[Marxism] Camejo and Shawki/ISO and so it goes... and State Capitalism

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Mon Nov 1 08:55:46 MST 2004

The challenge for the ISO is to plant its other foot in that  reality 
by breaking with the Cliffite state capitalism theoretical tradition.  
ISO rank and filers know the theory doesn't hold water, can't account 
for  what's happened in the former Soviet bloc, and poses obstacles for 
comprehending  and relating to struggles like the one in Venezuela and 
defence of the Cuban  workers state. Yeah, it's neat for appealing to 
middle class college students but  from what I hear, the youth they've 
recruited are the 1st to know they must  break out of the campus 
ghetto. That takes more than an act of political will.  It takes deeper 
theoretical development.

Since the 1970s, the IS tendency in the US has done significant 
pro-working  class work. In the feminist movement and the CLUW 
(Coalition of Labor Union  Women) IS women were a significant presence 
connecting womens' issues with class  issues. The Campaign Against the 
Death Penalty and their work in the  Charleston dockers defense has 
certainly brought them into contact with the oppressed  minorities. 
Louis Proyect noted a significant prescence of African-Americans at  
the recent conference in NYC. I heard from people at the workshop on 
the  wrongfully convicted that African-Americans outnumbered white 
participants.  I agree partially with Joe-- to attract people like 
myself the ISO must make  a genuine break with the State Capitalist 
tradition because it will keep them  locked into a sectarian and 
economistic methodology.  --Ilyenkova

The discussion over how to describe and name those countries that have 
had socialist revolutions whether through internal revolution or 
imposed partially or fully by occupation has gone on for dozens of 
years. The Trotskyist movement had the struggle with Shachtman and 
C.L.R. James and his co-thinkers, and then another over Eastern Europe, 
and finally over the Cuban Revolution. In my opinion, there is no way 
to replicate that discussion here. There is a shelf of books on the 
question, perhaps two or three, even.

The same goes for gathering all the arguments among the Maoist 
organizations that developed during the 60s and 70s, some of which 
still exist. Perhaps some on this list can suggest the most important 
of their contributions.

While in the Trotskyist movement, one thing that I got out the "workers 
state" versus "bureaucratic collectivism" argument was that the essence 
of the question was whether or not the property overturns had been 
historically progressive and whether those overturns should be defended 
against imperialism. Trotsky did not emphasize what it was called, 
although he argued that the laws of motion in the Soviet Union were 
distinctly different from that of capitalism and that the term 
"bureaucratic collectivist" failed to describe any kind of state 

In the long run, Trotsky said that he would accept being in a minority 
with those who chose "bureaucratic collectivism" as the "name" for the 
soviet state, so long as his opponents still stood for defense of the 
Soviet Union. (In fact, he said that he was willing to be in a minority 
in any case, but this clearly would have been temporary. There would 
have to have been a split.) Today the issue does not seem so burning 
because the question for young people is whether or not you defend any 
country against imperialism--which for people here means U.S. 
imperialism. The ISO position does not interfere with that, even over 

Personally, I have no quarrel with "state capitalism" as a name for the 
system that developed in the USSR or China. Even Lenin, from time to 
time, referred to the capitalist elements of the new soviet state. The 
political and economic structures of the USSR and China and the other 
"workers states" had to adapt to world imperialism. This led to the 
immense drive to industrialize and the incredible distortion of their 
economies in order to create a military force capable of defending 
itself. The term "workers states" was never completely adequate to 
describe backward planned economies operating in a world economy 
developed by advanced capital with its immense advantage in 
productivity, democratic structures, etc.

So using the phrase "state capitalist" does not offend me because I 
still consider the political result to be progressive. 'O Romeo, 
Romeo!' said she, 'wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father, and 
refuse thy name, for my sake; or if thou wilt not, be but my sworn 
love, and I no longer will be a Capulet.' To which Romeo replied, call 
me Love.

You may object that the ISO's use of "state capitalist" also means that 
it calls for the internal overthrow of the governments of soviet 

"There's the rub" to quote the useful Bard again. Yes, here is where I 
would argue with the ISO as it applies to Cuba. I would suggest to 
anyone working with the ISO or those who would join it, that this could 
most effectively be argued when the discussion turns on the U.S./Cuban 
conflict and not as an abstraction.

Brian Shannon

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