Monday, 10 December 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 36

Sismondi does not fall into that trap. He recognises fully the contradictions of capitalism, that it is founded upon commodity production, and that the commodity itself is a contradictory unity of use value and exchange value. As productivity rises, so that more use values are produced in a given time, so the value of each of these use values falls. He recognises that the capitalist does not produce to obtain use values, but to produce exchange-value, and in particular money, so as to once more turn it into capital. And, each individual capital is driven by competition to accumulate and to produce on an ever larger scale, irrespective of the market, i.e. whether this production actually represents use value for consumers, at its price of production, because only by doing so does it drive down the individual value of its own production. 

“He is particularly aware of the fundamental contradiction: on the one hand, unrestricted development of the productive forces and increase of wealth which, at the same time, consists of commodities and must be turned into cash; on the other hand, the system is based on the fact that the mass of producers is restricted to the necessaries. Hence, according to Sismondi, crises are not accidental, as Ricardo maintains, but essential outbreaks—occurring on a large scale and at definite periods—of the immanent contradictions.” (p 56) 

But, Sismondi does not really understand the mechanism of capitalist production, and so he is unable to develop a consistent theory as to what the solution to these crises should be. 

“He wavers constantly: should the State curb the productive forces to make them adequate to the production relations, or should the production relations be made adequate to the productive forces? He often retreats into the past, becomes a laudator temporis acti, or he seeks to exorcise the contradictions by a different adjustment of revenue in relation to capital, or of distribution in relation to production, not realising that the relations of distribution are only the relations of production seen from a different aspect.” (p 56) 

This reactionary Sismondist approach that seeks to hold back capitalist development is not only to be seen in the economic romanticism of the Narodniks, it found a modern expression in the reactionary notions about opposing free competition to monopolies, put forward both by Liberals and by Stalinists in the form of the “anti-monopoly alliance”. It was also put forward by similar elements within “anti-imperialist” movements that sought to curb economic progress in “Third World” economies, wherever it was tied to investment by “imperialism”, on the basis instead of arguing for forms of “socialism in one country”, or other necessarily limited national economic development. Such ideas were propounded by Stalinists and Third Worldists, on the basis of spurious arguments about “under-development” and “super-exploitation”, based upon Mercantilist theories of unequal exchange, appropriate to an era of colonialism, rather than the era of imperialism, and the dominance of multinational industrial capital.

Similar reactionary nationalist ideas have been propounded by Left nationalists in the form of Lexit, and the idea that some form of social-democracy in one country could be developed in Britain outside the EU.  Similar reactionary nationalist nonsense was propounded by some of the same forces in relation to Scottish independence.  The same reactionary economic nationalism is put forward more generally in the form of opposition to globalisation, the development of capitalism on a truly global scale that has been responsible for rescuing  millions of former peasants from the idiocy of rural life, of making the working-class the largest class on the planet, of substantially raising the living standards of hundreds of millions of workers, and creating the potential for socialist construction.  All of this reactionary nationalist nonsense flows from the essentially nationalist nature of social-democracy itself, and its reflection amongst sections of the labour movement that proclaim themselves to be "Marxists", but who have simply adopted the same statist ideas of Lassalle, the Fabians and Kautsky.  It is reflected in the repeated calls for "nationalisation" - the clue to the reactionary nationalist nature of the demand being in the name nation - alisation - by such "revolutionaries".

As Trotsky pointed out in relation to such ideas, in his comments on Mexico's Second Six Year Plan. 

“And all of this immediately, because a certain technological development, at least on an elementary level, should precede collectivisation, and not follow it. Where will the necessary means come from? The plan is silent on this point except for a few sentences about the advantages of domestic loans over foreign loans. But the country is poor. It needs foreign capital. This thorny problem is treated only to the extent that the program does not insist on the cancellation of the foreign debt and that is all... 

Turning one’s back on foreign capital and speaking of collectivisation and industrialisation is mere intoxication with words. 

The reactionaries are wrong when they say that the expropriation of the oil companies has made the influx of new capital impossible. The government defends the vital resources of the country, but at the same time it can grant industrial concessions, above all in the form of mixed corporations, i.e. enterprises in which the government participates (holding 10 percent, 25 percent, 51 percent of the stock, according to the circumstances) and writes into the contracts the option of buying out the rest of the stock after a certain period of time. This government participation would have the advantage of educating native technical and administrative personnel in collaboration with the best engineers and organisers of other countries. The period fixed in the contract before the optional buying out of the enterprise would create the necessary confidence among capital investors. The rate of industrialisation would be accelerated. 

State Capitalism 

The authors of the program wish to completely construct state capitalism within a period of six years. But nationalising existing enterprises is one thing; creating new ones with limited means on virgin soil is another... 

Lenin accorded great importance to these concessions for the economic development of the country and for the technical and administrative education of Soviet personnel. There has been no socialist revolution in Mexico. The international situation does not even allow for the cancellation of the public debt. The country we repeat is poor. Under such conditions it would be almost suicidal to close the doors to foreign capital. To construct state capitalism, capital is necessary.” 

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