Re: [OPE] question re published letters Engels

From: Paul <>
Date: Sun May 31 2009 - 18:27:37 EDT

> But, the question that you ask is a good one. Both Khruschev and Lenin
> (but not so much Mao - at least from the Great Leap Forward and after)
> shared the belief that socialist relations of production would arise as a
> consequence of increasing forces of production, but there is obviously no
> necessary reason why this must be the case.
> The Bolsheviks, especially in the early period, tended to somewhat
> uncritically glorify
> the empowering possibilities of advances in technology and
> industrialization.
> This romanticisation of industrialization could also be seen in the
> constructivist
> art of the period.
 Yes but if we take Bettleheim seriously we have to ask in what way
would socialist relations of production alter the nature of the
productive forces.

If we model the transition between modes of production as a Markov
process then in any given year there is a certain transition
probablility P(c->s) for a society going from capitalism to socialism,
there is also a transition probability for a society going from
socialism back to capitalism P(s->c).

If each probability is non zero we will end up with a population of
societies that is a stochastic mix or capitalist and socialist states.
Such a transition system has an equilibrium mix and does not show
secular evolution.

If we just characterise societies as socialist or capitalist in terms of
social relations then the above argument is actually an argument about
transtions between ensembles not individual states. One ensemble we
characterise as capitalism and
the other socialism. Within each ensemble or macrostate, there is a
plethora of microstates characterised by different combinations of
forces of production with the broadly socialist or broadly capitalist
relations of production, and also by a plethora of variations of
property and authority relations within the broadly capitalist or
broadly socialist categories.

To show a secular evolution of modes of production such that mode of
production A is superior to B ( say A= capitalism
B= feudalism ) then we have to have the property that the reverse
transtion P(a->b) falls over time. In the capitalist case this was
because capitalist agriculture and capitalist industry developed new
forces of production whose operation under the old feudal relations of
production was improbable. Thus the longer capitalism existed, the less
likely a feudal restoration became.

The question one has to ask is whether we can say the same thing about
socialism. Is it the case that the longer a socialist society exits, the
more it develops new modes of material production that would be hard to
operate under capitalist relations of production?

And if that is the case, does the existence of these new modes and
techniques of material production reduce the probability of capitalist

It seems to me that these are quite open questions. On the one hand the
USSR clearly developed organisations and structures of production that
were crucially dependent on the all union planned economy. When that was
removed after the Yeltsin coup there was a wholesale collapse of
production and a huge increase in mortality rates.
So the USSR developed forces of production whose continued operation was
not compatible with capitalism, but the mere existence of these forces
of production does not itself seem to have been sufficient to reduce the
transition flux P(s->c)
towards zero.

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Received on Sun May 31 18:29:29 2009

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