What is socialism? (Was "Knowing what to do next")

ScottH9999 at SPAMaol.com ScottH9999 at SPAMaol.com
Mon Apr 16 23:45:51 MDT 2001

Earlier and later postings in this series amply demonstrate that Louis and I
cannot have a worthwhile political discussion, nor perhaps even a civil
discussion. Moreover, because we are from such completely different Marxist
traditions, we have so little in common that any dispute on one small point
tends to immediately mushroom into an all-encompassing dispute on Marxism in

As a case in point, Louis ridiculed my "Maoism" and put forward Henry Liu as
"a bona fide Maoist". I responded that "I think it is outrageous that
somebody like Henry Liu is taken to represent 'Maoism' on this list. If
people can't recognize that China is a capitalist country these days, they
are pretty damned hopeless politically." Louis quotes that much below, but he
decides to leave off the very embarassing quote from Henry Liu that I added
right after that: "Most reasonable thinkers now accept that capitalism and
socialism are not concepts adverse to each other, but are complimentary
approaches to keep society prosperous and just." What do you think Marx might
have said about that remarkable statement, and any "socialist" who expressed
it?! I don't think that even Louis would try to defend it. (But who knows? I
have been overly optimistic about Louis' views in the past.)

So it has come down now to Louis trying to show that China really still is "a
socialist country" on the basis of some remaining state industries that the
regime now in power has not yet transformed fully into ordinary state
capitalist enterprises, or sold off or closed down--even though it continues
to proclaim that its economic "reforms" to do exactly those things will
continue and even accelerate over the next few years.

For revolutionary Marxists, at least for those from my school of thought,
real socialism has two aspects: 1) the economic aspect, and 2) the political
aspect. Of these, the political aspect is the most critical. The political
aspect means that the proletariat and its party controls society, and is
actively transforming it from the capitalism (or pre-capitalism perhaps) it
inherited at the time of the revolution, towards communism. (This means such
things as a progressive diminishing in importance of the law of value as the
basis for the exchange of goods in society.) If a new bourgeois class which
arises within the revolutionary party seizes control of that party and the
state, and reverses the direction of the transformation process back toward
capitalism, then from the political standpoint socialism has already been

Even from a purely economic viewpoint, however, it is pretty clear that
socialism has already been essentially destroyed in China. First of all,
according to "Forbes" magazine [11/29/99, p. 175], even by 1999 China's
private sector accounted for 60% of China's GDP, "up from zero in 1979." In
the last two years the importance of the private sector in China has
continued to grow rapidly, though I don't have ready access to the current
percentage of GDP it now produces. How high does it have to go before the
"China is still socialist" dreamers throw in the towel? Perhaps at 95%? Or
maybe 99%? (Henry Liu will no doubt still call China "socialist", even then!)

Well, it is NOT my intention to open up a whole new can of worms in this mail
group. As I have already stated, the differences between my politics and the
politics dominant in this group preclude any productive discussions on topics
like this, let alone anybody's actual "enlightenment" on either side. Our
assumptions and goals are just too different. We Maoists just do not count
"post-office socialism" as genuine socialism (and neither by the way did
Lenin who explicitly rejected nationalization within a bourgeois state as any
kind of real "socialism"). Apparently many people on this list think
differently, and perhaps believe that "public ownership" in a bourgeois
society is at least "partial socialism"--even though the real owner in that
situation is the bourgeoisie as a class.

My only reason for stating even the limited argument outline I have put forth
here is to suggest that there is another view about socialism which you are
not hearing on this list. Perhaps a few people might be interested in
investigating it, but you will no doubt have to do it elsewhere (at least if
you want to hear the Maoist side of things).

But personally, and regardless of how much Louis and others may swamp you
with their side of the argument about socialism, this is all I have to say on
the topic here. I have other things to work on and other places to do it in,
with (I think!) some greater prospects of having some positive influence.

--Scott Harrison

In a message dated 4/15/01 5:23:41 AM Pacific Daylight Time, lnp3 at panix.com

> >Personally, I think it is outrageous that somebody like Henry Liu is taken
>  to
>  >represent "Maoism" on this list. If people can't recognize that China is
>  >capitalist country these days, they are pretty damned hopeless
>  >
>  >--Scott Harrison
>  China wants to catch up. The discussion on AVIC, China's aviation company,
>  revealed the size of the problem best.
>  AVIC was formed as a holding company in 1993 from the assets of the
>  Aviation Ministry, made directly responsible to the government (the State
>  Council) and told to become internationally competitive.
>  It employs half a million people in plants, training centres and research
>  institutes across China, most of these originally designed for military
>  production and dispersed to maximise survival in the case of war with
>  either the Soviet Union or the US, or both. It also makes motorcycles, car
>  components, micro-vans and buses; like other Chinese companies, it is, in
>  effect, a "little society" with its own housing estates, schools, hospitals
>  and leisure complexes. . .
>  For all of its great leap towards capitalism, China remains socialist, and
>  cannot easily leave socialism behind. Its big plants provide
>  cradle-to-grave social support: when these cease to make enough of one
>  commodity to keep workers fully employed, they start to produce something
>  else, often quite different. National social policy means that slimming
>  down plants and making them more competitive is difficult. Their contrast
>  with the lean, focused and flexible US corporation could hardly be
>  (Financial Times, Jan. 8, 2000)
>  Louis Proyect
>  Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/

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