Rethinking "No Islands in Capitalism"

Submitted by el psy congroo on December 26, 2016

Lately I've been wondering about overcoming value relations while value relations are still common and widespread. The scenario is not restricted to capitalism. Even given a theoretical international revolutionary upheaval that displaces the bourgeoisie as the dominant class, we'd still be faced with similar predicaments, in terms of overcoming commodity fetishism. For example, aside from essentially meaningless "collectivisation" of certain business, the revolutionaries of the Spanish Civil War completely failed in this regard. Are there theoretical points in regards to these general points which are worth revisiting? Perhaps you can kill a value relation after all. Indeed it seems we must, at least at some point, if there's any chance at communism. Why not start now?

Thanks!

el psy congroo

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Split from a separate thread but not unrelated:

S. Artesian

Well, Marx's analysis is that capitalism is not overthrown by those outside the production relations of the "commodity economy," but by those exactly at the heart of those production relations, whose own labor-power is compelled to be expressed as a commodity for exchange.

That sounds about right to me.

But nobody is "outside the production relations".

Re: commodity economy, call it whatever, commodity fetishism, value relations, capitalism...

S. Artesian

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Nobody is outside the "production relations," but only specific classes, with specific relations to how the society is reproduced hold the potential for overthrowing those relations. Wage-labor being the determinant of capital is at one and the same time its negation. That's the essence of Marx's investigation into historical materialism-- specific organizations of labor determine how society reproduces itself, and in that reproduction, increase the antagonisms and conflicts therein, creating the framework for a resolution, which is called revolution.

The law of value-- that law of bourgeois society where commodities exchange in proportion to the labor time necessary for their reproduction-- is not an "eternal" law. In fact, it's no law at all-- it's the "extract" or "abstract" of a specific class relation, where labor power has value only in its exchange.

Exploding that law means in fact doing away with the division of the labor time into necessary labor time and surplus labor time, and in so doing, reducing the working day drastically and continuously.

el psy congroo

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Marx was completely wrong about when that revolution would happen. Do you really see the international working class getting a four-hour workday or something in the age of austerity? If they did win this massive reform in the 21st century, wages would obviously need to double at least, wouldn't that just keep going even if we assume it's possible? (Which we shouldn't I think.) No we don't have time for all this traditionalist stuff. So you do advocate the union struggle? Seems like a lost cause as well.

S. Artesian

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

el psy congroo

Marx was completely wrong about when that revolution would happen. Do you really see the international working class getting a four-hour workday or something in the age of austerity? If they did win this massive reform in the 21st century, wages would obviously need to double at least, wouldn't that just keep going even if we assume it's possible? (Which we shouldn't I think.) No we don't have time for all this traditionalist stuff. So you do advocate the union struggle? Seems like a lost cause as well.

If you see another way to revolution, feel free to expound upon it. If you know of another agent of social revolution, something not involved in the direct, and "vital" reproduction of the current social relations of production, please go ahead and lay it out.

Do I see the working class winning a four hour day? Under capitalism? Absolutely not. Do I see that happening with a social revolution? Certainly, and that will happen precisely to the degree that the working class is able to do away with itself as the working class.

We don't have time for "traditional stuff." OK, give us the untraditional stuff.

el psy congroo

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'd rather brainstorm collectively than expound things upon each other. Why have you repeatedly mentioned agents of revolutions separate to the proletariat? I'm not suggesting this at all. The proletariat and poor peasantry are the only force capable of what we're talking about. Marx's conception of revolution evolved further away from what is today considered traditional or orthodox Marxism by 1870s and 80s. Seems to me he himself ended up being very firmly against statist communists, social democracy, reformism and trade unionism by the late 1880s. What struggles did that leave for communists to advocate in? I'm sure he'd have written another manifesto about it before he died if it were possible. His treatise on the state for example, besides the commonly highlighted unfinished work like Capital.

I think anarchist communist collectivisation is far more potentially viable than it gets credit for, especially in the age of mass unemployment. The actions of Marxists during the Spanish Civil War were absolutely deplorable, yet there is a strong tendency even today to ignore the hugely interesting revolutionary collectives in favor of the war action. The literature is accumulating supporting the importance of the collectives in Spain. I see no reason to attempt to start building collectives and decentralised networks of collectives right now. But we would need something like an anarchist communist version of the MST in Brasil.

I think it's not so much about the collectives as it is attempting to withdraw permanently from the society of commodity fetishism. Destroy the separation between town and country as Marx discussed.

Sure...this sounds like lifestylism or something from Bookchin or Zapatistas because no comrades have made the effort to produce the theoretical framework needed to distinguish real communism from shit like hippie communes and "libertarian municipalism".

The biggest problems would be how to avoid the markets and money altogether, isolation and uneven development,etc...but think of whole communist neighborhoods of food and housing collectives.

Are they going to arrest everyone? Shoot them? The more you consider the specifics these kinds of actions the more you realise classic industrial actions in the past from militant workers were faced with very similar issues. But today, one-day strikes with the official unions aren't cutting it. Why not just pull everyone off the system? Re-wild without the part where everyone runs off into the woods while a tiny vanguard destroys all the evil machines, computers and robots.

Tom Henry

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

EPS,

Who do you mean by ‘the proletariat’?

Marx, of course, said that capitalism proletarianizes everyone. And he was right: although some get the riches of the system, every human in capitalism performs functions for capitalism, prior to and above any functions they may perform for themselves as humans. On one hand you say you are looking for ‘untraditional’ answers, but your insistence on the category of proletarian makes it seem that you also want to find answers in ‘traditional’ Marxist, workerist, labourist, or class struggle tropes.

But if you are looking for ‘untraditional’ answers perhaps you should be engaging with and disseminating ‘untraditional’ approaches such as I have linked to, but don’t advocate, below. Rather than trying to get people to come up with some answer for you here - that you like - why don’t you present to folk what it is you think? Your appeal to ‘brainstorm’ ideas is not convincing because you don’t offer much of anything specific to go on, and then, in previous threads also, you seem to ignore or immediately discount other people’s contributions.

Like, what are you talking about when you write: “Lately I've been wondering about overcoming value relations while value relations are still common and widespread.” ?

And just what is it about that Spanish revolt of 1936 that you regard as being a failure? And why do you regard collectivization as ‘meaningless’ – particularly when you, just a bit later, seem to want: “whole communist neighborhoods of food and housing collectives.” ? Also, what is it that you actually object to in Bookchin, or what the Zapatistas are doing?

From what you write I think you are possibly closer to the Enlightenment and progressive solutions (save technology, just get it under control?) offered by radical environmentalism (deep ecology?) and/or Naomi Klein (this is not a denigration). Klein’s recent ideas are examined favourably here by John Bellamy Foster in the Marxist and environmentalist, Monthly Review:

http://monthlyreview.org/2015/02/01/crossing-the-river-of-fire/

A couple of snippets from the article:

“The unfinished business of liberation,” Klein counsels, requires “a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect.”
http://monthlyreview.org/2015/02/01/crossing-the-river-of-fire/

Klein, however, presents a special problem for today’s gatekeepers. Her opposition to the logic of capital in This Changes Everything is not couched primarily in the traditional terms of the left, concerned mainly with issues of exploitation. Rather, she makes it clear that what has finally induced her to cross the river of fire is an impending threat to the survival of civilization and humanity itself. She calls for a broad revolt of humanity against capitalism and for the creation of a more sustainable society in response to the epochal challenge of our time. This is an altogether different kind of animal—one that liberals cannot dismiss out of hand without seeming to go against the scientific consensus and concern for humanity as a whole.
http://monthlyreview.org/2015/02/01/crossing-the-river-of-fire/

You could also try this:
http://the-knowledge.org/en-gb/

Or David Orr, who also insists that local networks must be nurtured and then globalized:

http://yalebooks.com/book/9780300222814/dangerous-years

This gives a few pointers toward other things that might be interesting to you:

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/books/interview-david-w-orr-oberlin-college

Or you could try communization theory:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communization

(And perhaps a description of the actual practice (controversial!) of communization in history:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Foundation_Pit)

I hope this reading list is fruitful for you. All the best.

el psy congroo

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hey, I'll have to look at those links a little bit later. I like John Bellamy Foster a lot, also Burkett, their writings about Marx and ecology are highly recommend. I'm not so much a fan of Klein, she's involved in way too much liberal activism for me. Like I said I'll give the links a go a bit later.. Lemme just respond to some of your comments briefly.

el psy congroo

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I forget to mention communisation really interests me as well, I'm quite familiar with the literature. L.A. theses from End Notes are a good example of decent theoretical work in that department.

Tom Henry

Who do you mean by ‘the proletariat’?

The working class. Everyone who owns nothing of real value but their labor power.

the category of proletarian

When did a whole historic class become a "category"?

Your appeal to ‘brainstorm’ ideas is not convincing because you don’t offer much of anything specific to go on, and then, in previous threads also, you seem to ignore or immediately discount other people’s contributions.

?

Like, what are you talking about when you write: “Lately I've been wondering about overcoming value relations while value relations are still common and widespread.”?

I mean rethinking the significance of industrial struggle vs. something more communisistic in the sense of "communisation".

And just what is it about that Spanish revolt of 1936 that you regard as being a failure?

And why do you regard collectivization as ‘meaningless’

I was a bit harsh there. The rural collectives seemed much more closer to communism than a lot of the factories in the cities, which basically remained business as usual. money and value relations were really only scratched away at in the "rural" areas and smaller places population wise. Even these had major problems.

https://endnotes.org.uk/articles/9
https://libcom.org/library/agrarian-collectives-michael-seidman
https://libcom.org/library/lessons-collectives-victor-alba
https://libcom.org/files/WorkersAgainstWork-Seidman_0.pdf
http://www.international-communist-party.org/English/Texts/SpainBil.htm

Also, what is it that you actually object to in Bookchin, or what the Zapatistas are doing?

This deserves it's own thread but in a nutshell cozyness to the state and bourgeoisie. Also nationalism, defense of democracy, localism, etc.

From what you write I think you are possibly closer to the Enlightenment and progressive solutions

Ewww gross no

Khawaga

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

When did a whole historic class become a "category"?

Proletariat, commodity, money, population... and the list goes on. These are all categories into which people and things are excluded and included. It's technical Marx's jargon; Marx argues that categories like commodity and money are theoretical expressions of class relations. Nought wrong with saying proletariat is a category.

See also: epistemology and ontology.

el psy congroo

5 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hey Tom, thanks for all those links. Really interesting stuff even if I don't agree with all of it.