I want to begin here by reexamining the Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) as an anomalythat is, as a moment of aborted creativity—in Marxism. I have earlier indicated that the texts bearing on the AMP, and the other social forms developed after the dissolution of the primitive (tribal) commune, are extremely skimpy. I am neither the first to suggest this, nor does this view go unchallenged in discussion among Marxists and "Marxologists." Thus, for example, M. Shapiro1 has also stressed the brevity with which Marx treats the AMP which, in turn, has drawn a dissenting rejoinder from Umberto Melotti. Melotti argues, however, not without certain internal contradictions, that "Marx did not make just a single stray reference to the Asiatic Mode but actually dealt with it quite extensively." One may take this as typical of the level with which such discussions are pursued. Having set up a straw man—i.e., "a single stray reference"—which he correctly rejects, Melotti then proceeds to draw a patently false conclusion, i.e., claiming Marx "dealt with it quite extensively." There are "many passages" (left uncited) which Melotti claims "presuppose" such a concept; then, he adds, Engels "uses it in several letters."2 Even Melotti's avid defense of the textual basis of the AMP is not precisely overwhelming. Melotti subsequently cites Rodinson, who speaks of"the text in which Marx sought to examine closely and to define precapitalist formations, and that is the relevant section of the Grundrisse," i.e., the few pages I cited earlier. When mentioning Maxine Rodinson's opinion,3 however, Melotti does not challenge the former's clear indication of the brevity of the textual basis. Apart from the few pages in the Grundrisse, the most sustained discussion is Marx's article, "The British Rule in India.' 4 If one adds Marx's, "The Future Results of British Rule in India," 5 then we have perhaps added another twelve pages to the relevant texts. One should remember that the Grundrisse discussion is Marx's unpublished notes and that the above two articles are pieces of journalism, both published in The New York Herald Tribune. Then there are the letters Marx sent Engels, in which he cites Bernier on 2 June 1853, and that Engels sent Marx, on 6 June 1853, offering an explanation of the absence of private property in land in the AMP. The textual foundation in Marx and Engels's own work for this vast discussion6 of the AMP, then is thin, consisting of skimpy unpublished notes, letters, and newspaper articles. (For my purposes, however, that very skimpiness is theoretically relevant.) Indeed, to add the Grundrisse discussion to the letters and newspaper articles is much like adding together first and second drafts of one and the same article. In short, essentially the same material is being added twice. So desperate are those committed to establishing a textual foundation for the AMP in Marx's writings that they sometimes even cite Marx's scribbles on the margins of books he read! Thus Sawer soberly refers to "Marginal notes by Marx on H. C. Irwin's, The Garden of India."
In examining the textual foundation of Marx's views on the AMP, let me be clear that my object in noting their thinness is not to suggest that they lack importance in understanding Third World societies or in understanding Marx's views about them or Marx's views more generally. Rather, my point is that denial of the skimpiness of this textual basis makes it impossible to ask the interesting (theoretical) question: Why did Marx leave his views on the AMP so underdeveloped? I shall argue that this textual skimpiness is symptomatic of the repression of the AMP as a topic. Without seeing that skimpiness, one cannot ask why the topic was repressed.7
In what follows, I suggest that the AMP as a topic was repressed because it was anomalous, from the standpoint of Marx's primary paradigm. The import of the AMP, then, is essentially akin to that of the Eighteenth Brumaire and, indeed, the anomalies both exhibit are similar. The latter was published in two installments in the first half of 1852, shortly before Marx and Engels's studies led them to the AMP. Scholarly consensus agrees with Marian Sawer that "Marx and Engels took no specific interest in the nature of non-Western thought before 1853."8 Until then, they generally agreed with Hegel's view, which saw the orient as a stagnant relic of the past, destined to lose to the dynamic West. Indeed, a case might be argued that, even after Marx and Engels took up their own study of oriental societies, their judgement still remained largely within Hegel's framework. Insofar as their view of the AMP attributed great power to its state apparatus, it is continuous with conclusions indicated in the Eighteenth Brumaire. The AMP researches thus simply intensified the anomaly that had surfaced in the earlier work, contradicting Marx's primary paradigm even more sharply.
The AMP was not, therefore, subsequently neglected by the world Marxist movement because, as is sometimes implied, Engels failed to reintegrate it back into the primary paradigm. In part, what happened was that Lenin's theory of imperialism diverted attention from the AMP, normalizing the condition of undeveloped oriental societies by viewing them as having the same evolution as Western societies, until subjected to the distorting exploitation of imperialism. Thus the AMP is, from Lenin's standpoint, no longer necessary to account for the special character of Asian societies. (Stated differently, Lenin's study of imperialism veers back toward a unilinear evolutionism and is in that sense a normalization of Marxism.) But the core difficulty faced by the AMP was not of Lenin's or Engels's making but, rather, was resident in anomalies within Marx's own work. It is these anomalies that led to the neglect of the AMP in Marx's own work, as well as in the subsequent world Marxist movement. Until the split between the USSR and the People's Republic of China, Marxists—with the important exception of Karl Wittfogel—largely ignored the AMP. Since 1964, however, as Marian Sawer writes, "and the deepening of the Sino-Soviet rift, Soviet historiography has become much more receptive to the idea that Chinese history represents an alternative to, and not just an Asiatic version of, Western European history."9
To explore the anomalies that the AMP generated it is first necessary to sketch a model of what Marx had incorporated in it, although this itself changed occasionally. Without allowing ourselves to imply more rigor and definitiveness in these views than they attain, the following are included in Marx's concept of the AM P:
(1) The Asiatic Mode of Production was defined as a social formation comparable to feudalism or slavery, but uniquely characterized by the state-sovereign's control over the mode of production; this rested partly on
(2) the state's control over the building and maintenance of large-scale irrigation systems needed in arid climates, and the state's
(3) legal monopoly or title to the land, making it the ultimate landlord which
(4) gave the state unusual control over the local economy's surplus product,
(5) although local communes retained communal possession and traditional rights in the land and its fruits, and individual persons possessed land only in their capacity as commune members;
(6) the communes are enclosed, quasi-isolated communities, based on an almost self-sufficient combination of agriculture and craft industries.
The mode of production described provides an accounting of the economic stagnation of oriental societies; in effect, it provides a political economy for Hegel's dim view of Asia—in his lectures on the philosophy of history—as a rigid, immobile society. Marx, indeed, is less interested in these societies' despotic political character than in their failure to develop a dynamic economy—i.e., their economic backwardness. The state in the Asiatic Mode of Production is not characterized by Marx in terms of its role as agent for some other "actual" ruling class, but as itself having control over all classes. It is characterized not merely by its possession of the means of repression, but by the economic and social functions it performs for the entire society and its system of production. The state of the AMP, then, is not portrayed in the manner of the primary paradigm—i.e., as an element in the superstructure—but, rather, as decisive for the entire economic infrastructure, building and managing the water supply essential for agriculture in these arid climates.
The role of the state as portrayed in the primary paradigm is thus reversed; far from being dependent on classes controlling the dominant means of production, the state itself controls these and other classes are dependent on it. In the East, economic and social privileges depended (here in the AMP) on one's service to the state and not, as in the West—whether in slavery, feudalism, or capitalism—on private individual ownership of property. In the primary paradigm, it was a system of private ownership of the means of production that (was said to) lay at the basis of society; which controlled the surplus produced; and which, indeed, controlled the state itself, making it the executive committee of the dominant economic class.
In the AMP, however, all this was reversed. It presumably had no private ownership of production, which constituted (as in the West) a propertied ruling class apart from (and standing over) the state. If in the West the ruling proprietary class intervened between the state and the economy, in the East there was no powerful proprietary class with its own independent loci of power that might serve as a buffer between the state and the community, or which might provide a cover under which a "civil society" or community, relatively independent of the state, might develop.
The anomalous character of the AMP thus centers on (1) the preponderant role of its state and (2) the correspondingly stunted role of proprietary classes in the economy, and in relation to the surplus product. As Umberto Melotti cogently observes: "it cannot really be said that the class structure of Asiatic society emerges with full clarity from Marx's analysis. The exploited class consists of almost all the inhabitants of the village community, reduced to 'general slavery' by the higher power." Melotti adds that Marx sees the Asiatic state as "culminating in the despot or his satraps, but it would be ridiculous to assume that, by contrast, with every other class society [in the West] the exploiting class in Asia would consist of a single individual, even if officially he is the sole landowner."10
Thus the AMP is sharply anomalous, so far as Marxism's primary paradigm is concerned, in respect to the dominant role it assigns to the state over classes and to the relatively undeveloped role of the entire class system. The AMP plainly contradicted the Manifesto's ringing declaration that all history was a history of class struggles; characterized by stunted class development and by blunted class struggles, the AMP and its state was clearly central to the economic infrastructure rather than, as the paradigm had it, part of the superstructure. Politics, far from being the handmaid of economics, was (under the AMP) now its overlord, while the ruling group was not a class characterized by private ownership of the means of production.
The most serious effort to contain these anomalies was precisely made in what is held, by George Lichtheim, to be the fount of the positivist heresy in Marxism, Engels's Anti-Duhring. Here Engels simultaneously develops an analysis of the origins of the class system which fully allows a ruling class to be state generated, and which systematically focuses on the state's role in performing functions for the society as a whole. In effect, the Anti-Duhring presents two parallel theories of the origins of social classes: one based on spontaneous development of the mode of production, internal to the community; the second, explains classes as deriving from differentiation produced by development of the state.
1. State-Based Classes. "How are we to explain the origin of classes and relations based on domination. . . . They arose in two ways. As men first emerged from the animal world . . . [they were] as poor as the animals and hardly more productive . . . there prevailed a certain equality in the conditions of existence, and for the heads of families also a kind of equality of social position—at least an absence of social classes.... In each such community there were from the beginning certain common interests the safeguarding of which had to be handed over to individuals, even though under the control of the community as a whole: such were the adjudication of disputes, control of water supplies, especially in hot countries . . . religious functions. Such offices . . . are naturally endowed with a certain measure of authority and the beginnings of state power." Thus far, Engels has a straightforward functional account of the origin of the state; the state and its personnel deriving from the common needs of society as a whole, and the state's authority being grounded in its functional contribution to these common needs. Note, by the way, Engels's prominent mention of the state's control of water supplies.
As productive forces develop, adds Engels, the separate communes are grouped together and there is "the setting up of organs to safeguard common interests and to guard against conflicting interests. These organs . . . soon make themselves even more independent, partly through heredity of function . . . and partly because they become more and more indispensable owing to the increasing number of conflicts within the other groups.... Here we are only concerned with establishing the fact that the exercise of a social function was everywhere the basis of political supremacy; and further that political supremacy has existed for any length of time only when it fulfilled its social functions. However great the number of despotic governments which rose and fell in India and Persia, each was fully aware that its first duty was the general maintenance of irrigation [sic] throughout the valleys, without which no agriculture was possible.''11 (Clearly, in discussing the origins of classes in state formation, Engels has the Asiatic Mode of Production very much on his mind.) He then adds that "alongside this development of classes another was also taking place."
2. Classes Based on the Mode of Production. "The natural division of labour within the family cultivating the soil made possible, at a certain level of well-being, the introduction of one or more strangers as additional labor forces," especially where the old common ownership of land had dissolved. As productivity developed, and men could produce more than they required, the means of maintaining a labor force came about. This was supplied through prisoners of war who had previously been economically useless and could not be enslaved: "the introduction of slavery under the conditions of that time was a great step forward.... The ancient communes, where they continued to exist, have for thousands of years formed the basis of the most barbarous form of state, oriental despotism, from India to Russia [sic]. It was only where these communities dissolved that the peoples made progress of themselves, and their first economic advance consisted in the increase and development of production by means of slave labour."
There were, then, two parallel if interacting origins of the ruling class: (1) those who performed social functions and who acquired independence from and domination over the community for whom they were performing them—in short, this is a two-class system of state officials and the state's subjects; (2) economic differentiation through the division of labor into something like a three- or four-class system, (a) manual laborers, (b) proprietors directing work and trading goods, (c) public officials, (d) intelligentsia (artists and scientists). While this at first seems to be an analytic distinction between state and economy-based classes, it soon becomes clear that these distinctions are only a slightly more generalized version of, respectively, Eastern (AMP) and Western systems of social stratification. The economy-based class system is actually the class and state system premised in their primary paradigm, characterized by powerful proprietary classes grounded in the economy who are not at all overshadowed by the state's "public officials."
It thus appears that Engels began this formulation in an effort to provide a generalized theory of state and class origins which could encompass the anomalous AMP, but he ends it with the two systems still very much apart, kept together more by editorial devices than analytic transcendence. Engels is simply saying that differentiations of incomes and power can be grounded in either the state's development or in the development of the means of production. While this seems correct enough, it does not, however, produce the reconciliation he had sought between the primary paradigm's view that the state was the product of irreconcilable class differences and the AMP's implication that these class differences were the product of the state. The two parallel sources of stratification remained.
With their discovery of the AMP, Marx and Engels required a theory which allows the state, and its personnel, to assume dominance over other, proprietary ruling classes and which could explain how that dominance came about. They needed a theory that permitted the political to escape the dominance of the economy and, indeed, to account for its dominance over the economic. The clear addition made here in the Anti-Duhring was that, somehow, the state could in its own right be a center for the formation of a real ruling class; any theory that ignored this ignored the clear implication of the AMP. Yet a theory which also said this outright clashed with the primary paradigm which places society's center of gravity in the economic sphere. Thus Engels's theory focused on the state's role in class formation in very early societies but it did not say outright that the state's bureaucracy could at any time be a society's ruling class. Engels is still attempting to do justice to the historical reality of the AMP, on the one hand, while not discarding the primary paradigm, on the other.
In the end, therefore, Engels makes another effort to transcend the difficulties. He moves to unify his account of the origins of social classes in a way that normalizes it. That is, he proposes a common source of both lines of class development, grounding them both in the level of productivity. "We may add at this point," he says, "that all historical antagonism between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes to this very day find their explanation in this same relatively undeveloped productivity of human labour. So long as the really working population was so much occupied in their necessary labour that they had no time left for looking after the common affairs of society—the direction of labour, affairs of the state, legal matters, art, science, etc.—so long was it always necessary that there should exist a special class, free from actual labour, to manage these affairs; and this special class never failed to impose a greater and greater burden of labour, for its own advantage, on the working masses." Only large-scale industry has so increased productivity as to enable all to "have enough free time left to take part in the general—both theoretical and practical—affairs of society. It is only now, therefore, that any ruling and exploiting class has become superfluous and indeed a hindrance to social development."12
This account glosses over the fact that the state itself as amply evidenced by Marx and Engels's account of the AMP—was a major factor in productivity, might foster or dampen it. Thus Engels's effort to normalize the origins of stratification by referring to -~the level of productivity, is ambiguous since that very productivity might itself be fostered by the state. The level of productivity is thus not a stable stopping point to account for classes, even though Engels uses it as such, but an arbitrary one; for it, in turn, may depend on the activity of the state.
Engels's argument assumed that the state arose and produced a ruling class, standing over and exploiting the rest of society, when the level of productivity was still too low for everyone to have time for those common activities with which the state is concerned, with the result that these are monopolized by a small, special class. But since a modest increase in productivity permitted the introduction of slavery—rather than being used to allow everyone to work a bit less—why wouldn't a substantial increase in productivity simply provide a larger surplus to be used to support a larger, nonproductive bureaucracy, rather than eliminating all classes? A fundamental issue glossed here, moreover, is how much productivity is too little, and how much, enough? That is, at what point in the growth of the surplus product will it be defined as sufficient, so that all may be free to participate in managing the community's common affairs? Does this depend solely on the size of the surplus itself, as Marx and Engels plainly assume? Does it not also depend on the sumptuary norms and expectations of the consumer, in addition to (not in place of) the size of the surplus? Part of what made it possible for almost all male citizens of ancient Athens to participate actively in civic management was, first, that they had great numbers of slaves whose product they appropriated, and, second, but no less important, that the citizens had very modest expectations of consumption. By modern standards, they ate, drank, and dressed with simplicity and they found ways to express their individuality through costless aesthetic variability, such as how they folded their toga or how long they wore it.
Engels's discussion of the role of limited productivity in generating both types of ruling classes also provides no clear account of how a state bureaucracy (or a proprietary class) becomes a ruling class. We are told that they are "naturally" endowed with a measure of authority, because they contribute to the satisfaction of society's collective needs. That is, because of the social function they perform, society presumably awards them (or consents to their) dominance. They become powerful, then, because they are useful, because society needs them, because they "serve the people." There is a parallel to this among the proprietary classes, for they, too, service social needs, the bourgeoisie, as Marx relates, revolutionizing production, at least for a time. Both bureaucratic officials and proprietary classes, then, are seen as becoming ruling classes because they satisfy society's needs.
But is every group that satisfies a social need a ruling class? Obviously not. What makes a group into a ruling class is in part the needs it satisfies, how acute (or nondeferrable) and widespread they are, on the one hand, and their ability to exclude others from satisfying this need, on the other. What makes a group a ruling class is its ability to monopolize a necessary service, to inhibit others from providing this service, and, above all, to prevent those receiving help from helping themselves and satisfying their own needs. What makes a group a ruling class is that it can satisfy acute and recurrent mass needs, and that it can prevent others from doing so. In satisfying a need in this exclusive manner, a new need is generated: a need is generated for the group supplying the need.
The power of a ruling class, then, does not derive simply from its capacity to satisfy acute mass needs. Its power also entails its ability to exclude competitors supplying the same needs (a struggle very similar to that occurring among Mafiosi to control the provision of "illicit" needs). Since competitors already have their own supplies, they cannot be controlled by servicing their needs. At some point, therefore, competitors must be excluded by force and violence or the threat of it. But if the ability to satisfy needs is a center around which a group's power develops, this means that the state's capacity to service the ruling class's need for force and violence is a basis of the ruling class's dependence on the state and of the latter's influence over the ruling class. A ruling class's power thus rests partly on the social needs it services and on its ability to monopolize this service. The latter, in turn, is based on power as force and violence or, as the phrase has it, grows out of the "barrel of a gun" or other more or less sophisticated weapons.
A group becomes a ruling class, then, not merely because it satisfies "basic" needs, but only when it can prevent others, including the needy themselves, from doing so. Marx was saying precisely this when he emphasized that a necessary condition for the development of capitalism itself was the expropriation of peasants and other workers, i.e., their loss of control over the instruments of production, so that they were then constrained to sell their labor power for a wage. All that I have done above is to generalize this point and to see that it is, indeed, generalizable
Proprietors' control over a "surplus" is, in part, based on their exclusive control over the instruments of production, monopolizing a decisive requisite of production. Through the control thus acquired, proprietors are in turn able to satisfy an enormous variety of mass needs and thereby become a dominant social class. Yet if control over the surplus, based on control of the instruments of production, helps establish the hegemony of the proprietary class, consistency suggests that, when the state officialdom has a similar control over the instruments of production—whether hydraulic systems or industrial technology—they, too, become a ruling class. A state-generated ruling class, the bureaucracy, acquires authority for the same reason that proprietors do: both satisfy nondeferrable mass needs by acquiring exclusive control over resources that satisfy them and by making others dependent on them. The state's claim to a monopoly of legitimate violence allows it to monopolize the production of "order" and to satisfy other acute mass needs. In satisfying the need for order it, at the same time, prevents others from doing so, by disarming its own population.
The provision of group needs through control over the means of production, or the surplus, is thus not the only grounding of a ruling class. Under some circumstances a priesthood can be a ruling class, as can a military group or a bureaucracy. A ruling class can be developed around any acute, i.e., nondeferrable mass need, if the group supplying it can successfully prevent competitors from providing alternative sources of need satisfaction, and if they can succeed in making the persons receiving the need satisfaction incompetent or unable to satisfy their own needs—i.e., if it can transform them into dependents.
Every ruling class, then, does satisfy "its" society's needs, but only on the condition that others become its dependents. A ruling class is thus not a military conqueror but is, rather, committed to the maintenance and reproduction of those under them and is involved in reciprocities with them, providing them certain provisions and protections in exchange for hegemony. It is inherent in this hierarchical arrangement, however, that not everyone's needs will be met equally; those who control the supplying of needs will be able to advantage themselves; those dependent, will not.
The reason that a class seeks to monopolize its power, thus making itself into a ruling class, is indeed related to Engels's point about the low level of productivity. In short, needs outrun the ability to satisfy them, and there is scarcity. If there was "enough" for everyone, the drive to monopolize control of these goods and services would be diminished. Engels is half-right: scarcity induces efforts to monopolize and control scarce goods. The other half, which he omitted, however, was that scarcity is an equation m which there are two elements, the supply of goods and services and the expectations they seek to satisfy. As suggested earlier, without morally internalized limits on consumption expectations (sumptuary norms), nothing will ever be "enough." Scarcity, then, is indeed important in fostering the process from which a ruling class emerges; but "scarcity" itself is also produced both by the supply of provisions and protections, and by anything that shapes persona' appetites for them, either limiting or enlargening them.
Insofar as protections and provisions are scarce or precarious, when any group seeks to extend its own share of them, it enters into competition with others, and the more powerful it is the more pressure it can exert on other groups. Proprietors and bureaucratic officials are each in a position to exert considerable pressure on one another; each is in a position to threaten and encroach seriously upon the other. One way to reduce that competition is for them to specialize, each providing certain needs the other does not. Essentially, the "liberal state/economy" in the West pursued that strategy. The liberal state offers proprietors exclusive control over capital and capital accumulation, in exchange for exclusive control over order maintenance by the state. This division of labor, however, breaks down as the proprietary class becomes increasingly dependent on the state's help in capital accumulation and reproduction.
Under late capitalism there has, since the 1930s, been a rapid extension of the state's powers and of dependency upon it, and a continuing limitation of the powers of the proprietary class. Under late capitalism, the number and proportion of persons who are direct dependents of the state grows with the increase of those on welfare, with the growth of the military force, and through the state's direct employment of a labor force and bureaucracy. An ever larger part of the goods and services produced by the proprietary sector is destined for the state. "The most recent figures published by the OECD [Organization for Economic Development], which includes the main industrialized countries show that public spending spurted from an average of 28 percent of national output in 1955-57 to 34 percent 12 years later, and to 41 percent by the mid-1970s."13 Without this state market, the production of other goods and services would be undermined and limited; the entire level of production and of the surplus produced now depends increasingly on the action of the state, and the process of capital accumulation itself would now be crippled without it.
The crucial mechanism centers on the state's role in the circulation of goods and money. It begins with the state advancing billions to purchase goods and services from the proprietors; it then replaces or meets this advance from revenues obtained from taxes, by borrowing on interest-bearing bonds, and by printing new money, which inflates the currency. In effect, the bonds offered on the money market by the government become a kind of capital akin to that used in the proprietary economy, while this state bond market becomes a major investment outlet for private capital, keeping up the floor under the proprietary rate of profit. Having total control over the issuance of money, the state's power in the commodity and bond market is enormous, while its ability to tax shapes the incomes produced.
This new political economy intensifies the fusion between the proprietary class and the state, but it did not produce it. The very power of the state always made it important for the proprietary class to have access to and influence on the state, which in liberal capitalist societies is mediated by the political parties. That proprietors have advantaged access to the surplus, means, in one part, that they will have more resources to seek and to hold positions in the state, or to prepare their children to do so, or to sponsor a political elite who do this on a full-time basis, and to pay (i.e., bribe) officials for assistance they seek. Recruitment to the state officialdom and influence on it, or on the political parties who (among other things) serve as brokers between proprietors and the state, was thus always particularly available to the proprietary class. Since, however, the state claims to represent the community as a whole, since it satisfies acute mass needs, its uniquely close ties with the proprietary group must be masked.
At the same time, however, insofar as services supplied by the state also satisfy acute nondeferrable mass needs, as they do when there is a threat of external invasion, internal disruption, or a crisis in subsistence getting and distributing; insofar as the state acquires a monopoly of legitimate violence and the armed forces grow along with conscription of citizens; insofar as there is increasing control through taxation over the surplus produced in the proprietary sector, or increased direct control over surpluses of goods produced by its own economic activities; and insofar as the state acquires control over money, capital, labor, rents, or interest rates, education, transport, and communication, the state official~lon1 becomes a powerful class capable of exerting great reciprocal pressure upon the proprietary class, becoming a competitor class, if not dominating or sometimes destroying the proprietary class.
In this formulation, then, the state and its bureaucracy may indeed, be or become the ruling class. It is clearly not the puppet Of the proprietary class as a general rule. Depending on their relative powers at any one moment, either class can dominate the other. Commonly, however, proprietors and officials compete with one another for the society's scarce resources and surplus. At the same time, the state is not seen here as a neutral force standing impartially above the rest of society; in part, because it is often closely aligned with the proprietary class; and, in part, because it itself may be a ruling class with partisan vested interests of its own, especially in maintaining its control over the needs it supplies and the resources it uses to do so. The state officialdom will, moreover, also be most closely aligned with whatever classes help it to perform its special role in the social division of labor.
The size of the surplus available to the state bureaucracy depends on several factors. It is, to repeat, never just a function of the level of productivity in the economy but also of sumptuary norms that limit consumption. The size of the surplus also depends on the sheer power and ruthlessness of the bureaucracy, for this determines how much it can extract from the proprietary (or any other) class. Essentially, the same is true of the proprietary class. A "surplus," then, is not simply out-there, already in existence, waiting to be appropriated by the bureaucracy, or proprietors. A surplus is produced not only by "labor" but also by the relative power of the contending parties. The state may thus generate the surplus just as much as the economy; and it can do this as much by its exercise of power as by any contribution it makes to the productivity of the economy as, for instance, through building and maintaining irrigation systems.
The size of the surplus depends also on the proportion of the goods and services that are consumed, and the proportion reserved to produce other goods and services—i.e., capitalized Once encumbered by the state, however, substantial amounts of surplus goods and services are withdrawn from use as production resources because they are used for war or military upkeep, for welfare purposes, or for the sovereign's or bureaucracy's style of life. The state, moreover, need not economize in using its resources since the functions it performs are its monopoly and are not distributed among competitors. Finally, even the modern state usually budgets its resources in an essentially "feudal" manner: i.e., it starts with an estimate of what it wants to spend and then seeks incomes to match this, rather than first calculating its incomes and limiting its expenditures to these.
It has been obvious (since Oriental Despotisms and their "hydraulic'' economies) that states can and do contribute to their economy's productivity. Nonetheless, states are never as exclusively committed to increasing productivity as are proprietary classes, because the latter's social functions are more specialized and because their interests are narrower and private. As a result, proprietary classes can more readily extract and build surpluses and keep them available for reinvestment in new and improved instruments of production that heighten productivity. It is, therefore, to be expected that economies under the control of proprietary groups will be more dynamically expansive and productive than those more fully under the control of a state bureaucracy (which does not imply these must be the only two alternatives).
The suggestions offered above, on how ruling classes become such, differ from three other theories accounting for this process: the functionalist conception of stratification, the hegemonic view of authority, and the "Machiavellian" focus on force and fraud as the pillars of power. The latter fails partly because it begs the question of how power is mobilized, taking this as a given, and further, it underestimates the vulnerabilities of a power that is neither defined as legitimate nor rests on some mutual provision of gratifications. The functionalist view, in contrast, accounts for the mobilization of power as that which the ruling class gets in return for its contribution to society, but it ignores the fact that, once accumulated, the power of the ruling class then enables it to ignore others' needs. It can thus protect its privileges and perquisites even when it is unable or unwilling to offer reciprocal satisfactions to others. Hegemony theory, for its part, sees a ruling class as protected by the legitimacy others confer on it but never explains why the lowly confer such legitimacy or accept the legitimacy claimed by the dominant.
In my own view, the power of the ruling class is grounded ultimately in its functions, i.e., what it contributes to others. Precisely because of this, however, the ability to satisfy the needs of others or of society is an advantage-conferring position for which there is competition and struggle, so that power is used to secure control over resources required to satisfy needs. Those satisfying social and individual needs are thus more likely to be the powerful partly because others become dependent on them and partly because the powerful use their power to monopolize need-satisfying resources, and may thus remain in power without using force and violence. It is not simply legitimacy but dependency (which may exist without legitimacy) that bolsters power. The conferral of legitimacy by subordinates is grounded in part in their very dependency; in part by the satisfaction of their practical needs, and in part from the coercive persuasion that power permits a ruling class to exercise routinely. This legitimacy, once conferred, then of course reciprocally reinforces the power and dependency on which it is grounded.
Western economies have been characterized by proprietary classes whose direct access to a surplus gave them substantial power to resist state officialdom. In Western societies, proprietary classes constituted one of the nodes around which the social networks of a relatively independent "civil society" developed. It is precisely such a relatively independent "civil society" that was lacking in the AMP and which contributed to its stagnation, while it was its presence in Western Europe that contributed much to tile dynamism of capital.
One reason that Marxism failed in Eastern European societies, failing especially to achieve its own emancipatory ambitions, is in part because this was a culture-area in which proprietary classes whether peasantry or nobility, were stunted by the state. In their study of East European intelligentsia (The Road of Intellectuals to Class Power) (New York: Harcourt, 1979), George Konrad and Ivan Szelenyi hold that, about the time of the twelfth century, Eastern Europe—Kiev, Novgorad, Poland, or Hungary—were simply poorer than Western Europe rather than differing profoundly in other ways. Later, however, under the pressure of seminomadic military empires that is, Tartar and Turkish expansionism, East European society became more militarized; its : bureaucratic, central state organs became overdeveloped; and there was a corresponding barrier to the growth of groups centering on private property and a stunting of civil society. The central state in Moscow refused to share power with a feudal nobility based on patrimonial holdings and curbed them by cultivating a "service nobility" whose land tenure depended on their loyalty and service to the state, and whose estates could be and were sometimes reshuffled. Neither nobility nor peasantry could here develop their autonomy around private property, nor could they limit the power of the central state. The resultant societies were thus much more nearly like the Asiatic Mode of Production, examples of that ideal type where the state's domination rested in this case on the society's acute need for military protection rather than for irrigation; and, indeed, Lenin and other Bolsheviks themselves referred to Russia as semi-Asiatic despotism.
At this point there appear to be certain potential internal contradictions in Marxism. On the one hand, Marxism is committed to the expropriation of the proprietary class—in the West, the bourgeoisie or capitalist class. On the other hand, however, the socialist future it envisages is inconceivable without that class and its vast expansion of productivity. It seems as if Marxism is bent on killing the very goose which (Marxism itself recognizes) has laid the golden eggs. It does this in two ways: first, by eliminating this historically most productive class and, second, by investing control over production in the state, which—as Marxism saw in the AMP—threatens the economy with stagnation. There is no doubt that Marxism means to eliminate the bourgeoisie, and no doubt also that Marxism premises a high level of productivity. Yet Marx ism would say this is only a seeming, not a real contradiction, because the bourgeoisie will not be eliminable until after they have revolutionized production, and only when the private relations of production become a barrier to further increases in productivity. Thus socialism will release productivity from this barrier and will not impair but heighten productivity. But if socialist economy is managed by the state with a powerful bureaucracy, will this not impose severe limits on productivity? More than that, will they not themselves become a powerful new ruling class which plunges the rest of society into a new and more debilitating dependence, crippling the liberative intent of socialism? Moreover, Marxists have so far come to power only where the bourgeoisie was weak and before it had gone very far in revolutionizing production.
Even if the elimination of the bourgeoisie does not threaten future productivity it will, however, have powerful political repercussions; it will leave socialist "civil society" profoundly weakened vis-a-vis the state. For there will now be no class of proprietors whose independent powers enabled it to fortify civil society and to counterbalance the power of the state bureaucracy. In short, socialism seems to imply a culmination of state power making the state under socialism a center of domination for which there is no force independent of it. If this is so, then in Marx's own view of the AMP, such a newly powerful state will ultimately limit productivity and must defeat socialism's emancipatory aspirations. It remains only to be added that this appears to be exactly what has happened in those collectivist states that claim a Marxist inspiration: their bureaucracy soon becomes a new ruling class controlling workers far more totally than any capitalist state (except the fascist) ever did; eviscerating civil society, developing a highly inefficient economy greatly dependent on technology transfers from the West; rigidly curbing the liberties of its citizens and closely superintending every sphere of life.
The development of a vast, overtowering bureaucracy in Marxist states is not, however, to be understood as due to the "statist" aspirations of Marx and Engels. That is to say, domination of the state in Marxist societies is not due to the fact that Marx and Engels's theory valued the state as an end in itself. To the contrary, their ultimate ambition was the withering away of the state. The vast expansion of collectivist states is, nonetheless, connected with the theoretical assumptions that were made. If the growth of the state under socialism was unintended, it was, nonetheless, in part structured by Marxism's theoretical commitments.
It is first to be noted that we have it on the authority of the Communist Manifesto itself that, when the working-class revolution occurs and when the proprietary class is expropriated, it is the state which will then own and run the means of production: "the proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as quickly as possible."14
There will further be the "centralization of credit in the hands of the state. . . . Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State. . . . Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State." Moreover, all land will also be nationalized: that is, there will be "abolition of property in land." 15 Thus the object was elimination of the entire proprietary class in agriculture and the countryside, no less than in manufacture and the city, and the ownership of their means of production was to be transferred to the state. Since the state will now control all means of violence and repression, as well as all instruments of production, control of the social surplus would, under the socialism contemplated by Marx and Engels, be under the undivided control of the state.
Under these conditions, what could it possibly mean to call the working class the "new ruling class." To speak of the state, as the Manifesto does, as "the proletariat organized as the ruling class" is, at best, a total false consciousness or, at worst, an impenetrable mystification serving as an ideology to mask the reality that the bureaucracy has become a new ruling class.
Marx and Engels were aware that there is a contradiction between their pursuit of socialism as a human emancipation, and their endowment of the socialist state with greater power than any Western state had hitherto achieved. Indeed, they themselves describe the state of the AMP, having just such a total domination of society without a counterbalancing proprietary class, as an Oriental Despotism. They see the anomaly they have perpetrated, but only with a fugitive glimpse, quickly thrusting it back into the shadows of their merely auxiliary attention. Thus after endowing the state with all the means of production, credit, communication, transport, after giving it total power, the Manifesto then draws back and promises that this new most powerful state will someday wither away. Why? The argument is that, since all classes will be eliminated, no state will be needed: "When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character." Yet communal possession of the land under the AMP did not prevent the state from being a despotism. It was not that public power had lost its political character, but that the political power lost or never had a public character. The Manifesto adds, ''political power, properly so-called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat . . . by means of a revolution . . . makes itself the ruling class . . . then it will . . . have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonism, and of classes generally," and this will therefore eliminate the state as a political force at the disposal of one class for exploitation of another class.
The entire presupposition here, however, was that a ruling class could only be a proprietary class, i.e., a class that owned the dominant means of production privately. But it was precisely that assumption which was undermined by discovery of the AMP. It was for just that reason that Engels sought in the Anti-Duhring to reconstruct the Marxist theory of classes in order to allow for a ruling class grounded in the state. The central and defining impulse of Marxism's primary paradigm, however, had defined a ruling class as a proprietary class. Thus the Manifesto expects that the "public" power will ultimately not serve a class exploitative character and, therefore, that the state bureaucracy could not constitute a ruling class exploiting others. The primary paradigm of Marxism thus does not bring the class character of a state bureaucracy into focus but, rather, occludes this. This is a major reason why the AMP in particular, and the theory of the state in general, remained undeveloped in the work of Marx and Engels. It explains why the AMP is discussed only in brief fugitive glosses notes, in letters not intended for publication, or in brief newspaper articles. This explains why the AMP sinks into invisibility in the subsequent history of the world Marxist movement, and is most especially repressed in the Soviet Union between 1931 and 1964, when the concept is drummed out of the Soviet reading of Marxism. As E. Iolk, one of the Soviet scholars in the debates that repressed the AMP, remarks: "The concept of a special 'asiatic' mode of production ... is theoretically unfounded, because it contradicts the foundations of the Marxist-Leninist teaching on classes and the state.''16 That the AMP was recognized as anomalous is here made explicit; the resulting strategy of normalizing such an anomaly, by denying the reality of one half of the contradiction, could not be made more visible. What Iolk forgets, of course, is that by exactly that same reasoning one is led with equal force to conclude that, given the AMP, it is "the Marxist-Leninist teachings on classes and the state" that are "unfounded."
The AMP was "rehabilitated" by Soviet Marxists after the Sino-Soviet break intensified, testifying to the new ideological uses it is now made to serve. If Soviet scholars now point the AMP at the Chinese, as a kind of accusation and explanation, it is not, however, to be supposed that they are blind to its critical import for Soviet society itself. This, however, is left in silence, partly because it is too dangerous to voice and partly because they can count on tacit understanding of this among colleagues. Indeed it is precisely the AMP's applicability to the USSR itself that provides another motive for the contemporary resurfacing of that concept among some Marxists in the West. This standpoint argues that the USSR has become a "bureaucratic collectivism" only because of Russia's semi-Asiatic character, thereby dissociating Marxism and socialism from the political liability of association with the USSR. The implication is that what happened in semi-Asiatic Russia was peculiar to it but would not happen in socialisms in advanced industrial societies. The AMP is thus used to justify future applications of Marxism. This highly tendentious use of the AMP, however, can persuade only if one assumes that a civil society of some power would survive in the West and could counterbalance a newly powerful socialist state. This, in turn, premises that a socialist state in the West would have neither the ability nor the motive to smash civil society, reducing it to the Russian "semi-Asiatic" level. In short, the argument assumes that the impoverishment and weakness of civil society of Russian life was altogether due to its unique cultural inheritance, and it underestimates the extent to which the Stalinist state smashed or immobilized even those social structures which did exist and had been strong, including new organizations such as trade unions and old structures such as the family.17
The most dangerous ideological use today of the AMP, however, is that to which Soviet ideologists seem ready to put it, namely, as a basis for defining China as having a development that sets it off uniquely from the West, that defines it as uniquely inferior economically or politically backward and antiindividualistic. In effect, then, this Soviet use of the AMP offers to provide an ideological groundwork for detente between the Soviet Union and the United States, whose main object would be the political isolation of "barbaric" China.
It is paradoxical that the old unilinear Marxism, which indeed saw Asia as stagnant, barbaric, and backward, nonetheless saw it as developing on the same track as the West, and thus as at one with Western development; multilinear readings of Marxism, however, which seek to make Marxism less dogmatically determinist, have the paradoxical consequence of stressing the uniqueness of the orient and the fundamental nature of its difference from the West.
Current reinterpretations of the AMP, by writers such as Umberto Melotti, in turn, seek to deal with this by defining both the AMP and the classical societies from which the West evolved as being on a par, the latter issuing in modern capitalist society, the former in what Melotti (following Bruno Rizzi) calls "bureaucratic collectivism." Capitalism and bureaucratic collectivism, then, are defined as on the same level of development, and both are treated as precursors of socialism; the model thus constitutes an intermediary multilinearism culminating in unilinearism.
I have suggested, then, that the hyper-development of the state in Marxist collectivism is not to be understood simply as a result of Marx and Engels's statism. It results, in part, from a kind of default; that is, some agency is needed to manage the property expropriated from the proprietary class. Since the state is defined (in the primary paradigm) as the instrument of the ruling class—then, when the bourgeoisie is overthrown and replaced by the working class, the latter are now defined as the new proprietary class. The state is then seen as the proletariat's "executive committee," as the agency of the majority class in society and, thus, as not needing to exploit the majority. The state then presumably loses its partisan political character and becomes a fully public realm devoid of its own special exploitative interests. The Marxist view, then, is that someone must manage the newly expropriated property and that the state is not only a technically feasible agency to do so but, having been sociologically decontaminated, its use is now compatible with Marxists' hopes for a socialist emancipation. In effect the Marxist theory of the state and of the ruling class, here interwoven, had misled Marxist politics by profoundly underestimating the dangers to human emancipation inherent in the state bureaucracy and its capacity to be a new ruling class.
There is, however, at least a second characteristic of Marx's theory conducive to the same hyper-development of the state under socialism. This relates to Marxism's deemphasis upon semi-autonomous social structures in consequence of its tendency to see almost all social organization as dependent on the mode of production. In short, inherent in Marxism's "economism" there is not only a tendency to underemphasize the role of the ideology and of "consciousness" but also of almost all social structures not directly implicated in the mode of production. This, in turn, entails a tendency to view society as if it were a factory run by a state. Marx assumed that this left the forces of production free to develop; in point of fact, what it does is to leave the state free to develop unchecked, placing at its disposal increasing forces of production.
Marxism's critique of utopian socialism, which had wanted to proceed at once, even in the midst of the old society, to the development of small communities prefiguring its vision of a better society, inhibited Marxism's own prefigurative impulse, channeling it into the purely instrumental politics of both the Second and Third Internationals. In particular, Scientific Marxism's impulse is to reduce politics to the struggle for power in the state. It thus neglects the importance of protecting and rebuilding the dense infrastructure of communities, institutions, organizations, and groups within which the working class presently lives and through which, even now, some of its own needs could be supplied through self-help and mutual aid, by which its own anxieties can be controlled, and its dependency reduced. Marx sees such institutions, however, very largely as a transmission belt for ruling-class values and as mechanisms for the control of the working class. He believes, for example, that trade unions can divert energy from the need for a total social reconstruction and can accommodate the working class to society as it is. Marx failed to see that, without viable working-class institutions, communities, and groups within capitalism, the dependency and passivity of the working class are heightened, its vulnerability to the regressive politics of fascism and authoritarianism is in modern times intensified, and the working class is unable to cultivate the skills and self-reliance needed to manage its own existence. Without prefigurative working class communities and groups committed to self-help, even "soviets" have little future as a method of political self-management by the working class. A fundamental expression of Marxism's "economism," then, is thus not just the theory of the automatic crash; it is Marxism's surrender of social structures, its uncritical acceptance of the deterioration of the entire fabric of social structure required to sustain working class life, and its tendency to understand the problem of working-class dependency merely as "false consciousness."
The Communist Manifesto had clearly seen, yet never focused theoretically on, the diffuse deterioration of old social structures among the working class. But it never clearly saw the special contribution they make in helping persons cope with their own suffering through practical mutual aid or self-help. Marxism noted that workers had no country, no family, no claim on human help from any but themselves and thus had nothing to lose but their chains. "The working men have no country . . . national differences and antagonisms between people are daily more and more vanishing." Only the bourgeoisie have the family "in its completely developed form." "This state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among the proletarians." Their work environment, instead of sheltering them only exploits them. "The bourgeoisie . . . has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment.' . . . The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored." Indeed, even "differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive validity," since all workers under capitalism are primarily instruments of labor. Thus, the Communist Manifesto.
Marx and Engels, then, were fully aware of the advanced deterioration of the social structure experienced by the emerging working classes. This, however, simply becomes one other item in their long bill of indictment against capitalism. Their attitude is that these ancient solidarities neither need to be nor can be restored. "The bourgeois family will vanish . . . with the vanishing of capital," they say with an air of, good riddance! What is conveyed is that all these older solidarities of family, guild, neighborhood, nation are archaic, blocking the requisite class and international solidarity of the proletariat.
For Marx's socialism, all these other institutions and groups are just appendages of production and of persons associated primarily as producers. Apart from economic institutions, the only other that clearly has a future in Marx's socialism is the state. The need for a rich, complex set of social structures in civil society that might resist the state's domination is ignored because of the myth that the new socialist state would be the obedient instrument of the new ruling class, the proletariat. Presumably, therefore, the working class would not need social structures to help defend it against its "own" state. Marxism thus once again contributed— and not unwittingly—to the continuation of the growth of the Western state which, developing with the absolute monarchy, had been extended by the powerful centralizing impulse of the French Revolution, culminating in the effort to eliminate groups standing between individuals and the revolutionary state, and which regarded civil society's organizational structure as compromising its own sovereignty.
In Marx's 1850 address to the Central Committee to the Communist League, he discusses the "coming" bourgeois democratic revolution in Germany and the dangers it represents to the working class: "As in the first French Revolution the petty bourgeois will give the feudal lands to the peasant, as free property." The workers, Marx warns, must oppose this plan and "demand that the confiscated feudal property remain state property and be converted into workers' colonies cultivated by the associated rural proletariat with all the advantages of large-scale production." Furthermore, Marx adds, "the democrats will either work directly for a federated republic, or . . . will at least attempt to cripple the central
government by the utmost
autonomy and independence for the communities and provinces. The workers in opposition to
this plan, must not only strive for a single and indivisible German republic, but also within this republic for the most determined
centralization of power in the hands of the state authority. They must not allow themselves to be misguided by the democratic talk
of freedom for the communities, of self-government, etc. . . . it must under no circumstances be permitted that every village,
every town, and every province should put a new obstacle in the path of revolutionary activity, which can proceed with full force
only from the center." That the French Revolution's centralization was a model is plainly indicated in the very last sentence: "As
in France in 1793,so today in Germany it is the task of the revolutionary party to carry through the strictest
As the influence of French culture was tempered with his experience of English institutions, Marx's emphasis on the state and its centralization temporarily receded (although never as much as suggested by those wishing to exculpate Marxism from any taint of responsibility for Stalinism). The decisive text here is The Civil War in France, which was presented shortly after the fall of the Paris Commune as an address to the General Council of the First International on 30 May 1871. While an analysis of the Commune, it was inevitably a tribute to the Communards, bound to express sympathy with most of what they had done, especially as they were just being brutally massacred and many still lay unburied in Paris streets.
Marx observes in The Civil War in France that the working class cannot simply seize and use governmental power for its own purposes. The centralized state power, centering on the standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judiciary had been developed to serve "nascent middle class society as a mighty weapon in its struggles against feudalism.''19 Yet even this state apparatus, complained Marx, was still limited by various interests: "its development remained clogged by all manner of medieval rubbish, seignorial rights, local privileges, municipal and guild monopolies and provincial constitutions."20 Any decentralizing limits on the central state power, whether municipal constitutions or seignorial rights, are lumped together as historical "relics." Marx is thus happy to note that "the gigantic broom of the French Revolution of the eighteenth century swept away all these relics of bygone times, thus clearing simultaneously the social soil of its last hindrances to the superstructure of the modern state edifice raised under the First Empire."
This state subsequently becomes "the national power of capital over labor . . . a public force organised for social enslavement, . . . an engine of class despotism . . . the purely repressive character of the state power stands out in bolder and bolder relief." Thus it is that this state cannot be seized by the working class and used for its own purposes but must be destroyed. Clearly, however, Marx saw the growing centralization of the state as having at first a progressive character, eliminating the old "medieval rubbish" of localism; only later, as it becomes the chief instrument for the domination of the working class, does it become reactionary and need to be eliminated. But his emphasis here is on eliminating the centralized state of the bourgeoisie, not necessarily on eliminating all such states, and not necessarily endorsing this as a program for a socialist state. Indeed, Marx did not define the Commune as socialist.
By now, Marx had also increasingly normalized his diagnosis of Louis Bonaparte's government, no longer seeing it as a government of the peasantry at large, the conservative peasantry, or the lumpen proletariat, and he now remarks that it only "professed to rest upon the peasantry." Under its sway, he says, "bourgeois society, freed from political cares, attained a development unexpected even by itself. Its industry and commerce expanded into colossal dimensions."21 In other words, the bourgeoisie's political powerlessness was presumably a blessing in disguise, allowing them to devote their energies to money-making. In contrast to this Bonapartist state "apparently soaring high above society," the Commune restored the republic to society and sought to remove all class rule. Marx thus notes that the Paris Commune "got rid of the army, and replaced it by National Guard, the bulk of which consisted of working men,"22 substituting the armed people for the standing army. The Commune also eliminated a specialized parliament, substituting recallable municipal counsellors selected by universal suffrage who were to be a working body not just a talking assembly, combining both legislative and executive functions. "Public functions ceased to be the private property of the tools of the Central Government . . . the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune." Similarly, the Commune eliminated the power of the police, disestablished and disendowed all churches as proprietary bodies, and established free education clear of interference from church and state.
There seems little question that Marx sympathizes with these provisions of the Commune. The "merely repressive organs of the old governmental power were to be amputated," he observes, while "its legitimate functions were wrested from an authority usurping pre-eminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society."23 Even then, however, Marx is careful to add that this new Commune is not a reproduction of the medieval commune, nor is it "an attempt to break up into a confederation of small states. . . . The antagonism of the Commune against the state power has been mistaken for an exaggerated form of the ancient struggle against over-centralization." This, Marx claims, was not the case. "In reality, the Communal Constitution brought the rural producers under the intellectual lead of the central towns of their districts, and there secured to them, in the working men, the natural trustees of their interests. The very existence of the Commune involved . . . local municipal liberty, but no longer as a check upon the superseded state power." Marx thus resists a view of the Commune as a radically decentralising force, in a manner consistent with his 1850 address to the Central Committee of the Communist League. At the economic level, Marx also spoke of "united cooperative societies" that were to "regulate national production upon a common plan."24 Whether this means that the state would no longer manage the expropriated properties, as specified in the Communist Manifesto, will be discussed further below. Clearly, however, Marx has here qualified the extreme centralizing drive, which had earlier led him to accent the importance of the socialist state, though rejecting any general tendency toward an anticentralized autonomy at the local level.
Marx's posture toward the antistatist program of the Commune seems to have been that its "heart" was in the right place. But did he think that, in its antistatism, the Commune's "head" was also in the right place? Marx's diagnosis of the Commune's weaknesses of why it would lose, suggests not. This diagnosis indicates that the Commune's vulnerabilities lay in its sentimentality and "conscientious scruples" and in its failure to mobilize power with sufficient decisiveness and centralization. Marx thus writes his friend, Kugelmann, on 12 April 1871 that, apart from being too easy-going and scrupulous, their "second mistake" was that "the Central Committee surrendered its power too soon, to make way for the Commune." In short, Marx distinguished between the Commune's demolition of the old bourgeois state, which he endorsed and wished it had gone further, and its "scruples" which had impaired its effective concentration of power against the bourgeois class enemy. This last, then, implies that Marx believed that the Commune should have strengthened not weakened its own state apparatus. Thus the dictates of the heart and the head were not consistent. Marx's impulse, we may say, entailed an anticentralizing anarchism of the "heart," contradicted by a procentralizing statism of the intelligence. Indeed, he criticized the Commune for its failure to build its own instrument of state repression.
This is visible in his more sober diagnosis of the Paris Commune a decade later. In a letter of 22 February 1881—two years before his death—Marx wrote to the Dutch socialist Domela Nieuwenhuis, emphasizing that "a socialist government does not come into power in a country unless conditions are so developed that it can above all take the necessary measures for intimidating the mass of the bourgeoisie sufficiently to gain time—the first desirderatum—for lasting action."25 Marx then goes directly on to say, "Perhaps you will point to the Paris Commune; but apart from the fact that this was merely the rising of a town under exceptional circumstances, the majority of the Commune was in no sense socialist, nor could it be."
One can observe how much less significance Marx attributes here to the Commune, as well as how much less glowing was his later judgement of it: "with a small amount of sound common sense [which he apparently thinks it lacked], however, they could have reached a compromise with Versailles useful to the whole mass of the people—the only thing that could be reached at the time." Clearly Marx has returned to his "normal" view, stressing the need for a powerful state apparatus to terrorize the class enemy and, also, reemphasizing a deterministic economism, which he likens expressly to Christian millenarianism: "The dream that the end of the world was at hand inspired the early Christians in their struggle with the Roman Empire and gave them confidence in victory. Scientific insight into the inevitable disintegration of the dominant order of society continually proceeding before our eyes, and the ever-growing passion into which the masses are scourged by the ghosts of government— while at the same time the positive development of the means of production advances with giant strides—all this is a sufficient guarantee that with the moment of a real proletarian revolution there will also be given the conditions (though these are certain not to be idyllic) of its next modus operandi."26
Clearly, Marx held that the Communards had been too soft, and they and all socialists required a state to intimidate their class enemies. But do they, in Marx's view, also need the state to administer the forces of production which they will have expropriated from private owners, or is it his view now that they are to be administered by "co-operative societies"? On 3 August 1871 The New York Herald published an interview with Marx in which he directly addressed this question. Asked what the first step would be, if the International came to power in England, Marx insisted that: "we would proceed to the transformation of all great properties, such as manufactures—all the land, in favor of the state."27 Thus, immediately upon the heels of The Civil War in France, sometimes assumed to be evidence of Marx's departure from statism, Marx returned, as if without change, to the plainly statist formula of the Communist Manifesto.
1. See M. Shapiro, "Stages of Social Development, Marxism Today, September 1962, p. 283.
2. See Umberto Melotti, Marx and the Third World (London: Macmillan Publishers, 1977), p. 11.
3. See Maxine Rodinson, Islam and Capitalism (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1974), p. 59.
4. See Robert Tucker, ea., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1972), pp. 577-82. The article is dated 10 June 1853.
5. Ibid., pp. 583-88. The article is dated 22 July 1853.
6. See for instance Marian Sawer's useful book, Marxism and the Question of the Asiatic Mode of Production (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977); Perry Anderson, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism (London: New Left Books, 1974) and his Lineages of the Abolutist State (London: New Left Books, 1974); Anderson drops the AMP on the empirical grounds that the two elements central to it, common ownership of land and a centralized system of irrigation are not usually found together historically but are on different levels of development, but here our own concerns are with the internal dynamics of Marx and Engels's theory Jean Chesneaux, "Le mode de production asiatique," La Pensee January/February 1964; M. Godelier, ed., Sur les societe's precapitalistes textes choisis de Marx, Engels, Lenine (Paris: C.R.M., 1970), Lawrence Krader, The Asiatic Mode of Production (Assert: Van Gorcum, 1975) there is also the work of Karl Wittfogel whose complete bibliography is given in the prematurely hagiographical work by G. L. Ulmen, The Science of Society: Toward an Understanding of the Life and Work of Karl August Wittfogel (Paris: Mouton, 1978); see also the comprehensive bibliography by Ulmen, surely the best part of the volume, pp. 625-91.
7. To reiterate: my topic here is the evolution of Marx's theory of the AMP, not its empirical adequacy; for the latter, see the empirically grounded objections of Perry Anderson, Passages from Antiquity and Barrington Moore's Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (London: Allen Lane, 1967).
8. Sawer, Marxism and Asiatic Production, p. 40.
9. Ibid., p. 100.
10. Melotti, Marx and the Third World, pp. 59-60.
11. Frederick Engels, Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science (Anti-Duhring), trans. Emile Burns, ed. C. P. Dutt (New York: International Publishers, 1939), pp. 197ff:
12. Ibid., p. 201.
13. International Herald Tribune, February 3-4, 1979, p. 9. From 1962 to 1975, government spending (as a percent of gross domestic product) increased from 34.2% to 44.4% in Britain; from 36.3% to 40.3% in France; from 32.4% to 41.9% in Italy; from 19.0% to 23.4% in Japan; from 34.4% to 51.2% in the Netherlands; from 32.7% to 49.4% in Sweden, from 29.5% to 34.0¡70 in the United States; and from 33.6% to 42.1% in West Germany. Speaking of the military alone, in the United States, Sidney Willhelm notes: " . . . the military pays $15 billion annually to the civilians it hires directly, more than $35 billion to military personnel, and billions more indirectly through military contracts with civilian businesses. Of course, personnel costs do not cease with salaries; medical benefits, housing facilities, food and clothing allowances, commissary privileges, transportation provisions, and many other emoluments are financed. Military housing subsidies exceed the sum spent for public housing to assist the millions of Americans in poverty. In 1968, the Pentagon allocated $44 trillion for purchase of goods and services, making it the largest single purchaser in the nation. . . . In mid-1969, the Department of Defense held direct ownership of 29 million acres, and by 197(), its total equipment, material, etc., amounted to $214 billion, 38% of the 554 billion in total assets for all U.S. manufacturing corporations." See Sidney M. Willhelm, "The Rise of State Rule, Catalyst, no. 9, 1977, p. 16. In an analysis of data about California, Willhelm reports that "from a total 1969 population of 19,834,()00, there were 7,278,041 persons institutionalized under state control; another 647,988 persons are employed by the state of California to care for the institutionalized people—a total of almost 8 million, i.e., approximately 40% of all Californians are either clients or employees of institutionalized state agencies of care and control with respect to education, social welfare, health and penology." Ibid., p. 48.
14. Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authorized English edition of 1888, supervised by Engels, published by Charles H. Kerr, Chicago, p. 41.
15. See Marx and Engels, "Uber die Nationalisierung des Grund und Boden," Marx-Engels, Werke, Institut fur Marxismus-Leninismus (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1956-68), vol. 17, pp. 59 - 62. F. Engels, "The Peasant Question in France and Germany," in K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Pub., 1955) vol. 2, p. 395. Marx and Engels were adamant on the nationalization of land.
16. Sawer, Marxism and Asiatic Production, p. 52.
17. For fuller development, see Alvin W. Gouldner, "Stalinism: A Study of Internal Colonialism," Telos, Winter 1977 - 78, pp. 5 - 48.
18. Saul K. Padover, Karl Marx on Revolution (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1972).
19. Karl Marx, The Civil War in France (New York: International Publishers, 1940), p. 54.
22. Ibid., p. 57.
23. Ibid., pp. 58-59.
24. Ibid., p. 61.
25. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, 1846 - 1895, trans. Dona Torr (New York: International Publishers, 1942), p. 386.
26. Ibid., p. 387. Italics added.
27. Cited in Saul K. Padover, Karl Marx, An Intimate Biography (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1978), p. 488. Marx subsequently repudiated this interview, but this is likely to have been because of its impolitic remarks about some of the Commune's leaders, having referred to one as an ass and traitor, and another as a blowhard and coward.
From Alvin W. Gouldner, The Two Marxisms.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1980, Chapter 11 - " State and
Class in Marxism,"
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