Xexizy is basically correct when he defines capitalism:
The definition of capitalism is not only private property, it is:
PRIVATE PROPERTY, & MODERN MARKET ECONOMY. Goods are produced privately to be sold for profit.
However he is fundamentally wrong in his critique of the definition “socialism is common ownership of the means of production”. Xexizy points out that both feudalism and capitalism had private property but this is precisely why we define socialism as collective ownership.
This definition is used because socialism is the only system in which the means of production are owned in common.
We often also add that socialism replaces market economy with a planned economy. However Xexizy ignores this part completely. We also define capitalism as private production mostly for exchange as opposed to feudalism.
Xexizy is claiming that the USSR and other socialist countries were not really socialist. This is why he has come up with this scheme. His scheme is not at all obvious or evident or logical when reading Marx. It is something he has imposed on Marx because he wants to arrive at a certain conclusion. A conclusion not supported by Marxism but something he wants to twist Marxism to say.
This is why Xexizy has come up with his argument. Now I will show you how he is wrong:
Xexizy tries to artificially separate the so-called transitional stage from Lower Phase of Communism. In fact Marx only spoke about Lower & Higher Communism, and not about a specific third phase called the “Transitional Stage” especially since the Lower Phase is also a transitional stage.
According to Xexizy in the transitional stage everything is administered by the state but it is still not socialism. This doesn’t make any sense as in the immediate transition everything is obviously not administered by the state. The workers can take over the state, but the state won’t control the entire economy in the transition.
The reason why Xexizy claims this is obviously because he wants to claim the Soviet Union was just “evil-state-capitalism-not-real-socialism”. But really the transitional step from capitalism to socialism applies very well to something like the Soviet Union in Lenin’s administration, when the state controlled the economic heights, but didn’t abolish all private property yet.
The Stalin administration abolished private property and market economy (the two defining elements of capitalism) and thus created socialism. However based on Xexizy’s definition neither one of them was socialist. Obviously Lenin’s administration was the transition, the preparation for socialism which was then built by Stalin.
Xexizy misunderstands Marx when he quotes him:
“Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products”
(Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme)
This shouldn’t be taken absolutely literally, especially because in the very next paragraph Marx begins to describe “exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange”, he simply means that individuals won’t be selling their labor or products as individuals, but all of this is part of the social process.
“since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor.”
He was making this point specifically as a counter argument against the Lassallean petty-bourgeois notion of “undiminished proceeds of labor”.
But we will get to the specifics of what exactly all this stuff about commodity circulation means in a bit.
The same goes for Marx’s comment about value:
“…just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them”
He is not denying the existence of value but saying that value is not a regulator of the economy anymore. Stalin says the following about this:
“the law of value can be a regulator of production only under capitalism, with private ownership of the means of production, and competition, anarchy of production, and crises of overproduction.”
(Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR)
However when asked if Value still exists in the USSR he said:
“Wherever commodities and commodity production exist, there the law of value must also exist.”
Marx also acknowledged this. In describing the exchange or distribution of goods in Lower stage of Communism he said:
“Here, obviously, the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values.”
Marx defines Lower Communism in this way:
“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society — after the deductions have been made — exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.”
In simple terms this means that people work and receive payment, which they will then exchange for products, or means of consumption.
Instead in the Higher Phase of Communism products won’t be rationed, allocated or exchanged but will be given according to need.
Xexizy claims that in Socialism there cannot be Commodity Production. What he should say is that in the higher phase of communism there is no commodity production. In the lower phase it still exists. This is demonstrated by the fact that people work and are paid in return. Xexizy defines a commodity as something which is to be sold. Then what are these means of consumption which people will receive in return for payment? Are they not exactly commodities in Xexizy’s own definition? They are products which are sold i.e. commodities. However Xexizy’s definition is not exactly accurate, as in socialism products are not made to be sold, they are made to be used. They are still sold in the lower phase of communism which makes them commodities, but selling them is not the point, they are made for use, selling them is only the method of rationing them and funding their production.
“…nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals, except individual means of consumption. But as far as the distribution of the latter among the individual producers is concerned, the same principle prevails as in the exchange of commodity equivalents: a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.”
Then Xexizy attempts to explain the difference between Higher and Lower Communism. He claims the only difference is that in Higher Communism products will be given according to need. As I’ve already explained, the fact that products are not given according to need but according to work as in Lower Communism like in the USSR it already implies commodity production in this sense. The Soviet Union couldn’t yet abolish commodity production. One reason was because they couldn’t simply give things for free, because they didn’t have super abundance characteristic of higher communism.
But according to Xexizy’s strange definition this, distribution of goods in return for payment for work is not commodity production. His description of lower communism is thus self-contradicting.
In Critique of the Gotha Programme Marx says in Lower Communism or Socialism:
“a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.”
Products which are exchanged are commodities. However Marx makes a distinction here between this type of distribution, exchanging work for products and between exchanging products for other products. This commodity production in the usual sense is what he calls commodity production in Critique of the Gotha Programme.
As Lenin said:
“A commodity is, in the first place, a thing that satisfies a human want; in the second place, it is a thing that can be exchanged for another thing.”
(Lenin, KARL MARX: A Brief Biographical Sketch With an Exposition of Marxism)
If you have distribution according to payment, as Marx states we will have in Lower Communism, then you inevitably have commodity production in this sense in Lower Communism.
Exchange of products did also exist in Socialist countries for one reason: because not everything was owned by the state. They had a co-operative and collective farm sector which didn’t belong to society as a whole but only to the workers in those collectives. As a result of this their product only belonged to the collective and had to be exchanged with society for other products.
A society with collectives and co-operatives is socialist but not yet communist. That is, it is in the lower phase. For full-communism, co-operatives must become owned by the entire society as a whole and hence cease being co-operatives.
Xexizy criticizes Stalin’s plan to reduce the sphere of commodity circulation between town and country by creating a system of products exchange without money based on a plan. But this critique is rather laughable. He claims that this is only a form of barter and barter being a lower historical stage of trade it will inevitably lead to capitalist trade and commodity production.
In reality of course creating a system where goods are moneylessly allocated according to a plan is moving closer to communism. Naturally Xexizy doesn’t offer any other alternative plan of his own, and I doubt he even understands the details about why exactly Stalin made this suggestion, it being only a suggestion aimed at the collectives which were not owned by the state, to bring them under the same level of planning as the state and bringing them closer to being public property.
If everything was already public property and not collective property this would not be necessary.
Xexizy’s critique is a typical left-communist critique as it only labels something as not-real-socialism but offers no solutions.
Xexizy also claims the Soviet Union had wage labour but offers no proof of this. He quotes Stalin’s book on economics but omits the part where Stalin says labour doesn’t appear as a commodity on the market in the USSR and they therefore don’t have wage-labour.
Wage-labour doesn’t mean being paid. Marx himself says that in Lower communism people will receive means of consumption, or products as payment for work performed.
Furthermore Xexizy claims that Socialism is stateless.
This is particularly strange and he offers no source for this. He only presents us with the following deduction: since socialism is classless, and the state is an instrument of class struggle. Therefore the state should be abolished in socialism.
This is profoundly mistaken. First of all class struggle does not end in socialism. It only ends in Communism, the higher phase.
When Marx complains that the Gotha Programme does not deal with the dictatorship of the proletariat or “with the future state of communist society” he is talking about the Lower Phase, Socialism in which this state is in the process of withering away. It will be completely withered when we reach Higher Communism. Xexizy’s definition of Higher Communism fails here because according to him the state should already have withered before.
The debate between Anarchists and “state-socialists” like Marx also seems quite absurd if Marx truly believed Socialism to be stateless as Xexizy is claiming.
The last topic I want to discuss is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Xexizy doesn’t mention this term for some reason, he only talks about a mysterious “transitional stage” when he ought to be talking about the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
The Dictatorship of the Proletariat encompasses the entire period between capitalism and full-communism. That means, until every vestige of capitalism is gone and we exist in a worldwide communist society.
Xexizy implies that socialism can never be built as long as there are capitalist countries out there. But this contradicts everything he said before as he deliberately emphasized that Capitalism and Socialism are not modes of ownership but Modes of Production. So what happens if we establish a socialist mode of production somewhere, but capitalism still exists out there in a different country? He offers no solution.
This can all be traced to Xexizy’s confused definition of Socialism. We speak about the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Socialist Mode of Production and full-communism but in his mind they all merge into the same confusion. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat is not a mode of production, therefore it can exist at the same time as socialist mode of production, or not. It can also exist in one country or many countries. His insistence that a socialist mode of production must be stateless and international, is not based on science or economics but on ideology. That is not his idea of socialism, so he refuses to call it what it is. But a socialist mode of production, is precisely that regardless of what you think about it.
Xexizy is confused when he labels countries like the USSR with a socialist mode of production, common ownership of the means of production and planned economy, under the same vague term “transitional stage” together with other workers’ states like the paris commune, which didn’t yet have planned economy, collective farms or common ownership in general.
Marx, Engels and other Communists define Socialism as common ownership of the Means of Production, or in other words the abolition of private property. Why is this not good enough for Xexizy?
Because he wants to be able to say the Soviet Union and other such countries were not “real-socialism”. This is not a scientific or objective position. This is the position of left-communists who simply want to call everything not-real-socialism. Even many Trotskyists and Anarchists don’t stoop to this. Orthodox Trotskyists choose to call the Soviet Union a degenerated workers’ state or bureaucracy, but don’t deny its socialist mode of production and Anarchists usually limit themselves to stating they are against “state-socialism”.
But Left-communists want to change the entire definition of Socialism to fit their idea of it. They want to say:
“Lenin, Mao, all the great revolutionaries, what do they know? They were wrong, but thank god we left-communist have got it all figured out.”
These people are the reason why “not-real-socialism” has become such a joke and a weapon commonly used against us socialists.
These are the same people who have been against actually existing socialism for ever. This is merely their most recent attemp at justifying themselves. Nothing about what they are talking about is evident in Marx’s own text, only through carefully selecting, twisting and interpreting Marx’s words through their left-communist lense have they arrived at this result. Others have read the exact same texts for a 100 years and not come to this left-communist conclusion.
I have a proposition to make. We know what socialism is, we know what state-capitalism is. We know what these terms mean. So if you don’t like the Soviet Union, then just say you don’t like the Soviet Union. Don’t try to twist the definitions just to be able to say nothing was ever socialism.