WALTER DAUM AND STATE CAPITALISM
joseph at indigo.ie
Sat Jun 29 03:57:34 MDT 1996
Karl: Still waiting for a response to the short piece below on state
Bourgeois nationalists in the oppressed countries looked to the
Soviet Union for support against imperialism and as a model for
their own countries. To fend off the imperialists, the nation
needs to mobilize and retain the bulk of its own internally
produced surplus value, so that the fruits of exploitation can be
put to use at home rather than abroad. It also has to repress
internal capitalists who have interests tied more directly to
imperialism. And it has to keep down independent activity by
workers and peasants, whose aspirations for a better life are
whetted by the anti-imperialist struggle. These conditions
require a centralized state apparatus, and the Stalinist Soviet
model (not the 1917 example of workers' revolution!) provided it.
In countries where the old bourgeoisie was too weak, the CPs took over
and carried out nationalizations bureaucratically.
You exclusively identify surplus labour with surplus value.
Furthermore you exclude from consideration the possibility of a scenario
in which the struggle for national self-determination led by the
proletraitat and supported by sections of the petty bourgeoise is
achieved in the form of a revolutionary workers' state in which the law
of value is domestically destroyed so that surplus labour no longer
assumes the reactioanry form of surplus value.
There is no identification by you of the class basis for stalinist
parties undertaking "nationalizations bureaucratically".
But they first sought to lead coalitions with shadow bourgeois parties,
to legitimize their own role in defense of the national capital.
The above comment begs the question. It assumes that stalinism is
defending the national capital. There is no account offered by you to
justify this assumption. You never explain how nationalisation by
stalinism is, ipso facto, the protection of national capital and is
indeed a specific form of capital.
At a second stage, when imperialism wouldn't accept the CPs' leading
role, they moved to eliminate most private property, after having
incorporated some bourgeois elements into the state apparatus.
The elimination of the private property form and the retention of
the form of capitalist property is impossible. Capitalist property is a
specific form of private property.
But the exploitation relation between capital and labor is not
changed simply by statification from above.
You make a very big assumption here yet fail to support it with any
argument. It is the axis around which the recent List debate on state
capitalism centred. Since labour power under capitalism is a commodity
and thereby a form of private property are you suggesting that labour
power has been statified and is no longer a form of private property?
Daum: In most of the former colonial countries, separation from imperialism
was won by non-Stalinist petty-bourgeois forces who neither could
decapitate their proletariats as effectively as the Stalinists nor wished
to centralize property to the same extent. Whether Stalinist or not, the
new nationalist rulers saw their goal as defending and expanding the
nation-state and the national capital. Some chose to welcome imperialist
investment; others preferred to build up local industries with state aid
to produce needed goods at home rather than import them. Almost all used
some form of socialist or populist rhetoric to justify strengthening the
state and capital.
In this light, the theory of permanent revolution has to be
extended. A central point of Trotsky's theory was that the
bourgeoisie feared to challenge *any* form of property, given the
potential threat of the proletariat. Therefore throughout this
century it has been unable to carry out the democratic and
national tasks of the bourgeois revolution: Trotsky assigned that
task to the proletariat.
But under specific conditions -- where the proletariat has been
defeated or decapitated and its threat to property thereby
temporarily removed, and where the traditional bourgeoisie is too
feeble to pose even a temporary break from imperialism --
elements from the bureaucratic middle classes have seized the
reins of power. Such nationalists could even resort to the
dangerous step of statifying property, if the workers had been
effectively excluded from independent activity.
The statification of the means of production and distribution does not
necessarily mean that the democratic and national tasks of the bourgeois
revolution have been carried out. Indeed the absence of democracy is
among the more blatant reactionary features of the kind of regimes to
which you make reference. This means that your suggestion that Trotsky's
conception of permanent revolution requires modification does not hold
You interchange stalinist and nationalist here without offering any
explanation for the identity. Again you don't support with any argument
your claim that the bureaucratic middle classes have an interest in
carrying out the democratic and national tasks especially where there is
an absence of any threat from the working class. Neither do you explain
why you suggest there obtains an identity between stalinism and the
bureaucratic middle classes.
The theory of permanent revolution illuminates the initial
success and the later collapse of third-world nationalism. In
1930 Trotsky wrote a perceptive critique of Stalin's policy of
"national socialism," which applies with equal force to the
postwar third-world countries:
"Marxism proceeds from world economy, not as a sum of national
parts but as a mighty, independent reality, which is created by
the international division of labor and the world market, and, in
the present epoch, predominates over the national markets. The
productive forces of capitalist society have long ago grown
beyond the national frontier. The imperialist war was an
expression of this fact. In the productive-technical respect,
socialist society must represent a higher stage compared to
"To aim at the construction of a *nationally isolated* socialist
society means, in spite of all temporary successes, to pull the
productive forces backward even as compared to capitalism. To
attempt, regardless of the geographic, cultural and historical
conditions of the country's development, which constitutes a part
of the world whole, to realize a fenced-in proportionality of all
the branches of economy within national limits, means to pursue a
Indeed, national economic independence for the ex-colonial
countries could only be temporary during the period of relative
prosperity after the war. This was the time when the bureaucratic
middle strata grew rapidly in all countries. The illusions of
viable third systems and in third-world nationalism reflected the
self-inflation of these layers. The new nationalist rulers
eventually had to break from the fantasy that they could flourish
independent of international capitalism.
The case is quite the contrary Daum. A period of imperialist prosperity
is an expression of the growing strength of imperialism. It follows then
that the imperialist bourgeoisie is better placed to prevent the
emergence of independent nation states.
If independent capitalist states existed, as you claim, then they cannot
be, as you suggest, fantasy. Just because a social phenomenon eventually
comes to an end does not mean it was a "fantasy".
It is possible that under exceptional conditions an indigenous
bourgeoisie can establish a "independent" native capitalist state in the
epoch of late imperialism. Obviously there are no completely independent
capitalist powers. Even American capitalism is not completely
independent. It is still an integrated part of the world capitalist
It is misleading to suggest, as you do, that the emergence of an
independent native capitalist state represents a step backwards for the
development of world capital. Capital is a contradiction. Consequently
the development of capital holds back the development of capital. To talk
about the reactionary and non-reactionary development of capital is to
misrepresent the nature of contemporary capitalism and thereby sow
"fantasy" in it.
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