Brezhnev on the Theory of Developed Socialism

Leonid Brezhnev, A Historic Stage on the Road to Communism. 1977


Soviet and East European ideologists put forth the notion in the 1970s that the Communist states had completed a definite stage along the Marxist road to the future, and now enjoyed the system of “developed socialism” or “real existing socialism” that distinguished them from the capitalist world, even though the transition to ideal communism lay much further ahead. Brezhnev affirmed this theme in 1977.

The main thing that life has given our people in the more than 40 years that have passed since the adoption of the previous Soviet Constitution is the building of a developed socialist society, the creation of the world’s first state of the whole people.

A developed socialist society is a natural stage in the socio-economic maturing of the new system in the framework of the first phase of the communist formation. This, to use Lenin’s words, is the full), established socialism from which the gradual transition to communism begins. This is precisely the stage in the development of socialism that has been achieved in our country.

When the Marxist-Leninist classics, lifting the curtain of time, charted the contours of socialism and communism they were extremely careful. Not a grain of Utopia. No flights of fantasy. Only what could be scientifically proved: the basic trends of development, the main, fundamental characteristics. Theoretically it was clear that the transition from capitalism to communism would embrace a long historical period, that the new society would rise from one stage of maturity to the next. But no one could tell in advance what concretely these stages would be. Engels wrote that the question of the stages of transition to communist society “is the most difficult of any that exist.”

  • Letter to Konrad Schmidt, Zurich, July, 1, 1891.

Lenin, the Communists of Russia were the first who had to answer that question. It is understandable that Lenin’s attention was focused mainly on the immediate tasks of that period, on creating the foundations of the new social system. But genius always anticipates its age. Already at the dawn of Soviet power Lenin spoke of “accomplished,” “full” and “developed” socialism as the perspective, the goal of the socialist construction that had been launched. It was these ideas of Lenin’s that formed the basis of the conception of developed socialist society evolved by the collective efforts of the CPSU and other fraternal parties.

The experience of the USSR, of other countries of the socialist community testifies to the fact that laying the foundations of socialism, that is, abolishing the exploiting classes and establishing public ownership of the means of production in all sectors of the national economy, does not yet make it possible to launch the direct transition to communism. Before this certain stages in the development of socialism on its own basis must be traversed. Moreover, practice has shown that the development, the perfecting of socialism is a task no less complex, no less responsible than the laying of its foundations.

It is self-evident that a mature socialist society must rest on highly developed productive forces, on a powerful, advanced industry, on a large-scale, highly mechanized agriculture built on collectivist principles. Such today is the Soviet economy which, both in scale and technical capability, differs fundamentally from what we had four decades ago, when socialist production relations had already prevailed in town and country.

In this period the gross social product increased 18-fold, the power-to-man ratio in industry nearly 8fold, and in agriculture more than 15-fold. Our economy today is inconceivable without nuclear power, electronics, computers, transistors and many other industries that in 1936 we did not possess. The share of the industries determining technological progress and economic efficiency in the total volume of industrial output has more than tripled.

In the initial stages of socialist construction Soviet people had to concentrate their resources and efforts on the most urgent tasks, on things that the very existence of our state depended on. Today, in the conditions of developed socialism, on the basis of the constant growth of the whole national economy, the combination of the scientific and technological revolution with the advantages of the socialist organization of society, it has been possible to achieve a perceptible swing of the economy toward ever fuller satisfaction of the people’s man), and diverse material and cultural requirements. In other words, the supreme goal of socialist production today is becoming directly central to the party’s practical policy. The historical advantages of socialism as a mode of production and way of life, its genuinely humane essence arc thus more full), and dramatically revealed …

Thanks to the convergence of the diverse forms of socialist property, the gradual obliteration of an), essential distinctions between town and country, between mental and physical labor, and adoption by all working people of the ideological and political positions of the working class, the interests and goals, the social ideals and psychology of all strata of the population have drawn closer together than ever before. On this basis substantial changes have also occurred in the political system. Essentially they consist in the growing of the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat into a socialist state of all the people.

Such are the objective processes that led our party to the conclusion that developed socialism has now been built in the USSR, that is to say, a degree, a stage in the maturing of the new society has been reached when the repatterning of the totality of social relations on the collectivist principles intrinsically inherent in socialism is completed. Full scope for the functioning of the laws of socialism, for the manifestation of its advantages in all spheres of social life, the organic integrity and dynamism of the social system, its political stability and indestructible intrinsic unity-such arc the major distinguishing features of the developed socialist society. It stands to reason that the principle of distribution according to labor still holds good even at this stage of the development of the new system, and will continue to do so for some time.

We proceed from the fact that cognition and use of all the opportunities offered by developed socialism are, simultaneously, transition to the building of communism. In other words, the dialectics of development are such that as the mature socialist society perfects itself it gradually grows into a communist society. It is impossible to divide these two processes, to draw a line between them.

We are profoundly convinced that no matter what the specific conditions in the countries building socialism may be, the stage of its perfection on its own basis, the stage of mature, developed socialism is an essential part of the social transformations, of the relatively long period of development on the road from capitalism to communism. It stands to reason that this necessity, this regularity will be embodied in their own way in the conditions of the various socialist countries.

Source: World Marxist Review. Vol. XX, No. 12 (1977), pp. 3-5, 7.

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