[Marxism] State capitalism: some quick replies to Joe and Phil

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Tue Dec 14 18:46:26 MST 2004


>>with state-owned enterprises, say as exist in Cuba, Vietnam, or as
existed in the former Soviet Union, the key factor is in the
re-distribution of wealth in the form of social services - education,
housing, healthcare, etc.<<

But western regimes expend a certain portion of their surplus on these same
things. It’s part of the reproduction of labour power, which is essential
to capitalism. The real test would be whether the Soviet regime devoted a
significantly larger percentage of the surplus to these ends than, say,
Sweden. I don’t know; perhaps you can tell me.
>>To say that the production of a surplus is exploitative only covers one
aspect of the process. If not then every socialist country to date could be
said to have exploited its citizens.<<

Just what I think, except I put quote marks around the word “socialist”.

>>Instead it would be more accurate to state that the means of production
in the hands of individuals constitutes expropriation.<<

Individuals? I will let Fred Engels reply to that one (quoted in my first

"I know of capitalist production as a social form, as an economic stage:
and of capitalist private production as a phenomenon occurring one way or
another within that stage. What does capitalist private production mean
then? Production by a single entrepreneur, and that is of course becoming
more and more an exception. Capitalist production through limited companies
is already no longer private production, but production for the combined
account of many people. And when we move on to the Trusts, which control
and monopolise whole branches, then that means an end not only to the
private production but also to the planlessness. "


>>In the 50 pages that Marx spends on the falling rate of profit in
'Capital' (vol 3), however, he nowhere attributes the falling rate of
profit to workers' wages rising. The reason capitalists invest in
labour-saving devices/new technology/plant is because of competition with
other capitalists.<<

Of course, but inter-firm competition includes the labour market. If
unionists force up wages at Company A, this will put it at a competitive
disadvantage with Company B. Marx doesn’t need to mention this, because it
ain’t rocket science. I agree entirely with your general point that the
falling rate of profit goes deep into the heart of the system, but it’s not
inconsistent with my little example, which was intended to illustrate how
the actions of social classes can influence economic developments.

>>If the Soviet bureaucracy were really a capitalist class they were one
helluva unusual capitalist class.  Indeed, so unusual as capitalists to not
really be capitalists at all.<<

That’s true: they weren’t capitalists, they were bureaucrats. They were
however, to use Marx’s phrase, “personifications of capital”.

That’s all I got time for.

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