A Liberal at a Loss in the XXth Century

(Autumn 1959)

From Fourth International [Amsterdam], No. 7, Autumn 1959, p. 81.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Economy, Liberty and the State
by Professor Calvin Hoover
Pp. 445. New York (The XXth Century Fund), 1958. $5.00

Professor Calvin Hoover has been for a long time a student and so-called “specialist” on the Soviet economy. He also has had some direct experience with the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship in Germany. Personal experience, contrary to what empiricists think, is not always favorable to scientific thinking, especially if the experience is limited and the subject very vast in scope. So Professor Hoover’s recent ambitious attempt at summarizing the vital problems of our epoch shows all the signs of an honest liberal staring wide-eyed at his century and being quite at a loss about it.

Like so many liberals, Professor Hoover tries to solve the trick by giving to the category of “class” a loose subjective definition which enables him to deny that both the modern welfare state and the Nazi dictatorship were capitalist states in any sense whatsoever; the USSR, of course, is no workers’ state either, and is mixed together with the fascist dictatorships in the same category of “totalitarianism,” i.e., states ruled by one dictator or a small dictatorial clique. That the Soviet totalitarianism just happened to have destroyed private ownership of the means of production and the bourgeoisie as a ruling class (and physically as well), whereas the same bourgeoisie and the private ownership of the means of production flourished under Hitler as never before, does not make a decisive difference to him. He speaks about a “ruling bureaucracy” in Nazi Germany, about the “enormous amount of government control over industry” – but does not specify that this control was exercised by agencies headed by the main industrialists themselves!

Of course the economic importance of the New Deal in the USA, of government control, of the “reduction in the inequality of income distribution,” etc., is taken for granted. And the economy of Britain and of Western Europe is even called a “mixed economy.” If one looks for a handbook of liberal illusions, prejudices, fears, and simplifications, one can get it right here, not without a scholarly touch (the discussion of Russian real wages, for example, is very interesting and illuminating: Hoover arrives at the conclusion that these wages were in 1957-58 50% higher than before the war and will rise continually through the coming years).

Professor Hoover’s conclusion? It is necessary to “control” and “regularize” the economy (including a solution lor the problem of cyclical fluctuation and endemic inflation) without giving the state too much power and having it become totalitarian. He does not know exactly how this can be done, but his ideal is somewhere in between a Labour government Britain and a Rooseveltian America. About the tremendous power the monopolists retain and exercise in these societies he doesn’t worry very much ...


Last updated on 29 January 2016