On affirmative action and on socialist economy

by Sal, Seattle, January 15, 1999 (1)
(from Communist Voice #22,. October 9, 1999)


. [Sal objected to how certain of his positions had been characterized in earlier reports by other comrades, and to correct this, Sal proceeded as follows:--CV] Sal referred to his own stance in reference to affirmative action. He had maintained that the arguments pro and con concerning affirmative action reflected on the fact that capitalism is organically incapable of supplying full employment or full education opportunities to all the members of its society; and that to argue the question was to tacitly accept this limitation. The duty of Communists is not so much to take either position, but rather to point out the irrationality of the conflict in the first place. Phil characterized this argument as maintaining that affirmative action makes no difference to Sal, one way or another.

. Sal also objected to Phil's rendition of his views on Socialist economy. Sal had stated his view that at bottom any economic system that relies on commodity production and distribution has as its economic basis the production and distribution of value---and thence, so long as the economy was not totally stagnant, profit. He pointed out that on the highest level of abstraction, both capitalism and socialism---in its initial stages---necessarily require the production of profit---that is to say, surplus value in relation to the capital invested. (p = s/c+v: the rate of profit expressing the ratio of surplus value to the constant plus variable capital). Marx uses the term profit in two different---although related---senses. Profit is, at its most basic level, the surplus value created from the utilization of the concrete embodiments of constant and variable capital. Profit in the more extended, social sense, is the money (not necessarily value) obtained from investment as manifested in mundane, practical and phenomenal reality, and influenced hitherto by all the variable effects of competition, interest, etc.---that is to say, bourgeois capitalism.

. Sal's contention is that socialism is not, of itself, a distinct social-economic form at all, but rather a hybrid of very contradictory social-economic forms: capitalism and communism.Socialism, he averred, is but a bridge which incorporates, to varying degrees, depending upon its stage of development, features of both systems. To the degree that Socialist society expropriates and utilizes industries providing surplus value, to that degree that society is state capitalist.Socialist state capitalism will differ from bourgeois capitalism primarily in that, in contradistinction from the emphasis on profit for the sake of profit---profit for the bourgeoisie---it will focus on the needs of the proletariat, and thus will be willing to sacrifice profits, and indeed will strive to put an end to profits entirely. What is as yet to be determined is what form capitalism will take while society is undergoing socialist transformation, and it is therefore contingent upon Communists to honestly acknowledge that socialism, in its initial stages, must necessarily entail a form of state capitalism. This was a position Sal asserted he had emphasized persistently, passionately, and not without some volume, and he objected to Phil's rendition of his position as "seeing no difference between bureaucracy and democracy." <>


(1) These are excerpts from Sal's report of January 15 to Communist Voice Organization circles on the Seattle Marxist-Leninist Study Group discussion of December 6, 1998. The title has been added by CV, and so have the bracketed words .--CV. (Return to text)

The October 1999 issue of CV contained the following other contributions to this debate:
* Debating the significance of the state sector in the transition to socialism -- Iintroductionby Joseph Green
* Two issues: affirmative action and the transition between capitalism and communism (A reply to Sal's report by Mark, Detroit, Jan. 17, 1999)
* The transitional society and profit by Pete Brown (Jan. 19, 1999)
* State capitalism in the preliminary phase of socialism, by Sal, Seattle, March 1999
* State ownership is not sufficient to define the transitional economy (Reply to Sal) by Joseph Green, July 11, 1999

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