Monday, November 21, 2005

MEGO

There are many things jostling for our attention these days: do we have enough boots on the ground in Iraq; recovering from Hurricane Katrina; the impending--or not--flu pandemic; whither Jennifer Aniston; whether God will smite Dover, PA.

But how can one compare any, or all, of that against Chinese market reforms and class struggle?

After all, it must surely be rank as one of the issues of the day that China's market reforms have “generated new tensions and contradictions that were solved only through a further expansion of market power, leading to the growing consolidation of a capitalist political economy.” Further, one can only marvel at the bravery of those who "insisted on a class-based critique, an admirable position in an ideological milieu that deems such emphasis unfashionable."

With that lead-in, who could possibly resist reading further?
It is not at all uncommon on the left to view the market negatively ... as at best a necessary evil, only to be tolerated if accompanied by very vigilant regulation. Market relations are viewed as contradicting and undermining the ideal of socialism. Once embraced, the Fall may be initially gradual, but the slippery slope will eventually lead all the way down. An unbridgeable gulf exists between socialism and the market—the system of commodity relations upon which capitalism has historically and structurally rested. That brings us back to the question: for reinvigorating socialism, why the market road after all?
Lest we forget, and really, how could we?
shortly after Mao’s abortive victory over such regressive tendencies during the Cultural Revolution, a small clique of capitalist roaders holed up inside the party succeeded in reversing the achievements of the revolution and imposing the capitalist road simply by governmental fiat, and the restoration of capitalism is now almost complete.
Horrors.

Of course, and I am sure I need not remind anyone here of this, any further criticism of the capitalist road is incomplete without acknowledging that

Ever since the 1930s, Marxists of various strands have been engaged in intense arguments about the class nature of state socialism of the Soviet-type, and enormous political and theoretical energy has been expended on these debates. Briefly, the controversies have centered on three closely interrelated issues: first, whether there exists a ruling class in state socialism; second, how its class character might be defined, or whether it constitutes a bourgeois or state-capitalist class; third, how the nature of such societies and polities may be characterized in class-analytic terms. There is no good reason why our present inquiry into Chinese socialism and its permutations should not benefit from the accumulated insights from generations of Marxian debate.

Just as obviously, it is impossible to keep all this in perspective without revisiting the enervating Sweezy-Bettelheim debate:

Here it may be instructive to begin with some of the ideas from the Sweezy–Bettelheim exchange from thirty years ago. Suffice it to say that their decade-long discussions revolved around two major issues: first, how to interpret the trend toward bourgeois restoration, and second, the class nature of socialism.

All of which must be considered within the context of the incomplete Maoism project:

There is little doubt that late Maoism and the Cultural Revolution are an aberration in the history of world socialism.

Indeed. Although just how much is open to some debate.

Curiously though, this analysis (a word which, used in the context of this article, cries desperately for scare quotes), never mentioned one niggling little detail.

OK. 20 some odd million details. Dead people details, that is.

Sorry, I can't play the straight man anymore. That anyone could write such a heaping, steaming load of turgid nonsense, argle-bargle and gabblefab in 2005, without the tiniest hint of irony, absolutely beggars the imagination. Never mind the reading of which makes me want to bathe obsessively.

And you thought the the need to believe in UFOs was difficult to explain.

Oh, in case you were wondering. MEGO? That is newsroom speak for a story that Makes My Eyes Glaze Over.

Just remember, I did the tough work so you wouldn't have to.

8 Comments:

Blogger Oroborous said...

Ever since the 1930s, Marxists of various strands have been engaged in intense arguments about the class nature of state socialism of the Soviet-type, and enormous political and theoretical energy has been expended on these debates.

The Marxists of the 30s can be forgiven for wasting so much time on this tripe, and even those Marxists of the 70s, but anyone in the 80s and later who engaged in such a debate simply demonstrated that "Marxist" is "idiot" spelled backwards.

Any person alive at the end of the 20th century had only to look through the chronicled history of the century, and the answers fairly leapt out.

Briefly, the controversies have centered on three closely interrelated issues: first, whether there exists a ruling class in state socialism; second, how its class character might be defined, or whether it constitutes a bourgeois or state-capitalist class...

Yes, duh, there IS a ruling class in state socialism, and it IS a bourgeois or state-capitalist class.

Humans are neither created nor born equal.
We have differing potentials, abilities, temperaments, situations, experiences, opportunities, and luck.

In ANY system, whether it be capitalism, socialism/communism, feudalism, tribalism, or anarchy, some people will have the means, opportunity, and drive to achieve, and others will naturally look to her for guidance and leadership.
It's just how humans are.

Thus, there is ALWAYS a "ruling class", and all that varies is how one enters it, and potentially stays there.

Even under a system of monarchy and hereditary nobility, merchants and soldiers of distinction could be made low-ranking nobility, and in some cases the titles passed down.

The ruling elite under socialist systems are "state-capitalists" because they rise in the government using the same skills that a capitalist would use to tame the market: Knowledge, competence, networking, self-promotion, success in completing projects...

November 21, 2005 9:27 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "That anyone could write such a heaping, steaming load of turgid nonsense, argle-bargle and gabblefab in 2005, without the tiniest hint of irony, absolutely beggars the imagination."

No, I don't think it beggars the imagination. At least not my imagination or the imagination of Brink Lindsey, author of "Against the Dead Hand." In a review of that book by Richard Eberling we find the following excerpt:

"But Lindsey tempers the notion that good, free-market policies will slowly but surely supersede the bad, interventionist, and regulatory policies of the past. “Free-market partisans sometimes talk as if they have already won the war of ideas, but the self-congratulations are dangerously premature. They have confused passing a turning point with bringing the campaign to completion.” The opponents of the free-market society still criticize self-interested, decentralized, market decision making and advocate “public interested” political management. And they still argue that the opposite of government planning and regulation is “chaos” and “social injustice.”

Thus, the task of the proponent of economic liberty, Lindsey concludes, is to hope that a change in ideologies and ideas has really begun to take hold but also to remain ever vigilant and determined to fight the large number of battles that still remain ahead if individual freedom and the free market are really to triumph around the world.
"

We need to be ever vigilant or steaming loads of turgid nonsense will become mainstream once again.

November 22, 2005 11:30 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Bret:

You have guessed at what those who know me personally have long taken for granted: I am imagination challenged.

But never mind that. How does one not clinically insane write

There is little doubt that late Maoism and the Cultural Revolution are an aberration in the history of world socialism.

never mind the rest of that narcolepsy inducing stew without even ONCE mentioning that the Cultural Revolution killed, oh, more than 20x10E6 people.

Perhaps because, by their being dead, they obviously belonged to the wrong class?

Oroborous:

Another thing that made Mr. Jaw meet Mr. Floor with loud, anvil-like clang was that "debate" that went on for TEN years. Heck, even the evolution kerfuffle at BrosJudd will have ground to a halt by then.

Okay, maybe not. But still.

November 22, 2005 12:31 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Leggo my MEGO!

A lot of this sounds as if it could have been produced by an automated Marx-speak generator, such as this:

Briefly, the controversies have centered on three closely interrelated issues: first, whether there exists a ruling class in state socialism; second, how its class character might be defined, or whether it constitutes a bourgeois or state-capitalist class; third, how the nature of such societies and polities may be characterized in class-analytic terms.

I've read it several times, and I'm still at a loss as to what he's trying to say.

But you also gotta love this whopper:

a small clique of capitalist roaders holed up inside the party succeeded in reversing the achievements of the revolution and imposing the capitalist road simply by governmental fiat

a. What friggin' accomplishments???

b. Government fiat? That's how commumism works!!!! That's how Mao imposed his whole murderous reign of terror! Is the author under the impression that the Chinese people chose the Maoist regime in a free and fair election?

November 24, 2005 10:29 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

argle-bargle and gabblefab

Skipper, you must have picked up such a salty tongue during your time with the swabbies. Just remember, this is a family blog!

November 24, 2005 10:44 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Duck:

Good catch on the "gov't fiat" - so true, and I missed it completely.

November 24, 2005 2:33 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I have often contended that both Communism and Nazism, far from being the products of Reason, are in fact revealed religions, differing from the rest only by the absence of a supernatural being.

This article supports my assertion: the author is wholly unmoved by one of the primary components of Reason -- evidence. Instead, his whole approach is essentially no different than that taken by anyone engaged in Bible exegisis.

It probably is no surprise that most religionists completely reject this notion (a type-C vs. type-M kind of thing?).

November 27, 2005 4:20 AM  
Blogger Mortgage Center said...

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January 02, 2006 10:18 PM  

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