File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-03-16.132, message 54


Date: Sat, 15 Mar 1997 12:38:58 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: M-I: state capitalism


On Sat, 15 Mar 1997, Andrew Wayne Austin wrote:

> Mark wonders when the Soviet Union became state capitalist. It might
> surprise Mark, maybe not, that Lenin regarded the Soviet Union as state
> capitalist. The Soviet project in the beginning was held to, quite
> correctly, display capitalist relations throughout the system. A social

Lenin meant something quite differently when he used the words "state
capitalism". He was simply trying to descrie the state of affairs that
existed under the NEP. Rather than use an abstraction like "state
capitalism", let Lenin speak for himself: "The shell of our state
capitalism (grain monopoly, state-controlled entrepreneurs and traders,
bourgeois co-operators) is pierced now in one place, now in another by
profiteers, the chief object of profiteering being grain." ("Left-wing"
Childishness and Petty-Bourgeois Mentality")

Lenin was describing economic activity within the context of a society in
transition from capitalism to socialism, that has both aspects of each.
The key to understanding state capitalism in a transitional society like
the USSR is that the working-class holds political power. In a society
like German, state capitalism has a completely different dynamic since the
bourgeoisie holds state power. He says:

"To make things even clearer, let us first of all take the most concrete
example of state capitalism. Everybody knows what this example is. It is
Germany. Here we have 'the last word' in modern large-scale capitalist
engineering and planned organization, subordinated to Junker-bourgeois
imperialism. Cross out the words in italics, and in place of the
militarist, Junker, bourgeois, imperialist state put also a state, but of
a different social type, of a different class content--a Soviet state,
that is a proletarian state, and you will have the sum total of the
conditions necessary for socialism."

Modern day state capitalists did not see Soviet society as being
transitional. They saw it as the product of counter-revolution and having
no progressive aspects. I am not familiar with Daum's own theories, but my
own reading of Tony Cliff has convinced me that there is much in common
between the English state capitalists and bourgeois political scientist
Adam Ulam. Ulam believes that Stalin, Mao, et al were simply organizing
capital accumulation the way that the capitalist does traditionally in
underdeveloped countries.

This of course begs the question of why it is so often necessary for
workers and peasants to make powerful social revolutions to allow these
"capitalists" to begin such a process. Why was Mao necessary, in other
words, when Chiang kai-Shek was around?

What I have discovered all in all, from state capitalists of all stripes,
is that they have no way to explain Cuba, a society that retains most of
the features of the pre-Stalinist Soviet Union. Cuba has a way of
upsetting their doctrine in the most inconvenient manner, so they find it
easier to pretend that it doesn't exist.



Louis Proyect
(www.columbia.edu/~lnp3)



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