More on Socialist Institutions in Capitalist States

Repost from the old site. In response to my post, Dr. Andrew Austin, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, commented, rejecting my notion that all government structures in a capitalist system were de facto socialist institutions. His response is a typical Marxist rejoinder. Andrew Austin:

Socialism is a political economic system in which the workers own and control the means of production. That means the workers run the firm, so to speak. Leaving aside the question of whether they produce anything of value (in an exchange sense), soldiers and police officers do not run the firm. They are employees of the state and are told what to do by those who run the state. They have no say-so in determining who stands above them. The hierarchy that controls their work lives (and to a large extent their leisure lives) is not comprised of democratically-elected offices. Moreover, the military and the police serve the interests of the capitalist class and its managers and associated functionaries, not the interests of the working class. Government functions are socialist to the degree that they are controlled by and benefit the working class. An example of a public system in the US that is often said to have the appearance of socialism is the educational system. School board members are elected, subject to public pressure, and every child can access the system. However, public education has become a system for indoctrinating children into the values and norms of capitalist society. Just because the state sector is involved does not signal socialism. The capitalist state is by definition not socialist because it is controlled by capitalists for the benefit of capitalists and the perpetuation, expansion, and entrenchment of capitalist relations. States reflect the character of the underlying mode of production. I see a lot of people make the error of thinking that extensive state intervention means socialism. The only way state intervention is socialist is if the social relations are socialist or society is undergoing a revolutionary transformation. Authoritarian capitalism – fascism, whatever – has a massive state sector, but it is the antithesis of socialism. Capitalism can be more or less democratic – though there are always sharp limits on how democratic capitalism can be. Socialism can be more or less democratic. Unlike capitalism, the more democratic socialism becomes, the more socialist it is.

I’m not going to comment on this because I am more or less at a loss for words. Feel free to comment in the comments section. On the other hand, astute commenter James Schipper agrees with me, but takes a non-Marxist and more social democratic view of socialism. Keep in mind that social democrats call their system socialism, while Marxists reject that, calling social democrats “bourgeois democrats” when they are in a good mood and “social fascists” when they are in a bad mood (recall the epithet used by the German Communists against the German social democrats in the 1920’s and early 1930’s). Schipper:

I agree totally with you. Every country in the world has a socialist sector. The market can’t exist without the state, but the state can exist without the market. A country in which the state ran everything would be a disaster, but it could exist. A country in which literally everything were left to the market would sink in anarchy and misery. Some African countries have come close to this. Socialism means essentially three things: state-directed production, state-directed distribution of income and state-regulated private production. There is plenty of that all over the world. The biggest department in the socialist sector in the US is the Pentagon. Many American generals might balk at being called employees in the socialist sector, but that’s exactly what they are. They don’t get their paychecks from a corporation. However, I would like to add that socialism in the sense above does not necessarily mean egalitarianism. There can be such a thing as socialism for the rich. Even a totally socialist economy could be run mainly for the benefit of an elite, in the same way that a corporation can be run mainly for the benefit of senior managers and at the expense of shareholders and employees.

I respond, agreeing with James: Indeed, what we have under Bush seems to be something like a socialism for the rich. The rich are allowed to gamble all they want with their money and possibly even blow up the economy. If they make money, they get to keep all of it. If they lose, we taxpayers cover all of their losses. Hence there is nothing to prevent them from making mad and wild gambles with money, which are quite risky for the economy. Guaranteeing the losses of capitalists is something that economists call “moral risk”. It’s like if I get to go to the casino all day and win as much as I want, but once I start losing, I get to come hat in hand to the taxpayers and demand that they bail out all my losses. I might just stay at the casino all the time if that were the case. This is the moral risk inherent in today’s corporatist system. On the other hand, we cannot allow big banks and strange institutions like Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac to fail. In return for bailing these clowns out, though, taxpayers must demand either an ownership share in Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac (I would argue that there is an excellent for nationalizing these institutions, but after Ronald Reagan, that’s hardly possible). Or those two institutions, and the entire finance industry for that matter, must submit to the kind of intense state regulation that they formerly labored under, and that worked very well from 1935 until 1973 or so when capitalists started destroying it. Surely socialist states can be run solely for an elite as James notes. This is why I object to supporting the Burmese state. Some Leftists are supporting Burma on the basis that the Western sanctions on Burma are not because it is an evil murdering state, but because it refuses to open up its state economy sufficiently to multinational capital. They are correct that this is the real reason for the sanctions on Burma. But while Burma is formally a socialist state and most of the economy is in state hands, the state sector is run by a venal, callous, paranoid and murderous military elite as a cash cow. They pocket the substantial profits of this state sector while disallowing any private competition with it and at the same time treating their people little better than chattel. This is something like a crony state capitalist state, and there is nothing progressive about it, especially while the vast majority of Burmese wallow in the worst misery. Just to show that there is nothing progressive about it, the Burmese Communist Party (admittedly very radical Maoists) has been waging armed struggle against the Burmese “socialist” junta since it was formed in 1962. The junta has oppressed the various Burmese nationalities, most of whom never even consented to be a part of the new Burmese state freed from colonialism in 1948 in the first place. A proper progressive state gives substantial rights and autonomy to national minorities, and the USSR, Vietnam and China have all done this, despite a lot of problems along the way. The progressive socialist states in Europe also give cultural rights to national minorities. Vicious repression of minorities is a quality of fascism and ultranationalism and not properly of the Left. On the other hand, the divergent, quirky and twisted Khmer Rouge ferociously attacked all non-Khmers, though they were surely Marxists. The Khmer Rouge was a sad case of ethnic nationalist and racist Marxists. I would agree that a racist Marxist is still a Marxist, but he just isn’t a very good one.

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8 thoughts on “More on Socialist Institutions in Capitalist States”

  1. I totally agree. If the rich can be bailed out, then why should ordinary people feel bad when they use government programs? In addition, looking at it from a genetic POV, you can be certain the rich have at least a average or above average IQ. Yet, some racist ones bitch about so called “low IQ” people on welfare. As one would think, a higher IQ gives one less of an excuse in the “game of life”.

    1. Ask these rich White assholes if they would give one of these low IQ welfare cases a job so they can earn a living with some dignity. They would say, “Hell no!” Ok, then how are they supposed to survive.
      A friend of my Mom’s worked for the welfare or social services office in Davis, California. She said a lot of long-term welfare cases were honestly not really employable people. Most of them had something seriously wrong with them and they would not exactly make ideal employees.

  2. Marxist revolution is fueled by anti-colonialism, which is racist. Racism against the colonial power, whom is greatly resented. Without racism, Communism wouldn’t have gotten a foothold in Asia, and Africa. In those areas, capitalist oppression went hand and hand with white supremacy (or in some cases, Japanese supremacy).
    True the Khmer Rouge or racist, but so was the Viet Cong, and the North Korean Regime.
    Now, looking at white nationalism. It’s basically a bunch of guys who are resentful, because non-whites resent them (white people). This begs the question “Who has a real right to be resentful?”. Almost always anti-white movements are labeled Communist, often with some connection to Jews.

    1. Right, a White national proletarian revolution might even be worthy of support. Even though he is a scum, I always respected Tom Metzger because he truly was for White workers as he put it. He hates the White rich and the White bankers and I think he wants to line them up and shoot them LOL. He is a racist, but I do like his class consciousness which is rare in the WN movement.
      The WN movement is always anti-worker and pro-ruling class. This is because Whites see themselves as a ruling class race. However, over at Stormfront, there are very many White nationalist socialists. Even though they are Nazi assholes, I have a certain degree of respect for them. I would rather ally with a Stormfront WN socialist than some SJW who supports George Soros, Hilary Clinton, John Kerry, the DNC, neoliberalism and US imperialism.
      But WN’s are generally not really revolutionaries. Really they are objectively contras. Are Al Nusra revolutionary? How about ISIL? Some of these armed groups are just contras.

  3. There is and has always been an interplay between de facto socialism and private interest in the development and running of the nation. There is no argument that the very essence of government collecting taxes and redistributing wealth in the forms of roads, schools and medical research is socialistic. The question becomes one of degree: to what extent does government exert its power over the private sector. Currently it can be said that countries like North Korea and Cuba have attained perhaps the largest degree of government control with regard to economic activity to the point of rendering the private sector virtually non-existent. Highly productive economies, such as the U.S., however, are not the flip side of these communist nations. Rather, countries like Honduras which provides minimal human services and whose government is nothing but a goon squad controlled by a cabal of the economic elite for their own selfish interest would be the opposite. The U.S. in fact is a highly socialistic economy, but to a much lesser degree than countries such as Canada and Sweden.

    1. Thank you comrade!
      Cuba definitely has a significant private sector at the moment. Go to Havana and see for yourself. Small-scale, but extremely active.
      There is definitely a private sector in North Korea and has been for some time now, though there is much less of one there than in Cuba.

    2. We can’t ignore the people themselves. Some race realists focus on the shortcomings of Africans, and blame Africans, themselves, for their problems, apart from oppressive influences, but don’t blame Latin Americans, East Indians etc.. for their poverty, apart from oppressive influences.
      We know the majority of Haiti’s population believes in Voodoo. Would it be fair to say, that people like that have bad luck coming their way. Can we say that India’s inequality can be put at the feet of Hinduism. A system which mandates that a large portion of it’s population be untouchable.
      It would be interesting to see a non-PC overview of Latin America, looking at the people, themselves, and see how they contribute to their own poverty. Mind you, oppression is bad, and plenty of it there. But oppression comes to the superstitious. For instance, native Americans, and I am part Native American, dance around a fire. What has it got them, but a life on the lowest end of the poverty spectrum, lower than even blacks.

      1. The scapegoat often given by the left is the US. US oppression. Another big scapegoat, used by racists, is the Jews. But who is to blame for so much poverty in the world, but the people, themselves? However, it isn’t the genetics doing it, but the choices people make. Cause a lower IQ and whatnot, can cause bad things, under bad conditions.
        However, those bad conditions aren’t always there. For instance, compare Jamaica to Haiti. Jamaica is violent, as many racists point out. However, it’s still “night and day” compared to Haiti. So what’s the secret in Haiti, of why the place is so downtrodden?

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