[OPE-L:2813] relabeling commodities, value, and socialism

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 11:35:31 EDT

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Re Paul C's [OPE-L:2811]:

> Yes commodity production did occur under socialism, this is a fact.
> Why this occured is an interesting question. The classic answer given by
> Stalin was that it was due to the co-existence of different forms of social
> property - state property and collective farm property. (snip)

Whether this was a "fact" depends in part on whether one views the former
USSR (under Stalin!) and other "socialist" countries as actually being
socialist. And that depends on how we define and comprehend the term
socialism. This is a case, I believe, where different definitions can
reflect very different political perspectives.

> I would say that commodity production necessarily occurs when there exists
> a set of economic agents - whether individuals or abstract juridical
> subjects
> that can only reproduce themselves by the purchase of commodities - Sraffas
> condition if you like.
> I would say that commodity production persists as a relict, as in relict
> micro-ecosystems,
> when despite the change in juridical property relations, no alternative
> method of
> economic calculation has been instantiated to replace the commodity/money
> system.

I'll take a bit more time to reflect upon this.
> You may chose to use words in an idiosyncratic way, but this use of words
> is quite contrary to what has been the standard use by historians including
> Marxist historians, and also contrary to the use made by Marxists writing
> about whether commodity production exists under socialism.

Yes, I agree that the specific and "idiosyncratic" way in which Marx
defined the term commodity in _Capital_ has not been the "standard" way
in which this term has been understood by historians -- both Marxist and
> Such political correctness in the use of words does not get one over the
> real problems of political economy, one of which is to explain the concrete
> historical circumstances in which commodity production as commonly
> understood exists.

I, of course, agree that whether or not we wish to use the term commodity
for these historical circumstances does not relieve us of the
responsibility of trying to understand the historical circumstances

> You may label all non capitalist commodity production
> as false commodity production, and all non capitalist money as fake money,
> but you still have to explain when fake commodities and fake money are
> produced.

Well, I didn't call them "fake", but I do agree that such developments
need to be explained and can not be explained by definitions alone.

In solidarity, Jerry

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