever-increasing number of citizens”.[24] Regarding the first principle, the socialist emulation of work and the moral distinctions and social prestige conferred on the worker would ensure that each individual gave the maximum of himself, even if there was no distinction in terms of material reward.

On the political level, in addition to the growing integration between the masses and the soviets, the march was evident in the face of the reduction of the State's sphere of action, denoted by Caio Prado Júnior in the establishment of a kind of community police of a preventive nature; in the punitive sphere, “the usual sanction of punishment and punishment gives way to persuasion and educational methods”,[25] including from the dissuasion arising from popular opinion, all processed by the "comrades' courts". Thus, authoritarian state imposition is replaced by self-management and community administration. That is, a path of autophagy whose very dynamic operates from the progressive disappearance of the state apparatus.

At the end of the book, the author does not hesitate to qualify socialism as “the answer of the facts and the solution that history gives to the problems and contradictions generated within capitalism itself”.[26] Although sure of overcoming the capitalist mode of production, in the final considerations of USSR, a new world, was keen to point out that “the most important issue is not that of socialism per se. It is the path that leads there”.[27]

It is proposed that the reader treat the reviewed works, now united in a double volume, under this same prism. More important than the reports about the USSR itself – without denying their documentary relevance –, perhaps the great contribution of these texts is precisely to make the understanding of caiopradian thought more complex, not only with regard to diachrony, but also with theoretical elaborations on elements such as questions of the State and ideology, which extrapolate what is traditionally debated based on the most consecrated works. Caio Prado Júnior is an intellectual who remains essential to form interpretations of what Brazil once was and to project what it can still be.

*Giulia Oleani Bataglini Benatti instudent in criminology at the Faculty of Law of USP.

Reference


Gaius Prado Junior. USSR, a new world and The world of socialism. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2023. 286 pages (https://amzn.to/449N3b3).

Notes


[1] PERICAS, Luiz Bernardo. Caio Prado Junior: a political biography. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2016, p. 81-95 (https://amzn.to/3s65kZj).

[2] See EDMUNDO, Cláudio. A Brazilian engineer in Russia. Rio de Janeiro: Calvino Filho, 1933; and PEREIRA, Astrojildo. USSR Italy and Brazil. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2022.

[3] See FARIA, Octavio de. The Fate of Socialism. Rio de Janeiro: Ariel Editora, 1933; and NAPAL, Dionisio. the soviet empire. São Paulo: Revista dos Tribunais, 1934.

[4] PRADO JUNIOR, Caio. USSR, a new world; The world of socialism. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2023, p. 46.

[5] KAUTSKY, Karl; LENIN, Vladimir Ilich. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat / The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. São Paulo: Livraria Editora Ciências Humanas, 1979, p. 95-104.

[6] PRADO JUNIOR, Caio. Op. cit., p. 147.

[7] Ibid., P. 59.

[8] Ibid., P. 63.

[9] This was because the State owned farms (helpers) and state warehouses.

[10] PRADO JUNIOR, Caio. Op. cit., p. 92.

[11] Ibid., P. 102.

[12] Ibid., P. 115.

[13] PERICAS, Luiz Bernardo. Op. cit., p. 172.

[14] The second edition followed that same year and the third in 1967.

[15] PRADO JUNIOR, Caio. Op. cit., p. 163.

[16] Ibid., P. 174.

[17] On the change of perspective regarding the armed struggle, see PERICÁS, Luiz Bernardo. Op. cit., p. 225-238.

[18] PRADO JUNIOR, Caio. Op. cit., p. 191.

[19] Ibid., P. 207.

[20] Ibid., P. 217.

[21] Ibid., P. 229

[22] Ibid., P. 232

[23] Ibid., P. 246.

[24] Ibid., P. 253.

[25] Ibid., P. 263.

[26] Ibid., P. 270.

[27] Ibid., P. 147.


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