A senior Soviet economist and leader of the left wing of the Social Democratic Party, Galina Rakitskaya is also playing an important role in developing the movement for popular self-management in the USSR. She was interviewed in Moscow for Green Left Weekly by Jim Percy and Renfrey Clarke. In the first part of this interview, Rakitskaya describes the Social Democratic current in Soviet politics.
Can you tell us something about the Social Democratic Party, its origins and evolution?
In 1987 a discussion club was formed under the name "Perestroika". It met in the Central Institute of Mathematical Economics and operated under the slogan "Support for the policies of Gorbachev, support for perestroika".
Right from the beginning, the activists in this club were people of a Social Democratic frame of mind. The idea gradually emerged of forming a party. But first of all, we established the Social Democratic Association of the USSR.
Within this association, parties began to form — a Ukrainian, a Russian and an Azerbaijani party. An all-union Social Democratic Party was also formed, in May 1990. This body has a formal existence, but all the work is carried out on a republican basis.
Where did most of the members come from? Out of the Communist Party?
No. For the most part, they were members of what were termed "informal organisations". These were clubs, groups and organisations that arose from below. There were Communists among these people, but they were a minority.
What sort of activities do the party bodies carry out? Is it an activist party, or do the members engage mainly in discussion?
At first it was discussion, but now there is also action. There is a Social Democratic fraction in the Russian parliament. There are also Social Democratic deputies in the local soviets and in the city-wide soviets.
The party members in Moscow are oriented basically towards working with the commissions of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Republic. They carry out support work for the deputies, prepare draft legislation, organise meetings, agitate and prepare for new elections.
What's the spectrum of opinion within the party? What sort of people describe themselves as Social Democrats?
I'm the most left wing. There's no-one to the left of me. All the rest are further right. The truth is, most of the members of the party are very different from the Social Democrats they're supposed to be. As I understand it, the idea of Social Democracy is centred on the defence of the worker, of the hired worker in capitalist society. Our Soviet Social Democrats have taken up this idea, but with an original twist.
They're saying that if we're to defend the workers against capitalism, first of all we have to have capitalism! They can't think what to do if there's no private owner oppressing them. So the central point of their program is to restore private property, to resurrect the capitalist entrepreneur.
So the fundamental point of the platform of the Social Democrats is not the defence of the workers at all?
The Social Democratic Party has a provisional program, and there it's set out in black and white: there are two claimants to property. On the one hand, there are the members of the nomenklatura who are intent on becoming capitalists — the so-called bureaucratic bourgeoisie. And then there's the "middle class". Who are these people? It's obvious they aren't workers. The people the Social Democratic leaders have in mind here are the so-called civilised entrepreneurs, the cultured ones.
In order to defend the workers, the Social Democratic leaders maintain, it's necessary first of all to restore entrepreneurship, to support this "middle class". They say we don't need the bandits, the mafiosi — we need good capitalists. And with these, we will conclude agreements, we will enter into partnerships with them — all in order to defend the workers.
Our liberals take a different tack. According to them, the private capitalist is necessary, but there's no need to defend the worker. For the liberals, there are the strong and the weak — and so be it.
What are the perspectives of the left-wing Social Democrats?
We say that the people with the main right to property are the workers. Inside the Social Democratic Party, we're trying to establish a people's self-management faction, that is, a socialist faction.
There's another person in our party, Pavel Kudyukin, who is now trying to establish a Social Democratic Centre in the Social Democratic Party. The people to the right of Kudyukin are no longer Social Democrats, but they're still in the party.
It's a bizarre situation. In the Social Democratic Party, Kudyukin and the people around him want to establish a Social Democratic faction!
My own perspectives extend beyond the Social Democrats. I've now become a member of an initiative committee for the formation of a Party of People's Self-Management.