Dave B's excellent summary of the workings of the Law of Value ends this way:
>This discussion began with China. The point about getting the LOV
>right is that it allows us to recognise that once the LOV is
>suspended the potential is there to replace it with a healthy workers
>plan that can escape the use/exchange value contradiction
>and allocate productive resources in advance to produce use-values.
>What we have seen in China is unfortunately so far not only a failure
>to achieve that, but an impending full restoration of capitalism in
>which the LOV returns with all its brutality as we are seeing in
This is making things a bit too easy.
What happens in a proto-socialist mode of production like the Soviet Union
or Red China is that Primitive Socialist Accumulation has to take place,
and this is not just the straightforward replacement of a capitalist
process of production and exchange by a socialist one. Since productivity,
technology and the rest lag behind the world market in such workers states
created out of backward societies, there are huge political and economic
contradictions to be overcome. As Dave says, the *potential* is there, but
it must be realized by protecting the weaker elements of the new society
against the pressures of stronger imperialism.
What the history of the 20th century has shown us is the paramount
importance of politics, social will, in this.
As long as there was sufficient social will in the workers states to
protect the new property relations (in fact, as long as the enormous power
of the revolutionary working class and its poor peasant allies was not
completely hogtied by the bureaucracy), imperialism had to make do with
indirect sabotage and warfare (this balance of forces was established in
the fiasco of the imperialist attempt to crush the October Revolution by
direct invasionary force). The new productive relations were quite clearly
shown to be more capable of developing the forces of production than
capitalist relations, even if they didn't succeed in catching up with
imperialism on the world market, let alone overtaking it. They were also
shown to combine this development with a huge increase in popular welfare
(housing, education, health) in comparison with similar non-workers states.
Once the interests of the bureaucratic caste running the show became so
contradictory to the interests of the new mode of production that there was
a historical choice of either abolishing the bureaucracy or abolishing the
workers state, the primacy of the political level at this stage of
development was once again demonstrated. Because the working class both
nationally and internationally had been effectively beheaded (its mass
leadership was counter-revolutionary, and if these treacherous leaderships
had any ideas at all they were bourgeois or petty-bourgeois), the economic
performance of the workers states was labelled weak, and this was blamed on
the proto-socialist system and not on a) the political incompetence and
inadequacy of the bureaucracy, or b) the economic belligerence of
As a result of the disorganization and lack of class consciousness on the
part of the working masses, the bureaucracy was able to capitulate to
imperialism, turn itself into a (weak, unstable, pariah) bourgeoisie and
proclaim the death of socialism. What it meant was the death of Stalinism.
So now we have a clear field, again, in the sense that the main historical
obstacle to revolutionary socialism in our century -- Stalinism -- has
collapsed. But of course there is no political vacuum, all the reactionary
forces are trying to get their hands on the keys to the vault, screaming at
the top of their voices and trying to cheat masses of ordinary working
people into doing their fighting for them. It's just that, with Stalinism
gone, our task is so much easier. All we have to do is show ordinary people
that they have no real interest in the reactionary scramble for the keys to
the vault, but should join with us and take over the whole caboodle.
Why, finally, should the political sphere dominate today when basic Marxism
contends that the economic sphere is primary? The reason is simple.
Capitalism has outgrown itself. It's further economic expansion is
blatantly destructive to whole continents and even to previously spared,
relatively privileged working masses in the imperialist heartlands. The
conditions for such expansion are in fact mass destruction and the
reduction to subhuman conditions of huge numbers of human beings. During
the incredibly contradictory postwar boom period, thanks to Stalinist
collusion with imperialism, it was possible to make a plausible if untrue
case that capitalist economic expansion (a necessary condition for its
survival) actually involved general development of the productive forces of
humanity. That is no longer the case, as the workers in the imperialist
countries (the ones most fooled by the expansion equals development
arguments) are discovering more painfully with every passing day.
So at the present stage in world economic development, what is necessary on
the material economic basis of the forces of production is a new system of
economic relations. This is the primacy of economics. But the economic
system won't be changed unless it's done consciously (otherwise we get a
spontaneous meltdown into barbarism), and the only conscious means
available to us are politics. This is the primacy of politics.
PS The situation is like a prolonged pregnancy. Marx liked using this
comparison. Our job is to get our socialist baby out and protect it till it
can walk on its own two feet and fend for itself. The imperialist mother
bearing the child knows in true mythological fashion that the successful
birth of the child means its own death. Dramatic!
>Not to think in these terms, but to say that China was always some
>form of capitalism, is to miss the whole historically progressive
>upsurge that resulted from the Russian Revolution, and which can
>still be recovered by workers who have this understanding and
>revolutionary struggle to guide and inspire them.
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