[Marxism] [SUSPICIOUS MESSAGE] Histmat and the primacy of productive forces. WAS Stalinist-Trotskyist bromance

michael a. lebowitz mlebowit at sfu.ca
Wed Nov 5 09:52:35 MST 2014

On 05/11/2014 6:41 AM, Andrew Pollack wrote:
> Actually Trotsky was focused on the contradiction between the forces 
> and relations of production (and associated norms of distribution), 
> i.e. how the inadequacy of the former hamstrung efforts to move beyond 
> bourgeois forms of the latter
> Re-read the paragraphs cited (which are at:
> http://secure-web.cisco.com/1T8fTAHyq5pV9brQIPkCoAZn95na5mki9nA_Eh_KQcJAzZjEZKE80xKsnEMJJbKx5NFoz7geXnQFbN03U_uvlLZgfhOYwttetL6wf2Be4522DKlvL7p4SLzHvXPEthZZvNTkh0qnf97fegmLZDLtS89VjWr6H_cR2_MuaQDLrBUG5U1IhXt1wBvNerlkHuLP05Ujq_CPWkqiG5jKO3y3XEw/http%3A%2F%2Fwww.marxists.org%2Farchive%2Ftrotsky%2F1936%2Frevbet%2Fch09.htm )
> That contradiction was also the main one pointed out by Mandel.
Hi Andrew,
     Too busy to enter at this time the Good Trotsky, Bad Stalin swamp, 
and my brief comment was, of course, peripheral to Louis' interest in 
Ukrainian matters which started the thread. My point was very simple: 
both Stalinists and Trotskyists shared the Histmat perspective which 
focused upon primacy of the growth of [presumably neutral-- unlike those 
Marx stressed in Capital] productive forces as opposed to the character 
of the relations of production. As Marx knew, productive forces do not 
drop from the sky.
     I'm in the process of completing a new book for Monthly Review 
Press ['The Socialist Imperative: From Gotha to Now'] in which I touch 
upon these matters. Here, eg, is a brief somewhat related passage from 
one of the chapters:

In the Histmat formula, subordination of the old relation of 
distribution focuses upon the development of the productive forces in 
socialism. Rather than talk explicitly about the character of the 
relations of production, that standard interpretation follows Lenin’s 
insistence in /State and Revolution/ that “an enormous development of 
productive forces” in the socialist stage is the prerequisite for the 
new relation of distribution. Until the labor of people has become “so 
productive that they will voluntarily work /according to their 
ability/,” the “socialist principle” of equivalent exchange must be 
safeguarded by the state and, indeed, requires “the /strictest/ control 
by society /and by the state/ of the measure of labour and the measure 
of consumption” (Lenin, 1965: 112-16).

Apparent here is the law of Histmat specific to socialism (Soc-law): 
/the law of necessary correspondence between the level of productive 
forces and the relation of distribution/. Those who cite this law, too, 
can draw upon Marx’s statement in the /Critique/ that “Right can never 
be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural 
development conditioned thereby” because they misinterpret “economic 
structure” to mean the level of productive forces rather than the 
relations of production (Marx, 1962: 24).[1] <#_ftn1> The relations of 
production themselves? Conjured away. They are the missing term, the 
vanishing moment; and, accordingly, we are left with two inferences from 
Soc-law: (a) if distribution relations go beyond what the productive 
forces justify, there will be disaster and (b) reliance upon the 
existing distribution relations is essential for the development of the 
productive forces.


[1] <#_ftnref1> As one of many examples of this use of this sentence, 
see Francisco Soberon[then President of the Central Bank of Cuba] in 
December 2005 (Soberon, 2005).

     And now, after that commercial break, back to the book!
             in solidarity,

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Home:   Phone 604-689-9510
Cell: 604-789-4803

More information about the Marxism mailing list