[Marxism] What is capitalism? Reply to Jurriaan

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Sat Dec 11 21:22:43 MST 2004

Thanks very much Tom for your extensive reply - obviously it wil take me a 
while to respond to it... just as you took a while to respond to my brief 
notes. But I will do so as soon as I am able.

I don't claim to have any monopoly of the truth here or a special hotline to 
what Marx really thought, but regardless of whether I am right or wrong, it 
seems to me we ought to be able to say what capitalism (the capitalist mode 
of production) consists of and when it exists, and doesn't exist. After all, 
if most citizens in the Soviet Union as well as in the West believed this 
society was some kind of (state-) socialist system, at the very least since 
the Brezhnev era, whereas in truth it was state capitalist (as Cliff 
argued), there is a serious problem, i.e. these Soviet people were incapable 
of understanding the basic nature of their own society, and most Western 
critics were wrong too.  By implication, if this is true, in future people 
could also be thinking they were building socialism whereas in reality they 
were building a form of capitalism, and in that event, socialist strategy 
lacks any credible foundation, it's more a kind of hoax or delusion.

However, as I think I commented before, the trouble with state capitalism 
theories (which incidentally date back to the late 19th century in Germany, 
and of which there were many versions, not just Cliff/Gluckstein's) is that 
even if it cannot be proved that they meet Marx's criteria for what 
capitalism is, then it can still be argued that the state capitalism is just 
another form of capitalism. So in that sense, the debate cannot be 
definitely resolved I think, since in that case, any industrialised society 
lacking workers' democratic control of the state and industry must by 
definition be some kind of capitalism. But more about that later...


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