Reply to an AnCap (Hoodie Demon)

Our publisher first tries to invoke the definition of capitalism as an argument for why government activity cannot be associated with it. However this ignores what capitalism is. Take socialism for example, socialism is technically defined as worker ownership of the means of production, however the workers simply owning the means of production does not means that given society is under the socialist mode of production. Capitalism, like socialism, is more than its definition, it is a social formation under which the dominant mode of production is driven by private capital. An example of this can be better emphasized by the 1860s when America was considered industrial capitalist, even though slaves made up more of the workforce than industrial workers. It’s because the social formation which drove the mode of production during the 1860s was industrial capital. Given this proper economic analysis, we can determine that because modern America is driven by private capital, and commodities are manufactured for their exchange-value rather than their use-value, America is under the capitalist mode of production.

Next, he claims that us “communists” (I put that in quotations for its vagueness given how much diversity there is in ideology among leftists) just plug our ears when somebody brings up Stalin or Mao. This may be true among anarchists, but as for Marxist-Leninists such as myself, we actually vastly study the histories of Stalin’s USSR and Mao’s China to learn from their mistakes. However, famine is one thing that these two great leaders are not guilty of. Let’s begin with Stalin’s famine, which you can read more about on my website. [1]

The origin of the Stalin’s death tolls actually comes from fascists in Ukraine who were trying to make communism seem even worse than fascism.[2] It is has also been revealed, that many of the pictures of the famine were in fact from other atrocities committed by imperial capitalists. [2] Next, the majority of the death accusations comes from the work of Robert Conquest, and so it’s important to discuss the controversy over his work.

Since 1979 a long scholarly dispute has raged over the number of “excess deaths” in the USSR between the two official Soviet censuses in 1926 and 1939. This debate is never referred to once in most books and films about the famine, and for good reason. The debate shows up Conquest & Co. for the liars they are.

The only work on the Ukrainian famine to have appeared in a non-émigré scholarly journal is by James Mace, head of the government-funded Ukrainian Famine Commission. [3] Before Conquest’s book appeared, this article was the only attempt to put a scholarly face on the Ukrainian nationalists’ fable. Mace’s fraudulent research procedures prompted Stephen Wheatcroft, a leading historian of the USSR, to complain about “the standard of academic discussion of this very important topic, which in my opinion has seriuosly deteriorated in recent years. Dr. Mace’s contribution adds to this deterioration.” [4]

In the best and most recent discussion of the question of `excess deaths,” Barbara A.Anderson and Brian D. Slver estimate that “excess deaths” — defined as any “unusually large number of deaths” between 1926 and 1939 “among people who were alive” in 1926 — were probably between 3.2 and 5.5 million for the entire USSR [5] (this is consistent with demographer Frank Lorimer’s 1948 estimate, the basic work that Conquest and Mace are trying to discredit).

In fact Anderson and Silver appear to believe the total figure to have been far short of that. Using their High Mortality [Rate] Assumption, which “approximates the mortality rates that Lorimer thought actually prevailed in the USSR as a whole in 1926-27, which were higher than those officially reported,” by 1939 there might have been only 500,000 “excess deaths” among persons alive in 1926. [6]

This would include not only the famine but also: the so- called “purges” of the `30s; the collectivization movement and attendant peasant rebellions against it; war deaths in the 1938 war in Mongolia against Japanese forces. In addition, there were serious epidemics of at least two highly contagious and often fatal diseases: typhus and malaria. “Quiescent during most of the period of the New Economic Policy I.e. 1923-29), epidemic typhus resurged once more at the end of the 1920s … Typhus certainly played a prominent part in these horrors, possibly raging more fiercely than in 1921-22.” [7]

Five hundred thousand persons died of typhus during 1921-22. Malaria was probably epidemic as well. Both typhus and malaria would tend to be more severe among a population weakened by malnutrition, like during the widespread famine of the Civil War years (1918-22) [8]

Taking Anderson and Silver’s Low to medium Fertility and Medium to High Mortality Estimate ranges, we arrive at a “population deficit” among those under 12 in 1939 of between 0 and 9.4 million. Some large proportion of these are would- be births which would have been expected but did not occur. “Given the available information, it is impossible to determine for certain what proportion of the population deficit is due to births that did not occur and what proportion is due to excess deaths of infants and children.” [9] The total for those over 12 in 1939 is between 0.5 and 3.2 million (both sets of figures are for the entire USSR). Fertility would certainly have been low during the great disruptions of the collectivization movement; the famine; industrialization, when working hours were long and living standards low, and millions of peasants were flocking to the cities to man the new factories.

Anderson and Silver take great pains to point up the “errors” in estimating numbers of deaths made by Mace and Steven Rosefielde, from whom Conquest draws his figures. Earlier articles by Wheatcroft also attacked Rosefield, Mace, Conquest, and Maksudov, the Soviet émigré upon whom Mace and Conquest draw heavily.

Concerning the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine, Anderson and Silver note:

  • Mace’s estimate of eight million “Ukrainians who died before their time” is a “population deficit” rather than excess deaths, and therefore includes millions who were never born;
  • Mace’s method of estimation makes no allowance for a decline in the number of births among Ukrainians during the famine years. “Yet there was undoubtedly a severe decline in the number of births during those years.”
  • A large number — perhaps 3 million or more –persons listed as Ukrainian in the 1926 census were probably listed as Russians in the 1939 census. [9]

In 1949 Naum Jasny, a Russian émigré economist, estimated that 5.5 million people died in the famine. By 1961, realizing he had misunderstood the census data, Jasny had revised his estimate to “hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million” in the whole USSR who “died in the winter of 1932/33.” [10] In the light of all responsible research, this figure appears reasonable.

That famine — death from hunger — existed, and was related to the struggle over forced collectivization of the peasantry, should not be doubted. But the “estimates” made by Conquest and most books and films are ridiculously excessive and dishonest.

As for Mao, I won’t go too in depth as I did for Stalin because it seems redundant at this point, but I will share the conclusion reached by Jason Ball [11] from his case study into western historians’ usage of Deng Xiaoping’s statistics of the Great Leap Forward:

The approach of modern writers to the Great Leap Forward is absurdly one-sided. They are unable to grasp the relationship between its failures and successes. They can only grasp that serious problems occurred during the years 1959-1961. They cannot grasp that the work that was done in these years also laid the groundwork for the continuing overall success of Chinese socialism in improving the lives of its people. They fail to seriously consider evidence that indicates that most of the deaths that occurred in the Great Leap Forward were due to natural disasters not policy errors. Besides, the deaths that occurred in the Great Leap Forward have to be set against the Chinese people’s success in preventing many other deaths throughout the Maoist period. Improvements in life expectancy saved the lives of many millions.

We must also consider what would have happened if there had been no Leap and no adoption of the policies of self-reliance once the breach with the Soviet Union occurred. China was too poor to allow its agricultural and industrial development to stagnate simply because the Soviets were refusing to help. This is not an argument that things might not have been done better. Perhaps with better planning, less over-optimism and more care some deaths might have been avoided. This is a difficult question. It is hard to pass judgement what others did in difficult circumstances many years ago.

Of course it is also important that we do learn from the mistakes of the past to avoid them in the future. We should note that Mao to criticized himself for errors made during this period. But this self-criticism should in no way be allowed to give ammunition to those who insist on the truth of ridiculous figures for the numbers that died in this time. Hopefully, there will come a time when a sensible debate about the issues will take place.

If India’s rate of improvement in life expectancy had been as great as China’s after 1949, then millions of deaths could have been prevented. Even Mao’s critics acknowledge this. Perhaps this means that we should accuse Nehru and those who came after him of being “worse than Hitler” for adopting non-Maoist policies that “led to the deaths of millions.” Or perhaps this would be a childish and fatuous way of assessing India’s post-independence history. As foolish as the charges that have been leveled against Mao for the last 25 years, maybe.

Moving onto what the publisher of the video says about capitalism and the slave trade. He claims that all capitalism is is people exchanging goods and services. However, if this were true, that would mean that all trade has been capitalist, and therefore capitalism has existed for as long as trade has. It should be obvious to see the error in this logic, that being that capitalism has only existed predominantly since the 1800s, and therefore couldn’t be used to refer to feudal and slave societies in which there was trade. So we must therefore understand what capitalism is, once again. As I explained previously, capitalism is a social formation under which the dominant mode of production is driven by private capital. In the west during the 1800s, there was lots of private capital invested in the slave trade, and it was this private capital that actually laid much of the groundwork for modern capitalism. [12] So yes, it is fair to categorize slavery in the 19th century as a part of capitalism.

Next, the publisher states that he sees no connection between capitalism and politics. He states that capitalism is entirely independent of the government, and that therefore it cannot be blamed for any actions taken by governments. Let’s start by explaining why capitalism needs a government, (as adapted from Professor Douglas J. Amy):

  • Limited Liability Laws. Capitalism requires capital – lots of it. But without limited liability laws, investors are unlikely to risk investing their money in businesses. In the 19th century, before the passing of laws that limited the liability of investors, anyone who put money into a business that then went under could be held liable for the debts of the company. They could have their personal assets seized and could be financially ruined. Needless to say, this discouraged investment. Without limited liability laws, the economy would not have access to the capital it needs to grow and prosper. [13]
  • Property Rights. Without the right to own property and dispose of it as you wish, capitalism as we know it could not exist. These legal rights are created and protected by the government. Moreover, in the U.S., the federal courts have extended to corporations the same property rights given to citizens. Corporate property rights – one of the main legal instruments that insulate business from government power – can be created and maintained only by government.
  • Law and Order. A market system cannot work well without a functioning criminal justice system. Otherwise, organized crime would easily take over large sectors of the business community. Extortion, bribery, kidnapping, and murder would become the reigning corporate model. Without the rule of law, our economy would resemble the “mafia capitalism” that Russia has suffered from in its transition to capitalism.
  • Bankruptcy Protection. Business is inherently risky and one of the largest risks is business failure, particularly during recessions and depressions. In the 19th century, before the creation of bankruptcy laws, business failures would usually saddle entrepreneurs with large and ongoing debts, making it impossible for them to make a fresh start and often putting them in debtors’ prison. Investors and creditors also often failed to get any of the money due to them. Bankruptcy laws protected otherwise healthy businesses that were temporarily short of funds. And these laws allowed entrepreneurs to be eventually freed from crushing debts. Along with limited liability, bankruptcy rules formed a crucial financial safety net for entrepreneurs. It is important to note, however, that bankruptcy laws were passed not simply out of concern or sympathy for failed entrepreneurs, but also as a way to lessen economic risk and therefore encourage more investment and economic growth. [14]
  • A Stable Money Supply. Without reliable money, markets would be based primarily on barter and thus be extremely limited. In the U.S., before the Civil War, almost all paper money was issued by private banks – not the government. This was an unreliable and incredibly chaotic system. Sometimes merchants would not even accept certain currencies. It also meant there was no real control over the money supply – which has a crucial impact on inflation and economic growth. Widespread commerce and a stable economy both require a stable and dependable money system – one in which consumers and merchants have faith. This can only be provided and maintained by the federal government.
  • Patents and Copyrights. Large portions of our economy would grind to a halt if the government did not grant patents and copyrights. Without this massive intervention into the free market, the drug, music, publishing, and software industries could not exist. Bill Gates likes to think of himself as a self-made man, but he would not be one of the richest men in the world if the government did not make it illegal for anyone but Microsoft to copy and sell Windows.
  • Banking Regulation and Insurance. As we have seen recently, a capitalist economy depends heavily on stable banks to finance growing businesses. But banks are inherently vulnerable to “runs” – where worried depositors all seek to take out their money at the same time. Banks cannot survive runs because they have loaned out most of the money deposited with them and therefore cannot pay it out to a large number of depositors at once. Before the passage of banking regulations and federal deposit insurance, banks regularly had runs and failed. The main reason that we had no disastrous runs on banks (and money market funds) during the financial panic of 2008 was that government was there to guarantee those deposits.
  • Corporate Charters. Capitalism today is corporate capitalism. But the corporation itself is a creation of government. Corporations can come into being only through charters: the legal instruments by which state governments allow businesses to incorporate. These charters and state business laws define what a corporation is, how it is organized, how it is governed, how long it may exist, who has a say in decision making, the rights of stockholders, the extent of its liability, and so on. Most states also retain the right to revoke the charters of corporations that break the law or harm the public interest, though this power is seldom used these days.
  • Commercial Transaction Laws. Businesses could not operate effectively without laws governing commercial transactions. Few would risk doing business on a wide scale unless there was some way of making and enforcing contracts. Who would sell goods if they couldn’t be sure they would be paid, and who would buy goods if they couldn’t be sure they would receive them? The Uniform Commercial Code is a set of legal rules that determines, among other things, what a valid contract is, how contracts can be enforced, and various remedies for fraud, default, etc. It is over 800 pages long and covers every aspect of commerce in great detail, including laws governing the sales of goods, payment methods, receipts, warrantees, titles, shipping of goods, storage of goods, how sales are financed, and the leasing of goods. It is the legal infrastructure that allows business to be conducted smoothly and reliably.
  • International Trade Law. Global capitalism would be impossible without trade. Governments create the legal frameworks – the treaties and international trade laws – that facilitate and make this trade possible. “Free trade” is a misnomer because it implies that it is international trade that exists free of any political framework. But this is hardly the case. The North American Free Trade Agreement, for instance, takes up two volumes and is over 900 pages long – covering such things as tariffs, customs, dumping, corporate and investor rights, intellectual property rights, financial services, government procurement, and dispute resolution procedures. It also establishes a secretariat, a commission, dispute panels, scientific review boards, eight industrial sector committees, and six working groups to oversee implementation of this agreement. It turns out that free trade requires a great deal of regulation.
  • Enforcement of Laws. All of these rules and laws that facilitate business and markets have to be enforced, otherwise they are worthless. Just as international trade treaties require elaborate enforcement mechanisms, so do all our national laws that facilitate the business process. And this is no small effort. We and our governments spend billions of dollars every year to provide police to protect private property, courts to interpret and enforce contracts, and agencies to protect patents, oversee banks, and act as watch dogs in the stock and bond markets. It is revealing that most civil suits are not brought by individuals harassing corporations – as conservatives would have it – but by businesses suing other business. The courts are indispensable for resolving business disputes and thus ensuring the smooth operation of the economic system.

Now that we have established how government plays a vital roll in managing the economy of a capitalist country, it should be clear how this can be a negative. Given that capitalism creates massive income inequality, [14] there will be people in capitalist countries who have so much wealth, they are able to buy off the political system to suit their own needs. And even if this isn’t done directly, in order to keep their positions in office, governments will tend to act in the interests of capitalists’ profit, and this is so much of a problem in the west that it is often times that capitalists get their needs satisfied much more than average citizens [15]. How you cannot see the connection between capitalists profiting off their workers’ labor so much to the point where income inequality is one of the major problems of the west, and then using said money to buy governments that look after their needs via imperialism, is beyond me. The problem with most AnCap arguments is that they rely only on abstract definitions, and not on the material world, or even the theories of their most admired economists such as Smith, Mises, and Hayek, who all recognized the need for a state under capitalism. He tends to repeat the argumentation I just addressed in this section over and over again throughout the video.

Next, our publisher claims that de-commodification failed in Venezuela, therefore it will always fail. He fails to explain how at all they tried that, when 71% of their economy is controlled by the private sector [16]. Our publisher next claims that the person in the video talking is an idealist because he believes that we don’t need to commodify everything in order for people to find it valuable, and rather than explain why this is an idealist notion, he just proceeds to insult the man in the video. Next, he claims that socialism in China (it should be noted that China never achieved full communism) didn’t work, but doesn’t explain. Let’s examine just how much socialism in China “didn’t work” shall we? [17]

First and foremost, the Cultural Revolution succeeded in maintaining proletarian rule and preventing capitalist takeover in China for 10 years (1966-76). It also led to profound social and institutional changes and deepened the orientation of organizing society around the principle of “serve the people.” Here are some examples.

Education. China’s universities—which in the early 1960s were still the province of the sons and daughters of intellectuals, cadres, and the former privileged classes—were transformed. The old curriculum was overhauled as part of meeting the needs of building an egalitarian society.

Autocratic teaching methods were criticized. At all levels, education was taken as much more than just classroom schooling—it was understood to be a broad social and lifelong process. Study and research were combined with productive labor. Revolutionary politics and political study were integral to the educational process. The Cultural Revolution attacked the notion that education is a ladder to “getting ahead” and that skills and knowledge are a ticket for gaining advantage and privilege over others. It promoted new values and the outlook that knowledge must be acquired and used to serve the collective good.

The universities instituted open enrollment: by the early 1970s, worker and peasant students made up the great majority of the university population. Educational resources were vastly expanded in the rural areas: for instance, middle-school enrollment rose from 15 to 58 million. [18]

The charge that the Cultural Revolution was a “wasted decade” in education is a gross distortion, and another example of class prejudice.

Culture. “Model revolutionary works” in opera and ballet put new emphasis on workers and peasants and their resistance to oppression (in place of old imperial court dramas). Western techniques were integrated with traditional Chinese forms, and many new performance works brought forth powerful depictions of revolutionary women that challenged patriarchal relations. There was an explosion of creativity among the masses: short stories, poetry, paintings and sculpture, music and dance. Cultural troupes and film units multiplied in the countryside. Between 1972 and 1975, Beijing held four national fine arts exhibitions (with 65% of exhibited works created by amateurs) that attracted an audience of 7.8 million, a scale never reached before the Cultural Revolution. [19]

Economic management. In factories and other workplaces, traditional forms of “one-man management” were dissolved. New “three-in-one” combinations of rank-and-file workers, technicians, and Communist Party members took responsibility for day-to-day management of factories and other types of work. Workers spent time in management and managers spent time working on the shop floor. [20]

Science conducted in new ways. “Open-door research” was introduced: research institutes were spread to the countryside and involved peasants; technical laboratories literally opened their doors to workers; and universities set up extension labs in factories and neighborhoods. Popular primers made scientific knowledge available to the masses. [21].

Given all these successes, it should be known that modern China has actually been being destroyed by the market reforms implemented by the Deng Xiaoping regime, and so to insult modern China, is to insult capitalism. [22]

Next, our author claims that people no longer having to work so they don’t die hurts the economy and is therefore bad. What our author doesn’t realize is how this is an inherent problem of capitalism and how if we implemented socialism, this wouldn’t hurt the economy.

He then claims that communists base our arguments off of emotion rather than fact. However, this ignores the fact that we waste more food than it would take to feed starving people, [23] have more homes than homeless people, [24] and much more, all because we live under a mode of production which encourages these things. And it should be noted that there are much more logical arguments against capitalism that I lay out here.

Next our publisher claims the man in the video doesn’t understand how business works, but fails to explain why. The fact is is in terms of relative wages, the income of capitalists far supersedes that of their workers in the long term [25] even with increasing productivity among workers. [26].

Lastly, our publisher finishes off with a number of points that I will respond to in a bullet point list:

  • Publisher: “Under communism people wouldn’t work”
    • This ignores that human nature is malleable and full communism doesn’t set in until post-scarcity and maximum automation. Until then, under socialism, people get paid in proportion to the work they do.
  • “All communists do is say workers are slaves at their jobs and they therefore would leave under communism”
    • This ignores that we claim people are wage-slaves under capitalism because they’ll die if they don’t work, whereas this isn’t the case under socialism or communism. And people wouldn’t leave because they’re most likely passionate about their work under communism, or under socialism they want to buy luxury goods so they work for labor tokens.

So that will conclude my reply to this video. If you have any questions or concerns, please comment them below.

Notes:

  1. See my website: https://eastsidemarxism.wordpress.com/stalins-famine-page/
  2. Tottle, Douglas. “Fraud, Famine and Fascism
  3. James Mace, “Famine and Nationalism in Soviet Ukraine”
  4. S.G. Wheatcroft, “Ukrainian Famine” (letter)
  5. Barbara A. Anderson and Brian D. Silver, “Demographic analyis and Population Catastrophes in the USSR,”
  6. Anderson and Silver, p. 527.
  7. John T. Alexander, “Typhus in Russia,” in Joseph L Wierczynski, ed., The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History
  8. Malaria apparently spread widely in the countryside because the mosquitoes that carry the disease bit more people due to the reduction in livestock as a result of collectivization. Peasants who rebelled at being forced to join collective farms slaughtered their livestock for food or sale, rather than surrender them.
  9. Anderson and Silver, p. 530.
  10. Anderson and Silver, p. 532.
  11. See my website: https://eastsidemarxism.wordpress.com/maos-famine-page/
  12. Ott, Julia. “Slaves: The Capital that Made Capitalism
  13. Moss, David. “When All Else Fails: Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager”
  14. Emmanuel Saez, “Center for Equitable Growth
  15. Noam Chomsky, “Who Rules The World?” and before you cry bias because its Chomsky, try to read his book and actually refute his arguments.
  16. https://www.aporrea.org/actualidad/a165136.html
  17. See my website: https://eastsidemarxism.wordpress.com/chinas-cultural-revolution/
  18. Dongping Han, The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Educational Reforms and Their Impact on China’s Rural Development
  19. Gao, “Debating the Cultural Revolution,” pp. 427-430. Gao, who participated in the Cultural Revolution, describes the impact of the new culture in villages like his: “The rural villagers, for the first time, organized theater troupes and put on performances that incorporated the contents and structure of the eight model Peking operas with local language and music. The villagers not only entertained themselves but also learned how to read and write by getting into the texts and plays. And they organized sports meets and held matches with other villages. All these activities gave the villagers an opportunity to meet, communicate, fall in love. These activities gave them a sense of discipline and organization and created a public sphere where meetings and communications went beyond the traditional household and village clans. This had never happened before and it has never happened since” (p. 428).
  20. See Stephen Andors, China’s Industrial Revolution (New York: Pantheon, 1977).
  21. See Science for the People, China: Science Walks on Two Legs (New York: Avon, 1974).
  22. See my website: https://eastsidemarxism.wordpress.com/chinas-capitalist-miracle/
  23. http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/food_waste_the_facts
  24. http://www.mintpressnews.com/empty-homes-outnumber-the-homeless-6-to-1-so-why-not-give-them-homes/207194/
  25. https://clothingmadeinusablog.wordpress.com/tag/exports/
  26. http://forums.wdwmagic.com/threads/disney-union-workers-rally-for-better-pay.885007/page-4
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