Friday, 20 May 2022

Friday Night Disco - Funky Worm - Ohio Players


A Contribution To The Critique of Political Economy, Preface - Part 7 of 8

A social revolution has occurred, and continues to unfold, as the contradictions within these transitional forms of property become reflected in ideas, and class struggle around “the property question”. When Marx says that Socialism is inevitable, it is this reality of this social revolution that he is describing. And, it is not just this change from the monopoly of private capital to the domination of collectively owned, socialised capital that constitute this social revolution. The mammoth scale of the socialised capital means that they must now also borrow other features of the encroaching socialist society. Monopoly/oligopoly dominates, and with it planned production replaces the domination of production by the market. As Engels put it in his Critiqueof The Erfurt Programme,

Capitalist production by joint-stock companies is no longer private production but production on behalf of many associated people. And when we pass on from joint-stock companies to trusts, which dominate and monopolise whole branches of industry, this puts an end not only to private production but also to planlessness.”

And, this planning and regulation extends into the planning and regulation of the economy itself by the state, which itself must increasingly become international in scope. The social function of the private capitalist disappears, as they become mere coupon clippers, lenders of money-capital to corporations and the state. Meanwhile the actual role of functioning capitalist passes to a middle class army of professional managers, administrators and technicians drawn from the working-class, and paid wages. This is Socialism in all but name, all but for the democratic control over this collectively owned capital by the workers themselves, control that rests, instead with its non-owners – share-owners. As Marx and Engels put it in Anti-Durhring,

In the trusts, free competition changes into monopoly and the planless production of capitalist society capitulates before the planned production of the invading socialist society. Of course, this is initially still to the benefit of the Capitalists.

But, the exploitation becomes so palpable here that it must break down. No nation would put up with production directed by trusts, with such a barefaced exploitation of the community by a small band of coupon-clippers...

Many of these means of production and of communication are, from the outset, so colossal that, like the railways, they exclude all other forms of capitalistic exploitation. At a certain stage of development this form, too, no longer suffices: [the large-scale producers in one and the same branch of industry in a country unite in a “trust”, an association for the purpose of regulating production...

All the social functions of the capitalist are now performed by salaried employees. The capitalist has no further social function than that of pocketing dividends, tearing off coupons, and gambling on the Stock Exchange, where the different capitalists despoil one another of their capital. At first the capitalist mode of production forces out the workers. Now it forces out the capitalists, and reduces them, just as it reduced the workers, to the ranks of the surplus population, although not immediately into those of the industrial reserve army.”

(Anti-Duhring, p 358-60)

Back To Part 6

Thursday, 19 May 2022

The Heritage We Renounce - Section V - Mr. Mikhailovsky on the “Disciples”’ Renunciation of the Heritage (1/2)

Lenin responds to Mikhailovsky's claim that the Marxists renounce the heritage, by saying that Mikhailovsky is actually talking about two different heritages, one that of the enlighteners of the 1860's, the other that of the Narodniks. The Marxists certainly renounce the latter, Lenin says, but it is not the same as the heritage of the enlighteners.

“We have already shown that to confuse these two different things would be a gross error, for everyone knows that there have been, and still are, people who guard the “traditions of the sixties” but have nothing in common with Narodism. All Mr. Mikhailovsky’s observations are founded wholly and exclusively upon a confusion of these totally different heritages. And since Mr. Mikhailovsky must be aware of this difference, his sally is not only absurd, but definitely slanderous.” (p 527)

Lenin then gives a detailed account of the positions of different individuals and journals, illustrating this point.

“Did the “Russian disciples” hurl themselves against the Russian enlighteners? Did they ever renounce the heritage which enjoins unreserved hostility to the pre-Reform way of life and its survivals? Far from hurling themselves against it, they denounced the Narodniks for desiring to maintain some of these survivals out of a petty-bourgeois fear of capitalism. Did they ever hurl themselves against the heritage which enjoins European ideals generally? Far from hurling themselves against it, they denounced the Narodniks because on many very important issues, instead of espousing general European ideals, they concoct the most arrant nonsense about Russia’s exceptional character. Did they ever hurl themselves against the heritage which enjoins concern for the interests of the labouring masses of the population? Far from hurling themselves against it, they denounced the Narodniks because their concern for these interests is inconsistent (owing to their confirmed tendency to lump together the peasant bourgeoisie and the rural proletariat); because the value of their concern is diminished by their habit of dreaming of what might be, instead of turning their attention to what is; because their concern is extremely circumscribed, since they have never been able properly to appraise the conditions (economic and other) which make it easier or harder for these people to care for their own interests themselves.” (p 528)

Lenin explains that Mikhailovsky fails to grasp the difference between determinism and fatalism, which means that he is unable to understand why history leads to inevitable processes, but that the Marxist intervenes in that process, as a partisan of the progressive class, and fierce opponent of the reactionary class and its ideologists. In that, the Marxists are opponents of the petty-bourgeoisie and its ideologists more than they are opponents of the bourgeoisie, for the reasons described previously.

“One can “greet” the capitalism developing in Russia only in two ways: one can regard it either as progressive, or as retrogressive; either as a step forward on the right road, or as a deviation from the true path; one can assess it either from the standpoint of the class of small producers which capitalism destroys, or from the standpoint of the class of propertyless producers which capitalism creates. There is no middle way.” (p 532)

The Marxists saw it clearly as progressive, whereas Mikhailovsky and the Narodniks saw it as regressive. The same distinction between Marxists and petty-bourgeois socialists, in relation to the progressive nature of capitalism/imperialism continues today.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

A Contribution To The Critique of Political Economy, Preface - Part 6 of 8

Marx describes the stages of this process.

At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.” (p 21)

This is precisely what Marx describes in Capital I, Chapter 32, and in Capital III, Chapter 27. First of all commodity production and exchange leads to competition between the small independent producers, leading to a differentiation into bourgeois and proletarians, a process of natural selection as in Nature, and leading to these two entirely new species of social class. The large majority of small producers end up as losers and become proletarians, and a small minority are winners becoming bourgeois. The losers lose their means of production, whilst the winners acquire them, and now use them to employ their former owners as wage labourers.

But, this process of centralisation and concentration does not end there. Now, competition between the capitalists also creates winners and losers. The winners become bigger capitalists, the losers smaller capitalists, and then fall themselves into the ranks of the proletariat. The bigger capitalists get bigger becoming private monopoly owners of capital. But, a point is reached where even these big private monopoly owners are not big enough for the needs of capital. In order to produce competitively it becomes necessary to produce on a mammoth scale, and it is so large than not even the biggest private capitalists can mobilise the required capital for it. The monopoly of private capital has become an obstacle to the accumulation of capital itself.

The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.”

(Capital I, Chapter 32)

It is expropriated by socialised capital, in the form of the cooperatives and joint stock companies. All of this, as Marx describes in Capital III, Chapter 27, goes on automatically behind men's backs, without any conscious plan to do so. It brings about the demise of private capitalist property within the confines of the capitalist system itself.

The capital, which in itself rests on a social mode of production and presupposes a social concentration of means of production and labour-power, is here directly endowed with the form of social capital (capital of directly associated individuals) as distinct from private capital, and its undertakings assume the form of social undertakings as distinct from private undertakings. It is the abolition of capital as private property within the framework of capitalist production itself...

Transformation of the actually functioning capitalist into a mere manager, administrator of other people's capital, and of the owner of capital into a mere owner, a mere money-capitalist ...This result of the ultimate development of capitalist production is a necessary transitional phase towards the reconversion of capital into the property of producers, although no longer as the private property of the individual producers, but rather as the property of associated producers, as outright social property. On the other hand, the stock company is a transition toward the conversion of all functions in the reproduction process which still remain linked with capitalist property, into mere functions of associated producers, into social functions...

This is the abolition of the capitalist mode of production within the capitalist mode of production itself, and hence a self-dissolving contradiction, which prima facie represents a mere phase of transition to a new form of production. It manifests itself as such a contradiction in its effects.”

(Capital III, Chapter 27)

Back To Part 5

Forward To Part 7

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

In Defence of a Tory Minister

Yesterday, the media was full of outrage at the comments of Tory Minister, Rachel Maclean, for saying that, in response to sharply rising inflation, workers should work more hours or get a better job. Like most, on hearing the comment, I thought it was just your typical out of touch Tory, blaming workers individually, as with another who had apparently said they needed to learn to cook. However, later, I heard the full comment from Maclean, and what she actually said was nothing like the media headlines.

Maclean did not say that the immediate answer was for workers, individually to work more hours, or to move to a better paid job. In fact, what she said did not relate to action that workers, individually, or collectively, should take as a solution at all. What she talked about was action that the government needed to take, in order to provide a long-term solution, so that it became possible for workers who were working part-time, and so on, to be able to work longer hours. Given that we have still 1 million workers working on zero-hours contracts, such an ambition is not at all a bad one for a government to set itself.

Similarly, given that large number of workers on zero hours contracts, many working only a few hours a week, and given the large number of other workers in unskilled, low paid, and insecure jobs, it is not at all a bad ambition for a government to set itself that it should create conditions in which workers are able to move out of those precarious, low paid, demoralising jobs, and into better paid ones. As a long-term solution to falling living standards, at least within the bounds of capitalism, that is precisely the way forward, as against simply tying workers further into conditions of degrading dependency, relying upon state welfare payments to boost their incomes.  Whether the Tories policies, in general, and its idiotic Brexit policy, in particular, does that is another matter.

That the media made such a meal of these false headlines is not surprising. Its typical of the way it operates. Firstly, many of these journalists and newsreaders are very highly paid, but the journalism tends to be very lazy. Secondly, it is a media that relies upon sensationalism. I have noted before its necessity to describe everything in superlatives, as “the best”, “the biggest”, “the most”, and so on, even though its clear that these labels are invariably exaggerations. I had to laugh, yesterday, when I was watching an old Dave Gorman episode, in which he dealt with exactly that phenomena. But, there is another factor at play, here.

As I have described recently, the fact is that we have completely different conditions, now, than those that have applied for most of the last 40 years, other than for a few years after 2000, and prior to 2008. As I wrote the other day, in the US, there are now 2 vacancies for every unemployed worker, and the latest data now shows that, in Britain too, there are more job vacancies than there are unemployed workers seeking to fill them. So, as in the 1950's, and 60's, we have conditions, already, where it becomes possible, at least for some workers, in the right places, and with the right skills, to decide, yes, to simply move to another better paid job. That has already been happening in the US, where the “quit rate” has been rising for some time, as workers realise they can just move to better jobs.

And, this relative shortage of labour is manifesting in incomes too. The latest employment data from the ONS, shows wages rising by 4.2% in the three months to March, and of course, the media again focussed on the fact that this was lower than inflation, meaning that real wages were falling, according to the media by 1.2%. The 4.2% figure was again, higher than the predictions, but also does not tell the real story. Add in bonuses, and other such payments, and wages rose by 7%, in that period, which was actually ahead of inflation to that point, meaning that real wages were rising.

The inclusion of bonuses and other such additional payments is important, precisely because the shortage of labour is first manifest in the need of companies to recruit and retain workers, and that is first done by all sorts of such bonuses to attract workers, or to deter them from leaving, rather than actual rises in hourly wage rates. Only as the shortage of labour intensifies, and workers begin to sense their increased strength and bargaining position in the economy, and as annual wage bargaining rounds get underway, does it manifest itself in much higher hourly wages, reduced hours, better holidays and so on.

So, the last thing the bourgeois media want, at the moment, is for workers to understand that conditions have changed in their favour. They want workers to continue to believe that they are stuck in their current jobs, and have to accept their current low wages and poor conditions, limited hours and so on. That is why they had to interpret Macleans words in the way they did. And, similarly, it suits a timid trades union bureaucracy to perpetuate the idea of a weak bargaining position of workers that only allows them to organise rallies to try to mobilise “public opinion” in support of higher minimum wages, rather than actively organising, and demanding strikes for better wages, and a General Strike, for a decent minimum, monthly wage of £2,000.

The Heritage We Renounce - Section IV- The “Enlighteners,” the Narodniks, and the “Disciples” (7/7)

The enlighteners, as with liberals, today, did not single out classes, but spoke only abstractly about “nation”, “society” or “people”. Liberals deal only in these abstract concepts, because they seek to deny the existence of class contradictions. For them, the interests of the ruling class is synonymous with the interests of “society”, “nation”, “people”. That becomes the more obvious in times of war, and at such times, the social-democrats themselves become social-patriots, lining up the workers to fight and die for their respective ruling class.

“The Narodniks were desirous of representing the interests of labour, but they did not point to any definite groups in the contemporary economic system; actually, they always took the standpoint of the small producer, whom capitalism converts into a commodity producer. The “disciples” not only take the interests of labour as their criterion, but in doing so point to quite definite economic groups in the capitalist economy, namely, the property-less producers.” (p 526)

Again, Lenin says, this puts the enlighteners and the Marxists in the same camp, because they too seek the freest and fastest development of capital, as also being to the immediate and long-term benefit of the workers, whereas the the interest of the petty-bourgeois, in holding back that development is against the interest of both capital and labour.

“By the nature of their aims, the first and last trends correspond to the interests of the classes which are created and developed by capitalism; Narodism, by its nature, corresponds to the interests of the class of small producers, the petty bourgeoisie, which occupies an intermediate position among the classes of contemporary society. Consequently, Narodism’s contradictory attitude to the “heritage” is not accidental, but is a necessary result of the very nature of the Narodnik views: we have seen that one of the basic features of the enlighteners’ views was the ardent desire to Europeanise Russia, but the Narodniks cannot possibly share this desire fully without ceasing to be Narodniks.” (p 526)

The similarity, here, of the position of the Narodniks and today's petty-bourgeois Brexiters/Lexiters, and their equivalents in other countries is obvious.

On the basis of these comparisons, therefore, Lenin says, its apparent that it is the Marxists, not the Narodniks, who are the inheritors of the liberal heritage of the 1860's.

“As far from renouncing the heritage, they consider it one of their principal duties to refute the romantic and petty-bourgeois fears which induce the Narodniks on very many and very important points to reject the European ideals of the enlighteners. But it goes without saying that the “disciples” do not guard the heritage in the way an archivist guards an old document. Guarding the heritage does not mean confining oneself to the heritage, and the ‘disciples” add to their defence of the general ideals of Europeanism an analysis of the contradictions implicit in our capitalist development, and an assessment of this development from the specific standpoint indicated above.” (p 526)