[OPE-L:2752] Re: More on abstract labour

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Mon, 29 Jul 1996 17:21:21 -0700 (PDT)

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A reply to Murray Smith's ope-l 2750:

The burden of my ope-l 2731 was to respond to his (a) attack on Raya
Dunayevskaya's state-capitalist theory and the opposition to the theory of
"transition" as "formalist and non-dialectical" and (b) uncharitable and
perhaps slanderous characterization of her motives, namely that her theory was
above all an excuse to justify an earlier political position.

Regarding (a): though Murray quoted long passages from my post and thus may
have given readers the impression that he responded to it comprehensively, he
in fact declined to quote or to respond to anything pertaining to the charge
"formalist and non-dialectical." For the record: I documented that
Dunayevskaya's view that Russia was not transitional was grounded in an
analysis of the Stalinist counterrevolution, the philosophic key to which was
the category "transformation into opposite." Moreover, I documented that her
opposition to the theory of a "transition" to socialism was grounded in a
reading of the dialectic of the Absolute Idea (Hegel), and gave a whiff of the
argument. It was thus up to Murray to defend his contention that this was
"formalist and non-dialectical" argumentation, since I gave at least strong
prima facie evidence that it wasn't. But he failed to engage the
philosophical discussion entirely, retreating exclusively into politics and

His response to (b) was a gem. Instead of engaging my critique, he buried it
under scads of erudite information (and, BTW, misinformation), so seductively
that even I almost forgot what my point had been. Let me quote it IN FULL:


Murray's claim that Dunayevskaya's theory of state-capitalism was merely
> an excuse to justify her opposition to all state powers in WWII is
> preposterous. Had that been her concern, she could have gone along with Max

> Shachtman's or Joseph Carter's view of Russia as a "bureaucratic
> of "bureaucratic imperialist" society, etc., especially since these were the

> dominant positions in the group she belonged to at the time, she was young,
> woman!, and heretofore no "theoretician." Instead, two years *after*
> from Trotsky, she opposed them, and went on to do the detailed economic
> analysis and theory needed to substantiate her view that Russia was
> capitalist. Why? Because she felt that in equating capitalism and private
> property, they, as well as Trotsky, failed fully to understand either
> capitalism or Marx, and thus failed fully to understand all that needs to be

> overcome.

Dunayevskaya was a member of a group within the anti-defensist faction of
the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) that split from that party over the
programmatic issue of whether Russia should be defended as a "degenerated
worker state" against imperialist agression and/or internal capitalist
counter-revolution, as well as over complaints about the SWP's
"bureaucratic" internal regime. Some members of this faction developed a
"bureaucratic collectivist" analysis of the Soviet Union (Shachtman,
Burnham)-- a theory originally proposed by the Italian Bruno Rizzi -- and
others embraced the notion of "state capitalism" (which had already been
advanced by Amadeo Bordiga and the Spanish Trotskyist Grandizo Munis,
among others). Dunayevskaya's co-thinkers included C.L.R. James. This
group left Shachtman's Workers Party after World War II, rejoining the
SWP and therein launching a tendency known as Johnson-Forrest that fought
for a perspective based on the theory of state capitalism. Ultimately
they left the SWP and the Fourth International, establishing the "Facing
Reality" group of the 1950s. The debates surrounding state-capitalism
within the FI are well-known and well-documented. I see little point in
rehashing them here. Suffice to say that Andrew's comment that Trotsky
equated private property and capitalism is a serious injustice to Trotsky
and that, however unsymapthetic I am to Dunayevskaya's ideas, I did my
best not to represent them."

There you have it. No defense of his claim that ''Dunayevskaya was *above all
concerned* to justify her break from Trotsky's "defensist" position" (my
emphasis), but also no retraction and apology. Instead, he ends by accusing
*me* of "serious injustice" to Trotsky and the comment that he did his "best
not to represent" (misrepresent?) Dunayevskaya's ideas. (For the record:
Leon Trotsky, _The Revolution Betrayed_ [Pioneer, 1945, p. 248]: "the
nationalization of the land, the means of industrial production, transport and
exchange, together with the monopoly of foreign trade, constitute the basis of
the Soviet social structure. Through these relations, established by the
proletarian revolution, the nature of the Soviet Union as a proletarian state
is for us basically defined.")

For the record, also, there's so much un- and half-truth in the above account
it is hard to know where to begin. Given that all of it is ENTIRELY
irrelevant to the issue of whether Murray's ad hominem attack was justified,
I'll leave almost all of it aside and only point out that Dunayevskaya never
belonged to, much less established, "Facing Reality." Rather, that was the
group formed by the followers of CLR James, after they broke from Dunayevskaya
and the majority of Correspondence, at which time (1955) the latter formed
News and Letters Committees. Correspondence had already broken from
Trotskyism politically. Dunayevskaya did so philosophically as well; News and
Letters Committees is, instead, a Marxist-Humanist organization.

I've already noted in recent posts that I'm not interested at the moment in
discussing Russian economic policy of the 1920s. Nor am I interested in
discussing Trotskyist politics. (I quoted Trotsky simply to defend myself
against the charge of "serious injustice.") We had been discussing
Dunayevskaya's ideas (which I am interested in discussing), but Murray's
latest post has taken the discussion far afield, hardly on her work at all.
So there's not much left of his post for me to respond to. Just 2 things:

Murray: "Marxism, including an authentic Marxist-humanism ... recognizes that
human emancipation requires a substantial development of the productive forces
in order to
effect a transition from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom...."

Andrew: I don't think there's anything "authentic" (in the sense of
"continuation of Marx's Marxism") about a "Marxist-humanism" that equates
"productive forces" with technology, failing to recognize the development of
the human being as the greatest development of productive forces. The organic
composition of capital and the ratio of Dept. I to Dept. II are thus indexes
of the *direction* of development. And I don't think there's anything
authentic about a "Marxist-humanism" that would sacrifice in CAD fashion the
lives of human beings to the juggernaut of production for production's sake,
with, of course, the promise of a "transition" to the realm of freedom, which,
however is not a "sure thing," and who knows how many generations will need to
be sacrificed before we get there?

Murray: "Andrew in this last passage defines capitalism as "generalized
commodity production"
-- a definition which I accept but which is not used by most supporters of the
theory of "state capitalism" for the simple reason that you cannot credibly
argue that the Soviet economy was one in which commodity production was
generalized (for example, means of production were not
commodities in the Soviet economy: they could not be bought and sold on a
market; indeed, the "sale" of means of production my enterprise managers
was strictly illegal)."

Andrew: There is not a "the" theory of state capitalism. Murray equates
commodity with commodity-form, something "bought and sold on a market," I do
not. I've already explained how Marx understood a capitalist farmer who uses
his own corn in subsequent production to be employing a commodity; that's the
way I understand commodity, independent of its form of appearance in a market.

Andrew Kliman