Primitive accumulation against primitive communism

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 19, 2023

I will now try and express what I know of the "theory" of primitive accumulation. If you ever feel like further reading you can read chapter 33 of Capital. It is the easiest part of the book and you can then tell people you have read the book.

Adam Smith started from the premise of Robinson Crusoe, Marx tells us. Smith proposed that the political economy existed from time immemorial, whereas we know that no man is an island. Marx contended that at points in history great swathes of the productive forces, most notably the Earth and human labour, i.e. humans, were expropriated and placed in private hands.

The process of primitive accumulation has continued right up to this late modern period. The massacre of Darfur springs to mind. The fact that remnants survive of the way of life that existed under forms of what Engels (social-democratic buddy/sponsor of Marx) described as primitive communism enables us to study and perhaps even preserve these as a foundation for the future.

The process of primitive accumulation is partly the process of creating free labour, i.e. freed of ties to the land that once sustained us. The acts of enclosure and the highland clearances are the most notables instances of primitive accumulation in England and Scotland respectively.

adri

9 months 4 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on September 19, 2023

The fact that remnants survive of the way of life that existed under forms of what Engels (social-democratic buddy/sponsor of Marx) described as primitive communism enables us to study and perhaps even preserve these as a foundation for the future.

I'd really disagree with the characterization of Engels as a "social democrat," especially in the modern sense of the word. Just because he encouraged the development of socialist parties in Germany and elsewhere doesn't mean that he was only interested in "humanizing capitalism," which is the goal of most social democrats today. It's also true that both Marx and Engels made statements regarding the possibility of a peaceful/parliamentary road to socialism in certain countries (e.g. see Marx's comments on America and Britain in 1872), but they never restricted themselves to parliamentary means, nor argued that workers' tactics should be everywhere the same.

During Engels' time, the term "social democrat" itself also did not carry the same reformist connotations that it does today. It was basically synonymous with "socialist/communist," which is why revolutionaries like Rosa Luxemburg used it in works such as Social Reform or Revolution?.

The process of primitive accumulation is partly the process of creating free labour, i.e. freed of ties to the land that once sustained us. The acts of enclosure and the highland clearances are the most notables instances of primitive accumulation in England and Scotland respectively.

With respect to the creation of "free laborers" in the U.S., it's interesting to note that the creation of textile mills in places like New England was also accompanied by the undermining of farmers' and others' subsistence practices. The construction of dams and canals to help power the new textile mills disrupted the livelihoods of the lower classes who relied on such rivers as a food source (i.e. fishing) and in other ways. So in addition to workers' opposition to the emerging factory system from within the mills (e.g. the well-known opposition of the Factory Girls, as was captured in labor magazines like the Voice), there was also this resistance to the undermining of the lower classes' subsistence practices. Ted Steinberg discusses such developments in his book Down to Earth (see especially Ch. 4): "Long before water became a commodity for powering New England's factories, before the dams and canals produced energy, farmers relied on rivers and streams to provide food for the family economy" (58). I'm not sure to what extent such undermining of subsistence practices directly contributed to the creation of an American working class "freed" from any other means of surviving except working for a wage, but it certainly seems like the creation of textile mills in New England assisted that process.

westartfromhere

9 months 4 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 20, 2023

'The peculiar character of social-democracy is epitomized in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as a means, not of doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labor, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony. However different the means proposed for the attainment of this end may be, however much it may be trimmed with more or less revolutionary notions, the content remains the same. This content is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie. Only one must not get the narrow-minded notion that the petty bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within whose frame alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided. Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are indeed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be as far apart as heaven and earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter practically. This is, in general, the relationship between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent.'

'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte', Karl Marx, 1852, III

'What will this new social order have to be like?
Above all, it will have to take the control of industry and of all branches of production out of the hands of mutually competing individuals, and instead institute a system in which all these branches of production are operated by society as a whole – that is, for the common account, according to a common plan, and with the participation of all members of society.'

'The Principles of Communism', Friedrich Engels, 1847

To abbreviate Engels: this new social order will have to take the control of industry and of all branches of production and institute a system with the participation of all members of society.

What could match the description of social-democracy Marx gave more than Engels' vision of a future society?

Of primitive accumulation in the USA the Dust Bowl evictions stand out in my mind.

adri

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on September 21, 2023

To abbreviate Engels: this new social order will have to take the control of industry and of all branches of production and institute a system with the participation of all members of society.

What could match the description of social-democracy Marx gave more than Engels' vision of a future society?

There’s nothing in Engels’ Principles of Communism, which was basically a preliminary version of the Communist Manifesto in catechism-form, that advocates for merely improving the condition of workers under capitalism, as is the goal of most social democrats today. In the quote above, Engels is saying that society as a whole should take control of industry, ending the isolated and chaotic production that characterizes capitalism, and conduct it according to a definite plan for meeting human needs (i.e. ending commodity production or production for exchange).

Engels also directly attacked bourgeois socialists (or modern-day social democrats) in the Principles of Communism (MECW Vol. 6, p. 355),

The second group [of socialists] consists of adherents of present society in whom the evils inseparable from it have awakened fears for its survival. They therefore endeavour to preserve present society but to remove the evils bound up with it. With this end in view, some of them propose measures of mere charity, and others grandiose systems of reform which, under the pretext of reorganising society, would retain the foundations of present society, and thus present society itself. These bourgeois socialists will also have to be continuously fought by the Communists, since they work for the enemies of the Communists and defend the society which it is the Communists’ aim to destroy.

westartfromhere

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 22, 2023

Engels is saying that civil society as a whole should take control of industry. Precisely, there lies social-democracy. The communists, i.e. the proletariat, do not destroy society as a whole, just one element of it.

darren p

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by darren p on September 22, 2023

You think that communism means "destroying society as whole"? What is that supposed to mean?

westartfromhere

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 22, 2023

'...the society which it is the Communists’ aim to destroy.' F. Engels, 'Principles of Communism', MECW Vol. 6, p. 355

'The communists, i.e. the proletariat, do not destroy society as a whole, just one element of it.'

I note that the sentence of Engels is translated differently elsewhere:

'...the society which communists aim to overthrow.'

If this is the correct translation, it is still incorrect. The proletariat ("communists") does not overthrow society, it violently overthrows the bourgeoisie and by this means destroys the capital.

This discussion was intended to be about the destruction of primitive communism by means of primitive accumulation but has been derailed to a discussion whether Engels' petty bourgeois position within society led necessarily to his social-democracy or whether he is a true arbitrar of communism. So be it.

darren p

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by darren p on September 22, 2023

Engels, Marx, Luxemburg, Pannekoek etc were all Social Democrats and communists. It's just that word in its older meaning doesn't mean the same as it does now. The distinction between "social democracy" and "communism" comes with the Bolsheviks

westartfromhere

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 22, 2023

The majority wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party certainly had a decisive part to play in the primitive accumulation carried out by the Soviet state, in the destruction of the communal lands of Russia.

adri

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on September 22, 2023

Engels is saying that civil society as a whole should take control of industry. Precisely, there lies social-democracy. The communists, i.e. the proletariat, do not destroy society as a whole, just one element of it.

This discussion was intended to be about the destruction of primitive communism by means of primitive accumulation but has been derailed to a discussion whether Engels' petty bourgeois position within society led necessarily to his social-democracy or whether he is a true arbitrar of communism.

Your interpretation is off there mate. If not the economic order itself—the basis of class society and exploitation—then what other aspects of capitalist society do you think Engels was so eager to preserve? You also just quoted Engels saying that he was interested in destroying the whole of capitalist society, so it's unclear what you actually disagree with.

It's doubly strange that you're wanting to talk about Engels' account of primitive communism, as discussed in such works as the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, while you also (erroneously) describe him as nothing more than a "petty-bourgeois social democrat." If Engels' politics were no different from some modern-day social democrat's, then wouldn't that cast doubt on his description and praise of communistic societies (e.g. his description and praise of the Iroquois)? On the contrary, here's Engels praising the Iroquois for having mastery over their production in contrast to capitalist society, in which the whole of society is dominated by their own products/commodities (MECW Vol. 26, p. 216),

Engels wrote: The Iroquois were still far from controlling the forces of nature but within the limits set for them by nature they were masters of their production. Apart from poor harvests in their little gardens, the exhaustion of the fish stocks in their lakes and rivers, or of game in their forests, they knew what the outcome would be of their mode of gaining a livelihood. The outcome would be: means of sustenance, meagre or abundant; but it could never be unpremeditated social upheavals, the severing of gentile bonds, or the splitting of the members of gentes and tribes into antagonistic classes fighting each other. Production was carried on within the most restricted limits, but—the producers exercised control over their own product. This was the immense advantage of barbarian production that was lost with the advent of civilisation; and to win it back on the basis of the enormous control man now exercises over the forces of nature, and of the free association that is now possible, will be the task of the next generations.

westartfromhere

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 23, 2023

'...barbarian production that was lost with the advent of civilisation; and to win it back on the basis of the enormous control [bourgeois] man now exercises over the forces of nature...'

Yet bourgeois man's control over the forces of nature transpires to be nothing of the sort. The dams that bourgeois man builds to expropriate energy are nothing but disasters waiting to happen when faced by inclement weather.

The Eurocentric analysis of the periphery of primitive communism by Engels sits perfectly with his social-democracy.

adri

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on September 23, 2023

The fact that remnants survive of the way of life that existed under forms of what Engels (social-democratic buddy/sponsor of Marx) described as primitive communism enables us to study and perhaps even preserve these as a foundation for the future.

The Eurocentric analysis of the periphery of primitive communism by Engels sits perfectly with his social-democracy.

So if Engels' account of primitive communism is so flawed and Euro-centric (as opposed to your favorite thinkers?), then I guess it doesn't actually enable us to learn all that much? You do also realize that "primitive communism" and "primitive/original accumulation" are not just generic terms and ideas, but rather terms and ideas coined and developed by Marx and Engels?

If you were to have also read Engels' Origin of the Family—the chief work that deals with primitive communism, which you're so eager to discuss—then you would know that he actually praises "barbarian" societies throughout the work. Engels' use of archaic terms like "barbarian" and "primitive" (which he adopted from Lewis H. Morgan, whose own anthropological writings greatly influenced Engels' work) does not signify any sort of negative appraisal of past societies or peoples. On the contrary, Engels regarded certain Indigenous peoples, such as the Iroquois, as models to emulate in terms of their mastery over production, as well as in terms of the higher social status accorded to women in such societies. He's far more critical of bourgeois "civilization" (naturally) and the modern bourgeois family, which he associates with the enslavement and degradation of women (MECW Vol. 26, p. 181),

Engels wrote: The modern individual family is based on the overt or covert domestic slavery of the woman; and modern society is a mass composed solely of individual families as its molecules. Today, in the great majority of cases, the man has to be the earner, the bread-winner of the family, at least among the propertied classes, and this gives him a dominating position which requires no special legal privileges. In the family, he is the bourgeois; the wife represents the proletariat.

I certainly wouldn't say that there is nothing to critique in Engels' Origin of the Family (e.g. we have better anthropological and historical evidence today as compared to 140 years ago), but you don't tell us what you actually disagree with.

Yet bourgeois man's control over the forces of nature transpires to be nothing of the sort. The dams that bourgeois man builds to expropriate energy are nothing but disasters waiting to happen when faced by inclement weather.

Where does Engels suggest that people can have "complete control over nature" (or that a communist society would simply continue using science and technology the same way as under capitalism)? It reminds me of a passage by Engels in the Dialectics of Nature, as quoted by John Bellamy Foster, which directly contradicts what you're saying,

Engels wrote: Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, and making it possible for them to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons. . . . Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature—but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.

westartfromhere

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 23, 2023

At this point I am going to throw in this statement by Marx:

'This primitive accumulation plays in political economy about the same part as original sin in theology.'

Original sin, a doctrine of Christianity, is said to derive from the following passage from Paul's, 'Letter to the Romans':

'Well then; it was through one man ["Adama"] that sin came into the world, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned.'

As many will know, Christianity proposes that we are all born sinful. As a result of our sin, Yahweh God expelled us from the garden of Eden to till the soil from which we had been taken. The crucial word that marks the curse of Adam is "till", a laborious task, meaning to turn over the soil.

Now, fortunately, an African farming method has been documented photographically which predates this laborious tilling of the soil. The method involves the swinging of a basket over the seed heads of wild grains. By this method, as late as 1963, households were able to collect 1000 kg of grain in a year, a stark contrast to the picture portrayed by our good friend Herr Engels of the "poor harvests in their little gardens".

I was wrong to say earlier in another post that Marx's theology is off the mark. He is quite right. The imposition of primitive accumulation over primitive communism does play in the political economy the same part as original sin does in theology. Primitive accumulation is the birth pang of the political economy and marks its beginning. Preceeding it is primitive communism, a way of life that prior to the rise of so-called civilisation existed in a great swathe stretching from the southern tip of the Americas, right across sub-Saharan Africa, to the far reaches of the Far East, with its peripheries in northern America, Europe and Australia.

Footnote: Primitive is not an "archaic term" except in its colloquial sense of substandard. 'The term "primitive art" is a legacy from the anthropologists of the nineteenth century who saw the Europe of their day as the apex of social evolution.' 'African art', page 28, by Frank Willett, a book on my shelf.

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 24, 2023

adri/darren p wrote:

Marx... made statements regarding the possibility of a peaceful/parliamentary road to socialism in certain countries (e.g. see Marx's comments on America and Britain in 1872)

...Engels’ Principles of Communism, which was basically a preliminary version of the Communist Manifesto in catechism-form...

During Engels' time, the term "social democrat" itself also did not carry the same reformist connotations that it does today. It was basically synonymous with "socialist/communist"...

Engels, Marx, Luxemburg, Pannekoek etc were all Social Democrats and communists.

The distinction between "social democracy" and "communism" comes with the Bolsheviks

Nothing of the sort was said in the speech delivered by Karl Marx in Amsterdam to the International Working Men's Association.

The 'Manifesto of the communist party' was a foil to the 'Principles' of Engels.

Marx defines social-democracy in the '18th Brummaire' (see quoted above) as an obstacle to communism. Social-democracy is not synonymous with the emancipation of the working class, it is a tool for its continued enslavement.

Engels and Luxemburg and Pannekoek belonged to social-democracy; Marx to communism, in my opinion.

The last remark quoted is flagrantly untrue and would read accurately as, The indistinction between social-democracy and communism comes with the Bolsheviks.

darren p

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by darren p on September 24, 2023

If the ideas of Engels (co-author of the Communist Manifesto) were so antithetical to those of his life long collaborator Karl Marx it seems strange that Marx never noticed this nor commented on it.

The meaning of the word "social democracy", like all political terms, was always contentested, with its meaning changing over time.

The idea that Pannekoek and Luxemburg did not take proletarian self emancipation seriously is laughable. What evidence do you have for that?

I think your mistake is thinking that "social democracy" had some kind of fixed meaning - state ownership of means of production perhaps -when it didn't. Instead we have to look at what the people using the particular term at a particular time meant by it.

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 24, 2023

I think that what is at issue here is a general and a specific meaning for the terms social-democracy and Social Democracy respectively. I found this paragraph useful for my understanding from the pages of libcom.org:

'Although the multiple centres of struggle of these crucial years, ‘17-‘23, comprise enormous similarities in terms of their strengths, equally there are enormous similarities with regard their weaknesses: the limited understanding of internationalism by national parties; the limited critique of Democracy; a limited understanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc. All these weaknesses crystallised in a general limitation of the period: the lack of rupture with social-democracy.

We are not here solely speaking of the formal Social Democracy that capital limited within a long string of parties federated within the Second International, but also all fused denominations, under any flag, of the totality of reformist forces which have had, for practice and as content, the affirmation of counter-revolution under the form of a bourgeois programme for the proletariat. By painting itself in the colours of revolution social-democracy succeeded in imposing the capitalistic programme on workers.

Thus, many of those proposing rupture with the Second International reproduced the totality of its programme under different names. For example, this was the case with Lenin and other Bolshevik militants who, after having resolutely participated in the development of revolution in Russia, reversed the whole process of rupture with Social Democracy in terms of social-democracy as a programme and went on, finally, to assume the local reconstruction of the capitalistic state.'

'Proletarian insurrection in Ukraine, 1918-1921'

I have good, good friends that are not communist. I don't let that fact get in the way of our friendship. Marx needed the friendship of Engels for many reasons, not least of which was his material survival in a world that refused to employ him for a wage. For his great genius, Marx could not foretell the terrible things that would be done in the name of Social Democracy. Notably, the collusion with capital in dragging our class into the First World War and the seizure of political power by the majority wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

I know that Engels is sometimes co-credited with authorship of the Manifesto but it does not ring true to me. I think that Jenny Marx probably had more input into its composition.

darren p

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by darren p on September 24, 2023

"I know that Engels is sometimes co-credited with authorship of the Manifesto but it does not ring true to me. I think that Jenny Marx probably had more input into its composition."

That's pamphlet had *always* been credited to them both. And nowhere has it been suggested otherwise. Why make stuff up? Weird.

westartfromhere

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 25, 2023

'...Engels saying that he was interested in destroying the whole of capitalist society, so it's unclear what you actually disagree with.' adri

The housing stock is a part of capital and adds value to it through rents and mortgages, etc. Would Engels wish to destroy that part of capital also?

'That's pamphlet had *always* been credited to them both. And nowhere has it been suggested otherwise. Why make stuff up? Weird.' darren p

'Engels himself wrote in 1883: "The basic thought running through the Manifesto... belongs solely and exclusively to Marx".'

It is not "strange" or "weird" at all. Just compare Volume 1, with 2 and 3, of Capital. Who remembers those? The Book of Mormon has more readers.

westartfromhere

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 25, 2023

'The construction of dams and canals to help power the new textile mill disrupted the livelihoods of the lower classes who relied on such rivers as a food source (i.e. fishing) and in other ways.' adri

This is an extremely pertinent point and crucial to understanding the first form of capital accumulation in the Nile basin and Mesopotamia, the cradle of capitalist barbarism.

'Um, yeah, I just have a question. Is this a god dam? You know, god damn. You know?' Beavis

darren p

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by darren p on September 25, 2023

Now you think someone was saying that Engels wanted to demolish all housing? Wow.

There's seems little point continuing this exchange.

westartfromhere

9 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 25, 2023

Thanks for your contribution to the discussion, Darren. It has been a long time since we exchanged.

I don't think the shackles on Engels' mind could allow him to envisage the demolition of all housing. He did, however, predict the proletarian mansion blocks but not their destruction.

Submitted by Anarcho on September 28, 2023

adri wrote:

I'd really disagree with the characterization of Engels as a "social democrat," especially in the modern sense of the word. Just because he encouraged the development of socialist parties in Germany and elsewhere doesn't mean that he was only interested in "humanizing capitalism," which is the goal of most social democrats today.

Of course Engels was not a social democrat in today's sense -- but today's sense came about because of the strategy he and Marx insisted the working class follow, namely standing in elections. As Bakunin correctly predicted, this simply generated reformism.

adri wrote:

It's also true that both Marx and Engels made statements regarding the possibility of a peaceful/parliamentary road to socialism in certain countries... but they never restricted themselves to parliamentary means, nor argued that workers' tactics should be everywhere the same.

They split the International to impose parliamentarianism onto it and repeated argued for workers to follow the same tactics as used "successfully" in Germany. They also noted with joy when this started to happen in the late 1870s and 1880s. We are still reaping that particular harvest.

In terms of Marx's attacks on "social democracy" in works written between 1848 and 1852, he is talking about a tendency within the French labour/socialist movement and not "social democracy" as it became in the 1870s and beyond. He was thinking of those like Louis Blanc -- Jacobin-socialists, in other words. If Marxist social-democracy became like that then it is a case of revolutionary rhetoric cannot overcome reformist practice.

adri

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on September 28, 2023

Of course Engels was not a social democrat in today's sense -- but today's sense came about because of the strategy he and Marx insisted the working class follow, namely standing in elections. As Bakunin correctly predicted, this simply generated reformism.

I don’t really think Marx and Engels are responsible for the reformism of today’s social democrats, or the activities of any other "socialists/Marxists" (Stalin, Mao etc.) throughout history who claimed to have correctly embodied their ideas.

If you also want to talk about strategic blunders, then let's also mention Bakunin’s call on Russian student-radicals to “go to the people/narod” in 1873, which didn't quite succeed in making socialists out of the Russian peasantry. See for example his book Statism and Anarchy, which appeared in 1873 and directly contributed to the Going to the People Movement a year later,

Bakunin wrote: In such a situation, what can our intellectual proletariat do, our honest, sincere, utterly dedicated social-revolutionary Russian youth? Without question they must go to the people, because today—and this is true everywhere, but especially in Russia—outside of the people, outside of the multi-million-strong laboring masses, there is neither life, nor cause, nor future.

Bakunin wrote: However beclouded our peasant may be by his senseless historical faith in the tsar, he is finally beginning to understand that himself. And how could he help but understand it! For ten years now, from all corners of Russia he has been sending his deputies to petition the tsar, and they have all heard but one answer from the tsar’s own lips: “You will have no other freedom!”

No, say what you will, the Russian peasant may be ignorant, but he is no fool.

Rather than winning the peasantry over to socialism, the Movement mostly resulted in peasants turning the student-radicals—who had dressed up as peasants in order to infiltrate peasants’ communities—over to Tsarist authorities. Bakunin had even noted the reactionary character of the Russian peasantry (e.g. peasants’ admiration for the Tsar) in Statism and Anarchy, yet still portrayed them as if they were "ready to revolt."

If anything, Bakunin bore more direct responsibility for the imprisonment of Russian socialists, through his mistaken belief in the receptiveness of Russian peasants to revolutionary ideas, than Marx and Engels did for the reformism of today’s social democrats. Marx and Engels were not really to blame for the emergence of a reformist faction within the SPD, let alone the crushing of the German Revolution by this faction later on, especially when they consistently fought against such elements (e.g. see Marx and Engels' "Circular Letter to Bebel, Liebknecht, Bracke and Others" from 1879).

While you're here by the way, you might also want to update the AFAQ and remove the part where you falsely claim that Marx "stole" the expression concerning the self-emancipation of the working class, as it appears in the 1864 Rules of the International, from Flora Tristan,

the AFAQ wrote: Marx’s use of the famous expression—"the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself"—dates from 1865, 17 years after Proudhon’s comment that "the proletariat must emancipate itself." Moreover, as Libertarian Marxist Paul Mattick pointed out, Marx was not even the first person to use the expression "the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself" as Flora Tristan used it in 1843. [Marx and Keynes, p. 333] Thus a case could be made that Marx was, in fact, the third "major socialist thinker to make the principle of self-emancipation—the principle that socialism could only be brought into being by the self-mobilisation and self-organisation of the working class—a fundamental aspect of the socialist project."

First, Marx’s use of the "famous expression” in the Rules dates from 1864. Second, Tristan never even used the expression, and had you actually read her using it, then you would have directly quoted it—but you didn’t directly quote her, because her use of the expression doesn’t exist! It's true that Tristan says things similar to the “famous expression” in her 1843 book The Workers’ Union (as did countless people before her—there is nothing unique about the expression or idea itself), but she never used the exact wording as in the Rules of the International. It's also worth pointing out that Tristan, as evidenced by her book, appealed extensively to the upper classes in the process of securing the financial and other resources needed to construct her “workers' palaces.” As the translator's introduction to that book correctly notes, Tristan was far from a revolutionary socialist,

Beverly Livingston wrote: While recognizing the inherent antagonisms of class society, she nonetheless advocated co-operation for peaceful reform, believing bourgeois and upper-class participation feasible and desirable in the workers' struggle. Her challenge did not attempt to subvert private enterprise or deny the manufacturer's right to compete for profits, and she did not call for the total dismantling of the economic order; she simply and soundly demanded a fair share for the laboring poor.

I also have other corrections to the AFAQ if you'd like me to share.

adri

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on September 28, 2023

Of course Engels was not a social democrat in today's sense -- but today's sense came about because of the strategy he and Marx insisted the working class follow, namely standing in elections. As Bakunin correctly predicted, this simply generated reformism.

Let's also not forget the time Bakunin, the supposed anarchist-abstentionist, encouraged his friend (no, not his murderer-friend Nechaev, who tried getting him out of translating Capital—arguably a far better use of his time—into Russian by sending some threatening letters) Carlo Gambuzzi to become a candidate for Deputy from Naples (Bakunin on Anarchy, p. 218),

Bakunin wrote: You will perhaps be surprised that I, a determined and passionate abstentionist from politics, should now advise my friends [members of the Alliance—Dolgoff] to become deputies—this is because circumstances have changed. First, all my friends, and most assuredly yourself, are so inspired by our ideas, our principles, that there is no danger that you will forget, deform, or abandon them, or that you will fall back into the old political habits. Second, times have become so grave, the danger menacing the liberty of all countries so formidable, that all men of good will must step into the breach, and especially our friends, who must be in a position to exercise the greatest possible influence on events. . . .

So you're also wrong about Bakunin's opposition to socialists standing in elections; he was for it so long as it was one of his dodgy "anarchist" friends.

Submitted by Anarcho on September 28, 2023

This is why I don't really bother with libcom these days... anyway...

adri wrote:

Of course Engels was not a social democrat in today's sense -- but today's sense came about because of the strategy he and Marx insisted the working class follow, namely standing in elections. As Bakunin correctly predicted, this simply generated reformism.

I don’t really think Marx and Engels are responsible for the reformism of today’s social democrats, or the activities of any other "socialists/Marxists" (Stalin, Mao etc.) throughout history who claimed to have correctly embodied their ideas.

Ah, right, they are not responsible for the outcome of applying the strategy they advocated and split the International over. Seriously?

If you also want to talk about strategic blunders, then let's also mention Bakunin’s call on Russian student-radicals to “go to the people/narod” in 1873, which didn't quite succeed in making socialists out of the Russian peasantry.... Rather than winning the peasantry over to socialism, the Movement mostly resulted in peasants turning the student-radicals... over to Tsarist authorities....

So the Russian socialists should have just ignored the peasantry and made no attempt to win them over to socialist ideas? Interesting. Presumably they should have waited until economic development ensured that the peasantry was eliminated? Also, I wonder if any town-based socialists were informed upon by workers?

Marx and Engels were not really to blame for the emergence of a reformist faction within the SPD, let alone the crushing of the German Revolution by this faction later on, especially when they consistently fought against such elements

Again, they advocated the strategy which lead to the rise of reformism -- anarchists at the time predicting the outcome and then saw it unfold in front of their eyes in the 1870s onwards. But apparently we must forget all that because... well, I'm not sure.

While you're here by the way, you might also want to update the AFAQ and remove the part where you falsely claim that Marx "stole" the expression concerning the self-emancipation of the working class, as it appears in the 1864 Rules of the International, from Flora Tristan

I did not say Marx "stole" the expression (you use quotes as if I wrote that word), I simply pointed out that others used the notion before him -- as you admit: "as did countless people before her—there is nothing unique about the expression or idea itself".

First, Marx’s use of the "famous expression” in the Rules dates from 1864.

Opps, a typo. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll fix that in due course.

Second, Tristan never even used the expression, and had you actually read her using it, then you would have directly quoted it—but you didn’t directly quote her, because her use of the expression doesn’t exist!

Yes, I referenced Marxist Paul Mattick on the matter -- presumably he was claiming that Marx "stole" the expression as well? And I took him as a reliable source on the matter -- I did not have Tristian's book at the time (I have it now but not got around to read it yet -- sorry for not being able to read everything). I guess no one should make a comment on anything until they read everything related to it (I won't write another word on Marx and Engels until I finish all 50 volumes of their Collected Works...)

So what have we learned? Well, I made a typo (1865 rather than 1864) and Paul Mattick was not as reliable as I thought on this matter. However, we have confirmation of the point I was making, namely that "there is nothing unique about the expression or idea itself".

I really do have better things to do than this.

Submitted by Anarcho on September 28, 2023

adri wrote: Let's also not forget the time Bakunin, the supposed anarchist-abstentionist, encouraged his friend (no, not his murderer-friend Nechaev, who tried getting him out of translating Capital—arguably a far better use of his time—into Russian by sending some threatening letters) Carlo Gambuzzi to become a candidate for Deputy from Naples (Bakunin on Anarchy, p. 218),

Yes, Nechaev -- who Bakunin broke with when the details of his activities became known. And who sent the letter without Bakunin's acknowledgement, which Marx was informed of by the publisher (if I recall correctly) but used it anyway to get him expelled from the International (with the help of some police agents).

Yes, Bakunin did suggest to some of his friends that they stand -- amongst other reasons, he thought the free train travel would be helpful when spreading socialist ideas in Italy -- and he was wrong to do so. Still, he did not make it a mandatory policy for International and split it by so doing.

So you're also wrong about Bakunin's opposition to socialists standing in elections; he was for it so long as it was one of his dodgy "anarchist" friends.

I said he correctly predicted that a policy of electioneering would produce reformism. Which it did.

I'm not really interested in playing "my dead-guy-with-a-beard is better than yours". I'm interested in seeing where they were right and wrong -- Bakunin was right in terms of the outcome of socialist electioneering, Marx was wrong. I would also suggest that we have more to learn from the ideas of the Federalist-wing of the International than the social-democrat strategy Marx tried to impose on it. Yes, Marx's strategy appeared to work but only in the short-term.

noslavery

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by noslavery on September 28, 2023

About the main topic, Marx could name Primitive Accumulation something else and we could still understand from that chapter that process of expropriation was ruthless and bloody. Is that process still going? I think it is. When a kind of product or service becomes profitable, small producers or service providers will lose business (property) and they become wage slaves by larger corporations or capitalists or even states.
----
About the other discussion, the problem with Marx and Engels concept of revolution is that they thought that a democratic state is necessary to lead workers to a classless anarchist society called communist society. What they couldn’t see is the force of desire to dominate in human beings - a cultural trend. This is why, contrary to what they wished, the working class didn’t get a party, they got many competing communist parties, parties that all were managed by authoritarian mentality. Revolution must be anti-authoritarianism to form a new way of living, which is an effort to create a new culture (way of living) for survival, prosperity, and recreation. We may have good jobs, enough money, and a lot of fun, but all of these are created through authoritarian mentality. It is not economics stupid; it is authoritarian mentality. Also, this is why Marxists cannot lead feminist revolution or real anti-imperialist revolution (without becoming one). Also, they cannot have a non-hierarchical organization.
----
See, the problem with Marx and Marxists is not just the way they will behave after overthrowing the states, the problem is the way of doing it too. States must be overthrown by learned anti-authoritarian mentality. They wrongly think that the issue is just economic policy, missing the fact that the mind that make the policy is actively at work, not the “matter.”

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 30, 2023

In terms of Marx's attacks on "social democracy" in works written between 1848 and 1852, he is talking about a tendency within the French labour/socialist movement and not "social democracy" as it became in the 1870s and beyond.

Marx is describing a tendency that runs through the whole of modern capitalist history. True, he is not just describing "the formal Social Democracy that capital limited within a long string of parties federated within the Second International" or before and after.

'The peculiar character of social-democracy is epitomized in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as a means, not of doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labor, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony. However different the means proposed for the attainment of this end may be, however much it may be trimmed with more or less revolutionary notions, the content remains the same. This content is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie...'

The words above are as true today as when they were written and can be applied to the whole spectrum of political beliefs. They are not specific.

westartfromhere

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on September 30, 2023

...that process of expropriation was ruthless and bloody. Is that process still going? I think it is.

And the process is still ruthless and bloody even if division of labour means that the ruthless bloodletting has been farmed out to separate agencies.

noslavery

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by noslavery on October 2, 2023

I think sometimes words become problems and we need to go to definition in order not to become fools. So, I drop discussion about “social democracy” thing.
So far, this is my understanding and view of Marx and Engels’ plan when they were alive. I am always willing to change my mind. Don't forget, it is about social democracy, but without using the term.
My View:
I would call both Marx and Engels socialists who wanted to create a political party for the working class. Workers who accepted their program were those who have gained class consciousness. So, workers with class consciousness are those who have become socialists by Marxian terms. By Marx suggestion, their political party must get the state power. I think their way of having state power was not important for them, it could be by winning in election and becoming majority, or by violent uprising of working class, both under the hierarchical leadership of the party.
Both Marx and Engels were for gaining state power to plan socialist planning of the entire economy hoping that their historical materialism is correct and economic reform will create more class consciousness or socialist workers. This completely matches their view of the relationship between the structure of economy and ideology.
My assessment:
The problem with their plan (actually, their ideology) was (and is with current Marxists) that they couldn’t see that authoritarianism is a psychological mode which destroys the integrity of any political institution, and, by its definition, it should. Why couldn’t they see this fact? I think because they didn’t think well enough about their historical materialism. They simply ignored human mind hoping that their theory explains human mind.

westartfromhere

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 2, 2023

I am always willing to change my mind.

On this proviso: Marx conceived of the communist party as the working class constituted as such, not as a representative political party in the traditional sense, which was how Engels et al envisaged it. Marx's conception was not based on ideas in his mind but on what he observed.

For example, had Marx observed one million proletarians marching together on the streets of London carrying few banners save one bearing the slogan, UNMASK CHILDREN, he would have concluded that that is the class constituted as party to achieve a political goal, the refusal of mandatory medical interventions on workers and the rejection of continued curfews.

We have strayed a long way from discussing the origins of capitalist society by means of primitive accumulation but perhaps this is apt because as I observe it the proletariat is approaching its moment of truth, the end of capitalist society. My perspective is based on the huge upheavals by the working class that I have observed across the globe these past twenty odd years and the fact that the working class is rejecting any form of political leadership.

Just as primitive accumulation is capital's birth pangs, the wars that capital now creates are its death throws.

"For the party of anarchy, of socialism, of communism", in Marx's own words, proletarian revolution.

adri

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on October 3, 2023

Yes, I referenced Marxist Paul Mattick on the matter -- presumably he was claiming that Marx "stole" the expression as well? And I took him as a reliable source on the matter -- I did not have Tristian's book at the time (I have it now but not got around to read it yet -- sorry for not being able to read everything).

Mattick never even mentioned Tristan—he quoted Rubel who referenced her. Here's what Mattick actually said (with the quote originating from Rubel's "Reflections on Utopia and Revolution" in the anthology Socialist Humanism):

Mattick wrote: For a socialist revolution must mean precisely the creation of a social structure in which the producers themselves control their product and its distribution. It is conceivable only as one made by the working class which ends social class relations. "What Marx – and before him, in 1843, Flora Tristan – formulated in one single proposition, namely, that ‘the emancipation of the working class must be conquered by the working class itself’, remains the implicit postulate of all genuine socialist thought" (Mattick 333).

If you wanted to cite/paraphrase the Rubel quote, then do that instead of falsely claiming that Mattick said that Tristan was first to employ the "famous expression" from the Rules. If I recall correctly, Rubel also never claimed that Tristan was the first to use any "expression," so you're really just making stuff up, guided as you are by your intense dislike of Marx and Engels.

I guess no one should make a comment on anything until they read everything related to it (I won't write another word on Marx and Engels until I finish all 50 volumes of their Collected Works...)

You shouldn't lie. And if you're so averse to doing actual research and honestly presenting your findings, then maybe you shouldn't write.

So the Russian socialists should have just ignored the peasantry and made no attempt to win them over to socialist ideas? Interesting. Presumably they should have waited until economic development ensured that the peasantry was eliminated? Also, I wonder if any town-based socialists were informed upon by workers?

Are you suggesting that Marx and Engels advocated the destruction of the Russian mir/commune and the development of capitalism in Russia, when Marx actually bitterly condemned such developments in numerous writings? Engels also wrote (e.g. "On Social Relations in Russia") about the possibility of Russia being spared from capitalist development through the success of revolution in Western Europe, so I'm not quite sure what you're talking about there. I also don't claim to know exactly which strategy socialists should have pursued in nineteenth-century Russia, but flocking to the peasantry (while also pretending to be peasants themselves) in order to convert them to socialist ideas would probably be on the lower end of my list of proposals. Of course Bakunin was also not the only influence on the student-radicals.

Ah, right, they are not responsible for the outcome of applying the strategy they advocated and split the International over. Seriously?

Yeah, Marx and Engels are not responsible for the bourgeois/reformist "socialists" of today who they repeatedly criticized in their own time, as should be obvious. They are also not responsible for the activities of any of the famous "socialists/Marxists" throughout the twentieth century (Stalin, Mao etc.) who claimed to have correctly embodied their ideas. I'm not quite sure what makes you think that they are.

westartfromhere

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 3, 2023

I am reading what this latter day Paul (Mattick) has to say on Marx's conception of proletarian revolution:

It was Marx's conviction that the contradiction... of... capitalist relations... would be overcome through a revolution which... would open the way towards a socialist world. Such a social revolution has not taken place...

Proletarian revolution is not something that will come out of the clouds like god that we should wait for with bated breath. It is our ongoing daily struggle, at times mundane, at others cataclysmic, that slowly and surely brings about communism. Here is what Marx wrote on proletarian revolutions in comparison to bourgeois revolutions:

Bourgeois revolutions, like those of the eighteenth century, storm more swiftly from success to success, their dramatic effects outdo each other, men and things seem set in sparkling diamonds, ecstasy is the order of the day—but they are short-lived, soon they have reached their zenith, and a long Katzenjammer [hangover] takes hold of society before it learns to assimilate the results of its storm-and-stress period soberly. On the other hand, proletarian revolutions, like those of the nineteenth century, constantly criticize themselves, constantly interrupt themselves in their own course, return to the apparently accomplished, in order to begin anew; they deride with cruel thoroughness the half-measures, weaknesses, and paltriness of their first attempts, seem to throw down their opponents only so the latter may draw new strength from the earth and rise before them again more gigantic than ever, recoil constantly from the indefinite colossalness of their own goals—until a situation is created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves call out:

Hic Rhodus, hic salta!

Marx, 'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte'

Let's prove our claims by reference to our history being laid out before us and not keep referring back to dead letters. Let's assert the communism-in-making under our noses. Or else keep our traps shut!

Submitted by noslavery on October 3, 2023

@westartfromhere,
"... Marx conceived of the communist party as the working class constituted as such, not as a representative political party in the traditional sense ..."

"not as a representative political party"!!!
This doesn't make sense. Communist party of working class must participate in elections. Marx cannot put millions of workers in parliament. The party must represent workers.

westartfromhere

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 4, 2023

In the manifesto of the communist party Marx wrote of the communists as the most resolute and determined section of the working class. The working class, by necessity, is now the most resolute and determined section of civil society. We are as a whole, the communist party.

The only manner in which the communist party participates in parliamentary elections is by abstention from those elections. Only the bourgeois participate.

Our "parliaments" are the great manifestations be they for whatever cause is in our interest. The last one I recall was for the abolition of Police violence Saturday last in Paris.

noslavery

9 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by noslavery on October 4, 2023

@westartfromhere

"The working class, by necessity, is now the most resolute and determined section of civil society. We are as a whole, the communist party."

In manifesto they were not in a situation to have any party. So, they thought of a party as a possibility in future. What you are saying is their concept of what a worker’s party should be, it is not what they would do if they had the opportunity.

Also, this:
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/05/parti-ouvrier.htm

Do you think you can argue that Marx wouldn't join that Party in France if he could? I think you cannot.

westartfromhere

9 months 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 5, 2023

Why would Marx join a workers' party in 1880? He was a bourgeois.

noslavery

9 months 1 week ago

Submitted by noslavery on October 5, 2023

@westartfromhere
I don't understand what you mean, Party Ouvrier was a political party.
Wish you well!

westartfromhere

9 months 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 5, 2023

Thank you.

To be honest, I didn't know what you meant:

In manifesto they were not in a situation to have any party. So, they thought of a party as a possibility in future.

Who are "they"? The manifesto was issued by the League of the Just (later the Communist League) which was a workers' association. It was not published as a Manifesto of an existing political party or an intended political party.

The same is not true of this 'Programme of the Workers Party' that you have brought to our attention. It was intended as just such. The Programme is in stark contrast to the manifesto of the communist party in that it lays out a plan to which the working class are intended to adhere to. In contrast, the manifesto simply states the direction in which capitalism is heading towards and that this leads inevitably to the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie. The Programme can be seen as the moment of rupture between the reality of communism and the ideology of social-democracy. It is in this light that we should understand Marx's remark, "ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste".

noslavery

9 months 1 week ago

Submitted by noslavery on October 7, 2023

@westartfromhere

Manifesto was written by Marx and Engels. The Preamble is a good document to judge that Marx was interested in party politics. Also, Marx critique of Gotha program is another one.
what do you think about this:
"A rotten spirit is making itself felt in our Party in Germany, not so much among the masses as among the leaders (upper class and “workers”)."
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/letters/77_10_19.htm

westartfromhere

9 months 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 7, 2023

noslavery wrote:
My assessment:
The problem with... ideology... is... authoritarianism... which destroys the integrity of... any political institution.

On this we are agreed. And this refutes the social-democracy at the core of this rot and reestablishes the authority of the masses, of the proletariat:

A rotten spirit is making itself felt in our Party in Germany, not so much among the masses as among the leaders (upper class and “workers”).

The compromise with the Lassalleans has led to compromise with other half-way elements too

In your words again, We need to go to definition in order not to become fools. So, I drop discussion about “social democracy” thing.

The peculiar character of social-democracy is epitomized in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as a means, not of doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labor, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony. However different the means proposed for the attainment of this end may be, however much it may be trimmed with more or less revolutionary notions, the content remains the same. This content is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie. Only one must not get the narrow-minded notion that the petty bourgeoisie, on principle, wishes to enforce an egoistic class interest. Rather, it believes that the special conditions of its emancipation are the general conditions within whose frame alone modern society can be saved and the class struggle avoided. Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are indeed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be as far apart as heaven and earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter practically. This is, in general, the relationship between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent.

noslavery

9 months 1 week ago

Submitted by noslavery on October 7, 2023

@westartfromhere

Do you agree that The Preamble and the letter gives us this idea that Marx had a sense of party belonging and that "his" party should participate in election if it is possible and useful?

Don't forget, what the party program should be is irrelevant here. Our discussion (and my discussion) is about if Marx was interested in forming political party for (or with) working class or not. Once we settle this, we will go to the next level.

You need to answer my question, otherwise we cannot go further.

westartfromhere

9 months 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 7, 2023

I agree. Marx was slipping down the slippery slope that he himself had warned against in 1852. Universal suffrage is an instrument of deception and will never be anything other than that. More than that the Programme paves the way for the expropriation of the means of production by the state, the greatest act of primitive accumulation to date.

I am reminded that Marx had already betrayed this reformist tendency of his in a much earlier text written by a French policeman, Jacques Peuchet, on suicide and its causes, which he edited. In the text he replaced a sentence which read, "Without dwelling on theories, I will try to present facts." In its place he wrote, "I found that short of a total reform of the organisation of our current society, all other attempts would be in vain."

noslavery

9 months 1 week ago

Submitted by noslavery on October 7, 2023

@westartfromhere

OK, thanks for the topic and the dialogue.

westartfromhere

8 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on November 3, 2023

It is rare that we find ourselves in agreement with a politician but in this case we do:

The Israeli occupation [of Palestine] is the original sin, in this case

Munir Akram, Ambassador of Pakistan, to the UN General Assembly.

This primitive accumulation plays in political economy about the same part as original sin in theology.

Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Chapter 26: The Secret of Primitive Accumulation

Proletarian Revolution

Authored on
September 19, 2023