Inequality in the USSR

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Dec 8 2018 19:41
Inequality in the USSR

I agree with the idea that the USSR was an authoritarian state-capitalist regime. But one of the things that I think is interesting is that I've read some stuff saying that post-Stalin the USSR was apparently able to achieve a level of inequality that was comparable or perhaps even surpassed every social democratic country.

I'm confused as to how this was possible because it seems like workers in places like Denmark had things like the right to strike, form independent unions and stuff like that which I don't think workers in the USSR had. I know those things aren't perfect but to me I feel like they would at least give workers in social democracies more leverage over their employers to demand things like a more equal society.

I think it's especially strange because during the Stalin period it was actually worse than many social democratic countries today: https://akarlin.com/2012/06/ayn-stalin/

I have a few guesses but I'm not sure if they're correct at all:

1. I feel like it's possible that Inequality was closer to what it was after the fall of the USSR, it was just that what was once nominally considered public property became private property. In addition there might have been wealth or material wealth that was previously unreported or valued below what it should have been (for example I've read that some things were only available for the elite to purchase which I think could mean that the price of these things were lower than what they should've actually cost had it not been a state-capitalist country).

I'm not sure how truthful that is but it seems suspicious to me that Russian elites would just all of a sudden become drastically more greedy despite nothing really changing in terms of how much power they had over the workers.

2. I've read an article pointing out that instead of redistributing from the rich to the poor the USSR redistributed wealth to the state who then used it to maximize military production and means of production. This could give the false impression that the USSR was more equal than it was when the elites were just choosing to invest in other things than their personal incomes. https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/markharrison/entry/soviet_and_russian/

3. The same article makes the argument that the soviet state also took from the very poor and that a lot of the data doesn't include forced labour and collective farmers (some of these farmers or people in the countryside according to Raya Dunayevskaya were just unemployed workers). I'm wondering if the statistics were adjusted to include these it would increase inequality.

4. I've read some stuff from Raya Dunayevskaya. A couple of the articles she wrote that are interesting are "Where is Russia Going" and "Russia's Internal Crisis". In Where is Russia Going she talks about the sixth five year plan and how she thought some of the demands of the plan would be even more ferocious and terrorizing than the previous collectivization.

The sixth five year plan was scrapped though according to her because of the resistance of russian workers and replaced with comparably less onerous demands being placed on the workers and peasants. I presume that also political uprisings in places like Hungary might have helped too.

But was the resistance of russian workers enough to lead to the state decreasing inequality?

https://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1956/where-russia.ht...
https://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1957/internal-crisis...

meerov21
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Jan 15 2019 19:27

I agree with the idea that the USSR was an authoritarian state-capitalist regime.

I doubt it. There is a more interesting analysis of the USSR system and Leninism as a form of the "Asian mode of production". These ideas were originally developed by Marx. Karl Witfogel, a distinguished orientalist, applied this analysis to the Soviet Union. Among individuals who are close to libertarian ideas, similar concepts were shared by Rudi Duchke and Rudolf Baro. In Russia itself, the historian who specializes in the ancient east, Leonid Vasiliev, expressed similar ideas.

meerov21
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Jan 15 2019 19:35

But one of the things that I think is interesting is that I've read some stuff saying that post-Stalin the USSR was apparently able to achieve a level of inequality that was comparable or perhaps even surpassed every social democratic country.

Why "after Stalin"?

Academician Yevgeny Varga, who lived in the Stalin era, notes that the top of the country lived at the level of Western millionaires. They had personal homes, cars, special trains, hundreds of security personnel and servants. At the same time, tens of millions of workers in town and country were on the verge of or beyond physical survival.

In the USSR in 1990 (on the eve of the collapse of the Union) there was an equalization distribution of income, the Gini index was 2.33% This is roughly close to the countries of Scandinavia in that era.

meerov21
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Jan 15 2019 20:53

The paradox of the working class of Russia is that it brought the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 and it was the first who rise against the Bolsheviks in 1918. The historian Dmitry Churakov compares the scale of the strike resistance and other workers' protests against Lenin in 1918 with the Russian revolution of 1905 and 1917!

The workers saw this party was not fulfilling its promises. By the summer of 1918, half the workers in Petrograd and hundreds of thousands more workers across the country lost their jobs. The Bolsheviks did not know how to manage industry and it was paralyzed.

The workers of the largest factories and plants began to kick the Bolsheviks out of the Soviets. This was probably the main reason for the ban on re-election the Soviets and the transition to one-party dictatorship in 1918-1921. Then workers formed alternative Councils - the "Assembly's of commissioner factories and plants", which united half of the working class of Petrograd. But this movement was crushed in 1918.

In 1919-1921 workers many times went on strike against the Bolsheviks putting forward political slogans. In the spring of 1919 the Left SRs (they already had an anarcho-syndicalist program) initiated strikes at the big factories of Petrograd. Moreover, along with economic requirements, there was also a demand for free elections to Councils. It was a real, not fake, libertarian social-revolutionary movement, during which there were armed clashes between workers of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and Bolsheviks. Then the left Social Revolutionaries of Petrograd and Northwest Russia wrote that "Bolshevik and tsarist counter-revolutions are identical". But this movement was defeated. Hundreds of activists of the left SRs were arrested, and one of their leaders in Petrograd, Khatkelis, was shot.

After this, the working class was very weak.

Separate protests took place in 1922 - 1928 and in 1962 (a workers revolt in Novocherkassk, which was shot). But in the late USSR, workers were integrated into the system of social partnership. It was a strange system of state paternalism at the factories. Workers and superiors were connected by a mass of informal connections. It gave the workers certain advantages, but paralyzed their strike activity. Some of my familiar russian supporters of the council communism called this system "quasi-feudal."

Also, the state provided a good social protecting for the russian workers and building social housing for them in 1956 -1986. The state of Stalin's time was a bloody squeeze out of sweat, but Khrushchev and Brezhnev improved the situation of workers, began to pay pensions to the elderly, built social housing etc.

In addition, workers of the USSR were crushed by terror and fear. The KGB and the party committees (two hands of the regime) carefully monitored the behavior of the workers. Dissatisfied could be arrested or placed in a mental hospital. Therefore, the population of the USSR was extremely atomized and far less able to protest than the working class of Western and Eastern Europe, where the control was weaker. This monstrous pressure spawned atomization and disintegration of the collectivist traditions of the working class of Russia.

It is one of the main paradoxes of the Leninist countries: their population is more individualistic than the population of the West. For example so famous researcher of two Koreas, Andrei Lankov, notes that the North Koreans are far more individualist than the southerners. This is another amazing paradox of Bolshevism: state collectivism, which declared the whole society a "single family" (there was even such a famous propaganda film about the working class of the USSR in 1954: "Big Family"), led to the most extreme, destructive forms of individualism and to the total cynicism and to disbelief in the triumph of any utopian idea.

Finally, drunkenness became an important aspect of life in Bolshevik Russia. Perhaps it was a reaction to a hopeless existence, a product of "learned helplessness" (a special phenomenon that psychology studies). It is also possible that this was a reaction to the collapse of utopia. Drunkenness assumed monstrous proportions in the proletarian districts. For example, my childhood was spent in a working-class area, where almost the entire male population at the weekend was drunk.

In general, the working class of Russia was not ready for a big fight. In 1989-1991 hundreds of thousands of miners went on strike. In the 1990s a wave of privatizations began, 50% of the industry was destroyed. But the working class which had lost the traditions of the struggle could not offer decent resistance to this.

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Jan 16 2019 23:15
meerov21 wrote:
I doubt it. There is a more interesting analysis of the USSR system and Leninism as a form of the "Asian mode of production". These ideas were originally developed by Marx. Karl Witfogel, a distinguished orientalist, applied this analysis to the Soviet Union. Among individuals who are close to libertarian ideas, similar concepts were shared by Rudi Duchke and Rudolf Baro. In Russia itself, the historian who specializes in the ancient east, Leonid Vasiliev, expressed similar ideas.

I think my questions about inequality also apply if the USSR was engaged in the "Asian Mode of Production" as well. I'm interested in that debate so thanks for the reading suggestions. What do you think is important about the concept of the "Asian Mode of Production" for libertarian-communists?

Do you think an "Asian mode of Production" could lead to a more equal while still undesirable economy?

meerov21 wrote:
Why "after Stalin"?

I said "After Stalin" because most sources seem to show that the Stalin period was very unequal and then once Kruschev comes to power you begin to see a decline in inequality. I didn't mean to imply that Stalin had helped decrease inequality.

--
Edit I've also read some stuff saying there was something like a "social contract" between workers and the state in order to prevent the workers from slowing down production. I haven't read too much about this concept yet though.

I think I also might be underestimating how much privatization and the opening up of the russian economy to international investors as well as austerity could have played a role in why former USSR countries became less equal after the collapse? I'm not sure.

meerov21
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Jan 17 2019 00:25

What do you think is important about the concept of the "Asian Mode of Production" for libertarian-communists?

This concept may be important for the reason that it creates conditions for understanding non-linear, multivariate development of history. The USSR system was bad. But I think we should not call all bad things "capitalism". This is a bad analysis.


Do you think an "Asian mode of Production" could lead to a more equal while still undesirable economy?

May be.

I think I also might be underestimating how much privatization and the opening up of the russian economy to international investors as well as austerity could have played a role in why former USSR countries became less equal after the collapse? I'm not sure.

The state apparatus of the USSR owned factories, land, and all citizens as their own. But the officials were soldered by strong discipline and fear. The Central Committee of the Party and the Politburo controlled the apparatus, not allowing individual officials to take over the ownership of the factory or to take too large bribes. When the apparatus disintegrated, separate fractions of the party and the KGB began to enrich themselves uncontrollably. This has led to sharper social polarization. In more detail about the reaction of the working class of the USSR to this, I write here:
https://libcom.org/forums/history/paradoxes-working-class-russia-ussr-16...

redschlog
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Jan 17 2019 12:34

The Asian Mode of Production (capitalised ho ho ho) invented by Marx is basically an ignorant racist idea which should be buried in a deep pit. The fundamental concept is that traditional society in the east was a despotic state parasitic on the self-sufficient, self-governing rural commune, both stagnant and unchanging, which the European imperialists smashed and replaced by "progressive" capitalism. Students of the Raj period of India might well question exactly what that progress consisted of besides an extensive but flawed (three gauge) railway system designed to swiftly crush revolt and suck out a very few raw materials. In China they never even got that. Now applying this to Soviet Russia is fundamentally flawed. The state *in any society* is pretty much despotic and parasitical to a greater or lesser degree. In Soviet Russia rather much less parasitical - this was a developmental state (remember all those dams and the sodding tractors) - and the despotism was hidden behind the idea of the worker's state (you think the Mughals required any such notion of popular representation?). As to the rural collective - the 'Communists' were the ones who smashed this! Peasants were turned into workers on state owned factories or factory farms. The idea that AMP is an alternative to viewing Soviet Russia and its pals as state capitalist is ludicrous.

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Jan 17 2019 12:54

Victor Serge made somewhere the remark that during the time of the White's attacks on Petrograd in 1919, that - unlike the ordinary inhabitants of the city - Zinoviev and the people around him had access to rancid horse meat

redschlog
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Jan 17 2019 12:58

Was inequality less in Comm times. Yes for sure. The idea, if not the actuality, was that the bureaucracy existed to "serve the people". They did have some qualms about enriching themselves. You might like particularly to look at the difference between Honecker's crappy house in the Waldsiedlung and Merkel's villa at Dahlem. The whole thing about the fall of communism was about the ruling class claiming what they were entitled to. Besides which, knowing that their claim to legitimacy was weak, the old 'Communist' elites had to keep the workers placated. Free this, that and the other to stop '53, '56, '68 and '82. If you are legitimated by the "democratic process" however you can rip the idiots off wholesale. You've got the vote. What more do you want?

Mike Harman
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Jan 17 2019 13:56

One of the things that gets missed with the difference between USSR and post-USSR is that there has also been a sharp rise in inequality in Western Europe and the US starting around 1960 but accelerating from the early '80s. Modern social democrats will base this purely on a political choice made by Thatcher and Reagan, but when you look at the numbers there was a long run up to it (not that political choices can't delay or accelerate certain things though, obviously they can for a while).

So while there were obvious differences, the time scales are not actually that far off.

If we look at equalisation post-Stalin, how much of that can be attributed to reforms in response to East Germany '53, Hungary '56 and Novercherkassk '62 - i.e. the bureaucracy responding (belatedly, after crushing them with tanks) to strikes and uprisings with concessions designed to prevent them being replicated elsewhere.

As redschlog it makes no sense to apply the 'Asiatic mode of production' to the USSR - regardless of correctness/racism it was an attempt to identify a mode of production that developed independently of/prior to capitalism, whereas in 1917 capitalism was a world system.

meerov21
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Jan 17 2019 14:10

redschlog The Asian Mode of Production (capitalised ho ho ho) invented by Marx is basically an ignorant racist idea which should be buried in a deep pit. The fundamental concept is that traditional society in the east was a despotic state parasitic on the self-sufficient, self-governing rural commune, both stagnant and unchanging, which the European imperialists smashed and replaced by "progressive" capitalism. Students of the Raj period of India might well question exactly what that progress consisted of besides an extensive but flawed (three gauge) railway system designed to swiftly crush revolt and suck out a very few raw materials.

First of all, I would like to note: then all the tine some modern western leftists calls something “racist,” it sounds ridiculous. You are soon likely to declare "racism" the fact that people breathe (as Hitler also was breathed). I refuse to discuss such things and I oppose political correctness (I also do not like racism).

I can admit that Marx might have had the intention of justifying colonialism, and that is a bad thing. It probably doesn't say much good about Marx as a person. But this alone cannot override the value of its arguments. Even a bad person can say deep things.

Also, having no any desire to justify colonialism (racism and colonialism still is not the same, these phenomena may be related, or may not be related, first British colonialists took to wife the Indian women in the days of Robert Clive), I notice that the creation of modern Railways, the establishment of a multi-million factory working class in India and the introduction (for a small part of the Hindus) European education and science is really a result of the activities of the colonialists.

But these are all secondary things here.

What is realy importent? The theory of the Asiatic mode of production was developed later, by one of the most famous Orientalists of the 20th century by Karl Wittfogel. It was also shared by some thinkers close to libertarian ideas at one time, such as Rudolf Baro. Wittfogel developed the concept of "hydraulic state". He showed that the centralized state systems, where the state owned the main means of production (land, handicraft workshops) appeared in the valleys of the Great rivers in connection with the need for large-scale irrigation activities that require centralization and concentration of labor. This is China of the Yin - Shan era, ancient Egypt and some other States. From there, the system spread further.


The state *in any society* is pretty much despotic and parasitical to a greater or lesser degree. In Soviet Russia rather much less parasitical - this was a developmental state (remember all those dams and the sodding tractors) - and the despotism was hidden behind the idea of the worker's state (you think the Mughals required any such notion of popular representation?).

These arguments have almost no connection with the theory of Asian mode of production of Wittfogel. It is not only about the state in ancient China or in the USSR was despotic or parasitic. The fact is that the Asian mode of production implies state ownership of the means of production. In other words, not a capitalist or a feudal Lord owns land, workshops, construction companies, etc., but a centralized state apparatus. It acts as the main operator.

It does not mean that the state is a pure parasite in such a system. The state is not only parasites, it built in the USSR, as well as in Ancient China dams, mobilized hundreds of thousands of people for construction and irrigation works, created large warehouses of food for their centralized distribution among the population, performed the functions of providing the population, managing the process of labor and economic development.

As for popular representation, it was not in my country (USSR), so I do not know what you're talking about, maybe it is about the lunar "Soviet Union". We had less power than the peasants in Mughal times.

.As to the rural collective - the 'Communists' were the ones who smashed this! Peasants were turned into workers on state owned factories or factory farms.

Yes, that is the truth.

meerov21
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Jan 17 2019 15:01

The whole thing about the fall of communism was about the ruling class claiming what they were entitled to.

Yes, but that was not the only the reason. For example, in China, the leadership of the Communist Party abandoned the Bolshevik model of the economy and began the process of market reforms and privatizations, and also dissolved most of the state "communes" and returned the land to the families of peasants for two main reasons.

1) In China in the late 1970s, peasant riots began. Crowds of peasants came to the party secretaries, said that they could no longer starve, and demanded that the state enterprises ("communes") be dismissed to return the land to the peasants and allow peasants to manage the product of their labor. And the power have done it fearing a popular uprising. Alexander V. Pantsov, Professor Sinologist is considering this issue in his works.

2) As the well-known modern specialist in China and Korea, Andrei Lankov, noted: in the mid-1980s, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party came to the decision that the Bolshevik system in the economy which they called "socialism", is relatively inefficient and does not allow China to reach the Western level of development. Bolshevism leads to economic lag. Therefore, it was decided to develop capitalist relations in the economy in order to ensure a "truly effective modernization" of the country. The problem was the same in the USSR and its technical backlog from the West.

meerov21
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Jan 17 2019 19:41

Mike Harman As redschlog it makes no sense to apply the 'Asiatic mode of production' to the USSR - regardless of correctness/racism it was an attempt to identify a mode of production that developed independently of/prior to capitalism, whereas in 1917 capitalism was a world system.

First, even if we assume that capitalism was a world system, this does not mean that all regions of the world lived under capitalism. 90% of the population of Russia, communal peasants lived in an archaic community that had an ancient pre-capitalist origin, and their economy was partly (but not completely) natural. On the other hand, the Russian state was the leading force and engine of the economy, which owned huge statу enterprises.

Incidentally, Karl Marx, in his preface to the Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto, allowed the possibility of a direct transition from the Russian community to communism, without going through capitalism. Anarchists and Socialist Revolutionaries thought about the same, although they understood communism or socialism differently than Marx.

Why, then, cannot it be assumed that Russia could develop alternatively, creating a different non-capitalist system based on the exploitation of slave workers? ?

The second. The society in which I was born and lived for many years in the USSR had nothing to do with capitalism. Capitalism is based on three principles - private property (initiative), market relations and hired labor. None of this was in my country.

A private initiative was pursued by the police. State-owned enterprises were not private, they never went bankrupt, because they received subsidies from the treasury and their superiors lived in freebies, blocking the introduction of new technologies. On the other hand, state-owned enterprises could produce an inconceivable amount of defective products, because they did not sell their goods, but transferred them to other state-owned companies or retail chains there and then the state ordered it at prices which established by the state also.

Market relations were poorly developed, and the state led the production, making plans for the whole country, and centrally distributed the produced things.

I am not sure that the workers in a Bolshevik country can be considered "hired". Workers were attached to factory in 1919-1921 and 1940-1956 and did not have the right to change jobs (this is more than a quarter of the total time of the Bolshevik Russia). There was a registration, people were attached to their cities and housing and could not just get housing and work in another city throughout almost the entire history of the USSR. The state forcibly sent students to different jobs after graduation from universities. The state provided a different level of food supply for workers depending on their place of residence. For example, Moscow was supplied better than most regions of Russia. Etc.

Mike Harman
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Jan 17 2019 20:14

Marx thought Russia could transition directly to communism via technology transfers available in co-ordination with a revolution in Western Europe. And that the communes could become the basis of the new social organisation (although transformed).

That's not what happened in 1917 onwards, instead communal society gets absolutely decimated, and you have the conscious import of capitalist techniques to Russia, such as Taylorism.

Marx wrote:
If Russia continues to pursue the path she has followed since 1861, she will lose the finest chance ever offered by history to a nation, in order to undergo all the fatal vicissitudes of the capitalist regime.

https://libcom.org/library/marx-russian-mir-misconceptions-marxists

Japan also introduced capitalism as an import, via the Meiji restoration.

Capitalism was also imposed on the vast majority of the African continent between 1850 and about 1920 too, by British, French, German colonialists. This also wasn't some free market system but massive forced labour in a plantation economy. The idea that capitalism was based on free labour between say 1750 and 1900 only holds up if you look exclusively at Western Europe and not the colonies providing raw materials for European (mainly British) factories. I went into various systems of international forced labour here: https://libcom.org/blog/dauve-versus-marx-31072018

meerov21
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Jan 18 2019 10:00

Mike Harman Marx thought Russia could transition directly to communism via technology transfers available in co-ordination with a revolution in Western Europe. And that the communes could become the basis of the new social organisation (although transformed).
That's not what happened in 1917 onwards, instead communal society gets absolutely decimated, and you have the conscious import of capitalist techniques to Russia, such as Taylorism

Yes I know that. Nevertheless, Marx, like other social movements, such as anarchism, allowed Russia to make a direct transition from non-capitalist relations (which at that time existed in most regions of Russia) to socialist (without going through capitalism). So I find my question quite reasonable. If this is being discussed, I see no reason to reject another assumption about the possibility of transition to a new (old?) Non-capitalist system based on the exploitation of workers at the same time imported some western technology.

meerov21
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Jan 18 2019 10:09

The idea that capitalism was based on free labour between say 1750 and 1900 only holds up if you look exclusively at Western Europe and not the colonies providing raw materials for European (mainly British) factories. I went into various systems of international forced labour here: https://libcom.org/blog/dauve-versus-marx-31072018

Yes, this is a good argument at first glance. But it can be argued that, although capitalism gradually developed in the colonies, no one would say that in India in 1800 fully developed capitalism took place as a system. The development of capitalism and the gradual integration of different regions is a long process. You can also use examples of unfree labor from the period of the development of capitalism in England, comparing it with the USSR. The problem is that all these things only touch the temporal and territorial periphery of capitalism. If you put all these things together, you can have a USSR. But this method of leading the Soviet Union under the theory of state capitalism is doubtful, since it is entirely based on marginal examples.

Mike Harman
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Jan 18 2019 11:22
meerov21 wrote:
Yes, this is a good argument at first glance. But it can be argued that, although capitalism gradually developed in the colonies, no one would say that in India in 1800 fully developed capitalism took place as a system.

Capitalism was at its most developed (by that point) in England in 1885 when it began extensive colonisation of Africa. It's not that you have capitalism gradually spreading and developing at that point, but an advanced capitalist country attempting to impose it directly on other regions.

Additionally the US was not 'marginal' to capitalism in 1860, it was one of the most dynamic capitalist countries.

So it makes no sense to talk about 'core and periphery' as distinct systems, rather than both being part of an integrated world system. You can see aspects of this in Marx's very late comments on India: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1881/letters/81_02_19.htm Or for that matter here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1882/letters/82_09_12.htm

Africa's colonisation from 1885-1940-ish was primarily about divorcing homesteaders and herders from the land and (often unsuccessfully) attempting to force them into proletarianisation via livestock seizures, land seizures, taxes and direct forced labour, at the same time taking as much raw materials via older systems of labour as could be extracted. If you think that the Bolsheviks conducted a very similar process with Russia's own extensive periphery then why insist that this wasn't capitalism?

meerov21
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Jan 18 2019 22:09

1.

Capitalism was at its most developed (by that point) in England in 1885 when it began extensive colonisation of Africa. It's not that you have capitalism gradually spreading and developing at that point, but an advanced capitalist country attempting to impose it directly on other regions.

I do not argue with that anywhere. However, the process of integrating Africa, India and Russia into the capitalist system could not be instantaneous. Countless local communities or tribes continued to play an important role, agrarian economy remained largely natural or focused on local markets. Many types of work were done by small artisans, who also focused on local markets. The British introduced huge taxes, in case of non-payment they sold the land to other zamindars, and yet the societies of India and Africa retained numerous non-capitalist elements.

In Russia in 1917, 80-90% of the population lived in small rural communities many of whoom collectively owned land. The peasants produced a significant part of the production for themselves, and sold other part. Thus, the collective subsistence economy of the community still played a huge role. This is not typical of capitalism which is based on the production of goods for sale and on private ownership of land. Economists of the Socialist Revolutionary Party noted that capitalism still did not win in the Russian agrarian sector.

As for the big landowners, there was a re-feudalization of the systems of exploitation of the peasantry in the late system of Russian tsarism. Most landowners with pre-capitalist roots led an inefficient farm, exploiting the peasants by ancient methods.

On the other hand, the Russian state owned a large part of the industry and it was the most important motor of modernization.

meerov21
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Jan 18 2019 22:32

2

Mike Harman Additionally the US was not 'marginal' to capitalism in 1860, it was one of the most dynamic capitalist countries.

Yes it was. But the slave sector in the US economy did not dominate (although it played an important role in the economy). Moreover, this sector was developed almost exclusively in the agrarian backward South of the country, where quasi-feudal relations and aristocratic civilization reigned. During the time of Abraham Lincoln, the population of the United States was 30 million, of whom 9 million lived in the South, of whom 3 million were black slaves. Thus, the slave sector of the economy included no more than 10% of the population, and in addition was localized under the conditions of a specific quasi-feudal or at list backward agrarian civilization of the South. And then, this civilization was destroyed by the industrial capitalist north of the United States, the Yankee civilization. Thus, slavery in the United States is an example of marginal relationship.

This is what I am talking about. You take the peripheral elements associated with the under-development of capitalism, with elements of pre-capitalist relations, with characteristic of regions that have not undergone a complete capitalist industrial transformation, and then artificially constructing a model of the USSR from them. Such an approach looks artificial.

meerov21
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Jan 18 2019 22:42

3.

Africa's colonisation from 1885-1940-ish was primarily about divorcing homesteaders and herders from the land and (often unsuccessfully) attempting to force them into proletarianisation via livestock seizures, land seizures, taxes and direct forced labour, at the same time taking as much raw materials via older systems of labour as could be extracted. If you think that the Bolsheviks conducted a very similar process with Russia's own extensive periphery then why insist that this wasn't capitalism?

Because capitalism is primarily a system of economic coercion, economic exploitation, based on "voluntary" wage labor, private property and a market economy. At the same time, capitalism from time to time resorted throughout its history to non-economic violence, to direct violent non-economic robbery of colonies. But at the same time, the core of the system remained capitalist. But in the USSR there was no such capitalist core. Quite the contrary, the system was based on non-economic coercion, labor was not fully hired, property was not private, and market relations were marginal.

ajjohnstone
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Jan 18 2019 23:57

Meerov, in response to your message #13 and #20 that

Quote:
Capitalism is based on three principles - private property (initiative), market relations and hired labor. None of this was in my country.

I wonder if you have read Paresh Chattopadhyay analysis here where he suggests that all these elements did exist in the ex-USSR for all of its history

https://libcom.org/files/the%20marxian%20concept%20of%20capital%20and%20...

He begins with the USSR p.50

He describes the Soviet economy as a "mobilization" economy, such as when in war-time countries certain aspects of capitalist process are modified but not done away with. Who would say the USA ceased being capitalist during WW2?

meerov21
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Jan 19 2019 20:32

There are two good questions.

1) There really were elements of market relations. For example, there is evidence that tiny personal castle sites of peasants and townspeople provided a significant portion of food for 200 million people in the USSR. But this is only talking about the monstrous inefficiency of nationalization and state ownership of land and enterprises, which the leftists like Noam Chomsky usually support. But at the same time, 99.9% of the population was employed in the "public" (state) sector. The state decided what, how and for what to produce. It controlled the production through a centralized plan. The state distributed the products and set prices for them. Part of the income at different times is different, for example, about 20% could be left at the disposal of the plant's directorate. But even this money could not be used as the director wanted, because there was a strict regulation of the state as to their use. Market relations existed in the USSR, but they never dominated.

In general, all these arguments about the market in the USSR and its significance are a little ridiculous to everyone who lived in the Soviet Union. In fact, all large enterprises wrote reports to the Central Committee of the party, and it was the Central Committee that exercised the most serious control over industry. There were departments duplicating all the ministries.

meerov21
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Jan 19 2019 12:26

2

He describes the Soviet economy as a "mobilization" economy, such as when in war-time countries certain aspects of capitalist process are modified but not done away with. Who would say the USA ceased being capitalist during WW2?

This is the most interesting question for me. The fact is that in the era of world wars, many authors wrote that capitalism is over. Theories of Leviathan, bureaucratic collectivism, military socialism, etc., appeared. Many wrote about it. Walter Rathenau, Ernst Jünger and Max Shechtman etc. Some researchers, such as Shechtman, believed that a world war led to over-centralization of management, a concentration of resources in the hands of the state and a state distribution of industrial products and food would lead to the transformation of capitalism into a system of totalitarian bureaucratic society based on central planning, or to "bureaucratic collectivism".

Mike Harman
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Jan 21 2019 17:10
meerov21 wrote:
During the time of Abraham Lincoln, the population of the United States was 30 million, of whom 9 million lived in the South, of whom 3 million were black slaves. Thus, the slave sector of the economy included no more than 10% of the population, and in addition was localized under the conditions of a specific quasi-feudal or at list backward agrarian civilization of the South. And then, this civilization was destroyed by the industrial capitalist north of the United States, the Yankee civilization. Thus, slavery in the United States is an example of marginal relationship.

This is completely backwards, both in terms of the historical record, but also in terms of Marx's (limited) analysis of US slavery. With the development of mechanisation in the cotton industry, the slave population in the US south went from about 700,000 in 1790 to 3 million+ in 1860. i.e. the massive increase and expansion in the plantation system went hand in hand with industrialisation in the north and in the UK. The American plantation system was explicitly capitalist, it was producing commodities for the world market, and plantation chattel slavery was not a 'pre-capitalist' social relation but one that came about as capitalism developed.

meerov21
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Jan 21 2019 22:30

This was agrarian not industrialised civilization of the South. Also this civilization was destroyed by the industrial capitalists from the north of United States, the Yankee civilization during civil war and then slavery was ended. So That is not example of modern capitalism but the examl of marginal relationships.

Mike Harman
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Jan 22 2019 10:26
meerov21 wrote:
This was agrarian not industrialised civilization of the South.

Industrialisation and mechanisation are not synonymous with factories. Cotton production in the US south became industrialised via the invention of the cotton gin in 1793.

Marx used the cotton gin as an example of mechanisation in Capital vol 1.

Marx wrote:
Before Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793, the separation of the seed from a pound of cotton cost an average day’s labour. By means of his invention one negress was enabled to clean 100 lbs. daily; and since then, the efficacy of the gin has been considerably increased. A pound of cotton wool, previously costing 50 cents to produce, included after that invention more unpaid labour, and was consequently sold with greater profit, at 10 cents.

And later in the same chapter, showing how mechanisation drove industrialisation which in turn drove further colonisation and an international division of labour:

Marx wrote:
On the one hand, the immediate effect of machinery is to increase the supply of raw material in the same way, for example, as the cotton gin augmented the production of cotton. [151] On the other hand, the cheapness of the articles produced by machinery, and the improved means of transport and communication furnish the weapons for conquering foreign markets. By ruining handicraft production in other countries, machinery forcibly converts them into fields for the supply of its raw material. In this way East India was compelled to produce cotton, wool, hemp, jute, and indigo for Great Britain. [152] By constantly making a part of the hands “supernumerary,” modern industry, in all countries where it has taken root, gives a spur to emigration and to the colonisation of foreign lands, which are thereby converted into settlements for growing the raw material of the mother country; just as Australia, for example, was converted into a colony for growing wool. [153] A new and international division of labour, a division suited to the requirements of the chief centres of modern industry springs up, and converts one part of the globe into a chiefly agricultural field of production, for supplying the other part which remains a chiefly industrial field. This revolution hangs together with radical changes in agriculture which we need not here further inquire into.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch15.htm

Here's a video on how the cotton gin works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eT4bNxkv-c

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Juan Conatz
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Jan 22 2019 13:42

Chattel slavery being a vital and inseparable aspect of early American capitalism is sort of a settled question, no? Without relying on century old texts from dead Europeans who may or may not have ever been to the US, who actually argues that the South was not capitalist or that chattel slavery wasn't an integral part of American capitalism right up to the outbreak of the Civil War?

Mike Harman
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Jan 22 2019 13:51
Juan Conatz wrote:
Chattel slavery being a vital and inseparable aspect of early American capitalism is sort of a settled question, no? Without relying on century old texts from dead Europeans who may or may not have ever been to the US, who actually argues that the South was not capitalist or that chattel slavery wasn't an integral part of American capitalism right up to the outbreak of the Civil War?

Gilles Dauve argues that slavery got less rather than more important with 19th century industrialisation (rather than expanding massively with it which is what actually happened). I particularly love the use of 'facts' in this paragraph.

Dauve wrote:
Giving primacy to slavery and woman’s subordination is not documented by facts. Slavery played an indispensable role in the rise of capitalism from the 16th to the 18th centuries, but its importance began to decline with large scale industrialisation and England, the industrial revolution leader, was one of the prominent abolitionist countries, first of the slave trade, then of slavery itself. Various forms of slavery exist in the 21st century, yet they have long ceased to be vital to the capitalist economy.

(see my response to Dauve here: https://libcom.org/blog/dauve-versus-marx-31072018)

Also some googling indicates that Eugene Genovese in the '60s made a name for himself doing a 'Marxist' analysis of the American South which described it as pre-capitalist, not sure if where variations on this idea mainly come from him or elsewhere. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Genovese#Slavery_studies)

meerov21
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Jan 23 2019 19:45

Chattel slavery being a vital and inseparable aspect of early American capitalism is sort of a settled question, no? Without relying on century old texts from dead Europeans who may or may not have ever been to the US, who actually argues that the South was not capitalist or that chattel slavery wasn't an integral part of American capitalism right up to the outbreak of the Civil War?

Even if we consider the civilization of the South as capitalism, it was a backward agrarian civilization that was destroyed by the more advanced industrial capitalism of Yankee. In this case, the slaves of the South accounted for only 10% of the population of the United States. I have already answered these comments above: Supporters of the strange "theory of state capitalism" cite these examples or examples of slavery in the colonies in England, not realizing that these violent non-economic methods of exploitation were an addition to the rapidly growing system of capitalism, which was based on three basic elements: private property, hired (and not slave) labor and market relations in the economy. But in the USSR these three elements did not exist or they were marginal.

Mike Harman
Industrialisation and mechanisation are not synonymous with factories. Cotton production in the US south became industrialised via the invention of the cotton gin in 1793.

This does not negate the industrial and economic backwardness of the southern United States. The main American industrial enterprises and railways were concentrated in the north of the country, which radically surpassed the South in terms of technical and economic development, and this was the reason for the defeat of the South in the war, despite the fact that southerners fought very well as Warriors often surpassed the northerners.

radicalgraffiti
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Jan 23 2019 20:50

what are company towns then?

meerov21
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Jan 24 2019 02:58

A company towns is a single-industry town - a city that is centered around one large production.