WAPE 15

The 15th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy (WAPE) took place on 18-19 December.  It was held physically at the Shanghai International Studies University, China; but was complemented by virtual panels with a large number of Marxist economists from outside China participating.  There were around 200 papers presented on a range of subjects: political economy, world capitalism, imperialism, China etc. 

WAPE is an increasingly important forum for discussion among Marxist economics academics.  To quote its website, WAPE “presents the opportunity for Marxist economists to reach out to each other, across the divide of language and geography around the dynamics of Political Economy. The aim is to unite Marxist economists of the world to work together, to facilitate this exchange of knowledge, new thought and research and to develop Marxist political economy and strengthen the influence of Marxist Political Economy in the world across all languages and cultural boundaries.”

In effect, WAPE is a Chinese-run academic economics organisation, aiming to link up with Marxist economists globally.  It aims to promote the success of the Chinese development model as these academics see it.  Even though that might seem like bias, the WAPE forums and journals still provide an important outlet to discuss all the developments in the world capitalist economy from a Marxist perspective.

The 15th Forum delivered a myriad of papers and speeches.  In this short review, I cannot possibly cover all the sessions.  But you can see the full program here.  I shall only refer to the sessions that interested me or in which I participated.

But let me start with Guglielmo Carchedi.  At the 15th Forum, Italian Marxist economist Carchedi received a special award for his longstanding contributions to Marxist political economy.  As readers of this blog know, in the last decade Carchedi and I have collaborated on a number of projects, including papers and books, because of our close agreement on Marxist political economy and its application to the issues of the day.  So it was especially pleasing to see Guglielmo receive this award from his fellow Marxist economists. 

Carchedi has made pioneering and profound contributions to Marxian value theory, the theory of crises under capitalism; and to a modern theory of classes; as well as more recently to Marxian dialectics and the nature of knowledge and mental labour in 21st century capitalism.  Some of his key works are: The logic of prices as values (1984) http://digamo.free.fr/carchedi84.pdf; Frontiers of Political Economy (1991) http://digamo.free.fr/carchedi91.pdf; and Behind the Crisis (2011). And here is his acceptance speech at WAPE.

There were some interesting plenary sessions that took place physically in Shanghai on the state of Marxist economics in 21st century, lessons from the Soviet Union and China and on comparisons with India.  But I shall concentrate on some panel sessions in this review. Panel 3 was on the Political Economy of COVID. Jose Lujano Lopez from UNAM, Mexico presented a paper on Profits without Prosperity in Fifth Kondratiev and Social Collapse by Covid-19Lujano started from the premiss that there are long waves of prosperity and depression in capitalist economies, following the theory of Russian economist, Kondratiev.  These long waves from low to high and back to low, last about 50 years or so.  Lopez reckons that the major capitalist economies are in the fifth Kondratiev wave since the capitalist mode of production became dominant.  This fifth wave began in the 1980s and reached its apex in growth in production and investment by the Great Recession of 2008 and is now in its down phase to date, which presumably would come to an end around mid-2030s, if the fifth K-wave were to follow previous ones. 

Whether K-waves or cycles exist and can be supported empirically is much disputed.  I won’t go into all the arguments for and against here (see my book, The Long Depression, Chapter 12, for more detail).  Suffice it to say that I think there is much to support the existence of long cycles of prosperity and depression in capitalist accumulation.  Most of those supporting this concept look to cycles or clusters of innovation in technology; or cycles in commodity prices or production.  In my view, this leaves out the underlying cycles in profitability in capitalist economies, caused by the balance between the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and the countertendencies to that. 

Lajuno Lopez also offers a different cause of the fifth K-wave.  He reckons that the downphase of the cycle occurs when there is a ‘technological exhaustion’ of innovations, but in the current 5K, the key factor is the relative decline and weakness of US capitalism in expanding the productive forces.  Only China apparently can replace the US in expanding technology in the 21st century.  So the end of the fifth K-cycle and a new upwave globally depends on whether China will achieve global economic hegemony. 

I am not convinced that this transition of hegemony is the factor that will decide the end of the fifth K-wave – for two reasons; 1) it ignores the movement of the profitability of global capital; and 2) I cannot see China being able to replace the US as the hegemonic power – certainly not without intense conflict.

In another presentation, Greek Marxist economist, Lefteris Tsoulfidis presented a much more compelling explanation of long waves or cycles in modern capitalism.  In The Long Recession and Economic Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic written with Persefone Tsaliki, Tsoulfidis argues that it is the rate of profit in combination with the movement of the real net profits that determines “the phase-change of a capitalist economy in its long cyclical pattern”.  Tsoulfidis and Tsaliki reckon that the US and the world economy have experienced two such long K-cycles since 1945.  The pandemic COVID-19 just deepened the downphase of the latest cycle which had already been underway since 2007. Although, growth rates in the first post-pandemic years are expected to be high, soon after economies will find themselves back to their old recessionary growth paths. They conclude that “the onset of a new long cycle requires the restoration of profitability, which can be sustained only through the introduction of ‘disruptive’ innovations backed by suitable institutional arrangements.” 

The main argument of Tsoulfidis and Tsaliki is that “long cycles are induced by the long-run movement in the profit rate and the mass of real net profits.” In some ways, their conclusion is similar to that of Lopez, but for different reasons: “The economy since 2007 is in the downturn phase of the fifth long cycle. Our projection based on real corporate net profits of the US economy is that the stagnation will continue after the pandemic, despite the expected rising profitability, which cannot last for long unless major ground-breaking innovations signify the onset of the sixth long cycle.”  I agree with the two Ts that: “the economic fundamentals in the post-pandemic years remain the same. It will, therefore, be no surprise for the economies on average to return to their post-2007 anemic growth rates. The moderate increase in the rate of profit and the real net profits are not enough to encourage net investment and initiate the onset of the sixth long cycle.”

The key role of the profitability of capital was also emphasised in panel 8 on Capitalist Accumulation and the Financialisation Hypothesis: a Critical Review, in which I participated with a paper.  The whole session is recorded here. 

Stavros Mavroudeas and Turan Subasat presented a joint paper,https://thenextrecession.files.wordpress.com/2021/12/subasat-mavroudeas-.pdf, in which Mavroudeas provided a compelling theoretical critique of ‘financialisation’.  The FH claims that capitalism has morphed into a new stage where the financial sector dominates the value-productive sector of capitalist economies and crises are now the result of financial instability and not the insufficiency of profits.  Mavroudeas and Subasat reckon that “the FH overrates the importance of novel financial instruments, misunderstands their function and, thus, fails to situate the role of finance in the capitalist system. Especially, it erroneously divorces finance from and superimposes it on productive capital. Moreover, the crucial empirical claims of the FH do not stand up to scrutiny.” 

In the second half of their presentation, Subasat demolished the myths of the financialization theory.  Supporters of FH have claimed that two-thirds of the few hundred largest multinational companies are financial.  Instead, when analysed, only 10-20% could be considered financial.

It is claimed that financial assets have accelerated threefold over GDP in the past 30 years.  But Subasat shows that the financial sector share increased in only 20 countries and decreased in 21 countries (indicating de-financialization). And even the fastest financialising countries are rose only 4% relative to output. The super financial economies like the US rose only 1.19% increase and the UK only had a 0.83% increase while Portugal, Greece and Spain experienced de-financialization.

Finally, it is argued that financialisation of companies led to a decline in manufacturing and productive investment.  Subasat showed that the share of financial income in non-financial companies, which had started to increase in the 1990s, had decreased since 2005.  Moreover, the share of financial services in total services declined in 27 (65.9%) countries and increased in 14 (34.1%) countries over the past 30 years. This implies that service sectors other than financial services contributed more to de-industrialization in these countries. And there was no significant statistical relationship between financial liberalization and financialization level, neither in terms of level nor change

Figure 6: Change in the share of the financial sector in GDP % over last 30 years

This paper was a devastating critique of the financialization story for capitalism.  And that critique was supplemented by my own paper on whether the Great Recession was caused by financial instability or by an underlying downturn in the profitability of productive capital.  I argued in my presentation that the empirical evidence for the latter was overwhelming.  Indeed, in every recession in the US since 1945, there has been a fall in the profits of the productive sectors of the economy alongside any fall in financial profits and no recessions when only financial profits fell. 

As Carchedi has pointed out, “the first 30 years of post WW2 US capitalist development were free from financial crises. Only when profitability in the productive sector fell in the 1970s, was there a migration of capital to the financial unproductive sphere that during the neo-liberal period delivered more financial crises. The deterioration of the productive sector in the pre-crisis years is thus the common cause of both financial and non-financial crises… it follows that the productive sector determines the financial sector, contrary to the financialisation thesis.”

The other papers in this session by Professor Murray Smith and Josh Watterton (unfortunately not able to participate) and Ricardo Gomes from UNAM, Mexico reached similar conlcusions.  As Smith and Watteron sum it up: “All genuinely ‘new’ phenomena highlighted by proponents of the ‘financialization hypothesis’ can be accounted for within the Marxian framework. The financialization hypothesis, on the other hand, is both empirically and theoretically weak in its explanatory power. Its main purpose is to leave open the possibility of overcoming the malaise of world capitalism through some combination of ‘re-regulation’ of finance, monetary reform, and/or redistribution of a mass of ‘new value’ that, from our perspective, appears to be diminishing relative to the total value of (real) capital investment and overall systemic costs.”

And that is the important political conclusion.  The financialisation story suggests that it is possible to end crises under capitalism by controlling or regulating finance without touching the multinationals in the productive sectors ie regulate not replace.

As WAPE is based in China, there were also many sessions on the nature of the Chinese economy and its development.  And at WAPE we often get the strongest supporters of the Chinese development model, ie those who argue that China is a socialist economy and moreover, give or take, it is on the road towards ‘full socialism’.  These ‘stages towards socialism’ were again spelt out at WAPE by Professor Cheng Enfu, who is the Chair of WAPE.  In his presentation, Cheng identified three stages towards socialism.

The first stage, according to Cheng, is a period of ‘socialist construction’, as after the 1949 revolution until now, where the industrialisation and urbanisation of a peasant economy takes place, leading to the eradication of poverty and rising living standards.  This takes place in a ‘socialist market economy’, where capitalist sector may be large but is still dominated by the state sector.  According to Cheng, China is now entering the second or intermediate stage towards full socialism, where there will be multiple forms of ownership of the means of production, apparently as Stalin described them.  Finally, in the advanced stage, there will be public ownership of the entire society with distribution of what is produced according to the labour hours exerted only for items in short supply. 

Cheng’s view is followed by other Chinese-based scholars like Roland Boer, Professor at the School of Marxism, Dalian University of Technology, China.  In Boer’s book, entitled Socialism with Chinese Characteristics: a guide to foreigners, he seeks to convince ‘Western Marxists’ that their ‘significant ignorance’ leads to ‘misconceptions and mistakes by those outside China’, mainly because they do not read Chinese.  If they did so, says Boer, they would realise that China is clearly moving towards socialism. At WAPE, there were also those who reckon that China is socialist, but has developed a unique new model of socialism ie one with ‘Chinese characteristics’ , ie a new socio-economic formation of ‘market socialism’.  The main components of this new formation have been developed by Deng Xiaoping all the way to Xi Jinping.

Now readers of my blog and other works know that I do not consider China is a capitalist economy, let alone imperialist, and such a view makes me a minority among ‘Western Marxists’.  On the other hand, I do not think China is on the steady road towards socialism in its own special way as Cheng, Boer and Xi argue. 

First, what is socialism or communism?   It is a social organism where there is equality, or to be more exact, where everybody contributes as best they can to the ‘common prosperity’ and after deductions for all the social consumption as decided democratically by the commune, individuals get what each needs from social production.  There are no markets for exchange of commodities. There are no billionaires; no inequalities of income and wealth in whatever form; there is an end of class struggle based on control of the means of production and an end to any state machinery to control the majority.  None of these ‘characteristics’ of socialism/communism exist in China or anywhere. The question is whether China is on a steady transition towards socialism/communism.

For me, the concept of ‘market socialism’, pronounced by some in support of the Chinese socialist model is a contradiction in terms.  This concept was never promoted by Marx.  On the contrary, Marx strongly criticised such concepts when they came from Proudhon in his time and from the social democracy in Germany.  In a state where capitalists and imperialism are no longer in control of the state, but which starts as a poor peasant economy, as China did, there will be a mix of state and market sectors.  But while this mix may be necessary to develop the economy initially, there are still huge contradictory forces between planning and the market that must be resolved eventually with the removal of the market, as Cheng portends. 

And here is the issue. In my view, far from moving towards the ‘withering away’ of class antagonisms, inequalities and the state, China is, if anything, moving in the other direction.  China freed itself from imperialism and capitalism, but had a long way to go in what Preobrahensky called ‘primitive socialist accumulation’ , where there would be continual tension between social planning and a large capitalist sector at home and imperialism abroad. 

But for me, China cannot go forward towards a socialist society (Cheng’s ‘advanced stage’) without democratic workers organisations controlling the state and making decisions on the economy and social need; not leaving all to the elite of the Communist party.  Also China cannot move towards socialism unless there are socialist governments established in the major imperialist states surrounding China.  Only then can technology, resources and human labour be employed for the world as a whole and not for elites in national states.  None of these contradictions are mentioned by Cheng and other academic supporters of the Chinese road to socialism.

One key to the transition to socialism is the expansion of democratic planning for social needs. And there were many sessions at WAPE on how planning under socialism could be achieved.  In several different sessions, we heard from Pat Devine, Al Campbell, David Kotz and Robin Hahnel on models of democratic socialist planning. Pat Devine summarises many of these here.  

This post is long enough already and so it is not possible to deal in detail with the many other sessions at WAPE.  But the 15th Forum demonstrated that WAPE has become an essential source of debate and discussion for Marxist economists globally on all the key issues of 21st century capitalism.

55 thoughts on “WAPE 15

  1. Thanks a lot. I found enormously interesting yours blogs and messages. Best regards and happy hollidays.Rodolfo MagallanesEl 23 dic. 2021 9:26 a. m., Michael Roberts Blog <comment-reply@wordpress.com> escribió:

    michael roberts posted: " The 15th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy (WAPE) took place on 18-19 December.  It was held physically at the Shanghai International Studies University, China; but was complemented by virtual panels with a large number of Marxist econ"

  2. “the first 30 years of post WW2 US capitalist development were free from financial crises.”

    25, not 30. The bankruptcy of the Penn Central Railroad triggered a run on the commercial paper market. The Fed was forced to intervene (through its discount window) to prevent a collapse of that market.

  3. Elementary for socialism is also the phase out of alienating work, so that everybody can participate to decision making on the economy and social need; not leaving all to an “elite”. Their is no attempt in China for this phase out.

  4. Thank you Michael a very valuable breakdown of the conference. Thanks also for providing some insight into your opinion on Enfu and Boer’s work. The following paragraph:

    “But for me, China cannot go forward towards a socialist society (Cheng’s ‘advanced stage’) without democratic workers organisations controlling the state and making decisions on the economy and social need; not leaving all to the elite of the Communist party. Also China cannot move towards socialism unless there are socialist governments established in the major imperialist states surrounding China. Only then can technology, resources and human labour be employed for the world as a whole and not for elites in national states. None of these contradictions are mentioned by Cheng and other academic supporters of the Chinese road to socialism.”

    This seems to make the claim that 1) “democratic” organizations don’t exist in PRC and leave everything to an “elite” of the party. Obviously not enough information here to go into any heavy analysis, but the PRC’s basic political party structure has a huge emphasis on voting, local organizing, and has a constitution that is widely read and updated constantly (every 3-4 years). It’s easy enough to backstop everything at the concept of an “party elite” but the party does have a formal and contextual Democratic principle that is widely misunderstood. This is a link to the CPC’s formal English translation and a kind of micro-guide to Chinese civics: http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/zgyw/202112/t20211204_10462468.htm. Roland Boer also has a few books and a few lectures available on youtube on the subject.

    Democratic workers organizations in the form of worker’s co-ops have had their largest size and biggest successes in China, some in the pre-communist era. Mao’s policies in the 50’s shut many of them down and they made a brief resurgence in the mid 1980’s and 90’s. Xi’s latest push for workers-co-ops has been echoed by Enfu and other Chinese Marxist economists for the last ten years, and obviously appears in the “Market Socialism 2.0” model as a primary reference. There are many articles about this policy and implementation. I have to admit I have no data, but I would not be surprised if the PRC had the most worker-co-ops in the world at this point.

    The 2) point made about China needing socialist governments in it’s surrounding area is also a interesting one, but I would imagine again that here there is a lack of understanding of the Chinese Marxist concept of internationalism, which is whole different to the proletarian and socialist internationalism of the USSR. China sees the basic material connections of national countries economies as a form of internationalism devoid of any ideological fealty. BRI is this policy and form, and China is aggressively pursuing this. It’s a valid criticism to focus on the “national” form of the policy, but this is the their decision. Any “class based” form would not be integrated well into the world economy- as evidenced by the complete lack of world trade found in the Soviet model.

    There is a large body of work devoted to Enfu, and Guoguang Liu’s contradiction analysis on the infiltration of neoliberal hegemony, the emergence of a new bourgeoisie class in China, and the failures of the CPC to address many of these contradictions early on in the “wild 90’s”. I don’t think it’s fair to say that this hasn’t been “mentioned” by Cheng and other SWCC proponents, although I can understand that the failure to address the “democracy” and “national” issue you brought up. .

    Guoguang Liu is a great example of the prototype Chinese Marxist and he was educated in the 50’s in the USSR and I think it’s safe to say in any analysis of the SWCC views on the “nation” that they were indoctrinated into a classical “Leninist/Stalinist” concept produced and codified by Diamat at the time. Mao’s national concepts also developed from this 1930’s Diamat tradition.

    This passage from a quote by Liu highlights the position of the “nation” in the concept of SWCC:

    “Guoguang Liu made the following comment on the book titled Study on Enfu Cheng’s Academic Thoughts (Economic Science Press 2015, 1):

    As one of the major academics of the school of innovative Marxism, there is a great deal of
    academic and practical significance in the ideological principles of “the adoption of world situation
    as the reference, national condition as the grounds, Marxism as the base, Western thoughts as the
    tool, national legacy as the root, making comprehensive innovations” that Professor Enfu Cheng
    proposed.”

    Another interesting series of concepts about how SWCC interfaces with “workers” on an international class basis (and a national basis) can be found in this recent Cheng Enfu lecture at Geopolitical Economy:

    1. Charles,

      “Democratic workers organizations in the form of worker’s co-ops have had their largest size and biggest successes in China……”

      Do these co-ops only exist in the state sector or also in the private sector?

      What real power do they have and over what matters?

      1. Co-ops did exist privately, especially from the 1920’s to the 1950’s, and only was completely dismantled during the first five year plan. From my limited understanding they came back into some prominence during the second half of the 1980’s, and it’s very interesting to note that Xi’s administration is heavily promoting it. From an article on a Chinese state website it says:

        “In modern China, there are hundreds of thousands of Chinese cooperatives, especially in the agricultural sector. Since the 1980’s a Chinese legal infrastructure and government support and encouragement have helped to encourage the growth of cooperatives and the economic development and community building they do.”

        It’s been difficult to get good data, and I have looked. This recent ICA report lists some numbers, but they make it clear that “Public national statistics on cooperatives in China are currently unavailable.” The size of the sector is impressive though at around estimated 100 billion USD total. The primary form of organization seems to be an “SMC” (supply and marketing co-operative), The report also has a good summary of the history.

        Click to access China%20Key%20Figures%20National%20Report_0.pdf

    2. Chris,

      “It’s easy enough to backstop everything at the concept of an “party elite” but the party does have a formal and contextual Democratic principle that is widely misunderstood. ”

      I spent some time reading the linked document – “China: the Democracy that Works”

      What does a word mean? Apparently, it means anything you want it to mean. Certainly the Chinese definition of democracy bears little resemblance to the Western definition of democracy.

      My favourite line from the document is:

      “Democracy and dictatorship appear to be a contradiction in terms, but together they ensure the people’s status as masters of the country. A tiny minority is sanctioned in the interests of the great majority, and “dictatorship” serves democracy.”

      At they very end of the document, comes the denunciation of Western democratic forms:

      “One Person, One Vote is a democratic principle, but it is by no means the only principle, nor does it of itself create democracy. However, it has long been misinterpreted and its meaning distorted by a small number of countries. The principles of One Person, One Vote and party competition underlying the Western electoral system are propagated by them as the sole criterion for democracy.”

      There is also this, replete with contradiction:

      “In China, there are no opposition parties. But China’s political party system is not a system of one-party rule…..In addition to the CPC, there are eight other political parties……The CPC is the governing party, and the other parties accept its leadership. ”

      And this, which is patent nonsense (made so by the testimony of 1000s of dead students in Tiananmen Square and many other examples):

      “They (the people) have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or public servant. They enjoy freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, procession, demonstration, and religious belief.

      The disbelief culminates in this sanctimonious passage:

      “A small number of countries ignore international law, flout international justice, disdain international public opinion, flagrantly infringe upon the sovereignty of other countries, and interfere with others’ internal affairs. They frequently abuse and dictate to smaller and weaker countries, turning the “global village” into a primeval jungle where the strong prey on the weak.”

      How do they think they are kidding?

      1. Henry,
        In your reply to Chris you critiqued his linked document (which I haven’t read) and most of your critique seemed fair enough – China, fails to be democractic, sure and it fails to be so in different ways to the West, which also fails to be democratic – no problems here.

        “Then you got excited in the last section wondering at the gall of the Chinese to say this about the West:

        The disbelief culminates in this sanctimonious passage:

        “A small number of countries ignore international law, flout international justice, disdain international public opinion, flagrantly infringe upon the sovereignty of other countries, and interfere with others’ internal affairs. They frequently abuse and dictate to smaller and weaker countries, turning the “global village” into a primeval jungle where the strong prey on the weak.”

        How do they think they are kidding?”

        I’m not sure why you got so upset with this quote, as it is a perfect description of the US Empire and it’s allies, and while yes it may apply partially to China, it doesn’t do so at the scale, intensity or degree as it applies to the US.

        So I’m a bit confused as to why you put this quote as your piece de resistance, when it may have been one of the few accurate bits in Chris’s linked document (which I haven’t read)?

      2. “What does a word mean? Apparently, it means anything you want it to mean. Certainly the Chinese definition of democracy bears little resemblance to the Western definition of democracy.”

        In a formal sense yes the “American” definition “males sense” but does it actually have any content? Do American’s feel like they are in a Democracy, or more importantly, are they in reality in a Democracy? If they answer is nothing can be said beyond a formal analysis, then I would say the entire point of system is called into question fundamentally. You’re going to have to explain how the formal system translates to a country where half the electorate don’t vote, and express the lowest institutional confidence in history.

        https://news.gallup.com/poll/1597/confidence-institutions.aspx

        You’d also have to explain why, even though the formal concept of democracy is supposedly superior in the West, why we have the eras of austerity and increasing lack of society to meet the needs of the aggregate person. Is the formal process to blame, or is it the informal institutional process to blame?

        “And this, which is patent nonsense (made so by the testimony of 1000s of dead students in Tiananmen Square and many other examples):”

        Let’s not get into a Pathos based argument about the atrocities of State, or the suppression of democracy in the world. This is not an argument you can win on any level. Apparently a superior formal democracy in the west seems to produce the worst possible outcomes actively throughout the world, so going international simply proves the Chinese points further.

        The CPC makes intellectual dissent part of it’s national policy, which is something most Western people can’t even fathom. It’s a policy of funding dissent, not inventing reality. Imagine an institution as prestigious as Harvard with the constituency of a major global think tank sitting right here in Washington DC filled with intellectuals vigorously supporting dissenting opinions to the American state. Now imagine this to be funded by the American State, 100%. Not just nuanced political squabbles, but foundational critques including neo-reactionary, ultra left, social democratic, democratic socialist, and various flavors of Marxism. This is the reality in China, called the Central Party School. It can be easily read in English because of the good world of several Canadian academics to actively translate the texts.

        http://www.readingthechinadream.com

        There is more real political dissent in China than there is in the West. Sure you can wonder why this hasn’t lead to mass movements and large countering political parties in the PRC, but simply hyperbolizing this as an Orwellian hell hole with no “freedom” is a very thin and flimsy argument. Another way to look at it is that despite the government’s paying to display and promote the dissent, the Chinese people simply aren’t interested in an alternative to a form of government that pretty reliably gives them a 10% growth rate per year.

        “How do they think they are kidding?”

        That would be my question to you.

      3. richardfalvey,

        Yes I agree it applies to the US but the document is not about the US.

        The passage in question is written as if it doesn’t apply to China at all.

        What I don’t agree with is your last statement.

        It is not accurate at all when China’s modern and recent history is examined.

        The document is saturated with misrepresentation and untruth.

        Here’s another gem:

        “In China, human rights are fully respected and protected.”

      4. Chris,

        Firstly, what is the point of words if their meanings are not reasonably fixed? What the Chinese call democracy is not what is usually defined as democracy. Democracy has a strict technical meaning.

        Why do the Chinese use the word democracy? The Chinese want to call their polity democratic because it sounds good. It conveys the impression of fairness, direct representation, ultimate control of the political process by the masses. This is far from the Chinese truth, by the document’s own admission, “dictatorship serves democracy”. Here they actually do tell the truth. It is one of the few truthful statements in the document. The Chinese polity is a dictatorship by the CPC.

        Whether a polity is a democracy or not has nothing to do with economic performance. If the Chinese want to argue they have a strongly performing economy I have no problem with that. But it has nothing to do with democracy. (And we shouldn’t mention that the performance of the Chinese economy is the result of the introduction of capitalist reforms which lent heavily on western capital, western education, western technology and western markets.)

        You talk of austerity. The fact is that the peoples of the West have voted in governments which espouse austerity. They knowingly have done this via the democratic process. You may not like the result (I don’t) but the majority apparently do. This is democracy at work.

        “Let’s not get into a Pathos based argument about the atrocities of State, or the suppression of democracy in the world.”

        You direct your argument via comparison with the West. What has the West to do with whether China has engaged in “atrocities of state” or not. Either China has or it hasn’t, and it clearly has. It is irrelevant how the West performs on similar measures. If you want to argue the West has engaged in “atrocities of state”, fine, go ahead and do so. But it has nothing to do with whether China has or hasn’t.

        “The CPC makes intellectual dissent part of it’s national policy,..”

        Is that why it pursues and hounds dissenters all over the globe? You, on this occasion, have to be kidding.

        “…simply hyperbolizing this as an Orwellian hell hole with no “freedom” is a very thin and flimsy argument. …”

        Where did I say this?

        “http://www.readingthechinadream.com/”

        I judge behaviour not by what is written but by what is done.

        And seeing you can only prosecute your argument by international comparisons, I’ll toss you a bone. I recently read a piece in one of the US newspapers that, recently, Republicans have been somehow able to redraw electoral boundaries in various states so as to enhance the electoral gerrymander they enjoy, virtually with impunity. So, I am sure you would say, what is the value of democracy in the US? And I would join you in asking the question.

      5. “Firstly, what is the point of words if their meanings are not reasonably fixed? What the Chinese call democracy is not what is usually defined as democracy. Democracy has a strict technical meaning.”

        It’s shocking to me that anyone could ask such a question coming from a Marxist background, but then again I am assuming who you are. The basis of Marxism on a philosophical level is Hegel and in the German language (sorry, no equivalency in English) is the role of dual meaning words, or words that have contradictory simultaneous meaning. Hegel writes:

        “It is striking to find language using the same word for two contradictory predicables. To speculative thought, [ it is gratifying to find words which have a speculative meaning in themselves. The German language has a considerable number of these.” – Science of Logic

        Lenin said that “It is impossible completely to understand Marx’s Capital, and especially its first Chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel’s Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!” Conspectus of Hegel’s Logic

        “Why do the Chinese use the word democracy? The Chinese want to call their polity democratic because it sounds good. It conveys the impression of fairness, direct representation, ultimate control of the political process by the masses. This is far from the Chinese truth, by the document’s own admission, “dictatorship serves democracy”. Here they actually do tell the truth. It is one of the few truthful statements in the document. The Chinese polity is a dictatorship by the CPC”

        Your going to have to educate yourself on the concept of democracy as developed in Marxist Leninism. When they refer to dictatorship, they are referring to the Marxist concept of a dictatorship of the proletariat. We believe the western world is ruled by a dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie, one that uses an excuse of a non-functioning formal democracy to imply abstract human rights that aren’t ever realized. Your going to have to explain to us why peoples lives aren’t materially regarded in such a “formal” system.

        “Whether a polity is a democracy or not has nothing to do with economic performance.”

        Marx would completely disagree. Again, start with Hegel’s concept of state and them move from there.

        “You talk of austerity. The fact is that the peoples of the West have voted in governments which espouse austerity. They knowingly have done this via the democratic process. You may not like the result (I don’t) but the majority apparently do. This is democracy at work.”

        People voted in Austerity? Are you being serious? Again backstopping the process with a formal democracy and then claiming it, empirically (in the sense of voting) in a highly coerced system that simply operates off of money based principle is not democracy. You take the ruling establishments “definition” and project it as a choice the public makes?

        “You direct your argument via comparison with the West. What has the West to do with whether China has engaged in “atrocities of state” or not. Either China has or it hasn’t, and it clearly has. It is irrelevant how the West performs on similar measures. If you want to argue the West has engaged in “atrocities of state”, fine, go ahead and do so. But it has nothing to do with whether China has or hasn’t.”

        States do horrible things, it’s the business of the State. If you can show me a State that did or does not commit atrocities, I’d love to hear about it. China’s “atrocities” simply do not compare to US Hegemony, neither in such morbid concepts as body counts or in any current attack on “human rights”. If you equivocate this, then you are insane.

        “Is that why it pursues and hounds dissenters all over the globe? You, on this occasion, have to be kidding.”

        No you have to be kidding, right? Pursuing dissenters all over the globe isn’t just a personal expertise of American Intelligence, it’s a national policy. Do I have to mention the highest profile case that is currently occurring? He didn’t even dissent, he just was doing journalism.

        “And seeing you can only prosecute your argument by international comparisons, I’ll toss you a bone. I recently read a piece in one of the US newspapers that, recently, Republicans have been somehow able to redraw electoral boundaries in various states so as to enhance the electoral gerrymander they enjoy, virtually with impunity. So, I am sure you would say, what is the value of democracy in the US? And I would join you in asking the question.”

        We’re making comparisons about the largest Socialist society and world history and the largest Capitalist empire in world history, so yes let’s “prosecute our arguments” accordingly. Seems like am important enough place to start. If Republican gerrymandering is the limit of your critique of western liberal democracy, then Marxism isn’t for you.

        .

      6. Chris,

        Firstly, I am not a Marxist. And thank you for explaining from the Marxist point of view and principles. If Marxists choose to define democracy in the way you explained then it is not the way its generally defined. It only has this meaning to Marxists.

        “People voted in Austerity? ”

        Yes, routinely. What political parties stand for is generally explicit. Voters do choose between parties they believe to be fiscally conservative and those that are fiscally undisciplined (and sometimes there is no difference but generally there is).

        “… in a highly coerced system…”

        You are being hyperbolic now.

        When I step into a ballot booth I feel no coercion. There is no-one there with a gun at my head. There is no-one looking over my shoulder. I am free to choose as I wish. At times, the choices I would like to make may not be there but I do have complete freedom of choice.

        “We’re making comparisons …”

        No, not “we”, “you”. You missed my point entirely. I agree that the US has engaged and engages in reprehensible behaviour, just as has and does China. My comments relate to the untruths and mispresentations in the document you kinked. The document completely whitewashes Chinese history and practice. It is a lie.

      7. Chris,

        “… in a highly coerced system…”

        Of course there is much truth in how you characterize the democratic process in the West.

        Coerced, maybe. Corrupt for sure. I am not saying the democratic process in the West is perfect by any means. The ballot booth speaks but its voice is generally quickly diminished. However, there is a ballot booth, which can bring in, at times, sweeping changes.

        Anyway, again you force the comparisons.

        My interest was in taking the linked document on its merits. This does not require international comparisons.

      8. Henry,

        Don’t accept Chris’ (or my) interpretation of Marx as the ultimate. Read him for yourself. And whatever you do, don’t accept Chris’ (or Lenin’s) interpretation of Hegel. The best analysis, despite all its and his flaws, of the relationship of Marx to Hegel’s dialectic, is Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution. Much better, IMO, than Lukacs’ History and Class Consciousness.

        Better yet, after reading R&R, try Marx’s Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Right’ and then the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right itself. Hopefully you’ll come away with something different that Chris’ “no freedom outside the state” which is most definitely not Marx’s conclusion.

        And if you want to see the “practice” of Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, read Marx’s Class Struggle in France, 1848-1850, and his 18th Brumaire…, 2 of the greatest works of historical materialism, a third being Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution.

        Lenin is most definitely wrong on the “sequencing” of Hegel and Marx. I wouldn’t recommend anyone read Hegel until he or she has worked through Marx’s critique of capitalism.

        You can read any number of introductions to Marx’s work– Heinrich’s being a recent, and satisfactory example.

      9. A-C,

        Thanks for all your suggestions.

        They look interesting.

        Several other books have been suggested. I’ll add yours to the list.

        I have a feeling I almost read “Reason and Revolution” fifty years ago. 🙂

      10. Beware anyone telling you to read Marcuse over Lenin. Or that you should read Hegel last. Go in a historical order and read Hegel, Marx, and then Lenin- it makes the most amount of sense.

        Treat any western Marxism as the last thing to read, because it’s the latest (and most useless and rife with failure) version of Marxism.

        You can also read into Marcuse’s connection with the OSS and later the CIA and the “Congress for Cultural Freedom”. You can also see how Marcuse connects to several high profile American communist leaders like Angela Davis, and how they supported Gorbachev and his “reforms” in the USSR and ultimately left the party in 1991 to help found the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a group that basically rejected Leninism and was almost completely silent as American Imperialism dismantled the eastern bloc and privatized it, leading to literally millions of deaths. More people died in 1990’s Russia than had during the 1930’s.

        Also note their “sublation” into the DSA shortly afterwards……

  5. Hi Michael,

    Thank you so much for this recent post. Wow, what an interesting sounding conference! I will need to try harder to attend the next one. I appreciate your sharing all this information.

    Take care,

    Robin

    On Thu, Dec 23, 2021 at 4:26 AM Michael Roberts Blog wrote:

    > michael roberts posted: ” The 15th Forum of the World Association for > Political Economy (WAPE) took place on 18-19 December. It was held > physically at the Shanghai International Studies University, China; but was > complemented by virtual panels with a large number of Marxist econ” >

  6. I agree that the debate over the existence of a “transition of the transition” (i.e. the existence or nonexistence of Market Socialism) is purely academic. It is still too soon to make such important historical judgment.

    However, it is important to highlight that the creation of such creative terminologies (“Market Socialism”) is not fruit of some kind of conspiracy theory by a shadowy CPC elite: they also abound in the West. This is not the place to put extensive lists, but I would just like to highlight that the term “financialization” (Financial Capitalism – see Michael Hudson) is in itself positing a new system within the system, and that, in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, Western experts and politicians were quick to preserve the purity of the term “Capitalism” (the Austrians were quick to blame the crisis on the fact that the USA was actually a socialist nation; politician Sarah Palin immediately coined the term “Crony Capitalism” in order to explain the origin of the 2008 meltdown). On the Western left, there’s a plethora of terminologies to designate a lot of ideal systems (Democratic Socialism, Socialism [social-democracy], Mixed Economy, Scandinavian System, Democracy, Popular Government, Developmentism, Progressivism, “Well-livingnism” etc. etc.).

    So, I just think that the Chinese are as entitled to create their own terminology as everybody else. Even if it turns out to not be the historical truth (e.g. if China collapses), it is still, politically speaking, as legitimate as a model of guidance as any other post-war Western doctrine. At least Market Socialism gives hope that holotype socialism will be reached someday, in opposition to those Groundhog Day doctrines from the West.

    It’s important to highlight that there’s no theory of socialism (let alone communism). Marx died well before he could even begin to delineate the problem of the socialist system. All we have are very general philosophical postulations that are very obvious, which he put in many of his works here and there, in passage. Marx did not publish a manual of how to build socialism.

    I disagree socialism wouldn’t have “the market”. Market is not an exclusivity of capitalism. It exists since at least the Bronze Age. In Grundrisse, Marx made it clear that there’s a difference between market and exchange. Exchange, in the philosophical meaning of the word, is every relation between equals. In other words, all exchange needs is for at least two parts A and B to recognize each other as equals. There will not only continue to exist exchange in socialism – it will happen in an even greater scale than in capitalism. To exclude exchange would mean, philosophically, that every individual would be self-sufficient, which would mean the absence of society in any form.

    A non-equal relation (non-exchange) would be either domination or adoration. Domination is when one part objectifies the other (e.g. we humans objectify pigs, cows and chickens and use them as food; there’s no exchange here); adoration is when on part deifies the other (e.g. when ancient humans sacrificed their own and the fruits of their own labor to the Gods). Even a relation between master and slave is exchange, from the point of view of philosophy: the master, even if he nominally objectifies his slave, will still, in the real world, fear his slave will revolt, and will take the proper social measures to avoid it.

    Market is exchange through the intermediation of money. Money is not an invention of capitalism, as we all know. The existence of money does not prove archaeologically the existence of capitalism. Capitalism turns all the commodities into commodity-capital. Communism would certainly not have commodity-capital (therefore also money-capital), by definition. Socialism would still have commodities as it would still have money (the USSR also had money), and it could even have commodity-capital, but it would not be the politically dominant system of exchange.

    I fully agree China’s collapse is certain if the rest of the world doesn’t “come to its rescue” by also doing the communist revolutions in the own countries (specially the First World countries, even more specially the USA). Socialism can only become irreversible if it becomes a world-system. It can never last in a single country or group of countries. The reason for that is it is a superior – not an alternative – system to capitalism, therefore it needs more “space” to become sustainable. The only question here is how much time China can survive isolated: the USSR survived for 74 years, but it was more besieged/isolated than China, it had much less population and was relatively much more devastated by counter-revolutions (Civil War and WWII) than China.

    I also fully agree with the observation that it is impossible for any other nation-state to replicate the degree of hegemony the USA achieved in the 1990s. The USA is the luckiest nation-state of History: the planets and stars all aligned at the right time for the USA to achieve unipolarity. The Chinese certainly are not counting on such cosmic event to ever repeat – that’s why they’re insisting on multipolarity.

    Last but not least, it is important to highlight the fact that History does not progress linearly. It’s easy nowadays to pretend the Iberian Empire never existed. It’s equally easy nowadays to forget the experiment of the Italian city-republics. Capitalism rose and failed for more than 300 years before – by complete accident – it found its formula in backwards and poor England. Expect the same process to happen with socialism. It’s not the Western Marxists’ destiny to find the definite model of socialism, and chances are “Socialism with Western Characteristics” will be as ugly and as defective as Market Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

    1. What an excellent comment, VK! My thoughts exactly as I was reading Michael’s assertion about no markets in socialism. Wherever the hell did Marx ever write such nonsense? Markets and exchange being so inherent in our most human trait: social production of means of survival. The key, we learn from Marx, is to look at the social relations of such production. Also found very interesting your insight about capitalism’ failures before it became dominant. That really needs to be stressed, we normally only hear the glorious rise propaganda. On the road to socialism the praxis has not and will not be easy. But we need to keep trying till we get it right.

      1. But where have markets and exchange been the DOMINANT mode of production without a) private property in the means of subsistence b) a class COMPELLED by direct or market force to exchange its labor for the equivalence of the means of subsistence?

    2. This is excellent.

      …But I disagree that Marx never provided a theory of socialist development after the revolution. …Well, maybe not a developed theory, but certainly he provided a key insight into the nature of the problem. After all, what kind of state is guided by a “dictatorship of the proletariate”? which is to say a state in transition from capitalism to socialism and requiring at the very least the friendly support of fellow socialists.

  7. “politician Sarah Palin immediately coined the term “Crony Capitalism” in order to explain the origin of the 2008 meltdown”

    It’s one thing to make-up terms, categories, characterizations. It’s quite another thing to make up facts.
    Fact: Sarah Palin coined nothing to explain the origin of 20008 meltdown.
    Fact: Sarah Palin used the term in 2016 to describe the “deal” Trump struck with Carrier to “keep” (part of) their production facility open in Indiana.
    Fact: “Crony capitalism” was first coined by critics of the Marcos regime in the Philippines in the 1970s, and became part of the “common discourse” during the “Asian Tigers” crisis of the 1997, 98 etc. to describe the economy of Indonesia, South Korea, etc.

    Regarding the rest of VK’s post, everything he says about the characteristics of Chinese (and Russian) socialism simply proves how far from socialism those modes were. Socialism will still have commodities? Meaning objects can only be produced for need if the objects can claim the labor power of others? unless one imagines socialism to be artisan or handicraft production writ large? where we imagine everyone to be a petty proprietor/producer bring goods to market?

    You can characterize China’s current mode of production any way you wnat, but the point of adhesion or slippage is: Can China develop socialism absent an international working class revolution? Democracy in China, democratic working class decision making is derivative of such a socialist revolution, not determining of, nor even a preliminary stage of that revolution.

    1. Do your research again (instead of just going through Google’s first page). Sarah Palin indeed coined – and abused – the term during the 2008 elections. She used the term many times, in many occasions and in the most diverse of the contexts.

      The term is very general, it is possible it was used decades ago. However, the term as it is popular nowadays and colloquially used in the USA post-2008 comes from Palin.

      “Can China develop socialism absent an international working class revolution?”

      That’s obviously not the question. The question is: who has the authority to claim the mantle of internationalism? The Chinese communists never claimed such authority, hence their emphasis on “with Chinese characteristics” and on their repeated affirmations it is not attempting to export socialism to other nations.

      For the German social-democrats, the answer to that question was obvious: they were the ones with the mantle of internationalism. It would be only when Germany became socialist that the entire world would become socialist. Implied in this was the claim made during the 1920s-1930s that the Bolshevik Revolution was a fake revolution – Kautsky making the logical conclusion from this narrative that the Bolshevik elite was actually the new Russian capitalist class. This messianic habit was inherited by the Western Marxist in the post-war: if the revolution didn’t happen in a First World Country, it was automatically a fake revolution or even a counter-revolution; the Third World was destined to wait for the First World Marxists to do their revolutions in their countries, only to then be “liberated” from the outside (Totalitarianism Hypothesis).

      The consequences of this Western Marxist dogma were catastrophic: the German social-democrats crushed the German Revolution of 1918 as auxiliaries of the Freikorps (the precursors of Nazism) and paved the way for the Nazification of Germany in 1933 (which finished the extermination of German Communism). The American Left supported the violent suppression of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War (remember: Vietnam is a Third World country, therefore its Communist Party is a “fake”, an imposter, a post-feudal nationalist movement at best).

      The defeat in Vietnam was the defeat of the American Left and, with it, the final defeat of American (Western) Marxism. This is an often overlooked (censored?) episode in the history of the American Left: it was defeated not in economic policy (Stagflation crisis of 1974-9), but in war (Vietnam War). The Vietnam War was the war of the American Left. It was the center-leftist version of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions of 2003. If we want to get ideological, we could say in an oversimplified and symbolic way that the Vietnam War represented a decisive victory of Eastern Marxism over Western Marxism: from then on, Western Marxism would be forever in the defensive (while it kept being wiped out by the Neoconservatives at home), while Eastern Marxism gained time and space to do its thing.

      1. Yes, indeed I used Google to track down Sarah Palin’s references to “crony capitalism.” And the earliest reference I find is to 2011, not 2008. Regardless, two things are clear 1) she didn’t coin the term or use it in describing 2008 2) you can’t provide any documentation for your claim. Maybe you should try google.

        The term was in common use during the 1990s during the Asian financial crisis.

        Ignorance is one thing. Flat out falsification is something else?

        “American Left supported the violent suppression of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War”

        That is absolutely false and slanderous to those who sacrificed and struggled on behalf of those movements.

        You repeat the lie when you write: “The Vietnam War was the war of the American Left.”

        This is not simple ignorance on your part. It’s deliberate distortion.

      2. “Kautsky making the logical conclusion from this narrative that the Bolshevik elite was actually the new Russian capitalist class.”

        Where does Kautsky say the Bolshevik elite was actually the new Russian capitalist class? Citation please, you can use Google. I’ve gone through the Marxist Internet Archive Collection of Kautsky’s writings post-1917, and the evaluation that comes closest is this:

        “The fruit of the Bolshevist regime has been the establishment of a new class rule. The Bolsheviks, to be sure, have destroyed the -old classes, but new classes, new elements of aristocracy have arisen under their regime. They have arisen of necessity from the conditions of the Bolshevist dictatorship, although they may be invisible at first glance because they had not been foreseen in Bolshevist ideology and phraseology. But they are there, nevertheless. They are striking ever deeper root and are becoming in ever increasing measure the determining factor in the actions and aspirations of Bolshevism. Its ultimate Communist objective is becoming more and more a matter of decoration, a mere memory or allurement for Socialist idealists whom the dictator seeks to utilize for his own purposes.” Social Democracy versus Communism, 1946.

        Note: even here Kautsky does not call the Bolsheviks a new capitalist class; he says new elements of an aristocracy have arisen under their regime. He means aristocracy as privileged, and being able to bequeath that privilege to offspring. That’s not the same as the CP constituting a new class.

        Kautsky, the great equivocator, was no friend to the Bolshevik-led revolution, that’s for sure, but unlike many others who characterized the seizure of power as morphing, almost immediately, into “state capitalism” with the official CP as a party of capitalists, Kautsky does not. He established a separate, and decidedly non-Marxist, category of “dictatorship,” which carefully avoids characterization of the economy or the economic plans of the CP as overtly, explicitly capitalist plans, as plans of a capitalist class.

        Doesn’t make Kautsky anything other than he was; an opponent of the dictatorship of the proletariat, an opponent of the struggle for social revolution, but it also doesn’t make Kautsky something he wasn’t.

        The first obligation of Marxists, east, or west, in New York or Beijing or Sao Paolo, is to characterize things, people, and relations accurately and truthfully. If someone has a reference showing Kautsky characterizing the Bolsheviks as a new class of capitalists, I’d like to see it please. As I said, I can’t find any such reference in the MIA. It would be very helpful in the arguments against the new Kautskyists.

  8. Thanks Michael,
    I like your writing generally, and especially when you summarise other broad currents / conferences you’ve attended. FYI, This link didn’t work: “Pat Devine summarises many of these here.”

  9. “It’s not the Western Marxists’ destiny to find the definite model of socialism, and chances are “Socialism with Western Characteristics” will be as ugly and as defective as Market Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.”

    Could VK provide some content to the category of Western Marxists? Does that mean anyone who is a Marxist in the Western hemisphere; western Europe; western United States; western Germany, regardless of the content of his, her, their critiques?

    Like, say, Michael Roberts– is that guy irredeemably tainted by the fact that he resides in Britain? Just askin’.

    Or is to be applied to those who don’t accept Lenin/Stalin/Mao as being the crown on Marx’s creation? I can’t speak for anybody else, but I get enough sloppy characterization from the bourgeois media, and don’t think we need to add to the junk that capitalism circulates, pretending it has value. No matter what somebody thinks Sarah Palin said sometime.

    1. Western Marxism isn’t a pejorative or cryptic or unspecific, if refers to the collected works of Marxists in the west that deviated from the USSR to various degrees after the 1917 revolution. It is usually associated with Frankfurt, Lukács, Gramsci, etc. in the first iteration and later represented in various forms that usually focused on super-structural analysis. It specifically denotes a deviation from Marxist-Leninism.

      Diamat, the state philosophy of the Soviet Union, directly influenced Mao Zedong Thought. It’s talked about endlessly in SWCC and Marxist Leninism is the term associated with 90% of AES projects in the world.

      It’s the job of western intellectuals and “Marxists” to deny that given this clear history and the fact that nearly 3 billion people were living under this direct line of philosophical, historical, and economic theory aren’t real and what a handful of academics believe about Marxism is some how the correct interpretation of Marx.

      It’s a bit like denying the Major League Baseball isn’t the center of baseball development and it somehow resides in a quadruple A affiliate weekend beer league in the middle of nowhere.

      1. “It is usually associated with Frankfurt, Lukács, Gramsci, etc. in the first iteration and later represented in various forms that usually focused on super-structural analysis. It specifically denotes a deviation from Marxist-Leninism.”

        That’s quite a grab bag. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don’t think Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin from, or influenced by the Frankfurt school ever called themselves “Marxist.” They certainly claim to being influenced by Marx, but Marxist? I knew Marcuse, personally, and he quite clearly acknowledged that he was not a “Marxist.” The next generation of Frankfurters, like Jurgen Habermas was also quite clear that his work was not Marxism.

        Lukacs? Renounced his early work (History and Class Consciousness) as an idealistic deviation and was only too willing to bow down and genuflect to “diamat,” which, as CDK quite correctly states, was a “state philosophy.” Note how we get “state philosophy” as the identifier, and not a program, method for the emancipation of social labor,

        Not for nothing did Marx break with the official philosophers of “state” Hegelianism, and pose, with his critique, an end to philosophy through precisely that emancipation of labor. You can look it up in Marx’s own writings. You can’t look up diamat because of course, Marx never considered his unfinished critique of capitalism a material base for a state philosophy.

        CDK say “Western Marxists isn’t a pejorative” but then claims “It’s the job of western intellectuals and “Marxists” to deny that given this clear history and the fact that nearly 3 billion people were living under this direct line of philosophical, historical, and economic theory aren’t real and what a handful of academics believe about Marxism is some how the correct interpretation of Marx.” Probably just me, but that reads like a pejorative.

        Then there’s this bit: “It’s a bit like denying the Major League Baseball isn’t the center of baseball development and it somehow resides in a quadruple A affiliate weekend beer league in the middle of nowhere.” Really? I would think those critical of Western Marxists might exercise a little of Marx’s materialist critique before claiming USA MLB “is the center of baseball development” and recognize 1) that “center” is nothing but a commercial category 2) that MLB has maintained its commercial primacy by at various times segregating by race, then integrating, suppressing the ability of its labor force to organize, undermining the development of the sport independently in the Caribbean and Latin America 3) taking advantage of the lower standards of living in many countries of the Caribbean and Latin America to monopolize the abilities of younger plays from that area AND 4) maintains a pretense to being a “center” by excluding teams from outside the US and Canada while having the audacity to proclaim its league playoffs as a “World Series.”

        Don’t misunderstand me, I love baseball. Played all through high-school and college, but “center,” “World” it ain’t.

        But hey CDK might have something there: Diamat is the MLB of Marxism, a commercial, state-sponsored enterprise. If the Nike baseball model shoe fits, wear it.

      2. Wow knowing Marcuse personally! I heard he had a “glowing” personality.

        “Marx never considered his unfinished critique of capitalism a material base for a state philosophy.”

        I’m sure he didn’t, he never saw a socialist society. It took the combined effort of others to produce that. Of course we can armchair this and say it didn’t happen or didn’t happen the way we would like, but a Marxist material analysis might uncover that to be somewhat idealistic? Marx never considered many things, he did die in 1883, give him a break. Don’t worry, others came along and made contributions (spoiler alert).

        “Not for nothing did Marx break with the official philosophers of “state” Hegelianism, and pose, with his critique, an end to philosophy through precisely that emancipation of labor. You can look it up in Marx’s own writings. You can’t look up diamat because of course, Marx never considered his unfinished critique of capitalism a material base for a state philosophy.”

        Perhaps you could show us where Marx refutes Hegel when Hegel makes it clear that “Der Staat ist die Wirklichkeit der konkreten Freiheit”, the State is the concrete freedom? Marx simply points out it’s a Bourgeois state and that class politics controls it. On the contrary, Marx mentions the relation between the state/freedom and necessity, especially in volume 1. He also seems pretty adamant about taking it over by workers.

        Marx also publicly praised the work of Joseph Dietzgen contemporaneously, so let’s not pretend diamat has no roots with Marx. There was also this other guy named Engels who wrote a work called the “Dialectics of Nature”. I highly recommend it.

        “That’s quite a grab bag. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don’t think Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin from, or influenced by the Frankfurt school ever called themselves “Marxist.” They certainly claim to being influenced by Marx, but Marxist? I knew Marcuse, personally, and he quite clearly acknowledged that he was not a “Marxist.” The next generation of Frankfurters, like Jurgen Habermas was also quite clear that his work was not Marxism.”

        I agree with you, it wasn’t Marxism. They also didn’t really influence anything outside of an academic PMC class posing as Marxists in the west. For instance, I never met anyone associated with ML projects anywhere in the world that ever said “Have you read Adorno?”

        “CDK say “Western Marxists isn’t a pejorative” but then claims “It’s the job of western intellectuals and “Marxists” to deny that given this clear history and the fact that nearly 3 billion people were living under this direct line of philosophical, historical, and economic theory aren’t real and what a handful of academics believe about Marxism is some how the correct interpretation of Marx.” Probably just me, but that reads like a pejorative.”

        If you think it’s a pejorative to say the most obvious self evident of realities, I don’t know what to say. Again, I speak from an aggregate level here, talking about the class formed around the phenomenon. Not individuals. It’s a class analysis.

        “Don’t misunderstand me, I love baseball. Played all through high-school and college, but “center,” “World” it ain’t.”

        Aside from the normative moral argument, you’re claiming MLB isn’t the capture of talent that defines baseball in world history? Again, we can surmise you don’t want this to be true, and it came at the expense of others, but does that change reality? Does a moral condemnation substitute for that? Isn’t that a Marxist “material critique”?

        It’s all too clear that Diamat and actual socialist civilizations don’t meet the moral and idealistic standards of western boomers sitting in the imperial core (who knew Marcuse personally), but I fail to see how this has anything to do with Marxism. If convincing the world that real socialism didn’t and doesn’t actually exist, they have failed miserably.

        By the way, I want to be clear I don’t consider Michael to be anywhere near this phenomenon of “Western Marxism”, quite the contrary.

      3. @ Anti-Capital

        “That’s quite a grab bag. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don’t think Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin from, or influenced by the Frankfurt school ever called themselves “Marxist.” They certainly claim to being influenced by Marx, but Marxist? I”

        Horkheimer ended up an old grumpy social democrat in the end. Adorno remained a Marxist and a Leninist. You can read his discussion with Horkheimer (titled “toward a new manifesto”) where he makes it explicit.

      4. “It’s all too clear that Diamat and actual socialist civilizations don’t meet the moral and idealistic standards of western boomers sitting in the imperial core (who knew Marcuse personally), but I fail to see how this has anything to do with Marxism.”

        The problem here is that you assert what needs to be established, and in so doing confirm that “diamat” has nothing to with Marx’s work. Your “diamat” is a positivist construction, established and intended to justify existing relations of production. Diamat as the official “state philosophy” of an actual “socialist civilization” stands as its own critique, regardless of my age, my geographical location, my acquaintances, and/or my hatred for the Boston Red Sox.

        Regarding the analogy to baseball, no denies the power of the MLB CORPORATION, but it’s a corporation, built upon aggrandizement of the labor of others; shot through with racism, and of course, discrimination against women. You think that’s a good analogue for “diamat”? There can be no “recognition” of that power without the critique of the material basis for that power. So your official state philosophy should be subject to the same critique.

        “On the contrary, Marx mentions the relation between the state/freedom and necessity, especially in volume 1. He also seems pretty adamant about taking it over by workers.”

        I’ll go back and check Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, but a) I was referring to Marx’s targets in the German Ideology and the Holy Family, and b) all of Marx’s work refutes the so-called embodiment freedom or “reason” in the state , locating that potential instead in the emancipation of labor. Those are not the same things. More than a technical correction here, the triumph of the proletariat’s revolution is not in taking over the state apparatus, but breaking it up, replacing it with new organizations of power, a power which is not aggrandized or bequeathed to a “party.”

        Marcuse did have a sparkling personality. Doesn’t matter. He denied the prospects for a proletarian revolution which led him to embrace reformism of various types. Certain self-styled “non-Western” Marxists, and the officials of actual “socialist civilizations,” and hawkers of “diamat” do the same thing, whenever confronted with the prospects for such a revolution. You can look it up. Vietnam in 1945, Greece after WW2, Spain before WW2, Chile 1970-73

        And that’s the real issue: diamat is just an ideological misdirection. There is not, and cannot be, a “socialist civilization” that disrupts, destroys, disorganizes international revolution.

      5. “The problem here is that you assert what needs to be established, and in so doing confirm that “diamat” has nothing to with Marx’s work. Your “diamat” is a positivist construction, established and intended to justify existing relations of production. Diamat as the official “state philosophy” of an actual “socialist civilization” stands as its own critique, regardless of my age, my geographical location, my acquaintances, and/or my hatred for the Boston Red Sox.”

        It has everything to your age, geographical location, and acquaintances. It’s called historical materialism. You can continue to claim the same thing every liberal, anarchist, fascist, and neocon, etc. claims- that Diamat was a vicious abstraction, then press the ESC button and act like you dropped a microphone, but this is such a troupe. Again, you’d have to be reading outside the comfort zone to care, but just look into what the Chinese Marxists say and do. They have no illusions about what Diamat meant- and it’s the basis of Mao Zedong thought.

        Meanwhile every actually existing socialist civilization past and present continues to refer to it and it simply historically is the basis for socialism in the world today.

        “I’ll go back and check Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, but a) I was referring to Marx’s targets in the German Ideology and the Holy Family, and b) all of Marx’s work refutes the so-called embodiment freedom or “reason” in the state , locating that potential instead in the emancipation of labor. Those are not the same things. More than a technical correction here, the triumph of the proletariat’s revolution is not in taking over the state apparatus, but breaking it up, replacing it with new organizations of power, a power which is not aggrandized or bequeathed to a “party.”

        That’s coming from a lifelong reading of Marx? You’ve failed to grasp any of it. You’ve reified the Liberal concept of negative freedom straight faced, without any humility, and then projected it back out as “Marxism”. Necessity is what we must do to survive, and outside of the state there is no freedom, exactly as Hegel put it, and Marx never disagreed with this basic concept. It means nothing about your fantastical “new organizations of power”, where are they? When have they ever existed? Marx hated Utopians. Lenin agreed.

        “Marcuse did have a sparkling personality. Doesn’t matter.”

        Because I don’t like for anyone to not be in on the joke, I’ll repeat myself and said he “glowed”. Just another historical fact….

        “And that’s the real issue: diamat is just an ideological misdirection. There is not, and cannot be, a “socialist civilization” that disrupts, destroys, disorganizes international revolution.”

        I’d say you are the ideological misdirection talking to itself. But then again this comes from a class analysis, of one generation judging another because of our lack of necessities that you took for granted, and how you arrived at where you are because of this. Of course it’s all beneath you, because how else could it be if your material reality is to exist?

        Maybe we can find some commonality in hating the Red Sox.

      6. “That’s coming from a lifelong reading of Marx? You’ve failed to grasp any of it. You’ve reified the Liberal concept of negative freedom straight faced, without any humility, and then projected it back out as “Marxism”. Necessity is what we must do to survive, and outside of the state there is no freedom, exactly as Hegel put it, and Marx never disagreed with this basic concept. It means nothing about your fantastical “new organizations of power”, where are they? When have they ever existed? Marx hated Utopians. Lenin agreed.”

        “Outside the state there is no freedom.” That’s the proper reading of Marx, and not the emancipation of labor by the workers organized as class to overthrow and break up the bourgeois state? I’ll take my misreading the.

        “Fantastical new organizations of power”….. like those that were established in both 1905, and 1917, and again arose in revolutions like say the cordones in Chile, which while originally established by the UP govt of Allende, independently of the UP government organized to break the bourgeoisie’s general strike of 1973, only then to be undermined, attacked, and disempowered by the “dialectical materialists” of the official Communist Party?

        You mean like those? Or do you mean like the workers’ committees in Saigon in 1945 that organized resistance to the restoration of colonial power only to be suppressed by the “official” diamats claiming that the Vietnamese was only, and could only be a “bourgeois democratic revolution,” so they welcomed the British into Saigon to “hold the fort” the French? You mean like those organizations?

        That’s where those fantastical organizations have been– in the forefront of the proletariat’s struggle against the bourgeoisie and its “dialectical materialist” enables.

        I think “diamat” is exactly what you say it is; and ideology which obscures the real relations of production.

        All your so-called historical materialism amounts to is the old “Can a white man sing the blues?” nonsense.

  10. I must say that when the discussion turns to long waves I start yawning and my eye lids grow heavy. As for financialisation well the academic community needs something to chew over even if someting as obvious as Apple’s produced profits being double the size of all the annual banking bonuses on Wall Street (according to the comptroller of banks). And that is only one company. As for these Chinese Marxist professors I fear they are about to be swallowed alive by the law of value that dominates the Chinese economy.

  11. I wonder whether global warming and the continuing rise of greenhouse gas emissions were noticed at WAPE. Seems the best laid plans may be disrupted as temperatures rise, crops fail, and refugees rush the borders of political States.

    As for the marketplace of commodified wealth, I doubt that it will demystify the social relation of Capital. That feat would require class conscious workers. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the commodity itself needs to be abolished by labour for labour to become emancipated from the wages system of slavery.

  12. Unfortunately the undoubtedly great Marxists, from K. Marx to M. Roberts to D. Harvey, never knew or will ever know the management or administration of a company (big or small) or headed a ministry or government agency. So when they talk about “democratic planning” their arguments sound very, very vague. Fortunately, China’s communist party elite have been learning hard for 70 years to Manage, to Lead, to Innovate, in REALITY and not in the fantasies of Western Marxist theorists.

  13. My humble opinion is that Marx’s main theoretical mistake, and after him a mistake repeated by Western Marxists (a mistake that Chinese and Vietnamese Marxists did manage to avoid) is to believe (wrongly) that Innovation (the engine of productivity) can be Planned. It cannot. Epistemically the world is a complex mixture of Chance and Necessity. Being and Contingency. That is why capitalism must be incorporated as a method under socialism, but without letting it dominate the State ( as it does in the West).

    1. Some chance. It took over 50 years for the assembly line to become universal, thirty years for the containerisation of freight to become universal. In fact only with electronics has advances been implemented within a decade. Marx may have spoken about capitalism revolutionising production but is more like r e v o l u t i o n i s i n g production.

  14. Thanks very much for this post, and for your body of work. IMHO any social revolution in one country can only produce a transitory situation that will produce some form of primitive capitalist accumulation if it remains isolated in one country, or it can advance towards socialism – and I like your definition of “socialism/communism” – only in the measure that the real threat of imperialist military, economic and political intervention diminishes. Abolition of a country’s military is a key step towards socialism, something that is almost impossible when a country is surrounded by enemies. While eventual elimination of most market relations is important, the achievement of socialist democracy means dismantling state institutions of repression. The reversal of the gains of the Russian revolution began with a systematic strengthening and centralization of state repression. Those institutions remain intact in today’s klepto-capitalist Russia, Similarly, China’s institutions of state repression have been progressively strengthened. As long as China is encircled by the United States, its subsidiary capitalist regimes, and Russia, this will remain the case. Nevertheless, this is only half of the picture since the CCP and its leadership favor a course leading to greater capitalist accumulation in China, and to intensification of the power of the repressive instuttions of the state regardless of the world situation.

  15. Hello Michael. As usual, a fantastic blog. There is a broken link re Pat Devine. If you’re able to fix that, I’m keen to read his summary re. socialist democracy. Greetings from Australia. Jim Crosthwaite

    On Thu, 23 Dec. 2021, 11:26 pm Michael Roberts Blog, wrote:

    > michael roberts posted: ” The 15th Forum of the World Association for > Political Economy (WAPE) took place on 18-19 December. It was held > physically at the Shanghai International Studies University, China; but was > complemented by virtual panels with a large number of Marxist econ” >

  16. Michael

    Thank you for this blog. I was particularly pleased to receive this blog as our company Pluto Journals now runs the WAPE website and for WRPE. https://www.plutojournals.com/wrpe/

    I would like your permission for us to quote from your blog onto our web site. Can you agree to this.

    WRPE is Open access so the artciles are free to read and down load. If at some time you could use WRPE in some form and advertise the fact that is free to use that would be a big plus.

    I am looking to bring together some of the Poltical Economy associations. I plan to reach out to them and offer the WRPE ease of access. Do you have editors that you know across the world. I am looking together this going in 2022.

    I am a regular reader of your blogs.

    Keep well

    Roger Roger Van Zwanenberg Dr rogervz@plutobooks.com

    Author of Wealth and Power: Global Transformation and Destruction 1492 to 2020 https://www.wealthandpower.org

    >

  17. “WAPE is an increasingly important forum for discussion among Marxist economics academics.” ???
    WAPE is not so much a scholarly or scientific conference as a quasi-religious performance in which CPC-beholden professors demonstrate their adherence to the ridiculous notion that 40 years of breakneck commodity exchange has resulted in a superior economic model and catapulted China down the road to socialism. I can understand why Chinese academics profess this nonsense (or silently acquiesce). They have to if they want to remain at their posts. Why a few Western academics play along is anyone’s guess. Are they really that lonely, hungry for recognition, and lacking in self-respect, or are they just too ignorant to see WAPE’s bankrupt revisionism for what it is?

    1. You just threw most of the important contemporaneous Marxist economists under the bus including the largest and most successful socialist projects in history along with it.

      Why a few Western keyboard warriors play along with this armchair condemnation is anyone’s guess. Are they really that lonely, hungry for recognition, and lacking in self-respect, or are they just too ignorant to see their bankrupt idealism for what it is?

      “All criticism is a form of autobiography.”

  18. A successful project maybe, but why call it socialist? Socialism liberates use values from commodity exchange. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” does nothing of the kind. It expands commodity exchange. Wouldn’t “a successful capitalist project” be the more apt description? Why would “Marxists” call commodity exchange “socialism”? I suspect the motive has more to do with some harsh political realities than rationally defensible economic theory.

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