[OPE-L:5274] Re: Re: Re: Re: state and workers'ownership and (un)productive labor

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@msn.com)
Date: Tue Mar 27 2001 - 07:35:14 EST

Re [5272]:

Paul (B) -- thanks for the stimulating engagement. 
On the question of nationalization, I will now modify
my position as follows:

1) Due to transient and exceptional circumstances,
the capitalist state may come to temporarily direct and own a capitalist enterprise. The reasons for 
these actions by individual nation-states have
been discussed in previous posts but tend to either
be specific to an individual capitalist nation and/or

2) When there are nationalizations under the
circumstances previously discussed, the state 
takes, in effect,  "temporary custody"  of the
enterprise. While in "foster care" by the state,
the state tends to continue to operate the enterprise 
in the same manner as it was operated when it
was under private ownership and control. During
this time -- similar in some ways to when firms
go into "receivership" when declaring bankruptcy
-- there is "capital in seek of an owner" as the
state seeks to arrange for a buyer. Due to the
specific circumstances this might be a protracted
period and the state may come to (temporarily)
resign itself to continued ownership.

3) Whether the enterprise, now directed by agents
of the state,  realizes surplus value and profit
depends -- most fundamentally -- on whether the
value created is greater than the VLP and the value
transferred by the means of production. I.e. it
depends on whether surplus labor time has been
expended and whether the commodity output is
sold (at value). There is no guarantee that this will
take place. And, indeed, due to the exceptional
circumstances that occurred prior to being taken-
over by the state, the state may resign itself for
a period of years to owning a firm which is not
profitable and indeed might have to be operated
temporarily at a loss. Once a surplus is generated,
the state would, as we would anticipate, come to
expect  that it will be re-paid out of profits for its 
previous financing.  

4) One might view this anomaly of nationalization
as a productive appendage which is temporarily
attached to an unproductive shell. [NB: we are
*only* talking now about a specific type of
nationalization where the nature of commodity
production remains constant]. A further
anomaly concerns the payment of wages. To the
extent that the wage-laborers at the nationalized
industry are paid checks issued by the state and
are now officially state employees, then it would
seem that wages are exchanged with revenue (i.e.
out of state funds). Yet to the extent that this
is only an accounting convention and that the firm 
remains a capitalist enterprise, one could say that
wages are really exchanged with capital.

5) A crucial question in terms of whether there
will be continued surplus value production is whether
there is productive consumption of s and thereby
continued accumulation of capital. If, for
example, the state does not invest in c and v at
the enterprise and instead siphons s off for 
(unproductive) state expenditure outside of the
enterprise (i.e. for other state activities), then
this could limit or prevent the generation of 
continued s at the enterprise. Yet, the state 
understands well that this would cost them in the
longer-term even more money than they would gain 
in the short-term and thus the state acts to
accumulate capital at the enterprise level and
thereby increase investment in c and v. Of
course, none of this can happen unless the
enterprise "turns the corner" and actually
becomes profitable again.

6) Once it becomes obvious that the enterprise 
is now capable of earning at least the average
rate of profit, then demands for de-nationalization
grow.  However, as you suggest, it may take a
crisis to force privatization. In any event, 
these events are all conjunctural and do not
fundamentally concern "basic theory".

Note that the above only discussed the issue of
nationalizations of the specific type that we
have been discussing. Other issues such as
roads built by state labor and workers' ownership
have not been addressed here.

Once again I want to thank you for your continued
comments and I, as Fred is fond of writing, look
forward to further discussion.

In solidarity, Jerry

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