The law of value in the simplest terms...

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Spikymike
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Jul 3 2017 09:48

Tom may agree perhaps that 'generalised class struggle' as expressed in the 'revolutionary' wave post the First World War was the nearest we got to threatening the continued existence of capitalism? and why many other pro-revolutionary groups hark back to it so much, but then as he says it failed and then resulted in the further geographical expansion of capitalist social relations. The ebb and flow of the class struggle has produced benefits to us as workers which however tend to be of limited duration as capitalism responds, re-organises and continues. Is capitalism then more stable or immune to further crisis from the same inter-related forces of continuing class struggle and capitalist competition - it seems not. For all the continuing but still resisted tendency towards the 'real domination of capital' beyond the immediate relations of production and across the social, economic and psychological spheres of human experience it seems unable to achieve 'the end of history' in it's favour because it cannot avoid re-creating contradictions and conflict which will always it seems open up the potential, if not the certainty, of a more general rupture in the cycle of class struggle. Popular revolts may and often do become the tools of other classes but should we assume this is inevitable irrespective of the objective conditions in which they take place - I'm not that much of a determinist.
Yes it is worthwhile pursuing some of the other discussion threads and linked texts around these issues as I fear I will again end up in a circular discussion over this here.

S. Artesian
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Jul 15 2017 04:01

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Tom Henry
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Jul 3 2017 23:49

Thanks, S. Artesian, for considering some of the points I made in my last post.

I’d just like to clarify a couple of things.

As I stressed, the ‘choice’ I am referring to is the choice of people like you and I (‘revolutionaries’) to involve themselves or not in ‘politics’ and struggles, with acknowledgement that there are some struggles that we may not choose, but rather, due to where we are (as proletarians), choose us. BUT what you are saying here is that all action by all of us is done out of ‘necessity’, as in, it is determined. This is more determinist than Marx ever was. Usually it would be me who was being accused of being overly deterministic (meaning social and environmental forces shape who we are and what we do), so this is new for me! But do you really mean that you have no choice in writing something in support of a strike somewhere, or that you have no choice in travelling to a picket line of workers who have no ‘direct’ relationship to you to show your solidarity?

S. Artesian writes:

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But there's no path to the overthrow of capital without engaging in the class struggle as it actually materializes.

But surely this is merely an assertion without evidence? A statement of your ideals, even if it is derived from Marx. What you have written in and around this sentence doesn’t address the question I posed, which is: does class struggle form a component in the escalation and strengthening of domination and exploitation? – no matter that the oppressed effectively have no choice but to fight back periodically and continually. (One will need to re-read my posts to understand the question I have summarized here properly if you have just come to this thread.)

S.Artesian writes:

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For two, Marx cautions against holding too diligently to the distinction between relative and absolute surplus value-- pointing out how inseparable the two truly are. For example, is it not machinery, according to Marx, which spurs the bourgeoisie on to the most severe extensions of the working period?

Not quite a caution in the sense you mean:

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[...] one form always precedes the other, although the second form, the more highly developed one, can provide the foundations for the introduction of the first, in new branches of industry (Capital Vol 1, Appendix).

Yes, Marx recognised that the introduction of machinery was also a factor in being able to lengthen the working period – to the point that work might go on with no stop. And today we see that all the improvements in communications, reporting software, filing systems, etc does not lead to people working less, they end up working harder and longer. If one is middle class in the West then one would surely yearn for a return to the work rhythms of the 1970s?

So, I am not sure what point you are making here.

The fact that machinery makes work harder and longer is not relevant to his categories, only to the nature of 'the profit motive'. What machinery does tell us, is that without 'the profit motive' we could all work less.

S. Artesian writes, in relation to my suggestion that the Bolsheviks formed a new ruling class in Russia:

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How in fact could the revolution become the tool of a new ruling class if that class did not exist

Yes, this is an interesting point indeed. I was keeping it simple. In fact, putting my determinist head on again, I would argue that the Bolsheviks were the unwitting puppets of the economic forces that were already shaping the new Russia (if one personifies capitalism, as Marx was wont to do to make his points, then they were the unwitting pawns of capital).

What the Bolsheviks did was speed up the introduction of proper capitalism in Russia (the real subsumption of labor) by taking things into their own hands, and taking the place of the capitalists who would have achieved this task anyway (the Bolsheviks kept some of them on to help out, of course), but much more slowly.

One could argue (to throw everything in the air!) that capitalism had run away with itself in Russia as early as, say, 1900, engendering a popular revolt not directly in the interests of a section of the ruling class, but in the interests of the pure acquisition of relative surplus value, and pure industrialization. Who were the best capitalists, the best industrialists, Russia has ever seen? The Bolsheviks!

Who might have been the best industrialists France ever saw? (Though I really hate to say it) The Communards?

As I wrote before, comparing the ‘failed’ Commune of Paris in 1871 and the ‘successful’ Bolshevik seizure of power, and specifically what Marx and Engels write about the Commune as the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, is fundamentally enlightening. (Along with an examination of the rift between Marx and Bakunin in the First International).

Can we avoid the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the communist revolution? The evidence says no. Indeed when S. Artesian writes:

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Hence the need, more or less, for revolutionary program, and organs of dual power, where the question of program and the need for power can be engaged by the class.

Is this the same program identified and suggested by Marx (who, to be fair, never had the chance to witness a successful Dictatorship of the Proletariat - again, see my post above) and enacted by Lenin?

PS
For some reason I can't get the link to work, so, for what Dual Power is look up 'Dual power Russian Revolution' on Wikipedia.

el psy congroo
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Jul 4 2017 04:37
S. Artestian wrote:

The quote from Lenin is socialism is soviets plus electrification, and in the context of the Russian Revolution, I think that was a pretty good condensation, distillation of what the Russian Revolution required to move towards socialism-- workers councils and advancing the productivityof labor. Neither, however, could be achieved or sustained without an international revolution.

Lots of problems with Lenin and the Bolsheviks-- but "soviets + electrification" is definitely not one of them.

thread

Tom Henry wrote:
Who were the best capitalists, the best industrialists, Russia has ever seen? The Bolsheviks!

Tom Henry
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Jul 4 2017 06:33

Ah, somehow I missed that thread completely! Thanks for pointing it out.

The difference between S. Artesian and the commmunizers of modern day, including the Maoist Alain Badiou, is that the second group keep the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, or the Transitional State, secretly up their sleeves, though they would claim not to (I think I have touched on this elsewhere, if not I can elaborate later). Others, such as Spikeymike, who are perhaps more cautious, will, it seems, play the historic role of allowing these deceits to persist (or at least not objecting to them) in order to feign their participation in 'real life' and not be put on the outer. Perhaps until it is too late, as the left communists did in the early part of the last century - people who were unable to assess the warnings of Bakunin and the anarchists of the First International because of their adherence to Marxism. We all may fail at all of this, but it is better to fail with 'intelligence' and integrity, with the refusal of bullshit spat from one's lips, than as a sheep to the slaughter of the transitional state.

S. Artesian
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Jul 15 2017 04:00

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Tom Henry
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Jul 4 2017 12:46

The 'revolution' in Russia was different to any previous revolution, as I pointed out. The revolution it was closest to, prior to it, was the one in Paris in 1871, and the links between these two revolutions are crucial, as I note in previous posts. The phenomenon of the Bolsheviks suddenly becoming a new faction of the 'the ruling class' (a bureaucratic bourgeoisie, if you like), but more than that, an absolute monarchy, or the only 'faction' (if you see what I mean!), through the revolution is really interesting and, as far as I am aware, it has not been explored fully, or in the light of an understanding of the real subsumption of labor, or the domestication of humans in Camatte's terminology.

But you are right in your identification of the productivIst discourse that runs through Marx's writing and is expressed in reality by Lenin. And this is where we part company in this discussion, and it takes us right back to my mention of Marx's view on labor that I noted at the beginning of my contributions to this thread.

S. Artesian
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Tom Henry
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Jul 4 2017 23:54

With respect, S. Artesian, what’s really unfortunate is that yours has become the only voice here. My intention was never to debate Marxist-Leninists (I presume you would identify yourself in this way, or at least close to this?) but to debate those who, in my opinion, think they have escaped that sphere, or that ‘Leninist loop’.

But, maybe it was a good thing that the Paris revolution in 1871 didn't extend to the countryside. The 'problem' of the peasantry was a feature of the 'schoolboy drivel' debate between Bakunin (who I am not supporting in a general sense by the way) and Marx about what might happen 'after the revolution'.

Marx scolded Bakunin thus:

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A fine idea, that the rule of the workers includes the enslavement of agricultural labor!

But Marx never saw the collectivisation and dekulakization in the USSR. One can't help but smile… despite the bodies that were piled up and trod down.

And agriculture is still a 'problem' even for those who might purport to have abandoned the idea of the transitional state and to be outside the circle of Marxist-Leninism that S. Artesian inhabits:

The communizers at Théorie Communiste, in 2011, write:

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The essential question which we will have to solve is to understand how we extend communism […] how we integrate agriculture so as not to have to exchange with farmers.

It may be, of course, that TC are hopelessly behind the times here, since capitalism may have solved the peasant problem in key areas by introducing the technology that enables a couple of managers, a team of seasonal hired-hands, and an array of clever machinery to farm vast tracts of land.

But, still, the writer Andrei Platonov, who was perhaps conflicted in his perspective on the USSR, puts it well, in 1930 [edit]:

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‘And truth?’ asked Voshchev. ‘Is truth the due of the proletariat?’
‘Movement is the due of the proletariat,’ summarized the activist, ‘along with whatever the proletariat comes across on the way. Doesn’t matter if it’s truth or a looted kulak jacket – it’ll all go into the organized cauldron till you won’t be able to recognize anything at all’ (The Foundation Pit).

He continues elsewhere, in 1934, on the subject of ‘electrification’:

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Truth — in my opinion — lies in the fact that “technology decides everything”. It is indeed technology that constitutes the theme of our contemporary historical tragedy — if technology is understood to mean not only the entire complex of man-made production tools but also the social organization that is based on the technology of production, and if ideology too is included in this understanding.

(from: https://newleftreview.org/II/69/andrei-platonov-on-the-first-socialist-tragedy . There is another translation of On The First Socialist Tragedy in the book Happy Moscow.)

The question becomes, or remains: have the libertarian communists here, the communizers there, and the Badouists elsewhere, escaped the Leninism, the Jacobinism (yes, I went there!), that lies at the heart of the approach of those such as S. Artesian, or are they deluding themselves? This is the dilemma for me. My questions about surplus value and subsumption were intended to dig into this.

S. Artesian
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