The dreaded labour notes.....

57 posts / 0 new
Last post
orangeosprey
Offline
Joined: 13-01-04
Apr 2 2009 17:48
The dreaded labour notes.....

Hi all!

I think the last time i posted on here it was enrager.net, been a while.

So skipping the bush-beatage, i was wondering what degree of "currency" would there be in a libertarian socialist society?

I know many would like to see a currencyless society, maybe a free access gift economy where "work" is voluntary. I know some would argue that anything other than this would be either economic coercion or wage-slavery.
Also, why does the idea of labour-notes, or some other credit system other than money, seem to get such a frosty reception? why is this such a bad idea?
Surely in a system that is free from market forces and a profit-driven system of production, it would be freed from all the flaws of our current "Money", like inflation, taxes, fluctuating prices and so on.....

My (probabaly flawed) understanding is this. In a system based on something like labour-credits as a form of remuneration, it would be less like money as we know it and more a method to access that which a person is entitled to collect from the community stores through the labour they contributed....

Anyone care to share their thoughts and/or set me straight?

Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
Offline
Joined: 2-10-06
Apr 2 2009 18:11

How much labor-notes would you get for doing a job of work, or spending a given amount of time doing work? Would you be able to save up labor-notes? How would you stop there being a black market, where labor-notes can be exchanged for rare resources or items, thus being elements of exchange, thus being money? How would you be able to prevent people from offering the service of storing your labor-notes, with a promised return if you let them invest them in enterprises of a profitable nature? So you would work for wages, which are given to you for an exchange currency, although this exchange is unofficial, maybe even illegal. This currency can be used to invest in enterprises, reaping profits for the investors. Life for you is no different than that of the working class in a somewhat unusual capitalist society, though I think we've seen such societies before.

Skraeling
Offline
Joined: 7-04-06
Apr 2 2009 23:00

a good introductory critique of labour notes is Kropotkin's classic 'The Wage System'. if you haven't read it yet, please do.
http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/ANARCHIST_ARCHIVES/kropotkin/wages/wages.html

orangeosprey
Offline
Joined: 13-01-04
Apr 2 2009 23:42

Hmm i agree and disagree on a few points. You seem to be citing labour notes as if they were used soley as a replacement for dollars, pounds etc, in our current system. With no other socio-economic changes.

I agree, the major challenge would be deciding the quanity of labour-credits you would "pay" to people for their labour. But could this not be democratically decided by whatever council/syndicate structure existed at the time? Plus, who is it thats doing the "paying", seeing as we no longer have bosses or capitalist wage-givers? Im no advocate of it, but i do like the parecon idea of remuneration based on time, intentisty and the onerousness of the labour (e.g. jobs shovelling shit). These seem to be the only fair common demoninators to everyones labour and dont include things like natural talent, better production tools etc.

Quote:
Would you be able to save up labor-notes?

I think this is a good point. Well, what would be the ramifactions of this if you could? even if someone was able to amass alot of labour-credits, what could they do with it? remember this is not capital with which they could "start up a business", and potentially reiginite a capitalist system in the long run. Your labour notes are yours and yours only, it is not something which you can trade like we can with money today. Why would they have any want/need to do that anyway? All they would be is more, i guess, a stamp to show that you have contributed and earned the right to take what you require from the stores. (this is all i might add, purely guesswork).

Quote:
How would you stop there being a black market, where labor-notes can be exchanged for rare resources or items, thus being elements of exchange, thus being money?

This is a question of incentive. What would be the gain for either party? For starters, what would cause such a black market to come into existence? If this is a society of free-associating syndicates/communes/whatevers comming together for a common need, then whats to stop them doing just that to obtain the goods needed? How would the black marketeers get hold of such items in the first place? How exactly would they profit? I think it would be just as hard to BE a black-marketeer in an anarchist society as it would be to stop labour notes becomming corrupted by them in the first place. It would be important in a labour-note system to make sure that it is not subject to things like inflation, that if goods are scarce, they are scare, and just becuase you have the money to buy them dosnt mean they'll BE there to buy (even though this is irrelevant as were not "buying" or "selling" things anymore anyway)

Quote:
How would you be able to prevent people from offering the service of storing your labor-notes, with a promised return if you let them invest them in enterprises of a profitable nature?

Complicated one. OK, again, why would people do this? Youd have to consdier the sort of anarchist society thats exists at the time. In terms of "investing": Say my freinds and i wanted to start a syndicate producing, i dunno, prefabricated huts. Now i wouldnt be doing this because theres a "niche in the market" i think we can fill and make a profit from. Id be doing it because theres a need thatdirectly affects me and my community. Me and my asscoiates have come together to try and fufill that need. The raw matireals and means of production are free and owned by society. If labour notes were used purley as a check for indivdual ego and nothing more, why would i need labour notes to invest if i can already get what i need? The raw matrieals needed would have been sumbitted to the neccesary council bodies, made up of all those affected (especially the syndicates who will producing what i need), and the desicion/permission to go ahed would have been reached. Theres needs to be no input of "labour-note bankers".

I guess the question is how you implement it. Lets say that (once its doable), basic human needs such as food and water would be able to be freely taken, but commodities such as say, an iPod or another TV, things that are beyond a persons basic requirments for life, would require the attaining of labour points. Just how many points would be awarded for each job would be up to the individual syndicates and communes to decide democratically. Also voluntary job-complexes and rotional work would help to give people numerous ways to acheive this if they so choose.

This was really just a thought experiment on my part to see what you do to stop things being an absolute fucking free for all, yet still be able to support those who have the misfortune to be unable to get to the bare minimum they need for life.

I did knock this reply up quite quickly and im pretty groggy. Chances are there are gaping holes in my logic and points ive overlooked, so please feel free set me straight!

orangeosprey
Offline
Joined: 13-01-04
Apr 2 2009 23:44

ah ta for that link skraeling, will be on it quicksmart!

Jacob Richter
Offline
Joined: 13-07-08
Apr 9 2009 04:58
tojiah wrote:
How would you stop there being a black market, where labor-notes can be exchanged for rare resources or items, thus being elements of exchange, thus being money? How would you be able to prevent people from offering the service of storing your labor-notes, with a promised return if you let them invest them in enterprises of a profitable nature? So you would work for wages, which are given to you for an exchange currency, although this exchange is unofficial, maybe even illegal. This currency can be used to invest in enterprises, reaping profits for the investors. Life for you is no different than that of the working class in a somewhat unusual capitalist society, though I think we've seen such societies before.

"In the case of socialised production the money-capital is eliminated. Society distributes labour-power and means of production to the different branches of production. The producers may, for all it matters, receive paper vouchers entitling them to withdraw from the social supplies of consumer goods a quantity corresponding to their labour-time. These vouchers are not money. They do not circulate." (Das Kapital, Volume II)

What you've described above is something more akin to Proudhon's labour money than to Marx's labour voucher, in spite of the latter's physical flaws (better to have an electronic labour credit system than a paper one with circulation "under the table").

orangeosprey wrote:
Just how many points would be awarded for each job would be up to the individual syndicates and communes to decide democratically.

Read the Anti-Duhring chapter titled "Socialism: Distribution." What you've said resembles the "socialitarian" society of one Eugen Duhring. Excessive decentralization would enable one commune to hoard surpluses at the expense of another.

capricorn
Offline
Joined: 3-05-07
Apr 9 2009 07:36
Jacob Richter wrote:
tojiah wrote:
How would you stop there being a black market, where labor-notes can be exchanged for rare resources or items, thus being elements of exchange, thus being money? How would you be able to prevent people from offering the service of storing your labor-notes, with a promised return if you let them invest them in enterprises of a profitable nature? So you would work for wages, which are given to you for an exchange currency, although this exchange is unofficial, maybe even illegal. This currency can be used to invest in enterprises, reaping profits for the investors. Life for you is no different than that of the working class in a somewhat unusual capitalist society, though I think we've seen such societies before.

"In the case of socialised production the money-capital is eliminated. Society distributes labour-power and means of production to the different branches of production. The producers may, for all it matters, receive paper vouchers entitling them to withdraw from the social supplies of consumer goods a quantity corresponding to their labour-time. These vouchers are not money. They do not circulate." (Das Kapital, Volume II)

It's all very well saying "they do not circulate", but this is not saying much more than "they should not circulate". So, what does happen to them? Cancelled after being handed over in exchange for some good or service, I assume.

I took Tree's point to be how would you stop them circulating (or, for that matter, stop them from being counterfeited). This, quite apart from Kropotkin's point about the impossibility of calculating a person's individual labour output. You can calculate the time they spend at work, but that's not at all the same and would be a very rough and ready way of calculating labour-input .

A huge bureaucracy would be required to calculate everybody's hours at work, to calculate the labour-time "price" of goods and services, to balance the number of vouchers issued with the labour-time "prices" of the goods and services for which they would be handed over, and to stop them being circulated, lent or counterfeited. That's why I would think that any labour-time voucher system, if it lasted for any length of time, would break down and there'd be a return to a circulating currency. Maybe, in fact, Marx ("for all it matters") understood this and why he saw such a scheme being only a temporary stop-gap measure till there was enough to go over to free distribution. But it's not the only possible stop-gap measure. Kropotkin's alternative of equal shares for all would be much simpler to calculate and understand. But, in either case, we're talking about a temporary, emergency system which couldn't last for long today in view of the huge increases in the capacity to produce useful things since the days of Marx and Kropotkin. This being so, it wouldn't take long to be able to implement a system of free distribution and access to goods and services.

Alderson Warm-Fork
Offline
Joined: 24-12-08
Apr 9 2009 13:35

"how would you stop them circulating"

Unless I don't know what I'm talking about, one way to stop them circulating would be for every exchange to be between an individual (or private group) and the collective (at whatever scale). So e.g. I do some work, and the local assembly 'pays' me some labour notes, according to how long, how useful, how much they need to get more people in that job, etc. I then take those notes to the 'shop' where there's a beautiful make-up set for precisely that amount of labour notes, so I 'buy' them.

BUT in buying them I don't give them to the person selling them (i.e. the person working in the shop), I just put those notes in their hand, and they pass them back to the local assembly that gave them to me (or, more realistically, it's done by swipe cards or somesuch). But since the collective doesn't buy anything from itself, the notes they 'claim back' essentially disappear. I think it would be possible to make this individual-with-collective element be a physical necessity of how they work - like how when using a swipe card, you have a token, but its value depends on records kept by the company that issued it.

To counterfeit would then require hacking into the collective's "accounts", which it seems to me would be possible with or without labour notes, but which equally would become a lot harder the more publically available were the accounts.

So the notes can't circulate, they just pass out of the collective and then back to it. It's then even easier to put a limited lifespan on them, so that if you don't spend them after a week they disappear.

This may be obvious or something.

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Apr 9 2009 14:53

You'd probably have a swipe card to keep a tab on what you were consuming for market research purposes and because there'd probably be waiting lists or at least a limited supply of certain ''luxury'' goods. (Eg a meal in a top notch restaurant, front row tickets to the big game, theatre tickets etc) but I don;t really see why you'd need to be issued with cash or labour notes in the future considering more and more exchanges are done electronically these days anyway.
You certainly wouldn't need a ''wage'' when it came to the majority of consumable goods, which is why labour notes get such a frosty reception, because your putting a price on something as basic as a loaf of bread which their is absolutely no shortage of and because your turning work into something you do in order to earn money to buy that bread rather than something you do for yourself and for society as a whole.

Dave B
Offline
Joined: 3-08-08
Apr 9 2009 17:03

Marx made a critical analysis of the idea of labour vouchers in Grundisse beginning with;

Quote:
“Now, it might be thought that the issue of time-chits overcomes all these difficulties………..”

at

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch03.htm

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Apr 9 2009 22:32

Dave B, it seems like you are trying to assert that Marx, despite what he said in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, revealed his true feelings in the Grundrisse, where he made some mythical critique of the sort of system he later recommended. This is simply not true. Marx's critique in the Grundrisse is specifically aimed at Proudhonist schemes for labour-money on the basis of commodity production, which, for Marx, was quite distinct from the vouchers of the sort that Owen or Marx himself advocated. If you are actually claiming this, I will be happy to make a more detailed case for the above.

Jacob Richter
Offline
Joined: 13-07-08
Apr 10 2009 05:40
capricorn wrote:
I took Tree's point to be how would you stop them circulating (or, for that matter, stop them from being counterfeited). This, quite apart from Kropotkin's point about the impossibility of calculating a person's individual labour output. You can calculate the time they spend at work, but that's not at all the same and would be a very rough and ready way of calculating labour-input

[...]

A huge bureaucracy would be required to calculate everybody's hours at work

According to Cockshott and Cottrell's profoundly true and important emphasis on computers (Towards a New Socialism, plus numerous other works of theirs - all available online), such labour can be measured. "The market" would be reduced to a short-term clearance mechanism in consumer goods and services (excess goods above a maximum "safety stock" -> lower prices; low supply of goods below a minimum "safety stock" -> higher prices).

dave c wrote:
Dave B, it seems like you are trying to assert that Marx, despite what he said in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, revealed his true feelings in the Grundrisse, where he made some mythical critique of the sort of system he later recommended. This is simply not true. Marx's critique in the Grundrisse is specifically aimed at Proudhonist schemes for labour-money on the basis of commodity production, which, for Marx, was quite distinct from the vouchers of the sort that Owen or Marx himself advocated. If you are actually claiming this, I will be happy to make a more detailed case for the above.

I wouldn't have quoted from Volume II of Das Kapital or referred to Anti-Duhring if Marx himself didn't make more authoritative remarks on labour credits than in Gothakritik.

Alderson Warm-Fork wrote:
It's then even easier to put a limited lifespan on them, so that if you don't spend them after a week they disappear.

To address "popular" concerns with the loss of long-term savings, Chapter 7 of Towards A New Socialism suggests the following:

1) Current labour tokens may be freely exchanged for some kind of retirement
asset [...]
2) To permit a shorter-term flexibility, current labour tokens might also
be exchangeable for consumer saving deposits, from which labour tokens
may be withdrawn at a later date in order to purchase various consumer
durables, vacations etc. [...]
3) Aside from the above recognised forms of saving, individuals are not able
simply to hoard labour tokens [...]

RedHughs
Offline
Joined: 25-11-06
Apr 10 2009 06:41

- A huge, controlling bureaucracy would be required to calculate everybody's hours at work
- A huge, controlling bureaucracy would be required to make sure the notes did not circulate.
- A huge, controlling bureaucracy would be required to make sure that production decisions were shaped by the notes or that the notes would be shaped by the production decisions
- The entire enterprise would involve return to scarcity rather its overcoming
- All the *simple* schemes have clear flaws but any complex scheme would require experts to interpret and thus give these experts key power in society.
- This system is generally advocated by those who see a communist society as merely a differently administered capitalist society - everyone gets a more equal credit card balance and gets to self-manage whatever hellish thing they currently do. Qualitative change comes with elimination of scarcity.

* A transition to communism might conceivably involve some rationing of survival goods depending on circumstance. Since this would extremely temporary, the best thing approach would be the simplest, followed by no rationing when survival good became available. "Luxury" would be produced and consumed socially rather than individually - in festivals, orgies, nature walks or whatever.
* Capricorn's points are good.

* Stalinism might not have been perfectly fair but it maintained a system that was much more fair than western Capitalism for quite a while. My point is that this, by itself, does not recommend Stalinism.

* While I am not otherwise a fan of Bob Black, I think did a good job of skewering the labor-notes-vouchers-self-management people. In your minds, you might imagine that everyone would become anal bureaucratic bastards. But the reality is that your system would just the dictatorship of the few anal bureaucratic bastards, whether it was fair or democratic or not.

* I think that this debate is useful in the sense that I think it characterizes what is or isn't communism but I indeed do not consider anyone who advocates labor vouchers as an organizing scheme of their "communism" to be a comrade. Sorry.

capricorn
Offline
Joined: 3-05-07
Apr 10 2009 06:48

If labour-time vouchers are seen as anything more than an emergency stopgap measure to deal with a temporary shortage (like equal sharing would be) the scheme will break down and advocates of it as a permanent system lasting for decades become currency cranks. That's why I think Dave B is right to say that Marx's criticism of "labour-money" proposed by Gray, Proudhon and others also applies to labour-time vouchers as a permanent scheme.

The two main problems are (a) to measure labour-input, other than by simple presence at a place of work and (b) to fix the labour-time "price" of goods and services (the one Marx's concentrates on). Under capitalism this is fixed by market forces establing the amount of socially-necessary labour embodied in them (or rather something linked to this). But this is not something that can be calculated beforehand. Nor is it something that a computer can calculate either. A computer could calculate an average of the labour-time spent in producing the total amount of a product and fix the price (let's not beat about the bush with inverted commas, as a price is what we're talking about) accordingly. But this would advantage slow or below average producers. I know Cockshott, etc have devised clever technical ways to get around this, by fixing the price below this average. But this would penalise the slower producers. But it's meant to. As a means of getting them to work harder. Sounds familiar? Speed-ups, etc -- just like under capitalism today.

Kropotkin's point about the impossibility of measuring individual labour input in what is a collective work effort is still valid. It just can't be done except in some arbitrary way. As I say, the simple solution would be simply to record presence at work. The implication of this of course is that the skilled worker gets paid the same as the less skilled worker. OK perhaps as a temporary stopgap measure to deal with a temporary shortage but full of problems if expected to last for decades.

So forget labour-time voucher schemes. Dread them. Dump them. And go for "from each according to ability, to each according to needs", which is perfectly feasible once the waste and restrictions of capitalism have been elininated.

RedHughs
Offline
Joined: 25-11-06
Apr 10 2009 06:50
Quote:
(Eg a meal in a top notch restaurant, front row tickets to the big game, theatre tickets etc)

So, are you saying that there would be luxury restaurants, mass sporting events and high-culture theater in a communist society? Do I remember correctly that you also imagine the police continuing to exist?

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Apr 10 2009 07:50
Capricorn wrote:
That's why I think Dave B is right to say that Marx's criticism of "labour-money" proposed by Gray, Proudhon and others also applies to labour-time vouchers as a permanent scheme.

To be clear, he didn't actually say this. I am of course reading things into his brief post as well. I should explain myself a bit in that regard:

I happen to remember another thread where he brought up the same stuff in the Grundrisse. He wrote:

Dave B wrote:
As you mentioned the Gotha programme and thus the labour voucher (or labour chit) thing Karl in secret hated the idea and was only responding to what others were proposing.

He then goes on to quote a passage from the Grundrisse, which one can only assume was his evidence that Karl "in secret hated the idea." Jura then presented a different interpretation of the passage, which actually makes sense in the context of Marx's work. Dave B subsequently decided it was time to take note of the "hazardous" nature of interpreting the Grundrisse, as they are only notes. (here: http://libcom.org/forums/thought/theories-value-06022008?page=1).

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Apr 10 2009 08:06

This may be of interest - an article by member of the World Socialist Party of United States.

http://www.wspus.org/in-depth/hypothetical-case-for-a-socialist-economic-model/

Hypothetical Case for a Socialist Economic Model. The calculation of labor-hour cost of producing treated drinking water.

Quote:
It has been shown that a socialist accounting system based on labor hours can calculate the total labor time involved in anything from the simplest productive process all the way up to the aggregate of all the work done in the entire world, by simply adding up the total labor time involved production. This is not as simple as it seems, as more labor than just that expended by the workers toiling in any one process needs to be considered. Also necessary to accurate calculation would be the labor-time invested in the machinery, equipment, raw materials and energy necessary for each individual process. Some accounting systems may call for a reckoning of the labor-time required to reproduce itself, however in a free-access society predicated entirely on meeting needs, I feel it can be safely assumed that the mere existence of a socialist economy assures that all labor will automatically be replaced by the efforts of all the world’s workers, and to factor replacement costs into specific labor-time calculations can be considered redundant. Therefore for the purposes of demonstrating a model of a socialist economy, I will only consider the amount of directly involved in production that which is necessary to meet human need, with this point of view emphasizing making happy, healthy humans and not replacing labor....
....1. Labor time calculation for not only a global socialist economy, but each productive process making it up, would probably have to be an iterative one, meaning the results of rudimentary calculations are fed back into a series of successively deeper (and more accurate) calculations for the purposes of taking into account all of the interdependent labor costs inherent in any one process.
2. Since you have to start somewhere, socialism can perhaps assume that raw materials are in infinite supply. Of course this is not true in most cases, but the finite nature can then be expressed in their LP values.
3. Therefore the steps in the iterative process could then start with the simple labor hour costs for actual production, which are then are summed with the labor costs inherent in the other physical quantities necessary for production (energy, machinery, transport etc).
4. Some labor costs can be reduced by collective action.
5. Waste is factored into the overall labor-time calculation for any given process, as well as the overall socialist economy. The method for doing so is flexible.
6. At the same time an overall socialist economy is performing iterative calculations of the labor costs necessary to meet human needs, individual productive processes have to undergo similar calculations to arrive at an ever-increasingly accurate labor cost for their product....
....FULL ARTICLE AT LINK.....
Django's picture
Django
Offline
Joined: 18-01-08
Apr 10 2009 08:55
RedHughs wrote:
Quote:
(Eg a meal in a top notch restaurant, front row tickets to the big game, theatre tickets etc)

So, are you saying that there would be luxury restaurants, mass sporting events and high-culture theater in a communist society? Do I remember correctly that you also imagine the police continuing to exist?

How are mass sporting events incompatible with communism? Genuine question.

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Apr 10 2009 15:07

Why are you all so worried about labor-notes circulating?

There are things, even today, called "non-negotiable instruments." Like your paycheck. If it's at all like mine, it says your name on it, and in big letters, at the bottom, "NON-NEGOTIABLE." So if someone whose name is not on the check tries to deposit it or cash it, it doesn't work. I'm not aware of a huge black market in this or how it'd function if there were one. In fact I think it's impossible. There's fraud, but that's a different issue.

Why would this be so difficult in a socialist society? Labor-vouchers could have your name on it, perhaps "NON-NEGOTIABLE" to make this clear to Marxists who think they can circulate them, and then you are only allowed to receive goods from the common stores if you are using your own labor vouchers. Quite simple.

I think you guys are imagining that a labor-voucher would look just like modern-day cash, except it would say "1 hour" instead of "1 dollar." And then we'd have the obvious difficulty of knowing whose labor-voucher it was. But it's really a pretty simple issue.

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Apr 10 2009 16:03

Jesus some of this is ridiculous.

RedHughs wrote:
- A huge, controlling bureaucracy would be required to calculate everybody's hours at work

Have you ever filled out time sheets? Was there a huge controlling bureaucracy involved in calculating how many hours you worked? (You might say, "Yes, management." But I can guarantee your their bureaucratic functions involved much, much more than figuring out how many hours you worked.)

RedHughs wrote:
- A huge, controlling bureaucracy would be required to make sure the notes did not circulate.

I showed why this was false in my previous post.

RedHughs wrote:
A huge, controlling bureaucracy would be required to make sure that production decisions were shaped by the notes or that the notes would be shaped by the production decisions

I don't know exactly what you're referring to but certainly any sort of planned production process will have this bureaucratic aspect to it. The key issue is not allowing a separate class of bureaucrats to emerge. Probably this would involve task rotation, a complete divorce of planning from executive powers, etc.

If I remember correctly from previous debates you think that production would have minimal planning in any case. If that's still true, then your argument is more against planning than labor-notes.

RedHughs wrote:
- The entire enterprise would involve return to scarcity rather its overcoming

If you think that we'll suddenly have great abundance once capitalism is overthrown, you're in for quite a shock if we ever live to see the new society. Scarcity will exist whether or not there are labor-notes.

RedHughs wrote:
All the *simple* schemes have clear flaws but any complex scheme would require experts to interpret and thus give these experts key power in society.

I don't see what's so complex about a labor-note system, although I admit that communists have a strange problem understanding it.

RedHughs wrote:
- This system is generally advocated by those who see a communist society as merely a differently administered capitalist society - everyone gets a more equal credit card balance and gets to self-manage whatever hellish thing they currently do. Qualitative change comes with elimination of scarcity.

This is just ridiculous. Do you not see any difference between, you know, having free access to abundant goods and equal access to scarce goods in accordance with how much you've worked, compared to having to produce surplus-value for a capitalist in order to survive, and if you are unable to do so you are left to starve? If you think that labor-notes would just be a "self-managed" version of the same society then your understanding of our current society is lacking.

RedHughs wrote:
A transition to communism might conceivably involve some rationing of survival goods depending on circumstance. Since this would extremely temporary, the best thing approach would be the simplest, followed by no rationing when survival good became available.

And one of the simplest ways would be... labor-notes.

RedHughs wrote:
"Luxury" would be produced and consumed socially rather than individually - in festivals, orgies, nature walks or whatever.

Yeah man, sports won't exist, personal items won't exist, we'll just bone and walk in the park all day. All we need to produce is a minimal amount of food and some natural condoms. Maybe not even those, because AIDS isn't caused by HIV. (Is that still your opinion?)

Sorry I'm fine with labor-notes, I guess we can't be friends... I mean.. comrades.

Dave B
Offline
Joined: 3-08-08
Apr 10 2009 15:09

Re post 10 Apr 9 2009

Well first of all in the Grundisse quote Karl didn’t mention Proudhon and I don’t think what he was talking about referred to Proudhons system at all.

The system that I think Karl was talking about was one where the means of production was owned by society as a whole, or by the ‘Bank’. Which I think he is using as a metaphor for the body that would administer for everyone who got what in a system were;

Quote:
‘The common ownership of the means of production is presupposed’,

In the system he describes in Grundrisse producers effectively hand over, exchange or sell their commodities to the ‘bank’, and ‘bank’ only, in exchange for chits, vouchers, tickets or whatever. Which they can use to obtain or buy other people’s product that have likewise been handed over, deposited or sold or whatever to the bank.

In this system the chits, vouchers do not circulate in as much as all exchange of products and labour etc is done through the medium of the ‘bank’.

As I understand Proudhon, and I don’t pretend to be an expert, under his system it was fundamentally different.

Under Proudhon’s system the users of the means of production or the ones that were working with it would be the defacto owners of it. The commodities they produced with it would belong to them and they would sell them on an open market at whatever price they thought fit. And the ‘exchange notes’ that were used for that would circulate as ‘money’.

I think that the system described in Grundrisse was where some kind of ‘central body’ or bank set the ‘labour voucher value’ of commodities and ‘labour’ itself, and the ‘bank’ was the only buyer and seller of commodities, as well as ‘directing production’.

That would have been an anathema to Proudhon. Whose system I think was one of essentially co-operatives producing, selling and buying commodities on a market with circulating labour vouchers, chits or whatever.

What Karl was referring to in Grundrisse was essentially the nationalisation of the means of production and what would look to me like ‘state capitalism’, that is indicated I think from the footnote 18 in Grundrisse;

Quote:
18. The following two paragraphs are directed specifically against the scheme outlined by John Gray in The Social System, pp. 62-86.

And the following general criticism of that system of Gray’s elsewhere where (ignoring the more theoretical points) ;

Quote:
“Thus he (Gray) turns capital into national capital, and land into national property and if his bank is examined carefully it will be seen that it not only receives commodities with one hand and issues certificates for labour supplied with the other, but that it directs production itself.”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/ch02b.htm

That is not to say that there is nothing in common with the idea of paper ‘money’ and banks of the Proudhon system and that of others but I think what is being discussed is not ‘specifically aimed at Proudhonists’.

The criticism of the Proudhon system and the related Duhring system was made in Ante-Duhring for the fact that they operated just like capitalism without the capitalists.

Quote:
By elevating this law to the basic law of his economic commune and demanding that the commune should execute it in all consciousness, Herr Dühring converts the basic law of existing society into the basic law of his imaginary society. He wants existing society, but without its abuses. In this he occupies the same position as Proudhon. Like him, he wants to abolish the abuses which have arisen out of the development of commodity production into capitalist production, by giving effect against them to the basic law of commodity production, precisely the law to whose operation these abuses are due. Like him, he wants to abolish the real consequences of the law of value by means of fantastic ones.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch26.htm

As a Marxist who does not believe in the wages system, and therefore I suppose I am part ‘Kropotkinist’, this business of mulling over different remuneration systems doesn’t particularly interest me.

However if we go back to the ‘state capitalist’ kind of system that I think that Karl is talking about in Grundrisse. I think that if you were to live under it you could, depending on your own viewpoint, think of it in two different ways. In the sense that you are forced to work for a wage set by ‘others’ then in that sense it would be despotic, in a tyranny of the majority kind of way.

Alternatively you could just think of it as a fair system for the allocation of the products of society according to work done. That is what I think Karl is on about with his

Quote:
“In fact either it would be a despotic ruler of production and trustee of distribution, or it would indeed be nothing more than a board which keeps the books and accounts for a society producing in common. The common ownership of the means of production is presupposed, etc., etc”

I think he presuming or it goes without saying that there is no ‘state capitalist class’.

Incidentally I think I have never subsequently backtracked by saying that Karl’s opinions in Grundrisse were his own private thoughts and need to be considered in that light. I had thought that I had made that point several times whilst using that quote, and others, from Grundrisse.

It goes without saying I think that private notebooks written whilst working out ideas need to be read with caution. In fact in Grundrissse and volume IV in particular he can go on for pages writing stuff down and sometimes it is not obvious that the ideas aren’t necessarily his own but just an elaborated synopsis of somebody else’s.

I think that there is a general misconception that labour vouchers were a central part of Marx’s theory, pushed by Trotskyists in defence of the Bolshevik revolution . Whilst in fact he only went into it in any kind of detail in Grundrisse, unpublished, and the Gotha programme that was also not published in his lifetime.

The Gotha programme was a critical appraisal of a labour voucher type system that was being put forward by others, and it was a common idea around at the time.

Aside from the point that he made in it that in communism or whatever there may be a cultural hangover from capitalism of an ‘each for himself’ kind of thing or ‘bourgeois limitations’.

I think it is clear from the Gotha Programme that an important consideration in the ‘distribution of products in future society’ depends on ‘how much there is to distribute’ and the general level of productivity and whether or not some kind of rationing system would be necessary.

Something that you would expect to require some kind of re-consideration or ‘debate’ after 150 years of ‘progress of production and social organization’. Or as Engels put it later re labour vouchers or remuneration according to the amount of work done ;

Engels to C. Schmidt, In Berlin, 1890

Quote:
There has also been a discussion in the Volks-Tribune about the distribution of products in future society, whether this will take place according to the amount of work done or otherwise. The question has been approached very "materialistically" in opposition to certain idealistic phraseology about justice. But strangely enough it has not struck anyone that, after all, the method of distribution essentially depends on how much there is to distribute, and that this must surely change with the progress of production and social organization, so that the method of distribution may also change.

But everyone who took part in the discussion, "socialist society" appeared not as something undergoing continuous change and progress but as a stable affair fixed once for all, which must, therefore, have a method of distribution fixed once for all. All one can reasonably do, however, is 1) to try and discover the method of distribution to be used at the beginning, and 2) to try and find the general tendency of the further development. But about this I do not find a single word in the whole debate.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1890/letters/90_08_05.htm

The fact that some ‘Marxists’ were advocating the complete overthrow of the wages system along with Kropotkin is, indicated below I think by of all people Hyndman, Engels English ‘enemy’.

Quote:
A much more serious objection to Kropotkin and other Anarchists is their wholly unscrupulous habit of reiterating statements that have been repeatedly proved to be incorrect, and even outrageous, by the men and women to whom they are attributed. Time after time I have told Kropotkin, time after time has he read it in print, that Social-Democrats work for the complete overthrow of the wages system. He has admitted this to be so. But a month or so afterwards the same old oft-refuted misrepresentation appears in the same old authoritative fashion, as if no refutation of the calumny, that we wish to maintain wage-slavery, had ever been made.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/hyndman/1911/adventure/chap15.html

If anarchists or anybody else want labour vouchers or their equivalents then they are going to require an anarchist state to enforce it. Along with Anarchist store detectives, anarchist police, anarchist courts and anarchists prisons. No doubt for bourgeois shoplifters with dogs on the end of a piece of string and a big letter B in a circle on the back of their coats.

And that will be one part of the state that will have to remain and un-lopped off;

Quote:
until such time as a new generation, reared in new and free social conditions, will be able to throw the entire lumber of the state on the scrap-heap.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/postscript.htm

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Apr 10 2009 15:14

I'm actually a little confused that no one's concerned by freeloading. Probably most of us have known freeloaders. Probably many of them were communists or anarchists. Probably a lot of people on this board are freeloaders.

I don't like the idea of people living off my labor, not making any contribution in return. It reminds me too much of capitalism.

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Apr 10 2009 16:19
Quote:
So, are you saying that there would be luxury restaurants, mass sporting events and high-culture theater in a communist society?

Don;'t be such a trot obviously all of those things will exist. Why would we not want to watch football or go to eat a nice meal in restaurant with a nice romantic view? As it happens I didn;t even mention high culture theatre i was thinking of the way in which new musicals sell out for months on end, but since we're on the subject obviously different types of theatre will exist. Some people want to take their kids to see the lion king and other might want to go and see the new version of waiting for godot. The problem isn;t that people have different tastes its that people see an intrinsic cultural value in one thing and not another.

I don;t agree with ''labour notes'' because most goods and services don;t need to paid for because there is no shortage of them and being a communist I don't advocate wages and monetay value. However i do recognise that with certain luxury goods there is a shortage of demand and so perhaps you'd need a quick way to try and make sure everyone had a reasonably fair level of access to those goods rather than just a first come first served basis.
.

Quote:
I'm actually a little confused that no one's concerned by freeloading.

Yeah kinda agree I'd imagine people who literally refused to work at all for no good reason would have reduced access to some things. In my opinion they should get no acess to aformentioned luxury goods whatsoever, that on top of the general shunning they would get from the rest of society would probably be enough to keep freeloading down to a minimal number of anti-social individuals.

RedHughs
Offline
Joined: 25-11-06
Apr 10 2009 16:45
Quote:
Sorry I'm fine with labor-notes, I guess we can't be friends... I mean.. comrades.

Oh that's been obvious for while

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Apr 11 2009 03:52

Dave B, to clarify: you are quite right that Marx is talking about Gray in the section you cite. I was thinking of Marx's critique of the time-chitters as a unified critique, even though it is broken up in the Grundrisse, and called it a critique of Proudhonist schemes because he begins with Darimon, a Proudhonist. But that is not an entirely accurate label. What I think did unify these various ideas (whether of Darimon or Gray) in Marx's mind was their focus on the monetary sphere as the root of economic troubles. As John Gray wrote in The Social System:

John Gray wrote:
A defective system of exchange is not one amongst many other evils of nearly equal importance: it is the evil--the disease--the stumbling block of the whole society. (quoted in Alfredo Saad-Filho, "Labor, Money, and 'Labour-Money': A Review of Marx's Critique of John Gray's Monetary Analysis." History of Political Economy 25:1 (1993), 67.)

Marx, by contrast, repeatedly stated that money represents a social relation of production. Marx saw the distinction between value and price not as a defect of the monetary system, but as a necessity for the capitalist social system. Thus his lengthy focus on this theme in the Grundrisse. Saad-Filho puts it well:

Saad-Filho wrote:
The proposers of the 'labour-money' scheme recognized labor as the source of value and wished to eliminate economic crises and unjust exchanges. To do so, they imagined a bank that, in Marx's analysis, would take as its starting point the fact that, in simple commodity production, if supply equals demand, prices will equal values. The bank would then try to do the converse--identify prices with values as a means of making supply match demand. (Ibid: 81)

In order for this scheme to work, the bank would have to direct production itself. But in this case, it would not be the "time-chits" themselves that solved any problems, contradicting the premises of the time-chitters. This is the "utopianism" Marx criticized.

I would be the first to concede that Marx's comments in the Grundrisse are not a clear, final presentation of his views. But there is a simple solution! Marx criticized the very same ideas of Gray in his Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

Quote:
Commodities are the direct products of isolated independent individual kinds of labour, and through their alienation in the course of individual exchange they must prove that they are general social labour, in other words, on the basis of commodity production, labour becomes social labour only as a result of the universal alienation of individual kinds of labour. But as Gray presupposes that the labour-time contained in commodities is immediately social labour-time, he presupposes that it is communal labour-time or labour-time of directly associated individuals. In that case, it would indeed be impossible for a specific commodity, such as gold or silver, to confront other commodities as the incarnation of universal labour and exchange-value would not be turned into price; but neither would use-value be turned into exchange-value and the product into a commodity, and thus the very basis of bourgeois production would be abolished. But this is by no means what Gray had in mind -- goods are to be produced as commodities but not exchanged as commodities. Gray entrusts the realisation of this pious wish to a national bank. On the one hand, society in the shape of the bank makes the individuals independent of the conditions of private exchange, and, on the other hand, it causes them to continue to produce on the basis of private exchange. Although Gray merely wants "to reform" the money evolved by commodity exchange, he is compelled by the intrinsic logic of the subject-matter to repudiate one condition of bourgeois production after another. Thus he turns capital into national capital, [10] and land into national property [11] and if his bank is examined carefully it will be seen that it not only receives commodities with one hand and issues certificates for labour supplied with the other, but that it directs production itself. In his last work, Lectures on Money, in which Gray seeks timidly to present his labour money as a purely bourgeois reform, he gets tangled up in even more flagrant absurdities. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/ch02b.htm)

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
Apr 11 2009 08:12

I would not advocate labor notes to deal with scarce resources, for the simple reason that I don't think this is the best way of doing so. Even supposing one could measure the creative results of an individual's activity in isolation, which you can't when all activity is social, I just don't see why you should give them resources according to these results. Why should it be a question of them exchanging their labor for scarce resources held by 'society'?

The simplest way of handling the problem of scarcity is to democratically decide the most effective way of using the resources in question, and then just fucking do it. No calculations of labor time or effort, no pseudo-money, just the pursuit of pleasure. Whichever way is most pleasurable, let resources be used thus.

~J.

Dave B
Offline
Joined: 3-08-08
Apr 11 2009 10:21

Hi Dave C

Thanks for your contribution.

Although I think I would like to mention that I did actually supply the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: reference to Gray. And I had read it all before and have also used it several times before on this subject. You could argue that the ‘Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ thing of 1859 is more important than the Grrundrisse thing of 1857 just because the former was a published work and an official opinion.

However, I think, for what it matters, that the Grundrisse tract goes into more detail, and deals with the subject more generally, it is longer at least. I don’t think that there is any point in the shorter ‘Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ that isn’t in the Grundtrisse tract. Also I think in Grundrisse he is attempting to take on board Grays basic ideas and stress testing them in thought experiment to see what the practical problems would be. Something he doesn’t do really in ‘Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ which is more of a theory bashing exercise.

That is my opinion and I do not intend to give the impression of arrogating that to a statement of fact.

Also I think the ‘Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ which is a specific criticism of Gray assumes some familiarity with the details of Gray’s book, which I haven’t read. Whereas I think the Grundrisse thing just stands on its own, he only mentions Gray in Grundrisse in the footnote.

Although we are in danger of disappearing up our own arseholes getting tangled up with what Karl really meant. I find it useful only so far as Karl and Fred provide a useful starting point for discussion and it is not a good idea to get too far away from that towards just historical investigators of political theory.

I think the points Karl makes in Grundrisse are good ones. I think they, the limitations or reservations, are all present in the Gotha programme, but in the Gotha programme they are in a more subtle and less antagonistic and grating form.

I think he goes into far more detail of the nitty grtitty or practicality of labour vouchers in Grundrisse than anywhere else.

One of the major arguments for labour vouchers in 1870 or whatever, the development of productivity etc, must now be at least in part an anachronistic one.

I don’t know whether or not there is a connection between the letter of Engels to C. Schmidt in August 1890 and the publication of the Gotha Programme in 1890-91 but it would seem likely therefore I think that letter is quite important.

I think it is rare piece just for the fact that it refers to labour vouchers, although there is still much of their later stuff that is not up yet on MIA.

Given the fact that they discussed everything under the sun in detail I can’t help thinking that ‘labour vouchers’ are conspicuous by their comparative absence.

Anyway, in revenge for 1911, as a Marxist I intend to issue as many vile calumnies about statist-anarchists wishing to retain the wages system as I can get away with.

Dave B
Offline
Joined: 3-08-08
Apr 11 2009 10:22

Hi Dave C

Thanks for your contribution.

Although I think I would like to mention that I did actually supply the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: reference to Gray. And I had read it all before and have also used it several times before on this subject. You could argue that the ‘Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ thing of 1859 is more important than the Grrundrisse thing of 1857 just because the former was a published work and an official opinion.

However, I think, for what it matters, that the Grundrisse tract goes into more detail, and deals with the subject more generally, it is longer at least. I don’t think that there is any point in the shorter ‘Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ that isn’t in the Grundtrisse tract. Also I think in Grundrisse he is attempting to take on board Grays basic ideas and stress testing them in thought experiment to see what the practical problems would be. Something he doesn’t do really in ‘Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ which is more of a theory bashing exercise.

That is my opinion and I do not intend to give the impression of arrogating that to a statement of fact.

Also I think the ‘Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ which is a specific criticism of Gray assumes some familiarity with the details of Gray’s book, which I haven’t read. Whereas I think the Grundrisse thing just stands on its own, he only mentions Gray in Grundrisse in the footnote.

Although we are in danger of disappearing up our own arseholes getting tangled up with what Karl really meant. I find it useful only so far as Karl and Fred provide a useful starting point for discussion and it is not a good idea to get too far away from that towards just historical investigators of political theory.

I think the points Karl makes in Grundrisse are good ones. I think they, the limitations or reservations, are all present in the Gotha programme, but in the Gotha programme they are in a more subtle and less antagonistic and grating form.

I think he goes into far more detail of the nitty grtitty or practicality of labour vouchers in Grundrisse than anywhere else.

One of the major arguments for labour vouchers in 1870 or whatever, the development of productivity etc, must now be at least in part an anachronistic one.

I don’t know whether or not there is a connection between the letter of Engels to C. Schmidt in August 1890 and the publication of the Gotha Programme in 1890-91 but it would seem likely therefore I think that letter is quite important.

I think it is rare piece just for the fact that it refers to labour vouchers, although there is still much of their later stuff that is not up yet on MIA.

Given the fact that they discussed everything under the sun in detail I can’t help thinking that ‘labour vouchers’ are conspicuous by their comparative absence.

Anyway, in revenge for 1911, as a Marxist I intend to issue as many vile calumnies about statist-anarchists wishing to retain the wages system as I can get away with.

capricorn
Offline
Joined: 3-05-07
Apr 12 2009 10:42

OK, let's assume that the problem of stopping the labour-notes or labour-time credit accounts circulating can be successfully solved. In Robert Owen's day (and conception) this wouldn't have been a problem. A cobbler would bring his shoes to the "labour bazaar" and get a certificate stating how much labour-time had gone into producing them, which he could then to use to acquire goods produced by other artisans which had taken the same labour-time to produce. Once the cobbler had handed over the certificate to acquire, say, a chair, it would be cancelled, possibly stamped "cancelled" or maybe simply torn up and thrown away just as used theatre tickets were and are. That would be the end of it, as Marx pointed out. Such experiments were tried in Marx's day and all failed, usually because the price of the products offered was higher than what they could be obtained for on the ordinary market. Anyway, nobody is suggesting this today (except perhaps a few back-to-nature Green anarchists and overenthusiastic LETS schemers).

Others, in Marx's day, tried to give this simple "labour bazaar" proposition a more general, theoretical underpinning by proposing a complete economic system based on "labour-money". Marx went for them in The Poverty of Philosopht, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy and The Grundrisse. I think it's quite legitimate to see his criticism of these proposals as being equally applicable to the non-circulating labour-voucher scheme he mentioned and unwisely gave some backing to in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, probably because labour-money was a popular idea amongst the artisans who formed the bulk of the supporters of German Social Democracy at the time (1870s). In fact, the main differences between "labour-money" and "labour-voucher" schemes would seem to be that, in the second, the labour-notes don't circulate. Which is not all that of a difference in that others have proposed that conventional money shouldn't circulate either. It could even be argued (as for instance by the Trotskyist Ernest Mandel) that circulating labour-notes would be more convenient (it probably would, actually, if you want to go for such a scheme).

The big problem which Marx identified with labour-money schemes was pricing the products which the labour-notes would be used to exchange for (buy). With increasing productivity, the price of these products would be falling. But labour-money paid to the producers would reflect a past, lower productivity,ie more labour-time. On the face of it, this would seem to benefit the producers since they would be able to purchase more products. But only on the face of it since of course this would mean that effective demand would exceed real supply. Which would lead to the equivalent of what today is called inflation, ie to the labour-money depreciating. This would apply whether not the labour-notes circulate or not. In fact, with non-circulating notes, the outcome would be angry queues of producers at the distribution centres unable to redeem all their vouchers. Marx explains this in the passages Dave B is always quoting from the Grundrisse. For instance:

Quote:
The time-chit, representing average labour time, would never correspond to or be convertible into actual labour time; i.e. the amount of labour time objectified in a commodity would never command a quantity of labour time equal to itself, and vice versa, but would command, rather, either more or less, just as at present every oscillation of market values expresses itself in a rise or fall of the gold or silver prices of commodities.
The constant depreciation of commodities -- over longer periods -- in relation to time-chits, which we mentioned earlier, arises out of the law of the rising productivity of labour time, out of the disturbances within relative value itself which are created by its own inherent principle, namely labour time.

No doubt Cockshott and Cottrell and Michael Albert and his equally dreaded "parecom" have, or will be able to think up some technical solution to this problem, the most obvious being to require the labour-notes to be spent within a given period of time or have their value reduced. As was in fact proposed for ordinary money by the German monetary reformer (currency crank) [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demurrage_(currency)]Silvio Gesell[/url].

So the scheme becomes complicater and complicater and further and further removed from anything that has to do with what Marx mentioned his marginal notes on the Gotha programme (let alone "the communistic abolition of buying and selling" mentioned in the Communist Manifesto) and nearer and nearer to common-or-garden currency crankism.

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Apr 15 2009 02:57
capricorn wrote:
Others, in Marx's day, tried to give this simple "labour bazaar" proposition a more general, theoretical underpinning by proposing a complete economic system based on "labour-money". Marx went for them in The Poverty of Philosopht, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy and The Grundrisse. I think it's quite legitimate to see his criticism of these proposals as being equally applicable to the non-circulating labour-voucher scheme he mentioned and unwisely gave some backing to in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, probably because labour-money was a popular idea amongst the artisans who formed the bulk of the supporters of German Social Democracy at the time (1870s).

There are two separate issues here:

1. What is actually the case.
2. What Marx thought.

As regards to the first issue, I don't think his criticisms apply. All of his criticisms of the labor-note schemes are directed at the notion that the basis of commodity production can continue (individual commodity producers) while regulating the prices at which commodities exchange directly in accordance with labor-time. But that condition doesn't exist in the sort of labor note system Marx mentions in the Critique of the Gotha Programme.

Therefore, the critique doesn't apply.

As regards the second question, Marx himself most certainly did not think the criticisms he made of the Proudhonists were applicable to the sort of labor-notes proposed by Owen, or in his own Critique of the Gotha Programme . He addresses this issue explicitly in a few places. In Ch. 3 of Capital Marx says:

Marx wrote:
I have elsewhere examined thoroughly the Utopian idea of “labour-money” in a society founded on the production of commodities (l. c., p. 61, seq.). On this point I will only say further, that Owen’s “labour-money,” for instance, is no more “money” than a ticket for the theatre. Owen pre-supposes directly associated labour, a form of production that is entirely inconsistent with the production of commodities. The certificate of labour is merely evidence of the part taken by the individual in the common labour, and of his right to a certain portion of the common produce destined for consumption. But it never enters into Owen’s head to pre-suppose the production of commodities, and at the same time, by juggling with money, to try to evade the necessary conditions of that production.

(my emphasis)

In other words, Owen's "labor-money" is not money.

Hi critique of Gray in The Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy is precisely that he does presuppose the production of commodities while trying to "evade the necessary conditions of that production":

Marx wrote:
But as Gray presupposes that the labour-time contained in commodities is immediately social labour-time, he presupposes that it is communal labour-time or labour-time of directly associated individuals. In that case, it would indeed be impossible for a specific commodity, such as gold or silver, to confront other commodities as the incarnation of universal labour and exchange-value would not be turned into price; but neither would use-value be turned into exchange-value and the product into a commodity, and thus the very basis of bourgeois production would be abolished. But this is by no means what Gray had in mind -- goods are to be produced as commodities but not exchanged as commodities.

(Marx's emphasis)

And in the section on commodity fetishism in Ch. 1 of Capital, when Marx contrasts a hypothetical communist society with capitalist society, he brings in labor notes as well (without using the name).

Marx wrote:
The total product of our community is a social product. One portion serves as fresh means of production and remains social. But another portion is consumed by the members as means of subsistence. A distribution of this portion amongst them is consequently necessary. The mode of this distribution will vary with the productive organisation of the community, and the degree of historical development attained by the producers. We will assume, but merely for the sake of a parallel with the production of commodities, that the share of each individual producer in the means of subsistence is determined by his labour time. Labour time would, in that case, play a double part. Its apportionment in accordance with a definite social plan maintains the proper proportion between the different kinds of work to be done and the various wants of the community. On the other hand, it also serves as a measure of the portion of the common labour borne by each individual, and of his share in the part of the total product destined for individual consumption. The social relations of the individual producers, with regard both to their labour and to its products, are in this case perfectly simple and intelligible, and that with regard not only to production but also to distribution.

(My emphasis)

Yes, there is a parallel with the production of commodities, insofar as labor-time continues to play a role in the distribution of the social product, but no, he did not think that it was a form of value production. His argument is that it is not value production, since each individual's labor is directly social (i.e. counted as a part of social labor in accordance with a common plan).

So I see no reason to believe that Marx secretly hated or even disliked the labor-note idea (of the not-circulating variety) . In the few times he ever referred to it, he either said that it was distinct from commodity production (as in Capital and the Contribution), or else he proposed it himself (as in The Critique of the Gotha Programme). What he invariably attacked was the sort of labor-money advocated by John Gray, Darimon, etc.

capricorn wrote:
In fact, the main differences between "labour-money" and "labour-voucher" schemes would seem to be that, in the second, the labour-notes don't circulate. Which is not all that of a difference in that others have proposed that conventional money shouldn't circulate either.

Then it wouldn't be conventional money. In fact it wouldn't be money at all. This is Marx's point.

capricorn wrote:
The big problem which Marx identified with labour-money schemes was pricing the products which the labour-notes would be used to exchange for (buy). With increasing productivity, the price of these products would be falling. But labour-money paid to the producers would reflect a past, lower productivity,ie more labour-time. On the face of it, this would seem to benefit the producers since they would be able to purchase more products. But only on the face of it since of course this would mean that effective demand would exceed real supply. Which would lead to the equivalent of what today is called inflation, ie to the labour-money depreciating. This would apply whether not the labour-notes circulate or not.

This holds true only if the labor note circulates, i.e. if it functions as money. In that case what you're saying is correct, the note depreciates. The reason for this is that production is determined by effective demand, and the labor note would be the effective demand. In that case, the real purchasing power of the labor note will be devalued relative to its nominal value.

But this isn't a problem if production is planned on a social level. Society itself decides what it will produce, and the portion of the social product going to each individual is determined by how much time s/he has devoted to production. How could the labor-note be devalued if there aren't separate commodity-producers which set their own prices, and goods are purchased from the common stores? Marx's argument applies only in the case of independent commodity producers.

capricorn wrote:
In fact, with non-circulating notes, the outcome would be angry queues of producers at the distribution centres unable to redeem all their vouchers.

I don't agree, but to show why I'll have to make a longer post which I don't have time for at the moment. I'll try to reply in the next few days.

capricorn
Offline
Joined: 3-05-07
Apr 15 2009 10:06

I accept, Mikus, that Marx did draw a distinction between introducing "labour-money" under capitalism (as in effect proposed by Gray, Proudhon, etc) and the use of consumption vouchers based on labour-time in a communist society. I still say that some of his criticisms of labour-money also applied to the sort of consumption voucher scheme that he outlined in his Critique of the Gotha Programme

Quote:
the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.
Here, obviously, the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values. Content and form are changed, because under the altered circumstances no one can give anything except his labor, and because, on the other hand, nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals, except individual means of consumption. But as far as the distribution of the latter among the individual producers is concerned, the same principle prevails as in the exchange of commodity equivalents: a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.

This gives evidence of being hastily written without thinking through the full implications of what is written (what you'd expect in "marginal notes"). For instance, if deductions are going to made (to provide labour to expand production, cover administrative costs and provide for those exempt from working), then the producer will not receive "exactly what he gives to" society, but only an amount proportional to this (even if exactly proportional). But this should also have an effect of the labour-time "price" of products the vouchers can be used to acquire. Otherwise a "given amount of labour in one form" would not be "exchanged for an equal amount of labour in another form".

In fact, if the vouchers are to record mere hours of presence at work irrespective of the intensify or skill of the work involved (as seems to be the suggestion), if the "price" of products is to be also fixed merely by the total amount of time taken to produce it at the final stage of its production divided by the number of units (not that Marx suggests this; he doesn't go into this question) then all sorts of problems arise. It would mean that two-hours of time taken to finishing producing a hat would be the same as two hours taken to finish a washing-machine. Fair enough if that's to be the basis of "pricing", but then when the hat-maker used her labour-time voucher to acquire a washing-machine this would not be an exchange of an equal amount of labour in one form for an equal amount of labour in another. It would just be a conventional and perhaps defensible way of distributing washing-machines irrespective of the amount of labour incorporated in them.

If, on the other hand, "prices" are to reflect the amount of labour incorporated in producing products from start to finish, then the same sort of problem (due to increased productivity) would arise as Marx pointed out would with labour-money under capitalism.
Anyway, I'll wait to see how you think this problem could be dealt with.