242
TWO ECONOMIC SYSTEMS:
THEORY OF CONVERGENCE
 

p Enokh Bregel, D. Sc. (Econ.)

p The term “convergence” is borrowed from natural science. In biology it means the acquisition or development of similar characters by different groups of organisms due to similarity in habits or environment. By analogy a number of bourgeois economists and sociologists apply the idea of convergence to the capitalist and socialist systems, which are supposed to be gradually losing their former contradictory character and acquiring certain common features that make them increasingly resemble each other.

p The convergence theory bears a certain resemblance to other modern bourgeois conceptions, notably, Walt Rostow’s teaching on the stages of economic development and the “single industrial society" theory which has gained acceptance in the West. But they are not identical. Admittedly, the advocates of all these theories strive to detect similarities between the socialist and capitalist economies and to relate them to one and the same “stage” (in the case of Rostow— to the “movement towards maturity" stage) or to one and the same “industrial system”. Nevertheless the convergence theory should not be confused with the general thesis that certain similarities exist between the socialist and capitalist systems. While many bourgeois economists maintain that such similarities do exist, by no means all of them may be called adherents of the convergence idea. Allan G. Gruchy, the American economist, for example, says that “although economic systems reveal many special features there are often common trends in their development".  [242•1  Yet he sees 243 no convergence of the two systems and believes that “there is now no prospect of any ultimate convergence between economic systems with these basically contradictory ideologies".  [243•1 

p What propositions, one may ask, distinguish the convergence theory? We believe that there are three.

p One is the proposed existence of a growing similarity between the two economic systems, with a particular accent on its growth. If there were similarities while the fundamental differences persisted there could be no question of any convergence. No biologist would speak of convergence in regard to the lion and the sheep just because both are mammals. Thus, the convergence theory emphasises not any static similarity but the progressive accumulation of common features.

p The second proposition is the gradual disappearance of the differences between the two systems as a result of a mutual drawing together. Note the stressing of reciprocity. Bourgeois ideologists have previously claimed that a capitalist “regeneration” is taking place in the Soviet economy, but this has never gone so far as the convergence theory. Only those economists and sociologists may be classed as proponents of convergence who maintain that while the socialist system is gradually acquiring some of the features of capitalism, the capitalist system is also coming more and more to resemble socialism.

p And, thirdly, there is the far-reaching conclusion regarding the tendency towards a merger of the two systems, their transformation into a single socio-economic system of a “mixed” type, which synthesises some features of modern capitalism with elements of socialism.

p In his Theoretical Economic Systems. A Comparative Analysis, published in 1958, Walter S. Buckingham, an American economist and one of the founders of the convergence theory, writes that one of the main conclusions of his study was that the actual, functioning economic systems were growing more similar than dissimilar.  [243•2 

p Among the advocates of the convergence theory the most 244 energetic and consistent is Jan Tinbergen, the Dutch economist. In 1961 he published an article entitled “Do Communist and Free Economies Show a Converging Pattern?".  [244•1  His answer to the question was yes. In 1965, Tinbergen produced a new series of articles on the subject, which were published in the Belgrade journal Medunarodna Politika. In these articles he arrives at the conclusion that “both systems are developing and that many of the changes occurring in them show a converging pattern”. He even claims it can be argued that “both systems are moving towards a certain optimum, that is to say, towards a system which is better than pure capitalism or pure socialism in the accepted sense of these terms".  [244•2 

p There are two variants of the convergence theory. One is the economic variant, which is based on the thesis that the two economic systems are gradually drawing closer and that the differences between them are disappearing. The other is the sociological variant, which holds that not only the economic but also the social systems, including the entire range of economic, political and other social relations, reveal this trend towards mutual drawing together and will eventually merge into a single system.

p The most prominent advocates of the sociological variant are Raymond Aron, the French sociologist, and Pitirim A. Sorokin, the American sociologist.

p Aron, the author of many sociological studies, writes in his Eighteen Lectures on Industrial Society that the socialist and capitalist systems are two variants of an “industrial society" and that both are gradually drawing closer to each other.  [244•3  In another book he expresses the view that “all industrial societies will in future grow more and more alike but the resultant universal society will hardly have to make the radical choice between planning and market, between public and private property".  [244•4 

245

p Sorokin develops the convergence theory in the broadest manner in his Basic Trends of Our Times, published in 1964. He studies convergence in its following aspects: (1) natural sciences and technology; (2) social sciences and humanities; (3) philosophy; (4) ethics and criminal law; (5) education; (6) sports and recreation; (7) fine arts; (8) religion; (9) marriage and family; (10) economic system; (11) social relationships; (12) political system. In all these fields he attempts to discover a rapprochement between the two systems. Sorokin draws the conclusion that “if mankind avoids new world war and can overcome today’s grave emergencies, the dominant type of the emerging society and culture is likely to be neither capitalist nor communist but a type sui generis which we can designate as integral type. This type will be intermediary between the capitalist and Communist orders and ways of life".  [245•1 

p A general sociological study of the convergence theory is beyond the scope of this article, which is intended as a critical study of that theory only in its economic aspect. However, since sociologists, too, often touch upon economic questions, their works must also be referred to.

p The proponents of the convergence theory hold that economic systems can achieve a rapprochement primarily by: (a) gradually overcoming their own shortcomings; and (b) by adopting the positive features of the other system. “On the one hand,” Tinbergen says, “each system is learning from experience and trying to overcome some of its weaknesses. On the other hand, the systems begin to influence each other more and more."  [245•2  This idea of “borrowing from each other" is stressed by many advocates of the convergence theory.

Their arguments follow two basic lines. One maintains that technological progress is spreading to the countries of both systems and drawing them closer together. The other proceeds from the thesis that the two systems are beginning to resemble each other in certain socio-economic respects as well. This is said to be manifested in the following developments: the economic role of the state is growing in the 246 capitalist countries, while it is becoming somewhat weaker in the socialist countries; planning is developing in the capitalist countries, while in the socialist countries its importance is supposed to be on the wane owing to the development of market relations; a trend towards the mitigation of economic inequality in capitalist society is supposed to be at work, while in socialist society inequality is alleged to be on the increase.

* * *

p In respect of the role of technological progress the convergence theory agrees with the “single industrial society" conception. The development of modern technology, the proponents of both theories say, engenders similar processes in the economies of the two systems: the scale of enterprises grows, the share of industry in the economy increases, manpower is drained from agriculture, etc. These identical processes, they say, diminish the difference between the two economic systems and increase their similarity.

p John Kenneth Galbraith prefers the concept of the “modern industrial system" to the concepts of “capitalism” and “socialism”. He thinks that it is irrelevant to classify modern industrial societies according to the principle of social system. In his view, it is much more important to understand the general demands made by technological progress in the countries of both systems.

p Raymond Aron’s views closely resemble those of Galbraith. He, too, attaches prime importance to the concept of “industrial society”, defining it as “a society where industry, i.e., large-scale industry, is the most characteristic form of production".  [246•1  True, Aron admits that there are “two types of industrial society”, capitalist and socialist, which differ in some respects. However, these differences, he maintains, are decreasing, while the similarity between them is growing. Pitirim Sorokin points to technological progress as one of the factors contributing to convergence of the two economic systems. Comparing the USA and the USSR, he writes: “Technologically, both countries have already become essentially similar to each other. Both nations use similar 247 techniques of production, up to the introduction of the techniques of automation and mass production."  [247•1 

p All these arguments suffer from the basic methodological fault of taking a technological approach to economic systems. The existence of similar technical and economic processes in the countries of both systems is regarded as proof of their gradual “rapprochement” and “convergence”.

In the course of the discussion technology and the phenomena directly connected with it are substituted for social production relations. But neither technology nor the branch structure of production determine a society’s economic system. Even with similar technologies and a more or less similar branch structure of production the economic system of the socialist countries differs radically from the capitalist system because of their different production relations. Social ownership of the means of production is the antipode of their private ownership; socialist labour for oneself and for society is the opposite of hired labour for private exploiters; production with the aim of ever fuller satisfaction of the needs of all members of society is the opposite of production for the sake of profit, and so on. Taking economic relations out of their social context and reducing them to technology condemns the theory of convergence to completely false conclusions.

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p The growth of the state’s economic role in modern capitalist society is emphasised by all advocates of the convergence theory. Thus, W. S. Buckingham declares that “all democratic capitalist governments already have enormous powers at their disposal for regulating economic activity".  [247•2 

p Galbraith attaches great importance to the economic role of the state under modern capitalism. At the same time, wishing to substantiate the thesis of the growing similarity in the economic role of the state in capitalist and socialist countries, he refers to the trend towards so-called decentralisation observed in the Soviet Union and East European countries. He claims that as a result of decentralisation 248 certain economic functions in the socialist states are being transferred “from the state to the firm”, and that the growing autonomy of industrial enterprises approximates their status to that of enterprises in capitalist countries.

p Raymond Aron considers growing state intervention in the economy of the capitalist countries a symptom of a process of “socialisation”. He maintains that “states consider themselves today responsible for the functioning of the economy and cannot tolerate deep depressions. In this sense the Western capitalist economies include definite mechanisms which, in the West, are usually regarded as being of a socialist nature".  [248•1 

p It should be noted right away that the thesis on the growing role of the state in capitalist economy is not in itself objectionable. However, by recognising this role, bourgeois economists are saying nothing new. Half a century ago Lenin pointed out that monopoly capitalism was gradually being transformed into state-monopoly capitalism, and explained the nature of the latter. Extensive state intervention in the economy is truly characteristic of modern capitalism. However, the interpretation given to this phenomenon by the proponents of the convergence theory is entirely erroneous.

p To begin with, they gloss over the crucial question: What is the social nature of the state and in whose interests does it intervene in the reproduction process? The bourgeois state, representing the interests of the monopoly bourgeoisie, is one thing, while the socialist state, representing the interests of the working masses, is quite another. The former influences its economy in order to ensure direct benefits for the capitalist monopolies, that is, to ensure them maximum profits, and also to serve the general interests of the bourgeoisie by saving the capitalist system. The influence exerted by the socialist state on its economy is of a fundamentally different nature, and this is just what the theorists of the convergence theory pass over in silence. The socialist state, which serves the interests of the people, sets itself the task of building a communist society and raising the living standard of the working people.

p In this connection it should be pointed out that it is wrong 249 to view the growing economic role of the state in capitalist countries as “socialisation”. When bourgeois and reformist ideologists do so, they deliberately ignore the social nature of the state. Extensive utilisation of economic regulation by the state does not change the essential, exploiting nature of capitalism.

p Secondly, no matter how much the economic role of the bourgeois state may grow, it is still unable to direct the economic development of society. To direct economic development means to determine the growth rate of the national economy and its most important proportions; to ensure the continuous expansion of production and a corresponding expansion of consumption; to play a decisive role in the distribution of the material, financial and labour resources between the different branches of production; to ensure complete utilisation of the labour force, etc.

p Under capitalism, where the bulk of the means of production is private property, and production is conducted not to satisfy the requirements of society, but to assure maximum profits to the capitalists, all these things remain impossible. Capitalist ownership of the means of production and the scramble for profits set definite limits to the economic role of the bourgeois state. During the past decades this role has, undoubtedly, become greater, though it is not dominant.

p The fact that capitalism has still been unable to end cyclic fluctuations of production and prevent the rotation of industrial booms and crises is a manifestation of the bourgeois state’s inability to direct economic development, even though state intervention in the economy has mitigated the crises. Another manifestation of the bourgeois state’s limited ability to influence its economy is continued mass unemployment despite all promises to guarantee “full employment”.

Thirdly, any attempts to prove not only that the capitalist system is drawing closer to socialism in terms of the economic role of the state, but also that socialism is in turn approaching capitalism, are groundless. The proponents of the convergence theory who make such claims usually refer to the “decentralisation” of industry in the USSR, which is associated with the economic reform that gives enterprises wider rights. It is fundamentally wrong, however, to interpret the economic reforms in socialist countries as a weakening of the state’s economic role. The Soviet state 250 continues to run its economy, and the transfer of some functions of the central bodies to enterprises is not tantamount to their transfer “from the state to the firm”, as John Galbraith puts it. A Soviet factory is a state enterprise and not a private firm. Therefore, any adjustment of functions between the central economic bodies and individual enterprises is an adjustment within the state sector, not its weakening. As regards the functioning in the USSR, at the present stage, of centralised planned economic management concurrently with the continuing development of the initiative and autonomy of enterprises, that is an indication not of any approximation of Soviet economy to capitalist economy, but of a more effective application of socialist principles of economic management.

* * *

p The view that the development of planning within the capitalist framework is a decisive factor working for the rapprochement of the two economic systems figures prominently in the convergence theory.

p “Planning and socialism are not the same things at all,” says Buckingham, “... economic planning is part of the very texture of the government in all industrialised countries."  [250•1 

p Jan Tinbergen regards the development of planning as one of the most important recent changes in the capitalist system. In this connection he writes: “The policy in question like any other one must necessarily be planned; this element of the socialist system has now been universally adopted. This is one of the channels for the penetration of socialist ideas. Both western and southern countries, one after another, are introducing a definite type of planning. ... True enough, their type of planning is less rigid than in the eastern countries. But both types are changing and we are looking for the ‘best’ method of centralisation in planning."  [250•2 

p Galbraith derives planning from technological progress. Technology under all circumstances leads to planning, he says. He considers the corporation the main planning body 251 in capitalist countries. However, he admits that definite limits are set to corporation planning because it cannot control demand, ensure the training of skilled personnel and finance large-scale technological and scientific research. The functions that corporation planning cannot perform are taken over by the state.

p Concurrently with the view that the capitalist economic system is increasingly becoming a planned system, the proponents of the convergence theory maintain that the trend observed in socialist economy is for the role of planning to decrease as a result of developing market relations. Some bourgeois newspapers and journals have been particularly emphatic in connection with the preparation and subsequent implementation of the economic reform in the USSR. Thus, after the September 1965 Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the British Daily Telegraph triumphantly wrote, “the planning mechanism is in large part to be dismantled and a market economy installed in its place".  [251•1 

p Despite such predictions, however, the role of economic planning in the USSR is not diminishing but, on the contrary, constantly increasing. At the 24th Congress of the CPSU socialist planning was described as “the central element, the core of national-economic guidance".  [251•2 

p In criticising the convergence theory it would be an oversimplification to say that capitalism excludes all planning. Engels was among the first to point to elements of planning under capitalism. Lenin, who created the Marxist theory of monopoly capitalism, said that the concept of plan could no longer be considered alien to trusts, and that monopolies were keeping rough records of raw material sources and the size of the market.

p A new phenomenon in modern capitalist economy is the fact that planning has to a certain extent exceeded the framework not only of individual enterprises but also of individual monopoly associations. At present some bourgeois states are implementing economic programming on a national scale and referring to it as “planning”.

p Capitalist programming differs essentially, however, from 252 socialist national economic planning. To begin with, it pursues entirely different aims, since it is designed to strengthen monopoly capitalism. Then again, the bourgeois states do not control the key positions of the economic apparatus and, therefore, the economic development plans or programmes drawn up by them are essentially in the nature of recommendations which are not binding on private capitalist firms and corporations.

p The feasibility and effectiveness of socialist economic planning is ensured by the concentration in the hands of the socialist state of all key positions in the economy. The programmes and plans drawn up by capitalist states have no such basis, and some bourgeois scholars feel compelled to admit this.

p It should also be noted that the proponents of the convergence theory often contradict themselves. Thus, in his articles on convergence Jan Tinbergen writes about the rapprochement between capitalist and socialist planning, while in his monograph on Central Planning he admits that “in countries with a large private sector, sector plans will be more in the nature of forecasts than of plans".  [252•1 

p In refuting the convergence theory it should be pointed out that planning as practised under modern capitalism does not transform modern capitalism or equate it with the socialist system. Nevertheless it should not be overlooked that programming in the capitalist countries is linked with a network of bodies which study economic development trends, collect a large volume of useful data, organise statistics on national economic relations, etc. This is a new element of socialist prerequisites currently maturing under capitalism, though not a “convergent movement”, i.e., not a penetration of socialist elements into the capitalist economy.

p Finally, as we have seen, there are no grounds whatever for the assertion that “deplanning” is taking place in the USSR and other socialist countries. Bourgeois economists and journalists making such assertions confuse the role and nature of planning with the problems of improving its efficiency. The decrease in the number of indices established by the central bodies and the extension of planning at the 253 lowest level (at the level of enterprises and their associations) is wrongly depicted by them as “deplanning”, as “ dismantling of the planning mechanism”, etc. Actually, however, the economic reforms in the USSR and other socialist countries are designed to improve planning as much as possible. Many indices are now established by the enterprises themselves, since they are in the best position to take due account of their reserves and potentialities. At the same time the central planning bodies are concentrating their attention on the key indices and are thus able to improve the quality of centralised planning.

p The views of the proponents of the convergence theory on planning and market relations reveal one of the main methodological errors of that theory: formal reasoning and a resulting undifferentiated approach to economic phenomena and processes.

p The following two syllogisms used (directly or indirectly) by many bourgeois ideologists may serve to illustrate such formal reasoning:

p Syllogism One. Major premiss: planning is inherent in the socialist economic system. Minor premiss: planning is used on a growing scale in the capitalist economy. Conclusion: the capitalist system is moving nearer to the socialist.

p Syllogism Two. Major premiss: market relations are inherent in the capitalist economic system. Minor premiss: commodity-money, market relations are developing in the socialist countries. Conclusion: the socialist system is moving nearer to the capitalist.

p Both syllogisms exhibit a formal, undifferentiated approach to economic phenomena: the first—to planning, and the second—to commodity-money relations. In other words, they ignore the fundamental difference between capitalist and socialist planning and between capitalist and socialist commodity-money relations. As we have shown above, the development of planning elements in the capitalist countries does not make the capitalist system socialist. On the other hand, both under capitalism and socialism there exist commodity-money relations, but their nature is different, and, therefore, the development of commoditymoney relations and markets in the socialist countries is by no means an indication of their development in a capitalist direction.

254

Another typical methodological error of the convergence theory is the primacy of the quantitative approach to economic phenomena over qualitative analysis. To understand economic systems it is essential to reveal the specific properties of each. Yet the proponents of the convergence theory accentuate not the particular but the general, and give preference to a quantitative approach over qualitative analysis. In an attempt to efface the fundamental differences between capitalism and socialism, Jan Tinbergen, for instance, sees only quantitative differences between the state regulation of the economy in capitalist countries, on the one hand, and socialist economic planning, on the other.

* * *

p Some proponents of the convergence theory see a rapprochement between the two systems in the distribution sphere as well, and assert that while incomes are being distributed in the capitalist countries ever more evenly, inequality in the distribution of incomes is growing in the socialist countries. Buckingham writes of the Soviet economic system that “it is collectivist ... but it is probably less equalitarian than that of the United States".  [254•1  Jan Tinbergen cites as one of the major changes in the USSR a short-lived attempt “to equalise incomes in a drastic way. The well-known consequences of such equalisation by decree forced the regime to introduce a wage system which makes wages largely dependent on productivity. Strangely enough, this was then labelled ’socialist wage policy’ ".  [254•2 

p Pitirim Sorokin, going even further, speaks of the rapprochement as embracing not just distribution of incomes but the entire aggregate of social relations within the two systems. He believes social relations may be subdivided into (1) family relations, (2) contractual relations, and (3) coercive relations. The first type of social relations is based on mutual love, devotion and sacrifice, the second on mutual benefit, and the third refers to relations imposed by one party on the other contrary to its will and interests. According to Sorokin, even though the first and third types of 255 relations are more developed in the USSR than in the USA, and the role of the second type of social relations is greater in the USA than in the USSR, a rapprochement is evident in this sphere, too. To prove his point he refers to the steps the US Government has had to take in the sphere of social security, taxation, education, public health, etc., under the pressure brought to bear by the working people.

p First of all, it must be stated emphatically that the allegations of growing inequality of incomes in the socialist system are completely false. On the contrary, the current trend here is not towards an increase but towards a decrease of such inequality. Thus, in the USSR lower-paid workers are the first to get wage increases and these increases are larger than for any others. Thus, the gap in the remuneration of the different population groups is being eliminated.

p Another important factor is the growth of the social consumption funds, which are used for the extensive development of education and public health, payment of pensions, etc. Those in the lower income brackets have wide access to these funds, and this increases their real incomes. Obviously, the growth of the incomes of lower-paid groups does not constitute a transition to wage levelling. Different wage scales for skilled and unskilled, heavy and light labour and also for labour of different productivity continue to exist in the USSR (and in other socialist countries). Despite Tinbergen’s claim, this practice is no deviation from the principles of socialism. On the contrary, it is realisation of the socialist principle of distribution according to the amount and quality of labour.

p The assertion about “equalising” trends under modern capitalism is also entirely unfounded. It is typical that none of the above-mentioned authors cite any concrete data to substantiate this assertion. The facts, however, contradict it.

p Speaking of the alleged growth, in the capitalist countries, of the importance of “family relations" at the expense of contractual relations, Sorokin refers to the social measures being implemented by the bourgeois state. In some capitalist countries, including the USA, the government, under pressure from the working people, has been compelled to introduce unemployment insurance, social security for the aged, etc. This has naturally somewhat improved the position of 256 the working people under capitalism but it has not changed it radically. The fact that the unemployed are receiving small benefits and that aged workers draw a pension does not “equalise” the position of the working man with that of the capitalist. Finally, Sorokin’s interpretation of the relations between the working people and the bourgeois state as “family” relations completely distorts the actual situation. In fact, only certain measures adopted by the bourgeois state are dictated by the interests of the working people, while its overall policy serves the selfish interests of the monopoly bourgeoisie, rather than the interests of the people. This is clearly expressed, for example, by the wage freezes, antilabour laws, etc.

Thus, the thesis of the convergence of the distribution systems of the two economic systems and even more so of the aggregate social relations is in flagrant contradiction with reality. It is an apology for modern capitalism and a distorted portrayal of the socialist economy.

* * *

p In criticising the convergence theory (and other modern bourgeois theories as well) we must not treat them as a collection of absurdities or pure fiction. We should be guided by Lenin’s following important methodological explanation: “Philosophical idealism is only nonsense from the standpoint of crude, simple, metaphysical materialism. From the standpoint of dialectical materialism, on the other hand, philosophical idealism is a one-sided, exaggerated development (inflation, distension) of one of the features, aspects, facets of knowledge into an absolute, divorced from matter, from nature, apotheosised."  [256•1  This statement, made in the context of philosophical questions, may be applied equally well to the criticism of bourgeois politico-economic theories.

p The convergence theory is a reflection in ideology of certain actual features and phenomena of modern economic life. The theory can be compared to a convex or concave mirror in which the image loses its true proportions. But such a mirror does not invent the person standing in front of it; it simply reflects him, though in a distorted way, 257 exaggerating some of his features. Nor has the convergence theory simply conceived its propositions out of nothing: it has reflected, though in a distorted manner, some of the features of modern capitalism. What, we may ask, has it drawn from life and what belongs to the realm of distortions and illusions?

p In our opinion, the convergence theory reflects the following actual phenomena of the modern capitalist economy: (1) the progressive socialisation of production in connection with the scientific and technological revolution, (2) the growing economic role of the state, and (3) the introduction of elements of planning.

p The development of productive forces inevitably leads to the increased socialisation of capitalist production. Capitalist enterprises are getting larger and larger; they employ thousands of workers and their output supplies the requirements of hundreds of thousands and even millions of people; the social division of labour is developing, and new branches of production are evolving. The modern technological revolution has vastly intensified this socialisation process. The theorists of convergence have noted this aspect of the matter correctly. But by singling out this one aspect and considering it out of the context of all the relevant phenomena, they have given a distorted view of modern capitalist reality.

p This distortion lies in their considering the steadily increasing socialisation of capitalist production in isolation from the private form of appropriation, whereas actually the two phenomena form a unity. No matter how the capitalist enterprises may grow in size or manpower, no matter how collective, or corporate, they become, the vast majority of them will remain private property. When Galbraith points out that the very nature of modern large-scale industrial corporations leads them to adopt decisions collectively, and then goes on to say that this is equally true both of the socialist system and of the capitalist system of free enterprise, he abstracts himself from the essence of the capitalist mode of production, that is to say, the private appropriation of social means of production. Between capitalism, which is based on private ownership, and socialism, which is based on public ownership, there always was and still is a deep chasm. Therefore, the basic concept of the convergence 258 theory, that of a “rapprochement” between the two economic systems, is not merely an illusion but a tendentious and harmful one.

p The convergence theory further notes the growing economic role of the bourgeois state and the introduction of elements of planning in the capitalist countries. However, it reflects these new phenomena one-sidedly, in an exaggerated and, therefore, distorted manner. No matter what measures the bourgeois state may take to regulate and plan its capitalist economy, it will be unable to conduct the entire reproduction process according to plan; it can only exert a certain influence upon it. In this respect there is a fundamental, qualitative difference between the two systems, and any convergence is out of the question.

Is the capitalist system nevertheless drawing closer to socialism? The answer to that question is yes, though not in the sense implied by the advocates of convergence. The capitalist system is drawing closer to the socialist system in the sense that more and more of the material and organisational prerequisites of socialism are taking shape within its framework. Advanced techniques, progressive forms of production organisation, partial nationalisation of the economy, an apparatus of economic programming—all these prepare the ground for and hasten a transition to socialism. However, the fact that capitalism is moving in the direction of socialism does not mean that socialism is in progress within the framework of the capitalist system as such. As for the assertions that the socialist countries are moving towards capitalism, they are pure nonsense.

* * *

p As regards its social nature the convergence theory is a bourgeois theory even though it attempts to rise above both capitalism and socialism, advocating a species of “integral” economic system. The point is that the theorists of convergence see the “synthesis” of capitalism and socialism as taking place on a capitalist basis, that is, on the basis of the private ownership of the means of production. Typical in this respect are the views of Buckingham, who believes that “three of the four foundations of capitalism ... seem likely to be carried over from pure capitalism and 259 incorporated into the newly emerging economic system. First, private property in capital plant and equipment. . . . Second, economic incentives and profit motivation. ... Third, the market system is everywhere reasserting itself as the principal mechanism for controlling the allocation of goods and services".  [259•1 

p For the sake of balance Buckingham does, admittedly, name three features which the future “integral” economic system is to borrow from socialism, namely, growing equality, workers’ control over working conditions, and economic planning. Clearly, this list omits the most important feature: public ownership of the means of production. “Integration” and “synthesis” are thus essentially a smokescreen thrown up to conceal the intended absorption of socialism by capitalism.

p The fundamental methodological error of the “synthesis” conception is its idealist, wishful-thinking approach to the long-term economic development of society. The proponents of the convergence theory reason as follows: modern capitalism has certain shortcomings but it also has certain merits; socialism, too, has its merits and drawbacks; clearly, people will understand this and, having done so, will synthesise the merits of both economic systems, remove their shortcomings, and create an “optimum” economic and social system.

p Actually, however, the economic development of society is not a matter of free choice or free will; it is governed by objective economic laws. On the one hand, the operation of the economic laws of capitalism leads to the shaping, within the framework of the capitalist mode of production, of the material and organisational prerequisites of the transition to socialism, and, on the other, to exacerbation of the contradiction between the social nature of production and the capitalist form of appropriation, a contradiction that can be solved only by a revolutionary transition from capitalism to socialism. As regards the socialist system, the economic laws operating within its framework determine a gradual growing over of socialism into communism. Thus, the future belongs not to any visionary mixed-type economic system but to socialism and communism.

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p Although essentially bourgeois, the convergence theory differs from primitive bourgeois apologetics regarding the permanence of capitalism. Its proponents no longer proclaim boldly that the future belongs to capitalism; they now suggest that it belongs to an “integral” economic system, a synthesis of capitalism and socialism. This is noteworthy. The convergence theory is intrinsically ambivalent. On the one hand, it is a refined attempt to justify capitalism, since it makes capitalism the basis of its “integral” economic system; on the other, it is a forced admission of the strength and viability of the socialist system and a de facto rejection of the idea that the capitalist system in its “pure form" is immutable and eternal.

p It is no accident, therefore, that the convergence theory has caught on among various groups of intellectuals in the West. Its advocates are a mixed bunch, some holding clearly reactionary views, others more or less progressive. Some of them associate convergence with the principle of peaceful coexistence between the capitalist and socialist countries. Thus, Tinbergen assumes that the most likely cause of a future general war is the contradictory views held by the Western and the communist worlds regarding the best socioeconomic system.  [260•1  He draws the conclusion that convergence of the two systems points the way to their coexistence. Similar views are held by John Strachey,  [260•2  the prominent ideologist of Labourism, and some other Western theorists.

p A positive element of the convergence theory is that it recognises the principle of coexistence between the two systems. We cannot agree, however, with the main line of argument of its proponents, namely, that peaceful coexistence is bound to imply convergence. The attempt to get convergence of the two systems accepted as the main condition and basis of peaceful coexistence should be flatly rejected.

Quite apart from the fact that conflicts and wars occur within the framework of the capitalist system itself, the advocates of convergence have adopted a fundamentally false approach to the problem of peaceful coexistence. The 261 problem emerged as and continues to be a pressing one precisely because it is a problem of coexistence of two different and even opposite social systems. Theory and practice have proved that such coexistence is possible and that it is essential if mankind is to survive. Yet the way the problem is treated by Tinbergen and Sorokin, whatever their personal attitude towards the problem of peaceful coexistence, gives every advocate of the cold war and anti-communism grounds to declare that since there is no convergence of the two systems, it is idle to count on their peaceful coexistence. The Marxist-Leninist approach to the problem of the peaceful coexistence of the two systems is entirely different: it admits that socialism and capitalism are opposite, regards the coexistence of states with different social systems as a form of class struggle, and at the same time recognises that peaceful relations between socialist and capitalist countries are possible and necessary.

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Notes

 [242•1]   A. G. Gruchy, Comparative Economic Systems, 1966, p. 883.

 [243•1]   Ibid., p. 890.

 [243•2]   W. S. Buckingham, Theoretical Economic Systems. A Comparative Analysis, New York, 1958, p. 26.

 [244•1]   Soviet Studies, Vol. 4, No. 4, April 1961, p. 333.

 [244•2]   Medunarodna Politika, June 5, 1965, p. 9.

 [244•3]   See Raymond Aron, Dix-huit legons sur la societe industrielle, Paris, 1962, p. 246. Aron’s views are somewhat contradictory: at the end of the book he voices doubts about the convergence theory (see p. 374).

 [244•4]   R. Aron, “La theorie du développement et l’interprétation historique de l’époque contemporaine” (Le developpement social, Paris, 1965, p. 99).

 [245•1]   P. A. Sorokin, The Basic Trends of Our Times, New Haven, 1964, p. 78.

 [245•2]   Soviet Studies, Vol. 4, No. 4, April 1961, p. 333.

 [246•1]   R. Aron, Dix-huit le\,cons sin la societe industriclle, p. 97.

 [247•1]   P. A. Sorokin, Op, cit., pp. 119–20.

 [247•2]   W. S. Buckingham, Op. cit., p. 488.

 [248•1]   R. Aron, Dix-huit lefons sur la societc industrielle, p. 308,

 [250•1]   W. S. Buckingham, Op. tit., pp. 458, 463.

 [250•2]   J. Tinbergen, “How to Improve International Policy of Development”, Medunarodna Politika, September 20, 1965, p. 9.

 [251•1]   See Daily Telegraph, September 29, 1965.

 [251•2]   24th Congress of the CPSU, Documents, Moscow, 1971, p. 80.

 [252•1]   J. Tinbergen, Central Planning, New Haven and London, 1964, p. 15.

 [254•1]   W. S. Buckingham, Op. tit., p. 480.

 [254•2]   Soviet Studies, April 1961, pp. 333–34.

 [256•1]   V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 38, p. 363.

 [259•1]   W. S. Buckingham, Op. cit., p. 485.

 [260•1]   J. Tinbergen, “Facing the Future”, Medunarodna Politika, June 5, 1965, p. 8.

 [260•2]   See J. Strachey, On the Prevention of War, London, 1962, p. 303.