With the Stakhanovites, the bureaucratic administration acquires a social base, and alongside, there grows the instability and cirsis in the economy. It is the counter-revolution of state-capital.In capitalism, surplus value amasses in the hands of individual capitalists and capitalist trusts. Under Stalin, on the other hand, it amasses in the hands of the state. The results, seen from the standpoint of the workers, are identical: constant intensification of labor, prevention of unionization, by force if necessary, the growth of a managerial class to keep workers on pace and prevent worker uprisings. What State Capitalism and World Revolution highlights is that 1) not only can the means of production be nationalized without being socialized, but 2) nationalization manifests itself as the concentration of wealth at the expense of the working majority. In a word, TARP is not socialism except insofar as socialism has been equated with Stalinism in this country, the better to demonize it. James, Dunayevskaya, and Lee confront the claims that nationalization is tantamount to socialism. Instead, they argue that the task for the Fourth International (which is the major anti-Stalinist Socialist body circa 1950, the year of the composition of SC&WR) is to denounce all state dictatorships in favor of World Revolution. The discussions on the possibility for revolution right now (as opposed to 1950, when the world did see various revolutions in the so-called "third world") are numerous, and I will not go into the account here. Virtually every paper written in the humanities makes what has been called by one of my colleagues the "shrug toward Utopia." If nothing else, this book offers a set of principals through which to view the scare-tactics of anti-socialism in our own period, and also a lens with which to view the strategy of Paulson, which I think can only facetiously be called "socialism."
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I just finished reading State Capitalism and World Revolution by C. L. R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Grace Lee [Boggs], the founders of what came to be known as the "Forest-Johnson Tendency," after the pseudonyms that James and Dunayevskaya used in many of their first collaborative projects. The book is incredibly timely because it confronts the question of what socialism is. Right now, there are two public debates running concurrently, both of which use the term "socialism" rather liberally. The first has to do with Obama's plan for moderate tax cuts to the middle and lower classes and tax hikes for the wealthy. The specter of socialism is raised here, and strenuously denied by the Obama camp, simply as a tactic to divert the argument from tax policy to political philosophy. I don't think it is worth discussing. The second deals with the Treasury's billions of dollars in loans to banks and their plan (TARP) to buy up hundreds of billions in bad assets; this move amounts to strong-arming taxpayers into becoming corporate investors in incredibly risky ventures. The claim is that this is state socialism - the state is stepping in to take control of the banks, and becoming de facto socialist. But State Capitalism and World Revolution takes aim against precisely this notion of socialism, i.e. the Stalinist, Titoist model of state "socialism." They argue that centralization in the state and state property is capitalism of a specific kind: state capitalism. Instead of Capitalists, you have bureaucrats, but their function is essentially the same; they are to keep power out of the hands of the proletariat, to keep the workers chained to the factories, and to work at the constant intensification of labor. Russian Stakhanovism is the same as American Taylorism: