Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Sat Apr 29 21:48:32 MDT 1995

I'm quite sure that I don't want to rekindle the Nature of the USSR
debate--not that I'm not interested, by time is short and right now I have
too many other irons in the fire. In particular I'm writing a paper on
Marx's conception of real freedom, so that's what I'll be bugging folks
about for next while, through August. Then I'll be in law school and will
probably be reduced to lurking.

Anyway I didn't endorse Hillel's theory, but suggested taht there might be
something to his notion, whether or not the theory supported it, that the
USSR had no mode of production. A society can survive in such a
transitional state for some time--Russia's in another version of it now.
(They'd be lucky to get capitalism.) But the argument that Stalinism
wasn't a MOP is that it seems not to have been reproduceable, and a MOP
has to be reproduceable.

I don't buy Walter's argument that you can;t create a powerful society
without a MOP. The USSR used the methods of the war economy to meet a
number of well-defined targets, at which it was successful--the war
economy can do that, especially in the military field, at which the USSR
was most successful. At the less-well defined targets of creating a modern
economy which could do adequately on meeting consumer need and social
well-being, the USSR was rather a flop,a lthough war economy methods were
sufficient to recover twice from the zero base of first the civil war and
then WWII. But then they had nowhere to go but up. The problem is that a
war economt essentially runs on adreneline and only works for
broad-stroke, easily defined, and very narrow targets. So it's not
reproducible. (God, I'm inventing a theory as I write.)

I don't buy the idea of a capitalist economy without markets or private
property or commodity production. But my knowledge of state capitalist
theories is of the unimpressive Cliffite, Forrest-Johnstone, and Maoist
varieties. Maybe Walter's more nuanced version is more plausible; I don't
know. I guess my operating background theory of the USSR had been some
version of bureaucratic collectivism. But this was always a political
theory and never a theory of a mode of production.

How consistent what I'm about to say is with the theory I just cooked up I
don't know, but I've also always been inclined to think that the failures
of the Soviet economy had a lot to do with the Mises-Hayek calculation

--Justin Schwartz

On Sat, 29 Apr 1995, Walter Daum wrote:

> To Justin Schwartz:
> Your summary of points made by Hillel Ticktin makes a case for Stalinism
> not being a new mode of production in itself. Which adds an argument for
> the thesis that it is/was a deformed form of another MOP, namely
> capitalism. But I can't see how, in this epoch of worldwide capitalism,
> there can exist a society (and a powerful one at that) with no mode of
> production. Production, exploitation, etc. have to be organized in one way
> or another, by one class or another. Yes, Ticktin owes his readers some
> methodological justification, but it would have to give up a  lot of Marxism
> worth preserving and developing.
> Further, the theory I outlined in my previous post (Stalinism as a capitalist
> variant deformed by its heritage of usurpation of the Soviet workers' state)
> also accounts for its demise, in particular its devolution towards traditional
> capitalist forms. Our theory foresaw this in the mid-70's when other "state
> caps" were still seeing the USSR as the wave of the capitalist future.
> Walter Daum
> On Sat, 29 Apr 1995 10:15:49 -0400 (EDT) Justin Schwartz said:
> >
> >While I agree with you that Hillel's account of why the Stalinist model is
> >not a mode of production is inadequate, and that his appraisal of its
> >impending doom was based on his empiricak knowledge and "feel" for its
> >dynamics rather than a fully adequate theory, I wonder whether Hillel
> >isn't right that the model is not a mode of production. One reason to
> >think that it isn't is that a MOP needs to be able to reproduce itself, as
> >in Marx's models of simple reproduction in commodity exchange. There is
> >reasonable doubt that Stalinism satisfied this condition. It lasted two
> >generations, roughly from the First Five Year Plan in 29 to 1991. No
> >doubt its demise was greatly hastened by its dismantlement (active and
> >purposeful) under Gorbachev, but it was in trouble before G, which was why
> >G was put in power to start with. And the trouble was very bad--some
> >estimates are that if we take out oil revenues, the Soviet economy did not
> >grow at all from about 1978 to 1985.
> >
> >How long does a system have to last before we say that there's evidence
> >that it is simply reproducable? Or is simple reproducability a matter of
> >our being able to construct a model (a la Marx on commodity production)
> >which is SR in theory? Anyway, Hillel's idea should not be dismissed out
> >of hand.
> >
> >--Justin Schwartz
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