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There are multiple definitions of the term state capitalism.
The most common definition of state capitalism within Marxist literature is that it is a social system combining capitalism (the wage labor system of producing and appropriating surplus value) with state ownership. A relatively recent text by Stephen A. Resnick and Richard D. Wolff, Class Theory and History, explores state capitalism in the former USSR, continuing a theme that has been debated within Marxist theory for most of the past century. Much of this debate has been among Trotskyist groups, among whom the most influential formulation has been that of Tony Cliff, associated with the International Socialist Tendency and the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP), although the discussion goes back to internal debates in the Left Opposition in the late 1920s. The term "state capitalism" has also been used by some anarchists, but in that case it is applied to the entire history of Soviet Russia, from 1918 onward. In addition, during the period roughly between Stalin's death and Mao's, official Chinese 'Marxism-Leninism' and many foreign Maoists, notably Charles Bettelheim , often described the Soviet Union (but not China) as state capitalist, as part of their description of Khrushchev and his successors as revisionists and counter-revolutionaries. After Mao's death and the downfall of his successors, the 'Gang of Four', some stuck with this formulation, others extended it to China, and most ceased to be Maoists.
An alternative definition is that state capitalism is a close relationship between the government and private capitalism, such as one in which the private capitalists produce for a guaranteed market, where many (but not an overwhelming proportion) of large enterprises are government-owned. An example of this would be the military-industrial complex where autonomous entrepreneurial firms produce for government contracts and are not subject to the discipline of competitive markets. Many, including Cliff, see this as part of a continuum characterizing the modern world economy with 'normal' capitalism at one extreme and complete state capitalism like that of the former USSR at the other. This continuum has narrowed somewhat since the 1980s with the collapse of the USSR and its satellites and with large-scale privatization in Eastern Europe and most of the third world.
Both definitions flow from discussion among Marxists at the beginning of the twentieth century, most notably Nikolai Bukharin who, in his book Imperialism and the world economy thought that advanced, 'imperialist' countries exhibited the latter definition and considered (and rejected) the possibility that they could arrive at the former.
- Bureaucratic collectivism
- Deformed workers state
- Degenerated workers state
- Mixed economy
- New class
- State socialism
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