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Limits of State Socialism
by Threehegemons
14 March 2002 03:19 UTC
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The quote below seems entirely relevant to this list, although I think 
Wallerstein has dealt effectively with this question in many places.  
Basically, while Cuba is certainly a political unit, it is not in any 
meaningful sense an 'economy', if by that one means a space in which the 
production of livelihood and the appropriation of surplus is conducted.  In 
that sense, Cuba is part of a world economy.  The Cuba government professes a 
socialist ideology--in practice, this means some good things, including 
relative suppression of inequality, good education, good health care, efforts 
to weaken racial and gender inequality...  The technique of the state taking 
over the major economic enterprises, however, was not born with Cuba or the 
Soviet Union.  It at least dates back within the European state system to the 
'mercantilist' experiments of the seventeenth century.  

  To borrow a term from Lenin, neither the Cuban, Soviet, Chinese, etc 
revolutionaries ever seized 'the commanding heights' of the world economy.  
Going back to the Ciompi revolt in Florence in the 14th century, capitalists 
have used the weapon of moving capital out of spaces controlled by working 
class political organs to marginalize these forces.  Wallerstein, somewhat 
apocalyptically, believes that capitalism has reached its limit, and in the 
next fifty years, the system will change into something else (maybe better, 
maybe worse).
In that sense, he is quite optimistic about the potential for agency.  Arrighi 
fits somewhere in between the Wallersteinian position and the one you've 
attributed to Gunder Frank--he believes capitalism is in some senses coming to 
an end, but he also thinks the rise of East Asia will shape the emerging world 
as much (more than?) actions of social movements.

I have my doubts about defeating capitalism by 'picking up a gun'.  I don't 
think historical social systems have been transformed by violence to nearly the 
degree traditionally argued by Marxists.  In power, revolutionaries have shown 
a poor appreciation for the value of some existing social relations, and have 
created bureaucratic spaces that are the breeding ground for 'black market', 
'informal economy', 'mafia', etc, which like termites, eat away the existing 
state structure, leaving little but a pile of sawdust.  I don't believe nothing 
can be done, but we need to soberly assess both the strengths and weaknesses of 
the revolutionary heritage.

Steven Sherman

week long I have been in a fairly brutal debate (what else would you 
expect) with Harry Cleaver on whether Cuba is capitalist or not. 
Frankly, I am a little concerned that the world systems perspective 
in general, and A.G. Frank's concept of capitalism in permanence, 
tends to a kind of pessimism about the possibility of revolutions 
against capitalism. If this capitalist system is so all-powerful, 
what use is it to pick up a gun and challenge it?

>From A.G. Frank you get a kind of philosophical stance, reminiscent 
of Vico in many ways, in which the East might rise after a long wave 
of Western domination. Frankly, I am not willing to stand by in a 
detached Olympian stance while China emerges as a new world empire. 
I'd rather find a way to connect with Chinese revolutionaries to 
throw a monkey wrench in the system.

Harry Cleaver tells me that socialism was impossible in Cuba because 
commodity production was impossible to overcome. This stance amounts 
to a kind of U. of Texas autonomist sectarian TINA.

Some of the recent discussion about armchairs seems relevant here. If 
we are not willing to challenge the capitalist system and have 
confidence that working people can seize control of society and make 
production obey their own class interests, which expresses the needs 
of humanity in general, then we'd probably be better off stop 
pretending that we are enemies of the capitalist system.>


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