[OPE-L:8203] Re: state ownership historically

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Tue Dec 17 2002 - 11:25:20 EST

Re Alfredo's [8202]:

> 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.

I think we probably do disagree.

> 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  *impossible*.

> 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 > indispensable - 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  capital.

> 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.

I have no problem with accepting  this (by which I mean the previous 2
paragraphs of yours) but it is -- as you suggest -- "a large analytical
leap"   to conclude that there is little substantive difference between
state and  private ownership (and control) of the means of production
in modern capitalist societies.  Indeed, the "large analytical leap" isn't
justified by the preceding two paragraphs which concern the birthing of
capitalism and the creation of an institutional context in which capitalist
relations are reproduced.

> 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.

Right -- but I don't think it is irrelevant to the question of
comprehending what Marx was addressing in his comment in the
_Marginal  Notes on Wagner_.

> 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.

If it increases the degree of commodification 'of everyday life' then it
is not irrelevant.  When 'public goods' become commodities that is a
significant result.  This change in the form of ownership, in this case,
can result in a decrease in the customary standard of living of the
working class.

> But, emphatically, in my view privatisation does *not* imply a
> "retreat" of the State, or an "expansion" of the market. This opposition
> is  misleading.

Well, I agree that an opposition is misleading -- since privatization is a
coordinated campaign by capital and the state.  To the extent that
Neoliberal state policies are victorious then this is not a 'retreat' by the
state but is rather a step forward ... from the perspective of both the
state and capital.

In solidarity, Jerry

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