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As mentioned, Marx never explicitly summarised his definition of capitalism, beyond some suggestive comments in manuscripts which he did not publish himself. This has led to controversies among Marxists about how to evaluate the "capitalist" nature of society in particular countries. Supporters of theories of state capitalism such as the International Socialists reject the definition of the capitalist mode of production given above. In their view, claimed to be more revolutionary (in that true liberation from capitalism must be the self-emancipation of the working class—"socialism from below"), what really defines the capitalist mode of production is:

  • Means of production which dominate the direct producers as an alien power.
  • The existence of a wage-earning working class which does not hold or have po

    As mentioned, Marx never explicitly summarised his definition of capitalism, beyond some suggestive comments in manuscripts which he did not publish himself. This has led to controversies among Marxists about how to evaluate the "capitalist" nature of society in particular countries. Supporters of theories of state capitalism such as the International Socialists reject the definition of the capitalist mode of production given above. In their view, claimed to be more revolutionary (in that true liberation from capitalism must be the self-emancipation of the working class—"socialism from below"), what really defines the capitalist mode of production is:

    • Means of production which dominate the direct producers as an alien power.
    • The existence of a wage-earning working class which does not hold or have power.
    • The existence of an elite or ruling class which controls the country, exploiting the working population in the technical Marxist sense.

    If true, then ownership relations generally and private ownership in particular are irrelevant to the definition of capitalism. The existence of commercial relations and commodity production are also irrelevant.

    Many of the state capitalist theories (which actually originated in Germany, where they were already criticised by Frederick Engels) define "capital" only as a social relation of power and exploitation.

    This idea is based on some passages from Marx, where Marx emphasized that capital cannot exist except within a power-relationship between social classes which governs the extraction of surplus-labour. It is this power-relationship that is most important for the proponents of theories of state capitalism—everything else is secondary.

    Heterodox views and polemics

    Orthodox Marxist debate after 1917 has often been in Russian, other East European languages, Vietnamese, Korean or Chinese and dissidents seeking to analyze their own country independently were typically silenced in one way or another by the regime, therefore the political debate has been mainly from a Western point of view and based on secondary sources, rather than being based directly on the experiences of people living in "actually existing socialist countries". That debate has typically counterposed a socialist ideal to a poorly understood reality, i.e. using analysis which due to such party stultification and shortcomings of the various parties fails to apply the full rigor of the dialectical method to a well informed understanding of such actual conditions in situ and falls back on trite party approved formulae. In turn, this has led to the accusation that Marxists cannot satisfactorily specify what capitalism and socialism really are, nor how to get from one to the other—quite apart from failing to explain satisfactorily why socialist revolutions failed to produce the desirable kind of socialism. Behind this problem, it is argued the following:

    • A kind of historicism according to which Marxists have a privileged insight into the "march of history"—the doctrine is thought to provide the truth, in advance of real research and experience. Evidence contrary to the doctrine is rejected or overlooked.
    • A uni-linear view of history, according to which feudalism leads to capitalism and capitalism to socialism.
    • An attempt to fit the histories of different societies into this schema of history on the basis that if they are not socialist, they must be capitalist (or vice versa), or if they are neither, that they must be in transition from one to the other.

    None of these stratagems, it is argued, are either warranted by the facts or scientifically sound and the result is that many socialists have abandoned the rigid constraints of Marxist orthodoxy in order to analyse capitalist and non-capitalist societies in a new way.

    From an orthodox Marxist perspective, the former is simple ignorance and or purposeful obfuscation of works such as Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason and a broader literature which does in fact supply such specifications. The latter are partly superficial complaints which can easily be refuted as they are diametrically opposite of well known statements by Marx, Lenin,

    If true, then ownership relations generally and private ownership in particular are irrelevant to the definition of capitalism. The existence of commercial relations and commodity production are also irrelevant.

    Many of the state capitalist theories (which actually originated in Germany, where they were already criticised by Frederick Engels) define "capital" only as a social relation of Frederick Engels) define "capital" only as a social relation of power and exploitation.

    This idea is based on some passages from Marx, where Marx emphasized that capital cannot exist except within a power-relationship between social classes which governs the extraction of surplus-labour. It is this power-relationship that is most important for the proponents of theories of state capitalism—everything else is secondary.

    Orthodox Marxist debate after 1917 has often been in Russian, other East European languages, Vietnamese, Korean or Chinese and dissidents seeking to analyze their own country independently were typically silenced in one way or another by the regime, therefore the political debate has been mainly from a Western point of view and based on secondary sources, rather than being based directly on the experiences of people living in "actually existing socialist countries". That debate has typically counterposed a socialist ideal to a poorly understood reality, i.e. using analysis which due to such party stultification and shortcomings of the various parties fails to apply the full rigor of the dialectical method to a well informed understanding of such actual conditions in situ and falls back on trite party approved formulae. In turn, this has led to the accusation that Marxists cannot satisfactorily specify what capitalism and socialism really are, nor how to get from one to the other—quite apart from failing to explain satisfactorily why socialist revolutions failed to produce the desirable kind of socialism. Behind this problem, it is argued the following:

    • A kind of historicism according to which Marxists have a privileged insight into the "march of history"—the doctrine is thought to provide the truth, in advance of real research and experience. Evidence contrary to the doctrine is rejected or overlooked.
    • A uni-linear view of history, according to which feudalism leads to ca

      None of these stratagems, it is argued, are either warranted by the facts or scientifically sound and the result is that many socialists have abandoned the rigid constraints of Marxist orthodoxy in order to analyse capitalist and non-capitalist societies in a new way.

      From an orthodox Marxist perspective, the former is simple ignorance and or purposeful obfuscation of works such as Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason and a broader literature which does in fact supply such specifications. The latter are partly superficial complaints which can easily be refuted as they are diametrically opposite of well known statements by Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and others, part pettifogging and redundant restatement of the same thing and partly true observations of inferior and simplistic presentations o

      From an orthodox Marxist perspective, the former is simple ignorance and or purposeful obfuscation of works such as Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason and a broader literature which does in fact supply such specifications. The latter are partly superficial complaints which can easily be refuted as they are diametrically opposite of well known statements by Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and others, part pettifogging and redundant restatement of the same thing and partly true observations of inferior and simplistic presentations of Marxist thought (by those espousing some brand of Marxism). Neither historical or dialectical materialism assert or imply a "uni-linear" view of human development, although Marxism does claim a general and indeed accelerating secular trend of advancement, driven in the modern period by capitalism. Similarly, Marxists, especially in the period after 1917, have on the contrary been especially mindful of the so-called unequal and uneven development and its importance in the struggle to achieve socialism. Likewise, the pushback on Marxism's claim to be a science is partly justified and partly a scientism: as a social science, Marxism stands on better philosophical foundations than many of the so-called hard sciences,[neutrality is disputed] let alone the other social sciences. Finally, in the wake of the disasters of socialism in the previous century most modern Marxists are at great pains to stipulate that only the independently acting working class can determine the nature of the society it creates for itself so the call for a prescriptive description of exactly what that society would be like and how it is to emerge from the existing class-ridden one, other than by the conscious struggle of the masses, is an unwitting expression of precisely the problem that is supposed to be being addressed (the imposition of social structure by elites).