On Nestor's "analysis"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat May 12 16:51:12 MDT 2001


Julio Huato wrote:
>I made the claim that when capitalism emerged as a mode of production in
>Europe, around the 16th century, there was no state power assisting it.

What kind of capitalist mode of production existed in Europe in the 1500s?
I was under the impression that the capitalist system did not take shape
for another couple of centuries. Furthermore, even when the industrial
bourgeoisie did rise to power, the state continued to be crucial to
defending its interests, this despite the apologetics of the liberal
intelligentsia. As Mine pointed out, you embrace a libertarian
understanding of capitalism in which the dynamic forces of production
confront a heavy-handed, retrogressive state apparatus. In reality the
state is a central player all along the line, even after the decline of the
old-style trading monopolies such as the Hudson Bay Company and the East
India Company. In the 19th century, the American government acted on behalf
of the railroad entrepreneurs, the steel companies, shipping, and mining.
So did the British government. There was not only protectionist
legislation, there was financing of startup industries by tax dollars
without which capitalism could not go further. In Germany and Japan, the
rise of capitalism in the late 19th century is completely defined by heavy
state intervention. I am currently reading about Lassalle's alliance with
Bismarck, which provoked a crisis in the German social democracy. The
German socialist reformists believed that the aggressive development
policies of Bismarck, plus the social legislation that included the first
social security system in the world, was a kind of "state socialism". In
reality it was just the form that German capitalism took. I think your
problem is that you have an ideal of capitalism in your mind rather than an
interest in how it functions historically.

Louis Proyect
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