(fwd from James Daly) Re: Did Stalinism end in the 1950s?

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Thu Dec 12 10:58:38 MST 2002

[ converted from html; James, you need to post from your subscribed
account) ]

I would like to reopen an unexhausted seam in a changing thread. Mark,
explaining Stalinism, spoke [all emphasis is mine] of the doom facing anyone
trying "to mobilise huge quantities of dormant *capital* and idle *labour* to
produce electricity by what are essentially *uneconomic (=unprofitable)*

"The same thing applies to [the] idea of posing 'social priorities' against
the market. What is *uneconomic* under capitalism does not become *economic*
under socialism".

Mark spoke of "... posing 'social priorities' explicitly against the working
of the *law of value*", and called it "Voluntarism, spontaneism, *defying the
working of the Law of Value*... it was Trotsky himself who criticised the
spontaneism of Stalin's 5-Year Plans, arguing that the USSR could not avoid
'the background chatter of Value around its borders' and that Stalin's attempt
to defy the *economic laws of gravity* could *only* be accomplished by
bureaucratic coercion..." [a reference to Trotsky using these words would be

I am not an expert on the subject, but can I raise some questions? Didn't Marx
say a Spinning Jenny (or money) is not capital; capital is capital only within
a capitalist system -- which is not what Stalin presided over, pace Tony
Cliff. Isn't profit surplus value? Doesn't "economic" mean "making surplus
value"? Isn't the "law of Value" simply the definition of Value (as socially
necessary abstract labour) -- a phenomenon which arises only in a commodity
system? Didn't Marx attack as fetishism ideas of capitalism as "economic laws
of gravity". Didn't he predict a mode of production without money?

In the big debate in the Seventies between Alec Nove and Ernest Mandel, market
socialism vs a participatory democratic (genuinely Soviet) mode of production,
both argued for a non-bureaucratic non-capitalist possibility.  Could anyone
on the list briefly sum up the arguments and the conclusions of the debate?

Comradely -- James

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