The paradoxes of the bolshevik-type psycho-social structure in economy

László Garai

Institute for Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Budapest, Hungary

Paper to be presented at the conference
“Origins of the persistence of Bolshevik-type totalitarian structures”
Gorbachev Foundation, Moscow
19-20 December, 1993

Abstract: The paper analyzes the Bolshevik-type structure not in traditional ideologi­cal or politological terms but in those of a psycho-socio-economic inves­ti­gation about the 20th century second mo­dernization. This latter‘s main difference is made with the 19th century first moderniza­tion in manufacturing not only material but also human factors of the actual socio-eco­nomic system's functioning. It is stated that unlike the material production de­pen­ding only on technical attributes of both producing and produced factors, the mo­dern human production is determined also by the factors' social relations.

Those of competition vs mo­nopoly are the main concern of the actual paper. A perfect (i. e., not disturbed by any monopoly) competition be­ing an important psychosocial condition for a market economic system the fa­scist or national socialist type totalitarian societies are analyzed as factories for its mass-production. As compared with and opposed to them, Soviet type totalitarian societies guided by Bolshevik type Parties are analyzed as factories for the mass-production of a perfect (i. e., not disturbed by any competition) monopoly that is the same important psychosocial condition for the planned economic system.

The paper argues that the organizing principle of these societies is not only bureaucracy setting social power to the office a person incidentally occupies but also charisma that sets it directly to the person. Only in these rather paradoxical Bolshevik type structures the person gets (and loses) his glamour by being invested with (and, resp., dismissed from) it just like with (from) an office. The connection of such a paradoxical structure with the mass-production of social relations is analyzed.

The paradoxes of the Bolshevik-type psycho-social structure in economy

László Garai

Institute for Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Budapest, Hungary

Research antecedents

This paper is going to deal with the society Schumpeter ment when in a writing of the post-World War I period (1922) he stated that capitalism was transforming so obviously into something else that he considered not the fact itself, merely its interpretation, to be a point of con­tention: whether what capitalism transformed into after the war and the subsequent revolutions and counter-revolutions was socialism or not Schumpeter considered only a matter of taste and terminology (pp. 41-43).

To eschew this “matter of taste and terminology”, when I star­ted studying this radically trans­formed sys­­tem whether of market, plan­ned or mixed character I la­bel­led it post-capitalism. In my earlier inves­ti­ga­tions (Garai, 1987, 1988, 1991a) I was led to the conclusion that the es­sence of this transformation is the transition from the first, 19th century pha­se of the modernization to the 20th century second modernization.

I un­der­stand by modernization the tendency according to which the so­ciety intervenes artificially into natural processes in order to provide it­self with condi­tions of its own functioning. Those earlier studies revealed that during the first modernization period the socio-economic system dealt with its mate­rial and human conditions differently: by producing the mate­rial fac­tors it de­pen­ded on, on one hand, and by making itself independent of the hu­man phe­nomena which had not been produced by it. Now, from the turn of the cen­tu­ry onwards running the socio-economic sys­tem was no lon­ger in­de­pen­dent of the faculties and needs acting in the popu­lation and, consequent­ly, it faced the necessity of manufacturing also its own human conditions.

Three classes

When one starts to examine how during the second modernization this necessity has been dealt with, the first statement he can make is about a technology the state in various countries introduced practically simultane­ously in the period starting with World War I. The technology in question tried to apply to handling people the same logic of a large scale mass production in processing industry the economic organizations of the previous century successfully used in handling things.

The logic of processing industry ranges things into three classes: the class of useful things complying with the aims of man is opposed to the class of harm­ful things countering man's aims; between them is the class of raw ma­te­rials, whose originally neutral attributes can be turned useful upon a use­ful ef­fect and harmful upon a harmful one. Processing industry exposes raw mate­rials to useful effects and, at the same time, in order to protect the­se ma­terials against harmful effects it tries to narrow the spectrum of these lat­ters' causes by the most effective procedure, i.e. by eradicating harmful things themselves.

The same way, the state whose ambition was boosted in World War I  ranges persons into three classes: the class of those who make them­selves useful as means for the state's most exalted ends; those who subject themselves as malleable raw materials to the educational ambitions of the former class; finally, the class of harmful people who traverse the above ends of the state. As this latter class, misusing the malleability of the human raw material, would win over a part of it to their side, therefore the most effective procedure against them is considered to be their extermination.

This practice and the relevant ideology have perfected itself in the to­ta­litarian state. But the date of its birth is not 1933, when the national socia­lists assumed power in Germany; or 1922, when in Italy the fascists did so; nor is it 1917 when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. The totalitarian sta­te was born in 1914 when, in various states simultaneously, the still tradi­tio­nal po­wer fulfilled a no longer traditional task: from the raw material re­pre­sen­ted by civil persons who had been set to “live and let live” the mobili­za­tion or­der produced on a large scale this useful product represented by sol­diers. Fur­ther on, the totalitarian states inherited this ready-made tool to be used for their goals, and, in addition, also inherited the “know how” to operate with al­most unlimited efficiency large scale works in this peculiar processing in­dust­­ry in which the tools, raw materials and pestiferous factors are all human beings.

At first glance one would conclude that the Bolshevik-type society was the survivor of this totalitarian state formation: it made use of the products and the “know how” produced by the two-act World War for forty years after them, and now, with a delay of a whole epoch, it follows its ideological antagonist to the sink of history.

When, however, we consistently apply the viewpoint of economic psycho­­logy instead of an ideological approach, we shall discover yet another implication.

A peculiar commodity: the relation

There exists such a difference between things and persons, which makes it impossible to simply apply the logic of handling one of these categories to handling the other one. The point is that things can, while persons cannot unambiguously be by their attributes classified into one of the above-mentioned three groups. Regarding persons, when we try to tra­ce down their attributes in order to explain social phenomena their causes turn out to be relations instead. For instance, someone in majority exerts his influence differently from someone in minority (Moscovici, 1976).

Relations have a logic that is quite different from that of attributes. That gets particularly evident if we compare how does that logic work when one wants to define his/her social identity in terms of attributes or relations, respectively.

Let us see, e. g., the attribute of a fine crop of hair which, if necessary, may clearly differentiate my social category from that of bald-heads. In this ca­se the attribute and the social category are somehow interrelated: if I want to switch over to the other social category I may be compelled to give up my attribute and assume that of the other group. On the other hand, if I want to exchange my attribute for theirs I have to accept that the moment I sha­ve my head close, as a result, I will belong in some way among the bald-heads.

A well-known tendency is connected with this relation: as soon as a mar­ked­ly different attribute (e.g., skin color) is noticed on someone s/he is ma­de sus­­ceptible to be classed in a social category detached from the category of tho­se who noticed the difference. And, on the other hand, when a group of peo­p­le de­fines their social identity as categorically different from that of others, they are willing to develop also an attribute that is just as different (cf. the skin-heads).

Completely different is the case when two social categories differenti­a­te themselves along some relations and not attributes. Unlike attributes, the value that characterizes a person in terms of a relation can be detached from the social category to which the person belongs.  E.g., I may belong to tho­se who are the majority in some regard, the other group being the mino­ri­ty. It is then possible that I change groups without ceasing to be a majority per­son, for my very joining may have changed the other group from minori­ty to majority status. Or it may also happen that I become a minority person without changing groups, if some of my fellow-members shifted their group.

Therefore, when a totalitarian state tries to apply the same logic to per­sons' relations by which the traditional processing industry handles the things' attributes, then everything turns upside down.

So far, the authors of folk-poetry of jokes have taken a greater interest in this upside-down situa­tion than those who should reckon with it for some serious mat­ter. When, for instance, we want to get rid of a harmful effect of a certain attribute, the technology of exterminating the very last specimen of the things carrying this attribute guarantees 100% success. This is turned inside out by the following joke applying the technology to relations instead of attributes: “Are there cannibals among you, gentlemen?”, the missionary asks the natives. “No, sir”, their spokesman replies. “We ate the last one yesterday.”

This paradox turning things upside down, however, immediately assumes a serious countenance when we realize that the basic psycho-socio-economic problem the second modernization has to deal with is just connected to relations. The point is that

the optimum functioning of a market economy requires the relation of perfect competition, i. e. one  that no mono­po­ly of any of the economic actors restrains.

And, on the other hand, 

the optimum func­tioning of a planned economy requires the relation of perfect mo­no­poly of the planning authority, i. e. one not restrained by the competition of others.

Now, in fact, the actual psycho-socio-economic relations by the early 20th century it became manifest that competition and monopoly do constrain each other and, thus, for the optimum running of either a market or a plan­ned economy various totalitarian states of the second modernization pe­riod by the peculiar processing industry they run have to transform these am­biguous relations into an unambiguous one (either competition, or monopoly).

As to this processing industry whose raw material is the above ambi­guous relation, two paradoxical statements have to be done. According to the first one


between interests in competition and interests in the monopoly. On the other hand, if this ambiguous relation as a raw material gets successfully pro­ces­sed, than the exclusiveness of either of the two relations turns out to be the final product. But


Whenever in the 20th century the human processing industry func­tions by the principle of the market, it only intervenes in the spontaneous events to protect the market from the monopoly and guarantee the undisturbed com­petition. And by this very intervention the compe­tition between mono­po­ly and competition got changed for the monopoly of the competition. This was the main trend in the development of that kind of totalita­rian sta­tes which had been represented by the fascist Italy and the national-socialist Germany.

With this type of totalitarian states it is customary to state that contrary to Bolshevik-type totalitarian states, their economic development does not break off but continues uninterrupted after the collapse of the political regime, becau­se allegedly these systems have not undermined the market, the basis of economy.

But there is more to it than that. These totalitarian states tried to process their raw material in such a way that the market should be ensured the personal condition of perfect competition (as was expressed by such elements of their propaganda as the promotion of dangerous living, the cult of heroes), while those factors of the economic life get eradicated which is believed to be carriers of monopolies (Jewish businessmen, trade unions, etc.)

“Are there cannibals among you, gentlemen?’ — “No, sir, we ate the last one yesterday.” The paradox of the joke I quoted above is dead se­rious: in order to eradicate monopoly, the fascist and national socialist totali­tarian state made itself the possessor of an unprecedented power monopoly.

The determination of the totalitarian state to shape human raw material failed in the case of fascist, national-socialist totalitarian states not be­cau­se the technology of processing has been morally abject but because of the abo­ve logical absurdities as a result of which the system itself undermined its existence.

In this regard, completely different was the Bolshevik-type society. This difference is not the one that the dominant ideologies of both types of totalitarian state kept in evidence as something exaggerated to cosmic proportions (which shows another facet of their similarities).

The boundaries of differing were determined by the fundamental similarity that both types of totalitarian state were organized by extending the successful technology of processing industry from things to persons, while again both used that double heritage of the world war: soldiers produced from civilians and the know-how of such a processing.

What does differentiate the Bolshevik-type society within these boundaries is that here the human processing technology, when applied to make ambiguous relations unambiguous, is practiced in the interest of planning, in or­der to protect it from the competition and guarantee the undis­tur­bed monopoly of the planning authorities.

The human processing technology has in any case a paradoxical effect turning intentions upside down. But


a fascist-type state in order to get the market
with the competition eradicates competition
protected from monopoly creates monopoly



a Bolshevik type state in order to get the plan
from the competition eradicates competition

provided with the monopoly creates monopoly

By the first paradoxical connection the social structure that is to be built un­der­mines itself, while by the second paradoxical connection it establishes itself. The difference between the two kinds of paradoxical social structure is especially important to keep in evidence in or­der to see why the fascist-type totalitarian states collapsed after the world war while the Bolshevik-type totalitarian societies began to expand. One can­not simply attribute this to the historical eventuality of the fortune of war.

Conveyor-belt to produce relations

If the above argumentation is true and the totalitarian states really turned upside down because the logic of processing industry, which was developed for handling things' attributes had been applied by them to persons' relations, then a social psychological feature of the basic organization of the Bolshevik-type society requires special attention.

In the preceding we have seen the difference between the group-orga­nizing effect of people's attributes and that of relations: how bald-heads and people with a fine crop of hair identify themselves and each other, and how people in majority versus those in minority do so. Now, the Soviet-type societies retrace their existence to a social group whose his­tory began by marking themselves off from the opponent group not in terms of an attribute but by evoking that relation according to which this group once happened to be in majority; that is, in their native Russian: Bol­she­vik. The members of the group went on identifying themselves by this name later as well. They were Bolsheviks, that is, in majority even when their fraction happened to be in minority within the Russian socia­list de­mo­cratic Party; or later on when this fraction broke with the origi­nal par­ty where the Mensheviks, i.e., those in minority not only got the ma­jority but constituted the totality of the membership. And they called themselves by this name when after the revolution those “in majority” liquidated (first in terms of organization and later physically as well) those “in minority”.

This psycho-social peculiarity of the Bolshevik party would have de­ser­­ved marked attention because it constitutes a special case of a general cha­rac­teristic, namely that the Bolshevik-type parties referred themselves much more to relations' form then to attributes' substance. Thus, it was more important to have a disciplined unity among the rank-and-file of the party than was the program in relation to which that unity was es­tab­lished and maintained: the same indissoluble unity of disciplined mem­bers charac­terized the Bol­shevik-type parties when the program cal­led for a fight against social de­mocratic leaders; when somewhat later it rallied com­mu­nists together with so­cial democrats in a popular front against Hitler; when it urged a fight against Trotsky who was accu­sed of having entered in­to a secret pact with Hitler; when Stalin actually had en­tered into such a pact, so this motive was omitted from the mobilization a­gainst Trotsky; when the sole point of the program was mobilization a­gainst the Ger­mans, in alliance with the Anglo-Saxon states; and also when after the world war the mobilization exalted the fight against Anglo-Saxon imperialism.

It is a further well-known historical fact that Bolshevik-type parties stress not only their disciplined unity but also efficiently brandish the political weapon called "salami-tactic" against their enemies whom they can markedly divide into those who are willing and those who are unwilling to enter into a tactical union with the communists.

This intention to unite and divide is usually considered from a so­cio-tech­nical viewpoint, in terms of the advantage that a political organiza­tion gets nearer to the realization of its goals if it is united and its ene­mies are di­vided. In the case of the Bolshevik-type parties, however, a much dee­per ef­fect than the socio-technical is involved which is again me­dia­ted by rela­tions' paradox. Unlike attributes, relations can also be defi­ned by the way they are thought about by those involved in them: for in­stance, whe­ther people elaborate their similarities and differences in a similar or different way may reinforce (or weaken) the elaborated similarity or difference.

If a group is unified by claiming that they are marked by the relation of u­nity, this relation characterizes it at once to some extent. By contrast, when the consensus is reached about the group being divided, it is at once less divi­ded. Finally, if a group is divided by the question whether it is unified or divided, then the former opinion weakens and the latter strengthens its grounding by its mere emergence.

By elaborating their relations in this way, people define their social identity, and by means of these elaboration paradoxes, the defined social identity may either establish or undermine itself. Now,


a Bolshevik-type party mobilizes all the paradoxes of unity and di­vision in such a way that the social identity of its members turn out to be established and that of non-party-people undermined.

First, by over-emphasizing their unity, the members of such a party get more uni­fied indeed just because this over-emphasizing unifies them still mo­re: thus, the Bolshevik identity defined by this relation established itself.

Second, by applying the salami-tactic to the non-Bolshevik section of so­ciety, it achieves that those who are willing to enter into some alliance with the communists and those who are unwilling to deal with them at all shall over-emphasize their division; hence, they manifest their unity in this regard: the non-Bolshevik identity defined by this relation is undermined.

Third, the salami-tactic usually appears as an alliance policy of the mo­de­rate Bolsheviks inviting the moderate non-Bolsheviks to think (and act ac­cor­dingly) that the moderates inside and out­side the party are natural al­lies against the sectarians, extremists of both sides; meanwhile the party-mo­de­ra­tes watch joint­ly with the party-extremists over the strict dividing li­ne that separates the world inside from the world out­side the par­ty. Thus the di­vi­sion of the mode­rates by the question whe­ther they are united or di­vi­ded, es­tab­lishes the social identity defined by claims of Bolshe­viks to be di­vi­ded and undermines the one defined by non-Bolsheviks who insist on being united.[1]

If all paradoxes work to the benefit of the Bolshevik-type party by esta­blishing the chosen social identity of (the sincerely committed part of) its mem­bers and undermining the chosen social identity of the non-Bolshevik sec­tion of society, and if we consider that a person's social identity is nothing but his/her specifically elaborated social relations, then we can venture the statement that

the Bolshevik-type party is a factory for the large-scale production of relations.

This statement might probably sound queer. But anyone who ven­tu­res in­to a study of modern societies in terms of economic psychology will pro­­bab­ly have a feeling of queerness from the moment he has realized the con­nec­tion between the logic applied by a totalitarian state and the lo­gic of lar­ge-scale production in processing industry. This feeling will pro­ba­bly grow mo­re intense when during this intellectual adventure one can­not help con­clu­ding that the technology that is applied by the totalitarian sta­te ac­cor­ding to the logic shared by processing industry fails just because it can on­ly be used to mass-produce attributes and not to mass-produce re­lations. But now we have just identified the conveyor-belt for the enlar­ged pro­duc­­tion of relations: as a useful product of the material processing in­dust­ry facilitates still more production of useful products, just the same way producing a division among people in respect whether they belong to a defi­ni­te organization or not facilitates the production of still more divi­sion in this respect while producing the unity of the members of this organization facilitates the production of still more unity of people in the organization.

For the Bolshevik-type organizations being a device of an enlarged reproduction of relations we may find a further argument in another odd feature of theirs:

the pattern of unity and division that was demonstrated in the relation between party-members and non-party members is reproduced within the party, in the relation between the Centre and the Membership.

The Center is unified: it makes its decisions with an unanimous vote and never by a simple or qualified majority; at the same time, the mem­ber­ship is organizationally divided into primary units, which can only keep in con­tact through the center, since getting in touch directly constitutes the ca­pi­tal offense of factionalism. The pattern is further reproduced within the Cen­ter: its unified kernel is separated from its institutionally divided membership.[2]

In general, this aspiration for unity and division within the party and its central structures is also considered from a socio-technical as­pect, in terms of the gain obtained because the more unified a group with­in an organi­za­tion is and the more it can divide its potential rivals, the ea­sier it is for it to acqui­re and retain power. There is, however, a deeper than so­cio-tech­ni­cal ef­fect at work here in the case of Bolshevik-type parties. The same ef­fect is de­monstrable here as the one whose paradox affecting so­cial identi­ty was seen earlier in the discussion of the relation between par­ty-members and non-party members: those in the Center will be even mo­re unified by uni­form­ly preserving their unity, while the Membership preserves their uni­ty by being actively unified in watching over their... being divided.

The complicity of the victim suggesting that the victim took part with the most active agreement, for instance, in dividing its own ranks, was one of the fun­damental determinants of the Bolshevik-type structure. In order to un­der­stand it, we should first clarify the question what lent so much significan­ce to the unity of the center and the division of the periphery in Bolshevik-type parties.

As has been seen, it is obviously useful for any political organiza­tion to be unified and to divide its rivals. But an organization that has emer­ged along the substance of some attribute will not make this a mat­ter of prima­ry importance. Some sort of unity is ensured within the orga­ni­zation by the fact that its members are, for instance, all workers, and this immediately se­parates it from the outsiders who are not. If we are wor­kers while they are not, they may be as united in a party of theirs as we are without being the same workers as we are, and this relation would not change even if within our party we happen to be divided by fractions.

Now, for the Marxian conception of socialism the most important was the thesis according to which the universal human values of socialism we­re claimed to be represented by the particular class interests of the prole­ta­riat, whereby the socialist parties, including the Bolshevik-type ones, we­re founded as workers' parties. Marxist parties, however, did not conceive of worker quality as a sociological attribute. What made it important for them was the relation in which the assumed historical happening of the whole of society was represented by the activity of its distinguished part. The same relation was then reproduced by the Bolshevik doctrine of the vanguard, which claimed that the happenings of the whole proletariat were to be represented by the activity of its distinguished part, namely the party equipped with the weapon of scientific theory. Likewise, the same relation applies to the party as a whole and a distinguished part of it, the latter comprising the professional revolutionaries of the Leninian old guard at first and the professional party activists of the Stalinian apparatus later.

While the form of the relation attributed to the proletariat thus pro­ved to be transferable to newer and newer substances, one thing became mo­re and more obvious about the substance itself that was constituted by the sociological attribute of the working class. It was what in an essay of his no­vel Semprun, referring to Marx' idea that “there exists a universal class, which means the elimination of all kinds of classes, which can only liberate itself by liberating all the classes of society”, declared: “the main conclusion of at least the century that separates us from Marx is that this class is not the proletariat”. Supposedly, this issue

made Bolshevik-type parties under-interested in the attribu­tes' substance and over-interested in the relations' form as regards various sociological entities

We have seen above (cf. pp. 3-4 and pp. 6-7) the peculiarities of social or­ganizations that emerge along relations and not attributes. Now, one of the­se peculiarities implies that such an organization cannot refer the rela­tion of, for instance, unity and division or separation, to any attribute (e.g., to that of being versus not being a worker) but to the relation itself. Conse­quent­ly, such an organization has no possibility to tolerate (as proposed above) ei­ther our division or others' unity, because the only relevant quality uni­ting us and separating us from them is that we are united while they are divided.

Returning now to that struc­ture of Bolshevik-type societies (con­struc­­ted like Matrioshka-dolls) in each of whose circles there is distingui­shed a mo­re inner circle (the working class within society, the party with­in the wor­king class, the Center within the party, the nucleus of the Cen­ter within it — within the central committee the political committee, the organizing com­mit­tee, the secretariat, etc. and, finally, at the core of the Cen­ter, al­most as a matter of course, there is the Leader) it can be stated that every in­ner circle has power over the corresponding outer circle. And it can also be es­tablished that this power is taken over from it by the next circle to­wards the center. That is how in a “dictatorship of the proletariat”, the po­wer of the working class over society is exercised by the party; the “lea­ding ro­le of the party” is exercised by the Center; and within a sys­tem of “demo­cratic centralism” the power of the Center is finally exercised by the Leader.

Yet the most peculiar psychosocial feature to be noticed in a Bol­she­­vik-ty­pe social struc­ture is the complicity of the victim. Each circle takes a vo­lun­ta­ry and active part in subjecting themselves to the power of the in­­ner­more circle, no matter how great a role the coercion plays, either in its Sta­linian version (which threatened one's life directly) or the post-Stali­nian one (which solely eliminated a varying number of conditions of li­ving). The in­ner circle not only surrenders the power that is taken from it by an inner­more cir­cle but it actively hands over this power to this more central circle.

Precisely, it is because the condition of its power is this active handing over. What may explain this paradoxical condition is the above discussed formu­la, which has it that it is not the substance of some social attribute that distinguishes a position of power from positions without power in any of the circles.

There is a long past to the practice of social scientists, politologists, Krem­linologists and journalists trying to pry open the secret of power in Bol­shevik-type societies by searching for the sociological attribute that ac­coun­ted for the similarity of the incumbent of power — the members of the new class — and for their difference from those whom they exercised the power over. The discovery that in a “dictatorship of the proletariat” it is not at all the proletarians who have the power was as shocking for the first ge­ne­rations of revolutionaries as it became a commonplace later. Neither can the other assumptions ó whether power was possessed by the office-hol­ders[3] or managers, by those whom the army or the security organs obey, by those who had the capital or who knew the Doctrine, by those who could put to good use the mass media, who were granted a diploma or who had a past in the workers' movement[4] — bring one closer to the secret.

In a Bolshevik-type society the critical attribute we are looking for does not exist. The only criterion also for a power position is defined in terms of relations:

a power position is that which is characterized by unity — as opposed to the powerless position of those divided.

Anyone that hands over his power to the more central circle mani­fests that he has joined the side of unity. The side of power, that is. That ex­plains the extraordinary discipline that is typical of all circles of power. Tho­se ex­pel­led from a circle hardly ever protest or argue against their expulsion: they do not set up the “true” Politburo, the “true” central commit­tee, the “true” par­ty as opposed to the “false” or “treacherous” politburo, CC, or party. Should they do so, they would immediately reveal that they had aban­doned the position of unity for that of division. For the position of powerlessness,  that is.

Bolshevik-type self-discipline and the abstraction of perfect monopoly

Just as the optimum functioning of a market economy requires the relation of perfect competition of economic actors, the running of a planned economy requires the perfect monopoly of the planning authorities, this paper stated earlier (p. 4).

Without the above-analyzed unparalleled self-discipline through which a Bolshevik-type structure makes its victims accomplices[5] the exter­nal dis­cip­linary practice would never have been able to bring society closer to the abstraction of perfect monopoly even if it had used more cruel means than ever in former centuries before. In every other system, in order to sup­­press the outer circles, the innermost circle monopolizing power must re­sort to apparatuses of violence in intermediate circles, which, having ex­pe­rienced their efficiency in mediating the central will, may at any mo­ment pit their own will against the former, in competition for social influence.

Self-discipline that could be forged in the Bolshevik workshop of per­fect monopoly had a serious condition. In order that an outer circle should re­sign from power in a disciplined manner to the benefit of an innermore cir­cle, it is required that when it manifests its belonging to the position of uni­ty and not to that of division, this position should indeed be that of po­wer. What makes this possible is a construction in which not only the inner circles within the party reproduce the structural pattern of the Bolshevik-type party as was said above, but the structure continues towards the periphery as well: the outermost circle must have the possibility to surround itself with formations outside it that must be divided as related to it, and over which it can exercise power as the carrier of unity. That is how the Soviet-Russian state, which contained the Bolshevik party and the outer circle of the non-party-society, surrounded itself with an outermore circle of the other federated republics that could only get in touch with each other by way of Russia, through the state and party organs residing in the capital (“the everlasting alliance of independent republics rallied for ever by the great Russia”, as has been sung in the Soviet national anthem).

Then the Soviet Union found the chance to surround itself with the state formations of “people's democracies”, compared to whose division the Soviet Union as a whole represented the unity.

And then followed another attempt, which had it succeeded would ha­ve shown the entire “socialist camp” as the carrier of the form of uni­ty, sur­roun­ded by the colonies liberated in the 1950-1960s, by, in gene­ral, the countries of the third world, which would have been the outer­most cir­cle at the time, constituting new substance for the form of divi­sion. The ex­tension of the outer circle around the “socialist camp” was of pa­ramount im­portance for the structure, because this would have ensured that the “camp” should feature as the subject of power in its entirety. This would ha­ve reinforced its readiness to stay in the position of unity by delegating po­wer with the Martrioshka method, which would have pro­du­ced a social struc­ture approximating the abstraction of perfect monopoly, as we saw above.

It is a common practice that military expenditures are regarded eco­no­mic only inasmuch as they imply that they drain resources[6] from areas whe­re their utilization would have been productive, whereas their military use, the analysts point out, is unproductive. The importance of such analyses for social criticism cannot be stressed enough. However, they are inaccurate in their analytic description of connections. They ignore the implication by which those expenses are indeed productive. Whether the Bolshevik party lea­der­ship uses them to give economic or military aid to certain components of the outer circle, or it uses them to arm the factors of the inner circles, or again, it actually deploys these means at a certain point of the outer circle which (e.g., Afghanistan) is reluctant to add to the unity of an innermore cir­cle by accepting the division of its outer circle — these expenditures cons­ti­tute the production costs of the analyzed structure at each point of its extension.

That is, the costs of production of the human resources shaped also in its relations.

The Bolshevik-type system collapsed finally in this quality, namely, as a device producing human resources.

One of the ultimate causes of its collapse was clearly economic: undoubtedly this structure produced human resources, but at such high costs that Adam Smith's statement claiming that the human resource “can be regarded from the same viewpoint as a machine (...) which facilitates and shortens work and which, through causing some cost, recovers this cost with profit,” turned out to be no longer valid here.

Another sharp-featured cause of the collapse was psycho-economic in that sense, referred to the paradox of relations, which has been demonstrated by the present paper.

The coexistence of monopoly and competition is itself a competition; it was argued above (p. 5). And it was also stated that the optimum condition for a market economy is perfect competition, while for a planned economy it is perfect monopoly.

A competition is perfect when none of the participants has predominance over the rest since this predominance might ensure its monopoly. As is known, this condition of the equality of involved factors has never existed in its pure form in the capitalist market, so the functioning of the market was ensured by a competition that came close to the perfect state for a shorter or longer time at most.

After these precedents came the Bolshevik-type system, which went on building out its above-outlined system with increasing success. Increasing suc­cess in this system did not mean approximating more and more closely the abs­traction of perfect monopoly, but more and more extending the system that was characterized, from the very beginning, by perfect monopoly in its ideal purity.

While this extension remained within a system (that of the Bol­shevik Party, then of Soviet-Russia, of the Soviet Union, of the “socialist camp”) that could isolate itself, it made irresistible progress while outside the more and more hermetically closed borders of this system an imperfect competition kept the market running somehow or other.

When the extension reached the point at which the Bolshevik-type sys­tem built as Matrioshka dolls tried to construct its outermost circle from the products of the decomposition of colonies, this circle of the system could no lon­ger be isolated from the other system to which these count­ries used to be­long formerly. This triggered off a competition between the two sys­tems, which however did not fit in with earlier forms of the cold war: that si­de that had just released these areas seized earlier by force of arms, could not arou­se suspicion by being ready to recapture them by force, and nei­ther could the other side suggest that it was willing to occupy them by force of arms.

Thus the competition between the systems became an economic ri­val­ry. Since at that time the two systems represented equal weight, their ri­valry ac­tually proved to be the first perfect competition in the history of the market.

Thus, determined to further bolster the structure of perfect monopoly, the Bolshevik-type system ensured perfect competition for capitalism, the condition that could manifest all the advantages of a market over a planned economy, which proved to be increasingly misfunctional because of the constraint on the perfectness of monopoly.

That sealed the fate of the Bolshevik-type system.


As a consequence, one can more and more often read that today the fate of the world is no longer decided by the rivalry of two superpowers but by the exclusive goodwill of a single superpower.

If it is really so, that will be the end of that competition and the start of a new monopoly.

And, hence, the start of a new paradox, too.



Bródy, A., 1990: Valóság, 33:6. 30-37 (in Hungarian)

Garai, L., 1986: Social Identity: Cognitive Dissonance or Paradoxe? New Ideas in Psychology. 4:3. 311-322.

Kornai, J., 1992: The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism (Princeton University Press)

Moscovici S., 1976: Social influence and social change. Academic Press. London.

Schumpeter, J., 1922: The instability of capitalism. In: Rosenbert, N. (ed.): The economics of technological change. N. Y., 1971.

Voslensky, 1980: La Nomenklatura. “Le livre de poche”, 5672. Pierre Belfond.

Weber, M., 1964: Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. I. Kiepenhauer und Witsch, Köln-Berlin.

Author's texts related to the topic and available in non-Hungarian

1973: Strength and Weakness of Psychological Science. International Social Scien­ce Journal. 25. 447-460. (French version: La puissance et l'impuissance de la science psychologique. Revue Interna­tionale des Sciences Sociales. 25. 491-504.)

1977: Conflict and the Economic Paradigm. Dialectics and Humanism. 2. 47-58.

1984: Toward a psychoeconomic theory of social identity [in French]. Recherches Sociologiques. 313-335.

1987: Determining economic activity in a post-capitalist system. Journal of Economic Psychology. 8. 77-90.)

1988: Why bureaucratic control over economy is not that rational? Paper presented to the 13th Annual Colloquium of IAREP [International Association for Research in Economic Psychology], Louvain. (Published in Hungarian)

1991a: About the political system's shift in Hungary: Considerations of a social psychologist [in Russian]. Vengersky Meridian. 1. 69-79.

1991b: The Bureaucratic State Governed by an Illegal Movement: Soviet-Type socie­ties and Bolshevik-Type Parties. Political Psychology. 10:1. 165-179.

1993: The Bolshevik type psycho-economic system [in Russian]. Polis.1. 72-76.)


[1] Taking this psychosocial relationship into account is equally important for understanding why the bolshevik-type organization resisted with an apparently immovable stability to all the sharp turns of history, and why it had been in a snap reduced to powder by the emergence of the Gorbachev phenomenon. This latter made it a legitimate communist attitude to consider as more important a question whether someone is moderate than is the question whether he is a communist. This change in the viewpoint of moderate communists was supplemented by that of the moderately non-communists who, for some time, considered it to be more important whether one was a communist or not than whether he was a moderate in his position.

Following this change of viewpoints the paradoxical self-establishing and self-un­dermining effects of identity do not cease to exist but mutually change sides. The more vi­gorously the moderate communists emphasize that they have nothing in common with the extremist communists, the more markedly they have in common with them precisely this reciprocal definition of their social identity. And the more they insist that nothing sepa­ra­tes them from non-communist moderates, the more markedly they are at once se­pa­rated from them, let alone by this separate definition. Now the self-defined social i­den­tity of comunists, and especially of those among them who are moderates turns out to undermine itself.

Meanwhile the self-defined social identity of non-communist moderates establishes itself, when by claiming their separation from moderate communists they do install this separation. If on this non-communist side the moderates and extremists were united not in preserving their division, we would already have the complete bolshevik structure reversed.

[2] It is illuminating to quote at this juncture an offence committed by Yeltsin still as a party functionary. When he was the first secretary of the party committee of Mos­cow, he addressed the plenary meeting of the Central Committee as a substitute mem­ber of the Politburo without previously putting forward his comments, which we­re high­ly critical of certain Politburo members obstructing the perestroyka and their organi­za­tional possibilities, to the Politburo meeting. At the time it meant that dis­rupting the unity of the Politburo he divulged the secret of the PB to non-PB mem­bers, whereby he violated the same structure as any member of a bolshevik-type par­ty who, disrup­ting the unity of the party, divulged the party secret to non-party peo­ple. According­ly, Yeltsin's act was a similar capital offence in the bolshevik-type structure.

[3] In his book about the true ruling class of a Soviet-type system, the Nomencla­tu­ra, Voslensky (1980) writes: “Although in socialist countries there is officially no cor­po­rtion of the functionaries, the Nomenclatura would be satisfied to see an outside ob­sever regard it what it is not. It carefully disguises itself as an administrative ap­pa­ra­tus, and is ready to declare that it agrees with interpretations like that; the point is that its true class character should never be openly revealed. In actual fact, a body of func­tio­na­ries and the Nomenclatura share nothing in common. The functionaries per­form the in­struc­tions of the authorities, while the Nomenclatura gives the instruc­tions: the reso­lu­tions, recommendations and advice by leading party or­gans. Functio­na­ries are the pri­vi­le­ged servants of the state — the nomenclaturists are the masters of the state.” (p. 132)

[4] If we supposed, according to this list, that we would find more office-holders, or more of those whom the army or the security organs obey, or who know the Doctri­ne, or who have a past in the workers' movement etc. in the party than outside it, and mo­re in the central organs of the party than in its primary units, generally speaking, if we had the assumption that any of the presumably critical sociological properties ap­peared in greater density in the central organizations of a Soviet-type structure than on the correlated periphery, then the following should be realized: not the car­riers of these properties get to the central places of a Soviet-type structure; rather, a place close to the centre inclines its incumbent to carry such properties. It is sufficient to recall how the Leader appointed to the most central post of such a structure is attributed in this system by the medium of his charisma all the attributes listed above.

[5] Right down to those sentenced to death upon trumped-up charges, who confessed to treason against the party just to prove their loyalty to it.

[6] As for Hungary, Andras Brody estimates the cost of military spendings (for 1980) at a minimum 25% of the GNP as against the officially stated 2.5%, pointing out that it might as well be as high as 45% (Valós≥ág, 1990, 33:6. 30-37 [in Hungarian]).