[OPE-L:8201] state ownership historically

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Tue Dec 17 2002 - 08:33:49 EST

Since Paul B re-raised the topic in [8197], another thought has
occurred to me:

In our prior discussion of state ownership, we focused on the
contemporary (especially post-WW2) period.  If, however,
we are to make sense out of Marx's comment in the _Marginal
Notes on Wagner_ about "where the state is a capitalist
producer" a good place to start is not with our own period
but rather a historical period that Marx was familiar with.

The key perhaps to comprehending the context of Marx's
remark is his reference to the "exploitation of mines, woodland,
etc.".    The suggestion that *nature can be exploited* in addition to
workers, is interesting in its own right ... but it is not what I want to
focus on here.  Rather, I want to suggest the historical circumstances
in which there is state/capitalist production of "mines, woodland, etc."

As Paul should be aware, the Crown -- i.e. the Royal family, owned
(and still owns)  large amounts of land in Britain and the rest of the
"realm".  The large-scale ownership of land by monarchies not unusual
throughout much of Europe (and beyond) during Marx's lifetime (and in
the prior 'modern' period that he was very well aware of through his
historical  studies).  Not infrequently these lands had "woodland"  and 
the monarchs also came to know that there was further wealth that could
be obtained by mining and then selling resources on that land. (Indeed,
the inflation during the late phases of feudalism forced many landowners
to monetize their holdings by selling assets, sometimes including the land
itself. I.e. they were driven to engage in commodity production in order
to liquidate their debts and maintain their customary standard of living.)

So, the State could end up owning land and other resources that
could be sold on the market as commodities.  In these cases,
the ownership of a firm by _an individual_ (e.g. a King) or _a family_
(e.g. the Royal family)  *was the same as*  _state_ ownership.  Indeed,
*all* state property in some nations was owned by the monarch.
For instance, ships in the Royal Navy _belonged to_ "the Crown".
So,  it is easy is see how state ownership could also be capitalist
ownership in certain circumstances during that historical period.

Although the Royal family owns large amounts of land  today, this 
identification of the state (and hence state property) with
the monarchy is no longer the same as it was in e.g. the 16th  or
17th Centuries.   Consequently, the circumstances that Marx most
likely was referring to have very little relevance for _contemporary_
capitalist formations (although I am not familiar enough with the 
legal status of state property in a country like Saudi Arabia to know 
whether there is an identification of state property with Royal property
there.)  To the extent that such circumstances _do_ persist today,
they might be considered to be a vestige of feudalism.

In solidarity, Jerry

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