Roberto's question: So what happens to people like me?

"I cannot believe the words I’ve been reading here....

"Why work hard, when it will be taken away and spread around to those that choose not to?

"Men and women need to live free, but under an organized social and moral law.... I agree that there needs to be some form of revolution; but communism has been an ultimate and bloody failure throughout history."

Kasama doesn't usually post essays by people opposed to communism. In fact we routinely remove almost all comments written from a conservative perspective (since they generally bring our discussions down).

 

But in this case, Roberto took the time to pose a series of questions to Kasama's project from an anti-communist perspective -- and he concentrates issues that many quite sincere people, especially in the middle classes, raise about our communist project.

He asks, for example, what the initiative would be to work hard in a society of redistributed wealth. He makes a familiar (and pointed) challenge from those who feel they have experienced real socialism already (in Cuba or eastern Europe).

He questions whether people making demands on the system (like the participants of Occupy) don't really just want something for nothing -- in a world where their own hard work would actually bring them what they need. And he sees the experience of his own family -- their departure from Yugoslavia and their subsequent success in Canadian business -- as proof of his own political views.

If you want, this thread might be a place to collectively discuss how we answer such questions in a popular way -- and what our experiences have been with people who challenge our communist convictions from this pro-capitalist ideological and political place.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Roberto was reading our essay The Kasama Project: Walk the revolutionary road with us, which starts:

“Above all: Let’s consciously go for the whole thing. The change we want is about taking the accumulated wealth, technology, hard work, science, and connections of a complex global civilization — and finally (finally!) putting it into the service of us all, including the very least and previously powerless among us. It is about the voiceless suddenly speaking, and the wealthy suddenly becoming silent.”

Roberto then wrote his challenge in the following thread:

 

So what happens to people like me?

I am working hard at my business 14 hours per day, 6 days a week, accumulating, saving and investing my wealth where I can, in order to leave some security for my family when I am gone? I also employ many, contributing to their lives as well. My hard work, self sacrifice and risk is to be leveraged among those who chose not to.

I believe in giving back to those who need the help and are UNABLE to help themselves due to physical limitations. I volunteer, I donate, I pray.

I believe in the Libertarian movement, where I want less intervention from government; you are proposing a tyrannical system or ‘Big Brother’, which is no different that the current botched-up system we live in. My family came from socialism (or should I say '‘ran from’'), where everyone lived unmotivated, pointless existences.

Why work hard, when it will be taken away and spread around to those that choose not to?

Men and women need to live free, but under an organized social and moral law. The leaders that you glorify were mass murderers. I cannot believe the words I’ve been reading here. I agree that there needs to be some form of revolution; but communism has been an ultimate and bloody failure throughout history.

The Occupy Movements are often personified by the entitled youth, who have not contributed a thing to society in their few years of living on this earth (monetarily, nor with their time in volunteering, nor have they started their own families to realize the realities and responsibilities of life we face every day), but want everything handed to them and made easy. I’ve been there, too, as a ideological teen and young adult.

Opportunity exists for everyone; many stories are written indicating how many have rose from impoverished existence, to a life of reasonable comfort, including my parents. If all the ‘Occupiers’ would instead devote all their ‘occupying time’ to physically assist those that need it, we wouldn’t need a governing socialist agenda; humanity would have taken care of it. I’ve worked in Africa with orphans and widows, and have truly witnessed despair. The organizations I worked with have returned dignity and health to many of those communities, where they are now SELF-SUSTAINING. The solutions exist, if people are more willing to give of themselves, instead of looking for what’s in it for them.

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  • Guest - Scardanelli

    Roberto makes an excellent case for socialism. Nobody should have to work fourteen hours a day six days a week just so they can "leave some security for my family when I am gone". What a miserable state of affairs. With more free time, Roberto could read up on Marxian economics, and disabuse himself of his illusions about capitalism.

    Its peculiar how many libertarian types defend capitalism by complaining about how bad they have it under capitalism. "I work all the time. I'm under so much pressure. I barely get by. Financial ruin is always around the corner." Your right, the system sucks.

  • Guest - People2thePower

    Roberto writes:
    "Why work hard, when it will be taken away and spread around to those that choose not to?"
    This gets to a widespread misperception of socialism that has not adequately been addressed, the idea that socialism is some sort of free ride, where producers and loafers, alike, will be rewarded. As Lenin (among others) put it, "Those who do not work, neither shall they eat." Socialism will create much broader opportunities for everyone to contribute to the collective well-being, but to be rewarded, people will have to utilize those opportunities and actually contribute.
    Roberto's comments also get to a critique of capitalism that has not adequately been addressed. Capitalism is explicitly a system where the owners of wealth do NOT have to perform productive work. Their money "does the work." In fact, the wealthy typically hire others to manage their investments for them. (The Wall Street billionaires are actually highly-compensated clerks for the super-rich). Under capitalism, the ideal is NOT to work. The ideal is to "live large" and let other suckers do the heavy lifting.
    Roberto's resentments about others taking advantage of him are natural and understandable but his perceptions of capitalism and socialism are upside down. Socialism requires a community of human beings with obligations to one another and a real stake in seeing everyone contribute and do well. Capitalism requires a society of individuals motivated by raw self-interest; by a desire to advance by competing and "beating" one another.
    I agree with Mike E. that we should not apologize for being "bleeding hearts." Compassion is revolutionary. But people are right to be suspicious of a pie-in-the-sky promised land with "free goodies for all." People know such a society would not last. They know how corrupting that would be, and they will not trust us if we permit socialism to be painted in such a distorted fashion. We should emphasize that socialism is not "soft headed" or naively "soft-hearted." Socialsm is all about taking responsibility for our world and making real contributions to our fellow human beings. We should emphasize that capitalism is the corrupting influence in our world today, because it glorifies indolence, decadence, and greed.

  • Guest - Systemic Disorder

    Mike E writes: "a socialist society would be one where the whole cluster of modern Republican, conservative and llibertarian ideas would be so discredited that they would not and could not function within a new socialist mainstream. If someone stood up and advocated (for example) that health care is not a right, or that evolution should not be taught in schools — it would something that virtually everyone would associate with a horrific past that must not come back."

    This is a very good point, and one we should keep in mind. A revolution, after all, is a time when social norms and mass opinion have radically changed, when the old ideas have become hopelessly discredited and the illusions that had kept people bound have fallen away. We will have to patiently make our sharpest arguments to make the better world real for people.

    I have to note my disappointment when we are asked to make arguments to the many Robertos out there, and I see people sneering at him for being a slave or giving him lectures about why his class status is petit bourgeoisie. Calling someone a "slave" is just inviting that person to reply with a "fuck you," and that he is (accurately) a member of the petit bourgeoisie isn't going to mean anything to him. We aren't going to win over anybody with such tactics. If we want to win people, we are going to have to argue on their terms (for that is what they currently understand). Capitalism is screwing them, and the big bourgeoisie is exploiting the petits such as Roberto — something that many Robertos out there feel on an emotional or gut level. Explaining why in terminology that is accessible to them, as opposed to higher-level terminology that is familiar for us but obscure to those we talk to, is essential to help people begin to see past the illusions of capitalist society.

    I point I wish I had made in my earlier comment but didn't was that Roberto, and other small businesspeople who work horrendously long hours, don't have a "choice." You can work for wages and a lousy boss, and have no control over your life, or you can "be your own boss" by running a small business and spend all your waking hours working and undermining your health because of the stress from the rigors of capitalist competition and of dealing with a business world so heavily stacked in favor of multi-nationals. Most people "choose" the former; Roberto happens to be one of those who "choose" the latter. But this is no choice; it is simply picking your poison. And the very fact that he is working 14 hours a day, six days a week, is proof in itself that his business, and his therefore material well-being, is very precarious, regardless of how hard he is working.

    As I said in my earlier post, socialism will need people like Roberto and if we show that they can have a better life in socialism (less hours worked, more security) their libertarian illusions can melt away. The middle classes are numerically huge and if we insist on poking then in the eye, that will only harden their illusions and drive them further into the clutches of big bourgeoisie. We need only to think about early 1930s Germany and early 1970s Chile what the potential result of that might be. If they understand, correctly, that they are part of the working class and that is where their interests lie, then all roads are open, as in Russia in 1917. When conditions deteriorate enough for a revolution to become possible, many middle class people will have been de-classed and the realities of capitalism will become obvious to them. Some will still cling to their class identity in the face of their new reality. The less who do so, the better for the revolution.

    There are many regular employees who think like Roberto, not only small businesspeople. Dismissing them because of their illusions wins us no converts. The middle class, or the petit bourgeoisie, can never be decisive and can never lead; but they will follow one side or the other. If we want them to follow the working class — and we'd better or the gates to fascism are thrown open — all of us are going to have to learn to talk to them, in language that is accessible to them.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    We have to show or convince them that their better 'dreams' (or positive illusions, if you like), are best realized in a socialist order, which does indeed need their energy and entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Guest - maju00

    "Calling someone a "slave" is just inviting that person to reply with a "fuck you"...

    We are slaves: we are "free" to work for the Capitalists or starve (or equivalent). But, unlike him, we don't claim to be content with that.

    "... and that he is (accurately) a member of the petit bourgeoisie isn't going to mean anything to him".

    It means to me. Not because I think that every single petty-bourgeois is evil or something. Actually most are reasonably honest cogs of the exploiting machine.

    What should I do: change all the exposition of the reality of the class struggle and tell a fairy tale of some sort. Sorry, I've tried writing fiction in the past and I'm no good.

    Furthermore, while I'm ok with some petty-bourgeois approaching the communist camp and joining it and what not and I do not want to make them feel guilty (I don't think they are necessarily, much less if they embrace the worker camp), I am not particularly interested in attracting them: too much effort and too few chances of success. It is important to make them understand that we do not direct our struggle primarily against them or their interests but that our class interests are not those of small owners either, although an entente can be reached at many stages of the class struggle (or even as a "free market" subsector in a rather evolved otherwise socialist economy but we would have to cap their top earnings/savings to prevent a new bourgeoisie from developing and they would not like that).

    I'm thinking in petty bourgeois with less clear ideology and less allegedly satisfied of their life than Roberto, more in the line of the farmers that Mike E. mentions in the sequel to this entry: people who are aware that they are struggling even if they are also small business owners. People who actually just expect to live a decent life out of their work (mostly) and do not aspire to become filthy rich. Those we can assimilate and give a niche (with a cap on capital accumulation and restrictions to labor exploitation).

    "Capitalism is screwing them, and the big bourgeoisie is exploiting the petits such as Roberto"...

    Roberto in particular seem content with his situation. I did not feel he was at all unhappy about working so many hours: it's something he feels that justifies his earnings, savings and posessions ("what I have achieved"). I can't feel any empathy for that stand: it's selfish and self-slaving at the same time.

    "The middle classes are numerically huge"...

    Figures please. I find the concept of "middle class" extremely ambiguous. There is, or rather there used to be, a lot of (more or less well-off) workers who considered themselves middle class, very specially in the USA.

    In a quick search, <a href="/http://www.ebst.dk/publikationer/rapporter/women_entrepreneurs/kap05.html">http://www.ebst.dk/publikationer/rapporter/women_entrepreneurs/kap05.html" rel="nofollow">I found</a> that the self-employed in the USA are 7.5%, which is a relatively low figure in the OECD (Greeks for example have 28% of self-employed and the strongest Left in Europe; <a href="/http://www.ebst.dk/publikationer/rapporter/women_entrepreneurs/kap05.html">http://www.ebst.dk/publikationer/rapporter/women_entrepreneurs/kap05.html" rel="nofollow">another site</a> says that non-agricultural self-employment in the USA has dropped to 7% to 6.4 % in the last decade). Of course self-employed is not identical to petty-bourgeois but the petty bourgeois are usually self-employed (and in addition have other workers who usually make the bulk of the non-managerial work).

    Another quick search allowed me <a href="/http://brandandmarket.com/defining-your-target-market-how-big-is-the-small-business-market/" / rel="nofollow">to find</a> (always with due caution, I'm not double-checking anything) that 78% of small business in the USA have no employees, what makes 78% of that 7.5% of self-employed (that is a full 5.9%) full working class (albeit self-employed). That leaves us with only 1.6% of the population being apparently bourgeois in the USA, most of them petty bourgeois (the 1-19 employees make up the vast majority of small business with any employees at all).

    Let's say my figures are short because I'm not considering rentiers and such or that my data is not good enough (what is likely), we can't think of a bourgeois class (mostly petty bourgeoises) that is larger than 5% in the worst case, surely more like in the 3% range and decreasing. (Always figures for the USA only).

    This seems to contradict the claim that the "middle class" (understood as bourgeoisie) is "numerically huge": their homes are big, their cars impressive and they get 99% of the TV time surely, as well of Congress and what not... they are very visible but not "numerically huge".

  • Guest - Red Fly

    This approach

    <blockquote>“What should he be doing instead”…

    I don’t know but clearly his Capitalist-Stakhanovist attitude is harmful for the whole of society. What he’s saying without spelling it out (possibly because he does not understand it himself) is: I am a good Uncle Tom who embrace the Capitalist variant of “free slavery” in exchange for some coupons (=money), which I do not have time to enjoy anyhow. If you are not able to work 14/7 as I do, you do not deserve to live and I hope that Hitler opens office again soon for the ones like you to be exterminated in Auschwitz II, you lazy bum losers!

    That’s what Roberto is implying in a sense, even if he or you, Justin, can’t accept that at face value.

    His model is useless, actually very harmful to me (and most), instead my model would give him well deserved vacations.

    I want my liberty to have a dignified non-abusive job which serves society and my own needs, preferably by cooperative and not competitive means. I want the liberty to enjoy life a bit or two and not have to starve for that reason, more so when work is not needed anymore but in limited amounts.

    Instead you confuse “liberty” with your egoism: your “liberty” of compete with me and others like the proverbial wolves and to take well beyond what you need, regardless that such attitude damages others, nature and society.

    You also confuse “liberty” with our slavery: our “liberty” to work in certain conditions dictated to us or to starve (or similar). That’s the economic liberty of the working class and no other: to be “freely” enslaved by the bourgeoisie in a vicious cycle of work-produce-consume without end, where life and joy are at the best residual elements.

    Your liberty is no liberty at all. It’s just an empty word for happy slaves who claim to have chosen freely their slavery, when in reality they had no choice. Or rather they had a choice but was not easy and demanded both courage and selflessness, and they lack of both.

    I call you Uncle Toms because that is what you are: pathetic pseudo-happy slaves and nothing else.</blockquote>

    and this one

    <blockquote>Roberto, what I would say to you is that you obviously work very hard. I will assume that you are providing yourself and your family with a strong material standard of living. It is your choice to work such hours and if doing so fulfills you, then that is your business and certainly not mine. But if you are at your job 14 hours a day, six days a week, your family is missing all the other things you have to offer them.

    Nobody should have to work such punishing hours. You choose to do so out of personal conviction, but there are many millions of people in sweatshops working such hours, or even longer hours, who earn far less than you do — and they have no choice about it. The big capitalists of the world — people who have far more than you — earn their fabulous wealth by exploiting such people, and by exploiting relatively more privileged people in advanced capitalist countries who work lesser hours but nonetheless put in long, hard days.

    Capitalists get rich by paying their employees less than the value of what they produce — usually far less. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t capitalists who don’t work, and I would never put a person like yourself who runs a small family business in the same category as a big capitalist. The bodega next door to me is run by a family, and I see them in the morning when I leave for work, and they are still there well into the night. There should always be a place for those who want to operate a small business and any community is dependent on such small businesses.

    But we should also note there is only so much space for such businesses; most people are going to have to work for somebody else. And in a capitalist society, opportunities are vastly unequal. I grew up in a middle class household where the expectation was always that I would go to college (which I did), and we lived in a town with an excellent public-school system, so I received a better education than most students. I had advantages that many people do not have. Yes, some folks do climb out of disadvantageous situations, but only so many can do that in a (capitalist) system that puts tremendous roadblocks in front of people.

    I like to look at it like this: Shouldn’t the people who do the work earn the rewards? That is why I advocate a socialist system built on cooperatives (with certain key industries, such as banking and energy, operated as state-owned public utilities). Everybody who works should have a say in what is produced, how it is produced and how it is distributed, with community input — after all, it is the community that is supporting the enterprise, and the enterprise in turn is run by people from the community. Production should be for human need, not for private profit with no regard to the greater good.

    Roberto, you may object that you put in more hours than your employees (if you have any) and that you have risked capital. That is true, but having to do so is a requirement imposed on you by the capitalist system, it is not something ordained by a god above or some “natural order.” The capital that you put at risk was undoubtedly lent to you by a bank, which collects high interest — in other words, the bank is exploiting you and your hard work. The banker did nothing but sign a piece of paper while you work 14 hours a day: Why should the banker earn such big money? Quite likely, the banker, who repeats this exploitative operation with others like you, earns more money than you do and works far fewer hours than you.

    You, as a small businessperson, is exploited by capitalists, too, just in a different way than an employee is.

    For years, I was self-employed, and had to operate as if I was my own small business and fill out tax forms the same way a small business would. But I was no businessperson — I was a worker who didn’t have a regular job. I was exploited; in fact I was more exploited than I now am with a regular staff job because I had no health insurance and I had to pay double the usual social security taxes.

    In a cooperative society, no individual must assume the risk you have taken on your own. The cooperative can do so, and take loans at reasonable rates, and by making a good case to a publicly accountable bank operated as a public utility. In a socialist economy — a cooperative economy — a hard-working person like yourself would be valuable. I suspect someone with your drive would likely wind up being elected to an administrative or management post by your collective. Your talents and hard work would still be recognized; you would still have the personal satisfaction of a job well done; and you could work fewer hours, allowing you to spend more time with your family, which would be of benefit to you and them.</blockquote>

    are both correct.

    Maju gives us the truth, unvarnished, from the proletarian perspective.

    Systemic Disorder also tells us the truth but "tells it slant."

    A sophisticated communist movement would be able to nimbly move between these and other discursive styles depending on the context (audience, setting, current balance of forces, economic trends, etc.)

    Now I know some will say that Maju's approach in this case is simply "rude" or "unhelpful" but not all Roberts are alike. Some Roberts of the world need exactly the kind of bitter medicine that Maju provides in order to shake them out of their stupor. In response some will simply get angry and stubbornly plug their ears. Others, after they get their cages rattled, will want to examine why their arguments now appear so impotent even to themselves. The uncertainty implied by the latter can be quite useful.

    There's a subtly condescending assumption among some on the left -- no doubt the fruit of liberalism's hegemony here -- that people's illusions must always be dealt with gently, in the sweetest, loveliest manner possible so as not to wound the delicate bourgeois ego. For some people that is the case. Others though need their egos wounded a little.

    Some people need to be made aware that, contra everything this society teaches, they are not precious and unique snowflakes.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    <strike>Robert</strike>Roberto

  • Guest - Systemic Disorder

    Red Fly says: "There’s a subtly condescending assumption among some on the left — no doubt the fruit of liberalism’s hegemony here — that people’s illusions must always be dealt with gently, in the sweetest, loveliest manner possible so as not to wound the delicate bourgeois ego. For some people that is the case. Others though need their egos wounded a little."

    No, it is not a matter of not wounding the delicate bourgois ego, which I am only to happy to wound. It is a matter of communicating to people who do not already know as we do. We can say it plain to people — and we should – but we can say it plain in a way that they will hear us. Are we trying to convince them, or are we trying to prove our revolutionary bonafides to ourselves?

  • Guest - Chris

    Hi everyone. I'm the black sheep, here. I'd just like to start off with the point that I'm being completely sincere when I say that it's a pleasant surprise to see so many intelligent communists such as yourself - all in one place. Apparently I've been lurking the wrong online forums as, being the proud free-marketeer that I am (I don't really like the term 'capitalist' since it's been hijacked by the neocons and fascists in government) I'm usually met with vicious ad-hominems or the like. Anyways, that said, I'm going to *really* try to get this brief, so here goes:

    Personally, my serious issue that I take with communism, socialism, anarcho-syndicalism or the like is by the very nature of the fact that they're all just one form or other of collectivism. What's wrong w/ collectivism? Well, in short, it simply states that the will of the minority (which, ultimately, is the individual) *must* succumb to the will of the majority. There are no stringent individual rights. In other words, things like genocide, racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious persecution can all be traced to the mere fact that individual rights weren't recognized. Couple that with emotionally based knee-jerk terms like "nationalism and democracy" and you have the ingredients to justify *any* level of persecution against *any* minority group or individual. Both the communist leaders of the past, and the supposed capitalist ones of today are guilty of rallying up the people with blind nationalism and war-mongering in an attempt to conquer others or their land.

    I digress.

    As for communism itself, correct me if I'm wrong, but under this system, it's all about "equalizing" the goods and services and relative lifestyle for everyone. So, taking this back to the fact that's merely another form of collectivism, when you strive for communism, you are saying that given the current system now, there absolutely are serious inequalities in the world. This is absolutely true, of course. And, putting aside the argument about how much one's personal fortunes (or misfortunes) are a result of their own personal decision, when you call for a revolution on a wordwide or even national level, you're calling for taking from one group to give to another. (ie- Marx's famous quote). Now under communism this is of course justified, as you simply just need a democratic vote, and "voila" - the 51% can vote to take from the other 49%. It doesn't matter how much personal work, effort or sacrifice these smaller groups or individuals made themselves, they are subject to the will of the majority whether they like it or not. This is not freedom. This is another form of serfdom.

    Not only that, but, *unless* (and if you are, I say, hey go for it!) you can get all the people within the area to submit willfully, you are going to be initiating violence against otherwise non-violent people. I think that if we want to be truly free, we need to get away from the idea of using the ends to justify the means; so, even if you do want to help a poor person, your actions are not nobel if that means you first aggress violently against a 3rd party and steal their wealth from them. You can say "well, they're only enslaving their workers, we're trying to set them free." Ok, great, but here's the thing: as a worker (not owner) of a relatively small business myself, I *willfully* and *happily* go to work every day. 7.5 hrs a day just 5 days a week, with 3 weeks of paid vacation a year on top of the regular stat holidays, I agree to trade my labour for wealth. We're both better off. Likewise, I can leave my place of work at anytime. I'm anything but a slave to my job. The only thing I'm enslaved to right now is the state and the taxes I must pay. Sure, some (a very tiny portion) of my tax dollars actually go towards positive things, but the gov't isn't any more justified in stealing from to give to my neighbour than I would be if I were to go to my other neighbour to steal from him to give to the first guy.fro (e.g. - robbing Peter to pay Paul is wrong - b/c even though Paul is better off, Peter clearly isn't, and I had to victimize him by stealing his wealth.)

    So, to summarize, my serious issue with communism are:

    1. It's a collectivist based system that is based on majority rule, and ultimately the will of the minority *must* bend to the will of the majority. Any semblance of minority or individual rights don't mean anything when it comes to majority (democratic) rule. You can pay lip service to standing up for minority rights, but when it means another minority (or even majority) group must give up what they have, you are nothing but an aggressor.

    2. (Again, unless you submit that only voluntary participants take part in your commune) Communism can only be implemented by systemic-based violence where finances are "equalized" and extracted (by force) and given to others. The ends don't justify the means.

    My solution? As I said, I prefer the voluntary exchange of goods and services via voluntary contracts and not aggressing against non-violent people. I realize there will always be poverty, so I encourage everyone to give as much as possible, but I would never try and justify harming one person to make another man's life, better. There will always be inequality. The only question is, are you going to allow people to voluntarily to contract themselves or force what you think is best for everyone?

    But, that all said, I believe guys like me (free-marketeers), and guys like you (Communists) do have a lot in common, specifically with our anti-corporate and anti-war views, so I'm always up for a discussion with people that I already have some common ground on such important issues.

  • Guest - Maju

    @Chris: how can be all those crimes against collectives like genocide, sexism or racism be caused by "collectivism". Has not the USA made one of the greatest genocides of history and sustained very strong racism for some 200 years in the name of liberty?

    You remind me of Mike's farmers who blamed "the Jews" for their difficulties: even if your discourse is a bit more elaborate, it's clearly wrong in many aspects.

    As for me I think that a communist society must guarantee as many individual liberties as possible, what essentially means them all but property of non-personal objects (i.e. real state, heavy machinery... what we call "capital"). But it must guarantee freedom of speech (critical) and all other relevant human rights, which IMO are a conquest of the struggles of the working classes in the dialectic context, just as universal vote is, etc. It must be organized as a participative democracy, which is probably the biggest challenge of all (but how can you have communism, not just pragmatic socialism, without real people's power?)

    I am the first to acknowledge that building a working communist (and democratic) society is fraught with immense difficulties but also that there is no other alternative if Humankind must survive beyond these decades we live through: any predatory individualist system based on greed and selfishness will unavoidably clash with the ecological limits of Earth (and there's nowhere to go out there, nothing like Mother Earth certainly).

    ... "you're calling for taking from one group to give to another".

    Call it what you want. I call it stopping the systematic robbery by that one group of elite robbers who own the state and the law and everything. We call it Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie, it's forms may be discrete and formally "democratic" or rough and ruthless but it's the same systemic scam by which the product of my work goes to others.

    We plan to stop that robbery for good. We are nothing but wannabe Robin Hoods with a political agenda, so to say: instead of patching here and there (what is effectively useless) we aim to solve the problem for good, and certainly not just in Nottingham.

    "The only thing I'm enslaved to right now is the state and the taxes I must pay".

    Aren't you moved by selfish greed and nothing else here? You can't expect that society (embodied in theory in the state, otherwise in some other alternative state-like institution) consolidates a frame in which you can live decent life and not being obligued to give something in return.

    Have you heard of the social contract? You can't escape from that, not being human: you can influence it by political action but you can't live outside society. And if you are a member of society you must abide by the rules, what includes paying taxes.

    The state is not any other Joe: it's the politically organized society: it mints the money, makes and enforces laws... you can't escape from that. But you can subvert it and change its aspect.

    Capitalist-libertarianism is the most utopic idea ever: people who believe in it are either naive who haven't considered all implications (i.e. the result is Somalia) or fascist liars for whom it's just an excuse for some mafioso profit.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    @Chris.

    Communism is not about 'equalization,' but liberation, both of the productive forces and the workers from toil. Over the long arc, it's about reducing the working day toward zero and reducing the amount of living labor in any given commodity toward zero. The mechanism is fully automated and cybernated production, encouraging in its grow by a state where the majority, the working class and its allies, are in change of the direction, rather than a minority of capitalists, as in our current dollarocracy.

    'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs' (which comes from the Bible, by the way, and borrowed by Marx) is decidedly unequal, because the needs of people vary greatly, according to their situation--family size, health and so on.

    Socialism is the transitional society for getting from here to there, operating of the principle of 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.' Again, since one's work varies, incomes will vary. also, various forms of ownership still prevail, including the kind of private ownership you prefer. You do have to obey the law and pay your taxes, just as now. But with a different class in power, the laws will be radically different from those we have now, favoring mainly the rich.

    Equality is mainly about political equality, and equality before the law. Socialism will take down any undue special privilege, of race, gender class and otherwise, and allow for a freer development of each as a condition for the free development of all.

  • Guest - Systemic Disorder

    Hello, Chris. Good for you that are willing to engage with people with a much different perspective than your own. But I have to begin by pointing out that your perceptions of socialism or communism are inaccurate. No surprise, as the concepts are ordinarily demonized rather than discussed. Let me try to not duplicate what Maju and Carl have already said above.

    The entire capitalism system wrests on robbery. I know that must sound harsh, but consider that the profit of the capitalist owner is created by paying his/her employees less than the value of what they produce — much less. (I could recommend reading the first three chapters of Volume III of Capital for a technical exposition of that; you can find it on the Marxist Archives Web site and I would imagine other places online.) That is why there can be only a relative handful of wealthy people; there must be many impoverished people for each wealthy person. In modern finance-driven capitalism, much of that created wealth is siphoned off by speculators. Wall Street creates nothing — all its money is created by enterprises that provide tangible goods and services. Financiers siphon off those enterprises' wealth and speculate with it to make money for themselves, and have the power to successively demand that the managers of enterprises that produce tangible goods and services wring more out of their enterprises (which means extracting more from the employees), so that they have still more with which to speculate.

    Why shouldn't the people who do the work earn the money? The workers of the enterprise can manage the enterprise themselves; and if the manager who becomes an ex-manager when the enterprise is converted into a cooperative wants to stay and be equal with everybody else, well that's fine. If the manager is a good person and is skilled, the cooperative might elect him/her into a managerial post; or maybe there is somebody else who would be better for that post. Only when the economy is set up to run in such a fashion will we be able to actually have a choice.

    When we go to a job under capitalism, we don't actually have a choice. We can give up our time, autonomy, freedom and personal energy to make somebody else rich or we can starve. That doesn't seem like an actual choice to me. It is an illusion that that is a choice.

    So when we work as part of a cooperative, and we all meet to make strategic decisions (which are the decisions that the elected managers will carry out), yes the vote of majority will be binding. How could the enterprise function otherwise? We are part of a society. None of us can live completely separate from the rest of the human race, so that the idea that a vote is "serfdom" is nonsensical. Force is when a powerful group (or class or person) imposes its will on those with less power. All of capitalism is force; it could not function without it. Work for us or starve. When a community gathers to make a decision, after discussions in which all are entitled to a hearing on their ideas, then we have to accept that sometimes we lose a vote. If we lose too many votes, then we can move to a different enterprise or a different community where we can be on the winning side of more votes.

    I think there would be an incredible variety of communities under socialism, and as along as they are democratic and allow for the full free expression of all, the world would be a vastly better place. So it comes down to this: Cooperation instead of competition.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    @Systemic Disorder

    <blockquote>No, it is not a matter of not wounding the delicate bourgois ego, which I am only to happy to wound. It is a matter of communicating to people who do not already know as we do. We can say it plain to people — and we should – but we can say it plain in a way that they will hear us. Are we trying to convince them, or are we trying to prove our revolutionary bonafides to ourselves?</blockquote>

    As I said, I think both approaches are correct, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes the goal is not to win over the person defending capitalism but rather to reveal the falsity of their ideas to others who might otherwise be influenced by them. It's unlikely you're going to be able to change mind of the fanatical lewrockwell/mises adherent, but I think you can prevent them from infecting others with a well-reasoned verbal takedown.

    I know snarkiness is discouraged here. I think that's a good thing. But there are places on the web where good snark and/or aggressiveness is both the norm and an important aspect of persuasion. That might be distasteful to you but it is a reality of the culture.

    I think your approach to Roberto's sincere, thoughtful and respectful inquiry is very good. But there are plenty of other instances where such an approach wouldn't make sense.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    I'd say that it is rather boring when anyone finds it necessary to invoke Hitler in a tirade against libertarians. Hitler was avowedly antagonistic to the notions of republican government, which libertarians sing to the high heavens about. When someone starts off on that approach it just brings to mind a bunch of old Stalinists ranting about "Trotskyite-fascists" or some such crap. Not a really serious critique of anything. Libertarianism is a naive ideology which basically eulogizes the era when rising expanding capitalism was satisfying the quest for living space through a drive to the west on the frontier of the USA. Its worst effect is by spreading such naivete and rewriting the history of the USA in terms of free markets and other blather. But to actually form a real program analogous to Hitler's ambitions for a drive to the east, it is necessary to set such illusions aside. Hitler certainly did that. Ron Paul fans have not. The nature of such illusions can not be made clear by accusing people of being akin to Hitler.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    It's not literally true that libertarians subscribe to the exact ideology of Hitler's Nazi Party. And I don't think we should go around saying everything that's disagreeable is just like Nazism. But people have taken this way to far in the other direction, to the point where if actual fascist shit is called out as such you get the invocation of Godwin, as if nothing could possibly Hitlerite or fascist today.

    Also, we've had this discussion before but I think one of the left's biggest problems today is that they believe that the masses can easily be won over simply by being presented with a reasonable argument. We should never abandon reason and we should always tell the truth but we shouldn't be afraid either of making use of emotion. I feel like the old left understood this a lot better than the left of today.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    <blockquote>Because of its trampling in the Ricardian economic conceptions, Marxist economic theory has also some shortcomings, among them the notion of “production”, which is a fallacy and certainly an ideological and not materialist concept, as if things could be created (produced) out of nothing, totally disdaining the fluxes from and into the environment and the basic principles of thermodynamics (energy can only be transformed, not “produced”). </blockquote>

    I'm not sure what you mean here. Can you elaborate? Where in Marx's writings is there a suggestion that things are created out of nothing?

    <blockquote>Revolutionaries must overcome that conceptual limitation and demand a Zero Growth economy, to which Stakhanovist/productivist ideologies like that of Roberto are a key obstacle. </blockquote>

    A zero-growth economy in a world of rapidly increasing population? Hopefully this is part of a long-term program and not a demand to be implemented right away. Redistribution will certainly help but an immediate move to zero-growth would be a disaster, no?

  • Guest - Red Fly

    PatrickSMcNally wrote:

    <blockquote>“In Canada, we have a better grasp of the banking industry (through government oversight) …”

    Ron Paul seeks to do away with such government oversight. Paul supported Ronald Reagan’s program which launched the process of stripping away all forms of government oversight on banks. Paul peddles fantasies about the gold standard and the disastrous Free Banking Era which preceded the formation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. If you are praising Canada for government oversight of the banking industry then that puts you on the opposite side of the line from Ron Paul on a very central issue at the heart of Paul’s ideology.</blockquote>

    We've also talked a little bit about this before but think we need to have real answers for anti-Fed people. It's not just Rothschild-fearing kooks who are against the Fed. Plenty of leftists are against the Fed too because they realize that people like Jamie Dimon don't exactly go to bed thinking about how best they can help the proletariat.

    While we hardly want to go back to the free banking era that Paul pines for, let's not pretend that the Fed's primary purpose is something other than serving the interests of the bourgeoisie.

    Tens, possibly hundreds of millions of people distrust the Fed. The internet is full of anti-Fed talk. But I don't see any developed position on the Fed from our camp. That's a problem.

  • Guest - Chris

    @System Disorder

    Forgive me, for I don't know how to use the conventional method for quoting here or to reply - so I hope you'll even see this...

    "But I have to begin by pointing out that your perceptions of socialism or communism are inaccurate."

    You never did specifically cite where I said my impressions of socialism or communism were inaccurate. I said basically that (communism, specifically) is just another collectivist system, where, ultimately individual human rights don't matter - but group rights do. I'm advocating a system where, regardless of the whims of the majority, they can not enslave or steal from the minority.

    So, that said, I'll continue w/ your inaccuracies re: the free-market.

    "The entire capitalism system wrests on robbery. I know that must sound harsh, but consider that the profit of the capitalist owner is created by paying his/her employees less than the value of what they produce — much less."

    Your first sentence is simply false. Robbery, by definition, is when property is taken from one person (or people) without their consent. I think you're simply letting emotion get the best of you and you believe that if a man agrees wholeheartedly to work for X/hr, but he's making his employer 10X/hr that that seems like robbery to you. Well, again, assuming the man is fully consenting to work, he's not a victim of robbery. This is objectively true. Should you decide to label the profit gap w/ a hyperbolic/emotionally-based term such as "robbery", well ok, you're getting your point across - but you're not being honest in your assertion. And hey, even I've facetiously said something "what, I paid 100 bucks for THIS? That's *robbery*" Sure, I may have paid a lot, and more than others were willing to pay - but I still voluntarily paid it in the end. So, I wasn't a victim of robbery.

    Now, your 2nd statement is objectively true. An employer *does* pay his employees less (usually "much" less than what they produce.) This is only logical. The employer was the one who initially took his investment of time, money, education along with his own personal skills to start his own operation. Additionally, don't forget that he massively risked his own financial well-being in order to even start his business. All the aforementioned things cost money, so of course he can not afford to pay his employee exactly what they produce, otherwise he wouldn't be able to afford his operation. Now, he of course wants to take a cut for himself. This is understandable, too. You can't deny that profit is motivitional, if not for you, but for many. Communists call this "greed", and sure some may *only* be doing it for the money, but most become skilled in their profession b/c they love doing what they're doing. That's not greed, that's passion - and there's no harm in making some money along the way so long as you only deal on a voluntary and contractual basis.

    Additionally, this (successful) business owner is bringing a product or service to the market that the market demands. So, in the end, he is better off b/c he's able to build a life for himself, but so are his employees as they can do the same. Each are better off. Also, remember, that so long as market conditions demand it, the employee has a guarantee of a minimal amount of income even in times of short-term drought. Many are happy (including myself) to forego "unlimited" profits for the security of a predictable wage at regular intervals. Though, with said, many on salary also receive bonuses (like myself). Our company even doles out not just regular, but *random* bonuses (if we have a particularly profitable year.) This is not greed, this is actually quite generous - especially since they're not contractually obligated to do so, whatsoever. But, I digress. Back to the discussion at hand.

    Finally, the customer is also better off for buying the product or service. Again, assuming they're voluntarily participating in the business. (ie- Obama's healthcare mandate is immoral merely on the basis that it ends up forcing some people who do not want to buy healthcare, to do so) But, as I was saying - everyone is better off as the customer has said product or service that didn't have before, and the business has his money for said product, and the employee has a job. So it's win-win-win. The key is: All contracts and terms were *voluntary*. The moment a 3rd party steps in, regardless of how good his intentions are, it's no longer voluntary - it's force - and there is nothing noble about forcing an otherwise non-violent person.

    "When we go to a job under capitalism, we don’t actually have a choice. We can give up our time, autonomy, freedom and personal energy to make somebody else rich or we can starve. That doesn’t seem like an actual choice to me. It is an illusion that that is a choice."

    We absolutely have a choice. You can get a menial, low-stress (and usually low paying, but not always) job, or you can gain skills in a sector of the economy that interests you and go and make a lot of money at it, and keep it, or spread the wealth, voluntarily. Like the old adage goes: "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Now, it certainly can be a challenge to find something you're passionate about - but as an adult, it's your responsibility to do so. I'm not interested in succumbing to the whims of the majority to be told what to do, via a Communist regime.

    But, choice of careers aside - the point is: you have to do *something*. I believe even one of your comrades here mentioned that under a communist regime, everyone capable must do something if they want to reap some benefits So then, if we agree you have to do something productive, why *start* with a basis of serfdom where you WILL be told what to do based on the collective, instead of having your individual rights respected and allowed to *choose* under your own free will? See, communism *is* based on forced, b/c as mentioned before, it is simply another form of collectivism. Sure, (actual) robbery and other immoralities can occur under a free-market but, at at least it's *based* on the fully consensual contracting of people and/or their property, vs. communism where, in the end, you don't decide what you may do - but you are a serf to the collective. Always.

    Also, don't get me wrong - under a true free market - communist regimes would absolutely be permitted, and of course be allowed to try and persuade others to join. Have at it, I say. It should be a choice. Co-operatives where everyone is a willing participant *can* work on a *very* small scale. But, to force everyone (on a regional or national scale) to work for the collective and not themselves; Forget it. And before you reply with "but that's so greedy", remember, I'm for persuading people. I believe you can inspire generosity in others by being generous yourself. Regardless, you're not inspiring anyone if you're forcing them to give to their neighbour should they not desire such a thing. In fact, I think you would only encourage the greedy to dig their heels in more under such a thing. Would a religious zealot who forced you to follow their system of morality inspire change in you, or would it make you despise them and their belief system even more? I think the answer's clear...



    "I think there would be an incredible variety of communities under socialism, and as along as they are democratic and allow for the full free expression of all, the world would be a vastly better place. So it comes down to this: Cooperation instead of competition."

    Well, you're going to stifle individual expression (Guevera especially hated music and artistic expression in general) under a communist system, since individual rights will always be secondary to collective ones. And they cannot truly harbour individualism and freedom if you're going to force people to take part in said system, as the collective has the final say and they will inevitably destroy the notion of personal property, and individual contracts b/w consenting adults.

    So, I suppose I may be assuming something though - when you say "co-operation instead of competition" is this based on a voluntary system? B/c yes, that does *sound* good on the face of it, but what are you going to do to me should I, and a number of consenting adults decide we want to use money and a free market system under this commune? Are you going to allow us to be free if we bother no one else, or will you enforce your form of morality on us? This is key.


    Finally, I'd like to post this again (from my original post) - as this is the crux of the whole debate, I believe (and perfectly sums up what I just said):

    "The only question is, are you going to allow people to voluntarily to contract themselves or force what you think is best for everyone?"

    It's clear here that communism unabashedly supports the latter. It does not respect individuals who decide to voluntarily contract with each other, but insists on forcing *its* will on them, regardless of their feelings. The communists may have good intentions, but, again, forcing your neighbour to do what you think is right is immoral. The totalitarian and "communist-esque" countries of today and yesteryear have tried (be they secular ones or theocratic ones) and this always results in bloodshed, suffering and serfdom. Wrap your desires in the Communist Manifesto, or some religious or scholastic text, but either way - it's still wrong to force your neighbour to do what you think is right if they are forcing no one else. That is the inherent flaw/immorality of Communism.

  • Guest - maju00

    Chris said: ... "you believe that if a man agrees wholeheartedly to work for X/hr, but he's making his employer 10X/hr that that seems like robbery to you. Well, again, assuming the man is fully consenting to work, he's not a victim of robbery".

    I say to Chris: If a man accepts to be taken his liver for peanuts. maybe to save his child or some other cause for desperation, that's not robbery nor abuse? Similarly under Capitalism there is only that much "free market" for labor, because offer (unemployed workers) is almost invariably much larger than demand. This is no coincidence: it has been planned that way in order to keep the working class submitted and guarantee that exploiters ("employers") get that 9/10 profit or plus-value (the figures may vary of course).

    And I say to the rest, specially to Mike, who opened this debate: do you really think that people who are determined to believe against all evidence that exploitation (robbery) do not exist in Capitalism are worth engaging with?

    Do you believe that it is worth engaging with people who fill their mouth with the concept "human rights" but in their mind it only means the "right" (privilege) to nearly unlimited private property?

    I think it's a waste of time and energies, sincerely.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    @Chris

    Since communism is a matter of the future, and a good ways down the road in my opinion, what it allows and doesn't allow is an open question. As for socialism, the path to it in the eyes of some, we already know that it comes in many flavors and variations, and that what is allowed in one might not be allowed in another. What's important for us is to draw some lessons from dead ends of the past, and combine them with our core values in shaping a new socialism for our time and place, something we have not yet done in any complete or all-round way.

  • Guest - maju00

    Red Fly asked: "Can you elaborate? Where in Marx’s writings is there a suggestion that things are created out of nothing?"

    In general you can see as you read "Capital" that Marx insists that all wealth or value comes from human work. He gives zero importance to what Nature does and insists that the value comes from extracting what is already in Nature.

    For Marx, as for Ricardo before him, if an apple tree (spontaneously grown) produces apples, this only matters as much as people get them from the branches or the ground: only gathering the apples and not the apples themselves are value for Marx.

    This is an obvious shortcoming that needs intelligent revision in depth. Another shortcoming is his insistence on money being commodity. This obviously comes from his 19th century perception of money as gold but today we accept that money is nothing but an accountancy mirroring of the actual wealth in the economy and not anything unrelated to the goods and services it can buy.

    I think that Marx, whose work is century and a half old (and human work, no "God's word" or anything of the like), requires a deep revision. The man obviously had many things right but being scientific means revising old theories and updating them according to the facts, even some aspects of Darwin's theory of evolution have been revised as we know more of genetics and epigenetics, never mind that the physical paradigm in fashion when Marx authored and led was Newtonian and now we are even questioning Einstein and what not... Some of the economics of Marx need revision (but of course a revolutionary revision because bourgeois economics stinks - not all but most of it, being more a religion than a science).

  • Guest - Chris

    @maju00

    I'm (just about) left speechless.

    "I say to Chris: If a man accepts to be taken his liver for peanuts. maybe to save his child or some other cause for desperation, that’s not robbery nor abuse?"

    Yeah, actually, I just sold my first born a couple months back for a new Ferrari. Such a deal. They even gave me free cup-holders b/c the child was blond and blue-eyed!! I can't wait until my 2nd born comes, so I can get rid of it for a new 60" OLED flatscreen. Also, if you know of anyone down on their luck, I would LOVE to hire them to toil in my fields for 60 cents a day.

    Give me a break. What does that comment have to do w/ *real-world* examples of the everyday workings of a free-market? Absolutely none. You are speaking in completely hyperbolic if not, dishonest terms that has zero reflection on reality today.

    "And I say to the rest, specially to Mike, who opened this debate: do you really think that people who are determined to believe against all evidence that exploitation (robbery) do not exist in Capitalism are worth engaging with?"

    You frankly won't even address my specific points. I'm not surprised, b/c I'm correct. You communists (some, please tell me otherwise) believe that you have the right to interfere among consenting adults who voluntarily contract with each other. As I said, even if some of your intentions are good, your methods of using violence to interfere with parties who are of no concern to you are despicable.

    "Do you believe that it is worth engaging with people who fill their mouth with the concept “human rights” but in their mind it only means the “right” (privilege) to nearly unlimited private property? "

    *sigh*... yes, everyone that wants to be left alone to contract with others are a bunch of greedy, power-hungry psychotics who are desperate to suck up as many resources as possible. Actually, no. But, the only ones desperate for power and control are the ones in government who use the lure of social benefits to make people dependent on the system (ie- via socialism). This does nothing but breed a population dependent on the system. This does not empower people. It does the opposite, in fact. It makes believe they need the government to get them ahead in life. You are ignoring history when you think that ardent socialism and big government will somehow break down and allow your communist worldview. Governments never, ever relinquish their power. To think such a thing is to be completely ignorant of every single historical precedence.

    "I think it’s a waste of time and energies, sincerely."

    When you say things like free-marketeers would sell their kidneys for peanuts and they're all desperate and greedy to possess as much property as possible, meanwhile ignoring my specific points, I couldn't agree more with this sentiment. You're arrogantly ignorant and frankly disingenuous in your attempt at engaging me. Unless you come back down to earth, you would be right, it would be pointless to engage me.

  • Guest - maju00

    Let's see, Crhis: on what grounds do you think that property exists? Obviously appropriation by someone(s) and defense of that appropriation by violence. Objects or land are not magically drawn to anyone: people take them... or under a legal frame (state or similar) the state determines procedures by which property can be taken and mainatained and declares others illegal.

    These laws obviously defend to those who were able to muster enough force (violence, propaganda, leadership/organization and whatever else) to grab some property, which, I insist, naturally does not exist. Actually the state is forged out of the coalition of the privileged with the purpose of keeping their status quo.

    You're telling me of "contract" between a proprietary and a disposessed, between a member of an elite with the full support of the law, police, state, economic system, media and what not... and someone who has nothing and needs that the privileged one hires them only in order to survive.

    If property would not exist and be defended within a social and legal system by the coalition of the privileged, then that worker would be able probably to grab a basic piece of land, associate him/herself with his/her equals and live much better than under the exploitation you insist on imposing to him.

    Actually that was probably (grosso modo) the order of things upon the transition towards Neolithic: people maybe began forming the first elements of possession (later transformed in property but not the same concept) of land and animals but there were not yet people who had accumulated more than they could work with their own hands.

    But eventually we got parasites who accumulated more property that then could manage on their own, so they organized slavery and "free" market-style exploitation to get that worked by people who no longer had anything.

    I reckon the following human rights: we are all (or should be) born equal in rights and dignity, so give me my share of land and property: my rights and dignity materialized.

    Thanks in advance for your unlikely cooperation.

    (To the chore: see how this is a waste of time. I just hope that some youngster reads this so he/she can learn a bit about the reality of things because neither Roberto nor Chris will).

  • Chris writes:

    <blockquote>"“I say to Chris: If a man accepts to be taken his liver for peanuts. maybe to save his child or some other cause for desperation, that’s not robbery nor abuse?”

    Yeah, actually, I just sold my first born a couple months back for a new Ferrari. Such a deal.... [more sarcasm follows]] Give me a break. What does that comment have to do w/ *real-world* examples of the everyday workings of a free-market? Absolutely none. You are speaking in completely hyperbolic if not, dishonest terms that has zero reflection on reality today."</blockquote>

    On the contrary, it is quite relevant to the free market in the world today -- and not hyperbolic at all.

    It is estimated that a million girls and young women a year are sold into sexual slavery each year. The farmlands of Southeast asia, in a swathe from Cambodia that reaches far into southern china through laos and Thailand are literally being denuded of girls in a massive trade that goes in circuits -- through Bangkok and Hong Kong brothels, to the middle east and South Korea and in many cases to the U.S.

    Parallel circuits go from depressed areas of Eastern Europe through Amsterdam, Belgrade or Tel Aviv pumping young women into the sex trade on the shores of the Altantic.

    This is a huge component of the "free market system" with all of its classic features on display: the exploitation of uneven conditions (including the extreme poverty of decaying production systems in some parts of the world), the circulation of human beings (which started with the slave trade), the perception of "voluntary contracts" (where desperate people agree to whatever gets them out of desperation), and so on.

    And this sex trade is only one of dozens of examples of the horrors of "free markets" in our world.

    Go investigate the vampire like traffic in blood -- draining people in the third world for medical purposes in wealtheir countries. In Brazil there are booths in some train stations so that people (on their way home, exhausted but still broke) can make a few bucks to feed their kids.

    Or look at the free market in immigrant labor -- crossing borders -- with the horrors of abuse first by coyotes, then by border authorities, and finally by the vicious capitalists at the end of the run (building whole industries of hotels, restaurants, landscaping, pork processing on the shadow labor of people who live in fear of capture).

    Or you can study the trade in organs -- which is not a small business in the world -- where over and over in impoverished countries it is discovered that people (desperate people) are preyed on -- to sell kidneys, and other body parts.

    Some people try to argue there is great wealth creation and mutual benefit in the capitalist system (that famous "win win" situation). But it takes a massive blindspot not to take in the whole picture: where literally hundreds of millions of people are ensnared in truly horrific exploitation. This is the story of capitalism from its bloody beginning: the miners of Potosi, the slave trade of the atlantic, the killing of Native peoples in North America, the betrayal of the Reconstruction, the bitter exploitation of immigrant workers (Irish workers on the Erie Canal, Mexican workers in sweatshops and slums). Look at the massive migration of desperate peasants in to the world's exploding shantytowns -- megacities of 10, 20, 30 million people -- where the "free market" drives them down to the edge of degradation and starvation (or below).

    These ARE the "real world examples" of modern capitalism. They are the indictment. You just have to look.

  • Guest - Keith

    Chris is correct, the exploitation of labour -- paying the worker less in the value of wages than the value produced is not robbery.

    "Robbery," as Marx pointed out when he criticized Proudhon's slogan "Property is Theft," is a legal term that assumes the right to property. How can property be theft if the idea of "theft" needs a concept of property to make sense? In other words, you can only steal property.

    Marx also pointed out, as Chris is insisting, that market exchanges are free, just, equal and fair. On the real side, the market is preferable to the arbitrary rule of Kings, it is preferable to feudal arrangements. Marx's point, is that the exploitation of labour takes place despite this superficial equality, freedom, and justice.

    Chris is also correct that market relations are preferable to many forms of planned economies that have existed in the name of socialism. Clearly, he is exaggerating the level of freedom that can be attained by choosing your job. The labour market is an interesting kind of whip. It disciplines on the pain of hunger and homelessness. But it is certainly preferable to a bull whip.

    Chris asks a simple question. How will the labour of human beings be distributed in socialism if labour markets are abolished? It isn't an absurd question.

    In my view socialism must provide more freedom for labour and individual choice than capitalist labour markets. But that is not what has happened historically. We will need to answer these questions. How will markets work under socialism? How will planning work? Who makes the plans? Who gets to have a say in the plans? etc. etc. These questions do not have easy or obvious answers, especially in the light of historical experience.

    But, we will have to convince people like Chris, many of whom are solidly in the working class, and the ideas that Chris expresses are 1. wide spread and 2. not entirely false. To simply dismiss them, at the very least, is mistaken because you miss the opportunity to sharpen your own critical sword. yes, it is easier and sometimes necessary to discuss things with people who already agree on the basics but it is also necessary to discuss things with people who disagree with you in a sharp way.

    ======
    On a different note, In #53 Majou00 writes,

    "For Marx, as for Ricardo before him, if an apple tree (spontaneously grown) produces apples, this only matters as much as people get them from the branches or the ground: only gathering the apples and not the apples themselves are value for Marx.":

    This is true but Majou00 is mistaking use value and exchange value. A spontaneously grown apple tree is a use value -- a natural form of wealth (Marx makes the distinction between value --which is a social form, or, if you like, in the parlance of our times, "socially constructed, vs. natural forms of wealth like an apple tree, a waterfall, a field of virgin soil etc. This is discussed throughout the critique of political economy but also in the "Critique of the Gotha Program.")

    Value is not the same thing as wealth and exchange value is not the same thing as use value. If I knit a sweater in my house and wear it in the winter it is wealth, it is a use value but it has no "value."

    In the example, of an apple tree that Majou00 provides, it is true that a spontaneously growing apple tree has no value. BUt, if I collect the apples and bring them to market the labour of picking and transporting the apples will give them exchange value.

    Value is determined by socially necessary labour time. Value is the form that the products of labour must take in the capitalist mode of production if they are to circulate socially. Value is not a natural form of wealth, it is not an eternal form of wealth. "Value" in Marx classical political economy is a technical term as shouldn't be confused with the way the term "value" is used in everyday or non scientific discourse to mean "something that I hold dear" or think is worth something.

  • Guest - Chris

    @maju00

    As predicted, you completely ignore the inherent violence of your communist system, and specifically my points.

    I have no problem addressing you though - specifically this one point which boils down the inherent violence of communism:

    "so give me my share of land and property"

    A-ha! Well, I do commend you for being so upfront with your desires. And so goes the song of the socialist/communist: "I deserve the products of another man's wealth!! I have a right to another man's labour!! Give it to me!! I have a RIGHT to it."

    Yes, exactly just "give" it you. Right. But, how do you propose you get it? Oh right, it first must be stolen from someone who actually produced it. (this is so sweetly ironic, pointing this out, when you decry voluntary contracts as theft or slavery - when you whole system is based on the individual being forced to work for the collective.) Not only that, but then you need a violent centralized force in charge of this stealing and distribution of wealth. You can't simply brush this off as "the people using democracy". No, you will require men with guns to go around and expropriate land and property from some to give to another. Voluntary actions? Forget it, your worldview *requires* violence to redistribute the wealth.

    Yes, land and property are limited. Obviously. The only fair way is to allow people to *voluntarily consent*. Free marketeers realize that not everyone will have everything, equally. You simply can not do that. Who has the right to decide who gets what? The people? The government? And what happens when other groups of people want to contract voluntarily among themselves? Oh right, you will come along and steal from the group to give to another.



    "(To the chore: see how this is a waste of time. I just hope that some youngster reads this so he/she can learn a bit about the reality of things because neither Roberto nor Chris will)."

    heh - funny - b/c you clearly don't think it's a waste of time as you keep replying to me. I like how you did reply to my last comment though (in general at least), as you clearly demonstrated the ironic (violent) nature of your system. Your system is dependent on keeping everyone "equal". And should one person or group decide they want to contract among themselves and garner more, well, forget it - the Red Communist boot will stomp them down.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    Someone once did a study of the wealthiest families in America and England, tracing them back, and more often than not, found the captain of a slave ship. So much for the 'free' market and contracts among 'consenting adults.'

    I taught a history class here locally, and as part of it, we discussed how 'property' had come into being in our county when, among the native peoples, there was no similar conception--they often saw themselves as belonging to the land, rather than the land belonging to them. Various tribes staked out 'traditional hunting grounds,' but these were very flexible and overlapped.

    To make a long story short, the King of England simply 'claimed' it as his, then sent out armed groups with 'surveyors' to measure plots, and 'grant' them to Lords, who then sold the grants to land speculators, who again with armed bands of men, set up forts to enforce the 'boundaries' claimed and defined by royalty by mere assertion. Hard work had nothing to do with the original holders of titles for the most part. A few poor pioneers staked out 'tomahawk claims' by marking boundary trees, and then improving the land, and arming their family and friendly neighbors to defend it. Sometimes by paying a bribe to a local judge, they could get the tomahawk claim elevated into a land warrant, and eventually a deed. These are the folks John Locke had in mind when he defined property as something men created from nature with their labor. Marx drew on Locke and others in developing his own labor theory of value, which is more sophisticated.

    But the short answer to the question is that there's nothing in socialism to prevent two mutually consenting parties to make a contract--so long as its not against the law, as in the cases MikeE points out. It would be illegal to sell your daughter in sex bondage.

    As for how one gets rid of the labor market, you do so by having workers become the owners of productive property or capital, and then associated, as in Marx's term, the 'associated producers'. They do not get a wage, but a portion of the firms profit, setting aside an amount for improvements, taxes and so on. If the firm is owned publicly, by the state, then the state leases if to the workers, and they draw a portion of the profit as associated leaseholders, but not as wage labor. In the longer run, you do it by reducing the working day toward zero, and the amount of living labor in any given commodity toward zero, all under automated and cybernated production--the markets, and the state, then wither away in societies of abundance where each gives according to his or her ability, and takes according to his or her needs.

  • Your wealth? <em>Your</em> wealth?

    I remember the debate in the last presidential election about the "redistribution of wealth." Joe the friggin plumber (a fanatical rightwing activist mascarading as an ordinary human.)

    The assumption is that the <em>current</em> "distribution of wealth" is just, fixed, natural and moral. And that therefore "redistributing" wealth (which is inherently social wealth) is somehow unjust and a tampering with what is naturally moral.

    But in fact, that is an illusion.

    The distribution of wealth in a society is highly fluid, not fixed at all. And it is only as just or moral as the overall framework of the society.

    As others point out -- African captives labored for centuries in North America creating vast wealth and living on bare diets, cast-off clothes and a tablespoon of molasses on Sunday. Should that wealth have been "redistributed"? Should there not (still today) be an accounting? Where is the justice here?

    I remember an absurd conversation once, in the dinner hole of a coal mine, where i (as a communist) was agitating that no one deserved the vast wealth that capitalism gave to a few. The foreman jumped in and said (repeating like a parrot the words of others) "You have to understand those who own these mines take the risks, and they deserve a return on that."

    Take the risks? And the absurdity could not have been more apparent: we were sitting thirteen miles from the entrance of the mine, under a mountain of rock, breathing damp and dusty air, dodging massive machinery in the darkness, listening for the creaking and shifting of rock above us. The men who ground out that coal were often mashed, often broken, sometimes killed. I once shook the glove of a coworker to get out his thumb, so we could send it out with him. I watched three dead bodies come out of that hole -- in just the few years i went there.

    And yet how could it possibly be that the bankers of Boston (who owned Eastern Associated Coal Company) "took the risks"?

    How was that wealth <em>possibly</em> theirs by right?

    It was theirs by law. It was theirs by custom. It was theirs in the perverse capitalist ideology that this foreman had sucked up like Koolaid.

    And the assumption of the owning class is that it is all theirs by merit -- by the virtue of their "risk" (i.e. their gambling of old wealth to gain new wealth), by the daily machinations of accumulation (which they consider to "hard work.")

    And to invent this upsidedown world, some very basic things have to be made invisible.

    First social wealth has to be turned into individual property. If (by law or custom) the wealth becomes "yours" -- then it is somehow "yours" by right. But wealth is created by a collective process -- through labor and skill and transport and distribution. The idea that it "belongs" to one individual is a throwback and a crime.

    There was a time when the southern half of the U.S. insisted that to emancipate a slave is (to the slaveowner) to rob him of his most valuable property -- it is a form of theft, literally. And the courageous conductors of the underground railroad were literally seen as thieves -- the same way a horse thief is seen as a criminal, stealing the human wealth of the plantation owners.

    And the day will come when the current "distribution" of wealth will be seen clearly, for what it is, a way in which a whole society can become twisted to benefit the very few. Where the decisions about our hills and valleys and air are made by power companies and coal operators. Where the transportation of a whole civilization is decided by what most benefits the oil companies and auto billionaires.

    What a narrow and flattened view of life and history: to think that whatever IS must be whatever is right. Where to question the distribution of wealth (and to redistribute wealth and power) is seen as robbery from the righteous.

    And, of course it is hypocrisy, because every waking moment of a capitalist is obsessed with the redistribution of <em>other peoples</em> wealth -- the cutting of wages, the shifting of tax burdens, the securing of secret payoffs, the robbery of whole countries, the stripping of promised pensions, the cheating of small landowners and farmers.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    In addition to the excellent points that Mike and Carl makes, Giovanni33 does a very nice job taking apart the "free and voluntary contract" myth that Chris finds so appealing.

    <blockquote>First, let me say that the idea of a free and voluntary aspect of entering into a contract is an important value that rightfully appeals to people. No one wants to be forced against their will to do things. Smacks of fascism and authoritarianism. But it is exactly this ethical basis for a free and voluntary choice of entering into an agreement is part of the ethical reason why socialists stand AGAINST the capitalist reality of so called “consent.” Its because there is no real, genuine, and meaningful consent in which a contract is entered into freely, without duress. And unless that is the case, its makes a mockery of the very concept.

    This is a good quote: “America touts itself as the land of the free, but the number one freedom that you and I have is the freedom to enter into a subservient role in the workplace. Once you exercise this freedom you’ve lost all control over what you do, what is produced, and how it is produced. And in the end, the product doesn’t belong to you. The only way you can avoid bosses and jobs is if you don’t care about making a living. Which leads to the second freedom: the freedom to starve.”

    Libertarians argue that because there is a mutual contract, its entered into voluntarily. Yes, it would appears so, but this hides structures of power and relations of domination and subordination, ignores class relations, the ‘pre-force” that initiated the system of haves and have-nots. To enter into a contract is certainly a freedom to uphold, but that alone its very narrow and completely insufficient to proclaim the dignity of the individual as a free being. In reality its nothing but a legal abstraction to defend the subjugation to existing property relations, in which those who are owners of capital, in effect get the fake “voluntary consent” of modern day slaves, which they remain behind the facade of voluntary contract theory and “consent.”

    Under capitalist relations of employment, the contract creates a relation of subordination and not of freedom. Freedom begins with equality, with the power to say no, and the equality of opportunity to exercise meaningful options. This means we need to look at economic structures rather than just political ones. To quote Carole Pateman , feminist and political theorist “the employment contract (like the marriage contract) is not an exchange; both contracts create social relations that endure over time – social relations of subordination.” This has it right, and representing employment relations as voluntary agreement simply mystifies the existence and exercise of power within the organization, and the structures of inequality within the larger society.

    Sure, an employment situation might be an example of a mutually beneficial exchange, between worker and boss. However, this does not stop the relationship being authoritarian, alienating, abusive, and exploitative, based on class property relations, and it does not mean that the contract entered into was done freely in the sense that they could have said no, for a bad situation would be worse based on who owns capital and who only owns their labor power. Simply because people enter into relationships they consider will lead to improvements over their initial situation misses that point. Its not itself not relevant. Case in point: agreeing to work in a sweatshop 14 hours a day is an improvement over starving to death — but it does not mean that those who so agree are free when working there or actually want to be there? They are not, and it is the circumstances, created and enforced by the law (i.e., the state), that have ensured that they “consent” to such a regime (given the chance, they would desire to change that regime but cannot as this would violate their bosses property rights and they would be repressed violently for trying).

    In a capitalist society workers have the option of finding a job or facing abject poverty and/or starvation. Little wonder, then, that people “voluntarily” sell their labor and “consent” to be subordinate wage slaves! They have little option to do otherwise.

    So even when in a labor market workers can and do seek out the best working conditions possible, but that does not mean that the final contract agreed is “freely” accepted and not due to the force of circumstances; both parties do NOT have equal bargaining power when drawing up the contract. Capitalism even maintains a reserve army of the unemployed as Marx termed it to depress wages, and to allow expanding business to be able to absorb it, as needed.

    Workers create all the wealth, but they don’t control it. Its privately appropriated by the owners of the property. A system put in place by force, as indeed private property is a creation of force, violence. That is why property is theft.

    But the law, we say your employer does not steal anything from you, because it is done with your consent. You have agreed to work for your boss for certain pay, for him to have all that you produce.” But did you really consent?

    If someone holds a gun to your head, and you give him your stuff, you ‘consent’ all right, but you do so because that is the best choice, the wise decision, because you are compelled by his gun. So, ask yourself: “Are you not compelled to work for an employer? Yes, your need compels you just as the robber’s gun compels you. You must live . . . You can’t work for yourself . . . The factories, machinery, and tools belong to the employing class, so you must hire yourself out to that class in order to work and live. Rent yourself our daily and hourly, and only get paid so much as they need to pay you to keep you working for them, which only happens when they need to use your labor power to create surplus value (profit), which you get nothing of. Overall, what we see is the working classes get poorer and poorer, as a class—and the owning classes get richer. This is the law of the accumulation of capital.

    Due to this class monopoly over the means of life, workers (usually) are always at disadvantage in terms of bargaining power because besides there being more workers than jobs avail the laws give power to property–and people themselves are treated as property, objects to be owned. This is the very dehumanizing aspect of capitalism that turns all relations into commodity relations. Within capitalism there is no equality between owners and the dispossessed, and so property is a source of power. That is why this power should not be left alone, it is the key, the cornerstone not of freedom but of subordination, and lack of freedom.

    Once a State has been established, and most of the country’s capital privatized, the threat of physical force is no longer necessary to coerce workers into accepting jobs, even with low pay and poor conditions. To use Ayn Rand’s term, ‘initial force’ has already taken place, by those who now have capital against those who do not. . . . In other words, if a thief died and willed his ‘ill-gotten gain’ to his children, would the children have a right to the stolen property? And from this stolen property, the fruit of exploited labor is simply legal theft.

    Libertarianism fails to “meet the charge that normal operations of the market systematically places an entire class of persons (wage earners) in circumstances that compel them to accept the terms and conditions of labor dictated by those who offer work. While it is true that individuals are formally free to seek better jobs or withhold their labor in the hope of receiving higher wages, in the end their position in the market works against them; they cannot live if they do not find employment. When circumstances regularly bestow a relative disadvantage on one class of persons in their dealings with another class, members of the advantaged class have little need of coercive measures to get what they want.” [Stephen L. Newman, Liberalism at Wit's End, p. 130]

    Tolstoy noted the shift from using taxation as the main instrument of theft to private capital:

    “in Russia serfdom was only abolished when all the land had been appropriated.When land was granted to the peasants, it was burdened with payments which took the place of the land slavery. In Europe, taxes that kept the people in bondage began to be abolished only when the people had lost their land, were unaccustomed to agricultural work, and . . . quite dependent on the capitalists . . . [They] abolish the taxes that fall on the workers . . . only because the majority of the people are already in the hands of the capitalists. One form of slavery is not abolished until another has already replaced it.” [The Slavery of Our Times, p. 32]

    To be have freedom from oppression we have to look past abstract legal concepts, and into the concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all their powers, capacities, and talents which nature has endowed them, and for those who don’t’, not to have their worth reduced to such talents, or abilities to provide something that others can find of monetary value. They should have a dignity as birthrights of being human beings within a civilized society.

    But the capitalist/Libertarian has a very narrow concept of freedom. For example, look at the argument of Ayn Rand that “Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state — and nothing else!” [Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal]

    This completely ignores the vast web of class based social relationships that exist in capitalist society which Rand seems to imply are social relationships like “the laws of nature.” However, if one looks at the world without prejudice but with an eye to maximizing freedom, the major coercive institutions are the state and capitalist social relationships (and the latter relies on the former). And, unlike gravity, the power of the landlord and boss depends on the use of force; gravity does not need policemen to make things fall.</blockquote>

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    "I don't see any developed position on the Fed..."

    The "developed position" would be that the Fed does actually help to moderate some of the worst features of a crisis of capitalism, but that such a crisis can never be resolved through capitalism. The USA certainly was better off in 2008 for the fact that things were not allowed to crash and burn the way that it used to occur in the 19th century. The reason that the US economy was able to recover under that system in those days was because the Western Frontier allowed more room for capital expansion. Without such an option in 2008 any attempt to follow the rules of the 19th century would have been vastly more catastrophic.

    It's not an accident that the same people who advocate "End the Fed!" are also the ones who call for removing the Civil Rights Acts. Both of these, the formation of the Fed and the Civil Rights Acts, were forms of bourgeois reform which did make the system relatively better compared to what had existed before. The difference is that capitalism does not require Jim Crow, whereas the types of crises leading to runs on the banks which had routinely occurred in the 19th century really are bound to central characteristics of capitalism. Those problems can not be solved under capitalism.

    Though it's not clear from how you phrase it, you seem to be asking for an analysis which treats the Federal Reserve as some kind of "special issue" in the way that Jim Crow was indeed a special issue. A special issue is one that exists in the framework of a particular capitalist state, but is not intrinsically bound up with capitalism as such. Hence, Jim Crow could be abolished without ending capitalism and this could be done in a progressive way. Any calls to "End the Fed!" which are not clearly stated as part of a socialist program are necessarily all reactionary by character.

    An honest liberal reformist kind of slogan would be "Restore Glass-Steagall!" Marxists may not wish to advocate a return to Roosevelt-era reformism, but this at least is an honest liberal position which may treated as such. But "End the Fed!" is of a different character.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    And I'd love to make a deal with the libertarians: we agree to abolish every single business regulation and every single Big Gubmint program , and you agree to abolish every single restriction on the right of laborers to associate freely with each other. My prediction: capitalism lasts about 3 weeks.

    This system, despite the absolutely delusional view of the libertarians, relies on the coercion of the state and its monopoly on legitimate violence at every single turn. Chris' rhetoric about how communism relies on coercion and violence is one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I've ever read.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    <blockquote>“I don’t see any developed position on the Fed…”

    The “developed position” would be that the Fed does actually help to moderate some of the worst features of a crisis of capitalism, but that such a crisis can never be resolved through capitalism. The USA certainly was better off in 2008 for the fact that things were not allowed to crash and burn the way that it used to occur in the 19th century. The reason that the US economy was able to recover under that system in those days was because the Western Frontier allowed more room for capital expansion. Without such an option in 2008 any attempt to follow the rules of the 19th century would have been vastly more catastrophic.

    It’s not an accident that the same people who advocate “End the Fed!” are also the ones who call for removing the Civil Rights Acts. Both of these, the formation of the Fed and the Civil Rights Acts, were forms of bourgeois reform which did make the system relatively better compared to what had existed before. The difference is that capitalism does not require Jim Crow, whereas the types of crises leading to runs on the banks which had routinely occurred in the 19th century really are bound to central characteristics of capitalism. Those problems can not be solved under capitalism.

    Though it’s not clear from how you phrase it, you seem to be asking for an analysis which treats the Federal Reserve as some kind of “special issue” in the way that Jim Crow was indeed a special issue. A special issue is one that exists in the framework of a particular capitalist state, but is not intrinsically bound up with capitalism as such. Hence, Jim Crow could be abolished without ending capitalism and this could be done in a progressive way. Any calls to “End the Fed!” which are not clearly stated as part of a socialist program are necessarily all reactionary by character.

    An honest liberal reformist kind of slogan would be “Restore Glass-Steagall!” Marxists may not wish to advocate a return to Roosevelt-era reformism, but this at least is an honest liberal position which may treated as such. But “End the Fed!” is of a different character.</blockquote>

    I just don't find this convincing, Patrick.

    Where is the discussion about the role of the Federal Reserve in relation U.S. imperialism, such as, for example, the way they've bankrupted Latin American countries by manipulating the value of the dollar, laying the groundwork for the IMF and their lovely structural adjustment programs? Where is the discussion about the role of the Federal Reserve in keeping unemployment high in this country? Where is the discussion about the obvious conflicts of interest of those who run the Fed?

    You frame things in this one-sided way such that the only people who could possibly have a problem with Federal Reserve are the Ron Paul-types. And you present a totally false choice between 19th century banking and the Fed. There are other options, even under capitalism.

    As for the Fed helping to save the system, well, I used to think like you on this, but I don't want to save this system. The truth of the matter is that this system is only going to come down when it becomes apparent to the majority that it can no longer even meet their basic needs. The sooner that happens the sooner we can set about building something worthwhile.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    "Federal Reserve in relation to US imperialism"

    Perhaps you simply are not aware that the USA was an imperialist power long before the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913? Of course any technical description of US imperialism will go through the mechanics as it involves various institutions, be it the Fed or anything else. But the common refrain among "End the Fed!" folks is that the USA went "globalist" with the creation of the Fed, and that is just a chain of Right-wing lies.

    "Federal Reserve in keeping unemployment high"

    That's a gross exaggeration of the power of the Fed. Unemployment is high because capitalism has deindustrialized the USA while spreading credit in an effort to artificially maintain the purchasing power of First World workers while jobs are shifted to the low-wage Third World. That is not a process which the Fed has any control over. The most that you could attempt to argue is that if Bernanke had allowed the whole economy to tank in 2008 then the maybe the free market would have brought us salvation by now.

    "even under capitalism."

    If you mean things like Canada or Britain where the central banks were formally fully nationalized more than half-a-century ago, they too are experiencing the same crisis of global capitalism which all the rest of us are seeing.

    "I don't want to save this system."

    Then what is the point of claiming "even under capitalism"? I can definitely understand the argument that there would be something very positive about having Ron Paul win the White House through an election campaign based on Republican voters. I always laugh when some vulgar Leftists try to tell me that Ron Paul represents a "fascist" insurgence of any kind at all. I think it would be great if every doofus who ever voted for George Bush (either one) or Ronald Reagan were to go out there and cast their vote for Ron Paul. It would mean a monumental disaster for capitalism, and the blame could be placed squarely on the Right.

    What I do become nervous thinking about is a scenario where United For Peace &amp; Justice rallies a campaign in support of Paul, and then when the feces hits the fan David Horowitz is able to document exclusively how a Leftist plot was behind the whole thing. That would completely spoil the purpose. If Paul can be elected as a Right-wing nutbar candidate then let's try to be certain that no one can charge the Left with having provided him with the rope. Let the Right-wingers hang themselves.

  • Guest - Maju

    I'll be brief because there's obviously no possible point of agreement with the Capitalist camp. This debate only would make effective sense if amply broadcast, what would allow both sides but I'm interested in mine, to help open the minds of the neutral.

    @Keith: "How can property be theft if the idea of "theft" "...

    Property has origins as I discuss above: it is the appropriation by some of what has no owner (although it may have effective users: possessors but not owners). It is theft from the common land (I mainly think of property as property of land, which essentially was there without any owner at the origin). By robbing from the common land, you also rob from each one of the members of the community - which is Humankind in the upper extreme of size.

    Individuals and families managed through the ages to concentrate property of land (and secondarily other stuff) in their hands, to establish states that defended and guaranteed such property and to enslave one way or another those who were left dispossessed from any property. At times they even considered themselves as closed castes but in the long run there's always some minor (but usually only minor) social mobility (so we use the terms classes).

    "How will planning work? Who makes the plans?"

    The political institutions of society (state or equivalent), which IMO should be as democratic and participative as possible.

    There is also planning under Capitalist conditions, mind you. Lots of it but people have nearly no influence on it. That's why we want to establish People's Power: true democracy affecting also the economy (which is central to any society).

    It's not planning vs. chaos but it's who plans, who makes the decisions on what to produce, how, what for... is it a bunch of oligarchs or the bulk of the people. The first is known as oligarchy, the latter as democracy.

    "This is true but Majou00 is mistaking use value and exchange value".

    I think Marx was wrong dropping use value and insisting on exchange value. It really shatter my otherwise shallow but more determined economical Marxism. If one is materialist, exchange value is not too important, as I see it: only use value really matters in the end: we do not eat money.

    "... it is true that a spontaneously growing apple tree has no value".

    In fact it is wrong. Even with no human intervention at all the tree is maybe feeding horses, retaining the soil in place, replenishing the atmospheric oxygen and cleaning the carbon...

    Value is not just product of human work but it is a concept of general utility. Accepting that value depends on markets and money and human work is surrendering to the ideological domination of Capitalist economic concepts (which are wrong).

    Communism needs a radical ecologist rethinking. And if some aspects of Marxist thought must be parked in the books of history, so be it: nothing is perfect nor eternal, neither is Marx (and he knew it).

    ...

    @Chris:

    I do not feel that your discourse is being sincere but rather very much demagogic. That really damages my interest to debate with you.

    "And so goes the song of the socialist/communist: "I deserve the products of another man's wealth!! I have a right to another man's labour!! Give it to me!! I have a RIGHT to it.""

    Not necessarily "me". I am not that important, say everybody else but me (just so you can't use the pretext of my alleged egoism).

    Also I do not expect the dispossessed (not me, just any other dispossessed people) to take any person's wealth but only from excess wealth. There's some few people who owns most of the world by legal and effective parameters and that is very much unfair, so let everyone have roughly the same, so nobody has an unfair share of wealth. Nobody but me: I renounce to all and I'm ready to live like a monk of the crumbs the rest may give me freely if that serves to spread justice on Earth at all (WTF!)

    In fact I like to think that I'm willing to even greater sacrifices but maybe I'm wrong. My personal rectitude and selflessness is not that important, what really matter is every John Doe's and a humankind that can finally live somewhat freely and nicely and not in a permanent upward battle from cradle to tomb.

    "... you will require men with guns to go around and expropriate land and property from some to give to another".

    Actually if you dissolve current social contracts like money and law, you would not. Private owners can't defend but a plot of land, not latifundia: they have much more that they can grab or control without help from the state and the structures derived from it such as money, police and lawyers.

    If we are to use violence punctually it will only be because it is really needed to put down the abuse and/or defend from the death squads of the "libertarians" like Miguel Facussé, landowner of Bajo Aguán (Honduras) and friend of US-based libertarian ideologists like Friedman, etc., who controls private and public armies alike against the peasants, in order to finally put down the status quo of inequality. Otherwise it would not work and would degenerate in some of those armed reinventing the system we are trying to take down: I understand that while nonviolence may be utopic, excessive militarization of the class struggles is also very risky because it creates new hierarchies.

    "... you clearly don't think it's a waste of time as you keep replying to me".

    I think it's a waste of time specifically replying to you but I'm dumb enough to be self-contradictory and still reply to you somewhat (by the moment).

    Certainly you make allegations that require reply because they are clearly wrong and even false.

    @carldavison

    "These are the folks John Locke had in mind when he defined property as something men created from nature with their labor".

    That's an idealization. Those people create wealth, not property (or only in some circumstances self-created work produces property). Slave or salaried only produces someone else's property, not that of the one who actually makes it. I think that Locke also considered slave work to be the rightful property of the master.

    The real creation of property beyond the mere natural level of use (possession) implies violence. Because you can't own that way but the small plot you can farm with your hands and never any large state. Only by coercing/scamming others not just to give you their fair share of the land but also depriving them from any means of survival (the possibility of grabbing any free land, at least not easily), a landowner can extend his (or her) ownership beyond the individual furlong or two. Property needs workers and these workers must be forced roughly or subtly to work for the elite of landowners... and more modernly also for industrial and financial proprietaries.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    <blockquote>Perhaps you simply are not aware that the USA was an imperialist power long before the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913?</blockquote>

    Yes, Patrick. I'm just totally oblivious. I thought before 1913 the U.S. was the land of milk and honey, the champion of oppressed people the world over.

    You didn't address the point. The Fed is a reactionary, imperialist institution that communists should not be defending.

    I don't know why you keep on with your right-wing straw men. Is it that you believe I'm some sort of secret right-wing Ron Paul guy? I think Ron Paul is a racist douchnozzle, alright? I don't buy into his stupid myths about the Golden Age of U.S. capitalism. I know what this criminal system has always been about.

    <blockquote>That’s a gross exaggeration of the power of the Fed. Unemployment is high because capitalism has deindustrialized the USA while spreading credit in an effort to artificially maintain the purchasing power of First World workers while jobs are shifted to the low-wage Third World. That is not a process which the Fed has any control over. The most that you could attempt to argue is that if Bernanke had allowed the whole economy to tank in 2008 then the maybe the free market would have brought us salvation by now.</blockquote>

    Actually, I'm arguing that monetary policy is still too tight (the opposite, by the way, of what Douchnozzle Paul would argue) and that that is part of the reason (a small part, admittedly) why unemployment is still so high. The reason why is because the Fed, ever since Greenspan, has ignored the "maximum employment" part of the dual mandate in favor of an obsessive focus on "price stability."

    <blockquote>If you mean things like Canada or Britain where the central banks were formally fully nationalized more than half-a-century ago, they too are experiencing the same crisis of global capitalism which all the rest of us are seeing.</blockquote>

    Where do you get the idea that I think that there would be no crisis if only the Fed was fully nationalized? Crisis is an inevitable outcome of the crisis of profitability. However, the specific character of the crisis, the financial shenanigans enabled by derivatives, came in part because the "safety and soundness" of the banking industry is dependent on an institution run by the banking industry. See specifically, Greenspan's role in preventing any regulation of derivatives.

    The crisis of profitability was artificially deepened through the buildup of leverage/debt enabled by derivatives in general, but more specifically, by the use of credit default swaps, i.e. fire insurance on your neighbors house.

    <blockquote>Then what is the point of claiming “even under capitalism”?</blockquote>

    I was simply pointing out that you choice you offered is a false one, "even under capitalism." That when some people say "end the Fed" they mean that it should simply be nationalized, like in Canada or Britain, not that we should go back to 19th century banking.

    I don't think that would solve capitalism's problems, obviously.

  • Guest - People2thePower

    Mike E mentioned a foreman who argued that capitalists deserve their profits because, by investing, they "take risks." I like to ask people, "What risk is the capitalist taking? If they lose their money, they become just like us. I guess for them, that's the horror to top all horrors."

  • Guest - carldavidson

    We take risks when we bet on horses at the track, too, but we don't create new wealth--not even do the track owners create new wealth. They just get a regular cut of ours.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    <blockquote>In fact it is wrong. Even with no human intervention at all the tree is maybe feeding horses, retaining the soil in place, replenishing the atmospheric oxygen and cleaning the carbon…

    Value is not just product of human work but it is a concept of general utility. Accepting that value depends on markets and money and human work is surrendering to the ideological domination of Capitalist economic concepts (which are wrong).

    Communism needs a radical ecologist rethinking. And if some aspects of Marxist thought must be parked in the books of history, so be it: nothing is perfect nor eternal, neither is Marx (and he knew it). </blockquote>

    It's sounds like you're defending the bourgeois marginalist theory of value. That is the capitalist economic concept <em>par excellence</em>.

    No, I think Marx was correct. Wealth has two sources, human labor and the Earth. Value has one source, human labor.

    Once you start down the road of bourgeois marginalism you end up in the dead end of Sraffa and Robinson: you undermine the heart of Marxian theory. Boureois marginalism was developed capitalism's hired prize fighters as a response to the revolutionary implications of Marx's value theory.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    @Red Fly

    Amen...

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    "preventing any regulation of derivatives."

    That is part of the legacy of the Reagan era, not the Federal Reserve as such. The Fed was founded in the Wilson era and then beefed up in the Roosevelt era. While no Marxist would ever wish to use such liberal refromers as their point of reference, it is still necessary for clarity to observe the distinctions between that and Reaganism. All of the stuff about derivatives flying out of control is the heritage of Ronald Reagan. The Federal Reserve was in existence for nearly 7 decades before the Gipper took office.

    So if the argument is about derivatives and the like, then the relevant is not "End the Fed!" but "Reverse Reaganism!" If you can. Like I said before, I can readily welcome some honest liberal who thinks that the goal should be the restoration of Glass-Steagall and a host of other such rules which were in force before Reagan took office. But this would only make sense as a campaign to strengthen the regulations which were the original foundation of the Fed, and which have since been stripped away by Reagan and his successors. "End the Fed!" is indeed a reactionary diversion from the real state of affairs.

  • Guest - Maju

    I don't think that it has anything to do with marginalism: what I say is that only use value (and not exchange value which is a mere accountability concept under capitalist conditions) matters and that it does not depend on whether it includes human work or not in inception: what matters is if it's useful to humans (from the local community and its individual members to the wider Humankind).

    "I think Marx was correct. Wealth has two sources, human labor and the Earth"...

    Marx actually rejected the idea that any value comes from Earth, he repeatedly states in the first chapters of 'Capital' that only human work make what Earth offers valuable. He was a bit too trapped in some Ricardian concepts en vogue in his age, namely the Work Theory of Value (which conceptually is very adequate for political Marxism but it is scientifically limited).

    I was not conscious of this limitation until months ago because while I had read most of 'Capital' in the past, I could not process all properly, being too young, that Marx theory revolted around use value, not exchange value, which is a capitalist concept that requires "markets" and "money", which are not primeval elements of the real economy (surely they were replaced by centralized redistribution, leading eventually to the Asian Production Mode where such system persisted).

    When I realized that Marx' theory as originally stated is so fundamentally prisoner of some bourgeois concepts like these, I realized that I could not consider myself anymore Marxist in the economical sense: I need a perfected theory in fact (although I know I'm not really able to formalize it: my knowledge is not good enough but at least I am able to formulate my criticism now properly, which is something).

    You can however accuse me of "neo-Physiocracism" because, as son of my time, I am hardly pressed to conciliate accountants' "economy" with the wider environmental flows, nowadays so deeply integrated with human real economy, of ecology, being always frustrated by the often meaningless distinction between both concepts (if you know something of Permaculture for example, you know what I'm talking about - but environmental sensibility in general will do). I'm frustrated that economy is not ecological enough or even that there is any distinction at all between both concepts.

    I'm somewhat influenced by J.M. Naredo, an Aragonese professor of economics, one of whose books I read in the 1990s. He's not a Marxist work but it is one that deeply criticizes and properly so the pathological disdain for Nature in economic theory.

    But mostly it's my own free thought based on use-value and the clear understanding that exchange value has only a tangential relation with it and is therefore quite useless for a radical and revolutionary economy.

  • Guest - Maju

    Typo:

    "I was not conscious of this limitation until months ago because while I had read most of ‘Capital’ in the past, I could not process all properly, being too young. <b>I used to think, erroneously,</b> that Marx' theory revolted around use value, not exchange value, which is a capitalist concept"...

    Sorry for double-posting but the text is very confuse otherwise. I had to correct that.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    For those interested in going through Capital, individually or in groups, you can make use of David Harvey's video lectures on Vols 1 &amp; 2, readily available through CCDS's Online University of the Left at http://ouleft.org. I'm doing it myself as a refresher course, and find in quite helpful.

  • Guest - Keith

    Maju,
    you are just confusing the concept of "value" which is derived from classical bourgeois political economy that Marx was critiquing with a popular common sense definition of "value." In Marx's value theory, a scientific discourse, the word "value" has a specific meaning. You are just arguing that your idea of the what the word "value" should mean is different.

    That is not a critique of Marx. At best it is an tedious and useless semantic argument, at worst it is a three card monty game.

    Marx sets use-value aside because capitalism is not a system whose objective is the production of use-values. Use-value are produced by capitalism incidentally. An over-production crisis, for example, is only possible because of the contradiction between use-value and exchange value. An over-production crisis is the result of a system that is only concerned with exchange value. The irrationality of such a crisis is simply that the use-values exists and are plentiful but because of the value form they cannot be socially distributed. Looking at use value in such a crisis explains nothing.

    The recent housing crisis is another example. In 2007 housing prices rose,. In 2008 the bubble popped and they price crashed. Use values remained the same, the house still provided shelter.

    "Value" is a social form. And it is a social form of exploitation and hence struggle. But it is real. It exists, we suffer under its yoke. The point is to overcome the value form not to pretend it doesn't exist.

  • Guest - Maju

    "Marx sets use-value aside because capitalism is not a system whose objective is the production of use-values".

    Maybe, although this is not really explained well and, anyhow, a scientific economic theory should need to be universal and not just for a specific and inevitably ephemeral historical phase. We would need an economic theory in which the Capitalist mode of production is just a particular case, very specially if we are to overcome such mode of production and build something better.

    You don't explain electromagnetism only dealing with the physical properties of magnetite, which is a particular case: we need a much wider and generic theory. That I miss in Marx' economics.

    "An over-production crisis is the result of a system that is only concerned with exchange value. The irrationality of such a crisis is simply that the use-values exists and are plentiful but because of the value form they cannot be socially distributed. Looking at use value in such a crisis explains nothing".

    I can agree with that, I think.

    But I feel that surplus value should be explained not as exchange-value, which is just nominal, but as use-value (although I admit that monetary values are convenient approximations, it should always be explained that they are not real). Similarly a lot of aspects of the real economy, which is bigger than Capitalism always and necessarily, are obscured or even negated because of the use of the wrong "monetarist" concept of exchange-value.

    "The recent housing crisis is another example. In 2007 housing prices rose,. In 2008 the bubble popped and they price crashed. Use values remained the same, the house still provided shelter".

    We as revolutionaries should be most interested in that use value that "remains the same". The intricacies of Capitalism are interesting but our goal is overcoming it, and that implies dispelling the veil imposed by exchange value.

    "“Value” is a social form. (...) But it is real".

    It is real only in the same way that "God" (a social construct) is real: it is part of the ideology. What I say is that science should go beyond ideology and provide universal answers and universal tools.

  • Guest - PatrickSMcNally

    This page carries a fair summary of most of the changes enacted by Reagan and his successors:

    www.moneymorning.com/2009/01/13/deregulation-financial-crisis/

    It even cites an early step taken at the end of the Carter era. If any liberal honestly wanted to advocate a rollback of the above measures taken from 1980 and thereafter, then it would surely to welcome such a liberal as an ally of sorts. But the detailed listing of deregulatory measures described on that page also underscores why Right-wing hucksters have an interest in slamming the creation of the Fed in 1913. It is like the thief in the building who when caught begins screaming "Fire! Fire!" The Right-wingers who pushed for such deregulation have a vested interest in loudly howling out "End the Fed!" That is the only way to divert attention from the mess which deregulation caused.

  • Guest - Keith

    Maju,

    Marx's value theory is an explanation of the capitalist mode of production specifically. It is an instance of Historical Materialism. Historical Materialism is a more universal theory.

    But, we only really need an economic science in the capitalist mode of production because capitalist social relation are not immediately accessible to sense perception, they are not "ready to hand" they are obscure, mystified, fetihized. That is why science is necessary. Under communism and increasingly under socialism the production of use vales will not take the fetishized form of value. But the value form is not "dispelled" at the ideological level. The value form can only be dispelled in the real field of production and exchange -- of "civil society." The value form can be laid bare and critiqued -- that is what Marx is doing in Das Kapital.

    Value is not a social construct like god. Value is not an ideological form that only exists ideally in the minds of believers.

    Value is real. It is the form that use values musty take if they are to circulate socially. Human labour power -- our ability to work-- must take the commodity form -- we must sell our ability to work for a wage, if we are to access the means of production and produce values that we will exchange for our "daily bread." Wage labour is not ideology. It is the real social form that we must enter if we are to live.

    Value is socially determined. Value is abstract (or general) socially necessary labour time.

    Socially necessary labour time is reduced by innovation in the production process -- primarily by organizational and technological improvement. And the law of value is enforced in market exchange where values produced in the production process are realized or deemed socially unnecessary (by the fact that there is no effective demand for unsold commodities).

    Capital is compelled to innovate and reduce labour time by the laws of competition -- class struggle between labor and capital and the competition between capitals. Under socialism the reduction in socially necessary labour time means we all work less. Under capitalism it means unemployment, and economic crisis of varying degrees of severity.

    Socialism, then is the conscious abolition of the law of value, while capitalism is the unconscious abolition of the law of value. In both cases, socially necessary labour time is reduced. Under capitalism the 1% reap the benefit in the form of profit and we all suffer. Under socialism we will work less and have more leisure time (and free time is the true meaning of wealth).

  • Guest - Umar Kothari

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  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    I learned a lesson about how things had to be in motion to have their value realized when I worked in a factory. One of my jobs was keeping track of inventory and preparing orders for shipment. I was always frustrated by running out of certain items, and not being able to complete the orders.

    One day I asked my boss (who was an old Red who had quit the party in the 1950s) why he just didn't have a deep inventory on everything. 'Carl, you're supposed to still be the Marxist. If I have my money tied up in 'deep inventory,' as you put it, it's not moving, it's not doing anything. All those items only have value as they go out the door. I need a very thin 'just in time' inventory. Otherwise, any money I had in inventory is much better placed in the money market, where it can bring a return. When it sits here, it's dead."

    I had read Capital and all 44 volumes of Lenin before I worked there, and fancied myself quite a Marxist. But when I started there, I didn't even know what a purchase order was. You'd be surprised at how much more you can learn when the real practice is in front of your nose, and in turn when, to re-enrich my 'second round' through Capital, when I took it up again soon after I left that job.

  • Guest - Chris

    Re: The alleged slavery of capitalism/a free-market----------

    As I mentioned before, under a true free market where people are free to choose their own career and negotiate their terms, it is alleged that because one must actually work to support one self lest they starve, that this person is simply another victim of slavery. The former part of that statement is actually true. Yes, you are *required* to work for yourself, since, if you do not someone *else* will have to work for *you.* The communists agree that work must be done, and they are either disingenuous or simply can not see their hypocrisy when, on one hand they decry the fact that one must actually be responsible for one's self under a free market, yet, under their collectivist system, this one person *must* work for the collective. Hence, they are a slave to the communist system.

    So the real question is - since we agree work must be done - shall you be required to work for the collective - or yourself? Is it not true that under communism that you can not just simply sit back when you are otherwise capable to garner the fruits of another man's labour? Clearly, if enough people did that, the system would collapse. I'm basing this on one what another poster said here - that even under communism, all capable people *must* work. Again, saying this - you are saying you are nothing but a slave to communist system. This reminds me - what if myself and another group of people wanted to willfully consent with each other under our own terms - would we be allowed, or would we be forced to continue to work for the collective?

    A free market system treats people equally, as it does not force anyone to work for anyone else. Are we promising riches? No, of course not. There is no utopia. Likewise, "Right out of the gates" you are at least not expected to work for anyone else for whom you do not agree. With that said you're of course required to look after yourself (and your family - or anyone you choose.) You may work as little or as much as you like (especially if you are a contractor or own your own business.) But, to make you responsible for anyone other than for whom you do not consent simply makes you a slave to them. *That* is exactly what is occurring under communism. The essence of communism is that you do not have individual rights; you will do what the collective tells you to do. You aren't free at all, you will always be told what to do - "from each... to each" - to condense Marx.

    Finally, under a free market, when you are free to work yourself - you're also free to find a career you *love*. I know I have, and it doesn't seem like work, overall. The fact that I get a regular salary and bonuses are just the icing on the cake. (and I barely make an avg. wage for my area). But, in the end, I can feel proud (and so can millions of others) who know that they only need to rely on themselves, *and* the free exchange of the (relatively) free market system we have in order to look after themselves and their family. Does that mean we don't need to work together? Absolutely not - far from it. We need to work together, contract with each other and do all you've agreed to do. That is another strawman that communists like to claim: That free-marketeers are wholly selfish and don't need to deal with anyone else to make a life for themself. Clearly this is false. We are only not expected to make anyone else work for us if they do not first consent to our terms.

    But, in the end, the only moral thing to do is to ultimately rely on yourself. Not on your friends, your family, your rich neighbour or the government. Be generous, but at the same time, don't expect to garner the fruits of any man's labour. That is not freedom. That is coercion.

  • Guest - People2thePower

    Chris, I don't know whether you were referring to my post which contained the quote that, under socialism, "Those who do not work, neither shall they eat." You point to this and argue that capitalism and socialism, alike, force everyone to work. But my point was precisely that, under capitalism, many of the wealthiest people do NOT work. Indeed, this is the capitalist dream: to "make it to the top" where you can live off your wealth and let everyone else do the work.
    You write that "A free market system treats people equally, as it does not force anyone to work for anyone else." This is patently untrue. Under capitalism, a minority of people own the factories, the mines, the transportation networks, the large corporate farms (what Marxists call "the means of production"), while the majority own nothing but their ability to work. To survive, they must sell their ability to work to the owning class to receive the wages (or salaries) they need to survive.
    Is it possible for a worker to "make it to the top" under capitalism? Occasionally, someone does pull off that feat, just like someone occasionally hits the jackpot in Las Vegas. But day to day -- 99.999% of the time -- the house wins. Guaranteed. Capitalism stacks the deck. That's just the way it works.
    You ask if you and others be allowed to work together under your own set of rules in a socialist society? First of all, as a practical matter, many businesses existing under capitalism would have to continue operating for quite some time under socialism. Others in this thread address that point more fully. In my mind, yes, people also would be free to set up their own businesses, but I think the overall policy would encourage the formation of cooperatives, where no one person (or small goup) owns the machines, equipment, etc. and hire others to work for them. Producer cooperatives, where the stakeholders share in the management decisions, labor, and profits would be fully consonant with the sort of socialist society I envision.

  • Guest - Maju

    Chris: you are not just required to work but to work for one of the bourgeois masters. I can't go out there get any dilapidated piece of land and build my own little farm to sustain mysef and my closest ones. If I do that I'll be eventually confronted by the legal owner (who is not using that land at all) and the bourgeois state that defends legal private property no matter how unfair.

    In fact you are not required to work almost at all: if you are smart, somewhat charismatic and have no scruples you can live in this system with a very minimal dose of work if any at all. What the system requires from you is wealth, not work, otherwise half of what we demand would have been achieved, as everybody would have reasonable work opportunities and would be paid for his/her work and not for holding stock or anything of the like.

    I just tell you that, would I (and many others surely) be unscrupulous and don't mind living knowing that people is abused by the means that sustain me, I could perfectly have chosen to live very well out of the work of others and be treated as some sort of sir...

    I just can't go with that because I have some "defects": not being greedy nor immoral enough. But otherwise, would I be "soulless" like you, I would probably have much more wealth than you or Roberto, while working much less. You just need to be outright immoral and hypocrite and get kickstarted.

    That's the kind of attitude that this socio-economical system promotes: success at any price, specially if the ones paying for your success are others.

    "So the real question is - since we agree work must be done - shall you be required to work for the collective - or yourself?"

    For working class people the dilemma is not the way you say because they are required to work in any case for the interest and under the direction of others, not for themselves. Chances are that working for the collective would be more similar for most people to the concept of working for oneself, specially if the collective is genuinely democratic.

    You are asking me in fact: do you prefer to work for a company in the hands of a minority who in most cases do not even work in it... or do you prefer to have at least some control over that company (and hence probably better work conditions, etc.)?

    That's the true dilemma for the working class.

    "Is it not true that under communism that you can not just simply sit back when you are otherwise capable to garner the fruits of another man's labour?"

    I read this as meaning no unemployment. You are required to work and you are guaranteed a job (or used to be the case because even in Cuba nowadays there is unemployment and the state cannot guarantee anymore jobs for all - but can guarantee a dignified life at the very least). You have a duty and right to work, not just a generic duty.

    "This reminds me - what if myself and another group of people wanted to willfully consent with each other under our own terms - would we be allowed, or would we be forced to continue to work for the collective?"

    It depends on the exact configuration but in general you would not be allowed to have private property of any relevance such as land or heavy machinery, so you may find very difficult to make such kind of private deals unless they are done in agreement with the community wants. For example nowadays in Cuba there are self-employed workers, who sometimes hire one other worker or so, or maybe have a partner... but they cannot really accumulate capital without limit nor have workers by dozens because the community does not want that. Large companies must always be public or at the very least cooperatives.

    "The essence of communism is that you do not have individual rights; you will do what the collective tells you to do".

    Individual rights exist because society has agreed (forged a consensus, laws) upon them. They may well be relatively natural and I am the strongest supporter of Human RIghts, begining with the right to a dignified work and a dignified home and life, but I also place a lot of importance to freedom of speech and the collectivist concept we call democracy (because democracy is collectivist, unlike absolute monarchy, where everyone is slave to the fool with the crown).

    Similarly I demand democracy in something as central as the economy, suppressing the "absolute monarchy" of extremist private property.

    Human Rights and Democracy are collectivist: they emanate from the collective. Furthermore, I dare say that they are limited political conquests of the Working Class on which the real Communism (or whichever post-Capitalist society) will be built. In this I question Lenin (or rather some questionable Stalinist interpretations of his ideas), I would say that against the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie we must build the democracy of the workers. For Lenin dictatorship only meant which class dictated terms: the bourgeoisie or the working class but I think we must emphasize that the concessions in the line of imperfect democratic representation, human and civil rights have been achieved through the struggles of the Working Class and prefigure to some extent the socio-political system of the workers. We should not insist on certain authoritarian errors (or maybe just incidents, after all those revolutions took place in an underdeveloped periphery and in the context of the mass worker phase of Capitalism, when disciplinary authoritarism was common in all aspects of society). Communism will be radically democratic or will not be.

    However, in order for me to make use of my right of free speech, I need equivalent access to the media. The reality is that the media is monopolized by the mouthpieces of the corporations an their allies... because the media are corporations themselves (and laws and decrees are made to make sure that it continues that way).

    So in order to guarantee free speech we need first to collectivize the media. We should allow anyone to create new media but we must impede that corporations control a single radio station. The exact method is debatable but it's clear that the current system sucks - and does not guarantee free speech at all.

    "You aren't free at all, you will always be told what to do - "from each... to each" - to condense Marx".

    Actually you will finally be free to tell others in equal terms what we all have to do, in each neighborhood, industry, town, etc. Full democracy for all, not just you.

    "... they only need to rely on themselves"...

    Nobody can say that. Everybody, even the most powerful rely on others. Don't kid yourself. The issue is what relationship you have with those others: are you their boss, their comrade, a collaborative leader, a disdainful parasite...?

    There are no Robinson Crussoes. Have you watched "I, Friday"? When Robinson finally loses the rather forced companionship of Friday and even kills his parrot in a rage attack... he ends alone and kills himself out of despair.

    Nobody is alone no relies only on himself. We all need others, be them co-workers, teachers, lovers...

    "... don't expect to garner the fruits of any man's labour".

    When you hire someone, you get fruits from his/her labor. More or less but you necessarily get some of his/her production. Otherwise the business would not work.

    Don't be naive. We exploit each other, we use each other, we rely on each other... the question is: this dependence must be vertical or horizontal. We say horizontal and guillotine for the absolute monarchs of the economy if need be.

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    Politics can’t be separated from economics; it would be incorrect to say one is a more important field of struggle than the other, or that one could be subordinated in favor of the other. Economy is the foundation of society and determines politics, but they are fused and inseparable, and mutually influential even when the base and superstructures functioned in relative autonomy.

    Capitalism is an economic process: the extraction of surplus value from labor. The only way to stop the process is to overturn the social relationship of the capitalist class dominating the working class. The only way to end this domination is through politics: a revolutionary process

    Individuals not of the working class can be revolutionary ideologically and practically. In other words, they can be anti-capitalist, and they can participate in the struggle against capital -- but this participation is supplementary. If non-proletarians end up leading the process, the revolutionary movement will not be able to follow through to the decisive overthrow of capitalism. The ultimate victory can only come through the reversal of which class dominates, and this can only mean the working class achieving dominance over the capitalist class. Any other class will accommodate to (or reproduce) capitalism.

    Within a capitalist social formation, no class other than the proletariat can offer an alternative to capitalism. Members of the petit bourgeoisie can fight on the side of the working class (and many of them do need to be won over to do so, if revolution is to succeed), but as a class the petit bourgeoisie can not offer an alternative to capitalism. If it retains the nature of its class and reproduces itself as a class, it will inevitably reproduce capitalism, no matter what the intentions of individuals involved. (This does not mean that individuals from the middle class can not become proletarian revolutionaries, but they must shed their class character -- their class aspirations -- to do so. Otherwise they will remain in a supporting role at best.)

    The international working class must lead the revolutionary process. It alone can offer an alternative to surplus value – collective appropriation of the means of production and the re-organization and operation of it in its own interests, with the consequent elimination of all classes, including itself.

    Economic power is the foundation of political power. Genuine political power is achieved only when backed by, and in control of, the economy (which is society‘s material basis and mechanism for reproducing itself).

    The current search for a different or new emerging revolutionary subject is a response to the difficulty of organizing the working class in a situation when workers have been subject to intense and effective ideological domination, and are on the defensive. The composition and cohesion of the working class has shifted as production has become globalized, forcing us to reconsider old assumptions about how the struggle might proceed. Workers’ movements have been destroyed, co-opted and diverted. Whenever they attempt to advance, they are violently
    repressed.

    Because of these obstacles, which may seem insurmountable, those who desire revolution are tempted to rely on other classes that are coming into motion around their own interests – and sometimes these motions are a resistance of their objective proletarization, which are also in opposition to particular aspects of capitalism or against its worst excesses. Their involvement is positive and necessary, and will help strengthen the working class in its struggle for class consciousness and class power. We should take any opportunity open to us, and strive to widen it. We don’t know how the revolution will unfold, so we shouldn’t be dogmatic or closed to surprises. But this does not cancel the need for the working class to lead the revolution and to organize itself to do so, nor the primary task of revolutionaries to assist this process. At the time of capitalism and imperialism PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION IS THE ORDER OF DAY.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    @Jan

    'Proletarian Revolution' may be visible on the horizon, as the top masts of faraway ships, but 'the order of the day?' For whom? To unite the advanced perhaps, or maybe even Greece or Nepal, but it's hardly 'the order of the day' around here. As to 'other classes coming into motion,' who are you talking about? There are some small business people coming into motion on the Tea Party right, but all the forces that are insurgent on our side of the spectrum have to work of a living, or are up to their ears in debt going to school. I think you are being a bit rigid and mechanical here.

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    Then, if your are for scientific socialism that will transition to communism you need to stop working on the promotion of lesser evil and petit bourgeois democracy and start doing the work to achieve that goal by constructing autonomous organizations of the masses, principally the proletariat.

    I keep insisting and arguing that proletarians revolutions, the highest stage of proletarians political struggle: a process that will deliver a fatal blow to capitalism, is the responsibility and the task of proletarian revolutionary in any capitalist’s social formations or dominated by capitalism/imperialism… otherwise purely and simply call it what it is a re-structuring of capitalism like we have seen in their own specificity in Nicaragua, San Salvador, South Africa, Vietnam… China when the proletarian line is defeated and more recently Egypt or in many other struggles that are non proletarians-led [Greece, Nepal]. These latest struggles need our support and solidarity but also it is important to recognize their limitations… Again, at the nowadays stage of capitalism/ imperialism the only path to popular democracy/dictatorship is proletarian-led revolution.

    If proletarian revolution is visible on the horizon it is our task as proletarian revolutionary to make it happen and real, it must be our fundamental task… DON’T YOU THINK?

    It is good to dream about radical changes but far more better to militantly work for it.
    Capitalism is rigid by depriving us of our time “free time”. But if we are serious about radical changes we need to work for it in any given conditions.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    I actually spend a good deal of my time building organizations of the working class, and doing elementary education around socialism among some of them where I can find some interest.

    But you have to deal with the working class as it is--about a third of them for the GOP, a majority for the Dems, a teeny handful interested in Greens or socialism--although perhaps more these days among the younger workers, but still not a majority by any means.

    So if their organizations and truly run by them, and not just self-proclaimed 'fronts' claiming to represent them, you're going to find yourself dealing with a lot of political trends, and pragmatic voting for 'lesser evils' is a view held by the more progressive and militant fighters at the moment, as opposed to Tea Party ideologues among the more conservative-minded workers.

    We deal with the working class history has put if front of us, not the one we wish or imagine we might have. Then we figure out how best to move forward from there.

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    So Carl, based on your own empirical data provided in post 88, it would be the task of communists to develop a political line to penetrate the working class and break/rupture the political influence and domination of bourgeois reactionary organizations (Democrat and Republican) on the working class, and simultaneously to construct our politics, ideology and political organizations at all levels. This is, for me, the primary task of proletarian revolutionaries in specifically in the US social formation, as well as universally.

    Dealing with other political trends is healthy (when unburdened with sectarianism and dogmatism), and it is part of the history of class struggle. In the late 1800s the Marxist political trend triumphed over other political trends. We need to continue on that path if we are to defeat the penetration of bourgeois ideology on the working class, for the triumph of proletarian ideology.

    Proletarian revolutionaries need to transform a reality, not just deal with it (that approach is populism) -- for the triumph of a proletarian line, which is the only path to scientific socialism.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    @Jan.

    I agree, save for one caveat I explained before. I'm against ideology of any sort. The Marxists counter-pose science to ideology, at least Karl Marx did. So yes, in our PDA chapter, we make a point of explaining the shortcomings of Keynesian economics and business unionism, since those are the prevailing forms of bourgeois ideology among progressive-minded workers, including the majority in our group. And for some, who are up for it, we study socialism and a Marxist approach to American history as well, but that is not all necessarily done as PDA.

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    I doubt KM was against ideology. He wrote a whole thesis on the German ideology. Ideology is one level of historical materialism. Aside from this, so what if he was against ideology? You’re invoking scripture to try to “prove” a point -- this doesn‘t work with me.

    I sincerely doubt that PDA, even your chapter specifically, is really progressive or does have a proletarian line. PDA, for me, is not a working class organization at any level, even at the most basic level of working class organization. PDA is not even anti-imperialist (which is a political line when implemented guarantees the unity of the working class with other dominated classes, especially the petit bourgeoisie). Please do not confuse the anti-war line with an anti-imperialist line. PDA is simply a foot soldier of the Democratic Party.

    So, genuine working class organization have to be constructed….

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Karl Marx was against ideology, He used the term as a pejorative, and upheld 'science' as its opposite. I don't treat it as 'scripture', just as a good way of looking at things. If you want to take a different approach, that's fine and that's up to you.

    But in the case of our PDA chapter, it's more than 90 percent workers and worker-retirees, about 200 of them. We are for 'out now' on the wars, for HR 676, for EFCA, for full employment bills and green jobs, starting with where they are most needed, and debt relief for students. Those are the planks in our platform--we don't have a 'proletarian ideology' and aren't looking for one.

    But that still doesn't match up with your neoPlatonic notion of a 'correct proletarian line' or 'correct anti-imperialist line'. That's why you're forever 'stuck inside a mobile, with the Memphis blues again...' I've had plenty of experience with your approach in days gone by, and never got very far organizing actual workers with it. I'll stick with our current one.

  • Guest - Chris

    @ Maju

    (sorry everyone - this is quite long! I appreciate the space, however.)

    “Chris: you are not just required to work but to work for one of the bourgeois masters.”
    “Bourgeois Masters” – using terms like is just another emotionally charged and hyperbolic term that is typical among the communists. You make it sound as if they’re cracking a whip, laughing hysterically as their minions toil for them. No, this is not the general rule at all. Thank to competition among employers, they do not operate in such a manner. As I mentioned, I (and millions like me) are *happy* to do what we do for work. I’m happy to enrich my boss, b/c he provides a steady, stable income (along w/ bonuses) for me. Again, it’s win-win. I can leave anytime and find something else I’d rather like to do. (such as work for myself, for instance.) For now, I’m happy here. Unlike the communist system, where not only are you always working for the collective, you are being *told* what do and *when* to do it. You aren’t free to choose how you’d like to take responsibility for yourself. B/c, as we both agree: Work *must* be done. I’m advocating for personal responsibility and choice; you are advocating for being told by the collective what to do – along with being dependent on the system, itself.
    “I just tell you that, would I (and many others surely) be unscrupulous and don’t mind living knowing that people is abused by the means that sustain me, I could perfectly have chosen to live very well out of the work of others and be treated as some sort of sir…”
    You are describing communism, here. It’s not based on the free exchange of labour for money and services. It’s based on you being a completely non-autonomous drone for the collective. You are *not* allowed to work for yourself. You are *not* allowed to contract yourself out to work for others. You *are* essentially property of the collective as they tell you what to do. You *should* feel bad if you are living under such a system, as you are forcing others to work for you. I really can’t make it any more clearer than that.
    “I just can’t go with that because I have some “defects”: not being greedy nor immoral enough. But otherwise, would I be “soulless” like you, I would probably have much more wealth than you or Roberto, while working much less. You just need to be outright immoral and hypocrite and get kickstarted.”
    Please – come down from your high-horse, sir. Did you really just call me “soul-less”? Well, ad-hominems aside – I don’t see what’s soul-less about allowing people to decide who they would like work for – themselves, or others. You, on the other hand should look at yourself and ask: “it is really moral to force my neighbour to work for me, if he doesn’t want to?” This is the inherent immorality of communism. Again, even if you’re intentions are good – the ends don’t justify the means.



    I said: “So the real question is – since we agree work must be done – shall you be required to work for the collective – or yourself?”
    You said: “For working class people the dilemma is not the way you say because they are required to work in any case for the interest and under the direction of others, not for themselves.”
    This is where I was talking about the hypocrisy. By definition, under communism you are *always* working for others. *Always*. You have *no* choice. You *will* work for the *collective’s* interest, not your own. If you don’t like it. Too bad. You have no individual rights. You will do what they say. Yet, you turn around and try and criticize this about the free-market?
    It’s getting tiresome repeating myself: We both agree work must be done. So, to claim that b/c you have to work under a free market, that you’re a slave. No, you’re not – as the goods and services *must* be produced by someone. Under a free market, you can choose to work for yourself – or others. So long as everyone agrees to the terms of the contract.
    “ Chances are that working for the collective would be more similar for most people to the concept of working for oneself, specially if the collective is genuinely democratic.”
    Hmmm, interesting. I’m not sure if you’re trying to convince yourself of this – or others. But, at least it seems, you can see a problem of being forced to always work for the collective under a communist system.
    I wouldn’t totally disagree, either. Co-ops can be great. They *can* work, IF all involved are completely wilfully working for it. But, that said, the larger a company gets (and the more specialized it becomes), the co-op idea starts to fail. Imagine trying to run a massive engineering firm where every single worker is on completely even ground, w/ no bosses or the like? I’m talking on the level of several hundred, or thousand people. Personally, I work in a related industry (suburban planning), and I can tell you that given everyone’s different abilities and specialities, it would simply be destructive for the company itself should there be no structure or positions where people have varying levels of say. The printer guy (while important) whose job it is to print drawings has nowhere near the expertise or knowledge of the engineer responsible for designing underground sanitary and sewer infrastructure. Should they each have the same say, the company would come to a stand-still and inevitably collapse. It’s not saying the printer guy is less of a person, but he simply does not have the skills necessary to design underground infrastructure. Ergo, he logically can not have the same power in his position.


    “You are asking me in fact: do you prefer to work for a company in the hands of a minority who in most cases do not even work in it… or do you prefer to have at least some control over that company (and hence probably better work conditions, etc.)?”

    No, I’m not. Don’t twist my words. I’m asking if you are required to (in the end) be dependent on yourself or the group. Are you free to work for yourself and others, or will always have to work for the collective regardless of your feelings? The latter is true under communism.
    “That’s the true dilemma for the working class.”

    Curious: Do you always think of terms as them and us? I mean, you speak as though the ‘working class’ are a bunch of helpless drones, never able to “rise up” and be powerful. Everybody starts at the bottom (lest you’re in government, or, in the rare exception have rich family.) But there are numerous cases of immigrants especially coming over, seemingly destitute and building a life for themselves. Not just a family and a decent income, but building a very successful company bringing jobs and wealth for others. Regardless, if you really think it’s a “us vs. them” mentality, and that you’re never going to get out of it – I feel sorry for you. You *can* build yourself up; start your own business; and help others by hiring them or even just being charitable and giving to them.
    Me - “Is it not true that under communism that you can not just simply sit back when you are otherwise capable to garner the fruits of another man’s labour?”
    You – “I read this as meaning no unemployment. You are required to work and you are guaranteed a job (or used to be the case because even in Cuba nowadays there is unemployment and the state cannot guarantee anymore jobs for all – but can guarantee a dignified life at the very least). You have a duty and right to work, not just a generic duty.”
    You didn’t answer my question. (again.) But, ok… So, are you really suggesting that Cuba has better living conditions for the middle class (the tiny, tiny one that does exist) than say the US or Canada? Really? Oh my. And you’re calling me naïve? Whew, good sir. There’s next to no middle class, and argue that point all you want, proportionally it’s *way* smaller than any Western (relatively) free-market based economy. It’s not even close.

    “It depends on the exact configuration but in general you would not be allowed to have private property of any relevance such as land or heavy machinery, so you may find very difficult to make such kind of private deals unless they are done in agreement with the community wants. For example nowadays in Cuba there are self-employed workers, who sometimes hire one other worker or so, or maybe have a partner… but they cannot really accumulate capital without limit nor have workers by dozens because the community does not want that. Large companies must always be public or at the very least cooperatives.”

    Well, I appreciate it. You did actually answer my question this time. So, yes, you’re *always* going to be a slave to what the community wants. You are never free to gather together with other like-minded individuals and work among yourselves. That’s not freedom sir, that’s slavery to the system.
    “Individual rights exist because society has agreed (forged a consensus, laws) upon them. They may well be relatively natural and I am the strongest supporter of Human RIghts,”

    Please don’t say you support human rights. You are ok with forcing your neighbour, or their neighbour to work for you or someone else. That’s a total disregard for people’s right to be free from slavery or serfdom.
    “ begining with the right to a dignified work and a dignified home and life,”

    First of all, you can’t objectively define, “dignified”. While, yes, it would be nice to guarantee this, when you do so, you are only again supporting the idea that people must be coercively made to work for others regardless of how they actually feel.
    I won’t get into the specific problems of the logistics of “Guaranteeing” a home and such for people, but if you look at reality – whenever this has been tried on a massive scale (nationally) – it always results in relatively equal poverty for everyone.

    “but I also place a lot of importance to freedom of speech”
    Then you should hate communism – with a passion. Yes, Canada/US/UK are having serious losses of civil liberties (another topic), but look at any country that even approaches real socialism or communism: China, Cuba, North Korea – they all have serious, serious restrictions on freedom of speech. Communist leaders are notorious for hating the freedom of speech. This is not even debatable.

    “ (because democracy is collectivist, unlike absolute monarchy, where everyone is slave to the fool with the crown).”

    I have the utmost disdain for the monarchy. That’s one thing about Canada I despise. We agree it’s a horrendously bad and immoral system. There is not even democracy. Kings and Queens are simply born into power and wealth and always live off the work of others, via taxation.
    “Similarly I demand democracy in something as central as the economy, suppressing the “absolute monarchy” of extremist private property. “
    Again, you don’t have true human rights under a purely democratic/communist system. You will *always* do what the collective says. You only have so many rights as what the collective says. This can all change on mere whims of said collective.
    “Human Rights and Democracy are collectivist: they emanate from the collective.”

    You have a seriously misguided view, here. Human rights treat everyone equally. Regardless of race, creed, sexuality, nationality, etc. You don’t get your rights b/c you’re a member of a special group. (gay, straight, man, woman, etc.) You get your rights simply by being born human. Human rights can not simply be based on democracy, b/c, the moment you do vote to give someone special rights – you can also vote to take them away. You’re not truly recognizing their inherent rights – but merely collectively based ones. This is what’s responsible for things like racism, slavery, etc. etc. One class sees the other class as disposable. They use democracy either formally (via a vote), or informally (by mere fact they are more powerful) – and take advantage or abuse the minority class. They’re all equal. Democracy has no say on their inherent value.

    Furthermore, I dare say that they are limited political conquests of the Working Class on which the real Communism (or whichever post-Capitalist society) will be built. In this I question Lenin (or rather some questionable Stalinist interpretations of his ideas), I would say that against the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie we must build the democracy of the workers. For Lenin dictatorship only meant which class dictated terms: the bourgeoisie or the working class but I think we must emphasize that the concessions in the line of imperfect democratic representation, human and civil rights have been achieved through the struggles of the Working Class and prefigure to some extent the socio-political system of the workers. We should not insist on certain authoritarian errors (or maybe just incidents, after all those revolutions took place in an underdeveloped periphery and in the context of the mass worker phase of Capitalism, when disciplinary authoritarism was common in all aspects of society). Communism will be radically democratic or will not be.
    “However, in order for me to make use of my right of free speech, I need equivalent access to the media. The reality is that the media is monopolized by the mouthpieces of the corporations an their allies… because the media are corporations themselves (and laws and decrees are made to make sure that it continues that way).”
    It’s great how the Main-Stream Media is dying. I love how online-based media outlets are growing. And, we agree, the (MSM) at least is dominated by a disproportionately high level of government officials and private individuals. But, as I just said, their mouthpieces in the MSM are dying. The free market/free choices of the individual are helping to break the MSM’s of historically owning the media.
    We would also agree that media outlets should never, ever have any government support or bailouts.
    “So in order to guarantee free speech we need first to collectivize the media. We should allow anyone to create new media but we must impede that corporations control a single radio station. The exact method is debatable but it’s clear that the current system sucks – and does not guarantee free speech at all.”
    Yes, I generally agree. As I just said, we can start by severing the ties between certain MSM outlets and government. Many of them receive direct support via gov’t welfare or bailouts.
    Me - “You aren’t free at all, you will always be told what to do – “from each… to each” – to condense Marx”.
    You – “Actually you will finally be free to tell others in equal terms what we all have to do, in each neighborhood, industry, town, etc. Full democracy for all, not just you.”

     I got a great chuckle out of this… talk about spin! Yes, you’re free to “tell others” what to do, essentially. Yes, you’re “free” to force others to do your bidding, regardless of their individual feelings. This is not freedom, this is coercion, sir.
    “… they only need to rely on themselves”…
    “Nobody can say that. Everybody, even the most powerful rely on others. Don’t kid yourself. The issue is what relationship you have with those others: are you their boss, their comrade, a collaborative leader, a disdainful parasite…?”
    You’re conveniently ignoring my comment where I refute this common strawman that communists like to throw out. Perhaps I should clarify myself, though. I said you need to work with others (trade/buy/sell/contract) in order to have any kind of life in society. However, ultimately, in the end – you are responsible for you (or, anyone you choose to be.). Under communism, you are responsible for the collective. You’re just a cog in the wheel. And you have no choice of who you want to work for.
    There are no Robinson Crussoes. Have you watched “I, Friday”? When Robinson finally loses the rather forced companionship of Friday and even kills his parrot in a rage attack… he ends alone and kills himself out of despair.
    “Nobody is alone no relies only on himself. We all need others, be them co-workers, teachers, lovers…”

    I know. As I just explained: *Ultimately* you can only left to be made responsible for yourself (and anyone else you want to help.) Free markets teach individual responsibility and sustainability. Communism teaches sub-servience and dependence on the system.
    “… don’t expect to garner the fruits of any man’s labour”.
    “When you hire someone, you get fruits from his/her labor. More or less but you necessarily get some of his/her production. Otherwise the business would not work.”

    Absolutely! So long as they want to actually work for you, and you each agree on the terms of the contract – this is what’s beautiful about the free market. You can do what you love. Not what the collective wants you to do.
    (Individual) Choice is good. The shame is that it can not exist under communism.
    “Don’t be naive. We exploit each other, we use each other, we rely on each other… the question is: this dependence must be vertical or horizontal.”

    I’m going to refrain from outright laughter. Naïve? Sir, what’s naïve is when you look at any recent or past example of a communist (or communist-esque) country, look at how the elite live in riches, while the rest live in basically total poverty thinking that, “just this one time, if they just did communism *my way* it would work! Really!” No. It won’t. It never will. Coercion and force doesn’t work.
    I don’t know about you, but I don’t exploit anyone, knowingly. Please don’t throw that term around, either. If I decide to hire someone to clean my yard or if I sell to someone for a profit – I only do so under agreed-upon terms. I realize communists hate profit and the boss/worker relationship, but simply calling that “exploitation” does not make it so.


    “We say horizontal and guillotine for the absolute monarchs of the economy if need be.”
    Again, under a free market, should you decide to run a co-op or even a communist system on your own property – that’s your business. The freedom to live under your own collectively based system is there, if you’d like.
    I’m not sure about the latter part of your comment. You want to kill the elite? Well, I don’t think that throwing the first stone would be a wise idea. That will only give them more excuses to further crush the common man. Solution? Well, that’s entirely new thread – and I am about out of fuel, for now. Speaking of being out of fuel, I’m off from lunch, and I didn’t have time to edit, so I apologize for any grammatical and syntax errors.
    But, I believe I’m done, anyway. I’ve said all I can say, as I’ve already repeated myself anyway. We agree work must be done: The only question is do you want to work for the collective and always do what they say? (Communism). Or do you want to work with others, on a voluntary basis and work for yourself (or whomever you choose?) (Free-market). I prefer the freedom to decide on my own.

  • Guest - Chris

    Again, apologies for the above - as I wrote it in a word processing program; and pasted it here, but the formatting didn't turn out as nicely here. I hope it's not too hard to read.

  • Guest - queermarxist

    Chris,

    I'm not going to respond quote-by-quote, as I'd like to avoid getting into a massive quote stack, so I'm going to try to condense your position to argue against it. Forgive me if in the process of this simplifying I destroy an important point.

    Your argument seems to be as follows:

    1. Maju argues that capitalism isn't free because you are forced to work
    2. But under socialism you have to work as well
    3. All other things being equal, the ability to choose the terms of one's work under capitalism makes it superior to working for “the collective”
    4. Therefore, capitalism is a preferable system in this regard

    Whether or not Maju argues differently, I think the direction the argument has taken doesn't correctly apprehend the nature of the “you have to work under capitalism” argument. This is a very specific effort to undermine the idea that capitalism is “free” while socialism isn't. Even if juridically/de jure you are not compelled by any law to work, or for any specific employer, the concrete reality is that one is coerced by the social structure to work, to participate in market exchange, in order to survive. I have to sell my labor-power to live, and I have to sell it as a commodity for market exchange, which is a specific form of organizing society's labor. No one disputes that work has to be done.

    Your argument is that at least under capitalism, you are free to choose whom you sell your labor-power to, while under socialism, you have to work “for” the collective. While in some sense it is true that we work “for” the collective, there is an equivocation taking place between the capitalist sense of “work for” and the socialist one. Under capitalism, to work for, again, means to sell one's ability to work as a commodity on a market. When we work “for” the collective, it is not analogous, as we are not selling our ability to work to some alien entity called “the collective.” In capitalism we already work “for the collective” in this sense, as production is largely socialized. As certain capitalist economists like to say, no one person makes a pencil; it is a massive, coordinated process involving many different people doing many different tasks. There are people who have to get the wood (which is a whole, coordinated, collective endeavor in itself), to ship it (and to crew the ship which transports it, and to build that ship...), to shape it, to paint it....the sheer number of people and activities involved if we trace the origin of the pencil back to raw, unshaped nature is simply staggering.

    What socialism would do is eliminate the “middle man” of one's labor taking a commodity form, which is what allows exploitation to take place and what allows the logic of profit to direct the general orientation (the form, not just the content) of our collective labor, rather than rational plans and aspirations. When our ability to labor takes the form of a commodity, its primary value comes to reside in its value as a product to be traded and consumed, rather than the genuinely human power to shape our world.

    I can actually understand where you're coming from, with your fears of “working for the collective,” because life under capitalism is quite alienating. It is very difficult to conceive that labor could take a form other than a commodity to be sold to capitalists, so we tacitly and unconsciously figure that since labor has to take the form of a commodity to sell to people, we may as well have liberal capitalism where we can at least choose the content of this commodity form. The problem with this “critique” of socialism is of course that tacitly it does not step outside the logic capitalism itself, such that this “critique” ends up in effect being more applicable to monopoly capitalism or corporatism than socialism.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    There's an experiment that could serve to answer this matter. There are 120 or so worker-owned firm in the Mondragon Coops--one worker, one share, one vote. When I asked workers there if they would shift to a capitalist-owned factory if they were offered 10% more in income, the answer was. 'No! There's more to it than that. Here I have job security, and a vote, a say in what our company does." There may be a handful who would take the offer, but not many.

    As it is, the MCC worker-owners live at about 110% of the average in the area. The only ones that take a huge cut over what they could earn elsewhere are the managers, who on average make about 4.5 times the amount of newcomers. They could easily triple that elsewhere, but they stay because of the satisfactions of the 'social mission and vision.'

    For some folks, MCC is like a Platypus--convention theories say it's a hoax and not supposed to exist. But just like the Platypus, it doesn't know it's a 'mistake' or 'wrong line.' It just continues to thrive.

    Karl Marx actually had something to say about the matter, anticipating MCC: Keith and I came across this in Das Kapital, chapter 27 of volume 3. It may be of use or interest, not only the coops, but in efforts to make state banks as well, like the Bank of North Dakota:

    "The co-operative factories of the labourers themselves represent within the old form the first sprouts of the new, although they naturally reproduce, and must reproduce, everywhere in their actual organisation all the shortcomings of the prevailing system. But the antithesis between capital and labour is overcome within them, if at first only by way of making the associated labourers into their own capitalist, i.e., by enabling them to use the means of production for the employment of their own labour. They show how a new mode of production naturally grows out of an old one, when the development of the material forces of production and of the corresponding forms of social production have reached a particular stage. Without the factory system arising out of the capitalist mode of production there could have been no co-operative factories. Nor could these have developed without the credit system arising out of the same mode of production. The credit system is not only the principal basis for the gradual transformation of capitalist private enterprises into capitalist stock companies, but equally offers the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale. The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other."

  • Guest - queermarxist

    Thanks for the reference Carl, you made me want to pull out Capital again to check out that chapter.

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    Now, CD, come on… Your post 96 missed a very important thing in the so-called “anticipation” of KM. One of the requirement elaborated by KM at the end of this very passage is that the class antagonism is resolved negatively for one: the capitalist class… and positively for the other: the working class. Only revolution led by the working class could objectively address and resolve that antagonistic contradiction in the interest of the working class. Thus revolution must be the order of the day for the proletarian revolutionary. Otherwise KM should be criticized for deviating from Marxism (Proletarian Theory).

    Any effort to escape the dominant production relations (or to overwhelm them with the growing presence of a co-existing attempt at an alternative) without decisively overturning these relations will not work, but will transform itself to a bourgeois experience and integrate a form of bourgeois relations in production, like many other co-ops has already proven.

    Under the domination of capitalism, the Mondragon co-ops can not escape capitalism’s laws of competition and expansion. It is utopian to think that there is a way to retreat from the need to overthrow the overall production relations. If that were true, we should all be joining and starting communes and “intentional communities” now, which do exist in the U.S. (but which are subject to the same laws). They still have to compete in the wider market, where the laws of surplus value still rule and can not be denied. Producers may be more involved in the decision-making processes, but this means cooperating with and coordinating their own exploitation. It is in the nature of the petit bourgeoisie to strive to make their own exploitation a bit more comfortable. This is not the path to liberation.

    After the Commune, KM and others seriously disrobed themselves of their reformism on their path of becoming proletarian revolutionaries. You really missed that historical part of the evolution of KM.

    I have argued many times here the fact that having workers in an organization doesn’t make that organization a working class organization. If it did, then the bureaucratic unions AFL-CIO/Teamsters should be considered as such. For me, working class organizations that have a proletarian line are organizations that are primarily militating at all levels of organization (mass level and revolutionary level) for the antagonistic contradiction of labor and capital to be resolved in the interest of labor, under the leadership of working class. Now each level of working class organization is to articulate a political line, collectively and democratically, correspondent to their level, to organize struggle to guarantee all the transitional forms (scientific socialism) to all the associated ones (communism) leading to a classless society.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    @Jan

    And who defines the 'proletarian line'? I know for a certainty that it's not written down somewhere for our country. So by your lights, then, there are no workers organizations in the entire country, save perhaps one where your views are in command. That's the problem when you drift into metaphysics. I'll go along with the USW, the Teamsters and others as workers organizations, even as the politics covers a wide range. We simply do not share a 'universe of discourse' on the matter.

    As for coops, I would agree that coops are not going to get us to socialism by multiplying, like mushrooms after the rain. They are simply one arrow among many in our quiver that we can use in waging a war of position, especially on the economic front. But we also need many other 'arrows'--trade unions, political parties, community organizations, cultural groups and so on.

    But you're wrong on one matter about the MCC-style coops. They don't suffer from the same 'expand or die' logic of regular firms. If a coop doubles its business by doubling its worker-owners, each still gets the same amount, since the share of the bigger pie is divided by a larger number. They may want to expand for other reasons, but not because the individual worker-owner will make more money if they do. Thus they have a different dynamic.

    In any case, I see them mainly as a school for learning that workers can be masters, and have no need of parasitic capitalist to do well. It's one one lesson among many, but an important one.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    @Carl

    <blockquote>In any case, I see them mainly as a school for learning that workers can be masters, and have no need of parasitic capitalist to do well. It’s one one lesson among many, but an important one.</blockquote>

    I agree. And I think your overall understanding of coops is commendably realistic. But I've been reading a lot of stuff lately from people who unfortunately do have this utopian/petty bourgeois/pacifist view that the "real revolution" is building up Mondragon-style coops and somehow, magically, displacing the leading role of the traditional business firm and even capitalism itself. We need to make it our business to dispel such illusions, don't you think?

    Carl, I think your politics are better than some would give you credit for. I respect the Solidarity Economy stuff you're doing. I respect what little I know of your past work (just from the stuff you've talked about here.) But for the life of me, Carl, I can't figure out why you would want to support the Democratic Party in any way, shape or form. The thing is -- and we've talked about this before -- you and I largely agree on the reactionary character of this organization. But your justification turns on the idea that "Well, that's where the workers are." And I'm looking at this and thinking that this is less and less the case. This is a party, Carl, that is rapidly losing legitimacy in the eyes of its social base. That's the real hope and change that Mr. Obama has brought to us, Carl. People I talk to who've been lifetime Democrats are telling me that they plan on not voting this election. Others tell me they'll vote for Obama but only under the lesser evil rationale. No one believes in this organization anymore, Carl. The Wisconsin recall showed just how little enthusiasm there is for this gang. And yet, Carl, you still insist on organizing around the Democrats, making phones calls for them, knocking on doors for them, voting for them. Why oh why, Carl, do you persist in this madness?!

    We should follow Nietszsche's dictum here and give a strong push to what is falling.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    The Wisconsin recall shows 36 percent of union workers voting GOP, about the same as around here. Yes, the more progressive-minded are discouraged with the regular Dems, more so now than four years ago. But only a teeny handful would break entirely, perhaps 2 percent, as voted for LaBotz in Ohio. (That 2% is important, and I wish I had a list of all 20,000 of them, and a similar one here in PA). We need a Left Front to run some socialist candidates statewide. But meanwhile, I work with PDA, and independent PAC that operates among Dem voters in the working class. It's our 'party within a party', so to speak, anticipating the day the Dems really do implode.

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    @ Carl,

    The appropriation of Marxism/Proletarian Theory will help us define a proletarian line in any given specific capitalist objective reality. The quote of KM that you cited in comment #96 is a perfect example of the application of a general theory of a proletarian line to any given specific objective reality, for it to be radically transformed by the workers for the reproduction of their interests. So, the proletarian line is simply a line guiding the workers at all levels: politically, economically, ideologically -- and at all organizational levels, as well -- in the struggle to weaken and topple capitalism.

    KM defines it quite correctly (with limitations) in your posted quote. I must clarify that there is no general proletarian line (since the objective reality of each social formation is very specific and tends to develop based on its own contradictions), but we do need to recognize the existence of some general rules and principles to be applied in any given social formation, for the construction and reproduction of a proletarian line. The quote of KM elaborated some of these:
    • “… the way of making the associated labourers into their own capitalist…” simply means the working class will need to take power or otherwise the reproduction will be a capitalistic reproductions. The working class themselves [class autonomy and leadership] “represent within the old form the first sprout of the new…” that will only guarantee the capacity of the working class in that transition process to overcome all the shortcomings [class struggle] and “the antithesis [class antagonism] between capital and labour is overcome...” So CD, the implication is that the construction of a proletarian line will require of us to recognize the autonomy of the working class, and most importantly, its leadership role. The working class becomes a dominant class guaranteeing the transition.
    • The relations of capitalist production to the capitalist credit systems are one of the small crack open in our understanding of imperialism. Again now CD, this indicates the importance of an anti-imperialist struggle on a global scale, led by a proletarian line.
    • The primary requirement for KM of the co-operative factories that is coming out of the old means REVOLUTION. Otherwise, as he clearly elaborated, they will naturally reproduce and must reproduce… and, for me, will become a form of production of capitalism.

    Some general rules for the constructions of a proletarian line:

    • The hegemonic role and leadership role of the working class in the revolutionary struggle against capital and the capitalist class.
    • All organizations of the working class at all levels are geared to struggle against capital.
    • Mass level organizations are to weaken it.
    • Revolutionary levels are to destroy it.
    • Proletarian class autonomy and independence within the unity of the people’s camp, which must be under the leadership of the working class.
    • An analysis of the capitalist mode of production is itself simultaneously the definition of a political line to destroy capitalism.

    BTW, thank you for posting this quote. It helps consolidate the important contribution of this prior revolutionary to the revolutionary science of proletarian struggle against capitalism: “The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other.” In any other case this would be putting the cart before the horses.

    This simply means proletarian revolution is the order of the day.

    I will not discuss some of the positions attributed to me, since they are not actually my positions. But to clarify: we are not actually debating, yet, a political line. Our exchanges has been mostly at the level of theoretical discussion. Fundamental differences are preventing us from engaging in a political discussion for an elaboration of a political line, since theory is a guide for our action, and if theoretical unity is non existent, no common action at that level is possible.

    for post 101: "The unity of the chicken and the roach is done in the belly of the chicken"

  • Guest - carldavidson

    @Jan

    Don't tell us the 'rules' for making a 'proletarian line' which as written down nowhere in any exclusive form. If you think you know what it is for here and now, just spell it out for us.

    I think proletarian revolution has been 'the order of the era,' at least for 100 years or more, for the advanced fighters. But to call it 'the order of the day' for the masses and mass action today is a diversion from figuring out what actually is 'the order of the day,' which means what are the next step forward given the actual level of consciousness and actual conditions today, ie, you have to do an actual assessment of where things are at at the moment.

    Otherwise, you're just using phrases to suit your own fancy

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    @Carl:

    You wrote: "Don’t tell us the ‘rules’ for making a ‘proletarian line’ which as written down nowhere in any exclusive form. If you think you know what it is for here and now, just spell it out for us."

    I just did. What I would hope is to discuss the content, rather than whether or not you like the way I presented it.

    The orientation is contained in your posted quote of Marx: “…with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other,” -- unless you refuse to appropriate what he said, because of your own class interest. It also means that the priority of communists in any social formation is not to militate to be the foot soldiers for any sector of capitalism, but instead to define a priority to actively organize the proletariat and the masses, under the leadership of the proletariat, to resolve that antagonism.

    You wrote: "But to call it ‘the order of the day’ for the masses and mass action today is a diversion from figuring out what actually is ‘the order of the day,’ which means what are the next step forward given the actual level of consciousness and actual conditions today, ie, you have to do an actual assessment of where things are at at the moment."

    If you do not put it as the order of the day, and make sure it determines
    your work *today* -- then you are putting something else as determining
    that work, and you will get somewhere else.

    You wrote: “Otherwise, you’re just using phrases to suit your own fancy”

    This is not a fancy. This is a political task detectable by the laws of contradiction, where priorities are defined to achieve that goal, especially in a period where our forces are small. THIS IS NO TIME TO SERVE THE LESSER EVIL and to be digested by them -- or we transform ourselves into social democrats.

    Under the actual conditions we are in, this is a minority position and we need to transform it to become a relative majority. We need to construct a line to develop the consciousness of the masses, specially the proletariat, to face capitalism.

    If we are to advance, it is important that we navigate the relation between theory and practice to fight populism, the practice of tailgating the masses, and pragmatism/activism (not clearly defining a political line). The order of the day means that THIS IS OUR PRIORITY AS COMMUNISTS. A pragmatist, on the other hand, will take “the order of the day” to mean submitting to a situation where the laws of contradiction are not detectable.

  • Guest - carldavidson

    @Jan

    <blockquote>A pragmatist, on the other hand, will take “the order of the day” to mean submitting to a situation where the laws of contradiction are not detectable.</blockquote>

    This a an odd thing to say. If 'submitting to a situation' means starting with our current time. place and circumstance, rather than some other, or some text, I plead guilty--but how in the world do you get from that to 'the laws of contradiction are not detectable'? Contradictions are quite apparent and detectable, and as we draw the general and the deeper from the particular and the apparent, the 'laws' or general patterns emerge. But the truth is concrete.

    In the current conditions, my communist tasks are not 'put off' to some future date. But currently, they take the form of theoretical work, policy development and revolutionary education among the advanced. I work on it all the time, day in and day out, right now. But concurrently, I have 'mass democratic' tasks as well. I engage in efforts to stop wars, restrict fracking, fight for jobs, elected and defeat candidates, and so on--all efforts where my job is to unite a progressive majority of both socialists and a huge number of non-socialists among the workers primarily, but other strata as well, against the main immediate enemy, finance capital.

    If this is 'populism' in your book, then I plead guilty again. If you want to proclaim the 'order of the day', it helps to know the time of day and what's going on all around you, and what you might do about it in developing 'the line of march' from here to proletarian revolution. Citing passages from Marx, however insightful and enlightening they might be, is no substitute for hammering out this set of 'decent working hypotheses,' which I prefer over 'correct proletarian line' any day of the week.

    To take the passage I posted from Marx on coops. It's illuminating, but it's no substitute for the analysis, plan and methods developed by Father Arizmendi (who studied his Marx, too) in bringing the MCC project to life. In short, in this case, Arimendi worked out 'the line of march' for his vision, and it adds something important to our wider view of 21st Century socialism as well, even if he remained a priest and a cooperativist, rather than a communist.

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    I usually don’t post citation, YOU DID, and you somehow avoiding to really discuss the fundamental aspect in your quote: the need for the working class to take power. Now, are you in discord with the quote you posted?
    Now, if the MCC is simply building a business project, outside the theory elaborated by
    Marx it will develop into a capitalist project. This was the same debate between the Bolshevik and the Menshevik. The “cooperativist” project was applied in many dominated social formation and many developed a brutal form of capitalist production by turning peasants into workers and most importantly the directors of these projects controlling the circulation of goods and eventually transforming these projects, as Marx correctly stated, as a capitalist project and those directors became very parasite. Some were severely repress by feudal landlords in their class antagonism against capitalist productions.
    From your posted quote the line of March/political line elaborated by Father Arizmendi is not a proletarian line, since it deviate the fundamental principle of Marxism of class struggle and the order of the day to achieve the goal of the Father is for the working class to erect as a dominant class and resolve the antagonism of capital and labor in its favor. As a social experience and under the principle one is divided into two, I am very sure there is a lot to learn from the political line of the Father but to call it a wider view of 21st Century socialism as well that could lead to communism is totally an aberration. Socialism as a transitional form of production, a societal form of organization can only be achieved with proletarian led revolution leading to communism.

    Me, I do not cite Marxism. I will appropriate their contributions in order to widen theory to apply it in any objective reality facing me from the ultimate interest of the working class. All of our predecessors, and me in unity with them, has recognized one thing the impotency and incapacity of petit bourgeois theorist to fully appropriate Marxism if these theorist do not disrobe themselves of their petit bourgeois’s origin. I think even Jesus wasn’t able to help the dear father, even he[Jesus]; has his class interest.

    Look you posted your quote and the quote seems to fundamentally differ from your political line/ march of line.

    Menshevik were very good dedicated militant and I respect what they did but their line weren’t proletarian. At night not all cows are not blacks.

    Basically at the period of capitalism/imperialism its boils down to two classes capable of offering an alternative: capitalism for its reproductions and the working class for a better world. The only way the working class is capable of achieving this goal is to unify the other classes under its leadership to radically transform the capitalist social formation. Under capitalism no other class has been able to offer such historical alternative.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Jan, I posted the Marx quote to put coops and the discussion around them in a wider context. You can take it or leave it, but I had no intention of making it into some 'proletarian line,' whatever that might be. I'm very interested in the working class taking political power, however, and replacing capitalism with socialism. I've been working on it for 50 years now, trying all sorts of things along the way. Father Arizmendi's coops, I've concluded, are one small piece of that puzzle, and I make no wider claims for them. They are useful in waging a Gramscian 'war of position' in the economic sphere, but an all-sided strategy and set of tactics for getting us to socialism will require a lot more than that.