Are bureaucrats/economic managers a class? If not, what is their relation/position vis-a-vis class?

Are bureaucrats/economic managers a class? If not, what is their relation/position vis-a-vis class?
This seems like one of the definitive questions for the Left regarding analysis of the real-existing socialist states.
Historical moments of interest:

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No, they are not. The don't have a proprietary relationship to the means of production. In socialism, they can't decide that a plant should produce toothbrushes instead of steel ingots because the former is more profitable. They can't hire labour-power in a way that increases the profit. They don't appropriate any profit privately. They have to work, if they don't work, they're purged. At the very most you can identify managers as an institution within hierarchy, and you can criticise them as such, for example you can criticise that the one-man-management system in the USSR dislodged the managers from the workers, and you can argue there should have been more democratic measures within enterprises to determine the management, like in the DPRK under Kim Il-sung with the Taen Work System. I'm not saying that the social relations between manual workforce and managers don't matter, and they surely played a role in popularizing petit-bourgeois ideas within the managerial milieu towards the end of the USSR, but it would be incorrect to categorise them as a class in the Marxist sense. Ironically, the Orthodox Trotskyst position of a "degenerated worker's state" is, while misguided, closer to the truth than the Maoist/Hoxhaist position of "state-capitalism".

In capitalism, CEOs are obviously not working class, but part of the labour-aristocracy - most of their activity would be unnecessary under socialism, but they aren't necessarily a class because their relationship to means of productions varies, the manager of a mom-and-pop-shop is obviously working class, whereas the manager of BMW certainly isn't.
Which event are you specifically referring to? You issue here is a concentration of political power, e.g. centralism in opposition to federalism, but I don't see how this is relevant to the topic.

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They’re billionaires or millionaires depending on their managerial authority. Purging them if they “don’t work” actually locks the class assignment tighter, because it makes them more cutthroat about maintaining their position at all costs.

Also, China is literally not an actual socialist state. It’s fascist. An insulated and very wealthy ownership class keeps the workers enslaved and breathing smog.

Only in year head. To quote Russia's Path from Gorbachev to Putin, "director of a large Soviet enterprise was paid about 4 times as much as the average industrial wage. By contrast, the average American corporate chief executive officer’s pay was nearly 150 times that of the average factory worker at that time."
Wow, they have to comply with workers wishes unless they want to get purged. How is this bad again?
No, it's a ML state that's under market reforms. They never abondoned their ideology and their endgoal is still socialism. Whenever they will reach it is an other topic.
It's the price to pay for industralization. The way people treat China is like it's some kind of isolated place that's cut of from the rest of the world. At the time of Dengist reforms all economies around China were booming, were they supposed to live in agricultural communes till the time western powers would be able to invade it?

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Isn't this pointing backwards towards capitalist class relations, and merely showing that they are of different nature compared to real-existing-socialism? Defining by negation? What I'm getting at is that this seems like someone pointing at the differences between feodal and capitalist class relations and declaring the capitalists not to be a class.
I expect this to be relevant to anarchist and some leftcom takes.

In marxism it is class struggle, not ideology, that moves history. The CPC is class collaborationist (Three Represents) and many of the most powerful capitalists in the country are party members.
I don't think anyone is disputing the ability of capitalism to expand the productive forces and some even argue that utilising capitalism is not necessarily even a bad thing: see flag

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Not really sure I agree with the idea in general but I believe the problem comes to be that they are no longer interested in ensuring that production is done properly and managing the labor is now a secondary consideration to just keeping their position at any cost.

A good place to start is some elaboration on where bureaucrats and economic managers were in relation to the workers, party and the state apparatus in each of the cases.

were they in or answerable to the Soviet? the party? There was GOSPLAN, but they seemed to be more calculators than planners in the economic sense. They can enter into class anatagonism, the degree of which is depending on the powers that they have to appropriate workers and capital according to their economic planning, maybe it would be better to say that they are in antagonism with the soviet as a political force.

Who gets the say over production is the big question here. I did a minor effortpost on it in the thread going over an user's 'communistic dual state structure thesis'

Not on paper but in practice they have a monopoly on the allocation of surplus labour.
Yes they can, deciding what to produce is literally their job. They just wouldn’t make decisions on the basis of profitability because they aren’t capitalists, but they would still have to power to determine what gets produced.
They can and did. There are examples of socialist governments implementing labour practices specifically designed to increase the surplus value produced by workers in order to fuel growth and industrialization. This was a major problem in Hungary in the early 50s, when worker wages actually fell to below prewar levels in some sectors due to how much surplus value was being reinvested in the economy. It was a major contributor to the 1956 uprising.
Maybe if we ignore corruption and profiteering on the black market, but that aside they still have a monopoly on the power to allocate surplus. That power is what makes them a class, not what they do with it. A capitalist who reinvested almost all his profits in his business and kept very little for himself wouldn’t be less of a capitalist.

I agree with Yugo user, it seems you are basically saying that because bureaucrats and party elites aren’t capitalists and don’t behave as such, they aren’t a ruling class. You’re too focused on the characteristics of the ruling class under capitalism, rather than in general. However they still have some important characteristics of a ruling class, mainly a monopoly on state power and the allocation of surplus value. Your position also begs the question: if the bureaucrats under Soviet socialism aren’t the ruling class, then who is? The workers? That gives you a bizarre situation where the workers are the “ruling class” without actually exercising political power.

If we want to answer this question we first have to ask what is a class?

1. The contemporary Marxist definition of class (which can be found on is:
"A group of people who share common relations to labor and the means of production."
I have never been able to find the origin of this definition. Probably because Marx never said anything like this.

2. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx identifies class with both social rank and the vague category of "oppressor and oppressed." If one surveys Marx's writings one finds a very flexible definition of "class" that is not reducible to a simple definition. The best article I can find on Marx's definition of class is by Bertell Ollman but I find his logic flawed…
"The qualifications for constituting a class that capitalists possess and physicians do not are as follows: the capitalists have a direct operating relationship to the mode of production, while the physicians do not…"
It seems clear to me that the difference between capitalists and physicians is not their relationship with the mode of production but their relationship with other men. The capitalist both commands the labor of other men and also controls the goods they produce. A physician's social class, while prestigious, does not entitle him to control and usurp the labor of others.

3. In Marx's preface to Contribution to Critique of Political Economy he says,
"In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production."
My interpretation is that men enter into definite relations with each other. Not with plots of land or with machinery. A man does not have a relationship with an inanimate object - he has a relation with other men. It's my belief that the contemporary definition of class as being determined by one's "relationship to the means of production" is a conflation of two separate categories - social relations and productive forces.

4. Lenin gave this definition:
"Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it. Classes are groups of people one of which can appropriate the labour of another owing to the different places they occupy in a definite system of social economy."
This definition includes the phrase "relation to the means of production" but it is nonetheless far more nuanced than the contemporary definition.

So, what is a class?

IMO, the contemporary definition is a massive simplification of Marx's concept which was quite flexible and not defined by a one-dimensional criteria. Further, the contemporary definition seems to conflate social relations between men with one's position in a division of labor that corresponds to a the physical process of production. Some contemporary Marxists (notably certain Trotskyist tendencies) reduce class to formal ownership of the means of production. Even if one takes the view that class is a function of such a relationship it is by no means solely defined by formal juridical ownership. Simple control of production would suffice to elevate a group to the level of a separate class within society. Lenin himself, despite his tendency to reduce ideas to their simple and pedantic forms, recognized that class was a nuanced concept that legal ownership was the formalization of underlying control. Different positions and roles, their share of society's wealth, as well as the ability to appropriate the labor of others all play a role in the formation of a class.

Part 2:
In Wage Labour and Capital Marx says,
"In the process of production, human beings work not only upon nature, but also upon one another. They produce only by working together in a specified manner and reciprocally exchanging their activities. In order to produce, they enter into definite connections and relations to one another, and only within these social connections and relations does their influence upon nature operate – i.e., does production take place."

It seems very clear to me that what needs to be stressed is that these relations are between people and this forms the class basis of society. To say that class depends on a relationship with not people but things sounds like a conflation of two separate categories, which I mentioned above.

My answer to OP's question is that, regardless of a lack of juridical ownership of the means of production, bureaucrats and managers (esp. in the former USSR) did constitute a class in that they occupied a definite position within the system of production that gave them control over production as well as a limited ability to appropriate the surplus labor of workers. A rigid definition of class might exclude this conclusion but neither Marx nor Lenin had rigid definitions of the term.

A year ago I argued with Ismail about this topic and my basic argument can be found here:

I need to start a page for this topic on marxistpedia…

The problem with this formulation is that it envisions people in a vacuum, resembling the highly individualistic and hegemonic way of thinking about these issues. In the Marxist approach structures have primacy over individuals, meaning that all of our social connections are always already mediated by the mode of production. Using your cited example this means that even the 'purely collegial' relationships between physicians themselves (which would imply a rather similar way of "relating to other men") are only secondary to the broader structuring principle of the mode of production that creates the very structural positions that can be taken up by these physicians.
I must note that you begin to muddle the term "control" here. In a highly specialized working environment like the Emergency Room hierarchies arise not due to exploitation, but as necessitated by the nature of the job itself: often the head of the department (whose entitlement – elected, appointed, etc. – is another issue altogether) has to decide which case is more serious, needs immediate attention, in effect "controlling" the labor of his fellow physicians. A capitalist "controls" in a different way, for different ends, and under different laws (entitling him for private ownership, most importantly). While the head of department in the ER may not extract surplus value (although, in private hospitals he might have ownership of the stocks, may have certain profit-oriented targets to set and upon forcing those under him to comply with these may receive substantial bonuses) the capitalist must under all circumstances do so to remain in business. The very term you use here ("social class") obfuscates the Marxist problematic and is considered to be based on subjective considerations (e.g. "how much you make") by communist.
Ownership describes the capitalist's exclusive rights over his fellow men (workers) which entails him determining the latter's modus operandi and expropriating from them and the broader social substance as allowed by the mode of production, but this right does define subjects – owners, workers – and objects – factories, lands. To think in terms of the primacy of these objects would indeed mean thinking in terms of bourgeois law that tries to obfuscate the very social context wherein that piece of private property is operated upon, but to leave out the means of production from the picture would mean thinking in terms of structures without their corresponding material foundations, the "given stage in the development of their material forces of production."
>Simple control of production would suffice to elevate a group to the level of a separate class within society.
Then your physician who is the head of the ER constitutes a separate class. Again, the problem is this rather broad category of "control." We could say that today's CEOs constitute less of a class (again, you are using a subjective definition of class, hence degrees are justifiable, demarcation lines are relative) than the 19th century capitalist owner, since the control of the former compared to the latter is much more limited, streamlined, and shared with specialized departments.
Freedom is a much more accurate category: freedom to inherit, sell, buy, profit from, etc. None of these freedoms are enjoyed by the head of ER physician, nor the USSR bureaucrat.

The point is that these categories (relationships b/w people; MoP) are inseparable, like the movement of spiders on the spiderweb are inseparable from the flies that are caught in it. Leave out either the individual spiders' relationship to each other or their relationship to the flies that get stuck and their competing/cooperative movements become unintelligible.

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Just have those roles on a 6 month rotating contract where workers of a relevant sector who sign up for the opportunity get chosen by lottery. Youd have more training costs but so what seems worth it to avoid having a quasi class

Let me clarify: I am not saying that classes arise without regard to the economic system. I am saying that classes form part of a separate layer that exists above the material mode of production.

Material mode of production -> Social / Class relations -> Legal titles / Formal ownership

Many Marxists conflate two or even all three of these concepts.

The degree of control is relevant. A department head, like you noted, does not have a level of control allowing him to exploit the labor of those under his supervision. He supervises part of the labor process but does not control production itself.
The control of production in a hospital happens at a much higher level than deciding how work is prioritized within an emergency room.
I would agree since a typical 19th century capitalist probably combined the roles of formal ownership with an active control of production while today the two roles have somewhat moved apart.
I disagree that the concept is subjective. Class is a relationship between individuals and is thus always relative. Subjective =! relative.
This approach is entirely alien to Marxist thought.

As a bureaucrat myself I would definitely say we're a different class. However, we are more meta than a traditional class like workers or capitalist because even though we sometimes do struggle against other classes, our chief goal is the mitigation of class tensions and the administration of state ideological apparatuses such that the violence of these administrative apparatuses is maximized relative to the violence of all other potential threats, which means some of US like those in the DOD or homeland security, are chiefly concerned with the administration of violence itself. While the rest of us are chiefly concerned with the administration of services and maintenance of institutions which serve to decrease the violence of all other groups, including both the working class and the capitalist class.

In short, bureaucrats are chiefly concerned with the application of rules and thus the foundations of whatever system is currently being applied.

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If they have different interests from the rest of the people, then yes. If they have the power to manage the economy to their own benefit at other people's expense without being recalled or answering to the people, then yes.

Capitalist-prole or lord-serf aren't the only kinds of class relations.

Trotsky calls them a caste, not a full fledged class

Hopefully, you'll kill yourself.
This board has been almost entirely shit for the past two years with the exception of the cockshott threads and the occasional effortpost. I have, and will continue, recommending that anyone interested in learning about Marxism or having productive discussions leave this site and start visiting and/or



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los bumpos

but there is considerable evidence that a Soviet bureaucrat could utilise their position to profit from their authority, for example by siphoning away products meant for the state. then again this is also something the generic worker would do, so if this issue has some significance vis-a-vis class, there would have to be a qualitative difference between corruption at the point of production (the factory floor so to speak) and corruption at the managerial level

you're going to have to elaborate on this, especially the second sentence
probably because a (Marxist) materialist conception of history dictates that class relations emerge from material conditions and systems of law are then built to enforce class rule

let's try and give people the benefit of the doubt - demand further explanation and elaboration to try and peel the layers of obfuscation and to get to the underlying point
this isn't a line struggle in a vanguard party, people being wrong is remediable or at least fundamentally dismantling their arguments good practice and educational for the audience

on what basis? or rather, what is the distinction?


>there is considerable evidence that a Soviet bureaucrat could utilise their position to profit from their authority
Let me highlight the following words: "could" and "profit." I get the strong feeling that you have no idea what you are even attempting to talk about, but I'll play the civil game for a while.

First of all, please, feel free to present your "considerable evidence!" Nobody is restricting you in this. In fact, why haven't you ALREADY PRESENTED these facts?! If you are so sure in your position, surely you'd have already posted your """"EVIDENCE,"""" right?! Just copy and paste all the sources you have about the soviet bureaucrats """"profiting"""" from the factory workers, and we'll be all fine here, dude.

Let it be emphasized, that you chose the words "considerable" and "evidence". May NO ONE bar you in presenting them, my dear comrade.

In fact, let's turn this around. You SHOULD be banned for eternity if you DO NOT DELIVER! How does that sound for you? You clearly have all the evidence needed to present this case and you only wanted the right opportunity to present it, so you MUST have nothing to lose, right?

Our game is, from now on: '''you get banned for life if you are unable to prove your point and I get banned if I'm not able to prove to you that the USSR was socialist, okay?



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calm down friend, no need to go schizoposting
in the sense that their control over the production process gave them the opportunity to steal. Again I'm wondering if there is a qualitative difference to theft by "factory floor" workers.

look at em debate with PDFs

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It's the Rajk trials over again!

Part 1.

Part 2.

My criticism of most contemporary Marxists is that they conflate these different layers within Marx's model of society. They assume, based on a mechanical understanding of social development, that the de jure change in ownership (within the superstructure) indicates a de facto change in social relationships (within the base). This is obviously wrong, since it's entirely possible for a state to create laws on paper that do not correspond in any way with the real situation in society. Almost every modern constitution provides rights and freedoms which it then frequently ignores.

Lenin's strategy (which he outlined shortly before he died) was to transform the mode of production in the newly created USSR by going backwards. First, using political power to establish a new superstructure (laws, titles, ownership) that would give a framework for new social relations to establish themselves while the country's economy was developed along socialized or cooperative lines. In Marx's schema this is totally backwards and many Marxists criticized the Bolsheviks for even attempting such a thing. But even I'll admit that Lenin's plan had a certain logic that made it very attractive.

Unfortunately, the Soviet experience and its justifications has led to confusion about basic Marxist concepts. And here I'll return to the topic at hand: class relations. The social / class level in Marx's model of society exists separately from its formal recognition in law. It's possible for an exploiting class to exist without any formal ownership of the means of production. So the argument that the USSR achieved a classless society based upon the simple fact that the law only recognized ownership of means of production by the state or cooperatives is not valid.

The question of whether a managerial strata constitutes a class must be answered by looking directly at material mode of production and the relations that form over it.

This is exactly why money must be superceded by something like labor credits for a socialized system to work. Even if production and ownership are more-or-less socialized, the existence of money will tend to allow the formation of competing capitals within the system. Aside from blatant corruption and theft of state-owned property, there also existed the tendency for the managers of enterprises to hoard goods and labor in order to create sufficient flexibility for the fulfillment of future orders. This resulted in individual enterprises to accumulate their own "reserve army of labor" that could be mobilized in times of rising demand for output.

The real functioning of the USSR's economic system was quite contradictory:
The contradictory character of socialist representative government is banally evident. The representatives of the proletariat, through their control of the plan, and thus the method by which unpaid surplus labour is pumped out of the direct producers, become effective controllers, pro tem, of the means of production. As such their individual class position is transformed and their ability to go on representing the proletariat, compromised.
Cockshott & Cottrell, Computers and Economic Democracy p3

In the countries of hitherto existing socialism the decision as to how the social working day was to be divided between necessary and surplus labour time was taken by the government. As, over time, the government became alienated from the working class, the process became exploitative. The state as an alien power was depriving the workers of the fruits of their labour.
Cockshott & Cottrell, Computers and Economic Democracy p15

Faced with an evaluation procedure which is above all concerned with plan fulfilment, and with uncertainty about supply and possible changes in plan, the management understandably tends to seek plans which are easy to fulfill (or avoids the risk of receiving plan orders which may prove unfulfillable) and overapplies for inputs, hoards materials and labour.
Nove, Economics of Feasible Socialism Revisited p74

One reads almost daily of some ministry or department neglecting the interests of some related or complementary activity, because it is beyond its 'departmental barrier.' There is a strong tendency to self-supply. Thus each of twenty-five ministries engaged in construction in the Pavlodar oblast seeks to set up its own quarry and building materials factory. (Pravda, 26 December 1980, to cite an example that happens to be at hand).
Nove, Economics of Feasible Socialism Revisited p68

Associated with this there was no mechanism for enterprises to go bankrupt; the enterprises were state property and the state could not go bankrupt. This led to inefficiencies in the allocation of labour between industries; enterprises and industries that were of diminishing importance to the national economy tended to hoard labour which could have been employed more effectively elsewhere.
Cockshott, Towards A New Socialism p176

Glushkov’s proposal faced opposition on two sides. Industrial managers and government bureaucrats opposed the computerization of economic planning and management because it exposed their inefficiency, reduced their power and control of information, and ultimately threatened to make them redundant.
Gerovitch, InterNyet: why the Soviet Union did not build a nationwide computer network

Yes. It's just that easy.

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