This outcome represented a “social contract,” Lebowitz says, quoting Russian socialist Boris Kagarlitsky’s description of it as “a system of mutual obligations.” The regime undertook to ensure a rising level of consumption, stable prices, and above all full employment, while granting workers “substantial individual control over the organization and execution of work.” Labor itself remained alienated; workers felt no impulse to maximize productivity or quality; the productive system was marked by “rigidity and inertia.”“The population was forced into the social contract,” Kagarlitsky says. because people liked certain aspects of the contract.” In many ways it provided workers with a better deal than that available under capitalism.It was “definitely not free.” But “it was accepted . Elements of this social system, like the abolition of capitalist ownership, were necessary and progressive as potential building blocks for socialism, Lebowitz believes.
If you don’t know where you want to go, no road will take you there,” Lebowitz says.
He charts this path by drawing on Hugo Chávez’s conception of the “triangle of socialism,” whose three elements are: The mature Soviet model failed to achieve any of these three goals.
The economy must be nationalized and placed under hierarchical control.
Production must be expanded to ensure that the social contract is met.
Critics of these structures use other words, such as “Stalinism,” “state capitalism,” or “bureaucratized workers’ states,” and the differences are significant.
In this article, however, I will use Lebowitz’s term. In a well-led musical ensemble, the “conducted” do help shape the performance, influencing each other as well as the conductor. Even if Soviet leaders had been as dedicated as a von Karajan, he seems to be saying, this model of socialist leadership will necessarily fail.
He quotes British economist Alec Nove: “To expect unbiased information from those interested in the results to which the information is put is to live in cloud-cuckoo land.”But tricking the planners was only one of many illegal techniques used to meet quotas. The new regime’s fragile stability rested on its claim to rule on behalf of working people.
Among others: “stockpile inputs and hoard materials . Workers surrendered some political rights they had fought for under capitalism, such as freedom of speech and association and representative democracy, but they received other hitherto unobtainable rights in return.
Lebowitz limits his inquiry to the social structures in the USSR and the Eastern European states that took the Soviet Union as a model from 1950 to 1990.
(The latter states are presumably Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.