At 16:57 20/11/99 +0100, Hugh wrote:
Gome good historical stuff!
>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.
The only thing I can immediately think of adding is the role of colonial
plunder and merchant capital in pump-priming some developments but we
cannot discuss these matters if we we think we must always write perfect
examination answers in an e-mail discussion.
What I accept in this account is the description of the penetration of
feudal relations by increasingly capitalist commodity relations. Above all
the concept of mixed economies. (Albeit ones where a qualitative change
occurs at a certain period as to which mode of production is dominant).
>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
It seems to me that we again have to think of economic compartments
penetrating one another. My understanding is that the correct marxist term
for all economic activity, including non-commodity production of use values
(which occurs in all societies) was the "social life process".
>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
In retrospect, and certainly now, would it not have been better to have had
a longer period of a mixed economy along the lines of Lenin's late article
Somewhere Trotsky is quoted as arguing against the party being involved in
economic management. Does Hugh's use of the term "cooperative" here signal
an agreement with that and a view that if that had been avoided a layer of
state burocrats would not have been created?
I can see that a state sector with workers who do not have to sell their
labour power as a commodity ie competitively, is outside the law of value,
since Marx uses this term as applicable only to the total of commodity
production, and production by workers who do not sell their labour power,
is not commodity production.
I think if a socialised cooperative sector had continued longer, and if we
ever get nearer to that again, then the law of value remains. In principle
a cooperative could go bankrupt, or might at least have to trim back its
economic activities while the society allocated more access to credit to
another enterprise. But such a cooperative sector could be under overall
state guidance of a socialist orientated state.
>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
Is this not similar to the situation that exists in the world capitalist
market today, that it is very hard for less developed countries to catch up
in the accumulation of surplus and get relative surplus value on a global
scale from innovations in the means of production?
A socialist state, like some nationalist states, might be able to retain a
portion of the surplus separate from the centralising effects of the world
capitalist market, but it would be vulnerable to the removal of barriers to
a global capitalist market.
Essentially the issue when discussing the law of value is which society are
we judging is the benchmark for the prevailing methods of production within
which productive labour power is distributed.
>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
I do not want to disguise the crimes against socialist legality, but this
sounds like demonology: the political treachery of the Stalinist
bureaucrats. The premature nationalisation of major areas of the economy
may have been a strategic mistake but bureaucrats may have started off by
trying to work their guts out. Does the term "political treachery" imply
*conscious* "political treachery?
Surely this is a question of non-antagonistic contradradictions becoming
>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.
I regret Hugh going on to making general manifesto points as if every
theoretical article had to be a propaganda leaflet. I can see the sense of
the need for a conscious political decisions about how to foster the
socialist sector after the revolution in Russia. But the politics of what
we do now is quite a sweep along from the contradictory slave owning Roman
Empire with which Hugh began his article.
Despite my prejudices against Trotskyism, I have enough respect for Hugh
not to need to be dazzled each time.
But since he poses the need for the revolutionary working class to begin
consciously to solve the contradiction between the relations of production
and the forces of production on a world scale...
What reforms does he think revolutionary activists should fight for at the
WTO meeting at Seattle?
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