[Marxism] RE: Scientific Planning Not at Stake

Rob Lucas roblucas at lucasandblench.com
Thu May 20 05:41:24 MDT 2004

Message: 9
Date: Tue, 18 May 2004 15:28:24 +0000


I'm in the situation here of agreeing largely with a lot of your objections
whilst thinking at the same time that they are not necessarily objections at
all. Of course I'd agree that the fascist state is a distinctly different
one from the soviet communist, and would not do as some liberal theorists
would, and lump fascism & soviet communism together- place this "equals"
sign that you mention between them. For one thing there is considerable
variety even between different models of fascist state, and then also
between socialist states, and then again between capitalist, social
democratic- whatever- these differences have to be upheld theoretically or
we go nowhere. Furthermore, making a simplistic division between "command"
economics and the liberal variety will only end in the boring wars of
conventional ideologies, and it is of course one of the ironies of
"free-market" economics that it has often been pursued actively and
militarily by states, even developed in a "command" way with the blessing of
state power (e.g. Japan)!

It is, however, one of the simpler generalisations possible of 20th century
history that all nations have faced a world scene already dominated by a
number of significant powers, and have in most instances effectively chosen
between 3 "modernizing" ideologies; capitalist, socialist, and fascist (of
course fascism was only ideologically reactionary, and of course in practice
it obviously still concerned itself a hell of a lot with industry). We are
dealing here only with the most mundane level of historical observation.

Whilst I actually do approach the "late developer" argument only
tentatively, I think there is a simple truth involved here, and one which is
relatively uncontentious: that, faced with such a world scene,
"modernisation" and "imperialism" have necessarily been the dominant issues
to which nations have had to orientate themselves. It is in this sense and
this sense only that I would "lump" soviet communism and fascism together
(and note there was no mention of German fascism in the original mail). In
the same sense, one could equally lump together countries as disparate as
Syria and Cuba, Venezuela and Vietnam- whatever- of course if we insist that
such a generalisation is where it ends, in terms of our understanding, we've
shot outselves in the foot before even setting out on out journey.. It's a
basic point that we've got to take the generalities with the specificities
(and one beauty of Marxist dialectics is that it enables that). The biggest
problem with the conventional liberal perspectives, which you associate with
Arendt, is that people often tend to take an obvious generality and stop

The fact remains that the liberal capitalist "contemporary" has been viewed
as a temporal point to be either caught up with or exceeded by almost all
peoples finding themselves in the 20th Century! Of course this "catching up"
was in the name of the proletariat here, the peasantry there, the middle
class there, and of course the proletariat in many cases effectively
provided the motive energy for whatever social transformations were enacted.
However, it is equally clear that those who have taken the worst of it have
often been what the majority of people in the world are- peasants, and in
these cases it has very often been as a result of "modernising"
bureaucracies of state! Germany of course was already a major european power
with a fast developing proletariat in the earlier part of the century- let's
not imagine it could be considered realistically any other way, but that is
Germany, and we can still observe that it faced the dominant imperial powers
of the time with the issues of modernisation and imperialism looming large.
I also wouldn't cite the USSR as an example of an imperialist state- another
simple fact of the 20th Century is that most communist/ socialist nations
became so of their own accord- as a choice of one distinctly appealing
"modernising" approach. In most cases communism/ socialism was the obvious
anti-imperial choice, not another imperialism!

As I drift towards conclusion; one more obvious generalisation of 20th
Century history; that the imperial powers were faced increasingly with a
global mass of people increasingly concerned with their own futures and
increasingly aware that they were fundamentally part of a system in which
they ultimately held the bargaining power- labour. As much as most nations
outside the already dominant imperialist powers were fundamentally
orientated around "modernisation" and "imperialism" in one form or another,
the dominant powers have been fundamentally orientated around the fearful
revolutionary potential of people in general, and particularly the working

However, as Asia climbs skyward, the West looks increasingly unstable, and
environmental disaster looms ever closer, one has to wonder what is the
status of that old "contemporary" to which peoples have aspired; is it
simply to relocate at some point to China, is it to become somehow entirely
globalised (this is rather hard to imagine, for example, with regard to some
of the least developed parts of Africa), is it to be replaced by some kind
of Frederic Jameson-esque "multiplicity" of contemporaries (this is equally
hard to imagine realistically)? I would contend that those who aim to assume
a radical position must address this issue of what the status of this
"contemporary" is- and this must go way beyond boring postmodernisms or
knee-jerk "orthodoxy" of many Marxists who don't even pay much attention to
the complexities of many of Marx's original texts! And in the meantime,
let's attend to complexities as well as generalities..



From: "Calvin Broadbent" <calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com>
Subject: [Marxism] RE: Scientific Planning Not at Stake
To: marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
Message-ID: <Sea1-F1493KtGGLdnBX0001948d at hotmail.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed

But doesn't Rob's argument really just entail putting an 'equals' sign
between nazism and Soviet socialism? The nazis wanted to 'catch up' with
their western capitalist counterparts via colonial expansion in the service
of the maintenance of private proftis in the face of the challenge of
popular working class socialism. The Soviets wanted to 'catch up'
economically in the face of possible colonialisation by the expansionist
capitalist interests orthe domestic reinstatement of a (agriculturalist)
capitalist regime (thus stunting its devlopment to probably third-worldised
levels a la Ireland and India mid nineteenth century). It was doing this,
arguably and certainly ostensibly, in the service of its own public and in
the international struggle against capitalism. The 'command' economics or
the USSR and Nazi Germany were, thus, arguably two wholly distinct
phenomena. At any rate, it is absurd to suggest that 'free-market'
capitalism for the last 100 years or so has not been 'command' in a very
real sense.
Also, the Nazi regime (late developers as Rob calls them) were not at all
trying to engage in 'modernisation'. Germany was already a massively
industrialised nation. The Nazis certainly did not try and consolidate their
power by 'brutalising' the peasantry, but rather, by brutalising the
industrial organised German working class. In direct contrast, the
'modernising' USSR relied on the support and development of their incipeint
At any rate,  in my view, the major problem with Rob's analythat the USSR
was not an imperialist expansionist power in any real sense of the term.
How can Rob claim that Stalin's justifications for wanting to play
'catch-up' wre simply paranoid? Had not the USSR been invaded by something
like ten major imperialist pwers at its birth? Was not the concept of
'lebensraum' written into the Nazi program from the start? Was the British
government not equally as militantly hostile to Bolshevism and an
independent Russia also from the start?
Sounds like soembody's been reading too much Hannah Arendt.

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