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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 17, July 19, 1976.

Super-Powers Debate — Preliminary Reply to Mulrennan and Parker

page 13

Super-Powers Debate

Preliminary Reply to Mulrennan and Parker

I will reply in more detail later to "The Mirage of Soviet Imperialism" by Mulrennan and Parker. For the moment I will deal with their charge that I engaged in quotation juggling when I quoted En gels concerning state ownership of the means of production.

One of the difficulties in debating with Lane, Mulrennan and Parker lies in their undeveloped powers of analysis. For example, I speak of the Soviet state being the national capitalist, Mulrennan and Parker say that I try to prove that the Soviet Union is the national capitalist. There is great distinction between state and country. For Marxists the state is an apparatus used by one class to suppress another. Anyone with an elementary acquaintance with Marxism knows this.

Another example: Mulrennan and Parker cannot distinguish between trade (e.g. Chinese trade with Japan) and export of capital (e.g. Soviet shipping cross-trading between Japan and Australia) and aid (e.g. Chinese aid to Tanzania and Zambia) and export of capital (e.g. Soviet exploitation of the Singaporean working class in Soviet-owned factories). I will also deal with these points later.

Mulrennan and Parker claim that Engels in "Anti-Duhnng" referred entirely to the conversion of certain industries (e.g. railways) into state-owned property. I will quote the whole relevant passage.

Engels says: "In any case, with trusts or without, the official representative of capitalist society - the state - will ultimately have to undertake the direction of direction. This necessity for conversion into state property is felt first in the great institutions for intercourse and communication - the post office, the telegraphs, the railways....... But the transformation, either into joint-stock companies and trusts, or into state ownership, does not do away with the capitalists nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies this is obvious. And the modern state, again, is only the organisation that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the general external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well as of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of the productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers - proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head." (My italics).

Anybody with an elementary command of English will understand that Engels is saying that capital is a social relation of production, that the mere conversion of property into state-owned property does not do away with the capitalist relationship and that the development of the productive forces will increasingly force greater state ownership in the capitalist economy.

Contrary to Mulrennan and Parker, Engels says clearly that this is felt "at first" in enterprises such as the post office, the telegraph, the railways. If this is "first", what is second, third, etc? - anyone with a scientific approach would ask himself this question. But not Mulrennan and Parker; they can quote the italicised passage and fail entirely to grasp its significance.

Marx and Engels were perfectly aware that a ruling class (and the Soviet bureaucracy is a bourgeois ruling class) could own the means of production collectively. They often analysed its existence in earlier social formations.

For example, in "Capital" Marx pointed out: "Wherever a part of society possesess the monopoly of the means of production, the labourer, free or not free, must add to the working-time necessary for his own maintenance an extra working-time in order to produce the means of subsistence for the owners of the means of production, whether this proprietor be the Athenian aristocrat, Etruscan theocrat, Roman citizen, Norman baron, American slaveowner, Wallachian boyard, modern landlord or capitalist." If Etruscan theocrats are a ruling class, then so are the Soviet bureaucrats.

During the Middle Ages the Church was the biggest landowner. Was its land, on which the social relationships were no different than those on land owned by Norman barons, collectively owned? But who got the surplus: the Church hierarchy or the priests as a whole? One only has to pose the questions to see the answer.

Mulrennan and Parker end their charge of quotation juggling with a quotation from Lenin. I will also. In reply to the followers of Mach, Lenin stated: 'By all means lie, but don't overdo it!'

Drawing of a ship