>This might hold if Marx had ever restricted himself to the theoretical bits
>of the first volume of Capital, or had not been aware of the relationship
>between the laws determining the movement of capital and their empirical
>manifestation, or had not intended to write sections of Capital dealing
>with precisely these points. It might even hold if early, revolutionary
>Soviet Marxists such as Preobrazhensky had not developed the relationship
>between the operations of the law of value and an economic system in which
>this law is significantly impaired, such as the proto-socialist Soviet
>Union with its workers' state.
>George: Can you provide us with a brief outline of P.'s conception of this?
>Warm regards
>George Pennefather

Well, it can be summarized in the concept of Primitive Socialist Accumulation.

Marx writes about Primitive Capitalist Accumulation in Capital I -- it's
what happens when simple commodity production is straining at the leash.
Dave B leaves the existence of simple commodity producing societies as an
open question, but it's clear from Capital and from the Grundrisse
(Pre-Capitalist Modes of Production) that such economies existed as
enclaves in feudal states, and at times as statelets of their own, such as
the Italian and German city-states (Florence, Venice, Milan, Augsburg etc).
Henri Pirenne (in eg Medieval Cities and in Muhammed and Charlemagne
provides a very convincing theory of the autonomy of the development of
bourgeois/capitalist relations in these municipalities, starting as
metastases of capitalist Rome (Roman Law) when the Roman Empire (itself a
contradictory slave-owning state) broke up and ending up as Powers in their
own right in the High Renaissance (eg Venice).

Anyway, for the bourgeois enclaves to make it to statehood, and especially
nation-statehood, they needed more capital than was coming in via simple
commodity production and exchange. They got it from exploitative operations
in trade, money-lending, plunder, confiscation and slavery. Partly they
became too strong for the feudal states to crush, and partly they
undermined the feudal states by making them utterly dependent on them for
loans. An important intermediate phase was that of centralized monarchies
whose political and economic base was the city bourgeoisie and the big
peasantry (where this existed, as in England and Sweden). And then, when
the bourgeoisie was able to assert itself in legislation, it set about
transforming the labour force of feudalism into capitalist wage slaves. It
ripped the producers away from the few feudal rights they had (their unfree
ties to the land, their ownership of certain individual instruments of
production, their unfree ties to a dwelling, shared rights to the produce
of common land, etc) and forced them off the land where they no longer
belonged by right into the cities. As Dave writes, the big thing was to
create labour power as a commodity like any other.

Preobrazhensky and the Left Opposition see the parallel between Primitive
Capitalist Accumulation and Primitive Socialist Accumulation in two things.
First the existence of a new and more advanced mode of production as an
enclave surrounded by a hostile and more powerful old mode of production --
capitalism within feudalism on the one hand and socialism within capitalism
on the other. And second the primacy of political action in strengthening
and bringing the embryo of the new mode of production to fruition
(Preobrazhensky himself wasn't too hot at this aspect of things, he was a
bit abstract and mechanically economistic, and was criticized for it by
Trotsky. He also ended up capitulating to Stalinism because of a lack of
inner political drive and conviction on this point, and of course he was
shot by Stalin in 1937 like Bukharin and so many others -- all good
Bolsheviks who weren't up to the enormous demands put on their
understanding and practice by the unprecedented historical developments in
the revolutionary Soviet Union).

So the political measures required for the Soviet Union were those
defending the new state on the one hand -- military and trade barriers
against imperialism -- and those protecting and encouraging the new
relations between producers and consumers on the other -- centralized
planning and finance, cooperative and rational production and distribution

With the existence of simple commodity production under the NEP it was
clear that there was great *dual* pressure on the new system and its
political protective armour. On the one hand from inside, with the
capitalist enclave within the socialist enclave within the imperialist
world-market, and on the other from the outside, with the pressures of the
world-market screaming to the peasants (and the less-conscious workers)
that "here you have cheap cheap cheap goods that are better than the
expensive crap the Bolshies are forcing you to queue for". Preobrazhensky
calls this the scissors crisis (the curves for supply and demand, for world
prices and internal prices opening away from each other on the graph just
like a pair of scissors). This dual pressure was an expression of the Law
of Value. The proto-socialist economy of the new system was an expression
of what will replace the law of value worldwide if capitalism does not just
collapse into barbarism -- ie conscious, rational cooperative planning for
production and distribution by freely associated social producers. The
history of the past few decades shows very clearly that the political
aspects of it all are paramount. The political treachery of the Stalinist
bureaucrats worked initially to weaken the protective armour of the new
system and then eventually at a certain point to ditch it altogether and
hand over the whole thing to the imperialists by opening up to capitalist

As Trotsky put it in the Transitional Programme in 1938, either the working
class would throw out the bureaucrats and take political and democratic
charge of the new system, or the bureaucrats would capitulate to
imperialism and hand the new state back to capitalism. The desertion of
these basic principles of Marx and Trotsky by the leadership of the
Trotskyist movement after the world war meant that the revolutionary
vanguard of the working class was disarmed and unprepared to challenge for
the states that were up for grabs when the Stalinist bureaucracies launched
their restorationist drive in earnest in the late 1980s.

The crisis of imperialism in its current stage of decay however is so great
that not even the absence of a conscious mass revolutionary force can hide
its inability to satisfy the demands of the working and poor masses for a
better life (better social relations of production) under the  capitist
regime -- *anywhere* -- despite the unprecedented power and productivity of
the farms and factories of the world (the forces of production). This
contradiction between the relations of production (hopeless and
suffocating) and the forces of production (which have the potential to
create a world of plenty and full individual development for all) is the
fundamental motive force behind all the conflicts at present tearing the
world apart, and indicates that until it begins to be solved, consciously
and internationally and forcibly, by the internationally organized
revolutionary working class, the whole tragic farce will just repeat itself
for ever until catastrophe ensues.



PS Read the book itself! Eugene (Evgeny) Preobrazhensky, The New Economics,
translated by Brian Pierce, introduction by Alec Nove, Oxford 1965.

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