[Marxism] State capitalism

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Jun 17 17:44:36 MDT 2004

My friend Tom O'Lincoln writes:
>The real debate is whether Cuba qualifies as a workers' state. The
orthodox Trotskyist line of argument is that nationalisation of industry
makes it so. The state capitalist theory says that given the theoretical
framework I've sketched above, nationalisation of industry isn't
sufficient -- you need workers' democracy. Unless you have that, all you
have is state capitalism without the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The orthodox Trotskyist position on what constitutes a workers state
involved quite a bit more than nationalisation of industry.  Otherwise
Egypt in the 1950s and several other places would have been viewed as
workers' states.

The OT position involves *the capitalist state apparatus having been
overthrown and smashed*, the means of production, distribution and
exchange being nationalised, and foreign trade being monopolised by the
new state.

I have no particular commitment to the OT position as I'm not an
orthodox Trotskyist, or any other kind of Trotskyist, however I find
their criteria a bit more convincing than the state capitalist analysis
for several reasons.

One is that the state cap position does not appear to take into account
(or give much significance to) the overthrow and smashing of the
capitalist state apparatus.

Another is that if the absence of formal institutions of workers'
democracy makes a post-capitalist state actually state capitalist, then
you couldn't really have any kind of variation of workers state.  To be
a workers state it would pretty much have to be perfect.

The third problem I have is that I don't think state capitalist theory
is reconcilable with Marx's analysis of capitalism.  Capitalism involves
many competing capitals.  You actually can't have a capitalism without
competing capitals.  These, in turn, are personified by capitalists.

If the state owns everything, it may not be socialism, but it sure ain't
capitalism either (at least not in the sense Marx analysed capitalism).

Philip Ferguson 

More information about the Marxism mailing list