Leszek Kołakowski : In Stalin's Countries: Theses on Hope and Despair (1971) [page 8]
define in advance the limits of the capacity for change [ plasticite ] of any social organization; and experience has not at all demonstrated that the despotic model of socialism is absolutely rigid.
Secondly, the rigidity of a system depends in part on the degree to which the men who live within that system are convinced of its rigidity.
Thirdly, the thesis which I am challenging is based on an ideology of "all or nothing," characteristic of men formed in the Marxist tradition; it is not in any way supported by historical experience.
Fourthly, bureaucratic socialist despotism is pervaded by contradictory tendencies which it is incapable of bringing into any synthesis and which ineluctably weaken its coherence. These contradictions tend, moreover, to become exacerbated and not to diminish.
Is Socialist Despotism Reformable?
The mechanisms which we have described, which appear to justify the idea that socialist despotism is unreformable, do in fact exist in this system; they have been observed more than once; the men who endure them can bear first-hand witness to them.
They all reveal the spontaneous tendency of a mechanism whose fundamental forms of action are directed against the workers.
If bureaucratic power functions without any resistance on the part of society, all the phenomena which we have described will develop within it, in more and more pronounced forms, ending finally in the realization of Orwell's model.
On the other hand, it does not follow from this analysis that one cannot oppose to these tendencies a resistance capable of limiting and weakening the action of these mechanisms, and leading, not to a perfect society, but to a form of social organization which would be both viable and more tolerable for its members.
The reformist position would feel absurd if it consisted in hoping for good will on the part of the exploiting class, the philanthropy of the repressive apparat, or the automatic action of organizational mechanisms.
It is not absurd if one conceives of it as an active resistance taking advantage of the natural contradictions of the system.
All the characteristics of bureaucratic socialism prove unequivocally that [this system] has a constant tendency to develop forms of police government, to disintegrate and demoralize society.
All these characteristics converge to make the daily life of the working population a veritable hell.
In this regard, and in a more general manner, the same was true of the capitalist economy as Marx analyzed it.
All the natural tendencies of this economy were not in any way the fruit of the imagination of Marx, who on the contrary based himself on minute observation of society.
There did exist serious reasons for thinking that capitalism inevitably implied an increasing polarization of classes, the