State capitalism

State capitalism

State capitalism, in its classic meaning, is a private capitalist economy under state control. This term was often used to describe the controlled economies of the great powers in the First World War. [cite encyclopedia
encyclopedia = Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought
editor = David Miller, Janet Coleman, William Conolly and Alan Ryan
publisher = Blackwell
date = 1991
] In more modern sense, state capitalism is a term that is used (sometimes interchangeably with state monopoly capitalism) to describe a system where the state is intervening in the markets to protect and advance interests of Big Business. This practice is in sharp contrast with the ideals of free market capitalism. [Allan G. Johnson. "The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology". (2000). Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0631216812 p.306]

This term is also used by Marxists and heterodox economists to describe a society wherein the productive forces are owned and run by the state in a capitalist way, even if such a state calls itself socialist. [cite web
first = Peter
last = Binns
authorlink = Peter Binns
title = State Capitalism
url =
language = English
format = HTML
date = 1986
accessdate = 2007-05-31
] Within Marxist literature, state capitalism is usually defined in this sense: as a social system combining capitalism — the wage system of producing and appropriating surplus value — with ownership by a state apparatus. By that definition, a state capitalist country is one where the government controls the economy and essentially acts like a single giant corporation.The term itself was in use within the socialist movement from the late nineteenth century onwards. Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1896 said: "Nobody has combatted State Socialism more than we German Socialists; nobody has shown more distinctively than I, that State Socialism is really State capitalism!" [cite web
first = Wilhelm
last = Liebknecht
authorlink = Wilhelm Liebknecht
title = Our Recent Congress
journal = Justice
date = 1896
url =
format = HTML
language = English
accessdate = 2007-05-31

There are various theories and critiques of state capitalism, some of which have been around since the October Revolution. The common themes among them are to identify that the workers do not meaningfully control the means of production and that commodity relations and production for profit still occur within state capitalism.

Use by Classical Liberals and advocates of capitalism

Murray Rothbard, a laissez-faire capitalist thinker, uses the term interchangeably with the term state monopoly capitalism, and uses it to describe a partnership of government and big business where the state is intervening on behalf of large capitalists against the interests of consumers. [citation
first = Murray
last = Rothbard
authorlink = Murray Rothbard
contribution = A Future of Peace and Capitalism
editor = James H. Weaver
title = Modern Political Economy
publisher = Allyn and Bacon
place = Boston
date = 1973
contribution-url =
language = English
accessdate = 2007-05-31
] [citation
first = Murray
last = Rothbard
authorlink = Murray Rothbard
contribution = Left and right: the prospects for liberty
title = Egalitarianism as a revolt against nature and other essays
publisher = Ludwig von Mises Institute
place = Auburn, Ala.
date = 2000
contribution-url =
format = HTML
language = English
accessdate = 2007-05-31
] He distinguishes this from laissez-faire capitalism where big business is not protected from market forces. This usage dates from the 1960s, when Harry Elmer Barnes described the post-New Deal economy in the United States as "state capitalism." More recently, Andrei Illarionov, former economic advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, resigned in December 2005, protesting Russia's "embracement of state capitalism." [cite news
last = Andrei
first = Illarionov
authorlink = Andrei Illarionov
title = When the state means business
work = International Herald and Tribune
date = 2006-01-25
language = English
format = HTML
url =
accessdate = 2007-05-31

The term is not used by the classical liberals to describe the public ownership of the means of production. The economist Ludwig von Mises explains the reason: "The socialist movement takes great pains to circulate frequently new labels for its ideally constructed state. Each worn-out label is replaced by another which raises hopes of an ultimate solution of the insoluble basic problem of Socialism—until it becomes obvious that nothing has been changed but the name. The most recent slogan is "State Capitalism." It is not commonly realized that this covers nothing more than what used to be called Planned Economy and State Socialism, and that State Capitalism, Planned Economy, and State Socialism diverge only in non-essentials from the "classic" ideal of egalitarian Socialism." [cite book
first = Ludwig
last = Von Mises
authorlink = Ludwig Von Mises
title =
publisher = LibertyClassics
place = Indianapolis
date = 1979
isbn = 0913966630
url =
language = English
accessdate = 2007-05-31

Use by Trotskyists

Leon Trotsky said the term state capitalism "originally arose to designate the phenomena which arise when a bourgeois state takes direct charge of the means of transport or of industrial enterprises" and is therefore a "partial negation" of capitalism [cite book
first = Leon
last = Trotsky
authorlink = Leon Trotsky
title = The revolution betrayed
publisher = Newton Abbot : David & Charles
place = Mineola, N.Y. : Dover
isbn = 0486433986
date = 2004
translator = Max Eastman
url =
fomat = HTML
language = English
accessdate = 2007-05-31
] . However, Trotsky rejected that description of the USSR claiming instead that it was a degenerated workers' state. After World War II, most in the Trotskyist movement accepted an analysis of the Soviet block countries as being deformed workers' states. However, alternative currents within the Trotskyist tradition have developed the theory of state capitalism as a New Class theory to explain of what they regard as the essentially non-socialist nature of the USSR, Cuba, China, and other self-proclaimed socialist states.

The discussion goes back to internal debates in the Left Opposition in the late 1920s. One influential formulation advocating the theory of state capitalism has been that of Tony Cliff, associated with the International Socialist Tendency and the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Another is that of the Johnson-Forest Tendency of CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaya who formulated her theory in the 1940s on the basis of a study of the first three five year plans alongside readings of Marx's early humanist writings such as Marx's essay on Alienated Labor (1844). A relatively recent text by Stephen A. Resnick and Richard D. Wolff, "Class Theory and History", explores what they call state capitalism in the former Soviet Union, continuing a theme that has been debated within Trotskyist theory for most of the past century.

Compare with other left-wing theories regarding Soviet-style societies: deformed workers' states, degenerated workers' states, new class, state socialism, bureaucratic collectivism and coordinatorism.

Use by Maoists and ‘Anti-Revisionists’

From 1956 to the early 1980s, the Communist Party of China and their Maoist or ‘anti-revisionist’ adherents around the world often described the Soviet Union as state-capitalist, essentially using the accepted Marxist definition, albeit on a different basis and in reference to a different span of time from either the Trotskyists or the left-communists. Specifically, the Maoists and their descendants use the term state capitalism as part of their description of the style and politics of Khrushchev and his successors, as well as to similar leaders and policies in other self-styled ‘socialist’ states. This was involved in the ideological break of the Sino-Soviet Split.

After Mao's death, amidst the supporters of the Cultural Revolution and the exploits of the 'Gang of Four', most extended the state capitalist formulation to China itself, and ceased to support the Communist Party of China, which likewise distanced itself from these former fraternal groups.

Most current Communist groups descended from the Maoist ideological tradition still hold to the description of both China and the Soviet Union as being ‘state-capitalist’ from a certain point in their history onwards — most commonly, the Soviet Union from 1956 to its collapse in 1991, and China from 1976 to the present day. Maoists and ‘anti-revisionists’ also sometimes employ the term ‘Social-imperialism’ to describe socialist states that they consider to actually be capitalist in essence — their phrase, "socialist in words, imperialist in deeds" denotes this.

Use by left communists and council communists

The earliest critique of the USSR as state-capitalist was formulated by various groups adhering to left communism. One major tendency of the 1918 Russian communist left criticised the re-employment of authoritarian capitalist relations and methods within production. As Ossinsky in particular argued, one-man management and the other impositions of capitalist discipline would stifle the active participation of workers in the organisation of production; Taylorism turned workers into the appendages of machines, and piece-wages imposed individualist rather than collective rewards in production so instilling petty bourgeois values into workers. In sum these measures were seen as the re-transformation of proletarians within production from collective subject back into the atomised objects of capital. The working class, it was argued, had to consciously participate in economic as well as political administration. This tendency within the 1918 left communists emphasized that the problem with capitalist production was that it turned workers into objects. Its transcendence lay in the workers' conscious creativity and participation, which is reminiscent of Marx's critique of alienation.

Modern left communists and council communists share with Trotskyists the fundamental definition of state capitalism as a social system combining capitalism with state ownership, but they disagree on some specifics. The left communist group [ Aufheben] , for example, have three primary disagreements with Cliff's theory:

# Cliff's attempt to make the point of counter-revolution and the introduction of state capitalism coincide with Stalin's first five year plan (and Trotsky's exile);
# his denial that the law of value operated in the classic sense within the USSR; and
# his insistence that state capitalism was the highest stage of capitalism which implied according to left communists (despite Cliff's denial) that the USSR was more advanced than Western capitalism.

tate capitalism in Western countries

An alternate definition is that state capitalism is a close relationship between the government and private capitalism, such as one in which the private capitalists produce for a guaranteed market. An example of this would be the military-industrial complex where autonomous entrepreneurial firms produce for lucrative government contracts and are not subject to the discipline of competitive markets. Many see this as part of a continuum characterizing the modern world economy with "normal" capitalism at one extreme and complete state capitalism like that of the former USSR at the other. This continuum has narrowed somewhat since the 1980s with the collapse of the USSR and its satellites and with large-scale privatization in Eastern Europe and most of the third world.Fact|date=February 2007

Both the first definition (the one used by Trotskyists) and this fourth one flow from discussion among Marxists at the beginning of the twentieth century, most notably Nikolai Bukharin who, in his book "Imperialism and the world economy" thought that advanced, 'imperialist' countries exhibited the latter definition and considered (and rejected) the possibility that they could arrive at the former.

State capitalism is practised by a variety of Western countries with respect to certain strategic resources important for national security. These may involve private investment as well. For example, a government may own or even monopolize oil production or transport infrastructure to ensure availability in the case of war. Examples include Neste, Statoil and OMV.

tate capitalism in European Studies

Several European scholars and political economists have been increasingly using the term to describe one of the three major varieties of capitalism that prevail in the modern context of the European Union. This approach is mainly influenced by Schmidt's (2002) article on "The Futures of European Capitalism", in which he divides modern European capitalism in three groups: Market, Managed and State.

State capitalism refers to a system where high coordination between the state, large firms and labour unions ensures economic growth and development in a quasi-corporatist model. The author cites France and, to a lesser extent, Italy as the prime examples of modern European State capitalism.


See also

* Bureaucratic collectivism
* Coordinatorism
* Corporativism
* Deformed workers' state
* Degenerated workers state
* New class
* State socialism
* Statism
* Raya Dunayevskaya

External links

* [ In Defense of Marxism] by Leon Trotsky A collection of essays and letters to members of the US Socialist Workers Party from 1939 to 1940.
* [ Our Recent Congress, "Justice" 1896] by Wilhelm Liebknecht
* [ What was the USSR?] by [ Aufheben]
* [ State Capitalism in Russia] by Tony Cliff
* [ Toward a Theory of State Capitalism: Ultimate Decision-Making and Class Structure] Libertarian analysis by Walter E. Grinder and John Hagel.
* [ Against the Theory of State Capitalism] by Ted Grant
* [ The Russian Question: A debate between Raya Dunayevskaya and Max Shachtman] (May 1947 with August 2005 commentary)
* [ Imperialism and World Economy] by Nikolai Bukharin
* [ State Capitalism and Dictatorship] by Anton Pannekoek
* [ The Theory of “State Capitalism”] , Ernest Mandel (June 1951)
* [ The Marxian Concept of Capital and the Soviet Experience: Essay in the Critique of Political Economy] by Paresh Chattopadhyay
* [ Collection of left-communist links that dismiss the bolshevik state capitalism.]
* [ "The Nature of the Russian Economy"] a 1946 Polemic written by Raya Dunayevskaya (then writing as Freddie Forest), founder of Marxist Humanism, arguing for a state capitalist position within the Marxist movement.
* [ "Trotskyism after Trotsky: The origins of the International Socialists"] Summarization of three key points on which Cliff and the International Socialist Tendency deviated from what is traditionally the orthodox Trotskyist position.
* [ "C.L.R. James on Marx's Capital and State Capitalism"]

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