Marx’s critique of socialist labor-money schemes and the myth of council communism’s Proudhonism - David Adam

Anton Pannekoek
Anton Pannekoek

In this article, David Adam takes aim at Gilles Dauvé's critique of the council communists, which has been influential in the communisation milieu.

Submitted by dave c on January 23, 2013

Some left theorists have claimed that the council communist tradition actually advocated a self-managed capitalist economy, rather than a truly communist one. This essay aims to expose and dismantle that myth by examining some writings of council communists, particularly those of the Dutch Group of International Communists and Anton Pannekoek, and comparing them with Karl Marx’s own writings on post-capitalist labor-time accounting. Through this process, I hope to show that the myth about council communism is fundamentally based on a misrepresentation of Marx’s stance on these issues. In order to understand the similarities and revolutionary perspectives of Marx’s and the council communists’ analyses, it is necessary to dispel the myths about Marx’s own views, and to emphasize his distinction between measurement of labor under capitalism by “value,” and measurement of socialist “directly social labor” by time. Accordingly, much of the essay will focus on Marx.

It is clear that self-management was a primary concern of the council communists. As Pannekoek put it in 1952, “Workers’ councils does not designate a form of organization whose lines are fixed once and for all, and which requires only the subsequent elaboration of the details. It is concerned with a principle—the principle of the workers’ self-management of enterprises and of production.” 1 Some critics contend that the theory of workers’ self-management advocated by Pannekoek and others, by ignoring the specific content of communist social relations, in fact perpetuates capitalist social relations. The contention that the council communists advocated capitalist forms is tied to the question of labor certificates, or vouchers, an idea that has a long history in the socialist movement.

Gilles Dauvé’s 1969 critique of the council communist tradition in “Leninism and the Ultra-Left” seems to be an important point of reference for a modern tendency that theorizes revolutionary transformation as “communization” and questions the traditional Marxist notion of a revolutionary transitional period. 2 Dauvé rejected the ideas of labor certificates and of labor-time accounting as part of a critique of any notion of a socialist “management of the economy.” 3 The representatives of the council communist tradition, Dauve asserted in a follow-up essay, “Notes on Trotsky, Pannekoek, and Bordiga,” “were wrong to look for a rational accounting system in labor-time.” 4

Dauvé claims that Marx himself rejected labor-time accounting and vouchers at the beginning of the Grundrisse. 5 One significant reason to be skeptical of Dauvé’s claim is the fact that Marx proposed just such a system of labor-time vouchers as part of the first phase of communism in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, written after the Grundrisse. It is true that Marx was extremely critical of the idea of “labour-money,” which he associated with the Ricardian socialists and the Proudhonists. Yet, in 1875, he offers support to the idea of tying consumption to work-hours through “certificates.” Was Marx going back on his previous position? Was he assuming the persistence of the law of value in a communist society? This essay will argue that Marx did neither of these things, and that his remarks in the Critique of the Gotha Programme—and the council communist elaboration of this theme, whatever its flaws—are consistent with his critique of “labour-money.” This demonstration will reveal Dauvé’s use of Marx’s theory to rest on a misunderstanding. While Dauvé’s critique of the council communist attitude toward political parties will be unaffected, his influential critique of “self-management” will be significantly weakened.

Marx’s Gothakritik

First we must briefly review what Marx wrote in his Critique of the Gotha Programme regarding the first phase of communism. There are three more or less distinct periods described by Marx, which are often confused. There is a period of revolutionary transformation, a first phase of communist society, and a higher phase of communist society. Within the context of discussing these societal shifts, “socialism” is never described by Marx as a distinct phase, as he did not differentiate between the concept of socialist society and communist society—the terms were interchangeable for Marx. 6 Nonetheless, Marx divides socialism or communism into two phases. Before any type of communist society comes into existence, Marx writes of a necessary “revolutionary transformation”: “Between capitalist and communist society there is a period of revolutionary transformation of one into the other. There is also correspondingly a period of political transition, in which the state can be nothing else but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” 7 Although described at an earlier point in the Critique, the two phases of communist society chronologically follow this transformation of capitalism into communism. The first phase of communist society ties individual consumption to hours worked, while the higher phase of communist society functions in accord with the principle, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” 8 Marx describes the first phase of communism as “communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, as it emerges from capitalist society.” In this first phase of communism, the worker “gets from society a receipt that he has contributed such and such an amount of labour (after a deduction of labour for common reserves) and withdraws from society’s stores of the means of consumption an equal amount costed in labour terms.” 9 While Marx discusses this form of society as still marked by its emergence from capitalism, and therefore inadequate in certain respects, it is nonetheless described as communism: a society that has dispensed with the state, value, and the institution of wage-labor.

Right from the first phase of communist society, labor must be socially distributed for the purpose of satisfying human needs. By contrast, the post festum social planning of capitalism requires that the human labor expended on the products of individual capitals be evaluated against the norm of socially necessary labor time, thus returning more or less of society’s labor-time in the form of money than was set in motion by any given capital. In a capitalist society, the “active norm” of socially necessary labor time operates through competition to discipline the capitalist producers. 10 In the first phase of communist society, remuneration is tied to labor performed, but the labor of the individual producer is recognized directly, through the process of production, as a contribution to the material wellbeing of society. The labor expended on products does not, in Marx’s words, “appear any more as the value of these products, one of the material properties that they possess, because now in contrast to capitalist society, the labour of individuals will no longer be a constituent part of the total labour in a roundabout way, but will be a part of it directly.” 11 The mystery of the value-form stems from the fact that capitalism is a “social formation in which the process of production has mastery over man, instead of the opposite.” 12 The crucial distinction for Marx between capitalist society and communist society is this: workers are no longer dominated by their alienated labor in the form of capital, since they have brought production under their collective control. This destroys the fetishistic, value-form of the product of labor. As Marx put it in Capital: “The religious reflections of the real world can, in any case, vanish only when the practical relations of everyday life between man and man, and man and nature, generally present themselves to him in a transparent and rational form. The veil is not removed from the countenance of the social life-process, i.e. the process of material production, until it becomes production by freely associated men, and stands under their conscious and planned control.” 13 As we shall see, in Dauvé’s critique of labor-time accounting, this is not the fundamental distinction between capitalist and communist forms of society. He instead characterizes a conscious measuring of average labor-times as constitutive of the capitalist value-relation.

The Famous Critique of “Councilism”

Dauvé’s seminal critique of the council communist tradition, laid out in the essay “Leninism and the Ultra-Left,” condemns the council communist theory of workers’ self-management for reproducing capitalist relations of production. In another essay entitled “Notes on Trotsky, Pannekoek, and Bordiga,” the Italian left communist Amadeo Bordiga is viewed as a sort of corrective to the Dutch-German Left’s ideology of self-management. But what exactly needs to be corrected? What is it about self-management that is capitalist? It is not democratic control of production per se, but rather the assumed existence of certain social relations within the self-managed economy envisaged by the council communists. Dauvé writes, “The theory of the management of society through workers’ councils does not take the dynamics of capitalism into account. It retains all the categories and characteristics of capitalism: wage-labour, law of value, exchange. The sort of socialism it proposes is nothing other than capitalism—democratically managed by the workers.” 14 This central claim is simply false.

But what is Dauvé even referring to? While he has a number of footnotes citing Marx’s work, he cites no council communist text that would validate his claims. Here we must review a bit of history. The Dutch council communists had, in the 1930’s, supported the idea of using the average labor time needed to produce goods as an accounting unit for a communist economy. Paul Mattick and the American council communists supported and publicized these ideas. 15 The major work on this subject, written by the Group of International Communists of Holland (GIC) and published in 1930, was called, “Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution.” 16 The GIC was meticulous in assembling Marx and Engels’ comments on the topic of communist society, and their ideas are seemingly an elaboration on Marx’s brief comments in the Critique of the Gotha Programme. In the GIC’s schema, workers would receive certificates for the hours of labor they perform, and these would be redeemable, after certain deductions for general social services, for the amount of goods, which, on average, took the same amount of time to produce. These certificates would not circulate like money, nor would they be used in relations between productive enterprises. Here is a passage from their book that describes this setup:

The sole role of labour certificates is to function as the means to enable individual consumption in all its variety to be regulated according to the measure of labour-time. A part of the total ‘yield’ of any individual unit of labour is, in the course of daily economic life, already consumed through the processes of socialised distribution, ie., reproduction, whilst only a certain proportion of that total can make its way in the form of labour certificates into the hands of individual consumers and be expended in accordance with the production times stamped upon the separate consumption articles. We have already observed that the mass of labour certificates issued becomes continually smaller as the process of socialisation of distribution proceeds, finally to reach a figure of nil. 17

This last sentence essentially refers to the passage to the higher phase of communism. 18 Despite what Dauvé writes, the GIC very clearly opposed what Marx called “wage labor,” and advocated a classless society in which the workers collectively managed production and distribution. In the GIC’s proposal, the needs of society are to be ascertained through shop organizations and consumers’ cooperatives, and there is to be no market. 19

The GIC did not wish for workers to democratically manage independent enterprises, which would exchange with each other, and were critical of Proudhon’s influence on syndicalism in this regard. In their analysis, this sort of opposition to all centralized control would paradoxically lead to what they called “State communism” (as in the Soviet Union) as an economic necessity, since the workers would not have established centralized economic control from below: “It is, of course, also possible that syndicalist tendencies may be present, with such a degree of strength that the attempt of the workers to assume their own administrative control over the industrial establishments is accompanied by attempts to retain the role of money as the medium of exchange. Were this to occur, the result could be nothing other than the establishment of a form of guild socialism, which in its turn could only lead by another road to State communism.” 20 In an article on anarchism and the Spanish revolution, the GIC writes, “The right of self-determination of the workers over the factories and enterprises on the one hand and centralization of management of production on the other, are incompatible so long as the foundations of capitalism, money and commodity production, are not abolished, and a new mode of production, based on the social average labor-time substituted instead.” 21 Furthermore, the GIC directly challenged Marxist thinkers, such as Kautsky, who they considered to advocate the persistence of capitalist economic categories:

The point must be made at the outset that Kautsky speaks quite unreservedly about the ‘prices’ of products as if these still have validity under communism. He is of course entitled to keep faith with his own terminology since, as we have seen, ‘prices’ continue to function in the Kautskyian brand of ‘communism’. In the same way as, for this ‘Marxist’, the category of value is attributed with everlasting life and just as, under his ‘communism’ money also continues to function, in the same way prices also are assured an eternal life. But what kind of communism is it in which the same economic categories continue to have validity as exist under capitalism? 22

The GIC argued that, in what they called a “system of planned use-value production,” in which “the relation of the producers to the social product is directly expressed,” the computation of the labor-time necessary to produce these use-values “has nothing to do with value.” 23 So, in what way were these enemies of the persistence of the economic categories of capitalism advocating the rule of the law of value? Dauve writes, “Pannekoek and his friends [the GIC] were quite right to go back to value and its implications. But they were wrong to look for a rational accounting system in labor-time. What they propose is in fact the rule of value (since value is nothing but the amount of social labor-time necessary to produce a good) without the intervention of money. One may add that this was attacked by Marx in 1857, at the beginning of the Grundrisse.” 24 In a book on the history of the German Communist Left, Dauvé makes a similar claim, criticizing the GIC’s book for preserving “the value relation, the general equivalent,” even while destroying its apparent forms, referring the reader to Marx’s critique of Proudhon. 25

It must be pointed out, however, that value is not simply “the amount of social labor-time necessary to produce a good.” This is merely the magnitude of value, the average amount of time it takes to produce some use-value. 26 In a communal economy, products do not take on the form of value to begin with, so on Marx’s usage, what is being described is no longer a measure of value. Dauvé must say what he does, however, so that any measurement of average labor time can be classed as “value” and therefore capitalist, without specifying how the social relations of a democratically planned economy are value-relations in Marx’s sense.

Dauvé uses “value” as a scare-word, a way of justifying the ascription of “capitalist” to council communist proposals without actually citing any compelling evidence that either 1) the Marxian law of value should be said to operate in a democratically planned economy, or that 2) the council communists advocated democratic planning only at the level of the enterprise. For example, Dauvé writes disapprovingly, “Pannekoek’s Workers’ Councils defines communism as a democratic system of book-keeping and value accounting.” 27 For Dauvé, labor-time accounting as such is constitutive of the law of value.

Pannekoek, of course, never defines communism in the manner described by Dauvé. Here are some relevant passages from Pannekoek:

Labor is a social process. Each enterprise is part of the productive body of society. The total social production is formed by their connection and collaboration. Like the cells that constitute the living organism, they cannot exist isolated and cut off from the body. So the organization of the work inside the shop is only one-half of the task of the workers. Over it, a still more important task, stands the joining of the separate enterprises, their combination into a social organization…. How will the quantities of labor spent and the quantities of product to which [the worker] is entitled be measured? In a society where the goods are produced directly for consumption there is no market to exchange them; and no value, as expression of the labor contained in them establishes itself automatically out of the processes of buying and selling. Here the labor spent must be expressed in a direct way by the number of hours. The administration keeps book [records] of the hours of labor contained in every piece or unit quantity of product, as well as of the hours spent by each of the workers. In the averages over all the workers of a factory, and finally, over all the factories of the same category, the personal differences are smoothed out and the personal results are intercompared…. As a plain and intelligible numerical image the process of production is laid open to everybody’s views. Here mankind views and controls its own life. What the workers and their councils devise and plan in organized collaboration is shown in character and results in the figures of bookkeeping. Only because they are perpetually before the eyes of every worker the direction of social production by the producers themselves is rendered possible. 28

As we will see, Pannekoek’s description of the transparency of the communist process of production is reminiscent of Marx’s description of communism in Capital. Marx decidedly does not identify the “rule of value” with bookkeeping and conscious social control over the production process, but rather with the producers’ subordination to the production process. According to Marx, “the concept ‘value’ presupposes ‘exchanges’ of the products. Where labour is communal, the relations of men in their social production do not manifest themselves as ‘values’ of ‘things’.” 29 It is nonetheless in this sort of society, as described by Pannekoek above, that Dauvé insists workers’ councils would necessarily function like capitalist enterprises. 30

Does Marx’s argument in the Grundrisse support Dauvé’s position, as he suggests? The criticism of the labor-time accounting of the GIC is made on the basis of Marx’s value theory, although there is conveniently no mention made of Marx’s comments in the Critique of the Gotha Programme. If Marx actually rejected this sort of labor-time accounting in the Grundrisse, this would seem to clash with his remarks in the Critique of the Gotha Programme. Was Marx mistakenly advocating a return to capitalism in that text, or did he not identify labor-time accounting with capitalism and the law of value?

The use of the labor-certificates described by Marx would require some form of labor-time accounting to keep track of the amount of time that it takes to produce various goods, both because this is necessary for a planned allocation of resources, and also because the labor certificates are to be denominated in units of labor-time. But why are such certificates advocated by Marx, instead of denounced as a utopian labor-money scheme? In order to better understand how Marx understood these issues, we will look at his various writings on the subject of labor-money schemes, as well as investigate how Marx employed his value theory in this context.

Marx’s Critique of Labor-Money

Marx’s critique of labor-money is predicated on the idea that it cannot do what it is intended to do. He calls it a “pseudo-economic term.” 31 That socialists would propose such an ineffective solution to the problems of capitalism suggested to Marx an inadequate understanding of the role of money in capitalist society. As early as 1844, in his notes on James Mill’s Elements of Political Economy, Marx was developing a distinct theory of money within the framework of his understanding of human alienation. Marx views money as expressive of particular social relations—relations that have escaped genuine human control. He writes that “the mediating movement of man engaged in exchange is not a social, human movement, it is no human relationship: it is the abstract relation of private property to private property, and this abstract relation is the value which acquires a real existence as value only in the form of money.” 32 It is precisely this understanding of the genesis of money that Marx uses against Proudhon, when he exclaims, “Money is not a thing, it is a social relation.” 33 This understanding of money is reaffirmed in the Grundrisse, where Marx writes that in money “individuals have alienated their own social relationship from themselves so that it takes the form of a thing.” 34

It is on this basis that Marx criticized the advocates of labor-money. Since the value-form, and thus money, springs from the social relation of private exchange, simply modifying the token used to effect this exchange cannot do away with the basic inadequacies of the capitalist mode of production. Marx explains that criticism is often directed at money and interest to the exclusion of the social basis of capitalism due to the fact that all of the irrationality of capitalism appears most forcefully in the money market. As Marx wrote in 1851,

Since it is in the money market that the entire crisis erupts and all the features of bourgeois production recur as symptoms, which, it is true, become incidental causes, nothing is simpler to understand than the fact that it is money that narrow-minded reformers who stick to the bourgeois standpoint want to reform. Because they want to retain value and private exchange, they retain the division between the product and its exchangeability. But they want to modify the token of this division in such a way that it expresses identity. 35

Marx’s most extended treatment of these reformers is in the Grundrisse, where Marx criticizes the Proudhonist Darimon and the Ricardian socialist John Gray. Those who proposed labor-money sought to eliminate harmful or unjust aspects of capitalism such as economic crises and unequal exchanges (such as the exchange between capital and labor). They imagined that a bank could identify prices with values through the use of labor-money—tokens representing a certain number of labor hours—and that this could do away with the anarchic fluctuation of supply and demand in a capitalist monetary economy. Marx accused them of utopianism: wanting to establish socialism on the basis of commodity production. The labor theory of value was seen by Proudhon, for example, as a sort of program for justice to be realized. 36 Marx’s view was quite different: “I say … that commodity-production is necessarily, at a certain point, turned into ‘capitalist’ commodity-production, and that according to the law of value governing it, ‘surplus value’ is properly due to the capitalist, and not to the labourer.” 37

A key point in Marx’s critique of the labor-money proposals is that while value expresses the social character of labor under capitalism, it can only do so through a market price that is distinct from value. The “time-chitters” erroneously believe, Marx writes, “that by annulling the nominal difference between real value and market value, between exchange value and price—that is, by expressing value in units of labour-time itself instead of in a given objectification of labour time, say gold and silver—that in so doing they also remove the real difference and contradiction between price and value.” 38 Marx holds that this proposed solution does not strike at the root of the contradiction, namely the lack of social control over production.

Darimon and other advocates of labor-money wished to overturn the privileged role of precious metals in circulation and exchange. Marx characterizes Darimon’s aim in the following manner: “Let the pope remain, but make everybody pope. Abolish money by making every commodity money and by equipping it with the specific attributes of money.” 39 Marx argues that commodities cannot directly represent their universal exchangeability in terms of labor-time, but that the labor expended individually on a commodity must be represented as socially uniform labor through the medium of some universal equivalent, or money. If labor-money was used to abolish the special role of money in the economy, the value commanded by labor-money in exchange would necessarily diverge from its nominal value in terms of labor-time, and it could not effect the social equalization of diverse labors while simultaneously representing an equivalent amount of labor-time for individual commodities. When one commodity is produced more efficiently than another of the same type, it commands the same amount of money on the market; however, if labor-money were to exchange in equal quantities for these commodities, it could not at the same time represent a specific amount of labor-time. The sort of organization of social production adequate to a society of commodity producers relies on the competitive dynamic of price movements.

Also relevant in this connection is Marx’s discussion of the Simple Form of value in Capital, Volume I, where he analyzes the relative and equivalent forms, whereby one commodity (in the relative form) expresses its value through the body of another commodity (in the equivalent form). Marx writes that these forms “exclude each other as polar opposites.” 40 This is significant insofar as the private labor expended on a commodity cannot directly represent social labor independently of the exchange relationship, and here only the commodity in the equivalent form, which expresses the value of the other commodity, represents social labor in its material form. The social relations of value production thus necessarily manifest themselves in the relation between two things, as the attribute of a thing, as an intrinsic property. Money is described as a general equivalent, a commodity through which all other commodities express their value.

In Capital, Marx links his analysis of the form of value to his critique of Proudhon and the Ricardian socialists, once again using his pope metaphor: “It is by no means self-evident that the form of direct and universal exchangeability is an antagonistic form, as inseparable from its opposite, the form of non-direct exchangeability, as the positivity of one pole of a magnet is from the negativity of the other pole. This has allowed the illusion to arise that all commodities can simultaneously be imprinted with the stamp of direct exchangeability, in the same way that it might be imagined that all Catholics can be popes.” 41 Not only do the Catholics rely on their pope, but also the pope would not have his position if there were no Catholics. In the same way, the products of mutually indifferent producers cannot be socially distributed without money, and money would not exist if goods were not produced as commodities.

The dual character of the commodity, discussed at the start of Capital, is foundational for Marx’s treatment of money. The commodity is both a use-value and a value because it is produced for exchange, rather than simply as an object of consumption for the producers. For the owner, the commodity represents a claim on a portion of the social product. Its social form as a value is evident in the way we act and the way we speak of commodities and their worth in a developed capitalist society. Only with the expansion of the market and the various branches of industry can the vast majority of goods be produced as commodities. This development of industry and the division of labor develops the social character of the commodity, the necessity for its evaluation against all of the other goods on the market. According to Marx, the commodity as use-value enters into contradiction with its character as an exchangeable value, in which capacity it is related to the whole world of commodities in various proportions. As a use-value, the commodity is not divisible at will into the various proportions in which it might be exchangeable with the diverse commodities necessary for consumption and the maintenance of industry. The necessity of money is the necessity for an independent representation of value as such. Every commodity can thus be expressed as a component part of the total social product without production being determined by the needs of the consumers.

The claim on a portion of the social product represented by the commodity may or may not be realized on the market. Even if nothing but socially necessary labor time is expended on a commodity, it can still turn out that superfluous labor was expended if demand for a particular commodity is insufficient. The seller of the commodity supplies a use-value and demands its exchange-value, but the demand for the commodity is not determined by the value the seller wishes to realize in exchange. The buyer may not desire the quantity of use-value supplied at the offered price. Insofar as supply and demand determine price fluctuations, prices for individual commodities—the monetary value the capitalist hopes to realize in exchange—will naturally diverge from commodity values, determined by socially necessary labor time.

In the section of the Grundrisse dealing with John Gray, Marx develops the contradictions inherent in his ideas about labor-money. Starting out from the assumption of commodity production, and assuming that a central bank issues labor-money, Marx argues that the only way the vicissitudes of the market could be eliminated is if the bank became the “general buyer and seller, but also the general producer.” If private producers actually receive labor-money in proportion to the labor time spent producing their goods, the regulative role of supply and demand would be annulled, leading to economic collapse; whereas, if the bank itself makes determinations of value, it comes to act as the real organizer of production. In other words, the bank would have to impose a despotic plan on an unplanned economy. Gray’s goals can only be achieved in opposition to his premises. Marx also considers the social function of this despotic bank from the point of view of the common ownership of the means of production: “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.” 42 Naturally, Marx favors the latter alternative.

Marx claims that Gray assumes an economic foundation of private production instead of common, society-wide control, but wishes to do away with the economic consequences of private production. The labor-money system of equal exchange on the basis of commodity production, carried to its logical conclusion of doing away with the evils of the monetary system, necessitates leaving commodity production behind, just as commodity production necessitates the divergence of price from value and other things Gray dislikes. Marx’s discussion of Gray’s system in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy sheds light on the passages from the Grundrisse. Marx writes, “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.” 43

It is this desire to try to solve the problems of capitalism by reforming the money system that Marx singles out as the essence of the labor-money schemes. In the Grundrisse, when Marx is criticizing Darimon, he summarizes the issue in this way: “The general question would be this: Can the existing relations of production and the relations of distribution which correspond to them be revolutionized by a change in the instrument of circulation, in the organization of circulation?” 44 The proponents of the labor-money schemes focused attention on the medium of exchange without understanding the underlying relations of production. As 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.” 45 Marx believed that the evils of bourgeois society which the advocates of labor-money aimed to cure, such as the rising and falling of prices, are “not to be remedied by ‘transforming’ the banks or by founding a rational ‘money system.’” 46 For Marx, it is utopian to “wish to retain commodities but not money, production based on private exchange without the essential conditions for this type of production . . ..” 47

Marx expressed these ideas in his critique of Gray in the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

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 labor, 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—goods are to be produced as commodities but not exchanged as commodities . . .. But it was left to M. Proudhon and his school to declare seriously that the degradation of money and the exaltation of commodities was the essence of socialism and thereby to reduce socialism to an elementary misunderstanding of the inevitable correlation existing between commodities and money. 48

Money is simply a development of the relation between commodity and commodity, hence the “inevitable correlation existing between commodities and money.” Marx believed that Ricardo and classical political economy inadequately understood this connection.

Marx’s discussion of the value-form in Capital, Volume I, referred to above, is a detailed analysis of the connection between commodity and money, an analysis “never even attempted by bourgeois economics.” 49 His thesis is that “the money-form of the commodity is only the further developed shape of the simple value-form, i.e. of the expression of value of a commodity in any other commodity . . ..” 50 That these products of labor are commodities in the first place rests on the premise that they are “products of separate private labours carried on independently of one another.” 51 The social control and accounting undertaken by the associated producers in a communist society abolishes the value-relation, and for this reason abolishes money. Only by ignoring the specificity of Marx’s critique of the labour-money schemes and assuming that it is aimed at any system involving labor-time accounting can Dauvé maintain that it is directly applicable to the ideas of the council communists. As we will see, Marx’s scattered remarks on communist society strongly support this assessment.

Marx on Communism

As we have seen, for Marx, money is not simply a unit of measure, but presupposes private commodity owners confronting each other on the market. Its social function is the mediation of the private labors of commodity producers. Given the premise of directly social labor—and this is the basis for Marx’s first phase of communism—this social function of money is no longer necessary. The labor certificates have a different function, that of facilitating a conscious allocation of goods. Marx makes this distinction in a pertinent digression (in a footnote) on the socialist Robert Owen in Volume I of Capital:

. . . Owen’s ‘labour money,’ for instance, is no more ‘money’ than a theatre ticket is. Owen presupposes directly socialized labour, a form of production diametrically opposed to 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 claim to a certain portion of the common product which has been set aside for consumption. But Owen never made the mistake of presupposing the production of commodities, while, at the same time, by juggling with money, trying to circumvent the necessary conditions of that form of production. 52

We have already seen what Marx had in mind when he refers to “juggling with money.”

In the above passage we see that Marx makes a clear distinction between the idea of a labor certificate functioning within the context of “directly socialized labor,” and the labor-money of his theoretical adversaries. It is on the basis of this distinction that we can confidently say that Marx was not advocating the rule of value in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, nor was he departing from his critique of utopian socialism. Further support for this position is provided by Marx’s discussion in Capital of a self-sufficient, isolated producer: Robinson Crusoe. Marx writes that Robinson Crusoe, “soon begins, like a good Englishman, to keep a set of books. His stock-book contains a catalogue of the various objects he possesses, of the various operations necessary for their production, and finally, of the labour-time that specific quantities of these products have on average cost him. All the relations between Robinson and these objects that form his self-created wealth are here so simple and transparent that even Mr Sedley Taylor could understand them.” 53 Significant here is the notion of a simplicity and transparency lacking in capitalist relations, where the law of value functions behind the backs of the producers. As Marx put it in Capital, Volume III, the law of value operates as “a blind natural force vis-à-vis the individual agents [of capital].” 54 This is precisely why the law of value would not be operative in the “system of planned use-value production” advocated by the council communists.

What Marx then goes on to do in Capital, Volume I, is imagine production in a communist society as a sort of contrast to capitalism, utilizing the example of Robinson Crusoe. This discussion in particular parallels Marx’s remarks about the first phase of communism in The Critique of the Gotha Programme. Marx writes,

Let us finally imagine, for a change, an association of free men, working with the means of production held in common, and expending their many different forms of labour-power in full self-awareness as one single social labour force. All the characteristics of Robinson’s are repeated here, but with the difference that they are social instead of individual. All Robinson’s products were exclusively the result of his own personal labour and they were therefore directly objects of utility for him personally. The total product of our imagined association is a social product. One part of this product serves as fresh means of production and remains social. But another part is consumed by the members of the association as means of subsistence. This part must therefore be divided amongst them. The way this division is made will vary with the particular kind of social organization of production and the corresponding level of social development attained by the producers. We shall assume, but only 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 correct proportion between the different functions of labour and the various needs of the associations. On the other hand, labour-time also serves as a measure of the part taken by each individual in the common labour, and of his share in the part of the total product destined for individual consumption. The social relations of the individual producers, both towards their labour and the products of their labour, are here transparent in their simplicity, in production as well as in distribution. 55

Here Marx draws a parallel between the transparency of Robinson’s relations with his products and the transparency of the social relations of communism. Marx in no way identifies the idea of labor certificates and labor-time accounting being used in a communist society with the law of value. 56

Far from identifying labor-time accounting with the law of value, Marx argued in the Grundrisse that such “economy of time” increases in importance with the passage to communal production:

On the basis of communal production, the determination of time remains, of course, essential. The less time the society requires to produce wheat, cattle etc., the more time it wins for other production, material or mental. Just as in the case of an individual, the multiplicity of its development, its enjoyment and its activity depends on economization of time. Economy of time, to this all economy ultimately reduces itself. Society likewise has to distribute its time in a purposeful way, in order to achieve a production adequate to its overall needs; just as the individual has to distribute his time correctly in order to achieve knowledge in proper proportions or in order to satisfy the various demands on his activity. Thus, economy of time, along with the planned distribution of labour time among the various branches of production, remains the first economic law on the basis of communal production. It becomes law, there, to an even higher degree. However, this is essentially different from a measurement of exchange values (labour or products) by labour time. 57

Marx did not see this “economy of time” as identical with the law of value, because the law of value most definitely does not represent any conscious measuring. This is the fundamental error in Dauvé’s characterization of the GIC as advocating the rule of value.

Conclusion

We have seen why Marx critiqued the labor-money schemes from his own writings, as well as the importance that he placed on labor-time accounting in a communist society. The critique of the communist “management of the economy” is bankrupt, insofar as it relies on Marx’s theory (and Dauvé offers no practical argumentation other than this). This critique pushes people away from seriously considering the question of the economic viability of a socialist society by encouraging glib dismissals of “self-management” as embodying some sort of capitalist program. Furthermore, opposition to self-management obscures the fact that a new relation of the worker to work is in fact essential to socialism. If the critique of self-management was based on any evidence that the council communists advocated independent enterprises that exchanged with each other on the market, there would be some substance to it. As it is, Dauvé’s use of the words “wage labour,” “law of value,” and “capitalism,” is nothing more than an unfortunate rhetorical flourish.

Taken from: http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/alternatives-to-capital/marx%E2%80%99s-critique-of-socialist-labor-money-schemes-and-the-myth-of-council-communism%E2%80%99s-proudhonism.html

  • 1 Serge Bricianer, Pannekoek and the Workers’ Councils (St. Louis: Telos Press, 1978) p. 289.
  • 2 See “Bring Out Your Dead,” Endnotes 1. [Available online: http://endnotes.org.uk/articles/8]
  • 3 Jean Barrot and Francois Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement (Detroit: Black & Red, 1974) p. 105.
  • 4 Ibid., p. 123.
  • 5 Ibid., pp. 123-124
  • 6 Paresh Chattopadhyay, “The Economic Content of Socialism: Marx vs. Lenin,” in Review of Radical Political Economics, vol. 24, nos. 3&4, p. 91.
  • 7 Karl Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme,” in Later Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010) p. 222.
  • 8 Ibid., p. 215.
  • 9 Ibid., p. 213.
  • 10 Ted McGlone and Andrew Kliman, “The Duality of Labour,” in The New Value Controversy and the Foundations of Economics (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2004) p. 145.
  • 11 Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme,” p. 213. In the Grundrisse, Marx writes that under communal production there “would not be an exchange of exchange values but [rather an exchange] of activities,” and that “the exchange of products would in no way be the medium by which the participation of the individual in general production is mediated.” Karl Marx, Grundrisse (London: Penguin, 1993) p. 171. I will leave Engels out of the following discussion, but it is worth taking note of Engels’ description of directly social labor in the context of labor-time accounting: “From the moment when society enters into possession of the means of production and uses them in direct association for production, the labour of each individual, however varied its specifically useful character may be, is immediately and directly social labour. The quantity of social labour contained in a product has then no need to be established in a roundabout way; daily experience shows in a direct way how much of it is required on the average. Society can simply calculate how many hours of labour are contained in a steam-engine, a bushel of wheat of the last harvest, or a hundred square yards of cloth of a certain quality. It could therefore never occur to it still to express the quantity of labour put into the products, which it will then know directly and in its absolute amount in a third product, and moreover in a measure which is only relative, fluctuating, inadequate, though formerly unavoidable for lack of a better, and not in its natural, adequate and absolute measure, time…. People will be able to manage everything very simply, without the intervention of the famous ‘value.’” Frederick Engels, Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science (New York: International Publishers, 1939) p. 345-6.
  • 12 Karl Marx, Capital: Volume I (London: Penguin, 1990) p. 175.
  • 13 Ibid., p. 173.
  • 14 Barrot and Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, p. 104.
  • 15 See “What is Communism,” International Council Correspondence 1, no. 1 (1934), and “Communist Production and Distribution,” Living Marxism 4, no. 4 (1938).
  • 16 http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/index.htm. “Although not formally published until 1930, the Grundprinzipien evolved out of a document Jan Appel had written while imprisoned in Germany during 1923-1925. Through a systematic study of Marx’s writings, Appel sought to investigate the main problems in creating a new socialist society. Appel’s principal concern was with providing a theoretical framework for resolving what he felt were the two key questions arising out of the experiences of the Russian and German revolutions: 1) What economic conditions are necessary for the abolition of exploitation? 2) What are the political and economic conditions that will allow the proletariat to maintain power once it has been won? Following Appel’s arrival in Holland, the manuscript was revised by Canne Meijer and presented to the group for several years of discussion and revision.” John Gerber, Anton Pannekoek and the Socialism of Workers’ Self-Emancipation, 1873-1960 (Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989) p. 166.
  • 17 http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/09.htm. The GIC writes of the calculation of labor-time: “Marx assumes this system of social book-keeping to be in general applicable to a production process in which labour is social; that is to say, it is equally applicable whether communism is still at an early stage of its development, or whether the principle ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’ (the higher stage of communism) has already been achieved. In other words: the organisation of economic life may in the course of the various periods of development move through various stages, but the stable basis for all of them nevertheless remains the unit of average social labour-time.” http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/01.htm#h4
  • 18 One rather strange critique of the GIC is provided by Philippe Bourrinet, who reproaches them for believing that “it would be immediately possible, as soon as the workers’ councils had taken power in a given country, to proceed to an evolved form of communism.” Phillipe Bourrinet, The Dutch and German Communist Left (London: Porcupine Press, 2001) p. 252.
  • 19 The GIC writes that “Communist industrial life,” as they envision it, “knows nothing of the circulation of money and has no market.” http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/13.htm
  • 20 http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/epilogue.htm#h3
  • 21 “Anarchism and the Spanish Revolution,” International Council Correspondence 3, no. 5&6 (1937), 22.
  • 22 http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/04.htm#h3
  • 23 http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/01.htm#h4
  • 24 Barrot and Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, pp. 123-124.
  • 25 Denis Authier and Jean Barrot, La Gauche Communiste en Allemagne, 1918-1921 (Paris: Payot, 1976) p. 227. [See English translation online: http://www.marxists.org/subject/germany-1918-23/dauve-authier/appendix1.htm#h7]
  • 26 “That the quantity of labour embodied in a commodity is the quantity socially necessary for its production—the labour-time being thus necessary labour-time—is a definition which concerns only the magnitude of value. But the labour which constitutes the substance of value is not only uniform, simple, average labour; it is the labour of a private individual represented in a definite product.” Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Book III (Amherst: Prometheus, 2000) p. 135.
  • 27 Barrot and Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, p. 116.
  • 28 Anton Pannekoek, Workers’ Councils (Oakland: AK Press, 2003) pp. 23-27. [Available online: http://www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1947/workers-councils.htm#h7]
  • 29 Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Book III, p. 129.
  • 30 Barrot and Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, p. 104.
  • 31 Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (New York: International Publishers, 1970), p. 86.
  • 32 Karl Marx, Early Writings (New York: Vintage, 1975), p. 261.
  • 33 Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy (New York: International Publishers, 1992) p. 59.
  • 34 Marx, Grundrisse, p. 160.
  • 35 Karl Marx, “Reflections,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 10 (New York: International Publishers, 1978) p. 588.
  • 36 “How many nails is a pair of shoes worth? If we can solve this appalling problem, we shall have the key to [the] social system which humanity has sought for six thousand years.” Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property? (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007) p. 106.
  • 37 Karl Marx, “‘Notes’ on Adolph Wagner,” in Later Political Writings, p. 255.
  • 38 Marx, Grundrisse, p. 138.
  • 39 Ibid., p. 126.
  • 40 Marx, Capital: Volume I, p. 140.
  • 41 Ibid., p. 161.
  • 42 Marx, Grundrisse, p. 155-6.
  • 43 Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, p. 85.
  • 44 Marx, Grundrisse, p. 122.
  • 45 Quoted in Alfredo Saad-Filho, “Labor, Money, and ‘Labour-Money’: A Review of Marx's Critique of John Gray's Monetary Analysis,” in History of Political Economy, vol. 25, no. 1, p. 67.
  • 46 Marx, Grundrisse, p. 134.
  • 47 Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, p. 70.
  • 48 Ibid., pp. 85-6.
  • 49 Marx, Capital: Volume I, p. 139.
  • 50 Karl Marx, “The Value-Form,” in Capital & Class, no. 4, p. 141.
  • 51 Ibid., 140.
  • 52 Marx, Capital: Volume I, p. 188-9.
  • 53 Ibid., p. 170.
  • 54 Marx, Capital: Volume III (London: Penguin, 1991) p. 1020.
  • 55 Marx, Capital: Volume I, p. 171-2.
  • 56 In Volume II of Capital, Marx again supports the compatibility of communist production and the use of labor certificates, writing, “With collective production, money capital is completely dispensed with. The society distributes labour-power and means of production between the various branches of industry. There is no reason why the producers should not receive paper tokens permitting them to withdraw an amount corresponding to their labour time from the social consumption stocks. But these tokens are not money; they do not circulate.” Karl Marx, Capital: Volume II (London: Penguin, 1992) p. 434.
  • 57 Marx, Grundrisse, pp. 172-3.

Comments

Ogion

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ogion on January 23, 2013

This article of yours is excellent, dave c -- I've always thought what was written by Dauvé and others on this topic was inadequate and this definitely fills the gap. Thanks for posting it!

Steven.

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on January 23, 2013

Looks really interesting. Just to let you know that footnotes with formatted text in only display properly if you choose the "full HTML" input type which I have now set it to. Thanks for posting

jura

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 23, 2013

Dave, if I wanted to tease you, I'd say this is value-form analysis at its best :). Seriously though, great article. I'd love to translate it (along with your previous piece on the State) when I have time.

On value, what made it go "click" inside my head a few years ago was the realization that in the fetish-section, Marx is contrasting various modes of production where on the one hand both the substance and the measure of value are present (labor/social labor, labor time), but on the other hand the division of labor based on private producers is absent, and hence labor time does not take the form of value and products do not take the form of commodities. Thus, no fetishism, because it is the form of value that is the foundation of the fetish:

Marx

The mystical character of commodities does not originate, therefore, in their use value. Just as little does it proceed from the nature of the determining factors of value. For, in the first place, however varied the useful kinds of labour, or productive activities, may be, it is a physiological fact, that they are functions of the human organism, and that each such function, whatever may be its nature or form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles, &c. Secondly, with regard to that which forms the ground-work for the quantitative determination of value, namely, the duration of that expenditure, or the quantity of labour, it is quite clear that there is a palpable difference between its quantity and quality. In all states of society, the labour time that it costs to produce the means of subsistence, must necessarily be an object of interest to mankind, though not of equal interest in different stages of development. And lastly, from the moment that men in any way work for one another, their labour assumes a social form.

Whence, then, arises the enigmatical character of the product of labour, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities? Clearly from this form itself.

I think the second passage in bold is crucial. All economy, including a communist economy, is economy of time. Labor time playing some part in the economy is a necessity. Whether it appears in the specific form of a property of things is contingent upon the division of labor.

Maybe Dauvé's misguided criticism is some sort of an "anti-positivist" prejudice towards measurement in general ("You can't quantify human creative activity" because a unicorn dies whenever you do that etc.).

ocelot

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on January 23, 2013

A valiant effort, albeit fundamentally wrong.

What is correct, however, is that the Gothakritik and the "lower stage" remains the crucial battle line between not just the paleo- (GIK) and neo- (Dauvé, "Communization-ists") ultras, but more generally between the orthodox Marxist tradition (whether Kautskyist, Leninist, or ultraleft) and the heterodox, communist Marxists - of which the libertarian communists were of course the first.

I'm not going to attempt a fully worked-out response to the above as a forum post - it requires more work and an piece of similar length (plus references, etc). But I can give a sketch of the outline.

Basically there are two critiques, an exterior and an interior one. They are actually linked, but that can only be demonstrated after dealing with each in turn in a full treatment.

The exterior one is the ecological one I have outlined elsewhere in other threads - i.e. that any attempt to manage the economy based purely on an economy of labour-time is guaranteed to continue the same destruction as capitalism of the non-renewable resources it takes no account of, and the environment in general. Again the full demonstration would take more space, but for those people who have already seen me outline it more fully elsewhere it should be relatively straight-forward.

The interior critique then boils down to: is there a contradiction between the analysis of the value form as laid out in Capital, and Marx's (brief) argumentation why labour certificates are not labour money, wages or containing all the contradictions of the law of value? If not, then there's little point trying to continue development of the analysis of the value form along the lines of Ch 1, if we accept that the external critique is a deal-breaker. So the internal critique goes to the heart of the validity of Marxist value theory.

Personally I hold that there is a reading* of the value form critique that allows us to deconstruct the "lower phase" and lay bare its contradictions, and that these are in fact essentially the same contradictions, as the development of the USSR, etc, has demonstrated historically.

The internal critique then is do-able in my opinion, but it relies on certain presuppositions - the first and most obvious being that Marx was human rather than a prophet with access to an unchanging infallible revelation, i.e. that the totality of his writings, taken from 1844 to his death, necessarily contain developments, changes and inconsistencies. In other words, from any sufficiently consistent reading, inconsistencies that contradict that reading must occasionally be accepted as "mistakes". A heretical position for the "true believers", no doubt, but then the delirious self-contradiction of the "true believer's" implicit assumption of Marxian infallibility is simply absurd.

Back to the sketch of the internal critique. First of all, the particular line that Pannekoek quote and the author takes, strikes me as peculiarly Feuerbachian - i.e. that the law of value is a result of alienation and fetishisation that hides the "true nature" of the system, and that it is this "veiled nature" of the law of value that is its primary fault. Such that once socially necessary labour time is calculated out in the open, the veil of mystification will be penetrated and we will all be freed by that very transparency. Frankly I find this idealistic and just somewhat odd as a reading of Marx's critique of the value form (real abstraction, anyone?).

But the main problem with the Gothakritik formula is its over-simplistic and crude separation between form and content. Marx admits that the relation of distribution of the "lower phase" is the same form as that of bourgeois society, but counters this with an assertion that the content is entirely changed, because, due to collective ownership of the m.o.p. and planning, production is, by those facts alone, already directly social. This is wrong. In fact distribution according to deed not need, by means of labour scrip, is in contradiction both to social planning and to directly social labour. What matters here is the contradiction between social production and private appropriation, When the producer receives her labour scrip and goes to claim the SNLT equivalent (clue's in the word folks) of commensurated goods, so long as she is free to choose which goods she wants, then the completion of the production and consumption cycle remains post-festum and unplanned. It is not for nothing that those two libertarian communist students of Marx, Cafiero and Covelli, went on to declare, in the 1876 Florence declaration that "the common ownership of the results of production is the necessary complement to that of the means of production"**. You can no more be half "directly social" than you can be half pregnant - the separation of production and consumption here has led to the error that the distinction between "private labour" and "directly social labour" can be made in the sphere of production considered separately from the sphere of circulation and consumption.

... and there's lots more... but I said I wouldn't get drawn into starting to write the whole article-length response here, so I'll draw a line under this here, in the hopes that the outline of the critique are at least visible.

----
* Since the death of the author (in the historical, rather than pomo sense) prevents us finding out what "Marx really meant", I take it as an axiom that the only interest in Marx's work is the use we can make it via particular readings.

** wording from memory

jura

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 23, 2013

I disagree with both of your points (more precisely, I think the first one is unrelated to the article, which is a refutation of Dauvé, not a blueprint), but I'd first like to read dave c's take on them, if he even reads this and decides to respond.

So just this:

ocelot

then the completion of the production and consumption cycle remains post-festum and unplanned

What makes you think that? That would be the case if the workplaces just produced things randomly and then adjusted to consumption, but neither dave c nor, to my knowledge, the council communists advocated that.

BTW, if you want a perfect 1:1 ratio between production and consumption (i.e., no adjustments ex post), I think mass terror is about the only way to achieve that.

shawnpwilbur

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by shawnpwilbur on January 24, 2013

What exactly do you mean by "proudhonism" in the title. I can't find any evidence that Proudhon was an enthusiast for "labor notes," nor are they key to any of the major mutualist theorists I've encountered, unless you include Josiah Warren in the category. Darimon seems to have struck out on his own by the time he is making "time is money" a key economic principle. That sort of thing doesn't seem to appear in either of Proudhon's bank proposals.

Ogion

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ogion on January 24, 2013

ocelot

First of all, the particular line that Pannekoek quote and the author takes, strikes me as peculiarly Feuerbachian - i.e. that the law of value is a result of alienation and fetishisation that hides the "true nature" of the system, and that it is this "veiled nature" of the law of value that is its primary fault. Such that once socially necessary labour time is calculated out in the open, the veil of mystification will be penetrated and we will all be freed by that very transparency. Frankly I find this idealistic and just somewhat odd as a reading of Marx's critique of the value form (real abstraction, anyone?).

So I think you're referring to this:

Pannekoek

Only because they are perpetually before the eyes of every worker the direction of social production by the producers themselves is rendered possible.

I can see how you arrived at that interpretation, but I don’t think it’s correct. Here’s sort of how I read it: the abolition of the capitalist mode of production presupposes that the fetishism (to which the everyday, spontaneous consciousness of worker and capitalist alike succumbs) that attaches itself to the products of labor as commodities would be abolished. The fetish reproduces ideally or in consciousness capitalist social relations which are produced by the agency of people, but once these relations are no longer being reproduced by people, then the fetish, too, is no longer reproduced. If the forms of appearance which conceal the actual relations and which are essential to capitalist commodity production exist, then you cannot have direct, social, consciously controlled production. In a communist society, then, the fetish would not be reproduced, as different social relations would be organized that would lead to different ideas of those relations (ones that no longer succumb to fetishism).

So, I think Pannekoek is simply pointing out that the ideal reproduction in a communist society would possess a very strong material force itself (like in a capitalist society or all societies) and that without “transparency" (i.e. if the fetish and therefore capitalism is still being reproduced), people would not be able to regulate and organize their own social reproduction. It’s not that the “law of value is the result of” fetishism or that the transparency results in its abolition, which is something I think Pannekoek and dave c would strongly disagree with as well.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on January 24, 2013

jura

I disagree with both of your points (more precisely, I think the first one is unrelated to the article, which is a refutation of Dauvé, not a blueprint),

It's not just a refutation of Dauvé, it's a defence of the GIK's "Fundamental Principles..." specifically and the advocacy of (*deep breath*) the lower-stage transitional period based on distribution mediated by labour contributed assessed by SNLT equivalence (*phew*), in general. And not just at the theoretical level of whether the latter project contains within it the dynamics of the 'law of value', but whether it is a practical project for a post-capitalist society, Hence the external critique (that is, external to value form analysis) is relevant. If the GIK's project for a post-capitalist society is not going to solve one of the fundamental contradictions of capital (environmental destruction - understood as a product of the alienated relation between labour and the means of production, in the broadest sense), then that is a relevant critique to the author's attempt to defend it as a viable project/strategy for a post-capitalist society.

jura

So just this:

ocelot

then the completion of the production and consumption cycle remains post-festum and unplanned

What makes you think that? That would be the case if the workplaces just produced things randomly and then adjusted to consumption, but neither dave c nor, to my knowledge, the council communists advocated that.

They may not have explicitly advocated it, but the fact they are carrying over an existing part of the relations of production (and Marx explicitly stated that the relations of distribution are part of the relations of production, n.b.) means they are assuming that it can be separated from its existing functional implications - in my opinion this assumption is wrong. So no matter how much they assert that their labour certs system is a “system of planned use-value production”, it doesn't make it necessarily so.

To say that the remuneration in proportion to labour supplied (aka "the wage" in simple terms, albeit I accept that this term is specifically rejected by "lower-stagers") does not have the post-festum allocative function that it has in generalised commodity production, is to beg the question of what it's there for in the first place.

The problem, immanent to the Gothakritik itself, is that the motivation for the labour certs system is in contradiction with its justification. Its justification is that it has no allocative function, because the economy as a whole is socially planned. Yet its motivation is the incentivisation of production by unequal shares of private consumption. Given that, the number of labour certs our hypothetical worker ends up with at the end of the period, regardless of the plan at the outset, is often contingently higher or lower than forseen at the planning stage (possibly lower due to unplanned interruptions to work due to illness, family crises, externally-caused stoppages, or higher due to overtime worked to make up for undersupply in other quarters, etc). Given that, she then has to rearrange her demand schedule (i.e. what actual goods she takes from the general store) accordingly. That's the marginal case. But even the general case - i.e. when actual labour certs matches anticipated ones, the question turns on whether she is free to "spend" her wages as she chooses at the moment of purchase, or has to hand them over for the basket of goods that was determined at the planning stage. In the latter case, why bother with the charade of the certs in the first place, what function do they then have?*

Other than the "moral" category of incentivising the provision of labour by the consuming individual (which in fact transforms her labour power into a commodity, to be used in the competition with other workers for the greatest share of the social product, or as the article states: "For the owner, the commodity [i.e. labour power] represents a claim on a portion of the social product."), the most commonly cited motive for labour certs, is the efficient continued development of the forces of production. In summary this implies the continued existence of the law of value whose principle effect (amongst others) is the expulsion of labour from the process of production, or the drive to increase labour productivity (or the TCC...).

jura

BTW, if you want a perfect 1:1 ratio between production and consumption (i.e., no adjustments ex post), I think mass terror is about the only way to achieve that.

Ah yes, the old "all you libertarian communists are secretly wannbe dicators/Pol Pot" gambit. Not exactly original... :roll:

I'm not arguing for an entirely pre-planned economy (I leave that to the pareconnies, and possibly Cockshott?), I'm arguing for egalitarian distribution not linked to labour-time supplied. Given egalitarian distribution, it is perfectly easy to allocate production resources to needs anticipated by statistical means, rather than individual foresight demand (no-one plans to break their leg in the next week, nonetheless we can statistically estimate how many people are going to need crutches next week, based on past figures). Distribution on a first come, first-served, round-robin, or other egalitari method. The problem of anticipation and interative feeback responses to post-hoc consumption choices is not insoluable. But then I'm not arguing for planning as a magical device that transforms the totality of economic relations...

edit: * and this by the way, is the reason Marx's footnote on Owen's "theatre tickets" is a false analogy. (Quite apart from the fact that historically Owen's National Equitable Labour Exchange was an implementation of the very labour money schemes of Warren and Gray Marx criticises in the Grundrisse, as quoted in the article.)

Spikymike

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on January 24, 2013

David Adam's text makes a sound argument that:

1. Marx's proposal for labour-time accounting and certificates was in no way any advocacy of extending the value form into the lower phase of communism
2. That the fuller proposals put forward by the GIC, Pannekoek and other Council Communists were consistent with Marx's similar proposals.
3. That Marx's and the Council communists proposals were in opposition to those of Proudhonist's and various other anarchist mutualists
4. That the various 'money reformers' of today (as in much of the USA/UK 'Occupy' movement) as of yesterday are seriously misplaced.

But...

None of that necessarily demonstrates either the practicallity or adequacy of such proposals as a transition to full communism either in the past and more especially today.
Some of what might be seen as their inadequacy as alluded to by ocelot have been the subject of alternative theoretical schemes put forward by such as the Pareconists and the advocates of 'Inclusive Democracy' but both are put forward in opposition to the communist project which should make us wonder a bit about their usefulness.
Such theoretical models seem also to neglect the way in which capitalist mode of production and social relations become embedded in the actual material, and indeed physical world' we inhabit such that a system of essentially economic regulation based on labout-time and self-management of the 'economy' would be inadequate to the task of dismantelling.
Beyond all that there is a more fundamental question about the nature of such a 'stages theory' of revolutionary change in which various 'communisation' theorists such as Dauve are perhaps on sounder ground?

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 24, 2013

Ocelot, I think you are reading way too much into the text. If it is a defense of anything, then a defense against Dauvé's arguments concerning the "law of value" and such, which I think are pretty persuasively shown to be incorrect. This does not preclude other possible criticisms of the GIK. In any case, in my view a more interesting analysis of council communism than the one put forward by Dauvé is Baldi's Theses on the Mass Worker and Social Capital.

ocelot

In summary this implies the continued existence of the law of value whose principle effect (amongst others) is the expulsion of labour from the process of production, or the drive to increase labour productivity (or the TCC...).

:hand: You are making a pretty big leap here from the consequent to the antecedent. You could just as well say, "This implies the continued existence of the law of value, whose principle effect (amongst others) is that people produce use-values." By the way, how are we going to reduce necessary labor without the "expulsion of labor from the process of production"?

ocelot

I'm not arguing for an entirely pre-planned economy (I leave that to the pareconnies, and possibly Cockshott?), I'm arguing for egalitarian distribution not linked to labour-time supplied.

I.e., the whole "post festum" argument was a straw man because your statistics-based planning will necessarily entail adjustments based on actual consumption. Hence, "post festum" is in no way evidence of the operation of the law of value.

Anyway, there's obviously a deeper disagreement here. I think the obligation to work for those who are able to work will be necessary to some point, and although certificates may not be the best way to handle it, it will be necessary to handle it somehow. I suspect you would disagree with necessity itself.

MT

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on January 24, 2013

shawnpwilbur

What exactly do you mean by "proudhonism" in the title. I can't find any evidence that Proudhon was an enthusiast for "labor notes," nor are they key to any of the major mutualist theorists I've encountered, unless you include Josiah Warren in the category. Darimon seems to have struck out on his own by the time he is making "time is money" a key economic principle. That sort of thing doesn't seem to appear in either of Proudhon's bank proposals.

i have no direct link, but i read this as a rejection of collectivism including proudhon's and bakunin's economic ideas (at least as far as the labor notes are concerned)
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/kropotkin-peter/1920/wage.htm

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on January 24, 2013

jura

Ocelot, I think you are reading way too much into the text. If it is a defense of anything, then a defense against Dauvé's arguments concerning the "law of value" and such, which I think are pretty persuasively shown to be incorrect.

No time to reply to the rest of your post right now, but on this point, the opening of the piece states:

Some left theorists have claimed that the council communist tradition actually advocated a self-managed capitalist economy, rather than a truly communist one. This essay aims to expose and dismantle that myth

Which I read as a defence of the "lower stage" as a "truly communist" economy.

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 24, 2013

...against the arguments of "some left theorists" based on the idea that the council-communists viewed the lower stage as regulated by value etc.

shawnpwilbur

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by shawnpwilbur on January 24, 2013

MT

i have no direct link, but i read this as a rejection of collectivism including proudhon's and bakunin's economic ideas (at least as far as the labor notes are concerned)
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/kropotkin-peter/1920/wage.htm

Thanks. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be any more evidence in Proudhon's writings for Kropotkin's critique than for Marx's, where "labor notes" are concerned.

Darimon was one of those figures that the more orthodox "proudhonists" considered something of a renegade. It's still unclear to me what the "proudhonism" attributed to the council communists was supposed to consist of.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on January 25, 2013

jura

ocelot

In summary this implies the continued existence of the law of value whose principle effect (amongst others) is the expulsion of labour from the process of production, or the drive to increase labour productivity (or the TCC...).

:hand: You are making a pretty big leap here from the consequent to the antecedent. You could just as well say, "This implies the continued existence of the law of value, whose principle effect (amongst others) is that people produce use-values." By the way, how are we going to reduce necessary labor without the "expulsion of labor from the process of production"?

The prefix "In summary..." is a signal that what follows is not an argument but the synopsis of the conclusions - the argumentation for which is left, in the interim, to those readers who are already on the same wavelength, or to the properly elaborated response which I signalled at the outset that this article is worth, but am not going to attempt here, in forum post snippets.

In answer to your final question, with the severance of the link between accredited labour supplied and distribution, there is no longer any need to "expell" (the relation of force and crucial conflict of interest between individual and society is signalled in that word) labour from the production process - people will voluntarily reduce the amount of time they spend on a given production order if they have nothing (i.e. income) to lose by doing so, and everything to gain (time free for other pursuits, including productive ones) by doing so. That's the real development of the productive forces for you - transcending the contradiction between incentive and disincentive to productivity contained within the wage, that necessitates class struggle (who expells who) to advance productivity.

jura

ocelot

I'm not arguing for an entirely pre-planned economy (I leave that to the pareconnies, and possibly Cockshott?), I'm arguing for egalitarian distribution not linked to labour-time supplied.

I.e., the whole "post festum" argument was a straw man because your statistics-based planning will necessarily entail adjustments based on actual consumption. Hence, "post festum" is in no way evidence of the operation of the law of value.

You have it upside down. The point is that saying the bourgeois-form relations of the lower stage are transformed by dint of production now being "directly social". Or as it is put in the above text

Given the premise of directly social labor—and this is the basis for Marx’s first phase of communism

Which is a classic case of presupposing the desired consequent - "directly social production" - as a premiss - a logically fallacy that Marx, quite rightly, castigates myriad political economists for. The point being that one of the two props put forward for justifying the premiss is the "planning versus post-festum planning" trope. I am simply knocking away the prop and pointing to (amongst other serious problems) the circularity of the argument for the "lower phase" being communist.

jura

Anyway, there's obviously a deeper disagreement here. I think the obligation to work for those who are able to work will be necessary to some point, and although certificates may not be the best way to handle it, it will be necessary to handle it somehow. I suspect you would disagree with necessity itself.

Your suspicions do you disservice, considering that they show you've missed the most obvious point about the external critique - i.e. that it is all about necessity. I think you may be confusing my critique for an ethical one, but based on what grounds, I have no idea.

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 25, 2013

I'm sorry, by leaving out the definite article I probably came across as questioning your views towards "necessity" in general. What I meant was specifically the necessity of the "obligation to work for those who are able to work" in the early phases of communism.

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on January 26, 2013

David Adam's article is very disappointing. It brings nothing new to the debate (which has in fact been going on much longer than 1969). By reproducing a series of quotes from Marx, he seems to be implying that, because Marx said it it can't be wrong or at least that the productive forces are still at the (much lower) stage of development that they were in Marx's day (given that Marx was arguing, in 1875, that the productive forces were not then sufficienty developed to go over for some years to the principle "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs").

Writing from the US he must know that the Socialist Labor Party of America (founded 1876) has always advocated "labour-time vouchers". Interestingly, they inherited this from the German Social Democrat immigrants into the US in the 19th century who played a prominent role in its foundation and who brought this idea with them. In fact it was probably because he knew that this idea was popular amongst members of the newly united German Social Democratic party that Marx discussed this particular voucher scheme (as opposed to alternative ways of dealing with shortages of some products in the early days of socialism/communism: there is no necessity to link consumption vouchers to hours worked).

What he might not be aware of is the criticism that over the years, way back before 1969, the SPGB and its companion party in the US, the World Socialist Party, made of this proposal, despite its mention by Marx.

This article sums up the SPGB position while this extract from a 1969 pamphlet by dissident SLPers brings in the question of "value".

At the same time as Dauve was accusing the Council Communists of advocating a "self-managed market system" that was tantamount to "self-managed exploitation", the SPGB was making the same criticism of the old Solidarity group for the same thing, in the same terms, as in this article from February 1969:

The most crucial error in Cardan's analysis is his belief that the essential features of capitalism can be retained, and can be guided by "workers' management" towards humane and liberating ends. The market is to remain, but not, apparently, its laws. It should be obvious that if any enterprise produces to sell, and pays its bills out of its revenue, it will be subject to the same basic market laws as any other enterprise. Of course, at the moment these laws are observed and interpreted by management, which then makes the decisions and' imposes them on the other workers in the interests of the shareholders. But it should have occurred to Cardan that these same laws might have the same force whoever does the managing and even if the shareholders, so to speak, are the workers. (...) Workers collectively administering their own exploitation is not a state of affairs which Socialists aim for.

Android

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Android on January 26, 2013

alb

Writing from the US he must know that the Socialist Labor Party of America (founded 1876) has always advocated "labour-time vouchers"

I don't know if dave c knows that. But I don't see why there is any reason why being from the USA means someone must know that the SLP held that view.

Not everyone takes the specialist like interest in it that SPGB do. The focus on it is probably to do with the fact that SPGB write polemics/propaganda material on vouchers vs free access as it relates to the SPGB's unique selling point (socialism as a stateless, classless, moneyless society) and strategy (a propaganda campaign for socialism!)

Derail over. I hope the discussion picks up again because I thought it had some potential, and was enjoying the discussion. Liked the article too.

Paul Cockshott

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Paul Cockshott on January 26, 2013

I think that article was a really clear exposition of the difference between the critique of Proudhon and Marx's own ideas on labour time accounting.

Amiri Barksdale

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Amiri Barksdale on January 26, 2013

If this is a fair summary:

1. Council communism (GIK) is not self-managed capitalism.
2. Social labor time accounting is not value accounting.
3. Communizers and Dauve reject labor accounting, and reject the transitional period.
4. Dauve says Marx rejected labor time accounting.
5. But Marx proposed labor time accounting in the Gothakritik.
6. Labor time accounting and certificates is not labor money.
7. And it is not Marx saying that the law of value continues in communism.

The argument is against Dauve holding that any measurement of average labor time means the value relation is still in effect. David says it is not.

In the first phase of communism, labor certificates do not circulate, are not money, and no commodities are being produced.

A labor certificate is "a receipt that he has contributed such and such an amount of labour," and the worker "withdraws an equal amount costed in labour terms."

"Costed in labor terms" requires measuring socially necessary labor time per product or service, and comparing X concrete labor to make the product to Y concrete labor to make the product. This comparison must also be made across products somehow, probably just by political decisions about what's more important. Some labor time is therefore still worth more than others. This is still reckoning goods according to value, though not in capitalist social relations. The measure of value has had its clothing in exchange value, its money price, removed, and now it is just a number, but this is still value we're talking about, even if it is directly controlled by the dictatorship of the proletariat.

And this value is still the "third," still the aqua regia, still that which allows comparing any good to any other good, but in this case, that third has no "independent" representation. It is in the hands of the associated producers in whatever councils or soviets, etc.

The goods are not commodities, but the good still has two sides, and is not directly and only use value. A universal "worth" is still in effect, though it is administered by the councils. The good remains something other than itself. The second side of the good no longer confronts society only in circulation, putting its best exchange-value forward; it confronts society as an administrative problem, presenting its value directly to the associated producers. This is still in the realm of necessity, life and death for segments of the earth's population, still split from one another by uneven levels of development.

It is true that this administration of production via labor certificates is no longer the mediation of man engaged in exchange---but it is still the mediation of man engaged in a previously impoverishing and alienated production process of which the species has just taken control. That process has left most of humanity without sufficient means of subsistence, so we are not starting at zero. We're starting negative, with vastly different labors and enormous "spreads" in the values of concrete labor times.

Is this "the law of value" remaining? No. Only because the soviets directly manage the production process---but still according to value considerations.

At this point value has been stripped naked, chained to the floor, and grabbed by the throat. To kill it, the dictatorship of the proletariat has to produce abundance, and quick. It's not over until we don't need to fiddle with labor time for means of subsistence.

Amiri

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on January 27, 2013

Android

(socialism as a stateless, classless, moneyless society)

Well, isn't it? I thought that this was the starting point of everyone here and that the whole point of David Adam's article was to refute the charge that what the Council Communists advocated (in the 1930s) was not a "moneyless society" because labour-time vouchers would not be "money".

I don't know why you dismiss discussions with the SLP of America as irrelevant or uninteresting. After all, they were perhaps the largest griup advocating labour-time vouchers, not just in the English-speaking world but in the whole world.

Anyway, here is an extract from a letter published in July 1986 in the Discussion Bulletin that was brought out by an ex-member of the SLP in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which deals with the practical problems of the system. It is easy enough to argue on theoretical grounds that labour-time vouchers would not be money and that the goods (priced in labour-time) would not be commodities, but what would tend to happen in practice?

It is easy enough to work out how many labour vouchers should be issued to each producer: you simply record how long they have worked (and then scale this down, as above, to take account of the production of producer goods and social services).

But this is only one side of the equation. The labour-time "price" of the consumer goods and services in the stores must also be calculated and here a very real problem arises: will this "price" (from here on I'm dropping the inverted commas since it will soon emerge that we are talking about a real price system even if one expressed in labour-money rather than existing money), will this price then, be calculated according to the actual amount of time taken to produce a good (in which case the same good produced in different factories would, because of differences in productivity, have a different price depending on where it was produced) or on an average? Clearly, the second solution has to be adopted but, in this case, what average is to be used since a number are possible?

The average of the actual amount of labour time used in the various factories producing a particular good would be the simplest solution as it would preserve the equation "total labour vouchers = total face value of goods available", but this would not correspond, as Frank Girard seems to suggest, to the situation under capitalism, where a different average is used —that of what labour time is "socially necessary" to produce a good. This is an average that can only be established by the market after the goods have been thrown on to it and it has been established whether or not they corresponded to a market demand for them. In practice this average is biased in favour of the more productive factories acting as a pressure on other factories to improve their productivity. If it could be calculated under the labour voucher system (which it couldn't be, unless it were proposed to allow the prices of goods, even though nominally expressed in units of labour-time, to fluctuate in accordance with labour-voucher demand for them; which-presumably advocates of the system would rule out —or would they? I'd be interested in hearing their views on this) then the total face value of the goods would become less than the total number of vouchers issued. So, another reduction, as compared with the actual number of hours worked, would need to be operated, but at whose expense? That of all workers or just of those in the less productive factories? Plenty of arguments in prospect here for those such as Don Fitz and Richard Laubach concerned about "freeloaders" to take part in!

Another problem in connexion with productivity is that, as this would tend to improve over time, labour-time prices would tend to fall so that vouchers issued in one year would be worth less in terms of labour-time purchasing power than vouchers issued in previous years. If nothing was done to counteract this, then an imbalance would develop between goods and vouchers. One technical solution would be to require the vouchers to be used within a given period on penalty of becoming worthless but this introduces yet another complication taking us away from the original simple idea of allocating consumer goods strictly according to time worked.

In fact, the whole system involving, as it would have to, recording working hours, calculating average labour-time costs so as to fix prices, printing and cancelling vouchers, etc would require an enormous waste of resources in paperwork and bureaucracy comparable to that involved in the present money system.

A further objection to the labour voucher system is the problem mentioned by Richard Laubach of people accumulating vouchers and using them to pay others to work for them. Other likely abuses spring to mind: people lending vouchers to others for interest, people hoarding vouchers to take advantage of falling prices, people forging and stealing them and even organising raids on issuing offices to obtain them. How are these abuses to be eliminated if not by the construction of some law-enforcement system (re-enter the State!)?

Or perhaps they are not abuses at all, but the natural outcome of a system of "paying" people vouchers with which to "buy" the things they need and so practices which would be bound to develop and which would in the end become unsuppressible. This would be my view and would be why I would say Frank Girard is wrong when he claims that the labour voucher system would merely be an "accounting device" to calculate a person's entitlement to consumer goods. I'm afraid it would be much more than this and would in fact amount to a system where people would be effectively selling their labour power for vouchers which they would use to buy the consumer goods they needed to create their labour power to sell for vouchers to buy the goods and so on, just as today. The labour voucher system would be tantamount to retaining the wage; system (....)

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 27, 2013

alb

or at least that the productive forces are still at the (much lower) stage of development that they were in Marx's day (given that Marx was arguing, in 1875, that the productive forces were not then sufficienty developed to go over for some years to the principle "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs").

This is not a particularly persuasive argument, since the extent of needs has grown tremendously since Marx's time. One would expect that the post-revolutionary period will be able to impose a Western standard of living worldwide (within ecological limits and probably with some scaling down in Europe, in terms of cars etc.). I don't think that could happen immediately and without a determined effort to develop productive forces (infrastructure, for starters).

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on January 27, 2013

Ok, supposing that it is the case that it wouldn't be possible to go over to the full application of the principle of "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" straightaway, it would not follow that a labour-time voucher economy would be the best or a workable or viable solution.

A labour-time voucher is in effect an all-purpose consumption voucher that can be used to acquire any good that has been made available for consumption. But consumption vouchers don't have be based on hours worked. Nor do they have to be all-purpose. Why not just issue vouchers for particular amounts of the particular goods that might be in short supply (which would avoid the need to attach a labour-time price tage to them)?

Why in fact link consumption vouchers to amount of hours worked? Why not link them to needs, as would have to be the case anyway even in a full labour-time voucher economy for the young, the retired, the sick and those unable to work (or do a full day's work or to work regularly)? Or even distribute them equally to everyone?

I wouldn't have thought it would be necessary to build a full labour-time voucher economy to deal with any initial shortages, especially as a wide range of goods and services would be able to be made freely available from the start.

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 27, 2013

I agree these are all valid questions and valid attempts at answers. I disagree when you view them as criticisms of the text above, which does not contain any argument about why vouchers are necessary; it only defends the views of those who thought they were necessary from unfair criticisms. You know, Dauvé's critique would have been much more impressive had he demonstrated that for one reason or another vouchers were completely unnecessary and topped that with a description of the communist economy similar in length to the one by GIK. Instead, he just slapped a big fat label saying "LAW OF VALUE!!!" on GIK, hence bringing David Adam's wrath upon himself. (BTW, somehow Dauvé's critique of GIK reminds me of Paul Mattick Sr.'s views of the Soviet economy; both use "law of value" in a confused way.)

Anyway, another problem which I imagine a post-revolutionary society would have to deal with is people who've never really worked, i.e. people able to work but used to living off the labor of others, some of whom will presumably be hostile to the new society. This includes people who formally earn a wage today, like politicians or priests, for example. I say universal obligation to work for those who are able to work seems as a reasonable solution, and the link between consumption and labor-time a reasonable measure to enforce it.

S. Artesian

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by S. Artesian on January 27, 2013

At this point value has been stripped naked, chained to the floor, and grabbed by the throat. To kill it, the dictatorship of the proletariat has to produce abundance, and quick. It's not over until we don't need to fiddle with labor time for means of subsistence.

Amiri

Word. To do that, of course, the dictatorship of the proletariat has to be doing away with itself as a dictatorship, and a proletariat.

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on January 27, 2013

jura

Anyway, another problem which I imagine a post-revolutionary society would have to deal with is people who've never really worked, i.e. people able to work but used to living off the labor of others, some of whom will presumably be hostile to the new society. This includes people who formally earn a wage today, like politicians or priests, for example. I say universal obligation to work for those who are able to work seems as a reasonable solution, and the link between consumption and labor-time a reasonable measure to enforce it.

I suspect that many of those who want to retain this link, such as the GIK in the 1930s and Parecon today, want to put economic pressure on a lot more people to work than those you mention, in fact on every able-bodied person. And more, they build into their blueprints mechanisms to pressurise people to work as hard as possible so as to increase productivity.

Which of course is one of the objections Dauvé and others raised against them.They are in effect blueprints for a self-managed "economy", i.e. the self-management of the same scarcity that bourgeois economists posit.(limited resources in relation to greater wants)..

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 27, 2013

Alb, sure, but that's the obvious criticism that I guess everyone shares. Of course as communists we ultimately want "according to their needs". But putting forward this criticism is a bit like saying "No empirical knowledge is absolute" and using that to counter all empirical arguments. Strictly speaking, it always works, but it's also pretty much useless. The real question is, how do we get to "according to their needs"? And I think there are reasons that would prevent us from going there directly. (Also, we shouldn't forget that the GIK counted with a large sector not regulated by labor-time from the start – health care, education etc. – and with a gradual shrinking of the other sector.)

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 28, 2013

alb

I suspect that many of those who want to retain this link, such as the GIK in the 1930s and Parecon today, want to put economic pressure on a lot more people to work than those you mention, in fact on every able-bodied person.

Well, obviously, if a mechanism linking labor to consumption was put in practice, it would have to apply to everyone. I don't see how anything else (i.e., "special treatment" for politicians and clergy) could be justified in a society that is supposed to be more humane than capitalism.

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on January 28, 2013

I agree that it is reasonable that every able-bodied person should be expected to contribute to producing what society needs (after all, that's what "from each according to their abilities" means). The objection is to putting individuals under the same sort of economic pressure that most are under capitalism, ie if you don't work you don't eat and the less hard you work the less you will eat (and if the place where you work doesn't balance its books, it will be closed down). Surely, in the course and immediately after the socialist revolution those who have carried it out will be motivated to work and make it work by quite other considerations? In fact I would even say that needing to force people to work would only arise in the case of a revolution carried out by a minority of revolutionaries.

I'm a bit surprised that others here haven't made this objection to the GIK and Parecon blueprints as I would have thought that this was the standard "libertarian communist" objection.

Spikymike

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on January 28, 2013

Just to add that I wondered a bit about jura's reference earlier to ''imposing a western standard of living worldwide'' which despite a few qualifications seemed to neglect the hopefully very different self-determined needs, of a self-managed revolutionary process, emmerging in opposition to the socially conditioned 'needs' of people in capitalist society. Add to that a question about the need to rapidly introduce a system of production geared to 'abundance', which I do not deny, but an abundance of what and by whom under what conditions? Beyond certain basics required for survival, ( which of course many do not have at present and which must be a priority to produce), much of our other needs (and not just the physical) are socially determined and also variable according to biological, climate and cultural differences amongst others. There is also the human need to be socially active (to 'work' but only if we understand by that something other than compulsory labour).

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 28, 2013

Spiky, I realized afterwards that the wording ("impose") was too strong and weird. What I meant was providing "basic" things like running water, food, electricity, shelter, health care, education etc. worldwide (i.e. I didn't mean "ipads for everyone", although I disagree with Bordiga about shampoo). The more I think of it, the more Promethean the task seems.

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on January 29, 2013

There is another problem with David Adam's article which nobody has pointed out so far. He makes out a case for Marx contemplating (though not insisting on) the idea of consumption vouchers based on labour-time in the early stages of communism and for envisaging labour-time accounting, but not for him supporting the system outlined by the Dutch Council Communists in their Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution..

Firstly, this title is rather tendentious, not to say pretentious. Marx made it clear that "full" communist production and distribution would be based on the principle of "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs". So this would be the "fundamental" principle. What the Dutch Council Communists were outlining would be only the "Temporary Principles of Communist Production and Distribution of Communist Society As It Emerges from Capitalist Society".

Secondly, the Dutch Council Communists were criticising those they misleadingly labelled "State Communists", under which they included anyone who envisaged any role for a central administration in the early stages of a communist society to decide on what consumption vouchers should be based on or on the "price" of the products they could be used to acquire. Look at their harsh criticisms of the Social Democrats Hilferding, Neurath and Leichter and of the Bolshevik Varga and even of the anarchist Sebastien Faure for envisaging this. The quotes Adam gives suggest that Marx himself favoured “central planning” of the economy as a single unit and so would be a “State Communist” in the eyes of the Dutch Council Communists.

Thirdly, what the Dutch Council Communists were seeking to do was to devise an automatic system for regulating production and distribution instead of central planning. They envisaged this coming about by tying individual consumption strictly to hours worked and tying the prices of the products strictly to their labour-time content, without any possibility of variation in either case (any such variation would be an exercise of arbitrary power by an undesirable central administration). In other words, they were trying to devise an automatic, self-regulating substitute to the market and so were trying to measure the labour-time "value" of products directly. This is why Marx's criticism of similar "labour money" schemes in his A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy , the Grundrisse and elsewhere does apply to the Dutch Council Communists' scheme (though not necessarily to other schemes for distribution in communist society as it emerges from capitalism).

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on January 29, 2013

Having be away from t'interwebz for a few days, apologies if what follows is somewhat retrospective or jumping around.

jura

Anyway, another problem which I imagine a post-revolutionary society would have to deal with is people who've never really worked, i.e. people able to work but used to living off the labor of others, some of whom will presumably be hostile to the new society. This includes people who formally earn a wage today, like politicians or priests, for example. I say universal obligation to work for those who are able to work seems as a reasonable solution, and the link between consumption and labor-time a reasonable measure to enforce it.

Unless the measure is in contradiction to the solution.

This is the distinction between a pragmatic critique and a moral one. If the means (wage) is in contradiction to the end (end of capital) the argument is a pragmatic one. If it was not in contradiction, but objected to on other, normative grounds, then the argument would be a moral one. It is vital to distinguish between the two. The usual difficulty with labour-chitters is they effect an inversion of the moral-pragmatic relation and claim that their own position is pragmatic, whereas the communist one is moral. In fact the opposite is the case.

The pareconnies are at least explicit in the moral foundation of their anti-communism. They find the idea of "higher stage" communism objectionable on moral grounds - i.e. that people's right to consume should not be tied to their labour contribution is to them morally unacceptable, in any circumstances.

The ortho "lower stagers" reject this "fair days work for a fair days pay" protestant work ethic... at least in the far off vista of the "higher stage", but in practice their arguments for retaining the wage in the here and now, echo the moralism of the pareconnies, except presented as "pragmatism". Which, of course, is only sustainable if the pragmatic communist critique (which I grant you, you don't hear much of from the "communizers", but that's another story) is ignored in the assumption that the communist critique is a purely ethical-moral one.

But that leaves the orthos stuck in a cleft stick. Gosplan or the NEP? Market socialism or apriori central planning?

It is certainly true that if we remove any semblance of consumer choice from the worker, so that what they receive as consumer goods, in exchange for their labour power, is predetermined according to the plan - removing any necessity for consumption to play a post-hoc role in allocation - then there is no need for a price system, nor is there any possibility of the law of value asserting itself. But then neither is there much role for the chits either, and any pretense of democracy, of "receiving back only in one form what was given in another", i.e. of labour-time accounting actually remaining tied to real values. I grant you the reason for these consequents - why the "democratic Gosplan" is unachievable - need to be demonstrated in detail.

But the other side of the cleft stick is the "I-can't-believe-it's-not-market-socialism" direction. I.e. to allow consumer choice, to allow the exchange system to generate a price system (price being the modification of cost by demand, so as to serve it's allocative function - this is the substance of the Grundrisse's critique of time-chitters), i.e. once again for the unit of account to become money, rather than a record of cost accounting.

The objections that labour certs can neither accumulate nor circulate are nonsense, as any ex-prisoner will tell you. The internal prison economy (at least in Ireland and the UK) functions based on the banning of formal money and all earnings recorded only as individual rights to purchase items of consumption at the prison canteen. Prisoners simply select an item of personal consumption (used to be tobacco, now phone cards) of relatively universal demand, and this becomes the money for circulation, exploitation and accumulation within the prison black economy.

The key here is the commodity relationship. There is mutually-determining relationship between the commodification of labour and the production of goods as commodities. It is no good saying that under the "lower stage" goods will no longer be produced as commodities when the relationship between the worker and their own labour power remains commodified. If my recorded hours of work are put in competition to your recorded hours of work, to see who will gain the greater share of the social product as "compensation", then we are back to the fundamental bellum omnium contra omnes competitive relation that is the foundation of capitalist relations.

The wage is the commodification of labour - the exchange value by which all other exchange values are originated/measured - and whatever are the results of such production, are commodities. And here the paradox of the wage emerges. If I produce the same output in less than half the labour-time, then less for me and more for you - if I am fool enough to declare it. In a market socialist economy I can produce more and accumulate from selling the excess at market rates (based on lower average social productivity). In a centrally-planned economy that route is not open to me (although siphoning some extra product off into the "blat market" as "rejects" is usually possible - but of course blat is not a market economy subject to the law of value either...) but what is possible is the reduction of the portion of my working day that I actually spend any time doing socially productive labour - which was why most workers in so-called "worker's states" actually spent most of their time not working.

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 29, 2013

I'm a bit disappointed by this discussion. If we are to go on, I suggest we turn to GIK's text. Frankly, I've only started to read it after reading David's article, and although I haven't finished yet, I can already tell that a lot of critical posts here were written without much regard for the actual content of the text. So if you've all read it, please stick to it if you want to criticize it; if you haven't, or don't remember the details, maybe you should give it a go and then present a really devastating – or at least textually accurate – criticism.

capricorn

This is why Marx's criticism of similar "labour money" schemes in his A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy , the Grundrisse and elsewhere does apply to the Dutch Council Communists' scheme (though not necessarily to other schemes for distribution in communist society as it emerges from capitalism).

No, it doesn't. In GIK, the average labor time is measured by the producers themselves, and the total stats are kept by a specific unit (which is part of the sector that's fully "communized" from the start, a "general social use" establishment). Moreover, the target of Marx's critique in were projects which kept commodity production intact – i.e., enterprises would trade and compete. None of that happens in GIK. The only "trade" is the exchange of labor vouchers for means of consumption by individual producers.

However, you are correct in pointing out the GIK's disdain for central authorities. They go to great pains to demarcate their system from central planning and emphasize that everything is in the hands of workers councils and the supreme economic council. Why is that a bad thing?

capricorn

They envisaged this coming about by tying individual consumption strictly to hours worked and tying the prices of the products strictly to their labour-time content, without any possibility of variation in either case (any such variation would be an exercise of arbitrary power by an undesirable central administration).

What textual basis does this have?

GIK

The Factor of Individual Consumption (FIC) thus becomes ever smaller in a degree proportional to the growth of communism.

(http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/06.htm)

Moreover, from the very start there's never a perfect corresponedence between the average labor-time expended and the labor-time "consumed" due to the accumulation fund and deductions to the fully communized sector.

You are right, though, to point out the "objective" nature of the system (probably in part motivated by the socialist calculation debate, of which the GIK seem to have viewed Mises as the winner), in the sense that the books are open to everyone, the relationship of the producer to the product is transparent, and everyone knows what's going on. Again, how is that bad thing in itself?

Ocelot, are we still talking about GIK? Because I'm not sure if your criticism (interesting as it is) still relates to that. If you look at their text you will see that they were arguing precisely against a central authority and a priori planning on the one hand (what they call "social-democratic" or "state" communism) and market socialism on the other. There's certainly none of this in GIK: "to allow the exchange system to generate a price system", with "price being the modification of cost by demand, so as to serve it's allocative function". Labor-time is purely a unit of accounting in GIK's text.

I also find your thesis about the "commodification of labor power" somewhat difficult to stomach, given that under capitalism as we analyze it, labor power (i.e., the commodity) is sold for its value (i.e., the SNLT of reproduction), whereas nothing of the sort happens in gikismo. (Also, labor has no value and is no value etc., you must have been in a hurry I guess.)

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on January 29, 2013

jura

You are right, though, to point out the "objective" nature of the system (probably in part motivated by the socialist calculation debate, of which the GIK seem to have viewed Mises as the winner)

Precisely. And that's what's wrong with their whole scheme. Since Mises was wrong in claiming that without some "objective" factor such as prices determined by the market no rational organisation of the production and distribution of wealth was possible, the GIK scheme is unnecessary. It's a proposed solution to a false problem posed by an implacable opponent of communism.

The GIK uncritically accepted that Mises's claim that "central planning" was unworkable, even impossible, and so devised their own self-regulating alternative to Mises's "free" market, i.e. the fixing of pay and prices in accordance with the free (from interference by any "central administration" which in anarchist fashion they equate with "the State") operation of the objectively determined "average social hour of labour".

But why won't "central planning" work? Why was Mises right to claim that Otto Neurath was being utopian in arguing (as quoted in the GIK pamphlet) that:

The science of the Socialist economy recognises only one single economic master: society itself, which, without reckoning of profit or loss, without the circulation of any form of money, whether it be precious metals or 'labour money' reflecting an economic plan, organises production without the aid of any unit of accounting control and distributes the means of life according to Socialist principles.

jura

capricorn

They envisaged this coming about by tying individual consumption strictly to hours worked and tying the prices of the products strictly to their labour-time content, without any possibility of variation in either case (any such variation would be an exercise of arbitrary power by an undesirable central administration).

What textual basis does this have?

See his criticism in chapter V of Otto Leichter for proposing that workers' "pay" should be based on a statistically-calculated physiological minimum (as opposed to distribution in accordance with contribution to average social labour time):

the producers shall have allocated to them products in exchange for their labour-power on the basis of norms which have absolutely nothing to do with any system of labour-time accounting. On the contrary, it is the social statistician and the subsistence physiologist who should determine the quantity and quality of life necessities which the human individual needs for the maintenance of life, and it is they who "fix a definite number of labour-hours which correspond approximately to the minimum necessary for existence" (page 64). It is by this means that the "standard scientifically estimated and balanced ration of life necessities" (page 64) is determined. This minimum ration, reflecting a physiological subsistence norm, then becomes the basis for payment. What possible connection is there between this and the system of labour-time accounting in production?

Later on Leichter is criticised for proposing that "prices" need not correspond to their average labour-time content:

Let us now turn our attention to the prices of products as Leichter conceives them. Although we would have expected that in this case at least the social average production time would have been valid as the determinative basis for the prices of products, we find that in fact this is by no means the case.

Eugene Varga is criticised in similar terms for advocating equal distribution:

Leichter, however, is not the only one to seek his salvation in a "price policy": Varga also makes this the centre of gravity in a communist system of distribution. He differs only from his colleagues Neurath, Leichter, etc. only insofar as he approves in principle of a system of equal distribution of the social product.

and

We have already noted that state communism of the Varga brand knows nothing of any economic scale of measurement determining the distribution of raw materials and means of production. The allocation of materials needed by industry for current production is carried out solely "by order of the relevant authorities" and is in no way determined objectively by the process of production itself. From the point of view of both social and economic policy, industrial production thus leads to a total fiasco. In social policy, because producers end up in a situation of total dependence upon those authorities which allocate the products; in economic policy, because under a system of distribution based upon subjective administrative assessments the needs of reproduction are not guaranteed.

In short, any departure from the strict application of the "average social hour of labour" as a result of a decision of a central administration is denounced as "subjective" and "State communism" and, as Mises claimed, leading to chaos..

Marx's criticism of "labour money" is applicable to the GIK scheme because that scheme claims to be self-regulating way of deciding production and distribution on the basis on an objective "average social hour of labour" that is supposed to correspond to "socially necessary labour-time" under capitalism. But, as Marx pointed out, it is not possible to calculate this "average" in advance because of changing productivity and fuctuating demand.
Jura

However, you are correct in pointing out the GIK's disdain for central authorities. They go to great pains to demarcate their system from central planning and emphasize that everything is in the hands of workers councils and the supreme economic council. Why is that a bad thing?

What's wrong with a central administration as long as its not a State and is democratically accountable?

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on January 30, 2013

jura

I'm a bit disappointed by this discussion. If we are to go on, I suggest we turn to GIK's text. Frankly, I've only started to read it after reading David's article,

Fair enough. Good point. People might also like to familiarise themselves with the similar blueprint for a labour-time voucher economy put forward by the SLP of America by reading Daniel De Leon's Fifteen Questions About Socialism. This will allow the blueprint to be judged independently of the general political position of those who advocate it. In other words, bring out that it's not an exclusive Council Communist idea.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on January 30, 2013

Gah! Way to kill a thread. The first time I dipped into the GIK's Fundamentals was over 20 years ago and I only read long enough to realise (disappointedly, as other sources had them down as genuine communists - entirely wrong) that they were time-chitters. A couple of years ago I found this again on libcom and tried to read it properly this time, but couldn't make it past the first chapter (which, imo is already damning enough) and I have just reconfirmed that experience (that the text is as much a giant concoction of wrong as I took it to be over 2 decades ago) through gritted teeth today. But anyway, I shall persevere with the later chapters this time (I just hope there's more slagging off other ortho Marxists, as that's quite fun, and less of the excruciating "right to the full product of labour" bourgeois utopianism - a sort of Industrial Josiah Warrenism - gack!)

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on January 30, 2013

I'm sorry I haven't had more time to think about and post on this thread, I'm too busy with stuff I have to do right now. 20 years ago I was into Mary Poppins so cut me some slack grandpa.

Sander

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Sander on February 1, 2013

My friend Mac Intosh commented on this text:
David Adam frames his text as a refutation of Dauve’s critique of the GIC on the grounds that Pannekoek, the GIC, and the Grundprinzipien, was faithful to Marx. That, however, can’t resolve the question of labor-time accounting as the basis for production and distribution in what Marx, in the Critique of the Gotha Program, designated as the lower stage of communism. The problem may, indeed, not be the GIC’s, but Marx’s in 1875. In the CGP, Marx did not portray labor-time accounting as a manifestation of the law of value. In that very restricted sense Adam is correct. Again, however, that doesn’t resolve things. The GIC did not, of course, have access to the bulk of Marx’s manuscripts for his critique of political economy; we do today. So, the question, then becomes, in the light of a reading of those manuscripts, and, in the light of nearly 150 years of capitalist “development” since then, how should communists today see the use of labor vouchers as the basis of communist production and distribution in Marx’s lower stage of communism? Adam acknowledges that labor vouchers will disappear in the higher stage of communism (p. 4), so they are clearly incompatible with a human community beyond capitalism. What, then, is the reason why labor vouchers are preferable to immediately providing many goods and services (for example, transportation, housing, electricity, heat, etc.) based on need, or at worst on some kind of system of rationing? Even Paul Mattick in his introduction to the republication of the Grundprinzipien (1970) raised questions about the need for labor-vouchers, though Adam doesn’t mention that. The real question, though, for me, is that labor-time accounting is yoked to the value-form, that it presupposes the existence of abstract labor, a core category of capitalist social relations of production. Adam claims that labor-time accounting pertains only to the production and distribution of use-values. But as Marx has shown in his manuscripts (The Grundrisse and the 1861-1863 manuscript for Volume I of Capital), use-value yoked to labor time is subjected to the law of value. It’s there, I would argue that the issue has to be addressed, and not over whether the GIC was faithful to Marx’s CGP.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 1, 2013

Here is a quote from Marxist-Humanist, Andrew Kliman from an article by him on the MHI website, I think it is particularly relevant to this discussion. Kliman is talking about Marx's CGP, the "lower stage," and about "directly social labor." (in order to have a communist society, labor certainly needs to be "directly social" and "concrete", rather than "abstract," as Marx defines it, I think most people here would agree with that statement.)

Andrew Kliman:

Marx did not spell out what must be changed in order for directly social labor to be a sustainable reality. But one thing is certain. Just as the dogma that labor is directly social, and therefore equal, “does not become true because a bank believes in it and conducts its operations [accordingly],” it does not become true because the Central Committee of the Party or the federation of workers’ councils believes in it and conducts its operations accordingly. The equality of labors is not something one can impose by fiat, passing a law, or agreeing to count all labor equally[...] lasting changes in the political realm must be grounded in changes in the mode of production, not the reverse.

So for Kliman, production determines distribution. I believe David Adam (another regular contributor to the MHI website) writes something similar in this article.

Kliman goes on about "directly social labor":

[...] if the economic relations are such that different labors aren’t actually equal, counting them as equal will be a principle at loggerheads with practice. For instance, if we “declare” that the labor of a surgeon and a nurse’s aide are equal, it is almost inevitable that a black market for surgical services will quickly emerge. Either that, or “we’ll” have to enforce the equality through military-state power that has no prospect of withering away[...] So the issue is not whether we count different labors equally-politics is not in command, despite what Mao said-but whether the social relations are such that different labors actually count equally. The task is to work out what such social relations are, and what is required to make them real[...]This is one of the most fundamental tasks we face today, I believe.

How does labor becomes "directly social?" Apparently, Kliman does not have the answer, nor do I think Adam does, and they seem to make no bones about it

The most important question, however, is whether or not such a "certificate" or "book-keeping" system, as the type in the GIK or the type touch-on in the CGP, really would be tied to the Law of Value. The answer in the affirmative seems to be because a "type-of" exchange occurs- an exchange which is, supposedly, essentially capitalist. Textually, however, it appears Marx certainly believes the "lower stage" he barely outlined in the CGP would be genuinely communist. This is consistent with his critiques of utopian-socialists, starting with the Grundrisse, up through the CGP.

However, Marx could certainly be wrong on this one and that is what should concern us. That is, what should concern us is whether or not such a system really would give rise to a fully developed communist society rather than back to a capitalist one. I find Marx's, and Adam's, arguments to be quite persuasive, but to be honest, I'm not convinced.

One more thing; In another thread, Joseph Kay reviewed David Graeber's book, "Debt." In this review, Joseph made an interesting argument in favor of not viewing any type of exchange which could occur in a "socialist society" as inherently Capitalist. In this argument:

...in taking Marx's Capital as a critique of actually-existing capitalism, we could well be overstating the power of capital[...] There's a tendency to deduce[...] that any time anything exchanges for a price, capitalism will be reproduced[...] Graeber sees it very differently. In the absence of state power, market exchanges tend not to give rise to the inhuman monster of capital (markets, and even wage labour, after all, have existed far longer than capitalism), but rather tend to be re-absorbed into a moral economy of a human society, a society to which Marx's account doesn't apply (e.g. Graeber's example of Islamic 'free markets' discussed above).

The consequence is significant. Rather than seeing every exchange for a price as the seed of a resurgent capitalism, Graeber sees exchange as tending towards being embedded in social relations and a moral economy unless this is actively prevented from happening by state power. So in this sense, something like a 'free market' anarchism wouldn't resemble a commercial market at all, but something closer to a gift economy, with everyone taking what they need on trust then settling up in periodic 'reckonings', with account taken for inability to pay.

Now, this is perhaps another example, albeit coming from quite a different point of view, of the belief that it's the social-relations which matter most when it comes to what kind of society we have, not so much the incidental existence of any sort of exchange as such, even ones which might still have some birthmarks on them. (Insert base-superstructure jokes where applicable)

Oh yes! And here are links to the pieces I cited:

Kliman: http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/alternatives-to-capital/what-must-be-changed-in-order-to-transcend-capitalism.html

Kay: http://libcom.org/blog/thoughts-david-graeber%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98debt-first-5000-years%E2%80%99-03012012

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 1, 2013

Sander said:

Adam acknowledges that labor vouchers will disappear in the higher stage of communism (p. 4), What, then, is the reason why labor vouchers are preferable to immediately providing many goods and services (for example, transportation, housing, electricity, heat, etc.) based on need, or at worst on some kind of system of rationing?

I think the argument as to why society would not go immediately into "from each, to each" is because of the very real problems of co-ordination. The revolution would have to be world-wide. Most countries are under-developed compared to the west and would need massive assistance. Shortages might occur, even in the west, if people could take too freely. I tend to believe, however, that this is an issue which needs more serious investigating, but by no means is it an entirely unjustifiable concern, the issue of coordination.

Quite the contrary really. In fact, most average people raise such issues constantly when talking with communists about communism. These concerns must certainly be a major factor for why so many people believe there is no alternative to capitalism.

The important question you raised, however, is why not some other system of distribution? Well I don't know, what kind of system do you have in mind? Lottery perhaps? Also, you raise a good point about the type of goods and services. Should some essentials be guaranteed right away? I don't see why not... that wasn't an issue raised until now, though.

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 1, 2013

Good posts, kingzog!

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 1, 2013

kingzog

Andrew Kliman

[...] if the economic relations are such that different labors aren’t actually equal, counting them as equal will be a principle at loggerheads with practice. For instance, if we “declare” that the labor of a surgeon and a nurse’s aide are equal, it is almost inevitable that a black market for surgical services will quickly emerge. Either that, or “we’ll” have to enforce the equality through military-state power that has no prospect of withering away[...] .

This is a very odd argument for a communist to use against an equal distribution of consumption vouchers as it echoes justifications for income inequality under capitalism. It is, however, a logical conclusion if you insist on the distribution of consumption vouchers being linked to an individual's contribution to production in terms of the "average social hour of labour" (not that it is possible to measure an individual's contribution to the collective effort that is production).

The GIK went further than this and insisted that this principle should also be strictly applied to the "prices" of the goods and services consumption vouchers could be used to acquire. And for the same reason: if they didn't reflect their "average social labour time content" this would lead to distortions and ultimately chaos.

Both arguments ultimately reflect Mises's argument against communism and central planning as being economically irrational. That's why the GIK scheme should be rejected as non-communist.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on February 1, 2013

Well, personally I'm still only on ch 6 of the GIK text. Despite grumbling at Jura (* mock shakes angry fist *) for making me read it, I'm actually finding it quite interesting (if no less wrong). I agree that the acceptance of Mises economic calculation critique is one of the sources of the error, I think there is more going on than that. But I'll reserve final assessment until I've read the whole thing.

In the meantime, just for laughs - my current notes on Ch. 5:

------------------
1. Using a slightly circular definition of the wage- i.e. the diminished return to labour of its “cost” of reproduction where the surplus product is being appropriated as surplus value. Such that “the right to the full product of labour” eliminates the wage as such.

“Because of the lack of an exact relationship of the producer to the product, because of a presence of a "price policy", capitalist-type wage relations remain in force.” (Ch 5)

The “exact relationship of the producer to the product” is the key phrase in removing the mediation of value, exchange and the wage. This is the vulgar marxist value theory of assuming that SNLT appears at the time of production in the IPP of the particular locus of production - independently of wider social relations - including that of consumption (implicit Say’s law?).

“With Leichter, the objective relationship of the producer to the product is not determined in the production process itself.” (Ch 5, Leichter)

“The essential point here is that, under a system of labour-time computation, the owner-controllers of the production system, the workers themselves, exercise a complete right of disposal over the increased mass of products produced” (Ch 5, Leichter)

Also there’s a peculiar return to the doctrine of unequal exchange - i.e. that exploitation appears as the deviation of prices from labour-cost - we have returned to the ‘accumulation by force or fraud’ of the Smithian socialists. Leichter’s “price policy” here being the instrument of accumulation qua fraud.

2. Cost/price issue. Labour-time can only be measured as a cost when it is not contested. The fact of making the share of the social product returned to the producer proportionate to the “costed labour-time” actually makes the cost into a price. (this is admitted in Ch 4, re individual factories producing at a surplus or loss relative to the social average).

The wage is the price of labour, exchanged as commodity.

While the critique of the “prices policy” of state socialism is correct, what is not seen is that each individual production unit has the opportunity of operating its own “prices policy” by misreporting its local average labour time. The “price problem” is not simply a top-down issue, but also a horizontal one.

3. Objective/subjective issue. GIK correctly criticises centralised administration of allocation of resources, as per Hilferding/GOSPlan via bureaucratic, statistical CiK means, as leading necessarily to form of bureaucratic class rule. They characterise these relations of distribution (and allocation) as

“a system of distribution based upon subjective administrative assessments” (Ch 5, Varga)

NB, as a system of bureaucratic subjectivity. Whereas the virtue of labour-time accounting is it’s “objective” nature. The obscurantist/transparent dichotomy is associated with this, but the subjective/objective diad is primary.

“With this system, the subjective element is eliminated along with the centralised power of disposal over the production apparatus, because management and administration of both production and distribution lie in the hands of the producers.” (Ch 5 Varga)

4. Market/plan allocation issue.

5. “Toothpaste” issue - implicit assumption that social product is homogeneous and undifferentiated (or always shared in exactly equal proportions) c.f. Keen on impossibility of DSGE aggregate demand curves.

6. “Time is inescapably an element of cost” - yes, but not necessarily restricted to labour-time. Trivially true that all material cost elements, whether c or v, have a time dimension, due to 4-dimensional nature of reality. Hence CO2, water, etc, all accounted for within a given time period.

7. Eliminating the exploiting class (or the structures that make an exploiting class possible) does not end the contradictions of capitalist production, it merely internalises them into the relations between producers themselves. In places this is recognised:

“an antagonistic mode of distribution of the product will always lead to rivalries and quarrels within the working class itself.” (Ch 5, Varga)

But the idea that distribution according to labour-time accounting could itself be an antagonistic mode of distribution, is never properly considered. Mostly because of their assessment that Mises critique of CiK calculation is correct leaves no room for alternatives.

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on February 1, 2013

The technological pessimists here seem to be assuming that when socialism/communism is first established free access to available goods and services will be the exception and rationing (because that's what we're talking about) the norm. That may well have been, or would really have been, the case in 1875, perhaps even in 1931 but, surely, not today. I suggest that today the situation will be the other way round: free access the rule and rationing the exception.

There's nothing wrong with speculating about this but it is rather ridiculous for us now to be trying to draw up a detailed blueprint like the Dutch Council Communists' one for what should be done. That's not only utopian as it doesn't (and can't) take into account the exact conditions that will exist then, but it's also undemocratic in that it's dictating to those around at the time whose decision it will be.

Someone (Jura, I think) suggested earlier that it won't be possible to supply everyone on the planet with an Ipad. Why not? An Ipad is only a glorified mobile phone and so not all that difficult to manufacture in huge quantities. Already mobile phone use is spreading outside "the West", if only because this is cheaper than building an infrastructure of land lines from scratch. I agree that this wouldn't be a priority (increasing food production to eliminate destitution and malnourishment would be), though spreading the use of mobile phones could help in this.

OK, I'm a technological optimist.

batswill

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by batswill on February 1, 2013

jura

Dave, if I wanted to tease you, I'd say this is value-form analysis at its best :). Seriously though, great article. I'd love to translate it (along with your previous piece on the State) when I have time.

On value, what made it go "click" inside my head a few years ago was the realization that in the fetish-section, Marx is contrasting various modes of production where on the one hand both the substance and the measure of value are present (labor/social labor, labor time), but on the other hand the division of labor based on private producers is absent, and hence labor time does not take the form of value and products do not take the form of commodities. Thus, no fetishism, because it is the form of value that is the foundation of the fetish:

Marx

The mystical character of commodities does not originate, therefore, in their use value. Just as little does it proceed from the nature of the determining factors of value. For, in the first place, however varied the useful kinds of labour, or productive activities, may be, it is a physiological fact, that they are functions of the human organism, and that each such function, whatever may be its nature or form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles, &c. Secondly, with regard to that which forms the ground-work for the quantitative determination of value, namely, the duration of that expenditure, or the quantity of labour, it is quite clear that there is a palpable difference between its quantity and quality. In all states of society, the labour time that it costs to produce the means of subsistence, must necessarily be an object of interest to mankind, though not of equal interest in different stages of development. And lastly, from the moment that men in any way work for one another, their labour assumes a social form.

Whence, then, arises the enigmatical character of the product of labour, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities? Clearly from this form itself.

I think the second passage in bold is crucial. All economy, including a communist economy, is economy of time. Labor time playing some part in the economy is a necessity. Whether it appears in the specific form of a property of things is contingent upon the division of labor.

Maybe Dauvé's misguided criticism is some sort of an "anti-positivist" prejudice towards measurement in general ("You can't quantify human creative activity" because a unicorn dies whenever you do that etc.).

You are very accurate and I agree. I have no need to read beyond your explanation.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 1, 2013

alb wrote

There's nothing wrong with speculating about this but it is rather ridiculous for us now to be trying to draw up a detailed blueprint like the Dutch Council Communists' one for what should be done. That's not only utopian as it doesn't (and can't) take into account the exact conditions that will exist then, but it's also undemocratic in that it's dictating to those around at the time whose decision it will be.

Just talking ("speculating," as you say) about a particular "blueprint" isn't dictating to anyone. Also, this paragraph you wrote above is self-contradictory. At first you say "nothing is wrong with speculating" but then at the end of the paragraph you say, "it's also undemocratic...it's dictating." lol! but who are you to dictate what can and cannot be debated? Why do i ask? Because that is what you seem to be trying to do! Sorry,but your point really makes no sense.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 1, 2013

capricorn wrote:

This is a very odd argument for a communist to use against an equal distribution of consumption vouchers as it echoes justifications for income inequality under capitalism. It is, however, a logical conclusion if you insist on the distribution of consumption vouchers being linked to an individual's contribution to production in terms of the "average social hour of labour"...

Capricorn,

I think that Kliman is arguing for an an equal distribution of the social product, but with consumption tied to hours worked. One key difference between this and capitalism, as far as "remuneration for work" is concerned, is that everyone's labor would become equal. therefore, there wouldn't be any "unequal income." One persons hour of labor would be equal to any other persons hour.

Neither would there be any need to measure the "exact contribution" of each person...

Capricorn wrote:

...(not that it is possible to measure an individual's contribution to the collective effort that is production)

... certainly true, but based on what I argued previously about "equality of labor's"- which is itself based on Kliman's piece, I don't think this concern would apply.

The question that has really yet to be answered, however, is: how does "equality of labor's" become a reality? This cannot be something which is just declared to be true , and then so becomes true. The social relations must be transformed. So how does this happen? These are the questions that Adam's piece leads us to and these are the questions that Kliman asks at the end of his paper that I cited.

capricorn wrote:

Both arguments ultimately reflect Mises's argument against communism and central planning as being economically irrational. That's why the GIK scheme should be rejected as non-communist.

this point interests me a lot. I used to read a lot of arguments by austrian-schoolers in support of the "socialist calculation" problem. I don't believe it is insurmountable, but it actually is a real concern.

how would resources be efficiently distributed in society? And I don't just mean the distribution of consumer goods, but goods needed, or consumed, in the production process. For example, what if the bottle makers syndicate decides to cut production because they dislike the work, but the beer brewers simultaneously increases production- for whatever reason? There would be a mismatch which, under capitalism, would have been resolved, rather quickly, through price mechanisms. But without prices resources would be wasted and shortages could even occur. This could be very disruptive to society, and people would eventually lose faith in the system if it happened frequently. Like in the USSR...

the Socialist calculation thing, as Mises put it, might be overblown and fallacious because it assumes a sort of state-communism, but we should not dismiss any claim's or concerns that issue's of coordination could potentially be a problem in the early stages of a communist society that is emerging from a capitalist one.

Cooked

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Cooked on February 1, 2013

Other than the finer points discussed above isn't there a much large issue with the whole "withering" theory presented again.

Seems odd not to take this more seriously considering that previous experiments have shown that systems and organisations tends to have serious inertia and that in any system vested interests that work for the continuation of the system develop.

In my view it's a terrible idea to propose that society should go through a massive transformation building a complicated society wide infrastructure (mainly organisational) and to expect years later to transform society again as if no momentum has been lost.

Even a technically "failed" system seems able to chug along on the fumes of culture, habits and organisational structures.

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on February 1, 2013

kingzog

Just talking ("speculating," as you say) about a particular "blueprint" isn't dictating to anyone. Also, this paragraph you wrote above is self-contradictory. At first you say "nothing is wrong with speculating" but then at the end of the paragraph you say, "it's also undemocratic...it's dictating." lol! but who are you to dictate what can and cannot be debated? Why do i ask? Because that is what you seem to be trying to do! Sorry,but your point really makes no sense.

I don't seem to have been clear enough. I was trying to draw a distinction between "speculation" (ok, nothing wrong with that) and "drawing up a blueprint" (not ok, as laying down what must happen). The Dutch Council Communists' document is very much a blueprint, but it's not the only one. Michael Albert's "Parecon" is one too. If they agreed they were just speculating that would be ok, but the detail into which they enter and insist on being followed shows that they are doing more than this. That's what I was objecting to as undemocratic because of trying to lay down the future, not to discussing their blueprints. I imagine that's what Marx and Engels thought of Fourier's "phalansteries".

RedHughs

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on February 1, 2013

Ocelot's points are good. Mine are perhaps less substantive but here goes.

Kliman-per-Kingzog

[...] if the economic relations are such that different labors aren’t actually equal, counting them as equal will be a principle at loggerheads with practice. For instance, if we “declare” that the labor of a surgeon and a nurse’s aide are equal, it is almost inevitable that a black market for surgical services will quickly emerge. Either that, or “we’ll” have to enforce the equality through military-state power that has no prospect of withering away[...]

As Capricorn says, this seems like a strange argument. It seems like a strong argument for parecon instead of labor vouchers and but not at all an argument for labor vouchers as such.
Kingzog

I think the argument as to why society would not go immediately into "from each, to each" is because of the very real problems of co-ordination. The revolution would have to be world-wide. Most countries are under-developed compared to the west and would need massive assistance. Shortages might occur, even in the west, if people could take too freely. I tend to believe, however, that this is an issue which needs more serious investigating, but by no means is it an entirely unjustifiable concern, the issue of coordination.

The implication that labor vouchers might help planning/coordination are a whole issue that I'll otherwise pass over since it's not an argument Marx makes AFAIK but we can still look at the question of labor vouchers and world-scale redistribution.

The thing is, the lack of a developed production system could be an argument against unlimited distribution but it also doesn't seem like an argument for labor vouchers. The alternative is the direct, per-person rationing of scarce goods. This approach, lacking anything like a normal market, would be less subject to black markets. Further, any labor voucher system would require considerably more "controls" and "price-like" behavior than simple rationing and thus it would require more effort to implement, effort that might be expended in simply getting past the scarcity.

I mean, the Kliman point about labor vouchers is strong but in the sense that it shows that labor voucher can serve as leverage for a return to capitalist relations.

Further, the argument that a communist society would involve lots of direct distribution to third world nations should tell you something. The workers in Africa say, would certainly then not be receiving the results of their labor power divided in any fashion but would instead be receiving the results of the ultra-productive laborers of the West, China and East-Asia. Society would be immediately doing "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need" on a world scale. So "paying" African workers by their hour would be only an exercise in control/pseudo-fairness since the "real payoff" wouldn't initially be coming out of the results of their labor but in the goods arriving on the docks.

Of course, an important point along with all this is that a communist society wouldn't/shouldn't be aiming to give everyone in the world a Western-style consumption pattern or dividing the Western consumption pattern into fractional parts for the whole world. Rather, the aim will have to be for a production system that more than meets direct physical needs and which meets social needs via a return of community.

I remember the last time the whole labor voucher issue raised it's hoary head, the pro-voucher group talked about the need to ration things like theater tickets and meals in upscale scale restaurants. My assumption is that a communist society would lack celebrities and envy of the elite, would have small-scale communal theatres where local performers entertain their friends and neighbors, would have communal kitchen that produced food with possibly more skill than the dubious quality of even expensive restaurant, would still the Internet, and so-forth. IE, society could meet human needs fairly quickly and with considerably fewer resources than American suburbanite expend today in living miserably.

But hey that just what I think, perhaps the answer is that instead of immediately creating a utopia of simple, socialized abundance, we should spend centuries of education until a society of equal work distributes luxury automobiles, gold Jewelry, Suburban McMassions, iPhones, meetings with celebrities, Dinners at five-star restaurants, Hollywood Movie tickets and seats at Broadway Musicals in a self-managed, according-to-your-labor fashion (though how you'd distribute ins with celebrities equally is quandary).

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 1, 2013

good post red, i think that the aid to the 3rd world could be one reason why workers, in the west especially, would receive the "diminished proceeds of labor" (see the CGP) rather than the full fruits. u get a portion tied to hours worked, minus some taken for those who cannot work and for the general wealfare.

sorry, all i can write, for now.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 1, 2013

Fair enough alb,

but I do not think it's wrong to even come up with "blueprints". Just the act of working out how things might be is not dictating to anyone in the future. Just because albert and hahnel wrote a book called parecon does not dictate anything to anyone. Dictating means just that, giving orders and setting policy. A book that works out possible future alternatives to capitalism is not, in itself, setting any policy. In fact, it can be a very useful exercise and could spare future people the trouble of figuring out important things under pressure.

I think there needs to be a lot more of these kind of discussions and writings. nothing wrong about that.

Alf

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on February 2, 2013

I have been working on an article about the series Mitchell wrote in Bilan in the 1930s on the period of transition, which include a fraternal polemic with the GIK's book (the Bilan articles can be found on the ICC's website, under the heading of International Review 128-132 http://en.internationalism.org/booktree/2145). Dave sent me a copy of his article and although I think many of Mitchell's criticisms of the GIK's schema are correct (particularly their severe underestimation of the political dimension of the transitional period), reading it made me re-think Mitchell's argument that the measurement of production on the basis of labour time necessarily involves the value relation, which I think has been a direct influence in the approach of Dauve and the 'communisation' current. Dave certainly demonstrates that Mitchell's view doesn't really accord with Marx's on this point.
This is a very interesting discussion and I will try to come back to it when I have more time.

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 2, 2013

kingzog

I think that Kliman is arguing for an an equal distribution of the social product, but with consumption tied to hours worked. One key difference between this and capitalism, as far as "remuneration for work" is concerned, is that everyone's labor would become equal. therefore, there wouldn't be any "unequal income." One persons hour of labor would be equal to any other persons hour.

I'm sure this will be his position and that he doesn't favour unequal labour-time "pay", but I don't see why a communist society would need to seek to make everybody's labour contribution equal. "From each according to their ability ..." assumes that people's contributions will be different. Kliman's position, as you describe it, seems to be "from each according to their equal labour contribution, to each according to their equal labour contribution". But why, too, should everybody's needs be considered to be equal?

You do say that Kliman (nor anyone else) does not have a solution as to how to make everyone's labour contribution equal, but I imagine it would have to be along the lines of sharing different types of work equally. But while it will be possible for a surgeon to wash patients and empty bed pans I wouldn't want to be operated on by a nurses' aide, though I'm sure that both could, and should, have an equal say in the way a hospital is run.

But, I repeat, why is it necessary to devise schemes for trying to make everyone's labour contribution equal? The real "fundamental" communist principle of production and distribution is "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs" ,i.e., "from each according to their different ability, to each according to their different needs". Even if, in the early stages of communist society as it emerges from capitalism, it might not be possible to satisfy everybody's needs fully, production and distribution could be organised on the basis of "from each according to their different ability, to each according to the democratically-decided reasonable needs of people in the same situation" rather than this equal time for equal time business which is only a reflection of what is supposed to happen ideally under capitalism.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 2, 2013

Well, Kliman hints that the solution to making labor contributions equal would be massive education and a dispersing of specialized skills. He makes the point that education under capitalism is a lot about making unnecessary specializations. So I think, for him, the transformation from capitalism to communism will entail a radical change in education and in "work" so that...

(Capricorn wrote:)

it would have to be along the lines of sharing different types of work equally

As far as why it would be necessary to make all labor's equal: I might be going out on a limb here, but I think, for MHI and/or Kliman, it is to prevent a group or clique of skilled people and others from gaining and holding monopolies on their skills and work and thus using this position to form an exploiting elite.

If you watch, on the MHI site, some of the video's where Kliman talks. I think the one "is an emancipatory communism possible"and the one with a panel including Michael Albert, he makes this exact sort of argument about education and dispersing skills.

Seems like an insurmountable task, no? I have no clear opinion on this yet, honestly.

RedHughs

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on February 2, 2013

Well, Kliman hints that the solution to making labor contributions equal would be massive education and a dispersing of specialized skills. He makes the point that education under capitalism is a lot about making unnecessary specializations. So I think, for him, the transformation from capitalism to communism will entail a radical change in education and in "work" so that...

Apart from finding effort to unravel anyone's "hints" a little disturbing... I would say that;

This leads back to the problem mentioned by Cooked. The more effort you are going spend on and the more elaboration you add to this "transition" system, the harder it would be for it to wither away. Now you (or Kliman's hints) are committing to an, at least, decade-long program to equalize the social value of each person's labor power in order to compensate them equally in order to make the transition phase more palatable.

Not that education is bad, of course. But the waiting for a perfect world before we get real communism thing has a long, nasty history to it.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 2, 2013

well i'm sorry you found it disturbing, red. the last thing i want to do is to "disturb" you, haha. :)

EDIT: Maybe I should have just said, "Kliman states that this must happen..." rather than saying "Kliman hints that," because he really is explicitly saying these things, if my memory serves me well

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 2, 2013

but in all seriousness, I'm not so sure if his idea of this "communist-education system" would be implemented simply during the transitional (transformational in his terms) period. It seems it would be the situation forever and always.

Education is a life-long, never-ending process, no? And please, think of the children! ;)

RedHughs

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on February 3, 2013

It seems like you're dodging the argument I make above.

If we need to achieve equality in labor-value before the end of the transition, then the transition is being planned to last a long time.

And overall, it illustrates how finer the detail with which you look at problem of making sure everyone consumes equal labor time and everyone creates equal increases, the more problem increases in difficulty. As a guide for planning, "from each according to her/his ability, to each according to her/his needs" actually looks better. A planning committee merely has to determine available resources - abilities, and planning goals - needs. Naturally, you need to discover the means to meet the goals/needs most efficiently, which is the challenge of planning. But the problem doesn't have the "tight couplings" that a labor-value economy would have.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 3, 2013

Hey, I'm not exactly advocating his idea's, I just felt it was necessary to explain to explain it since it is related to David Adam's interpretation of Marx.

That said, remember, according to these guys, the lower stage would not be a "value" economy since labor would, purportedly, be directly social.

David Adam:

Dauvé uses “value” as a scare-word, a way of justifying the ascription of “capitalist” to council communist proposals without actually citing any compelling evidence that either 1) the Marxian law of value should be said to operate in a democratically planned economy, or that 2) the council communists advocated democratic planning only at the level of the enterprise. For example, Dauvé writes disapprovingly, “Pannekoek’s Workers’ Councils defines communism as a democratic system of book-keeping and value accounting.”27 For Dauvé, labor-time accounting as such is constitutive of the law of value.

I read SIC #1 today, for the first time and according to them, labor-time accounting is tied to the law of value. I don't think this has a textual basis in Marx, as Adam explains in this piece, but it could very well be true. But, again, I'm sort of playing devil's advocate here.

EDIT: I don't really have all the answers to your questions, regarding the "withering away," other than that the MHI crowd does not believe in a transitional society. They see the "lower stage" as just a less developed part of the same communism. Goods are sort of rationed by labor-accounting to prevent shortages and education is radically changed to equalize skills..etc,. They interpret marx as suggesting a transitional "state"- the dict-prole, they seem to agree with that.

...At least I think that sums things up. Also, I personally do not believe in a transitional society.

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 3, 2013

I think Red's point is that it would take a whole generation to educate and train everybody up to a comparable level of skill (so that their labour contribution will be the same), so what do you do in the meantime, i.e for the first 20 to 30 years? The logic of "to each according to his labour" says that there should be inequality of pay during this period, though there is the Mao/Pol Pot alternative of forcing all skilled people to do unskilled work (but that would drastically reduce productivity and postpone even further the coming of abundance).

The whole idea of trying to render everybody's labour contribution equal is nonsense. It's a caricature of communism on a par with how Cabet proposed to achieve in it in his utopian novel Voyage to Icaria by requiring everybody to wear the same clothes.

A lot can be said against the GIK scheme but at least they didn't go down this road.

In fact they say the opposite:

Let us now consider the reproduction of labour-power in particular. In our example 600,000,000 Labour-Hours are available for individual consumption. More than this cannot and must not be consumed, because in the industrial establishments only 600,000,000 Labour-Hours in the form of labour certificates has been accounted for. This however bears no relation to how that product is to be distributed amongst the workers. It is, for instance, quite possible that unskilled, skilled and intellectual labour will all be remunerated differently. Distribution could, for instance, be carried out on such a basis that the unskilled receive three-quarters of an hour pro rata for each one hour performed, the skilled exactly one hour and the officials and fore-persons three hours.

Noa Rodman

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noa Rodman on February 3, 2013

Except for the Marx and Engels quotes by Adam, there is another place where Marx speaks of directly social labour, namely in the production of money. Cyril Smith claims this is a translation error, but I think it's not.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/commodity.htm

"However, through the fact that the natural form of a commodity (linen, in this case) becomes a universal Equivalent-form because all other commodities relate themselves to this natural form as the appearance-form of their own value, hence linen-weaving also turns into a universal form of realization of abstract human labour or into labour of immediately social form. The standard of ‘socialness’ must be borrowed from the nature of those relationships which are proper to each mode of production, and not from conceptions which are foreign to it. Just as we demonstrated earlier that the commodity naturally excludes the immediate form of universal exchange-ability and that the universal Equivalent-form consequently can only develop in a contradictory way, so the same thing holds for the private labours lurking in the commodities. Since they are not-immediately social labour, in the first place the social form is a form which differs from the natural forms of the real, useful labours and is foreign to them and abstract; and in the second place, all kinds of private labour obtain their social character only in a contradictory way, by all being equated to one exclusive kind of private labour (linen-weaving, in this case). This latter thereby becomes the immediate and universal form of appearance of abstract human labour and thereby labour in immediately social form. It manifests itself consequently also in a product which is socially valid and universally exchangeable."

(in German:
http://archive.org/stream/KarlMarxDasKapitalErstausgabe1867/KapitalErstausgabe#page/n43/mode/2up )

I think an important line is when Marx writes that "The standard of ‘socialness’ must be borrowed from the nature of those relationships which are proper to each mode of production, and not from conceptions which are foreign to it."

Capitalist commodity production is "not-directly" social labour, but social labour it is (and money is even directly social). I think Proudhon's error is to want to make this capitalist 'socialness' direct in communism (by making all commodities into money).

.

"Hence, the second peculiarity of the equivalent form is, that concrete labour becomes the form under which its opposite, abstract human labour, manifests itself.

But because this concrete labour, tailoring in our case, ranks as, and is directly identified with, undifferentiated human labour, it also ranks as identical with any other sort of labour, and therefore with that embodied in the linen. Consequently, although, like all other commodity-producing labour, it is the labour of private individuals, yet, at the same time, it ranks as labour directly social in its character. This is the reason why it results in a product directly exchangeable with other commodities. We have then a third peculiarity of the equivalent form, namely, that the labour of private individuals takes the form of its opposite, labour directly social in its form. "

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 4, 2013

Hmm, interesting point capricorn.

I haven't read the GIK, but it looks like their system allows for a great deal of inequality.

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 4, 2013

Distribution could, for instance, be carried out on such a basis that the unskilled receive three-quarters of an hour pro rata for each one hour performed, the skilled exactly one hour and the officials and fore-persons three hours.

I am trying to find the original German version of the pamphlet as this English translation is not the same as the French one, which says:

Il serait tout à fait possible qu’un travailleur non qualifié touche l’équivalent de 3/4 d’heure en PRD pour une heure de travail effectivement effectuée, tandis que le qualifié recevrait juste une heure, le fonctionnaire une heure et demie et le directeur d’entreprise trois heures.

That, for each hour worked, the unskilled worker could receive three-quarters, a skilled worker exactly an hour, an official (office worker?) an hour-and-a-half and the factory manager three hours.

I think there were two German versions, but it would be interesting to know where the factory manager went (or how he got demoted to rather well-paid foreman).

To be fair, it is not clear whether this division of the product was meant to be permanent or something imposed by circumstances at the beginning since later they do say that their ideal is that "the social product is equally distributed". In other words, that only time spent at work, irrespective of type of work, would count.

S. Artesian

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by S. Artesian on February 4, 2013

Distribution could, for instance, be carried out on such a basis that the unskilled receive three-quarters of an hour pro rata for each one hour performed, the skilled exactly one hour and the officials and fore-persons three hours.

This is absolutely f**king nuts and is a sure ticket to black markets...and revolution. Exactly what makes a person's labor "unskilled"? The effort society puts into that person-- unless of course you buy into the capitalist "meritocracy" baloney. So now, the "unskilled laborer"-- the very class that overthrows capitalism are entitled to "less" than somehow who enjoyed, who absorbed, thesurplus aggrandized from that class of unskilled laborers?

If there ever was a way of making labor vouchers into money, that pro-rata system is it.

If you want to play that game, it, the use of labor vouchers, has to be based on a strict, and formal equality. Marx recognizes this in his critique of the Gotha Program, because after all, the formal equality is materially unequal because of the individual needs.

Any rationing system, and labor vouchers, like money, are essentially that, is a system based on scarcity, and will inevitably reproduce class relations.

I think that a labor voucher be a qualitative "vehicle" and not quantitative. "Yes the comrade has contributed his/her time." That's it. Then, if rationing is required, it is done purely on the basis of need.

Hell, IMO, the Cubans' had a "more socialist" method, during the "special period"-- when a basic ration for all was supplemented by the special allotments for children, pregnant women, those with illnesses requiring specific nutritional elements... etc. More socialist, I mean, than reproducing labor-time as value, under the guise of "skill."

Pardon the rant.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on February 4, 2013

Only online German lang source I've found for the Grunprinzipien is http://www.mxks.de/files/kommunism/gik.html#3

But I wasn't aware there was more than one version, so no idea which this is.

However, I think it would be wiser to quote a little bit more context around that particular quote to show that things are not quite as straightforward as that initial quote, taken in isolation, would suggest. In English followed by the German:

Let us now consider the reproduction of labour-power in particular. In our example 600,000,000 Labour-Hours are available for individual consumption. More than this cannot and must not be consumed, because in the industrial establishments only 600,000,000 Labour-Hours in the form of labour certificates has been accounted for. This however bears no relation to how that product is to be distributed amongst the workers. It is, for instance, quite possible that unskilled, skilled and intellectual labour will all be remunerated differently. Distribution could, for instance, be carried out on such a basis that the unskilled receive three-quarters of an hour pro rata for each one hour performed, the skilled exactly one hour and the officials and fore-persons three hours.

The Concept of Value Held by the Socialist Economists

And indeed, their Excellencies the economists do in fact, consider that distribution should be arranged in this way! It never even occurs to them to place an equal value on labour, that is to say, to apportion to each the same share of the social product. This, of course, is the significance of Neurath's "varying standards of living". The social statisticians determine the minimum standard necessary, to which the income of the "unskilled" workers is then made to correspond, whilst others receive a more generous remuneration according to their industriousness, their capabilities and the importance of their labour. A purely capitalist mode of thought!

Betrachten wir jetzt die Reproduktion der Arbeitskraft im PRD zum individuellen Konsum zur Verfügung. Mehr kann und darf auch nicht konsumiert werden, weil nur für 600 Millionen Arbeitsstunden an Arbeitsgeld in den Betrieben verausgabt ist. Damit ist aber nicht gesagt, wie das Produkt unter den Arbeitern verteilt worden ist. Es ist z. B. sehr gut möglich, daß ungelernte, gelernte und intellektuelle Arbeit verschieden bezahlt wird. Die Verteilung könnte z.B. Sein, daß der Ungelernte 3 /4 Stunden für eine geleistete Arbeitsstunde ausgezahlt erhält, der Gelernte gerade eine Stunde, der Beamte 1 1 /2 und der Betriebsleiter 3 Stunden.

Der Wertbegriff der sozialistischen Oekonomen.

Tatsächlich stehen die Herren Oekonomen auf diesem Standpunkt. Es fällt ihnen nicht ein, die Arbeit gleich zu werten , also jedem den gleichen Anteil am gesellschaftlichen Produkt zu geben. Das ist denn auch die Bedeutung der Neurath'schen "Lebenslagen". Die "Ernährungsphysiologen" werden ein Existenzminimum feststellen, daß das "Einkommen" der Ungelernten vorstellt, während die anderen nach Verhältnis ihres Fleißes, ihrer Fähigkeiten und der Wichtigkeit ihrer .Arbeit mehr erhalten. Rein kapitalistisch gedacht!

(bold indicates original quote)

So the wider context gives somewhat the opposite impression from the initial quote. However... Further reading reveals there actually is some ambiguity around the question of differential remuneration (imo, somewhat at odds to the slagging they subject Neurath, Kautsky & co for, over this).

Nevertheless, in the first stages of a communist society, it may at first be necessary that various intellectual occupations be remuneration at a higher level; that, for instance, 40 hours of labour gives the right to 80 or 120 hours of product. We have already seen that this represents no difficulty for the method of labour-time accounting. At the beginning of the communist form of society this could indeed be a just measure, if for instance the means of higher education were not available to everyone free of charge, because society is not yet sufficiently thoroughly organised on the new basis. As soon, however, as these matters have been ordered, then there can no longer be any question of giving the intellectual professions a larger share in the social product.
...
Vielleicht wird es zunächst notwendig sein, verschiedene intellektuelle Berufe noch höher zu bezahlen, daß z. B. 40 Stunden Arbeit das Anrecht gibt auf 80 oder 120 Stunden Produkt. Wir sahen schon, daß es für die Arbeitszeitrechnung kein Hindernis ist. Im Beginn der kommunistischen Ordnung kann es selbst noch eine gerechte Maßnahme sein, da z. B. Studienmaterial nicht jedermann unentgeltlich zur Verfügung steht, weil die Gesellschaft noch nicht weit genug durchorganisiert ist. Sind aber diese Dinge einmal geordnet, dann kann keine Rede mehr davon sein, den Trägern der intellektuellen Berufe einen größeren Anteil des gesellschaftlichen Produkts zu geben.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on February 4, 2013

Meanwhile I'm still ploughing through the GIK text. As my posts can tend to the tl;dr spectrum, I thought I record my notes on Chapter 7 - specifically the crucial second part on "The Market", thus:

Haiku on GIK, ch 7, "The Market"

resolving demand?
magician's hat lies empty
a rabbit free zone

S. Artesian

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by S. Artesian on February 4, 2013

Thanks Ocelot. Yes, the devil's in the details. And ambiguity, while being perhaps the signature human characteristic, is precisely the veiling of the "veiled relationship" that is the wage.

Why a certain "intellectual labor" should be renumerated at a rate higher than that of others, divorced from the social needs of those performing the labor, sounds all too familiar.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 4, 2013

have you guys seen this article? http://libcom.org/library/negative-positive-visions-full-communism-boats

from "Negative and positive visions, full communism, and boats":

Claims such as "in Full Communism, we'll all spend all our time partying on boats, drinking strawberry margaritas and eating fruit from the food forests on deck" become a way of pointing out the ridiculousness of making detailed descriptions of exactly how various things will function "after the revolution". These detailed descriptions are about as useful as putting forward a vision where nothing can go wrong and every single want and desire is instantly fulfilled in an over the top fashion. On a boat.

S. Artesian

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by S. Artesian on February 4, 2013

Don't like boats. Don't like water. Was going to be a surfer, but hated being in the water.

No we won't, or I won't spend all our time on boats, drinking magaritas, and eating fruit from forests on deck.

We'll have to spend part of our time designing boats, constructing boats, growing agave, limes, mining salt, producing ice, glasses, tending the fruit trees, making sure there are enough bees around to pollinate the trees, producing blenders in case somebody is crass enough to ask for a frozen margarita....

The point being that "to party" is to produce for the party, so social labor does not disappear.

S. Artesian

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by S. Artesian on February 4, 2013

duplicate deleted

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 4, 2013

The point being that "to party" is to produce for the party

classic quote.

S. Artesian

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by S. Artesian on February 4, 2013

Thank you, thank you.

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 4, 2013

ocelot

Only online German lang source I've found for the Grunprinzipien is http://www.mxks.de/files/kommunism/gik.html#3

But I wasn't aware there was more than one version, so no idea which this is.

Thanks.

I got the impression that there were two versions from what is said on the Marxist Internet Archive here:

The first working draft was the work of the well-known German proletarian revolutionary and veteran member of the KAPD, Jan Appel, alias Max Hempel. This draft was subsequently revised and completed in Dutch by a collective composed of members of the Group of International Communists of Holland (GIK) and published in German by the Allgemeine Arbeiterunion Deutschlands (General Workers' Union of Germany) in 1930.

I'm sure the version everybody uses will be the German one published by the German union. but the fact that it was written partly in Dutch by a German and then in German might explain its rather convoluted style and perhaps some of its ambiguities.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 4, 2013

I have a quote here from Kliman which I think explains clearly what *he* thinks it means for labor to be "directly social" and what he believes to be what Marx meant in the CGP, I think this is relevant.

Kliman wrote:

I think Marx is saying, in the CGP, that, in the first phase of communism, an *actual* hour of labor performed will count directly as an hour of *social* labor performed. And the producer who works for an *actual* hour will be entitled to a *socially average* hour’s worth of goods and services (after deductions for the care of those who can’t work, investment, reserves for emergencies, etc.)
Imagine that there are 100 million pairs of shoes, which altogether required 50 million labor-hours to produce. So a socially average hour of shoe-producing labor produces 100/50 = 2 pairs of shoes. (This is known as a “weighted” average. Note that no knowledge of how much labor was needed to produce each particular pair of shoes is needed to compute the weighted average.)
A person who works for an hour would be entitled to withdraw two pairs of shoes … even if s/he worked to produce shoes but only produced 1 pair or 1/2 pair in that hour of work.
This is what it means for labor to be directly social. Every individual hour is deemed by society to be equal to every other one (in this context).

So here you have it. An actual hour of work will count for a socially average hour - after deductions for the common weal- by means of certificates- or perhaps simply an account.

this was taken from the MHI website, here: http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/philosophy-organization/marx-proudhon-and-alternatives-to-capital.html

S. Artesian

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by S. Artesian on February 4, 2013

And I think Kliman is right about what Marx intends in CTGP, and what Marx intends is problematic in its own right.

What Kliman is stating about the average social hour is taken from, and extends upon, what Marx wrote in The Poverty of Philosophy (I think) drawing from the capitalist organization of abstract labor. Now this is from memory, but I think I'm pretty close:

Therefore, we should not say that one man’s hour is worth another man’s hour, but rather that one man during an hour is worth just as much as another man during an hour.

Right? "Time is everything. Man is nothing. Or at most, time's carcass" ???

As Amiri put it many posts ago, eliminating scarcity is the way to throttle value.

Noa Rodman

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noa Rodman on February 4, 2013

I think also Moishe Postone in TL&SD (p. 47-48) makes some interesting points about directly social labor (or how it is viewed by traditional Marxism). I think this critique is true for Hilferding (and through him on Rubin), who was influenced by Tönnies. But Kautsky (and Lenin) were aware of the collective nature of labour in capitalism. (it's strange Postone doesn't afaik give that Marx line about historical specificity of 'socialness', though it would be perfect for Postone's case.) On the other hand Postone does seem to bent the stick too much when he claims that directly social labor is solely a capitalist category.

Such interpretations imply that overcoming capitalism would involve the supersession of a mediated form of social relations by a direct unmediated form. Labor could then realize its social character directly. This sort of critical analysis is a critique of the individuated, indirectly social character of labor in capitalism from the standpoint of its "true," directly social, and totalizing character. It is, more generally, a critique of mediated social relations from the standpoint of unmediated ("direct") social relations. Contrary to such interpretations, however, Marx's characterization of labor in capitalism as both private and social is not a critique of its private dimension from the standpoint of its social dimension. It refers not to the difference between the true, transhistorical "essence" of labor and its form of appearance in capitalism but, rather, to two moments of labor in capitalism itself
...
His concern is to grasp the specificity of a particular form of social life. Far from treating the opposition of the social and the private as one between what is potentially noncapitalist and what is specific to capitalist society, he treats the opposition itself, and both of its terms, as peculiarly characteristic of labor in capitalism and of capitalist society itself. In other words, the opposition of private and directly social labor is of one-sided terms that complement and depend on each other. This suggests that it is precisely labor in capitalism that has a directly social dimension, and that "directly social labor" exists only within a social framework marked by the existence of "private labor" as well. Contrary to the interpretation outlined above, Marx explicitly asserts that the immediately social character of labor in capitalist society is at the core of that society.
...
We have begun to uncover a remarkable opposition. According to interpretations of value as a market category, labor is directly social in all societies except in capitalism; yet, according to Marx, it is only in capitalism that labor also has a directly social dimension. That which would be realized in overcoming capitalism, according to the traditional approach, is precisely that which should be abolished, according to Marx. A central concern of this work will be to elaborate this basic difference by analyzing Marx's conception of the directly social dimension of labor in capitalism. I shall anticipate that analysis by summarizing it here: Within the framework of Marx's mature critical theory, labor in capitalism is directly social because it acts as a socially mediating activity. This social quality, which is historically unique, distinguishes labor in capitalism from labor in other societies and determines the character of social relations in the capitalist formation. Far from signifying the absence of social mediation (that is, the existence of unmediated social relations), the directly social character of labor constitutes a determinate form of social mediation specific to capitalism. Marx's critique of capitalist society, as noted, should not be understood as a critique of the atomized mode of individual social existence in that society from the standpoint of the collectivity in which people are component parts. Instead, it analyzes capitalist society in terms of an opposition between the isolated individuals and the social collectivity. The critique is of both terms; it maintains that they are structurally related and that they form an opposition specific to capitalism. Marx's critical analysis of this opposition is undertaken from the standpoint of the historical possibility of its overcoming, a standpoint represented by Marx's notion of the social individual. By the same token, we now see that the Marxian critique of labor in capitalism is not one of the private character of labor from the standpoint of directly social labor; rather, it is a critique of private labor and immediately social labor as complementary, as onesided terms of an elemental opposition that characterizes capitalist society.

I share Adam's critique of Postone on abstract labour, but apparently even more important for Postone is the interpretation of (directly) social labor.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 4, 2013

I'm going to throw this out there because I want to know what people think,

My understanding is that communization theory has a position sort of like this- but please correct me if I am wrong:

Marx saw labor-time accounting, labor certificates, etc. as incompatible with communism in his early writings, like in the grundrisse, while he was for it in the CGP. Therefore, Marx would be in agreement with communization during his early days before he was against it in his later days (while writing the CGP). Is this a fair assessment of the communization theorists or am interpreting what they say incorrectly?

So, running with that, If that were a correct assesment then what David Adam wrote in this article certainly contradicts it. He states that Marx was only against labor-time accounting and "chits" being applied to a capitalist system, as in the way Gray saw his bank functioning- in a society of commodity production. Adam cites Marx around pg 155 of the Grundrisse to support this position, "It(Gray's Bank) would either be a despotic ruler of production and trustee of distribution, or it would be nothing more than a board which keeps the books and accounts for a society producing in common." Is this Marx saying that Gray's Bank would work, if it were applied to a society producing in common, or am I missing something crucial?

And for the record, I tend to agree with communization theories take on "labor-time accounting," but this seems like an issue. At least from where I am.

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 5, 2013

kingzog

Kliman wrote:

I think Marx is saying, in the CGP, that, in the first phase of communism, an *actual* hour of labor performed will count directly as an hour of *social* labor performed. And the producer who works for an *actual* hour will be entitled to a *socially average* hour’s worth of goods and services (after deductions for the care of those who can’t work, investment, reserves for emergencies, etc.)
Imagine that there are 100 million pairs of shoes, which altogether required 50 million labor-hours to produce. So a socially average hour of shoe-producing labor produces 100/50 = 2 pairs of shoes. (This is known as a “weighted” average. Note that no knowledge of how much labor was needed to produce each particular pair of shoes is needed to compute the weighted average.)
A person who works for an hour would be entitled to withdraw two pairs of shoes … even if s/he worked to produce shoes but only produced 1 pair or 1/2 pair in that hour of work.
This is what it means for labor to be directly social. Every individual hour is deemed by society to be equal to every other one (in this context).

I think Kliman is basically right about what Marx meant, especially in this oft-quoted passage from Volume 1:

. . . Owen’s ‘labour money,’ for instance, is no more ‘money’ than a theatre ticket is. Owen presupposes directly socialized labour, a form of production diametrically opposed to 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 claim to a certain portion of the common product which has been set aside for consumption.

In other words, the distribution system is based on actual labour-time not on any notional or abstract figure, but on the total actual man-hours spent in producing anything, in fact "set aside for consumption". "Average" only comes in for computing the unit price of these. This makes sense in that when you are distributing theatre tickets this is based on the actual number of seats there are.

Marx seems to have envisaged (as in his criticism of Gray's labour-money scheme in the Grundrisse) the "certificates of labour" would be issued by a central "board" which would compute the actual number of man-hours that had been spent in producing what had been set aside for consumption and then ensuring that the number of certificates issued was equal to this. In the particular scheme that Marx mentioned in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, everybody who worked would get a voucher entitling them to claim a portion of the social product set aside for consumption proportional to the amount of hours they had worked (those unable to work would get vouchers on some other, unspecified basis).

This has nothing to do with organising production, but is purely a system for distributing consumer goods and services. In fact, since it might encourage the illusion that if people took more time to make things that would entitle them to more, it could be anti-productive. So it would be independent of what to produce and how was decided. Phrases such as "we shall assume, but only for the sake of a parallel with the production of commodities" suggest that this distribution system was not the only one that Marx envisaged as possible. And that therefore the GIK were wrong to criticise Otto Neurath for inferring that "Marx had posed the question in such a way as to suggest that we have a free choice as to how the products are to be distributed". Marx had indeed done this.

Whether or not such a system would have been the best had communism been established in 1875 (and indeed whether it would have worked) is another matter, but it is not a "labour money" system.

The GIK scheme, on the other hand, is. It seeks to fix the "price" of consumer goods not on the actual amount of time taken to produce them but on the socially-necessary amount of time it should or should have taken. Which is not the same and would in fact be less than this. Their "average hour of social labour" is not the actual average but some ideal average calculated by a board of economic specialists. Also, in their scheme, it is not some central board that would issue their "labour-money" but individual industries or workplaces and although this money wouldn't (or wasn't supposed) to circulate amongst individuals it did between the co-operative stores "selling" consumer products and the suppliers of these products. There is no mention of anything like this in the scheme Marx discussed and no logical reason why it should be.

Because, in the GIK scheme, the planning board is trying to calculate directly the equivalent of "socially necessary labour time" to produce goods the scheme is open to the same sort of criticism that Marx made of such schemes in his A Contribution to A Critique of Political Economy and in the Grundrisse. You can't calculate this in advance as it is decided by the operation of market forces. There is also Ocelot's point that Marx didn't think that under capitalism the price of products was equal to their socially necessary labour time value anyway, but to their "price of production" (cost + average rate of profit).

Dauvé’s criticism of the GIK scheme is basically correct.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on February 5, 2013

capricorn

I think Kliman is basically right about what Marx meant, especially in this oft-quoted passage from Volume 1:

. . . Owen’s ‘labour money,’ for instance, is no more ‘money’ than a theatre ticket is. Owen presupposes directly socialized labour, a form of production diametrically opposed to 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 claim to a certain portion of the common product which has been set aside for consumption.

In other words[...]

OK, before we do anything else, can I just take a moment to try and nail this particular stupid footnote. Marx does not know what he's talking about here. Owen's labour money is this stuff:


http://www.unionhistory.info/web/objects/nofdigi/tuc/imagedisplay.php?irn=2000032
(not having any luck embedding that image?)

Which was produced by the National Equitable Labour Exchange scheme set up by Robert Owen and John Gray (in that sense making a distinction between Gray and Owen's labour money is just historically inaccurate) in 1832 - after Owen had returned from the US and the failure of the New Harmony community. In the wake of the failure of New Harmony, Owen basically abandoned the strategy of setting up an exemplar communist community (which would have worked on directly social labour) and opted for a labour money scheme instead (there was a major fight over this in the Co-operative Society congress of 1832 between the 'labour money' faction around Owen and Gray, and the communist faction around William Thompson*, as detailed in Richard Pankhurst's book on the latter) - whereby artisans could exchange their products with each other at labour-time cost, thus (in theory) cutting out the capitalist exploiter and guaranteeing to themselves "the right to the full product of labour" (den vollen Arbeisertrag so dear to Lassale and the GIK). In other words, the aim of the scheme was to use the sphere of circulation to escape from exploitation. Marx here is confusing Owen's earlier (authoritarian & utopian) communist community scheme, with his (Proudhonian) labour money scheme.

Secondly, quite apart from the historical blooper, the "theatre ticket" analogy makes no sense whatsoever. A theatre ticket can be exchanged only for the use value it represents - it is in no way a symbol for a contingent (post-festum) selection amongst commensurated diverse use-values. In that sense it does not at all address any of the commensuration, distribution and allocation problems at issue.

----
* Major influence on Marx in his 1845 Manchester readings - Thompson invented the term "surplus value" for e.g. and his critique of labour money schemes influenced Marx's attack on Proudhon in Poverty of Philosophy.

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 6, 2013

Not sure that Marx did commit a historical blooper. I would have thought it much more likely that he had in mind the communistic community that Owen established (or tried to establish) in New Harmony, Indinaa, in 1827 which did issue certificates based on hours of work put in which could be used to withdraw from the communal store products that had taken the same time to produce. They seemed to have been called "time money" and time stores". At least this is what seems to be taught in US textbooks. For example:For example:

Owen instituted a system of "time money" and "time stores". New Harmony currency was worth the amount of time that a worker had labored, and could be exchanged for commodities worth the equivalent amount of labor.

There's even a reproduction of one of these certificates:

As you say, Owen later took up the idea of "labour bazars" within the rest of the capitalist system. Which didn't work either.

EDIT: Indiana not India of course !

jura

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on February 5, 2013

Ocelot, if you're right, that would be quite surprising. This says the most represented author in Marx's personal library was Owen with 16 titles. I mean, he was wrong on other things (like calling Ferguson a teacher of Smith), but this seems a bit too much.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on February 6, 2013

* cough *. I think you'll find, if you blow that bill up to readable (if smudgy) size, it has Josiah Warren's signature on it.

Warren did spend time at New Harmony and it was the experience of its failure that prompted him to reject "communism" and set up his famous "time store" and the "time dollar". No doubt the arguments he presumably had with Owen (and the rest of the NH cooperators) influenced the Welshman's later reappropriation of those ideas in the NELE - although Gray, independently AFAIK, had already been arguing with Owen (and the Thompsonites) along these lines.

Also any account of Owen that starts with "Born in England in 1771..." is obviously bollocks. I really hope US textbooks are not genuinely that bad.

edit: what is true is that in New Lanark Owen did pay his workers (many of them effectively serfs) in scrip redeemable for victuals at the company store (truck). Although I don't know the details of the developments in New Harmony (other than the famous story of Owen eventually having them build a watchtower and installing a man with a shotgun on it to watch over the vegetable fields), it wouldn't suprise me if he did, at some stage, attempt to introduce the scrip system - probably what inspired Warren to cut out Owen's despotic "price policy" by recourse to "labour-time accounting", similarly to the GIK's response to Stalinism.

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 6, 2013

ocelot

the "theatre ticket" analogy makes no sense whatsoever. A theatre ticket can be exchanged only for the use value it represents - it is in no way a symbol for a contingent (post-festum) selection amongst commensurated diverse use-values. In that sense it does not at all address any of the commensuration, distribution and allocation problems at issue.

But isn't this the case with all ration coupons? And wasn't that what Marx was really talking about, i.e that Owen's "labour money" was no more money than a ration coupon? Or maybe a better analogy would be the vouchers that stores issue that can only be used (to acquire anything) in their stores and are then cancelled after use?

In any event, surely the fact that neither theatre tickets nor ration cards are any use in determining what to produce or how shows that the scheme Marx mentioned in 1875 was essentially concerned with how to allocate consumer goods and services and was not meant to be a scheme for a whole economy run on the basis of labour-time accounting and "money", as the GIK and others have assumed.

I agree, though, that Marx didn't really consider the issue of calculating the labour-time "price" of the products which the scheme's labour-time vouchers could be used to acquire. This is a problem for all such schemes and why, should there be shortages at the beginning of communism, the better way to deal with this would be ration cards (though for quantities far higher than the war-time ones people associate with them). But even this would have to be only a temporary measure for any basic products concerned, to be abolished as rapidly as possible. Otherwise black markets would arise, just as they would under the GIK scheme.

In the meantime what to produce and how would be being decided on quite independent principles (for instance the statistical calculations of what people are likely to need that the GIK didn't like and the technical optimum to produce them given the materials available, neither of which would require a general unit of account).

I think the US education system could well be that bad if they have Owen born in England and use one of Warren's "time money" as if it was one used in New Harmony. Looking into it further, I am not sure that labour-time vouchers were actually used in New Harmony rather than just entries in a book. The perception, shared by Marx, seems to be that they were or maybe Marx was thinking of some ideal communist scheme Owen described.

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on February 6, 2013

I know some here have dismissed the debate that has gone on over the years between the SLP of America and the SPGB about labour-time vouchers as uninteresting or unimportant. But it is a historical fact that this has been the main debate native to the English-speaking world, if maybe not at such a high level of intellectual abstraction as the ones in German and French. Anyway, here is a summary in simple terms of the issues, some of which have come up here.

Here's a key passage:

If "labour vouchers" circulate, they are money, no different from today and should be called money. Labour vouchers cannot circulate.

If used as originally intended, to account for hours worked, and goods taken, they are not money as meant in the broader capitalist sense. Although for workers the everyday use of labour vouchers would be very similar, labour vouchers could not be used to accumulate the means of producing wealth, which is a very important difference. Their only purpose would be to limit consumption and enforce work. Note that enforcing work was not the initial idea, but has become, to some, an important feature.[emphasis added]

RedHughs

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on February 7, 2013

This

[labor time vouchers'] only purpose would be to limit consumption and enforce work. Note that enforcing work was not the initial idea, but has become, to some, an important feature.

seems good. Scratch the advocates of labor time vouchers and enforcing work seems to come out as the primary goal with all the other arguments looking thin and unsupportable. Well, I think the "some people must be forced to work" argument is also unsupportable but this argument resonates so strongly with a certain mentality that will be the last to be given up.

However, the point raised by Kliman and others, that not all work-hours are equivalent, becomes more important when it is made clear that labor vouchers are basically a coercive mechanism. If the labor vouchers are a spur to get people to work, they're a rather crude spur. Aside from skilled versus semi-skilled versus unskilled, there is inherently a difference in intensity to labor - some tasks done at desks are socially necessary, some lifting of heavy things is socially necessary. Hours of one aren't equal to hours of the other. Either you have an elaborate and inevitably permanent system like Parecon to manage all the complexity of the situation or you have transition that is even simpler - ration scarce goods and ask everyone to work - local councils work out the details. Especially, Labor time voucher would require central control and monitoring of labor if they are for the purposes of enforcement (and we've established they are). That is, if the goal is enforce, to make people work, and if there's even a single enterprise that's signing off on fake or low quality work efforts, well all the slackers will go there (assuming that they wouldn't be tied to their workplaces like peasants). Thus a single central authority is going to have to be monitoring total labor expended as well as enforcing the quality of said labor. Between Parecon and full communism, Labor time vouchers seem like a dysfunctional middle-ground, the worst of both aspects.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 7, 2013

Red wrote:

Either you have an elaborate and inevitably permanent system like Parecon to manage all the complexity of the situation or you have transition that is even simpler - ration scarce goods and ask everyone to work - local councils work out the details. Especially, Labor time voucher would require central control and monitoring of labor if they are for the purposes of enforcement (and we've established they are). That is, if the goal is enforce, to make people work, and if there's even a single enterprise that's signing off on fake or low quality work efforts, well all the slackers will go there (assuming that they wouldn't be tied to their workplaces like peasants). Thus a single central authority is going to have to be monitoring total labor expended as well as enforcing the quality of said labor. Between Parecon and full communism, Labor time vouchers seem like a dysfunctional middle-ground, the worst of both aspects.

Let me highlight this part:
"ration scarce goods and ask everyone to work - local councils work out the details"

let's think through the implications of this; Is there a potential for chaos, despotism and eventually, centralization if we just "ask" everyone to work and "leave the details to the local councils?" Who decides who get's what rations? Someone or some political body would have to make that decision in your plan, Red. Wouldn't there be a great deal of potential for corruption and despotism under such a plan?

RedHughs

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on February 7, 2013

It occurs to me that one could put the problem another way.

The first few chapters of Capital detail how all the mechanisms of capitalist society are needed to make sure that an hour of concrete labor at least tends to be an hour of socially necessary labor. Without these mechanisms, one hour of activity certainly isn't equal to another.

But if the mechanisms of capitalist society were withdrawn all at once, how could one expect hours of concrete labor to keep their tendency to be equal to hours of socially necessary labor? How could you compensate someone for an hour of concrete labor unless you had a mechanism to make sure this concrete hour tended to equal socially necessary labor? While capitalist society as a whole has mechanisms to assure this equalization, it's certainly not the role of the individual worker to make sure that their hours of activity equal the socially necessary hours, just the opposite, resistance to work is widespread and it is the role of managers and markets to constantly watch that each individual expends full labor.

Given this, it seems hard to imagine that anyone who thought about this, especially Marx himself, would expect equal compensation for equal activity to come into being except in the situation where the mechanisms of capitalist management pretty much remained in place - Lenin quotes Engels in State And Revolution: "'the state has taken possession of the means of production in the name of the whole of society', that is, after the socialist revolution". That is, what would change is only the proletariat would capture the state and the state would manage each enterprise more or less as before except gradually equalizing wages and other gradual changes. Thus the state capitalist program of Lenin seems implicit in a labor voucher scheme. And uh, we've seen how well that worked.

RedHughs

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on February 7, 2013

kingzog

Let me highlight this part:
"ration scarce goods and ask everyone to work - local councils work out the details"

let's think through the implications of this; Is there a potential for chaos, despotism and eventually, centralization if we just "ask" everyone to work and "leave the details to the local councils?" Who decides who get's what rations? Someone or some political body would have to make that decision in your plan, Red. Wouldn't there be a great deal of potential for corruption and despotism under such a plan?

The ideal would be to immediately have "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need". I assume the paranoid could find even more potential for abuse there.

Now, as far as potential for chaos and despotism with local groups rationing scarce goods, well certainly without the historic basis for a given means of production, any scheme you articulate could have abuses. The rationing of scarce good per person, however, does have the small advantage that it's relatively easy to measure the number of people in an area and total supply of goods.

Rationing systems in war time and other times have functioned reasonably well (and have been indeed subject to abuse at times but within a capitalist context, of course). Labor notes have never been tried on a large scale. Corruption is harder to have when you have a society without money. Corruption is harder to have when you don't have individuals authorities.

The thing about your argument is that you are framing it as the measures to prevent abuse I outline are equal to the social relations that would prevail in a short transition period. The unitary power of the working class would be the dominant power and what I'm talking here would ad-hoc measures to deal with temporary shortages and occasional anti-social behavior. I mean, when you have situation where a given anti-social behavior is relatively rare, you can either handle that behavior as it comes up or you can establish a universal surveillance mechanism to make it impossible to happen at all. If the cost of said surveillance method is above the costs to society of these rare deviations, then it is a mistake.

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on February 7, 2013

RedHughs

Between Parecon and full communism, Labor time vouchers seem like a dysfunctional middle-ground, the worst of both aspects.

I think you are being too generous to Parecon here. While a labour-time voucher scheme would be dysfunctional, Parecon would be a nightmare. Under it everybody has to fill in a form at the beginning of the year stating how much work they are prepared to do. That they do what they have undertaken to do will be monitored by their work colleagues. Can you imagine what this would lead to (this sort of thing is already bad enough under capitalism)? And then people will also have to fill in at the beginning of the year another form outlining what they intend to consume. This will be examined by their neighbours to see if it is reasonable. Not one Big Brother but lots of little ones. A real dystopia. This blueprint should not just be laughed out of court, but chased out.

RedHughs

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on February 8, 2013

Alb, I basically agree with all you've said. My only point is that Parecon is a mechanism that makes sense as a way to solve the most visible problems of labor time vouchers. And yes, look what you wind up with, ugh.

Obviously, I vote to go directly to full communism, well as directly as possible.

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on February 8, 2013

RedHughs

Obviously, I vote to go directly to full communism, well as directly as possible.

I'd vote for that too (even literally!)

dave c

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by dave c on February 8, 2013

To be absolutely clear, the article is aimed at a specific critique of the council communists. As Jura put it, the essay Jura

does not contain any argument about why vouchers are necessary; it only defends the views of those who thought they were necessary from unfair criticisms.

If I argued soundly for the things that Spikymike (who is critical of labor vouchers), in his post on the first page, says I did, then I accomplished what I set out to do. Of course, others do not think my arguments were sound. I will address some of those responses.

(1) ocelot

Other than the "moral" category of incentivising the provision of labour by the consuming individual (which in fact transforms her labour power into a commodity, to be used in the competition with other workers for the greatest share of the social product, or as the article states: "For the owner, the commodity [i.e. labour power] represents a claim on a portion of the social product."), the most commonly cited motive for labour certs, is the efficient continued development of the forces of production. In summary this implies the continued existence of the law of value whose principle effect (amongst others) is the expulsion of labour from the process of production, or the drive to increase labour productivity (or the TCC...).

Labor-power as a commodity means that the worker is selling his or her laboring capacity, which is then at the disposal of the buyer. Labor-power comes to exist as a commodity only when there is a class of laborers lacking control of the means of production. (I think this would be relatively uncontroversial in any other context.) This is not the case in the “lower phase” of communism, where the structural necessity for competition between workers is also removed. Furthermore, the capitalist mechanism (the need to maximize profitability) for increasing the TCC is gone. If the workers decide to increase the TCC so that they will have a shorter work day, this does not somehow bring the capitalist law of value into operation! As the GIC put it,

GIC

The question of the expansion of the productive apparatus will in the communist future become one of the most important in society, because it is a factor contributing to the determination of the length of the working day. (http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/08.htm)

But, according to them, decisions in this regard are made by the “Economic Congress of Workers’ Councils," not by individual capitalists who want to minimize costs and maximize revenue. Where is the capitalist "expulsion of labor from the process of production" in this setup?

(2) Mac Intosh says that I am correct in the “very restricted sense” that in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, “Marx did not portray labor-time accounting as a manifestation of the law of value.” Yet, this fact is quite secondary to my argument that Marx did not, in general, portray labor-time accounting as a manifestation of the law of value, but rather saw the law of value as a manifestation of specific social relations. We are told that Marx’s manuscripts somehow contradict me, but I am not convinced! Also, I am well aware of Paul Mattick’s 1970 introduction to the Grundprinzipien, but Mattick clearly supports my critique of Dauvé, even if he questions the need for labor vouchers.

(3) capricorn

Whether or not such a system would have been the best had communism been established in 1875 (and indeed whether it would have worked) is another matter, but it is not a "labour money" system. The GIK scheme, on the other hand, is. It seeks to fix the "price" of consumer goods not on the actual amount of time taken to produce them but on the socially-necessary amount of time it should or should have taken. Which is not the same and would in fact be less than this. Their "average hour of social labour" is not the actual average but some ideal average calculated by a board of economic specialists. Also, in their scheme, it is not some central board that would issue their "labour-money" but individual industries or workplaces and although this money wouldn't (or wasn't supposed) to circulate amongst individuals it did between the co-operative stores "selling" consumer products and the suppliers of these products. There is no mention of anything like this in the scheme Marx discussed and no logical reason why it should be.

I don’t know where this “ideal average calculated by a board of economic specialists” comes from. The GIC seem to say quite the opposite: GIC

The solution to the problem resides, of course, in a procedure in which the producers themselves, by means of their own factory organisations, calculate the average social labour-time, and not Kautsky. That which his economic headquarters is not capable of achieving, the factory organisations themselves, the Workers' Councils, are perfectly capable of realising, in this way simultaneously imparting to the category of average social labour-time its concrete form.

They use the example of shoes, and write that GIC

the social average has been calculated from the averages of all the individual productive establishments (http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/04.htm)

and that this is the "cipher against which shoes enter into individual consumption."

I also don’t know where the idea that the labor certificates circulate between cooperative stores and productive establishments comes from.

The certificates are described as being “surrendered to the office of social book-keeping”
(http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/11.htm) by the consumer cooperatives.

And the GIC had this to say about using labor certificates between productive enterprises: GIC

One might hold the opinion, for instance, that Leichter has allowed more scope for developmental possibilities, inasmuch as he has left open the question as to whether the system of accounting between separate industrial establishments should be carried out individually between the establishments themselves through the medium of labour certificates, or whether this should be done through simple double-entry book-keeping at the book-keeping centre, whilst we insist unconditionally upon the method of centralised double-entry recording.
(http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/epilogue.htm)

Where is the evidence for further circulation of the certificates? I am not convinced that the GIC's proposal is not centralized enough to represent a conscious and planned control of production.

(4) Ocelot refers to ocelot

"the right to the full product of labour" (den vollen Arbeisertrag so
dear to Lassale and the GIK)

I am guessing this is supposed to evoke Marx’s criticism of this notion in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, but the GIC were well aware of this criticism (they cite it in the Epilogue) and do not claim that the workers rightfully receive the "full product of labor":

GIC

Although the GSU (public) establishments consume means of production, raw materials and also consumption goods for the workers who work in them, they contribute no new product to the total mass of products at the disposal of society. All those use-values which the GSU (public) establishments consume must therefore be deducted from the mass of products produced by the productive establishments; that is to say, the workers do not receive the "full proceeds of their labour" paid out at the productive establishments, and that labour-time is not the direct measure determining the part of the social product which is destined for individual consumption, inasmuch as the workers must surrender a part of their product for, amongst other categories, the public (GSU) establishments. (http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/06.htm)

As to why I might focus on the things I did in the essay, without making broader claims about labor vouchers, my motivation was to in some small way question the "communizers" vague dismissals of traditional Marxism. They may claim that the working class should not take over and self-manage industry, as if we could simply create socialism out of nothing. Or they may claim that “the complete absence of any form of accounting is the axis around which the revolutionary community will construct itself” (http://libcom.org/library/communisation-vs-socialisation-suspended-step-communisation-theorie-communiste). Similar claims are sometimes buttressed with what is touted as the cutting edge of Marxist value theory, using a few passages from the mysterious Grundrisse. Marx in no way had such a cavalier attitude toward these issues. It is worth pointing out that for him, the passage to the higher phase of communism is not merely an issue of productivity. See his comment in the Critique of the Gotha Programme: Marx

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

Lastly, I do not think that Marx's Capital is in conflict with his Critique of the Gotha Programme, but this is not due to some blind faith that it must be so. I did present some evidence for my view.

kingzog

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on February 8, 2013

thanks dave, it looks like some of us need to read the gic a little more carefully. edit: i wont comment on the other issues other than to say they are quite thought provoking.

RedHughs

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on February 9, 2013

As to why I might focus on the things I did in the essay, without making broader claims about labor vouchers, my motivation was to in some small way [to] question the "communizers" vague dismissals of traditional Marxism. They may claim that the working class should not take over and self-manage industry, as if we could simply create socialism out of nothing. Or they may claim that “the complete absence of any form of accounting is the axis around which the revolutionary community will construct itself”

So you only intend to argue that critiques of GIK aren't compatible Marx's positions however sensible critiques of GIK or self-management might be in relation to reality. Your ultimate target is "communizers" who are dismissive of traditional Marxism. However your arguments do not make any claim for the validity, the realism, of Marx's articulated positions.
It thus seems to me that you similarly are engaging in "vague dismissals" of these communization ideas without wanting to be engaged with their particulars.

Ocelot

What is correct, however, is that the Gothakritik and the "lower stage" remains the crucial battle line between not just the paleo- (GIK) and neo- (Dauvé, "Communization-ists") ultras, but more generally between the orthodox Marxist tradition (whether Kautskyist, Leninist, or ultraleft) and the heterodox, communist Marxists - of which the libertarian communists were of course the first.

This

There are a variety of non-labor-voucher theories out there, up and including those who believe we should give up arithmetic as well as more sensible ideas. It seems to me that one needs a rather broader approach than just clarifying exactly what Marx's position was in 1875. For example, this doesn't even say whether Marx would have revised his position after 140 years of revolution, counter-revolution and development of the means of production (especially given that, as I recall, a crucial purpose for Marx of the "first stage" of communism was the development of the means of production). Of course, there's more to say than even this.

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 10, 2013

[quote=dave c]I don’t know where this “ideal average calculated by a board of economic specialists” comes from. The GIC seem to say quite the opposite: GIC

The solution to the problem resides, of course, in a procedure in which the producers themselves, by means of their own factory organisations, calculate the average social labour-time, and not Kautsky. That which his economic headquarters is not capable of achieving, the factory organisations themselves, the Workers' Councils, are perfectly capable of realising, in this way simultaneously imparting to the category of average social labour-time its concrete form.

They use the example of shoes, and write that GIC

the social average has been calculated from the averages of all the individual productive establishments (http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/04.htm)

and that this is the "cipher against which shoes enter into individual consumption."

Yes, but, according to Chapter 10, this average has to be registered with an "Office of Social Book-keeping" which has powers to make corrections in the light of how things turn out:

Should, for instance, an untoward surplus arise in any particular section of production, the office of social book-keeping is able at any moment to make an immediate report to the appropriate control instance (perhaps a joint production commission). It is not possible for the surplus to have arisen as a result of the relevant industrial establishment, at the time of the delivery of the product, having calculated more than the correct Average Social Production Time, since the latter has been made public knowledge. It must therefore be due to an error in the production budget. Should it be verified that it is indeed here that the error actually lies, then the fact has simultaneously been ascertained that the establishment concerned has been operating at a higher level of productivity than had been estimated in the production budget; its productivity factor will consequently be revised in an upwards direction.

The opposite can also occur. The system of social book-keeping reveals a deficit in the output of a certain industrial establishment. This leads in exactly the same way to a revision of the productivity factor and the separate production elements, p, c or L of this establishment. The extent to which these may work against the wider interests of society can be determined by means of the formula:

(pt + ct) + Lt
Xt

in association with the establishment's production budget.

Don't ask me what this formula means.

I've been working from the paper version of the scheme and have just noticed that this passage that immediately follows the above is not in the version on the internet:

Should it be shown in practice and proved by the appropriate organ of the proletarian dictatorship that an actual case of negligence in production control has occurred, measures would then be instituted against the establishment administration in question, in accordance with the appropriate legal enactments laid down by society.

Anybody know why this passage has been omitted and who decided this?

dave c

I also don’t know where the idea that the labor certificates circulate between cooperative stores and productive establishments comes from.

The certificates are described as being “surrendered to the office of social book-keeping”
(http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/11.htm) by the consumer cooperatives.

Why?

dave c

Where is the evidence for further circulation of the certificates?

Obviously this is not in the GIK's scheme, but how would they stop individuals from trading and even lending them?
dave c

I am not convinced that the GIC's proposal is not centralized enough to represent a conscious and planned control of production.

Re-read Chapter 10, which comes across as more syndicalist or even "guild socialist" than communist, proposing as it does that each "productive co-operative" (not even each industrial sector) "appears as an independent unit which cements itself its relations with other productive establishments and consumer cooperatives".

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 11, 2013

capricorn

I've been working from the paper version of the scheme and have just noticed that this passage that immediately follows the above is not in the version on the internet:

Should it be shown in practice and proved by the appropriate organ of the proletarian dictatorship that an actual case of negligence in production control has occurred, measures would then be instituted against the establishment administration in question, in accordance with the appropriate legal enactments laid down by society.

Just checked with the German version that Ocelot gave a link to and this says:

Liegt tatsächlich Vernachlässigung der Produktion vor, so wird gegen die Betriebsorganisation nach der gesellschaftlichen Rechtsauffassung vorgegangen werden.

. This is different from the English as it translates as:

Should there be an actual case of negligence in production, measures would then be instituted against the industrial establishment, in accordance with the legal enactments laid down by society.

There are two differences. One, in the German version "proved by the appropriate organ of the proletarian dictatorship" is not there. Two, the appropriate action in the German version is to be taken against the "industrial establishment" rather than against the "establishment administration". Perhaps there were two German versions after all?

This raises the question of what these measures would be. Since an underperforming industrial establishment would have issued more Labour Certificates than it should, presumably one sanction would be the cancellation of some of them. In other words, a reduction in pay (actually, my reading is that this would occur even if it wasn't due to negligence; perhaps Dave C can confirm this?). Not dissimilar to what happens under capitalism in underperforming enterprises.

arminius

11 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by arminius on February 24, 2013

Since the SLP of America has been brought up, I thought we should let them speak for themselves, to avoid any distortions:

From THE PEOPLE
Oct. 19, 1991

Question Period

Q:Why do you believe that a system of exchange based on labor-time vouchers is needed in a socialist society? Since there would be no need to force workers to produce the necessaries of life, what's wrong with free access, pure and simple?

A:The idea that a socialist society would initially use a system of exchange based on labor-time vouchers (or a similar means of accounting for labor time), and the idea that "exchange" as such would be superseded by the free access of all to the products of labor, are not in contradiction. These two conceptions of how labor's product would be distributed simply reflect two phases of socialist development.

It is unrealistic to expect that, as soon as the organized workers dispossess the capitalist class from ownership and control of the means of production, they can immediately proceed to a system of distribution based on the principle, "from everyone according to their faculties, to everyone according to their needs."

Capitalism's Aftereffects

Although the overwhelming majority of workers will undergo a profound change in the course of becoming classconscious and carrying out the struggle for socialism, it cannot reasonably be expected that every member of society will have transcended years of social conditioning by capitalist ideology and the effects of living in a cut-throat, competitive, harsh social environment. Selfishness, avarice, personal ambition and hunger for power, mistrust, elitism -- these potential sources of trouble would be largely destroyed among classconscious workers, but it would be folly to expect them to be completely destroyed throughout society at the moment of the workers' triumph. Certainly the recently deposed capitalists and their hangers-on would still possess these characteristics.

At the same time, it is impossible to know in advance how prolonged, wrenching and/or violent the struggle to establish socialism will become. The SLP's program is aimed at makine the transition to socialism as smoothly and as peacefully as ruling-class resistance permits. We call for socialism to be established in a manner befitting its civilized aims, using the existing democratic process. But there is no way of knowing at what point in the development of a socialist movement that ruling-class forces will seek to suppress or crush it, how uncommitted workers will respond at that time, how much destruction of means of production might occur, etc.

The point we're driving at is that socialism, when it first emerges, "still retains, in every respect, economic, moral and intellectual, the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it is issuing," as Karl Marx once noted. For workers to immediately open up the social stores to all, to simply take as much as they please, regardless of whether or not they worked for it, would be to invite the ex-capitalists and other reactionary elements to indulge in hoarding and other abuses, create shortages and chaos and promote economic and social retrogression.

Given these circumstances, it is a reasonable supposition that the new-born socialist industrial government would find it necessary and prudent to at first base distribution on the principle, "From everyone according to their faculties, to everyone according to their work."

This does not contradict any of the basic conditions that define a socialist society: classes will be vanquished, no one individual or group could come to possess means of social production or exploit anyone, and decisions on the scope and content of social production would be made by the collective associations encompassing all of society's producers (the socialist industrial unions and their representative governing councils). The workers would, directly or indirectly, enjoy the full fruits of their labor. And such a system of distribution would be infinitely more equitable than that which exists today -- in which ownership or nonownership of the means of production creates extremes ranging from obscene opulence to utter destitution and starvation.

When the socialist society has become well established, all the former capitalists and their allies have become integrated into the system as producers, and the social environment of economic security and abundance for all has had time to negate such characteristics as selfishness, avarice, individual hunger for power, etc., then the need to measure individual work contributions and individual consumption will become obsolete.

At that point, a system of distribution based on the principle, "from everyone according to their faculties, to everyone according to their needs," could be established.

A Reasonable Projection

We are not irrevocably wedded to the idea of "labor-time vouchers" as such. A system of distribution using them, or some other form of accounting for labor contributed and labor product received, is not a fundamental point of socialist principle. If the workers' self-government, at the moment of triumph over capitalism, determined that a system of distribution based on "free access" was, somehow, feasible immediately, it could of course establish such a system. But it is a more reasonable projection that an accountable system of distribution, based on labor time, will prove necessary and desirable for a period. In this, we are in accord with the reasoning presented by Marx in his Critique of the Gotha Program.

In any case, the most important consideration is that the workers will be making the decisions governing distribution, collectively and democratically. And the most important task before workers today is to build the socialist political and economic organizations through which they can overthrow class rule and gain the power to make such decisions in the first place.

{Italics mine, and this is from 1991 - arminius}

alb

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by alb on February 12, 2013

arminius

Since the SLP of America has been brought up, I thought we should let them speak for themselves, to avoid any distortions:

Fair enough and here's the sort of criticism the Socialist Party of Canada and the World Socialist Party of the US made of the SLP position:

In the blueprint they distribute entitled "Visualized Graph of Socialist Industrial Union," they even describe the National Executive Committee of the Party as the "government of the future." This concept, we maintain, is a form of state capitalism, especially since the S. L. P. advocates the use of "labor certificates" as a recompense for work performed. Obviously if workers are in a situation where they "receive" labor certificates, there must be others (the N. E. C. ?) in the position to hand them out. In a socialist society, there could be no reason for measuring the value of one's contribution to society nor any other sort of economic value. Values can only exist in a commodity society where exchange and consequently the measurement of labor power is needed. In a socialist society each man, woman, and child would have the right of access to what is produced, and nothing short of this could be conceivable where common ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth exists.[Western Socialist No 4, 1960]

and an article in the same journal (no 5, 1961) under the titler "SLP Labor Checks vs. Social Ownership":

The Weekly People for May 29th, 1961 published a reply by J. Minal to some correspondence in the Vancouver, Canada, Province which Mr. Minal contends offers Marxian advice to the Socialist Labor Party.

“The gist of the correspondence in question was that, ‘J. Minal and G. McQuillan should know that democratic control of the economy or Socialist administration is impossible without social equality, which means production for use according to needs. Social ownership can involve nothing else. This has never been the objective of the Socialist Labor Party. It has always been the objective of the Socialist Party of Canada.”

In his reply, Mr. Minal quotes from the Critique of the Gotha Program in which Marx seems to equate "the co-operative society, based on the common ownership of the means of production" to the inequality of "compensation" and labor vouchers. And, according to Mr. Minal, "We have here Marx's own word for it that Socialism.. .can exist with a system of labor vouchers..."

Certainly one can find no better authority on Socialism than Marx but this does not imply that socialists should regard his statements as a Messianic "word." Marx developed a system of thought, a body of knowledge. The Socialist Party of Canada prefers to regard Marxism in this manner. Consequently we must relate the above quotation to other parts of that work and to other parts of the science as a whole in order to discover what is meant by Socialism as a system of society.

In this regard, it does not seem to bother Mr. Minal that Marx qualified his own "word" in the paragraph following the one he refers to, as follows : "What we have to deal with here is a Communist (Socialist) society, not as it has developed on its own foundation, but on the contrary, as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth-marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges."

It should be much simpler for Mr. Minal to project himself backward to Marx's time than it was for Marx to foresee a still entrenched and highly developed capitalism in the second half of the twentieth century. Yet Marx, it must be noted, did a much better job of casting aside that which historical development had shown to be obsolete. At a period earlier than that in which he wrote his Critique of the Gotha Program both Marx and Engels had advocated a graduated income tax, not as a part of Socialism, but as an immediate measure to "increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible." But unlike Mr. Minal and the S.L.P., Marx and Engels did not stand still and graduated from such tactics.

And in this same earlier document, the Communist Manifesto, they state clearly what is meant by social control when they describe political power and show that political power will still have to be wielded by the working class until class antagonisms have gone, when "we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" not labor vouchers or "the enslaving subordination of individuals under division of labor," that characterizes the first phase. Despite their advocacy and belief in the need of an earlier phase they made no bones about labeling it properly.

In the same vein, in the Critique from which Minal quotes, Marx points out: "...after the productive forces have also increased, with the allround development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly, only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be fully left behind and society inscribe on its banner: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

Certainly Marx saw the need for a “first phase” of socialism but only because of the lower development of the productive forces of his time. This is further shown three paragraphs on where he states: "The distribution of the means of consumption at any time is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves." And he also points out that "Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development thereby determined."

And Engels, in Socialism Utopian and Scientific agrees: "With the seizure of the means of production by society, the production of commodities is done away with and along with them the domination exercised by the product over the producers." And further, "It is the leap of mankind out of the reign of necessity into that of freedom." There is no necessity for labor certificates here, or the principle of "the exchange of commodity equivalents." (No more so than in the free consumption of primitive Socialism).

And as if to leave no doubt of his feelings on the subject, Engels continues to describe Socialism: "The conditions of life, which had previously dominated him (mankind) would then be placed under his domination; etc." Such a state of affairs could only exist where each consumed freely according to needs, with all types of exchange relationship absent. Socialism can be basically nothing else and nothing short of Socialism, in the freest meaning of the term is possible in our times, once capitalism has been abolished.

It seems we're re-discussing something that was already being discussed before many here were born.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on February 12, 2013

I'm pretty behind on this thread and my review of the GIK text is currently stalled on ch 9, as I have a big deadline for a writing project coming up which is absorbing most of my time currently.

Still, a couple of comments.

dave c

Labor-power as a commodity means that the worker is selling his or her laboring capacity, which is then at the disposal of the buyer. Labor-power comes to exist as a commodity only when there is a class of laborers lacking control of the means of production. (I think this would be relatively uncontroversial in any other context.) This is not the case in the “lower phase” of communism, where the structural necessity for competition between workers is also removed.

OK, there's a significant amount of wrong in there, that deserves a line-by-line

"Labor-power as a commodity means that the worker is selling his or her laboring capacity, which is then at the disposal of the buyer"

If by "buyer" we understand not simply the capitalist alone, but the social collectivity as a whole - assuming that the conflict of interests between the individual and the collectivity (that which is to be achieved, rather than presupposed) has not be superceeded - then the statement can stand.

"Labor-power comes to exist as a commodity only when there is a class of laborers lacking control of the means of production."

That can actually be split into two distinct propositions, one 'historical', one 'axiomatic', thus:

1. Historically labour-power came to be transformed into a commodity only once a class of labourers lacking control [separated from] the means of production had been created.

Which is uncontroversial

2. Labour-power can only be a commodity when there is a class of labourers lacking [deprived of] control of the means of production [by the existence of an antagonist owning class]"

Which does not at all follow from 1. Not only do I oppose 2., but I would argue that a deeper reading of Marx's critique of the value form would also throw this axiomatic assumtion into doubt, at the very least.

hence "(I think this would be relatively uncontroversial in any other context.)" is a bit of an obtuse statement.

dave c

Furthermore, the capitalist mechanism (the need to maximize profitability) for increasing the TCC is gone. If the workers decide to increase the TCC so that they will have a shorter work day, this does not somehow bring the capitalist law of value into operation!

The rest of this is just the basic 101 of the wage. Why would individual production units of workers choose to shorten their working day, when they are paid in proportion to its length? The wage creates a basic conflict of interest between the wider interests of society in shortening the overall working day, and the individual producers interest in not losing remuneration by collaborating with local productivity increases. [edit: which is why retaining the wage in order to develop the forces of production is self-defeating]

The wage only functions within the wider context of the capitalist class struggle that forces productivity increases on workers against their will, by means of retaining control over production in the hands of an antagonist subject (the boss).

Which is why the ideological utopia of ending the class struggle and maintaining the wage and the exchange of products in proportion to the SNLT contained within them, is unworkable - something has to give - either the wage or the egalitarian nature of society (and workers control over their own production).

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 12, 2013

ocelot

dave c

Labor-power as a commodity means that the worker is selling his or her laboring capacity, which is then at the disposal of the buyer.

If by "buyer" we understand not simply the capitalist alone, but the social collectivity as a whole - assuming that the conflict of interests between the individual and the collectivity (that which is to be achieved, rather than presupposed) has not be superceeded - then the statement can stand.

Or, as Marx put it in his famous/notorious remark on "crude communism" in the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844:

The community is only a community of labour, and equality of wages paid out by communal capital – by the community as the universal capitalist. Both sides of the relationship are raised to an imagined universality – labour as the category in which every person is placed, and capital as the acknowledged universality and power of the community.

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on February 13, 2013

Or as William Thompson put it, in his Inquiry of 1824 (Ch 5, 'The Evils of the Principle of Individual Competion'):

In all the pursuits of life under individual competition, this unhappy tendency to war with benevolence might be pointed out. Every laborer, artizan, trader, sees a competitor a rival, in every other laborer, artizan and trader near him; and not only so, but they all see a second competition, a second rivalship, between the whole of their calling and the public. In medicine, it is the interest of the physician to cure diseases, but to cure them as slowly and with as much profit as the competition with other medical men will permit. It is the interest of all medical men that diseases should exist and prevail, or their trade would be decreased ten or one hundred fold. Hence the almost universal inattention, nursed by the interest of physicians, to regimen, to the preservation of health, by attention to food, air, moisture, cleanliness, and all other circumstances influencing it. It is the interest of mankind that the state of health should never be deranged: it is the interest of healers of wounds and diseases that these incidents calling for their exertions and remunerations should be as frequent as may be. Individual remuneration is thus opposed at every step to the principle of benevolence [solidarity]; and the only remedy to the public evil which the system admits, is private competition between individuals of the same calling, mitigating the evils of selfishness on a large scale, by developing them on a smaller.[...]From the pursuit of self-interest in the acquisition of individual wealth, proceed almost all vices and crimes. These vices and crimes must, to a certain extent, continue until the interest of self ceases to be opposed to the interest of others.

dave c

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by dave c on February 17, 2013

capricorn

Yes, but, according to Chapter 10, this average has to be registered with an "Office of Social Book-keeping" which has powers to make corrections in the light of how things turn out.

This doesn’t sound like economic specialists calculating an “ideal average.” Your claim on this score is at best misleading, just like your claim about the circulation of labor certificates. And if the goal of all of this is to show that the rule of value is operative in the GIC proposal, I don't see how this is the case. My view is that since production is determined by social need and productive organs do not accumulate wealth from their activities, this is not the rule of value, not a “self-managed capitalism.” If you want to make logistical criticisms, or voice your disapproval of this or that aspect of the GIC proposal, this will not amount to a vindication of Dauvé.

ocelot

OK, there's a significant amount of wrong in there

"Wrong"? To be clear, I mean to say that the existence of a class of laborers lacking control of the means of production is a necessary condition for the general selling of labor-power. You disagree, but this is in fact what I assumed would be uncontroversial in “any other context,” in other words when these formulations are not meant to support a rejection of labor certificates. The sale of labor-power involves alienation of use-value and realization of value, as is the case with other commodities. The laborer is remunerated in accordance with the costs of reproduction of labor-power, since this is the laborer’s commodity. For Marx, the wage-laborer is not remunerated for the actual labor that they perform (as in the Critique of the Gotha Programme or the GIC proposal). I think this is fairly clear in Capital:

Marx

Apart from these contradictions, a direct exchange of money, i.e. of objectified labour, with living labour, would either supersede the law of value, which only begins to develop freely on the basis of capitalist production, or supersede capitalist production itself, which rests directly on wage-labour. (Capital 1, 676)

You are free to develop an alternative theory of labor-power and value, but this would not make what I say "wrong."

capricorn

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by capricorn on February 17, 2013

dave c

Marx

Apart from these contradictions, a direct exchange of money, i.e. of objectified labour, with living labour, would either supersede the law of value, which only begins to develop freely on the basis of capitalist production, or supersede capitalist production itself, which rests directly on wage-labour. (Capital 1, 676)

I don't think this quote from Marx (from the beginning of Chapter 19, Penguin translation) helps your case. Quite the contrary. In this chapter Marx is making the point that what workers sell for wages is not their labour but their labour-power and saying here that if they were selling their labour (the product of their labour) this would either violate the principle of the exchange of equal values or it wouldn't be capitalism (there would be no surplus value). But that doesn't mean it would be communism (how could it be when there is still a question of money?). It would rather be some sort of "petty commodity production", in which producers exchange the products of their labour, i.e. the sort of economy advocated by, yes, Proudhon ! Or maybe the sort of (contradictory and so unworkable) labour-money scheme, aiming to recreate this on the basis of larger-scale production, advocated by Gray

You're not arguing, are you, that in the GIK scheme what workers are exchanging is their labour rather than their labour-power?

ocelot

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ocelot on February 19, 2013

capricorn

You're not arguing, are you, that in the GIK scheme what workers are exchanging is their labour rather than their labour-power?

Nailed it. Thank you.

That's precisely the issue with "to each according to deed" schemes of remuneration. The competition for a greater share of the social product, means the producer is exchanging her labour power for a privately appropriated share of the social product. The mediation of social production through the exchange of labour power with privately appropriated shares of the social product, cannot be directly social labour. (Indeed the very need to commensurate the different use values that compose the social product is itself determined by the non-social - i.e. private - mode of appropriation/distribution). In a directly social mode of production, the proportion of different use values to be produced is determined collectively, not through the "market forces" of private appropriation.

shawnpwilbur

11 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by shawnpwilbur on February 23, 2013

Josiah Warren returned to New Harmony and opened a Time Store there after the Owenite phase of the community. His labor notes did not measure hours of labor as such, but a quantity of labor equivalent to X hours of an agreed upon sort of labor, determined individually by the laborer.

kingzog

11 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on March 8, 2013

http://internationalist-perspective.org/blog/2013/03/05/exchange-on-socialist-labor-vouchers/

Blog post on the Internationalist Perspectives website about this discussion and about a parallel discussion. Thought this might be very interesting for those here who are unaware of it.

RedHughs

11 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on March 23, 2013

Excellent discussion in your link, Kingzog. I would highly recommend everyone interested in this topic read it.

Anarcho

9 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Anarcho on January 8, 2015

"They imagined that a bank could identify prices with values through the use of labor-money—tokens representing a certain number of labor hours—and that this could do away with the anarchic fluctuation of supply and demand in a capitalist monetary economy."

Actually, no. Proudhon did not advocate "labour-money" (labour-notes) and such like. He mentioned in "System of Economic Contradictions" that labour is measured in Francs and, moreover, that value would be determined by oscillations in supply and demand plus contracts between producers (cost-plus-mark-up being the normal pricing system these days for industry, suggesting that Proudhon was right in his analysis of tendencies within capitalism).

I discuss this in a recent blog posting -- and, I would, in general take anything Marx says about Proudhon (particularly in "The Poverty of Philosophy") with a very large pinch of salt.

This does not mean that Proudhon's system is superior to anarcho-communist just that it is best to be accurate about someone's ideas before critiquing them (see the introduction to "Property is Theft!", particularly the appendix on Marx).

Spikymike

8 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on January 21, 2016

In addition to the earlier IP linked text by kingzog there is also this useful exchange:
http://internationalist-perspective.org/IP/ip-texts/labor_coupons.html

Spikymike

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on July 2, 2016

Given questions regarding the usefulness or otherwise of so-called 'labour vouchers' keeps coming up I thought it was worth bumping up this particular discussion thread for those still interested - worth starting at the beginning.

Spikymike

7 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on July 21, 2016

Apologies for bumping this up yet again but I've never been able to get my links to this particular text and discussion to work properly. It needs some patience to follow the admittedly lengthy discussion but within it I think there is more of use in understanding the repeated and otherwise rather sterile discussions around the subject of 'labour vouchers' and the whole question of communism as the abolition of 'value' production and distribution alongside that of mutual or private ownership of the means of production and the unavoidable process of transition from one to another social system on a world scale.

spacious

7 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by spacious on October 18, 2016

Marx describes the first phase of communism as “communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, as it emerges from capitalist society.”

Maybe someone else has noticed this, but I think it's interesting to note that this definition of communism's different phases is identical in structure to Marx' distinction between 'formal' and 'real subsumption of labour under capital', ie. between capital which takes hold of pre-existing labour processes without transforming them as such ('formal subsumption'), and capitalism which transforms social production on the basis of its own forms or on its own foundation ('real subsumption').

Khawaga

7 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Khawaga on October 18, 2016

Yes, it makes sense. But not necessarily in terms of formal and real subsumption, but rather how a historical and/or logical precondition becomes the result of the mode of production. This is basically Marx's very abstract account of historical change between modes of production (or at least the feudal to capitalist one; for example the commodity existed prior to the capitalist mode of production as a precondition, but became commodity capital as soon as it is a result of capitalist production, i.e. exploitation). In a lot of discussions on formal/real subsumption, few ever make the connection to precondition becoming a result (and it's surprising because Marx talks about that stuff together with formal and real subsumption in the Appendix to Capital). Formal subsumption then just means that capital takes labour as it is as its precondition, but the result of capitalist production is that the content of the labour process changes (real subsumption).

So, the social forms, technology etc. that emerge in capitalist society are the preconditions for a communist society. So I think it's better to refer to precondition-result rather than formal and real subsumption, which technically only applies to labour in Marx's schema (though it can be easily applied to other phenomena).

Spikymike

7 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on December 31, 2016

For those who prefer listening to a presentation on this subject rather than reading a text the spgb have provided this from their recent summer school which is worth listening to:
www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/audio/labour-time-vouchers-and-socialism
It doesn't really get to grips with any of the inevitable practical problems of a transition from capitalism to communism in to-days global capitalism or deal with any temporary options for rationing other than 'labour-vouchers' but is still good on the basics from a Marxist point of view.
The follow-up audio discussion is however poor compared to what is available on this libcom thread.

klas batalo

7 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on January 3, 2017

http://internationalistperspective.org/article/IP61-The-Economy-Transition-Critique/

This new article from IP might also be of interest on this subject.

Spikymike

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on September 6, 2020

Yes klas good but not new! Certainly worth another look. Had (as someone supportive of IP and Dauve) a long discussion with CWO comrades about this but had in the end to just agree to disagree.
Edit: that article here I think:
https://internationalistperspective.org/article/the-economy-in-the-transition-to-a-communist-society/

Anarcho

6 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Anarcho on December 12, 2017

A bit late, I know... but it is useful to know what people actually did argue rather than what Marx claimed they did.

Proudhon was a market socialist -- but he did not advocate labour-notes:

Proudhon’s constituted value and the myth of labour notes

That is pure invention by Marx -- along with a lot of other nonsense proclaimed against Proudhon. More here:

Review: The Poverty of Philosophy by Karl Marx

Shame to see Marx's nonsense repeated here... there is a valid critique to be made of Proudhon's market socialism, unfortunately for Marxists, Marx's is not it.

jura

6 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jura on December 12, 2017

Yeah, Darimon, Proudhon's follower, not Proudhon himself.

Spikymike

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on August 1, 2018

Apologies for bumping this again but much of the earlier discussion following David Adam's text is well worth another look given more recent threads on the same issues raised by Mike Harman.

Spikymike

3 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on May 13, 2020

This useful discussion should always come up in any reference to the GIK's or Council Communism's proposals for economic calculation in a Communist society or first phase of Communism, but I can never get my link to work when I want to in such cases.

Spikymike

2 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on June 21, 2021

And this additional critical text goes over the various contributions to much the same debate by several of the key theorists of both the Council and Left communist tradition and seeks to draw on the strengths of each with some useful conclusions for us today here:
https://cominsitu.wordpress.com/2021/03/12/the-test-of-communism