State capitalism?

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Wed Jun 19 10:59:13 MDT 1996


On Wed, 19 Jun 1996, Adam Rose wrote:

>
> I think what determined the difference was the extent to which there was
> a real independent capitalist class existing before the revolution. This
> certainly explains the difference between India + Egypt on the one hand
> and Cuba on the other. Algeria, I can't comment.
>

Louis: There was as much of a "real independent capitalist class in Cuba
before the revolution" as there was in any Latin American or Central
American nation. These capitalist classes have on occasion used the power
of the state to commandeer, nationalize and exploit sectors of the
domestic economy for the benefit of the national bourgeoisie as a whole.
The Venezuelan and Mexican capitalist class has nationalized oil fields in
the past. In some cases, mines were taken over under the pressure of
working-class mobilization or electoral victories such as the kind
that took place in Bolivia in the 1950s, or Chile in the 1970s.

However, it was only in Cuba that the capitalist class *as a class* was
expropriated. The measures of the Cuban government were not undertaken to
help Cuban capitalism gain an advantage over its rivals. They were, on the
other hand, identical to the measures taken by the Bolsheviks in power.
The commanding heights of the Cuban and Russian economy became the
collective property of society. The Russian bourgeoisie lost everything,
as did the Cuban bourgeoisie. The counter-revolution that was mobilized
derived its fury from the collective will of the world capitalist class as
a whole to re-gain lost property.

Nothing like this ever happened to Egypt, India, or Algeria. The
radical measures taken in these countries were meant primarily to help
consolidate a national bourgeoisie that had been thwarted by imperialism
and colonialism. That is why it has been possible for Nasser, Nehru and
Boumidienne to develop all sorts of relationships with the West after the
initial de-colonizing moment.

Lumping Cuba in with these radical, nationalist regimes shows how
difficult it is to make use of "state capitalism" as a general theory.
Vladimir Bilenkin made the crucial point that it fails to explain the
very real conflicts between a Yeltsin and a Zyuganov, which reflect in
a very muted way conflicts between the Russian working-class and
Western capitalism. It also fails to make any sense of the tensions in
Cuba today between neo-NEPmen and the industrial working-class.

You draw a distinction between all of these various "capitalisms" and a
"socialism" that existed for less than a decade in the USSR in the 1920s.
With such broad distinctions in place, there is not much work left for
Marxist analysis to do. Just hold the country in question (Cuba, Algeria,
etc.) up against this basically abstract model and draw a conclusion based
on whether it conforms or not. This is not a Marxist approach. It is
formal and schematic.



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