- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Power, even in teh absence of property, can be transmitted indefinitely.

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on January 24, 19100 at 09:56:34:

In Reply to: Power from property and power from position are two seperate things posted by Barry Stoller on January 23, 19100 at 23:47:28:

: The same applies to Mao-era China. Recall the fate of Mao's widow---one of the 'gang of four' imprisoned for life or executed when Mao died. She obviously had no power from Mao's 'estate.' Power---as created by property---could not be transferred from one family member to another. It was strictly contingent upon WORK.

Work? Work? Jiang Qing didn't get to where she was because of WORK! She got her power by sleeping with the most powerful man in China! Is sleeping your way to the top really the path we should be endorsing?

Jiang Qing, by the way, was another hypocrite. She loved to wtach "gone with the wind" but then accused anyone else who watched the movie of being a reactionary.

Also, she did continue to wield power for a while after Mao died.

: The U.S.S.R., like Mao-era China, on the other hand, DID have an inordinately powerful bureaucracy. This bureaucracy enjoyed standards of living FAR above those supplied to rank-and-file workers.*

Yes. If what you're saying is that power in socialist societies was not inherited or transferred by money transfers, as it is in teh West, I would agree with you. However, Mao and Stalin (although not all socialists or communist leaders) in fact had more power over their citizens than does capital in the West; while capital's reign in the West is near-absolute, Mao's was simply absolute.

: The privileges attached to bureaucratic positions were UNSTABLE, however. One could lose everything in a flash (like Khrushchev).

: With property rights, however, one may lose a job but not their money in the bank (unless they have debts, but that observation has no bearing on Soviet society).

No, but it is POSSIBLE for someone to lose money in the bank "in a flash" like you said. As for how LIKELY it is, how many children of old revolutionaries in China are poor or oppressed today?

: Do you see the difference?

YEs, I think I do, but I don't think the difference is suffiecient reason to advocate supporting Mao on any grounds whatsoever. I think that in Korea, for once in our sordid postwar history, we did the right thing by taking on the armies of Kim Il-Sung and Mao.

: There's power from bureaucratic position in a property-less society.

: There's power from property in a propertied state.

: The latter power is MUCH greater, MUCH more lasting than the former.

Here's where I disagree. Threats to capitalism's power (in teh form of social democracy and redistribution) are actually more powerful in teh West than threats to bureaurcatic power in Maoist China. Think of how unlikely it woudl be for a FDR or a Jimmy Carter to come to power in China. If an oppressive bureacracy in a 'property;less' state was merely an ephemeral thing like you say, then how come China's been essentially the same sort of tyranny from 1949 to the present, worse at times, better at others.

: All of this stuff was presented in great detail and clarity by Trotsky in his 1937 The Revolution Betrayed.

: The implications, that bureaucratically deformed worker's states are STILL socialist (in the key area of property), led to the classic Spartacist position of supporting these countries against capitalist offenses (while simultaneously calling for worker's revolutions to overthrow the bureaucratic usurpers).

I don't want to know what the Trotskyists say, I want to knwo what you say. Were we wrong to face down Kim and Mao in Korea (Vietnam is a separate story, due to popular support for the NLF and the fact that the SRV/DRV were always more progressive and democratic than the DPRK).

If we were wrong to support South Korea against Northern and Chinese aggression, then how do you explain that today most South Koreans are tyrannized and well-fed, while North Koreans are tyrannized and starving. I'll accept that South Korea is a tyranny, but at least life for everyone there isn't absolute misery, all the time.

: Does all this, then weaken my argument, as you say, because some socialist countries---countries far more democratic and progressive than the Soviet Union and Mao-era China, etc.---have had 'some' amounts of private property?

: This would be to imply that the democratic and progressive conditions of these countries owe their democratic and progressive features to private property instead of a less powerful bureaucracy---something you have yet to do to my satistisfaction.

Good point. I won't make that counter-claim, because I don't believe it. My support of a 10-20% exemption from nationalization has little do do with 'democracy' or 'progress', and more to do with striking what I believe to be the collect balance between the good of equality and the need for individuals to be able to live their lives as they choose, within limits.

: I assert that any STABLE form of socialism must have private property (and I always mean private property in the means of production when I say private property) abolished. Otherwise capitalism will reemerge.

But you haven't proved to MY satisfaction, either, that the collapse of
any socialist country was actually due to their tolerance of a limited amount of private property. On the contrary, I would argue that more often their collapse was due to foreign terrorism (Nicaragua), domestic terror and violence (Grenada, Burkina), loss of a foreign sponsor (Mongolia, Democratic Germany) or simple mismanagement.

Can you draw a causal chain between, say, the toleration of market-responsive cooperatives in Yugoslavia and the subsequent breakup?

: And capitalism is much more threatening than Stalin.

: Why?

: Stalins can only live a lifetime.

No, but they can pass on their power, just as dynasties before capitalism passed on their power. Mao's mantle passed to Jiang, then Hua, then Deng, and now Jiang Zemin. As far as I can se socialist democracy has never had a chance there.

: Capital---because property (and its power) can be transferred infinitely---can live forever.

Power, even in teh absence of property, can be transmitted indefinitely. The Church, for example, chooses its successors (not that I think the RCC is in any way malevolent like Mao, but that's a separate point.)

: Get it?

: The problem of bureaucracy---a seperate issue---is, admittedly, much more complicated.

: However, job rotation is a good start...

: BTW, Mao wasn't 'worse' than Stalin; as Khrushchev pointed out, Mao was simply Stalin.

Mao was worse, for a couple of reasons.

1) every regime he sponsored turned out to be a bloody disaster, while Stalin for all his evils sponsored a few good causes and regimes.

2) Mao lied out of both ends of his ass, like when he called Nepal a puppet state of India. Who did he think he was fooling?

3) Mao killed far more people than Stalin.

4) Remember his famous dictum "Even if 300,000,000 Chinese died in a nuclear war, tehre would still remain 300,000,000."

5) Plus he repeated all the Stalinist crimes decades later. Anyone who wasn't evil woudl have known better. That's why we condemn modern witch trials harsher than we did the ones centuries ago.

: _______________

: * The wage discrepancy between Soviet elite and average workers was 4 to 1. IN the U.S. the discrepancy between business owner and worker is 150 to 1. Source: Kotz and Weir's Revolution From Above, Routledge 1997, p. 112.

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