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Totalitarianism with Corporatism

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Similarly, the corporatist approach that began to form in relations between the state and certain institutional economic interests did not really infringe on the indivisibility of the regime’s political power. Soviet state-socialist corporatism did not form a political system or regime of its own, but was also a subsystem within a totalitarian regime. It was set up by the state and functioned under state control. 


In other words, socialist corporatism represented an interaction not between state and nonstate actors, but almost entirely within state structures themselves (“state-bureaucratic corporatism,” as some analysts call it). It gave access to economic decision making to more influential institutional interests, but it also made them answerable to central authorities for the implementation of decisions taken.

Under socialist corporatism conflicts of interests were ironed out and reined in by a single integrating force—the ideological and political decrees of the party. Under Stalin, these decrees were so absolute that the role of interests was almost negligible. Besides, interests simply did not have enough time to form. Stalin’s period was the time when the command-administrative system, designed to spearhead the “socialist onslaught,” took shape and existed in its “purest” form, almost undiluted by group activity.

The development of group interests accelerated significantly only after the dictator’s death. Gradually, the command-administrative system was transformed into a more complex setup, in which certain interest groups evolved into “partners” of the party-state. This process was already quite advanced under Khrushchev and strengthened under Brezhnev. During his occupancy the party, state, and economic bureaucracies came into their own: their ever-swelling structures became main repositories of power and privilege. Nevertheless, the role of the central party-state authorities as an integrating and directing force was not abrogated or reduced to that of a mere broker or mediator. The center may have stopped acting like a despot, it no longer suppressed and quashed all interests outright, but, at the same time, it retained its preeminent directing and guiding prerogatives.

The rise of socialist corporatism had certain positive consequences. It led to some relaxation of the regime’s extreme rigidity and inflexibility, helping it to respond better to changes in the economy and society. It engaged economic units of lower levels, including enterprises, in the process of accommodation and bargaining, giving rise to a “bureaucratic market” that prepared the soil for the true market, which began to take shape in the perestroika and post-perestroika period.

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