state capitalism

Walter Daum WGDCC at CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU
Fri Apr 28 08:43:08 MDT 1995


Ralph Dumain inquires how my theory of state capitalism (actually, that of
the League for the Revolutionary Party) differs from James', Cliff's and
Hillel Ticktin's "unusual" one.

Briefly, Cliff (like Mattick, Sr., by the way) holds that value is not the
driving motor of the state capitalist economy as in the USSR. The country
counts as "one big factory" governed internally by the rulers' conscious will,
not the "anarchy" of capitalism. Capitalism's laws of motion are induced into
the economy through military competition with the West, forcing the Stalinist
rulers to undertake rapid capital accumulation. Cliff also held that Stalinist
state capitalism was the highest stage of capitalism, in effect, and would
outstrip traditional decadent capitalism. For obvious reasons this last point
got revised in recent years, without acknowledging its existence in Cliff's
book.

Ours is closer to James' (and the Johnson-Forest tendency's) theory, since
they see Stalinism as a value-driven system. One problem, however, is that
they did not explain either historically or theoretically how the Soviet
workers' state got turned into a state capitalist class society. A major
reason for this was that they seemed to see the very existence of wage
labor in the workers' state as proof that the system was ruled by a capitalist
class. Further, Johnson-Forest misjudged the world-historical fate of Stalinist
capitalism, seeing it as the wave of the capitalist future, since all the
capitalist powers were heading in that direction. (This position runs parallel
to Cliff's.) Our view in contrast sees Stalinist state capitalism as hampered
and weakened by the remnants of the former workers' state, the weak link of
world imperialism.

Ticktin is a lot harder to pin down. But first of all, his is not a theory of
state capitalism. He sees the USSR as neither capitalist nor socialist, nor
transitional from one to the other (indeed, he seems to be unaware of even the
idea of a workers' state, or dictatorship of the proletariat, transitional
from capitalism to communism). He says in fact that the Stalinist system was
not a mode of production of any kind, which strikes me as absurd on its face.
He sometimes denies the existence of a working class, and then goes on to use
the term as if he had never denied its existence. (I really meant hard to pin
down!) Nevertheless, Ticktin published valuable information and insights on
the USSR, and claims credit for forseeing its downfall. I would credit that
to his empirical knowledge, not his strange theory.

Enough for a brief summary.

Sorry, by the way, for inadvertantly posting a note to Rakesh yesterday
to the whole list.

Walter Daum


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