merits of this discussion

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Tue Nov 11 09:06:44 MST 2003


From: Waistline2 at aol.com

>CB: Mel, why in this area of your analysis do you focus on
>"industrialism",
which I take to be a technological regime, and not on property relations?< 

Reply I always love hearing from you and your articulation of the
cooperative 
principle as an attribute of the industrial process still blows my mind. 

^^^^^
CB: If we could just come up with a strategy that would grip the working
class masses to respond to scientific and technological revolution to
effectively take power... The ability to scatter and rapidly/constantly move
the means of production may be part of the essence of the qualitative
changes in technology based on computers,etc.

^^^^^^^^

As I understand your question, it was not the property relations that held 
back the advance of Soviet socialism. Nor as our late comrade Mark Jones in
one 
of his many articles state, the law governing the "energy regime" or
petroleum 
sitting at the basis of the industrial process. Or the law of thermodynamics
- - entropy. 
Without question the technological regime and property relations are 
interactive. By property relations is meant the historically evolved social
force - 
human relations, called capital and how it is welded as ownership rights. 
Whether individuals are vested with the power of capital or this power is
invested 
in the state as public property, determines the material shape and reality -
cycles, of reproduction. The barrier hit in the Soviet Union was not the 
property relation in the industrial infrastructure, which gives shape to the
cycle of 
reproduction. Under the bourgeois property relations the law of value has 
much greater scope and drives the power of capital - as reproduction, on the
basis of profits and the quest for the greatest - maximum profit. 
No one can remotely accuse Soviet socialism as facing anything like a crisis
in its reproduction that becomes manifest as a crisis of overproduction:

^^^^^^
CB: Note that David S.'s posits , in his recent post commenting on Mark
Jones's thinking, that it was overproduction in the capitalist world that
did in the SU, because the SU was still dependent on capitalism. 

^^^^^^


 to 
many goods outside the reach of too many people with no means to purchase
the 
goods. Bascially, the opposite existed in the Soviet Union - a lack of
consumer 
goods or how we define consumer goods in the imperial sector of the world. 
Soviet socialism was an industrial society with huge problems, including 
cultural backwardness, scientific and technological lag, in relationship to
the 
most modern advances in science. 

^^^^^^^
CB: Was the SU really "culturally" backward compared to capitalist countries
?  

In general, I think we have to take account of commodity fetishism in under
capitalism. There is another sense in which capitalism has overproduction:
it induces a madness for things. I think that the Soviet Union's people were
infected with commodity fetishism,and started to measure themselves against
capitalist standards,and came lost socialist self-esteem.

I'm trying to say that capitalism hyperproduces, in two
senses;overproduction that produces specific crises, and commodity
fetishistic production that puts the masses in a continuous state of
alienation, including insatiable desire for just things, socalled consumer
goods.

In other words, the SU becaming culturally contaminated with the capitalist
culture of commodity fetishism.

I am not proposing  barracks communism. But the people of the SU were not
living in barracks communism. There are numerous reports on the
substantially good quality of life in the SU. 

Well, there was barracks communism in that the SU was continuously under the
imperialist gun from 1919 on, and a huge portion of  resources had to be put
into defense , and even more fundamentally a crash program of
industrialization.

What I am trying to say is that world  socialist revolution, a world without
any capitalism, would permit socialist countries to develop at a slower
pace, not to indulge in "overproduction" in either sense. A world with
socialist and capitalist countries requires that the socialist countries
contort and distort themselves into capitalist-like countries, or retain
capitalist features ( in both overproduction and war defense production;
quantitatively and qualitatively ), and this is a fatal distortion and
subversion of socialism.

On as less abstract level, it seems to me that the working class as the
ruling class would  not work itself as hard as it is worked by the
bourgeoisie as the ruling class. We would anticipate that with the advent
of socialism production would be at a slower pace. And we have to say that a
good quality of life can be had ( and was had by masses in the SU) without
the "overproduction", lets say manic production of capitalism. The problem
was that the SU was always surrounded  and hounded by
capitalism-imperialism. So, the natural inclination for workers to take it
easy had to be forced into its opposite. The workers had to become
capitalist slave drivers to themselves. I would say this was one of the
contradictions that did in the SU in the long run. Soviet socialism was not
able to provide one of the main benefits of socialism: less work, less
production.

So, the SU was forced to remain culturally backward , i.e. forced to retain
capitalist culture.

This is not due to an individual or group, such as Stalin or Stalinists,
making mistakes on how to build socialism. It is due to the objective and
subjective pressures capitalism is able to put on the socialist nations _and
their populations_, through war and through Voice of America and propaganda,
through the example of the faux prosperity of the overabundance of
commodities in the commodity fetishistic sense. The most underused A,B,C of
Marxism is Marx's theory of commodity fetishism, which he places right at
the beginning of _Capital_ for a reason.

The solution of this problem is thrown up from the first historic socialist
revolutions to the next socialist revolutions as _the_ problem that must be
solved. This is the main lesson we must take from the history of the SU and
the first group of socialist nations.

^^^^^^^



An industrial society by definition configures society a certain way that 
allows more the massive deployment, organization and transportation of
labor. 
Generally Marxists have spoken of the antagonism between "town and country"
as 
being a glaring aspect of society being organized a "certain way" at the
hand of 
transition from agriculture to industrial relations. This antagonism the 
result of bourgeois property, and the contradiction is inherent to the
nature of 
the evolution of the industrial system or industrial mode of production.

^^^^^^
CB: I have asked this before, but I use "mode of production" to refer to a
property regime, not a technological regime. For me the SU had an industrial
technological regime ,not a mode of production. The mode of production of
the SU was socialist. 

This is the classical Marxist usage I believe. Not that we have a strict
custom of usage here. But, just for clarity, it would help to understand
whether you consider this novel usage from the regular Marxist custom.

^^^^^^



 The
antagonism - not simply contradiction, is driven by the bourgeois property 
relations and the contradiction - not antagonism, also appears under
industrial 
socialism. Under industrial socialism the same contradictions remain but not
the 
movement in antagonism. 
We are going to learn the difference the hard way. 
We have of course in the past dialogued on the law of cooperation as an 
attribute not simply of bourgeois property but the industrial relations. 
Comrade Mark wrote much concerning the environmental crisis that emerged 
under industrial socialism and much of this is excellent material. I enjoy
his 
writings. No one denies the pollution of riverbeds and the folly of nuclear 
anything. However this crisis did not arise from the cycle of reproduction -
property relations, or more concretely the law governing the reinvestment of
capital 
not driven by profitability. 

^^^^^^^
CB: However, what about the idea that the law of value, business cycle,
overproduction in the capitalist world _indirectly_ ruled the SU , too, in
the ways I sketch above ?

^^^^^


When comrades speak of "everything that did not go right or to their liking 
under industrial socialism" and call it deformed property relations, they 
betray their lack of understanding of elementary Marxist concepts. While no
one 
claiming Marxism dismiss the subjective factors - man and women in the
flesh, we 
never confuse this with the property relations, although both aspects - the 
objective and subjective are interactive and fused in unity and strife as 
material reality. 
If one assumes that the problem of Soviet socialism was its political form -
Stalinism, then one must concede that this is not a property relation that 
governs the basis of the circuit of the reproduction of capital. I agreed
that 
the subjective aspects of Soviet socialism posed a unique problem - but I 
cannot fight this out simply on the basis of "for" or "against" Stalinism.
When it 
comes doe to the wire, based on this wrong conception of socialism I am
going 
with socialism and its leaders period and those who oppose it - based on
their 
formulation of the question as "pro" or "anti" the individual personality 
generally go over to the class enemy.

^^^^^^^
CB: I agree with this. The objective and subjective conditions in the SU
were never able to get free of the external pressures of capitalism, for
_objective_ reasons. Leninist and Stalinist distortions of how soicalism was
, ideally, supposed to go, did not spring from the mind of Lenin,Stalin and
their successors. They were imposed on the minds of Leninists and Stalinists
by imperialism, from Wilson to Hitler to Nitze. They are imposed on the
Communist Party in China today by the balance of forces in the world.

^^^^^^^


 There are exceptions that prove the rule. 
The circuit of the reproduction of capital - a historically evolved social 
relation according to Marx and not just money or money/capital, governs the 
shape and how industrial development takes place. In real life this meant
the 
relative importance of the development of light and heavy industry. I place 
education and medical care on the side of the equation called "heavy
industry" 
because we are not talking about simply the machine that build machine
industry but 
also all the human factors housed in the industrial infrastructure. "Light 
industry" generally refers to consumer goods. 
The problem was not the property relations in history although this arises
as 
a problem in the curve of human history. This is so because public property 
relations is a property relations and the communist revolution is against
all 
forms of property - the ownership of things that control and exercise
control 
over the individual and subject them to the control of another man.
Ownership 
itself is evil but one cannot pass from ownership but individuals to any 
ownership without changing the form of ownership so that it can be dissolved
by 
history. 

^^^^^^

CB: One thought I have here is on terminology too. I'd say the thing we are
against is _private_ property, not property.  We want collective ownership
or property in the basic means of production.

Again on light and heavy industry, I think the Soviet problem was that it
had to develop its mix of these based on competing with capitalism on the
terms of capitalism,  on the terms of a commodity fetish ethic ,production
of commodities, including consumer goods, at a feverish , mad pace.
Production for the sake of production profit, not directly in the SU ,but at
a pace that had to track the production of commodities for the sake of ever
increasing profit in the capitalist world.

^^^^^^^^^^



The other problem facing Soviet industrial socialism was the curve of the 
social revolution in the advance imperial countries. We can beat ourselves
up 
until we are "black and blue" or "beet red" but we have faced a historical 
boundary that is very real and material. No correct program can make people
go in a 
direction they are not already going. 
The economic problem of socialism in the USSR can be defined as the 
impossibility of achieving communism on the basis of industrial society or
being 
compelled to enter the world market and trade - exchange values, on the
basis of the 
value producing system.

^^^^^^^

CB: I agree with your last phrase , "compelled to enter the world market and
trade," the world _capitalist_ market and trade, compelled to mimic
capitalism.

^^^^^^^^


 One cannot trade their way out of an agricultural 
crisis, which only can be resolved with the further development of science
and 
the mode of production that allows for a reconfiguration of society itself. 

^^^^^^^^
CB: Well, here we do get some impact from the natural geography of the SU,
no ?

^^^^^^


All 
the gold in the Soviet Union - and they had plenty gold, could not solve a 
problem of history bound up with a class of producers. The contradiction
remained 
but not the antagonism. This is what is meant.
In America the antagonism - not just contradiction, between town and country
- - as it expressed itself in the agricultural producer, went through phases
where the slave, small farmer, sharecropper and medium size farmers where 
destroyed as a class. In their place exist huge capitalist agricultural
enterprises 
and they are being replaces by the biogenetic corporations. 
In the Soviet Union the only path forward was cutting off the path of 
development of large-scale private capital in agriculture and
collectivization as 
opposed to destruction of the family farmer.

^^^^^^

CB: Again, the natural inclination under socialism would be to slow down the
work pace some compared to the mad dash rate of production in capitalism,
but this aggravates , in the case of the SU, the problem of poor farm land.
In a socialist world, the SU could trade with socialist America for food,
rather than pressing agricultural workers to work harder in the SU.

^^^^^^^



 The former proceeded by intense
contradiction and the latter on the basis of antagonism. Capitalism
expropriated 
the small farmer and then liquidated him from history. This could not take 
place in the Soviet Union because of the economic law of socialism - public 
property, and the most that could be achieved and visualized is large-scale 
industrial cooperative in agricultural. 
This vision is bounded by the industrial logic of society and its leaders -
a 
period of time we have moved beyond. 
Mark Jones in his writings places the emergence of the economic problems and
crisis of industrial socialism at the close of the Second Imperial War. I do
no t dispute this as a category of history but use a somewhat different line
of 
demarcation and point to the death of Stalin as coinciding with the early 
beginnings of the emergence of the technological revolution consolidating as
the 
result of WW 2. 
Mark and I point to the technological regime but I have a somewhat different
logic and understanding of the law of value. For Mark the technological
regime 
was made manifest as the immutable law of energy transformation and its 
deadly handmaiden in the form of entropy. 
Well, I take the position of Scarlet O'Hara - I'll think about that
tomorrow. 

^^^^^^
CB: Yea, I'll have to review Mark's argument again. 

^^^^^

And tomorrow is going to proceed on the basis of the economy theory of Marx.
At least one must place their argument within the boundary of Marxist 
economic theory. The depletionists fail to do this and miss all the laws
governing 
process together and hurl them onto the stage of history as "shortage." The 
Soviets faced a technological regime and we face property relations. Today
the 
Russian proletariat faces both. No one can build a self-contained society.

^^^^^^
CB: Yea, socialism can't survive in one major country forever. If we had had
all Germany and France, I think we could have done it.


^^^^^^^

 
The Soviets hit a couple of barriers and some of this is purely political. 
Some of it is stupidity and greed in the administration. Some of it is bad -
horrible Marxism. Marxism is something no one can teach the individual -
because 
the individual can only be introduced to the basis concepts and literature. 
In the words of Matrix Revolution: 
"No one can see beyond the choice they don't understand. And I mean no one."
"What Choice?" 
"It doesn't matter. It is my choice. I have mine to make, same as you have 
yours." 
99.9% of all the material written by the "left" - I have read for the past
30 
years, proceed outside of the choices the communists in the Soviet Union did
not and could not understand. I take very little of this literature serious 
and we are at a point where it can be transcended. 
You use of the words "technological regime" is leagues ahead of the 
ideologist call social relations. Unable to make social relations concrete
the 
ideologist remain themselves from understanding property relations. Hence,
"deformed 
socialism" or deformed property relations and not cultural and scientific 
backwardness. But, then many of these are imperial "revolutionaries," with
the 
answers for the world people. 
Melvin P. 

^^^^^^
 Yes, however see above.  I would say that the cultural backwardness of the
SU was that it could not transcend capitalist culture in a world still
dominated by capitalism. It needed to produce at capitalism's mad pace both
for military defense and to satisfy its population which it could not keep
from being infected by commodity fetishist culture. Some Communists in the
SU may have understood this, but actually, they didn't have a choice. These
objective and subjective conditions were imposed on them by a world still
dominated by capitalism.

Charles B.




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