[Marxism] Re: Reply to Tom on the meaning of capitalism and statecapitalism

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Mon Dec 13 15:45:02 MST 2004

I’m also a bit mystified why Jurriaan reacted so strongly to what Mahmood
Ketabchi wrote. Actually, given how long our exchange was, we should be
delighted that anyone read us!

Mahmood’s argument seems much closer to mine than Jurriaan’s, but there is
a danger of one-sidedness. Mahmood writes: “Marx's entry point to analyze
capitalism was neither private ownership nor Market but rather exploitation
of labor power and appropriation of surplus value by industrial

But production doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Marx’s analysis of exchange,
private ownership and the market is necessary to lay the basis for his
discussion of production and exploitation. I think it’s essential to
understanding state capitalism, too, but one has to work through a number
of layers so I won’t go into it here.  

Also I don’t think it’s quite right to say that “Whether means of
production is owned privately or owned by the state is irrelevant to
capitalist production.”

State capitalism does have some distinctive features. It’s potentially more
subject to political pressure than the more dispersed private version,
hence the need for totalitarian control in the eastern bloc. That control,
in turn, made it harder to move the economy from crude “extensive growth”
(extraction of more and more absolute surplus value by tapping new reserves
of labour) to more sophisticated “intensive growth” (extraction of relative
surplus value by raising productivity). Even in the west, state enterprises
are more likely to be political footballs.

Finally, it’s a bit one-sided to say “Social classes do not make the
relations of production; they themselves are the reflection of those

I agree that relations of production are the theoretical priority, but it’s
a reciprocal relation, not just a “reflection”. Social classes, and their
interactions, definitely do contribute to shaping relations of production.
Militant trade unionism forces up wages, which in turn drives capitalists
to invest in labour-saving machinery, which in turn leads to a falling rate
of profit. And the effective collapse of the private bourgeoisie in some
parts of Eastern Europe during World War II created a vacuum that was later
filled by Stalinist bureaucracies and their state-owned industry.

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