[OPE-L:4804] Re: Re: state ownership

From: Paul Cockshott (paul@cockshott.com)
Date: Mon Jan 29 2001 - 08:54:56 EST

On Mon, 29 Jan 2001, you wrote:
> Paul C replied in [OPE-L:4801] to the following question:
> I agree that *if* the issue is whether or not to support privatization,
> then there is wide working-class support in most countries
> for continued state ownership (and indeed, as you suggest,
> there are many mass resistance movements to bourgeois campaigns
> to privatization -- and, often relatedly, deregulation).
> Yet, this issue is not the same issue that I raised in my question
> above. The issue I posed is whether *a conception of socialism
> as generalized state ownership* has appeal to workers in any section
> of the world today?
> I'm not sure whether such a very limited conception of socialism
> has ever had mass support. 

This is real revisionist re-writing of history. To say that socialism
seen as public ownership of the means of production never had
mass support is to wipe most of the 20th century mass workers
parties off the history books. 

Social Democracy and then Communism both supported public
ownership of industry, and did so at the times when their support
in the working class was at its strongest.

There is no doubt that today, the socialist movement and the
workers movement generally is very weak and on the defensive.
In these circumstances many parties have abandoned their
socialist programs and make only the mildest of ameliorist
demands. But one should not view the past with the narrow
viewpoint of the present, nor similarly write off the future.

> However,  I think that after the
> downfall of the USSR, etc. (and the "revelations" about the
> lifestyles and atrocities etc. of the "leaders" of those nations) there
> is even more skepticism about such a conception of socialism.

Whatever the lifestyle and "atrocities" of Breshnev they pale into
insignificance compared to those of Yeltsin.

> And this skepticism and anti-authoritarianism is not primarily the
> result of media or  "political system" propaganda. Rather, it
> is an expression of the historical learning process of the working
> class. 

Anti-authoritarianism and opposition to state ownership are
not the same thing. What is at issue is the effectiveness of the
constitutional arangements for ensuring that the state is effectively
a workers one. Also I think that you may play up the anti-authoritarianism
too much. There is ample evidence of strong pro-authoritarian sentiment
in Russia for example.

Paul Cockshott, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland
0141 330 3125  mobile:07946 476966

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