Richard Wolff's state capitalism

Nestor Gorojovsky nestor_gorojovsky at
Wed Nov 17 06:23:14 MST 1999

--- Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> escribió:
> "State capitalism" entails a belief that commodity
> production and socialist
> construction can not co-exist. This, of course, is
> absurd. Any country that
> broke with capitalism this century would by
> necessity at the outset have to
> be involved with commodity production. Foreign
> exchange requirements
> dictate the production of commodities for sale on
> the world market that in
> themselves have little to do with the needs of
> "socialism". Tobacco and
> sugar are classic examples.

Yes, and not only that. The equation "capitalism" =
"production for market" is wrong in the historic
record. This is the typical magic pass that
vulgarizers of capitalist economic thought like to
perform: there has always been a market of sorts, so
every society is capitalist, thus capitalism is
natural to human beings, what´s more capitalism is a
synonimous with social production. Old societies
thwarted this instinctive tendency, only modern
liberalism has given full recognition to it, and
obtained the wonderful results that socialists are
trying to destroy in the name of human equality. We
all know that some form of market exchange has always
existed, either among formations, either within
formations, even as a structural foundation of a
formation (for example, the slave labor market in
Ancient Rome) that we should not, however, consider
capitalist. But this does not mean that there has
always been capitalism. Defining a formation as
"capitalist" because market relations exist, and even
prevail in some important spheres, implies to accept
the bourgeois view on the perennity of capitalism in
economic life.

On the other side, the following comment by Louis Pr
is full of sense in the deepest of ways:

> The other problem with
> state capitalist
> analysis is that it fails to explain that production
> in countries like the
> former Soviet Union were not driven by profit.

Even during the worst moments of the fSU, profit seems
not to have been the driving force of production. And
since the way in which social surplus is allocated is
a central issue when we come to define the mode of
production, it is obvious that the fSU was not a
"state capitalist" formation. There is no capitalism
that is not grounded on individual greed.


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