[OPE-L:8202] state ownership historically

From: Asfilho@aol.com
Date: Tue Dec 17 2002 - 09:26:16 EST

State ownership poses very interesting problems.

I may (or may not - I am not sure) disagree with Jerry on this. I think that 
the titles of ownership tell us very little, if the State has been subsumed 
by the requirements of capital. 

Let me put this in another way: the State has a fundamental role to play in 
the birth of capital (ie, primitive accumulation) - namely, the task of 
expropriating the direct producers, and the genesis of the capitalist and the 
working classes, is too big to be undertaken by individual proto-capitalists. 
It can only be achieved through the agency of the State. Otherwise, it is 

Even in the case of Britain and the US, where "laissez faire" at first sight 
was of the essence, detailed historical analysis shows that the State was 
indispensible - not only in terms of establishing and enforcing property 
rights, but also sending in the army and the police to do the dirty work of 

If we accept this, and make a large analytical leap, it would follow that 
there is *little* substantive difference between State and private property 
of the means of production in modern capitalist societies. The fact that the 
British Crown owns large tracts of land is irrelevant - it may be a remnant 
of feudalism, but this does not affect the *nature* (ie, the essence) of land 
(or the State) in the UK.

Pushing this point further, privatisation is generally *irrelevant* too. The 
disadvantage of privatisation, from the point of view of the left, is not 
because it displaces "social" ownership, and increases the "private" 
ownership of the means of production. This is not the point. The point is 
that privatisation reduces the potential leverage of the majority over State 
policy, and the provision of essential goods and services, it reduces the 
scope for State policy, and it increases the degree of commodification of 
life. But, emphatically, in my view privatisation does *not* imply a 
"retreat" of the State, or an "expansion" of the market. This opposition is 


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