Re: [OPE] Question to Marxologists: Mode of production

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Sat Sep 06 2008 - 08:14:07 EDT

on 2008-09-05 15:55 Gerald Levy wrote:
> I wasn't
> impressed when I read it many years ago by Burnham's analysis and
> I don't recall reading what Rakovsky had to say about this. You said that
> you thought it was a "bit more sharp" than the theory that the USSR
> was state capitalist but you stopped short from writing that it was
> bureaucratic collectivist: do you think it was?

I am agnostic about labeling the Soviet-type mode of production (isn't
that label sufficient?), and in particular I do not want to project some
political ideal on the scientific analysis of actual societies.

As a side-note, one should recall that Marx never spoke of a "socialist
mode of production" but rather a communist mode of production. One
problem is that prior to the USSR there was not much written on the
political economy of socialism but it is quite clear that if it meant
anything among socialists prior to the October revolution it was an
economy where the workers controlled production. In a
historical-materialist analysis this implies a mode of production where
social labour is organised and the surplus product is extracted
collectively *in some form*. It also implies that there is no distinct
ruling class that can extract surplus labour.

Now by this latter implication it is clear that the USSR was not
socialist; the state aristocracy was a ruling class. However, by the
former implication it did have some general features in common with the
original ideas on socialism: social labour was organised, and surplus
product was extracted, collectively *but* in a specific form through the
state and its bureaucracy.

On the basis of this analysis I can accept calling the USSR either
"Soviet-socialism" or "bureaucratic collectivist". The actual label is
of secondary importance once we recognize that it was not capitalist. I
have not read the authors that you refer to, so I can't say whether they
give a similar argument for "bureaucratic collectivism". My guess,
however, is that they do not, since it seems like most Marxists are
reluctant to apply a materialist analysis of a socialist economy.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Sat Sep 6 08:17:00 2008

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