Bukharin

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 4 08:21:19 MST 2003


I should mention that a number of Bukharin's works are online at:
http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/index.htm

While I was reading "How It All Began", I was also reading Cohen's
biography which I can't recommend highly enough. Cohen has turned into
something of a twit in recent years, but this book was written under the
impact of the 60s radicalization and is to Bukharin as Deutscher is to
Trotsky. Not only is it essential reading for those who want to
understand all of the dimensions of the USSR, it is a thrilling book
that is as much of a page turner as a LeCarre novel (early, that is.)

I plan to read and report on Bukharin over the next few months and am
especially interested in "Historical Materialism" and "Economics of the
Transition Period".

Cohen makes a very interesting point vis-a-vis our discussion of the
"labor aristocracy". After the revolutions of the early 1920s subsided,
Bukharin began to question whether economic conditions in and of
themselves would precipitate revolutionary struggles in the west. He had
become impressed--if not overwhelmed--by the ability of countries like
the USA to rapidly develop new technologies that could improve the
productivity of labor, Fordism among them.

At a certain point, his attention shifted to the countries of the East
that were suffering from colonial exploitation. He pinned his hopes on
China and India especially and even projected a kind of Maoist
revolutionary movement pitting the Third World as a whole against the
imperialist centers, the countryside surrounding the city on a global
scale so to speak. This mindset, in Cohen's opinion, allowed Bukharin to
err fatally in his support for the KMT.

For me, the most interesting question is Bukharin as ecosocialist, a
point that Foster makes in "Marx's Ecology". If you remember in
discussions I had with Schanoes (and earlier on over the years), I tried
to stress the importance of "metabolism" in Marx's thinking. If you look
at this passage from "Historical Materialism", you will see how
important it was to Bukharin as well:

---
This material process of "metabolism" between society and nature is the
fundamental relation between environment and system, between "external
conditions" and human society.

In order that society may continue to live, the process of production
must be constantly renewed. If we assume that at any moment a certain
amount of wheat, shoes, shirts, etc., have been produced, and that all
these are eaten, worn, used up, in the same period, it is clear that
production must at once repeat its cycle; in fact, it must be constantly
repeated, each cycle following immediately upon the other. The process
of production, viewed from the point of view of a repetition of these
productive cycles, is called the reproductive process. For a realization
of the reproductive process it is necessary that all its material
conditions be repeated, for example: for the production of textile
fabrics, we need looms; for looms we need steel; for steel we need iron
ore and coal; for transporting the latter substances we need rail,
roads, and therefore also rails, locomotives, etc., also highways,
steamers, etc.; warehouses, factory buildings, etc.; in other words, we
need a long series of material products of the most varied nature. Of
course, all these material products deteriorate - some faster than
others - in the process of production; the foodstuffs obtained by the
weavers are eaten up; the weaving looms wear out; the warehouses become
old, need overhauling; locomotives get out of repair, cars, the ties,
must be replaced. In fact, a constant replacement (by new production) of
worn-out, used up, consumed objects, in all their various material
forms, is a necessary condition of the process of reproduction. At any
given moment, human society requires for continuing the progress of
reproduction a certain quantity of foodstuffs, buildings, mining
products, finished industrial products, replacement parts for
transportation units, etc. All these things must be produced if society
is not to lower its standard of living, beginning with wheat and rye,
coal and steel, and ending with microscopes and chalk for schools,
book-bindings, and news-print paper. All these things are a necessary
part of the material turnover of society; they are the material
components of the social process of reproduction.

full: http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1921/histmat/5.htm#a


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