Was China "state capitalist" during the Mao era?

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husunzi
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Oct 12 2009 16:42
Was China "state capitalist" during the Mao era?

After a long period of dormancy, with only an occasional news posting, Loren Goldner's China list has suddenly broken into debate over this question. The answer may not be as simple as you think. And of course, if it turns out China was not capitalist in any meaningful sense, then this may mean that the USSR and other "socialist" states weren't "state capitalist" either. If not, what were they? And almost as interesting: will the sectarian "left communists" on the list succumb to rational argumentation based on empirical evidence, or will they remain forever in thrall to ICC dogma and hundred-year-old screeds by right-wing orientalists?

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Oct 12 2009 16:49

what do you think hsunzi? What was China under Mao if it is not state capitalism?

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Oct 12 2009 16:50
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will the sectarian "left communists" on the list succumb to rational argumentation based on empirical evidence, or will they remain forever in thrall to ICC dogma and hundred-year-old screeds by right-wing orientalists?

No prizes for guessing which side of the debate you're on, eh?

~J.

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Oct 12 2009 17:34
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what do you think hsunzi? What was China under Mao if it is not state capitalism?

For lack of a better term, I've been using the word "socialist" to label this mode of production. Another term might be "developmentalist." But these are just words - what do they mean? Actually I think the writings of Loren Goldner and Aufheben on this issue are some of the best material available, along with the work of Yiching Wu that I discuss on that list. But at this point I'm thinking "capitalism" - even "state capitalism" - is the wrong word for this, since the capitalist law of value, based on competition among capitalist firms, doesn't seem to have been the prime moving force. Instead it was what Sasha (also on that list) calls "the law of development," which was driven by largely by military competition with other states where capitalism was more developed. Historically, this "socialist" mode of production provided this hot-house conditions necessary for Chinese capital to blossom and compete on the global stage with other, more mature capitals, whereas without this "socialist" period, China would have probably remained peripheral to the global capitalist system. And it is possible that such "socialism" was inherently unstable and doomed to turn into capitalism (unless communization occurred or the global capitalist system collapsed somehow). If so, we could call it "proto-capitalism" or something like that. Anyway, that's a separate question, also worth discussing.

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mikail firtinaci
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Oct 12 2009 19:15
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...military competition with other states where capitalism was more developed. ...

Historically, this "socialist" mode of production provided this hot-house conditions necessary for Chinese capital to blossom and compete on the global stage with other, more mature capitals, whereas without this "socialist" period, China would have probably remained peripheral to the global capitalist system.

Actually husunzi, I think that these are some vital tendencies that dominated capitalist states after 29 crisis. New deal in US, Nazism in Germany, Fascism in Italy, Stalinism in Russia and Kemalism in Turkey... They have all these similar traits;

1. that crushing heavily -and it may also be read as in a non-productive way in terms of destruction of value- the non-capitalist sectors and proletariat for military-imperialist competition

2. An autarchical policy that "free traders" are either integrated to the state out of neccesity or capital directly canalised by state for the necessities of military requirements of military apparatus.

In that sense the chinese "development" under mao -in fact close to that of turkey -the country where I was born- was not similar to the capitalist development of the west till 1900's. The most interesting comparisan is tha,t throughout the 19th century, the weakest (in terms of accumulated capital) new-born nation states -the obvious examples is Germany but you might add US to that as well- used free trade for their benefits. - This is obviously the opposite of chinese case.

Moreover, for instance germany under Bismark, benefited greately from the peace policy among the "great powers" i.e. the capitalist states, for its development by way of this free trade. (the only exceptions beeing the short franco-prussian war and the crimean war)

So in terms of both "economic development" and military competition the road china has taken does not fit very well to what might be called as capitalist "progress". On the contrary it seems something like a disastrious destruction of available productive forces. For instance lets look at the sending of students to the fields to make them work as peasents. When you consider both the material wasted for their education (from papers to dorms etc.) and time this looks like a destruction of a well educated work force and value the national economy spared for them i.e. variable capital. Add to this the huge investments to the non-productive military sector..

All of these in the name of defending china's existance as a state against the others in a politically and economically crisis ridden situation.

In that sense it is obvious that unlike the 19th century, in the example of capitalist development in china in post civil war era, the political necessities of the state, contradicted with the capitalist "rational" economical ones.

At least for me that is the basis of what can be termed as state capitalism is; A contradictory but nevertheless a necessary form for the parasytical ruling classes. Especially in the underdeveloped regions as china or turkey....

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Oct 12 2009 22:06
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hundred-year-old screeds by right-wing orientalists?

What are you referring to?

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Oct 13 2009 05:59
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hundred-year-old screeds by right-wing orientalists?

What are you referring to?

A couple left communists on the list are getting most of their ideas about China from people like Karl Wittfogel, whose work was thoroughly discredited decades ago.

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Oct 13 2009 12:06
husunzi wrote:
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what do you think hsunzi? What was China under Mao if it is not state capitalism?

For lack of a better term, I've been using the word "socialist" to label this mode of production.

While some rather deluded individuals trying to make steel in their back garden may not really equate to capitalism, calling such an economy socialism seems a bit of a stretch.

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Historically, this "socialist" mode of production provided this hot-house conditions necessary for Chinese capital to blossom and compete on the global stage with other, more mature capitals, whereas without this "socialist" period, China would have probably remained peripheral to the global capitalist system..

Except that its fairly demonstrable that in the early years following the revolution, industrialisaton and agricultural output was slowly but steadily increasing over the majority of sectors. Something that the great leap forward and later the cutltural revolution completely wrecked.
Both maoism and stalinism justified their excesses by argueing that without them Russia and/or China wouldnt have been able to compete with the US. One ought to be wary of repeating that sort of flawed teleological rhetoric.

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Oct 13 2009 17:51

Response to Mikail:

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crushing heavily -and it may also be read as in a non-productive way in terms of destruction of value- the non-capitalist sectors and proletariat for military-imperialist competition

I'm not sure if I follow you here. What non-capitalist sectors existed in China on the eve of CP takeover in 1949? The main one I'm aware of was the peasant subsistence sector, and this was already becoming subsumed under capitalist relations (with landlords snatching up more land and using it for commercial purposes, poor peasants being forced into service for the Nationalist and Japanese armies, etc).

I guess you could say what was left of that sector was "crushed" in the sense that the state subsumed rural society under a system aimed largely at extracting as much surplus grain as possible from the farming population and transferring it to urban workers and soldiers, whose numbers the state multiplied as quickly as possible by transferring rural people into those sectors. But this process of increasing the transfer of population and increasing grain output disproves your main point: this was precisely a "development of the forces of production," both in the sense of transferring people to new and "developing" industrial sectors, and of increasing grain output - at first mainly through collectivization, intensification, and corvee projects to bring new land under cultivation and build terraces and irrigation facilities, but later through the introduction of new inputs and techniques.

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So in terms of both "economic development" and military competition the road china has taken does not fit very well to what might be called as capitalist "progress". On the contrary it seems something like a disastrious destruction of available productive forces.

What does this "so" refer to? I don't see how anything you've said demonstrates this? Because capitalist firms were nationalized, that means their productive force was destroyed?

Now as far as the military sector not producing value, that is a good point. I'm not sure how it works out in terms of Marxian theory. And that's important because my arguments is precisely that, if the capitalist law of value operated in "socialist" China at all, it was indirectly via military competition with stronger states (especially the US and its allies) that were driven to expand and compete with China by the competition of capitalist firms. So the question is, does the "development" of China's military power count as part of the "development of the forces of production" that, in hindsight, seems to have been the main historical usefulness of Chinese "socialism" from the perspective of Chinese capital today? I would say yes, because (1) even if the military sector doesn't directly produce value, its "development" does increase the forces of production for many other sectors (basic infrastructure, resource extraction and electrical power, steel, agriculture...), and (2) such military power is essential to China's existence as a state, both in defence against foreign imperialist threats and internal instability, and now increasingly in support of Chinese capital's drive to expand into other countries.

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For instance lets look at the sending of students to the fields to make them work as peasents. When you consider both the material wasted for their education (from papers to dorms etc.) and time this looks like a destruction of a well educated work force and value the national economy spared for them i.e. variable capital.

I agree it's difficult to see how the "rustification" campaigns contributed to the development of China's forces of production - especially when you probably don't know many details about them (it would be hard to know, since such details are not well known - especially in non-Chinese media). I can think of some ways in which they may have played that role: for example, through the transfer of knowledge from urban students to rural people. Some rusticated youth helped rural people to raise agricultural productivity by introducing new techniques, as well as to set up industrial enterprises in rural areas. Chris Bramall wrote about this in The Industrialization of Rural China.

On the other hand, I don't think it's necessary to demonstrate that every aspect of Chinese "socialism" contributed to the development of the forces of production. It was a complex phenomenon created by a group of humans with multiple conflicting goals, and also shaped by global conditions and national cultural traditions, so we can't expect everything to line up perfectly. My point is simply that, subjectively, one of the main goals (arguably the main goal) of the CCP was to develop the forces of production, and objectively, that happened - at one of the fastest paces in world history (I can't remember the figures exactly, but the industrialization and economic growth of the USSR was also extremely fast - much faster than in the US or England has ever developed). And, perhaps most importantly, the faction of the CCP led by Deng Xiaoping did regard economic development as the most important task, and they were able to use this idea to justify re-marketization later on. But many economic historians argue that Chinese capital would not have been able to do so well re-integrating into the global system if China had not first gone through at least certain aspects of the "socialist" periods, including the build-up of military power, rapid industrialization and infrastructure development, increase of life expectancy from 35 years in 1949 to 68 in 1980 (the fasted increase in world history, I think), and increase in literacy from like 2% in 1949 to over 90% in the 1980s. (I'm quoting these figures from a very bad memory, so I'm probably off a little.) The basic point is just that the forces of production did develop during this period.

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Oct 13 2009 19:39
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While some rather deluded individuals trying to make steel in their back garden may not really equate to capitalism, calling such an economy socialism seems a bit of a stretch.

I guess if you want to maintain a positive connotation for the word "socialism." What does socialism mean to you? One reason to use "socialism" in this way is simply that, within Leninist dogma, "socialism" came to mean a transitional system between capitalism and communism, and they claimed that's what their system was. So I'm just keeping that word, but saying they were wrong about the transition part. Now what's not clear to me is whether "socialism" was necessarily transition to capitalism (that is, whether it was inherently unstable and inevitably slouched toward capitalism - as Aufheben and others have argued), or whether it might have a lasted much longer had some global conditions changed. Sort of a pedantic question (as this whole debate is, I admit), but a question nevertheless. Another question is whether the movements toward communization that began in "socialist" societies - China in the 1966-8, Hungary in 1956, etc. - could have succeeded with some minor changes in strategy, etc. This question is taken up in Endnotes #1. Those movements had succeeded, then "socialism" would have indeed by transitional to communism - although not exactly in the sense meant by the founders of those states.

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Except that its fairly demonstrable that in the early years following the revolution, industrialisaton and agricultural output was slowly but steadily increasing over the majority of sectors. Something that the great leap forward and later the cutltural revolution completely wrecked.

Again, I'm not going to bother to look up the figures now, but it is also "fairly demonstrable" that industrialization and agricultural output continued to grow - and grow rather rapidly - every year except for like two or three - 1960 (the height of the Great Leap Famine - which struck about 1/3 of rural areas, I think, and didn't really affect urban industrial output) and 1967-8 (the height of the mass movement and street fight segment of the "cultural revolution" - when most of the workers in several cities were on strike). And "completely wrecked" seems to imply a wards, whereas in reality productive capacity increased during the GLF: the reason people didn't grow enough grain, and handed so much of what they had over to the state and non-farmers, was that loads of farmers went to work on infrastructure improvement projects - building roads, reservoirs, and so on (not only the infamous backyard furnaces - which, I agree, were a ridiculous waste). And these did increase productive capacity that helped output to grow afterwards. I've been to villages where people said some certain roads still used today were built during the GLF, for example.

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Both maoism and stalinism justified their excesses by argueing that without them Russia and/or China wouldnt have been able to compete with the US. One ought to be wary of repeating that sort of flawed teleological rhetoric.

I'm not arguing that the "excesses" of Maoism were necessary to increase China's military-industrial capacity to a point capable of competing with the US. (And I'm not even sure what you mean by "excesses" - like a little bit of Maoism or state-driven development is a good thing, but too much is bad?) I'm just saying "socialism" allowed that increase to happen. Perhaps fascism would have allowed it to happen as well. And I guess that's sort of the point of Mikail's post - that Mao-era "socialism" was just one of many forms of state-driven development used in "backwards" countries to try to "catch up" with "advanced" capitalist countries. (Only then he strangely turns around and says they didn't really "develop" under those systems.) I do think that generally speaking, most people were better off under that system than they would have been under the previous system run by Chiang Kai-shek (which was in some ways directly inspired by European fascism), and their life expectancy and literacy did increase much faster under the Mao-era system than the Chiang-era system. But perhaps the Chiang-era system or some other system would have driven a faster "development of the forces of production."

In any case, I wonder what you've got at stake in believing that the Mao-era system did not drive a rapid increase in productive capacity and military power. Do you see those as good things? I don't - not in and of themselves. Of course increased life expectancy is a good thing - but that's not primarily what we're discussing, right? Some forms of increased productive capacity may make life more enjoyable - even under oppressive systems like capitalism or "socialism." More importantly, some "advanced" methods of production may be useful for a future communist society. But a lot of the changes in production associated with "development" are bad - both for the environment and in terms of the degradation of productive activity, how it feels to work on a machine in a factory instead of with a simple hand-tool with your family at home, for example. To say nothing of how we might change methods of production to make them more pleasant, if we could do so for fun instead of being forced to use methods our bosses choose because they're the most efficient at pumping out value.

So when we discuss the "development of the forces of production" during the Mao era, we're talking about the usefulness of "socialism" for capital, not for humans, and not for a future communist society.

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Oct 14 2009 13:48

In China workers sell their labour power for wages. This is capitalist exploitation. Why would anyone want to make things look more complicated? Call it anything you want, just so long as the destruction of the Chinese capitalist state is a priority for the working class.

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Oct 14 2009 16:09

trenchone;

But you should know your enemy first. If that is right then the question arises, "what is (and was) China?" Was it a necessary evil for some period of time? was it a purely war machine? What kind of a capitalism it was?

I believe the answers to these will determine the struggle.

trenchone
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Oct 15 2009 05:07

State capitalism is indeed the form of capitalism that is necessary for the 20th and 21st century bourgeoisie. The Chinese state is not a "purely" war machine, but certainly with a great deal of resources devoted to the military - for repression at home and the appetites of Chinese imperialism beyond its borders.

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Oct 15 2009 22:40

The history of human civilization so far has been based on a ruling minority, a class, which had extracted a surplus from the laboring majority. Money, as a "medium of exchange" and "store of value" has been used by humans since the beginning of civilization and before. Thus labor for money, wage labor, existed off and on in variety of societies through-out the world. Similar, items for sale, commodities, have also existed for a long time.

What is relatively more unique for the societies identified as capitalist is that the mean of production, whether land or tools or factories, were themselves commodities. This dominance of implies that the way the ruling class obtains it's surplus is by exchanging money for labor-power and other means of production and then exchanges these back for money - making the money capital. But even here, specific capitalists have existed for a long, As I recall, China in particular has had capitalists for a long time but I don't believe these were ever large or dominant during it's previous history.

Now, I'd say an assertion of Marx or of the communist movement inspired by Marx, is that capitalism is the most developed and, inherently the last system of production involving the extraction of surplus. At this point in history, that assertion looks pretty plausible. Capitalism has been imposed in countries lacking the history of Europe (Japan, say) and has evolved to a very similar system. Further, while the development of the Stalinist nations was not development on the basis of capital being a commodity - if anything, exactly the opposite. Still the final result in Russia, Eastern Europe and China, was a system also is fairly close to what we imagine as capitalism. So here to, the conception of capitalism as the last, most system seems plausible.

My general impression is that the Stalinist nations were founded in regions which had a rather "weak basis" for capitalist development, with peasants who were attached to their land rather than mobile and dispossessed wage laborers or with few local capitalists OR with capitalist simply operating on such a small scale they weren't suited for world-scale competition and industrial production. The production system of these nations were generally built by the technocratic elite based on central planning rather than being built by capitalist looking directly towards their personal enrichment. The technocratic elite, the factory managers, engineers and bureaucrats, certainly benefited collectively from the system but could not be capitalists by any reasonable stretch of the imagination or the definitions.

Now, the USSR, for example, fell with a "big bang" in which the old state was destroyed and an officially capitalist system was imposed. Yet in Russia today, monopolistic autocrats and the state still restrict what claims to be capitalism. Oppositely in China, the same "socialist" regime is officially in charge yet through ideological pronouncements has gradually imposed a regime generally recognized as capitalist yet also maintain many restriction on the movement of capital.

Even more, through-out the capitalist world, the actual movement of capital only claims to be completely fluid in the sales brochures of giant exchanges. The actual buying and selling of factories and (especially) land is regulated to different kinds and degrees everything. The state intervenes in capital markets through buying and selling and through regulation. Moreover, capitalists as well as would-be capitalists get around such regulation by various methods and approaches so nowhere is simply the legal system by itself the only word on real production relations - Mafias and similar realities provide modifications.

Also, as far as "markets versus planning" goes as a mechanism for the development of the means of production, I think that the development of the Stalinist nations shows that markets aren't particularly necessary for simply increasing production or for producing a given set of requirements. The mechanism which moves modern industrial class societies towards a market is that these markets allow the regularization of relations within the ruling class. A bureaucrat in under Stalin had no official claim to power, only the person of Stalin himself kept him in power so he had powerful incentive to support a more regular system as well as to accumulate "secret" sources of autonomous power. Experts can certainly specify the factories needed to produce goods required for maintenance and expansion of a modern industrial society (the claim markets are a "technology" increasing efficiency is the Big Lie of the economics profession). What a modern production system controlled by an elite has serious, indeed fatal, trouble with, without a market, is specifying how to reallocate resources once the system is built. The flaw is both technical and political, since once a factory manager has an established fief, they have a strong incentive to hoard the information and resource that are their only source of autonomous power. The existence of "blat", under-the-table-exchanges, in the USSR, doesn't prove that the USSR was a capitalist system BUT it does shows that there were indirect class-power mechanisms operating there.

So.. I would suggest that we consider that, first off, the world have evolved in a semi-constant way over the last 200 years, with the both development of large, bureaucratic production systems in both the West and the East and with the gradual "marketization" of these system. In this sense, I'd see the Stalinist Nations as "proto-capitalist" or "pre-capitalist" or perhaps "bureaucratic capitalist".

In this scenario, these systems are "progressive" only in so-far as they progress towards a full-market system. Calling them "socialist" doesn't seem especially useful given the many attached to this label. "The stalinist nations" seems adequate for simply identify the group so I'm skeptical about "Socialist" as a mere label for identification.

I mean, all is related to the question of the significance of the label capitalist. The significance of this label is not merely that "workers are exploited" or some similarly simplistic slogan. It is also that all the various "control systems" of the past, large and small scale are at the service of the market, and also that the fluidity of labor power must ultimately be overcome in the process of creating the opposite system, communism.

Believe it or not, I actually think Debord's "The Proletariat as Subject and Representation" (Society Of The Spectacle, Chapter 4) includes good description of this situation, call the Stalinist bureaucrat a "substitute ruling class". And they say the Situationist didn't know any economics..

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Oct 15 2009 23:06
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Now what's not clear to me is whether "socialism" was necessarily transition to capitalism (that is, whether it was inherently unstable and inevitably slouched toward capitalism - as Aufheben and others have argued), or whether it might have a lasted much longer had some global conditions changed.

Well, if capitalist society didn't have the dynamic that it has then Stalinist society might have been able to last longer.

I suspect that the centralized despotisms of the ancient world as well as modern North Korea are more stable than the more developed Stalinist nations because their lack of development means no underling can/could accumulate autonomous power of any sort.

Also, for our purposes, the question isn't whether these systems would always become capitalist but whether they could possibly transform to anything else but capitalism. And I'd claim that a capitalist transition would be just-about the only way that the bureaucratic class could solidify its position. In China, there was an article in which it was noted that the children of high officials are becoming billionaires. It is worth noting that the opposite transition doesn't happen. The children of billionaires don't become high officials. The bureaucracy seems to work to the extent of remaining a meritocratic collective leadership system but this only impels the most powerful individual to find other means to make their positions permanent.

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Oct 18 2009 15:26

RedHughes, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I think we basically agree.

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Oct 18 2009 19:14

http://www.ibrp.org

I agree with you trenchone. red star red star red star

pannekoek-bakunin

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Sep 24 2010 09:51

I finally got around to studying this question in a little more detail and sketching a general perspective on "what was Mao-era 'socialism'?" - with a focus on the agrarian "people's commune" system. I hope this will stimulate more discussion (and research) that moves beyond both Maoist and existing (left/libertarian) communist accounts, toward better explanations of that period's complexities that identify positive and negative lessons for future communist practice.

This essay takes the form of a review of Endicott's book "Red Earth: Revolution in a Sichuan Village." This is because the editors of China Left Review asked me to review a book about rural China during the collective era, and I happened to be reading "Red Earth" at the time. Although I disagree with the (basically Maoist) perspective of the author, the book is rich in details about the experience of one village during that era, details I found useful for criticizing the author's own perspective and applying to broader questions. Those of you with less time or interest in the specifics may want to start with the conclusion, "What Could Have Been Done Differently under the Historical Circumstances?"

English:
"A Commune in Sichuan? Reflections on Endicott’s Red Earth"

Chinese:
蜀中建公社?——由《红土地》引发的思考

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Sep 24 2010 12:35

I don't get the point about Wittfogel being at the origin of the notion of state capitalism. In my memory he made some interesting developments of Marx's notion of the oriental mode of production, but with a very flawed agenda: trying to prove that the Stalinist regimes were themselves a latter day form of this mode of production.

This was a completely false line of argument. On the other hand, it is interesting that in general the Stalinist model of historical development has had a strong tendency to ignore or even erase the oriental mode of production and see a direct transition from slavery to feudalism (Engels also makes this error in Origins of the Family). It could well be that the the Stalinists were hostile to this notion because there were certain uncomfortable parallels between their system and the old oriental mode - ie, the existence of the latter showed that a ruling class could become more or less indistinguishable from the state.

But us left communist dogmatists certainly don't derive our analysis of state capitalism from Wittfogel: it comes from reading certain important passages in Marx, in Engels, in William Morris and others in the 19th century, and then from the more explicit theorisations of Bukharin, Ossinski, Ruhle, and others during the revolutionary wave, and then from the reflections of the Dutch, Italian and other left communists during the period of counter-revolution that followed. All of this well before Wittfogel came along.

I agree strongly with the point Red Hughes made about the importance, to Marx, of the idea that capitalism was the "last antagonistic mode of production", the last possible form of class society.

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 24 2010 16:29

Personally I think it is interesting that most of the discussion around what I still call the "Russian Question" for lack of a better term concerns what pigeon hole to put the old "Stalinist" systems in rather than understand the historical forces that created them.

In my view the "Stalinist" regimes came about because certain areas of the globe were "closed off" to a classic bourgeois national revolution by the Imperial system of subordinating all bourgeois classes to the imperial overlord. In China this meant that the local Chinese bourgeoisie was tied too deeply to the imperial overlords to actually lead a bourgeois national revolution. In the meantime the proletariat was too weak and too small to be able to lead any kind of credible "socialist" revolution and would have faced the impossible task of "how to design primitive capital accumulation" without exploiting anyone had they been unlucky enough to have succeeded. This straightjacket was broken by a peasant war, organized by the renegade "Communists" under Mao Tse Tung that made a "bourgeois national revolution against the bourgeoisie" that resulted in a regime that mimicked capitalism in the sense that it faced all the "historic tasks" of the bourgeoisie but without an actual bourgeoisie. Altho the Russian Revolution, taking place before it also contained a working class component all that was left of the "working class" was the "Communist Party" that rode it to power, purged of any and all "working class" elements.

The "Stalinist" systems were a very short lived "alternate method" of industrialization that collapsed once primitive accumulation was complete.

Trotsky was "right" in the same way that Hegel was "right." Trotsky was right that the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R. was not itself a "class" but a bonapartist substitute for a class. He was just wrong about what class that was. They were standing in for the capitalist class, not the working class. Ditto for China.

So what do we "call it"? I don't really like any of the alternatives that I have heard.

Nosotr@sl@spobres
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Jan 30 2013 23:22

I was just recently directed to this discussion. I have to cross swords with a lot of Maoists as an organizer in The Bronx (with a broadly anarchosyndicalist/especifista orientation). The comments here have given me a lot of useful sources and things to think about.
One comment though that struck me was the following:

But a lot of the changes in production associated with "development" are bad - both for the environment and in terms of the degradation of productive activity, how it feels to work on a machine in a factory instead of with a simple hand-tool with your family at home, for example. To say nothing of how we might change methods of production to make them more pleasant, if we could do so for fun instead of being forced to use methods our bosses choose because they're the most efficient at pumping out value

I can already imagine the FRSO people jumping down my throat if I said that, and they would be right--"you want to give up a gain of 33 years in life expectancy and an 88% gain in literacy so you can sit at home with a hand tool and work with your family, because it feels better?"--it sounds pretty privileged, and almost primitivist; I don't think that's the spirit you said it in, based on the rest of your posts, but I think we can give much better reasons to balk at giving "development of productive forces" center stage. Some that I can think of, based on the effect of NAFTA on Mexican agriculture, for example, are massive displacement to urban environments with consequent costs of infrastructure, distribution, administration; the tremendous waste of uprooting and destroying existing traditional social networks and safety nets instead of incorporating them into a new social system; the exponential increase in authoritarianism by moving control of technology further out of the hands of working people through centralization, and creating more and more technologies that only an elite technical class can manage; and of course "secondary" effects on the environment that

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John E Jacobsen
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Jan 31 2013 09:54

RedHughes points on how we are defining capitalism are well taken - of course we don't just mean "exploitation of workers," but a host of other structural features of society, not least of which would be competition between firms, prices set by market forces, management by individual capitalists, and so on.

But I fail to see how that voids what seems to be near consensus amongst libcom's and others that Mao's China (and the USSR) were State Capitalist. The qualifier "state" is there for a reason - namely, to differentiate it from capitalism proper.

In other words, I'm still not hearing any disconcerting reasons for why I should reconsider what have generally been my thoughts on the nature of Russia and China for many years.

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Feb 1 2013 01:54

There appear to be 2 versions of state capitalism theory; one that only defines command-economies or former command economies as state capitalist (the groups that published Sic seem to follow this). The other involves a recognition of a general tendency of capitalism following the First World War (and its war economy) toward greater state intervention and manipulation of national and international economies, and the command economies of Stalinism being just 1 variation of the general tendency toward state capitalism.

It appears that you're arguing against the former version of the theory, which is admirable, I don't think only calling Stalinist, command-economies state capitalist is particularly helpful either. But I'm not sure that bringing up the peculiarities of China's development post-Mao negates the latter theory of state capitalism at all. It can't hurt to map out as much as possible the specific economic developments of post-1949 China (or post-1927 if you count what Mao and the Red Army did in the regions they had military control over), but I think they will add to the latter theory of state capitalism rather than negate or deny it.

ZJW
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Sep 3 2016 03:59

If this is the right thread for it .......

Attention to the following article by Chuang, a 'communisation' group (of the EndNotes, not Dauvé sort) :

' Sorghum and Steel: The Socialist Developmental Regime and the Forging of China', which is 'the first in a three-part series aiming to narrate a new economic history of China'.

It's at http://chuangcn.org/journal/one/sorghum-and-steel .

It has these parts:

Introduction – Transitions
1 – Precedents
2 – Development
3 – Ossification
4 – Ruination
Conclusion – Unbinding

Readability and patience may be enhanced by not beginning at the beginning but at section 2, 3, or 4.

Caution: use of the phrases 'socialist' and 'communist [project]' may be found unusual or objectionable.

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Sep 22 2016 20:05

While I'm not particularly enamored of him, I think the American trotskyist Max Shachtman came up with the best description of marxist-leninism as a mode of production, he called it; 'bureaucratic collectivism.' Basically, the means of production are collectivized (but not socialized) under the complete control of a monolithic state bureaucracy. I think the shoe fits.

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Sep 22 2016 20:18

Nigel Harris's account of the Mao years would indicate that it was https://libcom.org/library/mandate-heaven-nigel-harris

given that its obsession was to increase productivity of heavy industry lead it to protect and enshrine wage labour. He also makes the case that industrial firms and regional sectors were in heavy competition with each other in a manner remarkably similar to the way corporations operate.

Never really understood this dogmatic fixation on the importance of competition when this topic comes up. American and UK companies make peace and combine all the time and the possibility of obtaining a monopoly of the market is often seen as the main motivation for corporations the world over.

S. Artesian
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Sep 22 2016 21:27
NGNM85 wrote:
While I'm not particularly enamored of him, I think the American trotskyist Max Shachtman came up with the best description of marxist-leninism as a mode of production, he called it; 'bureaucratic collectivism.' Basically, the means of production are collectivized (but not socialized) under the complete control of a monolithic state bureaucracy. I think the shoe fits.

Yeah, well Shachtman also thought that there was an entirely new class brought into being along with this entirely new mode of production; and if that's the case, then you need to show how this class, and its relations of property a) formed itself inside the pre-existing dominant mode of production b) produced an entirely new and different organization, not of property, but of the origin of the property, the condition of labor.

Well actually, you only have to do those things if you claim to be a Marxist, which Schachtman was claiming he was......at the time.

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Sep 25 2016 07:13

IMO, China could be characterised either as 'state capitalist' or 'bureaucratic collectivist'; it depends how these terms are defined and applied. Perhaps they are complementary, and which term is used depends on which aspect of the Chinese regime one is focusing on. In any case, each of these terms is merely a starting-point for concrete analysis.

ajjohnstone
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Sep 26 2016 04:28

Call it industrial feudalism, if you wish. I don't care what it is called, as long as it isn't presented as progressive step towards socialism

yourmum
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Sep 26 2016 19:31

measure of material wealth was abstract labor, surplus was extracted by the government.

Quote:
How shall we use the three million yuan from economic construction bonds? We plan to use it in the following way. One million will be allotted for the Red Army's war expenses, and two million will be loaned as capital to the co-operatives, the Bureau for the Regulation of Food Supplies and the Bureau of External Trade. Of the latter amount, the greater part will be used for expanding our external trade and the rest for expanding production. Our objective is not only to expand production but also to sell our products at fair prices to the White areas and then purchase salt and cloth cheaply for distribution among our people, so as to break the enemy's blockade and check the merchants' exploitation. We must bring about the continued growth of the people's economy, greatly improve the livelihood of the masses and substantially increase our public revenue, thus laying firm material foundations for the revolutionary war and for economic construction

http://www.marx2mao.com/Mao/PEW33.html

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Oct 6 2016 19:33
paul r wrote:
IMO, China could be characterised either as 'state capitalist' or 'bureaucratic collectivist'; it depends how these terms are defined and applied. Perhaps they are complementary, and which term is used depends on which aspect of the Chinese regime one is focusing on. In any case, each of these terms is merely a starting-point for concrete analysis.

The thing is, I think 'state capitalism' is just objectively inferior as a description of the USSR. I think it has more to do with an impulse to delegitimize marxist-leninism, than to explain how it works. I just think 'bureaucratic collectivism' is a much more accurate description. The means of production are collectivized under the control of a monolithic state bureaucracy, which, in turn, is controlled by bureaucrats who comprise a distinct class, with particular class interests. The shoe appears to fit.