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Marx on 1989

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This article shows that the various regimes of “real socialism” uniformly failed to transcend the horizon of capitalism. They have remained class societies based on wage labour, commodity production, a money economy and welfare systems fed by redistribution. At the same time, they present peculiar features that are different from other versions of “state capitalism.” Traditional elites were annihilated, private property of capital in the hands of individuals or autonomous groups (companies) was prohibited, and the advantages accruing to leading positions were not inherited, although equality in income was very modest (inferior to some market regimes). The main political invention of “real socialism” was the Party, a unique institution unlike any other, grounded in theory, but (unlike the Established Church) an institution of the state, over the executive, which had unprecedented powers of mobilisation and cultural influence. It had to be intellectual in character, as the system was steered through the Plan which was, in the final analysis, a text. The changes of 1989 took place partly mediated by the Party, partly against its rule. The successor regimes are conspicuously political owing to the nature of the adversary.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest 1398, Hungary

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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