Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

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Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик
The Soviet Union

Map of the USSR
Flag of the Soviet Union Emblem of the Soviet Union
Flag State Emblem

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (acronym: USSR; or in Russian: СССР), and also known as the Soviet Union (SU), was a Marxist-Leninist state on the Eurasian continent that existed between 1922 and 1991. It was governed as a single-party state by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union with Moscow as its capital.


Russian Revolution[edit]

The RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) emerged out of the Russian revolution of 1917, with Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin as its first president. The new government created a constitution establishing itself as a Socialist republic.

Red vs. White Civil War[edit]

In 1918, following the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks, a civil war between the Bolsheviks (or "reds") and the remaining monarchists (the "whites"), along with various disgruntled social democrats and liberals such as their rival faction, the Mensheviks, tore apart the RSFSR. Despite support from the capitalist Western Powers, the whites were ultimately defeated in 1920.

During the war, the Bolsheviks invaded Ukraine, which was under the control of Ukrainian nationalists and Anarcho-communists led by Nestor Makhno. The anarchists made a treaty with the Bolsheviks in 1920, but the Bolsheviks refused to publicly acknowledge it, leading to the arrest of Nestor Makhno and his delegation upon confronting the Bolsheviks.

New Economic Policy[edit]

The New Economic Policy was part of what historian Brinton called the thermidor after the French Revolution's Thermidorian Reaction. It involved a variety of concessions to the backward strata of Soviet society, including the restoration of obstacles to divorce, laws against homosexuality, and the abolition of the age of consent laws [1]. Economically, it meant that industrial state owner enterprises gained autonomy in its policies while in rural areas individual private initiative and enterprise was allowed to dominate economic conduct.

In 1928 the NEP ended when Stalin implemented the first Five Year Plan. This became known as central planning or a command economy, which lasted until circa 1991 when the economy had reached a critical point in the crisis of the absolute over-accumulation of capital.

Political Economy of the Soviet Union[edit]

Wage Labour[edit]

In capitalist theories of the Soviet Union labour-power is considered a commodity in the Soviet Union, bought and sold on a labour-market.

Commodity Production[edit]

In capitalist theories of the Soviet Union, commodity production is regarded to have had a generalised character, with inputs and outputs being commodities. Labour-power was sold to and bought by individual state enterprises, the means of production were sold between individual enterprises, and outputs, capital and consumer goods, were likewise sold to a market of consumers.

Competition of Capitals[edit]

In capitalist theories of the Soviet Union there is some debate about the existence of the competition of capitals. Tony Cliff and Raya Dunayevskaya claim that the law of value operated nonetheless due to international trade. Paresh Chattopadhyay disagrees, arguing that the law of value couldn't exist under such conditions and maintains that enterprises were reciprocally independent and were 'competitive' in the Marxist sense by confronting each other through the exchange of commodities.

Accusations of imperialism[edit]

The USSR has been accused of imperialism by Left Communists, Trotskyists, and Hoxhaists.

Collapse and dissolution[edit]

Main article: Collapse of the USSR

Gorbachev introduced new reforms to both the economy and politics, which worsened the condition of the workers by increasing wealth inequality - though it never reached the same rate as it had in capitalist countries, e.g. the U.S. - as well as breadlines, and allowed more critical opinions to be voiced politically. But heads of newspapers were now in fact being replaced or pushed towards a more right-wing view by that same government, meaning such policies did not actually result in more discourse. Nonetheless it became a more and more accepted view to advocate for regulated or even free markets, which then led to the rising popularity of Yeltsin. He criticized the Soviet elite and advocated for market reforms, promising less waiting lines and a decrease in inequality. In April 1990 Yeltsin became the chairman of the Russian parliament. The direction the country was taking triggered a coup attempt in August 1991, but which failed as Yeltsin called for a strike against it. While according to a referendum from 1991 most people did not want a complete dissolution of the Soviet republics, this is exactly what happened until the end of 1991: Parts of the government were simply dismantled, the party lost it's power, and eventually republics started declaring independence - the union, in a sense, was falling apart.

After the Soviet Union essentially simply stopped existing, living standards decreased dramatically and to this day many former citizens of it regret it's fall, as many polls show - though the results sometimes strongly vary among some of the former republics.

Non-mode of production[edit]

Some Marxists provide an alternative theory of the nature of the political economy of the Soviet Union. The theory was first formulated by Hillel Ticktin.

See also[edit]


  1. Brinton, C. (1965). The Anatomy of Revolution, p. 225-226)