One of the characteristic features of certain writings, such as the article by Ernest Mandel which I have already quoted, is that they deal with "economic categories" of an impoverished kind which, despite the terminology used, belong not to the economic categories of Marx's Capital but to those of economic ideology, or even, to employ E. Bottigelli's expression regarding the Manuscripts of 1844, to that "economic phenomenology" which is still to be found in the Manuscripts. To be convinced of this it is only necessary to see how alien to Marx's thought, as it developed after the Manuscripts of 1844, is the way in which Mandel deals with the categories of private ownership and social ownership.
For example, in his article he introduces the section dealing with "the form of ownership and the mode of production" with the following proposition: "Transition from private ownership of the means of production to collective ownership means transition from the anarchy of capitalist production to the objective possibility of socialist planning." (Art. cit., p. 11.)
A formulation such as this is too vague and lacking in precision to help us take even one step forward in solving the problems under discussion. Rather does it drag us back, to the level of the general declarations of what Marx and Engels called "vulgar socialism", which lacks any definite scientific content.
Mandel's formulation tends to conceal what is the real controversy today, namely: what are the conditions under which "the objective possibility of socialist planning" can be transformed into actual socialist planning? By merely repeating that collective ownership makes socialist planning objectively possible one does not contribute in the slightest to solving the essential problem, which is how to prevent a specific type of anarchy of production (disproportion, inefficiency, decline in productivity, etc.) from developing on the basis of collective ownership -- something that can happen and which it is important to prevent happening.
Here are some observations provoked by Mandel's formulation:
First of all, we note that it is a question here of "private ownership of the means of production" being wholly transformed into "collective ownership". This transformation thus appears to cover equally, and without any specific difference, capitalist property and the private property
of the small individual producers. In the passage quoted the very concept of "capitalist property" as, first and foremost, private ownership of social means of production is not even employed, either here or further on, precisely because Mandel remains on the plane of the most general categories, those that Marx used before he wrote Capital.
In Capital, however, Marx emphasises that even the phase of private capital is only a transient phase of capitalism, since the latter itself abolishes private property in the strict sense of the word. Let us re-read at this point what Marx writes regarding joint-stock companies:
Still discussing the significance of the formation of joint-stock companies, Marx further observes that in these companies even the labour of management is henceforth separated from ownership of the means of production. He writes:
In this analysis as in many others, Marx does not confine himself to talking about "private ownership" in general, but takes account of the nature of the productive forces which are subjected either to private ownership, or to capitalist private ownership, or to capitalist ownership of social enterprises, and he highlights the decisive importance of the changes that take place in the level of development of the productive forces and in the character of the production-relations. As a result of these changes, indeed, the same juridical concept of "private ownership" covers a succession of economic realities which differ profoundly, since they range from