What were the Main Features of Bolshevik Theories of Socialism?

For Bolshevik, socialism was not only critical of capitalism through means other than cooperativism and piecemeal state regulation.

Among the Bolsheviks, a serious economist, Nikolai Bukharin, dismissed liberal notions of the ‘utility’ school as unworthy of the attention of those concerned with more than the activities of the rentier or leisured class.

More fundamentally, the Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin, argued, contrary to many socialists, that the state could provide a means for managing the economy for the benefit of society, once and for all overcoming exploitation and the conditions that led all society into a state of ‘alienation’ from the fruits of its labour.

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The state could, Lenin contended, restore socially wholesome priorities to society on a large scale. Hitherto, this had not been a path socialists took, even if they supported state intervention in economic affairs.

For a dominant role for the state in such matters meant handing major powers over to great landowners and great capitalists (who exercised hegemony in governments in France, Germany and Britain until then).

Lenin took the line, in his ‘State and Revolution’ that previous critics of large scale state control had been thinking of such cases where the state was run by the ruling class. The situation changed when the proletariat and socialists took over the state.

Nationalisation and abolition of private property became the cornerstones of this perspective. ‘Planning’ also became crucial to it: the notion that it was possible, statistically, to evolve a plan of the economy and its potentials, and thereafter to ‘plan’ targets for it.


Such ideas were evolved by various Soviet economists, and become a major ingredient in the socialist critique of capitalism.

S. Preobrazhensky, for instance, pointed out that with such enormous controls and powers, the state could achieve capital accumulation itself, in the way capitalist had done it in the early stages of the industrial revolution; though manipulation of prices, resources could be diverted from agriculture to other economic ends if necessary.

The rigour with which this could be followed up was stressed by the leading ‘Planner’ of the late 1920s and 1930s, S. Strumilin, and a great supporter of ‘targets’.

The ‘Planned Economy’ of the 1930s in the Soviet Union showed how this could work, achieving great increases in industrial production and revolutionizing the country’s economy. In all this, rigorous standards of welfare were preserved, and strict curbs enforced concerning the accumulation of wealth.

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