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

Anton Pannekoek

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

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

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

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

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

Marx’s Gothakritik

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

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

The Famous Critique of “Councilism”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marx’s Critique of Labor-Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the section of the Grundrisse dealing with John Gray, Marx develops the contradictions inherent in his ideas about labor-money. Starting out from the assumption of commodity production, and assuming that a central bank issues labor-money, Marx argues that the only way the vicissitudes of the market could be eliminated is if the bank became the “general buyer and seller, but also the general producer.” If private producers actually receive labor-money in proportion to the labor time spent producing their goods, the regulative role of supply and demand would be annulled, leading to economic collapse; whereas, if the bank itself makes determinations of value, it comes to act as the real organizer of production. In other words, the bank would have to impose a despotic plan on an unplanned economy. Gray’s goals can only be achieved in opposition to his premises. Marx also considers the social function of this despotic bank from the point of view of the common ownership of the means of production: “In fact either it would be a despotic ruler of production and trustee of distribution, or it would indeed be nothing more than a board which keeps the books and accounts for a society producing in common.” 42 Naturally, Marx favors the latter alternative.

Marx claims that Gray assumes an economic foundation of private production instead of common, society-wide control, but wishes to do away with the economic consequences of private production. The labor-money system of equal exchange on the basis of commodity production, carried to its logical conclusion of doing away with the evils of the monetary system, necessitates leaving commodity production behind, just as commodity production necessitates the divergence of price from value and other things Gray dislikes. Marx’s discussion of Gray’s system in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy sheds light on the passages from the Grundrisse. Marx writes, “On the one hand, society in the shape of the bank makes the individuals independent of the conditions of private exchange, and, on the other hand, it causes them to continue to produce on the basis of private exchange. Although Gray merely wants ‘to reform’ the money evolved by commodity exchange, he is compelled by the intrinsic logic of the subject-matter to repudiate one condition of bourgeois production after another.” 43

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

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

Commodities are the direct products of isolated independent individual kinds of labour, and through their alienation in the course of individual exchange they must prove that they are general social labor, in other words, on the basis of commodity production, labour becomes social labour only as a result of the universal alienation of individual kinds of labour. But as Gray presupposes that the labour-time contained in commodities is immediately social labour-time, he presupposes that it is communal labour-time or labour-time of directly associated individuals. In that case, it would indeed be impossible for a specific commodity, such as gold or silver, to confront other commodities as the incarnation of universal labour and exchange-value would not be turned into price; but neither would use-value be turned into exchange-value and the product into a commodity, and thus the very basis of bourgeois production would be abolished. But this is by no means what Gray had—goods are to be produced as commodities but not exchanged as commodities . . .. But it was left to M. Proudhon and his school to declare seriously that the degradation of money and the exaltation of commodities was the essence of socialism and thereby to reduce socialism to an elementary misunderstanding of the inevitable correlation existing between commodities and money. 48

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

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

Marx on Communism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

  • 1. Serge Bricianer, Pannekoek and the Workers’ Councils (St. Louis: Telos Press, 1978) p. 289.
  • 2. See “Bring Out Your Dead,” Endnotes 1. [Available online: http://endnotes.org.uk/articles/8]
  • 3. Jean Barrot and Francois Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement (Detroit: Black & Red, 1974) p. 105.
  • 4. Ibid., p. 123.
  • 5. Ibid., pp. 123-124
  • 6. Paresh Chattopadhyay, “The Economic Content of Socialism: Marx vs. Lenin,” in Review of Radical Political Economics, vol. 24, nos. 3&4, p. 91.
  • 7. Karl Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme,” in Later Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010) p. 222.
  • 8. Ibid., p. 215.
  • 9. Ibid., p. 213.
  • 10. Ted McGlone and Andrew Kliman, “The Duality of Labour,” in The New Value Controversy and the Foundations of Economics (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2004) p. 145.
  • 11. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme,” p. 213. In the Grundrisse, Marx writes that under communal production there “would not be an exchange of exchange values but [rather an exchange] of activities,” and that “the exchange of products would in no way be the medium by which the participation of the individual in general production is mediated.” Karl Marx, Grundrisse (London: Penguin, 1993) p. 171. I will leave Engels out of the following discussion, but it is worth taking note of Engels’ description of directly social labor in the context of labor-time accounting: “From the moment when society enters into possession of the means of production and uses them in direct association for production, the labour of each individual, however varied its specifically useful character may be, is immediately and directly social labour. The quantity of social labour contained in a product has then no need to be established in a roundabout way; daily experience shows in a direct way how much of it is required on the average. Society can simply calculate how many hours of labour are contained in a steam-engine, a bushel of wheat of the last harvest, or a hundred square yards of cloth of a certain quality. It could therefore never occur to it still to express the quantity of labour put into the products, which it will then know directly and in its absolute amount in a third product, and moreover in a measure which is only relative, fluctuating, inadequate, though formerly unavoidable for lack of a better, and not in its natural, adequate and absolute measure, time…. People will be able to manage everything very simply, without the intervention of the famous ‘value.’” Frederick Engels, Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science (New York: International Publishers, 1939) p. 345-6.
  • 12. Karl Marx, Capital: Volume I (London: Penguin, 1990) p. 175.
  • 13. Ibid., p. 173.
  • 14. Barrot and Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, p. 104.
  • 15. See “What is Communism,” International Council Correspondence 1, no. 1 (1934), and “Communist Production and Distribution,” Living Marxism 4, no. 4 (1938).
  • 16. http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/index.htm. “Although not formally published until 1930, the Grundprinzipien evolved out of a document Jan Appel had written while imprisoned in Germany during 1923-1925. Through a systematic study of Marx’s writings, Appel sought to investigate the main problems in creating a new socialist society. Appel’s principal concern was with providing a theoretical framework for resolving what he felt were the two key questions arising out of the experiences of the Russian and German revolutions: 1) What economic conditions are necessary for the abolition of exploitation? 2) What are the political and economic conditions that will allow the proletariat to maintain power once it has been won? Following Appel’s arrival in Holland, the manuscript was revised by Canne Meijer and presented to the group for several years of discussion and revision.” John Gerber, Anton Pannekoek and the Socialism of Workers’ Self-Emancipation, 1873-1960 (Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989) p. 166.
  • 17. http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/09.htm. The GIC writes of the calculation of labor-time: “Marx assumes this system of social book-keeping to be in general applicable to a production process in which labour is social; that is to say, it is equally applicable whether communism is still at an early stage of its development, or whether the principle ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’ (the higher stage of communism) has already been achieved. In other words: the organisation of economic life may in the course of the various periods of development move through various stages, but the stable basis for all of them nevertheless remains the unit of average social labour-time.” http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/01.htm#h4
  • 18. One rather strange critique of the GIC is provided by Philippe Bourrinet, who reproaches them for believing that “it would be immediately possible, as soon as the workers’ councils had taken power in a given country, to proceed to an evolved form of communism.” Phillipe Bourrinet, The Dutch and German Communist Left (London: Porcupine Press, 2001) p. 252.
  • 19. The GIC writes that “Communist industrial life,” as they envision it, “knows nothing of the circulation of money and has no market.” http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/13.htm
  • 20. http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/epilogue.htm#h3
  • 21. “Anarchism and the Spanish Revolution,” International Council Correspondence 3, no. 5&6 (1937), 22.
  • 22. http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/04.htm#h3
  • 23. http://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/01.htm#h4
  • 24. Barrot and Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, pp. 123-124.
  • 25. Denis Authier and Jean Barrot, La Gauche Communiste en Allemagne, 1918-1921 (Paris: Payot, 1976) p. 227. [See English translation online: http://www.marxists.org/subject/germany-1918-23/dauve-authier/appendix1.htm#h7]
  • 26. “That the quantity of labour embodied in a commodity is the quantity socially necessary for its production—the labour-time being thus necessary labour-time—is a definition which concerns only the magnitude of value. But the labour which constitutes the substance of value is not only uniform, simple, average labour; it is the labour of a private individual represented in a definite product.” Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Book III (Amherst: Prometheus, 2000) p. 135.
  • 27. Barrot and Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, p. 116.
  • 28. Anton Pannekoek, Workers’ Councils (Oakland: AK Press, 2003) pp. 23-27. [Available online: http://www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1947/workers-councils.htm#h7]
  • 29. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Book III, p. 129.
  • 30. Barrot and Martin, Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, p. 104.
  • 31. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (New York: International Publishers, 1970), p. 86.
  • 32. Karl Marx, Early Writings (New York: Vintage, 1975), p. 261.
  • 33. Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy (New York: International Publishers, 1992) p. 59.
  • 34. Marx, Grundrisse, p. 160.
  • 35. Karl Marx, “Reflections,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 10 (New York: International Publishers, 1978) p. 588.
  • 36. “How many nails is a pair of shoes worth? If we can solve this appalling problem, we shall have the key to [the] social system which humanity has sought for six thousand years.” Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property? (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007) p. 106.
  • 37. Karl Marx, “‘Notes’ on Adolph Wagner,” in Later Political Writings, p. 255.
  • 38. Marx, Grundrisse, p. 138.
  • 39. Ibid., p. 126.
  • 40. Marx, Capital: Volume I, p. 140.
  • 41. Ibid., p. 161.
  • 42. Marx, Grundrisse, p. 155-6.
  • 43. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, p. 85.
  • 44. Marx, Grundrisse, p. 122.
  • 45. Quoted in Alfredo Saad-Filho, “Labor, Money, and ‘Labour-Money’: A Review of Marx's Critique of John Gray's Monetary Analysis,” in History of Political Economy, vol. 25, no. 1, p. 67.
  • 46. Marx, Grundrisse, p. 134.
  • 47. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, p. 70.
  • 48. Ibid., pp. 85-6.
  • 49. Marx, Capital: Volume I, p. 139.
  • 50. Karl Marx, “The Value-Form,” in Capital & Class, no. 4, p. 141.
  • 51. Ibid., 140.
  • 52. Marx, Capital: Volume I, p. 188-9.
  • 53. Ibid., p. 170.
  • 54. Marx, Capital: Volume III (London: Penguin, 1991) p. 1020.
  • 55. Marx, Capital: Volume I, p. 171-2.
  • 56. In Volume II of Capital, Marx again supports the compatibility of communist production and the use of labor certificates, writing, “With collective production, money capital is completely dispensed with. The society distributes labour-power and means of production between the various branches of industry. There is no reason why the producers should not receive paper tokens permitting them to withdraw an amount corresponding to their labour time from the social consumption stocks. But these tokens are not money; they do not circulate.” Karl Marx, Capital: Volume II (London: Penguin, 1992) p. 434.
  • 57. Marx, Grundrisse, pp. 172-3.
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David Adam- Marx’s critique of socialist labor-money schemes and the myth of council communism’s Proudhonism.pdf567.88 KB

Comments

alb
Feb 7 2013 09:07
RedHughs wrote:
Between Parecon and full communism, Labor time vouchers seem like a dysfunctional middle-ground, the worst of both aspects.

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

RedHughs
Feb 8 2013 02:28

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

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

alb
Feb 8 2013 08:15
RedHughs wrote:
Obviously, I vote to go directly to full communism, well as directly as possible.

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

dave c
Feb 8 2013 19:28

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

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

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

(1)

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

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

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

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

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

(3)

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

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

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

They use the example of shoes, and write that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(4) Ocelot refers to

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

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

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

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

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

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

kingzog
Feb 8 2013 20:50

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

RedHughs
Feb 9 2013 23:41
Quote:
As to why I might focus on the things I did in the essay, without making broader claims about labor vouchers, my motivation was to in some small way [to] question the "communizers" vague dismissals of traditional Marxism. They may claim that the working class should not take over and self-manage industry, as if we could simply create socialism out of nothing. Or they may claim that “the complete absence of any form of accounting is the axis around which the revolutionary community will construct itself”

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

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

This

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

capricorn
Feb 10 2013 19:12
dave c wrote:
I don’t know where this “ideal average calculated by a board of economic specialists” comes from. The GIC seem to say quite the opposite:
GIC wrote:
The solution to the problem resides, of course, in a procedure in which the producers themselves, by means of their own factory organisations, calculate the average social labour-time, and not Kautsky. That which his economic headquarters is not capable of achieving, the factory organisations themselves, the Workers' Councils, are perfectly capable of realising, in this way simultaneously imparting to the category of average social labour-time its concrete form.

They use the example of shoes, and write that

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

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

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

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

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

(pt + ct) + Lt
Xt

in association with the establishment's production budget.

Don't ask me what this formula means.

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

dave c wrote:
Where is the evidence for further circulation of the certificates?

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

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

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

capricorn
Feb 11 2013 09:52
capricorn wrote:
I've been working from the paper version of the scheme and have just noticed that this passage that immediately follows the above is not in the version on the internet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

arminius
Feb 24 2013 18:40

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

From THE PEOPLE
Oct. 19, 1991

Question Period

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

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

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

Capitalism's Aftereffects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Reasonable Projection

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

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

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

alb
Feb 12 2013 10:46
arminius wrote:
Since the SLP of America has been brought up, I thought we should let them speak for themselves, to avoid any distortions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ocelot
Feb 12 2013 16:41

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

Still, a couple of comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is uncontroversial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

capricorn
Feb 12 2013 18:24
ocelot wrote:
dave c wrote:
Labor-power as a commodity means that the worker is selling his or her laboring capacity, which is then at the disposal of the buyer.

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

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

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

ocelot
Feb 13 2013 11:57

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

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

dave c
Feb 17 2013 04:32
capricorn wrote:
Yes, but, according to Chapter 10, this average has to be registered with an "Office of Social Book-keeping" which has powers to make corrections in the light of how things turn out.

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

ocelot wrote:
OK, there's a significant amount of wrong in there

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

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

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

capricorn
Feb 17 2013 07:46
dave c wrote:
Marx wrote:
Apart from these contradictions, a direct exchange of money, i.e. of objectified labour, with living labour, would either supersede the law of value, which only begins to develop freely on the basis of capitalist production, or supersede capitalist production itself, which rests directly on wage-labour. (Capital 1, 676)

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

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

ocelot
Feb 19 2013 16:09
capricorn wrote:
You're not arguing, are you, that in the GIK scheme what workers are exchanging is their labour rather than their labour-power?

Nailed it. Thank you.

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

shawnpwilbur
Feb 23 2013 03:07

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

kingzog
Mar 8 2013 07:01

http://internationalist-perspective.org/blog/2013/03/05/exchange-on-soci...

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

RedHughs
Mar 23 2013 01:52

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

Anarcho
Jan 8 2015 15:51

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

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

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

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

Spikymike
Jan 21 2016 10:35

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

Spikymike
Jul 2 2016 15:53

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

Spikymike
Jul 21 2016 10:30

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

spacious
Oct 18 2016 14:15
Quote:
Marx describes the first phase of communism as “communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, as it emerges from capitalist society.”

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

Khawaga
Oct 18 2016 14:29

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

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

Spikymike
Dec 31 2016 17:44

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

klas batalo
Jan 3 2017 19:32

http://internationalistperspective.org/article/IP61-The-Economy-Transiti...

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

Spikymike
Jan 4 2017 15:19

Yes klas good but not new! Certainly worth another look. Had (as someone supportive of IP and Dauve) a long discussion with CWO comrades about this but had in the end to just agree to disagree.

MT
Jan 4 2017 16:32

Short and good text from IP. Thanks for sharing!

Anarcho
Dec 12 2017 18:40

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

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

Proudhon’s constituted value and the myth of labour notes

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

Review: The Poverty of Philosophy by Karl Marx

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