1960s >> 1969 >> no-779-july-1969

Capitalism is Everywhere

Since 1917 the Socialist Party of Great Britain has been trying to combat the worldwide impression that the Russian Revolution was a socialist revolution and not a capitalist one. It was not sufficient that Lenin understood the concept of Socialism. A predominating peasant population could not understand it and even if they could have done, the underdeveloped nature of the economy would have proved an impassable barrier. All Lenin could do when the Communist Party came to power in Russia was to hasten the birth of capitalism; make the big private capitalist illegal and establish government control of industry. He called it state capitalism and this is what it was.

A decade later Mao led his peasant army against the Kuomintang who were backed by the powerful landowners. The 20-year civil war culminated in 1949 in victory for Mao and the Communist Party. The Chinese People’s Republic was inaugurated. It was another victory for the Communist Party and the birth of another state capitalist régime. Mao, like Lenin, did not accept that the socialist revolution must be one of class-conscious wage-workers who knew what capitalism was all about and wanted Socialism.

What makes us so certain that these countries are capitalist and not socialist? The presence of an economically exploiting class is not always easy to discern. What is plain for all to observe is the wages system and the buying and selling of commodities; essential features of capitalism and definite pointers to the existence of an exploiting and governing class, who own the means by which all live.

The wages contract safeguards this ownership by ensuring that the workers remain — as they have always been — propertyless, and that they are paid only the equivalent (in wages) of the labour it takes them to reproduce their own energies and support their families.

The workers’ labour power, or energy, produces a value greater than itself, i.e. more labour (work done) for which no equivalent is paid. In the selling of commodities, the unpaid labour is realised as a sum of money (profit) and is appropriated by the privileged class.

In the Western world, the profit is shared out among investors, bankers, landlords, and sometimes small owner-employers.

In the countries ruled by the Communist Party, surplus value is appropriated as we have just described with reference to the West, but the ’face’ of things is different. Instead of nationalisation of just a few industries as in this country, all industry is government owned and controlled. The ‘share-out’ is among Communist Party and government officials who appropriate profit in the form of their own bloated ‘salaries’ or bonuses.

There are signs that private investment does take place, but if we lived in Russia we should call it ‘fiddling’ for it is not legal and there is no stock exchange. The legal right of the Russian ruling class to appropriate surplus value is a collective right. This ‘right’ ceases if they resign from their administrative work.

J. MCL


Note

 

 
From the November 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard
 

 

Russian Capitalism: A Correction
On page 107 of the July Socialist Standard we stated:

 

There are signs that private investment does take place, but if we lived in Russia we should call it ‘fiddling’ for it is not legal and there is no stock exchange. The legal right of the Russian ruling class to appropriate surplus value is a collective right. This ‘right’ ceases if they resign from their administrative work.

 

Some of these statements are not strictly true and we now correct them. Certain forms of private investment, such as bank accounts, are not illegal in Russia. Nor does the monopoly the Russian rulers exercise over the means of production have formal legal backing. It is a de facto monopoly resting on their control of state power. Finally, members of the Russian ruling class do not of course resign, though they may be cut off from getting their share of the exploitation of the Russian workers through losing their job in a purge.


Editorial Committee