Maoist theory

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Oct 8 2010 22:59
Maoist theory

I have a question about a concept that I keep running into, that sounds pretty dubious to me:

Quote:
the role of imperialist super-profits in effectively buying off at least a section of the workers movement

- where is this concept explained in the works of Mao?
- does it make any sense at all and what are the counter arguments?

It seems to be the justification for a lot of crazy third world nationalism...

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Oct 8 2010 23:12

i've been reading lenin on imperialism, and he suggests something similar (the problem is union leaders and some workers are bought off, and this is possible through monopoly capitalism/imperialism).

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Oct 8 2010 23:31

How exactly are they bought off? So better pay and conditions weren't won through strikes and organising, they were just granted from above to buy workers off?

ajjohnstone
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Oct 8 2010 23:48
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Lenin wrote Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. In it he argued that, through a process which had been completed by the turn of the century, capitalism had changed its character. Industrial capital and bank capital had merged into finance capital, and competitive capitalism had given way to monopoly capitalism in which trusts, cartels and other monopolistic arrangements had come to dominate production. Faced with falling profits from investments at home, these monopolies were under economic pressure to export capital and invest it in the economically backward parts of the world where higher than normal profits could be made. Hence, Lenin went on, the struggle by the most advanced industrial countries to secure colonies where such "super-profits" could be made.

Lenin exaggerated both the degree to which capitalism had become monopolistic and the difference between the rate of profit at home compared with in the economically backward parts of the world. But it was the political implications of his theory that were to prove the more damaging to the workers movement.

After 1917, the theory was expanded to argue that the imperialist countries were exploiting the whole population of the backward areas they controlled and that even a section of the working class in the imperialist countries benefited from the super—profits made from the imperialist exploitation of these countries in the form of social reforms and higher wages,

This was nonsense in terms of Marxian economics which does not measure the level of exploitation by how high or low wages are but by reference to the amount of surplus value produced as compared with the amount of wages paid, whether high or low. By this measure the workers of the advanced countries were more exploited thin those of the colonies, despite their higher wages, because they produced more profits per worker.

Lenin's expanded theory made the struggle in the world not one between an international working class and an international capitalist class, but between imperialist and anti—imperialist states. The international class struggle which socialism preached was replaced by a doctrine which preached an international struggle between states.

The whole thrust of Marx's own analysis of capitalism was that the workers movement would first triumph in the economically advanced parts of the world, not in a relatively backward economic area like Russia. Lenin explained away this contradiction by arguing that Marx had been describing the situation in the pre—imperialist stage of capitalism whereas, in the imperialist stage which had evolved after his death, the capitalist state had become so strong that the breakthrough would not take place in an advanced capitalist country but in the weakest imperialist state. Tsarist Russia had been the weakest link in the chain of imperialist countries and this explained why it was there that the first "workers revolution" had taken place. This was tantamount to saying that the Russian revolution was the first "anti—imperialist" revolution, and in a sense it was. Russia was the first country to escape from the domination of the Western capitalist countries and to follow a path of economic development that depended on using the state to accumulate capital internally instead of relying on the export of capital from other countries.

When Russia was faced with a civil war and outside intervention by the Western capitalist powers, Lenin realised that this was a card he could play to try to save his regime. Playing the anti -imperialist card meant appealing to the "toiling masses" of Asia not to establish socialism but to carry out their own anti-imperialist revolutions. The 'super-exploited" countries were to be encouraged to seek independence as this would weaken the imperialist states, who were putting pressure on Bolshevik Russia. This strategy was presented to the workers movement in the West as a way of provoking the socialist revolution in their countries. Deprived of their super— profits, the ruling class in the imperialist countries would no longer be able to bribe their workers with social reforms and higher wages; the workers would therefore turn away from reformism and embrace revolution.

This strategy of building up an "anti-imperialist" front against the West was continued by his successors. Because it taught that all the people of a colonial or a dominated country had a common interest in obtaining independence, i.e. a state of their own, it was very attractive to nationalist ideologists and politicians in these countries. They called on all the inhabitants of the country they sought to rule to unite behind them in a common struggle to achieve independence. As a result, in these countries "socialism" became associated with militant nationalism rather than with the working-class internationalism it had originally been. The political struggle there came to be seen as a struggle, not between the working class and the capitalist class, hut as a struggle of all patriotic elements— workers, peasants and capitalists together—against a handful of traitorous, unpatriotic elements who would have sold out to foreign imperialists.

During the 1950s Russia moved towards a policy of acceptance of the status quo with the West known as "peaceful coexistence". The Chinese Leninists, who had come to power under Mao in 1949, perceived the interest of their state differently and sought to become the champion of "anti-imperialism" in place of Russia. The splits that resulted in the world Communist movement were thus provoked, not as might superficially appear to be the case, by differences over what tactics the workers movement should pursue but over which so-called socialist country's foreign policy - Russia's or China's - should be supported. This was not a dispute which concerned the working class interest at all, but was an argument between states in which workers were being asked to choose whose foreign policy pawns they wished to be.

Lenin's theory of imperialism contained the seeds of such a shameful outcome from the start as it made the most significant struggle at world level not the class struggle but the struggle between states, between so-called anti— imperialist and progressive states and so— called imperialist and reactionary states. This was a dangerous diversion from the class struggle and led to workers supporting the killing in wars of other workers in the interest of one or other state and its ruling class.

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/aug98/imperial.html

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Oct 8 2010 23:51
Lenin wrote:
One of the special features of imperialism connected with the facts I am describing, is the decline in emigration from imperialist countries and the increase in immigration into these countries from the more backward countries where lower wages are paid. As Hobson observes, emigration from Great Britain has been declining since 1884. In that year the number of emigrants was 242,000, while in 1900, the number was 169,000. Emigration from Germany reached the highest point between 1881 and 1890, with a total of 1,453,000 emigrants. In the course of the following two decades, it fell to 544,000 and to 341,000. On the other hand, there was an increase in the number of workers entering Germany from Austria, Italy, Russia and other countries. According to the 1907 census, there were 1,342,294 foreigners in Germany, of whom 440,800 were industrial workers and 257,329 agricultural workers. [10] In France, the workers employed in the mining industry are, “in great part”, foreigners: Poles, Italians and Spaniards. [11] In the United States, immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe are engaged in the most poorly paid jobs, while American workers provide the highest percentage of overseers or of the better-paid workers. [12] Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.

It must be observed that in Great Britain the tendency of imperialism to split the workers, to strengthen opportunism among them and to cause temporary decay in the working-class movement, revealed itself much earlier than the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries; for two important distinguishing features of imperialism were already observed in Great Britain in the middle of the nineteenth century—vast colonial possessions and a monopolist position in the world market. Marx and Engels traced this connection between opportunism in the working-class movement and the imperialist features of British capitalism systematically, during the course of several decades. For example, on October 7, 1858, Engels wrote to Marx: “The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable.”[15] Almost a quarter of a century later, in a letter dated August 11, 1881, Engels speaks of the “worst English trade unions which allow themselves to be led by men sold to, or at least paid by, the middle class”. In a letter to Kautsky, dated September 12, 1882, Engels wrote: “You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and the colonies.” [13] (Engels expressed similar ideas in the press in his preface to the second edition of The Condition of the Working Class in England, which appeared in 1892.)

Lenin throughout makes similar references to 'nations' exploiting one another, although he mostly draws on Engels to prove this is definitely Marxist and not a crock of shit.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ch08.htm

Boris Badenov
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Oct 9 2010 00:24

Yeah this is the standard labour aristocracy theory. Nothing specific to Mao's thought.

888 wrote:
How exactly are they bought off? So better pay and conditions weren't won through strikes and organising, they were just granted from above to buy workers off?

They CAN be won through struggle, but it doesn't matter because the highly skilled labour aristocrats are "cut off" from the mass of "good workers" once they get their privileged position from the capitalist state, and will inevitably side with the latter against any genuine communist movement. This is clearly a very lazy explanation for why workers movements take so long to build up and so much effort to maintain. It also takes for granted that the only legitimate form of organizing is the Party.

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Oct 9 2010 04:21

Labour Aristocracy figures in very nicely with the rest of Maoism (primacy of the agrarian worker, third worldism, etc).

ajjohnstone
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Oct 9 2010 20:05
Quote:
"The receipt of high monopoly profits by the capitalists in one of the numerous branches of industry, in one of the numerous countries, etc., makes it economically possible for them to bribe certain sections of the workers, and for a time a fairly considerable minority of them, and win them to the side of the bourgeoisie of a given industry or given nation against all the others."- Lenin

I for one will be happy for the Leninists to identify the proportion of my wage that's the bribe, and i will endeavour to demand that my union in support of anti-imperialism re-negotiates the approproiate wage cut with the employer so our wages does not involve any part of this bribe.

Or shall i continue to combine with my fellow workers and fight for the highest price of our labour power that we can ?

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Oct 9 2010 20:17

How did countries like Sweden, having no empire, manage to bribe their workers?

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Oct 9 2010 22:53
Quote:
How did countries like Sweden, having no empire, manage to bribe their workers?

With the export of cheap home furnishings;

Quote:
Ikea's cheap lines upset the Danes

Published: 12:01AM GMT 07 Mar 2008

Academics in Denmark have accused Ikea, the furniture chain, of "Swedish imperialism" for naming its cheaper products after Danish towns.

The researchers claim to have discovered a pattern where more expensive items, such as beds and chairs, have been named after Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian towns whereas doormats, draught excluders and runners are named after Danish places.

"The stuff that goes on the floor is about as low as it gets," said Klaus Kjöller, of the University of Copenhagen, who described the phenomenon as "Swedish imperialism".

Mr Kjöller analysed the Ikea catalogue with a colleague at the University of Southern Denmark. He said it "symbolically portrays Denmark as the doormat of Sweden, a country with a larger economy and population".

Officials at Ikea's headquarters in the district of Scania - which once belonged to Denmark - rejected the criticism. "It's nonsense to say that we did this on purpose. It was a pure coincidence," said Charlotte Lindgren.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1581045/Ikeas-cheap-lines-upset-the-Danes.html

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Oct 10 2010 09:10

Ha... Speaking of idiosyncratic definitions of imperialism, for Lenin imperialism is finance/monopoly capital so sweden may well count as imperialist (if there's an oligopoly of Swedish banks...)

bastarx
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Oct 10 2010 10:41

There's supposedly a new Maoist insurgency in China:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/After-India-Nepal-China-under-Maoist-threat/articleshow/6446130.cms

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Oct 10 2010 14:36

the manifesto of them in translation here: http://kasamaproject.org/2010/08/11/10-point-declaration-of-the-maoist-communist-party-of-china/

Boris Badenov
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Oct 10 2010 15:51
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The Maoist Communist Party of China is a proletarian revolutionary party armed with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, it is the faithful heir of the will of Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party during the Mao Zedong era, and it is a vibrant revolutionary vanguard organisation composed of the advanced layers of the proletarian class.

LOLZ

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Oct 11 2010 10:56

even worse: http://revcom.us/a/210/constitution-en.html

Needed: $10,000 for Publication
Coming soon from the Revolutionary Communist Party:
CONSTITUTION FOR THE NEW SOCIALIST REPUBLIC IN NORTH AMERICA (Draft Proposal)

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Oct 11 2010 16:01

I think this article by ICC is worth reading on the question of labor aristocracy and the historical development of the concept;

http://en.internationalism.org/node/3101

Jason Cortez
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Oct 12 2010 20:12
Entdinglichung wrote:
even worse: http://revcom.us/a/210/constitution-en.html

Needed: $10,000 for Publication
Coming soon from the Revolutionary Communist Party:
CONSTITUTION FOR THE NEW SOCIALIST REPUBLIC IN NORTH AMERICA (Daft Proposal)

fixed

vanilla.ice.baby
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Oct 13 2010 18:31

I don't think it's a difficult idea though. It is clear that people become more content and less inclined to struggle if their wages and conditions are higher, some of that money in developed countries clearly came from the exploitation of workers in the developing world as did some of the ludicrously low prices we pay for things like clothes in the UK. I have been clothes shopping in open air markets in Paraguay and Bolivia and in Eastern Europe and clothes can often be cheaper in the UK in real terms than those...

Easy credit serves a similar and just as insidious function.

The problem arises when people start to use it as an argument why organising for better pay and conditions, or buying cheap products are reactionary, and why the third world poor are the revolutionary agency now, replacing the industrialised working class.

Obviously that is nonsense, the working class and peasants in the developing world can be bought off just as easily, and the industrial working class can equally decide they're not happy with their lot, after all one reason even ignoring basic solidarity is that rising standards lead to rising expectations of what we "deserve".

dinosavros
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Oct 14 2010 12:34
888 wrote:
How did countries like Sweden, having no empire, manage to bribe their workers?

I'm not sure if I agree with the leninist model of imperialism, but from that model's point of view I would imagine that countries like Sweden manage to "bribe their workers" by being neutral and not being colonized by imperialists, and by trading with the neighbouring imperialist countries so that their wealth rubs off on to them. Similar rubbing off of wealth happens to countries that provide tourism to wealthy countries or have other valuable resources like oil (although the last is a lot more complicated).

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Oct 16 2010 21:10

Classical Marxian Theory:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krxhlPQVM-I

We aren't going to derail the train that is capitalism with some spontaneous revolution. The "third world" is never going to militarily dominate the first either. Mao was a fucking quack.

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Oct 17 2010 05:20

I don't think there's a big difference between this outlook and a criticism of groups like high end craft unionists (like say the building trades). They're often very militant in defense of their specific sectoral interests but not interested in other sectors of the working class, and 100 years ago or so they were sometimes openly hostile to other sectors of the class organizing (like for instance in the AFL vs the IWW conflicts).

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Nov 3 2010 04:10

OK, here's a more specific example of the stuff I'm talking about. I keep running into these 3rd world types and need to be able to refute them easily:

Please demolish:

Quote:
The nominal GDP of the entire world was $31.9 trillion in 2002. (1) This figure represents everything produced in the world, including services (which tend to be overvalued), in a year’s time. The population is about 6.4 billion people. Assume that 2/3 of them work full time on a typical U$ schedule of 2000 hours per year. Then the value of average labor is $7500 per year, or about $3.75 per hour. (Slightly higher, actually, since the world’s population was a bit lower in 2002 than it is today.)

Elsewhere I have seen estimates from the UN that the world’s nominal GDP in 2005 is about $36 trillion. That would put the value of labor at $8400 per year, or $4.20 per hour.

What is the implication? In the U$, the minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, and even higher in some states and cities. If average labor is worth $4.20, then even people making the minimum wage are overpaid on average by about 23%. The average wage in the U$ is about $18 per hour, which is more than 4 times the value of labor.

This little exercise shows that no one legally working in the U$ is likely to be exploited. On the contrary, U$ workers receive superprofits extracted from the Third World by the imperialists and thus benefit from imperialist exploitation. The same goes for most Western European countries, where the minimum wage is generally even higher than in the U$.

To disprove this claim, it would be necessary to show that U$ workers were more productive than average. The truth is that they are probably less productive than the international average, since the intensity of labor tends to be much higher in the Third World.

But there is exploitation in the U$. Chinese garment workers illegally employed in sweatshops for $1.50 an hour and Mexican agricultural workers illegally employed at similar wages are exploited. Possibly some prisoners are exploited as well, although the calculations are a little more difficult in that case. And there may be some isolated Stakhanovites who are so far above the average in productivity that they count as exploited.

Even so, the vast majority of Amerikkkans are clearly not exploited. They are, in fact, exploiters.

from http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/2008/07/06/blast-of-the-past-from-irtr-a-rough-estimate-of-the-value-of-labor/

God I'm shit at economics...

- can you really use the GDP to make this calculation?
- if you are being paid more than this average how are you "receiving superprofits"
- surely if you are creating surplus value you are being exploited regardless of what the average rate is...
- what about currency exchange rates/purchasing power?

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Nov 3 2010 06:10

You ought to find page 25 relevant.

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Nov 3 2010 06:38

That's a piss poor economic model. It is nothing but assumptions based on other assumptions, based on a childlike view of how the global economy works.

The same conclusion (that Western workers are not really workers at all, but members of the exploiting class) based on race and imperialism is much more defendable (from their perspective) than this garbage.

Quote:
MIM Theory Issue #1-A White Proletariat?
Explores the claim of most "revolutionary" groups that Amerika's white workers are exploited. MIM harbors no such illusions. Huge subsidies from the Third World have created the most reactionary working class in history. (32 pp.)

Table of Contents
The White Working Class: Why should we care?
Definitions
The "left" tells MIM off
MIM trashes myth of white exploitation
Banking on the backs of the oppressed
The petty bourgeoisie: International Comparisons
Who is really exploited? First World vs. Third World Labor
"Leftist" myths on Amerikan labor refuted

Spartacists League chases MIM Notes 60
Marx's Capital: What is Exploitation
Combating wishful thinking on the white working class

Actually, from that libcommunity thread, the 'Maoist Rebel News' video posted on the first page is very similar to the pseudo-economics quoted above by 888:

http://libcom.org/forums/libcommunity/maoism-myth-white-worker-09092010

About how 'socialism makes things cheaper' (based on Cuba's retail stores).

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Nov 3 2010 07:08

Thanks but how would you try to convince some maoist that what I quoted above was wrong?

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Nov 3 2010 10:10
888 wrote:
Thanks but how would you try to convince some maoist that what I quoted above was wrong?

Marx's theory of alienation, the concept of surplus-value extraction, etc and how they relate to all wage workers regardless of nationality. I'll leave it to someone more well read on economics than me to give you a specific economic counter-argument (other than it being shit), but a lot of this goes back to the "labor aristocracy". Generally, this puts the Western (read: white) workers in the same category as the bourgeoisie, part of the exploiting class. Yet this notion is contradicted by the support of Third Worldists for all workers and bourgeoisie in non-Western nations. Saying that all American workers are exploiters based on their wage value ignores alienation, exploitation via surplus-value extraction, etc- plus it completely ignores currency exchange and inflation.

A worker making $20,000 USD a year in Braddock, Pennsylvania would be able to support themself. A worker making $50,000 USD a year in Beverley Hills, California wouldn't be able to rent a tiny studio apartment. Standard of living, cost of living, etc are all relative.

In the end the Maoist (especially Western Maoist) narrative is one of colonial rebellion and reverse racism. Class loses its meaning in the Maoist context. A Chinese auto parts worker is considered in the same boat as his middle-management boss and the factory owner ('New Democracy' - 'Bloc Of Four Social Classes'), as the native bourgeoisie is still considered oppressed.

A business owner is oppressed as long as they operate in a non-Western nation. A worker is an exploiter as long as they live and toil in a Western nation.

Personally I don't think there is any arguing with the bulk of Third Worldists, the same way you can't argue with fundamentalist Mormons. They have abandoned the basics of working class politics; their trajectory is outside anarchism and marxism. Just another ridiculous sign post of what is 'The Left' alongside the Anti-Deutsch and "We Are All Hamas" crowds.

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Nov 3 2010 14:23

888, i posted this comment to that article; it is awaiting moderation:

So, services are both ‘over-valued’ and ‘not productive of value’? You can’t even stay consistent on one page. Following your view that services are not productive of value, as well your statements about expenditure on mechanisms of social control (police, military, etc.), and according to the methodology used, the portion of the GDP that would represent ‘productive labor’ would be less than either than 31 trillion or 36 trillion, depending upon which figures you use. Following your estimations about unproductive workers in the U.S. and applying it to what you would consider the imperialist bloc (Europe, Japan, Australia, etc.) as well as including a deduction based upon military/police expenditure, productive GDP would measure some 30%-50% less, to be generous. What that does that mean? Your ‘average value of labor’ (and I’m sure that you mean labor power) would be around $5200-$5880 a year, or $2.63/hr to $2.94/hr at productive GDP calculated at 30% of total GDP, or, $3750-$4200 a year, or $1.88/hr to $2.10/hr, at productive GDP calculated at 50% of total GDP.

I’m sure that the kneejerk reaction is to redefine U.S. workers as ultra-mega-exploiters, since they now make around 7-8 times the ‘average value of labor’. Another conclusion that could be made is that your methodology is completely worthless; according to your definitions, a large amount of the waged workers of the world make more than the ‘average value of labor’, including those outside of the ‘imperialist bloc’. How could that be explained? Are they exploiters as well? Furthermore, not even taking to account deductions from total GDP, is it the case that anyone, worldwide, that makes more than your ‘average value of labor’ is not exploited and is an exploiter? It would seem to be the case from what has been said here.

Don’t take this as support for your methodology or your interpretation

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Nov 4 2010 16:38

I also am not so clear on the usefulness of debating with such rhetoric. It's clear that one can't based a system of exploitation on the absolute income of workers in different geographic areas, even bourgeois economics concerns itself with purchasing power parity.

If you understand capitalism to be fundamentally based on exploitation, through the extraction of surplus-value, then focusing on relative wages exclusively (as the quoted passage does) is obviously misaligned. Also of interest is the relative view with regards to the bourgeoisie, as if we can ally ourselves with the "oppressed" bourgeoisie and gain out of the competition without the bourgeois camp.

Nuttery, really.

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Nov 5 2010 04:07

Monkeysmashesheaven are whackos, probably a MIM splinter, you'll not have luck changing their minds.

Also, a friend of mine pointed out that in that quote they make what is for Marx a really elementary mistake. They take the value of labors' product globally, divide it up to derive some number, and pretend that that number represents the line below which exploitation happens. That's rhetorically powerful to some because "look, there are, like, numbers!" but it's not a good argument. It's so bad I wouldn't be surprised to learn it was written as a parody.

What this does is mistake the value of the product of labor for the value of labor power. For Marx, the value of a commodity equals the value of the labor time required to produce it, in general as a social average. For Marx this applies to labor power as much as any other commodity. That's why labor power is a strange commodity - workers are generally paid what their labor power is worth according to capitalism, because paid the value of their labor power (that is, paid equivalent to what Marx calls the socially necessary labor time required to produce their labor power); labor power's the only commodity which actively produces a value greater than what it costs to purchase.

They should read v1 of Capital.

This third worldist Maoist stuff is really pernicious for 'first world' people. It's a great excuse not to do anything where you live (after all, why organize with exploiters like your co-workers?) which frees up a lot of time to talk shit on others, and it feeds an awful self-righteousness ("I'm one of the few 1st worlders who has the courage to recognize the truth, I'm a traitor to my objective position, in service of the revolution!")

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Nov 5 2010 06:26

Monkey Smashes Heaven is a split from MIM and probably is 3 people, if not less.

Ariege
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Nov 5 2010 08:57

I am a little pushed for time, but:

1/ Lenin drew heavily on the work of J.A Hobson who had outlined his theories on how modern capitalism gives rise to a new kind of imperialism (essentially investment driven) in 1902.

2/ Imperialism is not at all the same as formal empires. Hobson and Lenin were talking about a new kind of imperialism, one which might explain some aspects of British, German or American colonialism, but certainly not Portuguese or Spanish.

3/ The idea that imperialism has been instrumental in buying off the working class is a pretty convincing one. I suggest sceptics look at the relationship between Labour Colonial Office policy after WWII and the establishment of the British welfare state.

4/ As an explanation of European imperialism Hobson's and Lenin's ideas are at best incomplete, at worst an attempt to wrap up a complex phenomenon in a simplistic and convenient ideological package.