[Marxism] The ISO, "State capitalist theory", and dialectics

Douglas Nesbitt djnesbit at connect.carleton.ca
Mon Nov 1 14:57:32 MST 2004

I do not wish to get bogged down in a discussion and defence of the 
theory of state capitalism, therefore, I will limit myself to one post 
on the subject. I have two points to make, the first regarding 
recruitment and state capitalism. The second regarding Cliff's theory 
of state capitalism itself.

I'm in the IS in Canada, and I've found that the theory of state 
capitalism *is* an aide in recruiting. People seriously considering 
involving themselves in a revolutionary organization *are* grappling 
with "old" questions of what was the nature of Soviet Russia, 
present-day Cuba, etc. Individual socialists, socialists in the NDP, 
progressive activists of all stripes and even anarchists, commonly 
reject revolutionary socialism and Marxism because of what they know of 
Stalinism and what they see in Cuba and North Korea. Reading Cliff's 
"State Capitalism in Russia" or Abbie Bakan's "The Great Lie" removes a 
barrier for many, and allows many to pursue Marxism and become involved 
in revolutionary politics. Understandably, people will reject 
revolutionary socialism if they think Stalin is the natural outcome.

As for the theory itself, it is consistently built around the maxim 
"the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working 
class". Socialism exists when the working class rules society, not a 
small group on behalf of the class, or a state-owned system being 
imposed from above. This may be pedantic, but it is central to the 
theory of state capitalism and it is hammered home again and again in 
any and every document outlining or developing upon Cliff's original 
theory. The theory is appealing because this central principle of 
socialism - as outlined by Marx - cannot be reconciled with states like 
Cuba or North Korea.

Lou Paulsen wrote:
"I think that their adherence to Cliff's theories of "state capitalism" 
has always (a) been wrong, (b) been evidence of an undialectical 
approach to things (if you don't think Cuba is a good enough socialist 
country to count as being socialist, you are too much of a purist by 
far), and (c) served as an "escape clause" allowing them to recruit 
members and friends who don't want to be really identified with 
existing socialist countries."

Yes, I suppose state capitalism *is* an escape clause from being 
associated with "existing socialist countries". I don't see why anyone 
would want to fight for the Cuban model, whether it was genuinely 
socialist or not. This, of course, does not mean that we won't defend 
Cuba from imperialism.


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