[OPE-L:2778] Re: origins of state capitalist theories

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 13:05:55 -0700 (PDT)

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I think it is even incorrect to speak of different "versions" of one state
capitalist theory. There are, rather, a number of distinct theorieS.

For instance, one axis of differences: Most of the theories pertain
specifically to Russia (and other allegedly "socialist" or "transitional" or
"non-capitalist" workers' paradises). But the theory of Friedrich Pollock,
not yet mentioned, pertained also to Naziism, and Dunayevskaya's
state-capitalist theory pertains to a world stage of permanent state
interference, whatever the property-forms (though with various degrees of
development of that relation).

It is also questionable what one calls a "theory" of state capitalism. The
*label* began to be used in connection with Russia in the early 1920s. Yet
the first detailed *economic analysis* of Russia (Stalinist Russia, in this
theory) as a state-capitalist society was Dunayevskaya's, signalled in 1941
and completed in 1943.

As for state-capitalist theory as such, as far as I know it begins in 1844
with this statement of Marx's humanism:

"Even the _equality of incomes_ which Proudhon demands would only change the
relation of the present-day worker to his work into a relation of all men to
work. Society would then be conceived as an abstract capitalist" (Marx,
"Alienated Labour").

This was repeated and elaborated on in _Capital_ II: "... it is necessary to
avoid falling into the habits of bourgeois economics, as imitated by Proudhon,
i.e. to avoid looking at things as if a society based on the capitalist mode
of production lost its specific historical and economic character when
considered _en bloc_, as a totality. This is not the case at all. What we
have to deal with is the collective capitalist" (p. 509, Vintage).

Likewise, in a passage added to the French ed. of _Capital I_: "In any given
branch of industry centralization would reach its extreme limit if all the
individual capitals invested there were fused into a single capital. In a
given society this limit would be reached only when the entire social capital
was united in the hands of either a single capitalist or a single capitalist
company" (p. 779).

Likewise, Marx's point, in the transformation of values into production
prices, was that atomized capital and collectivized capital are no different
in the aggregate, no different insofar as the relation of capital to labor is

"Let us suppose that the five different *capital investments* [making up the
total social capital] in the above example, I-V, belong to *one and the same
person*. ... The total price of commodites I-V would thus be the same as
their total value .... And in *the same manner*, the sum of prices of
production for the commodities produced in society as a whole - taking the
totality of all branches of production - is equal to the sum of their values"
(_Capital_ III, Vintage, p. 259, emphases added).

Andrew Kliman
From: ope-l@anthrax.ecst.csuchico.edu on behalf of Murray Smith
Sent: Wednesday, July 31, 1996 2:01 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: [OPE-L:2777] Re: origins of state capitalist theories

On Wed, 31 Jul 1996, Paul Cockshott wrote:

> Murray:
> >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).
> Paul C:
> Are you sure that Bordiga had published anything on state capitalism
> prior to the late 40s. He was in prison from the late 20s until, I think,
> the start of the 40s, and in Mussolini's Italy would have had little
> to start publishing again until after the war. His most important
> works to analyse the USSR: 'Dialogue with Stalin', 'Dialogue with the dead',
> 'Economic and Social Structure of Russia today', all appeared in the 50s.
> I was under the impression that one of the more significant Marxists to
> put forward a theory of state capitalism early on was Kautsky.


Paul is certainly right that Bordiga's published writings on Russian
state capitalism appeared in the 1950s (and 1960s I think). In the early
years of his incarceration his followers (and likely Bordiga himself)
held a position similar to Trotsky on the class nature of the Soviet state.
This is indicated by Trotsky's correspondence with a Bordigist group in
1929-30. I was under the impression that the Bordigists adopted the idea,
already in circulation, that the USSR was capitalist or state-capitalist
some time in the 1930s, but I might be wrong about that. You are also
quite right to point out that the original authors of the notion of
"state capitalism in the USSR" were social democrats, Kautsky (in his
1919 "Terrorism and Communism", I believe) foremost among them. It is
important to distinguish between "left" (or "ultra-left") versions of the
theory (associated with Munis, C.L.R. James, Dunayevskaya, Bordiga,
syndicalism, "council communism" etc.) and right versions (historically
associated with social democracy).

Murray Smith