Submitted by Harrison on March 23, 2011

As with most libcommers I've known about theories of State Capitalism for a long time, but I would like to share something I was introduced to through a long chat about Marx with an SPGB member, and which I have researched further as i'm doing an a-level coursework piece related to this:

Lenin himself desired, promoted and acknowledged the State Capitalist nature of the Soviet Union, although this was largely confined to intra-party debate and private letters. The destruction of council democracy and the introduction of 'War Communism' was the point at which the Bolsheviks introduced it to Russia, and it was consolidated by the 'New Economic Policy'.

This is in direct contrast to latter-day leninists and trots claims of the USSR under Lenin and Trotsky as genuinely socialist.

Lenin

State capitalism would be a step forward as compared with the present state of affairs in our Soviet Republic. If in approximately six months’ time state capitalism became established in our Republic, this would be a great success and a sure guarantee that within a year socialism will have gained a permanently firm hold and will have become invincible in this country.

Source: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/apr/21.htm - this writing also has much more on state capitalism.

Lenin

The state capitalism, which is one of the principal aspects of the New Economic Policy, is, under Soviet power, a form of capitalism that is deliberately permitted and restricted by the working class. Our state capitalism differs essentially from the state capitalism in countries that have bourgeois governments in that the state with us is represented not by the bourgeoisie, but by the proletariat, who has succeeded in winning the full confidence of the peasantry.
Unfortunately, the introduction of state capitalism with us is not proceeding as quickly as we would like it. For example, so far we have not had a single important concession, and without foreign capital to help develop our economy, the latter’s quick rehabilitation is inconceivable.

Source: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/nov/14b.htm

It seems to be tied into Lenin and Trotsky's pasts as Social-Democrats and the widely accepted theory that Russia needed to pass through a phase of capitalist development before socialism was workable (hence why the Mensheviks etc pushed for a parliamentary democracy). When Lenin chose to go with the Soviets rather than the Parliament, and claimed that Russia was ready for Socialism, he was lying: he still intended for Russia to pass through a phase of state capitalism.

But Lenin's theories of State Capitalism as a path to socialism were proved wrong, as his theory of democratic centralism does not assure control over society by the proletariat, but by a bureaucracy....

Although this whole subject does beg the question of whether industrialisation and economic development is possible under socialism? I personally think this is possible, although it would have to be a very hardworking society for decades.

slothjabber

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

But this is missing the point, is it not? I think you've fundamentally misunderstood what was being attempted.

Is economic development possible under socialism? Depends what you mean by economic development.

Was Russia 'ready for socialism'? Of course not. No country is 'ready for socialism'. Socialism will be worldwide. No country on its own can be anything other than state capitalist. The 'soviet regime' was a holding operation until the rest of the world caught up (and overleaped) Russia.

Does this mean, as the Mensheviks believed, that the revolution would of necessity be bourgeois-democratic? Of course not. Because the aim of the revolution wasn't to take, hold, and administer the Russian state, it was to destroy capitalism, which will only be done internationally.

If you believe Russia was 'ready for socialism' then that means you believe that socialism in one country is possible, and co-incidently that Stalin was right. If you believe that the task of the revolution was to develop Russian national capitalism, as the Mensheviks did, then... Stalin, who developed Russian national capitalism, was right.

I don't think Stalin was right, personally, because I don't think either that the Russian revolution was for the development of Russian national capital, and I don't think that Russia was 'ripe' for socialism in one country.

Harrison

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

but if Lenin was merely carrying out a holding action (as he did also claim), then that does not explain why he still promoted the State Socialist/Capitalist model in the more economically developed countries of the west. This was evident in the Comintern tried to force it upon all the member communist parties.

this is what Gorter and Pannekoek were so cross about; at first they accepted Lenin's centralised model as correct for Russia, but not for the capitalist countries eg. Germany.
then they ended up rejecting Lenin as wrong altogether.

i do not believe that the task of the revolution was to develop Russian national capital!
that is what i am saying Lenin was doing in his policies, especially Brest-Litovsk which seriously damaged Germany's revolutionary chances.

EDIT:
Actually I think Lenin only tried to force the vanguardist model upon the other Communist parties. I would be interested to know if he desired that they should take up the state socialist/capitalist model

Steven.

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It is correct that he did acknowledge and indeed support the fact that what was created in the USSR was state capitalism.

It is gone into in detail in this excellent pamphlet:
http://libcom.org/library/the-bolsheviks-and-workers-control-solidarity-group

and the nature of the USSR as state capitalist is also analysed in this excellent series in Aufheben:
http://libcom.org/library/what-was-ussr-aufheben

Joseph Kay

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Lenin saw socialism as the progression of the tendency towards the centralisation of capital (certainly in 'Imperialism...'). Thus socialism was conceived as democratic state control of the centralised means of production. Thus conceived, it's easy to see why state capitalism was conceived as progressive rather than counter-revolutionary. The Brinton text is good on the Bolshevik conception of workers control, which was only ever incidental to their idea of socialism.

slothjabber

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

OK, HM, I'm not sure what the question is any more.

Yes, Lenin promoted State Capitalist measures in Russia and believed (or said he believed, if one thinks he was lying) that this would help prepare the way for socialism. He was impressed with the German postal system I believe. He was wrong, dead wrong. But as far as I recall, it was Bukharin who theorised that capitalist centralisation would increase during the revolutionary period.

What was he supposed to support? Unless you believe socialism in one country is possible, there isn't so much wiggle room. If the idea of preserving the 'gains of the revolution' means anything (OK, it might not mean anything, but Lenin believed it and he wasn't alone) that means peace and stability to mark time while Germany catches up. What other policy is there but state capitalism?

All this took place in a context of a (relatively) successful revolution in Russia which was then locked in a civil war and had failed to extend significantly - hence the 'holding operation' and, at least as I read the situation, the desperate casting about for some theoretical justification for what they were doing.

If the revolution in Germany had kicked off in January 1918, as the Bolsheviks thought, then any talk of 'state capitalist measures' would be hot air. State capitalism only became the policy of the 'Soviet Government' when it was forced to become the permanent adminisistration of a territory where the state had been overthrown but was surrounded by hostile nations. You say it became state policy with the introduction of 'War Communism'; so it wasn't Bolshevik policy going into the October Revolution. It was a reaction to unexpected circumstances. Whether they should have expected is a different matter.

Brest-Litovsk is a whole nother bucket of worms to open up. I don't intend to go there.

Zanthorus

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I've got to admit that I was initially quite enthralled by the argument that 'Lenin said it was State Capitalism therefore it was', but for some strange reason the more I think about it the more the logic of the argument falls apart (I wonder why such a flawless argument could eventually fall down under it's own weight :roll: ). The initial piece was written by Lenin in response to the arguments of the 'Left-Communists' that the economic policy being pursued by the Bolsheviks at the time constituted a compromise between the proletarian state and the 'captains of industry', and that if continued it would lead to the formation of a 'petty bourgeois' 'state capitalism'. Lenin is replying in defence of the not-so-radical economic policies of early 1918. Later in the year the regime began pursuing a much more radical economic policy (Greater nationalisation of industry, formation of the Kombedy etc) and the 'Left-Communist' opposition evaporated. No substantial opposition to the regime would arise again from within the Bolsheviks until 1919.

The piece which the OP links to is Lenin's writing on the Tax in Kind in which he quotes himself from 1918. Here he is trying to defend the move away form war communism towards the much more market-orientated economic policies of the New Economic Policy and appropriately refers back to his earlier arguments in favour of reproachment with the 'captains of industry'. The second quote from 1922 even directly refers to the 'state capitalism of the New Economic Policy'.

The problem is that there are two senses in which 'state-capitalism' has historically been understood. One is the definition used by Bukharin in his writing on the imperialist state where it refers to a market economy in which the state nonetheless plays an extremely prominent role in the economy. The other is that used by anti-stalinist currents after the 30's where it refers to an economy in which absolutely everything is owned by the state. Lenin refers to the first type of state capitalism which in context actually meant a move away from the kind of 'state capitalism' you are taking him to be talking about.

Sorry, but if there's one thing that really pisses me off, it's the tendency by some anarchists and 'ultra-leftists' to argue about the Russian revolution solely by referring to the writings of Lenin and Trotsky. Neither of the pair, nor even the Bolsheviks as a whole, were gods whose will was truth. Endlessly quoting some of their more dangerous formulations really says nothing about the nature of the Russian revolution and why it degenerated. If we're going to talk about the Russian question, I'd really like it if we discussed the work of actual historians on what happened rather than endless irrelevant quoting from the leaders. This is the same kind of 'great man' history which Marx opposed.

Steven.

and the nature of the USSR as state capitalist is also analysed in this excellent series in Aufheben:
http://libcom.org/library/what-was-ussr-aufheben

(re: Spassmachine's question there) The reference for the section on Bordiga is probably Why Russia isn't socialist (it's not 100% certain it was by Bordiga, but most likely).

slothjabber

OK, HM, I'm not sure what the question is any more.

If the revolution in Germany had kicked off in January 1918, as the Bolsheviks thought, then any talk of 'state capitalist measures' would be hot air. State capitalism only became the policy of the 'Soviet Government' when it was forced to become the permanent adminisistration of a territory where the state had been overthrown but was surrounded by hostile nations. You say it became state policy with the introduction of 'War Communism'; so it wasn't Bolshevik policy going into the October Revolution. It was a reaction to unexpected circumstances. Whether they should have expected is a different matter.

i generally have very a scattered thought pattern :wall: , but yes i do agree with you there.
i don't think there was a secret inevitable conspiracy that Lenin was behind which from the very outset aimed to subvert soviet democracy. (which i used to think in my pre-marx days).

Zanthorus

The problem is that there are two senses in which 'state-capitalism' has historically been understood. One is the definition used by Bukharin in his writing on the imperialist state where it refers to a market economy in which the state nonetheless plays an extremely prominent role in the economy. The other is that used by anti-stalinist currents after the 30's where it refers to an economy in which absolutely everything is owned by the state. Lenin refers to the first type of state capitalism which in context actually meant a move away from the kind of 'state capitalism' you are taking him to be talking about.

i understand the phrase is bandied about to mean different things, (even Tony Cliff used it), but i had not known about the former definition you mention. So the former is (to put it crudely) far more social-democratic in nature? If so then i think i understand what you mean about the Bolshevik Left-communist faction criticising it as potentially promoting a peti-bourgeois mentality.

Zanthorus

Sorry, but if there's one thing that really pisses me off, it's the tendency by some anarchists and 'ultra-leftists' to argue about the Russian revolution solely by referring to the writings of Lenin and Trotsky. Neither of the pair, nor even the Bolsheviks as a whole, were gods whose will was truth. Endlessly quoting some of their more dangerous formulations really says nothing about the nature of the Russian revolution and why it degenerated. If we're going to talk about the Russian question, I'd really like it if we discussed the work of actual historians on what happened rather than endless irrelevant quoting from the leaders. This is the same kind of 'great man' history which Marx opposed.

I'm trying to understand Lenin / get a better handle on it all than:

Lenin's role in the Russian revolution = Equivalent to that of Darth Vader's coming to power in Starwars III

equation that has occupied my head for a long time, hence why this thread talks mostly about him.
This does not mean i consider him the be-all and end-all of the Russian Revolution.
I understand that it is also crucial to refer to the time and context in which he operated, and the specific conditions that forced him to make certain choices.

but I do think it is necessary to remember that Lenin and Trotsky were exercising state power, and i kind of think their will was in some respects the truth -- certainly when it came to their presses' ridiculous accusations against the Kronstadt rebels and separately the Makhnovists

Harrison Myers

i understand the phrase is bandied about to mean different things, (even Tony Cliff used it), but i had not known about the former definition you mention. So the former is (to put it crudely) far more social-democratic in nature?

I suppose that would be one way of putting it. The archetypal model of that form of 'state capitalism' was Germany prior to the 1918-19 revolution, which Lenin even mentions his original text "'Left-Wing' Childishness and the Petty Bourgeois Mentality'. Certainly pre-Weimar Germany was not comparable to either 'war communism' or the post-1928 Stalinist economy.

The Bukharin text I was referring to earlier is 'Toward a Theory of the Imperialist State' in which the trend of Imperialism is said to be towards a "state capitalism or the inclusion of absolutely everything within the sphere of state regulation." Marcel Van Der Linden's 'Western marxism and the Soviet Union' I believe discusses the difference between 'state capitalism' as extensive state intervention and as total state ownership.

I'm trying to understand Lenin / get a better handle on it all than:

Lenin's role in the Russian revolution = Equivalent to that of Darth Vader's coming to power in Starwars III

equation that has occupied my head for a long time, hence why this thread talks mostly about him.

If you want to get a handle on Lenin, why not just read through the key parts of his collected works rather than selected quotes like the ones you've just posted? You could ask on here for a list of reccomended ones, or alternatively the Lenin Internet Archive has a page of Lenin's most important works. Or you could maybe try picking up a decent biography of Lenin?

This does not mean i consider him the be-all and end-all of the Russian Revolution.
I understand that it is also crucial to refer to the time and context in which he operated, and the specific conditions that forced him to make certain choices.

I think my point was more against a focus on Lenin at all rather than what was happening in Russian society at large and the situation of workers. The focus on Lenin and Trotsky seems to me to just be regurgitating the mythos of the two created by Trotskyists. I'd be much more interested in an analysis of the Russian revolution that focused on the experience of the working-class rather than what Lenin was eating for breakfast the day they signed the Brest-Litovsk treaty.

Blackhawk

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It might be noted as well that Stalin and Mao also had described the states they ruled as state-capitalist at other times. In the ABC of Communism, by Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, they trace the development of state-capitalism to its source in the drive towards WWI. The argument made by Lenin was that state-capitalism was good in that it was better than what came before under the Czars. The Bolsheviks also made the argument that this state-capitalism was a part of the necessary transitional period.

In the Stalinist and Trotskyist political orbits the measures of the transitional period became either "real existing socialism" or the "gains of October". Now from my perspective the real gains of the revolution were in the conscious action of the workers to liberate themselves and form their own party and their own organizations of power.

For anyone who has had to discuss the "gains" of October with someone of the Trotskyist tradition, or the nature of the USSR in the period post-civil war, seeing Lenin and Stalin quoted openly saying that the USSR was state-capitalist can be an eye opener. It is also interesting to see the leftists try to explain it away. Bukharin and most of the other Bolsheviks held the same perspective regarding nationalization and state-capitalism.

It wasn't for nothing that the New Economic Policy was popularly known as "New Exploitation of the Proletariat". The subsequent fetishization of forms, nationalized state-capital as in the USSR, or nationally subsidized pentagon/wall street style state-capitalism in the west, intentionally ignored the basic content of the system itself. State-capitalism is real existing capitalism in the imperialist epoch. Wage labor presupposes capital as Marx said.

The proof is in the exploitation pudding.

Blackhawk

It might be noted as well that Stalin and Mao also had described the states they ruled as state-capitalist at other times.

Yes, I've seen the quotes rolled out by many advocates of the theory of state-capitalism. I've always found it amusing how a group which under normal circumstances would dismiss anyone trying to argue a point on the basis of assorted quotes by Lenin, Stalin and Mao, will suddenly turn around and endorse exactly the same tactic when it comes to defending their own theories.

It wasn't for nothing that the New Economic Policy was popularly known as "New Exploitation of the Proletariat".

Again, the NEP was not the Stalinist economy. The whole sordid affair that was the Russian experience would have been very different if they'd stuck with the NEP.

Dave B

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think it is valid to say that just because Lenin and Trotsky and Mao said that the respective regimes they presided over were state capitalist doesn’t necessarily mean that they were.

The primary issue is that that the followers of these intellectual leaders have always denied it and to that extent that they ever said it. Which is an issue that has only comparatively recently been resolved.

[ am not aware of Stalin having ever said or admitted that Bolshevik Russia was state capitalism, other than falsely stating that when Lenin said it was he was only referring to the concession system. Where the Bolsheviks ‘rented’ out land mineral rights and sometimes even machinery, factories etc to foreign capitalist to exploit in their own familiar way.]

Actually for what it matters, Lenin referred to this ie the ‘concession’ rent obtained from the foreign capitalists as the more “clear cut” type of state capitalism as opposed to the less clear cut form of ‘state enterprises’.

Also in contradiction to what has been said; the object of introducing state capitalism was suggested by Lenin in September 1917 before they seized power.

The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It

Now try to substitute for the Junker-capitalist state, for the landowner-capitalist state, a revolutionary-democratic state, i.e., a state which in a revolutionary way abolishes all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way. You will find that, given a really revolutionary-democratic state, state- monopoly capitalism inevitably and unavoidably implies a step, and more than one step, towards socialism!

For if a huge capitalist undertaking becomes a monopoly, it means that it serves the whole nation. If it has become a state monopoly, it means that the state (i.e., the armed organisation of the population, the workers and peasants above all, provided there is revolutionary democracy) directs the whole undertaking. In whose interest?

Either in the interest of the landowners and capitalists, in which case we have not a revolutionary-democratic, but a reactionary-bureaucratic state, an imperialist republic.

Or in the interest of revolutionary democracy—and then it is a step towards socialism.

For socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly. Or, in other words, socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly.

There is no middle course here.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/ichtci/11.htm

Going back to the history of Marxist and Bolshevik theory, the idea was that Russia would, and would have to, pass through capitalist development before it could arrive at the material conditions where socialism was possible.

And, following on from that, trying to do anything else would fail and disrupt and delay the process.

Anarchists and the socialistic Narodniks, SR’s etc did disagree.

That was Lenin’s position clearly put in 1905 eg

Marxism has irrevocably broken with the ravings of the Narodniks and the anarchists to the effect that Russia, for instance, can avoid capitalist development, jump out of capitalism, or skip over it and proceed along some path other than the path of the class struggle on the basis and within the framework of this same capitalism.

page 44
All these principles of Marxism have been proved and explained over and over again in minute detail in general and with regard to Russia in particular. And from these principles it follows that the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary. In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism.

http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/TT05.html#c6

An idea repeated and maintained in 1914 eg

Left-Wing Narodism and Marxism Published: Trudovaya Pravda No. 19, June 19, 1914

The economic development of Russia, as of the whole world, proceeds from feudalism to capitalism, and through large-scale, machine, capitalist production to socialism.

Pipe-dreaming about a “different” way to socialism other than that which leads, through the further development of capitalism, through large-scale, machine, capitalist production, is, in Russia, characteristic either of the liberal gentlemen, or of the backward, petty proprietors (the petty bourgeoisie). These dreams, which still clog the brains of the Left Narodniks, merely reflect the backwardness (reactionary nature) and feebleness of the petty bourgeoisie.

Can it be that Mr. Rakitnikov has not read Capital, or The Poverty of Philosophy, or The Communist Manifesto? If he has not, then it is pointless to talk about socialism. That will be a ridiculous waste of time.

If he has read them, then he ought to know that the fundamental idea running through all Marx’s works, an idea which since Marx has been confirmed in all countries, is that capitalism is progressive as compared with feudalism.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/jun/19.htm

In fact there is a seamless line of continuity “running through” Lenin’s economic theory from the ‘progressive capitalism’ of 1905 and 1914 and the progressive state capitalism of September 1917.

As there is a ‘progressive’ development of his political theory; in that in 1905 the Bolsheviks were suggesting controlling capitalism by going into the Marble Halls of Power. But even the Mensheviks never dared suggest that that would lead to the farthest extreme and ambition of the Bolsheviks running, or claiming to run, state capitalism.

And the point suggested earlier that the ‘state capitalism’ idea was some kind of internal narrow party theoretical construct is nonsense.

Lenin’s pamphlet ‘The Chief Tasks of Our Times’ was produced and distributed to the British Workers in 1918 by Pankhurst’s lot making clear that state capitalism was the objective in Russia. In that translation some of the ‘state capitalism’ quotes were substituted for ‘state socialism’ with the two terms being effectively used interchangeably.

The ‘meaning’ was also made clear by Trotsky in 1922; repeating the original idea of September of 1917.

Tasks of Young Workers (Report to the 5th All-Russian Congress of the Russian Communist League of Youth 1922)

He regards this task as unconditional; this is explicable in part by an incomprehension of an expression frequently used by us, that we now have state capitalism. I shall not enter into an evaluation of this term; for in any case we need only to qualify what we understand by it. By state capitalism we all understood property belonging to the state which itself was in the hands of the bourgeoisie, which exploited the working class. Our state undertakings operate along commercial lines based on the market. But who stands in power here? The working class. Herein lies the principled distinction of our state ‘capitalism’ in inverted commas from state capitalism without inverted commas.

What does this mean in perspective? Just this. The more state capitalism say, in Hohenzollern Germany, as it was, developed, the more powerfully the class of junkers and capitalists of Germany could hold down the working class. The more our ‘state capitalism’ develops the richer the work ing class will become, that is the firmer will become the foundation of socialism.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1922/youth/youth.htm

You could of course argue that the later state planned production without a market (in as much as there wasn’t a market) isn’t state capitalism; or something else, perhaps worse.

From Bukharin;

State capitalism ………. increasing the power of capitalism, has, of course, greatly weakened the working class. Under State capitalism the workers became the white slaves of the capitalist State. They were deprived of the right to strike; they were mobilized and militarized; everyone who raised his voice against the war was hauled before the courts and sentenced as a traitor. In many countries the workers were deprived of all freedom of movement, being forbidden to transfer from one enterprise to another. ' Free' wage workers were reduced to serfdom; they were doomed to perish on the battlefields, not on behalf of their own cause but on behalf of that of their enemies. They were doomed to work themselves to death, not for their own sake or for that of their comrades or their children, but for the sake of their oppressors.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1920/abc/04.htm

Here I must raise another question. If the working class does not regard industry as its own, but as State capitalism, if it regards the factory management as a hostile force, and the building up of industry as a matter outside its concerns, and feels itself to be exploited, what is to happen? Shall we then be in a position, let us say, to carry on a campaign for higher production? “What the devil!” the workers would say, “are we to drudge for the capitalists? Only fools would do that.” How could we draw workers into the process of building up industry “What!” they would say, “shall we help the capitalist and build up the system? Only opportunists would do that.”

If we say our industry is State capitalism, we shall completely disarm the working class. We dare not then speak of raising productive capacity, because that is the affair of the exploiters and not of the workers. To what end then shall we get larger and larger numbers to take part in our production conferences, if the workers are exploited, and when all that has nothing to do with them? Let the exploiter look after that! If we put the matter in this light, not only shall we be threatened with the danger of estrangement from the masses, but we shall not be in a position to build up our industries. That is as clear as daylight.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1926/01/x01.htm

Quite, let the bourgeoisie intelligentsia thrash about the subtle differences of interpretation as regards ‘our industries’ and ‘our capital’ as that is all that is likely to directly concern them.

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Bukharin never fully appreciated dialectics.

Noa Rodman

Bukharin never fully appreciated dialectics.

Gee, that sounds so familiar. I know I've heard that before but I just can't place where.

S. Artesian

Noa Rodman

Bukharin never fully appreciated dialectics.

Gee, that sounds so familiar. I know I've heard that before but I just can't place where.

Lenin's Will and Testament:

"They are, in my opinion, the most outstanding figures (among the younger ones), and the following must be borne in mind about them: Bukharin is not only a most valuable and major theorist of the Party; he is also rightly considered the favorite of the whole Party, but his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with the great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never made a study of dialectics, and, I think, never fully appreciated it)."

devoration1

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This all gets to the question of Red Thermidor- the idea that the communists had to sacrifice the working class gains made in the former Russian Empire at the alter of the failure of the world revolution. That it would be better for the revolutionaries to stop the progress of the revolution towards socialism rather than let it be wholly recuperated by world capital. In the grand scheme of things, the RSFSR/USSR was recuperated by world capital- but by becoming a willing participant as a 'Communist State' rather than a monarchist, bourgeois, white-guardist etc counter-revolution from outside.

In this regard Bukharin was a proponent of the Red Thermidor idea. He went from being a leader among the left communists pushing for workers control of the means of production, collectivization, anti-militarism, etc during the climax of the world revolutionary wave to a proponent of the RCP(B) Right-Wing after the revolutionary wave began to recede, under the impression it is better for the counter-revolution to come from within rather than without (to save some gains of October).

I don't think the 'holding mechanism' idea makes sense unless you consider the red thermidor idea.

Harrison

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

thanks Dave b for that post, it explained a lot of things.
Sort of backs up what i was saying earlier about Lenin intending for Russia to go through a phase of capitalism (state or otherwise) because the conditions for socialism were apparently not ripe.

About the whole 'Red Thermidor'. Bukharin's switch of positions was remarkeable. Although i do think the failure of the international revolution was partially self-inflicted by the Bolsheviks. As i've said earlier, Brest-Litovsk allowed German capitalism to recover. (this was also justified by Lenin as safeguarding the Russian revolution.)

I personally think that playing with state capitalism is playing with fire, because it inevitably generates a beaucratic class that develop their own class interests. For this reason it is impossible for revolutionaries to 'control'. And i think the flaw in Lenin's reasoning was that democratic centralism actually assured worker control, as it allowed him to justify any system into which the Leninist party is embedded.

If i remember correctly, Rosa Luxemburg said somthing about it better to fight to the end to maintain genuine worker control (the soviets) than destroy it in order to win the civil war.

Harrison Myers

thanks Dave b for that post, it explained a lot of things.
Sort of backs up what i was saying earlier about Lenin intending for Russia to go through a phase of capitalism (state or otherwise) because the conditions for socialism were apparently not ripe...

No no no no no. It was the Mensheviks (you know that bunch that your SPGB mates idolise) that thought that 'Russia was not ripe for socialism'. Lenin (leaving aside any arguments about whether we should be seeing the process refracted through the actions of a single individual) didn't even frame the question as 'was Russia ripe for socialism', if you believe that Russia was or was not 'ripe for socialism' that means 'socialism in one country' is possible. Lenin did not believe it was, the Mensheviks and later Stalin did, and I find it disgusting and hypocritical that the SPGB should parrot this analysis. It's a fraud. Lenin did not set out to impliment a state-capitalist dictatorship in Russia, he set about to begin the world revolution.

Harrison Myers

About the whole 'Red Thermidor'. Bukharin's switch of positions was remarkeable. Although i do think the failure of the international revolution was partially self-inflicted by the Bolsheviks. As i've said earlier, Brest-Litovsk allowed German capitalism to recover. (this was also justified by Lenin as safeguarding the Russian revolution.)...

Brest-Litovsk was primarily a way of stopping the war. The Bolsheviks consistently opposed the war, unlike the Mensheviks (that your SPGB friends etc etc) and took Russia out of it when they could. The Bolsheviks and the Spartakists between them stopped WWI, that was the most important thing.

Harrison Myers

...I personally think that playing with state capitalism is playing with fire, because it inevitably generates a beaucratic class that develop their own class interests. For this reason it is impossible for revolutionaries to 'control'. And i think the flaw in Lenin's reasoning was that democratic centralism actually assured worker control, as it allowed him to justify any system into which the Leninist party is embedded.

If i remember correctly, Rosa Luxemburg said somthing about it better to fight to the end to maintain genuine worker control (the soviets) than destroy it in order to win the civil war.

I don't see it as being inevitable that state capitalism will lead to a bureaucratic class. If communisation can't be instant (and it can't be because the capitalists won't just roll over and give in and hand power to the workers' councils) then in some places for a period it will be necessary for the 'new proletarian (non-)state' to impliment state capitalist measures. It seems to me you're failing to see the international dimension. Isolated, yes it's inevitable that the post-revolutionary period will produce an horrific bureaucratic dictatorship. If the revolution had extended to Germany the Brest-Litovsk treaty would have been binned before the ink was dry. This is why Rosa Luxemburg said that though the questions had been posed in Russia, they could not be solved there; and, that the future belonged to Bolshevism.

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

if you believe that Russia was or was not 'ripe for socialism' that means 'socialism in one country' is possible. Lenin did not believe it was, the Mensheviks and later Stalin did,

You use the bogeyman of Stalinism. If someone is a Stalinist it will not convince.
As far as I know the Mensheviks didn't believe Russia was ripe.

slothjabber

No no no no no. It was the Mensheviks (you know that bunch that your SPGB mates idolise) that thought that 'Russia was not ripe for socialism'. Lenin (leaving aside any arguments about whether we should be seeing the process refracted through the actions of a single individual) didn't even frame the question as 'was Russia ripe for socialism', if you believe that Russia was or was not 'ripe for socialism' that means 'socialism in one country' is possible. Lenin did not believe it was, the Mensheviks and later Stalin did, and I find it disgusting and hypocritical that the SPGB should parrot this analysis. It's a fraud. Lenin did not set out to impliment a state-capitalist dictatorship in Russia, he set about to begin the world revolution.

it seems to me that you and zanthorus use this argument about 'great man' history to avoid analysing the man who excercised central state power. it is highly necessary to examine Lenin because his choices really did reflect upon the historical direction of the Russian revolution. the fact he could ignore and repress the various naturally arising left bolshevik factions is testament to this.

it is not relevant whether Lenin had good intentions, it is his actions and their theoretical basis that counted.

Lenin did hold the position that Russia needed a bourgeois parliament and capitalist (preferably social-democratic) development before socialism, up until he wrote the April Theses in support of soviet power. In my view he never fully abandoned the belief that Russia needed a period of capitalist development, which formed part of the decision to establish of state-capitalism (which entailed the destruction of the worker democracy of the soviets). However, if international revolution had broken out, it is highly likely he would not have pushed for the establishment of state capitalism.

plus the reasoning behind Lenin's vanguardist model, is that if the masses are not class-conscious enough to initiate the change necessary for the establishment of socialism, the party can initiate that change by taking power and spreading the necessary socialist consciousness.

your logic over the idea of 'ripe for socialism' and 'socialism in one country' is bizarre. Socialism in one country is possible for a short time only, but it will struggle to provide the material abundance necessary for non-coercive labour and likely fall apart. I'm pretty sure you know this, otherwise what would even be the point in struggling for socialism/communism unless the world revolution broke out everywhere during the same month.

slothjabber

Brest-Litovsk was primarily a way of stopping the war. The Bolsheviks consistently opposed the war, unlike the Mensheviks (that your SPGB friends etc etc) and took Russia out of it when they could. The Bolsheviks and the Spartakists between them stopped WWI, that was the most important thing.

i don't sympathise with the Mensheviks.
As well as giving the German economy breathing space, Brest-Litovsk ceded a massive amount of land and raw materials to Germany that enabled Germany to recover. This was one of the main factors in the ebb of the revolutionary wave.
And whatever you think of Nestor Makhno, it completely squashed his partisans resistance that had developed in Ukraine against the whites and bourgeois Ukrainian nationalists.

slothjabber

I don't see it as being inevitable that state capitalism will lead to a bureaucratic class. If communisation can't be instant (and it can't be because the capitalists won't just roll over and give in and hand power to the workers' councils) then in some places for a period it will be necessary for the 'new proletarian (non-)state' to impliment state capitalist measures.

yes, but state-capitalism is to reintroduce a non-socialistic production process that is fundamentally incompatible with proletarian power, for if the workers were really in control they would surely proceed to abolish wage labour.
hence why an external bureaucratic class is needed to regulate production.
not to mention that this class must then establish a dictatorship over the workers in order to destroy their desires for control of the means of production, and becomes opposed to genuine proletarian power and a counter-revolutionary force.

And do you really think that capitalists would be prepared to hand power to a 'new proletarian (non-)state' that surely must proclaim itself revolutionary and anti-capitalist to attract worker support, any more than they would worker's councils? that seems to me a ridiculous assertion.

slothjabber

It seems to me you're failing to see the international dimension. Isolated, yes it's inevitable that the post-revolutionary period will produce an horrific bureaucratic dictatorship. If the revolution had extended to Germany the Brest-Litovsk treaty would have been binned before the ink was dry. This is why Rosa Luxemburg said that though the questions had been posed in Russia, they could not be solved there; and, that the future belonged to Bolshevism.

i am hardly failing to see the international dimension.
Germany was still seething with revolutionary potential at that time. the signing of Brest-Litovsk was the signing of the German revolution's death warrant. A far more internationalist policy that the Bolsheviks could have adopted would have been to maintain the war against the German army, for the German revolution would have far eclipsed the Russian revolution due to the greater concentration and development of industry in Germany. The Kaiser's regime really couldn't have held out for much longer due to military and economic problems.

in my view (Rosa Luxemburg's later view), it is better to hold on to genuine proletarian power (which is fundamentally incompatible with state-capitalism) and set an example to the rest of the world, whether it fails or the international revolution breaks out.
The working class cannot exercise power through a system of state-capitalism! This is the sort of thing the Labour party left used to believe.

Socialism must be established wherever proletarian power can be established. It can only fight for the geographical extension of the revolution or fail.

You criticise me for suggesting that a place is not ripe for socialism, and then suggest that state-capitalism should possibly be used a holding action. Do you not see the contradictions?

A country may not be ripe, but it must be attempted. However, state-capitalism simply does not work as a stop gap.

Agree with slothjabber's last post.

Harrison Myers

it seems to me that you and zanthorus use this argument about 'great man' history to avoid analysing the man who excercised central state power. it is highly necessary to examine Lenin because his choices really did reflect upon the historical direction of the Russian revolution. the fact he could ignore and repress the various naturally arising left bolshevik factions is testament to this.

No, this basically reduces itself to an ultra-left version of the Trotskyist thesis that the crisis of the working-class movement is a crisis of leadership. Rather than attempting to understand why certain events played out the way they did, we have everything reduced to the issue of the subjective will of a few leaders riding roughshod over the crystal pure intentions of the formless mass.

plus the reasoning behind Lenin's vanguardist model, is that if the masses are not class-conscious enough to initiate the change necessary for the establishment of socialism, the party can initiate that change by taking power and spreading the necessary socialist consciousness.

You're contradicting yourself - on the one hand you recognise that Lenin did not believe that Russia was ready for socialism and on the other hand you claim that the goal of 'vanguardism' is that the party takes power and begins to institute regardless of the current situation of the workers' movement. Would you care to square the circle and inform us why Lenin was agitating for your interpretation of his vanguardist strategy in a country which he recognised was not ready for socialism at the time?

As well as giving the German economy breathing space, Brest-Litovsk ceded a massive amount of land and raw materials to Germany that enabled Germany to recover. This was one of the main factors in the ebb of the revolutionary wave.

The alternative was to let the German Imperial Army continue the march they'd begun during the eleven days war and allow them to run roughshod over the bands of armed workers' and soldiers' that were being used for defence against counter-revolution in a straight line to Moscow. What would you have done in that situation?

Germany was still seething with revolutionary potential at that time. the signing of Brest-Litovsk was the signing of the German revolution's death warrant.

And the November 1918 - January 1919 revolution was...?

A far more internationalist policy that the Bolsheviks could have adopted would have been to maintain the war against the German army, for the German revolution would have far eclipsed the Russian revolution due to the greater concentration and development of industry in Germany.

That might have been feasible if the Bolsheviks had begun to organise the Red Army starting with the triumph of Soviet Power in October/November 1917. Otherwise what you're arguing is that you'd rather have seen the Russian workers' and peasants' slaughtered as long as you could claim to have remained pure to your fascile version of 'internationalism'. What does that remind me of? Ah yes...

"Workers must not struggle to establish a legal limit to the working day, because this is to compromise with the masters, who can then only exploit them for ten or twelve hours, instead of fourteen or sixteen. They must not even exert themselves in order legally to prohibit the employment in factories of children under the age of ten, because by such means they do not bring to an end the exploitation of children over ten: they thus commit a new compromise, which stains the purity of the eternal principles." (Marx caricaturing a Proudhonist in Political Indifferentism)

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i don't sympathise with the Mensheviks.

But weren't there Mensheviks as well who opposed the war 'consistently'? And about Menshevik-baiting, it is a Stalinist tactic. I quite like what Ryazonov said:

When the Socialist Academy, with his approval, took the name of Communist in 1924, Riazonov said: "I am not a Bolshevik, I am not a Menshevik, I am not a Leninist. I am only a marxist, and, as a marxist, I am a communist".

Now see what the 'marxist internet archive' says about him:

Riazanov’s Menshevik sympathies finally caught up with him in 1930, when he was relieved of duties and spent more time in prison. Kirov granted him permission to return to Leningrad, but after Kirov’s assassination, Riazanov had to return to Saratov, where he died in 1938.

Where he died, yes...

Such views are still dominant. This is why libcom is a refuge for marxists.

The working class cannot exercise power through a system of state-capitalism! This is the sort of thing the Labour party left used to believe.

Maybe, but if you take a figure such as Hilferding, the representative of social-democracy, he opposed even the concept (and ofcourse didn't support the RCP).

[quote=Hilferding]The concept of "state capitalism" can scarcely pass the test of serious economic analysis.

... the controversy as to whether the economic system of the Soviet Union is "capitalist" or "socialist" seems to me rather pointless. It is neither. [/quote]

Zanthorus

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes there were Mensheviks who opposed the war consistently - Julius Martov's Menshevik-Internationalists. The problem was that they tailed the rest of the Menshevik party and as such ended up not really meaning much.

Dave B

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Before I start on all the other bits of slothjabber’s stuff, I have to say I am not a Menshevik and have no need to defend them. At the time the SPGB would have in fact been hostile to them as they held to the orthodox position of the minimum programme.

That is not to say that I don’t share similar criticisms of the Bolsheviks as the Mensheviks had.

The Mensheviks did not support the war and were, amongst the left, exceptional in being against it and part of the internationalist Zimmerwald fraction.

I have never even heard of the Mensheviks, as a party, being accused of believing in Socialism in one country before, so presumably slothjabber will support that with something or retract it.

[There was the peculiar issue of the ‘Georgian Mensheviks’, and I would like to know more about that from an objective non-Bolshevik source.]

The issue over Russia needing to pass through capitalism before being able to become socialist was the general view, not Lenin’s as an individual. As it was Kautsky’s; as the generally accepted theoretical heir of Marxism.

In fact Lenin took his position from Kautsky.

Karl Kautsky Differences Among the Russian Socialists (1905)

………….and therewith it was decided that the special peculiarity of Russia upon which the terrorism and the socialism of the Narodnaya Volya was founded should disappear, and that Russia must pass through capitalism in order to attain socialism and that also Russia must in this respect pass along the same road as had Western Europe. Here as there socialism must grow out of the great industry…

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1905/xx/rsdlp.htm

The issue had been whether it would have been possible for Russia to have been absorbed into a socialist Europe of say; Germany, France and Britain.

The idea had been that Russia with a large part of the population being allegedly “primitive communists” ie the Mir, then they and Russia might have been able to have been absorbed into a socialist Europe on its doorstep as ‘they’ already had a ‘communist’ consciousness or way of life.

The point then, almost totally redundant now, seemed be whether or not backward primitive communist parts of the world could or should be absorbed into the multinational socialism of the formerly capitalist advanced industrial countries.

[There were in fact two issues ie the actual amount of industrial infrastructure and the level of socialist consciousness that was supposed to develop in tandem with it. ]

Lenin did set out to implement state capitalism in one country, which is on the record, denying it is useless.

Whether he intended it to be a dictatorship of one party one could argue over, but he achieved it fairly quickly.

V. I. Lenin, SPEECH AT THE FIRST ALL-RUSSIA CONGRESS OF WORKERS IN EDUCATION AND SOCIALIST CULTURE JULY 31, 1919

When we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of one party and, as you have heard, a united socialist front is proposed, we say, "Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position because it is the party that has won, in the course of decades, the position of vanguard of the entire factory and industrial proletariat.

http://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/lenin/works//1919/aug/05.htm

The justification for a one party state capitalist dictatorship as being a prelude to a world revolution probably sits more comfortably with the Stalinists, you would have thought.

But that is the kind of mess you can get yourself in when you abandon theory for opportunism.

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Karl Marx 1852,I

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm

Otto Rühle described it as rashness

Otto Rühle From the Bourgeois to the Proletarian Revolution 1924

Between feudalism and socialism yawned a gap of a full hundred years, through which the system of the bourgeois epoch fell unborn and unused.

The Bolsheviks undertook no more and no less than to jump a whole phase of development in Russia in one bold leap.

Even if one admits that in doing so they reckoned on the world revolution which was to come to their aid and compensate for the vacuum in development within by support from the great fund of culture from outside, this calculation was still rashness because it based itself solely on a vague hope. Rash too was the experiment arising from this calculation.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/ruhle/1924/revolution.htm

Far from Lenin being opposed to the war he must have been one of the few on the left who looked forward to it before it even started.

A war between Austria and Russia would be a very useful thing for the revolution (throughout Eastern Europe), but it’s not very probable that Franz-Josef and Nicky will give us this pleasure.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/jan/00mg12.htm

Dave B

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

There was some stuff from Kautsky on Georgia

Eg;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1921/georgia/ch01e.htm

and

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1921/georgia/ch02.htm

slothjabber

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Noa Rodman

if you believe that Russia was or was not 'ripe for socialism' that means 'socialism in one country' is possible. Lenin did not believe it was, the Mensheviks and later Stalin did,

You use the bogeyman of Stalinism. If someone is a Stalinist it will not convince.
As far as I know the Mensheviks didn't believe Russia was ripe.

Correct, I don't know if you think I thought they did think 'Russia was ripe'. My point was that if you (or Harrison Myers, the Mensheviks, Stalin or the SPGB) think 'Russia was ripe' or that 'Russia was not ripe, but could have been following more development of Russian capitalism' then logically you must believe that socialism is possible in one country. Else, the state of capitalism in Russia is not the issue.

Harrison Myers

slothjabber

...Lenin (leaving aside any arguments about whether we should be seeing the process refracted through the actions of a single individual) ....

it seems to me that you and zanthorus use this argument about 'great man' history to avoid analysing the man who excercised central state power. it is highly necessary to examine Lenin because his choices really did reflect upon the historical direction of the Russian revolution...

So, maybe I shouldn't have left aside the question of whether we should see the process of the Russian revolution refracted through the actions of Lenin, because even though I continued to argue as if Lenin's actions were the be-all and end-all of the process, you accused me of it any way. Nice.

Harrison Myers

...

your logic over the idea of 'ripe for socialism' and 'socialism in one country' is bizarre. Socialism in one country is possible for a short time only, but it will struggle to provide the material abundance necessary for non-coercive labour and likely fall apart. I'm pretty sure you know this, otherwise what would even be the point in struggling for socialism/communism unless the world revolution broke out everywhere during the same month.
...

That isn't 'socialism in one country', it's state capitalism. And the world revolution, if it lasts years with liberated 'red bastions' engaged in conventional wars with 'capitalist powers' will surely fail due being a massive f***-up and failure of the revolutionary wave. The revolution will for a period (short I hope) produce revolutionary administrations in liberated areas that must implement state capitalist policies. We shopuld not fool ourselves into thinking this is socialism. It isn't. It even a step towards socialism. Lenin was wrong. But it is necessary while the civil war is happening.

Harrison Myers

...
i don't sympathise with the Mensheviks.
As well as giving the German economy breathing space, Brest-Litovsk ceded a massive amount of land and raw materials to Germany that enabled Germany to recover. This was one of the main factors in the ebb of the revolutionary wave.
And whatever you think of Nestor Makhno, it completely squashed his partisans resistance that had developed in Ukraine against the whites and bourgeois Ukrainian nationalists....

I didn't say you did. I said the SPGB that you are relying on for your analysis sympathise with the Mensheviks.

I'm not sure I agree that Brest-Litovsk was a major factor in the ebb of the revolutionary wave. But it's perhaps a debate worth having, maybe in another thread. My view is that was of primary importance, and Lenin was right, whereas Bukharin, the Left SRs, and Trotsky were wrong.

I also disagree that Brest-Litovsk was the most important factor in the defeat of Makhno. The most important factor as far as I can see was the on-off military campaign waged by the Bolsheviks.

Harrison Myers

...
state-capitalism is to reintroduce a non-socialistic production process that is fundamentally incompatible with proletarian power, for if the workers were really in control they would surely proceed to abolish wage labour.
hence why an external bureaucratic class is needed to regulate production.
not to mention that this class must then establish a dictatorship over the workers in order to destroy their desires for control of the means of production, and becomes opposed to genuine proletarian power and a counter-revolutionary force...

And how do the workers 'abolish wage labour' when the revolution isn't finished? I don't believe in 'socialism in one country' or if you like 'socialism in one liberated territory'. Until the revolution is over and capitalism is defeated the workers aren't in control, they're still fighting to establish this control. The state still exists. And the working class must be on constant guard that this state doesn't become a dictatorship over the proletariat.

Harrison Myers

...
i am hardly failing to see the international dimension.
Germany was still seething with revolutionary potential at that time. the signing of Brest-Litovsk was the signing of the German revolution's death warrant. A far more internationalist policy that the Bolsheviks could have adopted would have been to maintain the war against the German army, for the German revolution would have far eclipsed the Russian revolution due to the greater concentration and development of industry in Germany...

The most internationalist thing to do would be to ciontinue to throw the Russian working class against the German working class? Get real. If you think that this is intyernationalism then I say your internationalism is shit and I want nothing to do with it.

Harrison Myers

...
in my view (Rosa Luxemburg's later view), it is better to hold on to genuine proletarian power (which is fundamentally incompatible with state-capitalism) and set an example to the rest of the world, whether it fails or the international revolution breaks out...

As far as I know, I'm the only person who describes themself as a Luxemburgist who frequents LibCom. I completely reject this notion of Rosa's thought. She welcomed the Russian revolution, and urged the workers in Germany to follow its example.

Harrison Myers

...
Socialism must be established wherever proletarian power can be established. It can only fight for the geographical extension of the revolution or fail.

You criticise me for suggesting that a place is not ripe for socialism, and then suggest that state-capitalism should possibly be used a holding action. Do you not see the contradictions?

A country may not be ripe, but it must be attempted. However, state-capitalism simply does not work as a stop gap.

No; the best that can be established until the overthrow of capitalism is state capitalism. Socialism in one country is still impossible. Where is the contradiction? There is no short-cut. Until capitalism is overthrown there can be no socilaism, only state capitalism.

Noa Rodman

...
But weren't there Mensheviks as well who opposed the war 'consistently'? And about Menshevik-baiting, it is a Stalinist tactic...

You're claiming I'm a Stalinist for identifying Stalinism with Menshevism? Great logic there.

And for what it's worth, I don't have a problem with the Menshevik Internationalists, apart from them being wrong of course. Honest, but wrong, in my estimation.

Dave B

Before I start on all the other bits of slothjabber’s stuff, I have to say I am not a Menshevik and have no need to defend them. At the time the SPGB would have in fact been hostile to them as they held to the orthodox position of the minimum programme...

As you say; at the time the SPGB believed the Mensheviks (and all parties of the IInd International) were reformist and opposed them. They also supported the exit of Russia from the war. Sadly, in my estimation, that was the high-point of the SPGB's political career. It doesn't mean that in later years the SPGB hasn't defended the Mensheviks.

Dave B

The Mensheviks did not support the war and were, amongst the left, exceptional in being against it and part of the internationalist Zimmerwald fraction...

They weren't 'exceptional'. There were other fractions represented at Zimmerwald.

Dave B

I have never even heard of the Mensheviks, as a party, being accused of believing in Socialism in one country before, so presumably slothjabber will support that with something or retract it...

Happily. If the Mensheviks believed that socialism in Russia could be established if the economic conditions were right, ie given a particular development of economic conditions in Russia, then they believed that socialism in one country was possible.

There is so much else in your post Dave that consists of de-contextualized gobbets that I fear I must come back to demolishing the rest of it later.

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It is important to know what Lenin thought. Where did he differ from the (Menshevik or other) 'reformists'? Was Lenin's insight only that he knew that socialism=international, hence, socialism in one country is impossible, whereas Mensheviks believed socialism can be within one nation? Is it so simple?

And about Stalinism, what did they mean that socialism was possible within one country? How did they differ from Lenin/Trotsky?

(I agree the Brest-Litovsk question is better for another thread)

Dave B

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think the issue was then that a country could not be part of multinational socialism until it had sufficiently advanced industrially and economically.

That is not the same as saying that one country could be socialist on its own once it had had sufficiently advanced industrially and economically.

Just how many advanced industrial countries you need in the world before international socialism becomes viable is another question and argument that will change over time.

If one advanced and industrialised country is politically ready for socialism before the rest I would not advocate state capitalism.

It is an old chestnut of an argument about alternatives and we have it regularly.

But it is spurious time wasting to introduce that argument in reference to Russia in 1917 as it was disqualified and excluded from it.

The parties and individuals of the European left that opposed the war throughout, like the SPGB, were exceptional as in the use of the word not ordinary or uncommon.

I would have thought that was obvious from what I said otherwise the Zimmerwald would have been the Mensheviks, which would have been palpably absurd even as an inference

slothjabber

if you (or Harrison Myers, the Mensheviks, Stalin or the SPGB) think 'Russia was ripe' or that 'Russia was not ripe

nice, i love to be referenced to be in the same tradition as Stalin.

The point is, and Marx himself recognised this, that a region or country needs a certain material abundance and level of industrial development before socialism (even the lower phase) is possible. So by your logic, old Karl is a Stalinist too.
What i am saying is that socialism has to be established somewhere first, but if it does not spread exponentionally it will fail.
I do not believe the stalinist ideology that preaches 'Socialism in one country' to be possible indefinitely.

slothjabber

So, maybe I shouldn't have left aside the question of whether we should see the process of the Russian revolution refracted through the actions of Lenin, because even though I continued to argue as if Lenin's actions were the be-all and end-all of the process, you accused me of it any way. Nice.

When you say 'i'll leave aside the argument about focusing too much on Lenin' (not your exact words), you are still subscribing to that particular strain of thought whilst simultaneously withdrawing it from what we are allowed to discuss. I am not accusing you of anything, i am just pointing out the poverty of considering Lenin to be a little boat on the waves of history, when he in fact commanded an entire state apparatus. (please note i am not equating him to Stalin, as Lenin was still opposable from within the party - for a while at least).

Harrison Myers

...
your logic over the idea of 'ripe for socialism' and 'socialism in one country' is bizarre. Socialism in one country is possible for a short time only, but it will struggle to provide the material abundance necessary for non-coercive labour and likely fall apart. I'm pretty sure you know this, otherwise what would even be the point in struggling for socialism/communism unless the world revolution broke out everywhere during the same month.
...

slothjabber

That isn't 'socialism in one country', it's state capitalism.

Right.... and does the economic base of society even mean a thing to you? Socialism is (crudely) defined by the workers owning the means of production. if the state owns the means of production, it is not socialism as a real state cannot be an instrument of proletarian power. The only instruments of proletarian power are assemblies and delegate councils (what they are named is inconsequential). These can exist in one country for a short period, but will fall apart if there is not enough material abundance - Lenin actually chose to destroy them in order to establish his state capitalism, which he argued was needed to win the civil war.

slothjabber

And the world revolution, if it lasts years with liberated 'red bastions' engaged in conventional wars with 'capitalist powers' will surely fail due being a massive f***-up and failure of the revolutionary wave.

if you noticed, i was not suggesting that conventional wars are a path to socialism. i am not a stalinist. i was only referring specifically to situation of Brest-Litovsk and the German economy.
slothjabber

The most internationalist thing to do would be to ciontinue to throw the Russian working class against the German working class? Get real. If you think that this is intyernationalism then I say your internationalism is shit and I want nothing to do with it.

I know this ought really to go into a separate thread, but my argument is short:
the most international thing that could have been done is to have supported the outbreak of the revolution in the heartland of european industry.
I know Germany revolted anyway, but it would have totally collapsed and the soviets formed would have shot accross the entire country (instead of just being confined to areas like munich and bavaria) and due to the far more virulent cirumstances the SPD would not have been able to subvert the soviets to establish weimar.

slothjabber

The revolution will for a period (short I hope) produce revolutionary administrations in liberated areas that must implement state capitalist policies. We shopuld not fool ourselves into thinking this is socialism. It isn't. It even a step towards socialism. Lenin was wrong. But it is necessary while the civil war is happening.

Ok, but how can the working class regain political power once that state has been established? That would take a whole other revolution and civil war, similiar to the 'third revolution' hoped for by the supporters of Kronstadt. I am perhaps inclined to a vaguely Lenin-sympathetic view that if he hadn't died he could have overseen Russia's economic development and then handed power back to worker's councils. But I think this totally highlights the dangerous reliance upon the good-will of the bureaucracy, and i'm pretty sure in any such system there would be plenty of Stalins waiting for their chance.

Much better just to retain worker's councils and let them regulate production, fight the civil war and organise technical development / the strengthening of industry. Plus the morale increase from the worker's actually controlling society is massive, unlike 'hooray we've overthrown the capitalists over here, but we've only got a shitty state-capitalist system'

slothjabber

And how do the workers 'abolish wage labour' when the revolution isn't finished? I don't believe in 'socialism in one country' or if you like 'socialism in one liberated territory'. Until the revolution is over and capitalism is defeated the workers aren't in control, they're still fighting to establish this control. The state still exists. And the working class must be on constant guard that this state doesn't become a dictatorship over the proletariat.

Any state (apart from a council/soviet system, which is debatable over whether it is a state) is of necessity a dictatorship over the proletariat, because it has a monopoly on the use of force. And if it does, there is no way to 'keep on guard' that it doesn't err from its purpose, as the workers have no way to exercise power over it (military or democratic).

The only way i can see is if the workers maintained a militia system external from the state (as per Rosa Luxemburg's critique of Schippel's right social-democracy), BUT that would completely defeat the purpose of the state organising the civil war. I also have not studied military matters enough to know whether a militia system is as workable as a conventional army..... Although i do have an admiration for the militias of the POUM and CNT in Spain '36, the Red Guards before the formation of the Red Army and Makhno's Black Army.

slothjabber

Harrison Myers

...
in my view (Rosa Luxemburg's later view), it is better to hold on to genuine proletarian power (which is fundamentally incompatible with state-capitalism) and set an example to the rest of the world, whether it fails or the international revolution breaks out...

As far as I know, I'm the only person who describes themself as a Luxemburgist who frequents LibCom. I completely reject this notion of Rosa's thought. She welcomed the Russian revolution, and urged the workers in Germany to follow its example.

I don't describe myself as a Luxemburgist, but well done you for doing so. I stressed that it was Rosa's later view when she strengthened her (already existing - see "Organizational Questions of the Russian Democracy") conflicts with Lenin.

slothjabber

Harrison Myers

...
Socialism must be established wherever proletarian power can be established. It can only fight for the geographical extension of the revolution or fail.

You criticise me for suggesting that a place is not ripe for socialism, and then suggest that state-capitalism should possibly be used a holding action. Do you not see the contradictions?

A country may not be ripe, but it must be attempted. However, state-capitalism simply does not work as a stop gap.

No; the best that can be established until the overthrow of capitalism is state capitalism. Socialism in one country is still impossible. Where is the contradiction? There is no short-cut. Until capitalism is overthrown there can be no socilaism, only state capitalism.

Your view totally lacks any connection between theory and reality .... What to you do the worker's councils and other natural forms of proletarian self-governance represent? .... Some embarrassing 'childishness' on the part of the workers that needs to be destroyed and replaced ASAP with a central state until the revolution magically breaks out internationally? This is a pretty poor view of the worker's fight, and one that is more suitable for a rising bourgeoisie.

ajjohnstone

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"nice, i love to be referenced to be in the same tradition as Stalin."

Perhaps in his 1907 persona you would.

" What is proletarian socialism?
The present system is a capitalist system. This means that the world is divided up into two opposing camps, the camp of a small handful of capitalists and the camp of the majority -- the proletarians. The proletarians work day and night, nevertheless they remain poor. The capitalists do not work, nevertheless they are rich. This takes place not because the proletarians are unintelligent and the capitalists are geniuses, but because the capitalists appropriate the fruits of the labour of the proletarians, because the capitalists exploit the proletarians.
Why are the fruits of the labour of the proletarians appropriated by the capitalists and not by the proletarians? Why do the capitalists exploit the proletarians and not vice versa?
Because the capitalist system is based on commodity production: here everything assumes the form of a commodity, everywhere the principle of buying and selling prevails. Here you can buy not only articles of consumption, not only food products, but also the labour power of men, their blood and their consciences. The capitalists know all this and purchase the labour power of the proletarians, they hire them. This means that the capitalists become the owners of the labour power they buy.The proletarians, however, lose their right to the labour power which they have sold. That is to say, what is produced by that labour power no longer belongs to the proletarians, it belongs only to the capitalists and goes into their pockets. The labour power which you have sold may produce in the course of a day goods to the value of 100 rubles, but that is not your business, those goods do not belong to you, it is the business only of the capitalists, and the goods belong to them -- all that you are due to receive is your daily wage which, perhaps, may be sufficient to satisfy your essential needs if, of course, you live frugally. Briefly: the capitalists buy the labour power of the proletarians, they hire the proletarians, and this is precisely why the capitalists appropriate the fruits of the labour of the proletarians, this is precisely why the capitalists exploit the proletarians and not vice versa.
But why is it precisely the capitalists who buy the labour power of the proletarians? Why do the capitalists hire the proletarians and not vice versa?
Because the principal basis of the capitalist system is the private ownership of the instruments and means of production. Because the factories, mills, the land and minerals, the forests, the railways, machines and other means of production have become the private property of a small handful of capitalists. Because the proletarians lack all this. That is why the capitalists hire proletarians to keep the factories and mills going -- if they did not do that their instruments and means of production would yield no profit. That is why the proletarians sell their labour power to the capitalists -- if they did not, they would die of starvation...

...There can be no doubt that future society will be built on an entirely different basis.
Future society will be socialist society. This means primarily, that there will be no classes in that society; there will be neither capitalists nor proletarians and, con sequently, there will be no exploitation. In that society there will be only workers engaged in collective labour.
Future society will be socialist society. This means also that, with the abolition of exploitation commodity production and buying and selling will also be abolished and, therefore, there will be no room for buyers and sellers of labour power, for employers and employed -- there will be only free workers.
Future society will be socialist society. This means, lastly, that in that society the abolition of wage-labour will be accompanied by the complete abolition of the private ownership of the instruments and means of production; there will be neither poor proletarians nor rich capitalists -- there will be only workers who collectively own all the land and minerals, all the forests, all the factories and mills, all the railways, etc.
As you see, the main purpose of production in the future will be to satisfy the needs of society and not to produce goods for sale in order to increase the profits of the capitalists. Where there will be no room for commodity production, struggle for profits, etc.
It is also clear that future production will be socialistically organised, highly developed production, which will take into account the needs of society and will produce as much as society needs. Here there will be no room whether for scattered production, competition, crises, or unemployment.
Where there are no classes, where there are neither rich nor poor, there is no need for a state, there is no need either for political power, which oppresses the poor and protects the rich. Consequently, in socialist society there will be no need for the existence of political power..."

Anarchism or Socialism Stalin 1907

This pre-revolution article he wrote puts paid to the idea that Stalin had no idea what Socialism was . He fully understood it . But like Lenin , he had to change his Marxism to fit in with the reality of what Russia was and what it was turning into .
Engels does a good job of explaining this Bolshevik "schizophrenia" of how black became white and State-capitalism became Socialism .

"...The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government in an epoch when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class which he represents and for the realisation of the measures which that domination would imply. What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the sharpness of the clash of interests between the various classes, and upon the degree of development of the material means of existence, the relations of production and means of communication upon which the clash of interests of the classes is based every time. What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, again depends not upon him, or upon the degree of development of the class struggle and its conditions. He is bound to his doctrines and the demands hitherto propounded which do not emanate from the interrelations of the social classes at a given moment, or from the more or less accidental level of relations of production and means of communication, but from his more or less penetrating insight into the general result of the social and political movement. Thus he necessarily finds himself in a dilemma. What he can do is in contrast to all his actions as hitherto practised, to all his principles and to the present interests of his party; what he ought to do cannot be achieved. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whom conditions are ripe for domination. In the interests of the movement itself, he is compelled to defend the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with phrases and promises, with the assertion that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. Whoever puts himself in this awkward position is irrevocably lost..."

The Peasant War in Germany Engels 1850

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

damn ajjohn beat me to that Engels quote. It is also given by Plekhanov in his pamphlet against the Narodnaya Volya in Our differences (1885), section 5. Probable Consequences of the Seizure of Power by the Socialists

Dave B

I think the issue was then that a country could not be part of multinational socialism until it had sufficiently advanced industrially and economically.

That is not the same as saying that one country could be socialist on its own once it had had sufficiently advanced industrially and economically.

Just how many advanced industrial countries you need in the world before international socialism becomes viable is another question and argument that will change over time.

If one advanced and industrialised country is politically ready for socialism before the rest I would not advocate state capitalism.

It is an old chestnut of an argument about alternatives and we have it regularly.

But it is spurious time wasting to introduce that argument in reference to Russia in 1917 as it was disqualified and excluded from it...

My view is that socialism is not possible until capitalism has been defeated, worldwide. I wasn't aware that the SPGB position is that socialism in one country is possible. I'm quite surprised by that.

Dave B

...The parties and individuals of the European left that opposed the war throughout, like the SPGB, were exceptional as in the use of the word not ordinary or uncommon...

If you're not using 'exceptional' to mean 'an exception' then I don't know what you mean by it. I didn't know what you meant when you first used it. I still don't. If you mean 'the Mensheviks considered themselves on the left of the IInd International and attended the Zimmerwald Conference', then fine, say that.

Dave B

..I would have thought that was obvious from what I said otherwise the Zimmerwald would have been the Mensheviks, which would have been palpably absurd even as an inference

That sentence makes sense if one puts the word 'Conference' after Zimmerwald, so I'll assume that's what you meant to do. Yes, it would be absurd to claim that only the Mensheviks were at Zimmerwald, which is why I wonder why you did it.

Harrison Myers

...
nice, i love to be referenced to be in the same tradition as Stalin...

Happens to the best of us, I was accused by Noa of being a Stalinist for linking Menshevism with Stalinism.

Harrison Myers

...
The point is, and Marx himself recognised this, that a region or country needs a certain material abundance and level of industrial development before socialism (even the lower phase) is possible. So by your logic, old Karl is a Stalinist too...

If Marx had lived into the 20th century and then claimed that a single country could become socialist on its own, then yes I'd call him a Stalinist. Stalinism is the belief in socialism in one country. Therefore, people who believe in socialism in one country are Stalinists, though they may not have realised it.

Harrison Myers

...
What i am saying is that socialism has to be established somewhere first, but if it does not spread exponentionally it will fail.
I do not believe the stalinist ideology that preaches 'Socialism in one country' to be possible indefinitely...

Then we fundamentally disagree about what socialism is. It is emphatically not statisation of the economy in the middle of a global civil war. It is not a revolutionary process to overthrow capitalism. It's not a transition from capitalism to anything else. It's the establishment of a new society.

Harrison Myers

...does the economic base of society even mean a thing to you? Socialism is (crudely) defined by the workers owning the means of production. if the state owns the means of production, it is not socialism as a real state cannot be an instrument of proletarian power. The only instruments of proletarian power are assemblies and delegate councils (what they are named is inconsequential)...

Socialism is not 'workers owning the means of production'. Socialism is a classless communal society without states or money which functions on the principle of 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need'. This must be established globally, not in one country.

I absolutely agree that if the state owns the means of production, if indeed there is a state at all, if there are classes, it is not socialism, this I rather thought was the point of the vast amount of posts I'd been making.

Harrison Myers

... The only instruments of proletarian power are assemblies and delegate councils (what they are named is inconsequential). These can exist in one country for a short period...

I utterly disagree. The workers' councils are the basis of the new society. What on earth could you see that could replace the workers' councils?

Harrison Myers

...
if you noticed, i was not suggesting that conventional wars are a path to socialism. i am not a stalinist. i was only referring specifically to situation of Brest-Litovsk and the German economy.
,,,

You were specifically advocating that the Bolshevik-dominated state (that you disapprove of) would have been more acceptable to you if it had forced Russian workers to kill German workers.

Think very hard about what you are saying, please.

Harrison Myers

...
Ok, but how can the working class regain political power once that state has been established? That would take a whole other revolution and civil war, similiar to the 'third revolution' hoped for by the supporters of Kronstadt...

If a 'third revolution' is necessary then a 'third revolution' is what we must do. I support the Kronstadt rising. It was a working class reaction to the degeneration of the revolutiomn, if the revolution degenerates it must be renewed, if the administration of the revolutionary territory acts in a counter-revolutionary manner it must be opposed. That's why the working class must be constantly on guard. I can't see why you want to disarm them, except in so far as it then makes it easier to dragoon them behind the state (that you don't think exists) in order to kill workers from non-liberated areas.

Congratualations, you've now moved from socialism in one country to the creation of the Red Army.

Harrison Myers

...I am perhaps inclined to a vaguely Lenin-sympathetic view that if he hadn't died he could have overseen Russia's economic development and then handed power back to worker's councils. But I think this totally highlights the dangerous reliance upon the good-will of the bureaucracy, and i'm pretty sure in any such system there would be plenty of Stalins waiting for their chance...

There again you are only thinking in national terms. Why 'Russia's economic development'? As the world revolution extends, as more and more of the world goes over to the revolution, where will 'Lenin' be? Sitting in a corner going 'ha! I was first, this is my socialist bit seperate from the world revolution!'? Perhaps becoming a world-striding collossus like the Devil in Fantasia, with his little goatee swelled to enormous size, shouting 'hah! Now I am Comrade First Secretary of the World!'?

The soviets died because of three reasons, in my estimation, but primarily because the revolution did not spread. Even with the total f***-up of Bolshevik state capitalism, even with the disaster of the Civil War in Russia, the revolution (that is, the soviets, rather than the Bolsheviks) could have been saved and rejuvinated if the revolution had spread to Germany. Even if Lenin had been Hitler, the world revolution would have saved the soviets.

Harrison Myers

...
Much better just to retain worker's councils and let them regulate production, fight the civil war and organise technical development / the strengthening of industry. Plus the morale increase from the worker's actually controlling society is massive, unlike 'hooray we've overthrown the capitalists over here, but we've only got a shitty state-capitalist system'...

Who does the 'retaining' and the 'letting'? The workers' councils are the revolution. The are the means and the end. I don't understand your train of thought. I can only read this as 'the workers' councils retain the workers' councils', or 'the state (that you don't think exists) retains the workers' councils'. The working class, organising itself in the workers' councils, runs society; it takes on certain functions of the state.

Harrison Myers

...
Any state (apart from a council/soviet system, which is debatable over whether it is a state) is of necessity a dictatorship over the proletariat, because it has a monopoly on the use of force. And if it does, there is no way to 'keep on guard' that it doesn't err from its purpose, as the workers have no way to exercise power over it (military or democratic)...

In the revolutionary period and civil war, while there is a bourgeoisie to suppress, yes it is a state; a state is the tool for one class to suppress another. When the civil war with capital is over, there are no more classes because there is no more private property to produce classes; when there are no more classes, there will be no more state, when there is no more state ('the withering away of the state' in Engels' words) the soviets can move from 'the governance of people to the administration of things'.

Harrison Myers

...

Your view totally lacks any connection between theory and reality .... What to you do the worker's councils and other natural forms of proletarian self-governance represent? .... Some embarrassing 'childishness' on the part of the workers that needs to be destroyed and replaced ASAP with a central state until the revolution magically breaks out internationally? This is a pretty poor view of the worker's fight, and one that is more suitable for a rising bourgeoisie.

Where does that come from? You're the one fantasising about "allowing" workers' councils to manage production while the state gets on with business of killing German workers. The soviets, I say again, are the revolution. That's the point.

For the international power of the workers' councils!

Harrison

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

hey, i enjoyed reading that Engels quote and some of the Plekhanov writing. my favourite line from it:
Plekhanov

Whenever you say “exchange” you imply “commodity”, and if you retain commodities, you presuppose all the contradictions inherent in the commodity.

er Slothjabber, i'm not sure you read my post properly, either that or i did not make myself clear. i agree with you on tonnes of things, but these are the things i don't agree with:

1. soviets can do everything that a state-capitalist regime can do (holding action, civil war etc), without the potential counter-revolutionary aspect. it is always better to hang on to proletarian power than subvert it to introduce state-capitalism, however brutal the war against capital.

2. the point I was trying to make is not that revolutionary russia should have given way to German militarism, but should have maintained the economic pressure on the German regime, and especially should have refused to cede all that land to the Kaiser in surrender. If you are a Luxemburgist, you should read The Russian Tragedy:
Rosa Luxemburg

And yet these calculations largely overlooked the most crucial factor, namely German militarism, to which Russia surrendered unconditionally through the separate peace. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was in reality nothing but the capitulation of the revolutionary Russian proletariat to German militarism. Admittedly Lenin and his friends deluded neither themselves no other about the facts.

It was far more internationalist to help their German comrades by opposing German militarism.

devoration1

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It was far more internationalist to help their German comrades by opposing German militarism.

The point being made is that the suppositions of the communist revolutionaries that the armed worker's and soldier's militias could keep the Central Powers bogged down and at bay while the German workers rose up following the Russian example did not come to fruition. The worker's and solider's militias, outside the discipline and chain-of-command and militarist expertise of the old Tsarist officer corps would have lost everything if Brest-Litovsk hadn't been signed. The RSFSR and the soviets would've been annhiliated and all of the former Russian Empire turned into German puppet states and pseudo-principalities (a vision that was to be repeated by Rosenberg's faction during WWII).

The last line in that Luxemburg quote says volumes:

Admittedly Lenin and his friends deluded neither themselves no other about the facts.

the facts; reality on the ground. This is why I still think Bukharin is the most valuable figure to learn from for the whole October Revolution and its degeneration. It's difficult to appreciate the confusion and disorganization of a revolutionary situation. While all hell was breaking loose in Berlin and soviets were popping up, and the USPD and Spartakists were arming the workers, huge industrial centers of Germany were all quiet and peaceful as if there were no 'revolution'. Were these workers, passive and not interested in the trouble in Berlin, supposed to be the ones to rise up and demolish German capital and militarism and save the world revolution? The Bolsheviks thought so- until they figured out reality doesn't bend to theory; and then you get the flood of opportunism.

devoration1

the facts; reality on the ground. This is why I still think Bukharin is the most valuable figure to learn from for the whole October Revolution and its degeneration. It's difficult to appreciate the confusion and disorganization of a revolutionary situation. While all hell was breaking loose in Berlin and soviets were popping up, and the USPD and Spartakists were arming the workers, huge industrial centers of Germany were all quiet and peaceful as if there were no 'revolution'. Were these workers, passive and not interested in the trouble in Berlin, supposed to be the ones to rise up and demolish German capital and militarism and save the world revolution? The Bolsheviks thought so- until they figured out reality doesn't bend to theory; and then you get the flood of opportunism.

if you read a bit further she exposes her whole argument;
Rosa Luxemburg

They candidly admitted their capitulation. Unfortunately, they did deceive themselves in hoping to purchase a genuine respite at the price of this capitulation, to enable them to save themselves from the hellfire of the world war by means of a separate peace. They did no take into account the fact that the capitulation of Russia at Brest-Litovsk meant an enormous strengthening of the imperialist Pan-German policy and thus a lessening of the chances for a revolutionary rising in Germany. Nor did they see that this capitulation would bring about not the end of the war against Germany, but merely the beginning of a new chapter of this war.

In fact the ‘peace’ of Brest-Litovsk is an illusion. Not for a moment was there peace between Russia and Germany. War has continued since Brest-Litovsk up to the present time, but the war is a unique one, waged only by one side: systematic German advance and tacit Bolshevik retreat, step by step. Occupation of the Ukraine, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, the Crimea, the Caucasus, larger and larger tracts of the southern Russia – this is the result of the ‘state of peace’ since Brest-Litovsk.

and also, although she is referring to the Brest-Litovsk this is a pretty good view to apply to state-capitalism:
Rosa Luxemburg

Any political destruction of the Bolsheviks in a honest struggle against the overwhelming forces and hostile pressures of the historical situation would be preferable to the moral destruction.

interestingly, this seems like a very early loose prediction of the Hitler and the NSDAP:
Rosa Luxemburg

Any child can see that Germany is only waiting for an opportunity of combining with a Milyukov, a Hetman or God knows what other obscure gentleman and political dabblers, to put an end to the Bolshevik splendor.

apologies that my argument has devolved into quoting, but i'm falling behind with real life stuff

devoration1

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I still think the assumption there was a viable alternative is too much of a stretch. The policy advocated by some left communists and Left SR's of a revolutionary guerilla war of armed worker's and peasant's against Prussian Militarism was a fantasy. The Germans decimated all 'revolutionary detachments' sent at them by the communists and revolutionary government- Moscow and Petrograd would have fallen in short order had the war not been ended. There was no alternative. It was buy time with unfavorable conditions or lose everything in a blaze of glory (a euphemism for the wholesale slaughter of the 'flower of the proletariat'). The cost of Brest-Litovsk was much higher than the original peace treaty offered by the Central Powers- but not signing it would've resulted in the revolutionary wave ending even earlier than it did. It would've been SIDS instead of infanticide :)

I think Luxemburg puts too much weight for the situation in Germany on the Bolsheviks. Russia could not make the German revolution- the most they could do was put the proletarian revolution on the agenda; which they did. The failures of the German communists were theirs to make.

ajjohnstone

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"I wasn't aware that the SPGB position is that socialism in one country is possible. I'm quite surprised by that."

It isn't the SPGB position and i am not sure DaveB was actually saying it is. I think he was referring to just how many countries are required for socialism to be viable in the sense that it is not necessary for 100% of the world to develop the pre-requisites for socialism before it can be established and leaving it up to debate - the uneven development theories and suggesting if in the unlikely event of one country being politically ready for socialism , the half way house that might be suggested by some, ie state capitalism would not be an option.

The establishment of socialism is not a race between national sections to see who can get there first, but a co-ordinated world movement to ensure that we all get there at more or less the same time. If there is any uneven development it will be up to the world socialist movement to decide what to do.

As we said in our pamphlet Questions of the Day

"Socialists are sometimes asked about another aspect of uneven development. This relates to the possibility that the socialist movement could be larger in one country than in another and at the stage of being able to gain control of the machinery of government before the socialist movements elsewhere were as far advanced.
Leaving aside for the moment the question as to whether such a situation is likely to arise, we can say that it presents no problems when viewed against the world-wide character of the socialist movement. Because capitalist governments are organised on a territorial basis each socialist organisation has the task of seeking democratically to gain political control in the country where it operates. This however is merely an organisational convenience; there is only one socialist movement, of which the separate socialist organisations are constituent parts. When the socialist movement grows larger its activities will be fully co-ordinated through its world-wide organisation. Given a situation in which the organised socialists of only a part of the world were in a position to gain control of the machinery of government, the decision about the action to be taken would be one for the whole of the socialist movement in the light of all the circumstances at the time."

ajjohnstone

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

As for the references to the SPGB being Menshevik, that has to be clarified, certainly because the fact that the Mensheviks included a variety of postions but i suppose it is of the stageism interpretation of the establishment of socialism that was accepted by all of Russian social democracy including Lenin and the Bolsheviks at one time - the arguement that Russia could not jump to socialism without going through capitalism - could be the position ascribed to the SPGB.

The SPGB was certainly more sympathetic to Julius Martov's position than to Lenin's in the debate about the need for democracy and conscious understanding .

Socialism, he argued, could only be achieved by a politically conscious working class. It is the experience of workers under capitalism which drives them to understand the need for Socialism and this process is enhanced by the degree of democracy which they have won for themselves. Dictatorial power wielded by a vanguard minority, no matter how sincere its intentions, can never act as a substitute. That way the workers remain a subject class and the dictators, having acquired a taste for power, consolidate their own rule. This then is Martov’s value to Socialist theory. Even however when bitterly criticising the Bolsheviks, he still had no real alternative to offer
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/etheory/1940-1997/67Martov.html

It is why his pamphlet The State and the Socialist Revolution is recommended by the SPGB ( as is Bolshevism by Rudolf Sprenger reprinted recently by Redline Publications)

Read more on the SPGB view of Martov on the SOYMB blog

"Certainly, workers' councils or something akin to them, as workplace organisations of the workers, are bound to arise in the course of the socialist revolution. But to claim that they are the only possible form of working class self-organisation is to go too far, is in fact to make a fetish of a mere organisational form. What is important in working class self-organisation, however, is not the form but the principle...Martov must be given credit for having demystified a little the idea of workers' councils by showing the essentially bourgeois revolutionary role that the soviets played in Russia in 1917."

The Bolsheviks did not represent, as they themselves believed, progress from Russia's bourgeois revolution to its "proletarian revolution". It was, says Martov, echoing what Marx had said about the so-called Reign of Terror in France in 1794, "a point in the process of the bourgeois revolution itself"

slothjabber

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well, that's alright then isn't it? The SPGB agrees with Stalin (against Lenin) that the task of the Bolsheviks was to develop capitalism in Russia (of course, Stalin called it socialism but it's content not words that count).

Hurrah for Comrade Stalin! Boo to those nasty people who thought that the world was ready for socialism in 1917, more fool them.

Only, that means that the SPGB shouldn't have founded itself, doesn't it, given that it was constituted on the basis that socialism had become a possibility? Silly old SPGB, agreeing with Lenin and Luxemburg, good job you woke up and dropped that embarrasing notion, isn't it?

Who was it said 'the SPGB are Menshevik'? I only said they agreed with and defended the Mensheviks (not at the time of course).

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The issue is not Stalin, who being put 'in the awkward position, was irrevocably lost', in the words of Engels. The Mensheviks, if anything, warned against it (they ignored their own advice in Georgia, where they did assume power in a backward country, but their moderate bourgeois policy was indeed less disastrous afaik). The Bolsheviks would of course know they faced the risk (of turning into 'Stalinists'), but this makes the reasons for their choice all the more important. Were they simply better economists (smelling the decadence)? Or had they more of that courageous voluntarism? If I understand devoration correctly, he said they put lots more hope in the uprising of the Western proletariat (but presumably Lenin was the first to admit the poor figure of socialist parties in these countries - nevertheless he found to have some reason to go ahead). That's the real issue.

I hope it's not true that the Bolsheviks regressed into anarchists, but where did they exactly differ from the Esers, who had also so mocked the 'bourgeoisness' of the Mensheviks? Maybe the Esers were right, like the Bolsheviks, to mock the mensheviks. But when they came to power (a 'Third Russian Revolution'), the Esers all the same (as Plekhanov had warned their predecessors more than three decades ago) found it necessary to develop capitalism in Russia. Even this then proved to be a failure, as their minister of labour, says:

"the program of the Committee was the program of bourgeois democracy. It was not very much for the era of socialist revolution. ... Was what was going on in the "territory of the Constituent Assembly", at least, a good bourgeois democracy? No, it was not!"

Maisky was a menshevik turned bolshevik. The official Menshevik position was not to participate in government (in territory held by counter-rev), but in fact, the local party had the power to decide on this question.

Noa Rodman

... The Bolsheviks would of course know they faced the risk (of turning into 'Stalinists'), but this makes the reasons for their choice all the more important. Were they simply better economists (smelling the decadence)? Or had they more of that courageous voluntarism? If I understand devoration correctly, he said they put lots more hope in the uprising of the Western proletariat (but presumably Lenin was the first to admit the poor figure of socialist parties in these countries - nevertheless he found to have some reason to go ahead). That's the real issue...

My understanding is that it was precisely that Lenin believed that there would be a revolution in Germany; this was the cause of the arguments with Bukharin and Trotsky over Brest Litovsk. Somewhat famously he declared that the first issue of Vorwarts after the beginning of the war was a fraud put out by the German High Command to discredit the SPD; he did not believe that the likes of Leibknecht and Ruhle would supprt the war, and seems to have been convinced that the SPD as a body would hold to the 1907 Stuttgart Resoltion against war. In 1917 he seems to have regarded the revolution in Germany as being imminent

The issue of 'decadence' was also there, this I believe is the whole matter of Trotsky's theory of 'permanent revolution'. The bourgeois revolution (qua the Menshevik theory) was not necessary and the proletarian revolution was instead on the agenda. The bourgeoisie was no longer a progressive force (as demonstrated by the failure of the German bourgeoisie in 1848); capitalism had acheived the necessary preconditions worldwide for socialism (as indeed the SPGB believed on its foundation). However, the success of the revolution in Russia would depend on the international situation.

Alexander Roxwell

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The Russian Revlution of 1917 was the convergence of two distinct revolutions that happened at the same time.

One was a peasant war against the feudal (or Asiastic-feudal or "tributary") aristocracy.

The second was the proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie.

The first revolution was "bourgeois" both in class content and in "stage of history."

The second revolution was "proletarian" in class content but still "bourgeois" in "stage of history."

The bourgeoisie opposed both revolutions.

So it was a bourgeois revolution against the bourgeoisie.

And it created a capitalist state without a capitalist ruling class.

Trotsky's belief that the Stalinist ruling clique was a "caste" rather than a class was correct.

He was wrong when he thought that the caste was a "stand-in" for the proletariat.

It was in fact a stand-in for the bourgeoisie.

Had the German Proletarian Revolution taken place prior to the hardening of this caste into a bourgeois stand-in it might have turned out differently.

Maybe.

Cleishbotham

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I don't see how you can have a peasant revolution against feudal relations when they had ceased to exist with the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 (and even the redemption dues the peasants had to pay ceased shortly after the 1905 revolution). As for the proletariat the figures are somwhat disputed but they were in their millions and greater than in more capitalistically advanced states. Russia was the world's sixth capitalists power by output in 1914. However I have to agree with Slothjabbber - the question cannot be posed in terms of a single country. the imperialist war had created a crisis across Europe that affected everywhere and the whole premise (or is it premiss?) of the October Rev was the world revolution without which "we are doomed" (Lenin but you can chose stacks of others). It was a recogniniton of what the imperialist war had done that led the Bolsheviks to drop theri two stage programme in April 1917 in recognition that the era of "democratic revolutions" were over. This was a break with Social Democracy (in the face of a real class movement) which made the Bolsheviks revolutionary. Unfortunately it was not a sufficiently wide break and they had no economic policy but went from hand to mouth after 1917. Lenin was quite clear that Russia's economy was not socialist (except in "parts") but thought (wrongly) that state capitalism was the first step towards it instead of (as we now know) the last barrier of capitalism to a real socialist revolution.

Cleishbotham

I don't see how you can have a peasant revolution against feudal relations when they had ceased to exist with the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 (and even the redemption dues the peasants had to pay ceased shortly after the 1905 revolution). As for the proletariat the figures are somwhat disputed but they were in their millions and greater than in more capitalistically advanced states. Russia was the world's sixth capitalists power by output in 1914. ... Bolsheviks to drop theri two stage programme in April 1917 in recognition that the era of "democratic revolutions" were over. This was a break with Social Democracy (in the face of a real class movement) which made the Bolsheviks revolutionary.

I think Marcel van der Linden's book is right to show that Kautsky and Lenin shared the same outllook (what van der Linden typically dismisses as their 'unilinear thinking' or such), and if there was a break, it wasn't about this:

[quote=Kautsky]
And there is still another difference. The significance of the French revolution was tremendous. It was the signal for the overthrow of the whole feudal system. The Russian revolution of to-day can have no such efforts. A bourgeois revolution is no longer necessary even in Russia; the capitalist class and even a considerable portion of the agrarian population had secured practically every juridical and economic right they needed, even before the revolution broke out. But the proletariat in Russia is still too weak and too undeveloped to rule the nation, to accomplish a revolution in the Socialist sense of that term.
...
A revolution that is an outgrowth of existing conditions possesses a gigantic vitality and momentary reverses are by no means cause for despair. But they should bring to us the grave warning, not to leave our Russian comrades alone to their fate. Their cause is the cause of the international proletariat. The collapse of revolutionary Russia would halt the process of democratization in Central Europe that has already begun.

Revolutionary Russia alone is not in a position to enforce a peace upon the terms it has proclaimed. It is time for the International to do its duty, at last, toward itself as well as toward the Russian revolution.[/quote]

Noa Rodman

I think Marcel van der Linden's book is right to show that Kautsky and Lenin shared the same outllook (what van der Linden typically dismisses as their 'unilinear thinking' or such), [...]

Minor point (and side issue), but by "unlinear thinking" van der Linden means something more specific than an off-hand dismissive comment like "narrow-minded" or "tunnel vision". He's referring to an outline he makes earlier in the book about a notion of history common amongst the 'Second International' or 'orthodox' Marxists of the time, of history of 'national' economies deterministically progressing down a rigid, single-track succession of stages -> primitive communism -> ancient/slave empires -> feudalism -> capitalism -> socialism/communism. This has bearing on the main topic of the book, as taking that "single-track" model of history as a given, certain syllogisms can be made such that the USSR was either socialist or capitalist, hence if it was not socialist, then by the law of the excluded middle, it must ipso facto, be capitalist. Anyway...

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I don't know if that is what Van Der Linden meant, but it was clearly dismissive and wrong as well. I quoted (approvingly) earlier, arguably the representative of the 'Second International', Rudolf Hilfderding:

The concept of "state capitalism" can scarcely pass the test of serious economic analysis.

... the controversy as to whether the economic system of the Soviet Union is "capitalist" or "socialist" seems to me rather pointless. It is neither.

slothjabber

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And if it's neither, then Marxism is fundamentally wrong.

However, as it had a ruling class and a working class, and the ruling class lived by exploiting the working class through wage labour... it was capitalism, and Hilferding was wrong.

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Actually, in Aufheben's later critique of Postone, they themselves adopt, what they earlier in their series on the USSR had rejected as "Ticktin's restrictive understanding of capitalism which he inherits from objectivist orthodox Marxism". Good on them, now if only the SPGB could see that this position isn't Lenin/Trot-apologetics, but was put forth even by Hilferding (clearly not defending the Bolsheviks!).

slothjabber

And if it's neither, then Marxism is fundamentally wrong.

Only if the former Soviet Union was a new form of class society which had the possibility of a stable existence. However, not all NSNC theorists believe this (Ticktin being a good example).

ajjohnstone

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

For your viewing pleasure

'Did Trotsky Point the Way to Socialism?'
'Yes' - Hillel Ticktin, editor of 'Critique'
'No' - Adam Buick, the Socialist Party of Great Britain
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/glasgow/video.html

The film can be downloaded in an easier to watch format on these two bit-torrent sites:

onebigtorrent
part 1 - http://tiny.cc/MXNnK
part 2 - http://tiny.cc/bszD7

thepiratebay
part 1 - http://tiny.cc/r67mP
part 2 - http://tiny.cc/pkiGM

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Buick's response didn't register what Ticktin was saying.

Bill Shatner

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Harrison Myers

As with most libcommers I've known about theories of State Capitalism for a long time, but I would like to share something I was introduced to through a long chat about Marx with an SPGB member, and which I have researched further as i'm doing an a-level coursework piece related to this:

Lenin himself desired, promoted and acknowledged the State Capitalist nature of the Soviet Union, although this was largely confined to intra-party debate and private letters. The destruction of council democracy and the introduction of 'War Communism' was the point at which the Bolsheviks introduced it to Russia, and it was consolidated by the 'New Economic Policy'.

This is in direct contrast to latter-day leninists and trots claims of the USSR under Lenin and Trotsky as genuinely socialist.

Lenin

State capitalism would be a step forward as compared with the present state of affairs in our Soviet Republic. If in approximately six months’ time state capitalism became established in our Republic, this would be a great success and a sure guarantee that within a year socialism will have gained a permanently firm hold and will have become invincible in this country.

Source: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/apr/21.htm - this writing also has much more on state capitalism.

Lenin

The state capitalism, which is one of the principal aspects of the New Economic Policy, is, under Soviet power, a form of capitalism that is deliberately permitted and restricted by the working class. Our state capitalism differs essentially from the state capitalism in countries that have bourgeois governments in that the state with us is represented not by the bourgeoisie, but by the proletariat, who has succeeded in winning the full confidence of the peasantry.
Unfortunately, the introduction of state capitalism with us is not proceeding as quickly as we would like it. For example, so far we have not had a single important concession, and without foreign capital to help develop our economy, the latter’s quick rehabilitation is inconceivable.

Source: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/nov/14b.htm

It seems to be tied into Lenin and Trotsky's pasts as Social-Democrats and the widely accepted theory that Russia needed to pass through a phase of capitalist development before socialism was workable (hence why the Mensheviks etc pushed for a parliamentary democracy). When Lenin chose to go with the Soviets rather than the Parliament, and claimed that Russia was ready for Socialism, he was lying: he still intended for Russia to pass through a phase of state capitalism.

But Lenin's theories of State Capitalism as a path to socialism were proved wrong, as his theory of democratic centralism does not assure control over society by the proletariat, but by a bureaucracy....

Although this whole subject does beg the question of whether industrialisation and economic development is possible under socialism? I personally think this is possible, although it would have to be a very hardworking society for decades.

I was a Leninist for over 20 years until I finally realised one thing: another group of cunts getting chauffeured round in limousines while we still toil and worry is no lot that will ever be progressive.

We've already seen what "the socialist stage" produces an it ain't nothing more than the "same old story".

The story of those who "have" and those who "have not".

bollocks to that I say.

Dave B

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just in case I have lost the plot I presume that the nature of the debate is the very old one that Boshevik Russia was neither socialism nor (state) capitalism but something else.

It might be useful to define roughly what periods we are looking at ie are we looking at post 1924 ish or the whole period from 1917 but I suppose we could ignore that and stay on the more secure ground of post 1924.

And to look at the history of the idea, again.

Trotsky probably took the ‘caste’ idea from Karl’s 18th Brumaire particularly given his use of his Napoleonic analogies to Stalinism elsewhere, thus;

An enormous bureaucracy, well gallooned and well fed, is the “Napoleonic idea” which is most congenial to the second Bonaparte. How could it be otherwise, considering that alongside the actual classes of society, he is forced to create an artificial caste for which the maintenance of his regime becomes a bread-and-butter question? Hence one of his first financial operations was the raising of officials’ salaries to their old level and the creation of new sinecures.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch07.htm

The ‘economic’ theory of an industrial and/or bureaucratical/managerial caste or caste system ruling Russia has been circulating around almost from the beginning.

And it is unreasonable to claim that the SPGB has not considered it ie

Two alternative views emerged. One was that Russia was neither capitalist nor a Workers State but some new kind of exploiting class society. The other was that Russia was state capitalist. The most easily accessible example of the first view is James Burnham's The Managerial Revolution and of the second Tony Cliff's Russia: A Marxist Analysis. Both books are well worth reading, though in fact neither Burnham nor Cliff could claim to be the originators of the theories they put forward.

http://www.worldsocialism.org/articles/trotsky_the_prophet_debunked.php

And;

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/etheory/1933-93/html/85USSR.html

and the Rizzi’s seminal article was translated into English by an SPGBer

http://www.marxists.org/archive/rizzi/bureaucratisation/index.htm

Trotsky and Trotskyists exacerbate the problem by the lazy throwaway use of the term “caste”.

[M&E when they did rarely use the term in respect of bureaucracy did so as an informal pejorative. ]

In Marxist terms, in respect of ‘domination’, a ‘caste’ should really be defined as a section of society that has monopolised a particular part of the ‘division of labour’ in society through acquired skill and knowledge and uses it for its own ‘self interest’. That can be ie a guild system or for instance a priest class.

Castes are usually formally distinguished from economic classes by the fact that caste is inherited and maintained by inter marriage within it.

So you could argue that castes inherit and monopolises a ‘social functions’.

And that the capitalist class inherits property and capital, and thus through that its ‘social function’.

However the ‘profiteers of enterprise’, who are part of the capitalist class and are the functioning capitalists exploiting the workers, and by definition don’t depend on the inheritance or ownership of capital/property for their social function, could be considered as a ‘caste’.

The only disqualification being social permeability, but then again it was a bit premature in 1935 to describe the Bolshevik ‘bureaucratic caste’ as operating an endogamy.

Of course the Bolshevik vanguard, with an ‘acquired skill and knowledge’ as the ‘educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals’. From whom the workers, who ‘exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness’ and would have to receive ‘theory of Socialism’ from them; where ideally placed from 1902 to become a ‘bureaucratic caste’.

Coincidentally such a bureaucratic caste also went hand in glove with the beginnings of the German state capitalism system that was so much admired and to be copied and learnt from by Lenin and his Bolsheviks.

The end result, “the infamy of the real or purported interest of the caste”, ie post 1924 ‘Stalinism’, resembling its beginning in Germany.

Engels To August Bebel In Plauen near Dresden 1886

In Germany ………. For its semi or wholly hereditary official class is so small and at the same time so jealous of its caste privileges that its judiciary, police, administration and army, all ….. come to one another’s aid and play into one another’s hands, and to such good purpose that the legal norms, indispensable in larger countries, are completely lost to view, and what is utterly impossible becomes possible. I myself have seen what can happen in this way,

And I am convinced that Bismarck could have achieved the same end in any other petty German state as soon as the Court, the chief of the robber band, ceased to oppose him. In the largest of the petty states, in Prussia itself, this mutual aid society is formed by the military and official elite and is capable of any infamy in the real or purported interest of the caste.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/letters/86_08_18.htm

And that all the Bolsheviks did was to take that ‘caste’ aspect of ‘German state capitalism’ to its ultimate conclusion as part of being a practical "socialist” perhaps.

Otto von Bismarck implemented a set of social programs between 1883-1889, following his anti-socialist laws, partly as remedial measures to appease the working class and detract support for the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Bismarck's biographer A. J. P. Taylor said:

"It would be unfair to say that Bismarck took up social welfare solely to weaken the Social Democrats; he had had it in mind for a long time, and believed in it deeply. But as usual he acted on his beliefs at the exact moment when they served a practical need".

When a reference was made to his friendship with Ferdinand Lassalle (a nationalist and state-oriented socialist), Bismarck said that he was a more practical "socialist" than the Social Democrats. These policies were informally referred to as "State Socialism" by liberal and conservative opponents;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_socialism#cite_note-9

Perhaps Lenin had that in mind when in his “Chief Task of our Times” he substituted and used interchangeably ‘state socialism’ for ‘state capitalism’ for the benefit of the British workers and the THE WORKERS' SOCIALIST FEDERATION.

In;

Part II, (Reprinted front the "lsvestia," March 14th 1918) THE POLITICAL CURRENTS AND ECONOMIC FORCES WITH WHICH THE REVOLUTION MUST CONTEND

A Speech delivered by Lenin to the Plenary Sitting of the Central Executive
Committee of the Soviets.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spopen/message/11620

Which was ammended from;

V. I. Lenin SESSION OF THE ALL-RUSSIA C.E.C. APRIL 29, 1918

http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/SAR18.html

And from Engels on ‘state socialism/capitalism’ with its ‘bureaucratic caste’.

But of late, since Bismarck went in for state-ownership of industrial establishments, a kind of spurious socialism has arisen, degenerating, now and again, into something of flunkeyism, that without more ado declares all state ownership, even of the Bismarckian sort, to be socialistic. Certainly, if the taking over by the state of the tobacco industry is socialistic, then Napoleon and Metternich must be numbered among the founders of socialism. If the Belgian state, for quite ordinary political and financial reasons, itself constructed its chief railway lines; if Bismarck, not under any economic compulsion, took over for the state the chief Prussian lines, simply to be the better able to have them in hand in case of war, to bring up the railway employees as voting cattle for the government, and especially to create for himself a new source of income independent of parliamentary votes — this was, in no sense, a socialistic measure, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/notes.htm

And I suppose the counter argument is that; if say the private capitalism of Germany had disappeared and all that was to remain was the state capitalism with its bureaucratic caste then, Alice in wonderland style, it would have no longer been state capitalism.

.

Noa Rodman

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Dave, I understand you're worried that by labeling the USSR as not-capitalist (even with the disclaimer of not-socialist), people are trying to justify it. But if you listened to Ticktin, he clearly says that a non-mode of production is if anything even worse than state-capitalism. Bismarck was not Stalin.

And in history of ideas, the USSR as 'non-mode of production' was the analysis of both Hilferding and Kautksy.

Alexander Roxwell

The Russian Revlution of 1917 was the convergence of two distinct revolutions that happened at the same time.

One was a peasant war against the feudal (or Asiastic-feudal or "tributary") aristocracy.

The second was the proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie.

The first revolution was "bourgeois" both in class content and in "stage of history."

The second revolution was "proletarian" in class content but still "bourgeois" in "stage of history."

The bourgeoisie opposed both revolutions.

So it was a bourgeois revolution against the bourgeoisie.

And it created a capitalist state without a capitalist ruling class.

Trotsky's belief that the Stalinist ruling clique was a "caste" rather than a class was correct.

He was wrong when he thought that the caste was a "stand-in" for the proletariat.

It was in fact a stand-in for the bourgeoisie.

Had the German Proletarian Revolution taken place prior to the hardening of this caste into a bourgeois stand-in it might have turned out differently.

Maybe.

Very interesting take. Absolutely agree that the bureaucracy is the historical analogue, the stand-in, for the bourgeoisie.

Don't quite agree on there being a capitalist state, without a capitalist class. That's the thing about analogues-- similar function, different historical origin, so if the bureaucracy wasn't a class, and wasn't capitalist, it could not produce a capitalist state.

To produce a capitalist state, you kind of have to have that capitalist class; and to have that capitalist class you have to have private ownership of the means of production; you have to have the ability to purchase labor-power with money. Didn't quite happen like that in the fSU.

No doubt however that the bureaucracy administered the impulse to capitalist restoration throughout the period of its rule.

BTW the early part of the 20th century, the landholdings of the feudal aristocracy had been considerably reduced and the distorted, misshapen units of agricultural production were units of production for the capitalist world market, linked irretrievably with capitalism, which is why the bourgeoisie were so incapable of dealing with "agrarian question."

slothjabber

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

No; the capitalist state was produced by capitalism, which also produced a capitalist class.

Capitalism is wage labour in the service of commodity production. Russian workers had their surplus labour exploited in return for roubles which they spent at government owned shops. This is capitalism. Capitalism produces capitalists; the class analysis of the USSR depends on its mode of production not on the legal definitions of ownership. The party was a class because for 70 years it stood in a unique relationship to the means of production. It was capitalist because it survived on surplus labour exploited through wage labour.

Therefore, the state that was produced by this system (classes, check; capitalism, check) was a capitalist state.

I don't think it's quite that simple and linear. The "legal form" is in fact an essential component of the mode of production since it manifests, expresses the social relations of production. Last time I checked, those social relations of production and to production were what Marx used to define class, and so "legal title" to private ownership is critical to capital, to the capitalist mode of production.

One of the problems with your analysis-- workers performed wage labor yielding a surplus; wages were spent on commodities in state shops-- is that it can apply to any type, moment, organization of workers power -- any point of transition, any thing less than immediate socialism.

Another problem is that if the Soviet party apparatus, managers etc. formed a class, then as a class, they have a specific, unique, and necessary relationship to the means of production. They are essential to the organization and development of production.

I don't find that anywhere in my explorations of the Soviet economy. There is nothing in the Soviet mode of production that requires a bureaucracy to organize that production. Nothing in the mode of production requires the bureaucracy in order to maintain reproduction.

You state the party stood in a "unique" relationship to the means of production. What was that unique relation? Could the members of that "class" dispose of the means of production as each saw fit, for the gain of the individual members? Could the members of that class buy and sell the means of production, buying and selling capital and wage-labor being kind of the hallmarks of capitalism?

Doesn't mean the party, the apparatus wasn't what it was-- the obstacle to, opponent of international proletarian revolution, of class struggle. Just means it wasn't a capitalist class imposing capitalism on the fSU, when in fact capitalism had already existed and proven itself incapable, through its capitalist class, of extending its mode of production.

It's a difficult issue to explore, and I don't think any of the characterizations of the fSU are satisfactory, including my own.

Noa Rodman

I don't know if that is what Van Der Linden meant, but it was clearly dismissive and wrong as well. I quoted (approvingly) earlier, arguably the representative of the 'Second International', Rudolf Hilfderding:

The concept of "state capitalism" can scarcely pass the test of serious economic analysis.

... the controversy as to whether the economic system of the Soviet Union is "capitalist" or "socialist" seems to me rather pointless. It is neither.

On unilinearism:

I have [...] adopted as working hypothesis that three contextual clusters strongly inƀuenced ‘Western-Marxist’ theorising about the Soviet Union.

a) The general theory of the forms of society (modes of production) and their succession. This cluster involves many aspects, but as will become evident in what follows, in the debate about the Soviet Union the question of the sequence of types of society was especially important. Marxist thought in this respect showed three phases since about 1917. (i) Until the beginning of the 1930s, different interpretations co-existed; some, including politically diverging personalities like Kautsky and Lenin, believed that development occurred in a unilinear way – namely, through the sequence slave society -> feudalism -> capitalism -> socialism; others (the Aziatchiki) identised a second possible line of development with the ‘Asiatic mode of production’ as its pivot; a few (e.g. Wittfogel) took this idea further and assumed three possible historical paths of development. (ii) From the 1930s until the second half of the 1950s, unilinear thinking dominated almost completely although, here and there, some Marxists continued to maintain the existence of an ‘Asiatic mode of production’. (iii) At the end of the 1950s, the disintegration of the conception of a uniform sequence of development (unilinearism) began. After an initial phase, in which the ‘Asiatic mode of production’ was rediscovered and treated by many as a panacea for the analytical difficulties, a stormy period of theoretical development followed which resulted in the ‘discovery’ of more and more modes of production, culminating in the questioning of the validity of the old theory of modes of production itself. The reason why this course of events is so important for the subject of this study is that the general theory of the (consecutive) modes of production can be considered a priori to have determined how Soviet society as mode of production was assigned its place in history. If unilinear thinking was consistently applied, then Soviet society could only be feudal, capitalist or socialist. But, if the Soviet Union was defined as a form of society of a new type, this simultaneously meant abandoning unilinearism.

(van der Linden, op cit., ch1 pp5-6)

On Hilferding:

Hilferding

In 1940, the Menshevik journal Sotsialisticheskii Vestnik published a Russian translation of the article in which Worrall had expounded his theory of state capitalism. But also published was a critical response to it, by the famous Social Democrat Rudolf Hilferding, in which he advanced his own theory.173 Hilferding’s contribution (later also published inter alia in English and German) represented the conclusion of a series of articles he had published after Hitler came to power, which dealt with developments in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.174

Hilferding’s theory is distinct, although there are some identifiable similarities with Rizzi, Burnham and Pedrosa. The bureaucracy, in Hilferding’s view, could not be a ruling class [...] to that extent, Hilferding agreed with Trotsky. But, in contrast to the latter, Hilferding did not view the bureaucracy as a parasitic organism dependent on the working class and its workers’ state, but, rather, as the instrument of the state leader, Stalin. The Georgian despot had subordinated the servants of the state together with the rest of the population completely to himself.

Because of this development, the economy was no longer the factor that determined politics, nor did politics direct the economy and dominate it. The state had uprooted itself from all classes, and had become an ‘independent power’. This theory marked a remarkable turnaround in Hilferding’s thinking. During the Weimar Republic, he had shown great consdence in the state (according to some, too great); but, evidently, the experience of Stalinism and national socialism prompted a retreat. Whereas originally his belief had been that the state – under Social-Democratic leadership – had to subordinate the economy, now it had become apparent that such subordination resulted in dictatorship.176 For all that, one constant theme in Hilferding’s thought remained visible in his article: the state is, in the last instance, a classless institution, which, under desnite relations of power, can be used for good or for evil; whether that occurred by means of a Social-Democratic government or an omnipotent dictator, had little effect on this core idea.
[...]

(op cit., pp 89-90)

So here he is advancing the proposition that Hilferding has, at this later stage, departed from the more conventional base/superstructure economism of earlier 'orthodoxy'.

While I think 'dismissive' is too strong, what I would agree is that, despite his best efforts to come across as being professionally detached from the object of his study, you are definitely left with the clear impression that van der Linden wouldn't personally consider for a minute the possibility that 'unilinearism' might actually be valid or correct.

While it might seem arbitrary to exclude the later Hilferding from the 'orthodox canon' given his earlier significant contributions to it's construction (although you could say similar things about Bebel and indeed, prior to his 'apostasy', Bernstein), the identification of 'orthodoxy' with the common ideology shared between Kautsky and Lenin, is justified, imo, by the institutional legacy they left behind in the shape of the SPD and CPSU.

slothjabber

And if it's neither [capitalist or socialist], then Marxism is fundamentally wrong.

That is the 'orthodox' position, yes. Without getting into it - not being a one myself - there are plenty of professional Marxologists who have argued, quoting chapter and verse, that the notion that Marx was himself an "orthodox Marxist" does not stand up to scrutiny.

Dave B

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think an analysis of Soviet Russia is best looked in terms of Karl’s theory of 'profit of enterprise' and thus profiteers of enterprise which he considered as capitalist and in fact the functioning capitalists.

The non-functioning capitalists being, in an idealised separation, the money capitalist or legal owners of the capital and they would include the ‘non working’ shareholders of joint stock companies.

The idealised profiteer of enterprise being CEO’s and senior management to some level.

The ‘bureaucracy’ in Russia, as an ‘analogue’, could be split into two parts the ‘bureaucracy’ of the industrial management and that of the political state.

The ‘bureaucracy’ of the industrial management, as profiteers of enterprise, do not nor do they have to, own capital or buy and sell it. In fact if they did it would disqualify them as profiteers of enterprise.

All they require is access to capital to work with, as opposed to ownership, and access to wage labour.

They would qualify for access to capital, as they do in capitalism ordinary, by their ability to extract surplus labour from the working class.

It is possible then to suggest that the political ‘bureaucracy’ appoints the appropriately qualified profiteers of enterprise or industrial management ‘bureaucracy’ thus acting as de-facto 'analogue' owners or shareholders of the collective state capital as if it were one joint stock company.

There would be no purpose in selling capital to purchase other capital or selling shares to purchase others as there would be only one type of capital.

Although they would admittedly not have the option of selling their capital in order to fund personal consumption; that is not exactly and integral theoretical part of capitalism when taken as a whole.

When it comes to the political manoeuvrings of the political bureaucracy for power and slice of surplus value sweated out of the workers by the profiteers of enterprise and effective shareholder ownership and dividends for personal consumption.

There is not much difference from that, as much as it interests the workers, than the;

“gambling on the Stock Exchange, where the different capitalists despoil one another of their capital.”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch24.htm

You could argue that the political and industrial bureaucracy in Russia were fused together but you could equally say that the ‘profiteers of enterprise’ and ‘money capitalists’ are in capitalism ordinary.

But that did not stop Karl separating them out in order to analyse them.

The best argument against it being ‘capitalism’, not that it is mine; is the extent to which the workers were not free to sell their labour power and achieve the best price on an open market and that they were not free to purchase commodities on an open market.

Or the first of the two characteristic features.

....and thus as a free wage-labourer,...

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch51.htm

And that they were essentially just industrial slaves proper receiving rations and only one step up from those in the prison camps.

However unwaged slavery with surplus value ie in the Southern plantations can be operated with a capitalist outlook ie

Where the capitalist outlook prevails, as on American plantations, this entire surplus-value is regarded as profit

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch47.htm

And it also fits in with the previously given Bukharin analysis of state capitalisms automatic degeneration to slavery proper, with a 'capitalist outlook'.

So it wasn’t a degenerate workers state but degenerate state capitalism.

But as according to Trotsky there was an equivalence between a workers state and state capitalism; it is merely a problem substitution.

S. Artesian

I don't think it's quite that simple and linear. The "legal form" is in fact an essential component of the mode of production since it manifests, expresses the social relations of production. Last time I checked, those social relations of production and to production were what Marx used to define class, and so "legal title" to private ownership is critical to capital, to the capitalist mode of production.

One of the problems with your analysis-- workers performed wage labor yielding a surplus; wages were spent on commodities in state shops-- is that it can apply to any type, moment, organization of workers power -- any point of transition, any thing less than immediate socialism...

I'm going to start here and come back to the rest later.

The legal form matter not one jot and is in no way used to determine class. Engels in the 1880s theorised the end of the classic top-hatted capitalist and saw the rise of the joint-stock company as 'the collective capitalist'. Just because legal title is held by a corporation rather than individuals doesn't make it any less capitalist; legal title to private ownership is by no means necessary for capitalism. What is necessary is the exploitation of surplus labour, wage labour and private expropriation, whether this is directly in the case of industrialists in the 1840s, indirectly through the medium of the joint stock corporation in the 1880s or indirectly through the medium of the state enterprise in the 1950s.

The 'problem' of capitalism continuing after the revolution is only a problem if you claim what happens after the revolution can't be capitalism. Of course it can. If money and wage labour are retained after the revolution, then just because the working class is for a time organising its own exploitation doesn't mean it's not capitalism. If the situation continues, then a new capitalist class will arise, because capitalism creates capitalists, rather than the other way around. There were capitalists in ancient Rome, but they could never impose their mode of production on the entire society and economy; the capitalists could not 'create' capitalism.

Personally I favour rationing rather than money, for anything that is in short supply. But even then, I don't call 'War Communism' by the name of 'socialism'. I really think that until the external capitalists are defeated (ie the revolution is successful worldwide) and the capitalists are defeated internally too (I mean, those in society seeking a return to the status quo ante, not 'kill the capitalist in your head') then the working class will still need a state; if there is a working class and a state, then that looks like a form of capitalism to me. Not a stable form, one that will become increasingly attenuated as more and more production, resources, population, territory come under the power of the workers' councils, until it 'withers away'; but a state, and state capitalism, nevertherless.

Alexander Roxwell

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Nevermind the prospect of "socialism in one country."

Can you create a dictatorship of the proletariat in "a place" (a "country" a "city" a "continent" or a "planet") where primitive accumulation has not yet taken place?

I think the answer is a resounding "No."

So did Marxists of all stripes up until .................?..................... Parvus?

slothjabber

[...]
Capitalism is wage labour in the service of commodity production. Russian workers had their surplus labour exploited in return for roubles which they spent at government owned shops. This is capitalism. Capitalism produces capitalists; the class analysis of the USSR depends on its mode of production not on the legal definitions of ownership. The party was a class because for 70 years it stood in a unique relationship to the means of production. It was capitalist because it survived on surplus labour exploited through wage labour.
[...]

I also don't think it's as simple as wage labour in the service of commodity production.

In the first case, whether or not workers in the USSR were fully "free wage labour", I think that's questionable on two grounds. First that via the pass-book (or whatever it was called) system, workers were not free to move from place to place or employment to employment. Further certain jobs were conditional on being party members or party cadre. Secondly, the "wage" itself was only part of how means of subsistence/reproduction were obtained. Many of the most basic things (places to live, many consumer durables) were obtained through a byzantine system of waiting lists, your movement within which was more often related to connections than roubles.

So much for the commodification of labour or the existence of a labour market. The other side is produced commodities (not that labour isn't produced, but that's another story). Again, most people seem to accept that the "law of value" (understood in its simplest form of the ratio at which commodities exchange being proportional to socially necessary labour time embodied in them) did not operate in the USSR.

But on a more general level, let's look at what Marx has to say in Vol. III, ch. 51:

Capitalist production is distinguished from the outset by two characteristic features.

First. It produces its products as commodities. The fact that it produces commodities does not differentiate it from other modes of production; but rather the fact that being a commodity is the dominant and determining characteristic of its products. This implies, first and foremost, that the labourer himself comes forward merely as a seller of commodities, and thus as a free wage-labourer, so that labour appears in general as wage-labour.
[...]
The second distinctive feature of the capitalist mode of production is the production of surplus-value as the direct aim and determining motive of production. Capital produces essentially capital, and does so only to the extent that it produces surplus-value. We have seen in our discussion of relative surplus-value, and further in considering the transformation of surplus-value into profit, how a mode of production peculiar to the capitalist period is founded hereon — a special form of development of the social productive powers of labour, but confronting the labourer as powers of capital rendered independent, and standing in direct opposition therefore to the labourer’s own development. Production for value and surplus-value implies, as has been shown in the course of our analysis, the constantly operating tendency to reduce the labour-time necessary for the production of a commodity, i.e., its value, below the actually prevailing social average. The pressure to reduce cost-price to its minimum becomes the strongest lever for raising the social productiveness of labour, which, however, appears here only as a continual increase in the productiveness of capital.

The authority assumed by the capitalist as the personification of capital in the direct process of production, the social function performed by him in his capacity as manager and ruler of production, is essentially different from the authority exercised on the basis of production by means of slaves, serfs, etc.

Whereas, on the basis of capitalist production, the mass of direct producers is confronted by the social character of their production in the form of strictly regulating authority and a social mechanism of the labour-process organised as a complete hierarchy — this authority reaching its bearers, however, only as the personification of the conditions of labour in contrast to labour, and not as political or theocratic rulers as under earlier modes of production — among the bearers of this authority, the capitalists themselves, who confront one another only as commodity-owners, [b]there reigns complete anarchy within which the social interrelations of production assert themselves only as an overwhelming natural law in relation to individual free will.

Only because labour pre-exists in the form of wage-labour, and the means of production in the form of capital — i.e., solely because of this specific social form of these essential production factors — does a part of the value (product) appear as surplus-value and this surplus-value as profit (rent), as the gain of the capitalist, as additional available wealth belonging to him. But only because this surplus-value thus appears as his profit do the additional means of production, which are intended for the expansion of reproduction, and which constitute a part of this profit, present themselves as new additional capital, and the expansion of the process of reproduction in general as a process of capitalist accumulation.

Although the form of labour as wage-labour is decisive for the form of the entire process and the specific mode of production itself, it is not wage-labour which determines value.[...]

(IMO the Fowkes translation by Penguin is superior to the MECW version, where it talks of the social relations of production asserting themselves as an "inner law", but I couldn't find online source for that translation)

So while everybody accepts that the USSR was a class society, and like all class societies was ruled by a class exploiting a subordinate class of direct producers, whose surplus product they appropriated, it's not clear that this was a mode of production which had "the production of surplus-value as the direct aim and determining motive of production".

So, no, the coincidence of exploitation (which is common to all class societies) and the (apparent) form of wage-labour are not, in and of themselves, sufficient to match the system of market forces that Marx is analysing.

OTOH, this I broadly agree with:

The 'problem' of capitalism continuing after the revolution is only a problem if you claim what happens after the revolution can't be capitalism. Of course it can. If money and wage labour are retained after the revolution, then just because the working class is for a time organising its own exploitation doesn't mean it's not capitalism. If the situation continues, then a new capitalist class will arise, because capitalism creates capitalists, rather than the other way around.

Noa Rodman

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Roxwell

Nevermind the prospect of "socialism in one country."

Maybe the reason why Slothjabber has to keep insisting on this point is because he accepts Bukharin's analysis that industry in state-hands under the dictatorship of the proletariat must mean state capitalism, but at the same time he doesn't want to follow the position drawn by Bukharin from this about socialism being possible in one country (the country would just needs to be independent from world markets AMAP).

So did Marxists of all stripes up until .................?..................... Parvus?

I don't know what you're pointing at Alex, so I'll just take the chance to cite again Lenin; Lenin's closing speach to the 11th congress:

Comrade Preobrazhensky spoke about capitalism and said that we ought to open a general discussion on our Programme. I think that this would be the most unproductive and unjustified waste of time.

First of all about state capitalism.

“State capitalism is capitalism,” said Preobrazhensky, “and that is the only way it can and should be interpreted.” I say that that is pure scholasticism. Up to now nobody could have written a book about this sort of capitalism, because this is the first time in human history that we see anything like it. All the more or less intelligible books about state capitalism that have appeared up to now were written under conditions and in a situation where state capitalism was capitalism. Now things are different; and neither Marx nor the Marxists could foresee this. We must not look to the past. When you write history, you will write it magnificently; but when you write a textbook, you will say: State capitalism is the most unexpected and absolutely unforeseen form of capitalism—for nobody could foresee that the proletariat would achieve power in one of the least developed countries, and would first try to organise large-scale production and distribution for the peasantry and then, finding that it could not cope with the task owing to the low standard of culture, would enlist the services of capitalism. Nobody ever foresaw this; but it is an incontrovertible fact.

...
As regards state capitalism, we ought to know what should be the slogan for agitation and propaganda, what must be explained, what we must get everyone to understand practically. And that is that the state capitalism that we have now is not the state capitalism that the Germans wrote about. It is capitalism that we ourselves have permitted. Is that true or not? Everybody knows that it is true!

At a congress of Communists we passed a decision that state capitalism would be permitted by the proletarian state, and we are the state. If we did wrong we are to blame and it is no use shifting the blame to somebody else! We must learn, we must see to it that in a proletarian country state capitalism cannot and does not go beyond the framework and conditions delineated for it by the proletariat, beyond conditions that benefit the proletariat. It was quite rightly pointed out here that we had to give consideration to the peasants as a mass, and enable them to trade freely. Every intelligent worker appreciates that this is necessary for the proletarian dictatorship, and only Comrade Shlyapnikov can joke about and mock it. This is appreciated by everybody and has been chewed over a thousand times, but you simply refuse to understand it. If under present conditions the peasant must have freedom to trade within certain limits, we must give it to him, but this does not mean that we are permitting trade in raw brandy. We shall punish people for that sort of trade. It does not mean that we are permitting the sale of political literature called Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary and financed by the capitalists of the whole world.

That is what I meant when I mentioned machine-guns, and Comrade Shlyapnikov should have understood it. What he says is nonsensical!

You will not frighten anybody and you will not win any sympathy! (Applause. Laughter. )

Poor Shlyapnikov! Lenin had planned to use machine-guns against him!

What I had in mind was Party disciplinary measures, and not machine-guns as such. When we talk about machine-guns we have in mind the people in this country whom we call Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries and who argue as follows: “You say you are retreating towards capitalism, and we say the same thing; we agree with you!” We are constantly hearing this sort of thing; and abroad a gigantic propaganda campaign is being conducted to prove that while we Bolsheviks are keeping the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries in prison, we ourselves are permitting capitalism. True, we are permitting capitalism, but within the limits that the peasants need. This is essential! Without it the peasants could not exist and continue with their husbandry. But we maintain that the Russian peasants can do very well without Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik propaganda. To those who assert the contrary we say: We would rather perish to the last man than yield to you! And our courts must understand all this. Now that we are passing from the Cheka to state-political courts we must say at this Congress that there is no such thing as above-class courts. Our courts must be elected, proletarian courts; and they must know what it is that we are permitting. They must clearly understand what state capitalism is.

This is the political slogan of the day and not a controversy about what the German professors meant by state capitalism and what we mean by it. We have gone through a great deal since then, and it is altogether unseemly for us to look back.

Alexander Roxwell

Nevermind the prospect of "socialism in one country."

Can you create a dictatorship of the proletariat in "a place" (a "country" a "city" a "continent" or a "planet") where primitive accumulation has not yet taken place?

I think the answer is a resounding "No."

So did Marxists of all stripes up until .................?..................... Parvus?

No, that would be Marx and Engels themselves.

It is clear that communal ownership in Russia is long past its period of florescence and, to all appearances, is moving towards its disintegration. Nevertheless, the possibility undeniably exists of raising this form of society to a higher one, if it should last until the circumstances are ripe for that, and if it shows itself capable of developing in such manner that the peasants no longer cultivate the land separately, but collectively; of raising it to this higher form without it being necessary for the Russian peasants to go through the intermediate stage of bourgeois small holdings.

- Engels, On Social Relations in Russia

In dealing with the genesis of capitalist production I stated that it is founded on “the complete separation of the producer from the means of production” (p. 315, column 1, French edition of Capital) and that “the basis of this whole development is the expropriation of the agricultural producer. To date this has not been accomplished in a radical fashion anywhere except in England... But all the other countries of Western Europe are undergoing the same process” (1.c., column II).

I thus expressly limited the “historical inevitability” of this process to the countries of Western Europe. And why? Be so kind as to compare Chapter XXXII, where it says:

The “process of elimination transforming individualised and scattered means of production into socially concentrated means of production, of the pigmy property of the many into the huge property of the few, this painful and fearful expropriation of the working people, forms the origin, the genesis of capital... Private property, based on personal labour ... will be supplanted by capitalist private property, based on the exploitation of the labour of others, on wage labour” (p. 341, column II).

Thus, in the final analysis, it is a question of the transformation of one form of private property into another form of private property. Since the land in the hands of the Russian peasants has never been their private property, how could this development be applicable?

- First Draft of Marx's Letter to Vasulich

The Communist Manifesto had, as its object, the proclamation of the inevitable impending dissolution of modern bourgeois property. But in Russia we find, face-to-face with the rapidly flowering capitalist swindle and bourgeois property, just beginning to develop, more than half the land owned in common by the peasants. Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?

The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development.

- Marx and Engels, 1882 Preface to the Russian Edition of the Communist Manifesto

On Parvus, I have not read his work, but I should note that according to Lars T. Lih, on the crucial question of the peasantry, Parvus' position was actually closer to Lenin's than Trotsky's (This might explain why Lenin was scathing and dismissive of Trotsky yet appeared to have a certain level of respect for Parvus in the final section of 'Social-Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government').

Cleishbotham

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think Slothjabber is correct in this discussion and I think Ocelot exaggerates the idea of what "free" wage labour is under any stage of capitalism. In the early stages of the industrial revolution in the UK you can hardly say that workers walked out of one job and into another on a free basis. Apart from the truck system with its tommy shops where you could only spend company tokens there was also the question that your job and your house were tied (a feature which went up to 1950s Britain - our parents were constrained by this). Free wage labour is relative. It is free for the capitalist because they can pay below subsistence level (antoher worker will replace the dead one) unlike a real slave who is a capital cost so has to be kept alive and fit.It is a lot less free for the worker.

And of course we are talking about Russia in the 1920s which had pretensions to some form of "socialism" so that the notion of free wage labour will be distorted by attempts to eiterh make it better or more efficient for the state but essentially the characteristic remains and this is the bedrock of Slothjabber's case (and Marxism).

Noa Rodman

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The problem with Bordiga's analysis is that he takes Stalin seriously about the law of value in Russia; in fact this law wasn't applied (although very much attempted).

I also think Bordiga is wrong in his conclusion to 'THE DOCTRINE OF THE BODY POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL':

The capitalist as person no longer serves in this: capital lives without him but with its same function multiplied 100 fold. The human subject has become useless. A class without members to compose it? The state not at the service of a social group, but an impalpable force, the work of the Holy Ghost or of the Devil? Here is Sir Charles's irony. We offer the promised quotation:
«By tuning his money into commodities which serve as the building materials for a new product, and as factors in the labour process, by incorporating living labour into their lifeless objectivity, the capitalist simultaneously transforms value, i.e. past labour in its objectified and lifeless form, into capital, value which can perform its own valorisation process, an animated monster which begins to 'work', 'as if possessed by the devil'» (9).

Capital must be seized by these horns.

Bordiga simply takes Marx's metaphor literally, it's like Aufheben says about Postone, a quite spooky analysis.

Zanthorus

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

On the free labour discussion, it is probably worth noting, as Chattopadhyay does in 'The Marxian Concept of Capital', that the restrictions on the free movement of labour were repealed after the end of the Stalin era, and the Soviet Union actually had fairly high turnover rates.

Cleishbotham

I think Slothjabber is correct in this discussion and I think Ocelot exaggerates the idea of what "free" wage labour is under any stage of capitalism. In the early stages of the industrial revolution in the UK you can hardly say that workers walked out of one job and into another on a free basis. Apart from the truck system with its tommy shops where you could only spend company tokens there was also the question that your job and your house were tied (a feature which went up to 1950s Britain - our parents were constrained by this). Free wage labour is relative. It is free for the capitalist because they can pay below subsistence level (antoher worker will replace the dead one) unlike a real slave who is a capital cost so has to be kept alive and fit.It is a lot less free for the worker.

It is indeed from capitalists perspective that the labour (power) commodity is "free", unlike chattel slaves. That is, that the capitalist can hire and fire workers without worrying about their full cost of reproduction (childhood, education, health care costs when sick, etc.) - although in modern capitalist states, they do have to contribute to the costs through taxation. This latter contribution, on a systemic level of rationality, makes sense to share the costs amongst employers (e.g. see arguments by the Economist for health care reform in the US, based on inefficiency of employers paying individual health insurance, etc).

But this was one of the things that was different in the USSR. In many cases the employer was also the provider of housing, health, education, child care and social services as well. Given this lack of separation between employer and state, there was little incentive to lay off workers, as they would continue to cost nearly as much, in the social component of the wage, whether working or not. (This argument was made in a Tom Wetzel article 'Crisis in the "Communist Block"' in I&A #12, Spring 1990, sadly not available online, afaics). Combined with the vagaries of top-down quotas creating occasional productive panics to meet an new quota, the overall incentive was for "employers" to tend to hoard labour, in contrast to the capitalist tendency to expell it from the production process. Hence the continual problems of labour shortages in the USSR, and the tendency of the ratio of people actually doing any real work to people employed to be absurdly small (of course there was also a manifestation of class struggle in this as well). In general the whole dynamics of the drive to reduce cost-price driving the reduction to a bare minimum labour employed (see ch 51 quote above) just didn't function in a capitalist fashion.

Cleishbotham

And of course we are talking about Russia in the 1920s which had pretensions to some form of "socialism" so that the notion of free wage labour will be distorted by attempts to eiterh make it better or more efficient for the state but essentially the characteristic remains and this is the bedrock of Slothjabber's case (and Marxism).

Well, I'm more focusing on the post-NEP period where the type of "state capitalism" of the kind defended by Lenin in the 11th congress speech quoted by Noa above, has been superceded by agricultural collectivisation and the increased dominance of Gosplan.

My problem is the forcing of the categories of capitalism onto the USSR (as Ticktin complained) does violence to the actual critical analysis of the laws of motion of capitalism as laid out by Marx. In other words, imo, you can defend the "unilinear" historical determinism of orthodox Marxism, or you can defend Marx's analysis of capitalism, but you cannot do both.

Ultimately I'm not surprised that Aufheben ended up dropping their original (fudged) state capitalist position in favour of Ticktin's "non-mode of production". Having said that the very concept of a "non-mode" is itself based on an indefensible loyalty to the orthodox notion that capitalism and socialism are the only possible modes of production (for european countries, at least) in the 20th century. Protestations that the mode of production in the USSR was transitional ignores the point that all modes of production are transitional - from the one they replaced to the one that succeeds them - i.e. that they are historically specific.

Dave B

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The issue of Engels, On Social Relations in Russia and Marx's Letter to Vasulich has been raised again.

Kautsky explained the situation in 1905.

Karl Kautsky Differences Among the Russian Socialists (1905)

So it was possible that Russian society might leap over the capitalist stage in order to immediately develop the new communism out of the old. But a condition of this was that socialism in the rest of Europe should become victorious during the time that the village communities still had a vital strength in Russia.

This at the begining of the eighties appeared still possible. But in a decade the impossibility of this transition was perfectly clear. The revolution in Western Europe moved slower and the village communities in Russia fell faster than appeared probable at the beginning of the eighties, and therewith it was decided that the special peculiarity of Russia upon which the terrorism and the socialism of the Narodnaya Volya was founded should disappear, and that Russia must pass through capitalism in order to attain socialism and that also Russia must in this respect pass along the same road as had Western Europe. Here as there socialism must grow out of the great industry and the industrial proletariat is the only revolutionary class which is capable of leading a continuous and independent revolutionary battle against absolutism.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1905/xx/rsdlp.htm

To explain the situation in terms of Karl’s theory of stageism we need to look at the two aspects of it or perhaps the one aspect that doesn’t appear to be clear.

The building of the means of production thus industry and capital through capitalism in order for socialism to be possible is just one aspect of it.

The other is the is the development or changes in consciousness, required for socialism, that run in tandem to it are dependent on the economic base.

As regards Russia; it was so backward that there was still the primitive communal communism, allegedly circa 1880, were work was carried out in common.

According to the theory, as Russia was sucked from the outside into the whirlpool of international capitalism and commodity production this form of production would begin to dissolve under that pressure into ‘petty bourgeois’ peasant production.

Or in other words the communes would come under pressure from individual peasants wanting to opt out of the commune system set up on their own and farm their own patch of ground and trade their own products for cash. As opposed to the isolated self sustaining commune system of the Mir type systems which produced everything they needed in common and distributed to need.

Under that pressure the communist consciousness of primitive agricultural collectivism would become eroded by the dog eat dog competitive consciousness of small owner farmers or petty bourgeois peasants. And their previous social and collectivist interests would turn to the more capitalist orientated pre-occupation of producing to sell at a good price irrespective of anyone else’s need.

And they become according to the theory little capitalist in outlook, as independent owners of their own means of production. In that respect they can be even as ‘labourers’ just as hostile to the idea of collectivising their livelihood as their bigger brothers and as equally reactionary to communism.

There isn’t much primitive communism about know but to make an analogue of the situation re Russia in 1880 and now. We could perhaps look at the Kalahari Bushmen now and ask could they be absorbed into a greater communist world without having to pass through capitalism and becoming proletarians first?

The question was probably less trivial as regards Russia in 1880 as Russia was on Europe’s doorstep and the question involved a larger group of people, allegedly.

Although much is made about Russia being the sixth largest economy circa 1900 that economy included agricultural produce of a large agricultural population and when looked at in terms of per capita production its slides down considerably.

However that agricultural production could have still been integral to a theoretically socialist Europe.

I use the terms allegedly as it couldn’t have been completely clear to Karl and Fred exactly what the situation was in rural Russia at the time.

In summary the situation in Russia in 1880 that it may have made it possible on the level of the ‘communist consciousness of the, as yet, non petty bourgeois peasantry to be absorbed into communism establiushed eleswhere was under progressive deterioration and that much worse in 1917.

Reading through the Lenin archive of mid 1917 ( I have no idea why more people don’t do it, it is not that taxing, rather than reading books upon books of second hand crap from intellectuals) it appears as if there was some debate on ‘introducing’ socialism in Russia, almost certainly as understood in terms of Lenin’s own ‘State and Revolution’ and Gotha Programme stuff..

You can only infer that as you only get Lenin’s side of the debate but I imagine that Bukharin was on the other.

And “Parvus’s”/ Trotsky’s permanent revolution theory appears to creep into it as well.

They evade these specific issues by advancing pseudo-intellectual, and in fact utterly meaningless, arguments about a "permanent revolution", about “introducing” socialism, and other nonsense.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/jun/17.htm

Zanthorus

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Dave_B, my comment was in reply to Alexander Rockwell's question of who first introduced the idea into Marxism that a country which had not undergone the primitive accumulation of capital could create socialism. As I noted, Marx and Engels texts on Russia clearly outline the possibility of skipping capitalism in the Russian context. Whether this actually occured in 1917, whether the possibility of 'skipping' capitalism had been passed by, is irrelevant.

slothjabber

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Don't know if I've ever posted this on LibCom, but I agree with you Dave, at least in part. Marx and Engels didn't really know what the situation was in Russia, and Marx speculated. I think in general terms he was right; if the revolution had happened in 1871 in the west, then the Russian mir may have moved fairly seamlessly into the socialisation of agricultural production in Russia. But it didn't.

Sadly there are bunches of other things I don't agree with. The 'as regards Russia' is meaningless. As regards the world, the working class was in a tiny minority in 1905, but I don't see the SPGB admitting that they were wrong to found their party. They were, of course, and Kautsky says so. Per capita, industrialisation in the world was lower than indiustrialisation in Russia; so Russia was more advanced than the world average (and thus can qualify for being 'relatively industrialised') and yet at this juncture the SPGB founded itself on the basis that capitalist development was now ready for socialism. In the early 20th century the SPGB agreed with Lenin and Luxemburg that capitalism had completed its 'historic mission'. Now it apparently agrees with Kautsky that capitalism had not, and thus puts its own foundation in doubt. Is this really where the SPGB is going, theorising its own still-birth?

The question about the Khalahari Bushmen is enlightening, as thought-experiments often are. Assuming for a moment that the progression of Marx's 'stages' of feudalism-capitalism-socialism are correct, here are it seems to me two possible ways of answering the question:

1 - it is ridiculous to assume that every greoup of people everywhere must be thoroughly proletarianised for a world socialist revolution; the !San do not need to be proletarianised before the world revolution, because it is the international development of capitalism which is at issue not the state of capitalisation (or proletarianisation) in any given territory;

2 - everyone everywhere must be totally integrated into capitalist production before socialism is possible, so the undeveloped nature of production in the Kalahari means that the rest of the world must wait for the !San to catch up.

The notion that Russia was only 'ready' for a bourgeois revolution in 1917 is a nonsense. What about the situation in Germany? Was Germany ever ready for a bourgeois revolution? If so, can someone point to it please? I don't remember the bourgeoisie in Germany ever overthrowing the ancien regime or is that the Alten Regimes. According to this schema, Germany remained 'feudal' until 1918.

Only, of course, it didn't. Germany became one of the leading capitalist countries through investment, industrialisation and capitalisation of the economy without a political revolution from the bourgeoisie - in part through state activity. On the other hand, in Russia, the situation was totally different - oh, wait, no it wasn't. The state (and foreign capital) developed Russian industry from the 1700s onwards and particularly in the latter part of the 19th century. Whether Russia was the 5th biggest economy in the world (as I assert) or the 6th (as others have asserted) is matterless; we all agree it was really really big. That the proportion of agricultural production to industrial production was more biased towards agriculture than industry, unlike say Britain, is undeniable. But then again, is this such a different proposition to the USA? Perhaps the USA needed a 'bourgeois revolution' and massive industrialisation too.

Noa Rodman

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

In the early 20th century the SPGB agreed with Lenin and Luxemburg that capitalism had completed its 'historic mission'. Now it apparently agrees with Kautsky that capitalism had not, and thus puts its own foundation in doubt. Is this really where the SPGB is going, theorising its own still-birth?

I quoted Kautsky saying that even in Russia bourgeois revolution had become unnecessary:

A bourgeois revolution is no longer necessary even in Russia; the capitalist class and even a considerable portion of the agrarian population had secured practically every juridical and economic right they needed, even before the revolution broke out. But the proletariat in Russia is still too weak and too undeveloped to rule the nation, to accomplish a revolution in the Socialist sense of that term.

The proletariat being too weak is what Dave refers to probably:

Dave

The other is the is the development or changes in consciousness, required for socialism, that run in tandem to it are dependent on the economic base.

I don't think Lenin would disagree with that.

Dave B

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Actually what I was trying to do was to establish what the Marxist theory was and on the related matter how people at the time interpreted it eg Lenin, Kautsky etc “as regards Russia” in particular.

I think I would rather avoid the ‘German’ question in order to stay on track.

I think Otto Ruhle’s commentary on the Russian revolution is informative in that he thought, and suggested that others thought, that what had happened was in Russia was a ‘sensation’.

Or in other words people had still thought as had Lenin etc that Russia should have gone or was expected to go through the standard ‘stageist’ development.

From the Bourgeois to the Proletarian Revolution 1924

The surrounding world was faced with a sensation: the Russian Revolution, recently still an overdue, feeble bourgeois revolution, turned in an instant into a proletarian revolution. Beginning and end of the bourgeois revolution came together in one.
Was that reality or illusion?

http://www.marxists.org/archive/ruhle/1924/revolution.htm

Although as that was written in 1924; it was written after a period of sober reflection and return to theory, and after the revolutionary rush of blood that appears to affected many at the time, including Ruhle and Kautsky.

And the Kautsky quote from 1917 was a valuable contribution.

Thus Ruhle returns to Marxist theory, and history repeating itself, and thus seeks ‘analogies’ in the Russia revolution and the classic model of the French Revolution. Separating apparent difference from substantial similarities.

And just as clip from the article we have;

When the socialists in the Russian government, after the victory over tsarism, imagined that a phase of historical development could be skipped and socialism structurally realised, they had forgotten the ABC of Marxist knowledge according to which socialism can only be the outcome of an organic development which has capitalism developed to the limits of its maturity as its indispensable presupposition. They had to pay for this forgetfulness by a wide, troublesome and victim-strewn detour which brings them in a space of time to capitalism.
To institute capitalism and to organise the bourgeois state is the historical function of the bourgeois revolution.

The Russian Revolution was and is a bourgeois revolution, no more and no less: the strong socialist admixture changes nothing in this essence. ………………The struggles within the Bolshevik party are preparing this conclusion, and with it the end of the Bolshevik party dictatorship. The line of development - whether that of a party coalition which hastens and alleviates the launching phase of capitalism, or that of a Bonaparte who protracts and aggravates it - is not yet clear; both are possible.

The parallelogram of forces will find its correct diagonals.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/ruhle/1924/revolution.htm

Ironically, from Ted Grant the Trotskyist, we get the same analysis and an explanation for the cognoscenti, who were able to see past his dissimulation, as to why the Trots had to deny that Bolshevik Russia was state capitalism.

He knew it was of course, as the mischievous lying imp had quoted from leftwing childishness in the same article, just to let the others and posterity know that he wasn’t a fool.

So;

Ted Grant Against the Theory of State Capitalism
Reply to Comrade Cliff

If Comrade Cliff’s thesis is correct, that state capitalism exists in Russia today, then he cannot avoid the conclusion that state capitalism has been in existence since the Russian Revolution and the function of the revolution itself was to introduce this state capitalist system of society.

LOL

If Cliff’s argument is correct, one could only conclude that the same thing happened with the Russian as with the French Revolution. Marx was the prophet of the new state capitalism.

Lenin and Trotsky were the Robespierres and Carnots of the Russian Revolution. The fact that Lenin and Trotsky had good intentions is beside the point, as were the good intentions of the leaders of the bourgeois revolution. They merely paved the way for the rule of the new state capitalist class.

http://www.tedgrant.org/archive/grant/1949/cliff.htm

as it was with some ‘Council Communists’ later;

Cajo Brendel Council Communism & The Critique of Bolshevism 1999

At the same time the Council Communists grew up. They had learned that the Russian Revolution was nothing more than a bourgeois revolution and that the Russian economy was nothing more than state capitalism. They had a clearer understanding of things which were ripe for new research. Other things not analyzed before, stood now in a clearer light

http://www.marxists.org/archive/brendel/1999/communism.htm

And returning to the catechism of orthodox Marxism ie

Works of Karl Marx 1874 Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy

Schoolboy stupidity! A radical social revolution depends on certain definite historical conditions of economic development as its precondition. It is also only possible where with capitalist production the industrial proletariat occupies at least an important position among the mass of the people. And if it is to have any chance of victory, it must be able to do immediately as much for the peasants as the French bourgeoisie, mutatis mutandis, did in its revolution for the French peasants of that time.

A fine idea, that the rule of labour involves the subjugation of land labour! But here Mr Bakunin's innermost thoughts emerge. He understands absolutely nothing about the social revolution, only its political phrases. Its economic conditions do not exist for him. As all hitherto existing economic forms, developed or undeveloped, involve the enslavement of the worker (whether in the form of wage-labourer, peasant etc.), he believes that a radical revolution is possible in all such forms alike. Still more! He wants the European social revolution, premised on the economic basis of capitalist production, to take place at the level of the Russian or Slavic agricultural and pastoral peoples, not to surpass this level [...] The will, and not the economic conditions, is the foundation of his social revolution.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/04/bakunin-notes.htm

Before the 1880’s I think Karl had presumed that Russia had already passed into standard feudal stage but was then persuaded that primitive communism was still prevalent. And re-appraised his position on that basis.

The Mir system was in fact still extant even in 1917 and I seem to remember that Pipes did a reasonable appraisal of it as of course so did Kropotkin in Mutual Aid.

But the idea that anybody, particularly the Bolsheviks, were factoring in the Mir System peasants, as Karl and Fred had done, as part of their appraisal of the Russia revolution is preposterous.

On the possibility of socialism circa 1904, when the SPGB were ‘formed’, I am actually a maverick apparently in the party. I don’t believe it was possible then and that it probably has only become feasible over the last 50 years.

That is not to say that in 1904 I would have been against the formation of the Party then as a reservoir of understanding and analysis that could be used later on.

In fact the Russian Marxists were faced with the same problem that played into various theoretical debates.

Revolving around the presentational difficulties of saying to the working class that Marxist theory obliged the working class to put into power their own exploiters, the capitalist class, and glossing the noose as Lenin put it.

The ‘economists’ or economism tended to say that there was no point, and the only thing they could do was to encourage the workers in trade union type struggles. And let the inevitable bourgeoisie revolution and capitalist progress look after itself and drop the pie in the sky ‘socialism in Russia’ for later.

The related ‘Liquidators’ argument was that it was impossible to operate as a democratic party in a police state and that they should dissolve and practice entryism into those parties that were legal eg the ‘Popular Socialists’ and ‘Trudoviks’, I think.

Both strategies were, with some justification, associated with Menshevik defectors, but also standard modern Trotskyism.

.

ach man i would really like to reply more to this thread, but that would require pasting some of my essay to this forum, which the examiners might mistake for plaigerism when they do their special digital test

Cleishbotham

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It wouldn't matter HM - on the evidence of this thread you'd still fail! (Sorry, could not resist the opportunity for the joke presented by your personal comment).

More seriously Dave B seems to be still insisting that the dominant relations of production in Russia before 1917 were anything but capitalist (to reinforce the retro-Menshevism of the SP[ex-GB]). In truth the land situation after the emancipation of the serfs became increasingly complicated. The mir, based on equigeniture after nearly three generations was subdividing the same land thus reducing the peasants holdings and livelihoods. After the 1905 revolution Stolypin was well aware that the problem for the state was that the whole thing was regressive in terms of developing social support, They no longer had an aristocratic set up to deal with all state functions so Stolypin tried to create a peasant middle class (the word "kulak" (fist) I think becomes widespread around this time) via a peasant land bank. Those who took the loans became bigger landholders employing the sellers of their land as an agricultural proletariat (aka "poor peasant"). Lenin was terrified of this development believing that it would create a social backbone for Tsarism but the Tsar's connivance at the assassination of Stolypin (I think this year is the centenary) ensured that this did not develop so the pattern of landholding in the Russian countryside was quite varied. What was a constant was the land hunger of the peasants and this explains the adoption of the SR land programme (a programme the SRs did not put into practice when they were in power in 1917) by the Bolsheviks. At this point "land to the tiller" was not even state capitalism and the exigencies of the civil war and the grain requisitioning of war communism did not alter this. Many Bolsheviks (esp the left communists) thought that war communism was a step towards socialism but the famine of 1921 broke that illusion (if it had not collapsed before). No wonder Lenin was under the illusion (to get back to HM's initial post) that in Russian terms "state capitalism" was progressive.

Cleishbotham

It wouldn't matter HM - on the evidence of this thread you'd still fail! (Sorry, could not resist the opportunity for the joke presented by your personal comment).

lulz, but i do have some serious points based around Dave's accurate assertion that Lenin ignored the economic base. ho hum, i'll keep them mysterious

Noa Rodman

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Cleishbotham

No wonder Lenin was under the illusion (to get back to HM's initial post) that in Russian terms "state capitalism" was progressive.

The quotation marks around state capitalism are telling. I think Lenin was right to see state capitalism as progressive (btw imperialism is also progressive), especially for Russia with its small scale agriculture. And so did decists (democratic centralists) who were the most proletarian part of the left oppositon, see here. On the one hand Lenin acknowledges to be going for state capitalism (as he knew socialism couldn't be reached under the existing conditions), but on the other hand, he says they aren't building the normal state capitalism. I think Lenin not only doesn't claim to be giving a definition of state capitalism, but explicitly rejects this as scholasticism.

Lenin

Our courts must be elected, proletarian courts; and they must know what it is that we are permitting. They must clearly understand what state capitalism is.

This is the political slogan of the day and not a controversy about what the German professors meant by state capitalism and what we mean by it.

It's a political slogan, so what do you propose instead Cleishbotham (question addressed to everyone else)?

On Ocelot's remarks on the 'historical determinism of orthodox Marxism'. If besides Hilfderding, Lenin himself writes that: Lenin

books about state capitalism that have appeared up to now were written under conditions and in a situation where state capitalism was capitalism. Now things are different; and neither Marx nor the Marxists could foresee this. We must not look to the past. When you write history, you will write it magnificently; but when you write a textbook, you will say: State capitalism is the most unexpected and absolutely unforeseen form of capitalism

is he admitting that historical determinism was wrong because there is a new mode of production? I don't think it's important.

Harrison

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

wow, re-reading this thread, it got totally clusterfucked by ICC/ICT

slothjabber

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just found this last comment, and I think it's pretty shitty Harrison.

By my reckoning the ICC posted 3 times on this thread with 50 lines of text, and the ICT posted 3 times with 54 lines of texts; total for these two groups, 6 posts and 104 lines. Neither as far as I can see posted any links.

Meanwhile the SPGB posted 12 times, with 733 lines, and more than a dozen links.

If you think the ICT and ICC clusterfucked the thread, what exactly do see the SPGB as having done?

Harrison

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

this was one of my first posts on libcom, and i came up against a wall of ideology interested in defending
A) state-capitalism
B) lenin's implementation of it
C) it's potential future implementation (only in certain circumstnces)

As far as i can see, these all came from ICC/ICT and sympathisers. This is what i mean by clusterfucked, although it did produce a challenging, albeit exasperating and tiresome debate.

slothjabber

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

No, you're going to have to explain that.

Not sure if Zanthorus would describe himself as 'an ICC/ICT sympathiser' so really you have to be talking about me.

So where exactly is this 'wall of ideology' I've errected that 'defends state capitalism, Lenin's interpretation of it, its future implementation'? Is it the one that I put up to challenge your notion that a state that you don't believe exists should 'allow' the workers' councils to manage production while simultaneously enlisting the workers into armies for murdering other workers? Or the one I used to challenge your Stalinist 'socialism in one country' misconceptions?

EDIT: it was also more than 4 months after you joined.

Chilli Sauce

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Not sure why that last comment was relevant. My personal experience as well as from talking to the admins is that most folks lurk on libcom for a decent amount of time before making their first post.

However, it you were really concerned with this point (for whatever reason) you could simply check Harrison's profile and then track him--this would distill the truth of whether this really was one of his first posts.

slothjabber

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I tried that before I posted the edit. Because the tracking works by last post on a thread not by first post, this comes up as one of Harrison's latest threads. I would have to manually read every thread Harrison has posted in and cross-reference all the dates. I don't have time to do that when I'm making a somewhat polemical point, which is:

After 4 months of hanging around on LibCom, I think Harrison should have realised that if he posted a thread with as much shit in it as this one, he would get pulled up on it. Maybe he didn't, and maybe I'm being harsh. But I think there's a lot of poisonous stuff in this thread and a lot of bad faith.

Maybe I'm partly responsible for the acid tone of the thread, but I'm fighting what I consider a tidal wave of slanders, misinformation and pretty repugnant politics. It reeks of Stalinism, and I think the 'marriage of convenience' between Harrison and the SPGB (given that my reading is that they actually have very divergent views) is more an act of political prostitution than anything else, merely a very crude application of 'Lenin's enemy is my friend'. And while I think that there's an awful lot to criticise Lenin for, not being a good enough Stalinist and not insisting on the deaths of hundreds of thousands more Russian and German workers aren't really things I think should be used as criticisms.

EDITTED: to make sense.

ajjohnstone

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

slothjabber -

" It reeks of Stalinism, and I think the 'marriage of convenience' between Harrison and the SPGB (given that my reading is that they actually have very divergent views) is more an act of political prostitution than anything else, merely a very crude application of 'Lenin's enemy is my friend'."

Just to make clear it take two to have a "marriage of convenience". I've seen no evidence that the SPGB has accepted Harrison's marriage proposal if there has been one made by him !!!

The fact that some evidence from other groups overlap does perhap mean some of us do make strange bed-fellows, instead. ;)

Also when it comes to post analysis DaveB often has lengthy quotations and does tend to have overly long posts, as i do :lol:

Just a light hearted response

slothjabber

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It was Harrison's complaint the thread had been 'clusterfucked' by ICT and ICC, later expanded to include sympathisers of those organisations, which I guess meant me. I merely pointed out that your organisation fucked the thread twice as often and seven times harder than those two organisations put together, and Harrison didn't seem to mind. Perhaps you have a gentler technique - one that doesn't take him to task for opposing Lenin taking Russia out of WWI (even though you supported Lenin at the time) or criticises his sliding into 'socialism in oine country' (when after all Dave B supports the theory too).

devoration1

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The problem with this thread is miscommunication- it is clear when re-reading certain exchanges that devolve into name calling and point scoring, there is just a wall between the 2 posters ideas that isn't being breached through articulated positions.

Either way the idea that this thread was 'clusterfucked by the ICC/ICT' is ridiculous.

Despite the tone, there was some decent discussion and ideas in this thread. It's a shame that it went the way it did.

Lurch

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Agree with the above.

Either way the idea that this thread was 'clusterfucked by the ICC/ICT' is ridiculous.

True - particularly given the fact that no member of the ICC has posted anywhere on the thread!
Not really the point, however. If HM has received sufficient counter-argument to fill his boots for the time being, fine. Leave it for now and reflect. Just don't sign off an interesting, if difficult discussion by blaming 'the other'.

Zanthorus

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

slothjabber

Not sure if Zanthorus would describe himself as 'an ICC/ICT sympathiser'

I would :)

oh btw:

Dave B

Before the 1880’s I think Karl had presumed that Russia had already passed into standard feudal stage but was then persuaded that primitive communism was still prevalent. And re-appraised his position on that basis.

This is false. The village commune's were not 'primitive communism', in fact the existence of such communal relations was a feature of feudalism in other countries including Britain. The transition to capitalism involved the breakup of the traditional village relations in Britain, and in Russia as well the breakup of the traditional village relations was seen as a sign of the inevitable development of Russia into a capitalist society. To quote Christopher Hill's essay on 'The English Revolution' (My emphasis):

The “progressive” (i.e. capitalist) farming of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led to of many small peasants; the wealth produced by the new methods came into the hands of a small group of profiteers; the village community was broken up.

Besides which it's pretty absurd to say that Russia had developed into a 'standard feudal stage' about twenty years after the abolition of serfdom.

ajjohnstone

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This article on communal ownership is interesting. Some have probably read it but others may not have.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/refugee-literature/ch05.htm

It is clear that communal ownership in Russia is long past its period of florescence and, to all appearances, is moving towards its disintegration. Nevertheless, the possibility undeniably exists of raising this form of society to a higher one, if it should last until the circumstances are ripe for that, and if it shows itself capable of developing in such manner that the peasants no longer cultivate the land separately, but collectively;...of raising it to this higher form without it being necessary for the Russian peasants to go through the intermediate stage of bourgeois small holdings. This, however, can only happen if, before the complete break-up of communal ownership, a proletarian revolution is successfully carried out in Western Europe, creating for the Russian peasant the preconditions requisite for such a transition, particularly the material things he needs, if only to carry through the revolution, necessarily connected therewith, of his whole agricultural system.

Hopefully we aren't making the mistake of trying to fit square pegs in round holes since M/E made it quite clear that they mostly restricted themselves to an analysis of western Europe and only touched on different form of social organisation such as oriental despotism.

Engels too commented later in life about communal ownership
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894/01/russia.htm

"common ownership of land is a form of ownership which was, in fact, common to all peoples at a certain stage of development. It prevailed among the Germans, Celts, Indians — in short, all the Indo-European peoples in primeval times; it still exists in India, was only recently suppressed by force in Ireland and Scotland, and, though it is dying out, still occurs here and there in Germany today... Chernyshevsky, too, sees in the Russian peasant commune a means of progressing from the existing form of society to a new stage of development, higher than both the Russian commune on the one hand, and West European capitalist society with its class antagonisms on the other. And he sees a mark of superiority in the fact that Russia possesses this means, whereas the West does not...Now, if in the West the resolution of the contradictions by a reorganisation of society is conditional on the conversion of all the means of production, hence of the land too, into the common property of society, how does the already, or rather still, existing common property in Russia relate to this common property in the West, which still has to be created? Can it not serve as a point of departure for a national campaign which, skipping the entire capitalist period, will convert Russian peasant communism straight into modern socialist common ownership of the means of production by enriching it with all the technical achievements of the capitalist era? Or, to use the words with which Marx sums up the views of Chernyshevsky in a letter to be quoted below: “Should Russia first destroy the rural commune, as demanded by the liberals, in order to go over to the capitalist system, or can it on the contrary acquire all the fruits of this system, without suffering its torments, by developing its own historical conditions?” The very way in which the question is posed indicates the direction in which the answer should be sought. The Russian commune has existed for hundreds of years without ever providing the impetus for the development of a higher form of common ownership out of itself; no more so than in the case of the German Mark system, the Celtic clans, the Indian and other communes with primitive, communistic institutions. In the course of time, under the influence of commodity production surrounding them, or arising in their own midst and gradually pervading them, and of the exchange between individual families and individual persons, they all lost more and more of their communistic character and dissolved into communities of mutually independent landowners. So if the question of whether the Russian commune will enjoy a different and better fate may be raised at all, then this is not through any fault of its own, but solely due to the fact that it has survived in a European country in a relatively vigorous form into an age when not only commodity production as such, but even its highest and ultimate form, capitalist production, has come into conflict in Western Europe with the productive forces it has created itself; when it is proving incapable of continuing to direct these forces; and when it is foundering on these innate contradictions and the class conflicts that go along with them. It is quite evident from this alone that the initiative for any possible transformation of the Russian commune along these lines cannot come from the commune itself, but only from the industrial proletarians of the West. The victory of the West European proletariat over the bourgeoisie, and, linked to this, the replacement of capitalist production by socially managed production — that is the necessary precondition for raising the Russian commune to the same level. The fact is: at no time or place has the agrarian communism that arose out of gentile society developed anything of its own accord but its own disintegration..."

From a reading of those two articles i think M/E recognised that the Mir was not the feudalism of Christopher Hill's English village but a precurser - the earlier Highland clan type - but that because of new traditions of land distribution were losing its primitive communism character and becoming a peasant family ownership and was now facing encroachment from capitalism. As always M/E are describing things that they knew were already in flux, transforming into another entity...

Dave B

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

There is a sort of link up to the ideas of the mir system, including those that Karl and Fred probably had as probably influenced by Plekhanov, the Narodniks and Lenin’s support for the stageist and inevitable introduction of capitalism.

Thus on the “Narodniks” which I assume is 'basically' relaible.

The movement arose among the Russian intelligentsia in the 1860s and gained momentum in the 1870s. It was enhanced by dissatisfaction with Alexander II's Emancipation Manifesto of 1861, which, though liberating the peasants from serfdom, created unsatisfactory economic conditions for peasant agriculture by favouring the landowners in the redistribution of land and by imposing an involved system of collective compensation on the villages.

The Narodniki embodied in their teachings a considerable amount of communist ideology gathered from Karl Marx's (Marx, Karl) works, accepting, for instance, his ideas of communal ownership and production and his dislike for private enterprise. However, they modified two of Marx's fundamental principles. First, they believed in agrarian communism and disregarded the industrial proletariat, which at that time represented only a small minority of the population of Russia.

Second, they adapted to their needs Marx's theory of historical development, according to which human society must progress inevitably from primitive communism to industrial capitalism (?) and thence to the dictatorship of the proletariat. That, the Narodniki argued, would not apply to Russia, where peasant life was based on the traditional institution of communal land tenure, the mir. A successful change of regime would, in their view, allow Russia to skip the intermediate stage of capitalism and pass straight from primitive communism to modern socialism. The mir and the artel (a primitive village productive cooperative), the Narodniki asserted, would then naturally evolve a system of production and distribution beneficial to the community.

http://universalium.academic.ru/243192/Narodnik

And from Lenin later in 1914

The Left Narodniks

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/may/14.htm

It is debatable I suppose just how idealised this notion of the mir system actually was at the time.

CRUD

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It's simple, socialism was never suppose to be about industrialization, that was capitalism's job- the socialist stage is about taking over industry after capitalism industrialized, to use the state to facilitate expropriation and to defend workers from capitalists. Marx knew this and said this....Lenin had to facilitate a sort of capitalism after he saw socialist revolutions in advanced capitalist nations weren't taking place.

I posted concerning this issue a few months back and was chastised by a couple posters here for being a"vulgar" Marxist (I'm not even a Marxist). Anyhow, Marx and especially Engels were very weary of the chance of actual communism arising in a "backwards" nation without the help of already advanced industrialized nations. Lenin saw that socialist revolutions in Germany/France etc didn't happen and hence made the switch to a sort of state capitalism which then led Stalin to parade the "socialism In One Country" bunkum.

As I said before, a few months ago, the entire Russian experiment was pre mature and misguided; it would've failed even if it had been actual workers controlling industry. If actual communism is to arise it will be from an advanced capitalist society not from a system that existed in 1916 Russia. This has implications for anarchism as well if you take Marx seriously. The Spanish revolution was also doomed to fail as are any anarchist attempts if it's not in an industrial economic system with the support of other industrial areas/nations. If Stalin's socialism in one country is bunkum then obviously anarchism in one "country" is also bunkum.

slothjabber

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I agree almost totally. In one country, any such experiment is bound to fail, no matter what shape it takes. It must be worldwide.

But the 'Russian experiment' was never intended to be such a thing. It was only the opening of the world revolution. By the time the Bolsheviks realised that it wasn't going to happen (I'm not sure Trotsky ever did) they were already in control of Russia, with no idea of what to do.

I don't think that makes the Russian revolution 'premature'. In the context of any country the revolution is never 'mature'. Even in a country like Britain where the majority of people are workers in cities, we cannot institute socialism now. As I pointed out earlier in this thread, Russia was more technologically advanced than the world average at that point and actually had a huge economy.

So if the revolution was 'premature' in Russia, it must have been even more premature in world terms - and yet the left of the Socialist International, as well as some groups outside of the International such as the SPGB believed that socialism was possible at the beginning of the 20th century. If Lenin and Trotsky were wrong, so were not just the SPGB, but Pannekoek and Gorter, Luxemburg and Bordiga; so were Kropotkin and Malatesta, Makhno, Voline, Maximoff, Berkman and Goldman. And those people were wrong in 1917, how wrong had Bakunin been four decades previously?

More importantly the working class that overthrew Tsarism and the Kaiser, ended world war one and launched revolutionary actions around the world for 10 years were also wrong.

That's not a view of history I share. The Rusian revolution and the subsequent revolutionary wave was both the working class's most spectacular success and a tragic, brutal, monstrous fuck up. That is not because it was 'premature', it was because it failed. The working class was not capable of launching successful revolutions in other countries. Development or not of Russian industry doesn't change that fact by one iota.

CRUD

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The working class in Russia was pale in comparison to the agricultural workers, I wouldn't say they had a huge industrial economy, no way. It was pre mature of Russia to attempt socialism only because Germany, France etc weren't socialist. At the time it looked like they "might" go socialist but....they didn't so thus it was pre-mature and the result was a warped version of "socialism" in Russia that's given communism a bad name since (WW2 dint help either).The same can be said of Venezuela today- it's a pipe dream. The only thing that'll be accomplished by small or even large industrial isolated nation trying socialism on their own will be shit smeared in the face of socialism/communism/anarchism.

Advanced capitalist nations must go socialist first and the 'backwards' nations would receive help in the form of trade in order to industrialize the proper way. Another reason I say Russia was pre-mature was Lenin thought capitalism had reached "it's highest stage"- Marx talked about certian systems throughout history reaching a crisis point when revolution would happen, Lenin thought capitalism had exhausted all of it's productive forces due to imperialism. As we know that wasn't the case as capitalism had far more areas to expand into. The market system is a like a great white shark that must be in perpetual motion consuming in order to survive. Lenin thought that shark was 'trapped' and would soon become stagnant and die so he thought it was time for revolution. The shark didn't become stagnant and in my opinion won't at least for another 50 years or so. Right now the reason the US military is in the middle east is to "open up their markets" in order to keep this from happening. To keep the market expanding, to keep the shark swimming.

Pre WW2 the US sent it's entire NAVY to Japan and said(to the effect) "Open up your markets to western capitalism or be destroyed". Today they're using the euphemism "spreading democracy". As time passes and as globalization becomes more complete then we'll see a true opportunity for socialism to take hold. During this current crisis we have much potential to spread class awareness as they attack wages/benefits/social programs and this will only grow as the current and future capitalist crisis worsen. Waiting for the entire system to collapse would be insane but it needs to become apparent to the masses that capitalism is through before we have a chance to make the switch (the masses must also be class conscious). Lenin thought that time was his time but it obviously wasn't. This isn't some crude form of historical materialism it's just my opinion after reading Marx/Engels etc. The masses in his tie weren't class conscious and capitalism had yet to exhaust it's productive forces so the end product was a sort of 'forced' communism from the top down. There was never a workers state- never a chance to devolve the state- never a chance for actual communism to take hold and thus the meaning of communism since has been perverted. What happened in Russia (and China)is good propaganda for capitalists. Only now are Russia and China ready for socialism.

Lurch

10 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Crud: some observations on what you’ve written (suggesting an alternative appreciation – not a ‘chastisement’, I hope).

It’s absolutely true that the defeat of the world revolutionary wave of 1917-1928 has weighed like a nightmare on the brains of subsequent generations of workers – particularly the identification of the Stalinist states as ‘communist’. Then again, the defeat of every great battle in which the working class has fought (the failed bourgeois revolutions of 1848, the Paris Commune, or more recently, the defeat of the miners strike in GB or the mass struggles in Poland 80-81) have led to periods of retreat and reaction. This doesn’t mean the workers were wrong or ‘premature’ to launch them. “We do not say to the world: ‘Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle’. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to.” Marx, letter to Ruge (1843)

It ‘s also true that “During this current crisis we have much potential to spread class awareness as they attack wages/benefits/social programs and this will only grow as the current and future capitalist crisis worsen. Waiting for the entire system to collapse would be insane but it needs to become apparent to the masses that capitalism is through before we have a chance to make the switch (the masses must also be class conscious).

But 90-odd years ago also it was apparent to the masses that capitalism was ‘through’: the slaughter and destruction of the world war one had demonstrated this in a very real, immediate and horrific manner. Gone was the illusion of a peaceful, ever-expanding capitalism in which workers could share. Barbarism was the everyday reality. 20 million dead; almost as many again dying of disease in the wreckage of civilisation. These increasingly class conscious masses – all over Europe and with echoes in the US, Canada, South America and, yes, ‘backward’ Russia – would indeed have been ‘insane’ to wait for worse. They didn’t. They tried to change things.

Crud wrote: “It was pre mature of Russia to attempt socialism only because Germany, France etc weren't socialist. At the time it looked like they "might" go socialist but....they didn't so thus it was pre-mature...” This sounds like the old medieval ‘trial by water’: if they drown, they’re innocent, if they float, they are guilty and must die!

There is a big difference between making a revolution – seizing power in one or more countries – and “attempting socialism” which is a long-term project which can only be truly undertaken once the political revolution has been successful in many countries, including (certainly) some of the most advanced ones, where capitalism is strongest. There is a whole debate to be had here about the difference between the proletarian revolution and the revolutions of previous classes in history. Meanwhile...

How could the Russian workers know that they were ‘premature’? How did they know the German and other attempted revolutions, and all the mutinies and strikes in France, the Clyde, in Italy, Hungary, etc, etc, would lead to defeat? Was this written in advance somewhere; was it inevitable? Or is this a ‘reading back into history’, an ‘after the fact’ justification and theorisation?

In reality, it seems, for Crud, it’s not just the Russian revolution that was premature, but the whole movement because at that time “capitalism had yet to exhaust its productive forces,” 'capitalism had far more areas to expand into”.

When Marx wrote about an existing mode of production becoming a ‘fetter’ on the forces of production, (thus ushering an epoch of social revolution) I don’t think he had in mind a total halt of economic activity. Just imagine it: everything just stops!! I don’t think so. Of course the shark keeps on swimming.

But from the point of view of the workers – and what other view are we interested in? – this onward motion of capitalism comes at a terrible price.

We’ve already seen how many millions of workers and many revolutionaries (certainly not just Lenin) saw in the clash of imperialisms that was World War One a proof that capitalism could no longer go on expanding without cannibalising itself (it had become a ‘fetter’). Even if there were large areas of the globe not yet dominated by capitalist socialist relations (true enough), by 1914 the main and important territories, the really essential markets and strategic positions, had already been taken. The fundamental concentrations of proletarians had already been created. That’s why the further expansion of one capitalist nation could only take place at the expense of another: ie through war. A war fought by the proletariat for the benefit of its masters. A war from which the proletariat had nothing to gain. A war which did not fundamentally expand the forces of production but destroyed them!

Your own examples really only confirm this. When the US confronted Japan in the late 1930s, it wasn’t saying ‘open up your markets’, but ‘give us your markets'! It was a gangsterish prelude to another, even more violent and destructive war, a re-division, not of ‘new’ markets, but of previously existing ones. It was a vast destruction of the means of production, not an expansion of them, globally speaking. In the Mid-East today, it’s not the US which is challenging the status quo (because it already has, through Israel, Egypt and Saudia Arabia among others), a certain control of this area. In the past it was Russian imperialism which was fighting (through, at certain times, support for Egypt, Syria and Iraq) for a greater share of the spoils and strategic sea routes; today, it is Iran. But still: not an expansion, but a re-division.

So yes, the shark still swims. But was the past 90 years really a necessary prelude for socialism? Are we seriously saying that the massive unemployment and economic depression of the 1930s, the millions murdered to permit a minimum development in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or later, Mao’s China; the mass slaughter and destruction of World War Two; and the deformed, debt fuelled development amidst constant warfare, mass starvation and ecological destruction since 1945 have all been necessary for laying the groundwork for communism? Have we really got to put up with another 50 years of this (according to you) until capitalism has finally colonised every acre of the planet and it’s not ‘premature’ to attempt a revolution? Perhaps we’ll return to this.

But back to 1917 and ‘backward Russia’. In the next post.

CRUD

10 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

After Lenin saw advanced capitalist nations weren't going socialist he shouldn't openly let Russia go through the capitalist stage. The attempt at socialism was pre mature in my opinion. Capitalism itself was just about a century into industrialization at the time....far from reaching "it's highest stage". I'm more in agreement with Kautsky's view that an Ultra-imperialism would arise- western states would collude to exploit workers and to keep the market system going. This is indeed what happened after WW2.

Capitalists also reacted to the threat of revolution in advanced capitalist nations by "super" exploiting the third world while giving concessions to western workers. This has also hampered the possibility of socialism in advanced capitalist nations. This is no excuse for capitalism but there's a (seemingly) comfortable middle class in western nations who aren't necessarily screaming "revolution!" when times are "good". Most people don't see capitalism as being on it's death bed and probably wont until it's too late which is why it's important to not sit back and do nothing....waiting for the system to collapse- some sort of fascist system could arise from the ashes.

I'm basically touting crisis theory and saying capitalism had yet to exhaust it's productive forces in Lenin's time. Were the revolutions pre mature? Answer this, why then did communism not manifest? In my opinion capitalism was still too strong a beast (at the time) to overthrow. In the end I'm not sure what's going to happen, all I know is it will take scores of millions of us to effect change for the better. Thus far, during this current crisis I'm not seeing it happening. Some positive things are going on as far as resistance and such but at least in America we seem to be asleep at the wheel. It's kinda depressing really. There's a greater chance for socialism in Europe than America- we Americans are mostly brainwashed.

I also don't think world wars and murder on a mass scale are necessary for laying the foundations of socialism- economic development is what I'm referring to not the holocaust and such but the exhaustion of capitalism's productive forces. It would've been great if socialism prevailed in the early 20'th century but it didn't and as far as I can tell, right now, it isn't. I think this is largely due to the fact capitalism is just now entering it's "final stage". I think only recently have we seen the world stage actually set and ready for socialism at this point it's only a matter of forming a mass movement (which i predict will happen as capitalism enters worse and worse crisis).

slothjabber

10 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

CRUD

...
I'm basically touting crisis theory and saying capitalism had yet to exhaust it's productive forces in Lenin's time. Were the revolutions pre mature? Answer this, why then did communism not manifest? ....

Because the working class lost. It tried to make a revolution and it lost. Was it 'premature'? Or should it have let millions more be slaughtered in WWI before it made the attempt? How would the World War have ended without the Russian and German revolutions?

When is the time ever ripe for revolution? There are always reasons for delay. Things might be more advantageous tomorrow. Or not; but whatever, we know they are not advantageous today. Nor have they ever been. Will they ever be? How could you possibly know, if the sense of the revolution can only be judged with hindsight?

Lurch

10 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Continuing my previous post...

Crud wrote:

“The working class in Russia was pale in comparison to the agricultural workers, I wouldn't say they had a huge industrial economy, no way.”

So the rising series of strikes on the home front and mutinies on the battlefield (we’re talking many European countries here, not just Russia) found an initial expression in a revolution in a country where capitalism had been late developing and the working class was still a small minority of the population. And?

In Russia in 1914, there were ‘officially’ only 2,900,000 industrial workers (and millions of agricultural workers – often confused with ‘the peasantry’ from which they had emerged after decades under capitalist social relations).

Nonetheless, this combative urban proletariat (the number of strikes rose from 892 in 1908 to 3,574 in 1914) was concentrated in some of the most modern factories and facilities in the world (built courtesy of international finance – particularly from France which in 1906 ‘loaned’ the Tsarist state 2,250 million francs – ‘the largest loan yet made in the history of mankind’ according to the then Russian Prime Minister).

Nearly 50% of these workers toiled in factories of over 1000 employees. With over 40,000 workers, Putilov was the biggest factory in the world. In a backward country (nonetheless ranked 5th in the world in terms of output in 1917), workers operated the essential nerve centres: coal ,oil and textile production, transport (the trans-Siberian railway, completed in 1905, gave Russia more rail-miles in any other country bar the US – Trotsky got his figures wrong on this aspect) and communication (the telegraph and telephone companies; the press and print operations). As Marxism has long pointed out, it’s not only the consciousness and organisation of the workers that gives them their potential power – it’s their central place in the process of capitalist production.

This theory of the revolutionary role of the proletariat that was Marxism – the first translation of Das Capital was into Russian – was already well-established in the country (as also was a strong anarchist tradition). It produced a minority social democratic party which, especially after 1903, had as its main focus the spreading of this theory away from the students and intellectuals amongst whom it had first found favour directly into the ranks of the growing working class itself.

The self-organisation of the workers that expressed itself in the formation of workers, soldiers and sailors councils (Soviets) both in 1905 and 1917 drew on centuries of rural self government (albeit within the framework of an absolutist state) - the Mir (see posts above) from which the workers had only recently emerged. Under crumbling Tsarist absolutism, with a feeble, subservient bourgeoisie, there was little bourgeois democratic mystification – unions had been banned until 1906 and there was no tradition of parliamentary democracy. Despite their numerical weakness, the class consciousness of the Russian proletarians was not overly burdened with decades of reformist illusions. This in no way implies that workers didn’t struggle to improve their existence under capitalism – as we’ve seen above, there was a rising curve of defensive yet political strikes. Yet the fact that between 1908 and 1914 there was roughly 40% inflation while wages only rose 8% meant that every strike not only brought workers directly up against the state, but that a complete overturning of the existing order increasingly presented itself as the only solution to their predicament. Then there were the terrible privations of the 1914 war...

In short, whatever label you care to put on it (proletarian, bourgeois, peasant or any mixture) the numerical weakness of the working class in Russia did not prevent it from being the main lever of revolution in Russia in 1917, or the fact that its seizure of power was a source of immense inspiration of workers around the world.

If some of the backward specificities of Russia actually aided a seizure of power by the Soviets and the Bolshevik Party in tandem, the fundamental conditions which produced this phenomenon existed in every major metropole on the planet, as the following years of international, often insurrectionary struggles showed.

None of this means that in Russia, socialism could be built in 1917 – as you rightly say, Crud, socialism or anarchism in one country is a contradiction in terms, both theoretically and practically.

I’ll start to conclude with some minutes from the 3rd Congress of the Communist International, five years after 1917 - a time when this International, the Bolshevik Party and the state in Russia was already well down the road to degeneration. It’s the devil Lenin speaking:

“It was clear to us that without the support of the international world revolution the victory of the proletarian revolution [in Russia] was impossible. Before the revolution and even after it, we thought: Either revolution breaks out in the other countries, in the capitalistically more developed countries, immediately, or at least very quickly, or we must perish. Notwithstanding this conviction, we did all we possibly could to preserve the Soviet system under all circumstances, come what may, because we knew that we were working not only for ourselves but also for the international revolution. We knew this, we repeatedly expressed this conviction before the October Revolution, immediately afterward, and at the time we signed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty.” (Minutes of the Third Congress of the Comintern, Russian edition, p.354

The world revolution was unable to follow the Russian workers’ lead. Isolated ‘Soviet’ Russia did perish – albeit not in the manner that the Bolsheviks had predicted. And none of the above absolves anyone from a ruthless critique of their grievous errors, misjudgements and downright betrayal of principles which greatly contributed to and hastened this tragic end, the price of which we're still paying today.

Karl Marx

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

WHY does communism have to emerge from capitalism? Because LENIN proved that this is false with his Revolution. Even if he belived the oposite. He fucking proved despite what he wrote or said that the only thing that takes to make Communsim is the WILL to do it. Nothing else no laws of history or conditions or stages or anything. just the will. So in feudal Russia he didnt wait for forces of production to reach a certain level and capitalism to develop he just said Fuck it! and made comunism. Makes sense to me:)

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Karl, it seems that these 131 years in grave didn't do you good...

plasmatelly

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Karl Marx

WHY does communism have to emerge from capitalism? Because LENIN proved that this is false with his Revolution. Even if he belived the oposite. He fucking proved despite what he wrote or said that the only thing that takes to make Communsim is the WILL to do it. Nothing else no laws of history or conditions or stages or anything. just the will. So in feudal Russia he didnt wait for forces of production to reach a certain level and capitalism to develop he just said Fuck it! and made comunism. Makes sense to me:)

Lenin repackaged capitalism red.

Karl Marx

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hahaha
Look the USSR was not socialism i agree. But it was NOT capitalims either... I mean where were the capitalists! NOWHERE. Yes the state set quotas and whatnot but how is that capitalist competion. There was no profit in the capitalist sense of i put some money here and i get some +money there... The law of value simply DID NOT WORK. So for 70 years the Soviets were pushing this alternative thing that WASNT capitalsim but wasnt socialism either. It was some kinda weird atempt at making a better capitalism... Like a capitalism for the people. Crazy as capitalsm but NOT capitalism. And definately not socialism.

So as i said Lenin(despite himself...) proved that there are no stages of history by skiping capitalism and making this... thing. Yeah he made some mistakes but still... He was a badass revolutionary and we should look up to him

Just look how badass he looks here

like some superhero... FUCKING BADASSS

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Karl Marx

So as i said Lenin(despite himself...) proved that there are no stages of history by skiping capitalism and making this... thing.

But there was capitalism in Russia in 1917...

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Karl Marx

He fucking proved despite what he wrote or said that the only thing that takes to make Communsim is the WILL to do it. Nothing else no laws of history or conditions or stages or anything. just the will.

OK, Bakunin, I got enough of your shit, stop your weak trolling! :D

Reddebrek

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I see we have yet another Marxist Leninist who knows nothing of Marx or Lenin.

Karl Marx

Hahaha
It was some kinda weird atempt at making a better capitalism... Like a capitalism for the people.

You know I've said this before but it continues to amuse me how often these types of "arguments" for the USSR read like empty slogans for Fascist movements.

Did Lenin make a better train timetable too?

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

I see we have yet another Marxist Leninist who knows nothing of Marx or Lenin.

M-L wouldn't admit that USSR wasn't socialist.

Tyrion

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Karl Marx

WHY does communism have to emerge from capitalism? Because LENIN proved that this is false with his Revolution. Even if he belived the oposite. He fucking proved despite what he wrote or said that the only thing that takes to make Communsim is the WILL to do it. Nothing else no laws of history or conditions or stages or anything. just the will. So in feudal Russia he didnt wait for forces of production to reach a certain level and capitalism to develop he just said Fuck it! and made comunism. Makes sense to me:)

Lenin's belief in communist revolution being possible in Russia (a capitalist state anyway, despite a large peasant population and certain feudal vestiges) was grounded in his recognition of the international nature of capitalism and his view that international productive forces were adequately developed for "to each according to their need" to be materially possible regardless of whether that productive apparatus existed on one side or another of some national border. It had nothing to do with the WILL.

Reddebrek

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Gepetto

Reddebrek

I see we have yet another Marxist Leninist who knows nothing of Marx or Lenin.

M-L wouldn't admit that USSR wasn't socialist.

Your confusing real life Tankies in actual CP's with internet self identifiers.

There are also keyboard "Trotskyists" who are "Trotskyists" because they love the Soviet Union but are squeamish about all the murders, and since they don't know anything about Trotsky and the SU think he was the good guy.

Karl Marx

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Goddamn...

I am not a fascist FFS... Or a ML or a trotskyst. I am a GOD DAMN COMMUNIST okay and im just saying that USSR was not capitalist... But that doesnt make it automaticaly socialism. It was its own thing

I posted all this on Revleft first but they banned me... So i taught people here would be more reasonable. Can someone tell me then how exactly was USSR capitalist? Im not admiring it or anything for christsake... It had a cool anthem though hehe OK sorry:( totaly not admiring it now

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

But you're not being criticised for saying that USSR wasn't capitalist. Some people here don't buy that theory too.

Tyrion

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Karl Marx

I posted all this on Revleft first but they banned me... So i taught people here would be more reasonable. Can someone tell me then how exactly was USSR capitalist?

Labor-power was purchased for the purpose of producing commodities on a generalized basis with surplus-value being extracted from wage-laborers. The state playing the role of universal capitalist is no more non-capitalist than any less encompassing form of monopoly.

Railyon

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Karl Marx

Hahaha
Look the USSR was not socialism i agree. But it was NOT capitalims either... I mean where were the capitalists! NOWHERE. Yes the state set quotas and whatnot but how is that capitalist competion. There was no profit in the capitalist sense of i put some money here and i get some +money there... The law of value simply DID NOT WORK. So for 70 years the Soviets were pushing this alternative thing that WASNT capitalsim but wasnt socialism either. It was some kinda weird atempt at making a better capitalism... Like a capitalism for the people. Crazy as capitalsm but NOT capitalism. And definately not socialism.

Maybe you should ask yourself a few simple questions to help make up your mind:

- was there commodity exchange and money? If so, value must have existed in some form.
- did a working class exist that was compelled to sell their labor power because they did not collectively control the means of production themselves? (nevermind whether there was a 'right to work' or unemployment)
- if value and a working class can be said to have existed, how was economic growth possible without surplus value?

There's a few holes in the 'it wasn't capitalism' view from a structural perspective (because that would lead to logical contradictions). But I admit that I don't know enough about how the USSR worked to make a judgment.

Karl Marx

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

OK the workers made stuff and were compensated for it. But was it acording to the LTV? No the state decided on that. And where was this stuff being sold at? Because again the state was seting the prices and they didntt have a market... So how can there be commodities? Hmmmm?

Reddebrek

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Karl Marx

Goddamn...

I am not a fascist FFS... Or a ML or a trotskyst. I am a GOD DAMN COMMUNIST okay and im just saying that USSR was not capitalist... But that doesnt make it automaticaly socialism. It was its own thing

I posted all this on Revleft first but they banned me... So i taught people here would be more reasonable. Can someone tell me then how exactly was USSR capitalist? Im not admiring it or anything for christsake... It had a cool anthem though hehe OK sorry:( totaly not admiring it now

You know I guess I was wrong I thought you weren't a Communist because your previous comments displayed a total ignorance of politics, history and the personal views of Lenin, but I see you've hit caps lock (or held down shift) so you must be telling the truth :groucho:

Kidding aside you could of bothered to read the thread you necro'd, I found some of the old arguments tedious but they were mostly on topic about Capitalism and the Soviet Union. Just go look at the OP.

I also think you should really go back and read your own comments because they just don't make sense.

You go from saying Lenin PROVED you can skip Capitalist phase*, then you say Lenin didn't build Socialism but Capitalism. A "better" "People's" Capitalism in your view, but capitalism all the same so he didn't prove you can skip Capitalism then since he built a type of capitalism. I mean honestly what on earth is your point?

*Which would've involved time travel since the Russian Empire was already a Capitalist economy, which by 1917 had some of the biggest industrial centres and the latest production technologies.

Reddebrek

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Karl Marx

OK the workers made stuff and were compensated for it.

Yes they recieved a wage, just you are "compensated" by your employer

But was it acording to the LTV?

??? Yes one of the biggest economic headaches of the Soviet Union was making their work force achieve their production targets, aka increasing surplus value.

No the state decided on that.

You're correct the state planners decided on productivity targets and incentives and coercion.

And where was this stuff being sold at?

Shops in the factories, shops in the districts, shops at train stations, ports, airports, food was sold in restaurants and bars, energy and weapons and consumer goods were sold on the world market etc.

Because again the state was seting the prices and they didntt have a market

??? Yes they did the Soviet Union sold goods and materials internationally and internally. In order to get anything in the Soviet Union outside of emergency rationing periods you had to buy it.

... So how can there be commodities? Hmmmm?

Because workers were paid to produce things, these things where then sold with the state pocketing the surplus (If any productivity wasn't certain) that is how the Soviet economy expanded and developed.

Railyon

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If the former GDR is anything to go by (and I think it is as one of the most important Warsaw pact states that needed to show the West what 'socialism' was capable of), the state did set prices and productivity goals, yes, but workers were officially waged (they did not hide that part) and could spend that money in any way they liked - in principle, at least, as most stores did not have the overabundance of the West.

But this already covers a very important point: if you are waged and have to buy your means of subsistence with it, value necessarily exists (and if we follow Marx's argument that value as the general social determinant of exchange constitutes capitalism as a system, we already have our proof right there actually - its all in Capital chapters 1 to 3). The GDR never hid that they had a wage system and commodities (state planning was also enhanced by an intricate system of incentives and such). Basically, the VEB (state-owned enterprises) had a production target, and all surplus they could sell as they please. There was a whole range of well-known GDR products in the West, from cameras to furniture - speaking of furniture, Ikea had forced laborers in GDR prisons. The more you know.

Karl Marx

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Allright. now i gotta get some sleep but tomorow ill read this whole thread and then well see.

Karl Marx out.

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

But this already covers a very important point: if you are waged and have to buy your means of subsistence with it, value necessarily exists (and if we follow Marx's argument that value as the general social determinant of exchange constitutes capitalism as a system, we already have our proof right there actually - its all in Capital chapters 1 to 3).

You're making an assumption that money was primary if not only factor in acquiring the means of subsistence in the Eastern bloc, not time to wait in queues and connections. Also many things were alreavy provided by state.

cantdocartwheels

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

''the soviet union....where were the capitalists''

in the sense that state companies were not owned by sole individuals or floated on the stock market, for sure, but then lots of states don't allow this fro many key industries., To extrapolate from this that the soviet union was a classless society with no law of value is somewhat farcical.
By the 1930's the salaries of senior bureaucrats were100's of times that of workers. Stalin himself increased his salary to over 10,000 rubles by 1947.
If these were not capitalists then we would have to equally assume that most managing directors of major companies are not ''capitalists''. At which point your talking about a notion of ''capitalism'' hat has little to do with reality..

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Stalinist bureaucrats weren't even a class. Definitely not in Marxist terms.

Red Marriott

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think you need to explain and justify such statements, Gepetto, for them to have much relevance to the discussion.

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

When and where were those bureaucrats organising politically around their own class demands?

Red Marriott

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

How does that statement relate to your previous one?

Railyon

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Gepetto

When and where were those bureaucrats organising politically around their own class demands?

Central Committee? ;)

Karl Marx

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

OK when Lenin says at the 11 kongress that there is no link betwen the peasant economy and the new socialist economy that they are trying to create. He keeps repeating this link but what does he mean by it. What link?

Tyrion

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I also don't see that the Soviet bureaucracy constituted a distinctly new class of any sort. In the way that it functioned, wasn't it essentially just a capitalist--in a collective form, but nonetheless a controller of capital presiding over the capitalist mode of production? Couldn't it be compared to a corporation running a company town, though on a much larger scale, of the sort that used to exist in the US? I might be a bit confused about this discussion, though, since I'm not sure what organizing politically around class demands has to do with anything.

Karl Marx

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Does he mean they dont have anything to offer to pesants in return for i guess food? So they allow them to trade with capitalists.

cantdocartwheels

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

edit now posting this as myself, for some bizarre reason it logged me in as iexist previosuly

Gepetto

When and where were those bureaucrats organising politically around their own class demands?

Like most people on here have heard these and other abstractions from supporters f the USSR before, much like the leninist arguments over what constitutes a state.
In practice they just veer away at right angles from reality of obfuscate away from discussing praxticalities.
As noted senior bureaucrats were on extremely high salaries. Managers were usually on a salary differential of around 7:1.To imagine that these differentials were unsupported by class attitudes within society or social organisation is to me pretty much akin to the ''Stalin fell from the moon'' camp of thinking advocated by more orthodox trots.
Like all societies the USSR had an ideological and economic underpinning and like all societies sometimes these were at odds and contradictory. This doesn't change the fact that despite some social mobility and a large welfare state there were definitely rich and poor in the USSR.

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

Gepetto

When and where were those bureaucrats organising politically around their own class demands?

Central Committee? ;)

Are politicians running parties and states for their own ends, or for the ends of the dominant class they represent?

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Red Marriott

How does that statement relate to your previous one?

Because that's what defines a class apart from the common relationship with the means of production? (supposed 'bureaucratic class' doesn't meet the latter criterion either)

Could bureaucrats for example make their own revolution?

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Also to make it clear, that I don't agree with the characterisation of the Eastern bloc economies as state capitalists doesn't mean I'm peddling the 'degenerate/deformed workers' state' nonsense (nor Schatchmanite 'bureaucratic collectivism'). However viewing USSR as capitalist doesn't guarantee anything either. IIRC for the likes of Cliff it was still better than the West as some 'higher' form of capitalism. Of course such view is ridiculous given that this economic system was barely functioning.

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

cantdocartwheels

This doesn't change the fact that despite some social mobility and a large welfare state there were definitely rich and poor in the USSR.

Of course, but that doesn't mean there was capitalism and/or that bureaucracy was the ruling class.

Reddebrek

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Gepetto

You're making an assumption that money was primary if not only factor in acquiring the means of subsistence in the Eastern bloc, not time to wait in queues and connections. Also many things were alreavy provided by state.

And that differed from Western Europe in the same period how?

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

Gepetto

You're making an assumption that money was primary if not only factor in acquiring the means of subsistence in the Eastern bloc, not time to wait in queues and connections. Also many things were alreavy provided by state.

And that differed from Western Europe in the same period how?

Wait, there was a chronic shortage of even basic goods in the West?

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Also another question to the supporters of state capitalist theory: it is known to all who read some Marx that capitalism has tendency to economise on labour power by revolutionising means of production, laying off workers that are no longer necessary because of that and make those still employed work more, longer and for lesser wages- how come the opposite happened in the Soviet Union and its satellite regimes then? In general, the tendency was not to innovate, but to hoard old machinery. As for the workers... well, everyone who lives in a post-Stalinist country knows what it looked like there. "Czy się stoi, czy się leży, dwa tysiące się należy" ("Whether are you standing or you are lying, you are entitled to your two thousands"), as the saying went in Poland. Since regimes were politically dependant on the working class (but despite them subordinating the said working class- the same way a trade union or social democratic party would need to base itself on workers), they couldn't discipline it by creating a "reserve army of the unemployed". They were obliged to give everyone a job and pay them (or rather pretend to... in return workers pretended to work).

Reddebrek

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Gepetto

Wait, there was a chronic shortage of even basic goods in the West?

That isn't an answer to my question but sometimes yes depending on the product, I can remember hours long queues and empty shelves in the 90's. And I can think of quite a few things I got because I knew someone in the supply chain. But even if that weren't the case that has nothing to with my question or your argument.

Full shelves do not equal capitalism anymore then empty shelves equal the opposite. I asked you how the two economic systems differed because this.

Gepetto

You're making an assumption that money was primary if not only factor in acquiring the means of subsistence in the Eastern bloc, not time to wait in queues and connections. Also many things were alreavy provided by state.

Is exactly the same in Western Europe, large parts of the economy were under state control, and they provided a lot of services and goods. All you've done is shown western Europe to be more efficient at this then the East.

Reddebrek

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Gepetto

Also another question to the supporters of state capitalist theory: it is known to all who read some Marx that capitalism has tendency to economise on labour power by revolutionising means of production, laying off workers that are no longer necessary because of that and make those still employed work more, longer and for lesser wages- how come the opposite happened in the Soviet Union and its satellite regimes then?

Well it did actually, the Soviet Union and its satellite states did develop new technologies in there economies. Mechanisation of agriculture, pneumatic drills, computer systems. Lenin was a big admirer of Taylors rational work organisation schemes and incorporated them into the Soviet economy.

There were also quite a few attempts to shift production away from Heavy industries to light industry to increase the number of consumer goods.

And again you could ask the same thing about Western Europe, from 1945-80, especially in Britain the privatisations of the 80's were justified on grounds of modernisation and efficiency.
So was pre Thatcher Britain not Capitalist?

The Soviet Union et all never went as far as Western Europe in its modernisation plans because its political commitment to full employment was more important to its entire political argument for its existence. This is just another case of their economies being to inefficient to change quick enough.

In the 1900's German industry was quickly out producing older more established British firms because the German industrialists took advantage of cheaper more efficient machinery from the start whilst British Industrialists were still tied to older models because they couldn't afford to upgrade.

So was pre 1914 Britain also not Capitalist?

In general, the tendency was not to innovate, but to hoard old machinery.

That may of been the case for Poland and the Eastern Bloc (though I personally doubt it), but it certainly wasn't true of the Soviet Union whom was obsessed with overtaking the west in every technological field. And I also know Bulgaria was big on computers and electronics.

As for the workers... well, everyone who lives in a post-Stalinist country knows what it looked like there. "Czy się stoi, czy się leży, dwa tysiące się należy" ("Whether are you standing or you are lying, you are entitled to your two thousands"), as the saying went in Poland.

Oh so that's Polish for Dole and other benefits. Again in Western Europe the states had many benefits and credits for most of the population. In Britain originally you could sign on for unemployment benefit the day you left school at 16 and receive it until retirement age when it was replaced with a pension.

Since regimes were politically dependant on the working class (but despite them subordinating the said working class- the same way a trade union or social democratic party would need to base itself on workers),

Ah Social Democratic parties, just like the ones that came to power in Western Europe for most of the post WWII years.

they couldn't discipline it by creating a "reserve army of the unemployed". They were obliged to give everyone a job and pay them (or rather pretend to... in return workers pretended to work).

Welcome to the UK 1945, a commitment to full employment was the keystone of the Welfare State initiative that had the official support of big three parties until the late seventies.

Again I ask you how on earth this differs in the fundamentals from Western Europe?

Gepetto

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

Full shelves do not equal capitalism anymore then empty shelves equal the opposite.

Okay, I just wanted to say that Eastern bloc economies weren't really monetary (and even when you were giving money in exchange for something, it was more like an accounting unit).

Lenin was a big admirer of Taylors rational work organisation schemes and incorporated them into the Soviet economy.

How much was Taylorism actually applied and how much it was a fantasy of Soviet managers? If it was in effect why they had to resort to Stakhanovism to raise productivity? (Stakhanovism is specifically Russian thing, but the phenomenon of udarniks and obsession with exceeding production norms was present in other countries) (of course contrary to Taylorism, Stakhanovism didn't achieve the desired results)

That may of been the case for Poland and the Eastern Bloc (though I personally doubt it), but it certainly wasn't true of the Soviet Union whom was obsessed with overtaking the west in every technological field. And I also know Bulgaria was big on computers and electronics.

And how much they actually relied on borrowing new technologies from capitalist countries? And why there was such difficulty in modernising factories?

Is exactly the same in Western Europe, large parts of the economy were under state control, and they provided a lot of services and goods.

And again you could ask the same thing about Western Europe, from 1945-80, especially in Britain the privatisations of the 80's were justified on grounds of modernisation and efficiency.

Welcome to the UK 1945, a commitment to full employment was the keystone of the Welfare State initiative that had the official support of big three parties until the late seventies.

Again I ask you how on earth this differs in the fundamentals from Western Europe?

The thing is... in Western Europe there was still a labour market, in Eastern there was none. Well no real markets in any commodities. And in the West you could still threaten workers with unemployment.

Oh so that's Polish for Dole and other benefits.

No, it's about wages. Precisely about how workers were receiving the same amount irrespectively of whether they were lazing or working hard. But it shows how bureaucrats lacked effective incentives for workers to work in general (contrary to capitalists).

Dave B

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think I agree with Bukharin; state capitalism has a tendency to degenerate into industrial slavery.

Slave owners of the Southern States of USA, who had a 'capitalist outlook' as Karl described them, often faced the same problems as the Bolsheviks, where the last solution for dealing with lazy labourers was to send and threaten to send them down the river to Mississippi or up the river to the gulags and slave labour camps in Siberia etc

State capitalism uniting and organizing the bourgeoisie, increasing the power of capitalism, has, of course, greatly weakened the working class. Under State capitalism the workers became the white slaves of the capitalist State. They were deprived of the right to strike; they were mobilized and militarized; everyone who raised his voice against the war was hauled before the courts and sentenced as a traitor. In many countries the workers were deprived of all freedom of movement, being forbidden to transfer from one enterprise to another. ' Free' wage workers were reduced to serfdom; they were doomed to perish on the battlefields, not on behalf of their own cause but on behalf of that of their enemies. They were doomed to work themselves to death, not for their own sake or for that of their comrades or their children, but for the sake of their oppressors.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1920/abc/04.htm

Red Marriott

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Gepetto

Stalinist bureaucrats weren't even a class. Definitely not in Marxist terms.

Red Marriott

I think you need to explain and justify such statements, Gepetto, for them to have much relevance to the discussion.

Gepetto

When and where were those bureaucrats organising politically around their own class demands?

Red Marriott

How does that statement relate to your previous one?

Gepetto

Because that's what defines a class apart from the common relationship with the means of production? (supposed 'bureaucratic class' doesn't meet the latter criterion either)
Could bureaucrats for example make their own revolution?

Are you implying that the Bolshevik-led state was uniquely a-political and a-classist? According to what ‘Marxist definition’ could any state really be? If not, then the bureaucracy, in their administrative role had the political function of collectively enforcing a particular form of social relations. Your definition of class as a group “organising politically with a common relationship to the means of production” (though it seems to ignore, eg, the Marxist distinction between the passive ‘class in itself’ v active ‘class for itself’) would seem to fit these collective managers of society; ie, their relationship as managers/administrators was “a common relationship to the means of production” – demarcated from the working class also, as cantdo says, by extreme wage differentials, other access to social wealth, social status and bureaucratic control over other social groups. This was itself a form of political organising – the political form, historically, that contributed to preventing any further social transformation by the working class itself. After all, the seizure of state power was the ultimate political goal of Bolshevism and what they had organised to achieve and prepare themselves for.

Kronstadt and the accompanying Petrograd strikes of 1921 were surely a manifestation of a political relationship between working class and state bureaucracy, an example of the conflict of two classes “organising politically around their own class demands”. Unless one believes it was an a-political internal dispute within the working class?! If, as you agree, there was exploitation of the working class, then by who – surely by another class? Yet if those who controlled the state and were bosses of production weren’t a class who was the exploiter?

"But the transformation, either into joint-stock companies, or into state ownership, does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies this is obvious. And the modern state, again, is only the organisation that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the general external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers — proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with." (Engels - Anti-Duhring, 1878)

Reddebrek

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Gepetto

Okay, I just wanted to say that Eastern bloc economies weren't really monetary (and even when you were giving money in exchange for something, it was more like an accounting unit).

Oh so like a company store or a chemists then.

How much was Taylorism actually applied and how much it was a fantasy of Soviet managers?

Well given how visitors to the Soviet Union commented that factories operated in much the same way they did in the West I'd have to conclude quite a bit. In fact Taylor has been described as the father of the planned economy.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cHPO_yLx5ToC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

If it was in effect why they had to resort to Stakhanovism to raise productivity?

Why do you assume they're mutually exclusive? From what I've read the Stakhanovites were part of the Taylorist reforms. As was the Five Year plans. Certainly the Soviet Union acknowledged the connection

"In the capitalist countries," he says, "Taylorism has made a gulf between physical and mental labor, and put up barriers between the workers of various qualifications. In the Soviet Union everything which is scientific and progressive as regards the improvement of the conditions of labor is taken from Taylorism, and everything that destroys the organism and lowers human self-respect is removed from it.

(Stakhanovism is specifically Russian thing, but the phenomenon of udarniks and obsession with exceeding production norms was present in other countries)

Not really the name is Russian obviously but the phenomena of managers rewarding loyal and hard workers in an attempt to encourage the rest of the workforce to put more effort into seems to me to be a very old worldwide phenomenon.

(of course contrary to Taylorism, Stakhanovism didn't achieve the desired results)

I disagree I've always believed the Stakhanov episode was a propaganda exercise rather then a economic one. I seem to remember the reason Stakhanov and his work team were able to exceed average output so much was because they had been equipped with the most advance equipment.

And how much they actually relied on borrowing new technologies from capitalist countries?

With the Soviet Union not much, they were heavily tied into the "Soviet X is the best X in the world" China on the other hand owed much of its 80's growth to technology bought from foreign countries. There is evidence that Soviet designers copied or were at least heavily inspired by other nations gear but that's generally true of all designers.

But again I really don't see your point, Capitalist economies rely on foreign technologies all the time, in Britain in the 80's was flooded with American and Japanese amongst others technology. whereas pre WWI when Britain was the dominant economy in the World it was the one doing the flooding, it was Capitalist in both instances so it doesn't really seem to matter.

And why there was such difficulty in modernising factories?

Well if I had to guess I'd say the same reason everyone has trouble modernising factories, the costs could outweigh the gains and the levels of resistance. The modernising of large parts of Western economies were often very bitter, very long and very costly.

There where also some very bitter struggles in parts of the former Soviet Union in the 90's when they finally where being modernised I guess my guess is that "the workers state" knew how damaging a full scale conflict between it and thousands of actually workers would be. The Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc regimes where notorious for dealing with strikes incredibly brutally. I believe that's especially true of Poland.

Going back to Britain, both the Labour and Conservative party seem to have come to the conclusion that British industry couldn't carry on as it did in the late 60's and both governments attempting to reform and modernise them, but because of the resistance by the workers in the industries that process floundered until the 1980's and even then the process is still ongoing.

So again I'm not really seeing much of a difference here.

The thing is... in Western Europe there was still a labour market, in Eastern there was none. Well no real markets in any commodities.

There was unemployment in the Soviet Union and I know for a fact that was also true of Romania as well. I know the USSR and all the Eastern bloc regimes liked to claim they had 100% adult employment but it wasn't really true, even official Soviet documents admit to unemployment

At certain times and periods unemployment was very low but that wasn't always the case, and didn't mean they couldn't make unemployed as a punishment.

Here's a figure from the 1920's

And here's another one from 1988 about the 1970's

And here's the thing in Western Europe when there was still a commitment to full employment long term unemployment was (statistically speaking) usually very small amongst the able bodied unless the entire economy was struggling.

And in the West you could still threaten workers with unemployment.

But you could also do that in the Soviet Union, I've read quite a few accounts of strikes and factory disturbances in the Soviet Union and in each case management threatened to fire anyone who didn't give up.

I just finished reading this one for example in it not only are there references to the unemployed but also a threat to sack and or withhold wages from those workers continuing to strike.

No, it's about wages. Precisely about how workers were receiving the same amount irrespectively of whether they were lazing or working hard.

Oh so that's Polish for an hourly wage, well that changes everything....

Also there was a reward scheme in place in the Soviet economy, mostly holidays, goods and plaques which are also used quite heavily in many work places over here.

But it shows how bureaucrats lacked effective incentives for workers to work in general (contrary to capitalists).

Yeah, not quite I've been employed where pay was the same regardless of productivity, and one of the biggest complaints I've had from my friends at other work places is that someone whose lazy or useless gets paid the same.

All you've done is confirm managers can be lazy and useless East of the Danube.

jura

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'd love to hear how the law of value asserted itself in the Eastern bloc without the equalization of rates of profit through competition of individual capitals.

Or how the value of labor power was kept in check in the absence of the reserve army.

Railyon

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

I'd love to hear how the law of value asserted itself in the Eastern bloc without the equalization of rates of profit through competition of individual capitals.

Or how the value of labor power was kept in check in the absence of the reserve army.

My first intuitive answer to that would have been that both were steered by a central direction authority. The rates of profit serve to distribute labor across industries, which could as well be directed by central planners (according to their motto (I think it originated with Engels, even): understand the logic of capitalism to "optimize" it). Value of labor power would be the least problematic if we assume such a planning authority, it wouldn't need unemployment for that.

I think if we make a systemic argument out of it, the more concrete phenomena of capitalism can more easily be modified (that is, change their appearance) to still work structurally but in another guise. Just think of the "money problem" many people see in chapter 3 of Capital - just because money apparently lost its convertibility (in whatever form), a money commodity is still needed (and logically sound) in the context of value form. The question is then how this "new" mediation (Vermittlung) of structural component (money commodity) and surface phenomena (paper money et al) takes place. I see the problem of equalization of profit rates in a similar light - just because it did not happen under the "invisible hand" does not mean it didn't happen at all. Unless, of course, one starts to believe a society based on the first three chapters of Capital can exist by itself (and it would make the whole argument of social specificity crumble) - then, maybe, mutualists wouldn't be quite the idealists they have been accused of.

But again, just a gut feeling as I have not concerned myself with the Eastern Bloc that much (no offense, but I think our time is better spent elsewhere - if we reject markets anyway, I doubt much else needs to be said). Then again, maybe it's just the beer speaking in my post.

Based on my knowledge of the GDR however, the calculations were usually awful - leading to such cases where bread was cheaper than the wheat it had been made from, et cetera.

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The thing is that the planning decisions weren't driven by the profitability of sectors or enterprises. It wasn't like "this sector is now profitable, let's move all investments there". There were economists and even high-ranking bureaucrats in the Eastern bloc who pushed for that, but it never really became the policy. One of the reasons certainly was the fear of working class response, because such policy would inevitably mean bankruptcies (then virtually non-existent) and unemployment (true, there was some unemployment in the Eastern bloc, and unemployment was even used as a form of punishment, but mostly for political or disciplinary reasons, not as a way of coping with investment problems or technological progress), as well as attacks on the wage and working conditions. (This is just an anecdote, but at the end of the 80s, a skilled manual worker in Czechoslovakia could still earn twice as much as a Party newspaper editor or a college professor.)

Even at the lower level, the motives and actions of directors in "socialist enterprises" were quite different from those of capitalist managers. There were few incentives for increasing profitability, and the enterprises instead concentrated on hoarding resources (both material and personal, hence the waste and high employment, although both phenomena had other causes as well), and fulfilling quantitative targets (hence the waste and low quality of products). Although there were attempts, almost periodical, to introduce more elements of competition and the profit-motive – like the khozraschyot – they were never successful. The Eastern bloc developed its own mechanisms, like udarnikism, "socialist commitments" and "socialist competition", but they were quite the farce compared to what is routinely going on in capitalism.

So I don't see the law of value working in the same way in the Eastern bloc and in the West.

Now, although I think it's an interesting and important subject, I don't have a theory of the USSR. However, I think that the superficial characteristics of the system ("the workers got paid in money for their work", "products were bought in shops", "sometimes some people were out of work") aren't really helpful in determining its character. There was more going on behind the scenes and simply slapping the "capitalist" label on it is just an easy way out. (I don't think I have to add that I view the Eastern bloc an enemy of the workers and of course it wasn't "socialism".)

Alf

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Didn't Marx argue that the reign of capital was a particular stage in the evolution of human Kultur, heading (potentially) towards a truly universal humanity? That it was certainly the last of a long series of civilisations founded on "antagonistic relations of production", not least because it was the first to have attained such a planet-wide domination. If you like, this is the "real domination of capital", posited on the almost complete destruction of all previous modes of production. Capital is a world relation or it is nothing, and the workings of the national economies can only be understood in the context of global capital. The law of value dominated the 'eastern bloc' because it had already dominated the Earth.

The appearance of state capitalism, already noted by Engels in the late 19th century, is part of this story. The term has often been distorted, particularly by the Trotskyist versions of the theory of state capitalism, to mean something specific that only applies to the Stalinist regimes, when in reality Stalinism is just one particular form of the universal shift toward state capitalism. It's true that the Stalinist economies were an especially "deformed" embodiment of the trend, largely as a result of their chronic economic weakness. But capitalism on a world scale, above all from the early part of the 20th century, had already deformed itself in a similar way because capitalist social relations had become a definitive fetter on the possibilities of further social advance. Capitalism takes refuge in statified, bureaucratic and militarised forms because it is threatened with death, from the revolutionary class, from the economic crisis, from the increasingly destructive competition between nation states, and (something that has more recently become evident) from the devastation of the planetary environment.

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Go science! There's no difference between the USSR and the US because both have to fit some preconceived teleological scheme developed mostly by German social democrats in the 19th century.

Alf

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Was Marx one of those 19th century social democrats?

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Partially, yes. I don't think everything Marx ever wrote is sacred.

Alf

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Who thinks every word of Marx is sacred? But what you're rejecting as a "preconceived teleological scheme" is pretty much his fundamental historical method.

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It'd make for a much interesting debate if you didn't justify all of your conclusions by appeals to authority and/or to a speculative philosophy of history. It seems like for you, everything is already decided:

"There was law of value in the Eastern bloc because the law of value had been everywhere else prior to that."

"When capitalism is threatened, it turns to militarism, bureaucratism etc. Hence, all forms of the latter can be explained by the fact that capitalism is threatened."

I would be interested in how the law of value actually operated in the Soviet Union. Marx makes a convincing argument about how it operates in capitalism and how this operation is mediated in the consciousness of the capitalists through, e.g., the hunt for extra profit. He shows how the equalization of profit rates is possible through credit and the stock market, and how the value of labor power is kept within certain limits by the reserve army. These are all empirical arguments. If you cut these off, you have to provide some other justification or the law of value turns into some magical power.

Alf

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Why does referring to general stages in the evolution of capitalism imply that "everything is already decided"?

Regarding the motivations of the capitalist bureaucrats in the USSR, I can't understand why people think they were not constantly preoccupied with "keeping the value of labour power within certain limits". Is using a "reserve army of labour" the only way to do this? What about when the government of East Germany demanded a 10% increase in production "norms" with no corresponding wage increases (the immediate impetus for the revolt of 1953)? And weren't such frontal attacks "motivated", at root, by the demands of international competition, by the failing competivity of the GDR as a national unit?

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Alf

Why does referring to general stages in the evolution of capitalism imply that "everything is already decided"?

Because you view these "general stages" as something akin to geological epochs. Anyway, I don't want to get into another argument about decadence and periodization. You brought up stages to justify two claims:

1. that the law of value operated in the Eastern bloc (because at this "stage" the law of value had already gone global and hence must have included the Eastern bloc);

2. that there was capitalism in the USSR (because at this "stage" capitalist regimes elsewhere had similar characteristics in terms of militarism, bureaucratism etc., and what looks like a duck is a duck).

The presuppositions are not even true. Not all capitalist regimes were militaristic and bureaucratized (nor are they today). There are still vestiges of pre-capitalist production (not dominated by the law of value) around today, and were much more so 30 or 50 or 70 years ago.

Alf

What about when the government of East Germany demanded a 10% increase in production "norms" with no corresponding wage increases (the immediate impetus for the revolt of 1953)? And weren't such frontal attacks "motivated", at root, by the demands of international competition, by the failing competivity of the GDR as a national unit?

You seem to like to respond with questions, I will, too: When feudal lords increased tributes, were they trying to keep up with international competition by setting a new standard of the normal intensity of labor and hence driving down the value of labor power?

Anyway, the GDR bureaucrats don't seem to have been too successful in their efforts. And I think the very fact that the value of labor power is taken care of almost automatically under capitalism (due precisely to the reserve army and the dynamics of the labor market) while in these regimes it required (in the absence of a real labor market) conscious and mostly unsuccessful attempts by the state is telling us something.

S. Artesian

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

I'd love to hear how the law of value asserted itself in the Eastern bloc without the equalization of rates of profit through competition of individual capitals.

Or how the value of labor power was kept in check in the absence of the reserve army.

Those are the key issues. We can say a lot about the FSU-- my personal favorites are (1) it functioned as an analog-- different origin, similar function-- to capitalism (2) the state administered the impulse to capitalist restoration. However calling it capitalist or state-capitalist is not an accurate description and obscures what capitalism is and how it reproduces itself.

S. Artesian

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Alf

Was Marx one of those 19th century social democrats?

No, Marx was not one of those. He did not have a preconceived teleological argument. You can check the Grundrisse, the Economic Manuscripts, and the Ethnographic Notebooks to find how specific, and precise, Marx's analysis of capital as an organization of social labor is and how little "stagism" infests his critiques.

Making a "school" out of Engels remarks about "state capitalism" and arguing about the necessity of stages of history while at the same time ignoring (1) that Engels' "state capitalism" refers to countries where private ownership of the means of production and industrial capitalism are well established and (2) not only did Russia NOT have that preponderance of industrial capitalism, but that the very possibility of the proletarian basis to the Russian Revolution refutes the "stage" theory in its entirety, seems to me to be deliberate disregard of-- the actual content of history.

So what it comes down to is for me: If the FSU was capitalist, where was the capitalist class?

If we say the bureaucracy or the party or the apparatus was the class, then we have to ask what was the specific, unique, historical organization of labor, the social relation of production that this class "carried" for the organization of society?

If we say "wage labor"-- that is not unique, specific to the bureaucracy, but to the capitalist class so on what basis could there even be a revolution?

If the bureaucracy was capitalist but did not introduce a new organization of labor, then we are forced to conclude that everything about uneven and combined development is mistaken; that we have a new capitalist class without a specific unique relation to the means of production nor to the labor power that animates those means; that the Russian Revolution was necessarily capitalist from the getgo.

If the bureaucracy is a new class, or a capitalist class, then we should be able to see it functioning as that class in relation to social labor within the tissues of the old society, even before the revolution. Anybody want to take a stab at that? Show me the nascent state-capitalists and their means of production in 1907?

The FSU was no more state capitalist than pre-revoutionary Czarist Russia was state capitalist simply because it participated in world markets, built railways etc.

If we want to say that the FSU functioned within capitalism, was part and parcel of the international dominance of capitalism-- OK with me.

Reddebrek

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sorry to sound like a broken record but
jura

The thing is that the planning decisions weren't driven by the profitability of sectors or enterprises. It wasn't like "this sector is now profitable, let's move all investments there". There were economists and even high-ranking bureaucrats in the Eastern bloc who pushed for that, but it never really became the policy.

This is also a description of the British state owned industries up to the 1980's. Many economists in Britain argued for the abandoning of unprofitable industry but were ignored until the 70's.

One of the reasons certainly was the fear of working class response, because such policy would inevitably mean bankruptcies (then virtually non-existent) and unemployment (true, there was some unemployment in the Eastern bloc, and unemployment was even used as a form of punishment, but mostly for political or disciplinary reasons, not as a way of coping with investment problems or technological progress)

,

Again in most British state owned/funded industries most sackings were about disciplinary matters, it wasn't until the late 70's and 80's that mass lay offs became more common with the weakening of resistance allowing the introduction of factory modernisations. Unemployment in Western Europe was usually very low and some records show that some nations had an equivalent unemployment rate to the Soviet Union.

Reserve army of labour wasn't a dominant feature of post war Britain because the political commitment to full employment and support for unprofitable industries meant finding other work wasn't very difficult unless you were blacklisted.

as well as attacks on the wage and working conditions.

The biggest economic headache in Britain after 1945 was how to maintain full employment and prevent wages leading to extreme inflation. Every attempt to cap wages or fix prices failed, until the 1980's.
http://www.hegemonics.co.uk/docs/Incomes-Policy-Hegemony-1970s.pdf

Even at the lower level, the motives and actions of directors in "socialist enterprises" were quite different from those of capitalist managers. There were few incentives for increasing profitability, and the enterprises instead concentrated on hoarding resources (both material and personal, hence the waste and high employment, although both phenomena had other causes as well),

Again state owned British industry was also famous for its waste and resistance (even from management) to the introduction of new technologies.

and fulfilling quantitative targets (hence the waste and low quality of products). Although there were attempts, almost periodical, to introduce more elements of competition and the profit-motive – like the khozraschyot – they were never successful. The Eastern bloc developed its own mechanisms, like udarnikism, "socialist commitments" and "socialist competition", but they were quite the farce compared to what is routinely going on in capitalism.

British industry also focussed on quantitative targets with low levels of quality, this is were the jokes about broken gear proudly displaying the Union Jack and "made in the UK" come from. In fact Taylorism is mainly concerned with quantity over quality and this churning out substandard products is a common feature of most planned economies.

And before Thatcher previous governments had also tried to bring in their own reform packages to improve profitability and competition in the state owned industries they weren't successful either.

So I don't see the law of value working in the same way in the Eastern bloc and in the West.

And I don't really see a difference in what you've described to Western Europe, so I find your coming to a different conclusion rather questionable.

Now, although I think it's an interesting and important subject, I don't have a theory of the USSR. However, I think that the superficial characteristics of the system ("the workers got paid in money for their work", "products were bought in shops", "sometimes some people were out of work") aren't really helpful in determining its character. There was more going on behind the scenes and simply slapping the "capitalist" label on it is just an easy way out. (I don't think I have to add that I view the Eastern bloc an enemy of the workers and of course it wasn't "socialism".)

Personally speaking this seems like a form of European orientalism. The only differences you've listed are of degree rather then kind. Everything you've listed had an equivalent in Britain and most Western European nations, so is slapping the Capitalist label on them the easy way out too?

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

This is also a description of the British state owned industries up to the 1980's. Many economists in Britain argued for the abandoning of unprofitable industry but were ignored until the 70's.

I'm no expert on the British economy. For your argument to work, and this applies to all of the other mentions of the British state-owned industries in your post, you'd have to look at the share of the state-owned industries in the total economy, i.e., how important that sector was. I can't do that for you since I don't have ready access to the data and I don't want to spend Sunday evening looking for it online. I know the Labour Party had a plan to nationalize 20% of the economy in its post-war program. Judging from the list of nationalized enterprises and industries here it doesn't seem like they or anyone else were successful in that. Maybe the list is incomplete, feel free to preach to me on this as I know almost nothing about it.

Perhaps I should have made myself a bit clearer. In my view, the character of capitalism as a mode of production is determined by the operation of the law of value. Some may disagree with this and say that it's wage labor, money, commodities, private property, alienation, or the existence of a capitalist class that matters. Feel free to disagree on that. Now, for the determination of value by socially necessary labor time (as we know it) to work, there has to be, among other things, free movement of capital between competing enterprises and sectors. This movement follows the movement of the profit rates, with a tendency to equalize the differences Of course, historically, this freedom has been realized to various degrees, and what Marx describes in Capital is an ideal state. The credit system and the stock market are key components of that, and have been historically. Depending on the circumstances, even within a capitalist economy a nationalized sector can be removed from this equalization of profit rates, and this tends to introduce various deformations in the system.

However, in the Eastern bloc, I don't see how anything like this could have worked because the entire economy was removed from such equalization. I don't see the Eastern bloc having a financial sector, a stock market, no real competition (with bankruptcies, takeovers, and centralization) – not even a real labor market (although that is presently not the issue). Even the small private sector in some countries (it did, in fact exist, and not just in Hungary) was completely unlike the private sector in the West, in terms of the free movement of capital, free employment etc.

Hence, I don't see how the law of value as we know it would work in the Eastern bloc. Now, there are, I guess, two possibilities:

- the law of value applied, but operated somehow differently (the question, then, is how, and this is what I've been asking about from the get-go; so even if you or anybody else is right about the Eastern bloc being a version of capitalism, you owe everyone an explanation of how the law of value worked; unless, of course, you don't think value is important to capitalism, but that opens other problems. You can't just say "It worked just like in 1950s Britain" because some essential parts of the mechanism were simply not there.)

- the law of value didn't apply, and hence calling the Eastern bloc capitalist becomes problematic (unless, again, you think value is inessential to capitalism).

Like I said: I don't have a theory of the USSR, I do think we need one, and for the reasons above I'm sceptical of the usual approaches, because they seem to ignore how capitalism actually works. It's as if all of these theories, with the exception of Ticktin and Aufheben (and maybe some other stuff I don't know), were written by people who finished reading Capital after the first volume.

Reddebrek

Reserve army of labour wasn't a dominant feature of post war Britain because the political commitment to full employment and support for unprofitable industries meant finding other work wasn't very difficult unless you were blacklisted.

That's correct, but I don't see how it refutes anything I said. It's one thing to have low unemployment rates during periods of boom, when there's high demand for labor power, and higher unemployment rates when such periods are over and the system enters a crisis, as in late 70s/early 80s Britain. This is exactly how the reserve army works. It's another thing to have a system in which it is basically illegal to be out of work, there is universal obligation to work and enterprises (in the entire economy, not just in coal, steel and fucking public transport) are incentivized to employ people regardless of profitability (employment targets were part of the plans in the Eastern bloc).

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

British industry also focussed on quantitative targets with low levels of quality, this is were the jokes about broken gear proudly displaying the Union Jack and "made in the UK" come from. In fact Taylorism is mainly concerned with quantity over quality and this churning out substandard products is a common feature of most planned economies.

Just to be clear, when I'm talking about wasteful production in the Eastern bloc, I don't mean a crappy car that you buy and it breaks down the next year. I mean stuff that cannot be sold or used at all and sits to rot in a warehouse.

Reddebrek

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

I'm no expert on the British economy. For your argument to work, and this applies to all of the other mentions of the British state-owned industries in your post, you'd have to look at the share of the state-owned industries in the total economy, i.e., how important that sector was.

Sorry but I'm going to have to call moving goal posts and double standards here, your argument that I replied to had nothing to do with levels of state ownership it was all about the features of Eastern block economies that you claimed differentiated it from the west. Again your argument is just a difference of degree rather than kind.

I don't want to spend Sunday evening looking for it online.

Good news then you don't have to as that's irrelevant. There were different levels of state and private ownership in the Eastern Block but you regard their economies to be fundamentally the same so it shouldn't really matter all that much.

Perhaps I should have made myself a bit clearer. In my view, the character of capitalism as a mode of production is determined by the operation of the law of value.

Ok, so then again why did you bring up all those economic policy, because if they demonstrate a lack of value then they must also do that everywhere they are put in place like in Western Europe. Or they don't in which case they weren't really relevant.

Some may disagree with this and say that it's wage labor, money, commodities, private property, alienation, or the existence of a capitalist class that matters. Feel free to disagree on that. Now, for the determination of value by socially necessary labor time (as we know it) to work, there has to be, among other things, free movement of capital between competing enterprises and sectors. This movement follows the movement of the profit rates, with a tendency to equalize the differences Of course,

Ok, did you actually bother to read that link about the British economy in this period? Because that was all about how the political project and state industries prevented most of this without the direct influence of the government.

historically, this freedom has been realized to various degrees, and what Marx describes in
Capital is an ideal state.

I guess you didn't read then.

The credit system and the stock market are key components of that, and have been historically. Depending on the circumstances, even within a capitalist economy a nationalized sector can be removed from this equalization of profit rates, and this tends to introduce various deformations in the system.

Oh so your argument was nothing but percentages. Again differences of degrees not kinds.

However, in the Eastern bloc, I don't see how anything like this could have worked because the entire economy was removed from such equalization. I don't see the Eastern bloc having a financial sector, a stock market,

Maybe not but there were investment banks, and last time I check banks were part of the financial sector.

no real competition (with bankruptcies, takeovers, and centralization)

And as I've said before that was usually the case with state enterprises. In Britain the introduction of foreign products on a large scale that competed with British industries had to be carried through over resistance.

– not even a real labor market (although that is presently not the issue).

Again the same was true of most western European countries.

Even the small private sector in some countries (it did, in fact exist, and not just in Hungary) was completely unlike the private sector in the West, in terms of the free movement of capital, free employment etc.

Again difference of degree not kind, if you think there was no regulations on the movement of private industries at this time in Western Europe you are wrong.

Hence, I don't see how the law of value as we know it would work in the Eastern bloc.

Then how did it work for state owned industries in the west then?

- the law of value applied, but operated somehow differently (the question, then, is how, and this is what I've been asking about from the get-go; so even if you or anybody else is right about the Eastern bloc being a version of capitalism, you owe everyone an explanation of how the law of value worked;

Well in that case you owe me an explanation for how the Eastern block was different from the Western block when everything you listed as an example of that difference had a direct equivalent.

You can't just say "It worked just like in 1950s Britain" because some essential parts of the mechanism were simply not there.)

Sorry but you're lying now, I demonstrated that there were equivalents in Britain (from 1945-80) if you still think there's a fundamental difference then why don't you explain it? All you've done is say that its different and then tried to talk about something else entirely.

- the law of value didn't apply, and hence calling the Eastern bloc capitalist becomes problematic (unless, again, you think value is inessential to capitalism).

Like I said: I don't have a theory of the USSR, I do think we need one, and for the reasons above I'm sceptical of the usual approaches, because they seem to ignore how capitalism actually works.

Well you'd know a lot about that since you seem pretty keen to ignore how Western European economies worked.

Reddebrek

Reserve army of labour wasn't a dominant feature of post war Britain because the political commitment to full employment and support for unprofitable industries meant finding other work wasn't very difficult unless you were blacklisted.

That's correct, but I don't see how it refutes anything I said.

Well I'm sorry but you should look again. You said there was no reserve army of labour in the East and that this was a major difference from the economies of the West. Which is absurd because at the exact same time period Western European economies had equivalent rates of unemployment to the Soviet Union. So if it wasn't a feature of one how could be a feature of the other.

It's one thing to have low unemployment rates during periods of boom, when there's high demand for labor power, and higher unemployment rates when such periods are over and the system enters a crisis, as in late 70s/early 80s Britain. This is exactly how the reserve army works. It's another thing to have a system in which it is basically illegal to be out of work, there is universal obligation to work and enterprises (in the entire economy, not just in coal, steel and fucking public transport) are incentivized to employ people regardless of profitability

(employment targets were part of the plans in the Eastern bloc).

This would be true except its not how that work in East or West, the commitment to full employment at all times regardless of how well the economy was doing led to high retention of staff regardless of profitability within state funded and owned industries. And making unemployment illegal did not magically make unemployment disappear.

(employment targets were part of the plans in the Eastern bloc).

Yeah you really don't know anything about Western Europe in this time. Employment targets where also part of the economic plans of Britain right up until the 80's. You're like a parody now all you've done is demonstrate what everybody all ready knew that state ownership of the economy was much larger in the East then the West and the political commitment to full employment taken more seriously.

Difference of degree not kind. That's all your argument is.

jura

Just to be clear, when I'm talking about wasteful production in the Eastern bloc, I don't mean a crappy car that you buy and it breaks down the next year. I mean stuff that cannot be sold or used at all and sits to rot in a warehouse.

Yes I know, that was also a feature of British industry (especially car manufacturing) because over production of some products is also a common feature of every planned economy.

Red Marriott

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian, are you saying the USSR was a society where the working class was exploited but without an internal ruling class, with merely a bureaucracy functioning as proxy managers for international capital? Or that the ruling elite was a non-capitalist ruling class?

S. Artesian

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Capital is all about the production and accumulation of value as value. The means of production have no purpose other than the extraction of value, and thus they are exchanged as any and every other commodity value.

Now where in the FSU do we have that?

Alf

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I agree with Jura that there are still non-capitalist areas or margins of the economy and that they were still important well into the 20th century. Perhaps that's another discussion, but I don't think it alters the reality of a world essentially dominated by the capitalist world market to a far more advanced degree than in, say, 1848.

I also agree that the GDR bureaucrats were not very successful and that capitalism's efforts to operate without the whip of unemployment lead to huge pressures in other spheres of the economy, via inflation for example: Reddebrek's points about Britain even up to the 80s are quite relevant here. Thus after 1989 we saw a very rapid recourse to unemployment in most of the former 'socialist' countries. But this shows that such a deformed version of capitalism, where 'human will' seeks to substitute for economic laws, is both a product of economic weakness and a further factor in it. It doesn't show that what happened in 1989 was a change in the mode of production.

Tyrion

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek, though I basically agree with what you've written, is language like "you're like a parody now" really necessary?

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek, I'll be happy to go on with the discussion, but I think it'd be helpful if you kept the tone civil, did not accuse me of lying etc. With that approach I tend to lose patience quickly. If you could turn down the one-liners, that would be helpful, too.

Reddebrek

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Tyrion

Reddebrek, though I basically agree with what you've written, is language like "you're like a parody now" really necessary?

Well lets see I'm constantly having to repeat myself because the other user is incapable or refuses to answer direct questions. They pepper their remarks with condescension, passive aggression, demands and deliberate misrepresentations and belittling which is all perfectly ok. But one and only one flippant remark is suddenly off limits?

Reddebrek, I'll be happy to go on with the discussion, but I think it'd be helpful if you kept the tone civil,

Well then you should of kept it civil first. Calling me a preacher, ignoring my comments and misrepresenting others is very rude regardless of tone.

did not accuse me of lying etc.

What? well if it bothers you that much then don't lie.

With that approach I tend to lose patience quickly.

Funny I've been losing my patience with you quite a bit.

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

Well then you should of kept it civil first. Calling me a preacher, ignoring my comments and misrepresenting others is very rude regardless of tone.

I'm sorry if it offended you, but the "preaching" remark was an honest admission of my lack of knowledge about the post-war British economy. It wasn't my intention to be condescending or passively agressive, or to belittle you, but again, I'm sorry if you feel that way.

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

Sorry but I'm going to have to call moving goal posts and double standards here, your argument that I replied to had nothing to do with levels of state ownership it was all about the features of Eastern block economies that you claimed differentiated it from the west. Again your argument is just a difference of degree rather than kind.

I hope you're not being dishonest here, because it seems a bit like you are! It's a difference in degree that makes for a difference in kind. To put it bluntly, a hoard of zero dollars is not a hoard of dollars.

Or, in other words: if there was no possibility of an equalization of profit rates (done the traditional way, as we know it), then the law of value either did not operate or operated very differently. This possibility is predicated upon how the economy is organized. In Britain, it may well be a fact that the nationalized part of the economy was outside the scope of such equalization, and it probably introduced some deformations into the workings of the law of value in the British economy. But in the Eastern bloc, there was no such "scope" at all, hence I don't see how the law could have worked at all.

Reddebrek

Good news then you don't have to as that's irrelevant. There were different levels of state and private ownership in the Eastern Block but you regard their economies to be fundamentally the same so it shouldn't really matter all that much.

No, it's not irrelevant. Nowhere in the Eastern bloc was there the freedom of movement of capital that I talked about as essential to the law of value. (The different ratios of state and "private" ownership in the Eastern bloc don't mean a thing, because "private" ownership – like family-run shops etc. – was extremely regulated, there was no expansion, no competition, no bankruptcies, etc. The meaning of those terms is not the same as when discussing the relationship of state-owned and private sectors in the West. I can go more into this if you want.)

Reddebrek

Ok, so then again why did you bring up all those economic policy, because if they demonstrate a lack of value then they must also do that everywhere they are put in place like in Western Europe. Or they don't in which case they weren't really relevant.

I'm sorry but I don't understand. Perhaps you could rephrase?

Reddebrek

Ok, did you actually bother to read that link about the British economy in this period? Because that was all about how the political project and state industries prevented most of this without the direct influence of the government.

No, I haven't read it, because it's pretty long. I'm not sure if the text mentions the equalization of the rates of profit (a text search for various keywords of interest shows zero matches). Can you perhaps paraphrase what you see as the core argument of the text and how it relates to our discussion? Again, what I'm saying is that the movement of capital was restricted throughout the economy in the Eastern bloc, including its "privately" owned parts, not just in a part of the economy as in the Great Britain. There may have been problems for capital due to the state-owned sector in Britain, but it wasn't like the whole economy was bizarre, spasmatic and ridden with waste because of that (this is what the East looked like).

Reddebrek

Maybe not but there were investment banks, and last time I check banks were part of the financial sector.

The investment bank was basically the financial executor, controller and accountant of the plan. It did not compete with anyone inside the economy, nor with other "investment banks" (as the text you linked discusses, at some points there were several ones for different sectors). It was a state organ, unlike the investment banks (Morgan Stanley etc.) of the capitalist financial sector you implicitly mentioned. You wouldn't just go to a "socialist" investment bank and ask them to help you fund a merger or anything. They executed the plan, they didn't choose their investment targets based on profitability, etc.

Reddebrek

And as I've said before that was usually the case with state enterprises. In Britain the introduction of foreign products on a large scale that competed with British industries had to be carried through over resistance.

Well, yes, but besides these state enterprises, Britain had a blossoming private sector full of competition, takeovers etc. And this has nothing to do with foreign trade and protectionism, either. It is one thing to seal yourself off from foreign competition, and another thing to abolish internal competition. And when I mean internal competition, it's not just between enterprises in a sector – of course, monopolies or oligopolies were and are quite common in the West. But by internal competition, I also mean the one between sectors – when investors, based on the rate on profit, decide whether they'll invest in sector A or sector B. In the Eastern bloc, the only investor was the state (with its investment bank), who didn't compete with anyone (other than on the world market, to a very limited extent), and followed other criteria than profitability.

Reddebrek

(labor market) Again the same was true of most western European countries.

You mean there was a legal obligation to work? That after finishing school, you received a transfer card and you had to move and go work to the other side of the country? That's what I meant by the non-existence of a real labor market. I've never heard of that in the West, except maybe during wartime.

Reddebrek

(socialist private sector) Again difference of degree not kind, if you think there was no regulations on the movement of private industries at this time in Western Europe you are wrong.

Actually, I said nothing of the sort. But it's one thing to have regulations and protectionism, and it's another thing to basically disallow reinvestment, limit the number of employees to something like 10 and demand that only members of family are employed in the business. (I could be more specific about how it worked in Czechoslovakia but I'd have to check some souces.)

Reddebrek

Then how did it work for state owned industries in the west then?

It is quite possible that it only worked in some deformed way, perhaps introducing some problems for the rest of the economy. When discussing some large-scale joint-stock operations with a lower than average profit rate, Marx mentions (in Volume 3 of Capital) that they don't enter the equalization process. A similar argument could be made for true monopolies. It doesn't make them socialist or non-exploitative, but if the whole economy was based on them, it couldn't be regulated by the law of value.

Reddebrek

Well in that case you owe me an explanation for how the Eastern block was different from the Western block when everything you listed as an example of that difference had a direct equivalent.

(As I tried to show, the equivalents were not really equivalents, due to "differences in degree" which make them into "differences in kind".)

Reddebrek

Sorry but you're lying now, I demonstrated that there were equivalents in Britain (from 1945-80) if you still think there's a fundamental difference then why don't you explain it? All you've done is say that its different and then tried to talk about something else entirely.

(Hopefully it's clearer now.)

Reddebrek

Well I'm sorry but you should look again. You said there was no reserve army of labour in the East and that this was a major difference from the economies of the West. Which is absurd because at the exact same time period Western European economies had equivalent rates of unemployment to the Soviet Union. So if it wasn't a feature of one how could be a feature of the other.

Incidentally, the reserve army does not comprise just the unemployed. And what I meant was not a comparison between the absolute numbers of unemployed, but the dynamics of the group. As soon as the boom of high employment and wages ended in Britain, there was unemployment and the wages went down. That's how the dynamic works, and this dynamic is what I mean when I say that the reserve army was absent in the East. As far as I know, nothing of the sort happened in the East (not until the 1990s). Poland was in some deep shit economically since the 1970s, but it didn't experience massive unemployment, which it would have if it were in the West (it more than caught up to them in the 1990s and early 2000s).

Reddebrek

This would be true except its not how that work in East or West, the commitment to full employment at all times regardless of how well the economy was doing led to high retention of staff regardless of profitability within state funded and owned industries. And making unemployment illegal did not magically make unemployment disappear.

Again, the state-owned and -funded enterprises in the West comprised a relatively smaller part of the economy than in the East. There was ample room for the traditional capitalist dynamics to operate. There was no such room in the East.

Reddebrek

Yeah you really don't know anything about Western Europe in this time. Employment targets where also part of the economic plans of Britain right up until the 80's.

You mean for the entire economy? Including the private sector? How many enterprises were involved? Do you have a source for that?

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

BTW, I think S. Artesian's point on the non-existence of a market for the means of production in the Eastern bloc is essential. Same goes for the capital market.

Red Marriott

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Artesian

Capital is all about the production and accumulation of value as value. The means of production have no purpose other than the extraction of value, and thus they are exchanged as any and every other commodity value.

Now where in the FSU do we have that?

So, in your view, was the USSR bureaucracy/ruling elite/state power a ruling class?

Reddebrek

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

I hope you're not being dishonest here, because it seems a bit like you are! It's a difference in degree that makes for a difference in kind. To put it bluntly, a hoard of zero dollars is not a hoard of dollars.

??? The comment that I replied to had nothing to do with laws of value or percentages of state ownership, you rattled off a bunch policies and initiatives and brought up things that were equivalents. Then all of a sudden you being up all this other stuff without establishing a connection.

Or, in other words: if there was no possibility of an equalization of profit rates (done the traditional way, as we know it), then the law of value either did not operate or operated very differently. This possibility is predicated upon how the economy is organized. In Britain, it may well be a fact that the nationalized part of the economy was outside the scope of such equalization, and it probably introduced some deformations into the workings of the law of value in the British economy. But in the Eastern bloc, there was no such "scope" at all, hence I don't see how the law could have worked at all.

So you're argument was just the East was different from the West because it nationalised more of their economies.

No, it's not irrelevant.

Again yes it was and is in regards to what I was interested in discussing. If it was relevant surely you would of mentioned at the start.

Nowhere in the Eastern bloc was there the freedom of movement of capital that I talked about as essential to the law of value. (The different ratios of state and "private" ownership in the Eastern bloc don't mean a thing, because "private" ownership – like family-run shops etc. – was extremely regulated, there was no expansion, no competition, no bankruptcies, etc.

What? Sorry but you just said ratios of state ownership mean everything in regards to the differences between East and West. Now you're saying they don't mean anything. Make up your mind either ratio matter or they don't.

Reddebrek

Ok, so then again why did you bring up all those economic policy, because if they demonstrate a lack of value then they must also do that everywhere they are put in place like in Western Europe. Or they don't in which case they weren't really relevant.

I'm sorry but I don't understand. Perhaps you could rephrase?

Seriously? The comment I responded to was just a list of things about Eastern economies that you claimed proved were unique to West. When I responded with some equivalents you then started talking about a law of value without explaining the connection between to two. So I'm left with to conclude either: there is no connection, or there is, in which case I would like to know why the effects on the law of value weren't the same in their western equivalents.

No, I haven't read it, because it's pretty long.

It was 17 pages on a subject you admit you knew nothing about and apparently wanted more information on. And you wonder why I'm losing patience with you.

I'm not sure if the text mentions the equalization of the rates of profit (a text search for various keywords of interest shows zero matches). Can you perhaps paraphrase what you see as the core argument of the text and how it relates to our discussion?

It was background information on how the British economy worked in the period. It relates to our discussion in that you said you wanted more information on it, and also explained why quite a few of your assumptions about the British economy at the time were incorrect.

Again, what I'm saying is that the movement of capital was restricted throughout the economy in the Eastern bloc, including its "privately" owned parts, not just in a part of the economy as in the Great Britain. There may have been problems for capital due to the state-owned sector in Britain, but it wasn't like the whole economy was bizarre, spasmatic and ridden with waste because of that (this is what the East looked like).

So your argument is basically the difference between East and West was the level of state ownership. I hope there's more to it because that's very disappointing since I already knew that and again differences of degrees.

The investment bank was basically the financial executor, controller and accountant of the plan. It did not compete with anyone inside the economy, nor with other "investment banks" (as the text you linked discusses, at some points there were several ones for different sectors). It was a state organ, unlike the investment banks (Morgan Stanley etc.) of the capitalist financial sector you implicitly mentioned.

No I didn't implicitly mention anything, I just pointed out that investment banks with loans and credits would indicate a financial sector of some kind.

You wouldn't just go to a "socialist" investment bank and ask them to help you fund a merger or anything. They executed the plan, they didn't choose their investment targets based on profitability, etc.

Well actually some of these banks did invest abroad like the international investment bank, so they aren't exactly strangers to this sort of thing. And I'm sure Comecon had investment banks financing joint projects between Eastern bloc countries.

Well, yes, but besides these state enterprises, Britain had a blossoming private sector full of competition, takeovers etc. And this has nothing to do with foreign trade and protectionism, either. It is one thing to seal yourself off from foreign competition, and another thing to abolish internal competition.

Ok, name a private manufacturer of coal or steel in the UK in this period, or oil and gas, or train services. There was a private producer of telephones left after BT but they only operated in Hull. I'm sure if I looked hard enough I can find a very small private supplier in Britain for most of these but they would be so small that they would be incapable of providing competition.

And when I mean internal competition, it's not just between enterprises in a sector – of course, monopolies or oligopolies were and are quite common in the West. But by internal competition, I also mean the one between sectors – when investors, based on the rate on profit, decide whether they'll invest in sector A or sector B.

??? But I thought we were discussing state owned industries? How could there be investment beyond the state before privatisation? How many millionaires do you think went around giving millions to state industries without receiving at least part ownership? Regardless of how well its doing.

In the Eastern bloc, the only investor was the state (with its investment bank),

Yes of course, they owned everything, just like the only investor in a state industry that wasn't slated for privatisation was the state itself.

You mean there was a legal obligation to work? That after finishing school, you received a transfer card and you had to move and go work to the other side of the country? That's what I meant by the non-existence of a real labor market. I've never heard of that in the West, except maybe during wartime.

Ok another misrepresentation here, you didn't mention any of that so don't pretend I was implicitly confirming. I said there was a political obligation to eliminate unemployment, so yes there was obligation under the welfare state system to work (unless you physically couldn't) and the British state regardless of party had committed itself to maintain full employment right up until 1975-76. But in practice just like in the Soviet Union and the East unemployment still existed so different governments tolerated higher or lower rates of unemployment and try different ways to eliminate it.

Reddebrek

(socialist private sector) Again difference of degree not kind, if you think there was no regulations on the movement of private industries at this time in Western Europe you are wrong.

Actually, I said nothing of the sort.

Actually you did, I'll accept that wasn't what you wanted to convey but it was what you said.

Reddebrek

Then how did it work for state owned industries in the west then?

It is quite possible that it only worked in some deformed way, perhaps introducing some problems for the rest of the economy.

Hate to dig in but you would know if that was possible if you read the actual document.

When discussing some large-scale joint-stock operations with a lower than average profit rate, Marx mentions (in Volume 3 of Capital) that they don't enter the equalization process. A similar argument could be made for true monopolies.

Hate to be rude, but you don't actually know how the economy in Britain work in this time but have kept making assumptions on it based on a passage from Marx which you think is relevant (but can't possibly know since you haven't bothered to check). That's pretty arrogant.

It doesn't make them socialist or non-exploitative,

Ok now I'm confused who said they did?

but if the whole economy was based on them, it couldn't be regulated by the law of value.

So again your argument is just a long winded version of "State A owns this much, State B own this much"

(As I tried to show, the equivalents were not really equivalents, due to "differences in degree" which make them into "differences in kind".)

When did you try? All you did was repeat that they were different.

(Hopefully it's clearer now.)

?? Yes its clear you misrepresented what I said.

Incidentally, the reserve army does not comprise just the unemployed. And what I meant was not a comparison between the absolute numbers of unemployed, but the dynamics of the group. As soon as the boom of high employment and wages ended in Britain, there was unemployment and the wages went down.

Yes but not nearly as much as you seem to think. From 1948 to 1975 the levels of unemployment were actually quite stable, despite several booms and declines. You're acting like mass unemployment was a common feature of Western European economies in this period which wasn't really the case and certainly not true of Britain until the late 70's and 80's.

That's how the dynamic works, and this dynamic is what I mean when I say that the reserve army was absent in the East.

I'm sorry are you suggesting that unemployment rates in the East were static and had no relation to economic situation? Because if you are I have to say I find that ludicrous but if your not then you haven't demonstrated a fundamental difference just

As far as I know, nothing of the sort happened in the East (not until the 1990s). Poland was in some deep shit economically since the 1970s, but it didn't experience massive unemployment, which it would have if it were in the West

Sorry but the British economy was in "deep shit" since the 50's but it staved off mass unemployment un till the 1980's.In fact in 76 the decision by the Labour government to allow unemployment to rise to 2.5% was considered abnormal and politically dangerous.

What you've just described mate is that the Eastern regimes had serious economic headaches (which I'm sure we all knew) but couldn't take the steps needed to "correct" it. That was also a problem in Western Europe only the difference was that Western European countries were more capable of modernising (privatisation and mass lay offs) But what you're ignoring is that those processes weren't automatic, Western governments tried for many years to overcome resistance and make their state owned industries and services more efficient. Most attempts failed in some cases these failures led to the collapse of a government like Heath's (1970-74).

The transformation of Western European economies took decades and led some very bitter resistance. Just like how attempts to change Eastern economies led to very bitter resistance. The only real difference that I see here is that Western Europe managed to reform its economies without a total political collapse which happened in the East.

Again, the state-owned and -funded enterprises in the West comprised a relatively smaller part of the economy than in the East.

The commitment to full employment crossed both sectors.

There was ample room for the traditional capitalist dynamics to operate. There was no such room in the East.

Ok but how did they operate within those state sectors? If they didn't operate with them but only alongside them, then the difference is purely about state ownership ratios.

You mean for the entire economy?

?? Yes that was the point of Keynes unemployment theory. I don't want to be condescending but full employment was the corner stone of British domestic policy from 1944/5-1976, Keynes was the major economic school of thought in Western Europe and especially Britain.

Including the private sector?

Yes.

How many enterprises were involved?

All the ones that complied with British laws.

Do you have a source for that?

Well yes I have many, wikipedia for a start, that's pretty limited since its wiki. You could also look up each post war governments unemployment policy upto 76 they're the same. I'm currently reading this

http://www.labour-history.org.uk/support_files/full%20employment.pdf

Which goes into the details of how the policy worked in practice with the different governments and the problems and resistance they received.

S. Artesian

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

No, I do not regard the USSR bureaucracy as being a ruling class; it (the bureaucracy) was not the bearer of a new mode of production. Like Jura, I too have no "theory" about the FSU.

In a way, I think Trotsky had it (unconsciously) correct when he likened the fSU to a "trade union that had seized power," except he didn't grasp what that meant since trade unions are not capable of "organizing" a new mode of production but rather serve to discipline the working class to the demands of international capitalism and destroy the prospects for proletarian revolution.

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

So you're argument was just the East was different from the West because it nationalised more of their economies.

In a way that prevented the law of value from operating in the Eastern bloc, yes.

I don't have anything else to add, and the 4chan style of discussion isn't helping either. So if anyone else wants to chime in... For the record, the UK public sector employed about 25% of the workforce in the 1950s.

Reddebrek

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

Reddebrek

So you're argument was just the East was different from the West because it nationalised more of their economies.

In a way that prevented the law of value from operating in the Eastern bloc, yes.

I don't have anything else to add, and the 4chan style of discussion isn't helping either. So if anyone else wants to chime in... For the record, the UK public sector employed about 25% of the workforce in the 1950s.

For the record the 1950's wasn't the period with the largest public sector in the UK. Nor did government employment policy limit itself to the public sector. So much for your good faith.

Reddebrek

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

Reddebrek

For the record the 1950's wasn't the period with the largest public sector in the UK. Nor did government employment policy limit itself to the public sector. So much for your good faith.

1950: 24.7, 1955: 24.9, 1960: 23.2, 1965: 23.8, 1970: 26.3, 1975: 28.9, 1980: 29...

Yes very good, but as I've said many times if you think government intervention in the UK economy started and ended with the public sector you're grossly mistaken. But you've ignored me every other time why should now be any different?

http://www.labour-history.org.uk/support_files/full%20employment.pdf

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

...and as I've said before, government intervention (in a limited period of post-war reconstruction and worldwide boom) in order to incentivize investments by private capital is not the same as the state commanding an entire economy.

Reddebrek

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

...and as I've said before, government intervention (in a limited period of post-war reconstruction and worldwide boom)

1945-76 was a limited period to you huh?

in order to incentivize investments by private capital

What private investment went into state industries before privatisation?

is not the same as the state commanding an entire economy.

Are we back to lying again? because I'm pretty sure I never claimed it was the same as commanding an entire economy. Just that it wasn't as different as you think and demonstrating how little you know about post war Western European economies.

jura

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

1945-76 was a limited period to you huh?

Certainly more limited than roughly 1925 to 1990.

Reddebrek

What private investment went into state industries before privatisation?

You said the intervention extended beyond state industries. In the private sector, it basically meant Keynesian incentives to investment and creation of jobs.

Reddebrek

because I'm pretty sure I never claimed it was the same as commanding an entire economy. Just that it wasn't as different as you think and demonstrating how little you know about post war Western European economies.

Well, they were different enough to have different "laws of motion", which is what matters to me in the context of this discussion.

Reddebrek

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

Certainly more limited than roughly 1925 to 1990.

Strange I thought we were discussing the Eastern block and the Soviet Union from 1945-89. Seems like those goalposts have shifted a few inches.

You said the intervention extended beyond state industries. In the private sector, it basically meant Keynesian incentives to investment and creation of jobs.

Yeah but we both talked about state owned industries and you said there was private investment within them too. I asked you about that several times and you never responded. In fact you also ignored the interventions beyond state industries until just now.

Well, they were different enough to have different "laws of motion", which is what matters to me in the context of this discussion.

Which is why your argument kept shifting and you ignored information I provided out of hand.

Alf

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

On the old Trotskyist question, 'who exactly are the ruling class in the USSR then?': even in the 'classic' period of capitalism, Marx noted that the capitalist more and more becomes a functionary of capital. How much more so in the 20th and 21st century, still dominated by the totalitarian state, despite all the recent attempts to focus all our anger on the bankers and the 'super-rich'. Capital is an impersonal power, that is why it is so different from all other forms of class society.

And unlike previous forms of class exploitation, capital is driven to accumulate. Which is why the extraction of surplus value is not the same as the extraction of surplus labour by a feudal lord. In feudalism, the ruling class consumed the bulk of the surplus; in capitalism it devotes a key element of it to accumulation.

"Accumulate, accumulate, that is Moses and the prophets....". Stalin certainly proved himself a faithful follower of that creed in the frenzied industrialisation of the USSR in the 30s. This brutal process was 'theoretically' envisaged by the false notion of "primitive socialist accumulation" developed by certain elements around the Trotskyist opposition, some of whom capitulated to Stalin precisely because they thought he was carrying out their programme.

S. Artesian

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Alf

On the old Trotskyist question, 'who exactly are the ruling class in the USSR then?': even in the 'classic' period of capitalism, Marx noted that the capitalist more and more becomes a functionary of capital. How much more so in the 20th and 21st century, still dominated by the totalitarian state, despite all the recent attempts to focus all our anger on the bankers and the 'super-rich'. Capital is an impersonal power, that is why it is so different from all other forms of class society.

And unlike previous forms of class exploitation, capital is driven to accumulate. Which is why the extraction of surplus value is not the same as the extraction of surplus labour by a feudal lord. In feudalism, the ruling class consumed the bulk of the surplus; in capitalism it devotes a key element of it to accumulation.

"Accumulate, accumulate, that is Moses and the prophets....". Stalin certainly proved himself a faithful follower of that creed in the frenzied industrialisation of the USSR in the 30s. This brutal process was 'theoretically' envisaged by the false notion of "primitive socialist accumulation" developed by certain elements around the Trotskyist opposition, some of whom capitulated to Stalin precisely because they thought he was carrying out their programme.

Yeah, Marx noted that-- that "functionary" tendency, and he noted that on the basis of the development of already existing capitalism; on the domination of industrial capitalism of the entire economy. It's very similar to Engels' remarks about the tendency towards "state capitalism."

Now you can abstract those remarks all you want from that historical context but in doing so you directly and immediately step out side the critical method used by Marx and Engels themselves.

Capital is driven to accumulate... but what it accumulates is capital, that is to say expanded value not just the means of production-- Accumulation of the means of production as value extracting mechanisms for the accumulation of.....money-- the embodied disembodiment of exchange value.

Whatever Trotsky's followers did or did not do is immaterial in that, in a way, they make the mistake you make-- identifying accumulation, or development of the productive forces, as an automatic marker of and index to the social organization of labor-- with them it was: "development equals socialism"-- while you argue that "accumulation equals capitalism."

Alf

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Since it was based on the brutal exploitation of wage labour, I would say it's reasonable to call that accumulation capitalist accumulation.

S. Artesian

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Are you saying if the exploitation had not been brutal-- let's say prior to the five year plans, or after the death of Stalin, then it isn't capitalism?

Or are you claiming that any exploitation of wage-labor automatically defines the economy as capitalist?

Gepetto

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Besides, can we really say that workers in Eastern bloc sold their labour power, and that the wages they formally received were the cost of its reproduction?

Red Marriott

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

No, I do not regard the USSR bureaucracy as being a ruling class; it (the bureaucracy) was not the bearer of a new mode of production. Like Jura, I too have no "theory" about the FSU.

Alf

On the old Trotskyist question, 'who exactly are the ruling class in the USSR then?': even in the 'classic' period of capitalism, Marx noted that the capitalist more and more becomes a functionary of capital. How much more so in the 20th and 21st century, still dominated by the totalitarian state, despite all the recent attempts to focus all our anger on the bankers and the 'super-rich'. Capital is an impersonal power, that is why it is so different from all other forms of class society.

Well either capital, wage labour and its class society is a human social relation or not – but a (Camatte-like?) reified automatised capital like some machine over and above real humans? As impersonal to human relationships as the weather? Is that not appearance taken for reality? Capital is animated as a human social relationship, real human needs sacrificed to its imperatives via those social relations. But those relations Capital both depends on and shapes are necessarily maintained and enforced as hierarchical human roles. If one can’t say that the Bolshevik state power was a ruling class perhaps that often says more about the awkward implications for Bolshevik 1917 loyalists than anything else.

Tsarist Russia had capitalist enterprises, some technically advanced, around 10% of the population were industrial workers. So why would the non-bearing of a new mode of production preclude the Bolshevik bureaucracy – inheritors of these forces - being a ruling class? Because there was a revolution that must be defended as proletarian - because if the Bolshevik state was capitalist the revolution couldn't be proletarian?

But if the failure of proletarian revolution left a working class and peasantry manning the productive forces that the state was to manage then the bureaucracy’s role was presumably to collectively rule over the class relations of society – otherwise we have a concept seemingly very un-Marxist; a state that is not an instrument of class rule! (And a ‘Marxist’ one at that.) And an administration and enforcement of exploitation of the working class that is not enacted as a class relationship.

The other implication is the one I suggested earlier (though I don’t defend it), that the state bureaucrats were proxy managers for global capital – even though this proxy management is implied by those who say USSR was a non-capitalist mode of production.

But if the bureaucracy weren’t bearers of a new mode of production and the USSR wasn’t capitalist then surely their ascent to power ushered in some new form of non-capitalist social organisation and production – implying that they were bearers of a new mode of production, even if one so unique few seem to want to define it here? (Alternatively, they were just the new, less efficient, managers/heirs of existing Tsarist capitalism?)

Alf

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Are you saying if the exploitation had not been brutal-- let's say prior to the five year plans, or after the death of Stalin, then it isn't capitalism?
Or are you claiming that any exploitation of wage-labor automatically defines the economy as capitalist?

No, and no. (But I wouldn't say that either before or after Stalin exploitation wasn't brutal, or that exploitation is not by definition...brutal)

Wage labour existed in slave and feudal society. But in neither case was it the basic class relation.

On Red's point about the reified vision of capital: I agree that it is dangerous to actually accept that capitalism is a fully non-human power like the weather, and that Camatte falls into this. It's a living contradiction: a human social relation that becomes increasingly inhuman, a human creation that increasingly - but never totally - escapes its creators. But compared to the personal relations of exploitation that existed in feudalism, it is correct to define it as an impersonal power.

S. Artesian

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I like Red's questions, and analysis, because they show how difficult the analysis is, how problematic labeling the fSU can be. I don't have any easy answers to Red's questions.

If the fSU was capitalism then we have to come to grips that it is a capitalism that did not resemble Marx's description of capitalism; did not share the historic origins of capitalism ; and did not exhibit the signature characteristics of value production.

If it was capitalism, then we have to explain, from its internal dynamics why the "state" version of capitalism was less efficient than the private version of capitalism that took root in Britain, France, the US, Germany, etc when the "glimpses" of state capitalism viewed by Marx and Engels saw the state version coming into being as the "ultimate" result of the development of capital; as the result of the greater efficiencies (and proportions of fixed capital) brought about through centralization and concentration?

If it wasn't capitalism....what was it? Besides a disaster for international proletarian revolution?

My easy-way-out answer is "I can't tell you what the fSU was; I can only tell you what it was not."

It gets down to this, for me: uneven and combined development dictated that the Russian Revolution would be a proletarian revolution. We see the proletariat developing within the dominant peasant "subsistence plus" economy of pre-revolutionary Russia. If the Soviet state represented a new class, we should see that class developing within the framework of the old society. We don't. Where's the class?

sabot

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

FSU?

Edit:
Oh, former Soviet Union right?

S. Artesian

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

sabot

FSU?

Edit:
Oh, former Soviet Union right?

corrrect