Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

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While ethnic Russians had some privileges in the Soviet system, Moscow encouraged the development of local languages and cultures rather than seeking to stamp them out.

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Why did socialist revolutions take place in Russia and China, instead of the developed countries of Europe? This led to tensions and contradictions that made it possible for Communist parties to come to power. While the state nationalized the means of production, the social relations of production were not transformed as would be required for building socialism. The underlying cause was the early decision to pursue catching up to the capitalist west as the main priority — a decision spurred by a realistic expectation that rapid industrialization was necessary to avoid being wiped out by an attack from the west.

However, if they were not socialist, why then were the new regimes in the USSR and China viewed as enemies by the dominant imperial powers?

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Amin argues that the reason was the economic and political delinking of those regimes from the global capitalist system, which was unacceptable to the imperial powers. Indeed, the view that contemporary capitalism is becoming a homogenous and stateless global system overlooks the fact that capitalism is not just an economic system; it requires a state that monopolizes the means of coercion, which remain in the hands only of states. The capital accumulation drive does give rise to a tendency to obliterate state boundaries, but this remains only a tendency as long as the capitalist classes of the major powers are unable to merge and create a genuine global state, a development that is not on the horizon.

Following the long imperialist tradition, today the triad regards any state that is delinked from the global capitalist system as an enemy. While post-Soviet Russia and post-Mao China have both been integrated into global capitalism — the former as a raw material exporter and the latter as a rising industrial power — both states are politically independent of the triad, something that cannot be tolerated.

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The triad pursues a strategy of bringing Russia and China under U. He argues that achieving the former requires starting down a path toward the latter. With normal capitalist development blocked in the periphery, the only path of development that can bring improving lives for the peoples of the periphery is to delink economically from global capitalism, pursue autonomous development, democratize, and push for a world system that allows autonomous development for states.

A progressive alliance of popular classes is held to be the only basis for moving in that direction. As would be expected in a book composed of six essays written at different times, there are some inconsistencies. This is reminiscent of the claim, made over a century ago, by the social democrat Hilferding, who argued that by finance capital had socialised the system of production to the extent that socialism could be established by workers taking control of 6 Berlin banks.

It is not unreasonable to expect some contradictions, and what follows is a general synopsis giving more weight to the recent texts. Throughout his writings Ticktin sees present-day society as one in transition to socialism: a transition analogous to that from feudal to capitalist society. Within feudalism money payments started to dissolve the feudal structure and produced isolated pockets of wage labour in the feudal towns, this progressed over centuries until wage labour and commodity production became the dominant form of production and the feudal political structures were overthrown.

Ticktin argues that from the time of the Russian Revolution in , capitalism has been in a period of decline, a decline which is indicated by the prevalence of monopolies, of finance capital and of imperialism.

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At the same time socialist forms have been invading capitalism and circumscribing and negating the law of value. This means that wage labour and thus value production is being undermined. This defines the general state of decline of capitalism, but it is a decline which is not simply a question of the system producing greater and greater contradictions within itself. Instead, Ticktin insists, it is indissolubly linked to the transition to a new society.

Ticktin argues that after World War Two capital became more socialised through measures such as nationalisations, free education and health care, increased regulation, planning, state participation in industry and so on. These measures represented a negation of the law of value. Capital was nationalised and planning controlled production without the capitalist market. He claims that capitalism had been overthrown in but the working class had lost power so elements of capitalism co-existed with elements of socialism. The problem with all this is that the so-called socialist measures, such as nationalisations and the welfare state and so on, have been reversed or partly reversed in the period from the 80s to today.

In addition the USSR has collapsed and international capital and the law of value rule throughout its former territories — something Ticktin denied could occur. The more recent texts take no account of these developments.

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Instead they claim we are still in a transition and capitalism is more unstable than ever, not now because of invading socialist or proto-socialist forms and the negation of the law of value, but because the USSR has collapsed and the Cold War has ended. The Cold War was, Ticktin asserts, the glue which held western capitalism together alongside the threat of worse conditions under so-called communism which disciplined of the working class.

However, the law of value, we are told, is still being undermined but the principal forces doing this are now finance capital and monopolies. These can hardly be described as invading forms of socialism!

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What has happened to the invading socialist forms? The reforms after World War Two were entirely compatible with capitalism in the post war period. Nationalisation brought about centralisation and restructuring of sectors of the national capital and produced state capitalist organisations.

Planning was on a national scale, thereby eliminating inefficiencies in the national capital, while the welfare state ensured capital as a whole, private and state capital, could depend on healthy and educated workers. These measures were part of a restructuring of capital to centralise and increase efficiency on a national plane. The fall in profitability which brought an end to the post war recovery has also brought about the partial dismantling of the welfare state and a reduction of living standards for workers. It has, however, also brought about a restructuring of capital on a global level.

Production now moved to wherever profitability is highest. This is generally where labour power is the cheapest and labour legislation is the weakest. An enormous impetus was given to this process by the collapse of the USSR and the opening up of its constituent states, together with China and India, to global capital. This global restructuring of capital is being driven by the forces of profitability.

Neither the post-World War Two reforms nor the more recent global re-organisation of capital represent socialist measures which negate the law of value. What these developments do represent is a tremendous concentration and centralisation of capital. Albeit on a global level this is entirely within the bounds of the capitalist system.

Production is integrated on an international level and capital exploiting wage labour is now internationalised to the extent that, for most nation states, it is absurd to speak of a national capital. The global means of production are now so centralised that they are ripe for socialisation on a world scale. This only highlights the contradiction of their existence as the private property of the capitalist class.

This, of course, was predicted by Marx and Engels and is recognised by Ticktin. What this represents is a deepening of the contradictions of capitalist production. Ticktin, however, claims this process represents much more. As we approach the new mode of production value is more and more assisted, or in some cases taken over, by organised forms. There is a conflict between the old form — value and the market — and the emerging if still capitalist form of so-called planning. They represent the material means for a new system of production but they do not undermine capitalist production relations.

This is in no way analogous to the way islands of capitalist production in the feudal towns undermined feudalism. Value production is specific to social production relations of capitalism, consequently it is specific to a definite phase of history and is not a natural category. The law of value holds that under capitalist production relations labour takes the FORM of value.

Labour, under capitalism production relations becomes the substance of value — value is materialised labour.

Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

The labour theory of value is the corollary of the law of value. Marx writes in Capital:. Hence the exchange value of commodities, according to the labour theory of value, is determined by the average socially necessary labour for their production which they contain. Social labour can only be expressed in value.

Thus under capitalism social labour can only be expressed as value.

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  7. This fairly simple relationship has enormous consequences and lies at the root of a host of contradictions which infect all relationships within capitalist society. Value appears as an attribute of things rather than a representation of social relations. This Marx calls the fetishism of commodities which is inevitable so long as value production persists. One of the primary contradictions of value production is that between the use-value of a product and its exchange value. Ticktin seizes on this as the expression of the law of value.

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    He informs us that the law of value describes the movement of the poles of the contradiction between use and exchange value. However, what he appears to mean is that the quantitative relationship between value production and non-value production is changing in favour of non-value production. Ticktin points to significant sectors of the economy which are no longer value producing, foremost among these is finance capital.