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"The Expropriators Are Expropriated"

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In a few months’ time control of the country passed into the hands of the deeply anticapitalist Bolsheviks. They immediately set about the task of laying down the foundations of a socialist economy. 


To Lenin and his followers this meant, first of all, the implementation of Marxist ideas of abolishing private ownership on the means of production and “socializing” private property. As a result, a socialist mode of production would be set up based on public ownership and a planned economy. Money-commodity relations would be replaced by the administrative distribution of commodities from a single center. The “socialization” of the means of production would be achieved through the “expropriation of the expropriators.” 

The Bolsheviks took these ideas from the founder of Marxism. The phrase “expropriation of the expropriators” itself belongs to Marx and provides an effective finale to the first volume of his Capital:


The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production which has flourished alongside and under it. The centralisation of the means of production and the socialization of labor reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.


This passage can be regarded as the final conclusion of Marx’s entire theory. There is little doubt that these words fired the imagination of Lenin and his followers. The new rulers of Russia faced a huge task of transforming the relations of ownership and of organizing and managing production in a new way. They were determined to overhaul the country’s life along socialist lines as quickly as possible and to institute a centrally planned economy. They wanted the state to control all economic activity: to define priorities, allocate resources, and determine prices and wages. In other words, from the beginning, the Soviet economy was conceived as a “command economy,” that is, one based on instructions issued from above and not on the law of supply and demand.

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The Economic Structure


Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
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