Can Capitalism grant meaningful reforms today? Is Decadence

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Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
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Jul 13 2006 14:17

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Ho ho. My old man was a plumber in a shipyard, we were flush. I can barely remember B+W TV. We did go to Butlins though.

I wouldn’t do family foreign holidays nowadays, even if I could realistically afford it, too stressful. I do take your point through, holidays abroad are much cheaper, and I did travel extensively in my youth.

In “hours worked”, I’m factoring the tendency for both partners to be working longer hours than they did in the 70’s. I suppose your mileage might vary, so fair enough.

I did hear on the U.S. news that there were concerns that the next generation may be worse off than the current one, due to off-shoring etc.

Love

LR

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Jul 13 2006 14:23

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I was chatting to my mum the other day, and she reckons, compared to today, in the early 70's more working class people were buying their own homes, nice places too, and earning decent wages that covered their expenses without racking up debt.

Love

LR

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Jul 13 2006 14:27

Joe

Okay, I'll answer your question directly. I can't think of any social reforms that have directly benefited the working class as a class. Certainly nothing on the scale of those of the previous century.

Now, over a hundred years, given the gigantic increases in technology it's not a surprise that in some parts of the world we have a better food supply and some new, spangly use-values such as mobile phones etc. or that we have slightly better health and life-expectancy. Pretty marginal stuff. The real question, given these tremendous advances, is why hasn't there been a far bigger improvement!

More importantly, what the capitalist machine gives with one hand it takes away with the other. Workers may have slightly less dangerous occupations or work that is physically less gruelling than they did a hundred years ago. This is countered by the fact that today's industrial illnesses (RSA, depression, stress) can still cripple a worker for the rest of his or her life and, in the case of psychiatric injuries, obliterate any hope for enjoying his life outside of work.

Living conditions in the great urban sinkholes are as bad as ever, with thousands still dying every year from pollution, families crammed into inadequate accommodation, diseases of malnutrition on the rise and, worst of all, total social collapse in some areas. A worker in New York had a bigger chance of being killed by violence than one in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. In some areas, life expectancy matches that in the 3rd World.

And as for Eastern Europe, what great reforms did the Stalinist state offer the workers in the period from 40 - 70. What about the 3rd world?

Even if we just focus on the proletariat in the West, the record is mediocre in even its best interpretation (and I haven't even attempted to describe conditions in the two Wars or the 30s Depression). When the condition of the entire international proletariat is taken into account, the "great reforms" of the 20th century as exposed as the mirage they are.

Mike Harman
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Jul 13 2006 14:33
Demogorgon303 wrote:

or that we have slightly better health and life-expectancy. Pretty marginal stuff. The real question, given these tremendous advances, is why hasn't there been a far bigger improvement!

I don't think a couple of decades difference in life expectancy is 'marginal'.

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Jul 13 2006 14:38
Catch wrote:

I don't think a couple of decades difference in life expectancy is 'marginal'.

I'm afraid I read his post and my jaw dropped. I can't think of a polite way to respond.

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Jul 13 2006 14:39

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Overall, I'm with the left communists on this. The “reforms” (better living standards) would come with better technology. “Struggles” are irrelevant showpieces staged between the bourgeoisie, unions and left designed to fooling us that what was happening was down to political pressure when in fact it was happening through capitalist-trickle-down.

Love

LR

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Jul 13 2006 14:42

Hi

Maybe that was a bit too dry.

Love

LR

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Jul 13 2006 14:47

i'd love to know what kind of person can dismiss reforms in working class lives as meaningless, from minumum wage to health and safety regulations, from gay marriage to abortion rights.

I guess this is a good thread to highlight the fundamental differences in politics between left communists and... well, anyone else grin

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Jul 13 2006 15:36

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I suppose. But those things weren’t won through “struggle”, they were granted to maintain morale, and in some cases profitability, in the face of “protest”. Minimum wage, for instance, coincided with a reduction in unemployment benefits.

And as for civil unions, they're reactionary. Next you'll be citing women priests as a "reform".

Love

LR

lem
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Jul 13 2006 16:11

Yeah, I would like to know what "meaningful reforms" does mean. A reform which lasts? I don't really buy into the idea that some reforms are not so well entrenched as to be non-negotiable, in my lifetime. In that respect I would consider the 18 hour day as a lasitng reform, practically speaking. Probably.

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Jul 13 2006 16:18
Quote:
I'm afraid I read his post and my jaw dropped. I can't think of a polite way to respond.

Don't hold back wink

But, while you're at it, explain how these increases affect the working class directly and specifically in the way that reductions in the working day did.

Quote:
minumum wage to health and safety regulations, from gay marriage to abortion rights

Gay marriage and abortion rights are not benefits for the working class per se, as a class. Next we'll be saying the right for women to become company directors - or priests wink - is a step forward for the working class. They also cost the bourgeoisie nothing and allow it to stir up dissension in the proletariat by dividing it into gay/straight, male/female, by creating false debates about this issue.

In addition, by making abortion "acceptable" it also allows the bourgeoisie to disguise the increasing dreadful reality that more and more of the working class cannot afford to have children! For working-class women, the choice is motherhood (and the attendent poverty, with or without partner) or no children and a slightly less desperate standard of living. Of course, women have the right to control their own reproduction (and their own bodies) but to pose capitalism's magnaminous granting of abortion rights as a reform for the working class as a class is ludicrous.

As for the minimum wage, it's part of a campaign to drive down all wages to that level. It affects a relatively small layer of the proletariat and masked a massive shift from full-time to part-time hours in minimum-wage industries like retail, etc. The benefit has been devoured by the collossal rise in the cost of living in any case. In real terms, minimum wage workers are probably worse off today than before it was introduced. The Government has already said that the days of "inflation busting" rises are over - and this inflation never covered the crippling increases in rents and taxes that accompanied the arrival of the mininum wage.

Health and safety legislation! I've never worked anywhere where this was actually enforced, beyond putting up a copy of the Act. I touched briefly in a previous post about the reality of industrial "safety" for the modern proletariat. The effectiveness of this legislation, frankly, is a fucking joke. Twenty years after equal pay acts, women in real life still lag behind their male counterparts. These scraps of paper are barely worth the paper they're written on.

And, once again, even if we accept these things are worthy can they possibly compare with a 45% reduction in the working day and stopping children as young as six having to work eight hours a day, universal requirments for education, and the like?

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Jul 13 2006 17:57
Demogorgon303 wrote:
Gay marriage and abortion rights are not benefits for the working class per se, as a class. Next we'll be saying the right for women to become company directors - or priests wink - is a step forward for the working class.

Er, no because being able to have an abortion or marry a same-sex partner is not the same as being a company director.

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Jul 13 2006 18:37

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Quote:
but to pose capitalism's magnaminous granting of abortion rights as a reform for the working class as a class is ludicrous.

It’s clearly an advance for the working class, as a class, albeit accidental.

Quote:
marry a same-sex partner

I don’t know John., marriage is dodgy. The state (or any libertarian euphemism for one) should stay out of personal relationships, if people want to enter into a partnership sanctioned by the state they should set up an LLP like accountants do.

Love

LR

Mike Harman
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Jul 13 2006 21:40

Minimum wage - there's plenty of arguments out there that it's main function is to force people in to the labour market - makes it easier to withdraw benefits if you refuse employment in shitty jobs etc.. I think at it's current level, considering a lot of people are still employed under that level in piece work and cash in hand, it's probably aiding the push into shit jobs more than it's improving living standards - especially when you look at the JSA and attacks on incapacity benefit.

Similarly, the 35-hours law in France, prol-position did some stuff on how it's been used to attack working conditions and there were campaigns against it before it came out.

Demogorgon, those reforms - child labour etc. were granted pretty soon after mass industrialisation, and in the face of quite major struggles. Child labour is still present in many places in the world, and is only now being eroded in China for example, similarly a lot of places still don't have universal education. Russia, China and Japan - all of these countries experienced rapid industrialisation and the development of an industrial proletariat after the point at which you say capitalism became a decadent system.

You haven't answered my question about whether capitalism should've been fought before it became decadent either - after all, 'if capitalism is not decadent, why should we get rid of it'? Paris Commune, Haymarket - should've just gone with the flow right?

meanoldman
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Jul 13 2006 22:29

The question is not whether capital is capable of granting reforms, it is whether we are strong enough to win them.

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Jul 13 2006 22:46

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Yes. By relentlessly winning material gains we can force capitalism to provide the economic basis for working class autonomy. Such as self-sufficient surplus in food and energy within the immediate legislative territory we intend to sequester.

Love

LR

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Jul 13 2006 22:56
Lazy Riser wrote:
I don’t know John., marriage is dodgy. The state (or any libertarian euphemism for one) should stay out of personal relationships, if people want to enter into a partnership sanctioned by the state they should set up an LLP like accountants do.

All very well in theory, but there are a lot of clear benefits to having a "spouse" as opposed to a "partner" under capitalism. Like custody of children and power of attourny should something happen to you.

Marriage doesn't result in more state interference in your relationship, in fact, to an extent it protects from the negative impact of that interference.

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Jul 13 2006 23:46

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It promotes binary relationships rather than giving equal "rights" to every body regardless of personal choice. All the stuff you're talking about can be achieved through normal contract. The “civil union” is just a secular simulation of Christian morality and I don’t like it.

Love

LR

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Jul 14 2006 00:36

You go away for a couple of days, and there's yet another discussion about decadence. I wonder why it keeps coming up?

I have a few quick points before I bugger off again.

1. Devrim, can you elaborate on what you mean by capitalism not being able to grant reforms any more?

2. Demogorgon has made a lot of good points, but one of the most important ones was about the NHS. The key point about 'real reforms' in the 19th century is that the working class fought for them, organised for them, and through this fight and this organisation gained in self-confidence, in consciousness of itself as a class. The NHS was absolutely not the result of a struggle by a massively organised working class unless you accept the leftist view that the Labour party (not to mention the Liberals) which brought it in were in some sense the expression of the organised working class. Far from increasing the workers' sense of themselves as a distinct class opposed to the bourgeoisie, the introduction of the NHS served, among other things, to blur the distinction between the working class and its fundamental enemy, the capitalist state. In the Communist Manifesto, the approach to the struggle for reforms is as follows "Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers".

Today this same principle applies to what we call the defensive struggle. We can no longer hope to progressively reduce the working day through building up permanent mass organisations; instead we can at best resist the unending attempts to lengthen it through much more short-lived outbreaks of struggle and self-organisation. The forms of that self-organisation have changed, but the real fruit of our battle still lies in "the ever-expanding union (or unity) of the workers", in the steps the proletariat takes in acting and seeing itself as an autonomous social force.

3. Marx and Engels looked at this problem from this angle because they were communists - in other words, communism was their starting point. The future goal determined their approach to the immediate struggle. It wasn't always clear to Marx and Engels whether communism had become a material necessity. In the Communist Manifesto they were already saying that capitalist social relations had become too narrow an envelope for the development of the productive forces. At the same time they understood that the working class was still a young class, that it was only beginning to develop the rudiments of a class identity. They also thought that it was necessary to ally with the more progressive wing of the bourgeoisie against feudalism. In other words, they recognised in practise that the world communist revolution was not yet possible, despite some statements to the contrary. But always they looked at the present-day struggle from this starting point how does it advance us towards communism?

Today communism is clearly possible. The constant lengthening of the working day in the 20th/21st century, coupled with the undernourishment of the majority of the human race, is one clear expression of the way the relations of production act as a fetter on the productive forces. If society was organised on communist principles, it could produce enough for the whole planet to eat healthily; and given the technology and the huge reserves of wasted labour power at our disposal, everyone would have to 'labour' far less than the current working week. Instead of which, through war, through ecological destruction, through the decomposition of social bonds, capitalism is threatening humanity with global catastrophe. It is in the process of undermining the very material bases for a communist society. Communism is not only possible, but an absolute necessity. This intolerable contrast between what is possible and necessary for humanity and what is actually offered by the present social organisation is surely the most graphic proof that we are living under an obsolete or decadent mode of production.

4. If communism is not a necessity, if capitalism's survival has not become inimical to our survival, on what basis are revolutionaries going to try to persuade their fellow workers that they need to take the difficult, dangerous, costly and by no means guaranteed-of-success path of making the revolution?

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Jul 14 2006 00:36

Shit - 4 pages - in 24 hours! Is there some sort of forums-are-back-at-last rush coming on here? We should form a support group, libcommers anonymous: [Me] “Hi, my names Andrew, and … I’m … a … libcom poster”. [Facilitator] “Well done, Andrew, you’ve made a great step forward today” [group claps].

But back on topic:

Demogorgon303 – thanks for the replies, I’ll respond to them fuller tomorrow (if the self help group don’t de-programme me first). I should have made it more clear that I am not questioning the ICCs decadence theory specifically, rather that of the entire communist spectrum, including EKS, AF (at its extreme/most pure), etc. In practical effect, they all end up with the same end theory result – no meaningful reforms. In fact, I was aiming more at the others, since the ICC’s position is I think (caveat: I’ve still to read those ICC supplied links) while apparently indefensible and ridiculous (no meaningful reforms since 1913, eh?) it is at least very well thought out, argued, considered. The other groups seem to adopt the same position in the current time (as opposed to 1913) – but without bothering to think it all through. Why are meaningful reforms not possible? The ICC has an answer, regardless of whether or not that answer is correct, but mainstream anarchist communists do not, have apparently not even considered the issue. EKS also seem pretty sure of themselves on this, but also seem a lot more shy than the ICC about stating why.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
If capitalism is not decadent, why should we get rid of it?

Anarchism = no masters = no bosses. Wage slavery is unbearable for men with a natural desire for freedom, is like being tortured. You might as well go to the antebellum South and ask slaves: "If slavery isn't economically inefficient compared to free labour, why bother abolishing it?". The left has I think lost itself in the theoretical analysis, missing the wood of capitalist horror for the trees of Marxian analysis.

Shorter Working Week – is a campaign of critical importance. But has in no way died since C19th. The focus has instead moved to days holiday rather than hours per day – because 7.5 is actually ok, and what we workers want now is fewer actual days on site. I was involved in a workplace struggle to retain 5 weeks holiday and stop employer cutting it down to just four. And just after that next employer boosted it up from 4 weeks to 5 as a result of labour market pressures. Have been working with part timers and contract staff getting their holiday entitlement, seen the benefit for them of EU rulings. The EU Working Time Directive has been a big help for me personally also. Bank holiday fights – whether they get counted in normal holidays or not – are big things for many workplaces. The shorter working week struggle goes on, and with some success. My father worked a 5 ½ day week, worked every Saturday morning as standard. We’ve freed ourselves Saturday mornings, now early leaving on Friday afternoons is on in many workplaces, and so the fight goes on. Two weeks holiday was an innovation for my grandfather when he at last got it (long after 1913). Lets hope my grandchildren will see 3 or even 6 months holiday as standard. Which, financially, capitalism could I think easily afford.

Revol68 wrote:
the labour theory of value does not = the idea that equilibrium prices are determined by socially necessary labour time, that the rate of profit will fall.

Marx's labour theory of value is not a fucking equation for the working out of prices, rather it is about understanding how our labour comes to stand against us, how it is expropriated and in this act becomes fetishised, standing over us like a deity.

Yes, a lot of people read Marx that way, and that's fine. But those people who instead use Marx's analysis to make economic predictions that the rate of profit will fall and so capitalism will at some point become 'decadent', cease to be progressive, have contradictions, crises, - those people really do have to take Marx's value theory as a mechanistic equation for working out prices, and rates of surplus value, and rates of profit. I am saying that applied in that way (rather than in your way, which is perfectly ok), Marx's value theory does not hold water.

John wrote:
If "reformist and leftist activities" do not advance the interests of the working class, or actually help win reforms then socialists should never do them.

Right, there would have to be a whole other argument about what tactics would be adopted if it was agreed to descend into the swamp of leftism: what's effective, what's not, where you draw the line with how far you can bend your principles without them snapping. The WSM have gone through that, but it’s a huge area, way out of scope for this thread. The risks are enormous: when you sup with the devil, take a long spoon. Robin Hahnel has a paper out on what he calls “the myth of non-reformist reforms”.

But my point in this thread was to first decide whether or not reformist and leftist activities should ever be undertaken. Many people are, with some good reasons, opposed to engaging in those activities under virtually all circumstances, including even when some working class advance can actually be won.

It’s not idle questions here, there is a proposal out right now to create a wannabee WSM group in Glasgow, except one that would be even more leftist/reformist. The alternative option would be to have a Glasgow local of SolFed or AF and so keep pure, albeit perhaps ineffective on day to day working class issues.

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Jul 14 2006 00:40
Demogorgon303 wrote:
More importantly, what the capitalist machine gives with one hand it takes away with the other. Workers may have slightly less dangerous occupations or work that is physically less gruelling than they did a hundred years ago. This is countered by the fact that today's industrial illnesses (RSA, depression, stress) can still cripple a worker for the rest of his or her life and, in the case of psychiatric injuries, obliterate any hope for enjoying his life outside of work.

Don't be silly. Deaths at work are far lower, so are injuries.

I don't see how you can accept my point about increased productivity being linked to reducing hours and keep to your position. They have realised that "working us to death" is a less efficient method of extracting wealth from the working class.

In the same way that debt has become the best way to work on us now.

Quote:
. A worker in New York had a bigger chance of being killed by violence than one in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. In some areas, life expectancy matches that in the 3rd World.

Stats please.

Quote:
And as for Eastern Europe, what great reforms did the Stalinist state offer the workers in the period from 40 - 70. What about the 3rd world?

You guys don't like it when different conditions in countries are used against you.

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Jul 14 2006 00:41
Lazy Riser wrote:
Hi

It promotes binary relationships rather than giving equal "rights" to every body regardless of personal choice. All the stuff you're talking about can be achieved through normal contract. The “civil union” is just a secular simulation of Christian morality and I don’t like it.

Love

LR

I can see where you're coming from on this, but having one contract which can be sorted easily and doesn't require any messy fiddling about with lawyers and accountants (unless one or more party happens to be a member of one of those professions) strikes me as convenient and sensible.

As to the "Christian morality" thing, I'd argue that there are sound, rational arguments for monogamy anyway, though I'd argue that there's no reason a "civil union" should necessarily be limited to two partners.

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Jul 14 2006 01:04

Abortion and gay mariage are for the middle class.

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Jul 14 2006 07:28

Only got time to respond to one point this morning.

Mike Harman wrote:
You haven't answered my question about whether capitalism should've been fought before it became decadent either - after all, 'if capitalism is not decadent, why should we get rid of it'? Paris Commune, Haymarket - should've just gone with the flow right?

The Paris Commune (1871) place just before the first signs that capitalist expansion was beginning to run out of steam (the Great Depression following 1873). It was, if you like, the "kicking baby" in a society pregnant with the potential for a new society. But, it was quite clear, that neither capitalism or the proletariat was ready to establish communism proper. This does not mean that the Commune was an unworthy struggle. It provided much valuable experience for the proletariat. If successful, it may have also allowed the proletariat to steer capitalist development in that country on a more progressive basis in service to its own interests.

Nonetheless, it quickly became clear that capitalism, although clearly past its first flush of youth, still had plenty of dynamism left in it. The best the Commune could hope to achieve was a more radical (albeit far more radical) version of the reformist struggle in other countries. It could not establish socialism by itself and the development of the working class internationally was not yet sufficient to overthrow capitalism in all the advanced countries.

Despite these limitations, the Paris Commune and other insurrectionary struggles (one might also include Russia 1905) must be praised and supported (as all revolutionaries did at the time) for their contribution to the political development of the working class. They began to pose the question of how the proletariat could overthrow capitalism as opposed to simply exerting itself as a class within capitalism - but the question could not be solved by these attempts.

I think Alf has already answered many of these points, by pointing out that often the immediate gains of reformist struggles were not so much their immediate result but in the political development of the working class. The same applies to "premature" insurrectional struggles.

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Jul 14 2006 07:43

God, I am an addict!

Jef Costello wrote:
Stats please.
Avery Guest wrote:
Life expectancy of adult African-American men in inner city areas of Chicago is actually somewhat less than life expectancy of men in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world

http://archives.thedaily.washington.edu/1999/022499/F2.sci-lifeex.html

It's a pity I can't put libcom activity towards my delightful performance development review which I have this morning. Wish me luck!

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Jul 14 2006 08:12
Demogorgon303 wrote:
Health and safety legislation! I've never worked anywhere where this was actually enforced, beyond putting up a copy of the Act. I touched briefly in a previous post about the reality of industrial "safety" for the modern proletariat. The effectiveness of this legislation, frankly, is a fucking joke.

i work for an american-owned multinational and they're obsessed with safety - half the time the most unified worker action is against new requirements to eg wear full overalls in the summer. The onsite health and safety measure is THE measure head office looks at - the theory goes bad h&s = messy workplace, unproductive & unmotivated workforce, so its not altruistic, but they are obsessed with it nonetheless.

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Jul 14 2006 08:17

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madashell wrote:
As to the "Christian morality" thing, I'd argue that there are sound, rational arguments for monogamy anyway

Ha ha. No there aren’t. Monogamy is easily as irrational as any other sexual peccadillo. Like I say, Civil Unions are totally reactionary. A reform that genuinely advanced working class interests would have withdrawn any reference to sexual lifestyle from statute and contract.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
One last point, (promise!). If capitalism is not decadent, why should we get rid of it?
LR wrote:
It’s really boring and it pays very poorly.
Alf wrote:
If communism is not a necessity, if capitalism's survival has not become inimical to our survival, on what basis are revolutionaries going to try to persuade their fellow workers that they need to take the difficult, dangerous, costly and by no means guaranteed-of-success path of making the revolution?

Precisely. Communism is so unappealing that the fact that it’s programme is both dangerous and unlikely to succeed simply provides the final nails in its coffin. At least Monsieur Dupont are big enough to admit this and rely on necessity to be the mother of invention.

Love

LR

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Jul 14 2006 08:35

balls, i'm no good with these big political and philosophical debates, you guys can shoot my example list down if you like, but perhaps this illustrates why i get my back up with these "thats just meaningless" crap.

All those examples were from my personal life or lives of my friends and workmates. For instance, just couple weeks ago i went to a wedding of my workmate, a gay couple who have been together for 20 years and who couldn't see eachother if one got i'll, whose children would have ended up to some random person if one died, who had no legal recognition.

Ok, so its all reformist, but i would not have said that out loud in the wedding.

Abortion - nuff said already.

minimum wage, again, please choose your words carefully on this one.l I worked on minimum wage for a year and was bloody glad about it because i would have made less without it. My friend has been on minimum wage for 3 years and the raise in it made a big difference in her life. again, small anecdotal things which probably do not register on a revolutionaries radar.

This is the core of the problem: politically i recognise the shortcomings and the reformist nature of all these, but i cant be as cool of a revolutionary to dismiss these real changes in individuals lives.

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Jul 14 2006 09:00
Joseph K. wrote:
The onsite health and safety measure is THE measure head office looks at - the theory goes bad h&s = messy workplace, unproductive & unmotivated workforce, so its not altruistic, but they are obsessed with it nonetheless.

I have to say it is far more due to fear of being sued than any concern with our safety.

Demogorgon303

Good luck with your review. I'm not convinced by the look of that article, I'll see if I can get a hold of a copy.

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Jul 14 2006 09:32

My opinion seems to be very sought after here:

Alf wrote:
Devrim, can you elaborate on what you mean by capitalism not being able to grant reforms any more?
afraser wrote:
EKS also seem pretty sure of themselves on this, but also seem a lot more shy than the ICC about stating why.

First, I would like to say that my opinions on this do not represent group positions. We have discussed the 'theory of decadence', but have not taken any firm position on it*. I think Alf is asking for my opinion as he would like me to agree with their position. I actually admire afraser's consistency. Yes, he is an out, and out reformist, but he is very consistent with it. As he says, if reforms are possible then reformism is valid. I would say that they are not.

So Alf, what I would say is that "permanent meaningful reforms for the working class are no longer possible under capitalism". Does this mean that I agree with decadence theory? Well, I think that all 'real' Marxists, and most anarchists hold some kind of decadence theory**. It doesn't matter how well they express it, but to a certain extent it is implicit in revolutionary politics.

However, there is a difference between holding some sort of basic decadence theory, and agreeing with the ICC's decadence theory, which as afraser says is 'very well thought out, argued, considered'. I agree with it in nearly all of its practical implications today, ı do find some of its historical implications quite disturbing though***.

afraser wrote:
Shorter Working Week – is a campaign of critical importance. But has in no way died since C19th. The focus has instead moved to days holiday rather than hours per day – because 7.5 is actually ok, and what we workers want now is fewer actual days on site. I was involved in a workplace struggle to retain 5 weeks holiday and stop employer cutting it down to just four. And just after that next employer boosted it up from 4 weeks to 5 as a result of labour market pressures. Have been working with part timers and contract staff getting their holiday entitlement, seen the benefit for them of EU rulings. The EU Working Time Directive has been a big help for me personally also. Bank holiday fights – whether they get counted in normal holidays or not – are big things for many workplaces. The shorter working week struggle goes on, and with some success. My father worked a 5 ½ day week, worked every Saturday morning as standard. We’ve freed ourselves Saturday mornings, now early leaving on Friday afternoons is on in many workplaces, and so the fight goes on. Two weeks holiday was an innovation for my grandfather when he at last got it (long after 1913). Lets hope my grandchildren will see 3 or even 6 months holiday as standard. Which, financially, capitalism could I think easily afford.

Actually, economics isn't my strong point, so I feel a bit out of sorts in this argument. I do think that the working week is a good example of it though. I can remember strikes in the UK Post Office in 1988, which won a 41.5, five day week where possible. However, lots of UK postmen still work a five, and a half day week. This isn't just an isolated example. Andrew himself writes that:

afraser wrote:
I was involved in a workplace struggle to retain 5 weeks holiday and stop employer cutting it down to just four.

I think that this is what we mean when we say permanent reforms. Of course workers can defend their living conditions, and even win small improvements. This doesn't contradict the central position. As for your comments about 7.5 hours, I agree with Jack:

Jack wrote:
afraser wrote:
The focus has instead moved to days holiday rather than hours per day – because 7.5 is actually ok

Are you fucking joking?? confused

A look at the situation at VW at the moment is interesting. Previous workers' victories (the 30 hour, 4 day week) are now being taken away. The defence of workers living conditions lies in class struggle. Capitalism can not grant permanent meaningful reforms.

Briefly, in reply to all of the people who were raising social points, Demogorgon303 is right. These are not reforms for the working class, and capitalism can grant equally rights to homosexuals, but not abolish the exploitation of workers.

Devrim

*We are a new group, only formed this year, and haven’t got round to taking a position on lots of things yet, nor am I actually sure that it is essential. Our agreed positions do imply a decadence theory though.

**Actually, Lazy Riser doesn't (He is much more influenced by Castoriadis, and has very different views to most people here on deep economic questions, and even on the nature of class conflict).

lazy Riser wrote:
At least Monsieur Dupont are big enough to admit this and rely on necessity to be the mother of invention.

You keep talking about this. Can you send me a copy, or post a link?

***For example the way that the ICC would have supported the American Civil War as Marx did as capital was still 'progressive' at that point.