State capitalism?

Adam Rose adam at
Tue Jun 18 02:25:04 MDT 1996

> I think this whole question of "state capitalism" is worth discussing in
> some depth since it gets into some very basic questions of the
> relationship between social classes and the state. And you can't get much
> more basic than that.

I think what most people who disagree with the theory just can't get their
heads around, is that the state in any capitalist country plays a role
in organising production. [ Marx never discussed this in depth because
it never happened to such an extent in his time. So we modern Marxists
have to do so - Bukharin was the first serious Marxist to use the term in
relation to the merging of state + capital in advanced capitalism. ]

While the state in essence is still "armed bodies of men" , this doesn't explain
what most branches of the modern  state in any capitalist country actually do.

So IMO, not only does the theory explain the real nature of the
"Communist" regimes, it also explains what is really going on in
those regimes we'd all agree were capitalist.

> One challenge I'd put to the "state capitalists" on this list is to
> evaluate some countries that were not part of the Soviet bloc. How would
> their theory hold up against countries like Algeria or Egypt in the late
> 1950s? The FLN of Algeria claimed that it was building socialism. There
> was state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy in both
> Algeria and Egypt. Would Walter Daum, Jorn and Adam claim that Cuba and
> Algeria were substantially identical? Are Castro and Ben Bella the same?

Well, by including Egypt you make an inmportant point - the tendency to use
the state to organise the economy is not confined to those states which have
some sort of "communism" or "socialism" as their guiding ideology.

I would argue that three states, Egypt, Algeria and Cuba do have a lot
in common. They all had nationalist revolutions, led by sections of
the middle class, in a situation where Stalinist CP's had prevented the
working class from playing its central role as outlined in Trotsky's
theory of permanent revolution. And they all resulted in states in which
the state played a central role in production, in an attempt to build
up industry in that state. We would describe this as "Permananent
Revolution Deflected" - the anti Imperialist revolution is deflected
into a nationalist path by the stunting effect of Stalinist CP's
on the working class. Actually, India is also part of this pattern.

Of course all the states you mention, and others ( eg Zimbabwe ) have or had
different ideologies and different mixtures of state + private ownership,
reflecting their different paths of development. Egypt, for example,
already had very significant concentrations of industry before its
nationalist revolution, whereas Cuba was effectively a big sugar

> I just took some interesting books out of the Columbia library that
> examine these "socialist" experiments from a Marxist perspective. The one
> on Algeria is called "State and Revolution in Algeria" by Rachid Tlemcani.
> The one on Egypt is called "Power, Class and Foreign Capital in Egypt: The
> rise of the New Bourgeosie". I would argue that the term "state
> capitalism" does indeed apply to these nations. But to apply the term to
> the USSR, Cuba is completely un-Marxist.

By accepting the term "state capitalism" then, you accept that the suspension
of the rule of markets WITHIN a particular state does not neccessarily imply
that the state is not capitalist, if capitalist competition is applied
externally ?

> By the way, I hope Adam and Jorn find the time to reply to Vladimir
> Bilenkin as Walter Daum did. Adam had been pressing for the longest time
> to have a serious discussion of "state capitalism". Some of us are ready
> to have that discussion right now. Time's a wasting.

I caught some of Jorn's replies to Vladimir, but I missed his original posts.
This may well be due to my normal Monday Morning delete session.
If you Louis, or Jorn, or Vladimir can repost at least a summary of his argument,
I'll see if I can comment.


Adam Rose


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