Robots: what do they mean for jobs and incomes?

The recent opening by Amazon of a new retail store in the basement of its headquarters in Seattle has provoked more talk that human labour is soon to be wiped out by the expansion of robots and AI.

At the store, which is clearly a ‘pilot’, customers walk in, scan their phones, pick what they want off the shelves and walk out again. There are no checkouts or cashiers. Instead, customers first download an app onto their smartphones and then machines in the shop sense which customer is which and what they are picking off the shelves. Within a minute or two of the shopper leaving the store, a receipt pops up on their phone for items they have bought.  This development in ‘automatic’ retailing mirrors other automation: in offices, driverless cars, social care and in decision-making.

So does this mean that humans will soon be totally replaced by intelligent learning machines and algorithms?  In previous posts, I have outlined the forecasts on the number of jobs that will be lost to robots over the next decade or more.  It appears to be huge: and not just in manual work in factories but also in so-called white-collar work like journalism, banking and even economists!

The techno-futurists think robots will soon replace humans.  But I think they are running before they can walk – or to be more exact, so far, robots can hardly run and catch compared to humans.  This is ‘Moravec’s paradox, namely that “it is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult-level performance on intelligence tests or playing games, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility” (Moravec).   So algorithms can vote on whether to invest or not for hedge funds or banks, but a robot cannot even hit a tennis ball, let alone beat a club player.  Indeed, robot development is heading  more towards ‘cobots’, which act as an extension of the worker, in factories with the heavy work and in hospitals and social care for diagnosis. This does not directly replace the worker.

The mainstream economic debate is whether ‘technology’ will create more jobs than it destroys.  After all, the argument goes, new technology may get rid of certain jobs (hand loom weavers in the early 19th century) but provide new ones (textile factories).

One thought experiment is that provided by Paul Krugman.  In Krugman’s celebrated example, imagine there are two goods, sausages and bread rolls, which are then combined one for one to make hot dogs.  120 million workers are divided equally between the two industries:  60 million producing sausages, the other 60 million producing rolls, and both taking two days to produce one unit of output.

Now suppose new technology doubles productivity in bakeries.  Fewer workers are required to make rolls, but this increased productivity will mean that consumers get 33% more hot dogs.  Eventually the economy has 40 million workers making rolls and 80 million making sausages.  In the interim, the transition might lead to unemployment, particularly if skills are very specific to the baking industry. But in the long run, a change in relative productivity reallocates rather than destroys employment.

The story of bank tellers vs the cash machine (ATM) is another example of a technological innovation entirely replacing human labour for a particular task.  Did this led to a massive fall in the number of bank tellers?  Between the 1970s (when American’s first ATM was installed) and 2010 the number of bank tellers doubled. Reducing the number of tellers per branch made it cheaper to run a branch, so banks expanded their branch networks.  And the role gradually evolved away from cash handling and more towards relationship banking.

That’s the optimistic view.  But even then, as Marx pointed out with the rise of machines in the 19th century, the loss of jobs in one sector and their recreation in another is no seamless process of change. As Marx put it: The real facts, which are travestied by the optimism of the economists, are these: the workers, when driven out of the workshop by the machinery, are thrown onto the labour-market. Their presence in the labour-market increases the number of labour-powers which are at the disposal of capitalist exploitation…the effect of machinery, which has been represented as a compensation for the working class, is, on the contrary, a most frightful scourge. For the present I will only say this: workers who have been thrown out of work in a given branch of industry can no doubt look for employment in another branch…even if they do find employment, what a miserable prospect they face! Crippled as they are by the division of labour, these poor devils are worth so little outside their old trade that they cannot find admission into any industries except a few inferior and therefore over-supplied and under-paid branches. Furthermore, every branch of industry attracts each year a new stream of men, who furnish a contingent from which to fill up vacancies, and to draw a supply for expansion. As soon as machinery has set free a part of the workers employed in a given branch of industry, the reserve men are also diverted into new channels of employment, and become absorbed in other branches; meanwhile the original victims, during the period transition, for the most part starve and perish.” Grundrisse.

And then there is the profitability of technology.  Robots will not be widely applied unless they can deliver more profit for owners and investors in robotic applications.  But more robots and relatively less human labour will mean relative less value created per unit of capital invested, because from Marx’s law of value, we know that value (as incorporated in the sale of production for profit) is only created by human labour power.  And if that declines relatively to means of production employed, then there is tendency for profitability to fall.  So the expansion of robots and AI increases the likelihood and magnitude of profitability crises.  So it is very likely that slumps in capitalist production will intensify as machines increasingly replace labour.  This is the great contradiction of capitalism: increasing the productivity of labour through more machines reduces the profitability of capital.

Mainstream economics either denies the law of value or ignores it. Back in 1898, neo-Ricardian economist Vladimir Dmitriev, in order to refute Marx’s value theory, presented a hypothetical economy where machines (robots) did all and there was no human labour.  He argued that as there was still a huge surplus produced without labour, so Marx’s value theory was wrong.

But Dmitriev’s thought experiment is irrelevant because he and other mainstream economists do not understand value in the capitalist mode of production.  Value in a commodity for sale is double-sided: there is physical ‘use value’ in the good or service sold, but there is also ‘exchange-value’ in money and profit that must be realised in the sale.  Without the latter, capitalist production does not take place.  And only labour power creates such value.  Machines create no value (profit) without humans turning machines on.  Indeed, Dmitriev’s super abundant robot only economy would no longer be capitalist because there would be no profit for individual capitalists.

And here is the great contradiction of capitalism.  As machines replace human labour power, under capitalism, profitability falls even if the productivity of labour rises (more things and services are produced).  And falling profitability will periodically disrupt production of individual capitalists because they only employ labour and machines to make profits.  So crises are intensified well before we get to Dmitriev’s hypothetical robot world.

But what to do, as jobs are lost to robots?  Some liberal economists talk of a ‘robot tax’.  But all this would do is slow down automation – hardly a progressive move in reducing toil. The idea of universal basic income (UBI) continues to gain traction among economists, both leftist and mainstream.  I have discussed the merits and demerits of UBI before.  UBI is advocated by many neoliberal economic strategists as a way of replacing the ‘welfare state’ of free health, education and decent pensions with a basic income.  And it is being proposed to keep wages down for those in work.  Any decent level of basic income would be just too costly for capitalism to afford.  And even if UBI were won by workers in struggle, it would still not solve the issue of who owns the robots and the means of production in general.

A more exciting alternative, in my view, is the idea of Universal Basic Services i.e. what are called public goods and services, free at the point of use.  A super-abundant society is by definition one where our needs are met without toil and exploitation ie a socialist society. But the transition to such a society can start with devoting socially necessary labour to the production of basic social needs like education, health, housing, transport and basic foodstuffs and equipment.

Why use resources to give everybody a basic income to buy these social needs; why not make them free at the point of use?  Instead of cutting people who are not working off from those that are working with income handouts, we need to build unity at work through reducing the hours of labour and expanding (free at use) public services and goods for all.

Of course, this would require the many owning and controlling the means of production and planning the application of those resources for social need, not the profit of the few.  Robots and AI would then become part of the technological advance that would make a super-abundant society possible.

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113 Responses to “Robots: what do they mean for jobs and incomes?”

  1. MaoTseFunk Says:

    Just an aside, isn’t Krugman’s hypothetical incoherent? I mean if the productivity increases see more hotdogs being produced, then doesn’t that require a massive increase in demand to absorb the extra finished hot dogs? So, the only way his example would work (even ignoring that is relatively price inelastic) is a) previously there were not enough hotdogs produced b) previously hotdogs were also produced by others (which means they are now unemployed) c) they are firing hotdogs into space to appease the Oscar Meyer overlord. Am I missing something?

  2. Lucian George Says:

    1. I am afraid I completely do not understand the logic behind the claim that exchange value can only be produced through human labour and that no labour = no profit. What does this mean? How is this not disproved by the example of a privately owned machine whose maintenance etc. costs are lesser than the sale price of the end-product it is used to manufacture? In what sense is the resulting difference not a profit? How can it be proved/falsified? 2. Free universal services is indeed an exciting prospect for some goods for which demand is relatively inelastic and whose consumption brings other kinds of benefit to society (e.g. public transport – good for the environment; public health – good and humane to be healthy). In other cases though demonetisation of goods which exist in relative abundance, but for which demand most certainly is not elastic and whose increased consumption would prove detrimental, seems like a recipe for wasteage and collective irresponsibility. I have in mind food, especially meat and fish supplies, but also utilities like energy and water. Are you suggesting we rely on moral persuasion alone to diminish meat consumption or to get people to switch off the lights?

    • MaoTseFunk Says:

      The idea is that overtime the sale price would go down, and tend towards its value (in socially necessary labour time) over time. Almost all commodities show this tendency in the long term, even just controlling for inflation. As for the moral persuasion argument, how much meat do you think people will consume? How much healthcare? What are the real wastage parameters you are concerned about here? They seem small. Even household electricity consumption is minor compared to industry.

      • Lucian George Says:

        1. Thanks. I will have to take you at your word for this as the causes of such a movement are far from clear to me. Surely the sale price of machine-produced goods is just as subject to pressures of supply and demand as that of goods produced with labour? Why should this price movement be any more acute when the organic composition of capital or whatever it’s called is higher? 2. I specifically mentioned healthcare as a good whose consumption does not increase beyond a certain point even if access is free. Besides the fact that it is not the object of conspicuous consumption, access to specific drugs and services is regulated by doctors – in other words a bureaucratic machine charged with determining need. This is manifestly not the case when one goes food shopping. Neither of us really knows if in the long run free access to food would aggravate food wasteage or not (if only as a result of careless acquisitions of excess food that would end up in the bin). Meat consumption has already reached unsustainable heights in the West so it would seem sensible to introduce some kind of rationing, be it by bureaucratic or market-based mechanisms. Can you imagine what would happen to meat consumption in the rest of the world where meat remains a *relative* luxury if it were suddenly made free? In short, given population pressures on food resources and the environment, I don’t think 21st century communists can really act as if food is an infinite, cost-free good: whilst there is an argument to be made for providing free access to a fixed quantity of food per person, eliminating rationing of any kind would be crazy. On the energy front I don’t know what the statistics are with regards to domestic consumption and its relationship to industrial use, so don’t feel like I can respond with any authority. I would, however, like to point out that waste recycling rates are highest in societies which have some system of financial penalties to incentivise good behaviour (e.g. Germany) – relying on moral persuasion as we do in Britain or France brings rather more modest results. The same surely holds for other types of environmentally friendly action.

    • michael roberts Says:

      1. Yes, a surplus of goods and services is produced. But who is paying in money for the end product if there are no wages? Ate other capitalists buying all the food, transport, housing, health and education? Or the capitalists are giving all their production away in free goods and services? If they did, then it’s not capitalism. That’s the dialectic of this.
      2. What is inelastic in demand to begin with will become elastic as it becomes abundant. Only planning for energy and wastage will enable us to control the environment. Capitalism will not do it.

      • Lucian George Says:

        1. Thanks for clearing that up. 2. I am not sure I follow here. Surely, planning to avoid overproduction of, say, food implies limiting abundance. When one limits abundance, the only way to ensure fair distribution and to prevent hoarding implies some system of rationing, i.e. something more akin to a market (also premised on scarcity, though with no interest in fairness of outcome) than to UBS (fair outcome, no scarcity). This is not the case with, say, the provision of free transport – if people use it more, that brings lots of relative advantages (above all, diminished car usage without limiting mobility), so at no point would rationing have to be introduced – at most, society would have to invest more in its provision. Of course, I recognise that the market does not limit waste. But I do not see how UBS could prevent wasteage of scarce goods without envisaging some kind of penalty for their overconsumption.

  3. Frank Hayes Says:

    Thank you Michael, for an exquisitely accessible elucidation of value theory, and such a timely reminder of the logic of UBI as a potential participative mode for post-profiteering human society. Of course, those without the ability to conceive contradictory development will always remain stuck in the quicksands of formal thinking. Or at least, until they embrace dialectical development and the open themselves to the possibility of the revolutionary motion of natural change and growth. Keep it coming ….

  4. bill jefferies Says:

    There’s a more fundamental reason my Dmitriev’s example is wrong. He has no inputs. Five machines are produced out of four machines, while the four machines are “unchanged”. The fifth machine is therefore, the product of nothing. As the fifth machine is identical with the previous four machines, so they too are the product of nothing. As something cannot be produced out of nothing, so Dmitriev’s example is an example of the production of nothing.
    Krugman’s example ignores the fact that you cannot bread out of sausages or sausages out of bread. Sraffa has the same problem btw.

  5. Arthur Says:

    There is plenty to do industrializing the rest of the world.

  6. Lucian George Says:

    P.S. On this general subject I think it would be good fun if you engaged with David Graeber’s theory of bullshit jobs, implicitly premised as it is on the claim that the late capitalist economy is driven more by a ruling class interest in social control than a capitalist profit orientation. Something tells me you might find this rather wacky. He has written about it in article form and the book is coming out in May. A warning though – he is a terribly cantankerous and paranoid debater.

    • Arthur Says:

      I would like to see discussion of “bullshit jobs” too. Not necessarily just in context of David Graeber’s views of it, but in general.

      I get the strong impression that a LOT of people have “bullshit jobs”. The “third ark” with telephone sanitizers, marketing consultants et al in the “Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” expressed as a meme decades ago. Seems even more widespread view now. People want more meaningful lives, not just incomes.

      I find it difficult to reconcile the concept of “bullshit jobs” with the necessity for capitalists to minimize costs. But social control is an even greater imperative. I find it even more difficult to account for what “use” (other than social control) there is in an awful lot of the activities people are employed to do in developed countries. So hard to see that they are producing exchange value at all let alone being “productive” in the sense of producing surplus value.

      Notoriously capitalism has had all kinds of other totally wasteful phenomena, including wars, depressions etc etc but often associated with backwardness while the association of increased unproductivity with “bullshit jobs” seems somehow different.

      So if the phenomena is real and implies a major increase in unproductive labor in developed economies, what are the mechanisms that enable capitalism to provide such jobs for “social control” despite the cost in lost profits?

      My guess would be some sort of spontaneous side effects of the mere fact that capitalism has survived at all long past its use by date. eg “Marketing” soaks up an awful lot of basically unproductive activity while reinforcing capitalist social relations and ideology, not as a conscious plan to ensure media is printed on the backs of or broadcast in the gaps between advertisements, but as the way things “naturally” evolve with needs of competition and production not being directed by and for the producers.

      But I don’t have a coherent theory and have not seen one.

      Possibly related phenomena, the old East European joke “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work”.

      • mandm Says:

        “But I don’t have a coherent theory and have not seen one.”

        Istvan Meszaros has recently died after having written many books that contribute to a coherent theory of late capitalism, beginning with “Beyond Capital”. He lived and worked in England. I’ve found it strange that I’ve yet to see him mentioned by commentators on this blog, except negatively, in regard to his solidarity (!) with the Bolivarian revolution… There’s also the work of the allegedly Keynesian “Monthly Review school” (vis. Sweezy’s works on consumerism and imperialism, Samir Amin, John Smith, etc.etc.) and feminist works contributing to “social reproduction theory” (e.g. Sylvia Federici’s “Caliban and the Witch”)–all firmly historical materialist in spirit and working within the labor theory of value under late capitalist conditions. Maybe even Rosa Luxemberg, Lenin, and Mao should be re-visited in re-constructing Western socialism.

      • Arthur Says:

        Thanks! Have looked him up. As you say “many books”. I am downloading “Beyond Capital” Where do you recommend as first place to look specifically on bullshit jobs?

        http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=0CF9737C020B0FA41F8C09272414D632

  7. Charles A. Says:

    “As machines replace human labour power, under capitalism, … falling profitability will periodically disrupt production… So crises are intensified.” That is both the strength and weakness of the monomania about the falling rate of profit.
    Yes, machines have displaced labor since the beginning of industrial capitalism, and the inevitable crises have indeed happened. Yet what explains the motion of capitalism throughout does not explain its final contradiction. Where is the math supporting the assertion that the crises will get worse and worse (the implication being that as they become worse, discontent will boil up to the overthrow of capitalism)? The purely quantitative story does not hold.
    Marx’s thesis of modes of production and the interaction of the developing forces and relations of production holds the key. When Marx lived, capitalism had not reached the last phase and so he could not be concrete about it. Now capitalism has reached the end, and we can be concrete about it, and therefore about what must replace it. Certainly not the anti-labor measure of “universal basic services.”

  8. Eugene Plawiuk Says:

    One of those bullshit jobs Professor Graeber is referring to is one he is currently occupying that of Professor of Anarchist Studies which allows him to become a Counter Culture Inc. Superhero of Anthropology

  9. question Says:

    “but there is also ‘exchange-value’ in money and profit that must be realised in the sale. Without the latter, capitalist production does not take place. And only labour power creates such value. Machines create no value (profit) without humans turning machines on. ”

    this is declared but not explained. Why does it have to be ‘turned on’ by a human? what is the difference between a human arm moving things and a robot arm?

    • Arthur Says:

      “no value (profit) without humans turning machines on” doesn’t clarity “only labour power creates such value”. I think this does:

      If workers “could live on air they could not be bought at any price.”
      https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch24.htm#S4

    • Boffy Says:

      The question of machines having to be turned on is irrelevant. A machine can be turned on by a slave, but as marx describes in The Grundrisse, a slave also produces no new value, just as with a machine or a pack animal. To be value creating labour, (note not labour-power) the labour has to be free, as with an independent direct producer or a wage labourer.

      The determining feature, as Mars sets out in the Grundrisse is that the labourer must themselves be an independent cost centre. The difference between a direct producer or wage labourer, as opposed to a slave, an animal or a machine is that both of the former enter the market themselves as both buyers and sellers of commodities, whereas none of the latter do.

      The value of a commodity for the former is the equivalent amount of labour-time they have to give up to acquire that commodity. If a direct producer expends 10 hours of their labour-time (assuming it is simple labour) on producing a metre of cloth, they exchange it for an equal amount of labour-time in some other form. The fact that 2 hours of this time represents surplus labour for them, i.e. in excess of the necessary labour-time they must expend to reproduce their labour-power, is irrelevant because they have still actually expended 10 hours of labour-time.

      If however, this labourer is a slave, and expends this 10 hours of labour producing the metre of cloth, whilst the slave owner only needs to provide the slave with the equivalent of 8 hours of labour in the form of means of subsistence, the slave owner who is the seller of the cloth, not the slave, has only expended 8 hours of labour on its production. But, nor is the slave a buyer of commodities, required for their own subsistence. Their needs are bought by the slave owner. If all other production is undertaken by slaves under the direction of slave owners, no slave owner will put a value of 10 hours on a metre of cloth either, because they will know, that a metre of cloth can be produced by a slave of their own, who only costs them 8 hours of labour also.

      If slave owner B, produces gold, and a slave produces 1 gram of gold in 10 hours, but only requires subsistence that requires 8 hours to produce, then equally the first slave owner will only put a value of 8 hours on a gram of gold, and will thereby exchange a metre of cloth for a gram of gold.

      If a direct producer enters the fray, and produces a kilo of corn with 10 hours of their labour-time, even though they too may require only 8 hours of labour-time to reproduce their labour-power, they will be prepared to exchange this kilo of corn for a gram of gold or a metre of cloth, because it would require them to expend 10 hours of labour on their production. The actual exchange relation would depend upon how many slave owners producing gold or cloth there were, competing against each other to be able to exchange their output for corn. A lot of competition would drive them to exchange at prices equal to the 8 hours of labour-time the production actually costs them.

      For the same reason, independent producers in slave owning societies in Greece and Rome found it difficult to compete against slave owning producers. The slave like the animal or machine produces output, use values, and to the extent that the use values required as inputs for the slave, animal or machine are less than the output of use values, a surplus product is produced, but this surplus product is not the same as a surplus value, because a surplus value requires that new value is produced, and new value is only produced by free labour.

      The same applies in a society where there are only machines and machine owners. There would be a huge surplus product, but no surplus value. No new value would be created, and the only value of output would come from the value of the materialised labour carried forward as constant capital in the shape of the machines and materials, but which would become an increasingly smaller element, as each production cycle occurred, and that initial value was absorbed into an increasing volume of use values.

    • Virgens VK Says:

      Because the use value of labor power is to produce more value (surplus value).

      Now, why isn’t, say, a horse, not labor power? Simple: because we are humans, not horses. In order for a human to use a horse to satisfy human necessities, you have to satisfy the horse’s “horsely” necessities to use it humanly. A horse, therefore, is fully satisfied as a horse during the production process, it doesn’t need to go to the market to buy “horsely” useful things, thus converting money-capital into commodity-capital.

      The same logic goes to the modern slave (colonial slave). Slaves in capitalism work until they die. They receive in species. They can’t reproduce (albeit attempts were made in Southern USA in difficult times). They are, for all practical effects, fixed capital (like the horse).

      It is only free human labor power which is completely devoid. Free humans need to work in order to reproduce themselves. They don’t have the means of production to produce what they need to reproduce. So they have to sell their labor force to the capitalist to buy their means of subsistence from the capitalist, thus converting it from money to commodity (production and circulation).

  10. Wal B. Says:

    Much nonsense was driven und is driven by the term ‘superabundant society’. Whatever came to an imaginative young man’s mind became a future superabundand society.

    With Marx, however, there is a clear definition of “superabundand” in ‘A Contrubution to the Critique of Political Economy’:
    “The first spontaneously evolved form of wealth consists of an overplus or excess of products, i.e. of the portion of products which are not directly required as use-values, or else of the possession of products whose use-value lies outside the range of mere necessity. When considering the transition from commodity to money, we saw that at a primitive stage of production it is this overplus or excess of products which really forms the sphere of commodity exchange. Superfluous products become exchangeable products or commodities.”

    The English words use “overplus” or “superfluous”, but in German Karl Marx used the words “Überfluss” (superabundant) and “Überschuss” (overflow):
    In German:
    “Die erste naturwüchsige Form des Reichtums ist die des Überflusses oder des Überschusses, der nicht als Gebrauchswert unmittelbar erheischte Teil der Produkte, oder auch der Besitz solcher Produkte, deren Gebrauchswert außerhalb des Kreises bloßer Bedürftigkeit fällt. Bei der Betrachtung des Übergangs von Ware zu Geld sahen wir, dass dieser Überfluss oder Überschuss der Produkte auf unentwickelter Produktionsstufe die eigentliche Sphäre des Warenaustausches bildet. Überflüssige Produkte werden austauschbare Produkte oder Waren.“ Karl Marx, Zur Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie, MEW 13, 105.

    In Marx’ words any production, which exceeds the “range of mere necessity” is a superabundant production and any society whose production exceeds the “range of mere necessity” is a “superabundant or overflow society”.
    Overflow society or superabundant society was for Marx not a vision of a distant future, but his contemporary capitalist society.
    Wal Buchenberg

    • jlowrie Says:

      Many thanks for this reference. I have always wondered where the concept of communism as some limitless cornucopia found its dubious inspiration.

      With the planet rapidly running out of water, can food be far behind? Clearly communist society will have to address the problems of providing a range of ‘mere necessities’!

    • jlowrie Says:

      Wal B, you say, ”Overflow society or superabundant society was for Marx not a vision of a distant future, but his contemporary capitalist society.” Surely he is talking here rather of primitive societies where what is superfluous to social need was exchanged for that of other such societies, with time assuming the commodity form, whereas under capitalism most use values are already produced as commodities?

      • Wal Buchenberg Says:

        If simple societies have already produced “Überfluss” overabundance or superabundance, capitalist societies produce even more.
        “(Super)abundance” is determined by Marx as all products that go beyond the narrow range of mere necessity.
        Abundance is a necessary condition for a communist society, but not its specificity.

        You are invited to discuss this question with me in my forum:

        http://marx-forum.de/Forum/index.php?thread/786-marx-und-die-%C3%BCberflussgesellschaft/&postID=4645#post4645

      • jlowrie Says:

        ”If simple societies have already produced “Überfluss” overabundance or superabundance, capitalist societies produce even more.”

        Of course they do, because with the capitalist mode of production ” instead of the scale of production being controlled by existing needs the quantity of products is determined by the constantly increasing scale of production dictated by the mode of production itself. Its aim….producing for the sake of production” ( Capital Vol.1 Pp 1037-38). As I have stated, I think it is wrong to understand ”Uberfluss’ as ‘overabundance’ rather than ‘superfluity’, which implies more than is needed.

        Thank you for your invitation to your forum.

    • jlowrie Says:

      Incidentally, I think it would be better to translate ‘Uberflusses’ as ‘superfluity.’ In communist society then far from there being ‘superabundance’ there should be few superfluous products, as consciously planned production aims to address socially determined needs and no more. As Ucanpolitical reminds us,’ Secondly that this planet cannot support further economic development because of climatic consequences. The Green Movement for example declare that if every citizen on this planet had the average standard of living found in the West we would need up to five Earths.’

      • Wal Buchenberg Says:

        The concept of a “superabundant society” is not simply a matter of correct translation.
        There were and there are people who accept communism, but only as a society that is a long long way off and/or totally impossible.

      • jlowrie Says:

        ‘The concept of a “superabundant society” is not simply a matter of correct translation.”

        ”Abundance is a necessary condition for a communist society’

        Why? Abundance in relation to what? To need? Abundance is itself socially determined. Already about 1870 Marx affirmed ( I think in a letter) that all the English proletariat lacked for revolution was revolutionary fervour.

        Of course there are those Marxists who do argue that abundance is necessary for communism. Some are as distinguished as Trotsky, and others are as undistinguished as Arthur, who comments on this blog, and asserts that communism will have to deliver flush toilets for all Africans. Having been brought up in a country where the rain never seems to end and there is only too great an abundance of water, I recall that some of my schoolmates lived in houses where they shared outside privies with several other families.

        Where there is no abundance of water, how can there be any other form of abundance? It is not abundance communism will have to address, but rationing! To each according to their needs indeed!

  11. bill jefferies Says:

    I’ve written more about Dmitiriev and Sraffa on here
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/W_Jefferies

  12. Boffy Says:

    “And only labour power creates such value.”

    I take it this was a slip of the keyboard. As marx makes clear painstakingly against Smith and Ricardo, “labour-power” is a use value, the use value of being able to undertake labour. Under capitalism that use value becomes a commodity, in the form of wage labour. The commodity “labour-power” is always sold as concrete labour, and the value of that labour-power is determined accordingly by the labour-time required for its reproduction.

    It is not “labour-power” that creates value but labour, i.e. the actual performance of labour by the labourer – be that labourer a wage labourer or a direct producer. It is that fact which makes surplus value possible, because value is what is created by labour, and is a function of the amount of abstract labour performed, whereas the value of labour-power is its cost of reproduction.

    As Marx sets out in Theories of Surplus Value, following on from Smith, it is the fact that the value of labour-power is less than the new value that is created by labour, whether the labour is performed by an independent producer, or a wage labourer, that makes the surplus value possible, and it is that fact which means that when labour-power is sold as a commodity, the surplus value can be appropriated by the capitalist rather than the labourer.

    The direct producer produces a surplus value, as Marx describes, because the new value they produce by their labour is greater than the value of their labour-power, which has to be reproduced out of the new value created. But, it does not appear to them as a surplus value in the way it does to a capitalist, precisely because the surplus value the direct producer obtains does not come to them gratis, it only comes to them because they undertake surplus labour over and above what is required for the reproduction of their labour-power.

    By contrast, the capitalist appropriates the surplus value, having given nothing for it in return. They obtain a given amount of value/labour in return for a smaller amount of value/labour, and it is this, as Marx sets out which distinguishes the exchange of capital with commodity, as opposed to the exchange of commodity with commodity. The very nature of capital as self-expanding value is summed up in precisely this capital-commodity relation, that as capital value it is greater than the value of the commodities that comprise it, and can thereby command a greater quantity of labour in exchange.

  13. ucanbpolitical Says:

    Two points concern me. Firstly support for Universal Basic Services. I believe this is an obstacle to fighting for a living wage. I tried to find the extract from Marx where he says that the problems facing workers are not high prices but low wages. Perhaps someone can find it. Secondly that this planet cannot support further economic development because of climatic consequences. The Green Movement for example declare that if every citizen on this planet had the average standard of living found in the West we would need up to five Earth’s. In reply I say we just need one international revolution. It is not economic development that is threatening the planet it is capitalist economic development which seeks to diminish the paid costs of production by offloading it onto the planet.

    With regard to A.I. we have the most developed example of Marx’s prediction of the forces of production coming into conflict with the relations of production. Already in the financial media economists and analysts are beginning to see the devaluation of production that automation embodies and they are scared. They recognise in this devaluation of production the threat to profits and they see it as one of the sources of low productivity growth. With regard to the latter point, here the distinction between productive and unproductive labour becomes decisive. If there is a disproportionate decrease in productive labour, that is value producing labour compared to unproductive labour which consumes value, this has an immediate impact on productivity and profits. Why is this important? In order to compensate for reduced value, capitalism will need to increase physical output, and if this enlarged physical output is to be circulated, accounted for, sold and marketed as well as argued over (legal), it will have the propensity to increase unproductive labour. Hence A.I. or what is the same thing, the automation of those processes currently out of reach of current automation will impact value, surplus value and volumes presenting capitalism with a complexity it cannot manage.

  14. Edgar Says:

    I was reading this article, thinking this all sound great.

    I can walk into a a shop and just pick the stuff up myself, great.

    No more journalists or bankers, even better.

    So what does it all mean, surely the future is going to be better than the past!

    All we need now is the international revolution!

  15. makscongtomb Says:

    perhaps we can have a type of abundant society in capitalism however it is boring and the capitalists get to decide what the abundances are. I think under communism we will be able to have abundance in most things we want including water. At the minute we have bullshit jobs created for profit not need.

    It is not about waiting for abundance to move to communism rather it is the movement towards communism that creates abundance. The abundance needs to be with humans doing the interesting research and robots doing the boring jobs.

    • Arthur Says:

      Yep, agree with you and Edgar above.

      There has always been open reactionaries opposing capitalism as too modern and progressive. It is nothing unusual that some people hostile to any improvement in working class living standards justify it with absurd Malthusian stuff about limited resources. What is weird is to see this regarded as even part of the broadest conceivable spectrum of “left”, let alone Marxist politics. But here we are with the mainstream right naturally pretending that “red” is synonymous with its polar opposite, “green” and in favour of “rationing” to reduce living standards.

      I am not disposed to be generous towards “green” politics, but I would not accuse the most misanthropic of them of being against toilets for Africa on the basis that flush toilets are a privilege of the rich and workers should share privies like in the good old days. Parodying ones opponents can win arguments but doesn’t prove anything and even the most oblivious greenies tend to be aware that the toilets missing from much of Africa and some of the rest of the world are not just an absence of flush toilets. But here we are, no parody, genuine principled opposition to “abundance” and zero interest in the actual living standards of the poorest countries.

      I don’t think the extreme parodies in the comments can be blamed on the actual contents of the post. But it would be nice to see articles viewing the incompatability of capitalism with automation with the same enthusiasm that Marx did rather than “worrying”.

  16. mandm Says:

    Meszaros has a lot to say about unproductive (especially morally/ecologically/ and purely destructive) labor at the imperial centers. Try “The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time” or “The Structural Crisis of Capitalism”. But something closer to “bullshit work”? how about Ursula Huws’ “Virtual Work in the Real World”?

    • Arthur Says:

      ok have now downloaded 3 books by Meszaros. Which do you recommend FIRST for a quick scan to see if I am interested in whatever coherent theory he is presenting (knowing that due to lack of time I routinely stop reading most such books after initial unfavourable impression so it is importat to start at right spot). I will start with Ursula Huws as that does look promising for “bullshit jobs”.
      http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=38CA9CAD296CA0B169294C6A4C3100FB

      • mandm Says:

        There are two ways of looking at productive and unproductive labor in Marx, from the point of view of capital( exchange value and profit) and from the point of view of labor (use values that satisfy basic and socially necessary needs). Adam Smith’s labor theory of value is intended for understanding how capitalism works in order to perfect it. Marx’s theory is for understanding why it doesn’t work, in order to change it by first changing its social relation. I was attracted to Michael Robert’s blog, because he’s one of the best informed marxists, and consistently uses the labor theory of value in the same, dialectical way, rather that using Marx as though he were Smith.

        Meszaros thinks that the capitalist mode of production has evolved from early industrial capitalism’s system of productive destruction (where all kinds of even ecologically and socially destructive economic activities might be construed as being productive not only of profit but of socially necessary improvements in the productivity of human labor) to a system, having reached its structural limits, which he characterizes as “of destructive production”.

        “Beyond Capital” is almost a thousand pages (in the small type Merlin edition). I’m old and have little time to waste too. Meszaros is very thorough, not the most entertaining stylist. I’d start with “The Structural Crises of Capitalism”.

      • Arthur Says:

        (sigh) Have now read Ursula Huws introduction. Well written so I may read eventually read the rest to keep up to date with the sort of world outlook that is not a weird parody but has resulted in total irrelevance of what passes for the left in a broadest sense these days and enables mainstream conservatives to mock it as outright reactionaries. But not now as could not see anything likely to be thought provoking on “bullshit jobs”.

        Also read Meszaros (actually audio “played”) preface by Monthly Review Foster and the Introduction by another. These are enough to put me off but I intend to select at least first and last chapters or a couple of samples to hear from author himself. Currently less inclined to eventually read more as l dont expect it to be as readable as Ursula Huw and less relevant since the sort of supposedly “hard left” politics that was so focused on anti-globalism and predictions of ecological doom for the human species has largely disintegrated since its antiglobalism was outflanked by Trumpists and the European far right and seems unlikely to ever have as broad support as the sort of views expressed by Ursula Huw. Suspect most have already merged into Bernie Sanders wing of the Democrats in USA and related phenomena with Corbyism in UK and Syriza and Podemos in Greece and Spain that share Trumpism and the pseudoleft’s antiglobalism without being so utterly obnoxious about it and insisting that “the end is nigh” for the entire human species unless their pet nostrums are endorsed and we rally around various backwards kleptocracies (now Venezuela, but still moaning at “loss” of Brezhnev Soviet Union). Higher priority to understand those “left” views that have actual political relevance. Anyway, thanks as it is necessary to keep track of the current expression of views I rejected decades ago.

        If either of them do have specific chapters relevant to “Bullshit jobs” please point me to them as I am not likely to get to them soon otherwise. I am certainly interested in what people with opposed world outlooks have to say about the issue as that is essential for developing any coherent theory. But I have not so far identified any reason to believe that either author has said anything about it. eg If they use some other expression instead of “bullshit jobs” for the same concept I could search the text for that expression.

        Meanwhile I am going to read David Glasner’s “Business Cycles and Depressions” Encyclopedia. Looks rivettingly dull but important to understand what the mainstream bourgeois economists are saying since any future left will have to combat them.

      • Arthur Says:

        Oh dear, WordPress has placed my second last comment after my last comment as shown by the timestamps.

        Where will it put this third in the series of responses to mandm?

        Will Boffy now realise that the plot is even thicker than previously suspected?

      • Arthur Says:

        “I’d start with “The Structural Crises of Capitalism”. Thanks. Conveniently that one happens to be an ebook I can play on phone while walking.

      • jlowrie Says:

        ”Will Boffy now realise that the plot is even thicker than previously suspected?”

        No, Boffy saw through you almost immediately. It is the rest of us who are thick from not having done so earlier. These deranged utterings are either the ravings of a troll or of a demented egotist!

      • Boffy Says:

        J,

        I assume you are familiar with the old Punch and Judy shows at the seaside at the time of my youth. A range of characters, some of whose only purpose is to provide a foil to Mr Punch, and others are there simply to be battered by him.

        But, all of those sock puppets have the same hand sticking up through their backside! I’ve seen it many times, and the same characters using different avatars are present here as have played those roles on other discussion boards. On Dave Ostler’s blog some time ago, the controlling hand even admitted to some of the names they had used.

        Some years ago when one of these trolls was issuing threats of actual violence, some of us got together, to track them down. They had been called out to actually turn up to carry out their threats, but surprise, surprise they were a no show.
        We tracked them down to Sheffield, and sometimes posting from a mile away in Rotherham.

        After they disappeared under that persona, of an ex army, BNP supporter, we found they were posting under another persona as an SWP/Islamist type apologist.

        In both cases we called them out as just sad people whose politics extends no further than ranting from their bedroom.

      • jlowrie Says:

        · Boffy, clearly you were right. This is what you get when you follow Arturo’s thread to the website ‘communist manifestoproject’: ”the pursuit by the western powers of an active foreign policy that assists political, social and economic progress in the developing countries. Among other things, this would mean no comfort for tyrants and kleptocrats, and military intervention where necessary;
        · those powers ensuring their dominant military superiority and the capacity to deploy where needed;”

        It is finally clear to me that the purpose of Arturo and co. is to sabotage Michael’s website. How else to account for the incoherent screeds of meaningless verbiage? We should henceforth ignore him.

  17. Socialism In One Bedroom Says:

    We should always remember that not every argument about resources reduces itself to Malthus.

    We should always remember to beware of what Marx called the progressivists, who fetishised ‘progress’ to justify interests.

    So the argument that resources are limited and that based on the average energy usage in the West the future is not sustainable is actually a scientific and proven fact and not some reactionary fantasy of a parson.

    It would, given currently technology, be impossible, yes impossible for everyone on the planet to consume the amount of energy the average person in the advanced nations consumes.

    Physicists have calculated that even if everyone on Earth was to consume half the average person in the advanced nations consumes would require a gargantuan effort that would literally take decades to achieve, even if we planned it out and managed it from today. And incidentally that would mean people in the imperialist core reducing their energy consumption by half.

    Are the people in the ‘enlightened’ West ready to step up to the plate and deliver this change? Or are they going to bang on about guff such as capitalism = modern and anyone who says different is a reactionary?

    The people who dismiss limited resources and prattle on about Malthus, as if that has anything to do with anything, are worse than reactionaries, they are fantasists who openly deny science.

    I have noticed these fantasist capitalist religious fundamentalists who prattle on about Malthus are usually people who cheer-lead every last imperialist war and mass murder. Not a coincidence methinks. This is where their fantasy world, sickening, science denying logic inevitably leads.

    • Arthur Says:

      It would, given current technology be impossible, yes impossible for everyone on the planet to consume as much as I consume.

      – Parson Malthus in One Bedroom on why the poor must remain poor.

      Since Malthus died in 1834 world population has risen from less than 1.2 billion to more than 7.5 billion. Obesity has replaced malnutrition as the bigger problem in most of the world, with starvation almost eliminated even in the poorest countries.

      Parson Malthus had to write his screeds by candlelight unless he was one of the early adopters of household gas.

      Today his followers can point to a truly VAST increase in energy “consumption” while ignoring the obvious reality that this has gone together with the same increase in energy production due to new technology. Since “current technology” is their frame of reference they can prove SCIENTIFICALLY that doom is far more imminent than it was for Malthus since the growth in consumption is far more rapid. But history has confined them to their bedrooms while unfortunately providing them with internet connections instead of candles and quill pens.

      • jlowrie Says:

        Arthur, instead of indulging in empty rhetorical dilettantism why do you not address yourself to the scientific evidence.

        40% of the plankton in the oceans has disappeared in the last 50 years.

        More and more people are being driven by capitalism from the countryside into the cities. Dr William Rees, one of those ‘greenies’ as you denigrate them, who formulated the ecological footprint analysis, calls such cities entropic black holes. He asserts that sustainable cities are an oxymoron.

        The ‘Siberian Times’ (10/3/17) warns that 7000 methane gas bubbles are poised to explode in the Arctic.

        Current U.S. per capita energy consumption is 9,500 W. If the U.S. is to switch completely to renewable energy it will have to reduce its per capita consumption to 2000W, still a lot higher than much of the rest of the world.

        Let us listen to James C. Andersen, professor of atmospheric chemistry at Harvard University. Andersen is one of those scientists whose groundbreaking research in discovering the Antartica’s ozone hole led to the Montreal Protocol of 1987 that mitigated the damage done to the ozone layer.

        In January the Professor was receiving a Medal from the University of Chicago for his contributions to science. In his acceptance speech he warned that it is by no means certain that merely by cutting back carbon emissions humanity can recover from global warning; only the total transformation of industry off carbon within FIVE years offers any hope of survival, and even then it might be advisable to offer up some prayers. Further, the chance of ice remaining in the Arctic after 2022 is ZERO! Without an ice shield to protect frozen methane hydrates the Arctic turns into a methane nightmare (From ”There is No Time Left” by Robert Hunziker, ”Counterpunch” 19/02/18).

        Is it really so difficult to comprehend that technology as it develops in accordance with the imperatives of the capitalist mode of production is not a modern Prometheus but a latter-day Frankenstein monster?

        I am only glad that you were not a member of the audience. I can just imagine you jumping up and down, shrieking, ”Malthusian doom monger , Malthusian doom monger!”

      • Arthur Says:

        Umm yes. I can see the connection between these 7 new revelations and the topic of “robots”. But perhaps a fully automated elaboration on the dangers of flush toilets would make it easier for others to understand.

      • ucanbpolitical Says:

        I respect most of what you have written and value your contributions on my writings. However, on this issue we must disagree, not on the evidence to date which is damming and clearly demonstrates that capitalism is costing us the earth. But bourgeois critics of global warming cannot comprehend the productive potential of a reorganised society commanding the resources of humanity directed at new planned goals and outcomes (no longer in the service of profits). I have given the example of the war on terror above which would have paid for the transformation of electrical generation in the US using current technology.

      • jlowrie Says:

        For those who still doubt that Arturo is anything but a troll, note well his refusal to address the scientific evidence. As I am not averse to repeating myself, I urge that in the face of the scientific evidence of global warming and ecological cataclysm, socialists do not hide their head in the sand or in the case of Arturo down the toilet!

      • Socialism In One Bedroom Says:

        I deliberately didn’t specifically name Arthur in my reply because he is a) and idiot and b) a scumbag

      • Socialism In One Bedroom Says:

        BTW for a discussion on the problem and if your name isn’t Arthur see this video and view from around 21 and half minutes in

        http://www.documentarymania.com/player.php?title=Can%20We%20Make%20a%20Star%20on%20Earth

      • Arthur Says:

        Thanks for the link! It is a really excellent BBC documentary with physicist Brian Cox promoting the need for a massive increase in R&D funding for fusion energy with an entirely positive outlook expressing confidence and excitement that has absolutely nothing in common with Malthusian doom and gloom. It was well worth watching the entire hour or so. I did start at the point recommended at around 21’30” from start and at that specific point there was a minute or two on the gargantuan effort that would take decades to achieve for everyone to get only half modern levels of energy consumption in the advanced countries consistent with a comment from “One Bedroom”. But the whole point of the film was that rather than attempting that we should reach for the stars and indeed light up stars on earth with fusion reactors (not windmills or renewables etc). It doesn’t seem plausible to me that anyone could just look at that minute or two and not notice what the rest of the video was about. So I have to admit that I honestly don’t understand where “One Bedroom” is actually coming from. Assuming he did watch the video and was genuinely recommending it, and I do assume that, I must be wrong about his outlook being as Malthusian as it appears to be from the words he has posted about “limited resources”. I am not being sarcastic, I genuinely don’t get it.

      • Socialism In One Bedroom Says:

        This video is an example of the problem; it is a good place to get a flavour of the problem. The video, which I have watched in full, is not the only material on the issue, and is not the final say. There are some decent critiques of the argument and the positive spins that are sometimes bolted onto the hard evidence. A few searches and you will be there!

        Arthur keeps banging on about Malthus for reasons beyond me! He seems to think the argument being made here is resources are limited therefore the future is hellish. He is so imbued with imperialist prejudice he can’t shake himself out of this mentality.

        He seems to reduce every energy and resource problem to a binary Malthusian or non Malthusian argument, which he then reduces to a positive vision and negative vision binary choice. What an imbecile!

        Arthur insanely argues that in Syria the imperialist vultures have not been aggressive enough. He wants the imperialist hordes to literally destroy Syria in the same fashion they destroyed Libya and plunged Iraq into sectarian hell.

        But here is the rub and where the energy issue comes into sharp focus. Suppose the greedy imperialist vultures manage to get rid of Assad and let us take a massive leap of the imagination and believe the mass murdering imperialist vultures want to actually help the Syrian people. What can the imperialist vultures deliver? Can they deliver average energy usage for each Syrian at the level enjoyed by the average American? Can they promise the Syrian people that a rise in food prices won’t cause a crisis? Will the imperialist vultures and its servile populace promise to reduce their energy usage by half in order to help the poorest in the world? Don’t make me laugh!

        So when the mass murdering imperialist vultures do manage to topple Assad they will simply replace one authoritarian figure with a tyranny far worse, and why, because of the energy problem, among other things. And all we will be left with is even more power to the imperialist vultures and even greater privileges for the imperialist vultures.

        So Arthurs idiotic conclusion is this, there is no problem with energy limitations or resource limits, we just have to keep a positive outlook. And when the imperialist vultures destroy another nation we simply say to them, things will look ok when the boffins have invented Nuclear Fusion. When the traumatised masses ask when that might be, the imperialist vultures say, we will get back to you on that, just keep the faith!

        Moreover Arthur concludes this, if you don’t keep the faith and imagine a future magic bullet technological answer to this problem then there is no future. In other words for Arthur socialism and communism is a utopia that can never really be achieved. And socialists and communists are people of faith, a faith that denies the physical universe just as much as any cleric.

        Now shut the fuck up about Malthus and please go away forever.

      • Arthur Says:

        Truly bizarre. I give up on attempting to understand why One Bedroom recommended that link but hope others with no interest in anything he (or I) might recommend do watch the video as it is really excellent.

    • ucanbpolitical Says:

      The US war on terror has ratchetted up over $4 trillion in wasted expenditure. If this huge sum of money had been invested in transforming energy production in the US all of it could be non-carbon by now. By this I mean wind and sun stations placed strategically across the North American continent linked by high-voltage DC cables with energy storage hydro dams built in the mountainous regions of that continent. I disagree with those who say the productive base does not exist to elevate the human race while restoring the planet.

      • mandm Says:

        “The US war on terror has ratchetted up over 4 trillion in wasted expenditure.”

        The militarized economy of the US is a good example of capitalism’s response to its having reached its structural limits, and a prime example of what Meszaros calls the destructive production stage of the capitalist mode of production. War–the destruction of excess capital and populations–drives the US economy and sustains hegemonic position of US capital in the imperial order, which Europeans of the right and the fake socialist left continue to support.

        Arthur is no troll. He is still fighting the ideological wars that left a lot real socialists and their movement dead, but not one dead capitalist. He takes Trump to be antiglobalist. Whatever he means by that. Isolationist? Malthusian? what the Democrats call a putinlovingstalinist? Whatever. Nevertheless, like all American presidents, Trump’s a hard-wired racist/imperialist /hegemonist, and just increased the obscene US military budget.

      • Arthur Says:

        Yep, it is indeed an old ideological war. Still haven’t read any Meszaros himself but your description and the introductions confirm my impression that it is very much in the tradition from Monthly Review that started with Baran and Sweezy “Monopoly Capitalism” and ended up collapsing into green politics. That theory that the post war boom was based on military Keynesian with “destructive production” of excess capital solving a problem of “surplus” had no connection whatever with anything said by Marx or Engels but largely obliterated orthodox marxist economic theory. “US Marxism” is widely understood as having those roots. That ideological victory certainly did not result in any dead capitalists. It resulted in a very dead “left” that was attending world conferences against globalism and cheering speeches from the Venezuelan Caudillo but had no influence whatever in actual politics.

        But if I was actually still fighting that ideological war I would still be keen to read Meszaros. Actually I regard that war as over with the pseudoleft emerging from it not worth fighting hence catching up with the latest from it is of low priority for me. Ursula Huw on the other hand struck me as more interesting as well as more readable since some connection with widespread unease against modernity. Hostility to smartphones and the internet strikes me as worth understanding to be able to help recover from such explicitly and traditionally reactionary anti-capitalism so that a broadly progressive “left” can provide a milieu in which a revolutionary left could emerge. Being a reactionary anti-capitalist like Sismondi isn’t in the same category of sheer parody as hostility to flush toilets.

        Re anti-globalism I am much more interested in finding out about the theoretical analysis of trends with a real connection to actual politics like Corbyism in the UK and Bernie Sanders wing of the Democrats in USA. There is a very real connection here with the topic of “robots”. Long tradition of “protectionism” in trade unions, especially in U.S. Instead of welcoming automation as demonstrating the need to move on from obsolete capitalism that tendency seeks to retard it and is easily diverted into protecting “our” jobs from “foreign competition” in direct opposition to communist internationalism.

        Those trends are much less inclined to make themselves ridiculous with prophecies of ecological doom and actually connect with real politics. There is a big struggle going on in the US Democratic party. Both the Sanders wing and Trumpists are campaigning for protectionist policies. So far Trump has only postured about it. But I am expecting that the House of Representatives after the mid-terms this November will have a lot less traditional globalist Republicans and lot more Trumpists and anti-globalist Democrats (especially those newly elected in purple states where they are competing for anti-globalist votes). Result could be the US going from a two party system with both parties globalist to an eventually two party system with both protectionist. That could result in serious changes far beyond posturing which would be very relevant to understanding the next crisis.

  18. Mike Ballard Says:

    Robotics are part of the wealth that workers produce for capitalists. Workers produce capital, not vice versa. Labour should be entitled to socially own and democratically control all that it produces. Workers are obliged by the legalities of the wage system to exchange the wealth they produce for the price of their skills i.e. wages.

    Labour produces all the wealth not found in nature. Most of that wealth ends up in the hands of capitalists and landlords. How do workers get control over it?

    My proposition is that in capitalist democracies workers should organise politically and industrially as a class to obtain the power necessary to gain more and more control over the wealth they produce. Workers in the past have done this which is why workers today enjoy the weekend off from work, the eight hour day and public health, education and welfare. As workers become more conscious of the inherent exploitation in the wage system and as they become more unified as a class, they can back up their ballots with strikes, occupations and political demands to shorten the work week and retire earlier in order to gain more and more control over what they produce (the free public goods Comrade Roberts suggests aka expanding the social wage) and the wages and conditions they will work under, until eventually, they will have the political and industrial power to abolish the wage system and establish common ownership and democratic control of the collective product of their labour while living in harmony with the ecosphere.

    • Boffy Says:

      UCan,

      You say,

      “Workers are obliged by the legalities of the wage system to exchange the wealth they produce for the price of their skills i.e. wages.”

      That is an incorrect formulation. It is the formulation put forward by Smith and Ricardo, but which Marx demonstrated would mean that surplus value is impossible. The price of their skills, which Marx demonstrates actually means the price of their labour, is itself, Marx shows an irrationality. In Capital I, and at greater length in TOSV, Marx explains that labour has no price/value, because labour is value, and its measure is time. To ask the price of labour, Marx says is liking asking how long is length.

      Smith at one point correctly argues a labour theory of value, by determining the value of commodities by the labour-time required for their production, but then also slips into a cost of production theory of value, whereby he does not determine the value of commodities by the quantity of labour, but by the value of labour, which he equates, as you do here with wages.

      But, as Marx demonstrates were that the case, surplus value is impossible. The value of the skills of the worker, i.e. the value of their labour-power, is determined by the labour-time required for the reproduction of their labour-power, and this has absolutely nothing to do with the new value created by the labour of the worker. The new value created by the labourer depends only upon whether it is simple or complex labour, and the duration of its operation. It is that fact that enables both absolute and relative surplus value to be produced.

    • Boffy Says:

      Mike,

      Sorry, I should have addressed this response to you, not UCan.

    • Boffy Says:

      Mike,

      You say,

      “Workers in the past have done this which is why workers today enjoy the weekend off from work, the eight hour day and public health, education and welfare. As workers become more conscious of the inherent exploitation in the wage system and as they become more unified as a class, they can back up their ballots with strikes, occupations and political demands to shorten the work week…”

      But, Marx and Engels demonstrated what is wrong with this approach. It implies that the relations between capital and labour are purely subjective, and that workers can simply bargain for a bigger slice of the pie they create. For so long as capital exists, they can’t, because the objective constraints of the capital-labour relation prevent it.

      Workers did not get shorter working weeks, and higher living standards because they organised into trades unions etc. other than in the superficial sense that these trades unions were the mechanism by which the underlying laws of capital accumulation manifested themselves. But, as Engels says,

      “The history of these Unions is a long series of defeats of the working-men, interrupted by a few isolated victories. All these efforts naturally cannot alter the economic law according to which wages are determined by the relation between supply and demand in the labour market. Hence the Unions remain powerless against all great forces which influence this relation. In a commercial crisis the Union itself must reduce wages or dissolve wholly; and in a time of considerable increase in the demand for labour, it cannot fix the rate of wages higher than would be reached spontaneously by the competition of the capitalists among themselves.”

      And Marx points out,

      “I think I have shown that their struggles for the standard of wages are incidents inseparable from the whole wages system, that in 99 cases out of 100 their efforts at raising wages are only efforts at maintaining the given value of labour, and that the necessity of debating their price with the capitalist is inherent to their condition of having to sell themselves as commodities. … the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market.”

      If workers raise wages to a level whereby the rate of surplus value falls, causing a squeeze on profits, capital responds, as Marx describes in his subsequent elaboration, by introducing labour-saving machines, which creates a relative surplus population, thereby causing wages to fall. This is, in fact, the process whereby the level of social productivity is at periods rapidly increased, but which thereby also creates the conditions, whereby not wages, but workers living standards are subsequently raised, because capital needs not only to produce surplus value, but also to realise it as profit, and as the mass of use values is increased substantially, it can only sell all of them by raising workers living standards, just as when the elasticity of demand for these commodities becomes such as it cannot sell them all at prices that reproduce the capital consumed in their production, it must instead move on to the production of new types of commodity for which higher levels of demand, and higher prices can be obtained, thereby expanding the market.

      That is the process of the Civilising Mission of Capital, as described by Marx in The Grundrisse.

      “On the other side, the production of relative surplus value, i.e. production of surplus value based on the increase and development of the productive forces, requires the production of new consumption; requires that the consuming circle within circulation expands as did the productive circle previously. Firstly quantitative expansion of existing consumption; secondly: creation of new needs by propagating existing ones in a wide circle; thirdly: production of new needs and discovery and creation of new use values. In other words, so that the surplus labour gained does not remain a merely quantitative surplus, but rather constantly increases the circle of qualitative differences within labour (hence of surplus labour), makes it more diverse, more internally differentiated. For example, if, through a doubling of productive force, a capital of 50 can now do what a capital of 100 did before, so that a capital of 50 and the necessary labour corresponding to it become free, then, for the capital and labour which have been set free, a new, qualitatively different branch of production must be created, which satisfies and brings forth a new need. The value of the old industry is preserved by the creation of the fund for a new one in which the relation of capital and labour posits itself in a new form. Hence exploration of all of nature in order to discover new, useful qualities in things; universal exchange of the products of all alien climates and lands; new (artificial) preparation of natural objects, by which they are given new use values. The exploration of the earth in all directions, to discover new things of use as well as new useful qualities of the old; such as new qualities of them as raw materials etc.; the development, hence, of the natural sciences to their highest point; likewise the discovery, creation and satisfaction of new needs arising from society itself; the cultivation of all the qualities of the social human being, production of the same in a form as rich as possible in needs, because rich in qualities and relations — production of this being as the most total and universal possible social product, for, in order to take gratification in a many-sided way, he must be capable of many pleasures [genussfähig], hence cultured to a high degree — is likewise a condition of production founded on capital. This creation of new branches of production, i.e. of qualitatively new surplus time, is not merely the division of labour, but is rather the creation, separate from a given production, of labour with a new use value; the development of a constantly expanding and more comprehensive system of different kinds of labour, different kinds of production, to which a constantly expanding and constantly enriched system of needs corresponds.”

      (Grundrisse, Chapter 8)

      • Mike Ballard Says:

        Comrade Boffy writes:

        “But, Marx and Engels demonstrated what is wrong with this approach. It implies that the relations between capital and labour are purely subjective, and that workers can simply bargain for a bigger slice of the pie they create. For so long as capital exists, they can’t, because the objective constraints of the capital-labour relation prevent it.”

        The point is to push toward the abolition of the wage system which only human subjects can do. As Marx points out:

        “The matter resolves itself into a question of the respective powers of the combatants.

        2. As to the limitation of the working day in England, as in all other countries, it has never been settled except by legislative interference. Without the working men’s continuous pressure from without that interference would never have taken place. But at all events, the result was not to be attained by private settlement between the working men and the capitalists. This very necessity of general political action affords the proof that in its merely economical action capital is the stronger side.”

        Legislative interference is the political side, which has to be backed up by the workers in union as a class for themselves, class conscious as subjects of the need and with the desire to abolish the wage system i.e. the rule of the social relation of Capital, the object that they produce in exchange for the price of their skills:

        “At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto: “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work!” they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword: “Abolition of the wages system!””

        And further along the subjective road, Marx points out:

        “Such being the tendency of things in this system, is this saying that the working class ought to renounce their resistance against the encroachments of capital, and abandon their attempts at making the best of the occasional chances for their temporary improvement? If they did, they would be degraded to one level mass of broken wretches past salvation. ”

        Comrade, the class struggle is over the social product of labour. If the rule of Capital cannot exist with class conscious workers demanding more and more political control over the collective product of their labour then, so be it. Let the associated producers abolish class rule and establish common ownership and democratic control over the collective product of their labour and over the wealth bound up in what is now called natural resources while then having the power to decide to live in harmony with the ecosphere.

        https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/value-price-profit/ch03.htm#c14

      • Boffy Says:

        Mike,

        “The point is to push toward the abolition of the wage system which only human subjects can do. As Marx points out:”

        Agreed, but as Marx sets out such abolition is only possible when the objective conditions of production are developed sufficiently to enable that to be accomplished. It is not a matter purely of subjective will. Secondly, in your further comments what you set out is not at all an abolition of the wages system, but merely a bourgeois, reformist agenda of bargaining within that system. So, for example, you say,

        “Comrade, the class struggle is over the social product of labour. If the rule of Capital cannot exist with class conscious workers demanding more and more political control over the collective product of their labour then, so be it.”

        Whereas, Marx makes clear,

        “At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society.” (Value, Price and Profit)

        And Lenin, makes clear that such struggles over the shar of the pie are not at all class struggles, as you suggest, but merely economistic, reformist distributional, and thereby sectional struggles that not only condition the workers to accept bourgeois ideology, by bargaining within the system, which entails the social-democratic notion, that such bargaining must be limited by what still enables each firm to continue to exist so as to employ them, but frequently also involves setting one section of workers against another in order to achieve success in those sectional struggles, the most pronounced form of which is where the workers of one country are thrown into conflict with the workers of some other country in a trade war (Pace Trump and steel tariffs), which have a tendency to develop into shooting wars.

        Actual class struggle involves a struggle between different forms of property, not simply over the revenues produced by the existing forms of property. It involved bourgeois property – capital – asserting its superiority over feudal property – land – and now involves workers asserting the superiority of socialised capital over privately owned capital, as a transitional form of property on the way to asserting the superiority of socialised property over capital itself. As Marx puts it, above,

        “the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society.”, and as he puts it in his Inaugural Address,

        “But there was in store a still greater victory of the political economy of labor over the political economy of property. We speak of the co-operative movement, especially the co-operative factories raised by the unassisted efforts of a few bold “hands”. The value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated. By deed instead of by argument, they have shown that production on a large scale, and in accord with the behests of modern science, may be carried on without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands; that to bear fruit, the means of labor need not be monopolized as a means of dominion over, and of extortion against, the laboring man himself; and that, like slave labor, like serf labor, hired labor is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to disappear before associated labor plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart. In England, the seeds of the co-operative system were sown by Robert Owen; the workingmen’s experiments tried on the Continent were, in fact, the practical upshot of the theories, not invented, but loudly proclaimed, in 1848.”

        Or as he 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.”

        This is the basis of the political class struggle approach of Marx and Engels, as opposed to the purely economistic, distributional struggle of the reformists and syndicalists, which is what underlies the approach you have set out.

        As for,

        ““The matter resolves itself into a question of the respective powers of the combatants.”

        Precisely! But, within the confines of a distributional struggle over the proceeds, the workers always will be in a subordinate position, because the demand for labour-power always depends upon an expansion of capital, and its prospect of expanding the mass of profit (even if the rate of profit might be getting squeezed by rising wages), and when capital is no longer able to make that profit, because rising wages have squeezed it too much, a crisis of overproduction arises, workers are laid off in masses, the competition between them increases to unprecedented levels, as they engage in a dog eat dog war for employment, each pushing down the pay and conditions of another in order to get a job. That is precisely why, as Marx says those economistic, reformist, distributional struggles offer no way forward for the working-class!

        And, at the same time, the capitalists in such conditions, introduce labour-saving machines which create a relative surplus population, increasing unemployment, and thereby reducing wages further. And, the same is true in relation to the normal working-day, as Marx sets out, in Capital III, and TOSV. The normal working-day, as he describes is ultimately itself determined by objective constraints; the physical maximum that workers can work; the maximum they can work at a given intensity without wearing out faster, and thereby raising the value of labour-power; the minimum necessary working-day, and so on. Without these objective constraints there can, in fact, be no theory of objective value, no labour theory of value, and no objective determination of surplus value, taklng us back to pre-Marxist subjective explanations for the price of labour, and rate of profit.

        Of course, there is some flex in these determinations, just as market prices never coincide with exchange-values or prices of production, but they are ultimately grounded in these objective constraints. Marx describes the way that in the early days of capitalism, the shortage of available wage workers meant that workers were able to choose to work just a few hours a week, in order to obtain the wages they needed to provide them with the money required for those purchases of commodities they did not produce for themselves. It was difficult for capitalists to make profits, because wages were high.

        In Capital I, Marx sets out that although the workers organised for the Ten Hour Day, it was only actually introduced and implemented, when capital itself had developed to a stage whereby it was not only possible, but was actually in the interests of capital in general, which is why it is the capitalist state, acting in the interests of capital in general, as against the competing interests of individual capitalists that brought that about, via the Factory Inspectors such as Leonard Horner.

        In Capital I, Marx sets out that it was the big industrialists like Wedgwood who petitioned Parliament for such legislation, on the basis that they recognised that competition forced each of them to act against their own long-term interests by overworking labour. What made the Ten Hour Day and Factory legislation possible was not worker militancy, but the development of capitalism itself. As Marx put it in the Preface to Capital I,

        “Intrinsically, it is not a question of the higher or lower degree of development of the social antagonisms that result from the natural laws of capitalist production. It is a question of these laws themselves, of these tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results. The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.

        But apart from this. Where capitalist production is fully naturalised among the Germans (for instance, in the factories proper) the condition of things is much worse than in England, because the counterpoise of the Factory Acts is wanting. In all other spheres, we, like all the rest of Continental Western Europe, suffer not only from the development of capitalist production, but also from the incompleteness of that development. Alongside the modern evils, a whole series of inherited evils oppress us, arising from the passive survival of antiquated modes of production, with their inevitable train of social and political anachronisms. We suffer not only from the living, but from the dead.”

        It is the same principle that led Marx to criticise the utopianism of the Lassalleans in relation to the employment of child labour.

        “A general prohibition of child labor is incompatible with the existence of large-scale industry and hence an empty, pious wish. Its realization — if it were possible — would be reactionary, since, with a strict regulation of the working time according to the different age groups and other safety measures for the protection of children, an early combination of productive labor with education is one of the most potent means for the transformation of present-day society.”

        What, in fact, made it practical was the further development of capitalist production, and the need to have better educated workers, as well as the potential to socialise and indoctrinate those workers via education provided by the capitalist state.

        “the object that they produce in exchange for the price of their skills:”

        Again, this is a repetition of the false doctrine of Adam Smith, and inherited by Ricardo that wages are the price of labour. Marx sets out at length in Capital I, and in TOSV that the concept of a “price of labour” is itself nonsensical. Labour, as marx describes has no value, labour is value, whose measure is time. If wages are the price of labour, then as Marx sets out in TOSV, you end up with Adam Smith’s cost of production theory of value, not his labour theory of value, and consequently, instead of the value of commodities being determined by the quantity of labour they are determined by the value of labour, i.e. wages. But, if the value of the worker’s output is determined by the value of labour/wages, not by the quantity of labour, it becomes impossible to produce surplus value. That is why Smith and Ricardo ended up in such a contradiction, and dead end. Wages are not the price of labour, or of skills, but are the phenomenal form of the value of labour-power.

        Marx does indeed, and quite rightly say,

        ““Such being the tendency of things in this system, is this saying that the working class ought to renounce their resistance against the encroachments of capital, and abandon their attempts at making the best of the occasional chances for their temporary improvement? If they did, they would be degraded to one level mass of broken wretches past salvation.”

        But he follows it with the above quote from Value, Price and Profit describing why such activity can never resolve their situation, because it involves continuing to bargain within the system, which in itself imbues within them a bourgeois class consciousness. It is why he goes on to say,

        “Trades Unions work well as centers of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.”

        The trades unions act as holding pens, or corrals within which the masses of labour can be politicised for the real class struggle, for the struggle not over merely more or less crumbs off the existing table, but the need to develop their own co-operatives and other forms of socialised capital in opposition to the existing capitalist property, and for a political struggle for control over that property and society.

      • Boffy Says:

        As an illustration, Marx sets out in Capital I, the petition by Wedgwood and other employers.

        The condition of the Staffordshire potters was appalling. The life expectancy had been slashed, and disease was rampant amongst them. Had it not been for the intermarrying of the potters in North Staffordshire with members of the surrounding rural population the population of North Staffordshire would have died out. Faced with these circumstances, as much out of self-interest as anything else, (though Wedgwood having himself been originally a working man had some social conscience) they resolved to act. In 1863 26 firms owning extensive potbanks in Staffordshire, including Wedgwood, petitioned the government for legislative action to limit working time. And why did they need such legislation rather than voluntary agreement.

        “Much as we deplore the evils before mentioned, (i.e. the length of the working day and poor conditions) it would not be possible to prevent them by any scheme of agreement between the manufacturers…Taking all these points into consideration, we have come to the conviction that some legislative enactment is wanted.” (Children’s Employment Commission Report 1. 1863 p 322)

        The reason no voluntary agreement could be reached was precisely because free market competition would force each to cheat in order to gain an advantage.

        As Engels was to describe these developments.

        “The competition of manufacturer against manufacturer by means of petty thefts upon the workpeople did no longer pay. Trade had outgrown such low means of making money; they were not worth while practising for the manufacturing millionaire, and served merely to keep alive the competition of smaller traders, thankful to pick up a penny wherever they could.hus the truck system was suppressed, the Ten Hours’ Bill [2] was enacted, and a number of other secondary reforms introduced — much against the spirit of Free Trade and unbridled competition, but quite as much in favour of the giant-capitalist in his competition with his less favoured brother. Moreover, the larger the concern, and with it the number of hands, the greater the loss and inconvenience caused by every conflict between master and men; and thus a new spirit came over the masters, especially the large ones, which taught them to avoid unnecessary squabbles, to acquiesce in the existence and power of Trades’ Unions, and finally even to discover in strikes — at opportune times — a powerful means to serve their own ends. The largest manufacturers, formerly the leaders of the war against the working-class, were now the foremost to preach peace and harmony. And for a very good reason. The fact is that all these concessions to justice and philanthropy were nothing else but means to accelerate the concentration of capital in the hands of the few, for whom the niggardly extra extortions of former years had lost all importance and had become actual nuisances; and to crush all the quicker and all the safer their smaller competitors, who could not make both ends meet without such perquisites.”

      • Edgar Says:

        “And Lenin, makes clear that such struggles over the shar of the pie are not at all class struggles, as you suggest, but merely economistic, reformist distributional, and thereby sectional struggles that not only condition the workers to accept bourgeois ideology,”

        Boffy, we have been down this road before.

        I don’t think you have ever produced an adequate quote from Lenin actually arguing this and in previous debates you have used pay rises in China as proof of class struggle in China!

        You also claimed the Arab Spring was actually sparked by workers strikes in Egypt!

      • Boffy Says:

        Edgar,

        I will try to find time to provide the quote from Lenin that is absolutely clear on that question, but in the meantime simply read “What Is To Be Done”, and Lenin’s other writings opposing Economism.

        You would have to show me where I referred to pay rises as proof of class struggle in China.

        If you read what I said about the Arab Spring, I said that students in Egypt were inspired by earlier strikes by workers. But, I fail to see what this has to do with class struggle. If you read my analysis of the Arab Spring, and in particular of the Egyptian Revolution, you will see it characterised not as a social revolution, but as a political revolution (failed) that was actually about a capitalist state under the control of a militarist/Bonapartist political regime, and the attempt to change that political regime to one of bourgeois democracy.

        It was most certainly not about a class struggle whereby workers property was challenging for supremacy over bourgeois property.

      • Boffy Says:

        Edgar,

        I would recommend reading all of the Section Trade-Unionist Politics And Social-Democratic Politics from What Is To Be Done. I would highlight the following comments in line with what I said previously.

        “Suffice it to recall Rabochaya Mysl to see the extent to which they have been absorbed by it — so much so, indeed, that they have lost sight of the fact that this, taken by itself, is in essence still not Social-Democratic work, but merely trade union work. As a matter of fact, the exposures merely dealt with the relations between the workers in a given trade and their employers, and all they achieved was that the sellers of labour power learned to sell their “commodity” on better terms and to fight the purchasers over a purely commercial deal. These exposures could have served (if properly utilised by an organisation of revolutionaries) as a beginning and a component part of Social-Democratic activity; but they could also have led (and, given a worshipful attitude towards spontaneity, were bound to lead) to a “purely trade union” struggle and to a non-Social-Democratic working-class movement. Social-Democracy leads the struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of labour-power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the working class, not in its relation to a given group of employers alone, but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organised political force. Hence, it follows that not only must Social-Democrats not confine themselves exclusively to the economic struggle, but that they must not allow the organisation of economic exposures to become the predominant part of their activities. We must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.”

        “Let us examine this view from the standpoint of the opinion prevailing among all Economists, that political agitation must follow economic agitation. Is it true that, in general, the economic struggle “is the most widely applicable means” of drawing the masses into the political struggle? It is entirely untrue.”

        “What concrete, real meaning attaches to Martynov’s words when he sets before Social-Democracy the task of “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”? The economic struggle is the collective struggle of the workers against their employers for better terms in the sale of their labour-power, for better living and working conditions. This struggle is necessarily a trade union struggle, because working conditions differ greatly in different trades, and, consequently, the struggle to improve them can only be conducted on the basis of trade organisations (in the Western countries, through trade unions; in Russia, through temporary trade associations and through leaflets, etc.). Lending “the economic struggle itself a political character” means, therefore, striving to secure satisfaction of these trade demands, the improvement of working conditions in each separate trade by means of “legislative and administrative measures” (as Martynov puts it on the ensuing page of his article, p. 43). This is precisely what all workers’ trade unions do and always have done. Read the works of the soundly scientific (and “soundly” opportunist) Mr. and Mrs. Webb and you will see that the British trade unions long ago recognised, and have long been carrying out, the task of “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”; they have long been fighting for the right to strike, for the removal of all legal hindrances to the co-operative and trade union movements, for laws to protect women and children, for the improvement of labour conditions by means of health and factory legislation, etc.

        Thus, the pompous phrase about “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”, which sounds so “terrifically” profound and revolutionary, serves as a screen to conceal what is in fact the traditional striving to degrade Social-Democratic politics to the level of trade union politics. Under the guise of rectifying the onesidedness of Iskra, which, it is alleged, places “the revolutionising of dogma higher than the revolutionising of life”, we are presented with the struggle for economic reforms as if it were something entirely new. In point of fact, the phrase “lending the economic struggle itself a political character” means nothing more than the struggle for economic reforms.”

        I would also recommend reading Lenin’s “Economic Content of Narodism”, and in particular on Narodnik Sociology, and subjectivism.

        “This thesis that history is made by individuals is absolutely meaningless from the theoretical standpoint. All history consists of the actions of individuals, and it is the task of social science to explain these actions,   so that the reference to “the right of interfering in the course of events” (Mr. Mikhailovsky’s words, quoted by Mr. Struve on p. 8), is but empty tautology. This is very clearly revealed in Mr. Mikhailovsky’s last effusion. The living individual, he argues, moves events through a lane of obstacles placed by the elemental forces of historical conditions. And what do these “historical conditions” consist of? According to the author’s logic, they consist in their turn of the actions of other “living individuals.” A profound philosophy of history, is it not? The living individual moves events through a line of obstacles placed by other living individuals! And why are the actions of some living individuals called elemental, while of the actions of others it is said that they “move events” towards previously set aims? It is obvious that to search for any theoretical meaning here would be an almost hopeless undertaking. The fact of the matter is that the historical conditions which provided our subjectivists with material for the “theory” consisted (as they still consist) of antagonistic relations and gave rise to the expropriation of the producer. Unable to understand these antagonistic relations, unable to find in these latter the social elements with which the “solitary individuals” could join forces, the subjectivists confined themselves to concocting theories which consoled the “solitary” individuals with the statement that history is made by “living individuals.” The famous “subjective method in sociology” expresses nothing, absolutely nothing, but good intentions and bad understanding. Mr. Mikhailovsky’s further reasoning, as quoted by the author, is striking confirmation of this.”

      • Boffy Says:

        Edgar,

        I would recommend reading all of the Section Trade-Unionist Politics And Social-Democratic Politics from What Is To Be Done. I would highlight the following comments in line with what I said previously.

        “Suffice it to recall Rabochaya Mysl to see the extent to which they have been absorbed by it — so much so, indeed, that they have lost sight of the fact that this, taken by itself, is in essence still not Social-Democratic work, but merely trade union work. As a matter of fact, the exposures merely dealt with the relations between the workers in a given trade and their employers, and all they achieved was that the sellers of labour power learned to sell their “commodity” on better terms and to fight the purchasers over a purely commercial deal. These exposures could have served (if properly utilised by an organisation of revolutionaries) as a beginning and a component part of Social-Democratic activity; but they could also have led (and, given a worshipful attitude towards spontaneity, were bound to lead) to a “purely trade union” struggle and to a non-Social-Democratic working-class movement. Social-Democracy leads the struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of labour-power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the working class, not in its relation to a given group of employers alone, but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organised political force. Hence, it follows that not only must Social-Democrats not confine themselves exclusively to the economic struggle, but that they must not allow the organisation of economic exposures to become the predominant part of their activities. We must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.”

        “Let us examine this view from the standpoint of the opinion prevailing among all Economists, that political agitation must follow economic agitation. Is it true that, in general, the economic struggle “is the most widely applicable means” of drawing the masses into the political struggle? It is entirely untrue.”

        “What concrete, real meaning attaches to Martynov’s words when he sets before Social-Democracy the task of “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”? The economic struggle is the collective struggle of the workers against their employers for better terms in the sale of their labour-power, for better living and working conditions. This struggle is necessarily a trade union struggle, because working conditions differ greatly in different trades, and, consequently, the struggle to improve them can only be conducted on the basis of trade organisations (in the Western countries, through trade unions; in Russia, through temporary trade associations and through leaflets, etc.). Lending “the economic struggle itself a political character” means, therefore, striving to secure satisfaction of these trade demands, the improvement of working conditions in each separate trade by means of “legislative and administrative measures” (as Martynov puts it on the ensuing page of his article, p. 43). This is precisely what all workers’ trade unions do and always have done. Read the works of the soundly scientific (and “soundly” opportunist) Mr. and Mrs. Webb and you will see that the British trade unions long ago recognised, and have long been carrying out, the task of “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”; they have long been fighting for the right to strike, for the removal of all legal hindrances to the co-operative and trade union movements, for laws to protect women and children, for the improvement of labour conditions by means of health and factory legislation, etc.
        Thus, the pompous phrase about “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”, which sounds so “terrifically” profound and revolutionary, serves as a screen to conceal what is in fact the traditional striving to degrade Social-Democratic politics to the level of trade union politics. Under the guise of rectifying the onesidedness of Iskra, which, it is alleged, places “the revolutionising of dogma higher than the revolutionising of life”, we are presented with the struggle for economic reforms as if it were something entirely new. In point of fact, the phrase “lending the economic struggle itself a political character” means nothing more than the struggle for economic reforms.”

        I would also recommend reading Lenin’s “Economic Content of Narodism”, and in particular on Narodnik Sociology, and subjectivism.

        “This thesis that history is made by individuals is absolutely meaningless from the theoretical standpoint. All history consists of the actions of individuals, and it is the task of social science to explain these actions,   so that the reference to “the right of interfering in the course of events” (Mr. Mikhailovsky’s words, quoted by Mr. Struve on p. 8), is but empty tautology. This is very clearly revealed in Mr. Mikhailovsky’s last effusion. The living individual, he argues, moves events through a lane of obstacles placed by the elemental forces of historical conditions. And what do these “historical conditions” consist of? According to the author’s logic, they consist in their turn of the actions of other “living individuals.” A profound philosophy of history, is it not? The living individual moves events through a line of obstacles placed by other living individuals! And why are the actions of some living individuals called elemental, while of the actions of others it is said that they “move events” towards previously set aims? It is obvious that to search for any theoretical meaning here would be an almost hopeless undertaking. The fact of the matter is that the historical conditions which provided our subjectivists with material for the “theory” consisted (as they still consist) of antagonistic relations and gave rise to the expropriation of the producer. Unable to understand these antagonistic relations, unable to find in these latter the social elements with which the “solitary individuals” could join forces, the subjectivists confined themselves to concocting theories which consoled the “solitary” individuals with the statement that history is made by “living individuals.” The famous “subjective method in sociology” expresses nothing, absolutely nothing, but good intentions and bad understanding. Mr. Mikhailovsky’s further reasoning, as quoted by the author, is striking confirmation of this.”

      • Edgar Says:

        It is obvious and easy to make the point that a demand for a pay rise is not a revolutionary demand. But so what.

        Marx makes the point in relation to the struggle over the working day that the working class had been driven into a stunted state, physically, mentally and spiritually. These struggles were important in improving the well being of the working class.

        Being fit to struggle is part of the struggle.

        Trade Unions are a fundamental part of the class struggle under capitalism. This is why Marx was trying to make contact with union leaders, as he says they commanded thousands of men.

        Being organised for the struggle is part of the struggle.

        I doubt you will find many quotes where Marxists say trade union struggles (which are collective struggles) are not part of the class struggle.

        You will find plenty where people will say this demand or that demand is not revolutionary and is only struggling for better conditions under the existing system. But they are not proof that Marxists believe union struggles are not class struggles.

      • Boffy Says:

        Edgar,

        If you read the texts I have cited from Lenin, you will see that he deals with your argument by saying that “the preparation for war is not the war itself” (paraphrase).

        An economic/trades union struggle is an economic/trades union struggle, the whole point of Marx’s analysis is that such struggles condition workers to bargain within the system, and thereby to accept the limitations of the system. It conditions them into a bourgeois mentality whereby they are merely commodity owners seeking to sell their particular commodity – labour-power – at the best price they can get for it. It is no more a class struggle than is the attempt of the seller of raw materials to get the best price they can for those raw materials from the manufacturer, who buys them. On its own it leads nowhere beyond that bourgeois mindset.

        It can only go beyond that by the intervention of class conscious revolutionaries, who point out those very limitations, and begin to organise the workers to engage in an actual class struggle not just for a better price for the sale of their labour-power, but for the abolition of the wages system itself, and for workers to develop their own alternative property forms, and self-government.

        It is the point raised by Lenin, that these trades union struggles actually spontaneously result in the appropriate bourgeois reformist ideas, be it that of the Webbs and Fabians, or as in parts of Europe in the development of Catholic trades unions.

        It leads to craft chauvinism, and sectionalism. In times of crisis it leads to workers in factory A saying close factory B rather than us; it leads to workers in one areas saying cut government funding to that area not ours; it leads to steel workers in the US supporting Trump, and a demand to blame Chinese, Canadian and other steel workers for their woes, and to resolve it through import tariffs – a similar line was adopted by the British Communist party and its fellow travellers in the 1970’s via the Alternative economic Strategy that demanded protection via import controls; and ultimately the logic of such an approach is not a class struggle that unites the working class globally against capital, but is that the workers of country A line up behind their own bourgeoisie, in order to win an improvement in their economic position, or in the hope of preventing a deterioration in that condition, by going to war against the workers in country B.

      • Edgar Says:

        I get the point, that wage struggles are sectional, reformist etc etc. That is not the argument i am having.

        I don’t think the class struggle can be defined by Marxists, they can describe it, lead it and advise on it but nor define it, the class struggle has a life of its own. Inherent in class struggles, be they union or property, is reformism, reaction, chauvinism and a whole host of other unfortunate outcomes. It is part and parcel of the struggle itself, not proof of an absence of struggle.

        I can see no proof where Marxists claim union struggles are not class struggles.

        Incidentally we had this argument back in 2014 on this very site! I was arguing the ‘great recession ‘had seen little in the way of class struggle and you countered my argument by saying in China and Germany there had been successful struggles for pay rises!

      • Boffy Says:

        Edgar,

        I think it is precisely the job of Marxists to analyse and define what constitutes “class struggle”, as the fundamental driver of historical development, and on that basis to determine whether any particular action does or does not constitute class struggle as opposed to merely economic bargaining, and a dead end.

        Above you said,

        “You will find plenty where people will say this demand or that demand is not revolutionary and is only struggling for better conditions under the existing system. But they are not proof that Marxists believe union struggles are not class struggles.”

        A “class” struggle as defined by Marx, Engels, Lenin and others is one in which the fundamental interests of the working-class are set against the fundamental interests of the bourgeoisie. It involves precisely a struggle by the whole class on both sides. As Lenin makes clear, when the workers in a particular factory go on strike, against their particular boss that is far from being such an instance. Indeed, in so far as such strikes only result in the particular workers slightly lessening their burden, and as Marx points out only preventing their wages being reduced below the value of labour-power, it necessarily involves the workers continuing to not only maintain the value of the capital, but also of producing surplus value for their particular capitalist – who would no longer employ them if they did not do so.

        In producing additional surplus value, they thereby facilitate capital in accumulating additional capital, and as Marx sets out in Capital I, the reproduction and accumulation of Capital, not only thereby reproduces the capitalist class and working class, and the social relations of capitalism, it also leads to the concentration and centralisation of capital, a rise in the organic composition of capital, which means that capital is thereby strengthened as against labour, and labour is increasingly thereby subordinated to capital.

        How can it then be that a trades union struggle that results in the workers continuing to produce profits for capital, and which consequently strengthens the position of capital viz a viz labour, be in any sensible sense be considered to be “class struggle”?

        That you can find lots of “Marxists” who claim that it is so. It simply indicates the dire state of present day “Marxism”, whereby all of these assorted reformists, syndicalists, autonomists, anarchists and populists can pass themselves of as genuine Marxists. A look at syndicalist sects like the British SWP, illustrates that along with reformist groups like the British Socialist Party, and so on.

        Of course its nothing new. Marx was led to respond to such “Marxists” in his own time by declaring that if such was Marxism, he was no Marxist, and of course, he was led to write the Critique of the Gotha Programme for similar reasons, just as he and Engels were led to write Anti-Duhring. Lenin’s writings of the 1890’s, and early 1900’s were direct in large part against the “Marxists” of his time, whether against the Sismondists and economic romantics of Narodism, and official Marxism, or against the Economists.

        I’d have to read what I wrote back in 2014 to comment further on your comments about Germany and China. But, I repeat what I have said before, and what Lenin says, which is that trades union struggles CAN, be a preparation for class struggle, but they are not class struggle themselves. It depends upon how Marxists relate to and intervene in those struggles. The problem with Economism, and the kind of “Marxists” you refer to today is precisely that they see such trades unions struggles in themselves as being “class struggle”, and an end in themselves, as opposed to being merely an opportunity for revolutionaries to point out precisely why such struggles are limited a dead-end, and to set out the real basis of class struggle, as Marx suggested in his letter to Rouge.

        Above you said,

        “Being fit to struggle is part of the struggle.”

        But, you may as well say that in order to struggle you have to be alive, and to be alive you need to eat, in which case you would have to conclude that eating breakfast constitutes class struggle! Its precisely why Marx, Engels and Lenin make the distinction between preparation and actual class struggle, so as to avoid falling into such vacuity.

      • Edgar Says:

        I profoundly disagree, Marx claimed history is the history of class struggle, this conclusion doesn’t come from a micro analysis of what constitutes class struggle, it comes from observation of the evidence, and the logic of the argument. You can define class but you can’t define what the struggle is. The struggle is, by its very nature, beyond the control of any individual and develops a life of its own, going down many paths (only those with a purely intellectual outlook can imagine they can define class struggle). But given the nature of capitalism and the analysis Marx gave us one central arena of class struggle is the workplace and those workplace struggles often involve trade unions. These struggles are class struggles. They might not be romantic, they might not have lofty ideals or ambitions but they are class struggles nonetheless.

        The job of Marxists isn’t to define what class struggle is or what it isn’t, Marxists need to point to any limitations in tactics and try to lead and lend support to the movement through that struggle, help it navigate its way toward dominance over the other classes.

        I still claim that Marxists should promote trade union membership, among other things, and the struggles it involves as part of the struggle to class dominance and liberation from class exploitation.

        I can see why you don’t, your road to socialism, via many co-op, in many ways reduces trade unions to at best a nuisance and at worst a distraction.

        I would say your idea of class struggle is typical of an intellectual outlook. I.e. an abstraction of struggle. You want to devalue all the dirty, blood, sweat and tears struggles and consign them to the heap of wasn’t all that a waste of time and a distraction from the important stuff!

      • Edgar Says:

        “you would have to conclude that eating breakfast constitutes class struggle!”

        That is because it is part of the class struggle (does the phrase let them eat cake ring any bells here?)! This is what I mean by your purely intellectual outlook, you want to abstract everything but then by abstracting you actually omit everything not included in the abstraction! This is a failure of procedure on your part.

        The nature of the class struggle, of struggle in general, it that it involves everything, every micro detail you can imagine. For those with a purely intellectual outlook this is too much to handle!

      • Boffy Says:

        Edgar,

        “For those with a purely intellectual outlook this is too much to handle!”

        As someone who became a shop steward at the age of 19, and then spent the rest of my working life as an active trades unionist, including being a Branch Secretary, President of the local TUC, Secretary of the Miners Support Committee, and sitting on the Regional Council of the TUC, as well as periods in office as a local councillor, your criticism could hardly be applied in my case, could it?

        I am not the one engaged in abstraction here. Unfortunately, you have abstracted yourself from rela life so much that you have denuded the concept of class struggle of any meaning, and disappeared up your own dialectic.

        We might as well say that any activity whatsoever is the same as any other activity, because any activity that any human being takes part in is only possible if they are alive, and they are only alive because they eat, breathe, sleep, procreate and so on. On that basis a boxer is engaged in every actual bout every time they eat, every time they train, and so on, and so any demarcation of activity becomes impossible.

        That kind of abstraction from reality can only lead you into nihilism and madness, and the conclusion that black is white and white is black because one cannot exist without the other, and both are merely shades of the other.

        When a discussion has reached that kind of level, I think it has stopped becoming of any benefit.

      • Mike Ballard Says:

        Comrade Boffy,

        I am not making the mistake of equating the value of the product of labour i.e. labour with the value of labour power. So, most of your arguments are based on false premises.

        Here’s Marx on the value of labour power:

        What the working man sells is not directly his labour, but his labouring power, the temporary disposal of which he makes over to the capitalist. This is so much the case that I do not know whether by the English Laws, but certainly by some Continental Laws, the maximum time is fixed for which a man is allowed to sell his labouring power. If allowed to do so for any indefinite period whatever, slavery would be immediately restored. Such a sale, if it comprised his lifetime, for example, would make him at once the lifelong slave of his employer.

        One of the oldest economists and most original philosophers of England — Thomas Hobbes — has already, in his Leviathan, instinctively hit upon this point overlooked by all his successors. He says: “the value or worth of a man is, as in all other things, his price: that is so much as would be given for the use of his power.” Proceeding from this basis, we shall be able to determine the value of labour as that of all other commodities.

        But before doing so, we might ask, how does this strange phenomenon arise, that we find on the market a set of buyers, possessed of land, machinery, raw material, and the means of subsistence, all of them, save land in its crude state, the products of labour, and on the other hand, a set of sellers who have nothing to sell except their labouring power, their working arms and brains? That the one set buys continually in order to make a profit and enrich themselves, while the other set continually sells in order to earn their livelihood? The inquiry into this question would be an inquiry into what the economists call “previous or original accumulation,” but which ought to be called original expropriation. We should find that this so-called original accumulation means nothing but a series of historical processes, resulting in a decomposition of the original union existing between the labouring Man and his Instruments of Labour. Such an inquiry, however, lies beyond the pale of my present subject. The separation between the Man of Labour and the Instruments of Labour once established, such a state of things will maintain itself and reproduce itself upon a constantly increasing scale, until a new and fundamental revolution in the mode of production should again overturn it, and restore the original union in a new historical form.

        What, then, is the value of labouring power?

        Like that of every other commodity, its value is determined by the quantity of labour necessary to produce it. The labouring power of a man exists only in his living individuality. A certain mass of necessaries must be consumed by a man to grow up and maintain his life. But the man, like the machine, will wear out, and must be replaced by another man. Beside the mass of necessaries required for his own maintenance, he wants another amount of necessaries to bring up a certain quota of children that are to replace him on the labour market and to perpetuate the race of labourers. Moreover, to develop his labouring power, and acquire a given skill,another amount of values must be spent. For our purpose it suffices to consider only average labour, the costs of whose education and development are vanishing magnitudes.

        *********
        IMO, we do have the material conditions to abolish wage labour and have had them for some time now. Even Marx in 1865 advises workers to put “abolition of the wage system” on their banners. What we don’t have are the subjective conditions, i.e. the class consciousness necessary to establish social ownership and democratic control over the collective product of labour.

        Why?

        Maybe nobody on the left has been proposing the abolition of the wage system and instead advocating idiocies like equal wages or the establishment of a “socialist State” and other absurdities Marx and Engels would have turned some ruthless criticism on.

  19. ucanbpolitical Says:

    Michael, perhaps you could write a blog entitled Socialism or global ecological barbarism

  20. Arthur Says:

    Very glad to see the quote on “Civilising Mission of Capitalism” from ch 8 of Grundrisse included above. It is natural for the ruling class to express complacency about how much progress there has been and for opponents of the ruling class to stress how much oppression there has been. But Marx correctly showed that the progressive achieved itself renders capitalism more obsolete and hastens its doom which will result in far more rapid progress.

    That is highly relevant to this thread on “robots” as a stark contrast to any idea that the more militantly one opposes the present system the less one should acknowledged that things have improved enormously and the future is bright. I am particularly struck by the enthusiasm for a “constantly expanding and constantly enriched system of needs” after just having read Ursula Huw moaning about smart phones and the internet. There never has been and never could be a working class movement allied with opponents of “consumerism” and demanding “rationing”.

    Even more relevant to topic of “robots” is chapter 14 from Grundrisse:

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch14.htm

    There is a LOT more there (and in the whole Grundrisse) but I’ll just quote a few excerpts which it would have been good to also include in the post to avoid giving a one sided impression of Marx by only mentioning the scourge of those workers unable to get new jobs when displaced by new technology:

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch14.htm

    “Labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather, the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself. (What holds for machinery holds likewise for the combination of human activities and the development of human intercourse.) No longer does the worker insert a modified natural thing [Naturgegenstand] as middle link between the object [Objekt] and himself; rather, he inserts the process of nature, transformed into an industrial process, as a means between himself and inorganic nature, mastering it. He steps to the side of the production process instead of being its chief actor. In this transformation, it is neither the direct human labour he himself performs, nor the time during which he works, but rather the appropriation of his own general productive power, his understanding of nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his presence as a social body – it is, in a word, the development of the social individual which appears as the great foundation-stone of production and of wealth. The theft of alien labour time, on which the present wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in face of this new one, created by large-scale industry itself. As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value. The surplus labour of the mass has ceased to be the condition for the development of general wealth, just as the non-labour of the few, for the development of the general powers of the human head. With that, production based on exchange value breaks down, and the direct, material production process is stripped of the form of penury and antithesis. The free development of individualities, and hence not the reduction of necessary labour time so as to posit surplus labour, but rather the general reduction of the necessary labour of society to a minimum, which then corresponds to the artistic, scientific etc. development of the individuals in the time set free, and with the means created, for all of them. Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth. Hence it diminishes labour time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition – question of life or death – for the necessary. On the one side, then, it calls to life all the powers of science and of nature, as of social combination and of social intercourse, in order to make the creation of wealth independent (relatively) of the labour time employed on it. On the other side, it wants to use labour time as the measuring rod for the giant social forces thereby created, and to confine them within the limits required to maintain the already created value as value. Forces of production and social relations – two different sides of the development of the social individual – appear to capital as mere means, and are merely means for it to produce on its limited foundation. In fact, however, they are the material conditions to blow this foundation sky-high. ‘Truly wealthy a nation, when the working day is 6 rather than 12 hours. Wealth is not command over surplus labour time’ (real wealth), ‘but rather, disposable time outside that needed in direct production, for every individual and the whole society.’ (The Source and Remedy etc. 1821, p. 6.)”

    “Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules etc. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, or of human participation in nature. They are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge, objectified. The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it. To what degree the powers of social production have been produced, not only in the form of knowledge, but also as immediate organs of social practice, of the real life process.”

    “<Real economy – saving – consists of the saving of labour time (minimum (and minimization) of production costs); but this saving identical with development of the productive force. Hence in no way abstinence from consumption, but rather the development of power, of capabilities of production, and hence both of the capabilities as well as the means of consumption. The capability to consume is a condition of consumption, hence its primary means, and this capability is the development of an individual potential, a force of production. The saving of labour time [is] equal to an increase of free time, i.e. time for the full development of the individual, which in turn reacts back upon the productive power of labour as itself the greatest productive power. From the standpoint of the direct production process it can be regarded as the production of fixed capital, this fixed capital being man himself. It goes without saying, by the way, that direct labour time itself cannot remain in the abstract antithesis to free time in which it appears from the perspective of bourgeois economy. Labour cannot become play, as Fourier would like, [5] although it remains his great contribution to have expressed the suspension not of distribution, but of the mode of production itself, in a higher form, as the ultimate object. Free time – which is both idle time and time for higher activity – has naturally transformed its possessor into a different subject, and he then enters into the direct production process as this different subject. This process is then both discipline, as regards the human being in the process of becoming; and, at the same time, practice [Ausübung], experimental science, materially creative and objectifying science, as regards the human being who has become, in whose head exists the accumulated knowledge of society. For both, in so far as labour requires practical use of the hands and free bodily movement, as in agriculture, at the same time exercise."

    • mandm Says:

      Arthur, you initiated this discussion by bringing up “bullshit jobs” and complaining that there is no coherent theory of unproductive labor under modern capitalism. It mentioned the work of Meszaros who you dismiss unread, even on Amazon’s E Book. However, here, you quote from the Grundrisse in a very apt riposte to Buffy’s “orthodox marxist” apologetics for western imperialism. Your actually provides a the theoretic basis from which “reactionary” marxists like Meszaros proceed in their analysis of late capitalist: the contrast between the relation between modern machinery under a socialist order, which is organically direct, and the contradictory relation between the machine (as capital) and alienated labor (as capital producing exchange value rather than fulfillment of need). alienated need within the capitalist mode of production, which reflects labor’s alienated social order under capital. Buffy assumes the conditions of early industrial capitalism (which he exemplifies very selectively and out of the context of Marx’s argument) as

      • mandm Says:

        Pardon! the above posted while being revised. Please skip it and read this:

        Arthur, you initiated this discussion by bringing up “bullshit jobs” and complaining that there is no coherent theory of unproductive labor under modern capitalism. I mentioned the work of Meszaros, who you dismiss unread. However, here, your quote from the Grundrisse is a very apt riposte to Boffy’s “orthodox marxist” apologetics for western imperialism, and actually provides the theoretical basis for Meszaros’ determination that the contemporary imperial order is the product of the evolution of industrial capitalism from Adam Smith’s (and Boffy’s) time to its structural limit, characterized at the imperial centers, by systems of destructive production, within which alienated labor is not only often bullshit labor, but, as in the United States, more often than not, unproductive and destructive labor.

        Your E book is quite a device, but as a product of alienated labor, it serves the political/cultural purpose of privatizing public knowledge and public institutions like schools and libraries, and ultimately, if Bezos and his apologists have their way, for the profitable propagation of a million Dunciads.

      • Arthur Says:

        Will respond to ucan below later. Just wanted to quickly mention that:

        1. The copy of Mezsaros I downloaded and listended to the start of on my smartphone was not “Amazon’s” and far from “serving the political/private purpose of privatizing public knowledge and public institution like schools and libraries”.

        It serves the purpose of undermining private property by making pretty well all the privatized information in the world available for free downloads.

        Here again is a link explaining how (and why) to get access to Library Genesis for people who may be unaware of it as a result of UK internet censorship:

        https://thecapitalistcycle.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/library-genesis-access/

        2. Wikipedia has a page explaining what Library Genesis does and summary there has a link with current IP address. Please post comment mentioning whether that link works for you in UK so other readers of this blog will know.

        3. I looked up “Dunciad” in wikipedia but still do not understand what your reference to it was about.

        4. I also do not understand reference to Boffy’s post being “apologetics for western imperialism”. My quote from Grundrisse was further in same direction as his, not a riposte.

        5. Likewise don’t understand relation to Meszaros but that also reflects my own lack of interest rather than a request for explanation.

  21. ucanbpolitical Says:

    Arthur I applaud you for repeating Marx’s words, but this is Marx at his most aspirational and I agree with everything he says. But this does not add up to a programme. It describes the end stage of human economic development when all the deforming features of social intercourse and interactions with nature have been overcome, leading to the emancipation of the human race. I am more concerned with how we get there. That is why I have posited the four crucial workers rights, all of which are contained in latent form in the Critique of the Gotha Programme with the exception of transforming the pricing system into one directly connected to labour time, which once realised poses the future possibility of ending pricing. However, if pricing is to be abolished this can happen only after, not before, it is fully realised and its potential consumed (to borrow a phrase from Hegel). These rights are the right to receive in proportion to contribution, the right to democratically agree the scale of and disposition of the deductions from the social product for the social fund, the right to determine the intensity of labour and consumer led planning (the inviolability of individual preferences). Surely we need to draw upon the lessons of the USSR and put forward a programme which is based not only on means but on goals which clearly demonstrate we have learnt the lessons from its collapse. https://theplanningmotivedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/eight-point-programme-pdf1.pdf

    • Socialism In One Bedroom Says:

      To Arthur it means, and lets be clear about this, that the imperialist vultures should be given carte blanche to murder its way across the globe.

    • Arthur Says:

      Ucanbe,

      Marx was not being “aspirational” at all in any of the quotes from Grundrisse in this thread. His writing is scientific, explaining how societies develop and what must inevitably result. In particular these quotes are describing the actual results of modern large scale industry, not some future “end stage”.

      Marx’s programmatic writings have a similar scientific approach, quite different from setting out “principles” on which prior agreement is required as to future social relations.

      There are very good reasons why he did not produce anything similar to what you are working on. A clear explanation is given by Engels in “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific”. This was more or less compulsory reading in the mass parties of the second international and I strongly recommend it to you.

      I did respond to the article you linked in previous thread on “Models of Public Ownership”:

      “Although I don’t agree with much in the “Comprehensive Planning” article it is certainly far more related to the topic and I would rather not distract from discussion of that.

      “Have only done a quick preliminary read so far. Main comment concerns the “state of emergency”. To me that should be the focus of discussion – the historical epoch of transition in which there is still classes and class struggle nationally and internationally. I see no reason to expect that to be brief and do not believe anybody’s current speculations about how things should be organized after that “emergency” could possibly be of much interest to the people that will actually be experiencing the future issues.

      “If there is another Great Depression in the next decade or so the issues will be how to deal with mass unemployment and raising the developing countries to the level of the advanced countries. I cannot imagine any working class anywhere putting up with the proposals for allocation of labor by “planners”. That would be rightly seen as a regression from wage labour. The unemployed will want jobs, with wages. That does imply bourgeois right and indeed a bourgeois state as employer, as Lenin rightly spelled out. That obviously leaves open a road back to capitalist rule. Hence a long period of struggle. Skipping over that “emergency” by simply proclaiming “principles” doesn’t get one far.”

      Above means I am “more concerned with how we get there”, but I do not see that in your 8 points. Instead even the title starts from preconceptions about the history of the USSR and you include your conclusions on such matters for future engineering studies as the feasabability of transcontinental grids linking wind turbines and solar panels thousands of mile apart to replace fossile fuel power plants.

      Both are classic examples of what not to include in a program.

      You did not reply and there was no further discussion in that thread. I have read your “eight point program” which includes some points I am sympathetic to (eg 4 falling prices and 8 internationalism). If there is any discussion by others I may join in but am I am disinclined to again try to help you start such discussion in this thread when you did not pursue it in the previous one.

      Instead I can offer three suggestions:

      1. A friend of mine has a similar concern with programs for the future organization of society rather than how to get there. He might well be interested in exchanging views in some depth, in the spirit of your first paragraph:

      https://sites.google.com/site/communistmanifestoproject/

      2. You might be less inclined to include your conclusions on future engineering projects after viewing the excellent BBC documentary on fusion power at link earlier in this thread.

      3. “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific” by Engels.

      • ucanbpolitical Says:

        I think I did but the thread did not materialise. You are right in so far as getting from point A where we are to point B where the class needs to be is the key discussion. If you follow my website you will know that I have written extensively on how to use (peculiar to Britain) the Labour Party Manifesto as a transitional means of fighting for a socialist revolution. And I agree with Marx and Engels that a real movement is worth a thousand programmes. However, if we are to win workers to the socialist cause, we must firm up what we mean by a socialist society instead of some abstract future. I am focussing most precisely on winning the most advanced workers, via the propaganda struggle. What we need is a real Marxian renaissance and such a renaissance is predicated first and foremost on explaining why the Soviet Union failed and the lessons to be drawn from this failure. Marx and Engels were loathe to draw up blueprints for the future leaving that to the dreamers and scribblers. But Marx was forced to change tack because of the emergence of the Gotha programme in Germany which showed, I would contend, that failing to draw up even a preliminary blueprint left the way open for the Lassaleans. In a similar manner today, we are forced by the experience of the USSR, to readdress all the issues. Setting out the clear socialist goals of our movement has been legitimised by what happened in the USSR. In any case when the ideological struggle flares up, as it will, the USSR will be thrown in our faces.

      • Arthur Says:

        You are likely to be able to get the discussion you want to “firm up what we mean by a socialist society instead of some abstract future” at the link I provided above (although from a view on both current and historical issues closer to mine than to yours). I agree that the lack of even a preliminary blueprint is a big problem, but the reason for that lack is we are not the people who will be faced with drawing up preliminary blueprints for a future social system. That task will be faced by people who have actually overthrown governments and have actual experience with the problem of transforming societies that are still based on wage labor but with the bourgeoisie in opposition and subversion rather than in full power.

        I find the concept of a “socialist society” a source of confusion itself. There is a historical epoch of transition from capitalism to communism which is NOT some settled third intermediate social formation (like capitalism between feudalism and communism) but a period of turbulent upheaval. It was perhaps unavoidable that the partially consolidated reorganization would need a name distinguised from capitalism but the result has been confusion. There was necessarily still wage labor and hence still capital, bourgeois right and to that extent a bourgeois state. As Mao explained the bourgeoisie was right inside the communist party, specifically in its top leadership. There is no magic formula that can avoid that.

        You misunderstand me in thinking you are in agreement with me that “getting from point A where we are to point B where the class needs to be is the key discussion”. My point was rather that spelling out some preliminary ideas for what you called the “emergency” period is a key discussion. The working class is entirely justified in having no interest in either the immediate practical slogans (often for entirely pointless “demonstrations”) or the principles they are asked to agree with for the organization of some future society from people who cannot clearly explain what it is they would be trying to do about the actual emergency when they see that there is one.

        I am here mainly for studying the economics of how the current social system actually works which is a necessary preliminary to having either propaganda or slogans useful in immediate day to day struggles that could move workers anywhere. They are rightly uninterested in the views of what to do from people who clearly cannot explain what is actually going on.

        Again:

        ““If there is another Great Depression in the next decade or so the issues will be how to deal with mass unemployment and raising the developing countries to the level of the advanced countries. I cannot imagine any working class anywhere putting up with the proposals for allocation of labor by “planners”. That would be rightly seen as a regression from wage labour. The unemployed will want jobs, with wages. That does imply bourgeois right and indeed a bourgeois state as employer, as Lenin rightly spelled out. That obviously leaves open a road back to capitalist rule. Hence a long period of struggle. Skipping over that “emergency” by simply proclaiming “principles” doesn’t get one far.”

        So preliminary speculative discussion about approaches to that strikes me as well worthwhile because we can expect to be faced with that situation (another Great Depression with the possibility of mass working class based movements contending with other political forces for political power and temporarily achieving it in some countries but not others).

        Historical lessons are certainly relevant but should be discussed separately as historical theory, about which historians can disagree while uniting around preliminary practical programs or agree while disputing over preliminary practical programs.

        Here I would like to focus on how wage labor and capital actually functions in the 21st century globalized economy with a view to preliminary ideas about how emergency governments might go about recovery from a very major crisis and start the process of transformation. Starting point for me is that there would still be wage labor and capital, exchange for money, a world market between states with different ruling classes and fierce struggles. Surely THAT at least is one lesson we could agree on from the history of the USSR.

        None of this would have been soved by some PREVIOUS “emergency” and even preliminary discussion of “principles” for subsequent phases would not become clear until we had at least recovered from mass unemployment and depression and got international trade and investment flows working between the various nations that could not possibly agree on anything just by “consultation” but would necessarily each by taking their own decisions as well as consulting and consequently still exchanging the products of their collective social labor through money.

        Of course if there was a simultaneous uprising everywhere of a united working class that had agreed on some set of prior principles there would be no problems. Indeed as explained in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, if only those who came up with those principles had been born earlier we could have been spared half a millenium of history going back to the crusades.

        We do have to live through actual history and it looks like speeding up again.

      • jlowrie Says:

        ”the pursuit by the western powers of an active foreign policy that assists political, social and economic progress in the developing countries. Among other things, this would mean no comfort for tyrants and kleptocrats, and military intervention where necessary;
        · those powers ensuring their dominant military superiority and the capacity to deploy where needed”

        That’s what you find when you follow Arturo’s thread to ”communist manifestoproject”. Be warned!!

  22. jlowrie Says:

    ‘There never has been and never could be a working class movement allied with opponents of “consumerism” and demanding “rationing”.’

    There we have it then: consumerism, the highest stage of socialism!

    All societies experience rationing; only the mode of its operation varies. Let us turn from arthurian speculation to hard practicality. Cape Town has been faced with a prolonged drought and the city is about to run out of water.

    Some of its citizens share Arturo’s love of consumerism: they enjoy showers, swimming pools and flush toilets. How have they responded to this threat to their consumption? Why! by purchasing expensive technology that enables them to access underground aquifers, i.e. appropriating a natural resource for their private and selfish CONSUMPTION. Others are not so fortunate: they share common privies and communal pumps. But it seems that already these unfortunates will soon have to make do only with bottled water i.e. their consumption of water will be RATIONED.

    Suppose a revolutionary overthrow tomorrow. What must be a socialist government’s first and most important step in such a fearful predicament? The equal apportioning of water to each human being, adjusted by a greater ration for those whose medical condition or hard labour ( e.g. outdoors in the sun) demands it; concomitantly with the confiscation of the technology and the filling in of the swimming pools of the super-consumer class.

    The bourgeoisie, veritable consumer vultures, have long battened on the blood of the labouring masses, but now it seems they will suck dry the very stuff of life itself.

    • Socialism In One Bedroom Says:

      Under a capitalist system good are rationed based on ones ability to pay.

      This is the reason rich twats live by the sea, drive the best cars and why if I want a root canal done properly I am advised to go private!

      • ucanbpolitical Says:

        There are two rationing systems in play. You mention the first, which is the wage system. The second is the absolute level of output which sets the limit on consumption. When Marx was referring to rights which cannot rise higher than the economic structure on which it is based, in other words, the recognition of necessity, it was the absolute output to which he was referring. In a socialist society, it is the absolute level of output that limits the deductions from the social product for social need in the early phase. Compromises will be needed with the exception of repairing the planet. Because of this, the right of every producer to participate in the discussion as to the scale and disposition of this deduction, is essential. Its democratic resolution is more important than the result, and it is this inclusive democratic process that is the epitome of a socialist society and its hallmark.

  23. mandm Says:

    Arthur:

    1. It’s impossible for me to visualize you listening to Meszaros on your I Phone. Are you blind?

    2. Downloading a book — even for free under socialism–to one’s hard-drive and then trying to read it on an I phone strikes me as a (miserable) way to enlightenment, rather than a needs expanding innovation–especially if corporately provided and controlled. Boffy is full of such needs expanding dystopian enthusiasms for sustaining unproductive, bullshit capitalism. I was definitely wrong to think you had any intention of refuting him by jousting in Grundrisse quotations.

    3. The “Dunciad” is a satirical poem by Alexander Pope in which he makes fun of the new (liberal) market ideology (where free competition allows one to “hate one’s neighbor as oneself”). He viewed the merchant capitalist order in much the same way as did Swift (excepting when he was not extolling London as the “New Jerusalem” in terms that made it seem more like Rome).

    4. Exactly. Birds of a feather…

  24. Arthur Says:

    1. Not blind and my reaction to Apple marketing of IPhone for status has enough resonance with “anti-consumerism” for me to appreciate where that is coming from despite rejecting where it is going. Most of my reading is “heavy” and unfeasible as audio text to speech on my Android smartphone (including mathematical which would be basically impossible). I need to do a lot of very slow walking and smartphone text-to-speech is surprisingly acceptable for light reading (I thought it would sound too much like a Dalek). Meszaros density counts as “heavy” and unsuitable for audio (though even Hegel’s shorter logic is available as free audio from libravox). My unwillingness to read him is also exacerbated by fact that I would have to use up some of my time available for serious reading as opposed to displacing other light reading while walking.

    The two introductions I listened to while walking were both “light” and sufficient to convince me Meszaros is not a high priority for me.

    You haven’t responded to my request for a phrase I could search for to find where he is specifically providing a view on “bullshit jobs” using some other term. My guess is that there isn’t one and you had not understood the specific meaning of “bullshit jobs” as used by Lucian George referring to David Graeber in starting the sub-thread I expressed interest in. That happens. Taking a look at a book unrelated to my actual expressed interest is no big deal – especially when it is so easy to do as a result of Library Genesis and smartphones.

    2.1. Evidently you haven’t even looked at the wikipedia page let alone Library Genesis since you still describe that as “corporately provided and controlled” despite it being subject to UK internet censorship and my providing a link explaining how you could take a look and understand what it is yourself. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” If you do look, please say whether the IP URL I mentioned works for you in UK.

    2.2 There is hope since you are able to admit that your were mistaken in your interpretation of my Grundrisse quotation. How about seriously considering whether Marx was right in both Boffy’s quote and mine – and if not – why people who hold opposite views to Marx on issues central to their whole world view and his insist on calling themselves Marxists?

    3. I still don’t understand what you were getting at with “, if Bezos and his apologists have their way, for the profitable propagation of a million Dunciads”. Don’t even know whether you want it less widely available or more and whether you are attracted by the Tory lampooning of Whiggery or repelled by it. Book is long out of copyright and in no sense “privatized”.

    4. Understood and not responded to.

  25. mandm Says:

    1. It seems you do do a bit of trolling…but enjoy your walk and light reading.
    2. The link to Library Genesis opened here in the US. It seems a valuable source (despite the precariousness of its existence). It will take time for me to negotiate what’s there. I’m too old to follow threads, sub-threads, etc. I’d rather learn Chinese. But thanks.
    2.2. The Grundrisse provides the full spectrum of Marx’s dialectical critique of the capitalist mode of production. Both of you select only Marx’s exposition of its positive elements, which, nevertheless, as one read further, are negated by Marx’s insistence on the alienation of the worker (as a form of capital), and his/her product (the commodity, as consisting of the exchange value of alienated living and alien dead labor, and alienated–from labor–use value). Industrial capitalism’s first product was not agricultural staples or machine spun yarn, but human misery and unemployment. So will be its last products, as is already evident in imperialism’s peripheries, and even come home to roost at the imperial centers, where, according to Boffy, these increasingly destructive (he would say forever innovating) contradictions will be solved by robots. How’s that for understanding Marx!
    4. I also don’t quite get what I said about the Dunciad–except that I was probably showing off, and that in 36 years of teaching in high schools and college composition throughout the United States, it seemed to me that the forced-fed computers of my day produced only illiteracy and unemployment of the student’s critical mind. But what has that to do with the Dunciad, a faux epic? I guess I wanted to say that Bezos wants to propagate mindless, consuming dunces. …So pardon me. As you can attest, it’s hard to avoid flippancy (and typos) on the computer.

  26. Arthur Says:

    1. Will admit there is something distinctly odd about my light reading while walking. Currently up to “D” in “Business Cycles Encyclopedia” started just after Ursula Huw introduction. Less light but it works.

    2.1 Yes Library Genesis is very valuable. Existence not precarious but it could become harder to access even in US so its important to spread info about how to do so.

    2.2 Not responding on Boffy. For my part I do deliberately select Marx’s exposition of positive elements as a necessary counter balance to the overwhelmingly one sided understanding of what he was actually saying elsewhere. If things were as bad as pictured by reactionary anti-capitalists it would be very hard to explain the complete absence of any significant mass working class movement against capitalism. I have no more time for the pseudoleft than the rest of the world that ignores them, but it cannot just be because they have nothing useful to contribute that capitalism has been faced with so little rebellion for so many decades.

    3. (“4”) Pardon granted. I am less intolerant of reactionary anti-capitalists like Sismondi and of Tory lampooners than I am of Whiggery and mindless dunces.

    • jlowrie Says:

      ” If things were as bad as pictured by reactionary anti-capitalists..” Unfortunately they are very much worse! Just wait!

    • mandm Says:

      4. “Pardon granted.” … most flippantly, so no thanks. “Reactionary anti-capitalists” is worthy of a Hayek or Milton Friedman (advisors to Pinochet) flip inversion of the truth.

      ….On your slow, blind walks, unplug yourself and take a look around at the growing number of young anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist reactionaries milling about, some reading that other anti-capitalist reactionary…what’s name?…Would you, as one of the neoliberal, imperialist caretakers of the embalmed body of Marx’s work, be in favor of robotic, police repression if these young people get out of hand?–as you have been of the massive repressions* of anti-capitalist reactionary workers in the global south, and now in Venezuela, for instance.

      • Arthur Says:

        Flippant pardon for confessed “showing off” on plea of difficulty avoiding flippancy is hereby withdrawn in acknowledgement of its rejection on grounds of flippancy.

        With that off my chest and thanks to complying with the “24 hour” rule for responses I am able to ignore rest and just respond to this bit:

        “On your slow, blind walks, unplug yourself and take a look around at the growing number of young anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist reactionaries milling about, some reading that other anti-capitalist reactionary…what’s name?…”

        Last time I noticed growing number of young anti-capitalists milling about was the “Occupy” movement about 6 years ago. In Melbourne, Australia I was about the only one of my generation active daily (“je reste un soixante-huitard”). They were indeed incredibly naive and badly influenced by both anarchist and “green” politics and so prone to “milling around” that it dissipated. But they certainly weren’t reactionary even in the old fogey sense of moaning about the internet and smart phones instead of using them to rebel, let alone in the “anti-imperialist” sense of solidarity with fascists and kleptocracies against their peoples. As a matter of fact I was on the more “moderate” side arguing in favour of tolerating the “socialist” sects” that periodically arrived in a herd to preach where majorities wanted to exclude them as alien intruders.

        I fully expect to encounter more sudden eruptions, less prone to dissipate when faced with serious emergency that requires action.

        Perhaps you should plug yourself in more and you would then be more familiar with concepts like “robot jobs” and not get current issues confused with the sort of stuff Monthly Review has been preaching to nobody much for decades.

      • Arthur Says:

        (sigh) I meant to say “bullshit jobs”. BTW David Graeber of “bullshit jobs” would be well known to anyone plugged in enough to have even noticed the “Occupy” movement.

        While I am at it I should also mention that Occupy was kicked off by the Arab spring movement against the kleptocracies there (and in Melbourne started by people just back from anti-Mubarek protests in Egypt).

        Contribution from pseudo-left has been to join with the imperialist vultures in implementing “hands off” the fascist Assad regime while it engages in not merely massive repressions but mass murder, including chemical warfare, displacing half the population of Syria and driving millions into exile. No relevance to “robots” apart from the “robotic” behaviour of those defending this, so I won’t continue on it in this thread.

  27. Socialism In One Bedroom Says:

    “I have no more time for the pseudoleft than the rest of the world that ignores them”

    I do hope this is code for you are now going to fuck off for good and never come back?

    • ucanbpolitical Says:

      Please respect this website. There are not that many available for the genuine exchange of ideas at the most fundamental level.

      • Socialism In One Bedroom Says:

        I don’t regard calling for the obliteration of large swathes of the globe in the interests if imperialism worthy of a genuine debate of ideas at the fundamental level.

        I am happy to debate imperialism itself, even debate its very existence etc etc etc, but I personally won’t tolerate anyone who advocates the mass murder in the name of imperialist interest.

        And moreover I don’t think any decent human being should either.

  28. realdemocracyinireland Says:

    Marxism is a method of objective assessment and scientific analysis.
    Marx called himself a scientific socialist, and helped inaugurate a tradition of scrupulous honesty. In fact, he saidspecifically, he was not a “Marxist”. This has been forgotten by some in the difficult challenges of seeking to overcome the present hegemony, the contradictions of bourgeois rule, and the task of constructing a transition to a future without capitalism and social commodity production for creation of profit.

    And the possibility of this great project began with the philosophical leap to Materialist Dialectics. Marx and co. grasped the relationship between internal human thought and the external motion of matter it seeks to reflect in a new way – as active, reciprocal, creative and not fixed – but in revolutionary motion, itself.

    The limitations of previous translation offered the concept of “conflict of opposites”. And some would seem to interpret this word “conflict” with a rather vulgar sense of its meaning, instead of as the process of “negation” which it sought to infer. This has sometimes blighted the history of Marxism by opening the door to idealist methodology and the adoption of fixed concepts which lead nowhere.

    Marxism – reflecting the tradition of its founders, must begin with dialectical postulation, e.g. a living developing concept of class society.

    Differing concepts of individual Marxists offer the possibility of constructing a rich, contradictory, many-sided view of this historical development, through which a deeper understanding can emerge out of a collective process of synthesis. And this requires us to conduct ourselves in a scientific and mutually respectful and inclusive manner.

    If you like, with an attitude which inaugurates a process of Real Democracy, a respectful discourse among respectful comrades.

    Openly, and with mutual respect, we discuss our interests in a scientific manner. Our conscious work for development of ideas seeks to reflect the ever-changing realities as authentically as possible,in manageable moments.

    We offer our concepts and consider the concepts of others in a respectful, a truthful, and a creative way, seeking negation from an existing paradigm to a deeper and more complete understanding of, e.g. how human society is developing as a whole; how we can guide strategy in the new circumstances identified, towards revolutionary transition. How can we negate capitalism?

    This is not an academic question, limited to the formal concepts of a single-minded ego, nor could it be. It must be a collective struggle to comprehend the many-sided motion of the external material reality in the combined motion of its many forms, and the interconnections between them, to be understood as their dialectical movement towards new moments of historical development.

    As a revolutionary theory, it sees movement as occurring through moments of crises and the process of material negation to a new moment. And it is this complex material existential context which gives meaning to the concepts we work together to construct.

    Michael Roberts, in offering his important and valuable research, and by posting dialectically guided contributions to analysis, offers us on his Blog Page, a platform on which this process can be safely conducted.

    There should be no place for the sort of disrespectful emotional abuse and vulgar primitive individualism which has crept into some contributions in this particular thread.

    We must behave as adults, and differ with respect for others when offering our critique of their ideas and conceptions. We should consciously strive do better when working creatively together.

  29. mandm Says:

    Arthur, I choose not to follow threads, but I participated in the occupy demonstrations in California. They were anticapitalist and anti-imperialist efforts to educate the deeply misinformed American public about capitalist hegemony, not to protest its current governing party.

    Thinking the inverse about almost everything you flippantly palm off from the liberal media about Syria and “imperialism” would bring one closer to the truth. So engaging you is a pointless exercise. You are your own best critic.

  30. computergkz Says:

    Robots GK-For the problem whether or not robots may challenge humans within the future, individuals have to date targeted on the likelihood of making a automaton that might be thought-about as a person’s within the sense that it could so assume as a person’s rather than being alone a tool of humans operated with programmed directions.robots gk is best and good. based mostly upon this line of thought it appears that we have a tendency to don’t ought to worry regarding the threat of robots since no one may however give any plausible proof that it’s doable to
    supply this sort of robots. However, this manner of thinking is philosophically wrong since the basic issue to alter robots to challenge humans would be their sociableness once they’re infused bound level intelligence.

  31. computergkz Says:

    Robots GK-When we
    check out however things have modified within the previous few decades the foremost dramatic changes have occurred inside the realm of computing and AI. but thirty years past robots were thought of fantasy and few long ago envisaged that the robots of the long run would be mere play things. nowadays robots area unit commonplace and area unit typically seen in toy retailers moreover as on the works floors of our producing industries and within the following article I take a glance at a number of the attention-grabbing aspects of the developing space of AI within Robots GK
    the twenty first century.

  32. A_Percy Says:

    Reblogged this on Universal Basic Services.

  33. A_Percy Says:

    Want to come along to IGP/UCL roundtable on Universal Basic Services? Thurs morning.

    For more in UBS:
    ubs-hub.org

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