State capitalism?

Karl Carlile joseph at
Wed Jun 19 17:21:50 MDT 1996

Karl: I must confess that the views of Louis' as expressed in this piece
make much sense. I am confined to  only making this brief intervention
because of very pressing matters that I have been compelled to attend to.

> 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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