Lenin acknowledging the intentional implementation of State Capitalism in the USSR

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slothjabber
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Apr 3 2011 19:22
S. Artesian wrote:
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
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Apr 4 2011 05:21

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?

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ocelot
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Apr 4 2011 16:18
slothjabber wrote:
[...]
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:

Quote:
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, 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, [b]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:

Quote:
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.
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Noa Rodman
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Apr 4 2011 18:05
Roxwell wrote:
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).

Quote:
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:

Quote:
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.

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Zanthorus
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Apr 4 2011 18:20
Alexander Roxwell wrote:
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.

Quote:
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

Quote:
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

Quote:
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
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Apr 4 2011 21:44

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).

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Apr 5 2011 00:35

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':

Quote:
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.

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Zanthorus
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Apr 5 2011 12:27

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.

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ocelot
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Apr 5 2011 16:47
Cleishbotham wrote:
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 wrote:
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
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Apr 5 2011 18:19

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)

Quote:
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

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Apr 5 2011 19:23

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
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Apr 5 2011 19:49

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.

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Apr 5 2011 23:13
Quote:
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:

Quote:
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 wrote:
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
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Apr 6 2011 19:20

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

Quote:
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;

Quote:
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

Quote:
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

Quote:
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

Quote:
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

Quote:
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.

.

Harrison
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Apr 6 2011 20:46

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
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Apr 6 2011 21:20

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.

Harrison
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Apr 6 2011 21:22
Cleishbotham wrote:
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

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Apr 6 2011 23:16
Cleishbotham wrote:
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 wrote:
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 wrote:
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
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Jun 2 2011 15:03

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

slothjabber
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Jun 19 2011 13:45

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
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Jun 19 2011 19:26

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
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Jun 20 2011 12:46

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.

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Jun 21 2011 06:53

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
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Jun 21 2011 11:16

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
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Jun 21 2011 11:57

slothjabber -

Quote:
" 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. wink

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

Just a light hearted response

slothjabber
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Jun 21 2011 12:19

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).

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devoration1
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Jun 21 2011 16:19

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
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Jun 22 2011 19:09

Agree with the above.

Quote:
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'.

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Zanthorus
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Jun 22 2011 21:32
slothjabber wrote:
Not sure if Zanthorus would describe himself as 'an ICC/ICT sympathiser'

I would smile

oh btw:

Dave B wrote:
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):

Quote:
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
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Jun 25 2011 23:03

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

Quote:
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

Quote:
"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...