Is he a revisionist? Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy and he’s had a lot of influence on my understanding of Marxism and the way I explain socialism to people IRL but through recently moving towards his written work I have come across things which I have never seen orthodox Marxists ever discuss. Here is Marcel van der Linden’s explanation of Wolff and Resnick’s class theories in his book Western Marxism and the Soviet Union:
They based themselves on a unique class theory, according to which society must be viewed as a totality of overdetermined processes, i.e. a complex whole in which every process ‘is determined by each and every other process constituting that society’.There existed innumerable ‘entry points’ to explore this totality, and no one entry point can be conceived as ‘the essential cause or determinant of any other process(es) in the society’.Marxian social theory’s entry point was class, defined here as the economic process of ‘producing and appropriating surplus labor’.
In Resnick and Wolff’s theory, two kinds of class processes exist: fundamental and subsumed. The fundamental class process concerns the production of the surplus-product by one class for the other. Subsumed class processes encompass the distribution of this surplus-product between other classes. In a capitalist society, productive workers and industrial capitalists are personifications of the fundamental class process, while landlords, unproductive workers or supervisory managers are personifications of subsumed class processes.
Thus, by highlighting the social organisation of surplus, Resnick & Wolff claimed that the Soviet Union was state-capitalist, where state capitalism is defined as the co-existence and interaction of two processes, namely capitalist production, appropriation and distribution of the surplus on the one side, and, on the other side, ‘processes that place state offcials (rather than private individuals) in the class position of appropriators and distributors of the surplus’.
Furthermore, Wolff and his coauthor discuss their non-traditional Marxist theory in a 2013 paper titled simply “Marxism” from the journal Rethinking Marxism, which they call an “overdeterminist class theory”. Some quotes from said paper:
This is our argument: class refers specifically to this economic process of producing and appropriating surplus or, as Marx puts it, unpaid labor. Class is not, for us, defined by the very different matters of who owns or controls means of production, who wields broad social power, or any of the millions of other social processes that overdetermine the production and appropriation of surplus.
A third defect is demonstrated by the twentieth-century experience of applying a traditional Marxism focused on relations of production formulated as systems of property ownership that classified populations into the propertied and the proper- tyless. Class exploitation then became a reflection of, or was conflated with, who owned what and how much of it. The consequences were hardly minor. When socialists came to power in the USSR and then elsewhere, the first order of socialist business was to radically alter the modes’ relations of production: namely, to replace the existing private with the newly established collective ownership of the means of production. The expected result: class exploitation would thereby be abolished.
Thoughts? Am I getting sucked into a revisionist whirlpool? I still think co-ops are silly but am I deviating from scientific socialism by agreeing with any of this?