(fwd from Ted Pearson) Soviet economic performance: a re-evaluation

Waistline2 at aol.com Waistline2 at aol.com
Mon Nov 17 10:44:50 MST 2003


In a message dated 11/16/03 8:50:33 PM Pacific Standard Time,
jgperez at netzero.net writes:

>>I think that is probably correct.  The Soviet Union was quite
successful in negotiating the transition from an agrarian economy to an
industrial one but they ran aground when they attempted to make the
transition to an economy based on high technology.<<

<<I don't buy it. Just look at the space station. It is being kept aloft
and staffed by good, old, reliable, "Stalinist" Soviet tech; the "high
tech" military-aerospace-industrial complex's Space Shuttle fleet has
proved to be a boondoggle beyond anyone's wildest imaginings.>>

The article below was first written for the A-List

In a message dated 11/17/03 5:12:42 AM Pacific Standard Time,
michael.keaney at mbs.fi presented an article written by Mark Jones in 1997. He writes:

>If these debates were utopian and based on
misunderstandings of the real issues when they took
place sixty years ago (or in Hilferding's time, or
Bernstein's, and probably Wat Tyler's for that
matter), then they make no sense at all nowadays
when it is clear from the fate of the USSR that
socialism, meaning the phase of human history
devoted to the transition to communism
(the only kind of planning which matters), can only
be on a world scale.

How will it happen?

It will happen amid a general and catastrophic crisis
of capitalist commodity production or it will not
happen at all. The point of planning will then be
transparently, abundantly clear to every survivor on
the planet: planning will be, not to produce, but to conserve
and repair damaged ecosystems, to
ameliorate the catastrophic aftermath of the
demise of capitalism and its prior exhaustion of all
the great 'commons' -- the commons such as land (19th century,
beginning with the English enclosure movement, ending with
Africa); the intellectual and cultural heritage of all previous
civilisations; water; all that is under the land or
seabed; and in our own time, the last great common -
- DNA, the pillaging of which also embraces the
deconstruction of the human genus.

It will also mean planning as a means to equalise human
opportunity and end inequality. Finally, planning to
end *social production* based on a *social division
of labour* and hence inevitably upon *exploitation*
and *alienated labour* (including to end the
ideology residually lingering in the heads of
economists, even truly excellent Marx-type
economists such as Doug Henwood, of commodity-
fetishised conceptions of the world).


Comment

I have no fundamental disagreement with the entirety of Mark J. article. IMO
he positions the question correctly as the transition to communism as opposed
to the transition from capitalism to socialism. This is so, although some
concepts of the past generation of Marxist persist. Mark wrote this article "on
the run" and there are many concepts that need to be flushed out. For example he
wrote:

>Production in capitalist society is (does one actually still
need to recite these things?) always and first of all, the
reproduction of capitalist social relations.<

My theory standpoint reads a different meaning into the above than the
historical meaning of "social relations of production." I would write the above as:

"Production on the basis of the bourgeois property relations always and first
of all, reproduce the bourgeois property relations."

By avoiding the concept of "Capitalist socialist relations" a number of
historical problems facing Marxists in America are solved.  The historical problem
involved a refusal of American Marxists to adopt the position of Marx on the
character and content of plantation slavery in the South. A segment of Marxists
hit the wall trying to describe the "social relations" of plantation slavery,
which involved a class of slaves and a class of slave owners. On this basis
it is declared that this commodity producing society did not produce on the
basis of the bourgeois property relations.

Social relations of production are mistaken for property relations, when in
fact social relations of production arises on the basis of the technological
regime as fundamental as oppose to the property relations.

The misunderstand of social relations led to slavery in the plantation South
being declared a form of the primitive accumulation of capital that grew into
capitalist production with the overthrow of the slave system. This same
misunderstanding of the essence of "social relations" was applied to Soviet society
to prove that the workers did not in fact own the means of production and were
alienated from these means on the basis of bad political policy of a
particular leader or group of leaders. Generally this meant the state of the USSR was
either deformed in its social relations of production or state capitalism at
the other extreme.

Mark does not take this position and states rather plainly such a conclusion
is wrong.

What happened in America with the overthrow of the slave power is that the
form - FORM, of social relations of plantation commodity production underwent
change. The technological regime that gives a specific shape to a form of the
laboring process did not change. The slave was no longer a slave but his labor
was deployed using the same tools, instruments and energy source in
agriculture, as before the Civil War. The slave holding class lost - were expropriated or
rather had their capital in the form of the slave, about 4 billion dollars,
liquidated overnight and this class became the Landlord planter class.

What changed was the political form of social relations with the property
relations remaining intact. Property relations means ownership of tools,
instruments, machinery and energy deployment. Although in real life history social
relations and property relations evolve as a unity they are not the same.

Stated another way, the abolition of slavery was a social revolution altering
the form of social relations without a preceding or corresponding revolution
in the technological regime and the property relations within.

What would change the social relations in agriculture is the technological
regime in the form of the tractor, chemical fertilizers, etc., - and currently
the biogenetic revolution.  The sharecropper and the landlord planter was
destroyed on the basis of the technological regime with the property relations
within. Here is where the technological regime in the Soviet Union hit the wall in
respects to the development of its agriculture.

An industrial worker expresses a specific social relations of production that
is materially different from the worker during the period of manufacture and
handicraft. Marx and Engels describes this difference in all their major
works. Yes, the property relations permeates social relations. A careful reading of
Marx famous statement on the mode of production (CCPE - Contribution) will
clarify why he uses the expression "property relations within."

Allow me to develop the argument. Comrade Mark writes:

>Production in capitalist society is . . .always and first of all, the
reproduction of capitalist social relations. A
commodity is a use-value and also the bearer of those
social relations. As a thought experiment, try to
conceive of any kind of socialism which is dedicated
to the production of commodities, and which is not
thereby just another exploiter-society to be resisted
and overthrown.<

Socialism is not a social relations of production but expresses a political
form of property relations. "Socialist production" is short speak for
industrial commodity production without private ownership of capital driving the
reproduction process. Production and expanding reproduction on the basis of
bourgeois property inevitably leads to the flow of capital - deployment of labor, not
simply flowing to areas of profitability but concretely light industry, where
the cycles of profitably turn faster.

Socialism did not and cannot create new social relations of production. This
is so because social relations are not property relations but configuration
riveted to the stage of development of the material power of production - the
technological regime, with the property relation with.

I of course will be called a techno-communist, which I accept as praise
because Marx states point blank it is the technological regime - the material power
of production, with the property relations within that changes and compels
social revolution.

Socialism can only change the political form of the relationship between the
various classes and groups that make up the social relations in industrial
society. That is to say, socialism redefines the law defining property and the
relationship of people to property in the process of production. Socialism can
be overthrown because it defines a property relations not a historically
evolved stage of development of society - the techno-regime.

Socialism is not dedicated to commodity production as such because commodity
production is a historically evolved stage of production. Commodity production
is really slang - short speak, meaning "the commodity form of the social
product." What human beings create as the labor process is products. It is only at
a certain point in the evolution of the material power of production that
these products become commodities or social products assume a commodity form.

Socialism is dedicated to preserving a form of property relations and the
communist revolution is the most radical in human history because it destroys
property, rather than change its form.

These matter require contemplation and freeing oneself from the doctrines and
ideology - not political tradition, of the past.

Classes and class society is not the product of property relations. Classes
and class society grows out of the division of labor in society, the emergence,
growth and evolution of the technological regime with the property relations
within.

Here is what Marx states:

"At a certain stage of the development of the material power of the
productive forces of society, it comes in conflict with the existing relations of
production, or - what is but a legal expression for the same thing - with the
property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of
development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters."

Here is what is meant, which is pretty straight forward

At a certain stage of the development of the technological regime of society,
it - (the technological regime) comes in conflict with the existing relations
of production, (social relations) with the property relations within, which
they have been at work hitherto.

>From forms of development of the technological regime, the existing social
relations turn into their fetters. This is easy to see today because we are
experiencing a profound transition in the material power of production - the
techno-regime. Two generations ago this was not obvious and the errors of our
historical Marxists foreboders are "historical" in the sense that one cannot see
the error or the emergence of the next stage before it has emerged.

In the philosophic arena this is stated as "the human eye cannot see
emergence, only that which has been made manifest. To see - witness, a new qualitative
development in the means (material power) of production indicates you are
viewing the second stage."

What is the point?

a. the technological regime cannot be overthrown, rather it is sublated. In
laypersons term it is not possible to overthrow industrial society or a
historically evolved social relations. The commodity form of the social product
cannot be discarded or overthrown on the basis of the political form of society or
by "abolishing money" or by having correct politics.

b. Socialism as a term expressing the political form of property means a
transition period away from - after, industrial society to a society where it is
possible to abolish class antagonism as the motion of human society.

c. Socialism does not mean planning but is a political form of property.

Planning

Planning under socialism - a political form of property, means the cycle of
reproduction is not governed by the logic of bourgeois property or investment -
deployment of capital, labor on the basis of what is profitable to the
individual owners of capital.

Planning emerges with the subordination of the division of labor in society.
The subordination of the division of labor in society means the compulsion
that operates as an iron law compelling people to organize around and on the
basis of the configuration - stage of development, of the technological regime.
The planning or "command economy" of Soviet society does not mean the
administrative agencies and how they were organized to deploy capital - labor or more
accurately the historical evolved social power that organizes productive
activity on the basis of a given technological regime and property relations.
Planning as a property relation and socialism is a political form of property, means
reproduction outside of the law system that compels private capital to follow
a circuit of profitability.

The bourgeoisie plans its ass off on the basis of individual control of
capital. Bourgeois economy is most certainly a command economy with individual
commanders operating on the basis of what is profitable to them. General Motors,
Ford, Microsoft, Coca Cola ain't not joke.

What accounted for the rapid growth of the industrial infrastructure of
Soviet society was not simply its regimentation but the ability to deploy capital
outside of investing labor into building Coca Cola bottling plants and Hershey
Bar factories. That is outside the circuit of logic following what is
profitable to the individual. In the past this was called the unfettered operation of
the law of value in bourgeois society but this concept is obsolete.

This old concept of the naked power of the law of value at the hands of the
bourgeoisie is obsolete because the law of value arises on the basis of the
technological regime as fundamental and not the property relations within. What
begins to destroy the law of value and with it the commodity form of the social
product is the revolution in computers, advanced robotics and digitalization
of the production process, which in turn, radically drives the value of labor
towards zero.

The emerging revolution in the technological regime as the result of the
Second imperial war contained the potential to revolutionize the Soviet economy
and efforts were made to apply this new technology up until the overthrow of its
property relations. Without question the domination of the bureaucracy in
Soviet life blocked this deployment as it sought to protect the privileges of the
bureaucrats.

The struggle that unfolded was very complex and intensely political and
involved reaching a certain accommodation with bourgeois imperialism as a basis for
the internal political struggle.

Melvin P.


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