Sunday, 31 May 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Part I - Part 22 of 31

Mikhailovsky applies the same kind of “dialectic” as that used by Proudhon, and criticised by Marx in The Poverty of Philosophy. That is he proposes to form a synthesis by taking what is good, and disposing of what is bad. Mikhailovsky admits that, 

““The medieval forms of labour still existing in our country had been seriously shaken, but we saw no reason to put a complete end to them for the sake of any doctrine whatever, liberal or non-liberal.” (p 188) 

But, as Lenin says, 

“Obviously, “forms of labour” of any kind can be shaken only if they are superseded by some other forms; yet we do not find our author (nor would we find any of his like-minded friends, for that matter) even attempting to analyse and to explain these new forms, or to ascertain why they supplant the old.” (p 188) 

In other words, Mikhailovsky is forced to admit that capitalism had already established itself in Russia. Feudalism, in Russia, as everywhere else, does not collapse as the precondition for the rise of capitalism, but quite the opposite; it is the rise of capitalism, as a superior mode of production, that undermines, and brings about the demise of, feudalism. Moreover, as Lenin points out, Mikhailovsky's statement about putting an end to the previous mode of production is absurd. 

“What means do “we” (i.e., the socialists—see the above reservation) possess to “put an end” to forms of labour, that is, to reconstruct the existing production relations between the members of society? Is not the idea of remaking these relations in accordance with a doctrine absurd?” (p 188) 

The above reservation Lenin refers to is that Mikhailovsky's definition of what and who the socialists are did not at all reflect the reality or the views of the Marxists, in Russia, or elsewhere. What Mikhailovsky proposed was to keep the medieval forms of labour, based upon the village and individual ownership of the means of production, and to graft on to it all of those “good” things that flow from the capitalist mode of production in the West, in place of the existing Tsarist social relations, and the political regime sitting above it. 

“Here the whole subjective method in sociology is as clear as daylight: sociology starts with a utopia—the labourers ownership of the land—and indicates the conditions for realising the desirable, namely, “take” what is good from here and from there. This philosopher takes a purely metaphysical view of social relations as of a simple mechanical aggregation of various institutions, a simple mechanical concatenation of various phenomena.” (p 188-9) 

But, the cultivator's ownership of the land could not be separated from all of the other productive and social relations that go with it. Those links involved the land being divided up by the landlords. Each peasant obtained an area of land sufficient to provide for their own requirements (equivalent of wages), as well as a surplus product (equivalent of rent or profit). In other words, this arrangement was precisely the means by which the landlord pumped surplus labour/value out of the labourer. And, why does Mikhailovsky not pursue these social relations? 

“Because the author does not know how to handle social problems: he (I repeat, I am using Mr. Mikhailovsky’s arguments only as an example for criticising Russian socialism as a whole) does not set out at all to explain the then existing “forms of labour” and to present them as a definite system of production relations, as a definite social formation. To use Marx’s expression, the dialectical method, which requires us to regard society as a living organism in its functioning and development, is alien to him.” (p 189) 

And, when Mikhailovsky comes to examine the new economic and social relations, he makes the same mistake. He sees the individual cultivator being dispossessed of their land, but does not connect this to being in consequence of a new set of economic and social relations. In other words, as soon as commodity production becomes generalised, and the market increases in size, competition between commodity producers necessarily increases. Some win out, and some lose, in that competitive struggle. The winners take over the means of production of the latter. The latter become wage workers. 

“And here again his argument is utterly absurd: he plucks out one phenomenon (land dispossession), without even attempting to present it as an element of a now different system of production relations based on commodity economy, which necessarily begets competition among the commodity producers, inequality, the ruin of some and the enrichment of others. He noted one thing, the ruin of the masses, and put aside the other, the enrichment of the minority, and this made it impossible for him to understand either.” (p 189-90) 

Saturday, 30 May 2020

How Capital Produces Capitalists and Capitalism, and Then Socialism - Part 9 of 13

Capital creates capitalists, who collectively form a capitalist class, and the ideas that the operation of capital engenders become the dominant ideas that infuse the state, creating a capitalist state, which defends the interests of capital. Capital then destroys the role of the capitalists in production, forcing them into the role of money-lending capitalists, owners of fictitious capital. The social function of the capitalist is taken on by a specific type of worker, the day to day manager, as the capital itself is collectivised, and becomes socialised capital. This socialised capital, is a transitional form of property between capitalism and socialism. But, the capitalists, now, as owners of fictitious capital continue to exert control over this capital they no longer own, because their continued political power enables them to establish company law to that effect and to appoint executives to act on their behalf. But, no matter what the judicial reality, the economic reality is that the interests of fictitious capital (interest-bearing capital) are antagonistic to the interests of real productive-capital, and because the latter is dominant (it is only productive-capital that produces surplus value/profit without which payments of interest are impossible) it is the interests of the real capital that must always win out over the interests of fictitious capital. 

The class struggle is a struggle between different types of property that assumes the phenomenal form of a struggle between different social classes, only because these social classes are comprised of the individuals that are the personification of these contending forms of property. The progressive form of property is now the socialised capital, as a transitional form. It is the collective property of the working-class, including that portion of the working-class that now comprises the professional managers, or “functioning capitalists”. This is most clear in the case of the worker owned cooperatives. Taken as a whole, this large-scale, socialised capital, together with all of the planning and regulation that goes with a modern capitalist economy, provides everything that is materially required for the construction of Socialism. What is missing is the direct, democratic control over this capital, and over the state by the working-class. 

The workers could not establish such control until such time that capitalism had created the material conditions for such large-scale, socialised capital to begin with. That was, as Marx describes it, the “historic mission of capital”, to accumulate, concentrate and centralise the previously scattered means of production. Moreover, capitalism needed to develop to a certain level, before the workers could undertake this function, because capitalism must first forge a unified working-class on a large scale, and must develop the productive forces to such a degree that this working-class itself is educated and cultured so as to be able to take on all of these functions of a ruling-class, including immediately, being able to exercise such a role in the democratic control over production. Capitalism must develop to a stage, whereby, the working-day can be shortened, allowing the workers to educate themselves, and to have the time to devote to involvement in this day to day democracy. This is part of what Marx calls The Civilising Mission of Capital. 

Indeed, because Socialism is only conceivable at an international level, capitalism had to develop to a stage whereby it had created a global economy and global market, where capital itself becomes multinational, and a system of global rules for the operation and accumulation of capital are established (imperialism) founded upon the dominance of industrial capital. It means that an international working-class is created, able, then, to construct Socialism as an international system. 

For Socialism, democratic control of the means of production is required, but such democratic control is itself only feasible on the basis of a high degree of development of the productive forces and of the working-class, by capital.

Northern Soul Classics - I Refuse To Give Up - Clarence Reid

Friday, 29 May 2020

Friday Night Disco - Movin' - Brass Construction

What The Friends of the People Are, Part I - Part 21 of 31

Lenin summarises Mikhailovsky's argument so far, and sets out some of the conclusions Mikhailovsky draws from it. Mikhailovsky argues that materialism has not proved itself scientifically, and yet was spreading quickly amongst the German workers. Why? Because, he argues, instead of dealing with reality, it offers the workers the prospect of a better future under Socialism. Now, of course, there are some socialists who present the requirements for Socialism in this way. They present the argument for Socialism in these Idealist and Moralistic terms, and draw up schemes for such a socialist future. But, the characteristic feature of Marxism, of historical materialism, is that it does not do that. It utterly rejects such a basis for Socialism! As Lenin says, 

“Everybody knows that scientific socialism never painted any prospects for the future as such: it confined itself to analysing the present bourgeois regime, to studying the trends of development of the capitalist social organisation, and that is all... Everybody knows that Capital, for instance—the chief and basic work in which scientific socialism is expounded—restricts itself to the most general allusions to the future and merely traces those already existing elements from which the future system grows.” (p 184-5) 

It is not Marxism that argues for Socialism on that kind of Utopian, Idealistic and Moral basis, but the earlier socialist and communist movement of the type of Owen, Fourier and St. Simon. It was they who drew up their visions of a world of peace and harmony, of Little Icara, and so on. Marx and Engels rejected that view, instead basing themselves on a materialist analysis of reality, and how that reality was driving towards socialism, having already established socialised capital as a transitional form of property. What Marx and Engels realised was that social development does not flow from the ideas in the heads of people, no matter what geniuses they may be, but flows from material processes unfolding in society itself, of which the ideas are merely a mental reflection. It was these processes which created the working-class, and the actions of the working-class, in forming itself into a class for itself that is the material basis for the creation of Socialism. 

“Nevertheless, despite the whole phalanx of very talented people who expounded these ideas, and despite the most firmly convinced socialists, their theories stood aloof from life and their programmes were not connected with the political movements of the people until large-scale machine industry drew the mass of proletarian workers into the vortex of political life, and until the true slogan of their struggle was found.” (p 185) 

As Lenin says, it is no coincidence that the working-class movement spreads wherever large-scale machine industry spreads. 

“... the socialist doctrine is successful precisely when it stops arguing about social conditions that conform to human nature and sets about making a materialist analysis of contemporary social relations and explaining the necessity for the present regime of exploitation.” (p 186) 

Mikhailovsky scoffed at the idea that Socialism would flow from the continued effect of the concentration and centralisation of capital, which transforms it into socialised capital, alongside the mobilisation of millions of workers who take control of this socialised capital. Instead, Mikhailovsky proposed the idea that Socialism would arise from the fact that The Friends of the People would set out the “clear and unalterable” paths of the “desired economic evolution”, “and then these friends of the people will most likely “be called in” to solve “practical economic problems” (see the article “Problems of Russia’s Economic Development” by Mr. Yuzhakov in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 11) and meanwhile—meanwhile the workers must wait, must rely on the friends of the people and not begin, with “unjustified self-assurance,” an independent struggle against the exploiters.” (p 186) 

The “anti-capitalists” and “anti-imperialists” of today adopt a similar approach, as though capitalism and socialism are not only two distinct modes of production, but that they flow down two entirely separate historical channels. Yet, what Marx's analysis shows is that Socialism and Capitalism, where the latter was established, flow down the same historical channel; the latter being the precursor of, and and necessary condition for the former. Does that mean that Socialism could not emerge somewhere in conditions in which capitalism has not previously existed? No. That was the point Marx made in his letter to Zasulich. But, then, the requirement for that is that Socialism has been created elsewhere, providing a model and the resources for others to follow its lead. 

That is also the point that Marx made in his letter to Zasulich, but also that Engels made in his letter to Danielson. There Engels makes the point that, in the actual existing conditions, the best hope for Russia did indeed reside in its own rapid capitalist development. Engels makes a similar point in a letter to Kautsky in relation to Colonialism, saying that, after a socialist revolution, in the West, any national revolution in the colonies, such as India, would have to be allowed to run its course, because the workers in the West would have their own hands full reorganising their own societies. 

In the period after 1917, it was, of course, right that the Comintern could orientate towards the Colonial Revolution, and attempt to build real communist movements in those countries, so that the national revolution and proletarian revolution could be combined in a process of permanent revolution. The USSR could act as both a model, and an umbrella under which such revolutions could shelter, thereby stepping over the capitalist stage of development. The Third World Movement was a typically bureaucratised and bastardised form of that model. It meant that bourgeois-nationalist movements, often resting on a state capitalist economy, with a Bonapartist regime, could model itself on the Bonapartist regime in Moscow. At the same time, their “non-aligned” status enabled them to simultaneously play off the imperialist states, in the search for favours, in a way that is parodied in “The Mouse that Roared”

But, in the same way that the deformed workers states could offer no way forward, without a political revolution to overthrow the ruling bureaucratic caste, nor could the bastardised replica of those regimes offer any way forward in developing economies either. When, eventually, this reality manifested itself, with the collapse of the USSR and its satellites, in 1990, so too this alternative route for the industrialising economies was closed down with it. Today, with no socialist bulwark to provide a model, or the resources required, industrialising economies are placed in the same position as Russia towards the end of the 19th century. Their best hope is a rapid development of capitalism, both to raise them up from their current low levels, but also to more rapidly create the conditions for the transition to Socialism. Yet, like Mikhailovsky, the “anti-imperialists”, in particular, want to deny the industrialising economies that potential. As subjectivists, they want them to somehow travel down some separate, unknown route to Socialism, avoiding the horrors of capitalism, not only conjuring up all of the resources and means of production for such a transition out of thin air, but also arriving at a fully formed class consciousness as a pure act of will, a mental leap, ungrounded by any objective material basis. And, we are assured that this represents Marxism! 

Thursday, 28 May 2020

How Capital Produces Capitalists and Capitalism, and Then Socialism - Part 8 of 13

Capital itself, thereby brings about the social revolution that creates the productive relations, and social relations of socialism, but this is only one aspect of socialism. In order for it to be Socialism, as opposed to being simply social-democracy based upon large-scale, planned and regulated monopoly capitalism/imperialism, it requires that all of this capital be under the direct democratic control of the workers themselves, and that, in addition, the workers, on the basis of this, create their own semi-state, which reflects the now dominant socialist ideas that are engendered by these new productive and social relations. Without that, at best, we have the sham of bourgeois social-democracy, or at worst the regimes of Stalinism or Nazism. As Lenin put it in 1918, in his essay on Left-Wing Childishness

“To make things even clearer, let us first of all take the most concrete example of state capitalism. Everybody knows what this example is. It is Germany. Here we have “the last word” in modern large-scale capitalist engineering and planned organisation, subordinated to Junker-bourgeois imperialism. Cross out the words in italics, and in place of the militarist, Junker, bourgeois, imperialist state put also a state, but of a different social type, of a different class content—a Soviet state, that is, a proletarian state, and you will have the sum total of the conditions necessary for socialism... 

At the same time socialism is inconceivable unless the proletariat is the ruler of the state. This also is ABC. And history (which nobody, except Menshevik blockheads of the first order, ever expected to bring about “complete” socialism smoothly, gently, easily and simply) has taken such a peculiar course that it has given birth in 1918 to two unconnected halves of socialism existing side by side like two future chickens in the single shell of international imperialism. In 1918 Germany and Russia have become the most striking embodiment of the material realisation of the economic, the productive and the socio-economic conditions for socialism, on the one hand, and the political conditions, on the other.” 

And Lenin, quotes his own previous comments, written in September 1917, prior to them taking power, in The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It 

““. . . Try to substitute for the Junker-capitalist state, for the landowner-capitalist state, a revolutionary-democratic state, i.e., a state which in a revolutionary way abolishes all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way. You will find that, given a really revolutionary-democratic state, state-monopoly capitalism inevitably and unavoidably implies a step, and more than one step, towards socialism! 

“. . . For socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly. 

“. . . State-monopoly capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs” (pages 27 and 28)

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Part I - Part 20 of 31

This is the process of primary capital accumulation, which, in turn, leads to the concentration and centralisation of capital, the expropriation of the expropriators, via the creation of socialised capital, which establishes the transitional form of property, prior to Socialism. Lenin later quotes Engels from Anti-Duhring

““Thus, by characterising the process as the negation of the negation, Marx does not intend to prove that the process was historically necessary. On the contrary: only after he has proved from history that in fact the process has partially already occurred, and partially must occur in the future, he in addition characterises it as a process which develops in accordance with a definite dialectical law. That is all. It is therefore once again a pure distortion of the facts by Herr Dühring when he declares that the negation of the negation has to serve here as the midwife to deliver the future from the womb of the past, or that Marx wants anyone to be convinced of the necessity of the common ownership of land and capital . . . on the basis of credence in the negation of the negation” (p. 125).” (p 173) 

And, returning to the description above, what this process also reveals is that the number of branches of industry increases. This is simultaneously a manifestation of the social division of labour, and of the broadening of the market. The peasant producer who previously produced most of their own food, and who also produced their own clothes, now must buy their clothes in the market, because they do not have the time to produce them, whilst they sell their labour-power, for the time they would previously have been engaged in that activity. The market is already expanded in consequence. But, the task of spinning and weaving that formed one industry, for the peasant producer, now becomes separated into two for the capitalist producer, with the spinning industry finding a market for its commodities in the weaving industry. The market is expanded again. 

“... this very division and the concentration of production give rise to new branches—machine building, coal mining, and so forth.” (p 176) 

Lenin describes the change in the social relations this brings about. The individual producers all produced simultaneously, but separately. They are all atomised, and in competition with each other. It is the condition that Marx describes in The Poverty of Philosophy of explaining why the peasantry, with its heterogeneous conditions, and ideas, could never form into a class for itself. The same applies today to the plethora of small private capitalists, and is why such social layers can only hold political power indirectly via some form of Bonapartist regime. By contrast, this process of concentration and centralisation, combined with a socialisation of production, creates a much smaller, tighter-knit class of larger capitalist producers, with a community of ideas, and common conditions, as well as each depending on the other. 

“The case is entirely different under the socialisation of labour that has been achieved due to capitalism. The manufacturer who produces fabrics depends on the cotton-yarn manufacturer; the latter depends on the capitalist planter who grows the cotton, on the owner of the engineering works, the coal mine, and so on and so forth. The result is that no capitalist can get along without others. It is clear that the saying “every man for himself” is quite inapplicable to such a regime: here each works for all and all for each (and no room is left for God—either as a super-mundane fantasy or as a mundane “golden calf”). The character of the regime changes completely.” (p 176) 

And, as I have pointed out previously, in discussing crises of overproduction, under pre-capitalist production, if any individual producer faced a crisis, or their production came to a standstill, this had no impact on all the others. Under capitalism, if production comes to a standstill for any large producer, or for several smaller producers, this has immediate consequences for all other producers. And, that applies inside the factory too. A lack of any component, the breakdown of an assembly line, stops the production throughout the factory, affecting all its workers. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

How Capital Produces Capitalists and Capitalism, and Then Socialism - Part 7 of 13

Commodity production then leads to competition, which means that certain individuals are privileged in this competition, and prosper, whilst others are ruined. Those that prosper accumulate money, those that are ruined are reduced to having to sell their labour-power (initially their labour-service) to those that have accumulated money, and in the process the latter thereby appropriate surplus value (even when they provide labour-service, the buyer appropriates surplus value, because the individual value of the output is lower than its market value), which is converted into capital. Commodity production and competition creates capital, and capital thereby creates capitalists, who collectively form a capitalist class. This capitalist class develops bourgeois ideas and culture, and as the bourgeoisie itself becomes dominant, so its ideas become dominant, and the state itself becomes a capitalist state defending and promoting capitalism as the mode of production. This is a process of social evolution according to the unfolding of natural laws

But, these same natural laws lead to capital destroying itself as private property, and becoming socialised capital. That is a consequence of the continued process of capital accumulation, concentration and centralisation. But, similarly, this also has social consequences. The private capitalist now disappears from the scene, their social function in production disappears, just as, previously, the social function of the landlord, in production, disappeared, when the capitalist farmer undertook that role. The social function of the private capitalist is now fulfilled by the “functioning capitalist”, a professional manager, technician or administrator, now drawn from the ranks of the working-class itself. This means that social development brings forth a new type of privileged individual whose characteristics are best adapted to the new productive and social relations. 

Social-democracy is a transitional form of society resting upon this socialised capital, as a transitional form of property between capitalism and socialism. For so long as the working-class itself does not rise to the level of consciousness that it recognises that it is the collective owner of this socialised capital, a condition that only exists where the workers have created worker owned cooperatives, it is subject to its control over that capital being exercised by other forces. At an immediate level that control is exercised by these “functioning capitalists”, who, separated from any control over them, by the working-class itself, forms a petty-bourgeois, bureaucratic layer, whose behaviour is itself determined by its relation to the means of production. Its social function is to organise production efficiently so as to maximise profits, and it acts in accord with that goal. But, as an intermediate social grouping, coming itself from the working-class, it also views society from its own perspective, its role being to arbitrate and conciliate antagonisms between capital and labour, rather than to assert the dominance of labour over capital. And, because it cannot get beyond this mindset, which is itself limited within the bounds of bourgeois production, it always, therefore, must ultimately end up subordinating labour to capital, because it cannot see any means of furthering the interests of labour without first furthering the interests of capital accumulation. 

As the productive forces continue to develop on an ever larger scale, so this socialised capital is forced to borrow more and more the techniques of the encroaching Socialist society. Not only does each enterprise engage in increased planning of production, as opposed to the unplanned chaotic speculative production of capitalism in its early stages, but businesses themselves come together in cartels to share research and development costs, and plan production, the capitalist state itself intervenes in the economy to plan and regulate production. As Engels puts it, 

“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.” 

(Anti-Duhring p 358) 

At the same time, in these giant socialised capitals, apart from the worker-owned cooperatives, it is not just the functioning-capitalists that exercise control. The money-lending capitalists, the shareholders, having removed themselves from an active role, ensure, instead, that they exercise control via the appointment of executives to protect their interests as against the interests of the company. The functioning capitalists occupy an intermediate position between the interests of the producers (workers and managers) and the productive-capital on the one side, and the owners of fictitious capital (shareholders), and their representatives amongst the executives on the other. On the one hand, juridically, because company law has been framed to give control to shareholders, the latter have ultimate control, but that does not change the laws of capital, and, ultimately, unless real capital accumulates, profits fall, and so the ability to pay dividends/interest to shareholders is undermined, and consequently, ultimately, the value of their shares is undermined. QE by central banks to inflate asset prices can only hide that truth for so long.

Monday, 25 May 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Part I - Part 19 of 31

Lenin examines the process of primary capital accumulation and subsequent concentration and centralisation of capital that leads up to this expropriation of the expropriators, and creation of socialised capital. Its perhaps also worth describing, here, why this process proceeds first with the development of capitalist production in industry, in the towns, and only moves subsequently into agriculture. Considering Marx's Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall, as the organic composition of capital rises, the opposite might be thought to be true, but further consideration shows why that cannot be, and was also demonstrated in Lenin's earlier table. Firstly, of course, as Marx shows, the law does not operate in agriculture/primary production, because of the existence of landed property, and the fact that surplus profits simply are appropriated as rent

There are three basic requirements for capitalist production. Firstly, there must be an accessible market into which commodities are sold. Second, that market must be of a sufficient size to justify production on a large-scale that justifies an extended division of labour, and use of machines. Thirdly, there must be sufficient available wage labour to be employed by capital. Markets exist prior to capitalist production. As Marx and Engels describe, commodity production and exchange goes back 10,000 years, and markets arise as the places where these exchanges occur. Peasant producers may produce the bulk of their own food requirements, initially selling only the part of their surplus product required to pay rents and taxes plus the small number of other commodities they do not provide themselves, for example, to pay a blacksmith, to buy wine or beer, and so on. 

Under these conditions, no peasant producer can become a capitalist. Some may be able to produce more efficiently than others, and, on the basis of it, enjoy a higher standard of living. They may have a larger surplus product, which they sell and acquire money, which may enable them to buy additional animals and so on. But, none of this constitutes capital. There is no point in them expanding their agricultural surplus product significantly, because no market for it exists. Such a market depends upon peasant producers not producing the food they require, and having to buy it. The market itself, therefore, is constrained in size, because it depends on there being consumers who must buy food, rather than being able to produce it for themselves. Some peasants may be less efficient, and so produce less than others, but it does not prevent them still being self-sufficient. In an economy of direct producers, all of them can produce food for themselves, and so do not need to go into the market to buy it from the richer peasants, who may have large surpluses. The richer peasants can only raise production to raise their own living standards, not to accumulate capital. Even where the direct producers begin to concentrate on producing commodities, i.e. products in which they have some particular comparative advantage, this remains the case. 

If peasant A gives up producing potatoes, because they have a comparative advantage in producing carrots, they will only buy the potatoes required for their consumption, and give up carrots in a corresponding proportion. Even this commodity production, here, is still really direct production, because the peasant merely produces one use value they can produce efficiently, in order to obtain some other use value they can either not produce, or can only produce less efficiently. It continues to be production for the purpose of obtaining use values for consumption C – M – C. In order for capitalist production to commence, the demand for a commodity must be sufficiently great that it makes it possible for a capitalist producer to produce on such a scale, and by employing wage labour that they can sell all of their output, and, thereby, realise the surplus value produced by their workers, as profit

As Marx points out, this is in those lines of industry that develop in the towns. The craft guilds producing industrial products that the agricultural producer cannot produce for themselves tend to make large profits, particularly where they can be sold to the landlords. In part, these profits derive from unequal exchange between town and country. But, it is this condition that is then required to enable capitalist production to develop in the towns. First, it is the individual craft producer who goes under for a variety of reasons. The master craftsman, or else the merchant who previously sold materials to, and bought the final product of, the craft producer now takes over their means of production, and employs the craft producer as a wage worker alongside others. It may take the form of the Putting Out System, or the creation of a handicraft workshop or manufactory, where these workers are brought together. But, now, the means of production have been turned into capital. 

That is why capitalist production must always begin in industry, and so in the towns, and not in agriculture. Its only when this capitalist production in the towns develops, expanding the market for its commodities as it goes, that this industrial production also undercuts the traditional domestic production that had previously been undertaken in the peasant's cottage, alongside their agricultural production. As soon as the peasant's domestic production is undermined, they are unable to produce the revenues required to cover rents, taxes, and their requirements for other commodities. So, now, too, the poor peasant, in order to obtain these revenues, must also sell their labour-power. They must become a wage worker, at least for part of the week. Now, at last, the money accumulated by the richer peasant can be turned into capital. They can, at last, buy labour-power itself, and extract surplus value from it. The longer the poor peasant must work as a wage labourer, the less time they have to produce even their own food, which they also must now buy in the market. 

Sunday, 24 May 2020

How Capital Produces Capitalists and Capitalism, and Then Socialism - Part 6 of 13

As Lenin points out, if you want to change that mode of production it cannot be done simply by demanding that the state goes down some alternative path, as the Narodniks sought to do, on the back of their subjectivist sociology. Nor can it be done simply by changing the government, or even by seizing control of the apparatus of the state. It can only be done on the basis of changing society itself, of changing which class is economically and socially dominant, and whose ideas, thereby, become dominant, and so capable of infusing the spirit of the state itself. 

“And so, in order to compel the wheel of history to turn in the other direction, one must appeal to “living individuals” against “living individuals”... appeal to a class against a class. For this, good and pious wishes about “nearest roads” are highly inadequate; this requires a “redistribution of the social force among the classes,”... This is the only and hence the nearest “road to human happiness,” a road along which one can not only soften the negative aspects of the existing state of things, not only cut its existence short by speeding up its development, but put an end to it altogether, by compelling the “wheel” (not of state, but of social forces) to turn in quite another direction.” 

(Lenin – The Economic Content of Narodism) 

This is simply a restatement of the point made by Marx in The Critique of the Gotha Programme that the state is not some autonomous body separated from society, and so society cannot be changed by simply capturing or attempting to “perfect” the state, but only by changing society, which then changes the nature of the state itself. 

“The German Workers' party — at least if it adopts the program — shows that its socialist ideas are not even skin-deep; in that, instead of treating existing society (and this holds good for any future one) as the basis of the existing state (or of the future state in the case of future society), it treats the state rather as an independent entity that possesses its own intellectual, ethical, and libertarian bases.” 

(Marx – Critique of The Gotha Programme, Chapter 4)

Saturday, 23 May 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Part I - Part 18 of 31

Lenin quotes Marx's comments in relation to his use of the dialectic, as a means of elaboration, as opposed to its use by Hegel. For Hegel, the dialectic is the unfolding of The Idea, which determines reality. 

“Marx says plainly that his method is the “direct opposite” of Hegel’s method.” (p 167) 

For Marx, the starting point is an accurate analysis of reality, and how that reality is changing. It is understanding the nature of this process of change in reality, the laws underpinning it that allows us to see where the result of that change is heading. 

“With me, on the contrary,” says Marx, “the ideal is nothing but the reflection of the material.” (p 167) 

The role of consciousness, then, is to understand this process of change, to identify the destination, and to facilitate it. Childbirth happens as a consequence of pregnancy; it is facilitated if a midwife is there to assist. 

Yet, Lenin points out, Mikhailovsky does not set out any understanding of dialectics, or discuss whether the development of society can be analysed in the same way that the evolution in natural history is analysed. Instead, Mikhailovsky attributes the use of Hegelian triads to Marx, thereby setting up a straw man to knock down. In this, Mikhailovsky echoes Duhring, but without mentioning him. Duhring, like Mikhailovsky, suggests that Marx arrives at his conclusion for Socialism, and the “expropriation of the expropriators”, on the basis of the application of the Hegelian dialectic. But, the opposite is the case, as Marx's comments in Capital III, Chapter 27, set out previously, illustrate. Marx's comments about the expropriation of the expropriators were not a prediction of the future, based upon some manifestation of the Logos. It is a description of what had already happened in reality. When Marx talks about “inevitability”, it is never a prediction of the future, but a statement about what is already reality. 

First, the scattered means of production of individual producers are expropriated, and become capital. Then bigger capitals expropriate smaller capitals. Finally, even the biggest private capitals become fetters on accumulation, and so they are expropriated by socialised capital, in the form of cooperatives and joint stock companies/corporations. This was not a prediction, but a reality that already existed by the second half of the 19th century, and, as Engels says in his Supplement to Capital III, after the passing of the Limited Liabilities Act, in 1855, this process of the expropriation of the expropriators accelerated further, with a massive expansion of this socialised capital. 

“And the whole matter thus amounts to an “affirmative recognition of the existing state of things and of its inevitable development””. (p 167) 

Northern Soul Classics - I've Got To Be Strong - Chuck Jackson

Friday, 22 May 2020

Friday Night Disco - Green Onions - Booker T & The MG's

Written when Booker T was just 16.

How Capital Produces Capitalists and Capitalism, and Then Socialism - Part 5 of 13

Capital is not created by capitalists. Capitalists are created by capital. As soon as peasants and petty producers begin to produce commodities, a process is set in place, whereby competition between them arises. In previous times, this results in some of them being reduced to slavery, but when the historical conditions develop, so that sizeable markets, in towns, for some types of commodities, develop, it instead results in the means of production of some becoming capital, whilst the others become wage labourers.  This is not a matter of a subjective desire of the individual peasant to get rich. It is just a simple fact that, in order to sell their commodities, so as to get the other commodities they require for their consumption, or to get money to pay taxes, they must be able to produce those commodities at least as cheaply as all other producers. But, some will have natural advantages, which is a direct consequence itself of material conditions.

In the same way that, under different conditions, either a lighter or darker moth is better adapted, so too, here, some are better adapted to these new material conditions than others. Some will have better land, some will be more adept at producing certain commodities and so on. As a consequence, as a market value is established for each type of commodity, so some producers will produce at an individual value below it, and some above it. The former will accumulate money, the latter will gradually find they must borrow money, then leading to them going into debt, and then losing their means of production. Even before that, they will have to get the money they require by selling their labour for part of the week. They will sell it to the richer peasants and commodity producers, who now have surplus money to hire this labour, as well as to buy additional and better means of production. The surplus money they accumulated becomes capital not out of any conscious design on their part, but as part of a natural process of social evolution. 

As Marx says, in his comment above in Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 9, this is simply a matter of certain individuals being able to take advantage of the given material conditions, because they are best adapted to those conditions. As Lenin says, in response to the Narodniks subjectivist analysis of the development of the Russian bourgeoisie, as comprising people who were cheats, and so on, it is not these characteristics that causes capitalism to develop, but the development of capital itself, which enables such people, particularly in its earliest manifestations, to prosper. It is those characteristics that best enables capital to grow more rapidly, by extracting the greatest amounts of profit.

And, once this section of society does begin to prosper, it then has access to all of those things that the previous ruling class was able to utilise. It sends its children to school, and to University; those children, become writers, and teachers, and university professors, as well as civil servants, lawyers, judges and so on. All of the ideas that flow from a bourgeois lifestyle, and bourgeois production now colour all aspects of life from literature, and culture to science and law. It is by these means that capital not only creates capitalists, but it creates the ruling ideas of the age.

Society and history is driven forward by real individuals, but the ideas in the heads of these individuals are by no means simply accidental or arbitrary, or the product of some rational thought process, separated from reality, but are themselves the product of the experiences of those individuals of real life, of the material world in which they exist. The state, as the instrument of the ruling class is itself, made up of such individuals, and the ideas in their heads, are likewise, thereby, the ideas of this ruling class. The combination of capital as the dominant form of property, along with the development, on the basis of it, of a capitalist class, and the development, therefrom, of a state comprised of individuals, themselves imbued with the ideas of this capitalist class, is what comprises the capitalist mode of production itself.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Part I - Part 17 of 31

Lenin engages with Mikhailovsky's appeal to the role of the individual in history, as opposed to what he describes as materialism's reduction of the individual to a mere marionette, driven by necessity. For Mikhailovsky, this is phrased in terms of the role of “the hero and the crowd.” This was typical of the middle class individualist and idealist mindset of the Narodniks, which led some of them to individual acts of terror which went nowhere. Similar approaches can be seen by the same sociological strands today. In fact, as Lenin says, there is no conflict between materialism and the role of the individual. The point is under what historical conditions particular ideas arise, and under what conditions can they take hold and succeed. 

Lenin then moves on to a question that appears peripheral, but which is, in fact, central. That is the question of dialectics, and how dialectics relates to the theory of historical materialism. Mikhailovsky uses a familiar trick amongst Marx's bourgeois critics, which is to conflate his scientific theory of history, and the dialectical method of expression that Marx sometimes uses in elaborating it. But, in so doing, they also conflate the Marxist dialectic, which is materialist, and flows from the description of real contradictions existing in the real world, and the Hegelian dialectic, which starts from an unfolding of The Idea, which is then manifest in reality. 

Lenin provides a succinct account. 

“What Marx and Engels called the dialectical method—as against the metaphysical—is nothing else than the scientific method in sociology, which consists in regarding society as a living organism in a state of constant development (and not as something mechanically concatenated and therefore permitting all sorts of arbitrary combinations of separate social elements), an organism the study of which requires an objective analysis of the production relations that constitute the given social formation and an investigation of its laws of functioning and development.” (p 165) 

Lenin quotes from I.I. Kaufmann's “The Standpoint of Karl Marx’s Critique of Political Economy”, in Vestnik Vestropy, which Marx also cites in his Afterword to the Second Edition of Capital I. Marx said it was one of the best expositions of the dialectical method. 

Lenin writes, 

“The one thing of importance to Marx, it is there stated, is to find the law governing the phenomena he is investigating, and of particular importance to him is the law of change, the development of those phenomena, of their transition from one form into another, from one order of social relations to another. Consequently, Marx is concerned with one thing only: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of the given order of social relations, and to establish, as fully as possible, the facts that serve him as fundamental points of departure. For this purpose it is quite enough if, while proving the necessity of the present order of things, he at the same time proves the necessity of another order which must inevitably grow out of the preceding one regardless of whether men believe in it or not, whether they are conscious of it or not. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intentions, but, rather, on the contrary, determining the will, consciousness and intentions of men.” (p 166) 

So, for example, no matter how much of a hero, no matter how far-sighted an individual may have been, it would simply not have been possible for an individual, even supported by a large crowd, to have created Socialism directly from Feudalism, because, without Capitalism first fulfilling its historic mission of concentrating the individual means of production, converting them into capital, bringing about the creation of socialised, cooperative labour and production, increasing the division of labour, expanding trade, creating and appropriating surplus value, so as to accumulate capital, the material conditions upon which Socialism rests are not possible. And, note again, here, Lenin's phrasing of the question. It is not one in which different social formations exist discretely and sequentially, each being simply concatenated with another, but a process of social evolution, whereby one social formation grows into the next, as part of a process of natural history, just as the theory of Evolution shows how one species evolves into another. 

As Marx says, in Capital III, Chapter 27, 

“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.” 

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

How Capital Produces Capitalists and Capitalism, and Then Socialism - Part 4 of 13

Marx had discerned that the existing form of property, feudal landed property, which gave rise to a landed aristocracy as ruling class, had been supplanted by new forms of property, capital, which gives rise to a new ruling class, the bourgeoisie. It is this new form of property that is then progressive, it drives society and social development forward. This bourgeoisie had itself arisen out of one of the old classes of feudal society, the peasantry and petty commodity producers, as it differentiated into two groups, the bourgeoisie and proletariat. Now, as capital develops, it too creates new material conditions, and new social relations. The process of capital accumulation it engenders leads to a concentration and centralisation of capital, and the end result of this process is to destroy capital itself as private property. Capital as private property is destroyed and becomes socialised capital, as cooperatives and joint stock companies, a process that Marx describes as “the expropriation of the expropriators”. The capitalists themselves are then removed from any social function, their place in production is taken by workers, who become professional managers, “functioning capitalists” who do not individually own, but borrow, capital to utilise in production. The only role of the private capitalist is then as money-lending capitalists. The socialised capital is itself then the collective property of the associated producers, the workers and managers within the firm, and it is this form of property that now becomes progressive, and to which all forward movement should be directed. 

The Narodniks attacked the Marxists because the latter saw large-scale capitalist production as progressive. As Lenin puts it, in opposition to the Narodniks who saw capitalism as a backward step compared to the independence of the peasant producer, 

“Yes, the Marxists do consider large-scale capitalism progressive—not, of course, because it replaces “independence” by dependence, but because it creates conditions for abolishing dependence.” 

(ibid) 

As Lenin was to put it a decade later, 

“And from these principles it follows that the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary. In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism. The removal of all the remnants of the old order which are hampering the broad, free and rapid development of capitalism is of decided advantage to the working class.” 


As soon as society goes past its current stage of development, and creates Socialism, capitalism will become reactionary. But until such time as that happens, capitalism remains progressive, and its more mature form as socialised capital, as multinational capital, i.e. as imperialism, is its most progressive form. The route to socialism, as Lenin sets out above, continues to run through the continued development of capitalism/imperialism, so that the antagonistic contradiction inherent within it is raised to ever higher levels, so that the progressive element within that forward movement, represented by the role of the proletariat is enhanced.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Part I - Part 16 of 31

As Lenin says, 

“Then one can understand that Mr. Mikhailovsky cannot grasp the simple truth that there is no other way of combating national hatred than by organising and uniting the oppressed class for a struggle against the oppressor class in each separate country, than by uniting such national working-class organisations into a single international working-class army to fight international capital.” (p 156) 

Our Narodnik Lexiters of today want not only to pursue a reactionary course of turning back the clock on the most progressive historical achievement in European history, but also want to have the workers of each country fight with one hand tied behind their back, by making them fight international capital purely within the constraints of their own nation state! 

“As to the statement that the International did not prevent the workers from cutting each others throats, it is enough to remind Mr. Mikhailovsky of the events of the Commune, which showed the true attitude of the organised proletariat to the ruling classes engaged in war.” (p 156) 

Lenin's description of Mikhailovsky's polemical method could be applied to that of today's internet trolls, which, unfortunately, does not differ too significantly to some sections of the Left whose knowledge of Marxism seems largely peripheral and second-hand, imbibed from the propaganda and mantras of whichever sect they follow. 

“Such too are the methods Mr. Mikhailovsky employs when he argues against the Russian Marxists: without taking the trouble to formulate any of their theses conscientiously and accurately, so as to subject them to direct and definite criticism, he prefers to fasten on fragments of Marxist arguments he happens to have heard and to garble them.” (p 156-7) 

And Lenin, in describing Marx's method, compared to the earlier socialists, could equally be applied to large sections of today's Left that appears to have degenerated to pre-Marxist conditions. 

“One may not agree with Marx, but one cannot deny that he formulated with the utmost precision those of his views which constitute “something new” in relation to the earlier socialists. The something new consisted in the fact that the earlier socialists thought that to substantiate their views it was enough to show the oppression of the masses under the existing regime, to show the superiority of a system under which every man would receive what he himself had produced, to show that this ideal system harmonised with “human nature,” with the conception of a rational and moral life, and so forth. Marx found it impossible to content himself with such a socialism. He did not confine himself to describing the existing system, to judging it and condemning it; he gave a scientific explanation of it, reducing that existing system, which differs in the different European and non-European countries, to a common basis—the capitalist social formation, the laws of the functioning and development of which he subjected to an objective analysis (he showed the necessity of exploitation under that system). In just the same way he did not find it possible to content himself with asserting that only the socialist system harmonises with human nature, as was claimed by the great utopian socialists and by their wretched imitators, the subjective sociologists. By this same objective analysis of the capitalist system, he proved the necessity of its transformation into the socialist system. (Exactly how he proved this and how Mr. Mikhailovsky objected to it is something we shall have to refer to again.) That is the source of those references to necessity which are frequently to be met with among Marxists.” (p 157-8) 

Note, here, that Lenin does not have any truck with all the “anti-capitalist” nonsense, which sees Socialism as deriving from some kind of catastrophic crisis or collapse of capitalism, which is the basis of all those catastrophist theories of crisis based on The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall (and similar catastrophism abounds amongst environmentalists), and which is also behind calls for Lexit and Scottish independence, i.e. the idea that if the existing capitalist formations – British state, EU – can be broken up, this will hasten the crisis that will destroy capitalism. Rather, Lenin, like Marx and Engels, talks of “the necessity of its transformation into the socialist system.” 

Monday, 18 May 2020

How Capital Produces Capitalists and Capitalism, and Then Socialism - Part 3 of 13

The biologist has no judgement about whether the lighter or darker moth is better or worse than the other. They simply acknowledge the reality that each evolves because they are, in different material conditions, better suited to those conditions than the other. And, this is the same argument that Lenin advances against the Narodniks who wanted to determine what was a natural or preferred path to follow simply on the basis of subjectivism. The Marxist, however, observes the reality of the material conditions as they exist, and observes what forms of property they create, which replaces the existing forms of property; what classes of people are then created by these different forms of property, and it is on this basis that they discern the direction of forward movement, and so what constitutes progress and what reaction. 

Marx notes, in terms reminiscent of Darwin

“To oppose the welfare of the individual to this end, as Sismondi does, is to assert that the development of the species must be arrested in order to safeguard the welfare of the individual, so that, for instance, no war may be waged in which at all events some individuals perish. Sismondi is only right as against the economists who conceal or deny this contradiction.) Apart from the barrenness of such edifying reflections, they reveal a failure to understand the fact that, although at first the development of the capacities of the human species takes place at the cost of the majority of human individuals and even classes, in the end it breaks through this contradiction and coincides with the development of the individual; the higher development of individuality is thus only achieved by a historical process during which individuals are sacrificed for the interests of the species in the human kingdom, as in the animal and plant kingdoms, always assert themselves at the cost of the interests of individuals, because these interests of the species coincide only with the interests of certain individuals, and it is this coincidence which constitutes the strength of these privileged individuals.” (p 117-8) 

(Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 9) 

In other words, society evolves through a succession of different modes of production. The evolution of these different modes of production is conditioned by material conditions, and these material conditions are by no means identical across the globe, so that there is no pre-ordained sequence through which society must always go. For example, in large parts of the globe society experienced the Asiatic Mode of Production, in which a bureaucratic collectivist state controlled the means of production, and a bureaucratic caste ruled, not as owners of the means of production, but via control over them. What is common in all these modes of production is that the vast majority must labour, whilst a minority appropriates their surplus labour. However morally reprehensible this may be, for Marx, analysing this process of social evolution scientifically, it is not only necessary but progressive. It is these exploiting classes that force the producers to produce surplus value, and out of it is developed higher levels of science and culture, which is the basis for developing the forces of production, which then drives on the productive relations, and creates the next, higher level of social development. Capitalism is by far the most effective means of doing this, and so the most progressive form of social development seen in Man's history, as he and Engels describe in The Communist Manifesto

“To assert, as sentimental opponents of Ricardo’s did, that production as such is not the object, is to forget that production for its own sake means nothing but the development of human productive forces, in other words the development of the richness of human nature as an end in itself.” 

(ibid)

Sunday, 17 May 2020

What The Friends of the People Are, Part I - Part 15 of 31

Mikhailovsky, like all bourgeois ideologists, takes categories specific to capitalism and turns them into eternal categories. So, capital is reduced to things – means of production – thereby transforming all means of production, in every social formation, into capital. Wage labour is reduced to labour, so that labour in every social formation is treated as though it were wage labour, even if it means that the independent labourer must, therefore, pay themselves their own wages. And, here, Mikhailovsky assumes that inheritance, and the family are eternal categories. 

“Actually, the institution of inheritance presumes the existence of private property, and the latter arises only with the appearance of exchange. Its basis is in the already incipient specialisation of social labour and the alienation of products on the market. So long, for instance, as all the members of the primitive American Indian community produced in common all the articles they required, private property was impossible. But when division of labour invaded the community and its members proceeded, individually, to engage in the production of some one article and to sell it on the market, this material isolation of the commodity producers found expression in the institution of private property. Both private property and inheritance are categories of a social order in which separate, small (monogamous) families have already been formed and exchange has begun to develop. Mr. Mikhailovskys example proves exactly the opposite of what he wanted to prove.” (p 153-4) 

And, Mikhailovsky again adopts this same bourgeois perspective in deriving the institution of the nation. He reverses the actual development. So, for Mikhailovsky, first, we have the individual family; from there we have the development of the tribe, as a collection of families, and from there the nation, as a collection of tribes. But, this is the opposite of the real historical development, as demonstrated by Morgan, and many anthropologists since. Moreover, not only is it that the family arises out of gentile society, but nor is Mikhailovsky's account accurate for more modern times. 

“Mr. Mikhailovsky, evidently, borrows his ideas on the history of society from the tales taught to school children. The history of society—this copybook maxim runs—is that first there was the family, that nucleus of every society, then—we are told—the family grew into the tribe, and the tribe grew into the state. If Mr. Mikhailovsky with a solemn air repeats this childish nonsense, it merely shows—apart from everything else— that he has not the slightest notion of the course taken even by Russian history. While one might speak of gentile life in ancient Rus, there can be no doubt that by the Middle Ages, the era of the Moscovite tsars, these gentile ties no longer existed, that is to say, the state was based on associations that were not gentile at all, but local: the landlords and the monasteries acquired peasants from various localities, and the communities thus formed were purely territorial associations.” (p 154) 

Lenin describes the split in these regional and principality bases, each with their own administrative peculiarities, and armies, “the local boyars went to war at the head of their own companies”, had their own tariff frontiers and so on. This was not peculiar to Russia, but could be seen in England, for example, with the division into the Heptarchy

“Only the modern period of Russian history (approximately from the seventeenth century) is characterised by the actual amalgamation of all such regions, lands and principalities into one whole. This amalgamation, most esteemed Mr. Mikhailovsky, was brought about not by gentile ties, nor even by their continuation and generalisation: it was brought about by the increasing exchange among regions, the gradually growing circulation of commodities, and the concentration of the small local markets into a single, all-Russian market. Since the leaders and masters of this process were the merchant capitalists, the creation of these national ties was nothing else than the creation of bourgeois ties.” (p 154-5) 

And, of course, this has major significance also for understanding the material basis for the progressive reality expressed in the creation of the EU. It is a perfect example for demonstrating the thoroughly reactionary nature of Brexit, and of those promoting it, including those that cloak it in the colours of Lexit. The similarity in the idealist, subjectivist approach of those on the Left (so called Lexiters) promoting that position, and of the Narodniks and their Sismondist predecessors is plain to see. 

Mikhailovsky moves on from this derivation of the nation, and the power of these natural ties, relative to class ties, and the class struggle as the driver of history, to point out that despite the First International, it did not prevent French and German workers from slaughtering each other in the Franco-Prussian War. Twenty years later, an even greater manifestation of that would be seen in WWI. For Mikhailovsky, this means that materialism has not settled accounts “with the demon of national vanity and national hatred.” 

What this shows, however, is his failure to understand that the material basis of this national vanity and national hatred is precisely the economic interests of national capitals. Indeed, in just the same way that, in England, these economic developments meant that the Heptarchy became one United Kingdom, with one single market, one single currency, and the same process is described above by Lenin in relation to Russia, but can be seen also in France, Italy and across Europe, i.e. the process by which the nation state is created, what the Napoleonic Wars, the Franco-Prussian War, and WWI and II (in Europe) are about is this same drive to create a large single market, single state, and single currency, adequate to the material conditions and requirements of multinational capital. This attempt, which failed by military means, in those previous conflicts, was eventually achieved peacefully, and by mutual consent, with the creation of the EU, perhaps the most progressive historical development in European if not world history. 

Saturday, 16 May 2020

How Capital Produces Capitalists and Capitalism, and Then Socialism - Part 2 of 13

So, although Marx and Engels saw their theory as being of the same type of materialism as Darwin's theory of evolution, they rejected the use of Darwin's theory itself as a bourgeois apologia for capitalism, or other forms of class society. They particularly rejected the concept of the war of all against all, as Darwin himself developed it on the basis of Malthus' population theory, for the same reasons that they rejected Malthus' population theory itself. It basically explains social phenomena, i.e. the rising up of a certain group of individuals, on an individualistic basis of a survival of the fittest. In fact, it is not even a proper application of the Darwinian theory itself, which is about the best adapted members of each species, not necessarily the fittest, smartest or whatever. 

“The whole Darwinian theory of the struggle for existence is simply the transference from society to animate nature of Hobbes’ theory of the war of every man against every man and the bourgeois economic theory of competition, along with the Malthusian theory of population. This feat having been accomplished – (as indicated under (1) I dispute its unqualified justification, especially where the Malthusian theory is concerned) – the same theories are next transferred back again from organic nature to history and their validity as eternal laws of human society declared to have been proved. The childishness of this procedure is obvious, it is not worth wasting words over. But if I wanted to go into it further I should do it in such a way that I exposed them in the first place as bad economists and only in the second place as bad natural scientists and philosophers.” 


Marx and Engels' theory of historical materialism starts from the material conditions existing in society, and then explains how these conditions favour certain types of people, certain groups in society. For primitive Man, it was, in fact, the precariousness of existence that led, not to a struggle of all against all, but to the need for cooperation in order to survive. Such cooperation and mutuality can still be seen amongst people living in precarious conditions today. In different sets of material conditions, different types of behaviour, other types of people, other groups are favoured. It is not some war of all against all that is the basis of this struggle, a class struggle, but the fact that, as material conditions change, and so different types of property emerge, so these material changes bring about changes in the types of people that are able to benefit from these changes. It is not, for example, that slave owners became landlords, who became capitalists. These are different classes comprising entirely different personnel, the one supplanting that which went before it. 

Biologists have described how, when the industrial revolution created large amounts of pollution in towns and cities, a particular type of moth evolved its natural colouring so that it became much darker, so that it was better camouflaged when it settled on trees and buildings. When, in the 1960's, and afterwards, a lot of this air pollution began to be cleared as Clean Air Acts were introduced, and coal was replaced by gas, electric and oil, these darker moths lost their natural advantage, because they were now more visible on the lighter surfaces they settled on. So, the moths of the species that were lighter were favoured by these new material conditions, they survived better, bred, and passed on their genes, so that the species evolved back towards a lighter colouring. This is the same process that applies to social development, as different material conditions, different productive relations, favour certain types of people, that then form into social classes, representing these particular forms of property. Lenin describes this in his polemics against the subjective sociologists of Narodism

“The Marxist adheres to this latter view; he asserts that all this is no accident at all, but a necessity, a necessity conditioned by the capitalist mode of production prevailing in Russia. Once the peasant becomes a commodity producer (and all peasants have already become such), his “morality” will inevitably be “based on the rouble,” and we have no grounds for blaming him for this, as the very conditions of life compel him to catch this rouble by all sorts of trading devices. Under these conditions, without resort to any crime, servility, or falsification, the “peasantry” split into rich and poor. The old equality cannot hold out against the fluctuations of the market. This is not mere talk—it is a fact. And it is a fact that under these conditions the “wealth” of the few becomes capital, while the “poverty” of the masses compels them to sell their hands, to work for other people. Thus, from the Marxist’s viewpoint capitalism has already taken firm root, taken definite shape not only in factory industry but also in the countryside and all over Russia in general.” 

(Lenin – The Economic Content of Narodism)