Can I be an anarchist and desire wealth as well?

184 posts / 0 new
Last post
dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Jun 29 2009 10:01

Well, the mass of profit available for re-investment (accumulation) depends on the amount of surplus-value created in production. The higher the wage-rate, the greater is the amount of necessary labor needed to produce the value of the wage. The total labor-time performed being given, the division between necessary labor and surplus-labor depends upon the wage-rate, and any increase in the wage-rate comes at the expense of surplus-labor, and thus profits. So, operating with the theory that profit comes from the exploitation of labor in production, a rise in wages is a decrease in the rate of exploitation. All other things being equal, this can only diminish the mass of profits available for accumulation. Thus, capitalist accumulation does not depend on rising wages. It could get along fine without it. It is not profitable for capitalists to give out more money in wages in the hopes of getting this money back in the market. (And capital accumulation of course does not "depend" on any increase in taxation.) But this is what I think is sensible. The view I disagree with seems relatively consistent: the capitalists need higher wages so that the workers will buy back the things that they have produced. Since the bourgeoisie and the proletariat both have a fundamental interest in increasing the latter's consumption of commodities, there is no fundamental class conflict that characterizes capitalism, no logic of capital opposed to the needs of workers, etc., and thus the advocates of class struggle should be criticized.

There is no danger to capitalist accumulation represented by low wages, provided the working class is kept alive, etc. The limitation on the rise of wages, however, highlights the competing imperatives of the self-expansion of value and working class consumption to satisfy human needs:

Quote:
The rise of wages therefore is confined within limits that not only leave intact the foundations of the capitalistic system, but also secure its reproduction on a progressive scale. The law of capitalistic accumulation, metamorphosed by economists into pretended law of Nature, in reality merely states that the very nature of accumulation excludes every diminution in the degree of exploitation of labour, and every rise in the price of labour, which could seriously imperil the continual reproduction, on an ever-enlarging scale, of the capitalistic relation. It cannot be otherwise in a mode of production in which the labourer exists to satisfy the needs of self-expansion of existing values, instead of, on the contrary, material wealth existing to satisfy the needs of development on the part of the labourer.(http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch25.htm)

oisleep's picture
oisleep
Offline
Joined: 20-04-05
Jun 29 2009 10:31
Quote:
The total labor-time performed being given, the division between necessary labor and surplus-labor depends upon the wage-rate, and any increase in the wage-rate comes at the expense of surplus-labor, and thus profits. So, operating with the theory that profit comes from the exploitation of labor in production, a rise in wages is a decrease in the rate of exploitation. All other things being equal, this can only diminish the mass of profits available for accumulation

I might be missing the point, but a rise in wages is perfectly compatible with an increase in the rate of exploitation surely - for example, if increased productivity lowers the value of labour power, then a portion of this 'benefit' can go to labour in increased wages with the rest going to capital in increased surplus value - thus increased exploitiation through decrease in necessary labour and increase in surplus labour

(or did you cater for this case where you say 'all other things being equal' meaning your point applies to a period of static productivity - which would be correct in theory, but like simple reproduction is something that doesn't really happen under real on the ground capitalism)

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Jun 29 2009 14:48

Yeah, the old ceteris parabis. I could have been clearer. I agree with what you say, of course.

Boris Badenov
Offline
Joined: 25-08-08
Jun 29 2009 19:26
Angelus Novus wrote:
The grand failure of the historical communist movement in its orientation towards the proletariat as a "revolutionary subject

"
so the failure of the "historical communist movement" has nothing to do with the fact that revolutions were brutally suppressed and destroyed by the forces of reaction, and everything to do with the fact that too much emphasis was placed on the proletariat as a revolutionary agent? I honestly don't get this, unless reformism, leninist vanguardism/workerism and other such things, which are concretely responsible for "the grand failure," can actually be counted as part of the "historical communist movement", rather than anti-revolutionary and statist.
Maybe I'm just not reading it right.

Angelus Novus wrote:
The grand failure of the historical communist movement in its orientation towards the proletariat as a "revolutionary subject" was in viewing the "interests" of the working-class against the capitalist class as somehow pointing beyond capital, rather than correctly seeing the opposed interests of workers and capitalists as simply being the interests of two distinct groups of commodity-owners within the capitalist framework

this is a false dichotomy.
workers and capitalists are defined by the capitalist framework, but that does not mean that the interests of workers as the dispossessed, those who are excluded from any of the wealth that this society has to offer, who have no control over their lives, do not point beyond capital.
saying that "the opposed interests of workers and capitalists [are simply] the interests of two distinct groups of commodity-owners within the capitalist framework" implies a certain equality in which both workers and capitalists are on the same level of material deprivation and psychological misery (for lack of a better term), which is false.

Also, if all past revolutions have been attempts by not-yet-proletarianized populations to resist the encroachment of capital, or by recently proletarianized populations with a collective memory of pre-capital relations to return to those relations, how do you explain the events of '68 for example? where French workers back then also relying on this collective pre-capital memory?

Quote:
I would never dispute that workers can't be communists (otherwise, I'd just pack up and retreat to private life). My issue is with the notion that workers have interests as workers that predisposes them to communism

what about the notion that its their interests as human beings that predispose them, interests which are nonetheless defined directly by their condition as workers under capitalism?
As an "abstract worker," I guess I can only want what the logic of capital permits, but as an actual person who must endure the condition of worker, I want to be free (sounds a bit too dramatic, but there you have it). Communism/anarchism is useful insofar as it can articulate a path to achieving such freedom.

slothjabber
Offline
Joined: 1-08-06
Jun 29 2009 22:35
Angelus Novus wrote:
...

I think we can all agree that even if the former Eastern Bloc societies don't look like classical capitalism, they were nonetheless class societies where exploitation was mediated by the commodity-form and wage-labor...

And yet, when oppositional movements like Solidarnosc sprang up, western capitalists did not hesitate to support these movements against the bureaucracy.

So where was the inter-capitalist solidarity in this case? Shouldn't Reagan, Thatcher, Kohl, etc. have been enthusiastic supporters of crushing Solidarnosc?..

Totally missing the point. As I pointed out before, the interests of individual capitalists may conflict (Pepsi v Coke), and likewise the interests of national capitals may conflict (USA v USSR); but capitalism doesn't conflict with capitalism; there is no "class conflict" between the White House and the Kremlin.

Nor is there any reason for the western powers to crush Solidarity. Was it a threat to the west, or capitalism in general? No. It did a great job of derailing the genuine revolutionary stirrings of the proletariat in Poland. It sold out to the Catholic church, stitched up the workers, sold out to Thatcher (and allegedly the CIA), then ran Lech Walesa for president. The western powers must have been coming in their pants over Solidarity. so why would they need to support the Soviet bureaucracy? The state bureacrats-in-waiting of the upper echelons of Solidarity were totally safe hands.

Angelus Novus wrote:
...I think the interests "common" to all capitalists are the interests they also share with workers: the interest of having their property protected by the state against force and fraud...

I don't agree that workers share those interests. I think that all human beings have an interest against defence against force, and removal of the necessities of life, while I'll take as a lose synonym for 'fraud'. But I the capitalists as a class have an interest in a subservient workforce that can buy capitalism's commodities. That isn't an interest that the working class shares, though some individual workers - many in fact - may want an easy and quiet life. That doesn't cjhange the nature of class oppression.

You seem to mix up, over and over, the opinions of individuals with the notions of class interests. A class can have interests totally at odds with the views of the individuals who make it up. Everyone may be in favour of danger money for working in an unsafe workplace, taking the chance that they'll be killed because it might seem worth it; but the class interest of the working class is for safer workplaces. Opinions and interests don't always coincide.

Angelus Novus wrote:
... I would never dispute that workers can't be communists (otherwise, I'd just pack up and retreat to private life)...

I presume you mean you'd never dispute they can. But then, I never said you did, just that your idea of how they can become communists seemed to be rather limited. It seems to me that it's a lot like that of the SPGB, sometimes derided by me among others as "knitting socialists". All one has to do is assemble the right theories and then think very hard... Sure, some people will come to socialism as an intellectual endevour. And some will come to socialism through engagement in class struggle. But that is an aspect of learning through experience that you totally discount. Really, you berate the rest of us with the idea that people don't know what they're thinking. Your own conception meanwhile seems to be that they can't think, reflect, develop, at all.

Angelus Novus wrote:
... My issue is with the notion that workers have interests as workers that predisposes them to communism. This is where the Bookchin critique is analytically useful, I think. The militancy of the early workers movements derived from a recently proletarianized social layer with a collective memory of pre-capitalist relations. But workers today have no such memory. To the extent that they aspire to stop being workers, they do so from the perspective of social mobility within capitalism...

Are you claiming that only the newly proletarianised go on strike? Or that only recently-ex-peasants can posit the abolition of capitalism? That's what you seem to be claimning. If it's not, please enlighten me.

If you can't see that it's in the interest of an exploited class to end it's own exploitation, then, what is the point? The working class, the people at the sharp end of production, whose labour power is exploited by capitalists, an exploiting class (not just a collection of exploiting individuals), have a collective class interest in overthrowing capitalism and ending their own oppression. To fail to realise that I think is a major problem.

Angelus Novus wrote:
... Nobody ever disputed that people have an individual interest in strikes...

Well, apart from me, you mean? I think the individual interest in a strike is marginal at best. Any rational calculation by an individual would say "no, I'll keep my head down, if someone else wants to fight that's fine, I'll reap the benefit, if not, I'm no worse off than I was before". It is only as collective action that strikes make sense. So again, you invert the relationship between individual and class. I'm beginning to see both a pattern, and potentially the source of the problem, here.

Angelus Novus wrote:
... Strikes are often an eminently practical way of obtaining higher wages and better working conditions.

To make it clear: nobody is disputing that workers have collective interests as workers. What is being disputed is the notion that those interests transcend capitalism.

Strikes in my experience are rarely "eminently practical". And as you don't seem to have a clue what the rest of us are talking about when we refer to classes, then it's hardly surprising you can't see that the collective interests of the working class are to abolish their own exploitation.

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Jun 30 2009 07:01

Oisleep, I think perhaps I read over your comment too quickly. Your example reads as follows:

Oisleep wrote:
for example, if increased productivity lowers the value of labour power, then a portion of this 'benefit' can go to labour in increased wages with the rest going to capital in increased surplus value

Why the sharp divergence of the value of labor-power from its price? Wouldn't the benefit of lowering the value of labor power, in terms of the rate of surplus-value, be precisely in decreased monetary wages (with real wages the same or higher)?

For example:

Marx wrote:
The value of commodities is in inverse ratio to the productiveness of labour. And so, too, is the value of labour-power, because it depends on the values of commodities. Relative surplus-value is, on the contrary, directly proportional to that productiveness. It rises with rising and falls with falling productiveness. The value of money being assumed to be constant, an average social working-day of 12 hours always produces the same new value, six shillings, no matter how this sum may be apportioned between surplus-value and wages. But if, in consequence of increased productiveness, the value of the necessaries of life fall, and the value of a day’s labour-power be thereby reduced from five shillings to three, the surplus-value increases from one shilling to three. Ten hours were necessary for the reproduction of the value of the labour-power; now only six are required. Four hours have been set free, and can be annexed to the domain of surplus-labour. Hence there is immanent in capital an inclination and constant tendency, to heighten the productiveness of labour, in order to cheapen commodities, and by such cheapening to cheapen the labourer himself. (http://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch12.htm#2a)

oisleep's picture
oisleep
Offline
Joined: 20-04-05
Jun 30 2009 08:54
Quote:
Why the sharp divergence of the value of labor-power from its price? Wouldn't the benefit of lowering the value of labor power, in terms of the rate of surplus-value, be precisely in decreased monetary wages (with real wages the same or higher)?

yep, sorry - i conflated what can happen at the level of social capital and that which can happen at the level of an individual capital - if at the social level we assume that price and value of labour power are equal (or at least move in the same direction), then what I said is clearly wrong, I should have used the example of an individual capital whose increase in productivity leads to a cheapening of their individual commodities produced, allowing them to continue to sell them at the social average price/value but make a (temporary) increased profit due to their specifc increased productivity, a portion of this potential profit could then be captured by the workers of that firm, leading to a situation where an increase in wages then goes hand in hand with an increase in profits at the level of an individual capital (although obviously this is the result of two different things happening at once) - although even in this case even though increased profit flows to the individual capital, it still doens't equate to an increase in exploitation as the value of the labour power of that firm's workers wouldn't necassirly have changed, so it's just a distributional thing of surplus value between different capitals within the sphere of circulation

what I was getting mixed up with at the overall level is conflating an increase in living standards with an increase in (monetary) wages - so the point I should have made was that an increase in living standards is perfectly compatible with an increase in exploitation (although this point then bears no connection to the post of yours to which i initially responded, so i should have just really kept my mouth shout altogether!)

obviously overall the determining factor (albeit it unconsciously) that drives capital to continually increase labour productivity is to reduce the value and price of labour power as you say

B_Reasonable
Offline
Joined: 6-02-09
Jun 30 2009 18:29
dave c wrote:
Quote:
"capital's logic of unimpeded accumulation" depends on worker's struggles, for higher wages etc, to increase their capacity to consume more commodities, pay more taxes, so the government can buy more commodities, etc.

The post-Marxist economical foundations of opposition to "class struggle" politics!

Not really, that would centre on capital being the subject and classes not being the fundamental driver of capitalism. My point was to show the contradiction in Joseph Kay's point with regards the commodity but in doing so I kept it a the level of class.

B_Reasonable
Offline
Joined: 6-02-09
Jun 30 2009 19:18
dave c wrote:
There is no danger to capitalist accumulation represented by low wages, provided the working class is kept alive, etc. The limitation on the rise of wages, however, highlights the competing imperatives of the self-expansion of value and working class consumption to satisfy human needs:
Quote:
The rise of wages therefore is confined within limits that not only leave intact the foundations of the capitalistic system, but also secure its reproduction on a progressive scale. The law of capitalistic accumulation, metamorphosed by economists into pretended law of Nature, in reality merely states that the very nature of accumulation excludes every diminution in the degree of exploitation of labour, and every rise in the price of labour, which could seriously imperil the continual reproduction, on an ever-enlarging scale, of the capitalistic relation. It cannot be otherwise in a mode of production in which the labourer exists to satisfy the needs of self-expansion of existing values, instead of, on the contrary, material wealth existing to satisfy the needs of development on the part of the labourer.(http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch25.htm)

If capitalists, as a closed class, collectively managed capitalism to their best advantage, according to the precepts of the LTV then they might decide to always minimise wage as a means of maximising accumulation. In reality, they aren't quite so clear-headed. Capitalists do believe higher wages are necessary for increased accumulation. Although they will fight to keep their own labour costs down, and collectively at a national level call for wage restraint etc. they are also keen on encouraging 'freedom and democracy' in order to grow markets of industrial workers and a middle classes who will buy more commodities. Of course, this may well be leading to further decadence and a irrecoverable crisis but it is not the "clash of logics" Joseph Kay put forward.

Sean68
Offline
Joined: 27-09-06
Jun 30 2009 19:33

"he mass of profit available for re-investment (accumulation) depends on the amount of surplus-value created in production. The higher the wage-rate, the greater is the amount of necessary labor needed to produce the value of the wage. The total labor-time performed being given, the division between necessary labor and surplus-labor depends upon the wage-rate, and any increase in the wage-rate comes at the expense of surplus-labor, and thus profits. So, operating with the theory that profit comes from the exploitation of labor in production, a rise in wages is a decrease in the rate of exploitation. All other things being equal, this can only diminish the mass of profits available for accumulation."

Don't know if I am missing your point here, Dave, but I think this is a fundamental misconception of how the law of value operates. It was central to debates in the 1970s, and I think the implications are even more relevant today as we head full steam towards the end of the carbon economy. David Yaffe:

"Variable capital represents only the wages of productive workers. Surplus-value is the total profit of the productive sector. Constant capital is the part of the means of production employed in the productive sector. The rate of exploitation and organic composition of capital relate to the variables as defined above. The unproductive part of total production becomes relevant when we discuss the rate of profit. Here it will be included as a extra-cost. More capital is advanced in order to finance this unproductive sector and so the rate of profit will be correspondingly lower."

The Marxian Theory of Crisis, Capital and the State - (1972)

Murray EG Smith has also written some interesting stuff on this. The implications are quite traumatic for the defenders of traditional class struggle perspectives.

B_Reasonable
Offline
Joined: 6-02-09
Jun 30 2009 20:58
Joseph Kay wrote:
B_Reasonable wrote:
"capital's logic of unimpeded accumulation" depends on worker's struggles, for higher wages etc, to increase their capacity to consume more commodities, pay more taxes, so the government can buy more commodities, etc. In order for there to be a "clash of competing logics" the "concrete human needs" must not therefore include demands that increase commodity consumption but must but must be couched in terms that bring an end to the commodity form.

well this is the crux of the argument i think, with regard to Angelus Novus' position too. does asserting our concrete needs points beyond the commodity form, or simply demand more commodities? i would argue that it often does the latter without it being mutually exclusive to the former. many of our demands have historically been conceded within the confines of the commodity form. some of them, like healthcare perhaps, have been conceded in a form that while not strictly commodified, is fully integrated into the logic of a society ruled by value.

The commodity form isn't just about consumption and exchange value but also production and abstract labour. The Soviet Union was run very much like the NHS (OK, the NHS doesn't have labour camps). The fact that the commodities aren't operating in a market economy doesn't stop them being commodities. The NHS run using alienated labour and the same profit (i.e. 'value for money') imperatives are applied.

Historically, we can see that people have moved beyond the commodity form. Even if you established that that stage was always reached via an immediate stage, of demanding more commodities, you still have to account for why that stage was necessary to bring about that change and whether it was the best and only route. The counter-argument is pretty simple: it seems illogical to argue for something you don't want in order to get something you do want.

I fully accept that people are far more receptive to conversations about their concrete needs and that, to most people, suggesting things like 'never work' strikes them as ridiculous and irrelevant. However, that is the communication problem that needs to be addressed and it's not easy. In order for people to realise communist ideas for themselves they have to be communicated openly and truthfully.

Plus, the usual disclaimer about supporting workplace struggles...

Joseph Kay wrote:
but i think it's an axiom of communist thought that human needs exceed and overflow the commodity form and cannot be adequately met by it (otherwise, what's the problem?), and therefore the struggle to assert our needs will both benefit us immediately (on that we're all agreed), and also bring us into conflict with capital as a social relation. this is apparent by the way the state violently intervenes as the collective capitalist, politicising strikes into questions of 'who runs the country' and whatnot, and has been present in past revolutionary upsurges where often mundane demands were the spark that triggered an unpredictable inferno. it's certainly not a linear or predictable process, but as Angelus says, there are perfectly good reasons to support everyday class struggles even if they aren't revolutionary.

In capitalism, human needs are partially met in spite of the commodity form which involves scarcity, alienation, abstract labour etc. It's not a stage that has to be overcome when it proves inadequate at meeting certain consumption needs. It's an all pervading perversity which stops life being lived in a rational and enjoyable way - and it's writing off the planet. Again, your treating it as the elephant in the kitchen - only to be addressed once 'the workers' have had enough capitalist oppression to deal with it. It may be entirely unintentional but it smacks of vanguardism.

B_Reasonable wrote:
OK, I get how modern Anarcho-syndicalism is supposed to work now. A bunch of industrial-agitator-specialists encourage workers to take direct action to support the commodity form, this action breaks down alienation and increases conciousness, until the workers themselves figure out that the Anarcho-syndicalists are actually acvocating "reconfiguring capitalism" and perpetuating the misery. When the workers challenge the Anarcho-syndicalists, they then turn round and say it was all a Capt. Mainwaringesque 'deliberate mistake' and roll-on the revolution. It's a kind of vanguardist aversion therapy.
Joseph Kay wrote:
this is nonsense, and i'm not sure where to start. for starters, anarcho-syndicalism isn't about creating specialists in struggle, there has always been a scepticism towards full-time staff, rejection of full-time 'organisers' and the like. it's been a tradition of self-organisation by workers who agree with its aims and principles. so i think this allusion to the critique of the militant (unless i'm reading too much into it) is misguided. i mean i'm an anarcho-syndicalist, i don't claim to be a 'specialist' in struggle, loads of random workers have far more experience and knowledge than me. doesn't preclude me organising with like-minded workers though.

By adhering to a model of capitalism which is in adequate, i.e. class struggle, therefore you are operating counter to revolutionary best interests which is a form of authority. And by pushing that view you are in effect specialists. The road to hell is paved with good intentions - but it's still hell.

Joseph Kay wrote:
secondly, there's no machivellian/Trot transitional demand bait-and-switch strategy to 'support the commodity form.' we struggle to assert our concrete needs, which may or may not be conceded in the form of commodities - wage rises or rent reductions obviously are, health, childcare or the ending of some environmentally damaging practice may well not be.

Instead of 'bait-and-switch', you have a mystical transformation performed by the workers themselves. This is why fetishizing the pre-1940s working class is so key because it plays the role of a true fetish in enabling this transformation.

Joseph Kay wrote:
thirdly, there is therefore no accidentally-on-purpose advocacy of 'reconfiguring capitalism', since from certainly the CNT's adoption of libertarian communism in 1923, and arguably the FORA's founding 'Pact of Solidarity' in 1904, anarcho-syndicalists have been explicitly revolutionary anti-capitalists and haven't sought to hide this (subsequent reformism/collaboration doesn't change that).
Joseph Kay wrote:
conseqeuently, if you want to criticise anarcho-syndicalism, calling it out as dishonestly pro-capitalist vanguardism just makes you look silly, imho.

I wouldn't even accuse the SWP of being pro-capitalist vanguardists they're revolutionary anti-capitalist vanguardists.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Jun 30 2009 21:36
B_Reasonable wrote:
The NHS run using alienated labour and the same profit (i.e. 'value for money') imperatives are applied.

yes, hence "fully integrated into the logic of a society ruled by value." but if you extend the commodity form to things that don't take the form of commodities (i.e. use value to a buyer realised as exchange values to a seller), then the concept loses all meaning. now of course the labour-power in the NHS is commodified, however the 'product' is not strictly so - you could say 'the state buys healthcare', which is true but a much more abstract relation than the typical commodity. of course there are also moves to further commodify healthcare, with 'payment by results', outsourcing of routine ops etc. collapsing all this into 'the commodity form' loses a lot of important detail imho.

B_Reasonable wrote:
The counter-argument is pretty simple: it seems illogical to argue for something you don't want in order to get something you do want.

i do want a higher wage. or a wage would be nice, since i've just lost my job. i also want the abolition of wage labour. this isn't illogical; i want communism, but alas i cannot eat ideas. it's not like wage struggles or whatever are in direct opposition to communism, and often they bring out the fact that our needs can't really be met by commodities at all, and so struggles move from an immanent part of society to an attack on it, as has been the case in numerous revolutionary ruptures throughout history.

B_Reasonable wrote:
I fully accept that people are far more receptive to conversations about their concrete needs and that, to most people, suggesting things like 'never work' strikes them as ridiculous and irrelevant. However, that is the communication problem that needs to be addressed and it's not easy. In order for people to realise communist ideas for themselves they have to be communicated openly and truthfully.

well communists don't hide that we're for communism. the slogan comes across as ridiculous because work is widely seen as analagous to necessary activity, for obvious reasons. if you're interested in changing minds and not radical posturing, situ sloganeering might not be the best bet.

B_Reasonable wrote:
In capitalism, human needs are partially met in spite of the commodity form which involves scarcity, alienation, abstract labour etc. It's not a stage that has to be overcome when it proves inadequate at meeting certain consumption needs. It's an all pervading perversity which stops life being lived in a rational and enjoyable way - and it's writing off the planet. Again, your treating it as the elephant in the kitchen - only to be addressed once 'the workers' have had enough capitalist oppression to deal with it. It may be entirely unintentional but it smacks of vanguardism.

define 'vanguardism'. and who mentioned some abstract 'the workers'? i've been talking about concrete people like myself, who don't have the luxury of walking out of work with a banner reading 'abolish teh commodity form, plz kthx' - what are you actually proposing?

i'm certainly not proposing a 'stagist' theory, i'm simply describing what happens in the real world where ideas develop in tandem with material reality, people don't for the most part just read Capital demand communism. yes, everything short of communism is capitalism, well spotted. therefore, demand communism now, or be a vanguardist?

B_Reasonable wrote:
By adhering to a model of capitalism which is in adequate, i.e. class struggle, therefore you are operating counter to revolutionary best interests which is a form of authority. And by pushing that view you are in effect specialists. The road to hell is paved with good intentions - but it's still hell.

so expressing an opinion is "specialist", and operating counter to "revolutionary best interests" that you apparently know best but have yet to disclose is "authority." i'm beginning to see the root of your communication problem! class struggle isn't a "model of capitalism", it is a material reality. the question is whether it is forever system-immanent, or has the potential for a revolutionary rupture.

B_Reasonable wrote:
you have a mystical transformation performed by the workers themselves. This is why fetishizing the pre-1940s working class is so key because it plays the role of a true fetish in enabling this transformation.

you wheel out theses rhetorical devices as if they have meaning. you talk about 'the workers' whilst casting accusations of fetishism, you imbue capital with exclusive subjectivity, when its role as subject-object of production is a result of an ontological inversion of real, material human activity and relations. this is to repeat the commodity fetishism of the political economists that Marx was at pains to belittle. and what have the pre-1940s got to do with this? i can only assume you're reading "anarcho-syndicalism" as "my history book ends at 1936". which is bollocks and irrelevant to your argument, since it's not like fetishising Visteon or call centre workers would be any better.

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Jul 1 2009 04:54

B_Reasonable, I will try to be perfectly clear: what I understand as the "clash of logics" is precisely what Marx describes in Capital when he is talking about surplus-labor and necessary labor, or, what he says here:

Marx wrote:
This struggle about the legal restriction of the hours of labor raged the more fiercely since, apart from frightened avarice, it told indeed upon the great contest between the blind rule of the supply and demand laws which form the political economy of the middle class, and social production controlled by social foresight, which forms the political economy of the working class. Hence the Ten Hours’ Bill was not only a great practical success; it was the victory of a principle; it was the first time that in broad daylight the political economy of the middle class succumbed to the political economy of the working class. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1864/10/27.htm)

This is what I would assume would be understood by "clash of logics" in the context of talking about class struggle. The core of the clash of logics can be schematically portrayed by juxtaposing the circuit M-C-M', or the "self-expansion of value", with money being used to buy labour-power, the special commodity that can yield a greater value (M'), with the circuit C-M-C, taken to represent the laborer's selling of his/her commodity labor-power in exchange for wages (M), which are used to buy commodities, the "logic" of the circuit being the acquisition of material goods. The "logic" of the latter circuit can be contrasted with that of the former, particularly in the way that I have done: the push of capital to increase surplus labor-time at the expense of necessary labor-time in order to increase M', and the desire of workers to maximize the wage (or necessary labor-time) in order to increase their consumption. To make myself clearer with regard to necessary and surplus labor-time, we can have a look at Marx's graphical representation of the basic idea:

Marx wrote:
Although the length of a c is given, b c appears to be capable of prolongation, if not by extension beyond its end c, which is also the end of the working-day a c, yet, at all events, by pushing back its starting-point b in the direction of a. Assume that b'—b in the line ab'bc is equal to half of b c

a———b'—b——c

or to one hour’s labour-time. If now, in a c, the working-day of 12 hours, we move the point b to b', b c becomes b' c; the surplus-labour increases by one half, from 2 hours to 3 hours, although the working-day remains as before at 12 hours. This extension of the surplus labour-time from b c to b' c, from 2 hours to 3 hours, is, however, evidently impossible, without a simultaneous contraction of the necessary labour-time from a b into a b', from 10 hours to 9 hours. The prolongation of the surplus-labour would correspond to a shortening of the necessary labour; or a portion of the labour-time previously consumed, in reality, for the labourer’s own benefit, would be converted into labour-time for the benefit of the capitalist. There would be an alteration, not in the length of the working-day, but in its division into necessary labour-time and surplus labour-time. (http://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch12.htm#2a)

So here we have what I take to be Marx's idea of a "clash of logics" described in various ways (Marx did not use this phrase "clash of logics"). Now, obviously capitalists grant wage increases. The question is, however, are such wage increases necessary for accumulation? That is why I focused on your use of the word depends. I think it is eminently sensible to isolate certain variables if we are talking about a clash of logics, or the fundamental dynamics of capital. My point still stands: It is not profitable for capitalists to give out more money in wages in the hopes of getting this money back in the market. If, however, you agree with all of this basic Marx stuff and I misinterpreted your post, I have no idea why you are hostile to the original statement about the clash of logics.

Sean68 wrote:
Don't know if I am missing your point here, Dave, but I think this is a fundamental misconception of how the law of value operates. It was central to debates in the 1970s, and I think the implications are even more relevant today as we head full steam towards the end of the carbon economy. David Yaffe:

You are going to have to say where you think I expressed a "fundamental misconception" or else we will never know if you are missing my point! I am familiar with David Yaffe's writings (being a pretty orthodox supporter of Marx's economic theories and fierce critic of underconsumptionism, I think he would quickly agree with my points) and have read the essay you quote. I have no idea how that particular quote is relevant here, however.

Angelus Novus
Offline
Joined: 27-07-06
Jul 1 2009 09:23

Probably without even intending to, Joseph Kay offered a fairly solid grounding for my position over on the "false consciousness" thread. What Joseph Kay says on that thread concerning false consciousness is pretty much the foundation of my statements on this thread.

Specifically this:

Quote:
there's nothing 'false' about having an individual outlook on life, it's perfectly rational and indeed often the best way to get by.

The notion of the proletariat as "revolutionary subject" rests fundamentally upon the assumption that its current consciousness is false. Sorry, but there's no other way around it.

So henceforth, I will simply refer people to his post on that thread rather than reply here (though I'm certain Joseph Kay is irritated that I would interpret his statement there as support for my position).

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Jul 1 2009 09:54

not irritated at all. nobody (except perhaps the most wide-eyed autonomists) thinks the proletariat is always-already revolutionary. 'revolutionary subjectivity' is a latent potential of collective action, as i argue on the other thread, not some messianic 'truth' to be revealed to the ignorant masses who are draped in falsehood. capital is the subject-object of social life on account of an ontological inversion of real, material human activity and relations (whereby the product of our activity, vampire-like comes to dominate us with a logic of its own). the proletariat becomes a subject when it acts in its own interests against those of capital. when we just roll up to work each day we're just objects of capital, human resources.

B_Reasonable
Offline
Joined: 6-02-09
Jul 2 2009 12:54
dave c wrote:
B_Reasonable, I will try to be perfectly clear: what I understand as the "clash of logics" is precisely what Marx describes in Capital when he is talking about surplus-labor and necessary labor

There is an indisputable antagonism between a capitalist enterprise's desire to minimise wage costs and its workers desire for higher wages. Although this is true of all workplaces, it only describes the relationship of that enterprise has with its own workers, in their role as contracted workers. Capitalist enterprises also depend on workers (who for the most part are contracted to work for other capitalist enterprises) to buy the commodities they are selling to realise the surplus value.

The phrase "clash of logics" sounds like it describing a universal truth about capitalist relations, rather than just describing the employer-employee relationship, and thus the supposed fundamental importance of class struggle to overcoming capitalism.

dave c wrote:
This is what I would assume would be understood by "clash of logics" in the context of talking about class struggle. The core of the clash of logics can be schematically portrayed by juxtaposing the circuit M-C-M', or the "self-expansion of value", with money being used to buy labour-power, the special commodity that can yield a greater value (M'), with the circuit C-M-C, taken to represent the laborer's selling of his/her commodity labor-power in exchange for wages (M), which are used to buy commodities, the "logic" of the circuit being the acquisition of material goods. The "logic" of the latter circuit can be contrasted with that of the former, particularly in the way that I have done: the push of capital to increase surplus labor-time at the expense of necessary labor-time in order to increase M', and the desire of workers to maximize the wage (or necessary labor-time) in order to increase their consumption.

I'm not sure I'm a Marxist, and I'm definitely not an Economist, but here's very rough and ready argument to illustrate what I'm saying:

Period [1] - summed across all capitalist enterprises the two circuits are operating:

M => C => M'
C => M => C

Capitalism is trying to increase the value of the existing capital - let's call it F. So a measure of the return on capital invested in Period 1 is:

R[1]=(M'-M)/F

Period[2] - capitalist enterprises are forced to increase wages by delta_M

M+delta_M => C => M'
C => M+delta_M => C

R[2]=(M'-(M+delta_M))/F

R[2]<R[1] - returns go down

Period[3] - the incremental increase in wages now feeds through into an incremental increase in the purchase of commodities - and assuming that the additional commodities can be produced from increased productivity (or stock) without buying significant additional labour time:

M+delta_M => C => M'+delta_M
C => M+delta_M => C

R[3]=(M'+delta_M-(M+delta_M))/F

R[3]~R[1] - returns go back up towards R[1]

dave c wrote:
So here we have what I take to be Marx's idea of a "clash of logics" described in various ways (Marx did not use this phrase "clash of logics"). Now, obviously capitalists grant wage increases. The question is, however, are such wage increases necessary for accumulation? That is why I focused on your use of the word depends. I think it is eminently sensible to isolate certain variables if we are talking about a clash of logics, or the fundamental dynamics of capital. My point still stands: It is not profitable for capitalists to give out more money in wages in the hopes of getting this money back in the market. If, however, you agree with all of this basic Marx stuff and I misinterpreted your post, I have no idea why you are hostile to the original statement about the clash of logics.

I'm not arguing that capitalist enterprises see any benefit to themselves in giving higher wages because the wages are going to be spent buying commodities from other capitalist enterprises. However, they do see the benefit in other capitalist enterprises increasing their wages.

Take car sales to China, for example. On the one hand, component manufacture is moved there because of lower wages etc. But car companies also plan their future growth (i.e. achieve "self expansion of value") on the fact that Chinese workers will increasingly be able to their buy cars. Therefore they are dependent on 'other capitalists' increasing wages in order for that to happen.

One's view of this process -- and how one employs the writings of Marx to justify it -- is dependent on whether one regards classes as describing some of the collective characteristics (and sometimes perceived collective interests) of different actors within capitalism or something more fundamental. I am not arguing that if there were a closed class of capitalists that it would be in their material best interests to ever give wage increases - that's a theoretical question for clever Marxist economists. But that is not the world we live in, capitalism is driven by the logic of self valorizing value, and being a capitalist is a role within that system, so there isn't a universal "clash of logics".

B_Reasonable
Offline
Joined: 6-02-09
Jul 2 2009 15:36
Joseph Kay wrote:
i do want a higher wage. or a wage would be nice, since i've just lost my job. i also want the abolition of wage labour. this isn't illogical; i want communism, but alas i cannot eat ideas. it's not like wage struggles or whatever are in direct opposition to communism, and often they bring out the fact that our needs can't really be met by commodities at all, and so struggles move from an immanent part of society to an attack on it, as has been the case in numerous revolutionary ruptures throughout history

Sorry to hear about you job loss - that's grim - hope things improve soon.

Sure, it's not illogical to want the abolition of wage labour and also want a higher (or any) wage. My point is that if one doesn't believe in a fundamental "clash of logics" then the argument for the abolition of wage labour doesn't flow from demands for higher wages.

Joseph Kay wrote:
well communists don't hide that we're for communism. the slogan comes across as ridiculous because work is widely seen as analagous to necessary activity, for obvious reasons. if you're interested in changing minds and not radical posturing, situ sloganeering might not be the best bet.

Your implying that I favour "situ sloganeering" when I specifically showed that I did not. You've decided that "changing minds" is either about following through concrete demands or situ sloganeering. Well, my point is that other ways have to be found of communicating communist ideas or we're screwed. I haven't got a ready-made solution and suspect that it is not reasonable to expect there to be one. However, any effective means of communication will have to be based on an adequate theory of capitalism.

Joseph Kay wrote:
yes, hence "fully integrated into the logic of a society ruled by value." but if you extend the commodity form to things that don't take the form of commodities (i.e. use value to a buyer realised as exchange values to a seller), then the concept loses all meaning. now of course the labour-power in the NHS is commodified, however the 'product' is not strictly so - you could say 'the state buys healthcare', which is true but a much more abstract relation than the typical commodity. of course there are also moves to further commodify healthcare, with 'payment by results', outsourcing of routine ops etc. collapsing all this into 'the commodity form' loses a lot of important detail imho.

Granted, there is a tendency, amongst certain people, to overlook the precise features of the original definition of the commodity, in order to draw general conclusions about capitalism, e.g.

"At first sight a commodity presented inself to us as a complex of two things-use value and exchange value. Later on, we saw also that labor, too, possesses the same twofold nature; for, so far as it finds expression in value, if does not possess the same characteristics that belong to it as a creator of use values. I was the first to point out and examine critically this twofold nature of the labor contained in commodities." Karl Marx, Capital

"A criminal produces crimes. If we look a little closer at the connection between this latter branch of production and society as a whole, we shall rid ourselves of many prejudices. The criminal produces not only crimes but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which the same professor throws his lectures on the general market as 'commodities'" Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value

Joseph Kay wrote:
define 'vanguardism'. and who mentioned some abstract 'the workers'? i've been talking about concrete people like myself, who don't have the luxury of walking out of work with a banner reading 'abolish teh commodity form, plz kthx' - what are you actually proposing?

I'm quite happy with the normal definition of vanguardism: wikipedia. I used 'the workers' as an alternative to 'working class' so any abstraction as much relates to your use of working class.

Joseph Kay wrote:
i'm certainly not proposing a 'stagist' theory, i'm simply describing what happens in the real world where ideas develop in tandem with material reality, people don't for the most part just read Capital demand communism. yes, everything short of communism is capitalism, well spotted. therefore, demand communism now, or be a vanguardist?

...

Quote:
so expressing an opinion is "specialist", and operating counter to "revolutionary best interests" that you apparently know best but have yet to disclose is "authority." i'm beginning to see the root of your communication problem! class struggle isn't a "model of capitalism", it is a material reality. the question is whether it is forever system-immanent, or has the potential for a revolutionary rupture.

Sorry, I don't understand the idea of the development of material reality (what the ideas are developing in tandem with) and class struggle being material reality. Surely, we're just discussing human relationships, needs and their understanding of capitalism and communism? And our respective theories (i.e. models) of them? I suspect this is tied to your views on false conciousness and ideology which I'll have a look at on the the other thread.

I think Brighton Solfed's vanguardist and specialist tendencies were previously covered here: C19th Navigation Technique

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Jul 2 2009 19:18
B_Reasonable wrote:
Sorry to hear about you job loss - that's grim - hope things improve soon.

Sure, it's not illogical to want the abolition of wage labour and also want a higher (or any) wage. My point is that if one doesn't believe in a fundamental "clash of logics" then the argument for the abolition of wage labour doesn't flow from demands for higher wages.

i only mention it as it's important that communist theory is rooted in workers' experiences. your belief is neither here nor there, such a development has happened in revolutionary breaks throughout history, and is a very real tendency in everyday struggles. e.g. after the last wave of redundancies at my work talk about 'us and them' became commonplace, one workmate said to me 'if we all just walked out, what would they do. they need us more than we need them'. now there's nothing automatic about a progression from concrete everyday struggles to struggles for communism, but there is a continuous logic to them; from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. all you seem to be saying is that class struggles haven't achieved communism yet, therefore they can't. induction fallacy.

B_Reasonable wrote:
Your implying that I favour "situ sloganeering" when I specifically showed that I did not. You've decided that "changing minds" is either about following through concrete demands or situ sloganeering. Well, my point is that other ways have to be found of communicating communist ideas or we're screwed. I haven't got a ready-made solution and suspect that it is not reasonable to expect there to be one. However, any effective means of communication will have to be based on an adequate theory of capitalism.

well you floated the idea of 'never work' as something to be saying to co-workers etc, a slogan supposedly daubed on the walls of Paris by Debord in '68. the point is peoples' perspectives on things do change through experiences, and there's ample evidence of that, both in historical revolutionary ruptures and in social physcology literature.

again, class struggle is a material reality not a "model of capitalism", and therefore cannot be an inadequate model of capitalism. yes of course we have to understand what capitalism is in order to more effectively challenge it, but i'm not really sure what you're adding here; if wage demands don't escalate into revolutionary ones they simply lead to more consumption of commodities and capitalism continues. no shit.

B_Reasonable wrote:
Granted, there is a tendency, amongst certain people, to overlook the precise features of the original definition of the commodity, in order to draw general conclusions about capitalism, e.g.

"At first sight a commodity presented inself to us as a complex of two things-use value and exchange value. Later on, we saw also that labor, too, possesses the same twofold nature; for, so far as it finds expression in value, if does not possess the same characteristics that belong to it as a creator of use values. I was the first to point out and examine critically this twofold nature of the labor contained in commodities." Karl Marx, Capital

"A criminal produces crimes. If we look a little closer at the connection between this latter branch of production and society as a whole, we shall rid ourselves of many prejudices. The criminal produces not only crimes but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which the same professor throws his lectures on the general market as 'commodities'" Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value

firstly, i'm unimpressed by appeals to authority in lieu of argument. secondly, the former quote supports what i said while the latter is simply discussing a causal chain. i don't have TSV to hand, but of course social relations produce the criminal. so if you want to argue at such an abstract level of causal regression, we're back to 'society produces commodities.' oncemore, no shit. notice that Marx doesn't say crimes are commodities, only that down the chain they create an opportunity for them. so as i said, you could say 'the state buys healthy labour power' from the NHS, but this is at a level of abstraction that flattens out far too much detail imho, because at such a level of abstraction all activity becomes 'productive' of commodities and so your argument about the reproduction of the commodity form becomes tautological.

B_Reasonable wrote:
I'm quite happy with the normal definition of vanguardism: wikipedia. I used 'the workers' as an alternative to 'working class' so any abstraction as much relates to your use of working class.

in which case you'll have to explain yourself, since the position that workers, through directing their own struggles to assert their concrete needs come to see themselves more as members of a class as well as the possibilites for a different kind of society, whether you agree with it or not has nothing to do with the wikipedia definition of vanguardism.

B_Reasonable wrote:
Sorry, I don't understand the idea of the development of material reality (what the ideas are developing in tandem with) and class struggle being material reality. Surely, we're just discussing human relationships, needs and their understanding of capitalism and communism? And our respective theories (i.e. models) of them?

"the development of material reality" = stuff changes.

"class struggle being material reality" = the fact that collective clashes between workers and bosses are a repeatedly observed, empiracally demonstrable (if you like that kind of thing) facet of the objective reality of capitalism. e.g. see Beverly Silver's research in 'Forces of Labour.'

it's one thing to argue class struggle is always-already system-immanent, as Angelus Novus has been doing. it's another all together to question the material reality of class struggle.

B_Reasonable wrote:
I think Brighton Solfed's vanguardist and specialist tendencies were previously covered here: C19th Navigation Technique

yes, a document so vacuous and full of straw men we decided it didn't merit a response. just a tip for Principea Dialectica; when your reading of Marx and theoretical development of an "adequate model of capitalism" leads to the practice of "vote for Ken Livingstone", you might want to be more careful throwing about accusations of counter-revolutionary, obsolete leftism.

B_Reasonable
Offline
Joined: 6-02-09
Jul 3 2009 15:11
Joseph Kay wrote:
"class struggle being material reality" = the fact that collective clashes between workers and bosses are a repeatedly observed, empiracally demonstrable (if you like that kind of thing) facet of the objective reality of capitalism. e.g. see Beverly Silver's research in 'Forces of Labour.'

Agreed, collective clashes between workers and bosses are repeatedly observed and a facet of capitalism. In fact, capitalism would probably be quite different (finished?) without them. Class struggle is a powerful way of classifying these collective clashes and communicating the collective interests within and between them. It's helps to overcome alienation and gives a better understanding the power and property relationships within capitalism. But it's just an idea in people's heads - right?

In describing it as "material reality" it sounds like you trying to go beyond that to describe some kind of thing which exists separately from those ideas. Is class struggle's material reality empirically demonstrable? Or, does it exist as an immutable universal concept - like some people maintain mathematical concepts do?

Joseph Kay wrote:
again, class struggle is a material reality not a "model of capitalism", and therefore cannot be an inadequate model of capitalism. yes of course we have to understand what capitalism is in order to more effectively challenge it, but i'm not really sure what you're adding here; if wage demands don't escalate into revolutionary ones they simply lead to more consumption of commodities and capitalism continues. no shit.

Whilst I may argue that 'capital is the subject', I'd never claim that it is anything than a more useful model of capitalism than say class struggle. On what basis do you argue that anything (including class struggle) is beyond theory - faith?

Joseph Kay wrote:
it's one thing to argue class struggle is always-already system-immanent, as Angelus Novus has been doing. it's another all together to question the material reality of class struggle.

Oh dear, sounds like I'm about to be expelled from the AN International and won't be invited round for cocktails and nibbles anymore.

Joseph Kay wrote:
now there's nothing automatic about a progression from concrete everyday struggles to struggles for communism, but there is a continuous logic to them; from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.

I agree struggles can break down alienation and lead to revolutionary ruptures (and should be supported). However, I don't think that that process necessarily gives people sufficient understanding of capitalism to overcome it. And that is what I'm taking "continuous logic" to mean.

Joseph Kay wrote:
all you seem to be saying is that class struggles haven't achieved communism yet, therefore they can't. induction fallacy.

Whatever struggles bring about communism, I bet Class Strugglists will classify them as class struggles - dogmatism fallacy.

Joseph Kay wrote:
B_Reasonable wrote:
Your implying that I favour "situ sloganeering" when I specifically showed that I did not. You've decided that "changing minds" is either about following through concrete demands or situ sloganeering. Well, my point is that other ways have to be found of communicating communist ideas or we're screwed. I haven't got a ready-made solution and suspect that it is not reasonable to expect there to be one. However, any effective means of communication will have to be based on an adequate theory of capitalism.

well you floated the idea of 'never work' as something to be saying to co-workers etc, a slogan supposedly daubed on the walls of Paris by Debord in '68. the point is peoples' perspectives on things do change through experiences, and there's ample evidence of that, both in historical revolutionary ruptures and in social physcology literature.

No, I said that 'never work' wasn't something to be saying:

B_Reasonable wrote:
I fully accept that people are far more receptive to conversations about their concrete needs and that, to most people, suggesting things like 'never work' strikes them as ridiculous and irrelevant.

Of course peoples' perspectives change through experience and 'never work' might become relevant again. Do you rule out peoples' perspectives changing without experience, e.g. from exposure to propaganda?

Joseph Kay wrote:
notice that Marx doesn't say crimes are commodities, only that down the chain they create an opportunity for them. so as i said, you could say 'the state buys healthy labour power' from the NHS, but this is at a level of abstraction that flattens out far too much detail imho, because at such a level of abstraction all activity becomes 'productive' of commodities and so your argument about the reproduction of the commodity form becomes tautological.

I guess I'm questioning the usefulness of not looking at the implications of the commodity in it's wider form. I think I'm OK with the tautology, despite the SI's Class Strugglism, I'm still like their analysis of the totality:

Guy Debord wrote:
THE SPECTACLE IS essentially tautological, for the simple reason that its means and ends are identical. It is the sun that never sets on the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire globe, basking in the perpetual warmth of its own glory. The Society of the Spectacle, thesis 13

THE WORLD THE SPECTACLE holds up to view is at once here and elsewhere; it is the world of the commodity ruling over all lived experience. The commodity world is thus shown as it really is, for its logic is one with men's estrangement from one another and from the sum total of what they produce. thesis 37

-

Joseph Kay wrote:
B_Reasonable wrote:
I'm quite happy with the normal definition of vanguardism: wikipedia. I used 'the workers' as an alternative to 'working class' so any abstraction as much relates to your use of working class.

in which case you'll have to explain yourself, since the position that workers, through directing their own struggles to assert their concrete needs come to see themselves more as members of a class as well as the possibilites for a different kind of society, whether you agree with it or not has nothing to do with the wikipedia definition of vanguardism.

No it doesn't but this is the limitation of discussing at a theoretical level and not looking at the practical implications and this is what the PD document does.

Joseph Kay wrote:
B_Reasonable wrote:
I think Brighton Solfed's vanguardist and specialist tendencies were previously covered here: C19th Navigation Technique

yes, a document so vacuous and full of straw men we decided it didn't merit a response.

Well, its interesting that when criticism moves from theoretical generalities to your actual proposals you see that as vacuous.

Joseph Kay wrote:
just a tip for Principea Dialectica; when your reading of Marx and theoretical development of an "adequate model of capitalism" leads to the practice of "vote for Ken Livingstone", you might want to be more careful throwing about accusations of counter-revolutionary, obsolete leftism.

Not living in London, I conveniently swept that dilemma under the carpet!

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Jul 4 2009 08:11
B_Reasonable wrote:
There is an indisputable antagonism between a capitalist enterprise's desire to minimise wage costs and its workers desire for higher wages. Although this is true of all workplaces, it only describes the relationship of that enterprise has with its own workers, in their role as contracted workers. Capitalist enterprises also depend on workers (who for the most part are contracted to work for other capitalist enterprises) to buy the commodities they are selling to realise the surplus value.

Of course enterprises depend on workers for the sale of commodities. But it is quite another thing to claim that capitalist enterprises depend on higher wages for capital accumulation due to the market for goods the workers provide. This is the claim I am criticizing.

I argued that higher wages cut into profits and thereby reduce the money available for accumulation. You try to counter this claim with a specific argument. Your argument supposedly shows that capitalists will not be harmed by a wage increase since they can get greater returns selling commodities to higher-paid workers, yielding the same total profit as before the wage increase. This argument does not, however, show that the capitalists depend on the higher wages at all, since they could have gone on making the same profits regardless. Also, your argument does not even work for the limited point it was intended to illustrate.

Basically, your argument is similar in its implications to Adam Smith's "adding-up" theory of value, wherein wages, profit, and rent are defined as independent sources of exchange-values. Thus, a rise in wages is reflected in higher commodity values, as wages are one of the sources of the total value of the commodity. Marx was a consistent critic of this theory, specifically focusing on the absence of any direct antagonism between wages and profits in this theory. Marx criticized this theory as the basis for Proudhon's opposition to strikes here: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/poverty-philosophy/ch02e.htm. He later returned to the same topic in Capital, Volume III. The basic idea that I argued is stated:

Marx wrote:
A general increase of wages, all else remaining the same, is tantamount to a reduction in the rate of surplus-value. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch11.htm)

Then Marx evaluates the impact of a general rise in wages for different industries and comes to the following conclusions:

Marx wrote:
Consequently, if wages are raised 25%:
1) the price of production of the commodities of a capital of average social composition does not change;
2) the price of production of the commodities of a capital of lower composition rises, but not in proportion to the fall in profit;
3) the price of production of the commodities of a capital of higher composition falls, but also not in the same proportion as profit. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch11.htm)

Marx's Value, Price, and Profit takes aim specifically at the adding-up theory of value, and comes to the following conclusions:

Marx wrote:
Firstly. A general rise in the rate of wages would result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but, broadly speaking, not affect the prices of commodities. Secondly. The general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/value-price-profit/ch03.htm#c14)

In Capital, volume II, Marx argues on the same topic:

Marx wrote:
If it were in the power of the capitalist producers to raise the prices of their commodities at will, they could and would do so without a rise in wages.(http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885-c2/ch17.htm)

Now, in the above cited discussions of this topic, Marx is mostly dealing with the claim that a rise in wages leads straightforwardly to the capitalists successfully compensating by raising prices. Your argument is distinct in that your schema depicts the capitalists successfully compensating with a productivity increase, and more commodities to sell. This scenario, unfortunately, is precluded by the Marxian theory of value, as in Chapter 1 of Volume 1 of Capital:

Marx wrote:
In general, the greater the productiveness of labour, the less is the labour time required for the production of an article, the less is the amount of labour crystallised in that article, and the less is its value; and vice versâ, the less the productiveness of labour, the greater is the labour time required for the production of an article, and the greater is its value. The value of a commodity, therefore, varies directly as the quantity, and inversely as the productiveness, of the labour incorporated in it.(http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm)

On the basis of the Marxian theory of value, your productivity increase would not yield a greater total value. The benefit of greater productivity accrues to individual capitalists who are able to capture a greater share of the total social surplus-value by selling commodities at prices lower than their social value but above their individual labor-values. But beware the fallacy of composition! Just because the innovative capitalist reaps greater profits, it does not follow that greater productivity on a social scale creates more profit in general. Greater productivity can certainly increase the rate of surplus-value, but it does this through downward pressure on the wage. In his book focusing on the political economy of wages, Michael Lebowitz emphasizes the following relevant point:

Lebowitz wrote:
if the balance of class forces is such as to keep the rate of exploitation constant, then the effect of productivity increases will be an increase in real wages and no development of relative surplus value. (Beyond Capital, 115)

The productivity increase that you assumed would make your problem go away does nothing of the sort. And your talk of one capitalist benefiting from another's increase in wages is certainly possible, but changes nothing. Your schema correctly sets out from the perspective of "all capitalist enterprises" or the total social capital, and your argument stands or falls at this level. The rest is just waffle. The "clash of logics" describes a universal truth of capitalist relations precisely because it describes the employer-employee relationship. What else were you expecting? That the workers must be fans of Hegel while the capitalists stick to Aristotle? You were the one who brought up a rise in wages, which certainly pertains to the employer-employee relationship.

B_Reasonable
Offline
Joined: 6-02-09
Jul 6 2009 04:24
dave c wrote:
Of course enterprises depend on workers for the sale of commodities. But it is quite another thing to claim that capitalist enterprises depend on higher wages for capital accumulation due to the market for goods the workers provide. This is the claim I am criticizing.

From my point of view, what you are arguing isn't countering what I am saying. It seems to be about the context of "depends". I am talking about how capitalist perceive their interests, in the here and now, rather than how they might perceive them if they were Marxists. I tried to make that clear back at post #170:

B_Reasonable wrote:
If capitalists, as a closed class, collectively managed capitalism to their best advantage, according to the precepts of the LTV then they might decide to always minimise wage as a means of maximising accumulation. In reality, they aren't quite so clear-headed. Capitalists do believe higher wages are necessary for increased accumulation. Although they will fight to keep their own labour costs down, and collectively at a national level call for wage restraint etc. they are also keen on encouraging 'freedom and democracy' in order to grow markets of industrial workers and a middle classes who will buy more commodities. Of course, this may well be leading to further decadence and a irrecoverable crisis but it is not the "clash of logics" Joseph Kay put forward.

And again in #177:

B_Reasonable wrote:
I am not arguing that if there were a closed class of capitalists that it would be in their material best interests to ever give wage increases - that's a theoretical question for clever Marxist economists. But that is not the world we live in, capitalism is driven by the logic of self valorizing value, and being a capitalist is a role within that system, so there isn't a universal "clash of logics".

-

dave c wrote:
I argued that higher wages cut into profits and thereby reduce the money available for accumulation. You try to counter this claim with a specific argument. Your argument supposedly shows that capitalists will not be harmed by a wage increase since they can get greater returns selling commodities to higher-paid workers, yielding the same total profit as before the wage increase. This argument does not, however, show that the capitalists depend on the higher wages at all, since they could have gone on making the same profits regardless. Also, your argument does not even work for the limited point it was intended to illustrate.

Again, I didn't say that they wouldn't be harmed, overall. However, they don't operate as a class - looking out for the greatest good for the greatest number of capitalists. A significant number of them believe, rightly or wrongly (as you argue), that future accumulation will come through the rising wages of consumers. Furthermore, Sean68 has indicated that other versions of Marxian theory are at variance with your view.

dave c wrote:
The productivity increase that you assumed would make your problem go away does nothing of the sort.

Hang on, I actually pointed out that assumption to you. I didn't claim that overall returns went back to previous levels. Not that I think it is that fundamental because capitalists aren't working for their mutual benefit so they don't account for the losses from wage increases they have to make against the gains made from the wage increases other capitalists make. Labour disputes are just a cost of business which obviously they try to minimise My point in making the illustration was to show that your, seemingly, single enterprise argument wasn't relevant to what I was saying.

dave c wrote:
And your talk of one capitalist benefiting from another's increase in wages is certainly possible, but changes nothing.

This doesn't make sense to me. There seem to be three reasons why you might make the above statement:

1. You don't believe that a significant number of capitalist enterprises plan their future accumulation based on the rising living standards of worker/consumers.

2. You don't believe that rising living standards are due to increased wages.

3. You think that despite capitalist enterprises believing that they have an interest in rising living standards/wages, they have a class 'instinct' that tells them it is not really in their best interests and that this instinct will manifest itself at some point.

dave c wrote:
Your schema correctly sets out from the perspective of "all capitalist enterprises" or the total social capital, and your argument stands or falls at this level. The rest is just waffle.

If I were arguing about Marxist theory it might well do but I'm not. The "waffle" is where I mention the real world, i.e. car manufacturing and China. Unless you believe that the real world follows Marxist theory, regardless of the perceived material needs of the people within it, then surely it isn't waffle?

dave c wrote:
The "clash of logics" describes a universal truth of capitalist relations precisely because it describes the employer-employee relationship. What else were you expecting?

-

Moishe Postone wrote:
Thus, we have seen that Marx's theory does not consider class relations, structured by private ownership and the market, to be the social relations most fundamental to capitalism. Similarly, the critical thrust of his categories of value and surplus value is not simply to ground a theory of exploitation. Marx's theory neither affirms the capitalist process of production in order to criticize the patterns of capitalist distribution, nor implies that the proletariat is the revolutionary Subject that will realize itself in a future socialist society.
Time, Labor, and Social Domination, p388
cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Jul 6 2009 14:58

its a pretty simple fact that different sections of the ruling/capitalist class might want different things.
Hence a car manfacturer would want a well off working class tp uy their new standard models and/or an affluent ''middle class'' to buy luxury status symbol cars, whereas someone producing cheap consumer goods would want a poorer working class in rented accomodation with nothing else to save their money for. An arms manufacturer would obviously yet again have entirely different concerns and so on.

Quote:
If I were arguing about Marxist theory it might well do but I'm not. The "waffle" is where I mention the real world, i.e. car manufacturing and China. Unless you believe that the real world follows Marxist theory, regardless of the perceived material needs of the people within it, then surely it isn't waffle?

Its waffle because the captalist class doesn't always act as a unified whole.

B_Reasonable
Offline
Joined: 6-02-09
Jul 6 2009 20:27

cartdocartwheels: the "waffle" was there to illustrate the point you're making. Further, that a single capitalist enterprise doesn't always act as a unified whole towards working people.

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Jul 7 2009 06:04
B_Reasonable wrote:
I am talking about how capitalist perceive their interests, in the here and now, rather than how they might perceive them if they were Marxists.

I don’t really see what would be so different if the capitalists studied Marx. And I certainly haven’t said anything about capitalists perceiving their interests wrongly.

B_Reasonable wrote:
A significant number of them [capitalists] believe, rightly or wrongly (as you argue), that future accumulation will come through the rising wages of consumers.

If you mean that some capitalists believe that they will in some way benefit from wage gains limited to workers at other enterprises, I have never argued that they are necessarily wrong in this belief. It seems like you have misunderstood me.

B_Reasonable wrote:
dave c wrote:
And your talk of one capitalist benefiting from another's increase in wages is certainly possible, but changes nothing.

This doesn't make sense to me.

I will ignore your strange musings on what I might have meant. I was very clearly addressing the question of a general rise in wages. You addressed this also. Recall your argument that utilized Marx’s “circuits of capital” and began with “Period [1] - summed across all capitalist enterprises” (my emphasis), which I already addressed. So, when I say that this “changes nothing” I mean it changes nothing with regard to your argument that addressed the total social capital. If you look at my last post you will see that I distinguished between a general rise in profits, due to a greater amount of surplus-value being produced, and a rise in profits for one capitalist who pockets a greater share of the total social surplus-value, while the latter does not increase in mass. For Marx, total profit equals total surplus-value. And surplus-value is created in the production process, not in exchange (capitalists selling commodities to workers, for example). And here we may say something about the perception of the capitalists, as Marx did:

Marx wrote:
. . .the capitalist knows nothing of the essence of capital, and surplus value exists in his consciousness only in the form of profit, a converted form of surplus value, which is completely abstracted from the relations under which it originates and by which it is conditioned. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1861/economic/ch51.htm)

But this has no bearing on whether capitalists correctly perceive what is in their best material interests, once again, a topic I said nothing about previously.

I don't feel the need to address the Postone, insofar as it does not directly apply to anything I have said. I clearly explained how I interpreted the phrase "clash of logics." If you understand it in some other way, that is fine. I see no use in discussing it further, unless you wish to actually criticize something I said on the topic.

B_Reasonable wrote:
Furthermore, Sean68 has indicated that other versions of Marxian theory are at variance with your view.

roll eyes

B_Reasonable
Offline
Joined: 6-02-09
Jul 7 2009 12:51
dave_c wrote:
clearly explained how I interpreted the phrase "clash of logics." If you understand it in some other way, that is fine. I see no use in discussing it further, unless you wish to actually criticize something I said on the topic.

Agreed, this seems to have turned into a case of different paradigms - we both except the same interpretations but see them as justifying our own theories. For instance, I see your Marx quote as a substantiating my view - not yours.

My first reaction is to challenge you to come up with a falsification for 'proletarian as the subject'. But, rightly, you could challenge me to produce a falsification for 'capital as the subject' which - oops - I don't have one currently but I'll give it some thought! Thanks for your time.