Heinrich's Intro to Capital

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RedHughs
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Jun 8 2012 20:05
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First of all, it is of enormous importance whether a group of workers (or more exact members of the working class in general) have a stance that they can put pressure on the capitalist side (as the GDL locomotive engineers in Germany a few years ago could) or whether you belong to the weakest elements of the class that the state has decreed to be an unneccessary burden on its task to bolster profits in its economy (as those millions of poor Hartz IV unemployed). Whatever can be won by workers in a capitalist society can only be won by those that can harm the other side by their class struggle action as strikes or sitdowns or blockades.

It seems like this represents relatively common train of logic but one which seems to me to simply not fit together.

Apologies if I'm miss-reading your position but this is what I "hear" you saying:

On the one hand, you have figured out that in the normal situation, the working class interested in communism because such communist ideas don't have any effect for it.

On the other hand, you've figured out that the capitalist class only pays attention to the most strategically located sector and this sector is what can bring the capitalist system to its knees.

Notice in the second part, I don't say "in the normal situation" because it seems like you have made this part a universal, true in both normal times and times of upheaval.

Given this, first I would ask what kind of trajectory you're imagining. Are you aiming to impart some knowledge that will allow the working class to gradually get stronger through the use of its strategic power? Are you aiming to cultivate some knowledge that won't be useful until a somewhat revolutionary situation appears? Do you have some third way you'd characterize the process?

Now if you look towards revolts, I'd like to point out that this whole "strategic sector" fixation seems really narrow and hardly gives an exact picture of how revolts have happened in the past. Certain groups of workers have been key but so crowds in the streets, the military and a whole rift of factors. You don't need to be a port worker to blockade a port.

However, if you look towards just an increase in power by strategic sectors in a normal, "pre-revolutionary" situation, you've got a lot of problems as well. Capital has been look at this problem for a long time and has hardened any of its weak points.

I also have to say that I think this fixation on "strategic sectors" neglects the power that solidarity has had in revolutionary and non-revolutionary situations. Collective action and mutual support can be as important as any bare calculation of power. The father with children you describe may indeed get nothing out of communist propaganda but I would suggest that he would get quite a bit out of a more collectively organized working class, either in concrete terms like mutual child care or abstract terms like comradeship.

If you don't have solidarity in the working class as a whole, even the cleverest members of the most advanced sectors really won't get that much but if you do have it, a whole range of possibilities opens up.

This isn't to say that I think solidarity could just appear and snowball in the working class under normal circumstances. Capital relentless and systematically works to destroy any terrain and any collective process where that could happen and normally leaves us defeated and in the situation only working to eat matters. Indeed, the whole history of the working class and the capitalist class struggling has involved the capital class' relentless destruction of the collective institutions of the working class, leaving us in the miserable situation of today.

But the point is that any snowballing of resistance would involve multiple developments - an increase in solidarity, the occupation of territory, disarray in the capitalist class, and, even, actions by strategic sectors and an awareness of the critique capitalism.

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Neoprene W
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Jun 9 2012 16:55

Let us start with your first assumption about my positions:

Quote:
„On the one hand, you have figured out that in the normal situation, the working class [is not] interested in communism because such communist ideas don't have any effect for it.“

I don't understand your „on the one hand“. This observation simply is should be the starting point for communist activities. If there would be any „automatic“ development of communist class consciousness, we would have seen this by now, I am afraid.
Your „On the other hand“:

Quote:
„you've figured out that the capitalist class only pays attention to the most strategically located sector and this sector is what can bring the capitalist system to its knees.“

Is not really my position: As long as we speak of basically isolated class struggles it is obvious that those workers who cann afflict more harm to the profits of the bosses can aspect to win more or them even short of any revolutionary upheavals. You are basicaly right if you hold a little bit against this evalutaions your

Quote:
„Certain groups of workers have been key but so crowds in the streets, the military and a whole rift of factors. You don't need to be a port worker to blockade a port.“

As everybody knows, workers in key industries as heavy industries, formerly steel, car making these days, transportation (harbors, railways, air ports, inner city traffic) communications and a few others can cripple any economy with a comparable „short“ strike. But you are right in insisting, that masses of workers, either on mass picket lines as in the British NUM strike under Scargill or on the streets in big solidarity demonstrations can impress too. Therefore something like the Oakland Harbor blockade, or attempt to blockade could have big effects.

Quote:
„Given this, first I would ask what kind of trajectory you're imagining. Are you aiming to impart some knowledge that will allow the working class to gradually get stronger through the use of its strategic power? Are you aiming to cultivate some knowledge that won't be useful until a somewhat revolutionary situation appears?“

I would rather say that the working class need a determined will to abolish its situation as wage laborers. The determination should be based on knowledge for sure, but knowledge per se does not help. In Germany for instance ten thousands of leftists starting in the Seventies of last century learned a few things about capitalism (not that much, I must admit with hindsight) but all this was in vain, as practically the whole „revolutionar movement“ has been absorbed by the majority bourgeois society and practically all those former subjective revolutionaries literally changed their minds and became reformists if it was much.

The problem indeed is, that as a revolutionary individual and as such an organisation you are offering something, that is not very „usefull“ for the survival in capitalist bounds. And it is a shame that so many leftists lie to the people by not admiting this. You can life a whole life as a revolutionary activist, even as trade unionist in or out of the main stream unions and must admit that the strategic power of the class coul not be increased that much that the mythical „revolutionary situation“ manifested itself. Since two hundred years, for a big part of the history of the revolutionary movement in many states for many years there was not much more to be done than „ cultivate some knowledge“ for later days.

When you say:

Quote:
„I also have to say that I think this fixation on "strategic sectors" neglects the power that solidarity has had in revolutionary and non-revolutionary situations. Collective action and mutual support can be as important as any bare calculation of power. … If you don't have solidarity in the working class as a whole, even the cleverest members of the most advanced sectors really won't get that much but if you do have it, a whole range of possibilities opens up.“

than I can only answer that your „solidarity“ is my revolutionary will. You will not get the first one without the second one. The „collective“ as a fighting union does only come alive if the workers who fight together have a common understanding and at least roughly the same will. „Advanced“ in this regard are those sectors where you have many of these workers with this kind of consciousness.

RedHughs
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Jun 10 2012 01:59

Apologies if I miss-represented your position.

Perhaps it is annoying but I try to get an understanding of other positions by restating them as simply as I can and putting forward counter-arguments.

Even if this starts with me misunderstanding, I think we can wind-up with a better understanding if we keep talking.

Quote:
If there would be any „automatic“ development of communist class consciousness, we would have seen this by now, I am afraid.

Surely we have seen some development of communist relations at different times and in different forms throughout the history of capitalist society (see Paris Commune, 1917 Russia, Post-WWI Germany, Spain '36, Paris '68, workers councils in the Iranian revolution, etc).

I would still agree that what we do see is that normal capitalist relations of production reproduce themselves - they often don't lead to slowly building of communist relations within capitalism, especially in the modern world of television and celebrity gossip.

However, let me point out there is also a weird disconnect in your reasoning here. What exactly is the difference between "'automatic' development" and something else?? Because we haven't seen the working class develop communism "by itself", then it shows that consciousness needs to be injected from the outside or what?? But really, the point isn't to avoid vanguardism but rather that the whole capitalist system has been going for a while and the failures to get to communism are thus failures of everything that we have had. The failure to create communism reflects on all previous efforts, equally, processes within the mainstream of the working class and processes outside this mainstream.

Quote:
The problem indeed is, that as a revolutionary individual and as such an organisation you are offering something, that is not very „usefull“ for the survival in capitalist bounds. And it is a shame that so many leftists lie to the people by not admiting this.

Sure but that's only one of a number of faults of the left or I would say, the left wing of capital.

Quote:
In Germany for instance ten thousands of leftists starting in the Seventies of last century learned a few things about capitalism (not that much, I must admit with hindsight) but all this was in vain, as practically the whole „revolutionar movement“ has been absorbed by the majority bourgeois society and practically all those former subjective revolutionaries literally changed their minds and became reformists if it was much.

Sounds like quite a painful experience...

I don't think that consciousness is a "bad thing". We simply need to use it well, use it to gain a wider perspective but not imagine it will provide enough force by itself to bring the entire class to communism.

The thing is, I have the impression that many of the discussions of the left I hear here are descriptions of the left as it's been in the first world in the last thirty years - more like a trend or a social scene than a group of organizations (a situation which has its good and less good points but is only one incarnation of the left).

If you look at the overall history of the world I believe you can show that the left has had an impact and that this impact has been mostly as an agent of capitalist reform. And moreover, there aren't any ideas which by themselves provide an inoculation against this problem.

Here's something to consider. Perhaps, just perhaps, revolutionary ideas also weren't providing anything for the generation of revolutionaries you mentioned. Perhaps, the mouthing of radical ideas merely served as a signal, sign of belonging for a youth scene and thus it is entirely logical that as the members of this scene grew older, they discarded revolutionary ideas as readily as your average workers discard radical newspapers that are handed them.

But anyway, to make a long story short, my conclusion would be that would-be revolutionaries and atomized non-revolutionary workers are in a similar situation. Each needs a combination of ideas, solidarity and external circumstances to act. Ideas are not enough for any group.

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Neoprene W
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Jun 10 2012 13:54
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„Perhaps it is annoying but I try to get an understanding of other positions by restating them as simply as I can and putting forward counter-arguments.“

No, this approach is neither annoying nor unappropriate for discussions like this: I am new to this group, anybody who does not know me politically from other contexts therefore should nor rush to any verdict. Short comments can imply quite a few misunderstandings.

Of course it ist rue when you say

Quote:
„Surely we have seen some development of communist relations at different times and in different forms throughout the history of capitalist society (see Paris Commune, 1917 Russia, Post-WWI Germany, Spain '36, Paris '68, workers councils in the Iranian revolution, etc).“

Butt his is more of an confirmation of my main thesis than a refutation: As I stated, intelligent people that constantly make up their minds, sometimes learn something, sometimes change their attitudes, sometimes start a fight to end somewhere different than where they started from, all these people can come to a sound and correct understandind of their world and the wish to get rid of it for these reasons any time anywhere. Some of them have done so in the past (more or less to bet rue) as you pointed to, and they will in the future, some of them do it right now (a bitter joke I have heard a few times from leading cadres from the Marxist Group/GegenStandpunkt tendency is „most of them I do know personally“)

My point was/is, that there is no „law“ of a development of communist thinking/organizing/successes „automatically“ built into history. Or as you have said

Quote:
„they often don't lead to slowly building of communist relations within capitalism“

What I do not get is your point about my „weird disconnect in your reasoning here. What exactly is the difference between "'automatic' development" and something else??“

For me it is "easy" (well, rather simple): either the few communists that we have these days prepare themselves to agitate, organize to convince the rest of the working class to come to their communist understanding too or shit will hapen as it always has and does right now.

I indeed hold it to be obvious „that consciousness needs to be injected from the outside“. This „outside“ is a bad mistake anyway, as if the stupidities the workers these days have in mind and that are fostered by the forces that be would be something inherently positively and if a carpet bagger comes along, then this per se has to be damned. Where do you draw the lines between „inside“ the class and „outside“ anyhow? The teacher for instance who became a communist during its university education, is he „in“ or „out“?

It is cheap to attack „vanguardism“, because every leftist thinks he is right and the others are „backward“. I myself argue for a polite atempt to simply win over as much people as possible to my understanding of this capitalist world. As interested I was for most of my political life for „the failures to get to communism“ these days I think, one can produce good communist propaganda by simply explaining the inner laws of this society and the role the working class is forced to play in this right now. History is a luxury for hard core commies, but if it does not work without it then it will not work at all.

I think, ou are completely wrong if you say:

Quote:
„Perhaps, the mouthing of radical ideas merely served as a signal, sign of belonging for a youth scene and thus it is entirely logical that as the members of this scene grew older, they discarded revolutionary ideas as readily as your average workers discard radical newspapers that are handed them.“

I knew quite a few of dedicated cadre of organisations that had some red flags on their newspaper banners, that invested their whole life in their (mostly maoist) projects to further communism. These where not the tyypical „youth scene“ guys. They unfortunately were wrong politically. And they were unsuccessful. Which is not the same.

But you are right, when they gave up, liquidated their „communist parties“ and went back to work normally in this society they ended in the same ideological space as the workers that dismiss communist leaflets as unneccesary for their life as workers that want to survive as workers.

RedHughs
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Jun 10 2012 17:38
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For me it is "easy" (well, rather simple): either the few communists that we have these days prepare themselves to agitate, organize to convince the rest of the working class to come to their communist understanding too or shit will hapen as it always has and does right now.

The point of a materialist position is that all the classes and group are acting according to material factors rather than simply acting according to the ideas someone has persuaded them to believe.

If the way that history is changed by effective agitation, then the materialist theory of history is wrong. Instead, if we believe that history is changed by the most effective agitation, whatever group has the best propaganda will create the social system it wishes.

Further, we don't have a reason to think it is more likely that the communists will suddenly change their way of operating as opposed to the working class suddenly changing its way of operating.

And I would claim that one or another material factors propels the dedicated Maoist as much as they would propel the average factory worker.

Note that this is not an argument that we shouldn't do anything - this is an argument that our theory should not take the position that our agitation can be the decisive factor.

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Neoprene W
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Jun 10 2012 19:33

Sentences like RedHugh's

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"The point of a materialist position is that all the classes and group are acting according to material factors

always sound impressive: Who (amongst orthodox communists) would be in principle against "a materialist position"?
Who could be so stupid as to argue against "material factors"?
But obviously this kind of objectivist thinking is a nice justification for finding one's peace with the world as it is (unfortunately).
I only can point again to Peter Decker's attack on the classical stalinist tenets in his speech "Marxism – adaptation lessons or criticism?" that is to be found here:
http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/Marxism.htm
I personally am no "materialist" in this semireligious version: Things change only then and when enough people have decided for themselves that something fundamental has to be changed. Nobody else can bring this into existence, no objective law of historic development, no historic mission of the working class or whatsoever.

Another misunderstanding is that the group "with the best propaganda" will win the hearts and minds of the workers and voila victory is at hands. No: You can have the best writers very seasoned speakers, good organizers, but this never is a guarantee for success. Reading in hindsight the documents of the history of the communist left (for me this historically was the orthodox leninist trotskyist part of it) I very often found the articles and analysis of the tendencies that have lost to be the "better" ones compared to the "winner" tendencies.

Why on earth has everthing always to be "sudden"? No, communists never were able to change the "way of operating" of the working class from one moment to the other. This has always been a contradictory uneven process with wins and losses, with improvements of understanding what is going on on the one hand and degradation with other parts of the class and so on.

Therefore as a counterquestion: What are these mythical "material factors" that really are "decisive"? And if they really are decisive and make the wind blow in our faces, why should anybody fight a Don Chichote fight against these forces that be?

Angelus Novus
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Jul 19 2012 15:17

So, the book of the thread title has just been published.

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ocelot
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Jul 19 2012 15:45

Finally! Maybe in a week or two amazon will get around to delivering my pre-ordered copy then. Maybe even in time to take as reading material to St. Imier. (not that I ever seem to get much reading done at these dos)

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jura
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Jul 19 2012 15:50

To the Jura mountains, ocelot!

Angelus Novus
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Jul 19 2012 16:28

Damn, I wish there was some way to sell these at the Anarchist conference. Unfortunately I don't have the funds to travel to Switzlerland.

S. Artesian
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Jul 19 2012 16:41

Just got my copy of the English translation; waiting for me in the post when I returned from Cairo. Well, I hope Heinrich lives up to the advertising...

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oisleep
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Jul 19 2012 17:25

Is the only way to get it in the UK at the moment to order it from the MR US site and pay a shit load for postage?

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georgestapleton
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Jul 19 2012 17:39
Angelus Novus wrote:
Damn, I wish there was some way to sell these at the Anarchist conference. Unfortunately I don't have the funds to travel to Switzlerland.

As I said on the other thread Robert Kurz was supposed to be there so if you know anyone in Krisis or whatever this group is they might take the book. I'm going and would be happy to help sell a few if you found a way of getting them to me or to St Imier so I could collect them. But I'm not doing a stall or anything so that might not work.

Angelus Novus
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Jul 19 2012 20:28
oisleep wrote:
Is the only way to get it in the UK at the moment to order it from the MR US site and pay a shit load for postage?

I'm guessing it will be available from Amazon soon enough.

Ogion
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Jul 20 2012 04:23
ocelot wrote:
Finally! Maybe in a week or two amazon will get around to delivering my pre-ordered copy then. Maybe even in time to take as reading material to St. Imier. (not that I ever seem to get much reading done at these dos)

I made a pre-order from Amazon a while ago as well, but Amazon tells me it may not be delivered until August 13th -- and I'm based in the US. I may just cancel the order and order it directly from MR for the same price now that it’s published.

Spassmaschine
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Jul 20 2012 06:50
Ogion wrote:
ocelot wrote:
Finally! Maybe in a week or two amazon will get around to delivering my pre-ordered copy then. Maybe even in time to take as reading material to St. Imier. (not that I ever seem to get much reading done at these dos)

I made a pre-order from Amazon a while ago as well, but Amazon tells me it may not be delivered until August 13th -- and I'm based in the US. I may just cancel the order and order it directly from MR for the same price now that it’s published.

Yeah likewise preordered it on bookdepository, which is now alleging it won't be published until the end of October ):

Angelus Novus
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Jul 20 2012 09:29
Ogion wrote:
I made a pre-order from Amazon a while ago as well, but Amazon tells me it may not be delivered until August 13th -- and I'm based in the US. I may just cancel the order and order it directly from MR for the same price now that it’s published.

My only guess is that it takes a while for a distributor to actually get the book to retailers like Amazon. But honestly I have no idea.

petey
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Jul 21 2012 04:12

as of this afternoon the local b&n didn;t have it angry

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Khawaga
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Jul 21 2012 14:03

Yup, Amazon.ca just sent me an e-mail saying it's taking a little longer to get the book from the supplier...

S. Artesian
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Jul 22 2012 11:18

I ordered mine from Monthly Review, and it arrived a couple of days ago-- apparently MR is hooked up with New York University Press for the distribution of the book-- so you might try MR or NYU Press directly.

Angelus Novus
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Jul 25 2012 16:21

So, Amazon.com in the US has got it now.

Ogion
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Jul 25 2012 20:34

I just received my copy today from MR and can't believe how fast they shipped it as I only made an order from them a few days ago. I’d definitely recommend getting it from MR if you live in the US (or Canada, as it's only two dollars more for shipping), though I’m glad that it’s also now available on Amazon. It looks like it’s available from sellers on amazon.co.uk and amazon.ca as well, but not yet in stock from those retailers directly.

marrillo
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Jul 26 2012 11:33

I´ve just ordered a copy of this through Amazon UK for 8.22 package and post. the book depository I think. And I nearly ordered it tghrough the US site yesterday for 5 quid more. A lucky escape.

LBird
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Jul 31 2012 09:12

Received my copy yesterday, at last.

Just started a first read, and it's immediately clear that all the discussions that we've had here over the last few years about 'value', etc., have helped to prepare me, at least, for reading and understanding the book.

It's also obvious to me that there are many parallels between use value/value, and other social concepts like individual/worker.

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ocelot
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Jul 31 2012 11:27

Still no news from amazon.co.uk when my pre-ordered copy might be sent. Sad now. cry

S. Artesian
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Jul 31 2012 12:36

Through the first 2 chapters... so far as good as advertised.

andy g
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Jul 31 2012 14:06
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Through the first 2 chapters... so far as good as advertised.

now that's just mean................... twisted

S. Artesian
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Jul 31 2012 14:51

Apologies. Just wanted to let people know that it's worth the wait-- through the first 2 chapters. Interesting thing, and I think no accident, is that nowhere in the index do I find any mention of rent.

Actually, I think that's a great thing, since Marx's writings on rent are, IMO, his most problematic, confused, and confusing.

And as Marx said in the Grundrisse-- one can certainly understand capitalism without understanding ground rent, but one cannot understand ground rent without understanding capitalism.

Angelus Novus
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Jul 31 2012 17:49
S. Artesian wrote:
Interesting thing, and I think no accident, is that nowhere in the index do I find any mention of rent.

In the index it's under "Ground rent", but yeah, it's only dealt with in a footnote (number 54, footnote to a paragraph on page 181).

S. Artesian
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Jul 31 2012 19:25

AN,

Thanks.