[Marxism] The class nature of the Chinese state

Haines Brown brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Thu Oct 18 06:33:23 MDT 2007

> You are his crypto-Stalinist funhouse mirror.
> ...
> This is a joke, right? You proselytize this list like a subway
> preacher.  Sometimes I feel like telling one of those characters to
> fuck Jesus if he loves him so much.
> ...
> You need new friends.

I don't know who wrote this reply to Lippman, but I object to the
effort to drag a serious question into the gutter. The class nature of
the Chinese state is clearly a difficult question that is worthy of
discussion. Let me try to illustrate this.

> The Chinese economy operates on the basis of profit. For those who
> want to understand how Marx approached this type of social system, I
> recommend Volume One of Capital.

Of course, Lippman and many others on this list have read _Capital_;
we are not entirely ignorant.

And I would hope that those who have read _Capital_ would see the
problem with the above statement, for _all_ economies require the
generation of "profit" (surplus value). The issue rather is whether
that surplus value is privately or socially appropriated. This
distinction, in turn, is important, not because of some subjective
reason such as "property is theft", but because Marx held that the
basis for the creation of new value is social (the present labor of
workers as social beings plus past social labor actualized in the
means of production).

A private appropriation of surplus value is "one-sided" in that
surplus value is diverted to only a part of the social whole (serving
the profitability of a particular enterprise) rather than further
develop the social whole (developing the source of
profitability). Subjective factors, such as greed, size of income, and
the choices made by the capitalist entrepreneur are of concern, but in
a different way than an explanation of how capitalism works in
general. That is, these factors have particular rather than general
explanatory value. Marxism aims at a science that marries a general
systems analysis ("mode of production") with concrete particulars in
that they are the two interdependent aspects of one process.

> The state sector cannot really be distinguished from the private
> sector.  They are involved with capital accumulation pure and
> simple.

Of course, but this is as true of a modern capitalist economy as it is
of a socialist economy. There must be capital accumulation; this
accumulation is encouraged and/or controlled at least in part by the
state because the alternative would be economic anarchy.

The difference between the private and public sectors is that the
former is basically one-sided, serving particular interests (the
occasional capitalist personal generosity has nothing to do with the
dynamic of the system, but with particular private choices), while the
latter is supposedly serving the needs of a social whole (the
definition of "politics"). Of course, we know that in a capitalist
economy, the superstructure ensures that the "social whole" means the
development and maintenance of the cultural, social, political, and
economic conditions of capitalism. The result is a one-sided
constrained development that serves capital expansion at the expense
of social development, putting profits before people (a beer to 
anyone who knows who originally coined that phrase).

Capital accumulation is the concern of both individual capitalists and
the capitalist state under capitalism. Under socialism, it is
primarily the concern of the state, but both capitalism and socialism
must pursue that goal.

> Don't you understand that when Marxists characterize a state as
> capitalist or non-capitalist, they must by necessity look at
> economics--which very often involves quantitative analysis.

The anonymous writer represents himself as speaking for all Marxists
and implies Lippman is not a Marxist. This is arrogant. Lippman
apparently was once a Trot, which is certainly Marxist however one
might feel about the movement. As I've tried to suggest, the issues
are actually quite complex, and throwing out simplistic formulae to
imply the object of one's criticism is either too stupid or
ill-informed to understand the wonders of Marxism is the kind of
response one would expect from the petite-bourgeoisie, not the working

> Yes, Walter. We are "bashing" China. How very adroit of you to
> introduce such laser-sharp class distinctions.

Who's this "we"? Marxists in fact both bash and admire China; some are
agnostic about the class nature of the Chinese state, and possibly
some take yet other positions. So the "we" here doesn't refer to all
Marxists, but to a particular section within Marxism. What is this
section?  Given our circumstances, we can ill-afford to be sectarian.

       Haines Brown, KB1GRM


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