Lenin acknowledging the intentional implementation of State Capitalism in the USSR

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Alf's picture
Alf
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Oct 6 2014 15:16

Since it was based on the brutal exploitation of wage labour, I would say it's reasonable to call that accumulation capitalist accumulation.

S. Artesian
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Oct 6 2014 21:53

Are you saying if the exploitation had not been brutal-- let's say prior to the five year plans, or after the death of Stalin, then it isn't capitalism?

Or are you claiming that any exploitation of wage-labor automatically defines the economy as capitalist?

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Oct 6 2014 22:28

Besides, can we really say that workers in Eastern bloc sold their labour power, and that the wages they formally received were the cost of its reproduction?

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Oct 6 2014 22:47
S. Artesian wrote:
No, I do not regard the USSR bureaucracy as being a ruling class; it (the bureaucracy) was not the bearer of a new mode of production. Like Jura, I too have no "theory" about the FSU.

Alf wrote:
On the old Trotskyist question, 'who exactly are the ruling class in the USSR then?': even in the 'classic' period of capitalism, Marx noted that the capitalist more and more becomes a functionary of capital. How much more so in the 20th and 21st century, still dominated by the totalitarian state, despite all the recent attempts to focus all our anger on the bankers and the 'super-rich'. Capital is an impersonal power, that is why it is so different from all other forms of class society.

Well either capital, wage labour and its class society is a human social relation or not – but a (Camatte-like?) reified automatised capital like some machine over and above real humans? As impersonal to human relationships as the weather? Is that not appearance taken for reality? Capital is animated as a human social relationship, real human needs sacrificed to its imperatives via those social relations. But those relations Capital both depends on and shapes are necessarily maintained and enforced as hierarchical human roles. If one can’t say that the Bolshevik state power was a ruling class perhaps that often says more about the awkward implications for Bolshevik 1917 loyalists than anything else.

Tsarist Russia had capitalist enterprises, some technically advanced, around 10% of the population were industrial workers. So why would the non-bearing of a new mode of production preclude the Bolshevik bureaucracy – inheritors of these forces - being a ruling class? Because there was a revolution that must be defended as proletarian - because if the Bolshevik state was capitalist the revolution couldn't be proletarian?

But if the failure of proletarian revolution left a working class and peasantry manning the productive forces that the state was to manage then the bureaucracy’s role was presumably to collectively rule over the class relations of society – otherwise we have a concept seemingly very un-Marxist; a state that is not an instrument of class rule! (And a ‘Marxist’ one at that.) And an administration and enforcement of exploitation of the working class that is not enacted as a class relationship.

The other implication is the one I suggested earlier (though I don’t defend it), that the state bureaucrats were proxy managers for global capital – even though this proxy management is implied by those who say USSR was a non-capitalist mode of production.

But if the bureaucracy weren’t bearers of a new mode of production and the USSR wasn’t capitalist then surely their ascent to power ushered in some new form of non-capitalist social organisation and production – implying that they were bearers of a new mode of production, even if one so unique few seem to want to define it here? (Alternatively, they were just the new, less efficient, managers/heirs of existing Tsarist capitalism?)

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Oct 6 2014 23:28

Are you saying if the exploitation had not been brutal-- let's say prior to the five year plans, or after the death of Stalin, then it isn't capitalism?
Or are you claiming that any exploitation of wage-labor automatically defines the economy as capitalist?

No, and no. (But I wouldn't say that either before or after Stalin exploitation wasn't brutal, or that exploitation is not by definition...brutal)

Wage labour existed in slave and feudal society. But in neither case was it the basic class relation.

On Red's point about the reified vision of capital: I agree that it is dangerous to actually accept that capitalism is a fully non-human power like the weather, and that Camatte falls into this. It's a living contradiction: a human social relation that becomes increasingly inhuman, a human creation that increasingly - but never totally - escapes its creators. But compared to the personal relations of exploitation that existed in feudalism, it is correct to define it as an impersonal power.

S. Artesian
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Oct 6 2014 23:47

I like Red's questions, and analysis, because they show how difficult the analysis is, how problematic labeling the fSU can be. I don't have any easy answers to Red's questions.

If the fSU was capitalism then we have to come to grips that it is a capitalism that did not resemble Marx's description of capitalism; did not share the historic origins of capitalism ; and did not exhibit the signature characteristics of value production.

If it was capitalism, then we have to explain, from its internal dynamics why the "state" version of capitalism was less efficient than the private version of capitalism that took root in Britain, France, the US, Germany, etc when the "glimpses" of state capitalism viewed by Marx and Engels saw the state version coming into being as the "ultimate" result of the development of capital; as the result of the greater efficiencies (and proportions of fixed capital) brought about through centralization and concentration?

If it wasn't capitalism....what was it? Besides a disaster for international proletarian revolution?

My easy-way-out answer is "I can't tell you what the fSU was; I can only tell you what it was not."

It gets down to this, for me: uneven and combined development dictated that the Russian Revolution would be a proletarian revolution. We see the proletariat developing within the dominant peasant "subsistence plus" economy of pre-revolutionary Russia. If the Soviet state represented a new class, we should see that class developing within the framework of the old society. We don't. Where's the class?

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Oct 7 2014 02:20

FSU?

Edit:
Oh, former Soviet Union right?

S. Artesian
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Oct 7 2014 13:26
sabot wrote:
FSU?

Edit:
Oh, former Soviet Union right?

corrrect