Thoughts on Revolution, State-Capitalism, and the State
Recent discussion amongst Communists about the developments in Nepal has sparked some interest for me in rethinking what it means to be Revolutionary and the often pejoratively used term “State-Capitalism.” I think right now I am in a state where it seems to me that terms must be thought out, the very terms of Marxism are losing material basis and are cornered to this and this sect's definition of such a term. Terms that were grounded in the real are losing significance as we use them in such a wide array that they lose the proper meaning or they miscommunicate what we try to get across. The term State-Capitalism is precisely one of these problems, for it does not communicate what specifically Maoists mean when they refer to the revisionists in the USSR and China. It is indeed problematic.
When we speak of revisionists and revisionism, we usually refer to counter-revolutionary trends within the Marxist movement or counter-revolutionary politicians in charge of a nominally socialist state. There is however problem with the usage “State-Capitalism, ” and the terms and concepts around it as well. While the revolutionary ideology around these terms are mostly correct, they fail at providing the scientific analysis of the historical development that we need. Merely labeling USSR 'State-Capitalist' will not do in the end. Why is this? Because the concept of State-Capitalism is itself problematic, what do we mean when we use this term? If we look for example during in the USSR under Lenin, NEP was labeled State-Capitalism by the CPSU (B) because it operated similarly to a capitalist economic model; however had oversight by the the revolutionary state in the USSR. While NEP did not last, some aspects of foreign investment and collective farm kept capitalist methods. This is true in Mao's China, except for the period of GLF. In the early part of the P.R.C., the Country was essentially a mixed economy. The state owned Industries; however agriculture was still largely small farming, capitalist entrepreneurs were allowed to invest, and there was a great investment from foreign nations, Soviet Union providing the most, into the Chinese economy. After the period of the Great Leap Forward, the state began using capitalist methods even through the Cultural Revolution. What further complicates this issue is the usage of the term to describe different economies in the same manner. NEP USSR for some Maoists doesn't qualify for state-capitalism, but a nation like DPRK through its history does. What qualifies a nation for being State-Capitalist, in general Maoist usage, doesn't really matter the economic model, it is rather the “revolutionary” nature of the state.
Therefore we will arise into problems in describing what we mean politically and ideologically by using economic terms such as “State-Capitalism.” Marxism must be particular in its analysis of society, and rather not generalize in such ways that it vulgarizes the science of history itself. Marxism has always suffered from this, as Marx generalized in history to provide an example for further analysis, many of his followers and even our movement took his example in such a dogmatic way that it defined our understanding in development of history into nothing more than stages. It became a formula, Slave-Society to Feudalism to Capitalism to Socialism and finally Communism. This formula led to complacent type attitudes and mechanism, and more importantly it was the roots of positivism itself. Buhkarin's sociological vulgarization of Marx's Historical Materialism and soulless examination of Dialects has shaped Communist thought till today. We shouldn't merely lay blame on the feet of Buhkarin, the primer theoretician in the USSR after Lenin's death, for Stalin, Trotsky, and other fragments of the International Communist Movement took upon themselves the same “science.” Lukacs tried to creatively understand Marx, but found himself in Hegelianism. Gramsci laid some of the ground work for a break; however his life too short and his thought in a muddle. It took until the death of Stalin for there to be a vigorous challenge to Soviet bound Marx. Sartre contributed greatly to the question of contingency, and this fellow traveler, challenged us to find a correct answer to human-being in revolution. Althusser lay question, in spirit of Gramsci, to the simplistic understanding of the Marxist “Base and Economy” and question the vulgarization of contradiction. Mao as well, developed the understanding of dialectical materialist contradiction further then before, and put power back in the hands of the consciousness rather than the cold indeterminable “laws” of the economic and sociological dogma of the Soviet Union.
These were all real breaks, that still many Communists still don't fully understand and is still controversial. Maoism was a movement in spirit of this break, but remained contained in the terms of the historical determination of 19th century Marxism-Trotskyism, and Stalinism itself. So while the real criticism of the Soviet Union was on the matter of the conscious shift of the party and state from a revolutionary party (albeit truly Stalinist) to an outright conscious anti-revolutionary power bloc, Maoists didn't break from the economic and sociological terms of those who they broke from (Stalinists and Trotskyists). We examined the Soviet Union not as a NEW type of system that had its own roots in the revolutionary upsurge in 1917, that was born from and developed in a way natural from Lenin and Stalin's Soviet Union. In fact, we didn't fully comprehend Mao's ideological break because of us being wrapped by the terms themselves. Mao spoke of the revisionists naturally developing from the system because of the power they controlled within the party; however he used terms in the way of the old. This was a “bourgeois class” that developed from the contradictions of Socialism. While it is utterly true that this class developed from the internal contradictions of the party, the state, and society, it would be a cover-up to claim it came from the economic model of society itself, that “capitalism” was the problem again. What Mao tried to convey was not that it was merely the small expropriators who were the contradiction in Soviet society, but it was the ideological baggage of Capitalism and the ideological weakness of the Stalin and the Soviet Union itself that led its specific development. Most if not all of the Communist parties around the world shared this same weakness of the Soviets. The Communist parties because of these weaknesses could not develop the type of society possible, but developed into states which maintained themselves merely for the sake of power. Even the self described up-holders of Stalin and defenders against Soviet aggression such as Enver Hoxha and Nicolae Ceausescu, states finally collapsed into full fledged members of the capitalist world. No matter how they opposed the revisionist plague in the ICM, none successfully lived, even Maoist China.
What is to be learned? There has to be a lot of rethinking and re-engagement with MLM in a creative way that can re-invigorate the spirit of revolution across the world. That spirit is awake, but we must shape it into an all changing force, and give it a theory that isn't scarred to re-examine itself unlike our comrades of the past. They gave a “science” that merely fostered its own infantile understanding. What MLM is today, is not merely a “science,” but also a conscious understanding of a constant need for revolutionary change and continued development of our consciousness. Re-examining our ideology in a critical but principled way. When it comes to the history of the USSR, the Eastern Bloc, and their move toward revisionism, Maoists should not reject this because of the economics in some superficial way. Such as speaking endlessly about Soviet industries using profit indicators from the Kosygin reforms, reforms that were limitedly accepted. We must overall analyze Soviet history from its political stagnation as a revolutionary state, and how did a self-serving Kafkaesque bureaucracy end up the outcome of Proletarian Revolution. Even Mao Zedong's life and death struggle during the Cultural Revolution could not stop the stagnation of politics in PRC.
State-Capitalism, “Bourgeois Right,” and so forth are all real; however a general application of such terms without fully understanding their origins and context of use seems misguided. State-Capitalism has been a component of Socialist development, and ALL Socialist nations have used State-Capitalist techniques in their economic development. State-Capitalism is then a natural part of the development of Socialism itself. We should in fact delineated between State-Capitalism and what has been called “Market Socialism,” the economic model of Deng Xiaoping till Hu Jintao in China, Vietnam, and Laos. There is a great particular difference in the economic models of the revisionist Eastern Bloc and revisionist China and Vietnam. Lets look at the Juche state, DPRK, it is unlike China in its economic model and is not “Capitalist” and “Bourgeois” in the same way as China. China and Vietnam have a 'really existing' (to borrow a term) Bourgeois and Capitalist economy, it is an active participant in this new stage of capitalism. Without its participation, this new stage itself would be jeopardized. The DPRK, on the other hand, is not a capitalist “market socialist” nation, but rather has developed into a bureaucratic self-serving state. Trying to understand the DPRK's revisionism merely on the basis of state-capitalism, is shallow.
Bourgeois Right might give us clue to the question; however merely putting it class terms limits us. For the concept of Bourgeois Right gives us some understanding of the ideological and conscious element of revisionism while still limiting itself to the Base-Superstructure paradigm. It is not merely just a 'bourgeois' right, for such a right existed in any social system; however it is defined certainly by the division of labor and the ideological baggage of the past. Bourgeois Right is defined in some sense by status and power that comes from the labor you do or power you hold in the state or party. People in academics and sciences, while technically not 'Bourgeois,' can be swayed quite easily by the consciousness that defines 'Bourgeois' thought. It is not merely because they are convinced by swindling counter-revolutionaries, but because of their status in society, the labor they preform, they will spontaneously develop bourgeois consciousness in even a socialist society. This is true with party politicians and cadre who sit on their laurels or hold power over the masses' heads. Even amongst the Masses of oppressed themselves under Socialism there is a certain spontaneous conscious developing from the need for power and status in society, or sometimes out of pure self-interest, shall also develop 'Bourgeois' consciousness.
If this is so, that even workers and oppressed are not immune to Bourgeois consciousness and ideology, why define it as 'bourgeois' at all. Well while this is true, there is merely no set standard class anything...no class thinks in only one specific way or one thinks in another. Prolekult, Lysenko, Great Purges, and the divisions of Red Guard are evident of this. There are no class truths, class morality, class culture defined objectively out of the economic conditions that provide them. But why this IS still BOURGEOIS CONSCIOUSNESS, is because the bourgeois system is the primer place for the indulgence of the self and the search for status and power. The Bourgeois themselves, multi-billionaires some, continue their exploitation of the world not because they were born to do so, but because they grab more from it. The question of power itself is never properly addressed by Marxists, nor the question of individual motivations, beyond merely pure economic and sociological factors.
Bob Avakian, while awkwardly leading a possible rupture of the “old ways,” remains tacitly apart of it himself. In this article about the state and its second part that appeared not so long ago in Revolution paper, Avakian denies in the usual instrumentalist fashion the agency of the state. Rather Avakian begins to postulate a Humanist type version of what a state should be without really looking into what a state is beyond the dogmatic conception of state as merely an appendage of the economy. What is funny, is that Avakian himself contradicts this by stating that the Proletariat state has agency! And the history of the communist movement has proven that, so how is it that the nature of the state itself has no agency besides the proletariat one? For this with get no explanation beyond Avakian's usual, because it has a different character. Yes the Proletarian state does have a different character, but that character is not defined by agency, the Bourgeois states have exercised agency. Would Avakian like to explain how Nazism and the Holocaust were products of the productive forces? How would Avakian explain the Soviet state degenerating into Capitalism if it was not for state agency itself. Avakian goes as far to claim that the 'Christian Fascists' are a product of a section of the ruling class itself. What simplifications and grotesque conspiracy theories, there is no organized group of the ruling class that is looking to toss out evolution for the sake of their own capitalist profit. Such a group of Evangelicals exist not because of the need for more expropriation, but perhaps they actually believe it! It is usual of people of Avakain not to actually engage in the reality that these groups of people might actually be Christian fundamentalists because of their own consciousness, rather there are underlying reasons why. Yes in quite the abstraction one can say Christian fundamentalism is a product of the bourgeois system, capitalism, its ideology is bourgeois; however these are again simplifications that lose the significance of these groups, that they are involved in the game to shape history and society. They are no mere lackeys of Capitalist, but capable people willing to make sacrifices for their own political ambitions. The state does have agency, if the state uses such agency in exercising it for more expropriation and becomes a pure actor of the Bourgeoisie, this happened not because certain economic factors determined it such, but in the class struggle (a real act of agency itself) this is what occurred. The state acts as the instrument of class rule not because it does so out of definition, it does so because the class has determined it as such. Avakian tries to find limits in the state, he tries to find something that limits dictatorship, such as laws; however one can only find how he is missing that the dictatorship is not bound to anything except its own consciousness in a determined material world.
Chilean strong arm of American Imperialism, General Augusto Pinochet Urgate, was buried with security abound. Pinochet lived to the ripe age of 91, evading justice for his politically motivated murders for decades. Pinochet overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende on the infamous day of September 11, a day in Chilean history when two elected Governments were overthrown and Military Juntas established. Allende fought bravely against the CIA influenced Coup in the Presidential Palace till his death. Pinochet from then on became a lackey of American Imperialism and the darling boy of Monetarists and Neo-Liberals like Milton Friedman for a fake "Economic Miracle", which expanded impoverishment, inflation, and unemployment; however the GDP went up for the cream of Chilean society, the comprador Bourgeois and spineless Middle Classes.
Pinochet, though dubious for the left and oppressed people of Chile, remains still a figure of respect for many in the nation and a question that divides the nation. The history of the Allende government and the Pinochet coup is still an almost taboo subject in Chile until recently when the corruption charges against him and his son have opened up the dilog again.
Pinochet, instead of being buried like a dog (no offense to dogs), was given military honors on his funeral. The state, led by the fake Socialists Party which pissed on the Allende legacy, has refused to take a position on the death of the dictator. President Michelle Bachelet, even though her father was killed and her and her mother tortured by Pinochet's government, has been silent in respect for the Army and Pinochet supporters. Despite what is said about "Chilean Democracy," it still is in fear of the all powerful force of the Armed forces of Chile.
Though Pinochet is dead, I am not happy, the man enjoyed Nine decades of life without facing up to his crimes in any legtimate way. However there is something fulfilling to know Pinochet and Friedman are dead, albeit that is indeed morbid.
Recently there has been a back and forth on Leftspot between me and Greg Young over whether or not the Baathist Party in Iraq specifically was a Fascist party? I think this discussion revealed some tendencies that should be dropped like a bad habit and I shall write briefly about them. I attend to write a fuller length article on “What is Fascism?,” such a question is an important one today as the word is pejoratively used by anyone and their grandmother to describe some authoritarian measure. RCP for example has been talking about a Fascist movement coming to fruition from the Christian Evangelical movement and the Bush administration. They make some comparisons between Hitler and Bush, and then they conclude “Fascism.” I am not satisfied with that at all, it throws away a lot of important things about Fascism such as ideology and practice.
Greg Young does quite the same; however while RCP is using the term “Fascism” in a flexible way to describe a certain reactionary core of America and the Republican party, Greg Young sticks to the Trotskyite-Stalinist interpretation of Fascism. That Fascism is essentially the bloody hand of the Bourgeois in times of great need, Fascism is just a tool of the Capitalist class to keep itself in power. This is of course a common understanding of Fascism through the eyes of orthodox Marxism and is further the general methodology of understanding consciousness and ideology from a Marxist standpoint. It is also an outdated way of looking at the world, a fundamentally Instrumentalist method that should have been wrapped around the body of Trotsky in his casket.
This instrumentalist thinking comes from the often cited and vulgarized concept of Marxist Base (Economy) and Superstructure (State). A lot to be said here, there has been a lot of work done around this field by many Marxist writers, my favorite being Althusser in his article “On Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatus.” It might contain some remnants of the instrumentalist past, but it is a continuation I think a “rupture,” if you like, that begins with Gramsci and through Mao toward the question of what is Consciousness and Ideology and how is it shaped. The question of consciousness is important for Communists, more important then whether or not the mysterious Productive Forces have given rise to Socialism. It isn't Productive Forces that will lead toward the development of Socialism, it is the consciousness of the Masses and their role as active agents in the radical change of society. This is not to say the radical socialization of the means of production and relations to the means of production or not important, but putting one sided emphasis on the economy is utterly useless without revolutionizing the consciousness of the masses and ourselves. The brilliance of Mass Line is that it gives this opportunity for the masses and ourselves to build class consciousness together.
Gramsci declared a “Revolution against Capital,” meaning the dogmatic Marxism that said societies like Russia and China were incapable of having a revolution because of their lack of an “industrial” class of workers and their backwardness in social relations. It was a revolution essentially against those who said the masses are nothing more than cogs in the systematic play of History, a revolution against a deformed Hegelian system posing itself as Historical Materialism.
This where relevant Marxism (meaning Maoism) obviously splits with Trotskyite dogmatism, a 19th century analysis in the day of Globalization. Over a century and a half have passed since Marx declared a Socialist revolution possible ONLY if Capitalism spawns it like a child from its womb, only if its economic forces are good enough. More and more the truth is leaking itself about Socialist revolution, that it doesn't come into the world as a child naturally conceived by the Capitalist mode of production, but is rather a brutal purge of Capitalism itself. It is a revolution of not only the economy, but is a necessary revolution of the mind. This revolution of the mind of man isn't essentially bound to whether or not you work construction or are an office worker.
Above all I declare our movement a revolution of Ideology.