Ergebnisse & Perspektiven des Marxismus

Planning for Collective Living in the Early Soviet Union – Architecture As a Tool of Social Transformation

by Vladimir Zelinski

The following article was published in Women and Revolution (No. 11, Spring 1976), Journal of the Women’s Commission of the Spartacist League.

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“Despite all our emancipatory laws, woman remains now as before a domestic slave, since she is oppressed, suffocated, dulled, debased by the petty tasks of housework, which chain her to the kitchen and the nursery and cause her to dissipate her creative powers in downright barbarically unproductive, petty, unnerving, deadening, depressing labor. The true liberation of woman, true communism, will begin only where and when (under the leadership of the proletariat at the helm of the state) the mass struggle against these petty household tasks or, more correctly, their transformation en masse into large-scale socialist economy begins.”

— Lenin, “The Great Initiative” (1919)

The Bolshevik program for the full emancipation of women through the replacement of the oppressive family structure by alternative institutions for the socialization of domestic labor implied a radically new set of architectural priorities and tasks requiring a re-thinking of the fundamental premises of social architecture.

In its announcement of a competition for the design of a communal dwelling in 1926 the Moscow City Soviet explained:

“It is the duty of technological innovation, the duty of the architect, to place new demands on housing and to design in so far as possible a house that will transform the so-called family hearth from a boring, confining cell that at present burdens down women in particular into a place of pleasant and carefree relaxation.

“A new life demands new forms.

“The worker does not desire his mother, wife or sisters to be a nursery maid, washerwoman or cook with unlimited hours; he does not desire children to rob him and particularly their mother of the possibility of employing their free time for social labor, mental and physical pleasures….”

The abolition of the private ownership of the land, which had already been accomplished, pointed the way to a successful resolution of the problems posed for home design (as well as for city planning and the service sector) in carrying out the elimination of the household oppression of women.

Under capitalism, the city planner’s life is one of continual frustration as he tries, in vain, to reconcile the conflicting interests of dozens or hundreds of private property holders and land speculators who then require further appeasement in the form of tax concessions, rent subsidies, zoning variances and the like to ensure the profitability of the shoddy housing that they may (or may not) erect. The growth of cities (and their collapse) is in principle uncontrolled, and physical and aesthetic squalor the accepted norm.

One of the first acts of the new proletarian regime (14 December 1917) had been to forbid all speculation in land. In 1918 a series of laws expropriated without compensation the landed estates of the gentry as well as all city structures yielding an income above that set by the local authorities. Thus the Soviet city planner had (and in principle still has) to concern himself primarily with social values – the creation of a rationally organized, amenable urban environment on the basis of human needs.

But the country inherited by the new workers state was near total collapse. In World War I and the civil war that followed it, Russia had lost some 20 million people. The output of heavy industry was in 1920 only one seventh of what it had been in 1913; the transportation system was virtually non-functioning, while the social base with which to rebuild the country – a trained working class – had suffered extremely great losses in the civil war, since it was precisely the skilled workers who, as dedicated Bolsheviks, had volunteered for the Red Army being constructed by Trotsky. From 1917 to 1920 almost no new construction could be undertaken; the best that could be done was to redistribute to the workers the luxury apartments of the bourgeoisie in the major cities. But construction materials were in such short supply that even the existing housing could not be maintained, and foreign visitors were horrified at the deterioration of the country’s entire physical plant.

It was not until 1925 that the new workers state began, albeit only partially, to overcome the circumstances of its birth, so that the architecture of the '20’s divides naturally into two parts: 1920–25, a period which saw the creation of some brilliant designs but in which next to nothing was actually built; and 1925–31, when the new architects were able to commence the reconstruction of the nation’s physical plant. Even so, it is estimated that no more than 10–12 communal houses were built in the entire country before Stalin’s rehabilitation of the nuclear family and “Soviet motherhood” put an end to this work.

In addition to material obstacles, these revolutionary architects, proponents of a functional modern architecture, had from about 1928 onward to contend increasingly with the turn-of-the-century eclecticism promoted by the emerging bureaucracy and its sycophants in the realm of the arts. While striking modern architecture was still being erected as late as 1931–32, this was on the basis of contracts awarded years before. The final death knell of innovative Soviet architectural design was sounded in 1932 when the bureaucracy awarded one of the surviving hacks of the old regime first prize in a competition for the symbolic structure of the country, the Palace of the Soviets. Only the intervention of World War II prevented this monument to Stalin’s megalomania from being visited on the people of Moscow.

Communal Dwellings

“Are we devoting enough attention to the germs of communism that already exist in this area [of the liberation of women]? No and again no. Public dining halls, creches, kindergartens – these are exemplary instances of these germs, these are those simple, everyday means, free of all bombast, grandiloquence and pompous solemnity, which, however, are truly such that they can liberate woman, truly such that they can decrease and do away with her inequality vis-à-vis man in regard to her role in social production and in public life. These means are not new, they have (like all the material prerequisites of socialism) been created by large-scale capitalism, but under capitalism they have firstly remained a rarity, secondly – and particularly important – they were either hucksterish enterprises, with all the bad sides of speculation, of profit-making, of deception, of falsification or else they were a ‘trapeze act’ of bourgeois charity, rightly hated and disdained by the best workers.”

— Lenin, “The Great Initiative”

The communal dwellings of the '20’s constituted an initial effort to translate Lenin’s demands into reality. Early Soviet planners envisioned the individual dwelling area as a place to which residents would resort mainly for sleeping, reading or the like. Typically, these “cabins” were minuscule, with only 6–9 squaremeters floor space per person – a qualitative improvement nevertheless over the 3–4 square meters (about 6´ by 7´) per person that were average for apartments shared by two or more families in major Russian cities in the 1930’s. Apart from this, the architects deliberately designed small apartments to render sharing impossible.

Like the workers clubs, the communes of the '20’s were conceived as the social matrix for the new society, a culture medium out of which new social attitudes would arise by virtue of the physical and organizational shaping given to everyday life by the new architecture. It is this which, as Lenin noted, fundamentally distinguished them from seemingly similar projects in the West where there was no notion of using architecture as a means to the social transformation of man. As the Russian artist and architect El Lissitzky said: “The basic elements of our architecture belong to the social revolution and not the technological one.”

And new social attitudes did arise in the new housing units, particularly among women, who benefited from them the most. While the long waiting lists for admittance to the communes reflected less a conviction that they represented a higher form of social interaction than a desire for the facilities with which they were equipped – electricity, heat and running water – most women, delighted to be relieved of the brunt of household drudgery, soon concluded that private family life was intolerable. According to People’s Commissar for Social Welfare Aleksandra Kollontai:

“… where previously the women were particularly anxious to have a household of their own, … today, on the contrary, it is the husband who suggests that it would not be a bad idea to take a flat, have dinner at home and the wife always about – while the women, especially the growing numbers of women workers who are being drawn into the Republic’s creative activities, will not even hear of a ‘household of one’s own.’ ‘Better to separate than to agree to a family life with a household and the petty family worries; now I am free to work for the Revolution, but then – then I would be fettered. No, separation would be preferable.’ And the husbands have to make the best of it.”

— Aleksandra Kollontai, Women’s Labor in Economic Development

The architects of the time were characteristically uncompromising in their social goals. Typical of the clarity with which these goals were translated into structural realities is the exceptionally elegant 1929 design by Barshch and Vladimirov for a communal dwelling for 1,000 adults and 680 children. Housing was by age group, with a ten-story main building for adults and, perpendicular to it, a six-story wing for the younger children and a five-story one for those of school age.

In the main building, the first four floors were planned as a communal area containing a vestibule, dining hall, club and recreation rooms, while the remaining six stories were devoted to small, two-person sleeping rooms. Clearly the architects’ desire was to create an environment in which nearly all activity but sleep would be social.

As for the children, the ground floor of the building for pre-schoolers was occupied by the entry and reception rooms, while the upper stories held 12 rooms for 30 children each. Adjacent to this building was one with a large, airy veranda. The building for school children falls into two parts: in the first two stories were the entry and workshops; in the upper three the classrooms and accessory rooms. Each dormitory was designed to hold 28 students and each of the eight classrooms 40.

In occupying only ten percent of the land on which it was to be erected and in resting on columns, thus elevated from the ground which it would occupy, this design has a lightness and airiness characteristic of much Russian revolutionary architecture.

Barshch and Vladimirov’s design is a consistent realization of the ideals animating revolutionary architects regarding the replacement of the nuclear family by new ties of comradeship in a radical transformation of everyday life. In his book Sotsialisticheskie Goroda (Socialist Cities), written in 1930, L. Sabsovich asserted:

“This socialist reconstruction of the way of life must be begun at once and be carried out for all working people, both in the cities and the countryside, in the course of the next five to eight years…. Every sort of transitional form is the expression of a completely unjustifiable opportunism…. There should be no rooms in which man and wife can live together…. The rooms will be used mainly for sleeping, individual recuperation and, in a few instances, individual occupations.”

In a roughly contemporary article in Sovremennaya Arkhitektura Sabsovich defined more clearly his view of the communist way of life:

“When life is organized on a socialist basis each worker may be regarded as a potential ‘bachelor’ or as a potential ‘husband’ or ‘wife,’ to the extent that today’s bachelor may be tomorrow’s husband and today’s couple may tomorrow be separated. [Sabsovich envisaged “divorce” as being effected by a simple locking of the connecting door between two adjoining rooms.] At present many couples are living together unwillingly, compelled to do so, firstly, by the housing problem and also by the necessity of bringing up their children, even though the bond between them may be broken…. When life is organized on a socialist basis, when the everyday necessities are being supplied by the state and the children are being collectively brought up, then these constraints will gradually disappear.”

The architect V. Kuzmin, one of the leading proponents of collective housing, was even more categorical in his condemnation of the nuclear family:

“The proletariat must at once set about the destruction of the family as an organ of oppression and exploitation. In the communal dwelling the family will, in my view, be a purely comradely, physiologically necessary and historically inevitable association between the working man and the working woman.”

— V. Kuzmin, O rabochem zhilishchnom stroitel’stve (On Building Working-Class Dwellings), Sovremennaya Arkhitektura No. 3, 1928

Just how strongly entrenched the Bolshevik program was in the minds of party members is revealed by the fact that as late as 1930 Yuri Larin, in a speech before the Communist Academy, called for the elimination of individual kitchens in new apartment buildings, referring to the party’s stated aim of feeding 50 percent of the population in communal restaurants. He also called for the construction of communal dwellings with attached nurseries, pointing out that in Moscow there were child-care facilities for only 50 children per 1,000 women – i.e., 1,000 potential workers – and noted the bad effect which the intolerable overcrowding was having on productivity.

Nonetheless it was inevitable that such extreme proposals should arouse opposition, and various attempts at compromise were made. Realizing that the economic backwardness of the country precluded, for the time at least, providing a conventional bourgeois apartment for every family and that those which were being built were in fact being allotted to groups of families, revolutionary architects attempted to find a solution that would both solve the housing problem and further communist consciousness.

It was soon realized that simple miniaturization of the traditional bourgeois apartment was no solution, since apartments with a living area of roughly 50 square meters were less costly to build than miniaturized versions or one-room apartments with the same bath and kitchen. Moreover, the rents of large private apartments would have placed them out of the reach of all but a few highly paid specialists, with the consequence that they would have ended up occupied not by one family but by three or four, “thus creating not the framework for a new way of life but an intolerable existence for 60 percent of the population” (report of the Construction Committee of the R.F.S.R. – or “Stroikom” – 1928).

In 1928 Stroikom set up a research and design section for the standardization of housing under the direction of Moses Ginzburg, chief editor of Sovremennaya Arkhitektura, the leading journal of Soviet architecture. After three months of labor, Stroikom reported that:

“Despite the extreme tightness of state funds, the provision of housing for millions of workers confronts us as one of our chief tasks.

“… the new types of housing must free as much as possible of the workers’ time and energy for social and cultural activities, provide suitable means of relaxation, and facilitate the transition from individual housing to more collective forms.”

Explaining the aims of the committee, Ginzburg added:

“We consider that one of the important points that must be taken into account in building new apartments is the dialectics of human development. We can no longer compel the occupants of a particular building to live collectively, as we have attempted to do in the past, generally with negative results. We must provide for the possibility of a gradual, natural transition to communal utilization in a number of different areas. That is why we have tried to keep each unit isolated from the next, that is why we found it necessary to design the kitchen alcove as a standard element of minimum size that could be removed bodily from the apartment to permit the introduction of canteen catering at any given moment. We considered it absolutely necessary to incorporate certain features that would stimulate the transition to a socially superior mode of life, stimulate but not dictate….”

“Proletarian Culture”

One of the accusations regularly raised against the radical modernism of avantgarde Soviet architecture was its supposed absence of ties with the masses. These sleek designs, adherents of the emerging bureaucracy charged, had nothing in common with the new proletarian society, and were instead merely a slavish imitation of bourgeois fashions in the West.

The questions raised by such accusations are important. What should be the relationship between the artistic/literary intelligentsia and the proletariat? What sort of creative currents should the party promote? The answers provided by Lenin, Trotsky, Lunacharsky and Bukharin were utterly unambigous: all were united in asserting the duty of the party to intervene against openly counterrevolutionary currents in art and literature while otherwise insisting on a hands-off policy in the cultural sphere.

Lenin’s own tastes in art were rather conservative; he felt little personal sympathy for the radical modernism that came into vogue in Russia after the October Revolution, and it was probably he who approved the choice of a neo-classical entry colonnade in rudimentary Doric style (by ex-bourgeois and later Stalinist hacks Shchuko and Helfreich) as an entry to the Smolny Institute, where he had met the Revolutionary Military Committee that directed the October uprising.

However, this is his sole reported intervention into artistic decision-making; otherwise he assumed a position of benevolent neutrality, speaking out publicly only when some architectural claque attempted to arrogate to itself exclusive artistic rights to “proletarian” or “revolutionary” art in the young workers state. Similarly, Anatoli Luncharsky, People’s Commissar of Art and Education, polemicized vigorously against artistic and literary movements which he felt stood in basic contradiction to Marxism, but promoted full freedom of cultural debate.

Trotsky’s position on the role of the party in the cultural sphere was identical with Lenin’s. In his “Communist Policy Toward Art” Trotsky stated that, while the party must be irreconcilably opposed to overtly counterrevolutionary art, its tasks were essentially:

“to help the most progressive tendencies by a critical illumination of the road, but it does not do more than that. Art must make its own way and by its own means. The Marxian methods are not the same as the artistic. The party leads the proletariat but not the historic processes of history. There are domains in which the party leads, directly and imperatively. There are domains in which it only cooperates. There are, finally, domains in which it only orients itself. The domain of art is not one in which the party is called upon to command. It can and must protect and help it, but it can only lead it indirectly….”

Trotsky, indeed, explicitly rejected the notion of “proletarian art” – first of all, because of the proletariat’s real cultural deprivation at the time of the seizure of state power:

“The proletariat is forced to take power before it has appropriated the fundamental elements of bourgeois culture; it is forced to overthrow bourgeois society by revolutionary violence for the very reason that that society does not allow it access to culture.”

— Trotsky, “What is Proletarian Culture and is it Possible?”

In addition, in the initial years of the proletarian regime (at least in backward Russia) the main tasks of the proletariat were necessarily the creation of the material conditions for general access to culture. “That is why a machine which automatically manufactures bottles is at the present time a first-rate factor in the cultural revolution,” said Trotsky, “while a heroic poem is a tenth-rate factor … it is good when poets sing of the revolution and the proletariat, but a powerful turbine sings even better.”

The very notion of a proletarian culture stands in contradiction to the basic tenets of Marxism:

“… there can be no question of a new culture, that is, of construction on a large historic scale during the period of dictatorship [of the proletariat]. The cultural reconstruction which will begin when the need of the iron clutch of a dictatorship unparalleled in history will have disappeared, will not have a class character. This seems to lead to the conclusion that there is no proletarian culture and that there never will be any and in fact there is no reason to regret this. The proletariat acquires power for the purpose of doing away with class culture and to make way for human culture. We frequently seem to forget this.”

— Trotsky, op. cit.

Trotsky also ridiculed the sort of simplistic reductionism which then, as now, sometimes passed for Marxist criticism. Referring to Raskolnikov, a spokesman for the Na Postu group, Trotsky said:

“In works of art he ignores that which makes them works of art. This was most vividly shown in his remarkable judgment on Dante’s The Divine Comedy, which in his opinion is valuable to us just because it enables us to understand the psychology of a certain class at a certain time. To put the matter that way means simply to strike out The Divine Comedy from the realm of art…. Dante was, of course, the product of a certain social milieu. But Dante was a genius. He raised the experience of his epoch to a tremendous artistic height … the Italian Marxist, old Antonio Labriola, wrote something like this: ‘only fools could try to interpret the text of The Divine Comedy as though it were made of the cloth that Florentine merchants provided for their customers’.”

— Trotsky, op. cit.

Thus Trotsky could assert that despite “the variations in feelings and states of mind in different classes … you won’t deny that Shakespeare and Byron somehow speak to your soul and mine.” And when the ignorantist Lebedinsky countered that, “They will soon stop speaking,” Trotsky replied that the works of Shakespeare, Byron and Pushkin would still be around “when people will stop seeking in Marx’s Capital for precepts for their practical activity and Capital will have become merely a historical document, together with the program of our party.”

Urbanists and Deurbanists

Russian society was in the 1920’s open to a degree inconceivable to citizens of the deformed and degenerated workers states today. Despite the ban on party factions, the old polemical traditions of Bolshevism were very much alive; so much so that the emerging bureaucracy required over a dozen years – from the death of Lenin to the Moscow trials – to definitively quash all overt political and intellectual opposition. In the meantime, bureaucratic control was asserted gradually and piecemeal throughout the country – first in the party, where the traditions of dissent ran strongest, then in the state apparatus and last in the field of culture, where the bureaucracy had first to achieve a conciousness reflecting its usurpatory role before it could begin to pursue its unequivocally regressive artistic policies.

As the Stalinist bureaucracy hardened, it gradually developed social cohesiveness and a world outlook corresponding to its balancing between imperialism and the proletarian property forms of October. For the revolutionary architects this meant that there was less and less chance of seeing their striking projects realized, as the bureaucracy increasingly favored an “impressive” academic eclecticism. Thus the terms of architectural debate were first deformed and then became increasingly unreal, as the revolutionary architects, faced with bureaucratic control over commissions, divided into urbanists and deurbanists. While the urbanists clung to the concept of the communal dwelling, to which they gave increasingly extreme and uncompromising forms, the deurbanists abandoned this synthesis in what essentially amounted to a loss of faith in the possibility of socialist reconstruction of the country’s existing physical plant, with consequent abandonment of the city in favor of a pastoral existence based of course on the latest technology – rural electrification, decentralized production and the like.

The chief theoretician of the deurbanists, M. Okhitovich, rejected the notion of the city and put forward the reactionary/utopian program (prior to the achievement of enormous leaps in technology and material superabundance; i.e., socialism) of a Russia dotted with individual dwellings – lightweight structures set in unspoiled natural surroundings. “No, let us be frank,” he said, “communal houses, those enormous, heavy, monumental, everlasting colossi, permanently encumbering the landscape, will not solve the problem of socialist resettlement.” Despite his avowed desire to introduce collective facilities into his housing, it is hard to see how this could have been done in circumstances of planned isolation, while the diffusion of the population would have militated against any but the lowest-level cultural facilities being accessible to the masses. In fact, Okhitovich’s scheme had social rather than architectural roots: an increasing desire to withdraw from the bureaucratically run workers state into individual isolation; to substitute a sylvan idyll for commitment to the socialist ideal.

A complementary plan called for the evacuation of Moscow and the resettlement of its population along highways radiating out from the former urban center. New construction in the capital was to be banned and the abandoned areas gradually landscaped until what was left was an irreducible administrative/cultural core plus a sort of historical museum of artificially preserved neighborhoods and monuments characteristic of the city’s past.

Needless to say, the extreme positions of the deurbanizers and the violent counterproposals of the hard-pressed collectivizing urbanizers were grist for the mill of the emerging bureaucracy and its coterie of architectural hangers-on, organized in an off-shoot of Proletkult, the Vopra (All-Russian Association of Proletarian Architects). As in other fields of creative endeavor, an appeal to supposed Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy served only to becloud the real issue: the conscious undoing of all the October Revolution had stood for.

It is important to realize that the dispute was not simply ideological, but had a material basis in the extreme backwardness and impoverishment of Russia in the 1920’s. The existing stock of housing was decaying at a frightening rate, as lack of material rendered it impossible to replace broken pipes, missing tiles and window panes. Even in 1931 the average dwelling space per person was around four square meters in Moscow: indeed housing space per person had steadily declined since the Revolution, despite the new building programs, which had barely dented the vast need. These conditions of material deprivation were, as Trotsky pointed out, one of the major causes for the rise of a parasitic bureaucracy; and the role of this emergent bureaucracy as adjudicator of the strife and allocator of what little privilege the new society could offer is as apparent in architecture and public housing as elsewhere.


The Stalinist architectural “program” for the early '30’s consisted of the following points:

  1. Reduce costs! The government simply decreed (1 March 1931) a reduction in building costs for new housing from an average of 170 to 104 rubles per square meter.

  2. Widely publicized campaigns for goals never seriously expected to be met. In 1931 the first major all-out drive to solve the housing problem was proclaimed “by decision of the Council of People’s Commissars and at the personal initiative of Cde. Stalin,” whereby 700,000 new dwellings were supposed to be erected for workers in the Donets and Kuznets Basins, the Urals and Karaganda before the year’s end. Of course, the country lacked the infrastructure to concentrate all its resources and trained personnel in a few regions, let alone to embark on so mammoth a construction program in the limited time allotted. For workers and functionaries on the spot, trying to cope with this bureaucratically induced chaos, the result was inevitably personal cynicism and disillusionment with the socialist ideals supposedly inspiring such projects.

  3. Under the slogan of “radical standardization,” the Stalinists instituted a return to “traditional Russian” modes of housing, i.e., the primitive wood log house of the peasant village, the very archetype of Russian backwardness. German architect Wilm Stein, writing from Moscow, described the abrupt turnabout in a 1931 article for Bauwelt:

    “Everywhere the drums are now being beaten for the ‘standard building’; the leap from the new revelation of ‘socialist cities’ to primitive little wood dwellings, for which plans and designs are being sent out in droves by the Office for Standardization, is being sweetened by the new advantages of the wooden house being discovered daily: ‘The standard houses do not require any scarce materials such as iron and cement’; ‘instead of 170 rubles per square meter in stone houses the square meter in wood houses costs only 80 rubles’; as further advantages of the standard wood house a savings in man hours for construction workers, the fact that engineers and technicians are not required, the short time of construction, the freeing of the rail system from the transport of building materials, etc., etc. are being mentioned.”

    Stein termed the decision to shift “from the socialist communal cities and their symphonies in steel, concrete and glass to simple peasant housing in wood” a “blow to communist theory”; this decision, he notes, “was made after a long dispute among the Communists – indeed, in the midst of this dispute – by a ukase of the Central Committee of the Party on 25 March [1931].”

  4. The communal dwelling and with it the socialization of household labor were abandoned as “utopian.” Thereby the full emancipation of women was deliberately postponed to an indefinite future (even as the Stalinist regime began to nibble away at women’s full legal equality with restrictions on abortion and divorce laws and with the glorification of “Soviet motherhood”). At the same time, ideological attacks were mounted on revolutionary architecture.

The pretentious, neo-classic facades erected from 1930 to 1950 were generally gigantic cover-ups – literally – of internal hollowness. Having catered to and promoted the backwardness of the working class, Stalin evidently felt compelled to buttress his authority and that of the usurpatory bureaucratic regime which he represented by resorting to the outward symbols of bourgeois power. Thus the airy lightness of early post-revolutionary architecture was replaced by a squat, oppressive style that seems a fitting tribute to the dead weight of the bureaucracy resting on the soil of “socialism in one country.”

Post-War Soviet Architecture

Even apart from the havoc wreaked by World War II, Soviet housing and city design would have presented a picture bleak and dreary in the extreme. While great advances were made in housing the mass of the population and repairing the damage caused by the imperialist war, the economy remained distorted by bureaucratic usurpation of workers democracy and by generalized want. The housing that was built was either of the most drab, dull barracks type or the pretentiously tricked-out spun-sugar kitsch that appealed to the petty-bourgeoisified administrative hierarchy.

After Stalin’s death, the bureaucracy as a whole realized that the current “socialist realist” style in architecture was making the Soviet Union a laughingstock throughout the world and promoting the notion of Russian backwardness, and a turn was carried out, announced by the results of the competition for the Hall of the Soviets inside the Kremlin walls – a structure that makes all the proper obeisances toward the same mid-20th-century steel and glass design which inspired New York’s Lincoln Center.

It is not by chance that, despite their obvious advantages and greater rationality, communes have not been erected in the more than 50 years since the Stalinist take-over in Russia. This is simply a reflection of the fact that the oppressive nuclear family can never be eliminated under the bureaucratic regimes of the deformed and degenerated workers states.

Nevertheless, present-day architectural planning and design constitute an exemplary instance of why Trotskyists couple unconditional defense of the gains of the October Revolution with a call for a political revolution that would preserve these gains while ousting the parasitic bureaucracy. Just what are these gains, then, in the field of architecture?

First, state ownership of the land, as the basis for rational city planning unhampered by the need to adjudicate the interests of hundreds of individual landholders (with whom under capitalism the “impartial” state administrators are bound by countless ties). Second, state ownership of the means of production and the planned economy, which make it possible to allocate resources on a nation-wide scale in accord with the needs of the population. While considering cost factors (as any society must do in deciding how to allocate its surplus in productive investment), Soviet planning is not based on profitability criteria but on the satisfaction of social needs on a rational, planned basis (despite the manifest and fundamental perversion of this system by the bureaucracy).

Leninism is still social dynamite, both in and outside the deformed workers states. It, and the fragility of the bureaucracy as a parasitic caste not rooted in the proletarian property forms it ineffectively defends account for the continued validity of Trotsky’s evaluation of the bureaucracy as a historically ephemeral phenomenon – as a caste, not a new class. A working class political revolution with the establishment of democratically elected soviets would, as in Hungary in 1956, bring about a swift dissolution of the bureaucracy, much of which – as the Hungarian example demonstrated – would probably go over to the side of the workers. While prophecies should in general be avoided, it seems safe to assert that as part of the overall activization of the hitherto atomized and passive population following the political revolution, communes embodying the ideals of a proletarian state governed by workers democracy would spring up, as was the case in the 1920’s, but starting from an infinitely superior material base. Here, too, the liberation of women will be part of and a consequence of the self-liberation of the working class.

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