Re: [OPE] The state under capitalism

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Sat Aug 14 2010 - 10:56:22 EDT


--- original message ---
From: "Dave Zachariah" <>
Subject: Re: [OPE] The state under capitalism
Date: 14th August 2010
Time: 1:06:47 pm

On 2010-08-14 13:01, Paul Cockshott wrote:
> With all these qualifications the structural theory of determinations looks like Ptolomey with epicycles or Appolonius with defferents..
> Is it really better than a class composition theory?

Well, it depends on how one looks at the meaning of a constraint or barrier.

The structural mechanism is an attempt to explain why and in what sense
the state is generally biased towards capitalist interests, and operates
invariant of the the class composition of the state managers and
invariant of the selection processes.

Your question is what determines the implementation of policies of
workers' parties in power? Holding the properties of such a party as
constant, it is the efficacy of the structural constraint that will
determine how far it can go.

Consider the following thought experiments:

   1. Assume an equally determined Attlee-style Labour party coming to
      power in 1905, 1945 or 1995. At what point would it be most likely
      to be implement its programme? Clearly the constraint was weakest
      in the UK in 1945.
   2. Assume the same country in 1945 but in two parallel universes with
      landslide electoral victories for a workers' party: (a) Attlee's
      Labour and (b) Politt's Soviet-aligned CPGB. Which would be most
      capable to push an equivalent programme furthest? Faced with
      investment strikes and a tanking capitalist sector, it is most
      likely that a determined CPGB with the weight of the USSR behind
      it would have gone furthest. In short, faced with the same
      constraint the outcome depends on the organization's strategic and
      organizational capacities.

I.e. the constraint implies limitations to variation but not actual
outcomes, which are dependent on more proximate factors which the
abstract structural mechanism of taxation cannot explain.

On the other hand with the class composition theory alone I think you
would have difficulties explaining the trajectory of SAP in power. It
was a powerful mass party, with strong working-class connections in the
trade unions, and a party membership and parliamentarians with probably
one of the highest working-class compositions (although in government
I'm less certain) in the advanced capitalist world. Yet it abandoned its
search for an alternative economy and embarked on a path of reformist

I also think it would be difficult to explain, say, Lula's PT and a host
of first-time elected workers' parties, when their working-class
affinities were the strongest. Without the structural mechanism one is
only left to explain this widespread outcome with an epicycle argument
of 'bribes'.

//Dave Z
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Received on Sat Aug 14 10:59:58 2010

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