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Epilogue Iván Szelényi Capitalism After Communism It would be plausible to construct a ‘variety of communisms’ theory, categorizing the state-socialist economies not only by region but by historical epoch. China, for example, imitated the Stalinist model in the first years after the Revolution, but by the 1960s the PRC had developed its own unique social and economic institutions. The goulash communism of János Kádár’s Hungary, which took shape after 1956, differed drastically from the classical Soviet model. Nevertheless, during the last decades of state socialism, the communist societies were broadly on a convergence trajectory: the gap between Czechoslovakia or Hungary and the USSR, for instance, narrowed. State ownership of the means of production, the redistributive nature of economic integration and the political monopoly of the Communist Party created a homologous institutional environment. The system largely suppressed the legacies of pre-communist times. In the first decade of the transition to market capitalism, however, the former communist countries followed different courses. During this early stage of transition, we may distinguish three distinct post-communist orders. The first is ‘capitalism from the outside’, the experience of Central Europe, which might also be described as the liberal or neo-liberal model. The second, ‘capitalism from above’, is to be found in Eastern Europe, Russia and the former Central Asian soviet republics. The third is the Chinese ‘capitalism from below,’ which flourished from 1978 until the mid1980s , the closest to the classical type of original accumulation of capital.1 This paper will argue, however, that more recently the various types of posti6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 637 2016.12.07. 15:47 638 TWENTY-FIVE SIDES OF A POST-COMMUNIST MAFIA STATE communism have unexpectedly begun to re-converge around a new model, pioneered in Russia since 2000. Somewhat surprisingly, this new system seems to be attractive to some of the Central European countries, especially Hungary. Even China is changing. When Beijing first began to privatize the public sector in 1997–98, after two decades of reform, it followed the strategy of Eastern Europe. Since the ascent of Xi Jinping, there are indications of some convergence with the new Russian model. But before examining this re-convergence, we need to look in more detail at the three initial ideal-types of post-communist transformation. Accumulation processes The original accumulation of capital was by no means a promenade. Marx described the process with exceptional precision and clarity in Part VIII of Capital, Volume One.2 The leading figures of the American grand bourgeoisie , formed between 1860 and 1900, have often been described as ‘robber barons.’3 Rockefeller, Jay Gould, Carnegie—and many others— started their businesses during the American Civil War. They were young men, many of them from dirt-poor families, who became multi-millionaires in a few years. Their breakneck accumulation of capital often took place under dubious conditions. They swallowed state subsidies, occasionally bribed legislators. Vanderbilt and Gould even had private armies that fought small wars against each other, much like the Russian oligarchs.4 Some historians have argued that John Rockefeller was the richest person ever; his wealth in 1900 has been estimated at $200 billion in current prices, two or three times as much as Bill Gates owns today.5 The robber barons rewarded their clients handsomely, but punished them severely if they were disloyal. The analogies with the accumulation of capital under post-communism are striking. Nevertheless, the stories of the robber barons, and even the descriptions in Part VIII of Capital, pale as we compare them with some— especially Russian—post-communist examples. Post-communist accumulation is unique. In all other historical instances of transition to capitalism, accumulation of some capital occurred within the womb of pre-capitalist formations. Communism was the only ‘pre-capitalist’ formation to have outlawed private ownership. In addition, the post-communist grand bourgeoisies enclosed the commons much faster than any of their predecesi6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 638 2016.12.07. 15:47 639 Epilogue sors; given the speed of the privatization processes, we should not be surprised to find mafia features in every post-communist capitalism. To put it bluntly: these were domains of robber barons, irrespective of the color of the government. The specter of neo-liberal capitalism was already haunting the still state-socialist societies of Central Europe by the late 1980s. In this part of the world, a commitment to democratic policies complemented the commitment to neo-liberal economics during...


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