Louis, Kevin, Leo on state capitalism

jwalker jwalker at email.unc.edu
Sun Jul 23 18:12:28 MDT 1995

Thanks to Louis, Kevin and Leo for responding to my query on state

>From your posts I'm getting the sense that there are two senses of the
phrase.  The first stems from Lenin and the NEP and refers to a state in
which the means of production are collectively owned, but in which
limited small-scale capitalist property relations are permitted.  I don't
know much about the NEP; are we talking about for-profit farmer's
markets, small retail businesses, that sort of thing?

The second sense stems from the Trotskyist movement and refers to the
fact (or the claim) that the USSR wasn't in fact a classless society, but
had something like a class that benefited disproportionately from the
collective ownership of the means of production.  In this second sense
"state capitalist" is a term of derogation, though in the first it isn't,
at least not necessarily.

Have I got this right so far?

If this is right, why use the phrase "state capitalism" in the second
sense?  Surely the existence of a privileged class in the allegedly
classless Soviet Union is to be deplored; but is there anything
peculiarly *capitalist* about it?

John D. Walker
jwalker at email.unc.edu

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