Two ex-socialists go funny

MAY 2022 Forums General discussion Two ex-socialists go funny

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  • #204299
    ZJW
    Participant
    Replying to several posts above:
       
               
    1) DJP:  My apologies! Bad memory! 
                   
       
    2) Stuart: What you say rather misses the point doesn’t it?  If you had not gone and …. de-remembered(?) what you must have known from your years in the SPGB, then no one would be remonstrating with you about presenting a universe in which the choices are limited to central planning vs the market, and there would be no need for you to be writing to convey high-minded sentiments to ex-comrades. Perhaps it would be more fitting to speak of substantive matters, eh?, such as for example Robbo’s fourth paragraph, here: https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/topic/two-ex-socialists-go-funny/#post-203813
               
                            
    3) ALB wrote:  ‘In fact a comparison of the two texts suggests that Binay Sarkar had a copy of L.L. Men’s pamphlet in front of him when he wrote that chapter, ‘ 
       
    Yes indeed. I didn’t want to clutter up the matter with pettiness (?) so did not mention that  Sarkar’s earlier ‘The Bolshevik coup d’etat in Russia 1917 – 1921’ https://www.academia.edu/7730770/The_Bolshevik_coup_detat_in_Russia_1917_-_1921 (which was written right during or right after his break with left-communism) not only has has similar argument about ‘war communism’ as made as in the more recent Sarkar article but at that time he had the good manners at one point to quote LLM by name.  
       
    4) To no one in particular: I hope that if there is further discussion of the LLM book (Robbo’s contribution for example), the focus will be on what LLM says about ‘war communism’. These other things: what left-communists …. council-communists … anarchists …. and others thought was possible or not in 1917, and what they think of the SPGB, these are old, much discussed debated topics.   
    #225046
    ZJW
    Participant

    Continuing with the matter of ‘abolition of money’ during bolshie ‘war communism’, there was the abolition of currency in Pol Pot Cambodia. Just come to my attention there are two texts by the same author, separated by three years, written from a marxist perspective of some sort or another on Democratic Kampuchea:

    1) James A Tyner: FROM RICE FIELDS TO KILLING FIELDS — Nature, Life, and Labor under the Khmer Rouge (2017, freely downloadable from libgen, which is not a typo for ‘libcom’).

    Table of contents:
    1. A Critique of Khmer Rouge Political Economy
    2. Revolution
    3. Reconstruction
    4. Production
    5. Manufacturing Indifference
    6. Abolishment and Reproduction
    7. Dead Labor

    From the Preface:
    ‘The dominant interpretation, known as the Standard Total View, of Cambodian history during this period presents the CPK as a totalitarian, communist, and autarkic regime seeking to reorganize Cambodian society around a primitive, agrarian political economy. Under the STV, the victims of the regime died as a result of misguided economic policies, a draconian security apparatus, and the central leadership’s fanatical belief in the creation of a utopian, communist society. In short, according to the STV, Democratic Kampuchea, as Cambodia was renamed, constituted an isolated, completely self-reliant prison state. This present work disrupts the standard narrative and provides a documentary-based Marxist interpretation of the political economy of Democratic Kampuchea.’

    and

    ‘Communism, according to Marx, was necessary to overcome the alienated life that typified capitalism. This, I argue, was a central concern of the CPK. However, what the CPK actually brought about was anything but a socialist or communist society, but not for lack of trying. I do not doubt that many members of the CPK were committed to what they believed Marxism entails, that there was a concerted effort to bring about a socialist revolution in preparation for an eventual communist society. However, I also maintain that notwithstanding their attempts to establish and defend socialism and to move toward communism, they could not and did not install a communist structure as the prevailing social organization of production. Rather than erecting a nonexploitative system, the CPK merely replaced one form of exploitation with another. Indeed, the CPK reaffirmed a system of production for exchange, thereby negating its own philosophical premise. Quite simply, I will argue that the CPK—similar to the former Soviet Union and other so-called communist or socialist governments—installed a variant of state capitalism. As employed throughout this book, the term state capitalism refers broadly to a mode of production whereby a ruling class controls the state apparatus and, through this control, manages the means of production and subsequently appropriates surplus value.’

    2) James A Tyner: “Currency is a Most Poisonous Tool”: State Capitalism, Nonmarket Socialism, and the Elimination of Money during the Cambodian Genocide (2020)
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341260328_Currency_is_a_Most_Poisonous_Tool_State_Capitalism_Nonmarket_Socialism_and_the_Elimination_of_Money_during_the_Cambodian_Genocide
    2020 (PDF click-available without fuss)

    Fragments from which:

    ‘It is implausible to conclude with any degree of certainty the entirety of the productive apparatus envisioned by a regime that collapsed in just under four years. This holds especially for a regime that so clearly was fraught with internal dissent. Nevertheless, surviving CPK planning documents allow for a partial reconstruction of Democratic Kampuchea’s economy as it lurched forward. Far from a ‘pure’ form of socialism or communism, the mode of production begun by the CPK resembles more a Frankenstein’s monster of state capitalism and nonmarket socialism, with the apparent paradox of Democratic Kampuchea’s hybrid economy explained by geographic scale.’

    and

    ‘In Democratic Kampuchea, the suspension of currency effectively precluded these strategies. Neither could CPK officials rely upon non-capitalist forms of organization to generate necessary revenues. Simply put, a barter system as that proposed by Chhit Chhoeun does not provide surplus value; and some CPK officials apparently understood this limitation. Indeed, the resultant economic order of Democratic Kampuchea resembled more so a hybrid form of state capitalism and nonmarket socialism than it did either a barter economy or an economy of associated producers as envisioned by Marx.’

    ‘In short, CPK officials initiated and implemented a hybrid economy. On the one hand, Party leaders participated in the monetary-based global economy as state capitalists while, on the other hand, they instituted a nonmonetary, nonmarket domestic economy. Under an economic system of import substitution industrialization, the Cambodian people produced rice not as a use value, that is, a grain produced primarily for subsistence and biologic consumption, but instead, as a means of acquiring exchange value. Khmer Rouge policy and practice effectively transformed rice into a commodity for export. In the process, however, senior leaders of the CPK instituted a fatal contradiction into Democratic Kampuchea’s economy. Under the system of exchange introduced by the CPK, the provision of higher rations (in the form of rice) would decrease the amount of capital (rice) the Party had available for surplus accumulation in the global economy. However, decreased rations would facilitate the accumulation of capital. When CPK leaders suspended currency, they did not negate capital but merely substituted one form of capital (wages) with another (rations), while leaving the basic exploitative relationship intact.’

    His references are to Cliff, Resnick-Wolff, Bettelheim, …though in the bibliography to the book three years earlier, Buick/Crump is also listed, but no mention in the text.

    I have not yet read through the book, but from looking at its preface it seems his use of ‘state capitalist’ shifted by 2020 to the Tony Cliff sense where ‘state capitalist’ means carrying on international trade with a view to monetary profit (regardless of the workings of the internal economy, ie the ‘law of value’ somehow regulating production or *not*. ) Thus he can have Pol Pot Cambodia as both ‘non-market socialism’ [sic] on the one hand, and also ‘state capitalism’ on the other.)

    Against this use of ‘state-capitalist’, thesis 23 by the group gegen Kapital und Nation in theirs 2011 article on Pol Pot Cambodia (https://gegen-kapital-und-nation.org/en/if-we-have-rice-we-can-have-everything/ )

    ‘Incidentally, this should not lead us to the converse fallacy that the Khmer Rouge’s reign had been some kind of ‘state capitalism’. The Khmer Rouge did indeed relate to the world market with their aims and would have loved to transform Cambodia into an agricultural supplier for international capitalism. But they never got that far. And unlike in the USSR they did not even try to turn wage, price and profit into factors of planning. Instead of trying to plan in terms of money, which would not have meant bad capitalism but a badly planned economy, it was rice that had to be delivered in Kampuchea. A ‘domestic market’, whether of a capitalist or state socialist kind, did not exist; the money of ‘democratic Kampuchea’, which had already been printed, was not introduced as currency.”

    — which just goes to show that like ‘socialist’, ‘state capitalist’ can mean almost anything.

    Anyway, my interest is focused on the non-use of currency and how this compares to ‘war communism’ in bolshie Russia.

    (Robbo are you still on this forum?)

    #225077
    ALB
    Keymaster

    A comrade who has skimmed through Tyner’s article says that it

    “Argues that that use of money was suspended for a while, rather than money being abolished. Supposedly a hybrid of state capitalism and non-market socialism, with emphasis on exporting rice for profit. The author does say that Marx wanted a moneyless classless stateless society.”

    Maybe we will mention it in the Socialist Standard.

    #225083

    Andrew Killman has written many books on Marxism but it looks that writing many books does not mean that you have a clear understanding of Marxism and Socialism because he fell into the trap of the anti-Trumpism like most leftists, and the concept of the lesser evil like Noam Chomsky and several others famous writers. He should have known better than the real problem is capitalism

    #225084
    Bijou Drains
    Participant

    I think the issue is that whilst some “Marxists” accept that a moneyless society is the basis of socialism and understand that a money based economy shows that a society cannot be a socialist one, they make the illogical assumption that a society that has little or no usage of money, must therefore show elements of socialism.

    If you look at much of the feudal economy, it was money free. In many ways the Kampuchean system was not a hybrid of State Capitalism and non market socialism, it was more akin to a system of State Feudalism. The rural workers laboured to have some share of the produce, whilst the rest was sold off (to the global market) by the State Fief, who was enriched by this.

    The issue of a money or a moneyfree society is not the crucial main determinant of the economic basis of a system of society but the nature of property ownership.

    The question we must ask is who owned (or had control) of the means of production?

    Socialism requires common ownership

    In Kampuchea there was no common ownership, just as there was no common ownership in War Communism.

    #225091

    Whoever departs from the experience of the soviet union will always obtain the wrong conclusion and wrong analysis. Common possession or ownership of the means of production has never existed or been established in any so-called socialist country including the Soviet Union. Socialism/Communism has no history because it has never existed

    #225140
    ZJW
    Participant

    Re the differences over time and space among the various leninist states: when/if the social surplus extracted from the producing class by the appropriating class does not take the form surplus _value_ but rather surplus *labor/product* I greatly favor the term ‘state-feudalism’ over the incestuous use of state-capitalism. (And it’s also better than the De Leonists’ ‘bureaucratic state despotism’, about which see note below.

    Here is someone, hardly a social-revolutionist but simply a sinologist it seems, who uses and defends ‘state-feudalism’ talking about maoism:

    Satya J. Gabriel:

    ‘What do you mean China is socialist?’:
    https://bit.ly/3pbm3Xr

    ‘Political Economy of the Great Leap Forward: Permanent Revolution and State Feudal Communes’:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20210302060526/https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/sgabriel/economics/china-essays/4.html

    (Gabriel does, though, at least in the first of those, confusedly use the term ‘surplus value’ when he’s clearly refering to surplus labor/product.)

    SLP pamphlet ‘The Nature of Soviet Society’: http://www.slp.org/pdf/others/sov_soc.pdf read from part II on page 23; or for the less patient, from the section heading ‘A New Form of Class Rule’ on page 28; or for the even less patient, from ‘One final question needs to be taken up before closing: What should these new societies be called?’ on page 31. And the second to the last paragraph on page 32 apologising for such an ad hoc term (as ‘bureaucratic state despotism’.)

    #225141
    ZJW
    Participant

    Re #225077 —

    Reading the book (written three years later) is preferable to reading the article. As I said, the author’s position shifted. (For example no more mention of ‘non-market socialism’.) And, as I said, the book is easily downloaded from libgen.

    And I don’t think it is at all important (after all, how *long* a suspension?), but in the book, he often refers to money having been ‘abolished’ or ‘eliminated’. He never uses ‘suspend/suspension’. For example: ‘Under the Khmer Rouge, following the abolition of currency, wages were not paid. Instead, food rations assumed the role
    of “minimum wages.” ‘

    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by ZJW.
    #225142
    ZJW
    Participant

    Re the differences over time and space among the various leninist states: when/if the social surplus extracted from the producing class by the appropriating class does not take the form surplus *value* but rather surplus *labor/product*, I greatly favor the term ‘state-feudalism’ over an incestuous use of ‘state-“capitalism” ‘. (And it’s also better than the De Leonists’ ‘bureaucratic state despotism’, about which see note below.

    Here is someone, hardly a social-revolutionist but simply a sinologist it seems, who uses and defends the term ‘state-feudalism’ in talking about maoism:

    Satya J. Gabriel:

    ‘What do you mean China is socialist?’:
    https://bit.ly/3pbm3Xr

    ‘Political Economy of the Great Leap Forward: Permanent Revolution and State Feudal Communes’:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20210302060526/https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/sgabriel/economics/china-essays/4.html

    (Gabriel does, though, at least in the first of those, confusedly use the term ‘surplus *value*’ when he’s clearly refering to surplus labor/product.)

    SLP pamphlet ‘The Nature of Soviet Society’: http://www.slp.org/pdf/others/sov_soc.pdf read from part II on page 23; or for the less patient, from the section heading ‘A New Form of Class Rule’ on page 28; or for the even less patient, from ‘One final question needs to be taken up before closing: What should these new societies be called?’ on page 31. And the second to the last paragraph on page 32 apologising for such an ad hoc term (as ‘bureaucratic state despotism’.)

    #225144
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I thought that the SLP of America used to call Russia “industrial feudalism”.

    I never understood why they were reluctant to call it a form of capitalism. Maybe because at one time they also thought it might be some sort of “proletarian state”.

    #225151

    The SLP never took a clear stand regarding the Soviet Union they used different names including a workers state, but they never called it state capitalism

    #225442
    ZJW
    Participant

    I also clearly recall the SLP using ‘industrial feudalism’ It must be that they had no fixed term; thus the pamphlet linked to above uses something different.

    … ah here is such a usage in a pamphlet of their’s from 1950.

    Page 3, end of para 2 :’The system they have built up is in fact better described as a form of industrial feudalism’

    (The site is set up so that you *cannot* copy-paste text. Why in God’s name [just joking!] do such a thing?)

    #225443
    ZJW
    Participant
    #225447
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I had no problem to cut and paste from the version of the pamphlet on that site. Here’s the passage in full:

    “The article shows that what the Stalinists are building is not Socialism but a social form of industrial organisation based upon the exploitation of wage-labour with many objectionable features practiced by Nazis, Fascists and the British Labour Parties alike.
    An absolute necessity for Socialism is a highly developed industry and industrial technique. That necessary development of industry was carried out by capitalism between 1775 and 1900, that is to say, the period of the industrial revolution. But the same industrial stage had not been reached by Russia in 1917. In any case, therefore, Socialism could not have been established there at that time. The Bolsheviks had to set to work to develop Russia’s industry as a matter of compulsion. The system they have built up is, in fact, better described as a form of industrial feudalism.”

    Very odd, though, that they should describe a system they admit to be based on the exploitation of wage-labour as some kind of feudalism rather than of capitalism.

    #225455

    The SLP of America never had a clear definition of the economic system that existed in Russia. I was a member of the SLP. Since the very beginning, the SPGB had a clear definition and understanding about Lenin and about the class nature of the soviet union, it did not have any ambiguity

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