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

From: John Milios (
Date: Sun Aug 31 2008 - 11:34:59 EDT

Hi Dave Z.,

To my opinion, the appropriation of the greater part of the surplus by
the state does not form a different mode of production: In the Soviet
Union, the enterprise (with its innate hierarchies, technologies,
etc.) remained the basic production unit, as in Western capitalism.
The surplus was appropriated in these enterprises and it was only
AFTERWARDS transferred to the state through the "tax" system. To a
large extent, this surplus was re-directed to the enterprises
according to the "plan".
However, there are several studies showing that, in essence, the
management of the enterprise determined the quantitative content of
its planning goals, and the central planning authority, through
institution of a system of incentives and disincentives, acted like a
lever exerting pressure to increase enterprise efficiency (enterprise
acceptance of more ambitious planning goals). In other words, it
functioned as a "substitute for competition".
At this point, I agree with Charles Bettelheim's analysis. He wrote in
"Calcul economique et formes de propriete", Maspero, Paris, 1970:
"The real importance of state ownership depends upon the actual
relations which exist between the masses of workers and the state
apparatus. (...) If the workers do not determine the state apparatus,
if it is dominated by a body of employees and managers and escapes the
control and the direction of the working masses, then that body of
employees and managers becomes the actual owner (with the sense of a
relation of production) of the means of production. In this sense this
body forms a social class (a state bourgeois class), due to the
relation which exists, between it and the means of production, on the
one hand, and the workers, on the other. This situation does not, of
course, mean that this class consumes personally the entire surplus
product, but that it disposes it according to rules that are class
rules, in fact obligated at the same time to allow the market and the
'productivity criteria' to play the dominant role".
Thus, the "Eastern" societies obviously differed from societies of
Western capitalism, which means that it wrong to speak generally about
a "restoration of capitalism" in these societies, as if we had to do
with (the recursion to) the pre-revolutionary form of capitalism.
However, despite the limits of activity of the individual enterprise,
the separation of the workers from the means of production and of the
produced output continued to be reproduced in conditions similar to
those of classical capitalism (subjection to the manager's imperative
and the factory's despotism).
The SU can thus, I argue, be regarded as a form of capitalist class
society whose ruling class consisted of two fractions: the "state
bourgeoisie" of high state and Communist Party officials -who held the
collective economic ownership over the means of production, as they
manned both the political apparatus and the administration apparatus
of the "planned economy"- on the one hand, and on the other the
managers of the state-owned enterprises (who hold dominion over the
direct possession of the means of production). The relations between
the two fractions were often antagonistic: the high state
administrators consisted in the dominant fraction of the ruling class,
pursuing an even effectiver control over enterprises, whereas managers
struggled for a higher degree of enterprise autonomy, as a means to
transform the collective economic ownership of the means of production
into private ownership of the Western type. This is what they actually
achieved after 1989-90, based on the support of the working class…

In solidarity,


On Sat, Aug 30, 2008 at 7:37 PM, Dave Zachariah <> wrote:
> Hi John,
> on 2008-08-30 18:10 you wrote:
>> Your argument could be correct, except in case that "Soviet-socialism"
>> is not a mode of production (MP) different from the Capitalist MP in
>> as far as:
>> (1) Socialism in general does not constitute a new MP but a regime of
>> transition from capitalism (the CMP) to communism (i.e. the gradual
>> "demolition" of the CMP), and
>> (2) "Soviet-socialism" shall be regarded as a form of capitalism:
>> State-capitalism.
> I can accept the idea that the name "Soviet-socialism" is wrong given the
> goals of more than a generation of socialists prior to the October
> revolution and that perhaps "bureaucratic collectivist" mode of production
> is more accurate. However, regarding (1) this is nothing but a matter of
> schematism from the Communist movement, so there is no substantive
> difference of opinion here.
> However, I disagree with (2). To regard the mode of production that existed
> in the Soviet Union as a "form of capitalism" does not seem to me to be
> based on a serious historical-materialist analysis. The specific mode in
> which the social division of labor was organized and the particular way in
> which the surplus product was extracted differed completely from capitalism.
> In the Soviet-type mode of production, the surplus product was determined by
> a political plan and appropriated by taxes.
> //Dave Z
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