Economic nature of the Soviet Union


  #1  
13th March 2012, 19:33

[Grenzer]
All revolutionaries that aren't Stalinists tend to agree that the Soviet Union was not socialist, but it's what comes after this conclusion where the divergence occurs. There seems to be two main views on this: that the Soviet Union was a capitalist state, or that it was neither capitalist nor socialist. Both of these views come up frequently in any discussion involving the Soviet Union, but what I have not seen is both these views compared to each other and the theory behind them. So with that in mind, I wanted to create a discussion for specifically this purpose where the merits(or lack thereof) of both views can be debated.

Those who claim that the Soviet Union was capital often cite things like the existence of generalized wage labor and commodity production, but those against this view claim that that the Soviet bureaucrats could not be considered capitalists because they did not organize production for the accumulation of capital. Both sides seem to make some valid points, so what this seems to boil down to is a more nuanced view of what defines a capitalist state and the capitalist class. Personally I lean more towards the view that the Soviet Union was capitalist, but I look forward to seeing what those who hold that it was not have to say. Hopefully this can be a constructive discussion.

EDIT: Here is an addendum I wanted to add: For those that argue that the Soviet Union was not capitalist, but also not Socialist; does this make it worth "defending" or should it be condemned just as any ordinary capitalist state should be?

Who this thread is for:
-People who want to debate and critically analyze the social and economic state of the Soviet Union citing relevant statistics and portions of Marxist theory.

Who this thread is not for:
-People who want to argue that the Soviet Union was socialist(which is not to say that Marxist-Leninists are unwelcome to participate in critiquing these views, just that your argument runs contrary to the purpose of this thread. Your propaganda already fills dozens of threads daily: if I was interested in it then I wouldn't have posted this.)
-People who want to make claims without backing it up with sources
-People who want to make one liners
-People who want to debate the revolutionary cred of irrelevant dead people
-People who want to use neologisms like "deformed worker's state"
-People who want to quote Trotsky(Not that Trotskyists are unwelcome, I expect them to be the primary proponents of the view that the Soviet Union was neither socialist nor capitalist, but the point of this thread is to back up claims with Marxist theory rather than simply regurgitate Trotsky's opinions)

[Blake's Baby]
Commodity production isn't a purely capitalst phenomenon, capitalism is generalised commodity production and wage labour. Commodity production did exist in other forms of economy, it was just subordinate to other production (eg in feudalism or Asiatic despotism, which primarily produced forms of tribute rather than commodities, and didn't primarily use wage labour anyway); and even in antique slavery, when there was more commodity production (along with the trading of a lot of opportunistic surplus) the main portions of the economy were for use rather than trade, and not produced primarily by wage labour - labour itself hadn't become a commodity.
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan74 View Post
...
"Commodity production" is not something that is exclusive to capitalism...
As I explain a couple of posts above, no-one's saying only capitalism produces commodities.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dan74 View Post
...Stalin admitted that commodity production was something that was present in the USSR (http://www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/EPS52.html#c7)
But most of us think the USSR was capitalist.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anti-Capitalist View Post
I would argue that the Soviet Union was a coordinator society. The means of production were controlled by state planners who gave orders to the workers. The workers did not control the means of production, but production was not organized on a capitalist basis. Although, I believe this is just a general overview of the Soviet Union. There are different times in it's history were it was more socialist (like right after the October Revolution where most power lied in the workers councils, or soviets) more state capitalist (NEP period) etc.
Why?

I mean, why do you support co-ordinator theory? OK, I'm a marxist, I think that class is the determining factor here; but co-ordinator theory is drivel. It doesn't make sense. Where does this new class come from? What is its economic power-base, that isn't already capitalism? Engels in the 1880s and Wilhelm Leibknecht in the 1890s fought against the notion that 'managerial' capitalism was anything other than capitalism.

It's ironic that 'co-ordinator theory' has caught on with Council Communists and Anarchists (those sworn enemies of the Second International). You do realise that it was invented by Trotskyists to explain why the USSR was not state capitalist, don't you? The whole thrust of 'The Managerial Revolution' is a kind of (again, already) Bernsteinian reformism based on the idea that capitalism can grow into a co-ordinatorist mode of production. The rest of us (non-Trotskyist, non-Stalinists that is) think that the 'co-ordinatorist mode of production' is just a different arrangement of capitalism.
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by dan74 View Post
Then why did Brospierre use it to argue that the USSR was capitalist?..
Because socialism doesn't produce commodities. Therefore, if the SU did, it wasn't socialist.

Feudalism produces some commodities. Was the Soviet Union feudal?

Antique slavery produces some commodities. Was the Soviet Union an antique slave economy?

Even Asiatic despostism produces some commodities. Was the Soviet Union an Asiatic despostism?

Not sure if the Germanic mode of production does produce commodities, perhaps I'll leave that one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dan74 View Post
...
Then provide actual evidence for that rather than dropping vague terms and expecting us to figure out what you're talking about.
Wasn't aware 'capitalism' was a vague term.

As I explained above, about 6 posts ago in a very pithy and well-argued post that you seem to have missed, capitalism is generalised wage labour and commodity production. As the Soviet Union had generalised wage labour and commodity production, it was capitalist.
[Rooser]
The soviet union was capitalist. The capitalist mode of production prevailed under the USSR; wage labour (and all of what that implies; ie a divorce from the direct producers from the means of production, labour as a commodity, etc), a forced division of labour (or what Marx called, a natural division), classes, states, the profit motive (need for constant accumulation), generalised commodity production, etc. This shows that the means of production could not have been held in common, or in other words, it could not have been socialism.

Also, we don't begin out investigation of what mode of production prevails by looking at how surplus value is distributed, but by how it is extracted and in the capitalist mode of production, it is through generalised wage labour. So this means that no matter how many free schools you have, no matter how many free houses or healthcare, it won't be socialism unless the means of production are held in common.

To quote Marx about this:
Quote:
The specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers, determines the relationship of rulers and ruled, as it grows directly out of production itself and, in turn, reacts upon it as a determining element. Upon this, however, is founded the entire formation of the economic community which grows up out of the production relations themselves, thereby simultaneously its specific political form. It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers — a relation always naturally corresponding to a definite stage in the development of the methods of labour and thereby its social productivity — which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state. This does not prevent the same economic basis — the same from the standpoint of its main conditions — due to innumerable different empirical circumstances, natural environment, racial relations, external historical influences, etc. from showing infinite variations and gradations in appearance, which can be ascertained only by analysis of the empirically given circumstances.
from http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...94-c3/ch47.htm

And here Marx also says that the appearance of the economic basis can seem different in different circumstances.

And to paraphrase Engels in Anti-Duhring, it's not about how things in society are distributed but how they are produced, the economic basis, that determines the mode of production. I think that this a common thing to do within leftist circles; to say that distribution based on need or some sort of fairness + a nationalised economy = socialism, or as some would say, the lower phase of communism. This idea of it being the lower phase of communism doesn't present us with a neat break at all in the mode of production. Implying that the rest of society can change through political action rather than through economic change.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yefim Zverev View Post
from socialism to hybrid now going for more capitalism.. even today's russia has lots of remnants from socialism
I think you might be confusing what socialism is with capitalism.
[Ostrinksi]
There is no commodity production in socialism because all production is done along the lines of use and not exchange.

How can there exist wage labor without capital accumulation? A wage means that the surplus value of unpaid labor is expropriated somehow. This is in no way compatible with the socialist mode of production.
[Grenzer]
I'm short on time so I will respond to the other things later in detail when I get the chance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by daft punk View Post
And then Stalin collectivised.
Is the implication of this that Stalin allowed the Soviet Union to surpass the stage of state capitalism, and therefore that the Soviet Union was a socialist state? That seems to be what you're implying. It's key to realize that the "state capitalism" which Lenin referred to which I have brought up is VERY different from the State Capitalist theory by Cliff. In fact, Lenin's conception of State Capitalism could not be said to be capitalism in the normal sense of it because it did not involve a bourgeoisie.
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grenzer View Post
All revolutionaries that aren't Stalinists tend to agree that the Soviet Union was not socialist, but it's what comes after this conclusion where the divergence occurs. There seems to be two main views on this: that the Soviet Union was a capitalist state, or that it was neither capitalist nor socialist. Both of these views come up frequently in any discussion involving the Soviet Union, but what I have not seen is both these views compared to each other and the theory behind them. So with that in mind, I wanted to create a discussion for specifically this purpose where the merits(or lack thereof) of both views can be debated.

Those who claim that the Soviet Union was capital often cite things like the existence of generalized wage labor and commodity production, but those against this view claim that that the Soviet bureaucrats could not be considered capitalists because they did not organize production for the accumulation of capital. Both sides seem to make some valid points, so what this seems to boil down to is a more nuanced view of what defines a capitalist state and the capitalist class. Personally I lean more towards the view that the Soviet Union was capitalist, but I look forward to seeing what those who hold that it was not have to say. Hopefully this can be a constructive discussion.

EDIT: Here is an addendum I wanted to add: For those that argue that the Soviet Union was not capitalist, but also not Socialist; does this make it worth "defending" or should it be condemned just as any ordinary capitalist state should be?

Who this thread is for:
-People who want to debate and critically analyze the social and economic state of the Soviet Union citing relevant statistics and portions of Marxist theory.

Who this thread is not for:
-People who want to argue that the Soviet Union was socialist(which is not to say that Marxist-Leninists are unwelcome to participate in critiquing these views, just that your argument runs contrary to the purpose of this thread. Your propaganda already fills dozens of threads daily: if I was interested in it then I wouldn't have posted this.)
-People who want to make claims without backing it up with sources
-People who want to make one liners
-People who want to debate the revolutionary cred of irrelevant dead people
-People who want to use neologisms like "deformed worker's state"
-People who want to quote Trotsky(Not that Trotskyists are unwelcome, I expect them to be the primary proponents of the view that the Soviet Union was neither socialist nor capitalist, but the point of this thread is to back up claims with Marxist theory rather than simply regurgitate Trotsky's opinions)
Just on the OP: there's a problem with the poll, in that it tosses those who think the USSR is bureaucratic collectivist, i.e. pretty damn awful and maybe worse than capitalism, as most b.c. advocates think, and those who think it's a workers state, in which case logically they would want to defend it vs. capitalism and capitalist states, as almost all such people (myself included) think.

Be it noted that my own opinion is that Pol Pot's "Kampuchea" could meaningfully be described as "bureaucratic collectivist," and pretty damn awful in my and most people's books.

-M.H.-
[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Just on the OP: there's a problem with the poll, in that it tosses those who think the USSR is bureaucratic collectivist, i.e. pretty damn awful and maybe worse than capitalism, as most b.c. advocates think, and those who think it's a workers state, in which case logically they would want to defend it vs. capitalism and capitalist states, as almost all such people (myself included) think.

Be it noted that my own opinion is that Pol Pot's "Kampuchea" could meaningfully be described as "bureaucratic collectivist," and pretty damn awful in my and most people's books.

-M.H.-
Thanks for the clarification.

I wasn't really sure where to put that, or whether to include it at all. I had thought it was a term used by people who had a view similar to Trotsky, but refused to recognize it as a "worker's" state of any kind, along with the benefits that would come with that; but I can see I am mistaken. I'll see if I can modify the poll. I'll probably just throw the option out.
[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by daft punk View Post
We defended it. The USSR was a degenerated workers state. As such it only required a POLITICAL REVOLUTION to achieve socialism, not a SOCIAL ONE. They job was half done and only regime change was needed. It was not capitalist because there was no capitalist class, no capitalist mode of production. Capitalism is private ownership for profit. There was none of that. It wasnt state capitalist either, though there may have been some state capitalism employed, depending on how you want to define it.

'Workers state' has 2 meanings, one is a publicly owned economy, a planned economy, the USSR had that. The other meaning is that the state (army, police etc) is controlled by the working class, or at least a party which honestly represents the working class. This happened in Russia initially but it degenerated in the period 1924-7 and by then was pretty much a one man dictatorship based not on the workers but on the bureaucracy and the wealthy. This Stalinist state fought the Left Opposition who wanted to reform the state back to a workers one. A workers state would also have the backing of the poor peasants.

So the state as in the economy remained planned. The state as in the government and so on degenerated.

Actually after 1928 Stalin was forced into going through the motions of socialist construction, he was forced into collectivisation, so the planned bit actually became more of a workers state, but without the democratic lubricant necessary for the functioning of the machine. As such it surged forward after WW2, making the huge gains our Stalinist chums are so fond of telling us about, but then, without the oil of workers participation in democratic planning, under the dead weight of the huge bureaucratic heap Lenin had worried about back in 1922, it started to grind to a halt. Finally, the bureaucrats who ruled, fearing POLITICAL REVOLUTION from below, for democratic socialism, simply turned off the lights, put up the closed sign, and reopened as a bourgeois state.

So, we (Trotskyists) defended the gains of the planned economy, but called for regime change to allow proper mass democratic participation necessary, plus internationalism of course.

Thanks for the response.

There are a few problems I've noticed with these ideas. How can one be certain that at that was needed was only political in nature? The implication is that Socialism in One Country is possible, which I am sure is not what you want to say. In addition, history has shown that these regimes were closer to capitalism than they were socialist. There is no precedent for a regime calling itself Marxist-Leninist to make a transition to genuine socialism. This also seems to be ignoring the fact that social stratification existed in a big way in the USSR. Stratification does not imply classes, but it does recognize that there are social inequalities; to say that only a political revolution was required seems to deny this. In addition, this seems to deny the economic reality that socialism must be implemented on a worldwide(or close to it) scale for the material abundance required for sustainable socialism to be realized. It also ignores the existence of black markets and the like, which increase in prevalence as such regimes decay. These can result in what might be termed vulgar accumulation of capital. This does not seem to be a wild claim to make, for the bourgeoisie(if one does not claim that they existed before the collapse of the fSU) emerged from the ranks of the former bureaucrats and "mafia" for the most part. For these reasons I reject the idea that all that was needed was political revolution, since it seems to be wild speculation at best.

I also find the concept of referring to Marxist-Leninist states as "worker's" state of any sort to be highly contentious. By giving it such a label, you imply that the workers had something to do with running it, which they did not. You also say the economic basis of socialism existed, which I disagree with. The only possible definition of socialism is where the workers themselves organize the surplus value of their labor; it's beyond contention that this too did not occur in the Soviet Union. Personally I reject the idea that you can have a party that is "representative" of the workers if it is not directly democratic. Instead, what you seem to be advocating(or at least saying you are satisfied with) is a republican form of government, which are plutocratic in nature and set the stage for the restoration of liberal capitalism. It seems to me that one of the goals of a proletarian revolution should be to dismantle the state as it exists as the bourgeois conceive it. This was done in the Russian Revolution, but the dissolution of the Soviets(which never were restored) essentially reversed this. The highly centralized, bureaucratic state whose foundation was created by Lenin is impossible to use as the basis for the dictatorship of the proletariat, whose organization seems to organically take shape in the form of democratic councils. The Soviet State which was created by Lenin bears more resemblance to that form of state which is used by the bourgeoisie.

More on the economic basis, which you yourself have described as socialistic. Generalized wage labor and commodity production both existed in the fSU. Stalin declared in 1907 that neither wage labor nor commodity production could exist in socialism. Seems really weird that Stalin would have a more strict definition of socialism than you do, unless you are mistaken. Commodity production is sheerly capitalistic in nature. In a socialist economy, goods are made for use, this was not the case in the Soviet Union. Many consumer goods such as cars were manufactured on a large scale, but they weren't intended for the workers for the most part. Instead, they were intended to be sold on the market. This sounds more descriptive of a capitalistic(though not necessarily capitalist per se) than a socialist one. As ******* pointed out, wage labor is the form in which the surplus value of labor is extracted from workers in capitalism, and this is exactly how it worked in the fSU. How is this socialistic?
In addition, it's worth mentioning that it seems absurd to use the label of "worker's" for Marxist-Leninist countries which never actually had a proletarian revolution to begin with. Most of can agree that the only proletarian revolution that has ever occurred was in Russia. As such, it seems absurd to claim that a government which was implemented by a military coup in many cases could be called even a "deformed worker's state." In addition, this theory ignores nuance and fails to recognize the economic reality of many of these regimes, which were even more degenerated towards liberal capitalism. Take Cuba for example. How could it ever be called a sort of worker's state when not only were the workers never in control, but not even private property(in the bourgeois sense) was abolished? To me, the continued prevalence of labeling such regimes as "Worker's" seems like little more than a form of opportunism to justify anti-western imperialism.

I've got a lot of problems with your last few sentences. Orthodox Trotskyists are known for criticizing the policy of forced collectivization, but here you seem to be advocating it. In addition, you seem to be saying that if worker's democracy could have been implemented then everything would have been fine. Again, this seems like a pretty explicit endorsement of Socialism in One Country. What has been seen repeatedly throughout your statements is a refusal to recognize that the material basis for socialism in the fSU's economic and political institutions didn't exist. In addition, it's ironic that Lenin was worried about the bureaucracy(which he did in fact do) because he is the one who endorsed and oversaw the destruction of workers' control.

Your claim that the bureaucrats feared a political revolution from below seems to be utterly disconnected with the material reality. If one accepts that the bourgeoisie did not exist then in the fSU, then consequently it must be acknowledged that the basis for class struggle, and thus class consciousness did not exist. In my opinion, the origins of the Great Purge has nothing to do with a demand by the workers for democracy(I don't acknowledge that such a demand existed) but a subconscious awareness on the part of the Soviet regime of its own degeneration towards liberal capitalism. If you are referring to the collapse of 1991, then my answer would be much the same. A demand for democracy didn't exist, or it was not significant to the extent of being a factor. What seems to be more likely is that faced with the house of cards(the Marxist-Leninist regimes) collapsing, they did what they might as well have done in 1927 with the failure of international revolution, say "Fuck this man, I'm out" and claim private ownership of the means of production in the traditional liberal sense.

What's so inherently great about planned economies by the way? You say that Trotskyists "defend the gains of planned economies" but you seem to have forgotten about the Kaiser's Germany in the First World War, and the US & Britain in the Second World War. What your final sentence seems to be is an implicit acceptance of very conditions that led to Stalinism and socialism in one country, again. Why call for a specific regime change when it would be only be temporary without an international movement to overthrow capitalism world wide? I just don't see what it's actually going to accomplish.

I appreciate your contribution to the thread, but your post is a great example of why I previously forbid quoting Trotsky and using Trotskyist neologisms: You didn't relate your claims back to Marxist theory, and you failed to confront and discredit the specific claims that the Soviet Union was capitalist made by posters like *******, who linked their claims quite specifically with support from the works of Marx and Engels. You made claims that the Soviet Union was not capitalist without analyzing the features that would have defined its economic mode of production, and without confronting why the examples used by the opponents in this debate are invalid. Hopefully ******* makes another post to tackle some of what you've said as well. I don't think the examples you used are valid, as the historical context of Marx's support of certain capitalist regimes was in a much, much different context.

It's interesting to examine some of the traits which the the bureaucracy lacked which would ordinarily be defining features of the bourgeoisie in liberal capitalist states, but I have not come to a final conclusion on that. What I do reject is the concept of "Degenerated" and "deformed" "Worker's states." Back in the 30's when Revolution Betrayed were written, the flawed vision portrayed by Trotsky was acceptable because he was biased by his personal connection to the Soviet Union, and in addition he lacked the clarity of hindsight, data, and the larger picture which we have. In conclusion, I see defense of the idea of a "deformed worker's state" as a support of reformism and imperialism.
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anti-Capitalist View Post
I don't support coordinatorism. I am opposed to the Soviet Union. I never said I support it. To me, coordinatorism is just as bad as capitalism. I just think it is a different system than capitalism, that's all. Just because the Trots agree with the theory does not mean it is wrong nor should I abandon what I think is a good theory. Stalinists think capitalism is bad, does that mean I should lose my convictions to anti-capitalism? Of course not! So why should I drop coordinatorism because the Trots believe it too?
"Coordinatorism" sounds like a functional equivalent of former Trotskyists Shachtman and Burnham's theory of "bureaucratic collectivism."

Which is in itself merely a functional equivalent of the usual bourgeois line about the USSR that it was "totalitarian." It is an attempt to explain the USSR not by class analysis but as a non-class phenomenon, and therefore ipso facto non-Marxist.

Politically, "bureaucratic collectivists" tend to go over to the ruling class altogether, as did Shachtman and Burnham themselves and also the only current "bureaucratic collectivist" group I know of, Sean Matgamna's pro-Zionist and pro British imperialist "Alliance for Workers Liberty" in England.

-M.H.-
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Q View Post
As I was asked by the OP to offer my opinion: Hillel Ticktin offers, in my view, the best explanatory model that is out there. Consequently, I voted "None of these options are adequate" in the poll as the USSR was in essense a non-mode of production that was a result of a counterrevolution within the revolution.
The cousinship of Ticktin's ideas with bureaucratic collectivism are obvious.

Basic real diff being that Bunham was writing during WWII and saw bureaucratic collectivism as The Wave of The Future, vastly superior to capitalism, whereas Ticktin came up with ideas during the 1970s and '80s, in the senile twilight years of the Soviet system, and therefore naturally saw his version of bureaucratic collectivism as "the gang that couldn't shoot straight," unable to produce its way out of a paper bag, and indeed not even a mode of production at all.

I stopped reading Ticktin after he predicted in his magazine that Chernobyl would kill off half the population of the USSR. Yawn...

-M.H.-
[Brosa Luxemburg]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
"Coordinatorism" sounds like a functional equivalent of former Trotskyists Shachtman and Burnham's theory of "bureaucratic collectivism."

Which is in itself merely a functional equivalent of the usual bourgeois line about the USSR that it was "totalitarian." It is an attempt to explain the USSR not by class analysis but as a non-class phenomenon, and therefore ipso facto non-Marxist.

Politically, "bureaucratic collectivists" tend to go over to the ruling class altogether, as did Shachtman and Burnham themselves and also the only current "bureaucratic collectivist" group I know of, Sean Matgamna's pro-Zionist and pro British imperialist "Alliance for Workers Liberty" in England.

-M.H.-
I wouldn't go so far to say that the coordinator theory takes the class analysis out of an analysis of the Soviet system. I do think a ruling and elite class came to power in the USSR. I believe that the definition of capitalism and state capitalism is more than just the existence of classes. Such things as competition, profit, interest, rent, etc. also play an important role. While I am not arguing these things did not exist in the USSR, and while I am not arguing that at certain times in Soviet history it wasn't state capitalist (for example, during the NEP period it was HIGHLY state capitalist), I don't think that the USSR's OVERALL history shows it to be state capitalist, but instead coordinator. This isn't to justify the policies of the USSR because coordinatorism is JUST as bad as capitalism. I just think it is a different way to view a unique society. I am not denying classes in the Soviet Union, and I feel the Soviet Union was far from a degenerated workers state or any type of workers state. I am not denying that classes existed, and the theory doesn't either.
[Blake's Baby]
It takes a Marxist class analysis out of the question. I disagree with almost everything 'A Marxist Historian' ever says but I agree with this - it is Burnham's theory and it's an attempt to derive the nature of the USSR from a non-Marxist analysis.

There is no 'co-ordinator class' in a Marxist analysis because the co-ordinator class doesn't stand in a unique relationship to the means of production. In Marxist theory they're either workers or bosses, not a bit of both.

So you can claim it's a class analysis all you like, but without demonstrating where this class comes from and what justifies its theoretical existence as a 'class' (as opposed to, for instance, a strategy for organising capitalism) then you may as well claim the Soviet Union was an Invisible Unicorn Conspiracy Economy.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Borz View Post
A commodity economy necessarily implies private property. Capitalist production is the highest stage of commodity production, but commodity production is not necessarily capitalism and existed in slavery-societies and feudal societies.

In the Soviet Union there was no Capitalist class. Capitalism simply can't exist without capitalists exploiting wage-laborers. Production in the SU wasn't for the sake of extracting profit from workers. And Labour itself wasn't a commodity in the SU, not in the same sense as in capitalist societies.

Here we go again - the same old tired hackneyed Trotskyist line which has been comprehensively refuted time and time again. Im loathe to rehash yet again my own contribution to the debate but I said something on the matter in this thread

http://www.revleft.com/vb/cheka-and-...41#post2386841

What you say about labour power not being a commodity is not even true in the highly contrived sense in which you use this term (which is itself contestable inasmuch as a heavily regulated market economy IS STILL A MARKET ECONOMY). Indeed, state enterprises had far more leeway in matters of employing workers and setting wage levels than is commonly supposed and it was a common practice for job vacancies to be posted outside factory gates and the like.

The SU was NOT - repeat NOT a planned economy in the sense in which this is literally understood to mean. The economy was NOT guided by GOSPLAN's so called plans which were more or less just a fanciful wishlist of things the so called planners wanted done. No plan was ever strictly fulfiulled; on the contrary the plan was regularly modified and updated to make it appear as if it had been fulfiulled. The economy guided the plan not the other way round. Meaning it was much more decentralised in practice with a much more complex pattern of horizontal linkages than is sometimes assumed. This is to say nothing of the connections between the official economy and the black market itself - not only as a source of input factors but finance too

And this business about there being no capitalist class in Russia - look, can we bury this utterly threadbare argument once and for all??? Capitalism does not need to have individual capitalist privately owning stocks and share. Capitalism does not necesarily require that individuals should be able to pass on their accumulated private wealth to others via inhertaince. That is a historically contringent variety of capitalism ; it is not relevant to a discussion of capitalism per se.

This whole argument was long ago demolished by the likes of Engels who talked of the state becoming the "national capitalist". The capitalist class in the SU was that class that exercised control over the state and hence over all the important economic decisions relating to the disposal of the economic surplus. This in Marxian terms is what made the apparatchiks in the SU a state capitalist class. As a class it collectively - not as private capitalists - owned the means of production in de facto terms by virtue of being able to exert ultimate control over them . Ultimate control and ownership are the same thing!!

So much, incidentally, for the idea that those in charge of the state represented a so called "coordinator class" rather than a capitalist class. What is it that they "coodinated" if not the allocation of capital with a view to extracting surplus value out of which more capital could be accumulated? It was not for no reason that state enterprises were explicitly obliged to pursue profits, which profits were creamed off by the central state and redistributed in a manner it saw fit

All of the primary characteristics of capitalism existed in the SU without exception. Above all, of course, generalised wage labour. You are not surely suggesting the generalised wage labout did not exist in the SU? That being so , how then - since wage labour presupposes capital - can you deny the existence of capitalism in the SU and hence also of a capitalist class?

Even a supporter of the soviet regime. Reg Bishop, acknowleged the existence of "Soviet Millionaires" in his pamphlet published in 1945 bearing that very title. That fact alone would appear rather inexplicable were it not for the fact that we know the SU was essentially a capitalist sysem run primarily via the state and differing mainly from western style capitalism only in the degree of state ownership and intervention.

The relationship between a worker and a nationalised concern in the West that employs her is essentially no different from the relationship between a worker and a state enterprise in the SU. Both are alienated from the means of production . Both confront a class enemy in the form of those who wield capital in the interests of capital
[Dave B]
Just for Trotsko-Bukharino Borz’s attention;

1922;


Quote:
The economic literature of Western Europe conceives state capitalism as the higher form of capitalism in the hands of a bourgeois government; as the most complete and powerful organization conceivable of the capitalistic classes.


Naturally our state capitalism is diametrically opposite to this. But naturally, too, the kind of state capitalism we have in Russia can easily be converted into the kind of state capitalism conceived under a bourgeois government in case the laboring classes lose power in Russia. We are confident, however, that this will not occur.



http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukh...ganisation.htm



30 State capitalism and the classes


Quote:
The conduct of the imperialist war was differentiated from that of all previous wars, not only by the dimensions of the conflict and by its devastating effects, but in addition by the fact that in every country actively engaged in the imperialist war the whole of economic life had to be subordinated to war purposes.

In former conflicts the bourgeoisie could carry them on merely by providing funds. The world war, however, attained such huge proportions and affected such highly developed countries that money alone did not suffice. It became essential in this war that the steel foundries should devote themselves entirely to the making of heavy guns, whose calibre was continually being enlarged; that coal should be mined for war purposes alone; that metals, textiles, hides, everything, should be employed in war service.

Naturally, therefore, the greatest hope of victory was for whichever of the State capitalist trusts could best harness production and transport to the chariot of war.


How was this to be achieved? Manifestly, the only way in which it could be achieved was by the complete centralization of production. It would be necessary to arrange things in such a way that production would go on smoothly; that it would be well organized; that it would be entirely under the control of the fighters, that is to say of the general staff; that all the orders of those wearing epaulets and stars would be punctually carried out.


How could the bourgeoisie do this? The matter was quite simple. To that end it was necessary that' the bourgeoisie should place private production, privately owned trusts and syndicates, at the disposal of the capitalist robber State.

This is what they did for the duration of the war. Industry was ' mobilized' and 'militarized', that is to say it was placed under the orders of the State and of the military authorities. 'But how?' some of our readers will ask. ' In that way the bourgeoisie would surely forfeit its income? That would be nationalization! When everything has been handed over to the State, where will the bourgeoisie come in, and how will the capitalists reconcile themselves to such a condition 'of affairs?'

It is an actual fact that the bourgeoisie agreed to the arrangement. But there is nothing very remarkable in that, for the privately owned syndicates and trusts were not handed over to the workers' State, but to the imperialist State, the State which belonged to the bourgeoisie. Was there anything to alarm the bourgeoisie in such a prospect? The capitalists simply transferred their possessions from one pocket to another; the possessions remained as large as ever.


We must never forget the class character of the State. The State must not be conceived as constituting a 'third power' standing above the classes; from head to foot it is a class organization. Under the dictatorship of the workers it is a working-class organization. Under the dominion of the bourgeoisie it is just as definitely an economic organization as is a trust or a syndicate.


We see, then, that when the bourgeoisie handed over the privately owned syndicates and trusts to the State, it handed them over to its own State, to the robber capitalist State and not to the proletarian State; consequently it had nothing to lose by the change. Is it not precisely the same thing to a manufacturer, whom we may call Schulz or Smith, whether he receives his profits from the counting-house of a syndicate or from a State-bank?

Far from losing by the change, the bourgeoisie actually gained. There was a gain because, through the State centralization of industry, the war machine was enabled to work to better effect, and there was a greater chance of winning the war of rapine.

It is not surprising, therefore, that in nearly all capitalist countries there took place during the war a development of State capitalism in the place of the capitalism of private syndicates or trusts. Germany, for example, gained many successes and was able for a lengthy period to resist attack from enemies of a greatly superior strength, simply because the German bourgeoisie was so successful in the organization of its State capitalism.


The change to State capitalism was effected in various ways. In most cases a State monopoly of production and trade was instituted. This implied that production and trade were placed wholly in the hands of the bourgeois State. Sometimes the transformation was not effected all at once, but by instalments. This took place when the State merely bought some of the shares of the syndicate or trust.


An enterprise in which this had taken place was half private and half a State affair, but the bourgeois State held the leading strings. Furthermore, even when certain enterprises remained in private hands, they were often subjected to governmental control. Some enterprises were by special legislation forced to buy their raw materials from certain others, while the latter had to sell to the former in specified quantities and at fixed prices. The State prescribed working methods, specified what materials were to be used, and rationed these materials. Thus, in place of private capitalism, State capitalism came into being.


Under State capitalism, instead of the separate organizations of the bourgeoisie there now flourishes a united organization, the State organization. Down to the time of the war there existed in any capitalist country the State organization of the bourgeoisie, and there also existed separately from the State large numbers of bourgeois organizations, such as syndicates, trusts, societies of entrepreneurs, landowners' organizations, political parties, journalists' unions, learned societies, artists' clubs, the church, societies for the clergy, Boy Scouts and cadet corps (White Guard organizations of youth), private detective bureaux, etc.

Under State capitalism all these separate organizations fuse with the bourgeois State; they become, as it were, State departments, and they work in accordance with a general plan, subject to the 'high command'; in the mines and factories they do whatever is ordered by the general staff; they write in the newspapers under the orders of the general staff; they preach in the churches whatever will be useful to the robbers of the general staff; their pictures, their books, and their poems, are produced under the orders of the general staff; they invent machinery, weapons, poison gas, etc., to meet the needs of the general staff. In this manner the whole of life is militarized in order to secure for the bourgeoisie the continued receipt of its filthy lucre.

State capitalism signifies an enormous accession of strength to the great bourgeoisie. Just as under the working-class dictatorship, in the workers' State, the working class is more powerful in proportion as the soviet authority, the trade unions, the Communist Party, etc., work more harmoniously together, so under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie the capitalist class is strong in proportion to the success with which all the bourgeois organizations pull together.


State capitalism, centralizing all these organizations, converting them all into the instruments of a single, united organization, contributes immensely to the power of capital. Bourgeois dictatorship attains its climax in State capitalism.

State capitalism flourished during the war in all the large capitalist countries. In tsarist Russia, too, it began to make its way (in the form of war industry committees, monopolies, etc.). Subsequently, however, the Russian bourgeoisie, alarmed by the revolution of March, 1917, became afraid lest productive industry should pass into the hands of the proletariat together with the State authority. For this reason, after the March revolution, the bourgeoisie did not merely refrain from attempts to organize production, but positively sabotaged industry.


We see that State capitalism, far from putting an end to exploitation, actually increases the power of the bourgeoisie. Nevertheless the Scheidemannites in Germany, and social solidarians in other lands, have contended that this forced labour is socialism. As soon, they say, as everything is in the hands of the State, socialism will be realized. They fail to see that in such a system the State is not a proletarian State, since it is in the hands of those who are the malicious and deadly enemies of the proletariat.

State capitalism uniting and organizing the bourgeoisie, increasing the power of capitalism, has, of course, greatly weakened the working class. Under State capitalism the workers became the white slaves of the capitalist State. They were deprived of the right to strike; they were mobilized and militarized; everyone who raised his voice against the war was hauled before the courts and sentenced as a traitor. In many countries the workers were deprived of all freedom of movement, being forbidden to transfer from one enterprise to another. '

Free' wage workers were reduced to serfdom; they were doomed to perish on the battlefields, not on behalf of their own cause but on behalf of that of their enemies. They were doomed to work themselves to death, not for their own sake or for that of their comrades or their children, but for the sake of their oppressors.



http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukh...920/abc/04.htm

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

How could we draw workers into the process of building up industry “What!” they would say, “shall we help the capitalist and build up the system? Only opportunists would do that.” If we say our industry is State capitalism, we shall completely disarm the working class. We dare not then speak of raising productive capacity, because that is the affair of the exploiters and not of the workers. To what end then shall we get larger and larger numbers to take part in our production conferences, if the workers are exploited, and when all that has nothing to do with them? Let the exploiter look after that!

If we put the matter in this light, not only shall we be threatened with the danger of estrangement from the masses, but we shall not be in a position to build up our industries. That is as clear as daylight.


http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukh...926/01/x01.htm


Leon Trotsky The Position of the Republic and the Tasks of Daft Young Trotskyist To Comprehend that Bolshevik Russia is State Capitalism (Report to the 5th All-Russian Congress of the Russian Communist League of Youth 1922)



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

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


http://www.marxists.org/archive/trot...outh/youth.htm

[u.s.red]
1. Who, exactly, owned the means of production in the Soviet Union?

2. What, exactly, is the definition of capitalism?
[Blake's Baby]
1. that depends on what you mean by 'owned'; legally, the workers, in actual fact they had no more control over their work processes than any other workers for any other state anywhere, as the soviets were dead by 1921, if not 1919.

2. that depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I say 'generalised wage labour and commodity prodcution'. Both of which existed in the Soviet Union, so it was capitalist.
[Dave B]
On question 1). Basically I agree with Robbo that the collective ‘bureaucratic caste’ of the Bolshevik party ‘nomenklatura’ owned the means of production, and it is good enough perhaps to leave it like that.

Without wanting go too far into semantics the problem with the question hinges on the meaning of ownership.

To own something means to “possess as property or to have control over it”.

The critical point, particularly as regards means of production, is I think control over it and control of the benefits that can derive from it.

It doesn’t actually have to mean that you can sell it, and in fact you could control and benefit from the ‘means of production’, exploit labour and extract surplus value without being allowed or having the means of selling it.

Thus in feudalism the landed estates were entailed and could only be disposed of by primogeniture.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fee_tail


That didn’t mean that there was no exploitation or surplus value. In fact it is the clearest demonstration of surplus value as the necessary labour time and surplus labour time are actually carried out on different ‘days’ and different places, thus from Karl;

Capital Vol. III Part VI Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground-Rent Chapter 47. Genesis of Capitalist Ground-Rent



Quote:
But this identity of surplus-value with unpaid labour of others need not be analysed here because it still exists in its visible, palpable form, since the labour of the direct producer for himself is still separated in space and time from his labour for the landlord and the latter appears directly in the brutal form of enforced labour for a third person. In the same way the "attribute" possessed by the soil to produce rent is here reduced to a tangibly open secret, for the disposition to furnish rent here also includes human labour-power bound to the soil, and the property relation which compels the owner of labour-power to drive it on and activate it beyond such measure as is required to satisfy his own indispensable needs. Rent consists directly in the appropriation of this surplus expenditure of labour-power by the landlord; for the direct producer pays him no additional rent. Here, where surplus-value and rent are not only identical but where surplus-value has the tangible form of surplus-labour, the natural conditions or limits of rent, being those of surplus-value in general, are plainly clear. The direct producer must 1) possess enough labour-power, and 2) the natural conditions of his labour, above all the soil cultivated by………..


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...94-c3/ch47.htm

The serf here is clearly no more free to sell his labour power as a commodity anymore than the landowner can sell his means of production.

Ignoring the accumulation of the means of production (or perhaps capital) for the moment you could argue that industrialised soviet russia was a bit like feudalism.

You had Tsar Stalin at the top and beneath him a set of Party Barons and their vassals etc and industrial serfs with limited freedoms to sell their labour power and abscond from one estate owner to another.

(Not that that was impossible and it could happen in Stalinist Russia just as it could in feudalism.)

In fact it was something in a way like what Bukharin ‘predicted’ would happen in state capitalism in 1920 as it degenerated or progressed depending on how you want to think about it.


Quote:
Under State capitalism the workers became the white slaves of the capitalist State. They were deprived of the right to strike; they were mobilized and militarized; everyone who raised his voice against the war was hauled before the courts and sentenced as a traitor. In many countries the workers were deprived of all freedom of movement, being forbidden to transfer from one enterprise to another. ' Free' wage workers were reduced to serfdom;


http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukh...920/abc/04.htm

Members of the Bolshevik party ruling class could still of course rise and fall and expand their industrial estates as they sought succour and favour from the Sovereign in ways not dissimilar to what went on in feudalism.

-------------------

Surplus value has two possible uses one is to provide a consumption fund for the parasitical class ie the aristocracy in feudalism, the nomenklatura in soviet Russia or the bourgeois capitalist class.

It has another potential use and that is to ‘expand’ the means of production.

This can mean just taking possession of someone else’s by buying it, and that was restricted or impossible in feudalism.

But more relevantly to invest in raising the productivity of your workforce to increase your future consumption fund.

Thus surplus value becomes converted into more advanced means of production and the accumulation of capital and ‘capitalism’.

I think it would be reasonable to say that this process went on in Russia and the Soviet parasitical class appreciated the benefits of the development of their national industrial production as well as any other.

However as the national capital was collectivised it did lack the same kind of drive as the dog eat dog bourgeois capitalist competition.

Having said that the industrialisation and accumulation of capital in Soviet Russia in the first 30 years was quite remarkable, propelled for sure by the slave labour proper of the prison camps.

(There was also a military dimension but that wasn’t unusual.)

I think capitalism in particular is were there is an economic drive, opportunity and motivation to extract surplus value from the workers in order to fund and obtain more and expanded means of production.

[There comes a point for some capitalist were even the proportion of their surplus value that is on average used for the capitalists ‘consumption fund’ is so large that it is way in excess of what they can dream of wasting it on.

And the accumulation of capital becomes a ‘fetish’ for more economic and social power that perhaps has no limits.]

I think I agree with Robbo that this idea that the Bolshevik nomenklatura weren’t capitalist because they couldn’t bequeath their share of control of the national means of production to anyone, let alone their children and relatives, doesn’t impact on the nature of exploitation and accumulation of capital.

(Irrespective of the nepotism that was probably establishing itself.)

And whether or not the accumulation of wealth by the ‘meritocracy’ of the Soviet nomenklatura system led to greater class mobility than it does in bourgeois capitalism

I mean if the bourgeois capitalist class were not allowed to bequeath their wealth on death and it was reallocated in blocs by a national lottery would that end capitalism?

Although the associated idea of reforming capitalism away by inheritance taxes has been put forward before.


There is another dimension to this that Karl discussed in Volume III with his profit of enterprise.

Where capitalists, as he called them, or functioning capitalists exploited and extracted surplus value from the workers to keep a proportion of for themselves as a consumption fund.

Using the ‘interest bearing capitalist’s’ capital which the ‘profiteers of enterprise’ did not own and could not bequeath either.

They would fall into the category of CEO’s etc and perhaps the industrial managerial technocrats of soviet russia.

And it can even perhaps slot into Burnhams managerial class, Milovan Đilas new class and parecon co-ordinating class theories.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomenklatura

By analogy you could go out on a limb and describe the Soviet political class as ‘interest bearing capitalist’ allocating their ‘means of production’ to their Soviet ‘profiteers of enterprise’.

And the Soviet political class would receive their dividends and/or interest like collective shareholders of capital do in bourgeois capitalism.


[Grenzer]
Dave B, it's worth pointing out that you made a pretty egregious. You are conflating the Leninist interpretation of State Capitalism with the cliffite notion of it. Interesting to note that it is Bukharin who noted the dangers of the degeneration of State Capitalism when he was one of its biggest advocates. State Capitalism in its leninist context is limited market without the bourgeoisie under the auspices of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." Of course, it's not difficult to see how this could degenerate into actual capitalism or something else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Comrade Commistar View Post
You will allow Trots to post their ideas, but you do not want to hear an uncensored Marxist-Leninist opinion. I'm not posting shit. And by the way, I see more Anarchist propaganda than I do Marxist-Leninist propaganda on RevLeft. I'm not against anarchists personally, but this was really a turn off for me, and I was going to post something really informative.
Well the actual point of this thread is that for those people who reject the idea that the USSR was socialist, there are two competing interpretations: that the Soviet Union was capitalist; or that the Soviet Union was neither capitalist. These two arguments typically come up in a refutation of the idea that the Soviet Union was socialist in threads which are about this. What has not been seen; however, is this two interpretations stacked against each other directly. This is the point of the thread.

I can see how you might misunderstand this, but again, the entire point of the thread is to be a debate between the idea on one hand that the Soviet Union was capitalist; and that on the other it was neither socialist nor capitalist. The reason I didn't want to see the argument for the fSU being socialist is, as I just pointed out, that it has nothing to do with the point of the thread. There seems to be a new discussion on the topic of whether the fSU was socialist every week, but this discussion is an attempt to do something different. Trotskyists are allowed not because they are Trotskyists as opposed to Marxist-Leninists, but because they hold one of the two views which the subject of the thread is to debate. I eased the restriction on quoting Trotsky because no Trotskyists seemed to be willing to make a contribution without doing so, other than A Marxist Historian.

I would also disagree with the assertion that there is a lot of anarchist propaganda on the Soviet Union. Most anarchists don't give a shit about the Soviet Union because it's totally irrelevant to their political views and wouldn't expend the energy dismissing it. In addition, they're smart enough to want to avoid all the drama and other shit that frequently becomes a part of such discussions. Who can blame them? With that said, there are usually only about three anarchists that actively contribute to discussions regularly about Leninist theory who tend to be Goti, Robbo, and myself. No fucking idea if ******* is an anarchist or not. There are others that will participate in political debates on the subject of statist communism, but it is usually much more infrequent and irregular. I'm pretty sure there are more than three Marxist-Leninists which actively participate in political debates on Leninism.

As the basic purpose of this thread has been filled and there has been a good deal of discussion between the two interpretations I suppose I can lift the restriction on arguing that the fSU was socialist. Feel free to do so now if you want to.
[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Workers-Control-Over-Prod View Post
I think i will make a new thread that deals with a marxists critique of State Capitalist "Communism".
Well that's kind of the purpose of this thread, but do you mean the State Capitalism in the sense that Lenin used it or the cliffite version of State Capitalism which equates the state itself as being a capitalist entity(a stand in for the capitalist class)?

It's important to note that Lenin's definition of State Capitalism isn't Capitalism in a technical sense since there is no bourgeoisie, and the workers are ostensibly in control.
[Dave B]
I certainly don’t have a Cliffite interpretation of state capitalism in that Cliff thought it started in 1928 or whatever.

I accept Lenin’s interpretation that it was planned from the beginning of 1918 if not september 1917

Eg

http://www.marx2mao.net/Lenin/LWC18.html


I was just airing and contemplating few ideas as regards contrasting the nature State capitalism under Lenin to that of Stalin.

And whether or not state capitalism can have its own internal dynamic without changing its basic theoretical nature.

Whilst I don’t completely go along with the idea of Tickhins quip that 'it wasn’t state capitalism it was worse than that' as regards Stalinism there is merit in the idea.

Particularly as one of Karls definitions of capitalism was that the workers are free to sell there labour power as a commodity, which was meant to exclude slavery (and industrial serfdom).

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.


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...94-c3/ch51.htm



Even though he accepted that the Southern plantation owners in the US etc had a ‘capitalist outlook’.

Quote:
Where the capitalist outlook prevails, as on American plantations, this entire surplus-value is regarded as profit; where neither the capitalist mode of production itself exists….

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...94-c3/ch47.htm

Of course all the magic circle of Trot theoreticians, including it 'two' main branches, Cliff and Grant, knew that Bolshevik Russia was state capitalist from the beginning.

And they had all read Lenin’s Leftwing childishness in which Lenin explained that ‘the function of the revolution itself was to introduce this state capitalist system of society’.

Grant had his tongue in his cheek when he said at the very beginning of his Against the Theory of State Capitalism-Reply to Comrade Cliff that;

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.



As Grant helpfully draws Cliff’s attention to leftwing chidishness in the same article, about half way in.

The modern muppets on the Lenin archive even provide us with the link!

Quote:

(Left wing childishness and the petty-bourgeois mentality, Collected Works, Volume 27, page 335) [source]



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


I have no real interest in defending any Bolshevik including Bukharin; but I don’t think he was a fan of Lenins state capitalism programme in 1918.

He did write some interesting stuff though and was ‘intellectually and theoretically’ streets ahead of Lenin.

Trotsky was a complete idiot in my sincere opinion and even ‘my’ people give him more credence than I think he deserves.

As a ‘windbag’, as Lenin called him, he could write rubbish well enough though.

He either got a severe blow to the head after ‘his’ brilliant ‘Our Political Tasks’ or more likely he ghost wrote from a draft from Plekhanov.

I am not sure to this day whether Alan Woods is a dupe or a liar; could someone ask him.

Grant and Woods did it again in 1969 ish in another refutation of Russian state capitalism, this time quoting from and drawing attention to the equally damaging and 3rd on the list.


Eleventh Congress Of The R.C.P.(B.) March 27-April 2, 1922

http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...922/mar/27.htm

Unless you think lightening strikes twice in the same place.

They were safe enough as Grant at least thought then as he put it;

Revolutionary spirit at Ted Grant Memorial Meeting-:Alan Woods' speech.

Quote:
"You know, Ted sometimes said to me that he didn't know why Lenin and Trotsky wrote so many books. Nobody reads them…….”


http://www.marxist.com/revolutionary...al-meeting.htm

Safe as houses!

[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
1. Who, in fact, owned the means of production?...
What, 'in fact' do you mean by 'in fact'? Do you mean 'de facto'? Or do you actually mean 'de jure'?

What, in fact, do you mean by 'owned'? Do you mean the rights of 1-usus; 2-abusus; 3-fructus: or do you mean some combination of these rights, and if so, which of them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
2. So, if workers own the means of commodity production, they will be capitalists?
What do you mean by 'workers' and 'capitalists'?

Workers are those who derive their living from expending their labour-power. If they own means of production sufficient to derive a living from them, they are capitalists, not workers. Conversely, if owners of the means of production have to work to derive a living, they are workers.

So are you talking about worker-co-operatives or something similar? In this case, they are still workers, because that's how they derive their income. They're just workers who work for themselves (and each other). They stand in relation to the co-op as a whole in a worker-capitalist relationship, even if the same people are both workers and manager-owners.
[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
In the Soviet Union, who got the surplus-value of the workers?
It depends on what you mean by "got"

This is essentially where it becomes difficult to put a label on the Soviet Union as to whether it was capitalist or not. The bureaucrats controlled the surplus value of labor, but they didn't organize production for their individual or cohesive social accumulation unlike an ordinary bourgeois capitalist society. THe bureaucrats extracted the surplus value from the workers, but they could not use it for their individual purposes, such as to purchase labor power. Some would argue that this precludes the bureaucrats from being able to be bourgeois.

So no one "Got" it really, it's not like the bureaucrats had individual bank amounts where they would just take the profits of industry and let it accumulate.
[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
Well, ok, the bureaucrats controlled the surplus-value, but did not organize production for individual or social accumulation.

Who did they organize production for?
I don't think accumulation of capital occurred in the normal capitalist sense.. this is why I am more leaning towards the notion that the Soviet Union wasn't capitalist. Certainly not in Stalin's time at least. I would imagine that an incredible amount of the surplus value that was extracted went for military purposes and to a smaller degree in "reinvestment" into the industrial sector. The Bureaucrats did not become more "wealthy" as the soviet economy grew, rather the increase in wealth seemed to go towards increasing military expenditure.

It is for this bizarre state of affairs that Comrade Q described the Soviet economy as a "non-mode of production" which seems to be the best word for it..

The vast military expenditure was justified in the 30's and 40's in my opinion due to encirclement by liberal capitalism, and certainly justified due to the circumstances they found themselves in. After the Second World War; however, military expenditure remained absurdly high and its role was shifted to the role of advancing Soviet imperialism and geo-political interests(one and the same, in truth). If you want the in depth analysis, go to page 2 of this thread and follow the links provided by Q.
[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Workers-Control-Over-Prod View Post
The USSR always had a capitalist organisation of production. Various rural peasant co-ops were forcibly collectivised and put under the control of a "Commissar" whose job it was to make sure the rate of exploitation was upkept. The owner of the workers' production was, in the Soviet Union and every other communist revolution, always directly was the State. The Workers had unions that dealt wages with the bureaucrat class, and it was a Class, a "State Capitalist" Class.

Whether this was justified at the time or not, i think yes, is up to you. But i think we should be clear about whether or not we here and now, think that Leninism (and the Stalinist discernible increase of this) is applicable to our western and third world countries' conditions; I think not. Real Socialist Revolution (and the german revolutionary Rudi Dutschke also said this) is really only realizable internationally, the more and more capitalism goes on, the closer this becomes evident:
1. Imperialism has caused huge market monopolies that small underdeveloped countries are finding harder to compete on, and State Capitalist "Socialist" are and would increasingly as well (depending on what kind of market of course, for instance Bolivia holds nearly half the World's Lithium and is refusing "international" help because it can afford to, but not Social countries such as Ethiopia which rely heavily on Coffee which is dominated over 50% by five single Corporations) have problems with international trade which is needed to industrialise etc. The WTO has estimated in 2004 that over $700Billion was "unfarily" exploited by bad trade deals, now that figure is.
2. Capitalism has become increasingly global. This means that if a revolution were to occur in Indonesia, there would be an even bigger global Capitalist intervention to try and stop it. Increasing wars in the last deacade as you might have noticed, have made tried to keep up investment opportunities paid by increasing sovereign debt. This process is affecting all citizens around the world, and especially in the west, through austerity as our nations increase their debt, the only way out for this hyper-Imperialist global system.

We definitely cannot ignore this fact and aim to build a "Socialism in One Country". This objective reality that Capital is increasingly the same international front should not be overseen, the only way to really beat capitalism is internationally, because trying to compete with it through building a social state is virtually impossible now.
I agree with you.

Socialism cannot exist on a national level, and I regard the Soviet Union as never having surpassed the capitalist mode of production. In that post which you quoted I was attempting to be more neutral and portray the other side of the argument, but you're right. The policy of NEP and state capitalism was justified by the material conditions, but it would be a mockery to say that it was socialism. Global capital has consolidated itself since then, but the crises inherent to capitalism make it very vulnerable. Hopefully we've learned from the failures of the 20th century communist movement and make a greater commitment to the practical necessity of internationalism. Just to let you know, I consider myself a strong anti-Leninist.
[Workers-Control-Over-Prod]
@Grenzer

I really mean neither. Cliff argued that the "bureaucracy" was a capitalist class in so far that it controlled the capital. I am arguing that the relation of the workers to their production never changed, which is the central point of marxism. It is not so much about whether or not the "bureaucrats" invested in this that or even paid themselves four times what workers got paid in the end; it is solely that was has traditionally been understood as socialism (and i would argue that Marx also saw socialism as this), the liberation of the working class, CLASS elimination etc., but the capitalist organisation or production really didn't ever change in the USSR or elsewhere. It's really strange, am i reading the same books as the everyone else? because i fell like this is the most obvious question for marxists to answer, which is always from the working classes perspective: No, the Soviet Union was not Socialist, it remained in the capitalist part of history as the work experience of the working class never changed, they were work animals with no decision making. Was Lenin correct in trying to achieve State-monopolist-Capitalism? Probably, most likely yes. The more i think about this issue i think that we have to wait for capitalism to die on its own, until it not "provide the goods" anymore until the last Stalinist screams for workers control.
[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Workers-Control-Over-Prod View Post
@Grenzer

I really mean neither. Cliff argued that the "bureaucracy" was a capitalist class in so far that it controlled the capital. I am arguing that the relation of the workers to their production never changed, which is the central point of marxism. It is not so much about whether or not the "bureaucrats" invested in this that or even paid themselves four times what workers got paid in the end; it is solely that was has traditionally been understood as socialism (and i would argue that Marx also saw socialism as this), the liberation of the working class, CLASS elimination etc., but the capitalist organisation or production really didn't ever change in the USSR or elsewhere. It's really strange, am i reading the same books as the everyone else? because i fell like this is the most obvious question for marxists to answer, which is always from the working classes perspective: No, the Soviet Union was not Socialist, it remained in the capitalist part of history as the work experience of the working class never changed, they were work animals with no decision making. Was Lenin correct in trying to achieve State-monopolist-Capitalism? Probably, most likely yes. The more i think about this issue i think that we have to wait for capitalism to die on its own, until it not "provide the goods" anymore until the last Stalinist screams for workers control.
That sounds like an ultra-leftist position. You might be interested in this group. I would agree that the proletariat only exists in relation to the bourgeoisie, and that the overthrow of capitalism necessarily must result in a stateless, classless society, and not after a long period of transition. Was Lenin correct in doing so? If you mean "correct" by, was it the most prudent, logical thing to do, then yes. However, I would argue that this wasn't socialism.. which is something we both seem to agree on.
[Workers-Control-Over-Prod]
@Grenzer

"Just to let you know, I consider myself a strong anti-Leninist."
Well, i sympathise very much with the idea of a vanguard party, not because i think it is fun or so, but because 'if we wait for each person to comprehend socialism, we will wait 500 years' Lenin; i don't know though, maybe one cannot accelerate history, or did the USSR?

What makes you think socialism cannot exist on a national level? I agree, but it is really more of a difficult question to answer, there is no single answer that is definitive, it just seems that real socialism in a country that needs to yet industrialise against the outside pressures will: 1. be a tyranny 2. be economically autocratic,capitalist, as the goal is clear: exploit as much as possible, make each human a "productive member of society" to accumulate as much capital to catch up with the western monopolies. Recipe for absolute tyranny. It is a good thing that we are communists, because if we weren't i think history could have turned out a lot worse for "communism".
[Grenzer]
First of all, socialism is by definition a stateless, classless society so it can't exist on a national level, since by default the nation must be destroyed. Secondly, the material abundance required for the success of socialist society also cannot exist on a national level. As you identified, trying to preserve the gains of the revolution on a nationalism results in a tyrannical society in which widespread terrorism is employed to prevent further degeneration towards liberal capitalism.
[Workers-Control-Over-Prod]
@Grenzer

You see, i am a very impatient person and have a lot of hate for this system that makes me want to get rid of it as fast as possible. This is what attracts me to right wing communism, or rather the idea of a vanguard revolutionary party as this has shown the most effective. But do you think Rome could have been overthrown while it controlled half the world? This is what bothers me, i think it could be a lot more useful being a banker than organiser, lol. Or rather, mass violent takeover and radical socialisation of the press to put titles such as "Trillions given by bankers from your money, while 80 Billion could save 100 000 humans a day from starvation says U.N." on all frontpages. This is also what attracts me about the vanguard party, its consciousness of the need for mass scale organisation and centralisation of political power, which i see as necessary for successful revolutions. Difficult questions...
[Q]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake's Baby View Post
2. that depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I say 'generalised wage labour and commodity prodcution'. Both of which existed in the Soviet Union, so it was capitalist.
No, there was no wage labour or commodity production. There was neither a circulation of capital, any crises of overproduction or money as a universal equivalent, nor did it have a capitalist ruling class.

Most "wages" were actually allocated resources: food, clothing, house gear, cars, etc were mostly distributed on a per-factory basis. For example, 5 cars were allocated each year to a factory and workers had to be in a queue for years before they could get one. Money (workers did get some) therefore didn't play the role of universal equivalent. Standing in the right spot of the queue and having the right connections to achieve that was far more important. The factory manager had all interest in keeping workers onboard, whatever their performance was, as resource allocation was defined on the number of workers a factory had. This is nothing like a wage.

Likewise, there was no universal commodity production. The core characteristic of commodity production is that it is produced for a market, to be sold. This was not the case in the USSR. there was production according to bureaucratic decrees, a target-economy (note how I don't say "planned economy", as there was nothing pre-planned about it as targets shifted on a nearly monthly basis), and resources were allocated to factories according to those targets. The products were not sold, but transferred to a predefined other factory or shop. For that reason quality was low, as it was in the workers interest to do as little work possible.

I've opened a thread earlier this month on the subject, so I'll refer to it once again.
[Dave B]
Post 72-Lev Bronsteinovich


Quote:
-- State Capitalist theories were "invented" to explain abandonment of defense of the USSR. These are the revision of Trotskyism
What is the point of lying when the truth is obvious?

The state capitalist theory that at least Soviet Russia was state capitalist from 1918 to whenever was “invented” by Lenin in 1918 and accepted by all and sundry including Trotsky and Bukharin by 1922.

Who before 1925 said that Soviet Russia was not or had not been state capitalism?

Answer me that?

I would actually be really interested to know.

I hope people that by now appreciate that I at least appear to be well read on the topic.

And I can say honestly that I have as yet not come across anybody before 1925 denying that Soviet Russia was or at the very least had been pursuing a path of state capitalism.


What was ‘invented’, post 1925, was that Russia was no longer State capitalist, and post 1930 , that it never had been.

And I will return to the origin of that argument later in the post.

Anyway to return to Lenin in 1918;

Session of the All-Russia C.E.C.April 29 1918

Quote:
What is state capitalism under Soviet power? To achieve state capitalism at the present time means putting into effect the accounting and control that the capitalist classes carried out. We see a sample of state capitalism in Germany.

We know that Germany has proved superior to us. But if you reflect even slightly on what it would mean if the foundations of such state capitalism were established in Russia, Soviet Russia, e veryone who is not out of his senses and has not stuffed his head with fragments of book learning, would have to say that state capitalism would be our salvation.


And only because in another post an ‘Anarchist’ said Bukharin opposed Lenin’s proposal for introducing state capitalism into soviet Russia or that (as Grant said);

Quote:
the function of the revolution itself was to introduce [a] state capitalist system of society

I will include from the same speech from Lenin;

Quote:
Comrade Bukharin is completely wrong; and I shall make this known in the press because this question is extremely important. I have a couple of words to say about the Left Communists’ reproaching us on the grounds that a deviation in the direction of state capitalism is to be observed in our policy; now Comrade Bukharin wrongly states that under Soviet power state capitalism is impossible.

So he is contradicting himself when he says that there can be no state capitalism under Soviet power—that is an obvious absurdity. The large number of enterprises and factories under the control of the Soviet government and owned by the state, this alone shows the transition from capitalism to socialism, but Comrade Bukharin ignores this




http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...918/apr/29.htm

And from the following.

And we need to ask ourselves what was is this "left wing childishness"?

For Lenin leftwing childishness was to oppose or deny that the only path possible for soviet russia was state capitalism; and the insult was targeted at the likes of Bukharin.




V. I. Lenin "LEFT-WING" CHILDISHNESS AND THE PETTY-BOURGEOIS MENTALITY Published May 9, 10, 11, 1918

Quote:
At present, petty-bourgeois capitalism prevails in Russia, and it is one and the same road that leads from it to both large-scale state capitalism and to socialism, through one and the same intermediary station called "national accounting and control of production and distribution". Those

page 341

who fail to understand this are committing an unpardonable mistake in economics. Either they do not know the facts of life, do not see what actually exists and are unable to look the truth in the face, or they confine themselves to abstractly comparing "capitalism" with "socialism" and fail to study the concrete forms and stages of the transition that is taking place in our country.



http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/LWC18.html


Trotsky and Bukharin eventually abandoned their infantile disorder and ‘grew up’.

Leon Trotsky The Position of the Republic and the Tasks of Young Workers.

(Report tothe 5th All-Russian Congress of the Russian Communist League of Youth 1922


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


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



http://www.marxists.org/archive/trot...outh/youth.htm


1922;



Quote:
Naturally our state capitalism is diametrically opposite to this. But naturally, too, the kind of state capitalism we have in Russia can easily be converted into the kind of state capitalism conceived under a bourgeois government in case the laboring classes lose power in Russia. We are confident, however, that this will not occur.


http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukh...ganisation.htm


The original argument or ‘invention’ that soviet Russia was no longer state capitalist was ‘first’ put forward by Trotsky in 1933 under the section;

The Economy of the USSR in Leon Trotsky in his “The Class Nature of the Soviet State” (October 1, 1933)

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trot...0/sovstate.htm

I am not actually going to bother analysing that because Trotsky’s argument was in fact plagiarised and copied from the one Stalin made in 1925.

And as Stalin’s argument was much more intelligent, sophisticated, well thought out, elaborate and original than Trotsky’s.

I do not intend to duck the issue by combating the much weaker ‘straw-headed’ link.

Fear not though, Stalin was talking bollocks as well.

Stalin’s argument was as below.

http://www.marxists.org/reference/ar...te_Capitalism_


What this argument revolves around is the capitalist ‘concession and lease’ system proposed and introduced during the NEP programme of circa 1921-2.

And as Stalin and Trotksky fairly accurately said that had been abandoned by say 1925.

The NEP ‘concession and lease’ system involved the ‘renting out’ of the means of production that had been nationalised to entrepreneurial capitalists so that they could make a profit.

It tended to involve industrial production that orientated around particularly lucrative natural resources eg oil, mining, lumber and forestry etc.

Not that different in fact to what goes in Saudi Arabia where Oil companies bid for contracts and tenders etc to exploit the natural resources and often already in place ‘fixed capital’ of oil wells and even refineries etc.

Only because the owners of the resources are too stupid, incompetent, lazy and haven’t acquired the skills required to exploit labour etc.

The Bolsheviks, like the Saudi Ruling class split, the surplus value and let the more palpable 'functioning capitalists' get on with exploiting the workers with as little interference as is profitable to both.

[For the more enlightened I don’t want to get bogged down at this point with differential ground rent, surplus profit or profit of enterprise theory not that Lenin had much of a clue about that.]


However Lenin and everyone else had almost a good enough understanding of capitalism to understand that this was capitalism.

However he decided to call it ‘clear cut’ state capitalism to distinguish it from the ‘less clear cut’ state capitalism of ‘our state capitalism’ and the ‘state enterprises’ out side the ‘concession and lease’ system that were organised to ‘make a profit’ along ‘commercial lines’.

Would you care to hear what Sokolnikov? People's Commissariat of Finance and studied economics at the Sorbonne for what that matters said In his speech;:

Quote:
"Our foreign trade is being conducted as a state-capitalist enterprise. . . . Our internal trading companies are also state-capitalist enterprises. And I must say, comrades, that the State Bank is just as much a state-capitalist enterprise. What about our monetary system? Our monetary system is based on the fact that in Soviet economy, under the conditions in which socialism is being built, there has been adopted a monetary system which is permeated with the principles of capitalist economy."


http://www.marxists.org/reference/ar...te_Capitalism_


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigori_Sokolnikov

I repeat; and it is a fairly simple historical question as regards when the state capitalist theory was ‘invented’.

I have presented plenty of sourced and factual evidence that these ‘state capitalists theories’ of Russia predated 1925.

Can someone provide evidence that the ‘theory of state capitalism’ originated after 1925; even for someone who was at the time walking around with his head in a bucket.

[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave B View Post
Just for Trotsko-Bukharino Borz’s attention;

1922;





http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukh...ganisation.htm



30 State capitalism and the classes





http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukh...920/abc/04.htm



http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukh...926/01/x01.htm


Leon Trotsky The Position of the Republic and the Tasks of Daft Young Trotskyist To Comprehend that Bolshevik Russia is State Capitalism (Report to the 5th All-Russian Congress of the Russian Communist League of Youth 1922)





http://www.marxists.org/archive/trot...outh/youth.htm
As for all the Bukharin stuff, Lenin didn't agree with Bukharin as to state capitalism, as per his speech at the 11th party congress in 1922, where he says "It is a pity Comrade Bukharin is not present at the Congress. I should have liked to argue with him a little, but that had better be postponed to the next Congress." It is of course Borz's privilege to agree with Bukharin over Lenin if he pleases, that would be consistent with his sig.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...922/mar/27.htm

Dave B., as do so many others, is confusing the issues completely, with rather malign intent in his case, as he likes to argue that the Bolsheviks were on the German payroll and that British spy Bruce Lockhart of MI-6 is the guy we should listen to to understand the USSR under Lenin.

What did Lenin actually mean? This is how Lenin put it in his last statement on the subject: "the practical purpose of our New Economic Policy was to lease out concessions. In the prevailing circumstances, concessions in our country would unquestionably have been a pure type of state capitalism. That is how I argued about state capitalism."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...923/jan/06.htm

Dave B.' creative retitling of the Trotsky piece corresponds poorly with what Trotsky had to say on the subject, which I quote:

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

So state property, according to Trotsky, can be called "state capitalism," in quotes, because it operates according to market principles, given that the NEP meant that the economy was operating according to market principles. Which has nothing whatsoever to do with whether it is the property of the working class or of a capitalist class, but simply as to how it operates.

If a trade union owns a vacation home for its members, and tries to make sure that it runs at a profit and doesn't drive the union into bankruptcy, does that make it a "capitalist institution"? Not necessarily, though that does create a possible basis for problems in the future.

-M.H.-
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake's Baby View Post
1. that depends on what you mean by 'owned'; legally, the workers, in actual fact they had no more control over their work processes than any other workers for any other state anywhere, as the soviets were dead by 1921, if not 1919.

2. that depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I say 'generalised wage labour and commodity prodcution'. Both of which existed in the Soviet Union, so it was capitalist.
Ownership and control, of course, are not the same things, as any stockholder in a corporation knows.

Your argument seems to be that if you have people getting paychecks, and if stuff is sold in a market, then therefore you have automatically capitalism, even if there is no capitalist class whatsover.

Let us suppose a situation where you had full, 100% control by workers at the point of production over the whole productive process, no state bureaucracy whatsoever--but you still had wage labor and products exchanged in a market system between different factories and enterprises.

Would that be, by your lights, a capitalist system, even with no trace whatsoever of a capitalist class? (This would no doubt not be workable for very long, but that's not the question at issue.)

Essentially, for you capitalist is an abstract economic system, without necessarily any real capitalists. That is idealism not Marxism.

The actual Soviet system was, in purely economic terms, something in between a capitalist market system and a system of production for use not private profit. This is simply the facts, whatever theory one tries to impose on it.

-M.H.-
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Ownership and control, of course, are not the same things, as any stockholder in a corporation knows.

Your argument seems to be that if you have people getting paychecks, and if stuff is sold in a market, then therefore you have automatically capitalism, even if there is no capitalist class whatsover...
Wow, you nearly understood something I typed.

Capitalism creates capitalists, not the other way around. Engels in 1880-something warned that we needn't look for a top-hatted waistcoat-wearing 'capitalist' and yet we still have capitalism. Joint-stock companies and so on are still capitalist even if the 'owner-manager' of the enterprise has disappeared to be replaced by a board. Whether the board calls itself 'The board of directors of GloboWidgiTechInc' or 'The People's Glorious Ministry of Moustacheoed Proletarian Widget Production' doesn't really matter all that much.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
The whole suggestion that it was not socialist presupposes that it is possible on a purely speculative basis to have a theory of an ideal socialist economy against which reality can be compared. That approach has nothing to do with historical materialism, it is the approach of the 'True Socialists' that old Freddy and Charlie ridiculed way back in the 1840s. You can only know an economic system by studying real instances of it.

This doesnt make much sense at all and actually that is not quite what Freddy and Charlie were ridiculing in their criticism of true socialists. In fact Freddy pointed out in Anti Duhring, if I remember correctly, that if socialism was going to be equated with state ownership then Bismark must count as a socialist. He was being sarcastic

Point is you have to have some notion of what is meant by socialism - some kind "ideal type" in weberian terms - against which to assess the claims of those who argue that this or that regime is socialist. You dont just accept their word for it. By your dodgy logic the Nazi regime was socialist because nazis called themselves national socialists. If you think they had nothing to do with socialism then that presupposes you have some prior defintion or understanding of socialism in order to make this assessment of them

In any case how would you know you were studying a "real instance" of particular economic system, if you did not have some theoretical construct of what such system entailed in the first place?
[Brosip Tito]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aurora View Post
Degenerated workers state is a theory of the state rather than a mode of production so i don't think it really fits with the other options, that said, DWS is an acknowledgment that the SU had a workers state and thus must have been between capitalist and socialist society while being fully neither one at any time.

I think this is the best analysis so far as it accounts for the antagonistic, contradictory and invariably temporary nature of the SU and other such states.
"State capitalism, Trotsky contended, does not exist in Russia since the ownership of the means of production by the state occurred in history by the proletariat with the method of social revolution and not by the capitalist with the method of state trustification. But does the manner in which a thing is accomplished determine the use to which it is put by its usurpers any more than each task to be accomplished determines the group to execute it. “The bourgeois character of a revolution,” wrote Trotsky in polemicizing against the Menshevik thesis that since the Russian Revolution was a bourgeois revolution the proletariat ought to renounce power in favor of the bourgeoisie, “could not answer in advance the question as to which class would solve the tasks of the democratic revolution.” In further expounding his theory of the permanent revolution, Trotsky wrote: “Socialization of the means of production had become a necessary condition for bringing the country out of barbarism. That is the law of combined development for backward countries.” Precisely! But is it necessary among Marxists to stress the fact that socialization of the means of production is not socialism but as much an economic law of capitalist development as is monopoly. The weak Russian bourgeoisie was incapable of accomplishing either the democratic tasks of the revolution or the further development of the productive forces. “Its” task was accomplished by the masses with the method of social revolution. However, the task of the young proletarian rulers was greatly complicated by the backwardness of Russia; and the treachery of the Social-Democracy left them unaided by the world proletariat. Finally, the Stalinist counter-revolution identified itself with the state. The manner in which the means of production were converted into state property did not deprive them of their becoming capital" - Raya Dunayevskaya, the USSR is a capitalist society.
[Dave B]
Well on trade unions etc it is never that easy to work people out.

I sort of had you marked down as an anti institutionalised trade unionist.

Anyway as cogent Stalinism, that you liked before;

THE MILITARY WRITINGS OF LEON TROTSKY, Volume 3: 1920

The Labour Armies About the Organisation of Labour
The Militarisation Of Labour

Quote:
Without labour service, without the power to give orders and demand that they be carried out, the trade unions will be transformed into a mere form without content, for the socialist state which is being built needs trade unions not for a struggle for better conditions of labour – that is a task for the social and state organisation as a whole – but in order to organise the working class for production purposes, to educate, discipline, distribute, group and attach certain categories of workers and individual workers to their posts for certain periods of time: in short, to exercise their authority, hand in hand with the state, to bring the workers into the framework of a single economic plan.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trot...itary/ch17.htm

On the Lockhart stuff etc; well I prefer original source material and I gave the context for what it’s is worth.

Do you think I am stupid?

I have also read original Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin as original source material haven’t I?

Like the following; the naivete must be almost touching for you.



A
Quote:
n open letter of the delegates, kept in the Moscow Taganka Prison, to all citizens : " We, members of the Labour Conference, representing independent working-class organisations of various towns of Russia (Petrograd. Moscow, Tula, Sormova, Kolomna, Kulebaki, Tver, Nijni-Novgorod, Vologda, Bezshiza, Orel, Votkinski Zavod), arrested at our second meeting, on the 23rd July, in the ' Co-operation Hall/ feel it our public duty to protest before all citizens of Russia, against the false and calumnious reports published by the Bolshevik Government press on the 27th and 28th July.


The Bolshevik Government takes advantage of the fact that it has muzzled the whole independent press and that we, members of the Labour Conference, are locked up in prison, under incredible conditions. " Our Conference was not ' a secret counter-revolutionary plot organised by well-to-do people and intellectuals/ &c., but a public 102 conference of delegates of working-class organisations, which was beforehand known to and discussed by the whole press, including that of the Bolsheviks. ' The delegates were sent to the Conference not by ' Menshevik or Socialist-Revolutionaries' groups ' as falsely stated in the ' Izvestia,' which desires to deceive workmen who have not yet deserted the Government, but by assemblies of delegates from works and factories who have tens of thousands of electors behind them.

The adopted general basis of representation was one delegate for 5,000 workmen. The ' Izvestia ' goes so far as to state shamelessly that the delegates Polikarpov and Pushkin, sent by the Tula workmen, were elected by 60 or 160 men, whereas they were sent by the Tula assembly, which consisted of delegates elected by the majority of Tula workmen. At places where independent workmen's organisations could not yet be set up, delegates to the Conference were sent by individual big factories. " Having calumniously described the delegates as impostors who represent nobody, the ' Izvestia,' with the insolence characteristic of the organs of the Tsarist regime did not stop at giving false information about things found on the arrested delegates in order to cast a shadow on their characters.

Thus, it is reported that Comrade Berg was found .to be in possession of 6,000 roubles. As a matter of fact, he had only- -590* roubles. Comrade Leikin is stated to have had 160 roubles, and he had in fact 1 rouble 65 kopecks. The ' Izvestia ' further states that on Leikin the following things were found : a ring, diamonds, and a .gold watch, whereas all his ' jewellery ' consisted of an ordinary gun- metal watch, which it did not occur even to the prison warders to take away. ' The Bolshevik Government has to resort to stupid, shameless lies to justify the preposterous arrests of the workmen's delegates who dared to show some independent organising initiative. '


The conference of workmen's delegates was convened to make arrangements for the convocation of an All-Russian Labour Congress, and had held two meetings. The agenda of the Conference included the following items : Measures against the disintegration of the working- class movement ; what can be done to effect a concentration of its forces and its proper organisation ; arrangements for the All-Russian Labour Conference.

But the Communist Government, just as its Tsarist predecessors, do not tolerate any symptoms of an independent working- class movement, because it is this movement which constitutes a menace to their power. In this movement they see a reflection of the food crisis, and, incapable of solving the State problems which they have before them, they resort to repressive measures directed against the leaders of the working-class movement. Workmen's organisations are subjected to unheard-of repressions. " Long live the working-class organisations ! " Long live their independence, their revolutionary and organising initiative ! "

(' Signed ') A. N. Smirnov, workman of the Cartridge Factory, delegate from Petrograd ; N. N. Gliebov, workman of Putilov * At present equal to about 15/. 103 Works ; J. S. Leikin, delegate of the Assembly of Delegates of the Nijni and Vladimir districts. Workmen : D. V Zakharov, secretary of a trade union ; D. I. Zakharov. Sormovo ; V. I. Matveev, Sormovo ; A. A. Vezkalin, carpenter, member of the Executive Committee of the Lettish Social Democratic Party ; I. G. Volkov, turner, member of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Union of Metal Workers ; A. A. Chinenkov, Nijni ; S. P. Polikarpov, Tula ; N. K. Borisenko, Petrograd Tube Works ; V. G. Chirkin, turner, member of the All-Russian Council of Trade Unions ; Berg, Electrical Works ; D. Smirnov, Arsenal, Petrograd ; Victor Alter, delegate of the Executive Committee of the ' Bund ' (Jewish Socialist Party) ; Pushkin, workman of the Tula Small Arms Eactory, &c." (" Workers' International " : (organ of the Petrograd Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party), August 7, 1918.)



http://www.archive.org/stream/collec...aiala_djvu.txt




I am both historically, culturally and factually a member of the industrial working class an in a trade union, and you?

[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lev Bronsteinovich View Post
Just wanted to add something -- State Capitalist theories were "invented" to explain abandonment of defense of the USSR. These are the revision of Trotskyism -- and they were developed by folks that were under intense pressure to break with the line of defending the gains of the Russian Revolution after the Hitler/Stalin Pact. Trotskyists understand that signing a treaty or making a temporary agreement, however unappealing it might be, does not change the class nature of the state.
Abandonment of defense of the USSR, an entity which we all agree was not socialist, was the correct thing to do. By saying you are for "defending the gains of the revolution" makes you no more than a reformist, because it was not a socialist state. You are stating a belief in the ability to reach socialism through reform! This is hysterical speculation at best; pro-Stalinist opportunism at worst.

Though it's obvious that the Soviet Union had capitalist relationships of production, it's irrelevant for the purposes of this. You either believe that the workers were in power or you do not. If you are arguing that the workers were in power, you are a Stalinist and an idealist; if you are arguing the opposite, and that Soviet Union was worth defending anyway, then you are a reformist(although there is little to no difference between the two imo). What a dear price we are paying for Trotsky's inability to get over his emotional attachment to the Soviet Union.

Also, we here believe that the state capitalist theory, in terms of the state itself collectively being a capitalist entity, is complete crap; so don't be using that as a straw man. We are not calling the Soviet Union state capitalist, we are calling it capitalist. Defending these sort of states is in practice pro-imperialist and pro-nationalist, and as a result, pro-capitalist.

Daft_Punk, the assertion that many of Trotsky's predictions were right is also crazy. The assertion that there "easily could have been World Revolution during World War 2" is utopian insanity. There is no logical basis for that assertion in the material conditions at all. Even back in the 1930's, it should have been obvious that such a claim was delusional and utopian idealism. After World War 2, capital emerged stronger than ever.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Ownership and control, of course, are not the same things, as any stockholder in a corporation knows.
There are, of course, different levels or degrees of control. It is ultimate control, however that we are talking about here. Ultimate control - not simply control per se - is what it is entailed by ownership. The day to day management of a corporation may be left to the CEO but at the end of the day the CEO is anwerable to the stockholders, the ultimate controllers. This is why the capitalist class is the ruling class in capitalism- its power derives from its ownership of the means of production. Such ownership in other words translates into ultimate control.

Marx implied something like this in his essay "Moralising Criticism and Critical Morality" : "Property, at all events, is also a kind of power. Economists call capital, for instance, 'power over the labour of others' " (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...1847/10/31.htm).


If ownership amounts to ultimate control then the converse is equally true - that those who exert ultimate control over a corporation are its de facto owners. In state capitalist Russia, those who exerted ultimate control over the econmy - the top decisionmakers or apparatchiks - were the de facto owners of the means of production. The Soviet capitalist class. Via their complete control of the state this class exerted complete control over the disposal of the economicc surplys. That is what makes it a distinct economic class whose relationship as a collectivity to the means of production was totally different to ordinary Russian workers

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

Your argument seems to be that if you have people getting paychecks, and if stuff is sold in a market, then therefore you have automatically capitalism, even if there is no capitalist class whatsover.

Let us suppose a situation where you had full, 100% control by workers at the point of production over the whole productive process, no state bureaucracy whatsoever--but you still had wage labor and products exchanged in a market system between different factories and enterprises.

Would that be, by your lights, a capitalist system, even with no trace whatsoever of a capitalist class? (This would no doubt not be workable for very long, but that's not the question at issue.)

Essentially, for you capitalist is an abstract economic system, without necessarily any real capitalists. That is idealism not Marxism.
On the contrary your position is itself far removed from Marxism. Marx pointed out that wage labour and capital presuppose and condition each other. Generalised wage labour therefore necessarily denotes the existence of capitalism.

In point of fact your example is absurd If you truly had a "situation where you had full, 100% control by workers at the point of production over the whole productive process" then I cannot see how you could continue to have wage labour. Wage labour denotes the separation of the producer from the means of production which you are here presuming would be 100% under their control. This simply does not add up. A wage is the price that the worker gets upon selling her labour power to an employer. It implies the existence of employers and employees - or capitalists and workers, in other words


Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
The actual Soviet system was, in purely economic terms, something in between a capitalist market system and a system of production for use not private profit. This is simply the facts, whatever theory one tries to impose on it.

-M.H.-
State enterprises were legally obliged to make a profit in the Soviet Union and could be penalised if that did not do so. The central state relied on such profits for its own self financing and to provide capital for investment

The Soviet system was unquestionably a capitalist market system - labour power was bought and sold . Consumer goods were bought and sold . Means of production were bought and sold between state enterprises. What more is needed to convince you that the SU was a fully capitalist market system.

It might have been a heavily regulated capitalist market system subject to top heavy state intervention but a heavily regulated capitalist market system is still a capitalist market system.
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
The whole suggestion that it was not socialist presupposes that it is possible on a purely speculative basis to have a theory of an ideal socialist economy against which reality can be compared. That approach has nothing to do with historical materialism, it is the approach of the 'True Socialists' that old Freddy and Charlie ridiculed way back in the 1840s. You can only know an economic system by studying real instances of it.
You claim that the USSR was "socialist"? This is pretty silly. It clearly wasn't "socialist" as Marx or Engels or Lenin, the man who led the Bolshevik Revolution, defined socialism. Indeed even Stalin himself did not claim that the USSR had attained socialism until the 1930s.

Apparently, you are saying that the USSR was socialist because, after the 1930s, its leaders said so. That is hardly scientific. And it seems relevant that to claim this, they had to engage in large-scale falsification of how the USSR actually worked, denying the existence of a privileged bureaucracy, even denying the existence of the Ukrainian famine that killed millions of people, etc. etc.

Of course, anyone can define "socialism" however they want, and you have a whole school of "thinkers" in the USA running around claiming that Obama is socialist and the USA is now a "socialist tyranny." That is not much more implausible than claiming that the USSR under Stalin was socialist, when you get right down to it.

In fact, as Marx pointed out so long ago, you simply can't construct a socialist society in a single country in the middle of a globalized world capitalist economy, can't be done. Which is why the USSR always had to employ capitalist economic methods to one degree or another, as it ultimately had to compete on the world market with the capitalist countries, in fact more advanced ones than the USSR ever was.

We will be able to study how a real socialist system works in the flesh when one is created, and not before. Meanwhile, studying the real life Soviet Union is absolutely vital, so we can learn how to build a socialist system, and equally importantly if not more so, what mistakes to avoid.

-M.H.-
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
There are, of course, different levels or degrees of control. It is ultimate control, however that we are talking about here. Ultimate control - not simply control per se - is what it is entailed by ownership. The day to day management of a corporation may be left to the CEO but at the end of the day the CEO is anwerable to the stockholders, the ultimate controllers. This is why the capitalist class is the ruling class in capitalism- its power derives from its ownership of the means of production. Such ownership in other words translates into ultimate control.

Marx implied something like this in his essay "Moralising Criticism and Critical Morality" : "Property, at all events, is also a kind of power. Economists call capital, for instance, 'power over the labour of others' " (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...1847/10/31.htm).


If ownership amounts to ultimate control then the converse is equally true - that those who exert ultimate control over a corporation are its de facto owners. In state capitalist Russia, those who exerted ultimate control over the econmy - the top decisionmakers or apparatchiks - were the de facto owners of the means of production. The Soviet capitalist class. Via their complete control of the state this class exerted complete control over the disposal of the economicc surplys. That is what makes it a distinct economic class whose relationship as a collectivity to the means of production was totally different to ordinary Russian workers
And this is where you go wrong. The fact is, ultimate control over the Soviet Union was in the hands of the Soviet working class. The power of the Stalinist bureaucracy rested on the belief of the majority of the Soviet working class that the system was their system, that they were the ultimate owners of the means of production, and that the Party was administering it on their behalf.

By one means or another, the Stalinist bureaucracy managed to keep the majority of the workers believing that for over 60 years. When this finally stopped being the case under Gorbachev, as marked by the great Soviet coal miners strike of 1989, with coal miners, the very heart of the Soviet proletariat, driving the bureaucrats out of coal towns, forming soviets and, briefly, running the coal towns themselves, the bureaucracy collapsed like a popped baloon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
On the contrary your position is itself far removed from Marxism. Marx pointed out that wage labour and capital presuppose and condition each other. Generalised wage labour therefore necessarily denotes the existence of capitalism.

In point of fact your example is absurd If you truly had a "situation where you had full, 100% control by workers at the point of production over the whole productive process" then I cannot see how you could continue to have wage labour. Wage labour denotes the separation of the producer from the means of production which you are here presuming would be 100% under their control. This simply does not add up. A wage is the price that the worker gets upon selling her labour power to an employer. It implies the existence of employers and employees - or capitalists and workers, in other words
How so? If you have a collectively owned factory, 100% administered by the workers themselves at the very point of production, how will the workers obtain products manufactured by other collectively owned factories?

By paying for them. And how would they pay for them? With money. And how would they get that money? By receiving wages in money form at the end of the work week.

At least, that is the only sensible way, you could hardly ask coal miners to haul wheelbarrows of coal around with them to pay for food grown by collective farmers, now could you?

Now, such a hypothetical system would in fact tend rapidly to degenerate into capitalism and generate a capitalist class of traders and moneymen. NEPmen as in the USSR. Or Tito's Yugoslavia, an "economic democracy" where only political power was in the hands of the bureaucracy, and Tito's bureaucrats let the workers run the means of production.

But the cure for that is not "abolishing wages" or "abolishing money," presumably trying to go back to crude methods of barter, but rather centralization and nation and worldwide democratic economic planning rather than each group of factory workers running their own particular factories.

In short, democratic centralism on a world scale, representative proletarian democracy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
State enterprises were legally obliged to make a profit in the Soviet Union and could be penalised if that did not do so. The central state relied on such profits for its own self financing and to provide capital for investment
What is "capital"? It is, as Marx defined it, self-expanding surplus value, M-C-M, money invested in the productive process whose purpose is to expand, to provide surplus value for the capitalist.

If "profits" are used to finance the continued existence of the state, that is simply replacing constant capital, not surplus value at all.

If surpluses generated by enterprise are invested for expansion of *production,* to generate a greater quantity of use values, then that is not "capital" in the Marxist sense or the capitalist sense either, as any capitalist will tell you.

The question is whether the purpose of investment is to generate more use values for the society, as for example in the case of the USSR, or to provide profits for capitalists so that they can become rich, as in for example America.

Which is why even though you had "two superpowers" during the Cold War, it was the USA where you had billionaires in profusion, whereas in the USSR you had at most the occasional millionaire gaining ill-gotten gains through bureaucratic corruption.

And now, with capitalist Russia far weaker and less prosperous than the USSR, you have nearly as many billionaires in Moscow as in New York.

No, the Soviet ruling elite were just bureaucrats, whose ill-gotten gains were a corruption of the system and not intrinsic to it. And, moreover, the alleged Soviet "capitalist class" simply didn't exist. Any fired Soviet bureaucrat was immediately back in the ranks of the rest of society. There simply was no separate ruling class in the USSR, unlike any other class society.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
The Soviet system was unquestionably a capitalist market system - labour power was bought and sold . Consumer goods were bought and sold . Means of production were bought and sold between state enterprises. What more is needed to convince you that the SU was a fully capitalist market system.

It might have been a heavily regulated capitalist market system subject to top heavy state intervention but a heavily regulated capitalist market system is still a capitalist market system.
So then, for you unless all goods are disbursed by -- who exactly? An all powerful totalitarian state? -- you have a capitalist system? That's ridiculous.

No, any attempt to leap from a capitalist system in one step to a moneyless economy where all production is planned out in advance to a T and all enterprises deliver all goods to each other on the basis of some fully worked out all comprehensive plan in advance would be doomed to immediate economic disaster and popular conclusions that capitalism is a better system.

Going from a capitalist to a socialist system is a lengthy and difficult process that will go through transitional stages and probably take decades, even in the best of cases.

And then there is the question of transition from socialism to full communism, which IMHO is liable to take centuries.

-M.H.-
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grenzer View Post
Abandonment of defense of the USSR, an entity which we all agree was not socialist, was the correct thing to do. By saying you are for "defending the gains of the revolution" makes you no more than a reformist, because it was not a socialist state. You are stating a belief in the ability to reach socialism through reform! This is hysterical speculation at best; pro-Stalinist opportunism at worst.

Though it's obvious that the Soviet Union had capitalist relationships of production, it's irrelevant for the purposes of this. You either believe that the workers were in power or you do not. If you are arguing that the workers were in power, you are a Stalinist and an idealist; if you are arguing the opposite, and that Soviet Union was worth defending anyway, then you are a reformist(although there is little to no difference between the two imo). What a dear price we are paying for Trotsky's inability to get over his emotional attachment to the Soviet Union.

Also, we here believe that the state capitalist theory, in terms of the state itself collectively being a capitalist entity, is complete crap; so don't be using that as a straw man. We are not calling the Soviet Union state capitalist, we are calling it capitalist. Defending these sort of states is in practice pro-imperialist and pro-nationalist, and as a result, pro-capitalist.

Daft_Punk, the assertion that many of Trotsky's predictions were right is also crazy. The assertion that there "easily could have been World Revolution during World War 2" is utopian insanity. There is no logical basis for that assertion in the material conditions at all. Even back in the 1930's, it should have been obvious that such a claim was delusional and utopian idealism. After World War 2, capital emerged stronger than ever.
Trotsky argument, and Lenin's too while he was alive, was that the USSR was a workers state, neither capitalist nor socialist but a transitional society in between.

There is no such thing as a "socialist state," that is a contradiction in terms, as, Lucretia and the Stalinists to the contrary, there will be no state in a socialist society.

Trying to deny that their could have been world revolution after WWII is particularly insane. The entire world capitalist system was thrown on its ear. The only reason you didn't have worldwide socialist revolution after WWII is the same one you didn't have that after WWI.

After WWI, the Social Democrats prevented European revolution. After WWII, the Stalinists prevented world revolution, limiting the immense outbreak of postwar revolutionary energy to Eastern Europe and the Third World.

If Stalin had not insisted on popular front coalition governments, Italy and France would have been in the hands of the Communist Party-led resistance movements after WWII, just like in Yugoslavia, where you had Tito, who was not fully cooperative with Stalin's orders, or China, likewise with Mao.

And Germany would certainly have gone communist if the Soviets didn't do such a thorough job of alienating the German working class during WWII, blaming all the crimes of Hitler on the German people as a whole, and unleashing angry revenge demanding Soviet soldiers on the German population during the Soviet occupation.

And without Stalin with his foot on the brakes, the postwar colonial revolutions in Asia would have swept all of Asia not just half of it.

Pretty soon, the USA would have been isolated in a socialist world, and would probably have followed suit too sooner or later.

But this all would have required Stalin to be something other than Stalin, and the Soviet bureaucracy to be toppled, as the sweep of world revolution would quickly have swept his regime away too. The Eastern European rebellions of the '50s would have been Europe wide, explicitly revolutionary on a "back to Lenin" program as in Hungary 1956, and would rapidly have swept the USSR too.

So it's no wonder Stalin allied with Roosevelt and Churchill to prevent world revolution, until the Cold War began and his former allies made it clear that they wanted to get rid of him and no longer were interested in "peaceful coexistence," not even willing to let him dominate countries in the Soviet back yard like Poland, and stockpiling atomic weapons for the World War Three they had in mind.

-M.H.-
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
And this is where you go wrong. The fact is, ultimate control over the Soviet Union was in the hands of the Soviet working class. The power of the Stalinist bureaucracy rested on the belief of the majority of the Soviet working class that the system was their system, that they were the ultimate owners of the means of production, and that the Party was administering it on their behalf.
And that is where you go wrong - drastically wrong - and it shows itself in this little giveaway phrase - the Party was administering it on their behalf. It was precisely in the "administration" of the means of the production that the apparatchiks exercised complete control and by extension, de facto ownership.

It really does not matter whether or not the working class believed that the system was "their system" - though I suspect you grossly exaggarate here and most workers would have adopted a completely cynical view on the matter from bitter experience of an authoritarian regime . Such an idea is an instance of false consciousness. Most American workers believe that America is "their" country. Are we to infer from that fact that the means of production belong to them? Of course not

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

How so? If you have a collectively owned factory, 100% administered by the workers themselves at the very point of production, how will the workers obtain products manufactured by other collectively owned factories?

By paying for them. And how would they pay for them? With money. And how would they get that money? By receiving wages in money form at the end of the work week.

At least, that is the only sensible way, you could hardly ask coal miners to haul wheelbarrows of coal around with them to pay for food grown by collective farmers, now could you?

Now, such a hypothetical system would in fact tend rapidly to degenerate into capitalism and generate a capitalist class of traders and moneymen. NEPmen as in the USSR. Or Tito's Yugoslavia, an "economic democracy" where only political power was in the hands of the bureaucracy, and Tito's bureaucrats let the workers run the means of production.

But the cure for that is not "abolishing wages" or "abolishing money," presumably trying to go back to crude methods of barter, but rather centralization and nation and worldwide democratic economic planning rather than each group of factory workers running their own particular factories.
Any form of economic exchange boils down to an exchange of property title. When I exchange my orange for your apple I relinquish ownership of said orange and assume ownership of the apple. In your case the convesre is true.

With regard to means of production when the worker is paid a wage something is being exchanged - bought and sold. Her labour power is being sold in exchange for a wage. Exactly the same logic applies here. Her labour power is no longer hers. It becomes the property of the entity that has purchased it - be this the corporation or the nominally the state. That signifies her separation from the means of production. The fact that she does not own said means of production. The fact that she does not own means of production herself - is not a capitalist - is precisely why she has to sell her labour power in order to obtain a wage to enable her to live. This is basic marxism. This is why the existence of generalised wage labour can only denote the existence of capitalism according to Marx and why he urged that the wages system be overthrown


Now we are talking of an abstract hypothetical situation in which all workers in all production establishments owned and controled their own establishment but not others. In that case, yes, there would emerge an exchange nexus between such establishments but logically speaking there could not exist a wages system in these circumstances. In fact this is what the mutualist "free market anti capitalists" like Kevin Carsons are on about- getting rid of wage labour. Theoretically their argument is impeccable but of course what they are seeking is completely unattainable

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

What is "capital"? It is, as Marx defined it, self-expanding surplus value, M-C-M, money invested in the productive process whose purpose is to expand, to provide surplus value for the capitalist.

If "profits" are used to finance the continued existence of the state, that is simply replacing constant capital, not surplus value at all.

If surpluses generated by enterprise are invested for expansion of *production,* to generate a greater quantity of use values, then that is not "capital" in the Marxist sense or the capitalist sense either, as any capitalist will tell you.

The question is whether the purpose of investment is to generate more use values for the society, as for example in the case of the USSR, or to provide profits for capitalists so that they can become rich, as in for example America..
But again this is where your analysis goes completey wrong . It is simply not true that in the SU the purpose of investment was simply to "generate more use values" and nothing else. Your problem is that you cannot distinguish between the ideological smokescreeen and the economic realities. State enterprises in the SU were obliged to pursue actual profits and could be penalised if they did not do so. Many indeed resorted to black market methods financing in order to do so. Out of the profits which reverted to the central state , capital was accumulated. So you had precisely the process of self expanding value - M-C-M - as Marx described. The proifts that were made by the state enterprises were reinvested to make more profits in a never ending cycle

I should remind you also that Western capitalists likewise talk in ideologically obfuscatory terms of producing for use and creating jobs as if that was their primary concern. There isa no real difference here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Which is why even though you had "two superpowers" during the Cold War, it was the USA where you had billionaires in profusion, whereas in the USSR you had at most the occasional millionaire gaining ill-gotten gains through bureaucratic corruption.

And now, with capitalist Russia far weaker and less prosperous than the USSR, you have nearly as many billionaires in Moscow as in New York.
In point of fact the SU was a massively inequal society. Indeed levels of inquality were comparable to elsewhere in the capitalist world. John Fleming and John Micklewright in their paper "Income Distribution, Economic Systems and Transition" cite the work of researchers like Morrison who, using data from the 1970s, found that countries like Poland and the Soviet Union had relatively high levels of income inequality, registering gini coefficients of 0.31 in both case, which put them on a par with Canada (0.30) and the USA (0.34) ( http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/eps70.pdf). According to Roy Medvedev (Khrushchev: The Years in Power ,Columbia University Press. 1976, 540), taking into account not only their inflated "salaries" but also the many privileges and perks enjoyed by the Soviet elite (who even had access to their own retail outlets stocking western goods and various other facilities from which the general public was physically excluded) the ratio between low and high earners was approximately 1:100

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
No, the Soviet ruling elite were just bureaucrats, whose ill-gotten gains were a corruption of the system and not intrinsic to it. And, moreover, the alleged Soviet "capitalist class" simply didn't exist. Any fired Soviet bureaucrat was immediately back in the ranks of the rest of society. There simply was no separate ruling class in the USSR, unlike any other class society.
This quite absurd. Massive inequality was intrinsic to the system and actively promoted by the system. Individual managers could be fired, yes - just like CEOs can be fired in the West - but, dont you see, that presupposes a structure of power based on de facto ownership of the means by the Soviet state capitalist class that enabled it to fire aberrrant individuals within its ranks.

It has never been my argument that the Soviet capitalist class were capitalists by virtue of individually possessing capital. State capitalist Russia was different to that extent from other capitalist countries. The soviet capitalist class acted rather as a collective class n relation to the means of production and as effective owners and controllers of said means of production
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Syd Barrett View Post
It wasn't capitalist, it was a planned economy for fuck sakes. It was just planned by an exclusive caste, which wasn't reprehensable to the workers. If something is planned it doesn't abide by market rules. The U.S.S.R. used State Capitalism after the N.E.P. ended (it should of ended sooner before the Kulaks grew so powerful) to develop the U.S.S.R. in ways that finance capital was never able to at any point in Russian history, at a rate that was unparallelled. Trotsky knew what the U.S.S.R. was because he planned out the first form of Stalin's planned economy at a time when its implementation would of been possible and when the richer classes in Russia were still weak after the Civil War. However Stalin's and Bukharin's oppositions supported maintaining Capitalism in the U.S.S.R. for a longer period even when private farm owners were choking the cities with high prices.

It was not a "planned econmy" - that is a myth. It was a lot more decentralised than is commonly supposed and the so called plans of GOSPLANs were more or less a complete sham. No plan was ever fullfilled. What happened was the plans were constantly modified and doctored to fit in with changing economic realities

The plan did not guide economic reality but was guided by economic reality. It was little more than a wishlist of things that the so called "planners" wanted done.
[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
The economic successes of the Soviet Union between 1930s and 1960s disprove your interpretation. Even it it was "just a wish list", it wasn't a sham, since everybody (except the wreckers, obviously) used it as guidelines and strove to accomplish it. The planning was getting more and more realistic, accurate and detailed over time. The problem was that while it did, the number of factors that were being taken into account also increased, so the difficulties in planning persisted. They could have been greatly alleviated with the introduction of computer centers, the option that was brought to the table in the 1960s by the man named Glushkov, but unfortunately the revisionist party leadership opted for the return to profit-based accountability (capitalism), which was simpler, and gave the green light to the disproportionate development of the raw materials export sector, which was stimulated externally by the world market.
Unfortunately "economic success"(strange word to use since standards of living in Russia were shit in the 30's compared to even what they had been during the civil war. A growing economy, but the workers aren't seeing any benefits from it.. what does this remind me of again?)is not indicative of central planning. By your standard, the US would have had the most prolific planned economic system! Again, Robbo points out that the planners were guided by economic reality and that they were constrained by it. In other words, the conditions of the market determined what they could and could not do, rather than, you know, planning things themselves.

What economic planning there was under Stalin was delusional and based on their desires, rather than reflecting economic reality. The catastrophic failure of agricultural collectivization proves this.
[Dave B]
Lets get this straight, the utterly preposterous ‘syndicalist’ and anti-Leninist idea is being put forward that the workers had (or should have had) some control of their workplace in Lenin’s soviet Russia.


Lenin made quite clear at the end of 1920 that the dictatorship of the proletariat did not embrace the whole of the working class;

V. I. Lenin The Trade Unions, The Present Situation December 30, 1920


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But the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of that class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts (by imperialism in some countries) that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship.

It can be exercised only by a vanguard…



http://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/l...920/dec/30.htm


By the vanguard as will very soon be made clear, if it isn’t already, he meant the Bolshevik party.

As the Bolshevik party represented less than 1% of the population as opposed to the other “OWS” 99%, it wouldn’t surprise many that less than ‘one tenth’ of the industrial working class were Bolshevik party members.

The question was raised as to whether the factory workers should have the right to nominate their own factory managers (through unions-the official Bolshevik party sanctioned ones of course).

Lenin was implacably opposed to the idea; as the shareholders in bourgeois capitalism would be.


V. I. Lenin THE PARTY CRISIS

Pravda No. 13, January 21, 1921



page 49


Quote:
"I propose mandatory nominations", is exactly the same as saying, "I appoint".


Communism says: The Communist Party [the 1%] , the vanguard of the proletariat, leads the non-Party workers' masses, educating, preparing, teaching and training the masses ("school" of communism) -- first the workers and then the peasants – [the 99%] ……..

……..Syndicalism hands over to the mass of non-Party workers[99%], who are compartmentalised in the industries, the management of their industries ("the chief administrations and central boards"), thereby making the Party [the state capitalist class] superfluous, ……….

page 50

Why have a Party, if industrial management is to be appointed ("mandatory nomination") by the trade unions nine-tenths of whose members are non-Party workers?

Bukharin has talked himself into a logical, theoretical and practical implication of a split in the Party, or, rather, a breakaway of the syndicalists from the Party.




http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/TPC21.html

Now even though Lenin won his way in the end, we could look at what things might have been but never were.

A soviet Russia consisting of a kind of state refereed ‘federation’ of co-operative syndicates.

Capital Vol. III Part V Division of Profit into Interest and Profit of Enterprise. Interest-Bearing Capital Chapter 27. The Role of Credit in Capitalist Production



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The co-operative factories of the labourers themselves represent within the old form the first sprouts of the new, although they naturally reproduce, and must reproduce, everywhere in their actual organisation all the shortcomings of the prevailing system. But the antithesis between capital and labour is overcome within them, if at first only by way of making the associated labourers into their own capitalist, i.e., by enabling them to use the means of production for the employment of their own labour. They show how a new mode of production naturally grows out of an old one, when the development of the material forces of production and of the corresponding forms of social production have reached a particular stage.

Without the factory system arising out of the capitalist mode of production there could have been no co-operative factories. Nor could these have developed without the credit system arising out of the same mode of production. The credit system is not only the principal basis for the gradual transformation of capitalist private enterprises into capitalist stock companies, but equally offers the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale. The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other
.


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...94-c3/ch27.htm

This was a bit of crystal ball gazing into the future for Karl.

Where he was speculating that the workers would borrow money to buy out and run their own factories. Whereby the real owners of the factories, as with the shareholders of joint stock companies, would be increasingly separated form the social function of production itself.

And become as superfluous as the Bolshevik party especially in this ‘crisis’ situation of not even being able to nominate their own factory managers, or CEO's.

And thus perhaps a step too far.

Anti-Dühring by Frederick Engels 1877 Part III: Socialism II. Theoretical



Quote:
…..the transformation of the great establishments for production and distribution into joint-stock companies and state property shows how unnecessary the bourgeoisie are for that purpose. All the social functions of the capitalist are now performed by salaried employees.

The capitalist has no further social function than that of pocketing [Bolshevik state capitalist political ] dividends, tearing off coupons, and gambling on the Stock Exchange, where the different capitalists despoil one another [by their internal party political infighting] of their capital.

At first the capitalist mode of production forces out the workers. Now it forces out the capitalists, and reduces them, just as it reduced the workers, to the ranks of the surplus population….[ the better Emile Burns translation has to the superfluous population]…… , although not immediately into those of the industrial reserve army.


But the transformation, either into joint-stock companies, or into state ownership, does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces.



http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...hring/ch24.htm

[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
The economic successes of the Soviet Union between 1930s and 1960s disprove your interpretation. Even it it was "just a wish list", it wasn't a sham, since everybody (except the wreckers, obviously) used it as guidelines and strove to accomplish it. The planning was getting more and more realistic, accurate and detailed over time. The problem was that while it did, the number of factors that were being taken into account also increased, so the difficulties in planning persisted. They could have been greatly alleviated with the introduction of computer centers, the option that was brought to the table in the 1960s by the man named Glushkov, but unfortunately the revisionist party leadership opted for the return to profit-based accountability (capitalism), which was simpler, and gave the green light to the disproportionate development of the raw materials export sector, which was stimulated externally by the world market.
This is very weak. How does the economic sucesses of the SU "disprove my interpretation?" . My argument is quite simply that such "successes" would have happened despite , and not because, of so called central planning.

In fact Soviet "central planning" was a joke for the reasons I ve already explained. Not only were GOSPLAN's "plans" routinely modified to make it look like the targets were being met but sometimes the "plan" was not even made available to the state enterprises until well into the supposed implementation period. Some "plan"!

You are quite deluded if you think enhanced computer capacity could have obviated the problems of trying to get economic realities to confom to some centrally decided some plan. The problem lies not in the capacity to compute millions of simultaneous equations; the problem lies out there in the real world which has an endless capacity to upset all those finely worked out input-output calculations of the planners all the time. Ive said this numerous times till Im blue in the face but still we get individuals droning on about so called central planning - in the sense of society-wide planning - as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. The problem is people dont really understand what it implies. It is not remotely possible as an option. There is absolutely no way you can operate an advanced modern economy without some sort of built in feedback mechanism which, incidentally , is precisely what a non market socialist alternative can offer

As for the economic successes of the Soviet Union, yes, in the early years compared to other capitalist countries it fared comparatively well in terms of economic growth rates though from a low baseline. The expansion of heavy industry and large scale infrastructural projects were the twin pillars upon which such growth was predicated and predictably growth declined as the economy matured in the post war era. However, such early growth came at a huge cost and as usual it was the working class who bore the brunt of this

According to Peter Binns:

In Russia, the subordination of consumption to the needs of accumulation took an extreme form. From the beginning of the first Five-Year Plan capital accumulation absorbed more than 20 per cent of national income, and it increased in subsequent Plans. This was higher than any of the developed capitalist countries outside Russia (but about the same as the USA and Japan in their equivalent periods of development), and shows clearly that this most characteristic symptom of capitalism – the domination of society by capital accumulation – was fully developed in Russia. ("State Capitalism" from the collection, Marxism and the Modern World, Education for Socialists No.1, March 1986. Published by the Socialist Workers Party).

Stalin had claimed in 1933 that the material conditions of workers and peasants had steadily improved and cited as evidence for this the fact that money wages had risen by 67percent. What he conveniently omitted to point out, however, was that prices had risen far more sharply with the consequence that that year - 1933 - marked , what Alec Nove has dramatically characterised as the "culmination of the most precipitous peacetime decline in living standards known in recorded history" (Nove A An Economic History of the USSR Allen Lane 1972, p.207) . That is a truly remarkable claim. Even if it is only half true it is absolutely devastating got all our fans of Soviet state capitalism

This is what Trotskyists would dub "primitive socialist accumulation" with a vengeance. It powerfully illustrates the way in which capital accumulation took priority over the needs of the workers. It had nothing to do with developing "socialism". It has everything to do with developing a brutally anti-working class system of Soviet state capitalism
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Is thatsupposed to be a criticism of Soviet economic planning? That plans were "modified and doctored to fit in with changing economic realities"? That's a virtue, not a defect.

That no plan was ever quite fulfilled to a T is because that's the way things are in the real world.

But the plans most certainly did guide economic reality. The problem with them was not that they were too flexible and too willing to change as necessary, but that they were too bureaucratic, and too unwilling to modify the plans according to actual results, consumer demand, what the workers wanted, etc. etc.

-M.H.-
Why do you constantly miss the point?

The point I am making is that it was not a so called "planned economy" which some on the Left fetishise and makes such a fyss over. Actually, there is no such thing as a planned economy in that strict sense of society-wide planning entailing one single mega plan. Nor can there ever be such a thing. All economies have plans (plural) but none can ever be regulated by a single plan. Therefore any kind of economy capable of being put into practice must entail a feedback mechanism and a marked degree of unplanned spontaneity in the way the numerous plans interact with each other

All you are doing is confirming what I said but without realising it
[AmericanRed]
I don't suppose anyone here has read Hillel Ticktin on the nature of the USSR? A review of his ideas is here: http://libcom.org/history/towards-po...nomy-stalinism
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grenzer View Post
Unfortunately "economic success"(strange word to use since standards of living in Russia were shit in the 30's compared to even what they had been during the civil war. A growing economy, but the workers aren't seeing any benefits from it.. what does this remind me of again?)is not indicative of central planning. By your standard, the US would have had the most prolific planned economic system! Again, Robbo points out that the planners were guided by economic reality and that they were constrained by it. In other words, the conditions of the market determined what they could and could not do, rather than, you know, planning things themselves.

What economic planning there was under Stalin was delusional and based on their desires, rather than reflecting economic reality. The catastrophic failure of agricultural collectivization proves this.
Grenzer, get your economic facts straight, try reading some good histories of the USSR produced neither by bourgeois anti-communists or sectarian anti-Soviet leftists. Try Robert Davies for example.

Working class living standards in the '30s lower than during the Civil War? Where did you get that one from? Even at the extreme point of working class belt tightening to pay for industrialization, say in spring '33 when you had the peasant famines, working class living standards were far better off than during the Civil War, and probably pretty much on the level with what they were under Tsarism.

And once all those factories started going on line and producing goods, working class standards of living went up quite considerably during the '30s, one reason why Soviet workers by and large greeted the Great Terror, not by and large directed against factory workers, with relative equanimity.

There was a lot of working class discontent rising up, but not so much vs. paychecks, definitely getting bigger, but against the carelessness of bureaucrats with workers' lives and safety in all the new factories springing up so rapidly, the enormous accident rate.

Which is why the Stalinist bureaucrats tried, not without success, to channel this working class anger vs. former oppositionists running factories, who allegedly were deliberately sabotaging the plants at Trotsky's behest.

Yes, Soviet growth was constrained by economic reality. That's not the same thing as "the market." Soviet growth was constrained by Soviet economic and cultural backwardness, poor quality of materials produced, physical material shortages, an undereducated workforce, etc. etc. That ain't "the market," those are the same kinds of constraints any economic system would face.

Finally, collectivization was a human disaster, with a famine resulting, millions dying. In economic terms however it was a huge success. Once the tractors started being cranked out regularly and were widely available, Soviet agricultural productivity shot up amazingly.

Before collectivization, 90% of the Soviet population lived in the country, and could only just barely feed the whole population, with little left over for export.

After collectivization, the Soviet Union became an urban society, with a far smaller percentage of the Soviet population down on the farm, nonetheless managing more or less to feed a far, far larger urban population. That's a huge success no matter how you slice it.

-M.H.-
[Paul Cockshott]
MH raises a number of objections.

Quote:
"Marx pointed out so long ago, you simply can't construct a socialist society in a single country in the middle of a globalized world capitalist economy"
I am not sure this is quite true. There are various objections to your point. One is that Marx was an advocate of communism not socialistm and tended to polemicise against socialism, and indeed in his Notes on Wagner he vehemently denied that he had ever advocated a socialist system, so I think you would be hard put to find any discussion in his books and articles about the territorial extent necessary for a socialist economy.
Where in his writings are you quoting when you say " Marx pointed out so long ago, you simply can't construct a socialist society in a single country in the middle of a globalized world capitalist economy"

The next objection is that even had he put forward the idea that a socialist economy could only be achieved on a world scale, writing in the 19th century, this could be no more than a tentative hypothesis about the future.
Quote:
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
History is not obliged to follow the educated guesses of philosophers.
Quote:
"even Stalin himself did not claim that the USSR had attained socialism until the 1930s.

Apparently, you are saying that the USSR was socialist because, after the 1930s, its leaders said so. That is hardly scientific."
No not because its leaders said so, though they certainly did. By the mid 1950s or early 60s the USSR had achieved the main programmatic goals shared by the broad mass of the 19th and early 20th century socialist movement.

It is a basic rule of scientific experiments that you set out the questions you are investigating before you start the experiment. If you are investigating the effect of a drug on survival of heart patients you set out a protocol before you run the experiment. You define the criteria that you will use to assess success first. This is to prevent experimenters picking and chosing afterwards what they count as success. The same applies to social experiments. You have to judge the sucess of the experiment in terms of the stated goals set out before the experiment is undertaken. I say the USSR was socialist because it had achieved the explicitly expressed goals that the pre-revolutionary socialist movement. These goals and sucess criteria were formally laid down in the programmes of the Communist and Socialist parties. These programmes defined the aims of the movement. And it is in terms of these explicit goals of the movement that I say the USSR had succeeded by the 1960s.



Even the goals of its most extreme wing the mid 19th century German CP, who were far more extreme and radical than the main socialist movement, had been mainly won:
Quote:
"
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public
purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national
bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of
the state.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state;
the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil
generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies,
especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition
of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution
of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's
factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial
production, et"
The main thing that was not done was the heavy progressive income tax, which I think they should have done, but this is not something that the Trotskyist left normally holds against the USSR. But if you look at the later 1875 programme of the German Socialist Labour party:
Quote:
"[1] Labor is the source of all wealth, and of all civilization; and since it is only through society that generally productive labor is possible, the whole product of labor, where there is a general obligation to work, belongs to society, - that is, to all its members, by equal right, to each according to his reasonable needs.

[2] In the society of today the means of production are a monopoly of the capitalistic class; the dependence of the working classes which results from this is the cause of misery and of servitude in all its forms.

[3] The emancipation of labor requires the conversion of the means of production into the common property of society and the social regulation of all labor and its application for the general good, together with the just distribution of the product of labor.

[4] The emancipation of labor must be the work of the laboring class itself, opposed to which all other classes are reactionary groups.

[5] Proceeding from these principles, the socialist labor party of Germany endeavors by every lawful means to bring about a free state and a socialistic society, to effect the destruction of the iron law of wages by doing away with the system of wage labor, to abolish exploitation of every kind, and to extinguish all social and political inequality.

[6] The socialist labor party of Germany, although for the time being confining its activity within national bounds, is fully conscious of the international character of the labor movement, and is resolved to meet all the obligations which this lays upon the laborer, in order to bring the brotherhood of all mankind to a full realization.

[7] The Socialist labor party of Germany, in order to prepare the way for the solution of the social question, demands the establishment of socialistic productive associations; with the support of the state and under the democratic control of the working people. These productive associations, for both industry and agriculture, are to be created to such an extent that the socialistic organization of all labor may result therefrom.

[8] [In addition to the demand for universal suffrage for all above twenty years of age, secret ballot, freedom of the press, free and compulsory education, etc.,] the socialist labor party of Germany demands the following reforms in the present social organization: (1) the greatest possible extension of political rights and freedom in the sense of the above-mentioned demands; (2) a single progressive income tax, both state and local, instead of all the existing taxes, especially the indirect ones, which weigh heavily upon the people; (3) unlimited right of association; (4) a (619) normal working day corresponding with the needs of society, and the prohibition of work on Sunday; (5) prohibition of child labor and all forms of labor by women which are dangerous to health or morality; (6) laws for the protection of the life and health of workmen, sanitary control of workmen's houses, inspection of mines, factories, workshops, and domestic industries by officials chosen by the workmen themselves, and an effective system of enforcement of the same; (7) regulation of prison labor."
This programme was considerably less radical than that of the old CP and
of course we know that privately Marx thought this programme was confused and confided his opinion to Kautsky, but this was the official programme of German Socialism until replace by the less radical Erfurt Programme of the Social Democrats which represented the mainstream of 19th century socialism, again almost all of it had been achieved by the USSR in the 1960s except direct legislation by the people. But the Erfurt programme in its practical demands was even less radical than the 1875 programme. It had a preface which said:
Quote:
"The private ownership of the means of production, once the means for securing for the producer the ownership of his product, has today become the means for expropriating farmers, artisans, and small merchants, and for putting the non-workers – capitalists, large landowners – into possession of the product of the workers. Only the transformation of the capitalist private ownership of the means of production – land and soil, pits and mines, raw materials, tools, machines, means of transportation – into social property and the transformation of the production of goods into socialist production carried on by and for society can cause the large enterprise and the constantly growing productivity of social labor to change for the hitherto exploited classes from a source of misery and oppression into a source of the greatest welfare and universal, harmonious perfection."
But these 'maximum programme' goals had obviously been met in the USSR as well.
[Die Neue Zeit]
Why wasn't Coordinatorism or whatever included?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grenzer View Post
I agree with you.

Socialism cannot exist on a national level, and I regard the Soviet Union as never having surpassed the capitalist mode of production. In that post which you quoted I was attempting to be more neutral and portray the other side of the argument, but you're right. The policy of NEP and state capitalism was justified by the material conditions, but it would be a mockery to say that it was socialism. Global capital has consolidated itself since then, but the crises inherent to capitalism make it very vulnerable. Hopefully we've learned from the failures of the 20th century communist movement and make a greater commitment to the practical necessity of internationalism. Just to let you know, I consider myself a strong anti-Leninist.
I too once subscribed to the State-Capitalist theory just because of Lenin's quotables, but in recent years I learned to distinguish the generalized commodity (mode of) production from "capitalism," the latter of which is reliant upon markets, especially in labour and capital.

I think that any transitional period to even the lower phase of the communist mode of production must involve some socialized version of generalized commodity production, a line which even Stalin carried on from Orthodox Marxism.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Q View Post
No, there was no wage labour or commodity production. There was neither a circulation of capital, any crises of overproduction or money as a universal equivalent, nor did it have a capitalist ruling class.

Most "wages" were actually allocated resources: food, clothing, house gear, cars, etc were mostly distributed on a per-factory basis. For example, 5 cars were allocated each year to a factory and workers had to be in a queue for years before they could get one. Money (workers did get some) therefore didn't play the role of universal equivalent. Standing in the right spot of the queue and having the right connections to achieve that was far more important. The factory manager had all interest in keeping workers onboard, whatever their performance was, as resource allocation was defined on the number of workers a factory had. This is nothing like a wage.

Likewise, there was no universal commodity production. The core characteristic of commodity production is that it is produced for a market, to be sold. This was not the case in the USSR. there was production according to bureaucratic decrees, a target-economy (note how I don't say "planned economy", as there was nothing pre-planned about it as targets shifted on a nearly monthly basis), and resources were allocated to factories according to those targets. The products were not sold, but transferred to a predefined other factory or shop. For that reason quality was low, as it was in the workers interest to do as little work possible.

I've opened a thread earlier this month on the subject, so I'll refer to it once again.
Re. what I bolded of your quotes, comrade, you should distinguish between generalized commodity production and "capitalism." M-C-M' and M-C-P-C-M' existed, and the later concept of "socialist profit" further recognized this existence. Money may not have been a "universal equivalent" for the workers, but it definitely was for the state enterprises (comrade Cockshott noted that a post-commodity production economy wouldn't need things like a "line of credit," as raw materials and intermediate resources would be allocated in kind).

Have you read Stalin's Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR (with a critical eye or two, of course)? Go back to Second International-style Orthodox Marxist economics and see some continuity there re. the question of commodity production especially in Chapter 2.

[Note: I've started a separate thread on these distinctions for the convenience of comrades here.]
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Yes, Kautsky had a theory in The Social Revolution, but in the absence of practical experience of running a socialist economy it meant that they paid very little attention to things that later turned out to be important like: how do you actually carry out planning, how many different goods is it practical to plan for, how do you judge the efficiency of different units of production in meeting social goals, how does a socialist economy extract a social surplus product?
Neither Marx nor Engels had a helluvalot to say about that. Indeed nothing I don't think. Not surprising, as they regarded it as music of the future.

I do however recall reading a letter by Engels, towards the end of his life, in which he said he thought that it was recently getting less difficult to get socialist production going after the Revolution, because lately some engineers had been won over to socialism. Do any of you guys recall the letter I mean?

Not irrelevant to this discussion, as it certainly seems to imply a different concept of what is required for socialism than that of our Revleft "leftcoms."

But all these questions were discussed at a very high theoretical level in the 1920s in the Soviet Union. Alexander Ehrlich's classic book on the subject made much of these discussions available in the English language.

DNZ, Cockshott, are you guys familiar with those discussions? If not, it seems to me you are in the position of trying to reinvent the wheel.

-M.H.-
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by AmericanRed View Post
I don't suppose anyone here has read Hillel Ticktin on the nature of the USSR? A review of his ideas is here: http://libcom.org/history/towards-po...nomy-stalinism
Yes, this is an interesting review - as is Part 2 of Aufheben's critique of Ticktin's ideas http://libcom.org/library/what-was-u...cktin-aufheben


I find Ticktin's whole line of argument that there was no wage labour , generalised commodity production, or a capitalist class in the Soviet Union quite unconvincing. There certainly was capitalism in the SU but capitalism mediated through the planning apparatus. It is this that accounts for the peculairiity of the form that capitalism took there. For instance the claim that there was "no unemployment" is highly questionable - there most certainly was widesporead disguised unemployment in the sense that state enterprises had every incentive to keep workers on their payroll even though there was no work for them to be done. But this is not that different from the kinds of job creation schemes one finds in western capitalism. The difference is one of degree rather than of kind, I suppose.

Ticktin's argument that the law of value was superceded by the law of planning is equally highly questionable given the actual experience of planning in the SU and the fact that GOSPLAN's planning targets were largely a sham and were regularly modified to fit in with changing economic realities - they amounted to little more than a wishlist of things that the planners wanted done. Can anyone seriously maintain this was a society governed by the law of planning?

Competititon was endemic at every level of Soviet capitalism. The law of value might not have expressed itself directly - does it anyway? - or in the form in which it manifests in Western style capitalism - but ultimately and perforce and however roundabout the method by which it did so, it was the controlling regulating force underlying Soviet capitalism. The need to accumulate capital out of surplus value required this. Which is why state enterprises were required to pursue profit and could be heavily penalised if they did not do so. Without those profits which reverted to the central state which was then reinvested it (after the apparatchik capitalists took thier own very handsome cut) there would have been no capital to accumulate and no means by which to finance industrialisation


The problem with Ticktin''s analysis - and this is the problem he shares with trotskyist-inspired analyses of the SU - is that he is too easily taken in by the forms and the appearances of economic phenomerna rather than looking the underlying economic realities. It is an idealist legalistic approach rather than a materialist one. This shows itself very clearly in the claim that there was no capitalist class. The assumption is that in order for there to be a capitalist class individuals need to have a de jure ownership of private capital which they can legally asccumulate as individuals. But that is quite unneccesary as Engels showed. Class ownership can take a de facto form which gives a small section of the population the de facto power to dispose of the economic surplus. This power - or ultimate control - is an expression of that de facto ownership and is quite inseparable from the latter. Becuase you exert ultimate control over the means of production you own them and vice versa

I think a key passage in the Aufheben article is this

As we have already noted, Ticktin not only fails to present a systematic presentation of a 'political economy of the USSR', he also fails to clarify his methodological approach. As a result, Ticktin is able to escape from addressing some important logical questions regarding the categories of his political economy. Although he attacks state capitalist theories for projecting categories of capitalism onto the Soviet Union, Ticktin himself has to admit that many categories of bourgeois political economy appeared to persist in the USSR. Categories such as 'money', 'prices', 'wages' and even 'profits'. In capitalism these categories are forms that express a real content even though they may obscure or deviate from this content. As such they are not merely illusions but are real. Ticktin, however, fails to specify how he understands the relation between the essential relations of the political economy of the USSR and how these relations make their appearance, and is therefore unable to clarify the ontological status of such apparent forms as 'money', 'prices', 'wages' and 'profits'. Indeed, in his efforts to deny the capitalist nature of the USSR, Ticktin is pushed to the point where he has to imply that such categories are simply relics of capitalism, empty husks that have no real content. But, of course, if they have no real content, if they are purely nominal, how is that they continue to persist? This failure to address fully the question of form and content becomes most apparent with the all important example of the wage and the sale of labour-power.
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
no I am not familiar with it can you give a clearer reference.
Your answer is a bit unclear.

If you mean the Engels letter, I think I've found it. Not exactly what I remembered, but close enough. Engels to Von Boenigk, 8/21/90.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...s/90_08_21.htm

In it he says, among other things,

"Its crucial difference [socialism-MH] from the present order consists naturally in production organized on the basis of common ownership by the nation of all means of production." (Not the POV of our state caps here, whether Cliffite or leftcom!)

and

"We are still in need of technicians, agronomists, engineers, chemists, architects, etc., it is true, but if the worst comes to the worst we can always buy them just as well as the capitalists buy them, and if a severe example is made of a few of the traitors among them — for traitors there are sure to be — they will find it to their own advantage to deal fairly with us."

Lenin circa 1921 could hardly have put it better I don't think.

I think there was also a later letter in which he commented that the German SD's were starting to pick up some engineers etc. of their own.

If you meant the Ehrlich book, it is

Soviet Industrialization Debate, 1924-1928

http://www.worldcat.org/title/soviet...oclc/000227754

Are you familiar with it?

-M.H.-
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
Yes, this is an interesting review - as is Part 2 of Aufheben's critique of Ticktin's ideas http://libcom.org/library/what-was-u...cktin-aufheben


I find Ticktin's whole line of argument that there was no wage labour , generalised commodity production, or a capitalist class in the Soviet Union quite unconvincing. There certainly was capitalism in the SU but capitalism mediated through the planning apparatus. It is this that accounts for the peculairiity of the form that capitalism took there. For instance the claim that there was "no unemployment" is highly questionable - there most certainly was widesporead disguised unemployment in the sense that state enterprises had every incentive to keep workers on their payroll even though there was no work for them to be done. But this is not that different from the kinds of job creation schemes one finds in western capitalism. The difference is one of degree rather than of kind, I suppose.

Ticktin's argument that the law of value was superceded by the law of planning is equally highly questionable given the actual experience of planning in the SU and the fact that GOSPLAN's planning targets were largely a sham and were regularly modified to fit in with changing economic realities - they amounted to little more than a wishlist of things that the planners wanted done. Can anyone seriously maintain this was a society governed by the law of planning?

Competititon was endemic at every level of Soviet capitalism. The law of value might not have expressed itself directly - does it anyway? - or in the form in which it manifests in Western style capitalism - but ultimately and perforce and however roundabout the method by which it did so, it was the controlling regulating force underlying Soviet capitalism. The need to accumulate capital out of surplus value required this. Which is why state enterprises were required to pursue profit and could be heavily penalised if they did not do so. Without those profits which reverted to the central state which was then reinvested it (after the apparatchik capitalists took thier own very handsome cut) there would have been no capital to accumulate and no means by which to finance industrialisation


The problem with Ticktin''s analysis - and this is the problem he shares with trotskyist-inspired analyses of the SU - is that he is too easily taken in by the forms and the appearances of economic phenomerna rather than looking the underlying economic realities. It is an idealist legalistic approach rather than a materialist one. This shows itself very clearly in the claim that there was no capitalist class. The assumption is that in order for there to be a capitalist class individuals need to have a de jure ownership of private capital which they can legally asccumulate as individuals. But that is quite unneccesary as Engels showed. Class ownership can take a de facto form which gives a small section of the population the de facto power to dispose of the economic surplus. This power - or ultimate control - is an expression of that de facto ownership and is quite inseparable from the latter. Becuase you exert ultimate control over the means of production you own them and vice versa

I think a key passage in the Aufheben article is this

As we have already noted, Ticktin not only fails to present a systematic presentation of a 'political economy of the USSR', he also fails to clarify his methodological approach. As a result, Ticktin is able to escape from addressing some important logical questions regarding the categories of his political economy. Although he attacks state capitalist theories for projecting categories of capitalism onto the Soviet Union, Ticktin himself has to admit that many categories of bourgeois political economy appeared to persist in the USSR. Categories such as 'money', 'prices', 'wages' and even 'profits'. In capitalism these categories are forms that express a real content even though they may obscure or deviate from this content. As such they are not merely illusions but are real. Ticktin, however, fails to specify how he understands the relation between the essential relations of the political economy of the USSR and how these relations make their appearance, and is therefore unable to clarify the ontological status of such apparent forms as 'money', 'prices', 'wages' and 'profits'. Indeed, in his efforts to deny the capitalist nature of the USSR, Ticktin is pushed to the point where he has to imply that such categories are simply relics of capitalism, empty husks that have no real content. But, of course, if they have no real content, if they are purely nominal, how is that they continue to persist? This failure to address fully the question of form and content becomes most apparent with the all important example of the wage and the sale of labour-power.
Robbo grows tiresome, he would be honester if he just said outright he disagreed with Marx & Engels, which he does, rather than persisting in his Cliff-inspired attempts to shoehorn Marx and Engels into his particular boxes.

Especially his amazing statement, fundamental to his argument, that ownership and control are the same thing, which is utterly unlike anything M & E had to say. Despite Robbo's attempts to conceal this, they just insisted on talking about "ownership" instead of "control," over and over. As in Engels's letter to Von Boenigk quoted in my last posting, one of the few times either of them actually talked about what socialism would look like and the nuts and bolts of how to get there.

In fact, you can search the Collected Works of Marx & Engels as much as you want for the phrase "workers control." And guess what! You won't find it. Ever. So much for Robbo's notions. "Workers control" is a particular tactic used by workers in struggle over control of factories during revolutions, and what it means is "oversight," checking, getting the books opened, giving workers veto rights over management actions. Didn't come into use until after M & E were both dead, and has nothing to do with Marx and Engels's conception of socialism. Once the workers have taken the power, the era of "workers control" is over.

Plus hRobbo's allegation that GOSPLAN plans were "a sham" because most of the time the plan wasn't actually fulfilled. Why is that important? The question is what directed the economy. GOSPLAN directives directed the economy, and shaped it, whether or not they were fulfilled. They were what the economy was all about. "Profit" bookkeeping was merely an efficiency incentive, whose real purpose was to determine which bureaucrats deserved promotion and which would get fired.

And another terrible thing it seems is that plans got changed according to "changing economic realities." Apparently to Robbo the only plan that is any good is one carried out come hell or high water, like Stalin's compulsory collectivization of agriculture even if millions of peasants starve to death.

Changing plans flexibly according to changing economic realities is not only what should be done in a transitional society between capitalism and socialism, but also in a socialist or communist society too. Or it isn't socialism, but some sort of stupid bureaucratic insanity.

In a capitalist society, corporate or government planners disregard economic realities altogether, if they conflict with capitalist needs for profit. A perfect example of this being the way the EU planners are currently destroying the economies of Greece, Portugal, Spain etc., despite complaints from your more intelligent bourgeois economists, so as to keep interest flowing to the bankers and keeping the banks from going under.

That is the difference in fact between capitalist "economic planning" and economic planning in a workers state.

In a capitalist economy, profit is what the economy is all about. Regardless of the fact that capitalists don't always make profits. Hey, some of 'em even go bankrupt from time to time.

Better yet is the business of "disguised unemployment." In other words, workers in the USSR got kept on the job and paid even if there isn't any work for them to do. As if this was a bad thing! Apparently Robbo's view is that in a true socialist economy, if there is nothing useful for a worker to do, he should starve to death, or at best go on the dole.

If, due to poor planning, work is not immediately available for workers, then keeping them on the job while the planners get their act together, or better yet listen to what the rank and file workers are telling them they should be doing, is exactly the way to go.

-M.H.-
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Money was not a universal equivalent for state enterprises. Having money did not ensure that you could get goods as inputs unless these had been authorised in the plan.
Irrelevant. If you were a state enterprise manager the only basis on which you could acquire such inputs in the first place was buying them with money and for which reason means of production were bought and sold between state enterprises - such monetary transactions being subject to legally binding contracts. The fact that such inputs might not have been available according to the plan is neither here nor there and does not alter one jot the commodity basis of the transactions in question.

Besides, as stated earlier, the plan was constantly modified to fit in with changing economic realities which would have included , of course, the changing needs of state enterprises for inputs. One could arguably assert that in the long run this turned out to be a rather clumsy and inefficient way of adminstering capitalism - with market transactions being mediated by the efforts of the bureaucrats - but, even so, it was indubitably capitalism that was being administered here in the form of state capitalism


State agencies like GOSSNAP (State Commission for Materials and Equipment Supply) were essentially intermediaries servicing the needs of distinct capitalist units within the Soviet Union. In any case, these state enterprises could and often did , turn to other other sources of supply - not only of inputs but of finance too - provided by the flourishing black market

As Aufheben put it

"although the state owned all the principal means of production in the USSR, the actual legal possession and operation of the means of production was left to the state enterprises and trusts, each of which was constituted as a distinct legal entity with its own set of accounts and responsibilities for production. ("What was the USSR? Towards a Theory of the Deformation of Value Part IV" http://www.geocities.com/aufheben2/auf_9_ussr4.html) .

Likewise Harold Berman in Justice in the USSR (revised edition, 1963 p. 114.)

the director of the enterprise is in one sense like a Western civil servant, but in another sense he is like a Western business executive. He measures his success not by the welfare of the economy as a whole, but by the economic achievement of this enterprise.”

In short these capitalist units that were the state enterprises in the SU confronted each other as competing economic units whose mode of interactions between themselves very much took the form of monetary transactions. What better expresses the capitalist nature of the Soviet Union than the fact that a relation between people should assume the alien form of a relationship between objects - money?
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Robbo grows tiresome, he would be honester if he just said outright he disagreed with Marx & Engels, which he does, rather than persisting in his Cliff-inspired attempts to shoehorn Marx and Engels into his particular boxes.-
As usual you jump to unwarranted conclusions. My analysis of the Soviet Union as state capitalist is not "Cliff-inspired". There are other variants of the state capitalist theory in case you werent aware. Ive quite often clearly stated where I disagree with M&E - for instance , their idea of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" idea was a blunder in my view - so I am not quite sure what you are on about


Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Especially his amazing statement, fundamental to his argument, that ownership and control are the same thing, which is utterly unlike anything M & E had to say. Despite Robbo's attempts to conceal this, they just insisted on talking about "ownership" instead of "control," over and over. As in Engels's letter to Von Boenigk quoted in my last posting, one of the few times either of them actually talked about what socialism would look like and the nuts and bolts of how to get there.
In the first place, do me the courtesy of quoting me accurately if you are going to criticise. I did not say "ownership and control are the same thing". I said ultimate control and ownership are the same thing. The point being that there are gradations of control and control per se does not necessary denote onwership, ultimate control does There is nothing "amazing" about asserting that ownership amounts to ultimate control or vice versa. It is actually completely logical when you think about it. That is if you think about it at all . To come up with such a piss-poor attempt at criticism as this, does make me wonder...

Secondly I didnt say anything about M&E on this ownership and control issue and again am at a loss to know what you are on about when you refer to "Robbo's attempts to conceal this" To conceal what? Are you some kind of fantasist or something who likes inventing little conspiracies for our amusement and entertainment? . You know , I couldnt really care a damn if M&E were to take a quite contrary position to mine. It really does not matter. I can stand on my own two feet and fight my own corner, thank you very much

That said, as it happens, I think you are wrong in this case. There is an interesting quote from Marx in which he says : "Property, at all events, is also a kind of power. Economists call capital, for instance, 'power over the labour of others' " (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...1847/10/31.htm). This is sort of what I am saying except Im using different terms - ownership instead of property and control instead of power


Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
In fact, you can search the Collected Works of Marx & Engels as much as you want for the phrase "workers control." And guess what! You won't find it. Ever. So much for Robbo's notions. "Workers control" is a particular tactic used by workers in struggle over control of factories during revolutions, and what it means is "oversight," checking, getting the books opened, giving workers veto rights over management actions. Didn't come into use until after M & E were both dead, and has nothing to do with Marx and Engels's conception of socialism. Once the workers have taken the power, the era of "workers control" is over..

Quess what Mr "Marxist Historian" - I didnt say anything about workers control either Are you sure youve haven't got your wires crossed yet again and are confusing me with someone else? As it happens I totally agree with M&E's conception of socialism as a classless society . Since there can be no working class in socialism the idea of "workers control" is an absurdity

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Plus Robbo's allegation that GOSPLAN plans were "a sham" because most of the time the plan wasn't actually fulfilled. Why is that important? The question is what directed the economy. GOSPLAN directives directed the economy, and shaped it, whether or not they were fulfilled. They were what the economy was all about. "Profit" bookkeeping was merely an efficiency incentive, whose real purpose was to determine which bureaucrats deserved promotion and which would get fired.

And another terrible thing it seems is that plans got changed according to "changing economic realities." Apparently to Robbo the only plan that is any good is one carried out come hell or high water, like Stalin's compulsory collectivization of agriculture even if millions of peasants starve to death.

Changing plans flexibly according to changing economic realities is not only what should be done in a transitional society between capitalism and socialism, but also in a socialist or communist society too. Or it isn't socialism, but some sort of stupid bureaucratic insanity...
It seems you have no idea at all where I am coming from and what lies behind my comment that GOSPLAN's "plans" were a sham. I am not at all trying to suggest that the planners should have been rigorous and ruthless in seeing that the plan was carried through. Quite the opppsite. I actually oppose the whole idea of of central planing in the sense of society wide planning. Its an utterly crackpot idea and is completely inpracticable. For me a socialist/communist economy would be an essentially polycentric system of planning involving a multiplicity of plans interacting with each other in a spontaneous and self regulating fashion. In short it involves a feedback mechanism. It is this that allows for plans to change "flexibly according to changing economic realities"

What I was attacking as a "sham" was he pretence that the Societ Union was some kind of centrally planned economy in that sense. It was not . It was nowhere near that. This is not for me something to be regretted - how could you possiby deduce this from what I said? I was actually saying something entirely different. I was trying to attack that sacred cow of some on the left- the so called "planned economy- which is a kind of euphemism for central planning. My poiunt was that it doesnt work and the proof of the pudding is in the eating in the case of the Soviet Union

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
In a capitalist society, corporate or government planners disregard economic realities altogether, if they conflict with capitalist needs for profit. A perfect example of this being the way the EU planners are currently destroying the economies of Greece, Portugal, Spain etc., despite complaints from your more intelligent bourgeois economists, so as to keep interest flowing to the bankers and keeping the banks from going under.

That is the difference in fact between capitalist "economic planning" and economic planning in a workers state.

In a capitalist economy, profit is what the economy is all about. Regardless of the fact that capitalists don't always make profits. Hey, some of 'em even go bankrupt from time to time....
In the Soviet Union too, businesses were required to make a profit and could be heavily penalised if they did not. This was not just a case of incentivising the bureaucrats as you rdiculously claim , Why do you think they would want to do that if there was not a more profound purpose behind it all. The state depended on profit for the purposes of capital accumulation, not to mention the the financing of the whole parasitic state apparatus istelf and the enrichment of the state capitalist class who collectively owned the means of production via their vice like grip on the state.

Ive alrweady cited Binns and Nove on the extent to which workers consumption levels particularly in the the 1930s were forcibly held down in the interests of profit extaction and capital accumulation. The reckless pursuit of profit is also what lies behind the massive environmetnal devastation and high levels of pollution that occured under the Soviet Regime intent upon industrialising atall costs


Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Better yet is the business of "disguised unemployment." In other words, workers in the USSR got kept on the job and paid even if there isn't any work for them to do. As if this was a bad thing! Apparently Robbo's view is that in a true socialist economy, if there is nothing useful for a worker to do, he should starve to death, or at best go on the dole.
.-
Dont be ridiculous. In a " true socialist economy", as you call it, there will no longer be employment - wage labour,. Therefore there will no longer be unenployment or the dole, either People will simply cooperate to produce things voluntarily for themselves and their communities. No one will get paid or need to get paid to do anything

Still, its good to see a Trot finally admitting there was indeed unemployment in the Soviet Union even if it was in the form of widespread disguised unemployment
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
It's called corporatism. According to you, we've been living with a socialist economy for approximately a hundred and a half years now.
What are you on about? Are seriously trying to tell me that the only form of non centralised interactions on the cards are market-based ones? Thats nonsense, Stock control systems involving the physical monitoring of stock flows refute your claim. Actually decentralised calculation-in-kind happens all around us and operates alongside monetary accounting. Think of what those shelf fillers are doing in your local supermarket. As items are removed from the shelves this sooner or latter triggers an order to the supplier th replenish said items. Precisely the same procedure can be used in a socialist society though of course there will be no monetary accounting.

That incidentally is why we ve not been "living in a socialist economy for approximately a hundred and a half years now" - because we still live in an economy that requires monetary accounting....
[robbo203]
[
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
Monetary accounting or not, your production process will still be chaotic proportionately to the number of your autonomous centers. And the more polycentric/chaotic your production process is, the more efficient will a "universal equivalent" accounting system be than the "calculation-in-kind". Competition between those centers will be promoted, and they will try to accumulate stuff - even if they won't be able to accumulate the "universal equivalent" - just to avoid shortages (at first). See where this will be going?

Back in the USSR, the Gosplan tried to do exactly that calculation-in-kind you're talking about, only that was technically problematic on such a large scale without the modern information technologies at their disposal. So they had to limit the number of parameters to the basic nomenclature of goods (putting, for example, different sizes of boots into the same category "boots", which often resulted in shortages of boots of a certain size in the stores). However, these days development of a system of centralized planning for production and distribution of millions of types of goods among billions of users is technically possible. Supercomputers running at billions of billions operations per second are already there, we just need a bunch of smart guys to develop necessary software and a bunch of leather-clad commissars who will dismiss the corporate CEOs and major stockholders from their onerous duties (not that the CEOs won't be welcome back if they agree to do their favorite work the socialist way and for a reasonable salary).
Nope, Im afraid youve got the wrong end of the stick completely. You don't really seem to understand what the issue is about at all. Let me explain.

Any coinceivable kind of society involves "planning" - the conscious premeditated act of defining objectives and the means to achieve these objectives. Even the most "free" market version of capitalism you can possibly come up with is full of "plans". Entrepeneurs all engage in planning all the time. These numerous different plans interact with one another though the mediation of the market. X sees the opportunity to increase sales of product M., To produce more of M means increasing the available supply of inputs required to produce M . Let us call one of these inputs, G. (There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of other inputs likewise required to produce M) . The increased demand for M translates into an increased demand for G which prompts a rise in the price of G and stimulates Z into producing more of G to enable X to produce more of M. Thus we see a kind of spontaneous adjustment of one entrepeneur's plans to another's

The problem is of course that in capitalism these spontaneous adjustments are made via the the market mechanism. itself . The possiblity of disproportionate or uneven growth arises from this - Z producing more of G than X might actually required. However in a market economy, as Marx pointed out, this can have much more serious consequences because of "the very connection between the mutual claims and obligations, between purchases and sales". In this way disproportionate growth can leads to recession (Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 11, 4c). So workers are laid off in one sector and have less money to spend on goods produced in some other sector which in turn has to lay off workers etc etc

Once you remove the market you break that "very connection" Marx speaks of so that any overproduction of some good no longer has a knock-on effect on the rest of production and can be remedied simply by consciously adjusting output to the level required. In this sense "conscious social control" replaces the "anarchy of (market) production".

This is what I mean by a polycentric system of socialist planning. In fact, the "supercomputers" you refer to are precisely what makes such a system eminently practicable. Through the distributed computer network individual production units are able to to gain a compete overview of the availability of stock anywhere at any any given time. Individual units can proactively affect the overall picture by placing orders for more stock which would them automatically stuimulate the suppliers of such stock to increase output which will once again alter the overall piciture. In short there is a kind of feedback mechanism involved.

One might call this a "centralised data base" or whatever but this is where a lot of confusion tends to arise and indeed where your own argument goes wrong when you refer to this as a "centralized planning for production and distribution of millions of types of goods" . It is not actually a centralised planning system at all

Central planning is the proposal to replace the many plans of a spontaneously ordered society - whether this be a market capitalist society or a non market socialist society - with a single society wide plan. Or to put it differently, the interactions between the many plans are themselves planned thus assimilating the many plans into one single one.

The very idea is absolutely hopeless if you think about it. It would mean - to use the example above - if you wanted to produce 1000 units of M - you would have to calculate how many units of G are needed to produce 1000 of M. given the known technical ratios and assuming these dont change in the course of your plan implemetation period. But it doesnt stop there does it. G itself needs to be produced and that too requires inputs. Possibly there are many other inputs needed to produce 1000 units of M. These too will have to be calculated. In fact in a complex moden society there are millions and millions of different kinds of items. All of these would have to be brought together into some unimaginably huge input-output matrix that coordinated all of socieity's inputs and outputs. This would be your single vast plan in the classical model of central planning

But it doesnt stop there. Let us assume you could:

1) gather together all the necessary data relevant to foumulating a single vast plan

2) accurately compute the all necessary production targets on the basis of the data

You still have one massive problem to overcome - how to implement your plan in the real world we live in. If the plan is to be be successfully implemented it has to be implemented in toto. This is what people who claim to be sysmpathetic to central planning often dont realise. Its very simple to understand really. Everything is inteconnected. If 1000 units of M require 20,000 units of G then producing only 10.000 units of G means you will only be able to produce 500 units of M. And so on and do forth,

In short, the failure to meet any part of the plan will mean the entire plan will have to be completely redrawn for the very reason that everything is interconnected. In the real world this is always going to happen isnt it? A fungal blight that might wipe out two thirds of the US maize crop will have massive ramifications that will ripple through the economy and upset all those finally worked out calculations. A fractured oil pipe will not only mean production targets for oil not being not - it will also mean resources being unexpectedly diverted diverted from other planned activities within your single vast plan to cope with the consequences of the subsequent spill. At any one time there would probably be thousands upon thousands of reasons why the plan could not be implemented. Ever! The planners would simply be overwhelmed with the task of trying to constantly redraft the plan and their efforts would be doomed even before the new plan could see the light of day.


It is usually at this point that the supporters of central planning start backpeddling and trying to cover their tracks. Oh, they will exclaim, they dont mean literally everthing should fall under the remit of some central planning office. They prefer to talk of central planning in wishy washy terms of providing guidlines rather like the "indicative planning" the French govenrment used to favour. But, of course, here we are no longer talking about classical central planning. If everything does not fall within the framework of a single vast society-wide plan then you are talking about there being many plans and the only way in which you can have many plans coexisting is if they interact or mutually adjust to each other spontaneously . Once you start planning the way in which the many plans interact you are back to a single society-wide plan and all that that entails

This is a why I say socialism will be a polycentric system of planning not a centrally planned system. The likelihood of chaos resulting from having many plans is not in any way proportional to the number of planning centres as some people here have suggested. This shows a lack of understanding of basic marxian economics. It is not due to the fact that you have many plans and many planning centres (corporations) in a capitalist economy that you have chaotic outcomes such as economic recessions. Rather it is the nature of the interactioins between the these capitalist planning units - the fact that they are mediated by the market - that is the real source of the problem

Interestingly enough, Marx and Engels held that there was an inherent tendency in capitalism towards centralisation and concentration of wealth production – in other words a gradual diminution in the area of unplanned spontaneity existing between competing units by virtue of the decline in the number of such units competing in the market. At the same they held that the “anarchy of production” to quote Engels in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific tends to grow to “greater and greater height”. Thiunk about what this means for a moment. It is the very opppste of the view, expressed here, that "chaos rises more than proportionally with the number of autonomous centers ". It doesnt
[robbo203]
One further point to add to my comments in post 122

Consider what society wide planning literally means - the premeditated establishment of precise targets for literally millions of different kinds of goods within one single giant plan.

How are you going to ensure that workers fulfil these targets? They would need to be fulfilled because everything depends on everything else. Not only is the whole idea of classical central planning completely ridiculous but, I would suggest, it is intrinsically authoritarian

For that reason alone no socialist would touch with a barge pole the proposal to introduce a centrally planned economy. People who think it is a good idea have not really figured out the consequences of what it would mean in practice
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Not strictly true. Everything depends on the basic sector - basically production of means of production, you can have a lot of slack in the production of goods that do not enter into other goods. But this is just a fact of life for any industrial economy. These interdependences are real which is why there can never in any industrial economy be independence for the producers. They are alway tied in a net of dependency whether mediated by the market or by plan.

I would agree that there are degrees of dependency and some "slack" as you put it, in respect of consumer goods. Although ultimately this comes down to a question of dependency too. Consumer goods, afterall, sustain labour power upon which the production of means of production is dependent. But there is a more obvious sense in which this is true inasmuch as expanding output of the means of production is linked to expanding output of production of consumer goods in that how much in the way of producer goods are produced is determined or regulated by the demand for consumer goods themselves (the production of which requires those producer goods)


It would be completely misleading to suggest that the "net of dependency" as you call it, can only be mediated by either "the market or plan". If by "plan" you mean a single society wide plan then this is not a viable option at all for the reasons Ive explained. There is however another alternative which is mediation via a self regulating system of stock control using calculatiuon in kind

In point of fact, for all practical purposes, this turns out to be the only realistic alternative to the market and it is one which socialists ought to embrace for that reason
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
The problem arises when due to resource constraints not all of these can be supplied and society has to chose between alternatives, and more specifically if each unit of production has to choose between specifying different mixes of inputs with different social costs. This is the Socialist Calculation Problem. Even Mises accepted that the sort of simple feedback order mechanism you specify would work so long as the mix of products remained the same. The problem is in a technically dynamic society you have to select between different alternatives.

This is precisely why society-wide central planning is non viable - it has no feedback mechanism and is thus unable to effectively discriminate between inputs in terms of their relative scarcities over time. One reason why the Austrian ecoinomists have had such a field day demolishing the pretensions of the central planning fraternity

It is an entirely different matter, however, when it comes to considering a non-market polycentric socialist economy which in fact incorporates just such a mechanism, . This would allow such an economy to determine the relative scarcities of inputs and make informed choices based on information freely available to producers via a self regulating system of stock control - more so now than ever before thanks precisely to the kind of supercomputers Zulu goes on about . With information such as stock levels and technical ratios you are in a position to work out the opportunity costs of your decisions - what you forego by allocating an input to one end use rather than another - and rationally arrange the allocation of inputs with a view to minimising these costs


Mises' so called "socialism calculation problem" is a non problem. He simply did not understand that a socialist economy does not have to be - and, I wold say, cannot be - a centrally planned economy. That was his fatal error.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
We already have world-wide central planning: it is called monopoly capitalism. A company like Microsoft engages in central planning every day. It determines how many copies of its operating system it needs, then orders them, then pays the producers a price which it fixes, then sells the copies at a price which it fixes. There is no free market involved. It is entirely a centrally planned system.

This is not an example society-wide central planning AT ALL.

It is the centralised planning, if you like, in respect of a single item - namely a computer operating system. And while Microsoft might well have cornered the market in operating systems it is not the only provider of operating systems anyway


Society wide central planning - what is classically meant by "central planning" - is the the proposal that everything - from computer operating systems to shoelaces, satellite dishes and packets of cornflakes - should come under the aegis of one single vast sprawling plan that coordinates the entirety of inputs and outputs in the economy in apriori fashion and presents these as quantified production targets which production units need to fulfill . Since production is a socialised process and the output of one production unit is dependent on the inputs provided by other units it is vital that all units comply fully to the letter to meet the targets imposed on them in order for The Plan to be faithfully implemented

Most people who claim to support "central planning" or purport to see evidence of it in existence, do not really understand what it means at all and this, I regret, seems to be true in your case. You need to grasp that the esence of central planning means trying to organise the totality of production within a single unified framework - a single vast plan for everything and not just for one item like a computer operating system.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rafiq View Post
A centrally planned economy would have to be vital in a world of, you know, 7 billion.
It is precisely because we have a world population of 7 billion that a centrally planned economy is impossible. It wouldn't even be possible in a poluation of 5 million let alone 7 billion frankly. The idea of eliminating every other plan than a single society-wide plan that embraces everything is absolute nonsense on stilts
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
The idea is not to "eliminate every other plan", but synchronize all the plans, standardize them, bring them all to a series of rationally determined common denominators. We can call it "the global plan", or "the world-wide centralized system of planning", or "the universal all-purpose objective and guideline list" or whatever. The point is that this is to eliminate the waste that results from the incomplete information that all the autonomous planning authorities in a decentralized system have to rely on. Incomplete information => overproduction, underproduction.
.
Look, you've got to make up your mind on this. Its very simple. Either you have one " single vast plan" (central planning) of you have "many plan"s. If you start planning the pattern of interactions between the many plans then you no longer have many plans. These erstwhile "many plans" have been assimilated and absorbed into the overall plan: they cease to exist. They have been elimated despite your protestation that you do not desire to "eliminate every other plan"

The only way logically in which the many plans can exist is on autonomous polycentric basis whereby they relate and adjust themselves, to other plans on a spontaneous or unplanned basis.

"Synchronising" all these millions of different plans while pretending not to want to eliminate them is just meaningless pious waffle. If you dont want to eliminate then then what you are advocating is rather like the so called "indicative planning" pursued by the French and Britsh post war governments) - a fanciful but toothless wishlist of things which businesses ought to be doing which which was drawn up by the relevant governbment department and by and large ignominiously ignored by the business community. The idea behind indicative planning was that if businesses knew what other business were doing - or whatthey planned to do - and were more aware of economc trends, then this would help to reduce wastage, promote efficiuency and so on.

It was a complete waste of time and that more or less sums up what you are proposing here
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Psy View Post
Yet within large corporations like Wal-Mart we see central planning on a small scale where cybernetics allows computer clusters to track everything and make on the fly changes based on the Wal-Mart economic plan, for example if there is a run on commodity A in store B then Wal-Mart computers will automatically increase the price and re-route stock A to store B without any manager input just creating work orders based on its programing and the inputs.

This is what Moscow computer scientists in the 1960's dreamed the future of central planning would be, computers carrying the plan with pin point accuracy without the need of humans making adjustments as the computers will already make on the fly adjustments based on conditions programed into them.
Yes, but this is still not central planning in the sense of society wide planning which, I keep on stressing, has to do with the totality of inputs and outputs in an economy and their apriori coordination within a single vast plan.


What you are describing self evidently entails a feedback mechanism - it is responsive to changes in demand - and that in itself is incompatible with the idea of a society wide plan which establishes apriori what the production targets should be. In the classical sense of central planning there is no question of re-routing stock from one place to another to increase output in response to shifts in demand. The allocation of eveything has all been decided beforehand. Demand does not shft; it has already been decided what you shall "demand" . You canniot change that without rendering The Plan incoherent. This is the fundamental point to grasp and it seems it is being constantly missed

People seem to be talking at cross purposes here with different definitions of central planning being put forward. I am using, as I say, the classical definition which means one plan emanating from one centre (in the meaningful sense of the term) and this definition I am using stems vey much from my engagement with the literature on the economic calculation problem. It is pretty much evident in von Mises' crass identification of socialism with the "fuhrer principle" where one single will prevails

I dont have a problem with the idea of a distributed computer network approach such as you describe above. Indeed, the computer technology that has been developed now would enormously benefit a self regulating polycentric system of non-market socialist production which I have been advocating

But I think it is confusing to identify such technology and associated techniques with central planning as such. These are two quite separate things. The fact that the information is centralised in the model you outlined does not make it a centrally planned set up
[Kronsteen]
Thank you Grenzer, for posing an excellent question.

I think the reason we disagree on the way the USSR failed to become a socialist state us...we're not sure what success would have been.

There's a central ambiguity in the notion of socialist economy. Hopefully resolvable, but I reckon still unresolved.

On the one hand, the economy is controlled democratically by the workers. The people who're affected by a decision are the same people who make the decision.

On the other hand, it's planned. It's not the case that every factory decides on all it's own targets and strategies without regard for what all the other factories are deciding.

That would be chaotic and unworkable, so a degree of central planning is necessary. That means a bureaucracy - one with the power to instruct workers what to do, not simply suggest.

(Now, just possibly we could imagine a world where the bureaucrats and workers are the same people.

One where any electrician can put forward a motion on something that affects them professionally - say copper wire production. The proposal to be considered and voted upon by all the other electricians, which then gets considered by all the workers involved in affected fields like copper mining, ore transporation, purification and wire production.

And if they all agree, they all vote on the necessary adjustments to worker recruitment and resource allocation, after due consultation with everyone involved in iron mining to make sure they wouldn't lose out.

It sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare where no one has time to do their jobs.)

Now, did the soviet union have a class who accumulated wealth? Many elements of the party and the bureaucracy got themselves rich - but not doing so didn't disqualify a person from membership. There were loyal party members who weren't on the take and genuinely tried to make the country function.

So was the soviet union capitalist?

Was it centrally planned? Yes. The planning was a disaster, but it definitely occured.

Was there profiteering? Yes, but always as corruption.

Was there worker's control? No.

Was it in economic competition with other countries? Yes.

If I have to put a label on it, I'll call it State Capitalist.

As to whether it was state capitalist from the moment of the revolution, or whether there was a brief period of actual socialism - with attendant ambiguity - that's for the next thread.
[Kronsteen]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anti-Capitalist
production was not organized on a capitalist basis
Not within the soviet union, but between the soviet union and capitalist countries.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Borz
A commodity economy necessarily implies private property.
But it doesn't imply competing property owners.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Borz
In the Soviet Union there was no Capitalist class. Capitalism simply can't exist without capitalists exploiting wage-laborers.
Then who did exploit the workers? And what do you call their class?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake's Baby
socialism doesn't produce commodities. Therefore, if the SU did, it wasn't socialist.
It did, so it wasn't. I don't think anyone here doubts that the soviet union wasn't socialist.

But the question is...what the hell was it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Borz
there was a relatively overbearing bureaucracy and deformities (politically and economically) but it was still in the earliest stages of socialist development.
So it wasn't socialist...yet. So was it still feudal, or capitalist? Or something else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by daft punk
the state as in the economy remained planned. The state as in the government and so on degenerated.
As I say in another post, I think state planning and worker's control are mutually exclusive. But assuming they're not, does an economy need to have both to be socialist?

If so, then by your reasoning, the USSR was not socialist, and the question in the opening post remains: what was it?

If not, which of the two criterea is the essential one, and why?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bostana
it just turned capitalist and collapsed
There's an elephant in the room here, though it probably belongs in another thread: Why did the soviet union collapse?

It certainly didn't collapse because it was capitalist - if it was.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bostana
I stopped reading Ticktin after he predicted in his magazine that Chernobyl would kill off half the population of the USSR.
Oh god. He really said that?

There are moments of crushing disappointment when you realise someone who you thought was interesting...is actually a complete idiot.

Anyway....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bostana
I don't think that the USSR's OVERALL history shows it to be state capitalist, but instead coordinator.
Fair enough, but what are the crucial differences between a 'Co-ordinator' model of the USSR and a 'Bureaucratic Collectivist' model?

The one seems to be a minor variation on the other.

Also, other's have asked: How did this co-ordinator class emerge? How was it a separate class an not just a bureaucracy serving the party?

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203
The SU was NOT - repeat NOT a planned economy [...] The economy was NOT guided by GOSPLAN's so called plans which were more or less just a fanciful wishlist of things the so called planners wanted done. No plan was ever strictly fulfiulled; on the contrary the plan was regularly modified and updated to make it appear as if it had been fulfiulled. The economy guided the plan not the other way round.
Yes, probably all true. But why do you call those who disagree with this 'trotskyists'?

Quote:
Originally Posted by NoPasaran1936
Britain arguably had a socialist government after WW2
You mean it had a government which, relative to most, took care of the people, using nationalised services.

But you can't have a socialist government in a capitalist country, and the economy was umambiguously capitalist.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NoPasaran1936
i think that we have to wait for capitalism to die on its own
Ah, 'Revolutionary Waiting'.

For something that may not happen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Genzer
socialism is by definition a stateless, classless society so it can't exist on a national level, since by default the nation must be destroyed.
If you mean the nation-state in competition with other nation-states must be transformed into a worker-state which doesn't compete with any other states, then yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Genzer
the material abundance required for the success of socialist society also cannot exist on a national level.
Why not a socialist state which just lives within its means? Socialism has to have technological industry, but it doesn't need to have sci-fi technology or mega-big industry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Workers-Control-Over-Prod's Avatar
Workers-Control-Over-Prod
vanguard revolutionary party
Ah yes. The idea that the workers will always be too backward to emancipate themselves, so we've got to take power and give them their freedom.

And when they're grown up enough to adminstrate themselves, we'll disband ourselves.

Not one of Lenin's better ideas, IMO. Or Che's. Or Mao's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Q
there was no universal commodity production. The core characteristic of commodity production is that it is produced for a market
Did people get paid? Did they make choices about what to spend their wages on? Was the Gosplan modified according to supply and demand? Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian
The actual Soviet system was, in purely economic terms, something in between a capitalist market system and a system of production for use not private profit.
That formulation suggests that there is a continuum between capitalism and socialism. Which in turn suggests that capitalism could be reformed into socialism.

I'm pretty sure neither of us would accept those conclusions though.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Syd Barrett
It wasn't capitalist, it was a planned economy for fuck sakes. It was just planned by an exclusive caste
You've just described nationalised industries as socialist.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Syd Barrett
If something is planned it doesn't abide by market rules.
As others have pointed out, the plan was constantly changed according to fluctuations in...the market.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Syd Barrett
there was a caste of "intellectual labour" workers had sole control
You're saying the bureaucrats made the policy decisions. What then did the party do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Syd Barrett
There were never banks who invested capital in the U.S.S.R.
That is simply incorrect.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Psy View Post
Yet computers make adjustments based on pre-planned reactions, the computer looks at values being fed into it then looking at its programing to figure out how to react which came about by human planning.

Yes I can understand the point that the reactions are preplanned and built into the system but that still is not the point. The point is that the values that are fed into the computer are NOT preplanned even if the way in which the computer might respond to them is.

This is, in other words, a feedback system and hence incompatible with notion of society wide central planning
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
This is ridiculous. Parts don't cease to exist just because they are fitted together to form a complex thing, although they change their quality of being useless as separate parts for the quality of being useful as parts of something.
Er..no. Youve lost track of what we are talking about, I think. If all planning emanates from one centre then by definition it cannot emanate from other centres. One single vast society wide plan can indeed have subsections but these are parts of the single integrated plan. They dont exist independently of this plan


Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post

In other words, you advocate chaos.
.
Nope, I advocate spontaneous order, the dialectical interplay of autonomy and interdependence, the adjustment of one plan to another in the light of the fact that we all need and depend on each other in the end. In the real world that is the only way to go. It is absolutely delusional - utter madness - to think that from one single planning centre, so to speak, you can plan the whole world around you right down to the last nail you bang into the coffin of that sacred cow of the unreflective Left - the so called "planned economy"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
It was a complete waste of time and does not sum up what I've been posting here, because centralized planning means elimination of the productive units' autonomy from the planning center, their mandatory compliance with the plan, and their providing full and accurate feedback necessary to assess the completion of the current plan and to draw up the next.
Yet again, you are wanting to have your cake and eat it. If centralised planning means the elimination of the productive units' autonomy from the planning centre then there can be no feedback mechanism. Period. Thats logical when you think about it. What does feedback imply other than the possibility of, or the potential for, some departure from the central plan? It is an admission of the fact that the performance of the productive units may indeed NOT comply with plan and that the plan may indeed have to be modified as a result of forces emanating from outside
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
Not only does Microsoft engage in a vast centrally planned system, so does Walmart, which sells, who knows? millions of different commodities, it sets the price it pays to producers and sets the price it charges to consumers. It controls the marketing and thus the demand for its products through advertising.

Walmart can do this only because of gigantic computer systems. The economic system of the entire world is essentially controlled by a few hundred corporations. There already is a centrally planned, unified framework. The question is who owns it and for whose benefit does it function.
No you are still missing the point. This is not society wide central planning at all. How could it be - Microsift and Walmart are two different and separate planning entities. Walmart may well sell a great many different commodities - "millions" is probably an exaggeration - but there are hundreds of thousands of other commercial organisations that do likewise. They each have their own "plans". Even if the world is dominated by a few hundred mega corporations this is still nowhere near society wide central planning. These corporations are still autonomous with respect to one another and indeed there is strong evidence to suggest that the larger the size of the corporation, the greater the tendency for it to devolve power and responsibility downwards to the branch or department level. It becomes just too unwieldy to manage everything from one centre, from the top . There are diseconomies as well as economies of scale , you know . See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diseconomy_of_scale

I dont doubt that Walmart has a highly centralised system of "planning" within the organisation though to suggest that "It controls the marketing and thus the demand for its products through advertising" is slightly misleading. Demand depends on a lot of other things as well - not the least of which is the current state of the economy itself
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
Yes, but the computing capacity of modern supercomputers is also unimaginably huge. They are already running atom by atom simulations of nuclear blasts. And it will be climbing, while the diversity of the kinds of the items may be even reduced, since it's in part a result of the chaos of production, insufficient standardization of the spare parts, etc. Basically all those shortcomings of capitalism that may be remedied only by centralized planning. BTW, this goes also to that seemingly conflicting tendencies between the increasing concentration of capital and increasing anarchy of production. The latter tendency had also very much to do with the huge multitude of scientific-technological breakthroughs achieved between the mid 19th and the mid 20th centuries. But by now the former tendency has obviously prevailed and the anarchy of production has significantly diminished - even under capitalism, thanks to the big corporations..
This is of course the opposite of the view held by Marx and Engels who maintained that the "anarchy of production" would grow to an ever greater height - along, and in tandem, with the growing concentration and centralisation of capital. To suggest that this "anarchy" has diminished due to the latter tendency coming to prevail is positively eyebrow-raising. Crisis? What crisis? Where have you been the last few years? Ironically, some of the most conspicuous victims of recent crises have been some pretty large corporations - household names - and where they have not actually been bailed out by the government have slipped into the pages of history - Enron, Lehman Brothers, Delta Airlines etc etc etc

I dislike using the word "anarchy" in this context because it is potentially so misleading. "Chaos" or some such word be more suitable. Point is, as Ive tried to show, chaos as expressed in such phenonema as economic crises does NOT result from there being a multiplicity of production units under capitalism - any more than economic booms do. Something else is involved and I have tried to pinpoint what this was in my earlier posts. Namely "the very connection between the mutual claims and obligations, between purchases and sales"(Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 11, 4c). It is this that causes disproportionate growth to amplify and give rise to knock on effects that pull the economy down into a generalised recession - chaos

In a non market polycentric socialist economy disproportionate growth would easily be remedied and does nor present a problem precisely because there is no market - there is simply conscious social regulation. Not of the total picture (since that would be central planning) but the individual parts of that picture. If one industry's output overshoots the needs of another industry for inputs all that happens is production in the former slows down a little. Nobody is "employed" in a socialist economy - it is, after all, an association of free and voluntary producers - so its not a case of workers losing their jobs and being less able to buy stuff as a result. The link between "demand" and "production" is severed at the individual level - the "very connections" Marx was talking about.

In a marketised capitalist economy however these connections firmly exist and it is precisely for this reason that the ripple effects of uneven growth can spread and assume chaotic proportions. Here it is the economic laws of capitalism that prevail over, and mediate, conscious human intentions. For instance, it is not really in anyone's interests to engineer an economic recesssion - yet it happens. Why? Answer: it is because of these economic laws of capitalism that are built into the very nature of the system and function, as it were, independently of conscious human control The trade cycle exemplifies this perfectly. Its got little to do with the level of concentration and centralisation of capital as such, recessions happen today even under so called monopoly capitalism. Its an aspect of capitalism itself

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
This, however, also presents a significant problem - centralized planning by itself does not like innovation, and that's one of the main legitimate theoretical arguments against socialism that the capitalist apologists have come up with. In practice, though, because of the corporate planning capitalism is now facing this problem too. Not to mention the Tesla's discoveries that are rumored to have been locked away forever, there is an example of Fred Koch, who had to go to the USSR to implement his know-how. So it may be in fact an argument more in favor of socialism in the end. But to make it truly so, there must be a force under socialism that will stimulate innovation as a matter of principle (similarly as it was happening in the USSR for the best part of its history, in spite of the conservatism of the planners, - not that there wasn't plenty of room to improve the policies and methods of stimulation of innovation), which during the transition period can obviously be only the vanguard party you so abhor. Because the consumer society paradise run by "spontaneity" just won't cut it.
There is no alternative to a spontaneous order in the sense of a polycentric society in which the many plans adjust to each other automatically without the total pattern of interactions ever being "planned" in premeditated fashion. Reality is just far too complex to plan the "total picture" in this sense and anyone who thinks otherwise is seriously deluded. The only realistic choice available to us is what kind of spontaneous order we want - a market-based capitalist one or a non-market socialist one.

The idea of a single society wide plan for the millions upon millions of different kinds of items that exist in a modern economy is just so ludicrous, so preposterous, as to make it difficult to believe anyone can seriously propose such a thing. Actually I dont think anyone does seriously subscribe to such an idea in the literal sense - it is just an ideal type in the weberian sense of the word - yet some still cling to the nomenclature of central planning without acknowledging or recognising that in fact what they advocate is no longer central planning strictly speaking. Or ever was.

So they will talk vaguely about the need for the central planners to provide some general guidelines or "directives" to guide and direct prpduction and allow that the finer details can be left to people on the ground. But this is a completely vacuous and pointless dogma . It is is what was known as indicative planning which used to be carried out by certain early post war governments such as in France and the UK when there was more of a fad for "planning". Quite simply, it is meaningless waffle: the "general picture" is precisely what is made up of the numerous finer details. It doesn't exist apart from the details

Similar confusion reigns in the case of who talk about centralised computing systems - a distributed network - that allows spatially separate production units to gain a "birds eye" overview of the state of production generally and the supplies of stock held by other units. But this of course has got nothing to do with central planning as such which is quite a different proposition. I dont doubt for one moment that modern supercomputers have an immense capacity to compute but as Ive said time and time again its not a question of computing capacity . Its a question of the relationship between "The Plan" and the economic reality it is intended to shape. This is what foredooms central planning from the word go as a non starter,

You try to gloss over the many insurmountable problems such a notion would entail. One of these is indeed the problem of innovation. Innovation necessarily and unavoidably disturbs the complex nexus of input-output relationships that connect all those millions upon millions of items in your vast Leontief-type matrix, which relationships are given numerical expression (X tonnes of steel to produce Z numbers of tractors etc etc) . That being so, this vast plan would have to be redrafted from scratch every time it had to accommodate a new innovation. Thats simply bonkers. This is why, even if it were possible to get a society-wide central planning system off the ground, it would necessarly work to stifle innovation. Its got nothing to do with the "conservatism" of the planners. Rather, its a structural constraint built into the very model of central planning itself. If you want to persist with the implementation of a single vast plan covering the totality of production then you cannot permit the quantitative inter-relationships linking these millions of inputs and outputs to be disturbed. To do so would render the whole plan incoherent. If you allow for innovation, on the other hand, you are no longer technically talking about central planning in the sense of a society wide plan. You are allowing for other plans to come into play makes themselves felt





Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post

No, it will not. Because plans are drawn up with a margin of safety, and the main foreseeable problems can be accounted for with specially allocated resources. Of course, emergencies happen every once in a while, but in a competition at emergency handling - between spontaneity and centralized approach - the spontaneity loses in the 1st round. Don't you think they call the firefighters and the national guard for a reason in cases when some major shit happens, instead of hoping that the people deal with it themselves? Ideally those types should be getting their lunches free 100% of the time, and constitute a complete waste for the society to have them around, and make the libertarians complain that the government is not small enough. Will the firefighters and the national guard be gone, when centralized planning overtakes the economy? Not a chance. (Although the national guard will probably be renamed.)
Well immediately we run into a problem with this argument, dont we? Saying that "plans are drawn up with a margin of safety" - actually if you are talking about "plans" rather than "the plan" you are no longer talking about central planning anyway - sounds plausible but what does it actually mean? In order to draw up a "margin of safety" you have to determine your baseline. How do you get to do that? How, in a centrally planned economy with society wide planning, do the planners determine the targets of millions upon millions of different kinds of consumer products and producer goods. How?

This is the problem, see. In a system of society-wide planning you have no feedback mechanism. All other plans are eliminated, save the big one governing everything - the totality of production. Necessarily, then, the establishment of targets must be an arbitrary decision - a conscious one to be sure - but an arbitrary one, nevertheless. There is nothing to objectively guide such decisions other than what the planners think "ought to be produced". Its a one way thing.

In the so called "market socialist" model of Oskar Lange and others back in the 1930s a so called "central planning board" (CPB) was proposed that would arbitrarily set "accounting prices" for production inputs which state owned enterprises would then have to work with . In doing so, these enterprises would be required to seek out the least costly combination of inputs to ensure "economic efficiency". Despite the term "central planning board", this was not really a centrally planned economy . The state enterprises had considerable autonomy. Whats more, while there was technically no market for production factors or producer goods, there was indeed a genuine market for consumer goods, the prices of such goods taking into account - or reflecting - the so called "accounting prices" assigned to producer goods. This provided some sort of feedback for the CPB in Lange's schema. If a surplus of unsold products appeared then it would be necessary to adjust downwards the relevant accounting prices, if there was a shortage the opposite would apply. This is very much in line with the idea of the mythical Walrasian auctioneer groping towards equilibrium prices in a process called “tâtonnement” within neoclassical economic theory

In your idea of a single society wide plan you just do not have this kind of feedback mechanism so you have no way of knowing whether your output targets are correct or not. How would you know that the specified target of, say, 10 million pairs of black shoes (size 10) - to makes things easier on you we wont go into the question of different styles of shoes or their material composition - laid down by the planners was correct or not? If the Plan supposedly precludes the market - and, rather misleadingly, Paul Cockshott earlier talked precisely in these terms of there being only two options of the Plan or the market - then on what basis would your shoes be distributed to the population under the Plan? Would individuals in a population of 10 million each be allocated a pair of black shoes regardless of whether they liked black shoes or not ? That would seem to be a particularly silly and wasteful way of doing things. But then what else could you do under the Plan? Give people a choice? Maybe produce 5 million black pairs of shoes and 5 million brown pairs? Very well , but let us say 6 million people prefer black shoes so you would have undersupplied the demand for black shoes by 1 million. How would even know this? The capitalist market has a way of knowing inasmuch as the price of black shoes will go up and so has a polycentric non-market socialist economy as I will explian but not - repeat not - a system of society wide planning.

Such a system has no feedback mechanism which, by definition can only exist in an economy were there are many plans that spontaneously adjust to each other. It is this feedback mechanism that allows us to establish a base line - a production target - that then enables us to establish a reasonably accurate margin of safety . But without being able to objectively establish what this base line should be in the first place - it is impossible to establish a establish with certainty, a reliable margin of safety . That is yet another problem that central planning has to contend with.


Even assuming you built in your margin of safety what then?. This still not going to get round the problem.Think about it. What is to say unforeseen events - a fungal blight ravaging the North American wheat crop, drought in Africa, earthquakes or whatever, will not happen and stretch resources beyond breaking point - that is, beyond what your margin for safety allows for - and thus by your own admission necessitating the entire plan to be redrawn to accomodate a re-allocation of resoruces in the desired direction. Of course you can always argue, as Im sure you will, that you can increase the margin of safety to such an extent that it will take care of the absolutely worse case scenario one can possibly think of. Instead of 10 million pairs of black shoes for a population of 10 million people lets produce , say, 15 million, to allow for all those negligent consumers who carelessly lose their shoes as they go about their daily business.

But here , you see, you run into another problem. Its all very well having a margin for safety but too big a margin can be as problematic as too little because it wastes resources (which can then make it more difficult to meet other targets) There is a need to pitch it just right and this is something that a central planning system based on society-wide planning just cannot do. Just as it cannot reliably calculate the requisite base line so it it cannot reliably calculate the requisite add-on "margin for safety".

And despite what you say, the best laid plans of mice and men will always go awry. Imagine a devastating earthquake hits Japan. Is the rest if the world going to sit back and watch a tragedy unfold because to divert resources to helping our comrades in Japan would affect our ability to meet the production targets laid down in the plan and so necessitate the whole plan to be redrawn from scratch? Of course not. But let us assume the rest of the world has allowed for something like this happening in Japan and has built in a margin for safety to provide the necessary assistance while still making it possiible to keep to the rigid specifications laid down in the Plan. Suppose then another earthquake happens elsewhere that devastates, say, the western seaboard of the United States or perhaps a massive mudslide in Columbia that engulfs an entire town . Or a tornado or a tsunami or whatever.

The point Im making here is that it is not just single events but an accumulation of events that can come to completely subvert the complex structure of planning targets embodied in the Plan even with their built in margin for safety. And here we see another difference between a totally planned economy and a spontaneous economy. The margin of safety has to be significantly greater in each and every line of production in order to ensure the continuity of the Plan as originally conceived, by comparison with what would be needed in a spontaneously ordered economy. This is another reason why a spontaneous ordered economy is inherently less wasteful than an economy based on centralised society-wide planning. If an earthquake hits Japan then, yes, this may well require the significant diversion of resources from other end uses and may well mean shortages of various kinds but this will not affect the ability of a spontaneously ordered economy to respond on its own terms. With an economy based on society wide planning on the other hand it could render the whole plan completely incoherent and THAT is why the margin for safety has to be so much higher if the coherence of the Plan is to remain intact. That however carries a very high price in terms of built in waste


Of course the principle of having a margin for safety in the form of buffer stocks is a very sound one, I agree, and it is precisely this principle that a non-market polycentric system of socialist production will put into effect. In fact, buffer stocks provide a key indicator that production units can use in their interactions with other such units and distribution centres. It allows to you monitor the rate of stock depletion and respond promptly and efficiently to shifts in demand. The technology to underpin a polycentric non market socialist economy based on a self regulating system of stock control already exists in the form of increasingly effective distributed computer networks and Japanese style "just-in-time" lean production techniques which economises on the use of buffer stiocks

One final point. I referred to the question of shifts in the pattern of demand and the need to respond to these. In society wide central planning where you have the pre-determined pre-meditated establishment of quantitive targets in the output of consumer goods (and of course producer goods) embodied in the single vast plan this absolutely necessitates a fixed pattern of consumption. How can this possibly be ensured? I would suggest to you that the only way in wehich can be ensured is via a system of top down rationing - people being told what goods they can consume asnd how many. However, this in turn is almost certainly going to generate a whole host of other problems. Social disontent and corrpution is virtually garanteed to follow. Not only that whole process of monitoring and controlling consumption - unlike the communist principple of free distribution - will requite a massive bureaucracy which in itself would contribute nothing whatsover to production of useful wealth and would prove enormously wasteful in the amount of resources it consumes. Indeed, this diversion of resources into the bureaucracy would I suggest further impair the ability of production units to meet the planned targets specified in The PLan

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post

And a market you get, once you have a situation where such centers can exchange commodities on non-predetermined terms. They begin bargaining, and in a short time trying to swindle their counterparts off unequal amount of stuff compared to what they give away themselves. Money gets invented some time later.

Well, of course, if the many centres in a polycentric spontaneous social order are involved in exchanging commodities then by defintion you have a market. But this is not at all what is being proposed at all, is it? In a polycentric non-market system of socialist production, production units will not being exchanging commoditiesd at all. There will no longer be any kind of system of economic exchange . Economic exchange only arises out of private or sectional ownership of the means of production and cannot exist in a society where the means of production are held in common. There will of course be a continuous flow of stock between and amongst production units and distribution centres but these flows will not be commodity flows . There will be absolutely no quid pro quo pinciple involved. They will amount to nothing more than the physical transfer of stuff from one place to another and the whole character of this movement will be determined or governed by the communist principle of free distribution of goods and services. Nothing less than this will do, actually
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
Gosh! Do you even have an idea of how planning is done above individual level? Nothing "emanates" nowhere. After receiving preliminary instructions from the central authority, the people in charge of subdivisions do their own planning, involve specialists when necessary, then submit their draft plans and suggestions to the central authority. The central authority reviews them all, makes adjustments if necessary (and if not, the subdivisional draft plans get approved as is - so much for "elimination"), then publishes the final version of the plan and everybody gets busy. This can go a long way down the line, and in the future every individual worker will be involved in this process, thus becoming a "part-time planner"..
Nope, you still haven't quite got the hang of it, Im afraid. You're still kind of hedgng your bets and not quite sure where you stand on the matter. Have a look again at what youve just written above. What you are describing above is the preparation of the Plan is it not? While there are many problems with this which you just briskly gloss over I will overlook these and really get to the nub of the matter. It is really AFTER the central authority as you put it "publishes the final version of the plan and everybody gets busy" that the fun really starts and the problem really begins for you

To make it easy on you, as I say, I will accept for the sake of argument that the plan might involve...er... "widespread consultation" even down to the "individual worker" who becomes as, you put it, a "part time planner". What that actually means in practice I have no idea. I suspect you dont either. I guess its just a comforting form of words than that enables you to think your ideas actually have some substance to them. I actually consider the whole idea of central planning to be inherently anti democratic and authoritarian - not because of any lack of democratic good intentions, I hasten to add, but because of the logistics of trying to get everyone participating in every decision to be made in respect of what should constitutes The Plan, is simple impossible. In practice and inevitably , a tiny technocratic elite will perforce make the great bulk of decisions unilaterally.

But as I say, the preparation of the plan is not really the main issue. Its the implementation of the plan that is the problem and it is this that you have entirely skated over


Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post

The supercomputers are necessary to calculate how realistic the plans are, all the risks and stuff, make subdivisional plans - parts of the central plan fit with each other, as well as for the real-time assessment and adjustments in the course of completion of the plan.
Again this has to do with preparation of the plan not its implementation




Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post

That's an euphemism. Don't worry it looks like chaos, it's actually order, it's just spontaaaanoous!!! That's what you say. Well, guess what, ideal spontaneity was there when our ape ancestors roamed the savanna, but since then we've come a long way to reduce it.
Again you show no awareness of what is meant by a spontaneous order. It simply means that the overall picture, the totality of production, is not planned from some single mythical planning centre, but emerges out of the interactions of the many planning centres - millions upon millions of them in fact. Indeed literally speaking, each individual might be considered a "planning" centre in this abstract theoretical sense, a tiny planning node in the vast complex nexus of relationship that is human society.

Ironically, you admitted this yourself above in talking of the individual worker becoming a "part-time planner". To take this argument to the point of absolute literalness, would you say this individual worker, once this mythical central Plan has been prepared (after due consultation), will therefore no longer have any plans to conceive of but will simply robotically carry out The Plan as laid out by the central authority? Will our individual worker going to a food distribution store, lug around the 243 bound volumes (excluding appendices and tables) of the The Plan, therein to look up what might be the daily ration of bananas she has been allocated. Yes or no? See, I want a serious answer from you on this pressing matter of the "banana issue" - not some wishy washy verbalistic flannel. What about the banana problem under your central planning system?

Will we cease to plan things as individuals under a regime of society-wide planning once the glorious Plan pops through the letterbox (assuming this to be physically possible!). Will we cease to change our mind as we are wont to do as the contrary and imperfect mortals that we are and dutifully munch away at our allocated 2.4 bananas per day because this is what the central auithorities have benignly - oh, and "scientically" (mustnt forget to invoke the authority of "science" in these matters!) determined that this is what we should consume in our own interests even though we would very much rather have the odd apple at times if just the break the sheer relentless monotony of it all

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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post

The way you want it to be - to convert all the material production into a Wal-Mart-like reactive system of consumption-response is a sure way to turn humanity into lazy biomass with chicken-sized brain nodes. Good thing your system won't work for very long..
Yeah, very droll and I cant help relishing the irony that some people here consider the "Wal-Mart-like reactive system" as an example of central planning!! LOL. . But apart from the entertainment value that you provide here this is, theoretically speaking, just candy floss - a lightweight, if not entirely weightless, critique. Just a form of word to have fun with. It really means sod all, frankly


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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
The planning system of a communist society needs to be pro-active, creative and always pushing against the previously reached limits. That's not exactly what spontaneity can grant.
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Why not? If you stopped reacting in such a silly knee jerk dogmatic fashion to everything I say and considered carefully what I am saying then you would see that I do not at all rule out a concerted collective conscious effort or that people can proactively identify with a wider social purpose. All I am saying is that society-wide central planning is logistically out of the question. There is not a snowball's chance in hell of it ever being implemented. It is totally impracticable.

The only realistic option is a spontaneously ordered society in which we adjust our plans to each each other in the light of the knowlege that we all depend upon on each other

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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
On the contrary. If your production units are actually autonomous, then they can choose to not provide feedback, or to provide inaccurate feedback, and the center won't have a way to obtain or cross-check it via inspection. Oh wait.. what center?! It's the anarchy of production! Yay, capitalism!!!.
This is another candy floss argument -"Yay capitalism" indeed!!. Do you even know what capitalism means, huh? .

Your problem is you read way too much into things and so come up with completely dotty conclusions. Being autonomous does NOT mean the same thing as autarky. And, actually, contrary to what you say, feedback can only exists in a society that is spontaneously ordered; it cannot exist in a system of society-wide central planning

Will the many planning centres in a polycentric non-market system of socialist productiuon provide feedback to each other? Of course they will. Distribution stores will provide feedback to suppliers of various lines of stock in the form of fresh orders to replanish stock taken away by consumers. Why should they not? What on earth are you on about? What do they stand to gain by not doing so? Likewise production units will provide feedback to other units providing the necessary production inputs. We ALL stand to gain by each of us coooperating - this will the dominant ethos of a free communist society

The fact that the process of planning production will be pragmatically distributed over a huge number of planning centres (and at different spatial levels too - local, regional and even global) and not concentrated in just one huge fantastical entirely unrealistic and rigid mega plan will not alter this by one iota. The issue is not motive or incentive but the institutional architecture we use to realise our needs. The only practical and realistic method of doing is via a polycentric system . This is what I am asserting





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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
And there is nothing wrong for the center to investigate possible modifications of the initial plan. Indeed, a smart plan may even have clauses planning for on-the-fly modifications, the acceptable ranges of parameter adjustment, etc. Oh, and there can even be a plan for catastrophic failures to meet certain parameters. It's called "contingency plan".

.
Again you have little inkling of the significance of what you are saying. Look at this statement "there is nothing wrong for the center to investigate possible modifications of the initial plan". Do you not realise that the whole idea of society wide planning, of attempting to coordinate the totality of production within one single pla , opens up that Plan to an unimaginably large array of forces that at any one point will constantly require the plan to be modified? . Do you not understand this point? There never will be an "intial plan" Even before it has seen the light of day if will have to modified and the modifications proposed will themselves have to be modified and so on and so forth. The plan will simply never come to exist because it cannot come to exist as a meaningful and functioning reality
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
Some big corporations' troubles and bankruptcy are only indicative of the ongoing concentration of capital. Big fish gets eaten by even bigger fish (or the same-size fish that gets even bigger after that). And, of course, you don't hear much of the millions of self-employed entrepreneurs and the thousands of small companies that went under and sold their stock to the bigger companies (all affiliated with the ruling corps and banksters) - because nobody cares about them in the corporate media.

So whats happened to your previously stated theory that the tendency towards capital concentration "has obviously prevailed" and that the "anarchy of production has significantly diminished - even under capitalism, thanks to the big corporations". Now you are saying the anarchy of production has not significantly diminished after all cos all those little companies and quite a few big ones are continuing to go down the plug hole. Whats more according to you, the depression awaiting us in the future is going to be really "scary" when this trend towards concentration continues towards its supposed ultimate climax. Kind of shot yourself in your own foot, havent you? Youre now admitting it seems that the "anarchy of production" has not significantly diminished at all

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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
Yes. And the biggest and really scary depression will occur when the process of capital concentration is completed, and only one capitalist hyper-corporation will remain. Because capitalism knows only one thing: pursuit of profit. Profit may be achieved with the acquisition of new markets (not really available anymore after the global market has formed) or destruction of competitors (see above, will not be available after competition is fully eliminated - and it's problematic even now, as the competition is already largely stifled or rigged).
This is not going to happen so you can stop worrying. There is absolutely no chance that capitalism is going to drift towards a state of affairs in which there will be "only one capitalist hyper-corporation" remaining . You've been reading far too many science fiction novels by the sound of it. You forget the point that i made about diseconomies of scale.

Incidentally, Marx pooh poohed this idea as well. There are tendencies towards capital concentration but there are also counter tendencies. In Capital vol 111 for example he says:

It begins with primitive accumulation, appears as a permanent process in the accumulation and concentration of capital, and expresses itself finally as centralisation of existing capitals in a few hands and a deprivation of many of their capital (to which expropriation is now changed). This process would soon bring about the collapse of capitalist production if it were not for counteracting tendencies, which have a continuous decentralising effect alongside the centripetal one.



I would add that there is one very good reason (amongst several others I can think) why your fanciful scenario is just not going to happen and that is the emergence of a new form of state capitalism rather different to the old soviet "command economy" style of state capitalism based on the deployment of sovereign wealth funds. This trend kind of shores up nation-statism and seems set to stick around for a long time yet. Check out Ian Bremmer on this subject


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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post

If it never was, then what the hell were they talking about? Look, if you think that central planning is something else than what all the advocates of central planning really have ever had in mind, then maybe there is something wrong with YOUR idea of central planning. Anyway, the central planners won't have to worry themselves about every last one 10-centimeter general-purpose nail, because that's what the supercomputers are for.
Like I said, this notion of society-wide central planning springs directly from the debate over economic calculation formally initiated by Ludwig von Mises in 1920. Its not a question of me holding a wrong or right definition of central planning. Its the definition that was used. If you doubt that read D.R. Steele's From Marx to Mises who exactly defines central planning in the way I have done - as society-wide planning

If what you are advocating is something less than full society wide central planning then that must inevitably mean that you too accommodate a degree of spontaneity in your preferred model of society - meaning the presence of many plans - as opposed to just one big plan

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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
The people will be able to submit their requests for the particular type of produce they need, choosing from the centralized catalog - pretty much like they do in on Amazon today.
Ironic innit? What was it you were saying earlier? Ah yes - here it is:

The way you want it to be - to convert all the material production into a Wal-Mart-like reactive system of consumption-response is a sure way to turn humanity into lazy biomass with chicken-sized brain nodes. Good thing your system won't work for very long.

Seems like you've been pretty much converted to the Wal-Mart-like reactive system of consumption-response

In any case, referring to the Amazon example, this is a feedback system in which supply responds to shifts in demand in an open-ended fashion . As such, this is not at all an example of society-wide central planning since in such a system the quantity of given consumer product to be produced is preset as a target before hand and cannot be altered in the course of the plan implementation period for reasons which will become obvious below



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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post


Contrary to what you say, feedback will be the cornerstone of the society-wide central planning. Between the Wal-Mart reactive system being part of the picture and the OGPU operatives listening in to your phone calls there will be a lot of feedback.
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That you can say this tells me for sure that you dont understand what is entailed by society -wide central planning. Central to that is the fixing of productiuon targets of millions of different consumer products and producer goods, these targets having been established beforehand on the basis of such things as known technical ratios - how much of a given input is required to produce a given output. Once you allow feedback to influence output that will inevitably involve altering the patten of allocation of inputs. A bigger demand for product X means more of inputs required to proiduce X must somehow be made available. Where are they to come from. Contrary to whatyou seem to imagine they cant just be conjured out of thin air. they have to be diverted from other end uses. Increasing the output of X may thus mean having to decrease the output of product Y. This is what the economists call "opportunity costs"!. The opportunity costs of producing more of X is producing less of Y Since there are millions and millons of different kinds of products in the economy there is simply no point in trying to establish set targets in the first instance. Which is another way of saying there is no point in advocating a system of society-wide central planning
[A Marxist Historian]
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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
And that is where you go wrong - drastically wrong - and it shows itself in this little giveaway phrase - the Party was administering it on their behalf. It was precisely in the "administration" of the means of the production that the apparatchiks exercised complete control and by extension, de facto ownership.
"Extension" alrite, extension right out the window.

Inspired by this discussion, I hauled my copy of Capital Vol. 1 off the shelf, which I haven't looked at in quite a while, to find out just what Marx did have to say, and this is what I found.

Marx does in fact talk about "control," although he never uses the phrase "workers control" which Lucretia (who I did confuse you a bit with, Robbo, sorry about that. But here your argument is not terribly different from Lucretia's) was so fond of.

He makes a very clear distinction between "formal control," i.e. ownership, and "real control," i.e running things, management.

And he says that in the manufacture stage of capitalism, before the Industrial Revolution, the workers had "real control," they actually controlled production, and the capitalists had what was much more important, namely ownership, or "formal control"!

Why more important? Because ownership means they get the surplus value. The fact that, before the Industrial Revolution, workers actually controlled production on a day to day basis was--not very important. As he puts it, "the mere formal subjection of labour to capital suffices for the production of absolute surplus-value."

Chapter XIV, "Absolute and Relative Surplus Value."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...67-c1/ch16.htm

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
It really does not matter whether or not the working class believed that the system was "their system" - though I suspect you grossly exaggarate here and most workers would have adopted a completely cynical view on the matter from bitter experience of an authoritarian regime . Such an idea is an instance of false consciousness. Most American workers believe that America is "their" country. Are we to infer from that fact that the means of production belong to them? Of course not
Verbal slight of hand on your part. Are most American workers patriots, do they think that America is the best country in the world? Yes.

But do they think they own the place? Hell, no! American workers are perfectly aware that capitalists own the country and they don't, and grumble about the rich and the big corporations all the time. OWS slogans about the 99% vs. the superrich are very popular, even though OWS itself increasingly is not as popular as it was last fall.

But they think, by and large, that the American economic system, capitalism and private ownership, is the best in the world, and rather than taking America away from the capitalist class, they by and large would like to become capitalists themselves and join the capitalist class.

The traditional desire of the American working class has always been "equal opportunity." Upward mobility. This is even truer of oppressed ethnic minorities, feminists, etc. (And now that upward mobility has basically come to an end, with skyrocketing college tuitions etc., you have a solid economic basis for the rebirth of socialism in America.)

Whereas in the USSR, until its final years, most workers did indeed believe that the working people owned the country. And ultimately, they were right.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post

Any form of economic exchange boils down to an exchange of property title. When I exchange my orange for your apple I relinquish ownership of said orange and assume ownership of the apple. In your case the convesre is true.

With regard to means of production when the worker is paid a wage something is being exchanged - bought and sold. Her labour power is being sold in exchange for a wage. Exactly the same logic applies here. Her labour power is no longer hers. It becomes the property of the entity that has purchased it - be this the corporation or the nominally the state. That signifies her separation from the means of production. The fact that she does not own said means of production. The fact that she does not own means of production herself - is not a capitalist - is precisely why she has to sell her labour power in order to obtain a wage to enable her to live. This is basic marxism. This is why the existence of generalised wage labour can only denote the existence of capitalism according to Marx and why he urged that the wages system be overthrown
In the USSR, wages were paid by "the state." But what is the state? If the state is a capitalist state, then the worker has sold his or her labor power to the capitalists who created and own said state. But if no capitalist class exists, then obviously she has not.

Marx had a concept, which you object to, called the "dictatorship of the proletariat," or "workers state." If you have a proletarian state, then she has given her labor power to the working class as a whole, in return for her means of subsistence.

Did Marx want to get rid of the wage system? Yes he did, but he believed that there would be a transitional period between capitalism and socialism, during which you would have the dictatorship of the proletariat. In this period you would still have wages, indeed you would still have private employers as well as public, and in both public and private employment, you would have waged labor.

Marx said that when a pre-capitalist society evolved to the point that you had generalized wage labor, then a capitalist class would have fully come into existence, and that would be a capitalist society.

Deriving from that the idea that if you have wage labor, ipso facto you have a capitalist society, is an elementary logical fallacy.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
Now we are talking of an abstract hypothetical situation in which all workers in all production establishments owned and controled their own establishment but not others. In that case, yes, there would emerge an exchange nexus between such establishments but logically speaking there could not exist a wages system in these circumstances. In fact this is what the mutualist "free market anti capitalists" like Kevin Carsons are on about- getting rid of wage labour. Theoretically their argument is impeccable but of course what they are seeking is completely unattainable

But again this is where your analysis goes completey wrong . It is simply not true that in the SU the purpose of investment was simply to "generate more use values" and nothing else. Your problem is that you cannot distinguish between the ideological smokescreeen and the economic realities. State enterprises in the SU were obliged to pursue actual profits and could be penalised if they did not do so. Many indeed resorted to black market methods financing in order to do so. Out of the profits which reverted to the central state , capital was accumulated. So you had precisely the process of self expanding value - M-C-M - as Marx described. The proifts that were made by the state enterprises were reinvested to make more profits in a never ending cycle
Nonsense. The fundamental axis of Soviet economic plans was "material balances." So many tons of steel, coal, etc. etc. In fact wages were included in the national plans too, and when wage increases did not meet the planned level, as they so often did, the planners would get just as much criticism as when not enough coal was produced.

"Profit" had purely bookkeeping purposes, to judge how capable a bureaucrat was.

This is easy to demonstrate. In a capitalist economy, what regulates profit?

The mutual working of two economic laws, namely the law regulating the production of surplus value, S/V +C, total surplus value extracted divided by the total value of the constant (commodities, machinery expended) plus variable (workers' wages). This obviously varies hugely from one enterprise to another, with the rate of surplus value much higher in economically primitive and backward concerns with little machinery and lots of physical labor than in advanced, mechanized concerns.

Interacting with the law that all capitals *must* derive an equal rate of profit, or investment will leave one field and enter another. So, by the workings of the capitalist marketplace, surplus value gets redistributed from the technologically backward concerns to the modern ones.

Now how would this apply in the USSR? Obviously, it simply doesn't. The planners decide where investment goes, not to make sure that the enterprise managers make their profit, but to make sure that you have enough coal, oil, screws, tanks, missiles, refrigerators and what have you to meet social necessities. And, because the planners were Stalinist bureaucrats, paying little or no attention to what factory workers or consumers in the marketplace told them, they fucked up amazingly often.

What happens in a capitalist country when an enterprise fails to make a profit? It goes bankrupt, and stops producing. What happened in the USSR? The bureaucrat would get fired, unless he had a higher up patron. Production continued, with somebody else running the plant. Hopefully at least!

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
I should remind you also that Western capitalists likewise talk in ideologically obfuscatory terms of producing for use and creating jobs as if that was their primary concern. There isa no real difference here.
And some capitalists call themselves Marxists, socialists or even communists. Such is life in the cruel, cruel world.

But capitalists talking about "creating jobs" is obvious obfuscation. In fact, nobody in the USSR ever talked about "creating jobs," as you had no unemployment.

In a capitalist system, a job is "created" when a capitalist company finds a market niche where it can make a profit by employing workers. In the USSR, a job was "created" when a planner decided that a factory needed to be built to make something Soviet society needed.

Whatver the rhetoric involved, the reality is that production is for private profit in a capitalist country, and just who is the private profiteer who gets that profit is rarely very hard to figure out.

In the USSR, when cars or tanks or missiles or housing projects or subways or factories were produced, they were made for specific purposes. For "use." Whether the managers of the factory producing them could register a "profit" in their bookkeeping had absolutely zero to do with whether the factory produced the items in question or not.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
In point of fact the SU was a massively inequal society. Indeed levels of inquality were comparable to elsewhere in the capitalist world. John Fleming and John Micklewright in their paper "Income Distribution, Economic Systems and Transition" cite the work of researchers like Morrison who, using data from the 1970s, found that countries like Poland and the Soviet Union had relatively high levels of income inequality, registering gini coefficients of 0.31 in both case, which put them on a par with Canada (0.30) and the USA (0.34) ( http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/eps70.pdf). According to Roy Medvedev (Khrushchev: The Years in Power ,Columbia University Press. 1976, 540), taking into account not only their inflated "salaries" but also the many privileges and perks enjoyed by the Soviet elite (who even had access to their own retail outlets stocking western goods and various other facilities from which the general public was physically excluded) the ratio between low and high earners was approximately 1:100
I find these figures highly suspect. That capitalist researchers and Brezhnev era Soviet dissidents would want to claim this is quite understandable. Bourgeois scholars have been known to manipulate statistics in amazing ways for their purposes.

But the idea that a society with no billionaires, few millionaires, and wage levels for auto workers higher than those for doctors and lawyers had a level of economic inequality comparable to the USA is as palpably absurd as it is politically convenient for the American bourgeoisie. So you get the Flemings and the Micklewrights manipulating the numbers to make it look that way.

In the 1930s, you did indeed have levels of economic inequality bordering on the capitalist in the USSR. This was a bribe by Stalin to his bureaucrats to get them to go along with the Great Terror, in which a remarkably large percentage of them were killed, and especially those who were old former revolutionaries. After Stalin died, this served no purpose, and Khrushchev radically reduced bureaucratic privilege. Nor did Brezhnev increase it that much, as he desperately wanted to avoid having things like Czechoslovakia or Hungary happen closer to home.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
This quite absurd. Massive inequality was intrinsic to the system and actively promoted by the system. Individual managers could be fired, yes - just like CEOs can be fired in the West - but, dont you see, that presupposes a structure of power based on de facto ownership of the means by the Soviet state capitalist class that enabled it to fire aberrrant individuals within its ranks.
Except there was no Soviet capitalist class.

In a capitalist country, it is not terribly difficult to figure out who is a member of the capitalist class. They are the people who own capital. They have pieces of paper certifying said ownership, such as stocks and bonds. No such things existed in the USSR.

The "Soviet capitalist class" is a nebulous, ethereal concept.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
It has never been my argument that the Soviet capitalist class were capitalists by virtue of individually possessing capital. State capitalist Russia was different to that extent from other capitalist countries. The soviet capitalist class acted rather as a collective class n relation to the means of production and as effective owners and controllers of said means of production
Collective ownership of the means of production by a collective class is an old story. Just what is a corporation after all? It's a form of collective ownership. The vast majority of capital in the world is owned collectively.

Find copies of stock certificates owned by members of the nomenklatura, and I'll take your idea seriously. Till then, it's just a fantasy.

-M.H.-
[A Marxist Historian]
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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
As usual you jump to unwarranted conclusions. My analysis of the Soviet Union as state capitalist is not "Cliff-inspired". There are other variants of the state capitalist theory in case you werent aware. Ive quite often clearly stated where I disagree with M&E - for instance , their idea of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" idea was a blunder in my view - so I am not quite sure what you are on about

In the first place, do me the courtesy of quoting me accurately if you are going to criticise. I did not say "ownership and control are the same thing". I said ultimate control and ownership are the same thing. The point being that there are gradations of control and control per se does not necessary denote onwership, ultimate control does There is nothing "amazing" about asserting that ownership amounts to ultimate control or vice versa. It is actually completely logical when you think about it. That is if you think about it at all . To come up with such a piss-poor attempt at criticism as this, does make me wonder...

Secondly I didnt say anything about M&E on this ownership and control issue and again am at a loss to know what you are on about when you refer to "Robbo's attempts to conceal this" To conceal what? Are you some kind of fantasist or something who likes inventing little conspiracies for our amusement and entertainment? . You know , I couldnt really care a damn if M&E were to take a quite contrary position to mine. It really does not matter. I can stand on my own two feet and fight my own corner, thank you very much
Yes, well, sorry about that, I did cross you with Lucretia, and I have to give you some respect for being willing to say outright (unlike Lucretia) that you disagree with M&E as to the D of the P. Which is, by the way, according to Marx himself, his only actual theoretical innovation, all of his other ideas he picked up from others, German philosophers, English chartists and trade unionists, French socialists, etc. etc.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
That said, as it happens, I think you are wrong in this case. There is an interesting quote from Marx in which he says : "Property, at all events, is also a kind of power. Economists call capital, for instance, 'power over the labour of others' " (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...1847/10/31.htm). This is sort of what I am saying except Im using different terms - ownership instead of property and control instead of power
A huge leap. Marx after all wrote quite a lot, and you can find all sorts of single quotes to build a theory on if you wish.

Thus for example, at one point in Vol. III he says that profit is Catholic whereas interest is Protestant. I suppose you could build a whole theory out of that if you felt like it.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
Quess what Mr "Marxist Historian" - I didnt say anything about workers control either Are you sure youve haven't got your wires crossed yet again and are confusing me with someone else? As it happens I totally agree with M&E's conception of socialism as a classless society . Since there can be no working class in socialism the idea of "workers control" is an absurdity
Yes, Lucretia is who I confused you with.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
It seems you have no idea at all where I am coming from and what lies behind my comment that GOSPLAN's "plans" were a sham. I am not at all trying to suggest that the planners should have been rigorous and ruthless in seeing that the plan was carried through. Quite the opppsite. I actually oppose the whole idea of of central planing in the sense of society wide planning. Its an utterly crackpot idea and is completely inpracticable. For me a socialist/communist economy would be an essentially polycentric system of planning involving a multiplicity of plans interacting with each other in a spontaneous and self regulating fashion. In short it involves a feedback mechanism. It is this that allows for plans to change "flexibly according to changing economic realities"

What I was attacking as a "sham" was he pretence that the Societ Union was some kind of centrally planned economy in that sense. It was not . It was nowhere near that. This is not for me something to be regretted - how could you possiby deduce this from what I said? I was actually saying something entirely different. I was trying to attack that sacred cow of some on the left- the so called "planned economy- which is a kind of euphemism for central planning. My poiunt was that it doesnt work and the proof of the pudding is in the eating in the case of the Soviet Union
And here's another area in which you disagree with Marx, as on one of the rare occasions when he talked about what to do after the Revolution, he did talk about "planned production." Civil War in France I think, can't remember where off the top of my head. Though I could find it for you if you dispute this.

Which is of course your right as a free citizen of the world. But you really should then come up with some notion of your own as to how to do things after the revolution. Abolish wages? Fine. But then what?

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
In the Soviet Union too, businesses were required to make a profit and could be heavily penalised if they did not. This was not just a case of incentivising the bureaucrats as you rdiculously claim , Why do you think they would want to do that if there was not a more profound purpose behind it all. The state depended on profit for the purposes of capital accumulation, not to mention the the financing of the whole parasitic state apparatus istelf and the enrichment of the state capitalist class who collectively owned the means of production via their vice like grip on the state.

Ive alrweady cited Binns and Nove on the extent to which workers consumption levels particularly in the the 1930s were forcibly held down in the interests of profit extaction and capital accumulation. The reckless pursuit of profit is also what lies behind the massive environmetnal devastation and high levels of pollution that occured under the Soviet Regime intent upon industrialising atall costs
What is capital? Self-expanding value. M-C-M. Yes, the Soviet state needed to accumulate, it needed more factories, coal mines, oil wells, military equipment to defend these things vs. Hitler and later American missiles, etc. etc. Use values, not exchange values. Indeed who on earth would or could the Soviet "bourgeoisie" exchange with? Sure, they sold some oil and whatnot to foreigners, but that was hardly what the Soviet economy was about.

It did not however need to accumulate "capital," whether in money form or any other.

Yes, the huge ecological damage was due to the Soviet regime wanting to industrialize at all costs. For what purpose? To create a modern economy that could compete with the capitalists and, hopefully, provide an equal standard of living. For the benefit of the working class, in the last analysis. (And, by th way, in the 1930s unlike later, for reasons explained in my previous posting, you really did have remarkable levels of social inequality in the USSR.)

Workers consumption levels were forcibly held down in the interest of building up the economy. Instead, they should have been held down voluntarily for this purpose, by means of persuasion.

Trotsky's famous speech about militarizing the trade unions was actually made at a trade union conference. And a vote was held, and this was actually voted up at the conference, after discussion, including dissenting speeches from Mensheviks. That's the proper way to go, if such measures are necessary.

The Soviet state apparatus was profoundly corrupt, you could even say parasitic to a certain extent. Certainly it was vastly overblown. But any workers state will inevitably require a certain amount of bureaucracy, and the workers will have to watch over it to make sure its privileges do not get out of hand.

Unfortunately, in the USSR, the bureaucrats took control of the state away from the workers, just as bureaucrats have taken control of the unions away from the workers here in "the west."

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post

Dont be ridiculous. In a " true socialist economy", as you call it, there will no longer be employment - wage labour,. Therefore there will no longer be unenployment or the dole, either People will simply cooperate to produce things voluntarily for themselves and their communities. No one will get paid or need to get paid to do anything

Still, its good to see a Trot finally admitting there was indeed unemployment in the Soviet Union even if it was in the form of widespread disguised unemployment
Have you ever been unemployed? I have.

Unemployment is when you have no job. If you go to work every day and get a paycheck, you are employed, end of story.

That the USSR guaranteed full employment to everybody was a fundamental conquest of the revolution. No capitalist system can possibly function without unemployment, that's something Marx makes utterly clear, over and over. Basic to his analysis.

Do you seriously think that a capitalist society can give everybody jobs? You can call that "disguised unemployment" if you like, but from the standpoint of any worker, if you go to work and get a paycheck, then you have a job.

Actually, I once had a job for a few months with a government agency where they didn't have work for me, so I sat around reading Marx and playing games. It did get boring after a while I admit, but I must say I didn't feel terribly oppressed.

-M.H.-
[Grenzer]
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Originally Posted by Syd Barrett View Post
A planned economy was the thing that lifted the U.S.S.R. out of Medieval era peasantry, how is that not progressive?
For the same reason that voting the democrats in over the republicans isn't progressive. It really doesn't seem to have been a planned economy in any sense of the term either.

European Colonialism in Africa improved some living conditions, but that doesn't make it progressive.
[A Marxist Historian]
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Originally Posted by Grenzer View Post
For the same reason that voting the democrats in over the republicans isn't progressive. It really doesn't seem to have been a planned economy in any sense of the term either.

European Colonialism in Africa improved some living conditions, but that doesn't make it progressive.
Oy!

You really are remarkably ignorant about Africa.

I'd recommend reading Mark Twain's book about the Congo, "King Leopold's Soliloquy." There you'd find out just how well European colonialism improved living conditions for Africans.

About as well as Hitler improved living conditions for Jews, in the Congo. And the Congo was just the extreme case, things were nearly as bad elsewhere, like the Hereros exterminated by the Germans, or the hundred thousand or so Kenyans killed by the Brits in suppressing the Mau Mau insurrection, and on and on and on ... then of course there was apartheid in South Africa, which the South Africans don't seem to grateful for.

And then there was the Middle Passage, which really improved the living conditions of all those Africans dragged off in chains to the New World. Except for those who died on the way, about a fifth to a quarter, or those worked to death in slave plantations. The number of slaves exported to the Americas is, for some reason, far, far larger than the black slave population in the era of chattel slavery. So I guess the living conditions had some problems.

-M.H.-
[Kronsteen]
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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
If you want to use the term "exploitation" as Marx used it, as a scientific economic term, then the workers were not exploited, as no capitalist extracted surplus value from their labor. The social surplus they created went to society as a whole. The bureaucrats did grab off their cut, but they didn't own the surplus, they just leeched off it.
Someone extracted surplus value from the labour of workers. That the extractor may have been the state, or even the party, doesn't change that.

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As Robbo put it quite accurately, there cannot possibly be workers control in a socialist society, as a socialist society is a classless society so there will be no working class.
That is an absurdly formalistic point. In a classless society there will obviously be no working class, but there will still be people doing the work, and we call people who're assigned work to do...'workers'.

You may as well say that after the transition from feudalism to capitalism there were no more farmers because the system under which they farmed had changed.

If, after the revolution, the workers themselves decide they don't want to be called 'workers' anymore, they'll come up with a different word, unprompted by a marxist historian.

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It [the USSR] collapsed because it was ultimately a workers state, and the workers had finally completely lost confidence in it.
'Ultimately' a worker's state, except that 'ultimately' the workers had no control over the state. Is that dialectical or something?

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That formulation ["transitional society" -M.H.-] suggests that there is a continuum between capitalism and socialism. Which in turn suggests that capitalism could be reformed into socialism.
Actually, if you read your Marx, he says over and over that capitalism creates the preconditions for socialism
He does indeed. Which doesn't answer the point.

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So there's your "continuum."
Erm, no. The fact that situation A contains the preconditions for situation B doesn't mean A can shade smoothly into B.

Two men carrying a sheet of glass along one pavement while another runs down a perpendicular pavement are all the preconditions you need for a standard bad joke of 70s sitcoms. That doesn't mean the glass slowly cracks and breaks as it approaches the corner.

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The party was the bureaucrats. Same people.
There were a few bureaucrats who made the decisions, and there were many bureaucrats who implemented the decision. Not the same people.
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
"Extension" alrite, extension right out the window.

Inspired by this discussion, I hauled my copy of Capital Vol. 1 off the shelf, which I haven't looked at in quite a while, to find out just what Marx did have to say, and this is what I found.

Marx does in fact talk about "control," although he never uses the phrase "workers control" which Lucretia (who I did confuse you a bit with, Robbo, sorry about that. But here your argument is not terribly different from Lucretia's) was so fond of.

He makes a very clear distinction between "formal control," i.e. ownership, and "real control," i.e running things, management.

And he says that in the manufacture stage of capitalism, before the Industrial Revolution, the workers had "real control," they actually controlled production, and the capitalists had what was much more important, namely ownership, or "formal control"!

Why more important? Because ownership means they get the surplus value. The fact that, before the Industrial Revolution, workers actually controlled production on a day to day basis was--not very important. As he puts it, "the mere formal subjection of labour to capital suffices for the production of absolute surplus-value."

Chapter XIV, "Absolute and Relative Surplus Value."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...67-c1/ch16.htm
Once again, since you seem to be habitually inattentive in the matter, I did not actually invoke Marx to support my claim that ultimate control amounts to de facto ownership. I am quite capable of taking up a position independently of what Marx may or may not have said on the matter, you know. The claim that ultimate control is tantamount to de facto ownership needs to be assessed in its own right and not whether or not it has the blessing of holy scripture

It is interesting though to note though that Marx regarded formal control i.e. ownership as more important than real control. Knd of bears out what I have been saying but I dont rely on it as primary evidence. The argument speaks for itself

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Verbal slight of hand on your part. Are most American workers patriots, do they think that America is the best country in the world? Yes.

But do they think they own the place? Hell, no! American workers are perfectly aware that capitalists own the country and they don't, and grumble about the rich and the big corporations all the time. OWS slogans about the 99% vs. the superrich are very popular, even though OWS itself increasingly is not as popular as it was last fall.


Whereas in the USSR, until its final years, most workers did indeed believe that the working people owned the country. And ultimately, they were right.
And your evidence is...

Frankly I doubt your claim. I suspect that Russian workers talked in terms of owning the country in much the same way as same way as American workers talked about America being theirs . Its delusional in both instances. Russian workers no more owned the country than American workers do and ex cathdra type statements that the economy is under so called workers control dont constitute evidence

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

In the USSR, wages were paid by "the state." But what is the state? If the state is a capitalist state, then the worker has sold his or her labor power to the capitalists who created and own said state. But if no capitalist class exists, then obviously she has not.
And, in the case of soviet state capitalism, it was the state which was the employer and hence those who controlled the state were the de facto employer or capitalist class

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Marx had a concept, which you object to, called the "dictatorship of the proletariat," or "workers state." If you have a proletarian state, then she has given her labor power to the working class as a whole, in return for her means of subsistence.
You cant have such a thing as a working class without a capitalist class. Thats nonsensical and illogical . By definition, the very existence of a working class implies the existence of a capitalist class

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Did Marx want to get rid of the wage system? Yes he did, but he believed that there would be a transitional period between capitalism and socialism, during which you would have the dictatorship of the proletariat. In this period you would still have wages, indeed you would still have private employers as well as public, and in both public and private employment, you would have waged labor.
Yup . And this is one of several points that Marx made where I believe he erred significantly. The whole idea is ludicrous in my view. In point of fact the so called DOTP could only logically happen - if at all - under a capitalist mode of production . The working class is a class category of capitalism after all. The DOTP was NOT some new form of society or mode of production, it was simply intended as a political transition period ( (see http://bataillesocialiste.wordpress....society-buick/). The Soviet Union was a dictatorship over the proletariat

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Marx said that when a pre-capitalist society evolved to the point that you had generalized wage labor, then a capitalist class would have fully come into existence, and that would be a capitalist society.

Deriving from that the idea that if you have wage labor, ipso facto you have a capitalist society, is an elementary logical fallacy.
That is not what is claimed. It is not the existence of wage labour per se that makes for capitalism. There was wage labour in Ancient Rome after all It is the generalisation of wage labour that makes for capitalism. Generalised wage labour existed under societ state capitalism

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

Nonsense. The fundamental axis of Soviet economic plans was "material balances." So many tons of steel, coal, etc. etc. In fact wages were included in the national plans too, and when wage increases did not meet the planned level, as they so often did, the planners would get just as much criticism as when not enough coal was produced.

"Profit" had purely bookkeeping purposes, to judge how capable a bureaucrat was.
This is delusional rubbish, It is precisely what I meant by "ideological smokescreen." Soviet economic plans did indeed take the form of material balances (though they were also couched in monetary terms), these physical production targets amounted to a kind of attempted superimposition or constraint upon what was a basic capitalist dynamic. This dynamic required of course the extraction of surplus value upon which the accumulation of capital could proceed. Stating targets in terms of tons of steel or coal might sound as if the whole system was run according to the dictates of physical planning and nothing else but that would of course be highly misleading and extremely superfical as an analysis of what really was going on. GOSPLAN's plans did not actually guide the economy anyway, as Ive said before, but were constantly modified in response to changes within the economy itself. What was really guidling or directing the economy as systemic level was something quite else. It is ludicrous to claim that profit was purely for bookkeeping purposes and in any case as I said before what lies behind the need for judge how capable a bureaucrat was? The state depended abosolutely on the profits made by industry as a whole . Thats why profit was far more than for purely "bookeeping purposes" as you absurdly claim





Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

This is easy to demonstrate. In a capitalist economy, what regulates profit?

The mutual working of two economic laws, namely the law regulating the production of surplus value, S/V +C, total surplus value extracted divided by the total value of the constant (commodities, machinery expended) plus variable (workers' wages). This obviously varies hugely from one enterprise to another, with the rate of surplus value much higher in economically primitive and backward concerns with little machinery and lots of physical labor than in advanced, mechanized concerns.

Interacting with the law that all capitals *must* derive an equal rate of profit, or investment will leave one field and enter another. So, by the workings of the capitalist marketplace, surplus value gets redistributed from the technologically backward concerns to the modern ones.

Now how would this apply in the USSR? Obviously, it simply doesn't. The planners decide where investment goes, not to make sure that the enterprise managers make their profit, but to make sure that you have enough coal, oil, screws, tanks, missiles, refrigerators and what have you to meet social necessities. And, because the planners were Stalinist bureaucrats, paying little or no attention to what factory workers or consumers in the marketplace told them, they fucked up amazingly often.

What happens in a capitalist country when an enterprise fails to make a profit? It goes bankrupt, and stops producing. What happened in the USSR? The bureaucrat would get fired, unless he had a higher up patron. Production continued, with somebody else running the plant. Hopefully at least!

All of the above is essentially irrelevant because it is not contested that that there are some differences between the state capitalist form of capitalism and private or laissez capitalism. Here you are alluding to one of those differences namely the automatic tendency for the rate of profit to equalise though market competiton. According to Buick and Crump (State Capitalism: The Wages System under New Management 1986) in 1978 the average rate of profit for Soviet industry as a whole was 13.5% but there were significant sectoral variations - from minus 3.2 per cent in the coal industry to plus 25.3 per cent for light industry in general.

In private capitalism the authors point out low-profit making or unprofitable enterprises are usually driven out of business but this did not happen under state capitalism because all profits and losses reverted to the state and yet it remains true that loss making enterprises could only continue to exist because they were subsisided utimately by the profitable enterprises. To some extent too this happens in the West but this was taken further under soviet state capitalism

As Buick and Crump sum up:


This is a major source of confusion for many commentators on state capitalism , since for many critics and supporters of state capitalism alike, capitalism is identified with the need for individual enterprises to make profits and engage in independent capit formation. Yet what needs to be grasped is that whereas the mechanisms of profit distribution are different in private capitalism and state capitalism , what is being distributed is precisely the same - surplus value





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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

And some capitalists call themselves Marxists, socialists or communists. Such is life in the cruel, cruel world.

But capitalists talking about "creating jobs" is obvious obfuscation. In fact, nobody in the USSR ever talked about "creating jobs," as you had no unemployment.

In a capitalist system, a job is "created" when a capitalist company finds a market niche where it can make a profit by employing workers. In the USSR, a job was "created" when a planner decided that a factory needed to be built to make something Soviet society needed.

Western style capitalism can just as easily claim it is producing something that society "needed" (and as Marx argued a commodity does have use value which satisfies a human need as well as exchange value). That is indeed an obfiuscation but no more than the claims that Soviet capitalism was geared to human need . Such claims are true in the trite sense above but false in another more profound sense. Human need is not the primary motive driving western capitalism anymore than it was in the Soviet Union. In both cases the satisfaction of human needs is incidental to and conditional upon the main or primary motive - the accumulation of capital out of surplus value. In the Soviet Union this showed itself ultimately at the level of the economy as a whole. Profit considerations could be set aside to some extent at the level of individual enterprises but NOT for the economy as a whole. The more you disregarded profit considerations at the level of individual enterprises the more dire the consequences for the economy as a whole and the greater the burden on profit making enterprises. The Soviet planners knew this very well and that is why state enterprises wqere required to keep profit and loss accounts and to pursue profits. In this way the generalised requirement for profit was transmitted down to the level of the state enterprise

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Whatver the rhetoric involved, the reality is that production is for private profit in a capitalist country, and just who is the private profiteer who gets that profit is rarely very hard to figure out.

In the USSR, when cars or tanks or missiles or housing projects or subways or factories were produced, they were made for specific purposes. For "use." Whether the managers of the factory producing them could register a "profit" in their bookkeeping had absolutely zero to do with whether the factory produced the items in question or not.
This is simply not true - certainly not at the level of the economy as a whole. Without a steady stream of profits, state capitalism would have ground to a halt. It would have collapsed . You are inadmissably deducing from the mere fact that a state enterprises could make a loss and continue to exist, that this demonstrates that production was purely for use. It does nothing of the sort and your reasoning is faulty because you are approaching this matter from a perspective of methodological individualism, not taking a wider systems approach. The system absolutely required the generation of surplus value to function at all. For a start the loss making state enterprises has to be subsidised from some source and that could only come from the profitable state enterprises. It does not matter that there was not private profit going to private individuals, state profit is still profit

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

I find these figures highly suspect. That capitalist researchers and Brezhnev era Soviet dissidents would want to claim this is quite understandable. Bourgeois scholars have been known to manipulate statistics in amazing ways for their purposes.
So other than the fact that you dont particularly like these figures you have no real counter-evidence to put forward, have you? "Bourgeois scholars have been known to manpulate statistics" is hardly an adequate reason anyway - as if pro-soviet scholars haven't been known to do the same

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
But the idea that a society with no billionaires, few millionaires, and wage levels for auto workers higher than those for doctors and lawyers had a level of economic inequality comparable to the USA is as palpably absurd as it is politically convenient for the American bourgeoisie. So you get the Flemings and the Micklewrights manipulating the numbers to make it look that way.
Again. This hardly constitutes counter-evidence. All the real evidence - and I have plenty more - that we have available points to the Soviet Union having been a massively unequal society. Wages rates hardly begin to tell the true story and you need to know that a typical practice among the elite was multiple incomes along with payments in kind which tended to become a lot more significant the higher up the hierarchy you were



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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post


Except there was no Soviet capitalist class.

In a capitalist country, it is not terribly difficult to figure out who is a member of the capitalist class. They are the people who own capital. They have pieces of paper certifying said ownership, such as stocks and bonds. No such things existed in the USSR.

The "Soviet capitalist class" is a nebulous, ethereal concept.
If the soviet capitalist class is a "nebulous, ethereal concept" then so must be the soviet working class since these two classes are absolutely interdependent. Marx's Wage Labour and Capital is good on this point

And once again , for the umpteenth time you do NOT need to have peices of paper certfying ownership of stocks and bonds to show that that you are a capitalist. This is a legalistic idealistic way of looking at things - another peice of Trotsky humbug. You do not need a peice of paper to say you own something in order to own it - where did you get this daft idea from?

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Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

Collective ownership of the means of production by a collective class is an old story. Just what is a corporation after all? It's a form of collective ownership. The vast majority of capital in the world is owned collectively.

Find copies of stock certificates owned by members of the nomenklatura, and I'll take your idea seriously. Till then, it's just a fantasy.

-M.H.-
The nomenkatura exerted ultimate control over the means of production and that is what boils down to de facto ownership of these means by that class collectively and not as private individual capitalists. It is simply IRRELEVANT wherther or not members of the nomenklatura owned stock certificates. They did not need to. They had complete unquestionable control of the disposal of economic surplus anyway and that, in itself, signified that they had a qualitively different relationship to the means of production compared with the population at large
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
The process of surplus extraction in a planned economy like the USSR was qualitatively different from in an unplanned capitalist one. The plan specified the surplus in material terms as soon as it specified the level of physical investment. Production of steel or railway locomotives was by its physical nature part of the surplus destined for physical accumulation. In a planned economy the physical surplus product comes first, the monetary financing of the surplus product comes later as a secondary matter.

If say 40% of output was of a physical form that meant it could not be consumed, then it was necessary for the state to levy taxes at a sufficient level to remove enough purchasing power from the economy to prevent excess monetary demand for the remaining 60%, but the process of aggregate consumer demand management by taxation is something quite different from the spontaneously arising private profit that exists in a capitalist economy.

Does Robbo identify all monetary taxation with the production of surplus value and thus say that any state that collected money taxes was capitalist?
Was the Roman Empire capitalist on that account?
If not, why does he take the existence of the Turnover Tax in the USSR as an indication that it was capitalist/


I think your analysis is seriously defective. I dont accept, in any case your simplistic distinction between the so called "planned economy" that you allege characterised the Soviet Union and the "unplanned" economy typical of western countries. In practice the Soviet economy was likewise - and unavoidably - "unplanned" in the more profound sense that the overall pattern of production that emerged was not planned in some premeditated apriori sense. Nor could it ever be. The corrollary of this was that, to a significant extent, the Soviet economy was not planned and that the relationships between the different parts of the economy were, instead, spontaneously arrived at. No commentator on Soviet matters would seriously dispute this barring perhaps ideologues still trapped within rhetoric of the "planned economy" . In fact the economy guided the plan (which was routinely and frequently adjusted to fit changing circumstances) rather than the other way round. I dont why you persist with this silly notion of the "planned economy". Its a complete misnomer

That aside, the main thrust of your post has to do with the process of planning itself. Plans were indeed typically drawn up in physical terms, as you say, and then converted into money units. State enterprises were then presented with a range of targets in both monetary and physical forms . The latter is, of course, not unkown in western style private capitalism but the problem arises where you have a multiplicity of production lines and a diversity of products . This is the so called "commensurability problem" referred to by Austrian exponents of the socialist calculation argument like Mises and Hayek. To overcome that problem money is needed as a general unit of accounting and measure of value but note that this problem only ever becomes a "problem" in an exchange or commodity producing economy in which the law of value prevails and where you have to have some yardstick to measure the ratios in which commodities exchange.

No one I think would seriously dispute the claim that the Soviet Union was an an exchange or commodity-producing economy and therefore what follows from this is that money was far more than just a passive accounting tool in the Soviet Union as is sometimes claimed. It clearly did interact with the planning system in a multitude of ways, despite the bureaucratic setting of prices. The bureaucrats could not just set prices arbitarily - to get it seriouysly would rebound against them in the long run - and this is where market forces did play a crucial if indirect correcting role. The more diversified and heterogenous the Soviet exchange economy became the greater the need for money and market prices as a coordinating and enabling mechanism and the stronger the pressure this exerted on the Soviet planning system with its inbuilt defiiciencies and structural rigidities. It was that that ultimately brought about the crisis in the latter stages of Soviet state capitalism which was experiencing declining growth rates and stagnation and eventually prompted the abandonment of the old command economy


Holzmann explains the situation very well regarding the role of money and prices in the Soviet Union

Before turning to the sources of finance, a few words will be devoted to a consideration of the significance of money and finance for the functioning of the Soviet economy. Those unfamiliar with the Soviet economy may be misled by the emphasis on the words "planning" and "controls" into thinking that money is not important
in the Soviet economy. While the Soviets rely more on direct economic controls than any other nation in the world today, and while' such controls, where they are used, substitute for money and the market mechanism as the allocator of scarce resources,, money has not been replaced by direct controls. There are no direct controls
in large sectors of the Soviet economy. Consumer goods, for example, are distributed at present by the market mechanism; the amount of consumer goods which any household can purchase is determined by its current and accumulated earnings. The labor market, though less free than it was in the 1930's, still depends primarily on differential wage payments for the allocation of labor. Other markets (raw materials and producer goods), though on the whole more subject to direct controls, do nevertheless contain substantial areas in which free market forces are still allowed to operate. Even where allocation is accomplished directly, to the extent that prices provide the planners with a basis for allocation, money functions as a standard of value, if not as a medium of exchange. Failure by the Soviets to keep their financial house in order will have a deleterious effect on the economy (through reduced incentives, misallocation of resources, etc.) so long as markets and prices are used by them
to perform economic function
s. ("Financing Soviet Economic Development" in Capital Formation and Economic Growth, Princeton University Press 1955

One further point I would add to that is the state enterprises could and did often resport to unoffical or informal sources of commecial credit

The common conception that that the Soviet Union had as a system of physical planning "clothed in a monetary form" is thus misleading. You can see how this notion could have crept in if you commence with the physical planning of production and then later convert those physical targets into a monetary form. It is easy ro deduce from this sequence of stages that the latter is secondary almost trival aspect , a passive tool, by comprison with the form. In fact, money in the form of the state's budget exerted a crucial influence on the planning process itself

You assert that "The process of surplus extraction in a planned economy like the USSR was qualitatively different from in an unplanned capitalist one." According to you this surplus is seemingly arbitarily decided upon in the form of specified physical targets for non-consumer goods like tonnes of steel or numbers of railway locomotives . If, say, 40% is set aside for the production of these things then the state then sets about levying " taxes at a sufficient level to remove enough purchasing power from the economy to prevent excess monetary demand for the remaining 60%,"

This makes no sense at all. In fact you completely undermine your whole argument by even suggesting this. For instance, what is "40 % of output"?. What does it actually mean? It surely does not mean 40 percent of the tonnage or volume of goods produced. No. It means 40 percent of the assessed economic value of goods and that value, as we have already seen can only be assessed in monetary terms in an exchange economy, given the heterogeneity of production. Cross sectoral comparisons in an exchange economy is only possible with the use of money. Like can only be compared with like if you are going to make a comparison (as you would need to in an economy dominated by the law of value (which the Soviet state itself admitted operated there)) and money provides you with the only realistic means of doing so.


Your remarks on Turnover tax are confusing as well. No I dont, incidentally, identify taxation per se with existence of a capitalist mode of production. Capitalism is a complex - an elective affinity - of key interrelated features such as generalised commodity production, generalised wage labour, the profit motive and so on (all of which exisxted in the Soviet Union) Taxation exists in capitalism too obviously but predates capitalism. The Turnover tax according to Holzman is essentially a "sales tax levied, at present, exclusively on consumer goods—except for petroleum and petroleum products, where the tax substitutes for explicit rent payments. Before 1949 it was levied on producer goods. as well, but for fiscal control of the tax-paying enterprises rather than for revenue."

Note what this implies though - namely production for sale on a market!. In point of fact, the major part of state revenue derived from Turnover tax and only a relatively small amount from the actual profits of state enterprises retained by the state. To put it more bluntly, economic planning in the Soviet Union had to take account of budgetary constraints just as in any other capitalist economy. You could not just go about plucking figures out of thin air to serve as production targets. These had to be related to the state's means to pay for them!!! The source of that revenue that the state uses to fund investment is surplus value realised through the sale of commodities - either as retained profits or through taxation or some other means . Only out of this surplus value can capital be accumulated. To ensure a reliable stream of surplus value the Soviet state early on imposed on state enterprises the legal obligation to keep profit and loss accounts. This was no mere book-keeping exercise or rather it was a bookkeeping exercise closely connected with the state's own vital dependence on surplus value out of which capital could be accumulated and then allocated according to the M -C-M formula.

Ironically in the name of eliminating market competition the state compelled state enterprises to act as financially accountable units that ruthlessly competed with each for resources in the quest for plan fulfillment and profit realisation. Ironically too the requirement placed on state enterprises to make a profit also indirectly fed into the physical planning process via the "bargaining" stage - prior to the stage of material balancing - when state enterprises were called upon to make alterations to the draft plan. Typically this would involve understating - sometimes grossly understating - their productive capacity so as to ensure that they would not be lumbered with too high a production target. This would then make it more easy to meet, or even exceed, the target and the enterprise would be be suitably rewarded as a result

Granted, not meeting their production targets specified in the final authorised plan handed down by GOSPLAN, not making a profit, would not result in bankruptcy and closure as would be the case in the West although it would result in serious penalties being imposed - loss of income and demotion, for instance. To use Kornai's expression this was a system of "soft budget constaints" rather than hard budgeting that applied in the West - though, even in the West, we have notorious examples of soft budget constraints in the case of bank bailouts and such like.

But if you shift your focus from the level of the individual enterprise to that of the Soviet economy in general the distinctions between western style capitalism and soviet style capitalism began to blur significantly. The fact that some state enterprises could continue to function as loss making entities in the Soviet Union was only possible because at the end of the day other state enterrpises were able to make a profit. The profits and losses all reverted to the central state which funds along with revenue from taxation and other sources were redistributed via GOSBANK to enterprises to purchase means of production form each other and also to pay for labour in the form of wages which could then be spent on consumer goods. Money enabled the whole system to tick and allowed GOSPLAN to exert toght control over state enterprises

In other words the very same underlying dynamic existed in the Soviet Union as existed elsewhere in global capitalism - the accumulation of capital out of surplus value. There were differences too - obviously - but the differences pale in comparison with what these different models of capitalism have in common
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
If capitalism is the private ownership of the means of commodity production (as opposed to private ownership in slavery and feudalism), then how can it possibly be argued that the Soviet Union was capitalist? There the state owned all the means of production, not private capitalists. The Soviet Union was not even partially capitalist, liked China and Russia today. In both China and Russia the state owns the largest parts of the economy, such as energy, banking, airlines, etc.
Depends what you mean by private ownership, doesnt it? Strictly speaking, Im inclined to the view that state ownership is a type of private ownership. It is is certainly not "public ownership", so called. You and I and the public in general dont meaningfully "own" the state owned means of production anymore than we own those means that are legally the property of some corporation. Actually there is no substantive difference whatsoever in our relationship to state owned means of production compared to our relationship to means of production of owned by a corporation and I defy anyone to prove otherwise

So if the general public do not own the means of production allegedly under public ownership, who does? Somebody must own them - they are not unowned. By inference it must be, and can only be, those who collectively control the state who effectively own those state owned means of production on a collective rather than individual basis. Their ultimate control is tantamount to de facto ownership

That said, I prefer to use the term sectional or class ownership than private ownership becuase of the association of the term private with private individual capitalists legally owning their stock (which is not even a satsifactory description of patterns of ownership under private capitalism ever since the rise of the joint stock company in the 19th century. Very few individuals own means of production to the exclusion of others - it is almost always jointly owned by other capitalists). If you think capitalism requires private capitalists then you are quite mistaken. Engels long ago knocked that particular idea on the head:

The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of the productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage workers - proletarians. The capitalist relationship is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head. (Socialism: Utopian and Scientific)

The theory oif state capitalism refutes the notion that capitalism requires private capitalists. There is some interesting theoretical work going on at the moment about a new form of state capitalism quite different from the the old discredited "command economy" style capitalism of the erstwhuile Soviet Union. Google "Ian Bremmer" and have a read...
[Grenzer]
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Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
If capitalism is the private ownership of the means of commodity production (as opposed to private ownership in slavery and feudalism), then how can it possibly be argued that the Soviet Union was capitalist? There the state owned all the means of production, not private capitalists. The Soviet Union was not even partially capitalist, liked China and Russia today. In both China and Russia the state owns the largest parts of the economy, such as energy, banking, airlines, etc.
Robbo has already confronted this point, pointing out that de facto ownership is more important than de jure ownership. You're using the ordinary bourgeois definitions of capitalism and socialism here, not the marxist one.

In China and Russia, it's indisputable that the bourgeois are in full control of the state; so by extension, what the state owns, so do the Russian bourgeoisie, collectively as a class. Then you come back to the fact that a small minority has a monopoly on the ownership of the means of production.. capitalism.
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
I certainly do dispute that it was basically an exchange economy. There were commodity elements to the economy but these were, until the latter stages of its history, very much subordinated to the plan.
The overall structure of physical accumulation was settled by political decisions, this simply is not the case in capitalist economies except in war time, when these become to a significant extent planned economies.

In the USA firms do not have state imposed production targets, and managers can not be fired by the state for not meeting those targets. Any targets that exist are purely private and imposed by the private firms that own the plant.

The only capitalist country which came close to having integrated planning was Japan, and it is significant that only Japan could compare with the USSR in terms of economic growth.
This is nonsense. Of course the Soviet Union was basically an exchange economy. The exchange ratios may have been heavily influenced by political decisions but they were still exchange ratios, indicative of a quid pro quo set up. Consumers exchanged money for goods in stores. Workers exchanged their working abilities for a wage. Producer goods were bought and sold - exchanged between state enterprises and subject to legally binding contracts with GOSSNAP acting essentially as an intermediary. So what on earth are you on about?

Your counterposing of planning to the market is naive - a false dichotomy. Buick & Crump hit the nail on the head:
What state capitalist regimes vainly attempt to do in the field of production of the means of production is not to supplant the market by means of the plan but rather to plan market transactions between enterprises. ...Clearly such an economy is not a free market economy , but it is a market economy , albeit one which is moulded and influenced by the constant attentions of the planners (State Capitalism: The Wages System under New Management p.82-3)

You make much of the fact that "In the USA firms do not have state imposed production targets, and managers can not be fired by the state for not meeting those targets" But as you know full well the production targets imposed on state enterprises were frequently modified precisely because all too frequently the targets could not be met. The plan did not guide the economy; it was the economy that guided the plan. The plan at the end of its implementation period was usually quite a different creature to what it was at the start. The whole set up was a sham with cycnicism and misinformation built into the system. Routinely state enterprises would understate - even grossly understate - their productive capacity for fear of having production targets imposed on them that they could not meet and then be punished for not meeting them. So they dissembled


The "overall structure of physical accumulation" as you call it was not settled by political decisions in some sort of vacuum with figures being plucked out thin air so to speak. It had to be budgeted for in financial terms - in terms of the revenue available to state which came from various sources. You yourself pointed out the need for the state to levy taxes - notably turnover taxes (which actually accounted for about 70% of state revenue) - to enable means of production to be produced. Like any other capitalist country the prevailing system was geared pumping out surplus value from the workforce which was extracted in various ways - turnover taxes , retained profits etc etc - and part of that surplus was then ploughed back as capital investment.


Yes of course there were differences between the USA and the Soviet Union. It was after all a different form of capitalism that we are talking about . I suspect that one reason why the Soviet Union was able to register relatively high growth rates in the early days was the ruthless and singleminded manner in which it was able to push through its state capitalist agenda with little in the way of organised opposition from a cowed and brutalised working class to have to contend with. The Stalin dictatorship was thus able to get away with doing things that in other capitalist countries might well have met with sterner worker resistance. This allowed the state capitalist regime to divert funds from consumption to the goal of capital accumulation and hence would surely have contributed to the rapid growth you speak of. According to Peter Binns

In Russia, the subordination of consumption to the needs of accumulation took an extreme form. From the beginning of the first Five-Year Plan capital accumulation absorbed more than 20 per cent of national income, and it increased in subsequent Plans. This was higher than any of the developed capitalist countries outside Russia (but about the same as the USA and Japan in their equivalent periods of development), and shows clearly that this most characteristic symptom of capitalism – the domination of society by capital accumulation – was fully developed in Russia. ("State Capitalism" from the collection, Marxism and the Modern World, Education for Socialists No.1, March 1986. Published by the Socialist Workers Party).

A further factor might have been that early rapid growth was mainly focussed on just one or two sectors - heavy industry and large infrastructural projects- which would have made the business of centralised planing a little bit easier. With modernisation and economic diversification, the growth rate slowed remarkably and the top-heavy command economy style of operating state capitalism came to be seen as increasingly inefficient, wasteful and and chonically beset by structural rigidities. If your wonderful system was so wonderful why did this happen? Let me guess - could it be the usual old lame excuse that the Soviet leadership betrayed the masses by starting to tinker around with the system?. Well the state capitalist class - Lenin's glorious Vanguard, the nomenklatura etc etc - certainly did in the end decide to ditch system and opt for corporate capitalism but it was not for no reason that they made this decision - the so called planned economy was simply not delivering as planned.. It had outlived its usefulness in progressing the process of capital accumulation under Stalin but now was an increasing drag on the Soviet efforts to catch up with the West.

Only conservatives with a romantic attachment to the "good old days" of the Soviet Union would want to see a return to the thoroughly discrediited system you apparently endorse when what we should be doing is attacking capitalism in all its guises - not choosing between different forms of the same system
[Paul Cockshott]
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The "overall structure of physical accumulation" as you call it was not settled by political decisions in some sort of vacuum with figures being plucked out thin air so to speak. It had to be budgeted for in financial terms - in terms of the revenue available to state which came from various sources. You yourself pointed out the need for the state to levy taxes - notably turnover taxes (which actually accounted for about 70% of state revenue) - to enable means of production to be produced. Like any other capitalist country the prevailing system was geared pumping out surplus value from the workforce which was extracted in various ways - turnover taxes , retained profits etc etc - and part of that surplus was then ploughed back as capital investment.
Any society that is expanding its productive base has to produce a physical surplus product. If you value this in terms of labour or any other scalar unit, you can express this surplus as surplus value irrespective of the mode of production or the system of property relations.

But your argument is based on a sleight of hand between surplus value in this sense, which is an invariant necessity of any growing industrial economy and surplus value in the narrower sense analysed by Marx in volume I of capital which is the surplus monetary value accruing to an individual firm or employer in a market economy.

The actual ability of an economy to expand is set by the structure of the input output table which sets the maximal rate of expansion of the system in physical terms - this was established by Von Neumann about 1928, I dont know the Russian literature of the period, but I suspect it was know there as well. Feldman's growth model on which the soviet plan for industrialisation is built certainly implies a similar result.
What von Neumann showed was that an economy could in principle expand at this maximal rate and that under these circumstances the rate of growth and the rate of profit would be same thing - assuming that the economy was a capitalist one.


To achieve this rapid rate of growth there has to be a rapid expansion of the production of means of production before there is actually a use for the means of production and this rapid rate of growth presupposes an apriori balance between the different sectors so that the coal industry, the railway industry, the iron ore industry and the steel industry all grow in the correct proportions to support one another.

But in practice this can not happen in a capitalist economy since each firm invests in order to make a private profit from sales and will not invest unless there is a high probability of there being a market for its product. The coherent balanced expansion can not be achieved by the operation of the law of value and the movement of capital between branches in response to different rates of profit.

But it can be achieved in a socialist economy because in such an economy individual state factories do not make investment plans based on their private expectations of profit. Instead the planning authorities prepare a balanced plan, limited by the data available to them of course, but one that involves the preconstruction of new plant and equipment before there is any market signal to indicate that it is needed.

The role of tax in a socialist state is the same as it is in any state. It is simply there to prevent inflation. All sovereign states issue money to cover their real appropriation of part of the surplus product. They then have to use various mechanisms to withdraw money from circulation to prevent the build up of inflationary pressures. Keynes explains it very clearly in his article 'How to Pay for the War'. The mechanisms can include taxation, voluntary saving, involuntary saving, price controls and rationing etc. But these tax mechanisms are not the real appropriation of the surplus product. The real appropriation comes when labour is performed for the state, the taxes are a purely symbolic appropriation that is one of the mechanisms the state has available to it to control the amount of money in circulation.
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In Russia, the subordination of consumption to the needs of accumulation took an extreme form. From the beginning of the first Five-Year Plan capital accumulation absorbed more than 20 per cent of national income, and it increased in subsequent Plans. This was higher than any of the developed capitalist countries outside Russia (but about the same as the USA and Japan in their equivalent periods of development), and shows clearly that this most characteristic symptom of capitalism – the domination of society by capital accumulation – was fully developed in Russia.
This quote from Cliff shows his ignorance of normal capitalist development. The norm in capitalist society is for most of the surplus to be spent unproductively by the ruling class on luxuries, bank buildings etc. One of the things which really struck me back in the 70s when we constructed time series of capital accumulation in the UK going back to the mid 19th century was what a low proportion of the surplus value was actually accumulated - it rarely rose above 10% of surplus value and a much smaller proportion of total output. It was only in the 1960s when there was large scale state directed investment that a majority of surplus value started to be reinvested.

What Cliff takes as evidence that the USSR was capitalist - its high rate of reinvestment was actually something that no capitalist economy other than Japan was able to sustain in the long run and it is no coincidence that in Japan MITI played a planning role that is absent in a typical capitalist economy.

But beyond this even on its own terms Cliff's argument was facile since he does not challenge the basic validity of the Feldmann growth model - that in order to grow consumption you first have to have a rapid rate of growth of sector I. This is true whatever the mode of production.

You ask why the socialist economy slowed down, and this is obviously a real and serious political question. I would give a number of factors:

1. The exhaustion of oil and mineral reserves West of Urals forcing the development of energy and mineral reserves in Siberia which were much more costly in terms of labour than the old sources in Europe and the Caspian basin.

2. The extreme demographic transition of the socialist countries associated with the high level of female education and participation in the workforce. This meant that from the 1970s on the available labour supply became very tight and many industries were up to 10% of workers short on key shifts.

3, High levels of armaments expenditure in the final stages of the cold war diverted scientific and engineering talent out of the improvement of civilian industry.

4. An unwillingness to close down existing first generation industrial plant an replace it with new greenfield sites since this would have involved dismissing workers from the old sites, redeploying workers from the old plants to the new sites when a basic feature of the workers state was that workers were protected against being fired.

5. Failure to properly apply labour value costing which meant that labour saving techniques and fuel saving techniques would not appear to individual plants to be economically rational. Heavily subsidised domestic heating also encouraged a more profligate use of fuel.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Tell that to the people of Glasgow who in the 1990s voted by more than 90% against the privatisation of their water supply.
There is a real difference. Had the water been privatised as it was in England we would be paying through the nose for our water to line the pockets of the shareholders in private water companies.
Clearly this is completely irrelevant to the point I made - that there is no substantive difference whatsoever in our relationship to state owned means of production compared to our relationship to means of production of owned by a private orporation . Whether or not it is is true that consumers woyld pay more for a water form a privatised company than a nationalised economy, this is not what is meant by one's relationship to the means of production in the Marxian sense - i.e. in terms of owning or not owning it. If it happens that consumers choses to stick with the state supplier then all that boils down to is a canny consumer choiuce based on ther assumption that they would have to pay more for their water if their supplier was privatised. Its comes down to a choce between rival capitalist enterprises - state or privatised - and the expectation that the former would provide a better deal based on past experience. Thats all itamounts to and you read far too much into it. If a privatised concern came along that garanteed it would consistently undercut its state competitor in the provision of water and keep it that way , you can bet your bottom dollat that 90% of Glaswegians would choose the private company over the state company any day

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
False question, you have not established that the public does not own them.
Of course I have. In fact you have helpfully established that for me by suggesting we would pay less for our water if the supplier was a nationalised one. The fact that we have to pay for our water at all is proof positive that a nationalised water company does not in any meaningful sense belong to the public. If the public truly owned it why would it need to buy the right to use water?
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Any society that is expanding its productive base has to produce a physical surplus product. If you value this in terms of labour or any other scalar unit, you can express this surplus as surplus value irrespective of the mode of production or the system of property relations.

But your argument is based on a sleight of hand between surplus value in this sense, which is an invariant necessity of any growing industrial economy and surplus value in the narrower sense analysed by Marx in volume I of capital which is the surplus monetary value accruing to an individual firm or employer in a market economy..
Its not a sleight of hand at all on my part. I am using the term surplus value in the Marxian sense and applying this concept to the state capitalist economy of the Soviet Union which you fondly imagine was "socialist". Surplus value and indeed the law of value upon which it is based, has no place in a genuine socialist society.

Indeed your whole non-marxist approach smacks of the Stalinist distortion of the labour theory of value which was very effectively demolished by Raya Dunayevskaya . In the 1930s the Stalinist hack , Leontief, likewise sought to do what you are doing. As Dunayevskaya put it

In his attempt to lift the theory of value out of its capitalist context and transform it into a "universal theory of value" A. Leontiev at one and the same time asserts that the law of value functions "under socialism" and also that it functioned in pre-capitalist societies. (http://newsandletters.org/issues/200...ne-July_07.htm)

Marx and Engels made it pretty clear that with the end of commodity production the law of value - and hence surplus value - ceases to exist, Your invented idea of "surplus value" in some vague wider technical sense which Ive frankly never heard of before, and which you announce to the world in the style of Herr Duhring, is a case of sheer ideological obfuscation. Inadvertently, its effect is to aid those who seek to universalise the economic categories of capitalism as timeless and inescapable


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
The actual ability of an economy to expand is set by the structure of the input output table which sets the maximal rate of expansion of the system in physical terms - this was established by Von Neumann about 1928, I dont know the Russian literature of the period, but I suspect it was know there as well. Feldman's growth model on which the soviet plan for industrialisation is built certainly implies a similar result.
What von Neumann showed was that an economy could in principle expand at this maximal rate and that under these circumstances the rate of growth and the rate of profit would be same thing - assuming that the economy was a capitalist one.
Neumann's growth model is based on the notion of a dynamic equilibrium but that does not mean it lends support or comfort to the concept of a central planned economy in its classical sense of apriori society wide planning entialing one single plan for the totality of inputs and outputs in an economy - as I will explain later. I am still not quite sure whether you support this dotty idea of classical central planning but some of your formulations seem to suggest you do - like your reference below to "an apriori balance between the different sectors". To what extent are we talking about a "balance" here? How far are you wanting to push this idea?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
To achieve this rapid rate of growth there has to be a rapid expansion of the production of means of production before there is actually a use for the means of production and this rapid rate of growth presupposes an apriori balance between the different sectors so that the coal industry, the railway industry, the iron ore industry and the steel industry all grow in the correct proportions to support one another.

But in practice this can not happen in a capitalist economy since each firm invests in order to make a private profit from sales and will not invest unless there is a high probability of there being a market for its product. The coherent balanced expansion can not be achieved by the operation of the law of value and the movement of capital between branches in response to different rates of profit.

But it can be achieved in a socialist economy because in such an economy individual state factories do not make investment plans based on their private expectations of profit. Instead the planning authorities prepare a balanced plan, limited by the data available to them of course, but one that involves the preconstruction of new plant and equipment before there is any market signal to indicate that it is needed
In your haste to depict your fantasy world - a technocratic utopia of balanced growth - you are failing to see the great whopping big elephant in the front parlour which is what I have been trying to tell you about all along. Before you can even begin to have "balanced growth" in respect of the means of production you have to have the means to pay for these investments in any capitalist economy - including your pseudo socialist economy that was the Soviet Union. In other words, surplus value. It is only through the extraction of this surplus value that the investment of capital can proceed. From this point of view it does not really matter one jot that in the Soviet Union, "individual state factories do not make investment plans based on their private expectations of profit". What matters is that such investments plans are made - in this case by the central planning authorities - in the full expectation of realising a return on them in the form of profit. In the Soviet Union the state enterprises themselves were the means and instruments though which the expectation of profit was fulfilled and, as you probably know , it was legally required of state enterprises that they should pursue profit. Such a requirement was not placed on state enterprises for the fun of it - of for mere "book-keeping" purposes. It stemmed from, asnd was intimately related to, the very nature of the system itself and its built in drive to accumulate capital out of surplus value.


Profit is profit is profit. It does not matter whether it is private profit or state profit. The planning function may have been separated from the profit making function which in private capitalism are jointly contained within the same institution - the private firm - but in no way does that alter the fact that in state capitalism, just as in private capitalism, planning takes place within the constraints of an economic system based on production for the market and the absolute need to generate surplus value upon which which future capital outlays are dependent and which allow the planners to plan. In short their "plans" have to be costed and paid for and you your self have more or less admitted this in the case of the turnover tax being levied by the state authorities to provide for the expansion of means of production


I note incidentally that you subsequenttly assert "My view is that the State Capitalist theorists who view the USSR as capitalist are sliding between surplus product and surplus value". Not so. The "State Capitalist theorists" are saying quite definitely and emphatically that there was surplus value in the Soviet Union in precisely the sense you spelt out - namely a "surplus monetary value accruing to an individual firm or employer in a market economy". In this case the employer was nominally the state which administered this regulated market economy


Here I might I refer you again to Buick and Crump on the matter:

The plan does not abolish exchange relationships between enterprises but merely attempts (not too successfully) to quantify the exchanges in advance. Means of production continue to be transferred between enterprises by means of a buying and selling process, so that physical flows of equipment are balanced by counterflows of money. p.83

There is a market then but its is regulated market in the sense that that interactions between the state enterprises are to a significant extent planned and controlled by the state. This is where state capitalism differs from private capitalism - structly speaking there is not direct regulation of production by the market. Yet

the great paradox of state capitalism is that the state blocks the spontaneous regulation of production by the market , only to be forced to introduce a similar process itself. Given the facts that the market is not free, that prices are fixed bureaucratically (at increasing cost, the more they ignore the law of value) and that enterprises are not financially independent of the state, the state has to take responsibility for allocating capital in such a way that an adequate rate of of surplus value can be realised, instead of allowing the process to proceed sponteneously by the 'natural' mechanisms of the free market and free intersectoral movements of capital. In other words, the state has to devise substitute mechanisms in order to do consciously ( and many would say, less efficiently, but that is not our concern) what the market does automatically in private capitalism p.90

There is certainly a case for saying that under a regime of state capitalism there was more leeway for the central planners to take a wider perspective of the economy but I think you get carried away with your own enthusiasm for a top down technocratic approach in your belief as to what it is possible to achieve via the procedure of "material balances" that the planners employed. The reality does not accord with the ideal by any means. Not could it ever. The planners had always to fashion their plans in line with the need to generate surplus value upon which the planning system of material balances utterly depended.

Far from being the kind of consciously controlled system of physical planning based on the production for use values that you seem to think it was it was at the mercy of forces - both endogenous and exogenous - beyond its control , forces that emanated from the capitalist basis of the system and Im not just talking here about the significant black market system without the aid of which, soviet capitalism would probably have collapsed a lot earlier than it actually did. Its embeddedness in the wider global capitalist economy, the competition from other state capitalisms and the systematic tendency to distort the very data that the planners relied upon arising from the in built incentive of state enterprises to understate their productive capacity so as not to be lumbered with too high a production target in the next planning round, are some of the many factors that would have subverted the whole planning system.

Little wonder then that in the Soviet Union the plans had to be routinely adjusted to make it look as if production was "on target". In other words the planning system was largely a sham and a costly sham at that. It was not the plans that guided economic reality . It was economic reality that guided the plans.

You try to attribute the rapid growth of the Soviet Union in its early years to its planning system of "material balances" - this despite the fact that what the plan specified and what happened in reality were two quite different things. This is naive in the extreme. Even if it were true that this had some impact - though I consider you grossly exaggerate the effect of "planning"- there are many other more plausible reasons one can cite that could account for this growth. I touched on one or two of these. The fact that working class was unable to offer much resistance under a brutal dictatorship meant that the state capitalist agenda could be pursued with singleminded determination that enabled the regime to all the more easily divert funds from consumption to production needs; the fact that such rapid growth was mainly focussed on just one or two sectors of the economy which made the planning process comparatively easier to accomplish at that stage but not later when the economy diversifed and when - not coincidentally - growth rates began to fall.

The argument behind this concept of material balances is that it allows for the fullest possible employment of all resources, minimises wastage and so maximises the potential for growth. This is one reason why apologists for Soviet capitalism like to claim that was no labour unemployment in the SU. When it is pointed out to them that actually there was significant hidden unemployment - workers retained on the payroll but without work to - these same apologists change tack and say, well , there's nothing wrong with that - at least these allegedly employed workes have "job security"! Its a case of moving the goal posts as usual with these soviet apologists. In practice resouces were not fully uitilised in the Soviet union by any means - there was gross wastage throughout the economy - and this was due to such factors as I have already pointed to such as the built incentive of state enterprises to understate and underutilise their productive capacity.

But in any case, let us not make a festish out of this concept of material balances or indeed the concept of economic growth itself as if it were the key to some better and brighter future. This bourgeois fixation with economic growth and the competitve rat race between capitalist states as to which can record the highest growth rate serves only to obscure other aspects of reality that are of real concern to the wellbing of human beings. For instance, it is perhaps not often appreciated that the extent of environmental devastation and levels of industrial pollution in the Soviet Union and its satellites was amongst the very worst in the world. This is what the reckless pursuit of growth at at all costs bring you.

Also, it was not only in the Soivet Union under Stalin that there was significant economic growth. In the early post war years many Third world countires likewsie expereienced rapid growth. The prevailing "modernisation" paradigm enunciated by the likes of Walter Rostow - author of "A Capitalist Manifesto" - was that the benefits of this growth would eventually trickle down to the poor. This did not happen and these societies became increasingly unequal, prompting the eventual abandonment of the orthodox trickle down theory. Much the same kind of thing happened in the early years of the Stalin dictatorship. There was rapid growth but there was also widening inequality. Stalin had claimed in 1933 that the material conditions of workers and peasants had steadily improved and cited as evidence for this the fact that money wages had risen by 67percent. What he conveniently omitted to point out, however, was that prices had risen far more sharply with the consequence that that year marked, what Alec Nove has dramatically characterised as the "culmination of the most precipitous peacetime decline in living standards known in recorded history" (Nove A An Economic History of the USSR Allen Lane 1972, p.207) This is what the trotskyists would dub "primitive socialist accumulation" with a vengeance. It powerfully illustrates the way in which capital accumulation took priority over the needs of the workers.

There is, finally, the question of the theoretical model of material balances which we need to look at. You refer to von Neumann's abstract dynamic equilibrium model which allows for proportionate and balanced growth of the different sectors of an economy. However i would contend that the theoretical model of society wide planning and the apriori coordination of inputs and outputs is at odds with von Neumanns model precisely becuase it is unavoidably a static model whereas von Neumann's is a dynamic one. For the duration of the Plan in the classical model of society wide central planning - and in the Soviet Union the planning implementation period varied according to the plan from one year, to five years and even longer - it is not possible to, say, increase the amoiunt of resoruces devoted to developing means of prpoduction because to do so would disturb the whole structure of input-output ratios that had been carefully wortked in advance by the planners in this hypothetiucal scenario - to ensure what you call an "apriori balance between the different sectors". For the same reason you could not allocate more - or indeed, reduce - consumer goods to the population or for that matter contemplate technological innovation as again this would would alterthe strucuture of input output ratios. These things could only happen at the cost of undermining the internal coherence of the your vast apriori "single plan".

The inevitable conclusion that can be drawn from this is devastating for your whole argument. Economic growth, let alone rapid economic growth, is simply not possible under an idealised systemn of central planning employing the aprioristic method of "material balancing". It is through material imbalances not material balances that growth becomes possible. Von Neumann's model while theoretically possible at an abstract level - of simultaneously expanding production between different sectors of the economy in a proporitional or balanced way is unrealistic for the very reason you point out - that means of production have first to be produced before you can produce more in the way of means of consumption. By defintion this is disproportionate growth not proportionate growth. There is in other words a sequence of steps to be followed - first develop prpductive capacity then increase output of consumer goods - which rules out simultanepous or balanced increments across different sectors of the economy

The irony is that you yourself have acknowleged this to be the case ; "To achieve this rapid rate of growth there has to be a rapid expansion of the production of means of production before there is actually a use for the means of production"


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

The role of tax in a socialist state is the same as it is in any state. It is simply there to prevent inflation. All sovereign states issue money to cover their real appropriation of part of the surplus product. They then have to use various mechanisms to withdraw money from circulation to prevent the build up of inflationary pressures. Keynes explains it very clearly in his article 'How to Pay for the War'. The mechanisms can include taxation, voluntary saving, involuntary saving, price controls and rationing etc. But these tax mechanisms are not the real appropriation of the surplus product. The real appropriation comes when labour is performed for the state, the taxes are a purely symbolic appropriation that is one of the mechanisms the state has available to it to control the amount of money in circulation.
No this is all wrong and your invoking of the failed economist, Lord Keynes, hardly inspires confidence. Unfortunately you dont understand basic Marxian economics and your ignorance in such matters shines through here as always Tax does not prevent inflation. In fact , historically, taxation levels have risen along with the rise in the general price level. If you want to undestand what causes inflation there is a good article oin the subject here http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/p...xian-economics. Your talk of "!inflationary pressures" suggests you have succumbed to the same kind of fallacious arguments to which "Citizen Weston" succumbed which Marx countered in Value Price and Profit.

Under private capitalism profit is realised only with the sale of commodities in the market. Part of these profits are siphoned off for the capitalists' own consumption, another part retained by the private firm for investment purposes etc. Yet another part goes to the state that acts on behalf of the capitalist class as a whole. Taxation - all taxes - as Marx contended , following Ricardo, are ultimately a burden on the capitalist class, though the actual payment of these taxes is diverted or channelled in the case of income tax through the pay packets of workers which makes it appear as if workers themselves are paying income tax. In a literal sense they obviously are but in a more profound structural or economic sense, according to Marx, they are not. What happens is that the nominal wages the capitalist pay out is inflated to allow for the payment of taxes so that if workers no longer had to literally pay taxes, that nominal gross wage would adjust downards to more or less accurately reflect the cost of prpdsucing and reproducing the workers labour power in monetary terms

In state capitalism the situation is slightly different. The bulk of the surplus value accures to the state via taxation - notably turnover tax which is a sales tax like VAT slapped onto consumer goods in the main (though it did also apply at one stage to certain producer goods) . Retained profits of the state enterprises themselves which reverted to the central state represented only a small part of the surplus value , the bulk of it coming from taxation . Out of this surplus value expressed as money flows into the coffers of the central state, part was recycled back via GOSBANK to the state enterprises as new investment capital , replacement capital, wages etc

So , yes, the real appropriation of surplus value "comes when labour is performed for the state" if what you mean by this is that surplus value originates at the point of prpduction and expresses itself in the difference in value between what workers produce and what they receive in the form of a wage. But the practical appropriation of this surplus value which must take a monetary form and is conditional upon the sale of the workers product can be carried out in a variety of different guises as explained

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
This quote from Cliff shows his ignorance of normal capitalist development. The norm in capitalist society is for most of the surplus to be spent unproductively by the ruling class on luxuries, bank buildings etc. One of the things which really struck me back in the 70s when we constructed time series of capital accumulation in the UK going back to the mid 19th century was what a low proportion of the surplus value was actually accumulated - it rarely rose above 10% of surplus value and a much smaller proportion of total output. It was only in the 1960s when there was large scale state directed investment that a majority of surplus value started to be reinvested.

What Cliff takes as evidence that the USSR was capitalist - its high rate of reinvestment was actually something that no capitalist economy other than Japan was able to sustain in the long run and it is no coincidence that in Japan MITI played a planning role that is absent in a typical capitalist economy.

But beyond this even on its own terms Cliff's argument was facile since he does not challenge the basic validity of the Feldmann growth model - that in order to grow consumption you first have to have a rapid rate of growth of sector I. This is true whatever the mode of production..
In the first place the quotation was not from Cliff but from Peter Binns

Secondly, the rate of reinvestment - high or low - is not relevant to a consideration of the question whether the Soviet Union was capitalist or not. If that is what Cliff has said then I would strongly disagree with Cliff. Cliff's theory of state capitalism is, of course, one of several and not one I am particularly partial too though undeniably Cliff does make some valid points

Thirdly the Feldman's two sector growth model, once again, points to the need for disproportionate allocations in favour of the capital goods sector and so calls into question the whole notion of proportionate or balanced allocations across the entire economy

Fouthly I seriously question your figures relating to the UK and your time series of capital accumulation. You claim that going back to the mid 19th century the proportion of surplus value reinvested as capital rarely exceeded 10% but in the 1960s when the state got involved on a large scale a "majority of surplus value started to be reinvested". Thats seems extremely unlikely given the growth of unproductive labour as a proportion of the working population Comparable figures produced by Fred Moseley for the US in his The Falling Rate of Profit in the Postwar United States Economy (Macmillan 1991) suggest that in the post war era there has been a significantly higher rate of growth in unproductive labour compared to productive labour in the US economy - in fact, the ratio doubled in the post war years up to the 1970s and continued to grow (but at a slower rate) since then. What this means that workers producing surplus value as opposed to those who are paid out of surplus value has shrunk and many of the latter would have been employed in the state sector itself such as the NHS. Cutbacks on the state sector on and off since the 1970s are due in part to the increasing burden it placed on the surplus value producing sector

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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
You ask why the socialist economy slowed down, and this is obviously a real and serious political question. I would give a number of factors:

1. The exhaustion of oil and mineral reserves West of Urals forcing the development of energy and mineral reserves in Siberia which were much more costly in terms of labour than the old sources in Europe and the Caspian basin.

2. The extreme demographic transition of the socialist countries associated with the high level of female education and participation in the workforce. This meant that from the 1970s on the available labour supply became very tight and many industries were up to 10% of workers short on key shifts.

3, High levels of armaments expenditure in the final stages of the cold war diverted scientific and engineering talent out of the improvement of civilian industry.

4. An unwillingness to close down existing first generation industrial plant an replace it with new greenfield sites since this would have involved dismissing workers from the old sites, redeploying workers from the old plants to the new sites when a basic feature of the workers state was that workers were protected against being fired.

5. Failure to properly apply labour value costing which meant that labour saving techniques and fuel saving techniques would not appear to individual plants to be economically rational. Heavily subsidised domestic heating also encouraged a more profligate use of fuel.
Once again you are making my case for me. You are demonstrating clearly that the physical planning of production in an allegedly balanced manner does not happen in a vacuum but within a framework of budgetary constraints expressed in terms of available state revenue. That revenue dreives from the suplus value produced by the workforce at the point of production and is appropriated by the state in various gusies and is disposed of by the state or rather the class that has control of the state ias its sees fit. The amount of surplus value available for capital accumulation is obviously dependent on costs consideration and the rising costs you point to would indeed affect the rate of accumulation and hence the rate of economic growth. Likewise the growth of the unproductive sector - such as the high levels of aramanents production you mention - and, indeed, the whole bureaucratic apparatus of the state itself - would have had the effect of reducing the proportion of surplus value available for reinvestment as capital

All in all, the various factors you have cited above to account for the considerable slowing of economic growth in the post war soviet union actually undermine your whole rose-tinted technocratic faith in the virtues of so called balanced physical planning. Physical planning does not and did not occur in a vacuum but was inseparably linked with financial considerations. For example you mention the case of subsidised domestic heating leading to a profligate use of energy. Ironically this might be construed as suggesting support for a much more direct role for market forces. In private capitalism prices would tend to increase in the face of tightening supply constraints and so discourage the profligate use of fuel that you speak which happened precisely becuase the price was artificially maintained at a low subsidised low level. In capitalism however there is no such thing as a free lunch and any subsidy that state might confer has to be paid for by some means or other. At the end of the day it is a burden that falls upon the profit producing sector of the economy. Increase that burden too much and you stand to risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs in the form of surplus value

In short, Soviet state capitalism in it latter stages turned out to be just a comaratively badly run and increasingly inefficient variant of capitalism. What ever advantages it might have enjoyed over the private capitalist model at the outset of its long jouney of economic development these were increasingly eroded with the passage of time. That is why in the end it has to go. The state capitalist model of the so called "command economy" type proved to be cul de sac going nowhere. Other forms of state capitalism (see Ian Bremmer) have since come to the fore but these do not even pretend to offer anything for the working class. and are largely denuded of the pseudo socialist idoelogy that characterised soviet state capitalism.

The only real choice left is capitalism in all its guises, on the one hand, and a truly non-market, wageless classless and stateless community that we call socialism on the other
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post


"Marx and Engels made it pretty clear that with the end of commodity production the law of value - and hence surplus value - ceases to exist"


no


Quote:
Every child knows a nation which ceased to work, I will not say for a year, but even for a few weeks, would perish. Every child knows, too, that the masses of products corresponding to the different needs required different and quantitatively determined masses of the total labor of society. That this necessity of the distribution of social labor in definite proportions cannot possibly be done away with by a particular form of social production but can only change the mode of its appearance , is self-evident. No natural laws can be done away with. What can change in historically different circumstances is only the form in which these laws assert themselves. And the form in which this proportional distribution of labor asserts itself, in the state of society where the interconnection of social labor is manifested in the private exchange of the individual products of labor, is precisely the exchange value of these products.

Science consists precisely in demonstrating how the law of value asserts itself
. (Marx letter to Kugleman July 11, 1868) .
You are misreading this. Marx is not saying that the law of value is a "natural" or timeless law. What is the natural law in this case is the "distribution of social labor in definite proportions ". This cannot change but what can change is the form in which this "natural" law asserts itself. The law of value is the form in which this natural law of the proportional distribution of labour asserts itself where the individual products of labour are privately exchanged . You have evidently confused this natural law with the law of value

Here's another quote from Raya Dunayevskaya which puts the matter beyond question

"
Value, Engels has written, is “a category characteristic only of commodity production, and just as it did not exist prior to commodity production, so will it disappear with the abolition of commodity production.”[16] It would be sheer absurdity, argued Engels, “to set up a society in which at last the producers control their products by the logical application of an economic category (value) which is the most comprehensive expression of the subjection of the producers by their own product.”[17] In the last theoretic writing we have from the pen of Marx, a critique of A. Wagner’s Allgemeine oder theoretische volkswirtschaftslehre, Marx castigates “the presupposition that the theory of value, developed for the explanation of bourgeois society, has validity for the ‘socialist state of Marx.’”[18] http://www.marxists.org/archive/duna...4/revision.htm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

That would have been true if the USSR imported the means of production, then it would have had to export goods to pay for them, if they are produced in state factories the state does not have to pay for them. Who would it pay? Itself?.
This has been explained to you often enough before. The buying and selling of means of production occured between between state enterprises with state agencies like GOSSNAP acting as intermediaries to facilitate these commodity exchanges and with the surplus value produced being appropriated by the central state, part of which surplus was recycled back in money form for capital investment etc in the state enterprise via GOSBANK. So the answer to your question as to who would have to pay for the means of production purchased is that it is the state enterprise in question which purchases means of production from another state enterprise, these purchases being subject to legally binding contracts


Formally and legalistically speaking, of course, the means of production are owned by the state (and, therefore, I would argue by the state capitalist class controlling the state). However this is where you go seriously wrong in your analysis. You simply accept the formal state of affairs at face value and do not delve below the surface to see what is really happening and what makes state capitalism , state capitalism

Cliff too made this mistake. He argued from a perspective that the Sovier Union was in effect one big single enterprise and, as such, the law of value arising from the exchange of products could not have derived from some internal dynamic but only through the Soviet Union's engagement with global capitalism. It was this, according to Cliff, that made for the SovietUnion being a system of state capitalism. Its what is called the tail-that-wags-the-dog theory of state capitalism. The Soviet Union was state capitalist because it had to engage in trade with other capitalist countries and this was the entry point through the law of value asserted itself


I do not subscribe to this theory. I explained to you why, in fact, there was indeed an internal dynamic within the Soviet model that made it a fully capitalist society, albeit in a statified form. I refer you again to the quote from Buick and Crump. Try reading it again and concentrate on what it is trying to say :

the great paradox of state capitalism is that the state blocks the spontaneous regulation of production by the market , only to be forced to introduce a similar process itself. Given the facts that the market is not free, that prices are fixed bureaucratically (at increasing cost, the more they ignore the law of value) and that enterprises are not financially independent of the state, the state has to take responsibility for allocating capital in such a way that an adequate rate of of surplus value can be realised, instead of allowing the process to proceed sponteneously by the 'natural' mechanisms of the free market and free intersectoral movements of capital. In other words, the state has to devise substitute mechanisms in order to do consciously ( and many would say, less efficiently, but that is not our concern) what the market does automatically in private capitalism

There is another good quote from Xue as follows

As for the exchange of products among state enterprises , it is indeed an exchange between an owner and himself, between the state and the state, in a national sense . But when we look at state enterprises as independent business accounting units , each with its particular interests, the exchange of products between them still has to be an equal exchange based on the recognition of their respective economic interests as in an exchange between two different owners (Xue. M, China's Socialist Econmy Beijing, Foreign Languages Press 1981).

This is the point, see. The notion that you can have one single planning entity that literally plans in an apriori sense everything, right down to the brass nobs in your kicthen, within one single vast input-output table or matrix is a fantasy so absurd , so ridiculous , that it can be dismissed out of hand. This has little to do with computing capacity and I know that as a computer buff you like to go one about these things; it is essentially to do about the the relation betweenthe plan and economic reality.


If, of course, by a wave of someone's magic wand it was possible to contrive a state of affairs corresponding to this dreamworld then I would accept that the law of value would not operate in such a system. Though it would bear no relation to a socialist society it would not then be a capitalist society either. It would be something else for which no adequate label yet exists and almost certainly a totalitarian nightmare in which the number of eggs you had for breakfast would have already been factored in before you went off to do your daily stint of 9.146 hours in factory no 132 as required by the Great Plan and heaven help you if you died on the job and upset all those tidy little calculations

Meanwhile back in the real world of the "Soviet planning" things were far removed from this science fiction fantasy of a totally planned economy. The Soviet economy was far more decentralised than is often realised and the plans themselves as Ive repeatedly said were constantly modified in a mainly futile effort to catch up with changing economic realities. It was more like a PR exercise - to make it look like plan fulfullment was on target. So at the end of the planning implementation period your GOSPLAN buffs would slap each other on the back when it came to trimphantly announcing that this year's target of 20,000 tractors had been met with 20,157 tractors having rolled off the production line - conveniently forgetting, of coursem that at the start of the planning period they has actually specified a target of 30,000. So much for the plan "guiding" the economy

It is because the Soviet economy perforce was to an extent a decentralised economy that the so called "empty husks" (to use Trotskyist jargon) of capitalist economic categories - wage labour, profit, commodity exchange etc - acquired real significance and potency. The Soviet capitalist state had no option but to compel state enterprises to act as competing business units. Why else do you think they were compelled to make a prpfit? Come to think of it, if you seriously think the Soviet Union was not a capitalist economy but something called a planned economy - why did the economic categories of capitalism even exist - like money, wages , proft, buying and selling??? No critic of the state capitalist theory of the Soviet Union has ever been able to explain the existence of such obvious anomolies


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

No this is wrong, all you have to do according to the Feldmann model is shift the percentage of the output of dept I between depts I and II. What they did was increase the ouput of dept I that was fed back into dept II from 7% to 23%, this then caused the whole economy to shift onto a rapid growth path.
The short term hit here comes in the provision of replacement means of production to dept II whose means of production will deteriorate a bit for about 3 years. After that, because of the more rapid rate of growth of dept I, the supply of new means of production to dept II catches up..

I have no idea what you are going on about or how this relates to the point I made i.e.
"In other words, surplus value. It is only through the extraction of this surplus value that the investment of capital can proceed".

In any case my point about the Feldman's model stands - by definition there are not proportional increases across sectors but disproportional increases that favour development of the means of production which then enable the increased production of consumer goods. It is only after a period of time that a balance is reached, balances are not simltaneously effected


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

Except that other countries at a comparable level of development in 1928 such as Brazil or Argentina got trapped by capitalist relations of production in a stable situation of underdevelopment with low employment and low investment. Why? because investment was not profitable if calculated on a capitalist basis. Since the aim of the USSR was to increase the mass of the material product not to turn a profit, this did not matter and it escaped from the impasse and shot ahead. If you want to take a point of view that ignores major features of economic development like that you can, but in terms of long term improvement of working class living standards that is short sighted.
..

No, this is plainly false. Granted that state enterprises were not bankrupted if they did not make a profit, to deduce from that that profit considerations were not vitally important is quite absurd. Why do you imagine state enterprises were required by law to make a profit and why do you think they were penalised if they did not? State enterprises that made a loss could only be sustained by state enterprises that made a profit. Ultimately thats why profit mattered hugely.

But over and above that there is a more important point to bear in mind . You have this absolutely naive and unreal view, if I might say so, of the whole planning process which is encapsulated in your sentence "Since the aim of the USSR was to increase the mass of the material product not to turn a profit," as if the one thing was not related to the other.

According to your fairy story, decisions relating to the structure of material productiuon had nothing to do with budgetary constaints and the size of the state revenue. Figures were just ...well... plucked out of thin air, I suppose. A range of material targets were completely arbitarily fixed and supplies of inputs were suitably allocated in order to realise these targets. Its as if, according to you, the whole system of state financing was by passed completely and there was no need for allocations to be costed in money terms (and it is undeniable that allocations WERE costed in money terms). One has to ask if this was the case what then was the point in even having a system of state financing at all???
The bulk of the state's revenue incidentally came from turnover taxes which were essentially a tax on the sale of consumer commodities. So it was a buying and selling society and that you can hardly deny

It seem to me that you are the one who is wanting to ignore a very major feature of economic development in the Soviet Union and the absolute crucial role of surplus value in funding that development.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

And how is the state supposed to make a profit buying selling things to itself?
As explained, this is not how it happened. The profits were made at a level below the central state - by the state enterprises- and then appropriated by the central state. Formally it only apprears that the state is selling things to itself because all means of production (setting aside cooperatives, the black market etc) are nominally owned by the state but as Ive explained the state had no option but to to impose on state enterprises a quasi legal status - to quote Xue - of independent business accounting units . These state enterprises then related to each other on a fundamentally competitive basis, each concerned with their own narrow economic interests at the expense of the wider community, each scrabbling for as much resources as they could get from the central state, each striving to reduce the targets imposed on them by the state by understating their productive capacity and so on and so forth


Let me throw the question back at you - if it is absurd to think of the state making a profit buying and selling things to itself why then did it impose on state enterprises the the legal requirement to make a profit, eh? What was the point of the exercise?
[Paul Cockshott]
Engels and Dunayevskaya are both wrong here. They confuse value with exchange value. Marx is careful to distinguish value from its historically specific form of appearance as monetary exchange value. It is a common misconception in reading Marx.

The law of value and the law of the proportional distribution of labour time are the same thing. In a commodity producing society this is achieved via feedback mechanisms driven by deviations in exchange value from value. In a fully planned economy it would be done by direct calculation in terms of labour hours.

It is common ground to us that the units of production in the USSR carried out monetary calculations and at least in formal terms bought and sold goods. My contention however is that in the main in the USSR for most of its history, this buying and selling was purely an accounting operation since the purchases and sales were between branches of the same giant enterprise. A large capitalist firm will keep sector accounts for individual factories tracking the value of shipments in and out even if these go between sites owned by the same firm. But there is no real sale until goods are sold to an outside company.

The existence of these commodity forms did create an ongoing pressure to reintroduce market mechanisms and to allow the individual plants to retatain profits and in the latter stages of the Soviet history there was a move towards this, but this was part of the process of converting the economy to a capitalist one. The process did not become really significant though until Gorbachov.

You are wrong about a monetary surplus having to preceed accumulation of means of production. This is a monetary illusion which comes from taking the standpoint of the invidual capitalist. Neither in a capitalist country nor in a socialist economy is it necessary for a financial surplus to preceed real investement. On the contrary capitalist investment is always self financing at the level of the economy as a whole.
This is clearly explained in Kalecki's Theory of Economic Dynamics, whose basic equations are drawn from the reproduction equations Marx uses in Capital volume II.

Quote from the Wikepedia entry on Kalecki


P = Cc + I

Where P is profit, Cc capitalist consumption, and I investment.
This is the famous profits equation, which says that profits are equal to the sum of investment and capitalist’s consumption.

At this point, Kalecki goes on to determine the causal link between the two sides of the equation: Does capitalist’s consumption and investment determine profits or profits instead determine capitalist consumption and investment? In answer to this, Kalecki says

“The answer to this question depends on which of these items is directly subject to the decisions of capitalists. Now, it is clear that capitalists may decide to consume and to invest more in a given period than in the preceding one, but they cannot decide to earn more. It, therefore, their investment and consumption decisions which determine profits, and not vice versa”.[9]

By spending on investment goods capitalists generate the accounting profit.

Prior finance is even less necessary in a state planned economy since the state is the creator of money. The money in this case is simply accounting entries in the ledgers of the state bank. When new state factories were set up their accounts at the state bank were notionally debited with the goods that were delivered by other state factories. They were not expected to pay these loans back.

These loans incidentally were the way that the Deutscher Bank was able to gain control of much of East German industry after unification. The Volkseigener Betrieben were all nominally heavily in debt to the DDR state bank, but these nominal loans had no practical economic significance in the planned economy. But when the VEB were transfered to the Treuhand, it sold the state bank to the Deutscher Bank who now treated these nominal loans as real ones on which it demanded interest and repayment.

When industrialising, no prior additional surplus exchange valeu was required to fund industrialisation, what was required was a particular physical product mix from department I and an increased flow of food from the countryside to the cities.
Between the countryside and the cities there was real commodity exchange, and the initial function of the turnover tax was to impose a system of unequal exchange between the city and the countryside. It acted to raise the price of manufactured goods supplied to the countryside so as to ensure that the workers in Dept I could be fed without them having to deliver an equivalent value in means of production to the countryside.

Once labour productivity in the countryside had risen sufficiently ( say by the 60s ) this mechanism was no longer strictly necessary and it would have been better to switch to a general system of income taxation. I am not aware if there was and debate on this in the USSR.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Engels and Dunayevskaya are both wrong here. They confuse value with exchange value. Marx is careful to distinguish value from its historically specific form of appearance as monetary exchange value. It is a common misconception in reading Marx.

The law of value and the law of the proportional distribution of labour time are the same thing. In a commodity producing society this is achieved via feedback mechanisms driven by deviations in exchange value from value. In a fully planned economy it would be done by direct calculation in terms of labour hours..
I disagree. What you are doing here is confusing the abstract concept of "value" with the "law of value" which regulates the exchange of commodities (where the social relation between people expresses itself as a relationship between objects) and therefore pertains ONLY to a system of commodity production. Marx himself makes it pretty clear that "value" in this connection only reveals itself AFTER the sale of commodities - in the ratios in which commodities exchange - and is not directly observable.

You provide no evidence to back up your claim that the "law of value" was considered by Marx to be one and the same as the invariant timeless natural law to with the "proportional distribution of labour time" The quote that you provide - Marx's letter to Kugelman - does not say this. What it says is that the law of value is the FORM which this invariant law takes under conditions where there is private exchange of the individual products of labor,

I agree that Marx subscribed to to the idea of comprehensive labour time accounting for a communist society and advocated labour time vouchers for the first stage of communism which would be replaced by free access communism in the second stage. I consider both these ideas to be unworkable and prohibitively costly in terms of the bureaucracy they would inevitably spawn. There are much more effective ways to organise communist production outside the market - and indeed to ration goods, should this be necessary


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
It is common ground to us that the units of production in the USSR carried out monetary calculations and at least in formal terms bought and sold goods. My contention however is that in the main in the USSR for most of its history, this buying and selling was purely an accounting operation since the purchases and sales were between branches of the same giant enterprise. A large capitalist firm will keep sector accounts for individual factories tracking the value of shipments in and out even if these go between sites owned by the same firm. But there is no real sale until goods are sold to an outside company.

The existence of these commodity forms did create an ongoing pressure to reintroduce market mechanisms and to allow the individual plants to retatain profits and in the latter stages of the Soviet history there was a move towards this, but this was part of the process of converting the economy to a capitalist one. The process did not become really significant though until Gorbachov...
The great problem with this argument , as Ive said before, is that it is totally unable to explain why these commodity forms existed at all in the first place. This is its fatal weakness. To charactertise the buying and selling of means of production between state enterrpises as "purely an accounting operation since the purchases and sales were between branches of the same giant enterprise" simply will not do. It is to beg the question - why was such an "accounting operation" needed at all? Why did such economic forms as profit, wage labour, buying and selling etc persist in the Soviet Union if it was not capitalist. Its a pretty lame excuse to say it was just an "accounting operation" . What was it accounting for?

Your position puts you much closer to Tony Cliff's perspective though you draw a different conclusion to him. Cliff too argued that the Soviet Union was in effect "one gigantic enterprise" and that its capitalist character stemmed from its engagement with, and embeddedness within, the global capitalist economy. Im curouis as to what it is that prevents you from reaching the same conclusion. You don't deny the Soviet Union throughout its history traded with other state capitalist states or as you would call them "socialist" states, not to mention avowed capitalist states.


While foreign trade would have a bearing on the matter of the character of the Soviet union, I dont accept the argument that internally the Soviet Union resembled "one single giant enterprise". The relationship between state enterprises was NOT equivalent to the relationship bertween different department or branches of a westen corporation. The sale of producer goods between them were real sales subject to legally binding contracts - not simply "transfers" between different branches of the same corporation - and occured between financially and legally accountable, separate entities or cost centres - despite the legal fiction of "state ownership" - each necessarily pursuing their own separate interest as the expense of the wider collective interest becuase of the injuction placed on state enterprises to maiximise profit. Branches of the same corporation do not as a rule tend to do this though they might compete with each in the sense of wanting to outdo each other in terms of sales performances etc. While of course the profits reverted to the central state which then funded the state enterprises via GOSBANK, the argument presented here is that the state perforce had to REPRODUCE the de facto conditions of "many competing capitals" in order to enable the law of value to come into play and thus ensure the flow of surplus value out of which such state capitalist development was funded.

While I agree that automony of state enterprises was more constrained than that of distinct business units in the West - though the latter are also subject to state intervention or contraints in the form of laws governing their behaviour and the levying of taxes on profits - it should not overlooked that that the internal dynamic of the Soviet system was NOT a one way street with state enterprises merely having to passively comply with the plans imposed from above. Indeed, some commentators like Polanyi and Roberts have maintained that whole system of Soviet planning was essentially a pretence and that all that it boiled down was that planners asked the state enterprises what they wanted and then went on to incorporate this in the plan in the form of a fanciful wishlist of targets which moreover were constantly amended as circumstances changed. Indeed that in itself stretches the idea of an economy guided by the plan beyond breaking point.

The role of state enterprises in shaping the plan would of course be most apparent at the "bargaining stage" of the planning process when the state enterprises would consider the outline plan handed down and make the appropriate adjustments or indents to go back to the planning authorities for further consideration. At this stage the state enterprises would endeavour to pull the wool over the eyes of central planning authorities and try to screw the latter for as much they could get by systemically understating their own real productive capacity . Other commentators like Ticktin and Zaleski have contended that the soviet planning system was not really a planned system at all but a complete mirage - a convenient fiction.

Marxist scholars who take the view that the internal dynamics of the Soviet Union were state capitalist - like Bettelheim, Sapir, Chattopadhyay and Fernandez - have produced a huge body of work to substantiate their claim and cannot be lightly dismissed, This whole approach needs to be separated from the kind of approach taken by Tony Cliff and others who agree that the Soviet Union was state capitalist but on different grounds


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
You are wrong about a monetary surplus having to preceed accumulation of means of production. This is a monetary illusion which comes from taking the standpoint of the invidual capitalist. Neither in a capitalist country nor in a socialist economy is it necessary for a financial surplus to preceed real investement. On the contrary capitalist investment is always self financing at the level of the economy as a whole.

.
I cannot make much sense of this . Either you are plain wrong or we are talking at complete cross purposes. It is obvious that to accumulate means of production you have to purchase these means of production in the first place in a capitalist economy.- you cant just help yourself to these means of production and start producing!! With what do you purchase said means of production? Obviously with money. Where does this money coming from? From the surplus value previously appropriated according to the general formula Marx outlines in chaper 4 of Capital - namely M-C- M' - where money is transformed into a commodity-capital - which in turn yields money plus an excess. The ultimate purpose of this form of circulation is thus the accumulation of more money as opposed to the C-M-C form of cirulcation which has as its ultimate purpose the consumption of use values and where money represents merely a convenient means for exchanging one form of commodity for another and is charactrerisitc of simple reproduction

The M-C-M' formula, on the other hand, is precisely what is characteristic of modern capitalism - expanded reproduction. In the state capitalist regime of the Soviet Union money is advanced via GOSBANK to one state enterprise so that it can purchase means of production from another. This money capital comes from state revenues which represent the appropriation of surplus value by the central state that has been produced by the workers employed by the state enterprises to begin with . In western capitalism too if you want to start up a business the normal practice - unless you've got a very wealthy mummy and daddy who left you a load of dosh in their will - is to go to a bank or some suitably gullible venture capitalist to ask for a loan. Money thus figures at the very start of the accumulative process
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
This is what I mean by the illusions of competition. For the individual firm or agent it looks like this, but from the standpoint of the economy as a whole it is the expenditure on investment goods and luxuries that creates the profit in the first place. If this expenditure slackens, profit falls.
But you are mssing the point arent you? With what would you effect the "expenditure on investment" if not money? While it is true that if expenditure slackens profit falls it is equally true that if profit falls expenditure slackens

Your position strikes me as a case metaphysical juggling of the facts. You need money to invest in capitalist economy and this is true from whatever standpoint you care to look at the matter. "Expenditure" does not materialise out of thin air. The reality is that the M-C-M' formula of expanded reproduction in Marx's schema is a continuous cycle without beginning or end. Money is invested to make more money to invest to make more money to invest and so on ad infinitum.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
But from the standpoint of the state, the accumulation of money makes no sense. It is the state that creates money. The state has the aboriginal power to command the labour of its citizens and has had it since the earliest temple state societies. At various historical periods - the state has commuted this direct command over the surplus labour of its subjects into an indirect form by issuing money. It issues tokens to state employees and then obliges other subjects to deliver these tokens back to it. By doing this it has the side effect of accelerating and extending the production of commodities.
The power of command that money exerts over others is the delegated command that the state aboriginally exerts, delegated to private capitalists.

But states do not aim to accumulate money. Money is just a token with which taxes can be paid, and by which a duty to provide surplus labour which was once general for the whole population can be specialised onto a subset of the population.

Once the state controls the whole economy it can in principle do away with this delegated and independent power and could make the tokens it issues explicitly what they implicitly are - tokens denominated in time.
What you are doing here or attempting to do is to strip the state of its essential class character - to turn into some kind of amorphous institution that hovers over society and is propelled by its own impulses which do not include, according to you, the need to accumulate money. You forget that the very existence of a state signifies a class divided society and that the need to accumulate derives from this with the state serving as the tool and instrument of a ruling class as always

In effect what you are asserting that it is possible to have a ruling class that does not wish, or need, to accumulate which is preposterous

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
But so long as there are still private agents in the economy who do not work directly for the state - peasants and artisans, the state tokens still have to circulate since these private agents have to be induced to supply goods and services to the state employees.

Stalin was basically right on this. So long as there was a cooperative farm sector, which state employees relied upon for their subsistence, money still had to circulate.

To abolish monetary circulation the whole of agriculture would have had to be converted to state farms and money payments replaced by work points.
Stalin as usual was talking a load of nonsense. That dire work of his Economic Problems of the USSR (1951) has a section in it called "Commodity Production Under Socialism" In this he refers to Engels comment in Socialism Utopian and Scientific that with the "seizing of the means of production by society, production of commodities is done away with, and simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer" .

Stalin contended that this presupposed a high degree of concentration in all sectors of the economy. In countries such as Russia, the agricultrual sector in particular was characterised by a vast number of a small and medium-sized producers which ruled out expropriation and the complete "socialisation" of production. Hence, according to him, the persistence of commodity production in "socialism". As a matter of fact despite the distinct preference for "giantism" among soviet planners the same was true of industry too. Here for instance is something I found trawling through the internet:

"In 1973, 61.5 % of Russian industrial production was carried out by the 5,300 largest enterprises
" whereas "In the United States in the same year a slightly larger portion of industrial production (65 %) was carried out by a mere 500 firms" Given this relative weakness of concentration in Russian industry, the article argues, somewhat ironically, that "On the economic level the structure of the American industry lends itself much more to "planning" than that of Russian industry"("The Myth of Soviet Planning", International Library of the Communist Left, http://www.sinistra.net/lib/upt/comp...ipoebubie.html)

So by Stalin's own logic it would not just be the agricultural sector that would have prevented the elimination of commodity production but presumably the industrial sector too!

I dont any case except Stalin's logic but he did make some valid points such as that "commodity production must not be identified with capitalist production. They are two different things. Capitalist production is the highest form of commodity production" Of course since labour power, producer goods and consumer goods all took on the quality of commodities in the Soviet Union - articles that are bought and sold - this would make the Soviet economy a system based on capitalist production. To deny that that is the case while acknowleging that there was still commodity production in the Soviet system would seem to imply that the Soviet system was based on a somewhat "lower form" of commodity production which would be an odd position for any Marxist to take since it would imply a regression to a precapitalist form of commodity production - not a movement forward to a society without commodity production

To claim that for the "abolition of monetary circulation the whole of agriculture would have had to be converted to state farms and money payments replaced by work points" is of course utterly absurd. The very existence of the state implies a class society and the alienation of the producers - the working class - from the means of production and hence an exchange based economy. As has been explained to you before if you going to have an exchange economy then money circulation is unavoidable asma means of ensuring commensurabilty across a range of heterogenous products and divrse production techniques.

As far I know the onr and only significant attempt to introduce a system based on workpoints was among some rural communes in state capitalist China back in the late 1960s. This ill fated ansd shortlived attempt at a workpoints system was abruptly brought to an end by the Chinese authoroties themselves who increasingly saw it as unsatisfactory from the point of view of providing incentives, raising rural productivity and thus enabling the rural sector to effectively contribute to the development of state capitalist industry. Hence an increasing emphasis on market incentives in this sector. As Satyananda Gabriel and Michael F. Martin point out:

"In practice it was difficult to tie income to performance under this work point system. Self-assessment of the quantity and quality of work done was not likely to produce an accurate measure of actual effort. But, mutual assessment by all members of the team was also difficult. It could take up enormous amounts of time and lead to great tension among village families because some would inevitably feel they were unfairly treated
(Perkins 1988, 609).
("China: The Ancient Road to Communism?" Satyananda Gabriel & Michael F. Martin, Rethinking Marxism Association for Economic and Social Analysis Spring 1992 Volume 5,Number1)
[Paul Cockshott]
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But you are mssing the point arent you? With what would you effect the "expenditure on investment" if not money? While it is true that if expenditure slackens profit falls it is equally true that if profit falls expenditure slackens
Yes that does happen but it is a second order effect, it takes place after a delay.

It is the orders for investment goods and luxuries that instantaneously causes the monetary profit.

If you describe it with a system of equations, profit in period t is caused by investment and luxury consumption in period t, but investement in period t is influenced by profits in earlier periods.
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Your position strikes me as a case metaphysical juggling of the facts. You need money to invest in capitalist economy and this is true from whatever standpoint you care to look at the matter.
No this is not true. Having pre-existing sums of money would be one way to do it, but this is not the main way it happens in any developed capitalist economy. Instead credit money is created simulataneously with the investment taking place. The banking system allows firms to order goods on the basis of lines of credit.

If Cunard ordered a new liner making a series of payments to the shipyard as the work is done, it would typically do this by drawing down its overdraft facilities with its banker. The payments create debit entries in Cunard's account whilst creating credit entries in accounts of the shipyard.

The key thing to realise is that in a developed capitalist country most transactions are performed within the credit system. If you sum the amount of money in the whole economy, all the private money - bank money - sums to zero.

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You forget that the very existence of a state signifies a class divided society and that the need to accumulate derives from this with the state serving as the tool and instrument of a ruling class as always
No I dont deny that the existence of a state implies a class divided society.
The USSR was a worker's dictatorship, and the existence of that state implied that there were still class antagonisms both internal - with the Kulaks for example, and external - with the great capitalist powers.

The need to accumulate would have been there even if there was no state in the USSR, even if there had been revolutions in the main capitalist powers. Accumulation would in that case have been necessary to industrialise the whole world. Since capitalism had only been overthrown in part of the world, the necessity to accumulate came from two imperatives:
  1. To raise the standard of living in the socialist block
  2. to maintain defence capacity against the hostile capitalist countries

Whilst the working class as ruling class certainly did aim to accumulate I am not claiming that all states aim to do this. Accumulation, in the sense of building up the quantity of embodied labour in means of production was not a significant aim of pre capitalist states.
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The very existence of the state implies a class society and the alienation of the producers - the working class - from the means of production and hence an exchange based economy.
This is not true at all. The existence of a worker's state does not imply the 'alienation of the producers from the means of production'. Nor does the existence of a state imply an exchange based economy - viz the Inca State.

On the relative sizes of Soviet and US enterprises, you are not comparing like with like. Your soviet enterprises are what would be called 'plants' in the US. A large US firm would own many plants. If you want to compare firms with firms there was one large firm in the USSR which owned perhaps 80% of the economy.

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As has been explained to you before if you going to have an exchange economy then money circulation is unavoidable asma means of ensuring commensurabilty across a range of heterogenous products and divrse production techniques
The point you make above is uncontroversial.

It is also clear that the USSR remained socialist and had not moved to the first stage of communism since to have done so it would have had to replace the monetary accounting and payment system with labour accounts and labour value costing which would then have provided an alternative form of commensurability.
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Yes that does happen but it is a second order effect, it takes place after a delay.

It is the orders for investment goods and luxuries that instantaneously causes the monetary profit.

If you describe it with a system of equations, profit in period t is caused by investment and luxury consumption in period t, but investment in period t is influenced by profits in earlier periods.
It is not a secondary effect. It is a moment in a continuous cycle in which money is transformed into capital then back into money and so on and so forth

The idea that orders for investment goods etc instantaneously causes monetary profit is sheer baloney. Where on earth did you get such a crackpot idea from? If that were true there would be no bankrupticies and no economic recessions. Capitalists invest in the expectation of profit but there is no guarantee that their capital outlays will yield a profit

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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
No this is not true. Having pre-existing sums of money would be one way to do it, but this is not the main way it happens in any developed capitalist economy. Instead credit money is created simulataneously with the investment taking place. The banking system allows firms to order goods on the basis of lines of credit.

If Cunard ordered a new liner making a series of payments to the shipyard as the work is done, it would typically do this by drawing down its overdraft facilities with its banker. The payments create debit entries in Cunard's account whilst creating credit entries in accounts of the shipyard.

The key thing to realise is that in a developed capitalist country most transactions are performed within the credit system. If you sum the amount of money in the whole economy, all the private money - bank money - sums to zero.
.
Ah now I finally know where you are coming from . You subscribe to what has been dubbed the mystical theory of banking - that credit can be created with the stroke of banker's pen. This whole theory has been completely and utterly demolished as a species of currency crankism

See for example http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/s...-endless-farce

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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

No I dont deny that the existence of a state implies a class divided society.
The USSR was a worker's dictatorship, and the existence of that state implied that there were still class antagonisms both internal - with the Kulaks for example, and external - with the great capitalist powers..
This is incoherent. The "workers" were in control you allege and you clearly use the term "workers" here in the class sense as a class category of capitalism. But workers in this sense denote an exploited class. So according to you, an exploited class was in power and previaled over what logically must have been an exploiting class and yet despite this continued to allow itself to be exploited!!! That makes no sense at all

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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
The need to accumulate would have been there even if there was no state in the USSR, even if there had been revolutions in the main capitalist powers. Accumulation would in that case have been necessary to industrialise the whole world. Since capitalism had only been overthrown in part of the world, the necessity to accumulate came from two imperatives:
  1. To raise the standard of living in the socialist block
  2. to maintain defence capacity against the hostile capitalist countries

Whilst the working class as ruling class certainly did aim to accumulate I am not claiming that all states aim to do this. Accumulation, in the sense of building up the quantity of embodied labour in means of production was not a significant aim of pre capitalist states.
Setting aside your spurious claim that capitalism had been overthown in Soviet Russia and the crackpot idea that an exploited class could at the same time be a ruling class, I would say accumulation is common to all class based societies and arises as a class need. The form of accumulation differs from one form of class society to another and yes I agree that accumulation, "in the sense of building up the quantity of embodied labour in means of production was not a significant aim of pre capitalist states". This is what specifcally marked off capitalism in all its guises including soviet state capitalism from pre capitalist class systems

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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
This is not true at all. The existence of a worker's state does not imply the 'alienation of the producers from the means of production'. Nor does the existence of a state imply an exchange based economy - viz the Inca State.
Nonsense. Youve just said that in the Soviet Union the working class was allegedly the ruling class but the working class by definition is defined as that class which is alienated from the means of production and is, as a consequence, compelled to sell its labour power to an employer. If it was not alienated from the means of production it wouldnt be a working class and we would be talking about a classless society - which you have admitted was not the case in Russia - as well as a stateless society

The Inca state was an exchange economy though it was not a monetary based exchange economy. To some extent there was barter but the mainstay of the economy was the labour tax which everyone had to pay except for the nobles and their hangers on in the courts. This is what made it an exchange economy - the quid pro quo exchange of labour services for the necessities of life....
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
I say that causal relationship between profit and investment is a second order effect for several reasons:
  1. Unlike the Kalecki equation for profit, which is a necessary relation engendered by the laws of accountancy, any effect of profit on subsequent investment is contingent.
  2. Although investment in 2010 does correlate positively with profit in 2009 the correlation is not total since it is affected by other factors, in particular the rate of interest. A rise in the interest rate in 2010 can wholely or partially offset the effect of a rise in total profit the year before.

Where did I get it from, I got it from Kalecki who was one of the most insightful Marxian economists of the 20th century.
It follows directly from the Kalecki Equation for profit, which has no time lag term in it. When I say it is instantaneous I mean it in the standard sense of the Calculus, that if you repeatedly reduce the Delta T over which you measure the equation, ie, shift your accounting period from the year, to the month, to the week, or to the day, it still holds..
Frankly it sounds like a load of pretentious bollocks to me. I have no idea what "reducing your Delta T" would entail but then Im only a horny handed son of toil, not some bleedin academic stuck in an ivory tower. My antennae start to quiver with aroused suspicion whenever someone seeks to blind others with jargon rather than explain what they mean in plain english


The fact remains you can't invest in means of production without the financial wherewithal to do so. I would have hardly have thought that was controversial but you seem to be making heavy weather of it all.

Usually - unless you have a pile of cash hoarded under your bed - this involves banks opening a line of credit to its business customers but the credits that the bank extends to some are dependent on the deposits made by others and cannot exceed the latter. The belief that they can is what is meant by the "mystical theory of banking" entertained by some currency cranks (see the link to the article I posted earlier) Your original assertion that it is not necessary "for a financial surplus to preceed real investment" seems on the face of it, unless I have seriously misunderstood you, to suggest that you yoo adhere to some form of the mystical theory of banking in the sense that you seem to think you can disregard the level of deposits placed with banks which in the final analysis determine the amount of credit they can extend

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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

I don't know why you think it is a matter of definition that the working class must be exploited. That is true under capitalism, but it is not true in a socialist economy. The working class does not cease to exist in socialist countries when the capitalist exploiter is got rid of. Nor does the peasantry or the intelligentsia cease to exist.
Then it is clear from this that you are not using, or do not understand, the marxian definition of "working class" at all which is precisely centred on the fact that this class is alienated from the means of production and, in consequence, has to sell its working abilities to the owners of these means for a wage or salary. This is elementary Marxism and I am truly astonished that you dont seem to understand this point - that a working class and a capitalist are two side of the same coin and that you cannot have one without the other. So it is by definition not possible to get rid of the "capitalist exploiter" and a retain a working class - not in the Marxian sense of these terms at any rate. I suggest you read this little pamphlet which will help you to see things more clearly

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...bour/index.htm


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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Your definition of exchange economy is so general that it encompases forms of human and insect societies.
Not at all. A socialist economy for example would not, and could not, be an exchange based economy for the reason that the means of production would be held in common. It is illogical to have to buy what one already owns and if everyone owns the means of prpduction there can be no buying and selling. That is why the Communist Manifesto talked of the "communistic abolition of buying and selling"

I suspect you are confusing exchange with the much broader term reciprocity . Socialism or communiusm will be a system of generalised reciprocity but not economic exchange since there is no quid pro quo set mediating your relationship to the socialised and commonly owned means of production or the products produced by such means. In short - "From each accoridng to ability to each according to need" meaning free access to goods and services and labour performed on an entirely voluntary and willing basis.
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
But isn't this what happens today in the central banks? The federal reserve enters a number into an account in one of the fed banks. That bank can then use that number as real money, usually to lend back to the federal government as treasury bills. The bank gets the money, essentially, for free, and the lends it back to the government at 2% per year on a 10 yr. loan.

This is not to say the money is mystical or fictitious. Is is very real. As long as workers are producing real wealth in the form of surplus value, that value has to be distributed, in a capitalist system, by using money. If the total sum of money circulating is roughly equal to the total surplus value created then the system is in balance. Too much money, you get inflation, too little you get a recession.

This works until, every 7-10 yrs, there is a breakdown, caused by overproduction, according to Marx. His model has been extremely accurate over the past 125 yrs.

I don't see why a socialist economy cannot use the same monetary system. Instead of the central bank being owned by capitalists for their benefit, why not have a central bank owned by the people?

No sorry but this is incorrect. Marx's theory of crises is essentially a disproportionality theory. That is to say, crises develop out of of the uneven or unbalanced growth between different sectors or industries in a capitalist economy as well as being due to "the very connection between the mutual claims and obligations, between purchases and sales" within a capitalist system (Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 11, 4c). It is this "very connection" that creates the possibility of knock on effects that hugely amplify the consequences of disproportionate growth that periodically plunge capitalism into crisis. Workers laid off in one sector of the economy have less to spend on consumer goods produced in other sectors. Likewise the demand for producer goods declines which effects firms producing these goods who in turn lay off their workers and so on and so forth.

Your claim that with "Too much money, you get inflation, too little you get a recession" is wrong too. Ever since the failed policy of Keynesian demand management has been tried we have witnessed a new phenomenom come into being - stagflation. The combination of inflation and stagnation
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post

Marx called for a central national bank in the Manifesto: "5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly." I still don't see why the federal reserve cannot function as a central, national bank, owned by the people.

That is true but in no way did Marx think banks - or indeed a state - would exist in a socialist (aka communist) society. They were absoluterly clear that there would be no buying and selling, no wage labour , no money etc in such a society and therefore no banks. The ten reformist measures would be enacted while there was still a capitalist society and after the working class had captured power. Personally, I think that whole part of the Manifesto was a huge mistake and an error of judgement though it is significant that M & E latter played down these measures if not exactly repudiated them (see the prefaces to the Manifesto where the specifically say so)

There is a tendency, which Ive noticed on this forum, for some people to seize on evidence such as the above i.e. the centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, and conclude from that that the existence of institution like banks and credit are compatible with a socialist society whereas actually all they really signify are preparatory steps or measures to enable a socialist sociiety to come into existence by making as the Manifesto puts it "despotic inroads" into capital and undermining the power it yields. I question the entire premiss upon which this argument is based - with hindsight we can that Marx and Engels were proved wrong - but there is absolutely no question in my mind that this transitional period was in no way a socialist society as far as they were concerned and that in no way could you infer from its aspects, the nature of a socialist society.

Lenin made the fatal mistake in thinking that you could. He argued that big banks consituted nine tenths of the "socialist apparatus". He knew well enough what a genuine socialist society meant in traditional Marxian usage - a moneyless wageless stateless community - which term was used as a synonym for communism. He knew also that such a society was completely out of the question as far as Russsia was concerned because, among other things, the vast majority were not socialist as he said many times himself. His response was to opportunistically change the meaning of the term "socialism" to identify it with what we call state capitalism - to utilise the positive connotations that that the term conveyed to build political support for the Bolsheviks project of state capitalism

State capitalism, unlike socialism, was certainly achievable at the time and that is precisely what was achieved in the Soviet Union - a system of state administered capitalismin all its essentials
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
Do you realize, that a "largest enterprise" was always a single factory, or mine, or mill, or plant? In the US each of those 500 firms had dozens of such enterprises under it's control. In the Soviet Union (especially in Stalin's time) industrial ministries were largely acting as such "firms" uniting all enterprises of the same branch of industry into a sort of huge monopoly corporation. So you ought to take the number of such ministries into account, not separate enterprises, if you want to compare concentration of production by the same standards as the "500 firms in the US".

This is too simplistic. Control was a nested hierarchical thing. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that state enterprises were far from being the kind of passive tools in the hands of the industrial ministeries that you make them out to be. Read analysts like Sapir and Chauvance on this subject. There was considerable - and indeed , unavoidable - decentralisation in respect of a large array of planning functions - from technical composition of inputs to the employment and wage levels of workers (notwithstanding the official setting of wage levels). For instance the pratice of posting job vacancies at factory gates and negotiating over wages (particularly for skilled labour) was commonplace. This is to say nothing of all the other kinds of informal horizontal linkages that went on between state enterprises and indeed between them and the sizeable black market
[Paul Cockshott]
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Frankly it sounds like a load of pretentious bollocks to me. I have no idea what "reducing your Delta T" would entail but then Im only a horny handed son of toil, not some bleedin academic stuck in an ivory tower. My antennae start to quiver with aroused suspicion whenever someone seeks to blind others with jargon rather than explain what they mean in plain english
Sorry, when you work in science it is easy to forget how much we use a specialised language. What DeltaT means is the time interval over which you measure something.
If you are measuring a financial flow like profit you can measure it over time intervals of years, months, days, or even down to seconds in the financial markets. When I say that the determination of profit by expenditure is instantaneous I mean that however short you set your measurement period, Kalecki's equation still holds.

Investment on the other hand is a lagged function of previous profit, and with a lagged function it makes a great deal of difference what the time step you use is. Investment today will be imperceptibly affected by profit yesterday, but quite markedly influenced by profit last year.
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The fact remains you can't invest in means of production without the financial wherewithal to do so. I would have hardly have thought that was controversial but you seem to be making heavy weather of it all.

Usually - unless you have a pile of cash hoarded under your bed - this involves banks opening a line of credit to its business customers but the credits that the bank extends to some are dependent on the deposits made by others and cannot exceed the latter.
I am making heavy weather of it, because you are subject to the same sort of shopkeepers confusion of national and private accounts that Thatcher had.

First - at the level of the economy as a whole it is lending by banks that creates new deposits, were that not the case the total amount of bank lending could not exceed the number of banknotes deposited by customers.

Second - the state bank has an even greater ability to create new means of payment than private ones. Just look at 'quantitative easing', the Bank of England creates billions of new money overnight.

The idea that a state should have as an objective the accumulation of its own money - which is what your conception of state capitalism implies, is just nonsensical. The state can create money if and when it wants, but it only does this as an intermediary for obtaining usevalues from the population. From the states point of view the circuit of money is

M+ -> C- & T -> M-

Where M+ means issue money
M- means cancel out money
C- means consume commodities as use values
T means levy taxes.

The circuit M -> C -> M'
is specific to private capitalist agents who do not have the right to issue money themselves.
[robbo203]
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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post


I am making heavy weather of it, because you are subject to the same sort of shopkeepers confusion of national and private accounts that Thatcher had.

First - at the level of the economy as a whole it is lending by banks that creates new deposits, were that not the case the total amount of bank lending could not exceed the number of banknotes deposited by customers.

Second - the state bank has an even greater ability to create new means of payment than private ones. Just look at 'quantitative easing', the Bank of England creates billions of new money overnight.

I think this argument is crap frankly and it seems pretty obvious to me now that you do indeed align your thinking with currency crankism and what is called the"mystical theory of banking". - that banks can loan out more than what is deposited with them. Rather than get all technical and (I suspect) bore the tits off most people here, I refer you to a rather long thread on the matter on the SPGB forum. Check out post number 5 for example

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/f...banking?page=1


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Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

The idea that a state should have as an objective the accumulation of its own money - which is what your conception of state capitalism implies, is just nonsensical. The state can create money if and when it wants, but it only does this as an intermediary for obtaining usevalues from the population.
No. As usual youve got it completely wrong, Im afraid. Nobody is disputing that the state can create more money in the sense of injecting more currency into circulation. All that does, as you probably know, is to inflate the currency and reduce the value of what money can buy. It is not the accumulation money per se that we are talking about but the accumlation of capital out of surplus value. Surplus value is basically the differerence in value between what the workers produce and what they recieve in the form of wages so to accumulate more capital you need to increase the amount of surplus value at yoiur disposal

In Soviet state capitalism, the drive to accumulate capital out of surplus expressed itself in the subordination of consumption to the needs of capital accumulation. In the quote that I earlier gave you from Peter Binns, Binns remarks that, at the beginning of the first Five-Year Plan, capital accumulation absorbed more than 20 per cent of national income, which subsequently increased in later Plans and was markedly higher than that any of the developed capitalist country. In fact according to Alec Nove in 1933 though money wages rose by 67 percent in Russia. prices far more sharply with the result that that that year marked, what he called the "culmination of the most precipitous peacetime decline in living standards known in recorded history" (Nove A An Economic History of the USSR Allen Lane 1972, p.207)

Your mistake is to look at this matter in purely money terms - you are suffering from the very money illusion you aitribute to others. It is not so much the nominal or face value of its revenue that the Soviet capitalist stae sought to increase - it could (and did) easily do that simply by inflating the currency - but is real value . Or to put it differently it was the relative share of social product which the Soviet state capitalist ruling class appropriated for its own ends which this same class sought to increase at the expense of the workers
[A Marxist Historian]
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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
So whats happened to your previously stated theory that the tendency towards capital concentration "has obviously prevailed" and that the "anarchy of production has significantly diminished - even under capitalism, thanks to the big corporations". Now you are saying the anarchy of production has not significantly diminished after all cos all those little companies and quite a few big ones are continuing to go down the plug hole. Whats more according to you, the depression awaiting us in the future is going to be really "scary" when this trend towards concentration continues towards its supposed ultimate climax. Kind of shot yourself in your own foot, havent you? Youre now admitting it seems that the "anarchy of production" has not significantly diminished at all

This is not going to happen so you can stop worrying. There is absolutely no chance that capitalism is going to drift towards a state of affairs in which there will be "only one capitalist hyper-corporation" remaining . You've been reading far too many science fiction novels by the sound of it. You forget the point that i made about diseconomies of scale.

Incidentally, Marx pooh poohed this idea as well. There are tendencies towards capital concentration but there are also counter tendencies. In Capital vol 111 for example he says:

It begins with primitive accumulation, appears as a permanent process in the accumulation and concentration of capital, and expresses itself finally as centralisation of existing capitals in a few hands and a deprivation of many of their capital (to which expropriation is now changed). This process would soon bring about the collapse of capitalist production if it were not for counteracting tendencies, which have a continuous decentralising effect alongside the centripetal one.
Well robbo, you're right on this secondary point vs. Zulu, for what that's worth.

But that shoots a whole big glaring hole in your own argument. Now, do you agree with Marx's economic analysis or don't you? Your quoting him makes it sound rather like you do.

And if you do, then you've just quoted Marx stating that your conception of "state capitalism" is an impossibility, which if realized would "soon bring about the collapse of capitalist production."

Q.E.D.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post

I would add that there is one very good reason (amongst several others I can think) why your fanciful scenario is just not going to happen and that is the emergence of a new form of state capitalism rather different to the old soviet "command economy" style of state capitalism based on the deployment of sovereign wealth funds. This trend kind of shores up nation-statism and seems set to stick around for a long time yet. Check out Ian Bremmer on this subject

Like I said, this notion of society-wide central planning springs directly from the debate over economic calculation formally initiated by Ludwig von Mises in 1920. Its not a question of me holding a wrong or right definition of central planning. Its the definition that was used. If you doubt that read D.R. Steele's From Marx to Mises who exactly defines central planning in the way I have done - as society-wide planning

If what you are advocating is something less than full society wide central planning then that must inevitably mean that you too accommodate a degree of spontaneity in your preferred model of society - meaning the presence of many plans - as opposed to just one big plan
Essentially, you are simply buying into the Von Mises paradigm, according to which, since a "command economy" run from the top by a narrow group of bureaucrats is going to inevitably come up against severe limitations--therefore "central planning" is impossible.

So somebody named Steele defines "central planning" in a fashion convenient for the Von Mises anti-socialist straw man, that means we should accept that? What for?

Instead, why don't we take the definition of "central planning" of the main advocate of central planning in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, the first time socialists had the opportunity to seriously think about this, and even implement their thoughts?

I am referring of course to Leon Trotsky. How did he define central planning? He, unlike Mr. Steele, actually knowing something about it?

"An a priori economic plan – above all in a backward country with 170 million population, and a profound contradiction between city and country – is not a fixed gospel, but a rough working hypothesis which must be verified and reconstructed in the process of its fulfillment. We might indeed lay down a rule: the more “accurately” an administrative task is fulfilled, the worse is the economic leadership."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trot...h04.htm#ch04-1

I think this knocks your entire line or argument into a cocked hat.

-M.H.-

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post

Ironic innit? What was it you were saying earlier? Ah yes - here it is:

The way you want it to be - to convert all the material production into a Wal-Mart-like reactive system of consumption-response is a sure way to turn humanity into lazy biomass with chicken-sized brain nodes. Good thing your system won't work for very long.

Seems like you've been pretty much converted to the Wal-Mart-like reactive system of consumption-response

In any case, referring to the Amazon example, this is a feedback system in which supply responds to shifts in demand in an open-ended fashion . As such, this is not at all an example of society-wide central planning since in such a system the quantity of given consumer product to be produced is preset as a target before hand and cannot be altered in the course of the plan implementation period for reasons which will become obvious below






That you can say this tells me for sure that you dont understand what is entailed by society -wide central planning. Central to that is the fixing of productiuon targets of millions of different consumer products and producer goods, these targets having been established beforehand on the basis of such things as known technical ratios - how much of a given input is required to produce a given output. Once you allow feedback to influence output that will inevitably involve altering the patten of allocation of inputs. A bigger demand for product X means more of inputs required to proiduce X must somehow be made available. Where are they to come from. Contrary to whatyou seem to imagine they cant just be conjured out of thin air. they have to be diverted from other end uses. Increasing the output of X may thus mean having to decrease the output of product Y. This is what the economists call "opportunity costs"!. The opportunity costs of producing more of X is producing less of Y Since there are millions and millons of different kinds of products in the economy there is simply no point in trying to establish set targets in the first instance. Which is another way of saying there is no point in advocating a system of society-wide central planning

[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
Once again, since you seem to be habitually inattentive in the matter, I did not actually invoke Marx to support my claim that ultimate control amounts to de facto ownership. I am quite capable of taking up a position independently of what Marx may or may not have said on the matter, you know. The claim that ultimate control is tantamount to de facto ownership needs to be assessed in its own right and not whether or not it has the blessing of holy scripture

It is interesting though to note though that Marx regarded formal control i.e. ownership as more important than real control. Knd of bears out what I have been saying but I dont rely on it as primary evidence. The argument speaks for itself
OK fine, what argument do you have for this absurd notion that control equals ownership other than scriptural quotation? Assessing the claim in its own right, the claim is simply asinine.

And besidees, the bureaucrats didn't have "ultimate control." They were middlemen between the Soviet people and the foreign imperialists, just like trade union bureaucrats in the West are middlemen between domestic capitalists and their dues base. But the workers always ultimately control the unions, no matter how dictatorial and bureaucratic they may be. As long as they are funded by the workers dues.

Why? Because they never had any legal foundation whatsoever for their control over the Soviet economy. It was always essentially illegitimate. From the day Stalin took power to the day Gorbachev dissolved the USSR, the Soviet bureaucrats always claimed they were simply administering Soviet affairs on behalf of the Soviet people, and it was always untrue. But this was not a legal cover over a different form of ownership, as there was no ownership by a distinct class of the means of production, rather just bureaucratic corruption and distortion of the original Soviet system.

Any set of property relations, once it stabilizes, has to take legal form to function. In the USSR, there never was any such thing, as there never was a distinct ruling class which could obtain lawful ownership of the means of production.

And how on earth does Marx seeing ownership, i.e. "formal control," as more important than physical control bear out your line of argument?
That's exactly like arguing black equals white.

Is that why your postings are so long, so people will overlook that you are arguing that black equals white and two plus two equals five?

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
And your evidence is...

Frankly I doubt your claim. I suspect that Russian workers talked in terms of owning the country in much the same way as same way as American workers talked about America being theirs . Its delusional in both instances. Russian workers no more owned the country than American workers do and ex cathdra type statements that the economy is under so called workers control dont constitute evidence
American workers talking about how they own America? Well, I suppose there might be some, after all a remarkably large number of Americans don't believe in evolution and couldn't find London on a map, or maybe even New York. But anybody, worker or otherwise, who seriously suggested that America was owned by anybody or anything other than the banks and corporations would be laughed at. A much more absurd idea to your average American than creationism.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
And, in the case of soviet state capitalism, it was the state which was the employer and hence those who controlled the state were the de facto employer or capitalist class

You cant have such a thing as a working class without a capitalist class. Thats nonsensical and illogical . By definition, the very existence of a working class implies the existence of a capitalist class
A marvelously circular argument.

Technically correct however. If all precapitalist relations were gone, and if no capitalist class existed in the entire world, then the world would be socialist, and there would be no Soviet working class.

In fact, there were two major classes in Soviet society, the working class and the peasantry on the collective farms, which technically were petty bourgeoisie, except where the farms were actually state farms, always a minority.

If the collective farms had all been transformed into state farms, and if capitalism were abolished everywhere else, so that no imperialist capitalist class existed to justify the existence of the Soviet state as a shield against foreign imperialism, then you would not have a distinct "working class" in the USSR.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
Yup . And this is one of several points that Marx made where I believe he erred significantly. The whole idea is ludicrous in my view. In point of fact the so called DOTP could only logically happen - if at all - under a capitalist mode of production . The working class is a class category of capitalism after all. The DOTP was NOT some new form of society or mode of production, it was simply intended as a political transition period ( (see http://bataillesocialiste.wordpress....society-buick/). The Soviet Union was a dictatorship over the proletariat
An elementary confusion on your part. Of course the DOTP was not a "form of society" or a "mode of production." It was a form of government, a political not a social or economic phenomenon. Apples and oranges.

You could in theory have a dictatorship of the proletariat in a capitalist or even I suppose a feudal society, though that would be an extremely unstable condition. All it means is that the social class in society which holds the reigns of government is the proletariat. The economic or social nature of the society is another matter altogether. Any society which has a proletariat could have a dictatorship of that proletariat. If the tiny class of wage earners in ancient Rome were ruling the society, you would have had a true Roman dictatorship of the proletariat--for about two weeks.

However, the DOTP only makes sense in a society in transition between capitalism and socialism, in any other context it would be utterly unviable and impractical.

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Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
That is not what is claimed. It is not the existence of wage labour per se that makes for capitalism. There was wage labour in Ancient Rome after all It is the generalisation of wage labour that makes for capitalism. Generalised wage labour existed under societ state capitalism
Did it? What are wages after all, scientifically speaking. It's when workers are paid for their labor value with money, the universal equivalent. But was the ruble a universal equivalent? It wasn't.

Workers could use them to purchase consumer goods, but not the means of production. And, moreover, outside the boundaries of the Soviet Union the ruble was often considered to be absolutely worthless.

Just as Soviet society was transitional between capitalism and socialism, similarly the Soviet ruble was transitional between actual money and labor certificates for work performed.

So, technically, you did not have "generalized wage labor" in the USSR.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post

This is delusional rubbish, It is precisely what I meant by "ideological smokescreen." Soviet economic plans did indeed take the form of material balances (though they were also couched in monetary terms), these physical production targets amounted to a kind of attempted superimposition or constraint upon what was a basic capitalist dynamic. This dynamic required of course the extraction of surplus value upon which the accumulation of capital could proceed. Stating targets in terms of tons of steel or coal might sound as if the whole system was run according to the dictates of physical planning and nothing else but that would of course be highly misleading and extremely superfical as an analysis of what really was going on. GOSPLAN's plans did not actually guide the economy anyway, as Ive said before, but were constantly modified in response to changes within the economy itself. What was really guidling or directing the economy as systemic level was something quite else. It is ludicrous to claim that profit was purely for bookkeeping purposes and in any case as I said before what lies behind the need for judge how capable a bureaucrat was? The state depended abosolutely on the profits made by industry as a whole . Thats why profit was far more than for purely "bookeeping purposes" as you absurdly claim
How did the state "depend on" these "profits"? Because they were a convenient bookkeeping form for what the state really did depend on, namely those tons of coal and steel and whatnot, which is what it was really all about. Use values, not exchange values.

But, since the USSR existed in a capitalist world, the capitalist law of value did have a huge effect on the Soviet economy, which, if it was technologically and economically behind the imperialists, would soon fall militarily behind and be crushed, which did not happen, or economically and socially behind in respect to the West, in particular with respect to working class living standards, which is what did happen, and is the reason the system collapsed, as the workers no longer believed in it.

In America or Britain, increasingly people don't believe that the capitalist system really works for their benefit anymore, but that is not catastrophic, as the system does not depend on that, as America is ruled by the capitalists not the workers. As the USSR was a workers state, once the workers completely lost faith in the Soviet system, pffffffffffft, the air went out of the balloon.

I find it difficult even to tangle with the obscurantist nonsense below. I mean, really. "Human need is not the primary motive driving western capitalism anymore than it was in the Soviet Union." Huh?

For you, capitalism is some sort of abstract ideological construct, so all you need to do is fiddle with a parameter or two and you can come up with your abstract "Soviet state capitalism." It isn't. It's an extremely oppressive social system that generates depressions, unemployment, racism, "ethnic cleansing," all-sided social reaction, and that is degrading society and pushing to towards barbarism and/or war.

Your abstract system of "Soviet state capitalism" doesn't do any of these things, the only problem with it really is that it is too bureaucratic, dictatorial and brutal. So just democratize it and you get something resembling socialism.

I'd almost be willing to concede your point and call the Soviet system "state capitalism," if you were willing to concede the obvious fact that it is fundamentally superior to "private capitalism" from the POV of the working class.

So then, since these "state capitalist" societies have existed, whereas a socialist system never has, the logical conclusion would be that the way to get socialism is to obtain "state capitalism" first, since that seems to be easier.

However, the trouble with that is that there is no "state capitalist" mode of production," rather that what we really have, a degenerated or deformed workers state, is something that can happen when a working class revolution degenerates, or by imitation if you have what seems like a successful model, as the USSR certainly seemed to be after the triumph over Hitler fascism. So that's not actually a workable proposition.

-M.H.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
...
Western style capitalism can just as easily claim it is producing something that society "needed" (and as Marx argued a commodity does have use value which satisfies a human need as well as exchange value). That is indeed an obfiuscation but no more than the claims that Soviet capitalism was geared to human need . Such claims are true in the trite sense above but false in another more profound sense. Human need is not the primary motive driving western capitalism anymore than it was in the Soviet Union...

[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
The point is that Walmart and Microsoft and whatnot certainly plan "centrally," but they are planning how to maximize their profit in a competitive economy, where they are competing against other capitalist corporations. They are not planning the economy, they are trying to maximize their profit margins.

The point of Soviet economic planning was not, and could not have been, to maximize the amount of social surplus generated, so that an alleged ethereal "state capitalist class" could get it all. It was to plan social production. Production for use, not as with Walmart production for profit.

In other words, it wasn't a capitalist system, and it really is just that simple.

-M.H.-
Its not that simple at all. All economies entail the production of use values. The issue is what constituters the essential dynamic of the economy in question.

If the Soviet economy was simply organised to produce for use why then did all the primary features of capitalism manifest in that economy - generalised wage labour, buying and selling, the pursuit of profit (legally imposed upon state enterprises) and so on?

The standard Trotskyist excuse - the "empty husks" argument - is utterly unconvincing and lame in the extreme. It does not even begin to explain why these economic phenomena continued to exist in the Soviet Union or in what sense they were a mere accounting ploy. Accounting for what?

I dont quite know what you mean by "The point of Soviet economic planning was not, and could not have been, to maximize the amount of social surplus generated" What are you trying to say? You are surely not denying that a "social surplus" was sought are you? Whether it could be maximised is a matter of intepretation. Consumption needs were certainly subordinated to the needs of capital accumulation as I showed in my previous post to an extent that even surpassed that of other capitalist states at the time

This surplus took a monetary form - in the form of retained profits and most crucially turnover tax on consumer goods which accounted for about 70% of the states revenue. If the Soviet economy was simply based on prpduction for use why the need to collect revenue? This revenue was used among other things for investment in state enterprises via GOSBANK precisely with a view to generating more surplus value which the central state could cream off in an endless cycle of M-C-M' . Just like any other capitalist state in fact
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Well robbo, you're right on this secondary point vs. Zulu, for what that's worth.

But that shoots a whole big glaring hole in your own argument. Now, do you agree with Marx's economic analysis or don't you? Your quoting him makes it sound rather like you do.

And if you do, then you've just quoted Marx stating that your conception of "state capitalism" is an impossibility, which if realized would "soon bring about the collapse of capitalist production."

Q.E.D.
This is nonsense and it only demonstrates that you do not understand the theory of state capitalism. State capitalism does not necessitate what is called a "command economy". In an idealised sense such an economy would entail the total apriori planning of everything within an entire economy from a single centre . That is certainly an impossiblity but it does not follow from this that state capitalism itself is an impossibility where means of production are legally the property of the state. The whole point is that this is a legal fiction behind which state enterprises confront each other and compete for resources as financially accountable costs centres. GOSPLAN's plans to which they were in theory subordinated were largely a sham and were routinely modified to make it look as if production was on target. As one commentator put it such plans anmounted to little more than a crude summation of the wishes of the state enterprises themselves, which enterprises imposed their own needs on the planning process at the bargaining stage.

This was very far from being a command economy in the abstract idealised sense of central planning but it was still nevertheless a state capitalist economy in which the means of production were formally and legally the property of the state


Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

Essentially, you are simply buying into the Von Mises paradigm, according to which, since a "command economy" run from the top by a narrow group of bureaucrats is going to inevitably come up against severe limitations--therefore "central planning" is impossible.

So somebody named Steele defines "central planning" in a fashion convenient for the Von Mises anti-socialist straw man, that means we should accept that? What for?
Im not quite sure what you are getting at here


You say that I am "simply buying into the Von Mises paradigm" - that central planning in the classic sense of society wide planning - is an impossiblity but, when pressed on the matter, you throw up your hands in horror and protest that that is not what you yourself advocate or what central planning is about. Its just a "Von Mises anti-socialist straw man", Straw man or not, do you or do you not agree that central planning in this classical sense is an impossiblity. A simple "yes" of "no" would suffice.

If you agree that it is an impossibility then what INEVITABLY follows is that any system you propose MUST to some extent be a polycentric decentralised one. There is no getting out of this. It strictly follows from the basic premiss itself. You can call your system of polycentric planning a "centrally planned economy" if that makes you happy but it is not going to alter the fact that in de facto terms it is a polycentric system only differing from other polycentric systems in the degree of centralisation of decentralisation.

From this propostion we can deduce a further one that the larger and more complex an economy the more does it call for the decentralised or spontaneous adjustment of the millions of plans that are formulated on a daily basis and the further away will we move from a the classical model of central planning. The fact that we now have the computing capability to solve millions of similtaneous equations has got abolutely nothing to do with it. It is a complete irrelevance. What makes central planning impossible is not our inability to compute but, rather, the relationship between the plan and the economic reality it seeks vainly to impose itself upon. The more complex that reality the less apppropriate a "centralised" approach

The only question that remains is whether we want to organise this essentially self regulating system on the basis of a market economy or on a communistic basis of free distribution of goods and services and volunteer labour.

These are the only two optons avilable to us and the suggestion that that there might be some other vague third option called "central planning" is a complete delusion
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
Its not that simple at all. All economies entail the production of use values. The issue is what constituters the essential dynamic of the economy in question.

If the Soviet economy was simply organised to produce for use why then did all the primary features of capitalism manifest in that economy - generalised wage labour, buying and selling, the pursuit of profit (legally imposed upon state enterprises) and so on?

The standard Trotskyist excuse - the "empty husks" argument - is utterly unconvincing and lame in the extreme. It does not even begin to explain why these economic phenomena continued to exist in the Soviet Union or in what sense they were a mere accounting ploy. Accounting for what?

I dont quite know what you mean by "The point of Soviet economic planning was not, and could not have been, to maximize the amount of social surplus generated" What are you trying to say? You are surely not denying that a "social surplus" was sought are you? Whether it could be maximised is a matter of intepretation. Consumption needs were certainly subordinated to the needs of capital accumulation as I showed in my previous post to an extent that even surpassed that of other capitalist states at the time

This surplus took a monetary form - in the form of retained profits and most crucially turnover tax on consumer goods which accounted for about 70% of the states revenue. If the Soviet economy was simply based on prpduction for use why the need to collect revenue? This revenue was used among other things for investment in state enterprises via GOSBANK precisely with a view to generating more surplus value which the central state could cream off in an endless cycle of M-C-M' . Just like any other capitalist state in fact
All the economic forms and terms you refer to were indeed used in the USSR, but they didn't have the same significance. The Soviet money wasn't necessarily money, the universal equivalent in the Marxist sense, Soviet "capital" wasn't capital as Marx defined it, etc. etc. These were all transitional forms in a transitional economy.

The Soviet economic cycle wasn't M-C-M, but much better described as C-M-C. Putting more money in the pockets of Soviet bureaucrats, whether "collectively" in some mystical fashion or singly, simply wasn't what the Soviet economy was all about.

Consumption needs were subordinated to the needs of accumulation, but not of "capital" accumulation in the Marxist sense. They were subordinated to the need of Soviet society to advance the productive forces. Whereas capitalism is *not* about advancing the productive forces of society, in fact capitalism is a big obstacle to that. It's about enriching a particular class of capitalist society, the capitalist class.

And when that interferes with accumulation of socially needed material goods and advancing the productive forces, accumulation loses.

In the situation of Soviet Russia in the 1920s, subordinating consumption needsd to those of accumulation was correct, within limits. Unfortunately, the Soviet bureaucracy did not respect those limits. That this was an economic necessity is the best proof that you cannot build socialism in one country, as sooner or later the working class will resist, thereby preventing the successful building of socialism until you have workers rule on a world scale

Your above quote from me was not well worded on my part, it should have been "The point of Soviet economic planning was not, and could not have been, to maximize the amount of social surplus received by a particular class of society." Which should be pretty obvious I should think.

-M.H.-
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

Lenin didn't say that state banks etc. were socialism, he merely said that they proved that the economy was ready for socialism. This is exactly the same point Engels made, when he talked about how the rise of the corporation proved that the world was ready for socialism, as a corporation is after all a form of collective ownership, by way of the stock exchange.

-M.H.-

"Without big banks socialism would be impossible. The big banks are the "state apparatus" which we need to bring about socialism, and which we take ready-made from capitalism;..A single State Bank, the biggest of the big, with branches in every rural district, in every factory, will constitute as much as nine-tenths of the socialist apparatus" (Lenin V, "Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?" October 1, 1917 Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 87-136 - my emphasis).
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manic Impressive View Post
Marxist Historian you've banded the term workers state around quite a bit but that term is ridiculous to describe the Soviet Union. It also appears as if you've avoided Robbo's point here completely.
You've not even attempted to respond to the suggestion that the soviet union was not a dictatorship of the proletariat or a workers state but it appears as if you've danced around it.
That's almost too elementary a point to discuss in this context.

What's a workers state? It's a state that protects the social interests of the working class, and suppresses or expropriates outright the capitalist class.

That it did the latter is well known. Did it do the former?

Well, being as you had no unemployment, education and health care free, housing and transportation dirt cheap, and auto workers under Brezhnev were getting paid better than doctors and lawyers, obviously it did.

And any doubt as to whether it did should have been removed when it collapsed, and working class standards of living dropped by half, and the male life expectancy went down by ten years!

If that's not indisputable roof that the Soviet state defended the social interests of the working class, what conceivably could be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Manic Impressive View Post
So if it's not bad form for me to repost a quote I've used elsewhere and since no one responded last time I posted this perhaps you would be so kind as to offer an explanation of Lenin's own view on the proletariat being unable to achieve the class conciousness and thus achieve a dictatorship of the proletariat.

That seems pretty clear cut to me, the working class cannot achieve class conciousness so we intellectuals must do it for them, in their name so to speak. So if the intellectuals are making the revolution and are in control of the outcome of the revolution does it not hold that it is a dictatorship of the intelligentsia instead of the proletariat who as Lenin admits were not class concious. Which is blatantly opposed to the Marxist view that the proletariat must emancipate themselves.
Also do you think that this by Engels is in anyway similar to the bolsheviks seizure of power?
Here's the thread where I'm reposting most of this from
Lenin never said that workers wouldn't spontaneously achieve class consciousness, he only said that workers don't spontaneously achieve socialist consciousness without the intervention into their struggles of socialist intellectuals.

Spontaneously, workers understand that they are oppressed, and should get treated better, higher wages, better working conditions, etc. etc. Trade union consciousness as Lenin put it. But spontaneously realizing that capitalism must be overthrown and socialism established, if they want to improve their lives?

Not so as I have noticed, and I was an active trade unionist for over twenty years, and very pro-socialist all that time, and if anything like that had been going on in the factories I was working in, believe me I'd have noticed.

If you disagree, they why, pray tell, hasn't the American working class, the most powerful in the world, spontaneously achieved socialist consciousness?

But all the intellectuals can do is what intellectuals do, formulate ideas and communicate them to others. The liberation of the workers can only be the work of the workers themselves, as intellectuals, college students, etc. simply don't have the social weight to change society all by themselves.

-M.H.-
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
All the economic forms and terms you refer to were indeed used in the USSR, but they didn't have the same significance. The Soviet money wasn't necessarily money, the universal equivalent in the Marxist sense, Soviet "capital" wasn't capital as Marx defined it, etc. etc. These were all transitional forms in a transitional economy. -
Yes you keep repeating this same tired old Trot "empty husk" argument but you never explain why these empty husks applied in the Soviet Union in the first place if that is all they were. What was the rationale for them being there. Press you on the matter as I might I never get a straight answer from you

If it looks like like a duck, quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck then it is reasonable to infer that it must be a duck. A soviet consumer who went into a shop and exchanged a small rectangular peice of paper called a rouble for a loaf of bread was conducting exactly the same kind of quid pro quo transaction as her counterpart over in America. She is buying a loaf of bread. Or are you going to deny even this and force your head even deeper into the sand in ostrichlike manner?

Question is - what can be infered from this buying and selling process?

In the first place, it means soviet production was not primarily geared to production of use values but rather to the sale of commodities. Labour power too was a commodity in exchange for which workers got a wage (out of which they paid for things like loaves of bread) although the price of that commodity - labour power - was a highly regulated one under a brutal capitalist dictatorship that sought to crush independent working class resistance while having the audacity to obscenely presume to call itself a "workers state" of all things which Trotskysist hacks down the years have faithfully echoed without giving the matter a second thought

Secondly, a buying and selling denotes an exchange of property titles. When I hand over my rouble I relinquish ownership of it. Conversely, when the shop hands over the loaf it relinquishes owenrship of that loaf. But on what grounds did it claim ownership of that loaf in the first place? Logically and tracing it all back to its source, it is because the means of producing that loaf of bread were not commonly owned but were privately - or rather sectionally owned. In other words becuase the Soviet union was a form of class=based property society - a type of capitalism

This is why buying and selling - which was clearly generalised thoughout the Soviet capitalist economy - is incompatible with common ownership and for which reason the Communist Manifesto itself spoke of the "communistic abolition of buying and selling"
[Manic Impressive]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
That's almost too elementary a point to discuss in this context.

What's a workers state? It's a state that protects the social interests of the working class, and suppresses or expropriates outright the capitalist class.

That it did the latter is well known. Did it do the former?

Well, being as you had no unemployment, education and health care free, housing and transportation dirt cheap, and auto workers under Brezhnev were getting paid better than doctors and lawyers, obviously it did.

And any doubt as to whether it did should have been removed when it collapsed, and working class standards of living dropped by half, and the male life expectancy went down by ten years!

If that's not indisputable roof that the Soviet state defended the social interests of the working class, what conceivably could be?
Ah I see a workers state is just a state that protects the rights of workers? Cool so it's not a dictatorship OF the proletariat you admit that much, the proletariat have no political power and thus it is at best a dictatorship for the proletariat and at worst a dictatorship over the proletariat. By that definition also you could claim that if some of the Scandinavian social democracies improved in a few areas they too would also be workers states as your definition of a workers state is just a state which protects the rights of workers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Lenin never said that workers wouldn't spontaneously achieve class consciousness, he only said that workers don't spontaneously achieve socialist consciousness without the intervention into their struggles of socialist intellectuals.

Spontaneously, workers understand that they are oppressed, and should get treated better, higher wages, better working conditions, etc. etc. Trade union consciousness as Lenin put it. But spontaneously realizing that capitalism must be overthrown and socialism established, if they want to improve their lives?

Not so as I have noticed, and I was an active trade unionist for over twenty years, and very pro-socialist all that time, and if anything like that had been going on in the factories I was working in, believe me I'd have noticed.

If you disagree, they why, pray tell, hasn't the American working class, the most powerful in the world, spontaneously achieved socialist consciousness?

But all the intellectuals can do is what intellectuals do, formulate ideas and communicate them to others. The liberation of the workers can only be the work of the workers themselves, as intellectuals, college students, etc. simply don't have the social weight to change society all by themselves.

-M.H.-
Nah I don't believe the working class will spontaneously achieve socialist conciousness en masse. But I do think that conditions will compel workers to look for alternatives to capitalism and it is the job of socialists to help them achieve socialist conciousness. But it's the why bother waiting for the workers attitude of Lenin, which was similar to Blanqui and other utopian socialists which is contrary to Marxism and contrary to your assertion that there was a dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enver Broxha View Post
Robbo has already confronted this point, pointing out that de facto ownership is more important than de jure ownership. You're using the ordinary bourgeois definitions of capitalism and socialism here, not the marxist one.
...
Enver, you should read more carefully. Robbo conceded:

"It is interesting though to note though that Marx regarded formal control i.e. ownership as more important than real control. Knd of bears out what I have been saying but I dont rely on it as primary evidence."

Formal control means de jure ownership, not de facto. So you have it backwards. Now how Robbo can possibly think that bears out what he says is a mystery that will be difficult to resolve.

-M.H.-
There is no mystery to resolve. Formal control in the sense of de jure ownership is also at the same time de facto ownership. It is de facto ownership expressed as ultimate control over the means of production and the disposal of the economic surplus which is what really counts in the end. From that point of view, it is quite possible to dispense with formal control in the sense of de jure legal ownership by individuals of the means of production but retain a fully class based society in which a small class exercsie de facto ownership only of the means of production
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
This is nonsense and it only demonstrates that you do not understand the theory of state capitalism. State capitalism does not necessitate what is called a "command economy". In an idealised sense such an economy would entail the total apriori planning of everything within an entire economy from a single centre . That is certainly an impossiblity but it does not follow from this that state capitalism itself is an impossibility where means of production are legally the property of the state. The whole point is that this is a legal fiction behind which state enterprises confront each other and compete for resources as financially accountable costs centres. GOSPLAN's plans to which they were in theory subordinated were largely a sham and were routinely modified to make it look as if production was on target. As one commentator put it such plans anmounted to little more than a crude summation of the wishes of the state enterprises themselves, which enterprises imposed their own needs on the planning process at the bargaining stage.

This was very far from being a command economy in the abstract idealised sense of central planning but it was still nevertheless a state capitalist economy in which the means of production were formally and legally the property of the state
What are you on about? It's you and Van Mises talking about a "command economy," not Engels or me. Engels said that a "state capitalist" economy would automatically collapse. If you want to disagree with Engels, fine, but you instead were trying to quote Engels to back up your position?

Either you are extremely confused, or you are being deliberately dishonest. I think you are indeed confused, in that you have studies your peculiar and unconventional "state capitalist" opuses so long that you have managed to confuse yourself completely.

In fact, you can't seem to make up your mind whether your version of state capitalism is really state capitalism, or some form of private capitalism in disguise, with state enterprises actually private capitalist enterprises competing with each other.

As in the Bordiga version of state capitalism. A friend of mine once read Bordiga's entire book on the subject in the original Italian. The way he summarized it for me was that Bordiga believed that you really did have stock ownership and a stock exchange, except that they hide the tickertape machines in the Kremlin basement so the workers won't find out about them.

[QUOTE=robbo203;2420945]

Im not quite sure what you are getting at here

You say that I am "simply buying into the Von Mises paradigm" - that central planning in the classic sense of society wide planning - is an impossiblity but, when pressed on the matter, you throw up your hands in horror and protest that that is not what you yourself advocate or what central planning is about. Its just a "Von Mises anti-socialist straw man", Straw man or not, do you or do you not agree that central planning in this classical sense is an impossiblity. A simple "yes" of "no" would suffice.

[QUOTE=robbo203;2420945]
The classic sense of central planning is the sense defined by Trotsky in that quote I posted which you are evading. As he was the prime advocate of central planning in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, which is what we are talking about, his definition is the one that rules. In that sense, it was entirely possible.

But for you the "classic sense" is the sense as defined by Von Mises, i.e. a "command economy." Yes, that's unworkable over the long term.

But I, unlike you, do not buy into the Von Mises paradigm, and do not concede to you, Von Mises or that Steele fellow the right to define central planning in the fashion of the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland, who asserted that a word meant whatever she wanted it to mean.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
If you agree that it is an impossibility then what INEVITABLY follows is that any system you propose MUST to some extent be a polycentric decentralised one. There is no getting out of this. It strictly follows from the basic premiss itself. You can call your system of polycentric planning a "centrally planned economy" if that makes you happy but it is not going to alter the fact that in de facto terms it is a polycentric system only differing from other polycentric systems in the degree of centralisation of decentralisation.

From this propostion we can deduce a further one that the larger and more complex an economy the more does it call for the decentralised or spontaneous adjustment of the millions of plans that are formulated on a daily basis and the further away will we move from a the classical model of central planning. The fact that we now have the computing capability to solve millions of similtaneous equations has got abolutely nothing to do with it. It is a complete irrelevance. What makes central planning impossible is not our inability to compute but, rather, the relationship between the plan and the economic reality it seeks vainly to impose itself upon. The more complex that reality the less apppropriate a "centralised" approach

The only question that remains is whether we want to organise this essentially self regulating system on the basis of a market economy or on a communistic basis of free distribution of goods and services and volunteer labour.

These are the only two optons avilable to us and the suggestion that that there might be some other vague third option called "central planning" is a complete delusion
Before I engaged in this thread, I had never even encountered the phrase "polycentric planning." Should Soviet planning have been "polycentric" in your sense? Perhaps. I have no objection to the idea in theory, neither would Trotsky have, and come to think of it neither would your average Soviet planner have either. Indeed Trotsky's formula of central planning combined with the market and consumer and factory-level input is a form of "polycentrism" I suppose.

Come to think of it, Soviet planning was fairly "polycentric" at times, certainly during the 1920s, with Lenin pushing his electricity plan side by side with various other economic plans, and also under Khrushchev I think, to some degree at least.

This is a tertiary question of no fundamental significance.

-M.H.-
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Wrong.

It's not a "disproportionality theory," but overproduction. With the driving force being the longterm decline in the rate of profit due to the inevitably rising organic composition of capital.

The empirical validity of this is obvious from the recent world banking crisis, touched off by overproduction in the housing sector in America and Europe. Or the dot.com crisis of a decade ago. Or just about any capitalist crisis ever.

If the source of capitalist crisis was merely "disproportionality," then capitalism would basically be OK economically, as every capitalist crisis fixes disproportionalities automatically, so the boom/bust capitalist cycle would simply be eternal and basically harmless, as conservative capitalist ideologues always maintain.

No, capitalist production inevitably overgrows its market. Its not just a matter of fixable "disproportionalities.

Granted, capitalist economic crises always *appear* to be disproportionality crises, but that is merely the surface appearance.

-M.H.-

No it is you who is wrong here. You speak of the " driving force being the long term decline in the rate of profit due to the inevitably rising organic composition of capital" - overloking precisely the counteracting tendencies to the falling rate of profit that Marx specifically mentioned.

There is no prospect whatsoever of capitalism grinding to a halt and imploding of its own accord due "to the inevitably rising organic composition of capital". People have been proclaiming that capitalism would collapse right from the beginning of the 19th century. It hasnt happened. Many leftists duyring the 1930s were saying the same thing. Engels too in the 1880s was arguing that the recession then would never end. He was proved wrong

Disproportionality theory is without question the primary Marxian explanation for crises with the falling rate of profit serving as a second order explanation. Does that mean capitalism automatically over time overcomes recessions and moves once again into to a boom phase? Yes, it does. That is how Marx saw it - an endless cyles of booms and slumps which he called the capitalist trade cycle. To characertise this as something "conservative capitalist ideologues always maintain" is just silly. Its what happens in practice and is what Marxist have argued, happens. Conservatives think capitalism is basically OK. Marxists think even in a boom capitalism sucks.

The truth is people who hold to this apocalyptic collapsist view of capitalism tend to be vanguardists who attach little importance to the fundamental need to build up a mass movement of socialists who consciously desire the establishment of socialism. Capitalism can only come to an end by workers consciously seeking its abolition. It will not collapse of its own accord.
[Manic Impressive]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Yeah, a workers state is a state that protects the rights of workers, not capitalists. If you think that the Swedish state protects the working class, well, you have another think coming. We have a decent number of Swedes here on Revleft who will be glad to set you straight.

If you think that the Swedish state ever protected the working class vs. the capitalist class, or ever could, then you have bought into a lot of reformist myths, and you're probably a reformist at heart.

Fact is, under Swedish "socialism" you had an economy more thoroughly dominated by big Swedish corporations, and with less state ownership, than just about any place else in Western Europe. What you had was an agreement between the trade unions and Volvo and so forth, to fund social welfare measures by raising taxes etc. on private corporations and private citizens to the point that small and medium size companies would go broke and the big companies would own everything. In return, the trade union leaders would prevent strikes and maintain social peace.

Facilitated by Sweden getting rich during two world wars by staying neutral and selling arms to both sides. The Nazi blitzkrieg would never have gotten nearly as far without all those fine Swedish ball bearings in the panzers.

Where you get the notion that Lenin's attitude was "why bother waiting for the workers" is beyond me. In fact, by 1917, the Bolshevik party had fewer intellectuals and more factory workers than any other socialist party. Most intellectuals had long abandoned the Bolsheviks, precisely because the Bolsheviks believed in rule by the workers not the intellectuals. Bolsheviks intellectuals had to give up all their class privileges and become professional revolutionaries. After a while most of them got tired of that, so they didn't stick around and the Bolshevik Party became overwhelmingly proletarian.

-M.H.-
Blah Blah Blah Sweden your post is all about one tiny remark I made again trying to avoid the issues. The remark about Scandinavian social democracy was in response to you rabbiting on about free health care and low unemployment which last time I checked were reforms to capitalism not socialism as defined by Marx and Engels.

seriously your posts are like a low quality steak you have to cut off all the fat and gristle to get to anything substantial and on topic. Lenin's why bother to wait for the workers attitude is clearly evident in the quote I posted. That the working class cannot achieve socialist conciousness under capitalism and so a vanguard must do the work for them which is in clear opposition to Marx's view evidenced here in the manifesto
Quote:
The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority in the interest of the immense majority
Here Marx clearly states that it is a movement of the immense majority for the immense majority. The whole concept of a vanguard rests upon a minority acting on behalf of the ignorant majority.

You speak of the party being made up of more factory workers than intellectuals. Yeah I don't doubt that. You probably know better than me but wasn't the number between 300,000-500,000. Out of the population of Russia that's a tiny minority. The Blanquists in France numbered 500,000 yet Engels still describes them as a conspiratorial group, a powerful group yes. But it's still not a majority acting in the interests of the majority. And as he points out if a minority led by a dictatorship of one man or a small group of men take power then it is not the dictatorship of the proletariat, the class as a whole, but a dictatorship over the proletariat.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenin
If Socialism can only be realized when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least five hundred years...The Socialist political party - this is the vanguard of the working class; it must not allow itself to be halted by the lack of education of the mass average, but it must lead the masses, using the Soviets as organs of revolutionary initiative
I don't know where I got the idea of Lenin not being favour of a majority nope can't see anything here
[Manic Impressive]
Quote:
Originally Posted by bricolage View Post
I know I'm just jumping in to pick up on one tiny point but there is no way there were ever 500,000 Blanquists in France, here's something I wrote in another thread once:

The social force of the Blanquists is no way comparable to that of the Bolsheviks.
woops you got me there . You're right on that point Engels estimated the communist party to number 500,000 adult males in France in 1839.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...1844/01/13.htm

see at least I can admit when I'm wrong unlike some people

Quote:
Originally Posted by bricolage View Post
this is an interesting discussion, considering the large peasantry in the country, what was the working class population of russia in 1917?
also what was the population that were part of the factory committees and soviets, before they were absorbed by the state? this will obviously be a lot higher than the bolshevik party membership and probably comes to a majority of the working class at the time, in the brief time b
[robbo203]
efore the state took control it's hard to say this wasn't a majority acting in a revolutionary manner.
Another good point I might try and find that out tomorrow after I've been to sleep
[Blake's Baby]
[u.s.red: So, you think Lenin should have gone from tsarism to communism in a couple of days?]
It's not up to Lenin, it's up to the world proletariat. You can't abolish capitalism permanently in single territory. You can't establish socialism, even temporarily, in a single territory. As long as some capitalism still exists, then capitalism still exists, and you don't get to establish socialism until capitalism's been done away with.

If we could build socialism inside capitalism, we wouldn't need the political revolution, we'd all just go and join a co-op, make it really big, and reform our way to socialism. But that doesn't work. We need to overthrow capitalism firstso we can sieze the productive apparatus; and as capitalism is a worldwide system, we need to overthrow it worldwide.

So you can't have a 'transition' between capitalism and socialism, because we're not reformists. There must be a rupture, the destruction of one and the conscious creation of another. Not just reforming and reforming and reforming and hey presto! Lenin conjours a new economic form out of... revolutionary will and a pointy beard.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

But if it's all merely "disproportionality," then the problem with capitalism is that it isn't very nice, even in the boom periods as you put it.

Essentially, the disproportionality theory accepts that capitalism is basically a working and successful system, in economic terms. If you accept the disproportionality thesis, then you are not a Marxist, you are a reformist, or at least ought to be, since in that case revolutions are not necessary for the continued economic future of the human race. They are just something that might be nice.

-M.H.-

This is sheer nonsense. For a start, disproportionality theory which sees crises as arising out of the "anarchy of market production" leading to overshooting outcomes and knockon consequences, is firmly grounded in Marx's own writings.

In Capital vol 2 (chapters 20 & 21) his schema for expanded reproduction explains how all this happens in the context of the interrelations between Department 1 and Department 2 when production of the means of production and production of consumer goods get out of sync.

In Capital vol 3, he remarks

If it is said that there is no general overproduction but simply a disproportion between the various branches of production, this again means nothing more than that, within capitalist production, the proportionality of the particular branches of production presents itself as a process of passing constantly out of and into disproportionality – since the interconnection of production as a whole here forces itself on the agents of production as a blind law, and not as a law which, being grasped and therefore mastered by their combined reason, brings the productive process under their common control. Capital, Vol. III, Chapter 15, Part 3

Likewise in Theories of Surplus Value

In times of general over-production, the over-production in
some spheres is always only the result, the consequence, of over-production in the leading articles of commerce; [it is] always only relative, i.e. over-production because over-production exists in other spheres.'
(TSV2, 529).


In point of fact disporportionality thweory was widely held among Marxists and was certainly the dominant theory up to the early 20th century - its main rival being underconsumption theory (e.g. Rosa Luxemburg). All sorts of people advocated it Hilferding was a prominant exponent Even people like Bukharin and Lenin adhered to it

The notion that subscribing to disproprotionality theory somehow makes you a "reformist" is frankly ludicrous . You claim that "disproportionality theory accepts that capitalism is basically a working and successful system, in economic terms.". No it does not. Disproportioinality theory asserts that crises are built into the nature of capitalism and will never be got rid of. It actually counterposes itself to the reformism of people like Keynes who claimed that crises could be overcome by government deficit spending and demand management . Moreover, as I pointed out it does not follow that becuase crises are never permanent that capitalismn a "working and successful system, in economic terms" . Even if crises could be overcome capitalism could still not be operated in the interest of workers. It can never be successful from their point of view


You claim about disproportionality theory and what it is supposed to "accept" implies that you believe that economic crises are permanent rather than recurring (as disproportionality theorists argue). In that respect, your claim has been completely falsified by the very fact that the movement of capitalism has always been and will always be a cyclical one of alternating booms and slumps - just as Marx argued
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
You say that the high level of investment was evidence of capitalism, I say it was evidence that it was socialist.

An increase in investment in means of production was an objective necessity if living standards were to rise significantly. The aim of the soviet economy was to raise working people's living standards, and in order to do this it needed an industrial economy able to engage in mass production of consumer goods. You can only build
a mass production system by first making the tools to produce the final goods, and
this requires a high level of investment.
No I dont say what you claim I say. High or low investment is irrelevant to the question of whether or not there is capitalism. In a socialist society unlike your state capitalist Soviet Union, the very concept of "investment" - the injection of money capital into the production process - becomes completely and utterly meaningless.

The aim of the Soviet Union was not to raise working people's living standards - any more than Mr Camerons aim is to create jobs and get people back into work. You have been taken in by the propaganda. The aim of the ruling class in the Soviet Union was to administer capitalism and capitalism can only be administered in the interest of capital and and hence against the interests of workers

The interests of capital necessitates the accumulation of capital out of surplus value and thus the intensification of the exploitation of the working class. Your dotty idea - all of a peice with you currency crankism - that state does not need to accumulate money since it can simply print the stuff if needs be - exposes the fragility of your grasp of basic economics. It is not money per se that the state needs to accumulate but what money can buy - its real value . Printing more money simply means that what your pound or rouble can buy in real terms is less than before. What the central state in the Soviet Union was concerned was to augment the share of social product - expressed in money terms - that it approporiated for itself via taxes and retained profits which constituted the great bulk of the state's revenue.

If money did not matter for the state and it was all a question of physical planning and production for use then why the hell did the state even bother to gather revenue? What was GOSBANK doing if not investing money capital - which can only come from surplus value - in state enterrpirses precisely with a view to accumulating more capital? That was the real driving force behind soviet capitalism and not some ethereal concern for the wellbeing of workers which is the sort of tosh which all capitalist politicians claim to concern themselves with

Your whole idea of what the Soviet Union was is a load of hot air from start to finish, frankly
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
So what should workers do, if they can seize the power in one country, but not everywhere at the same time?...
Promote revolution in other territories while not pretending what they have is 'socialism'.

Yes, state capitalism can be a point of depature to to socialism (though of course it isn't necessarily). I can't see how the dictatorship of the proletariat can function as anything other than state capitalism. I wouldn't say a 'stepping stone' though because it's not stepping 'away' from capitalism, towards socialism. It's a point of maximum concentration of capitalism.

That doesn't mean it's not state capitalism.

Once all the capitalists have been expropriated and all of production worldwide can be used for the benefit of humanity, then the construction of socialism can begin.

Your question is, to me, a bit like asking what a leg should do if it wakes up in the morning before you rest of your body. Should it pop downstairs, hop in the shower and then start making breakfast? Maybe go to the shops and some things in for dinner? Or should it lie around waiting for the rest of you to wake up?

The revolution will be international. The working class is an international class and capitalism is an international economic system. A proletarian revolution that happens in isolation makes no sense.

A preoletarian revolution that 'succeeds' in isolation however (while the revolution elsewhere is defeated) is a different matter; of course the history of Russia in the 20th century shows what happens when the revolution succeeds in overthrowing the bourgeois state in one place but not in other places.

What happens is that some new group takes control of the state. How could this not be the case? Even if the new group starts as being from the working class, or in the case of Russia merely 'representing' the working class, the actual relations of power in the new society will lead to the creation of a new bourgeoisie. Whether that's a technical elite or an oligarchy or whatever, it doesn't matter; how the new bourgeoisie sees itself is irrelevant, it is a new class that is being created that fulfills the role of a bourgeoisie, and in a capitalist world a class that fulfills the role of a bourgeoisie is a bourgeoisie.
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Well in that case it was clearly necessary to wait until capitalism had become a world wide system - something which had hardly been achieved until the end of the 20th century...
Maybe. Trotsky, Lenin and Luxemburg disagreed with you of course. They regarded the First World War as the demonstration that capitalism had exhausted its historic task of completing the development of the productive forces and establishing a world economic system.

Marx vacillated between showing that capitalism was completing the world system, thinking that it had completed it, and realising that it still had potential to develop.

But there is a striking difference between capitalist development in the 19th century and in the 20th; in the 19th century, when Rosa and I agree that capitalism was expanding, economic development in one area worked to promote economic development in another area. In the 20th century, economic development in one area tended to mean that another area became economically depressed.

Almost as if, around the beginning of the 20th century, capitalism became a zero-sum game and gains in one place must come at the expense of losses somewhere else. As if, the limits of expansion had been reached and now only re-division of the economic spoils were possible. As if, the world system had been completed in outline and all we arguing about after that was how it should be arranged.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Of course the rhythm of capitalism is boom and bust, and disproportionality, as Marx explains in the quotes you produce, is the mechanism involved. That we can take for granted.
Ah - so suddently now youve changed your mind! Having originally claimed
that if you accept the disproportionality thesis, "then you are not a Marxist, you are a reformist" - NOW it seems when this claim of yours has been exposed as utterly ridiculous , you feel that we can "take for granted" the disproportiinality thesis. Take for granted indeed! Have you ever thought of embarking on a career as a professional politician, by any chance.

Of course, the disproportionality thesis lies at the heart of the Marxian explanation of crises. How anyone can deny that I just do not know. Indeed Marx's whole critique of Says Law was based on this. In Capital vol 1 for example he says

Nothing could be more foolish than the dogma that because every sale is a purchase, and every purchase a sale, the circulation of commodities neccessarily implies an equilibrium between sales and purchases. If this means that the number of actual sales accomplished is equal to the number of purchases, it is a flat tautology. But its real intention is to show that every seller brings his own buyer to the market with him..But no one directly needs to purchase because they have just sold.

Here we see the possibility of a rupture between supplyand demand - a disproportionate growth between them - that through its knock on consequences can lead to a crisis




Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
But what's the longterm direction of development? Through the up and down cycles, does capitalism take society forward, develop the forces of production, make human lives better over the longterm? Or do things keep getting worse over time. Do the cycles of boom and bust spiral downwards or upwards, or is this unpredictable?

That's the real measure of whether capitalism works or not economically.

According to Marx, the regulating principle is the law of the falling rate of profit, which means that the spiral goes down not up, that the curve of capitalist development points down not up.

Are there countervailing factors? Yes, Marx enumerated them carefully. But all they do is slow the longterm decline down.

The law of the falling rate of profit is the fundamental reason why capitalism, over the long term, is a failure as an economic system. It is the quintessential concept of Marx's economic analysis, the axis on which everything turns.

If you disagree with it, you are either not a Marxist or not a revolutionary, or both.

-M.H.-

In the first place, stop jumping to unwarranted conclusions which is what you constantly seem to do! Saying that economic crises are an inherent part of capitalism's trade cycle and are essentially triggered by disproportional growth does NOT rule out a falling rate of profit. It is quite possible to maintain that there is a long term tendency for the rate of profit to fall AND subscribe to a disproportionality thesis. Personally, I struggle to see how the falling rate of profit on it own can account for periodic crises but I am not denying that such a thing can exist


Secondly, if what makes acapitalism a "failure" in your eyesis the falling rate of profit would you consider it to be a success if this rate, instead of falling, were to rise? According to some analysts - like Brenner for example - while the rate of profit among the leading industrialised nations did indeed fall in the post war years, reaching a low point ion the late 70s/ early 80s it has since risen almost back to its postwar peak and part of the explanation for this was one of Marx's "counter tendencies" coming into play - namely an intensification of the rate of exploitation. So what are we to infer from that - that capitalismwas "failing up to the early 80s and then becoming more "successful" after that? It would certainly seem like it from your point of view since you make the rate of prpfit the crucial determinant of whether capitalism is a "success" of "failure".

I dont accept that. You might take your cue from an "internalist" capitalist criterion of "success" or "failure" but, as a communist, I judge capitalism a success of falure in terms on of its ability or otherwise to meet human needs - irrespective of whether the rate of profit is high or low That incidentally was also Marx's view (see for example, his comments on Malthussian concept of overpopulation) You overplay the importance of the falling rate of profit in the Marxian worldview, in my opinion

Finally, what is it you want to suggest by your emphasis on the falling rate of profit?. What are you implying. You seem to agree that the falling rate of profit will not lead to the collapse of capitalism and indeed Marx himself pointed out that even if the rate of profit were to fall this need not prevent the absolute mass of profit from rising. So why this fetishisation of the "falling rate of profit"

There is a great quote from Rosa Luxemburg on the matter . Luxemburg made the point that “there is still some time to come before capitalism collapses because of the falling rate of profit -- roughly until the sun burns out” (Anti-Critique) I think that about sums it ip
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
The economic world is another story. In fact, like Marx & Engels said, the new economic system does indeed grow within the shell of the old. Engels pointed out that the corporation is in fact a form of collective ownership, and if the economy is dominated by corporations, collective property is already in existence--except owned by the capitalist stockholders not the general population.


-M.H.-
So finally, at long last, we have the grudging admission that the capitalists can indeed own the means of production on a collective basis and not simply as private individuals. With this, the ridiculous Trotsky idea that capitalism depends absolutely on de jure legal private ownership of capital goes down the pan.

It is but one tiny step from this to acknowleging that, in the Soviet Union, the capitalist class - the Red Fat Cats who ponced around pretending to be the vanguard of the very working class they systematically exploited and politically repressed in what they had the sheer audacity to call a "workers state" - were in fact the actual collective owners of the means of production. This extremely privileged and powerful little group of parasites collectively owned the means of production as a class because they owned and controlled the state in whose name these means of prpduction were owned and controlled. The state was their property - it belonged to them as a tool of class oppression - and to that end they very effectively used that tool in the only way in which ultimately it could be used - to reinforce and perpetuate their own class dominance
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
What word would you use then, accumulation? It makes no difference to the substance of the argument, to get a higher living standard you first have to build the machinery that will enable you to achieve it. Doing this does not make the economy capitalist.
No, merely building up the means of production per se does not make the economy "capitalist" , I quite agree, any more than it makes it socialist. It is the economic basis upon which such a build-up proceeds that determines the character of the system and that is what made the soviet union a capitalist economy. It was engaged in capital accumulation and as you know "capital" is not simply means of production. As Marx pointed out, it is the economic context that makes means of production, capital

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
You claim it was capital accumulation because the state calculated production in state factories both in physical terms and in money terms, but this monetary calculation was necessary because workers needed money to buy food. The alternative, to simply requisition food from the peasantry as tried in war communism was not a viable course of action. What do you suggest should have been done to ensure people were fed?
Yes of course Russian workers needed money which they got in the form of wages. That is precisely because they were living in a capitalist economy!!!What do you expect??? If you live in a capitalist economy that is the normal way in which things happen is it not? Capitalism is the commodity society par excellance. Hence money is needed in it

The fact that in the Soviet Union" the state calculated production in state factories both in physical terms and in money terms" is neither here nor there. Everywere under capitalism this dual accounting approach obtains - calculation in kind operating alongside monetary calculation. Your local supermarket would pretty soon cease to function effectively if it did not physically monitor "in kind" the flow of stock passing through its shelves.

My point is that the basis upon which the Soviet Union can unquestionably be a called a capitalist economy was that it entailed what you call a "rentiers" notion of investment. It is absolutely undeniable that money capital was invested in state enterprises via GOSBANK and this money derived from state revenue which in turn derived from the various mechanisms I mentioned which sought to extract surplus value from the enterprises in question. So you have the complete capitalist cycle in place of expanded reproduction - M-C-M' - and the driving force behind it all was capital accumulation. I fail to see how you cannot see this....


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
No, you compare what they say they want to do with what actually happens.
What happened in this case did not correlate with what the politicians say they wanted to do since clearly "full employment" was a myth but, more importantly, any improvements in living standards that occured had sod all to do with the politicans anyway. All the wealth is produced by the workers and all increases in wealth are likewise attributable to the workers and the workers alone. The politicians are just parasitic leeches whose pious proclamations should pretty much be treated most, if not all, of the time
with the contempt they deserve

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
You are right that the armed forces are unproductive, and that administration is unproductive, but there are unproductive activities that are none the less socially necessary. The workers state needed formidable armed might to defend the working class against the threat of attack by capitalist powers, and this was certainly a drain on living standards, but without it, the USSR would have been the kind of walkover for the Wehrmacht that the Imperial Russia was to the armies of the Kaiser and the whole of Europe and Asia would have been under Fascist rule.
Oh well you see - this is where we are talking across an unbridgeable gulf. As long as you persist in thinking that the Soviet Union was some kind of "workers state" - a peice of nonsense on stilts if ever there was - then no matter what I say to you will make no difference . And vice versa. Jesus Christ, the red bourgeosie even had the nerve to phyically prohibit ordinary Russian workers from entering their special exclusive retail stores stocking commodities intended for this privileged parasitic elite - such as luxury items from the West - and you still think this was a "workers state"? Talk about naivete!

Armed forces may be "sociallly necessary" but only in a society where armed forces are necessary. And so we go back to our socialist basics. What causes war? If you accept the basic socialist argument that war arises from the competitve struggle over resources, trade routes, markets etc then you are saying war is only necessary or possible in society in which property and hence production for exchange, exists. In the modern world that means capitalism.

In a socialist society, production for the market completely ceases to exist and the means of production are made the common property of all. The impetus to war therefore no longer exists and so the machinery of warfare are rendered completely socially unnecessary.

So of course you can argue that the Soviet Union had no option but to build up its military might and from the narrow technical point of view you are quite right. If the Soviet Union wanted to remain in existence then yes of course it had to militarily thwart the fascist threat. But in saying that you have also to recognise that this had sod all to do with socialism.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Well we have a dramatic controlled experiment as to whether socialist planned economy or capitalism is more effective at generating economic growth and rising living standards. Once GOSPLAN was removed and the soft budget constraint removed, the economy collapsed, production fell drastically, nutrition and health declined drastically and there were about 600,000 extra deaths per annum in Russia alone - I have not collected the figures for the rest of the former USSR.
This is not denied but is is equally undeniable that the Soviet capitalist economy was becoming increasingly uncompetitive in capitalist terms, that growth rates were falling and that there was widespread economic stagnation and increasing reliance on the black economy to make up for commodity shortfalls.

I am not the one favouring one form of capitalism over another - thats what you are doing - not me. I am saying get rid of capitalism in all its varieties including state capitalism.

The kind of corporate capitalist model that followed state capitalism was indeed a disaster though some would argued that it was made a disaster to an extent by the kackhanded messy way in which the transition was handled

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
From the workers standpoint there is a big difference between having a job and not having to work that hard, and not having a job at all. Capitalism relies fundamentally on a reserve army of labour to hold wages down, remove that and it becomes unviable. That is the key point of the analysis of the General Law of Accumulation in Capital I. The absence of unemployment is a key factor distinguishing socialism from capitalism. In saying that there was disguised unemployment you are taking the standpoint of capital.

You are using bourgeois perspectives here - according to which there is disguised unemployment if the marginal product of labour is below the wage, ie there is disguised unemployment if no profit is made on the last worker hired.
This is the typical dire line of argument that we can expect from our hack soviet apologists. The sheer dogmatism is just so...well ...embarrassing, frankly. It is knee jerkism at its worst. If you opened your eyes just a little and examined the situation a little more objectively you might just see this.

In the first place, the difference between a socialist society and a capitalist society is not the absence of unemployment but the absence of employment - the complete absence of the employer / employee relationship . That is why there is no unemployment in a socialist society - because there is is no employment. In the Soviet Union there was definitely employment and therefore quite definitely the potential for unemployment too

Secondly, the fact of the matter is that there was definitely disguised unemployment in the Soviet Union. It was not just a case of the marginal product being less than the wage. If you are doing nothing there is no marginal product anyway. You say I am taking the "standpoint of capital" in saying this. How is that? This is a silly claim. Marx talked about capitalism needing a reserve army of unemployed. Was he taking the "standpoint of capital" too? No, he was not. He was stating things as he saw them. So am I . The reseve army of the effectively unemployed existed on the payroll of the state enterprises in the Soviet Union. Another way of looking at it is that the administration of the dole was contracted out to the state enterprises. It was of some benefit to the regime politically to be able to claim to the world that there was "full employment" and dupe people like you into thinking there was. But there was an economic cost too. The rigid controls that Stalin dictatorship slapped on changing jobs - labour m which were later relaxed created considerable tensions in the workforce.

Also, bear in mind Marx was talking about 19th century Britian. Under 20th century soviet state capitalism, there were no independent trade unions. and the working class was effectively emasculated. The need for the soviet capitalist class to have a bargaining chip in the form of a mass of unemployed workers swilling around on the open market was thus not particularly pressing though were certainly was some wage bargining going on at the level of state enterprises.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
From the standpoint of a rapidly growing socialist economy - like the USSR up to the 70s this is not the relevant criterion. Society was better off so long as the marginal product of labour in industry was positive.

Now once the labour supply ceased to grow, once family sizes had shrunk and agriculture was highly mechanised, then there is a good argument that they should have moved to some form of labour rationing in the 80s. In the 80s there were persistent labour shortages, with many shifts being underpersonned. At this point, it became more important to redistribute labour from less productive to more productive sectors.
It is from this point that the use of labour value accounting would become more rational than monetary accounting and at the same time, the computer technology necessary to implement it became available.
There is not the slightest chance of that happening inside a system of production for market exchange which is what the Soviet union was. If you are going to have market exchange then money is the only available practical option as a means of valuation.

That apart , a generalised system of labour accounting for a socialist society in which there is no market exchange would be quite unworkabvle anyway for numerous reasons. It would be a quite pointless bureaucratic exercise and enormously wasteful of human energy - ironically . On this matter I disagree with Marx who advocated both labout time accounting and also - half hearetedly - labour time vouchers for the lower stage of communism. I make a distinction, however, which some other writers have also made, between society-wide labour time accounting and specific project-based forms of labour time accounting and I can certainly see a role for the latter in a socialist society
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
...
However, you are not consistent in this, as in your support of the counterrevolutionary Kronstadt insurrection, which Bordiga, your theoretical mentor as much as anyone is, clearly understood had to be suppressed.

I have asked you about this several times on different threads and you have never answered...
You've asked me about this twice, on two threads (which I don't think counts as 'several' by anyone's definition), and I have answered, so (yet again) you're wrong.

Bordiga is no more my 'theoretical mentor' than Trotsky is. Both were revolutionaries who got some things right and other things wrong.

Bordiga did not call Russia 'state capitalist', he called it 'capitalist'. It was capitalist, of course, but it wasn't capitalist in the same way that say England in the 18th century was capitalist. State capitalism is the increasing fusion of the state and capital, as Engels outlined in 'Anti-Duhring' - the increasing tendency for the state machine to act as 'the national capitalist', and that is the basis for seeing Russia as state capitalist. So if by 'Bordiga' you mean 'Engels', then fair enough.
[A Marxist Historian]
Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
Ah - so suddently now youve changed your mind! Having originally claimed
that if you accept the disproportionality thesis, "then you are not a Marxist, you are a reformist" - NOW it seems when this claim of yours has been exposed as utterly ridiculous , you feel that we can "take for granted" the disproportiinality thesis. Take for granted indeed! Have you ever thought of embarking on a career as a professional politician, by any chance....
What nonsense.

Does capitalism go through a boom and bust cycle? Everybody knows that. Herbert Hoover knew that in the 1930s, Grover Cleveland knew that in the 1890s, every bourgeois economist knows that. And most of the more intelligent ones know that disproportionalities have something to do with them.

Joseph Schumpeter called it "creative destruction," a phrase you see popping up lately as bourgeois economists scramble to say something about the current situation other than that capitalism is destroying society.

The question is not what causes the boom-bust cycle, but what is the destiny of capitalism as a social system. If the only and primary economic contradiction of the capitalist system is "disproportionalities," then Schumpeter and the other bourgeois economists are right and booms and busts are just healthy growing pains for a robust economic system.

And that is pretty much what you said in your posting too, when you said that the workers won't be content even during economic booms.

Well, in fact you are wrong. During economic booms, when the capitalist can afford to throw the working class some bones, then workers who do not look beyond the ends of their noses are indeed more interested in reform and wage gains than in revolution.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post

In the first place, stop jumping to unwarranted conclusions which is what you constantly seem to do! Saying that economic crises are an inherent part of capitalism's trade cycle and are essentially triggered by disproportional growth does NOT rule out a falling rate of profit. It is quite possible to maintain that there is a long term tendency for the rate of profit to fall AND subscribe to a disproportionality thesis. Personally, I struggle to see how the falling rate of profit on it own can account for periodic crises but I am not denying that such a thing can exist
The falling rate of profit doesn't account for periodic crises, it accounts for why over time these crises get worse and worse and the recoveries get weaker and weaker. Which is the key point.

Your dismissal of the falling rate of profit on the grounds that even Karl Marx recognized that there were countervailing factors is the classic response of bourgeois economists to Marxism, of the more sophisticated ones at any rate.

Thus for example Joan Robinson, probably the best bourgeois economist of the last half century, tried to prove that the countervailing factors would overwhelm the falling rate of profit over the long term.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
Secondly, if what makes acapitalism a "failure" in your eyesis the falling rate of profit would you consider it to be a success if this rate, instead of falling, were to rise? According to some analysts - like Brenner for example - while the rate of profit among the leading industrialised nations did indeed fall in the post war years, reaching a low point ion the late 70s/ early 80s it has since risen almost back to its postwar peak and part of the explanation for this was one of Marx's "counter tendencies" coming into play - namely an intensification of the rate of exploitation. So what are we to infer from that - that capitalismwas "failing up to the early 80s and then becoming more "successful" after that? It would certainly seem like it from your point of view since you make the rate of prpfit the crucial determinant of whether capitalism is a "success" of "failure".
During the late '50s and '60s you had a genuine economic boom in Western Europe, and the advancement of the productive forces. The basis for this, as I explained in my previous posting, was the partial economic unification of Western Europe as a result of WWII, which enabled economic growth to continue even after the damage from WWII had been repaired.

As a result, a whole string of mostly-European "Marxist economists" decided that there was something called "neo-capitalism," which had solved some of the contradictions of capitalism, and that the law of the falling rate of profit was no longer valid. Brenner was simply one of these "neo-capitalists," as well as Sweezy, and even "Trotskyists" such as Tony
Cliff and Ernest Mandel.

This is best discussed in the seminal 1972 article by Joseph Seymour, "Myths of Neo-Capitalism," only unfortunately published in the Spartacist youth journal. I have heard it is finally going to be available on the Internet soon, and when it is, I will post it to Revleft in the article section.

When the great economic crisis of the '70s burst out, ideas of "neo-capitalism" were largely abandoned, and the Sweezys and Cliffs and Mandels and I would guess Brenner too rediscovered the law of the falling rate of profit.

The so-called "Brenner thesis" as to the rise of capitalism is IMHO misleading, but that is a discussion for another time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
I dont accept that. You might take your cue from an "internalist" capitalist criterion of "success" or "failure" but, as a communist, I judge capitalism a success of falure in terms on of its ability or otherwise to meet human needs - irrespective of whether the rate of profit is high or low That incidentally was also Marx's view (see for example, his comments on Malthussian concept of overpopulation) You overplay the importance of the falling rate of profit in the Marxian worldview, in my opinion

Finally, what is it you want to suggest by your emphasis on the falling rate of profit?. What are you implying. You seem to agree that the falling rate of profit will not lead to the collapse of capitalism and indeed Marx himself pointed out that even if the rate of profit were to fall this need not prevent the absolute mass of profit from rising. So why this fetishisation of the "falling rate of profit"

There is a great quote from Rosa Luxemburg on the matter . Luxemburg made the point that “there is still some time to come before capitalism collapses because of the falling rate of profit -- roughly until the sun burns out” (Anti-Critique) I think that about sums it ip
Rosa Luxemburg saw capitalism as something that developed on the basis of cannibalizing the Third World, and that when the colonialists ran out of colonies to economically cannibalize, then it would abruptly collapse. This is indeed a catastrophist theory and wrong.

As Lenin put it, capitalism will never collapse by itself, the workers need to overthrow capitalism.

But the theory of the falling rate of profit explains why capitalism can no longer advance the productive forces of society, and in fact is leading humanity in the direction of "socialism or barbarism," as Luxemburg put it.

Basically, everything you see as wrong with capitalism was just as wrong in the 19th Century when Marx was alive as it is now in the 21st. And that is what is wrong with your analysis.

When Marx was alive, capitalism was a young system still capable of advancing society. Marx was compelled to realize this, this is why he dissolved the German Communist League in the 1850s and even dissolved the First International in the 1870s. Because at that point in history, workers revolution was desirable, but not yet necessary for the human race to continue to make progress.

Now, in the era of imperialism, that is no longer the case.

And the driving force behind the accelerating destruction of human society by capitalism is the law of the falling rate of profit. It is why capitalist cannot grant reforms to the working class, except at certain exceptional moments, as for example the aftermath of WWII in the imperialist countries.

It is why you have ever accelerating attacks on the working class all over the world now.

--M.H.-
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
What nonsense.
What????
Do you even bother to check what you have written? You contradict yourself so many times Ive lost count

First you said if you accept the disproportionality thesis, "then you are not a Marxist, you are a reformist". When I exposed this claim for nonsense it is and pointed out that Marx too accepted the disprportionality thesis you then said Of course the rhythm of capitalism is boom and bust, and disproportionality, as Marx explains in the quotes you produce, is the mechanism involved. That we can take for granted. When I then pointed out that you seems to have changed your mind judging by this last comment you say "what nonsense"

The only one who is clearly talking nonsense is you, friend


Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
The question is not what causes the boom-bust cycle, but what is the destiny of capitalism as a social system. If the only and primary economic contradiction of the capitalist system is "disproportionalities," then Schumpeter and the other bourgeois economists are right and booms and busts are just healthy growing pains for a robust economic system.
Er no ...that is NOT the question that was under consideration but rather rather wht causes periodic crises. And that is precisely why the subject of disproportionality came up in the first place


Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
And that is pretty much what you said in your posting too, when you said that the workers won't be content even during economic booms.

Well, in fact you are wrong. During economic booms, when the capitalist can afford to throw the working class some bones, then workers who do not look beyond the ends of their noses are indeed more interested in reform and wage gains than in revolution.
Once again you are being presumptuous. I said I do not regard capitalism as being successful because it is able to overcome its periodic crises. My criterion of success is rather different - whether the system is able to meet human needs - and by this token even in boom periods it fails.

What you have done is to have introduced a new topic into the disucssion about which I have not yet made a comment - the response of workers in periods of recession and boom respectively.

If you want my opinion I think your view is crude, simplistic and reductionist. Do recessions make people more revolutionary. They might but then they might not. Actually there is a lot of empirical evidence to suggest that the opposite is true - that they become more conservative in outlook and lower their sight. The fear of unemployment makes them less inclined to rock the boat. I dont need to remind you that the pre war recession in Germany is what helped to put the Nazis in power. when it was felt that strong government was needed.

Conversely boom conditions enhance the bargaining power of workers and make them feel more confiodent and ambitous in outlook than to settle for mere crumbs from their masters table. The 1960s was a period of expanding horizions on several fronts. Social attitudes changed rapidly on a score of things from womens rights to anti war sentiments . This - again I need not remind you was a period of economic boom

So there is no obvious one to one correlation in the way you imagine and the counter examples I have provided amply demonstrate this

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post

The falling rate of profit doesn't account for periodic crises, it accounts for why over time these crises get worse and worse and the recoveries get weaker and weaker. Which is the key point.

Your dismissal of the falling rate of profit on the grounds that even Karl Marx recognized that there were countervailing factors is the classic response of bourgeois economists to Marxism, of the more sophisticated ones at any rate..
More presumptuousness on your part. I dont "dismiss" the falling rate of profit. I just dont think it is as important as you make out. Indeed, after the early 1980s, as I explained the average rate oif profit was not dalling but rising for a number of years. You say the falling rate explains why crises get "worse and worse" but this onlyshows that you argument is not particularly convicningy. The Great Depression before the war was far worse than anything experienced since in terms of levels of unemployment and material poverty it brought about

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Basically, everything you see as wrong with capitalism was just as wrong in the 19th Century when Marx was alive as it is now in the 21st. And that is what is wrong with your analysis.
But you dont know what my analysis is - not that that is going to stop you telling me yet again what you presume I must be thinking
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Well we have a circular argument here. First you say that the evidence that the USSR

was capitalist is the high share of production that was in the form of investment goods

rather than consumer goods. You then conceed that such a high level of accumulation

would be needed in a socialist economy. This means that the high level of output of dpt

I feeding back into dept I is now no longer evidence that the economy was capitalist.

You then say that despite this, since it was capitalist anyway so the accumlation was

not just accumulation of means of production but was accumulation of capital. In other

words in this case you assume what you originally tried to prove..

You are being downright disingenuous here. Nowhere did I say or suggest that the "evidence that the USSR was capitalist is the high share of production that was in the form of investment goods". This is what I actually said: "No I dont say what you claim I say. High or low investment is irrelevant to the question of whether or not there is capitalism." So why tell porkies about it? What are you hoping achieve by doing so?


The Soviet Union would be no less capitalist had there been a relatively low share of production that took the form of production goods. What made the soviet union capitalist was the fact that what was accumulated was CAPITAL - not mere "means of production" but means of production in the form of capital. I explained to you why it was capital but evidently you took no heed of my explanation

Saying that capital accumulation was particularly marked in the Soviet Union does not constitute a definition of capitalism. Do you know what is meant by a "definition". If I said to you the Soviet capitalist class enjoyed access to their own private retail stores stocking luxury items from which the Soviet working class was excluded - which was actually the case in your pseudo "workers state"- this does not mean I am defining the Soviet capitalist class in terms of those who have access to these private retail stores. The existence of those stores is a just a historically contingent fact to illustrate the existence of a capitalist class, not to define it The existence of high rates of capital accumulation in the Soviet Union is likewise just a historically contingent fact. Similar rates of accumulation existed in the USA in the 19th century. Would that make 19th century America a "socialist"country? Of course not. Your logic is completely bonkers



Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

I pointed out that given the coexistence of a socialist economy alongside a peasant

economy that was partially cooperativised, the working class needed money to buy food.

I asked you what was the alternative mechanism that a socialist economy could have used

to ensure a food supply other than requisitions. You avoided answering. I repeat the

question?..
This is quite astonishing - I "avoided answering"??? The hell I did! I gave my answer in the most forthright terms possible - that the Soviet Union was NOT a socialist economy but a capitalist economy in which the working class was alienated from the means of production. It was BECAUSE it was alienated from the mean of production that it had to sell its working abilities to an employing class in the shape of those who ultimately controlled and thus owned the means of production. In exchange for that , Russian workers received a wage, just like their counterparts in the West, which then enabled them to buy consumer goods.

Its got sod all to do with Stalin's pathetic argument which you mindlessly regurgitate here that the agricultural sector was only partially cooperativised and that this is what accounted for the existence of commodity relations in the Soviet Union. If there was an iota of truth in this then why did workers also have to pay for NON-FOOD consumer items? Im afraid you've been hoisted by your own petard here .

That aside there is this fundamental contradiction at the heart of your arhument. You assert that Russian working class needed money to buy food but what is the working class if not that class which in Marxian terms is alienated BY DEFINITION from the means of production? The very fact that you agree that there was a working class in Russia is proof positive of the existence of capitalism there since there can be no such thing as a working class without a capitalist class and hence capitalism. This is the ABC of Marxism. As Marx said, wage labour presupposes capital and vice versa.

You have not once been able to answer this point. Nor has anyone else similarly afflicted with the same delusion that Soviet Union was a "socialist economy"



Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post

Yes you are right that supermarket companies do stock control in physical as well as

money terms, but that is a private calculation done within one company and not part of

a consciously designed social plan operating at the level of the economy as a whole.
The latter existed in the USSR, the DDR, CSSR etc but not in the US or UK.
Gosplan lacked the computational capacity to track more than about 10,000 products in

physical terms and this lack of computational capacity precipitated out as monetary

relations. Prior to computer technology becomming mature in the late 20th century this

resort to aggregation at the detail level was innevitable...
Not this again. Ive repeatedly pointed out to you and others that apriori society wide central planning is impossible, not because of any lack of computational capacity, but because it is foredoomed from the start by the very nature of the economic reality its seeks to "plan". It is literally impossible to ensure that the input output ratios remain the same throughout any plan implementation period across an array of products - not just 10,000 but millions upon millions of them. Central planning in this sense is EVEN MORE impossible now, if I can put it like that, than it was in the early years of the Soviet Union - this despite the growth oin computational capacity

Your problem is that you dont understand what is meant by "planning", let alone central planning or the idea of a society wide plan. What makes a plan a plan is the fact that it is conceived apriori. A society wide plan is the apriori attempt to coordinate and fix the literally millions of inputs and outputs that constitute an economy in a predetermined fashion. You have never been clear on this point and this is why the stuff that you have written, and i have read a fair bit of it, comes across at times as quite garbled inconvincing and equivocating.

A clue to this is found in your claim that Gosplan lacked the "computational capacity to track more than about 10,000 products in physical terms and this lack of computational capacity precipitated out as monetary relations". Conside what is implied here by the word "tracking". Tracking products, I dont need to tell you, is NOT the the same as "planning "for their production at all. The ability to track products will indeed greatly facilitate a genuine non-market socialist society in which the process of production will essentially be organised on a self regulating or spontaneous basis. The huge growth in computational capacity you refer does indeed make this model of a socialist economy more credible than ever before but offers no crumb of comfort whatsoever to the ludicrous notion of "society wide planning".

The problem is you dont understand the implications of the very concepts and arguments you are routinely putting forward. Youve have not thought themn through and I suspect part of the reason why is so is that you are ideologically resistant to the idea of doing so. Youve bought into this incoherent idea of a "planned economy" , lock stock and barrel , without realising what it literally entails



Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
No it was not rentiers style investment. The purpose of that is to obtain a revenue

from which the rentier class lives in luxury. This means that the physical form of the

surplus in a capitalist country is in large part made up of luxury goods not new means

of production.
...

But, hold on here - I was using YOUR own use of term but that doesnt not mean I necessarily go along with it as the most apprpropriate designation

In response my point

No I dont say what you claim I say. High or low investment is irrelevant to the question of whether or not there is capitalism. In a socialist society unlike your state capitalist Soviet Union, the very concept of "investment" - the injection of money capital into the production process - becomes completely and utterly meaningless.


You said:

You are confusing the rentier's notion of investment with Feldmann's. By investment Feldmann meant the buildup of physical means of production. It was that which was an objective necessity to raise living standards.

Now clearly this implies that you consider that the "injection of money capital into production" corresponds to what you call the "rentier's notion of investment" . I didnt take you up on that - perhaps I should have - but merely responded , that if that was the case, then it is your "rentiers" notion of investment which fully applied in the case of the Soviet Union
.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
I am not saying that the notion of state capitalism is not useful, but I am saying that

it was not an appropriate description of the USSR.

Some of the nationalised industries in the UK like BNOC, Thomas Cook, Rolls Royce, British Airways could fairly be called state capitalist and it is probably a fair description of the current nationalised sector in China.

The state firms in China like the UK nationalised ones I mentioned, compete, retain most of their profits and form their own private plans for expansion like any other capitalist firm. In the case of the Chinese ones there is also a close personal relationship between political leaders, their families, and private capitalist firms, meaning that most of the CPC leadership today are capitalists in the real sense of being multi-millionaires with huge business interests.

But this is quite different from the USSR where the state factories did not function as private capitals. The individual factories were not allowed to retain the surplus, managers had no ownership but were circulated around different plants to prevent them aquiring a proprietorial position..
This precisely why the form that capitalism took in the Soviet Union was somewhat different than in the West and why the term "state capitalism" is wholly apprpriate. The means of production were not owned by private individuals but collectively by the soviet capitalist class as a whole. It was this class that collectively controlled the state and had the absolute power of disposal over the economic surplus. Yes, individual factories were not allowed to retain profits but that is precisely the point - where did those profits go? You dont follow up this question systematically at all The answer is they went into the coffers of the central state, owned and controlled by the soviet capitalist class - the apparatchiks - who then allocated it according to their own wishes. Some of it went to finance their own lavish lifestyles, some of it went to fund the parasitic apparatus of the state itself and its armed forces and some of it was reinvested as money capital via GOSBANK in the state enterprises themselves in order to ensure the generation of more surplus value out of which yet more capital could be accumulated.

To that end, as I pointed out, the the soviet capitalist state had no option in adminsitering capitalism and attempting to regulate a system of capitalist market transactions but to introduce forms of organisational constraints that look remarkably similar to what prevailed under western capitalism - even down to the legally imposed obligation on state enterprises to pursue profit. That in itslelf would make absoutely no sense at all were it not for the fact that the Soviet Union was fundamentally a capitalist economy. The ridiculous Trotskyist-inspired attempt to prove that the various capitalist forms that indisputably existed in the Soviet Union - like profit, wage labour and money - were merely "empty husks" , is utterly devoid of any real explanatory power. It does not even begin to explain why these empty husks should even exist , let alone demonstrate how they were "empty"

To reinforce my argument I provided some useful quote which I reproduce again below


From Buick and Crump

the great paradox of state capitalism is that the state blocks the spontaneous regulation of production by the market , only to be forced to introduce a similar process itself. Given the facts that the market is not free, that prices are fixed bureaucratically (at increasing cost, the more they ignore the law of value) and that enterprises are not financially independent of the state, the state has to take responsibility for allocating capital in such a way that an adequate rate of of surplus value can be realised, instead of allowing the process to proceed sponteneously by the 'natural' mechanisms of the free market and free intersectoral movements of capital. In other words, the state has to devise substitute mechanisms in order to do consciously ( and many would say, less efficiently, but that is not our concern) what the market does automatically in private capitalism (State Capitalism: The Wages System under New Management p.90)


And from Xue

As for the exchange of products among state enterprises , it is indeed an exchange between an owner and himself, between the state and the state, in a national sense . But when we look at state enterprises as independent business accounting units , each with its particular interests, the exchange of products between them still has to be an equal exchange based on the recognition of their respective economic interests as in an exchange between two different owners
(Xue. M, China's Socialist Economy Beijing, Foreign Languages Press 1981).
[Paul Cockshott]
Robbo you did use the high level of accumulation as evidence of the USSR being capitalist here:
Quote:
In Soviet state capitalism, the drive to accumulate capital out of surplus expressed itself in the subordination of consumption to the needs of capital accumulation. In the quote that I earlier gave you from Peter Binns, Binns remarks that, at the beginning of the first Five-Year Plan, capital accumulation absorbed more than 20 per cent of national income, which subsequently increased in later Plans and was markedly higher than that any of the developed capitalist country.
This is the point that I have been replying to in arguing that a high level of accumulation is what a socialist economy would have needed, so that this is evidence for it being socialist and run on the basis of a conscious political project to create an industrial economy with a higher level of working class consumption.


You ask where the profits of state firms went - the simple answer is back to the working class to provide free education, free health care, cheap public transport, subsidised housing and heating, and to withdraw cash from circulation to cover the output that went into new means of production.

I notice that you quote Xue, a Deng period author describing China as evidence for how the USSR operated. We are in agreement that the Deng government in China was an advocate of state capitalism so statements that Chinese official ideologists made in 1980 advocating state capitalism are not evidence about how the Soviet economy operated.

You are still avoiding answering how workers were to be fed in the USSR without money wages given that agriculture was not socialised.

You suggest that even if food had to be bought with money manufactured goods did not.
Bear in mind that many manufactured goods - clothing for example, relied on agricultural raw materials, so the distinction was not a sharp one.
But even if we limit your suggestion to metal, wood, or ceramic manufactures, it would in principle have been possible to introduce labour tokens for these whilst retaining money for food and clothing, but there would be little benefit to be had in paying workers money wages as well as labour tokens. It would double the accounting work.

The transition could more practically be done by the sequence of steps

1. Fixing the rouble in terms of labour.
2. Equalising wage rates in these terms.
3. Making the new labour accounts non transferable.

But these steps would not have been practical so long as agriculture was primarilly non socialised.

The point is that the elimination of money would have been a transition from socialism to communism and it was not until probably the 70s or 80s that the transtion to communism could have been on the cards. But the last communist leader of the USSR was Khruschev, Brezhnev was still a socialist, but had little commitment to communism as a practical programmatic goal.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Robbo you did use the high level of accumulation as evidence of the USSR being capitalist here:
This is the point that I have been replying to in arguing that a high level of accumulation is what a socialist economy would have needed, so that this is evidence for it being socialist and run on the basis of a conscious political project to create an industrial economy with a higher level of working class consumption.

Do you not ever actually read what I write? You seem to be extremely inattentive much of the time. I did not deny there was a high rate of capital accumulation in state capitalist Russia . What I said was that the rate of accumulation is irrelevant to the question of what kind of system operated there. What is relevant is what is being accumulated - namely, capital. Even a very low rate of capital accumulation does not make an economy any the less capitalist providing it is capital that is being accumulated

How many times do I have to repeat myself before the penny finally drops?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
You ask where the profits of state firms went - the simple answer is back to the working class to provide free education, free health care, cheap public transport, subsidised housing and heating, and to withdraw cash from circulation to cover the output that went into new means of production.
Ho Ho Ho. By this token Cameron's Britian would be a "socialist" economy because you have the NHS and comprehensive education in Britain. You would probably see eye to eye with the Tea Party people over in America who claim the Obama's medicare plans are an example of "creeping socialism". Like them you dont understand Marxian economics and you certainly dont analyse things in ways that a Marxist would



Free health care, free education etc etc are indeed paid out of surplus value but in capitalism there is no such thing as a free lunch. What is given with the one hand is taken away with the other. This applies as much in the capitalist Britian as it did in the capitalist Soviet Union

What such subsidised , supposedly "free", services do is enable the capitalists to pay the workers less than they they would otherwise have to do in a so called free market economy. Why do you think the Beveridge Report during the war , setting out the case for the establishment of the welfare state in Britain received such strong cross-party support - even from Tory millionaires like Courtauld? Do you think it was because the likes of Courtauld were suddenly afflicted by an overwhelming concern for the welbeing of the working class? Of course not. They supported the welfare state becuase it was more cost effective than the peicemeal mainly privatised approach to welfare provision that prevailed earlier

I suggest you read chapters 6 and 9 of this short pamphlet before you venture any more daft observations on the nature of the Soviet economy
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/p...system-must-go
[Paul Cockshott]
The profits of firms in the UK do not go to fund social services, under 20percent goes in tax, the rest goes to private shareholdrs. Social services are in the main paid out of taxes on wages.
[Blake's Baby]
Income tax only makes up less than 30% of tax income as far as I can tell - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxatio...United_Kingdom

Even income tax plus National Insurance contributions makes up less than 50% of government income. Of course, the notion of the National Insurance scheme was enthusiastically promoted by the Tories in the 1920s because it would allow wages to be generally depressed: as is quite easy to see, it's cheaper for capitalism to organise health provision en masse rather than pay individuals higher wages but expect them to look after their own health. So in effect, the national insurance scheme has allowed capitalism to pay less of its profit out in wages and instead divert it into government spending. So in this sense, national insurance is both a tax on profits and a tax on wages.

Wages themselves are given back from the money that capitalists accumulate - so the balance between taxes paid by companies and wages paid out but then taken in tax is in the end pretty irrelevant. If a company pays a million dollars in wages and half a million is then taken by the government, that's the same as as the company paying half a million in wages and half a million to the government. The company pays out a million, the governmetn gets half a million, the workers get half a million. It's the same.

Therefore the difference between Russia and Britain would be that, formally, workers in the UK had higher wages. All social wealth is still derived from the exploitation of the working class. Perhaps in Russia there was more spent, proportionally, on libraries. I'm not knocking it, libraries are a good thing. But there was also proportionally more spent on weaponry - "...In 1988 military spending was a single line item in the Soviet state budget, totaling 21 billion rubles, or about US$33 billion. Given the size of the military establishment, however, the actual figure was at least ten times higher. Western experts concluded that the 21 billion ruble figure reflected only operations and maintenance costs. The amount spent on Soviet weapons research and development was an especially well-guarded state secret, and other military spending, including training, military construction, and arms production, was concealed within the budgets of all-union ministries and state committees. Apart from considerations of state secrecy, this allocation of military spending to ministries other than the Ministry of Defense reflected the Soviet approach to managing resource allocation. Weapons produced by agencies such as the Ministry of General Machinebuilding [missiles] or the Ministry of Shipbuilding Industry [ships] were essentially provided as "free goods" to the Ministry of Defense.
By the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union devoted between 15 and 17 percent of its annual gross national product to military spending, according to United States government sources. Until the early 1980s, Soviet defense expenditures rose between 4 and 7 percent per year. Subsequently, they slowed as the yearly growth in Soviet GNP slipped to about 3 percent. In 1987 Gorbachev and other party officials discussed the extension of glasnost' to military affairs through the publication of a detailed Soviet defense budget. In early 1989, Gorbachev announced a military budget of 77.3 billion rubles, but Western authorities estimated the budget to be about twice that..."



from here - http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita.../mo-budget.htm - which is hardly unbiased but it's fairly easy to work out what the bias is. But even so, the UK military budget at the same time was lower; 4% of GDP in 1988 falling to below 3% after 1995 - source http://www.google.co.uk/publicdata/e...l=en&ind=false


So that means that the 'gains' of the Russian workers not having to be paid as much by their own capitalist class were primarily spent on weapons. Woo-hoo! What a gain for the workers!
[Paul Cockshott]
There is no doubt that the USSR spent proportionately more than the UK since the USSR was trying to match the US expenditure on missiles etc. But the key point is that profit of state firms went as turnover tax to be spent on things that the working people needed. The working people must, in any society create the whole material product, whatever its economic form, but the key point is that in a socialist economy like the USSR the entire product went either to direct or collective use by the workers, none of it was being appropriated and consumed by a class of capitalists.
[Blake's Baby]
Ah right, all those dachas and private roads and official cars and whatnot wasn't 'appropriation'. The workers needed them. Gotcha.
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
That represented a tiny portion of national income compared to luxury consumption under capitalism.
Ah, OK. So it's only capitalist if there's 'more than a tiny portion' of luxury income, is it?

Seems to me that you arguing like the actress to George Bernard Shaw.

In case no-one else knows, I'll regale y'all with the story.

"Would you sleep with a man for a million pounds?" Shaw asks the actress.

"That depends on the man" she replies.

"Would you sleep with a man for two bob (1/10 of a pound)?" asks Shaw.

"What kind of woman do you take me for?" she asks.

"I thought we'd established that," says Shaw, "what we're haggling over now is the price."

Now, apart from being quite mysogynistic in tone (but then, Shaw was a bit of a bastard) the argument (and its application to the problem) is quite clear.

Yes there was capital accumulation; yes there was luxury consumption.

Oh, but not over the magical amount that would make it capitalist, oh no. Because we all know that if you have a working class and a ruling 'not class' and the ruling 'not-class' spends most of the social wealth on guns and only a relatively small amount on hookers and champagne, it can't really be capitalism.

That's why for instance there were no capitalists in Puritan England, because capitalism is about unrestrained wasteful luxury and not re-investment... wait a minute...


/sarcasm.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake's Baby View Post
Ah, OK. So it's only capitalist if there's 'more than a tiny portion' of luxury income, is it?

Seems to me that you arguing like the actress to George Bernard Shaw.

In case no-one else knows, I'll regale y'all with the story.

"Would you sleep with a man for a million pounds?" Shaw asks the actress.

"That depends on the man" she replies.

"Would you sleep with a man for two bob (1/10 of a pound)?" asks Shaw.

"What kind of woman do you take me for?" she asks.

"I thought we'd established that," says Shaw, "what we're haggling over now is the price."

Now, apart from being quite mysogynistic in tone (but then, Shaw was a bit of a bastard) the argument (and its application to the problem) is quite clear.

Yes there was capital accumulation; yes there was luxury consumption.

Oh, but not over the magical amount that would make it capitalist, oh no. Because we all know that if you have a working class and a ruling 'not class' and the ruling 'not-class' spends most of the social wealth on guns and only a relatively small amount on hookers and champagne, it can't really be capitalism.

That's why for instance there were no capitalists in Puritan England, because capitalism is about unrestrained wasteful luxury and not re-investment... wait a minute...


/sarcasm.
Good point.


The claim that that there was no capitalist class in the Soviet Union has always struck me as ridiculous. This not just because you cannot have such a thing as a "working class" - which Paul Cockshott has admitted existed in the Soviet Union - without that implying the existence of a capitalist class - this is the ABC of Marxism - but also because the relationship of those in power to the means of production was clearly and manifestly, totally different to that of ordinary Russian workers. The "nomenklatura" exercised decisive ultimate control over the means of production and this what made these means of production their collective property - not the property of what is vaguely called the "public" - and defined them as a class, distinct from and opposed to, the Russian working class.

All this is undeniable but people like Cockshott prefer to stick their head ostrich-like in the sand and stubbornly refuse to see the reality of the Soviet Union for what it was. They persist in intoning the same tired old mantra that in the Soviet Union everything was geared to the interests and wellbeing of the working class which is a lie. And above all, and this is what really gets under my skin, they drag the good name of socialism through the mud by associating it with a completely contemptible corrupt authoritarian capitalist dictatorship that cynically employed the rhetoric of socialism as a smokescreen to promote its own ruling class interests.

The reason why many workers today reject socialism is because people like Paul Cockshott persist in calling the Soviet Union "socialist". He joins hands with the conservatives who similarly take this stand and who, for which reason are able to snigger about the "failure of socialism" by pointing the collapse of the Soviet Union. People like Cockshott provide them with the very ammunition to do this.

And whatever Paul Cockshott and others who support this regime may say, the Soviet Union was a highly unequal society, comparable in its degree of inequality with that of many western capitalist countries. Indeed some would argue it might have been even more unequal because the regime was notoroius for its reluctance to disclose information on wealth distribution. We will never know for sure the true extent of inequality and the degree of corruption among the Soviet ruiling class, some of whom were known the have had links with the Russian mafia. A system of political patronage, it goes without saying, entails some level of bribery and paybacks.

What information we do have however unquestionably confirms the picture of a society of haves and have nots . I seriously recommend people read John Fleming and John Micklewright's paper "Income Distribution, Economic Systems and Transition" published by UNICEF ( http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/eps70.pdf). The authors cite the work of researchers like Morrison who, using data from the 1970s, found that countries like Poland and the Soviet Union had relatively high levels of income inequality, registering gini coefficients of 0.31 in both cases, which put them on a par with Canada (0.30) and the USA (0.34) Curiously, Czechoslovakia among all the COMECON countries seems to have had the lowest levels of inequality while the Soviet Union was amongst the highest. Pryors 1959 data actually puts the relative share of the top 20% in the Soviet Union higher than that of the US, the UK and other Western European countries (except France). Though to be fair, you cannot make a generalisation of this nature for the entire period during which the Soviet Union existed

In America, if I remember correctly, the average "compensation " level of CEOs in the top 500 corporations is about 20 million dollars per year which is several hundred times great than the average income of a worker on the shop floor. By a not dissimilar process, the Soviet capitalist class - the red bougeosie - took their own cut of the surplus value produced by the soviet working class, under the guise of inflated "salaries" - and not just one salary but multiple salaries (a point that is often forgotten). Not only that, as has been pointed out, the system of payment in kind massively favoured the already privileged and pampered elite bestowing upon them all sorts of advantages like free dachas, free chauffeur driven limos, posh holidays abroad and so on and so forth. As has also been pointed out this elite - also had their own chain of exclusive luxury retail shops stocking items from the West from which ordinary Russian workers were barred (not that they could have afforded the items stocked therein). Typically, these retail shops had theur windows blacked out so the proles could not gaze upon the luxury their masters enjoyed and start to get resentful as a result.

But, as Blakes Baby rightly points out, even if the Soviet capitalists had been austere Puritians this would not have made their system any the less capitalist. The fact is their system was based on a process of capital accumulation and this is what made it a capitalist system
[Grenzer]
Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
Good point.


The claim that that there was no capitalist class in the Soviet Union has always struck me as ridiculous. This not just because you cannot have such a thing as a "working class" - which Paul Cockshott has admitted existed in the Soviet Union - without that implying the existence of a capitalist class - this is the ABC of Marxism -
It may be true that a working class presupposes the existence of a capitalist class. That, however, does not prove the Soviet Union was capitalist. Once the working class gains power through a dictatorship the capitalist class does not simply vanish. 1917 was followed by four years of civil war against the White Russian Army supported by Western capitalists, by an economic embargo, and invasion by Hitler, and the cold war. The Soviet communist dictatorship fought for 75 years to destroy the capitalist class in Russia. Ultimately, it seems, they failed.

The existence of a capitalist class in the Soviet Union was not the issue. The question was whether the working class could destroy it. In the real class war two sides are fighting: the capitalists and the workers. Just because one side in the war is the capitalist class does not mean that everybody in the war is a capitalist.
[Blake's Baby]
Nobody said it means everybody is a capitalist. We're not talking about people we're talking about a system. The majority of people in Britain or the US or France or Japan are not capitalists either, but those countries are capitalist. Their system is capitalist.
[u.s.red]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake's Baby View Post
Nobody said it means everybody is a capitalist. We're not talking about people we're talking about a system. The majority of people in Britain or the US or France or Japan are not capitalists either, but those countries are capitalist. Their system is capitalist.
And if there is a violent socialist revolution in those countries the capitalist class will fight back and try to destroy it. If working people then temporarily impose a working class dictatorship on the capitalists, the system will still be capitalist?
[Blake's Baby]
If the working class temporarily imposes its own dictatorship, but the economy still involves buying and selling, wages, commodity production, classes, and property (private or state), yes it's still capitalism.

Socialism can only exist as a world system. Capitalism does exist as a world system but didn't always. It can exist as a local system. Two local capitalisms can exist in parallel. So even if the revolutionary territory completely seals itself from world capitalism (and it can't) it still can't transcend capitalism.

Once, as Lenin said, state capitalism is working for the benefit of the people - worldwide that is, when the dictatorship of the proletariat is established everywhere - that's when we get round to building socialism. In the meantime, all we have - at best - is 'state capitalism working in the interests of the people'.

I'm not aware that there's any other system being proposed here. Either you think it was capitalism that existed in Russia, or you think it was socialism (and you have to explain why there were classes and a state and property and wages and buying and selling), or you're inventing a new form of non-Marxist economic category. Which are you going for?
[robbo203]
[QUOTE=Paul Cockshott;2427115][QUOTE=Blake's Baby;2426762]Ah, OK. So it's only capitalist if there's 'more than a tiny portion' of luxury income, is it?
Quote:
That is so obviously true that I am surprised you doubt it.
Its not. What makes capitalism capitalism is the generalised existence of capital. Hence the name - CAPITALism. That obviously applied in the case of the Soviet Union.

And in any case, since the distribution of income was roughly similar to what obtained in the West - see the Fleming and Micklewright paper above - we may reasonably deduce that the distribution of "luxury income" was also roughly the same
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
All of those categories might still exist, with one major difference...the working class will dominate and control the capitalist class...
So, it will be capitalism that the workers dominate through 'their' state, then? In other words, state capitalism?

Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
...

It would be nice if the workers of the world would rise up simultaneously on Jan. 1, 2013, and declare the revolutionary world socialist state. But, as Marx said, the workers in each country will first have to settle accounts with their own bourgeoisie....
There you go again, conflating the dictatorship of the proletariat in one place with the socialist society that will follow the world revolution.

Can you grasp that these are not the same thing? Beginning the revolution is not the same as what happens after it has been successfully ended.

Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
...
I can also think it was a transitional stage between capitalism and socialism which collapsed or withered away and died (interesting phrase.) Classes, the state, property, buying and selling existed long before capitalism. Wages is a uniquely capitalist category, but some of the old characteristics of capitalism will temporarily be carried over to socialism (as Marx described in the Gotha Program,) just as some of the old categories of feudalism were carried over to capitalism...
So you are proposing another economic form, then? Not capitalism, not socialism but...?

And how is the transition between capitalism and this other form of economy arranged? And how is the transition between this other form of economy and socialism arranged? And which are the classes that preside over this new economic form you're inventing? And what are the revolutionary new forms of property relations that they embody? etc etc. If you're going to radically restructure Marxism, you might give us a hint about a) how it's supposed to work; and b) how many years you spent researching in the British Library before you decided Marxism was wrong.

Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
...
There may be other alternatives to separate revolutions in different states, such as the internationalization of unions or a "contagion" of state bankruptcies starting in Greece, Spain etc. Even if there is another world wide depression as in 1929, it is unlikely that there will be a unified world revolution. "We are the world" is a Michael Jackson song, not a revolutionary strategy. Although maybe if he had written "We are the workers of the world/Let us unite."
Don't need Michael Jackson, Marx is pretty clear on this... of course, as you're not a Marxist, you may disagree. But I'm happy with Marx thanks.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
Quote:
Ah, OK. So it's only capitalist if there's 'more than a tiny portion' of luxury income, is it?
That is so obviously true that I am surprised you doubt it.
Man. you really have no idea what capitalism is, or how Marxism is structured as a critique of it, do you?

OK; a lesson - capitalism is about realisation of wealth as a self-perpretuating system. Capitalism grows. The more comes out as 'luxury' the less 'capitalist' it is. Capitalism is about the generation of excahange value and its use to derive more wealth, not about generating 'luxury'. Bill Gates is obscenely rich not because he can afford to buy a mansion, but because buying a mansion would have no appreciable effect on his level of wealth. He is so wealthy that he cannot consume the wealth he has. His capacity for acquiring luxury far exceeds his ability to consume it.

Feudalism and Antique Slavery were systems very much geared to the generation of 'luxury' but they were not capitalism. 'Re-investment' was a concept almost totally unknown to the Romans, for instance; but because of the enormous amount of social wealth spent on 'luxury' you would no doubt regard this as capitalism.

Socialism will also generate 'luxury' - use values which will be enjoyed by being consumed. Only capitalism is set up to generate more exchange value than use-value. It is a truism in capitalism that much of the social wealth produced has no real 'use'. Demand must be created in capitalism because it's so shoddy at giving us what we need.

Capitalism however is not concerned particularly with 'luxury'. It is concerned with re-investment into production, tso that production expands. Money is there to make more money. Not generate more 'luxury' which is at least a use-value, just more and more exchange value. If it was for the generation of 'luxury' there would at least be a point to capitalism.
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
No, it will be the working class which will dominate the capitalist class, in the Russian context, in one state. But since capitalism in 1917, as now, is a world phenomena, the domination and destruction of the capitalists in one state had no effect on world capitalism, although Soviet production under Stalin, while degenerated, still was capable of defeating the world representative of capital, Hitler. The Soviet Union was not state capitalism, but rather, Socialist Bureaucratism...
So you've invented a new mode of production called 'socialist bureaucratism'.

I don't accept that, I'm a Marxist because I think that (among other things) Marx was right about the transition from capitalism to socialism. Fine, you're not, but I see little point about continuing to discuss this. You have a world-view that I consider to be non-materialist and therefore there's little common ground for continuing to discuss this. If you can just invent new modes of production then you can invent any explanation for anything.



Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
...

It is the dictatorship of the proletariat which follows the socialist revolution. Ending the revolution is the ending of the socialist revolution, hence the theory of the Permanent Revolution...
You're not really saying anything here.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is not the same as socialism. One is the administration of the economy by the proletariat's organs of control (workers' councils, factory committees etc) while the world revolution is taking place. The other is the establishment of a new society after the world revolution has been won. Neither has anything to do with Permanent Revolution.


Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
...
The Socialist Bureaucracy, or the Socialist State. And once the capitalist class has been destroyed the socialist state will wither away and die...
As we've already established you're not a marxist suppose there's no reason for you to use Marxist terminology; but there really is no 'socialist state', what you're talking about is the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is not 'socialist'.

Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
...
The problem is not studying in the British Library. All of that can now be done online. One has access to the entire Marx collection through the ME online sites, also Trotsky, Lenin, Mao, etc. etc. The real, materialist, problem is that one has no access to organized, political, social...etc...meetings and groups which discuss social revolution. We have become a society of atomized individuals, discussing Marx on the internet, and disputing the metaphysical nature of the soviet union and all the time waiting for the virtual revolution. It's no wonder the capitalist class is still as self-satisfied and arrogrant as it is. Obama/Romney. That's the choice...
For whom? I go to political meetings and discuss the social revolution, perhaps your problem is that you don't.





Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
...

Ok. Explain that in plain English.



Use plain English, not pseudo-Marxist jargon...
Apologies. In my defence, when I wrote that I still thought you were a Marxist.

Right - the point of capitalism is to turn money into more money. It's not to create luxury as such, it's to extend riches.


Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
...
because he used the capitalist way of getting rich - he built a monopoly which now controls 85% of the world's computer operating systems market.



actually the Romans did invest, by going to war and capturing new slaves.
I didn't say that they didn't, I said it was hardly known as an economic concept. I think it was Pliny the Elder who describes the case of a man who bought a run-down farm, invested in improving it, an sold it for a profit. This pretty classic capitalist behaviour. But Pliny (if it is he) mentions it as a great curiosity. Instead of enjoying the farm (treating it as a luxury) he then gets rid of it. Why invest in the farm if he's not going to use it as a country home? What is the point of putting all that effort in if all he's going to do is sell it?

Investing social production in strictly economic attempts to get back more than you put in, which is the essence of capitalist accumulation, was not a specific part of Roman economic thought. Sure conquest involved 'investing social wealth' in a process of increasing returns from conquered provinces. But that's hardly capitalist accumulation in the same way as the guy who improves the farm and sells it at a profit.


Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
...

The point of capitalism is to take, without paying for it, the wealth created by the working class. The point of socialism to take it back and destroy the capitalist class.
That's the mechanism of capitalism, it's not the point. The point is what you then do with it I would argue, and in capitalism's case it's to use money to make more money.



Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
My impression that you are a Bordigist was fairly casual, and I'm quite willing to withdraw it if it makes you uncomfortable.

... I had the misimpression that you were a Bordigist. If you aren't, fine.

...
It doesn't make me uncomfortable, it's just wrong. I think many 20th century communists, such as Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky and Bordiga, made important contributions to Marxism, but I'm not necessarily a Luxemburgist, a Leninist or a Troskyist either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
.... With democracy, the bureaucracy would quickly be overthrown, either by the workers or by counterrevolutionary forces.

Which in itself is proof that the Soviet Union was not capitalist, come to think of it. Since democracy, as Lenin pointed out, is the ideal political form for capitalism, the best and stablest method for dominion of the capitalist class over society.

If the Soviet bureaucracy really were a capitalist class, then the dictatorial and indeed totalitarian features of the Soviet system would have been unnecessary.

-M.H.-
This rather implies that Nazism, Fascism, the dictatorship of Pinochet, the Batista regime, etc were not capitalist then. Capitalism doesn't care about democracy, Lenin died before realising what a massive error he'd made there. He would, I'm quite sure, have revised that opinion had he lived to see Nazism in action.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
...

The collapse of the USSR was deeply unpopular. This is proven fact, as there was a referendum on the continued existence of the USSR just a few months before Yeltsin seized power, and the Soviet populace overwhelmingly voted to preserve it.

-M.H.-
So, according to your previous post, it was capitalism then? Must be, democracy and capitalism, sitting in a tree etc.

Of course, the argument makes no sense. It's true that the collapse of the SU was deeply unpopular. Don't see why that means anything other people are socialised to accept the state they're born in. Abolition of the monarchy in the UK is unpopular, it doesn't magically make it socialist. The abolition of capitalism and implementation of socialism wouldn't gain many votes, that doesn't mean capitalism is socialism and socialism is anti-socialism.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JAM View Post
If Lenin described NEP as State Capitalism how can we consider the USSR's Five Years Plans economic model (Planned Economy) as the same if the two economic models were very different from each other? I voted socialist. If we take in consideration that the collectivization of the means of productions, the abolition of private property and the elimination of classes are three cornerstones of a socialist system, it was a socialist system.

But classes weren't eliminated. There was still a working class. Just, were told, no other classes. The capitalist class 'ceased to exist'. The petite-bourgeoisie was 'eliminated' in the 1930s. The bureaucracy was 'not a class'. What other classes were there in the Soviet Union? I'm genuinely intrigued.

Colectivisation of production in a class society doesn't mean anything. 'The state' as a supra-class entity is not, in any class society, on the side of the labouring classes (whether that's the peasant's religious dualism of 'good kings' and 'bad ministers' or the worker's idealistic belief in 'getting our man in').

The abolition of private property is not the point of socialism, it's the abolition of property at all that's importnt. The conversion of 'private' poroperty to 'corporate' property (in this case state property) is no step forwards for the working class.

So none of your condiitons actually has anything to do with the Soviet Union being 'socialist'.
[Die Neue Zeit]
http://www.cpgb.org.uk/letters.php?issue_id=911



Off the cliff

First off, I’d like to welcome the article on Mélenchon (‘Momentum builds behind France’s third man’, April 12). The New Anti-capitalist Party had it coming for its sectarianism in the European Union elections, but not mentioned in the article is the need for the parties on the left to call for proportional representation (probably of the German sort).

I’d also like to welcome Paresh Chattopadhyay chipping in (Letters, April 12). I sympathise with his views regarding the need to abolish generalised commodity production, but he’s really off the cliff to suggest that every single iteration of generalised commodity production is capitalistic, that capitalism doesn’t need to rely on markets (consumer goods and services, labour and capital). His definition of ‘state capitalism’ really stretches things too far, I think.

Strategically, though, his line is ultra-leftist through and through. Real parties are real movements and vice versa (so most of today’s ‘movements’ and today’s electoral ‘parties’ don’t count). The working class cannot become the ‘worker class for itself’ without constituting itself into a mass political party-movement in the real sense, distinct from and opposed to all the other ‘parties’. Taking the SPD model to a new level these days requires that the party-movement create new internal party organs: ie, central and executive workers’ councils replacing traditional central and executive committees; lower party councils replacing traditional party committees.

I do agree with Paresh on his criticism of the Bolsheviks’ sloganeering. They should have called, as Lars Lih noted, for a revolutionary provisional government to carry out the minimum programme; and this RPG should have been similar to Mao’s central people’s government and (to a lesser extent) Castro’s pre-1976 council of ministers in relation to formal accountability to some revolutionary convention (called for by Bukharin and others on the left to replace the constituent assembly and congress of soviets).
[Blake's Baby]
No, because socialism was never established. What failed was not socialism, but the revolution. The working class made a revolution and it went horribly horribly wrong. Not because of the state of development in Russia - I'm not a 'stagist' - and not because of the bad ol' rotten Bolsheviks and their Second International partyism - I'm not an Anarchist - but, as a Marxist, it seems very clear that the revolution must be international; and the failure of the world revolution inevitably sealed the fate of the proletarian power in Russia.

It only lasted about 2 years for monkeys' sakes; the actual excercise of state power in the Soviet Republic by the working class. Not by the Bolsheviks (fine representatives of the class they were in many ways, but they were not supermen and they had no business substituting themselves for the working class) but actually by the working class. after 1921, there was no proletarian democracy left. The control by the workers over 'their own' state was practically zero.

So, in a situation where the state which is supposed to guarantee the workers their control over the economy, escapes their control, and is in the hands of a self-selecting clique, how exactly is this supposed to be socialism?
[robbo203]
---
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Ha! A beautiful bait and switch on your part, fully worthy of any good good barrister. You originally wrote:



So the fundamental difference between you and your average bourgeois ideologue like say Schumpeter is that they think capitalism is OK, with cycles of "creative destruction" leading inevitably to social progress, but you think it sucks, 'cuz the "creative destruction" is so unpleasant.

The whole point of the Marxist analysis of capitalism, which certainly incorporates disproportionality as the immediate cause of crises, is that capitalism isn't just not nice, but that it leads society downwards into the abyss, and that the alternatives are "socialism or barbarism" as Luxemburg put it.

And the driving force, the prime, longterm cause, is the longterm falling rate of profit due to the inevitably rising organic composition of capital, countervailing factors or no countervailing factors.

You, by contrast, see disproportionalities as the regulating factor, and the falling rate of profit as something secondary, dubious, not important, and anyway not applicable lately, due to the rising level of exploitation, due, obviously, to the series of defeats the workers have been suffering in the class struggle in the last few decades, the coal miners defeat in England, the collapse of the USSR with all its terrible consequences, etc. etc.

In short, not important because the capitalists can hold it off sometimes by steadily increasing the exploitation of the working class, making everybody more and more miserable, and indeed pushing society towards barbarism.

Duh!

That just demonstrates how important the law of the falling rate of profit is, by requiring capitalists to lower wages, abolish the welfare state, etc. etc., for the very survival of the capitalist system.

And, by the way, since the organic composition of capital would continue to increase and the rate of profit would continue to decline as technology advances even if the rate of exploitation reached infinity with the workers "living on air" as Marx put it, a rising rate of exploitation can only be a temporary countervailing factor.

And indeed, in the last decade, the rate of exploitation continues to increase but the rate of profit has been dropping anyway, which is the root cause of the current worldwide economic crisis.

Capitalists these days are simply refusing to invest altogether because of the drop in profit rates, desperately running to one financial speculation after another, which is why the high level of unemployment is becoming permanent in America and Europe.

So yes, you have a "disproportionality thesis" about the crisis of capitalism, which you are sneakily trying to confuse with the Marxist analysis of the immediate mechanisms of capitalist crises, instead of what is much more important, the true underlying causes. Your purpose is clearly a distortion of Marxism into reformism.

In short, you are trying to confuse the issue like a typical lawyer with a bad case.

As illustrated below.

-M.H.-
As I see it its pretty simple really. You've been caught with your pants down and now your are desparately trying to salvage an untenable position by all manner of devious ruses in which, frankly, you are only succeeding in digging yourself into an even deeper hole. The plain fact is - and dont try to deny it - you said

"Essentially, the disproportionality theory accepts that capitalism is basically a working and successful system, in economic terms. If you accept the disproportionality thesis, then you are not a Marxist, you are a reformist"

When confronted with the evidence that, in fact, Marx himself put forward just such a theory you changed your tune saying in effect "oh no I didnt really mean that and that , yes, of course the Marxist analysis of capitalism, certainly incorporates disproportionality as the immediate cause of crises. Its just that that is not the whole picture - there is also the long term falling rate of profit" In other words you now saying that to accept the disproportionality thesis does NOT mean you are not Marxist whereas before you most definitely said that it does mean that.


Once youve wiped the egg off your face - yet again! - you might wish to reflect on some other outlandish claims you have made that you may likewise come to regret . Like your claim that my purpose in confusing the Marxist analysis of the immediate mechanisms of capitalist crises - namely disproportional growth - with what is " much more important, the true underlying causes". is to "distort Marxism into reformism". How so? Let us say for the sake of argument I have misunderstood Marx's theory of economic crises. How does my advocacy of this incorrect interpretation of Marx's theory translate into, or lend itself towards, supporting reformism? You dont say. But then you never do. You dont think about the arguments you but forward. Do you even know what "reformism" means. Somehow I doubt it

Actually, the very opposite is true. Disproportionality theory tends to emphasise, if anything, the in-built recurring cyclical nature of capitalist crises. Unlike , say, the Keynesian viewpoint which is essentially an underconsumptionist perspective and explixitly advocates reformist measures of "demand management" to overcome crises, disproportinality theory argues that the capitalist trade cycle of slumps and booms cannot be got rid of. In other capitalism cannot be reformed so as to eliminate the trade cycle. So once again it seems you dont have a clue of what you are talking about here at all

Lets look then at this "falling rate of profit" you set so much store by as the fundamental explanation of crises. Now of course a falling rate of profit is certainly implicated in crises. Marx himself mentioned how crises tend to be preceded by a rise in wage levels which will affect profit margins which has lead some people like Glynn and Sutcliffe to put forward a "profit squeeze" explanation of crises - the fanciful idea that, in effect, workers bring ruin upon themselves by pricing themselves out of a job.

We dont need to concern ourselves with that explanation but concentrate only on your explanation. The driving force behind crises, according to you, is the long term and inevitable change in the organic composition of capital through technological advancement which will prove too powerful for any countervailing factors to restrain and so unerringly leads society into "the abyss", The clear implication of what you are saying here is that crises of their very nature are bound to get worse and worse until at some point capitalism will implode inwards - collapse.

Here are a few observations I would make in response

The first point that strikes me is that that we are talking about two different things when we refer to the term "crisis". Habermas talked of a crisis of legimacy pervading capitalism. You are talking about a long term economic crisis that becomes more acute as technology advances. However, the "crises" that we are specifically talking about in this context are those associated with the capitalist trade cycle. Can changes in the organic composition of capital account for these? On the face of it, no. Such change changes would have to be extraordinarily rapid to account for something that is itself relatively sudden - an economic crisis.

Secondly, the plain fact is that there is no constant falling rate of profit. I cited Brenner who pointed out that since the early 1980s the average rate of profit has actually been rising, not falling, and partly this is due to an intensification of the rate of exploitation. You dont provide any evidence to refute this claim. Instead you resort to a rather strange argument. The fact that the misery of the working class has increased "just demonstrates how important the law of the falling rate of profit is, by requiring capitalists to lower wages, abolish the welfare state, etc. etc., for the very survival of the capitalist system". Actually no it doesnt do that at all. What it demonstrates is that the falling rate of profit can be ovecome and reversed so that it can no longer be considered the all important factor you make it out to be inevitably steering capitalism to the point of collapse

Empirical evidence refuting your claim and backing up mine can be found here http://www.capitalism-and-crisis.info/en/Welcome/New. Note in particular this passage

"3) From 1979 to 2001, this slowing down of the rate of increase of real wage, compared to the rate of increase of labour productivity, results in a remarkable recovery of the rate of surplus value and, consequently, of the profit rate, but not so much of economic growth. The latter will be mainly stimulated by indebtedness of an Anglo-Saxon type as we know it today"

Not only that, even if the rate of profit were to continuously and steadily fall, this could quite easily coexist with a rise in the absolute mass of profits as Marx showed. There is no magical figure for the rate of profit to fall below at which point capitalism becomes unsustainable. You cite Rosa Luxemburg but Luxemburg herself in Anti-Critique that “there is still some time to come before capitalism collapses because of the falling rate of profit -- roughly until the sun burns out”


Thirdly , you claim that the falling rate of profit is the driving force behind crisis leading capitalism towards the abyss. Now it may be that capitalism is heading towards the abyss but this could be for reasons other than the falling rate of profit. However, the implication of what you are saying is that crises will get progressively more severe over time. Is this the case? I dont think it is . Or at least I dont think it is necessarily the case. I am aware that Marx and Engels held this view of crises getting progressively worse at one or another point in time . In the Communist Manifesto for example there is the following quotation:

And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.

Marx, I believe, came to revise this view after 1850 moving away from the kind of teleological inevitabilism implicit in such a view towards a more considered and cautious approach emphasising the cyclical nature of crises. Engels less so. Engels subscribed to a kind of underconsumptionist theory quite popular at the time and this lead him to syppose that the depression of the 1880s would never be overcome. In the Preface to Capital vol.1(English edition) he wrote : "While the productive power increases in a geometric ratio , the extension of markets proceeds at best in an arithmetic fashion". This theoretically unsound argument led Engels to rashly conclude that the traditional ten year trade cycle had run its course "(landing) us in the slough of despond of a pemament and chronic depression". Engels was proved wrong just as all those who subsequently made the same claim about later recessions were proved wrong and just as you will be proved wrong with your melodramatic assertions about the future of capitalism.

The plain fact is that there is no immanent law in capitalism that causes it to reach the point of collase via a series of progressively more severe crises. I said it before and I will say it again - go back to the Great Depression of the 1930s and compare it to the situation we have today. Which was more severe in terms of its relative impact on unemployment levels, economic hardship or whatever other criterion you chose to adopt? The answer is pretty obvious I would have thought.

Which brings me finally to your rather stupid comment that the fundamental difference between me and "your average bourgeois ideologue like say Schumpeter is that they think capitalism is OK, with cycles of "creative destruction" leading inevitably to social progress, but you think it sucks, 'cuz the "creative destruction" is so unpleasant". Actually no - capitalism sucks as I said before in ALL phases of its trade cycle - boom and bust. But capitalism is not going to go away of its own accord . It is not going to collapse through the working out of some quasi-mystical teleological law that pushes it towards the precipice.

I object to these kinds of explanations because they are so disempowering in their suggestion that we are in the grip of vast impersonal forces beyond our control and that we cannot therefore shape our own destiny on the basis of conscious democratic unified class action. They are also disenchainting because they raise hopes that will inevitably be dashed. I have always regarded with deep suspicion the misguided faith some sections of the Left seem to pin on the notion that we can only ever hope for revolutionary change in a situation of intense economic crisis and hardship. It was just such a situation that gave rise to the Nazi regime and a particularly brutalised form of capitalism.

Crises are inevitable in capitalism but there is nothing inevitable about capitalism coming to an end at the hands of some supposedly immanent teleological law. Such a view distracts from the need for conscious political action and ironically turns out to be an impediment to the elimination of capitalism rather than being a plausible explanation as to how it can come to be eliminated
[Blake's Baby]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
You know, forget Bordiga (though here I think your reasoning is very similar to Bordiga's). There's a big, obvious problem with your argument.

You say that, in the first few years of the USSR, you had a workers state, administering capitalism. (A strange concept, but let's let that go for the moment.)...
No, I want you to explain what's strange about it. Capitalism is a way of organising the economy. The DotP is a way of organising the state. They aren't the same thing. You can have capitalist monarchies, capitalist republics, capitalist military dictatorships. Different form of state (superstructural) organisation for the same economic (base) organisation. The DotP is a superstructural form. The transformation of the economic base happens after the world revolution. you can't have socialism in one country, or even 'moving towards socialism in one country', otherwise you're both a Stalinist and a Reformist.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
...But then, in the year 1921, it turned into a bourgeois state!

Without a revolution, without the old state being smashed, 100% continuity in those "armed bodies of men" that are the essence of every state, just kinda oozing naturally into a capitalist state.

Well, if a workers state can magically turn into a capitalist state, without a revolution, just by gradually going bad, why can't it go the other way around? Why can't a capitalist state be reformed into a workers state, without the trouble, bloodshed and inconvenience of a revolution?...
If, like you, I thought that 'a workers' state' was somehow the same as socialism then obviously this would make no sense. But a 'workers' state' is a superstructural form. There has been no fundamental change in the economy. Workers still get paid to produce stuff which is taken from them. Alienated labour still produces social wealth for a non-producing stratum. It just calls it a 'ministry' not a 'firm'. Same shit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
...As Trotsky put it, state capitalism tends to boil down to "running the film ofreformism in reverse."

-M.H.-
well, Trotsky was good at pithy one-liners, but jokes don't really go a long way to explaining political and historical positions.

The world revolution is not an optional extra. Without it, the isolated territory cannot progress. As history doesn't stand still (oh, silly me of course it does, Trotskyists believe the USSR was a 'degenerated state' for 70 years, don't they?) the SU must have either been moving forwards - progressing towards socialism as the Stalinists believe - or moving backwards - towards reintegration into the capitalist world.

The state is a conservative force. The Bolsheviks became subject to those conservative preassures as soon as they integrated themselves into the state. The emptying of the soviets of their political content was the end of the proletarian dictatorship. Nothing to do with 'reformism in reverse', just failing to move forward - due to the failure of the world revolution. Ironic that Trotsky wasn't able to see that. But not funny.



Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Capitalism can be either "democratic" or dictatorial or even fascist, but the ideal form of capitalist rule is democratic, not dictatorship and certainly not fascism.

Proof? Well, look what happened to Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Both stomped into the ground during WWII, especially Germany.

Fascism wasn't as bad news for the capitalists as it was for the workers, but it sure as hell wasn't something any capitalists would want to have except in extreme circumstances.

By contrast, look at capitalist democracy #1, the Hew Hess Hay. The American system has worked very well indeed for the capitalists for over two centuries now.

And here, by the way, you're definitely not a Bordigist, Bordiga was if anything even more down on capitalist democracy than Lenin. At one point I think he even rejected the idea of democracy altogether...
Bordiga was proudly anti-democratic. But this is one of those times that I'm not going to criticise him. Where have I given you any idea that I'm 'pro-democracy'?

You shift the goalposts considerably here from 'capitalism' to 'individual capitalists'. Obviously, you shouldn't, but either way, I think you're wrong. Capitalism as a whole doesn't mind fascism. It does quite well out of the arms industry, infrastructural investment and the cowing of the working class. Some firms, and some individual capitalists, support it to the max. So I think the assertion that democracy is preferable is a none-starter. Look at China. It has become the world's second largest economy in 20 years without a sniff of bourgeois democracy as it's understood in the West.



Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Well, firstly the peasantry was never eliminated. Even to the very end of the regime, the great majority of the farming population weren't agricultural workers drawing a wage, they were members of cooperative farms receiving a share of the profits of the cooperative. In theory at least, peasants were petty proprietors.

But even if farming had been truly collectivized, and not just cooperativized, you still would have a considerable urban petty bourgeoisie with much social overlap with the bureaucracy. Trotsky refers to Soviet bureaucrats as a petty bourgeois layer in Revolution Betrayed," which is a bit inexact but basically accurate.

The social status of the bureaucracy and the intelligentsia were basically similar, indeed they were often related. It's remarkable how many intellectuals, including "dissidents" of course, had fathers, cousins or uncles who were bureaucrats. Indeed, by and large most of both the intellectuals and the bureaucrats had been promoted out of the working class through the "affirmative action for workers and peasants" educational programs of the early Stalin years. Historian Robert Davies calls the USSR under Stalin the "dictatorship of the ex-working class."...

Beware of this argument. It's too easy to say 'the bureaucrats were petty bourgeois'. Lenin was the son of a school inspector, Trotsky of a fairly rich farmer. were they 'petty bourgeois'? Are the Council Communists right after all that the 'soviet republic' was doomed because of the bourgeois nature of its leaders in the immediate post revolutionary period. I don't think so. Do you?


Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Where were the capitalists? Abroad of course. Nor was this a change from before the Revolution. Most capital investment in Tsarist Russia was foreign. The Russian capitalists were your basic "compradors," usually financially in hock to French, German etc. investors.

-M.H.-
And you call me a Bordigist? This is precisely the reasoning the Italian Left used to come to the conclusion that Russia was capitalist. Whatever the specifics of the temporary preoperty forms inside the SU, it confronted the capitalist world as another capitalist (and imperialist) power because it had to compete for markets, to trade on the world stage.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by JAM View Post
When I said elimination of classes I meant the end of classes differences and the establishment of one class (working class) only, of course. Next time I'll try to be more explicit. The working class as the sole survivor class establish its ruling in the socialist society and this is one of the premisses for a socialist system.
This makes no sense. The idea of a sole survivor class is incoherent. To classify people is to differentiate between them. To talk of one class is only meaningful in relation to another. If the only colour you vould see was red - or different shades of shades of red - then "redness" would be a meaningless concept for you.

The working class defined as the exploited class in capitalist society, must therefore imply a class that exploits it - the capitalist class. This is why all theories based on the notion of a workers state are logically and factually absurd. It implies that an exploited class would wield power over an exploiting class while continuing to acqiesce in its own status as an exploited class. This is simply not credible. The only credible course of action available to a working class upon taking power is the immediate abolition of its own status as an exploited class and hence the abolition of all classes. Otherwise you still have capitalism and capitalism can only ever be run in the interests of capital and those who possess it. In the case of the Soviet Union , the state capitalist class

Quote:
Originally Posted by JAM View Post

I think that I and Marx just proved you wrong and yes, USSR was indeed socialist. I just hope that you don't mix socialism with communism. We are talking about two different stages of the revolutionary process.
Marx did not distinguish between socialism and communism as two different kinds of social formations.It was Lenin who made this distinction. Lenin even explicitly identified what he called "socialism" with state capitalism (supposedly) run in the interests of the whole people
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by JAM View Post
Wrong. Marx and Engels presumed that in the early stages of the transition considerable remnants of capitalist society would remain in operation. “What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerged”. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme” op.cit., p.17.

Therefore, the proletariat remains a definite social class. It is not abolished by the revolution but is rather obliged to struggle against the remnants of capitalism within the workers’ state and against the continued domination of capitalism on a world scale.

It makes sense now?

Nope. And if Marx was putting the same gloss on things as you were then I would unhesitatingly say his position would be equally as illogical as yours. The fact is he was not saying what you think he was saying.

My point was that you cannot have a working class without also having a capitalist class. Indeed the very idea of a so called workers state - or any state for that matter -entails the existence of class society. So we are asked to believe in the case of the ""workers state the absolutely ludicrous idea that the exploited class in capitalism - the working class - will wield complete political power over the exploiting class - the capitalists - and yet allow itself to continue to be exploited (which it would have to be if it were continue to exist as the working class!). The idea is so preposterous I find it difficult to imagine how anyone could seriously entertain it.

You do not directly take up my argument but refer instead to the Critique of the Gotha Programme to support your assertion that the proletariat will still remain as a distinct class after the revolution, You are wrong on this point as well. The first phase of a communist society is based on classless communist relations of production entailing the use of labour vouchers. Here is what Marx says

Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor.


Since there is common ownership of the means of production there cannot any longer exist a proletariat and a capitalist class since classes are precisely defined by having different relationships to the means of production whereas, with common ownership, everyone has exactly the same. All forms of class society are based on sectional ownership of the means of production, communism is the negation of this and therefore a negation of class. In fact Marx goes on to say

It recognizes no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus productive capacity, as a natural privilege. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right.

Here he is clearly using the word "worker" not in a class sense but in the literal sense of someone who works. I have quibbles over the use of the word worker in this way but the point is there are no classes in lower communism and therefore there cannot be a state either since the state is precisely the expression of class interests in Marxian terms
Quote:
Originally Posted by JAM View Post
He didn't? So why Marx once said: “Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other" ?

The transition period you refer to here is nothing to do with the lower phase of communism mentioned in the Critique. These are two quite separate concepts. The so called dictatorship of the proletariat is self evidently located in time inside a capitalist society and has as its purpose the aim of transitioning to communism. Marx did not call the political transition period "socialism" nor did he ever suggest that it constituted a different kind of society or mode of production. This is why the decription of the Soviet Union as being a workers state - apart from being donwright false as the workers were never in charge - is quite misleading. A workers state does not describe a mode of production but rather a political arrangement.

The authoritative work on this subject is Buick´s long article "The Myth of the Transitional Society" in which he comprehensively demolishes the claims of the Trotskyist theorist, Mandel. This published in the journal Critique in 1975 and can be found here http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/e...tional-society
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by JAM View Post
Wrong once again. I was mentioning the Dictatorship of the proletariat. Allow me to complete the quote I gave it above: "Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."


Your argument is totally based in a false point: Firstly, the capitalist class doesn't disappear since the bourgeoisie is internationally organized and only ends once its defeated world wide and not only nationally. That's why the struggle against the bourgeoisie is fought on a international scale and not on a national one. So, as long as you have a capitalist predominance all over the world you cannot say that there is no capitalist class.

Secondly, some capitalist elements remains in the DOTP as Marx mentioned.





Who told you that I was referring to the lower phase of communism? Marx didn't talk about the DOTP in the Critique? I think he did. It's better that you take a closer look at it.
It seems to me that you are not a litle confused here. Did you or did you not cite the passage from the Critique of the Gotha Progamme to support your claim that a proletarian class would remain after the revolution? My point was a pretty simple one - that the passage you cited does NOT relate to the dictatorship of the proletariat at all but to the lower phase of communism which would would quite clearly be a classless society. Read it again and you will see for yourself that this is the case.

The dictatorship of the proletariat and the lower phase of communism (aka socialism) are two quite different and distinct concepts altogether. Read Buicks article on this to which I gave you a link.

From my point of view. I oppose the first concept completely. I think it is logically incoherent and I note that, once again, you have not taken up the point I made about the utter absurdity of positing an exploited class wielding state power over an exploiting class and yet allowing the latter to continue exploiting it. I know Marx advocated it but I think he made a huge conceptual error - though it needs to be said that his idea of the DOTP bore no comparison to the state capitalist dictatorship the Bolsheviks installed over the Russian proletariat

I partially accept the idea of a lower phase of communism but do no consider labour vouchers to be a particularly useful method of rationing goods. There are other more effective and administratively simpler systems of rationing than this.
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
Robot33 has refused to answer that question several times now.

What are you on about? Ive answered that question several times -not necessarily on this thread as I think this would be the first time Ive been asked it here but certainly elswhere. Why on earth would I want to refuse to answer it? Im quite happy to give a straight answer.

My answer is that once the working class captures the power of the state this coincides with them immediately removing capitalist ownership of the means of production and instituting common ownership. That is the only logical and sensible solution to the problem I posed earlier.

There is no transition between capitalism and communism. Either you have a class-based society or you dont, You can have a transition within capitalism or within socialism but logically speaking here can be no transition between them


Quote:
Originally Posted by u.s.red View Post
There is simply no historical evidence that the Soviet Union, except for the Kulaks, was capitalist. It certainly had some of the forms of capitalism: wages, capital investment, money pricing, markets, even separation of workers from the surplus value they created. All of these forms were neither owned nor controlled by capitalists, but rather by bureaucrats for the purpose of protecting the soviet union from invasion, expanding the soviet wealth into space, science, and even for supporting revolutionary national wars of liberation like vietnam, cuba, south africa, and angola.

The idea that the Soviet Union was capitalist is simply absurd. Marx may have been right when he said socialism could only develop in a fully developed capitalist country like england or the u.s. The soviet union tried to go from a semi-feudal, crude capitalist society to socialism. But what did they expect Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin to do? Go back to 19th century capitalism?

You agree tha the Soviet Union displayed some of the featues of ly capitalism but conspicuous lacked a capitalist class and this is why the soviet union was not a capitalist state.

I dont know what a capitalist class signifies to you. Presumably people with a penchant for smoking large cigars, wearing top hats and gambling on the stock exchange. Your view is essentially a non marxist one which does not look at class in terms of relations of production, in terms of social fuinction.

You say "All of these forms were neither owned nor controlled by capitalists, but rather by bureaucrats" Well why then do you not draw the obvious and sensible conclusion from this and recognise that it was the bureaucrats - or more accurately the nomenklatura who stepped into the shoes largely vacated by the old class of private capitalists and became in effect a new class of state capialists , taking over the role of the private capitalists. After all, he economyyou agree this class in efect owned and controlled so how could they not be the capitalist class albeit of a new kind. Engels has argued that the more the state takes over the productive forces the more does it become the "national capitalist"". Why should that not have been be the case with the Soviet UNion?

I take it you would agree that the relationship of this class - what you call the bureaucrats - towards the means of production was radically different from the workers and that would make them a separate class. What would that class be if not a type of capitalist class that collectively rather than as private individuals, owned and conrolled the means of production via their strangehold on the state?
[robbo203]
Quote:
Originally Posted by JAM View Post
I cited this: "Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."

It seems to me pretty clear that Marx is referring to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

I used other quote of the work only to show you how the capitalist elements don't go away rightly after the revolution, I didn't mention if it was DOTP or lower phase of communism.
No, you still dont get it. You are not following what I am saying. I am not disputing that capitalist class elements would remain in Marxs dictatorship of the proletariat. What I was specifically criticising was you claim here

Wrong. Marx and Engels presumed that in the early stages of the transition considerable remnants of capitalist society would remain in operation. “What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerged”. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme” op.cit., p.17. Therefore, the proletariat remains a definite social class. (my emphasis)


My point is that this reference to communist society emerging from the womb of capitalist sosociety is NOI a reference to the DOTP . it is reference to the lower phase of communism which would be a classless society . You said however that in relation to this reference that .Therefore, the proletariat remains a definite social class. No it does not and that is why I say you have confused the DOTP withthe lower phase of communism. You thought Marx was talking about the former but he was clearly talking of the later in the quote you cited


So here can be no doubt about here is the quote in full context. Note that Marx´s reference to "what we have to deal with here" is precisely the cooperative society based on common ownership of the means of production - a classless society!





Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor. The phrase "proceeds of labor", objectionable also today on account of its ambiguity, thus loses all meaning.
What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it.
[robbo203]
I´m sorry but I find this post unworthy, dishonest and downright disingenuous.

It makes no attempt to actually deal with the arguments and facts I presented relating to the falling rate of profit but engages in mere bluster and once again repeats the lie that to subscribe to a disproportionality thesis (which clearly Marx did himself) makes one an anti-marxist reformist. I tire of explaining to this idiot that this is not the case at all

I dont deny the existence of a falling rate of profit, I just dont attribute to it the significance that MH wants to attach to it. It does not really seem to be able to account for periodic economic crisis because such crises are by their very nature sudden whereas changes in the organic compostion of capital tends to be a relatively slow long term process, You might want to argue that the falling rate of profit makes crises get progressively worse but then this seems to be belied by the fact that the Great Depression of the 1930s was worse han what we have today.

Not only that it is clear that the falling rate of profit is not irreversible and the evidence I presented proves this. MH may chose to ignore such evidence. Thats entirely up to him;you can´t force people to accept uncomfortable facs that do not square with their rigid little view of the world. As Rosa Luxemburg suggested, capitalism is never going to be brought to its knees as a result of the falling rate of profit and there is nothing to stop the absolute mass of profit from increasing despite a fall in its rate.

I think the biggest contradiction that capitalism entails has little to do with the falling rate of profit per se. It is the contradiction between the technological potential that capitalism has created and the systems own increasing inability to ´rationally utilise that potential to ensure a decent world in which human needs are directly catered for. (This is what makes MH´s accusation so ridiculous BTW) Hence the massive growth in structural waste, the increasing diversion of resources towards ends that have nothing to do with meeting human needs at all

This is the real contradiction at the heart of capitalism and expresses iself in muliple forms - like the fact that we have millions of empty houses lying around while people go homeless, like the fact that farmland is taken out of production to keep up prices while people go hungry and so on and so forth. Production is a socialised globalised process yet the means of production remain in the hands of a minority be it those who controlled the state in the capitalist soviet union ot their western capitalist counterparts via the mechanism of owning stock on a de jure private basis


I often wonder what lies behind this obsession with the falling rate of profit. What is the real point of the exercise - to susain a kind of millenarian apocalpytic notion that things will worse and worse until the sysem will be forced out of existence.? Well things have been getting worse and worse in many respects while the rate of profit has been rising not falling. The capitalists are not going to suspend the class struggle should their profit margins increase. In case MH is not aware, the world is becoming an increasingly unequal place thanks in part to the huge increases in profits lately that have been flowing in the direction of the capitalist class itself

But even if the rate of prpfit were to fall substantially and lead to a massive fall off in investment what then? MH goes on about the choice beween socialism or barbarism but in the absence of a conscious political movement for socialism, workers are far more likely to chose barbarism over socialism as the German workers did in their millions when they backed Hitler in the 1930s and a particularly nasty form of capialism that went with that.

Collapsist notions of the future of capitalism which is ultimately what this dogmatic adherence to the falling rate of profit argument is all about are not only naive and complacent but also potentially dangerous.
The rate of prpfoit which since he 1980s has no been falli8ng but rising as he article I posed demonstrares has been accompoanied by It
[robbo203]
My facility to quote posts along with other formatting facilities has suddenly disappeared for some strange technical reason (can anybody help here?) so I will have to be a bit more concise and selective in my response to MHs latest ramblings

REFORMISM




As I suspected MH does not really understand what is meant by reformism or, at least, only partially understand it. I don’t actually hold that you can get full employment – certainly not on a sustainable basis at any rate - under capitalism because of its inherent trade cycle and I have repeatedly pointed out in respect of so called free medical services, free education etc there is no such thing as a free lunch under capitalism. Such free services are ultimately paid for in roundabout fashion by being subsidised by the profit making sector of the capitalist economy. Exactly the same constraint applied under soviet state capitalism. The surplus value produced at the level of state enterprises went to subsidise the so called free services that Russian workers had access to and which supposedly free services, as in other capitalist countries, enabled the state capitalist class to pay Russian workers less in money wages than they would otherwise have to permit the production and reproduction of labour power according to the law of value. What you give with the one hand you take with other. The NHS in the UK for example had cross party support including from wealthy Tory millionaires - not because they had the welfare of the workers in mind but because it was a more cost effective system of healthcare. As for unemployment we have already established that there was widespread hidden unemployment in the Soviet Union. Despite being unemployed Russian workers were retained in the payroll of state enterprises rather than being directly paid a dole. Its was a simple administrative ruse to disguise the fact of unemployment for propaganda purposes


BOOM AND BUST CYCLE IN THE SOVIET UNION

You make an elementary error in confusing what essentially defines capitalism with what is a historically contingent fact about capitalism. Capitalism is fundamentally defined as a system of capital accumulation. That is where the term itself comes from. According to this definition the Soviet Union was a fundamentally capitalist state in every respect. Money capital was invested via GOSBANK with a view to realising financial return. State enterprises were legally required to seek profits and hold down costs and to that end produced commodities - both as consumer goods and producer goods - with the latter being bought and sold between the enterprises themselves and subject to legally binding contracts. Surplus value was appropriated by the central state in the form of retained profits and more importantly turnover taxes slapped onto the sale of commodities. In its monetary form this constituted the revenue of the state. Part of this revenue was then funnelled back into GOSBANK to repeat the whole process with a view to accumulating even more capital. Clearly then, the Soviet Union fully complied with this Marxian explanation of the fundamental process driving capitalism. The capitalist cycle of expanded reproduction which Marx analysed was there for all to see alive and kicking in the Soviet Union

The fact that the Soviet Union was allegedly not subject to the capitalist cycle of boom and bust - a false claim anyway -would not make it any the less capitalist. Here is where MH confuses a historically contingent fact with the nature of capitalism itself. It is theoretically possible for capitalism to exist for a very long time indeed without any significant evidence of a trade cycle. Engels remarked on the fact England, the world’s first truly capitalist country experienced its first significant economic crisis onyx in the early 19th century. Yet capitalism was established as the dominant social system a long time earlier - at least as far back as the English civil war. In the case of the Soviet Union yes it was able to sustain rapid growth for quite a long period of rime by means of a brutal process of capital accumulation. The fact that this coincided in part with a period during in which the Western capitalist countries were in the economic doldrums is neither here nor there. Brazil today is apparently booming while other parts of the world are languishing but no one suggests that Brazil was not a capitalist economy. Other countries apart from the Soviet Union also experienced long periods of growth but this came to end as it did in the Soviet Union itself which increasingly succumbed to recessionary pressures, The Soviet economy into a period of low growth, economic stagnation and rising if hidden unemployment. Even Brezhnev conceded this point in 1976 when he said “Because of the broad economic links between capitalist and socialist countries the ill effects of the current crisis in the West have also had an impact on the socialist world” Buick and Crump p.96).

Once again I’m afraid MH has shown himself to be quiet unaware of the real economic facts of life concerning the Soviet Union. This is how one commentator put it which reveals a far surer grasp of the situation than what MH has to offer

“This decline has entirely confirmed the predictions made in the works of our party twenty years ago when, in order to unmask the lie of the Stalinist thesis which saw in the large growth rates of the time the proof of the pretended «socialism», we showed that this rapid growth characterised all capitalisms in the period of their youth, and its decline is an ineluctable historic law of ageing capitalism. Russian capitalism is no exception. Setting out from a very low level of development aggravated by the devastations of civil war, it was natural for industry to have high rates of growth, which were accelerated still more (as is the case for the majority of newly born capitalisms - see for example Japan) by the strong impetus given by the state in its role as a centraliser of capital. The Stalinist period of accumulation was that of the formation of a real interior market, the transformation from a still predominantly pre-capitalist structure in which the working class formed only a small part of the population (10 % in 1913, as opposed to a peasant population of 76 %), to an entirely capitalist economy, and finally the extensive accumulation that allowed for the creation of an industry responsive to the needs of the interior market. The total number of industrial workers went from 3.9 million in 1913 to 12.2 million in 1950 and more than 27 million in 1975 - up by a factor of seven since the period before the revolution. The number of industrial manufacturing enterprises employing more than 100 workers rose from 2,805 in 1911 (employing 1,645,000 workers) to 11,591 in 1933 (employing 4.5 million workers) and to more than 26,000 in 1968 (employing nearly 19 million workers) (17) - a tenfold increase both in the numbers of enterprises and in the workers employed. These statistics illustrate the budding of a young capitalism, and its blossoming - ceaselessly creating new enterprises, extensively accumulating the absolute surplus-value extorted from the ever increasing army emerging from the land and regimented into industry.
http://www.sinistra.net/lib/upt/comp...ipoebubie.html

FALLING RATE OF PRPFOIT AND CAPITALIST COLLAPSE

MH says he doesn’t actually hold that capitalism will collapse and that I am misrepresenting him in suggesting that he said such a thing. I didn’t but I did say it is certainly implied in his position. There is a difference in case he wasn’t aware.

MH grossly exaggerates the importance Marx attached to the falling rate of profit. As Marx pointed out: “If we consider the enormous development in the productive powers of social labour then, instead of the problem of the fall in the profit rate. we have the opposite problem of explaining why this fall is not greater or faster. Counteracting tendencies must be at work checking and cancelling the effect of a general law and giving it simply the character of a tendency” (Capital Vol 3 ch 14)

Before the second world war the primary explanation advanced on the Left for the possible collapse of capitalism was one or other version of underconsumptionism such as Rosa Luxemburg’s theory. Little importance was attached to the falling rate of profit theory. Henryk Grossman was responsible for promoting the idea (though his article was severely attacked by Pannekoek who considered that it was based on bogus data) and , later John Strachey. This theory was taken up by a number of small groups as a rival theory of eminent capitalist collapse and become a central tenet of many Trot inspired groups after the war.

So whatever MH might say to the contrary, historically the falling rate of profit theory was undeniably linked with the idea that it would bring about capitalism’s collapse. The question is. despite MH claiming he does not support collapsist theory can his dogmatic adherence to the notion of the falling rate of profit as a law of capitalism not imply precisely that? I think it does. If MH is postulating the falling rate of profit as an inevitable law of capitalism (which as we have seen, Marx denied) that inevitably made matters worse and worse then logically speaking one has to ask where this process of economic decline would end if not in the collapse of capitalism itself . Necessarily it implies the eventual drying up of the very source of profit itself and what else could that entail but the collapse of capitalism. Here we see what is so disingenuous about MHs whole position, He acknowledges the existence of counteracting tendencies but still maintains that the rate of profit will continue to steadily fall despite these counteracting tendencies so the end result must therefore be the same as those who explicitly link he falling rate of profit to capitalist collapse

Not only that MH still cannot grasp the point changes in the organic composition of capital cannot really account for economic crises because they are just too slow to do that. Profits can and do fall but for reasons that may have nothing to do with organic composition of capital


Clearly MH seems unable or unwilling to put the tendency for the rate of profit to fall wihin its proper context and it is this that allows him to come to such extremely one-sided narrow and melodramatic conclusions. Because I don’t share his apocalyptic vision of the future of capitalism as one in which in which we will all sink into the pit of absolute poverty and resort to eating babies as a form of nourishment, my commitment to overthrowing capitalism must therefore be considered questionable. It makes me a “reformist”, see. Capitalism is bad enough without having to embellish the truth with such a melodramatic gloss.

This kind of childish way of looking at things might be excusable were it not for the fact tha MH parades his ignorance in the form of dogmatic certainties with which he browbeats all and sundry and which only show him up to be the pompous buffoon with puffed up sense of his own importance that he certainly is. He is unwilling to engage in a serious debate on serious issues but prefers to massage his own ego with pious declarations that he is unwilling to back up with hard evidence and logical argument and then has the nerve to accuse others of doing the same. I have never shirked from trying to answer a point made against me and if I don’t have an answer I don’t see any shame in frankly admitting this. Sometimes I might not even see the point that has been made I don’t read everything on this thread and haven’t the time to – so to characterise this as refusing to answer a point is below the belt

But what of MH?

When confronted with the argument that disproportionality theory does not in itself imply reformism at all, he still maintains than it does and that I am a reformist for holding such a theory

When confronted with the fact that crises do not necessarily grow worse and worse ‘ look at the Great depression of the 1930s which was more pronounced than anything that followed - he still insists that they do

When confronted with the fact that the slow changes in the organic composition of capitalism cannot explain the suddenness with which economic crises manifest themselves he still continues to believe that such changes are the driving force behind crises

When confronted with the fact that rate of profit does no necessarily fall but since the 1980s has been rising, he blithely continues to maintain, against all the evidence, that rate of profit will continuously and remorsely fall, overriding the effects of all counteracting tendencies


When confronted with the fact that the Soviet Union clearly slid into a state of low growth and economic stagnation along with hidden unemployment, he still imagines it was not subject to the capitalist trade cycle

And so on and so forth.

I could go on but I will leave it at that. MH says he is “tired” of arguing with me. Fine . So be it. I wouldn’t want to burden him with another sleepless night trying to concoct yet further ways in which to square his circle.
[Dave B]
Hi Robbo I thought you might like this on from Trotsky in 1927


Leon Trotsky Platform of the Joint Opposition 1927


Chapter 2 The Situation of the Working Class and the Trade Unions


Unemployment

Quote:
The slow growth of industrialization nowhere reveals itself so morbidly as in the unemployment which has attacked the fundamental ranks of the industrial proletariat. The official number of registered unemployed in April 1927 was l,478,000. [5] The actual number of unemployed is about two million. The number of unemployed is growing incomparably faster than the total number of employed workers. The number of industrial workers is growing incomparably faster than the total number of employed workers.

The number of industrial workers unemployed is growing rapidly. According to the five-year plan of the State Planning Commission, our industries will absorb during the whole five years a little more than 400,000 steadily employed workers. This means, with the continual influx of workers from the country, that the number of unemployed by the end of 1931 will have grown to no less than three million men and women. The consequence of that state of affairs will be a growth of the number of homeless children, beggars and prostitutes. The small unemployment insurance paid to those out of work is causing justifiable resentment. The average benefit is 11.9 rubles – that is, about 5 pre-war rubles. The trade union benefits average 6.5 to 7 rubles. And these benefits are paid, approximately, to only 20 per cent of the unemployed members of the union.
I liked this one;


Quote:
The appropriation of surplus value by a workers’ state is not, of course, exploitation. But in the first place, we have a workers’ state with bureaucratic distortions. The swollen and privileged administrative apparatus devours a very considerable part of our surplus value.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/trot...ition/ch02.htm
[Dave B]
You are quite correct in your way Fabian, and Zulu couldn’t be more wrong if he tried.

Lenin in 1914 was in fact was opposed to the SR’s idea of having some kind of socialist revolution in a backwards feudal country like Russia; and was for a ‘laissez-faire’ capitalist revolution and facilitating that the ‘laissez-faire’ “buying, selling and mortgaging of peasant land.”

Something the Left SR’s at least were opposed to.

Although the SR’s were a heterogeneous group and in fact some of them were also into the ‘laissez-faire’ or petty bourgeois peasant agricultural production.


Lenin June 1914
Left-Wing Narodism and Marxism

http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...914/jun/19.htm


I think I posted a link to that manifesto on this site a couple of years ago, I seem to remember that Theodore Dan in his book The Origins of Bolshevism wrote some interesting stuff on the SR’s.

I would myself like to know more about them as there isn’t much really; available in English.


Some SR’s also interestingly had a theory that capitalism had already run its course, was extant and developed in pre 1917 Russia. Which is something you can sometimes get from neo-Leninists.

.



[commieathighnoon]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zulu View Post
No, they were for laissez-faire capitalism, and they were nationalists.
Idiocy. What does "lassiez faire capitalism" mean in this context? What does 'nationalism' mean in this context? Do I think they were the historical party of communism, of the proletariat back then? No. But I don't think it useful to make these idiotic claims.

The Bolsheviks in 1917 wanted a mixed-economy with 'workers' supervision' at the factory-floor, workers' 'inspectorates', trade unions at the level of industry, and a 'workers' and peasants' government' to save from economic collapse.

The Right SRs were defencist and for collaborating with the Entente and the 'progressive' domestic bourgeoisie, and a gradual peasant revolution etc. To be honest, they seem to be quite reconcilable with the useful idiot currents dragged behind your buddy Chavez. The Bolsheviks were moved along with the working-class for soviet power, but the Left SRs were with them (with just differing opinions on the war--a matter of degree not kind, only the Moscow cell thought rebellion and assassination was a suitable solution; the left Communists also did not want the Peace of Brest-Litovsk).

Its far less your little Stalinist morality play, I'm afraid. But who needs read the actual material when regurgitation from the cultists suffices for the tiny Stalinist robot.
[Rowan Duffy]
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
Karl Marx believed that the basic reason that capitalism doesn't work, its basic contradiction, is the longterm falling rate of profit. You, by contrast, advance a "disproportionality thesis" that, essentially, capitalism does work, but disproportionalities create crises and a boom and bust cycle. And you essentially reject Marx's idea that the rate of profit must inevitably fall over the long term, countervailing factors or no countervailing factors.
I agree with Robo here, Marxism has nothing to do with this collapsist theory at all. Marx and Smith before him noticed the falling rate of profit might be a factor, but never does Marx create a theory of final crisis. This is teleology writ large. Even Luxemburg who is usually credited with championing this theory claimed that if it were true the moon could fall into the earth before it actually came about that capitalism collapsed of its own accord.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Marxist Historian View Post
When I caught you out on this essentially reformist, antirevolutionary and anti-Marxist argument, you set about blathering your way out of it like a lawyer with a bad case.
You need to describe why not being a collapsist implies someone is reformist, what reformism is and why it's bad. Otherwise your argument is pretty weak.


Quote:
Originally Posted by robbo203 View Post
You make an elementary error in confusing what essentially defines capitalism with what is a historically contingent fact about capitalism. Capitalism is fundamentally defined as a system of capital accumulation. That is where the term itself comes from.
This is nonsensical. Capital only exists because of a circuit of capital, otherwise it's simply accumulation. All systems have had accumulation of surplus, including feudalism, the ancient agrarian market and non-market systems. You need to demonstrate a circuit of capital, which clearly didn't exist in the USSR.

Further, the USSR was so deeply non-capitalist, with such a total lack of the institutions that constitute the circuit of capital that it's not even yet managed to create a proper western market capitalism despite enormous efforts. Instead it has some sort of fractured anti-worker bureaucractic despotism without price controls, but no properly functioning circuit of capital, and a huge amount of trade as barter through 'fixers'.

I see no evidence that the USSR was subject to the periodic boom and bust cycle of capitalism. It fairly clearly was not subject to such factors. It had other problems that are unique to planning.

The state capitalism theory is dangerously wrong.

*It's dangerous because it is a product of capitalist realism, where all systems which garner surplus are the same as capitalism. It leads people to believe that there are no alternative systems.

*It's dangerous because it causes people who adopt it to ignore what was really happening in the USSR as they "already know" without having to marshal evidence. Since the SPGB are interested in planning this particular problem would be quite serious indeed if they weren't so irrelevant that they will never have a chance to make any mistakes.

*It's dangerous because it does not understand the difficulties in changing modes of production. The collapse of the USSR lead only to a partial change in the mode of production and has yet to produce a modern market capitalism. We need more information about the difficulties that will result in attempting to change the mode of production, and how political revolutions can be deeply incomplete at the economic level.

*It's dangerous because it fails to understand that we can also produce undesirable systems which are not capitalism. This should be bleedingly obvious for anyone who knows that feudalism exists, but there you go.