Stoller: What did Khrushchev get when he left office? He supplemented his meager pension by growing potatoes in his garden...
: That story about Krushchev is very poignant, and I have to say I don't know much about teh Soviet union, you're probably right. i do know, however, that Maoist China certainly did have an elite which enjoyed a standard of living way above that of the Chinese people. Chairman Mao ate pork when millions of Chinese didn't have enough rice to eat; he used women as sex objects, while promotinbg strict sexual ethics for everyone else; he insisted on scientific medicine for himself, while advocating acupuncture and other unproven practices for other people; etcetera. Chairman Mao was a bastard, a wolf in socialist clothing, and I think the sooner we realize that the better. Mao was far worse than Stalin.
: Your argument that socialist states don't ahve class is interesting, and might be true- I don't know enough to comment. If so, then that would actually weaken your point about private property; because there have been MANY socialist societies which tolerated small amounts of private property, yet would be by your definition 'classless'.
This is a big topic and I've only got the time to sketch an outline.
I said the Soviet Union had no property rights, therefore there were no classes.
The same applies to Mao-era China. Recall the fate of Mao's widow---one of the 'gang of four' imprisoned for life or executed when Mao died. She obviously had no power from Mao's 'estate.' Power---as created by property---could not be transferred from one family member to another. It was strictly contingent upon WORK.
The U.S.S.R., like Mao-era China, on the other hand, DID have an inordinately powerful bureaucracy. This bureaucracy enjoyed standards of living FAR above those supplied to rank-and-file workers.*
The privileges attached to bureaucratic positions were UNSTABLE, however. One could lose everything in a flash (like Khrushchev).
With property rights, however, one may lose a job but not their money in the bank (unless they have debts, but that observation has no bearing on Soviet society).
Do you see the difference?
There's power from bureaucratic position in a property-less society.
There's power from property in a propertied state.
The latter power is MUCH greater, MUCH more lasting than the former.
All of this stuff was presented in great detail and clarity by Trotsky in his 1937 The Revolution Betrayed.
The implications, that bureaucratically deformed worker's states are STILL socialist (in the key area of property), led to the classic Spartacist position of supporting these countries against capitalist offenses (while simultaneously calling for worker's revolutions to overthrow the bureaucratic usurpers).
Does all this, then weaken my argument, as you say, because some socialist countries---countries far more democratic and progressive than the Soviet Union and Mao-era China, etc.---have had 'some' amounts of private property?
This would be to imply that the democratic and progressive conditions of these countries owe their democratic and progressive features to private property instead of a less powerful bureaucracy---something you have yet to do to my satistisfaction.
I assert that any STABLE form of socialism must have private property (and I always mean private property in the means of production when I say private property) abolished. Otherwise capitalism will reemerge.
And capitalism is much more threatening than Stalin.
Stalins can only live a lifetime.
Capital---because property (and its power) can be transferred infinitely---can live forever.
The problem of bureaucracy---a seperate issue---is, admittedly, much more complicated.
However, job rotation is a good start...
BTW, Mao wasn't 'worse' than Stalin; as Khrushchev pointed out, Mao was simply Stalin.
* The wage discrepancy between Soviet elite and average workers was 4 to 1. IN the U.S. the discrepancy between business owner and worker is 150 to 1. Source: Kotz and Weir's Revolution From Above, Routledge 1997, p. 112.