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Text coloring decodes as follows:
Black: Ken Ellis
Red: Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.
Green: Press report, etc.
Blue: Recent correspondent
Purple: Unreliable Info
Brown: Inaccurate quote
DOTP = Dictatorship
Of The Proletariat
A.P. = Arnold Petersen, SLP National Secretary, 1913-68
NO = SLP National Office.
NEC = SLP National Executive Committee
c.c. = class conscious
OBU = One Big Union
BAMN = Committee to save affirmative action By Any Means Necessary
LPA = Labor Party Advocates
eotp = exploitation of the proletariat
All of the following letters were addressed to my old friend Mike, with whom I worked at the Socialist Labor Party National Office in Palo Alto in the mid-1970's. The SWT and Communist forums carried our more recent correspondence, which can also be found at this web site.
October 11, 1995
Thank you very much for responding in such wonderful detail to my request for feedback [on the draft of my book 'Left Wing Lies']. Keep reading. Let me see if I can respond to your concerns in a cogent manner.
In your first comment about the dictatorship of the proletariat on page 69 of my book, I couldn't nail down what the problem was, because there was one word in your text that I could not decipher: "But Lenin's definition of the dop translates into the d.o.party because in the vast sea of petty bourgeois influenced so@@@@, the proletarians need the guiding/dictatorial hand of the iron party to make the dop work." What I couldn't figure out was the word with asterisks, a word that looks a little like 'social', but, in that context, makes no sense to me. If you meant to write 'society', on the other hand, then I understand what you mean, and your observation of the underlying rationale behind the behavior of the Bolsheviks toward the peasants may very well be insightful.
It may very well be that the DOTP turned into the d.o.t.party, but, for me, in this particular refutation exercise around this particular quote, it was sufficient, in order to prove my point, to stick to Lenin's actual text to prove that A.P. had taken Lenin completely out of context, and that Lenin was not at all discussing the necessity of a DOTP in an advanced vs. a backward country, as A.P. unethically accused Lenin of doing, so that he could 'prove' that we don't need the DOTP in the USA. In the next draft of my book, maybe I will make a point of saying that Lenin was making some debatable arguments, and that I didn't really need to take up any of those issues to prove that A.P. was lying, which was all I ever really wanted to do. Interjecting my perspective, yours, or anyone else's beside what Lenin, Kautsky and A.P. already provided about worker-peasant relations may only confuse an issue that, to average readers, may already be complicated enough.
On page 71, you point out that there was a SIU solution to agricultural labor in the USA, which SLP position I certainly acknowledge, for the SIU is the alleged solution to every wage-labor situation, agricultural or not. But, that position falls into the category of a simple assertion such as 'we don't have to do things the old way, for De Leon has shown us the new way.' There may be situations where such simple assertions (such as: Conditions!) are sufficiently plausible to convince some members, but, in this situation, SLP brass were benefited by the availability of the redefinition of the DOTP to help them clad their argument in SLP iron, and 'logically prove' that 'the DOTP over a non-existent peasantry would not be necessary in the USA, whereas it would have been necessary in Russia where a peasantry did exist.' Thanks to his completely unethical redefinition, A.P. swindled members out of a proper understanding of history yet one more time, and gave members an SLP iron clad argument against proletarian dictatorship, or any other use the state by the workers, but which is completely worthless in the real world, where people know what DOTP means.
On p. 72, I can't argue with what you wrote about SLP positions of: the SIU's making the DOTP unnecessary, and their absence making it necessary. I don't think I contradicted that; maybe I should spell it out in the text. I'll make it a point of seeing that it gets said somewhere, or maybe I'll move it closer to the beginning of the book. It's important that readers not remain confused on that point, so I'll fix it somehow.
On p. 73, your suggestion of redoing my section headings is well taken, for I redid all of them for my 3rd draft that I finished in March, two of which were sent out to prospective publishers. One publisher went out of business, and I am waiting to hear back from a vanity press, even though there is no way I will be able to afford the deal the vanity might offer. I sent it in just to satisfy my curiosity. The third draft contained minor improvements to the text and a few cosmetic adjustments. It's a more publicly presentable version.
On p. 88, I'm wondering where anybody could ever get the idea from A.P. that a workers' state over the bourgeoisie could exist here or anywhere else in theory or in practice. Is there an example in any of his writings you could cite that would lead anyone in that direction? Certainly we have enough evidence for a dotpotp, or a workers' state over peasants and middle classes, but what example can you find in the works of A.P. of a legitimate DOTP over the upper-most classes? A.P. stated in "PD vs. D+D" that upper classes were supposed to be 'shaking in their stolen boots', but mostly over a loss of their economic power. Upper classes are also supposed to split the scene in A.P.'s scenario, but 'where to' wasn't mentioned.
A scenario of workers riding herd over and taxing the bourgeoisie is in the Communist Manifesto, but nothing ever about a DOTP over peasantry and middle classes, a fantasy scenario that Bakunin attributed to Marx, but which Marx, in return, attributed to Bakunin. Once again, you might be right about my failing to repeat SLP orthodoxy where a little repetition to properly set the stage might be in order.
On page 89, I double checked the word "environ", and my dictionary defines it as 'encircle', 'encompass' and 'surround', so I don't think that it was anyone's typo.
On page 90, yes, the democratic republic was not mentioned by A.P. because it didn't fit into his scheme of converting Marx's political theories of the state into theories of economic conditions, so that economic forms could be substituted for the state. A.P. had a knack for convincing many of us that the impossible was for real, convincing far too many of us to carry our distorted versions of reality to our graves. Well done, A.P.!! Pertinent to this issue, I hereby reprint a portion of a letter in progress to one of our old comrades with whom I have been corresponding since he personally answered my letter to readers this past spring in DB 71:
snip repetition of material presented further down in this page ...
P. 92: From the above perspective, it becomes easier to consign any anarchist connotations of 'casting away the political hull' from the "King of Prussia" article to the dustbin of history, especially considering, on page 93, a quote from Marx's same early article that spoke of "the tendency of the classes with no political power to put an end to their isolation from the state and from power." If that didn't cancel its anarchist implications, I don't know what else Marx could have written that would have. Besides that, other translations of the same work have the workers 'throwing the political mask aside', as in alternately swapping political/economic tasks, and as in alternately swapping the tragi-comic masks of the theater. More detailed analyses of A.P.'s use of this quote can be found on page 269 of the ms. No dictionary even hints at synonymity between hull and mask, either.
Keep on reading, thanks for the feedback, and let's continue to iron out any differences we might have. Maybe we will have to agree to disagree on some points, but let's give it the old college try, for I have to someday learn to convince somebody of something. My record of doing anything remotely like that so far is severely wanting.
I now have an hour per week to rant on a micro-power radio station in Berkeley ... I critique the left from a labor perspective. It's a lot of fun, and a good way to try to connect with my ideas. I haven't had a crank call yet, so maybe I'm doing something right. Or maybe no one is listening. Actually, I've gotten a few calls of appreciation.
January 24, 1996
Thanks for your holiday greeting, and for your latest contribution zu der critique. Glad to have caught up with you at the Long Haul. You hang out with a quite civilized group. For long meetings, they go rather well, as opposed to some Free Radio Berkeley meetings.
You start off with a compliment of my work on pages 82-7, which I thank you for, but I am now having problems with what I wrote on page 87, for I am beginning to wonder if Marx would smash up all capitalist states, particularly if those states happened to be democracies. I have lately been toying with the idea that the only states Marx concretely suggested should be overthrown or smashed up were feudal states, which would strongly differentiate him from Leninists, who seemingly would smash up any state - even a democracy - that would dare to stand between Leninists and socialism. I have been gathering the impression that, to Marx, overthrow or smashing was only for feudal monarchies, while reform was suitable for democracies. Can you disabuse me of this notion? Chapter and verse, if possible. Aside from what Marx thought workers should do with respect to monarchy vs. republic, there is also the historical record of workers so far refusing to overthrow established democracies. Not only that, there is also their record of having defended republics against counter-revolutionary monarchists, as in the Commune, the Spanish Republic in the 30's, and I'm sure there must be more examples, such as the defense of our own Republic against the likes of King George.
I could never have turned against the notion of revolution in a democracy if it were not a fairly close reading of Marx and Engels, if I had not acquired from them a sense of evolution of systems of production from primitive communism, to slavery, to feudalism, to capitalism, to whatever, and had I not detected a wave of bourgeois revolution from Holland to England to the USA, and then back East through Europe, to Asia and then South. This drift of revolution to the East after the establishment of the American Republic seems to have entirely escaped the notice of M and E, the wave not having gotten far enough in their time, but did not escape the notice of more modern historians like Carroll Quigley. A heavy dose of Marx and Engels themselves has been a good antidote to revolutionary Marxism in inappropriate places.
P. 88: I must plead ignorance of the origin of the term 'political state'. But, there are places in Engels' statements where the context of the political state is concurrent with the DOTP, as I explain in the middle of the book, around p. 282, while refuting the passages in "PD vs. D+D" where A.P. tackled the abolition of the political state with vigor. In his article entitled "On Authority", Engels made one historical context for the 'political state' quite clear (MESW II, pp. 378-9):
"All socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti-authoritarians demand that the authoritarian political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand...."
In this passage, it is clear to me that the DOTP could be a form of political state, and may even have been the only one that Engels had in mind. I could use the services of a Marxist scholar who could cite Engels mentioning 'political state' in the context of a Bonapartist monarchy or even a bourgeois democracy. I wish that Hal Draper was still around to lead me in the right direction.*
* 2002 note: The CD of Collected Works shows M+E using "political state" 113 times. Perhaps the most definite statements were (me3.31): "Of the various elements of national life, the one most difficult to evolve was the political state, the constitution. It developed as universal reason over against the other spheres, as ulterior to them." (me3.104): "Independent private property, i.e., abstract private property, and the corresponding private person are the supreme construction of the political state." (me3.118): "The state exists only as the political state. The totality of the political state is the legislature. To take part in the legislature is therefore to take part in the political state, is to demonstrate and put into effect one's being as a member of the political state, as a member of the state. Hence that all wish individually to share in the legislature is nothing but the wish of all to be actual (active) members of the state, or to give themselves a political being, or to demonstrate and give effect to their being as a political being." In "The Jewish Question", Marx recognized the USA as having a political state, but Germany in the early 1840's as having none. (End of note.)
As you mention, a democratic republic might very well be certifiable as a valid Marxist version of a political state.
P. 92: Your comments are well taken. Due to the impossibility of socialism in western democracies, and the relative ease of establishing socialism after overthrowing feudal monarchies in fringe areas, such as in the old Soviet Union, I have come to the grand conclusion that the program of socialist collectivization was a colossal error on the part of M and E, for it was impossible to implement in the very advanced capitalist countries where M and E predicted it would happen first, impossible due to the presence of democracies in those countries, for, after a mere electoral victory, the power of the state that protects private property before the election goes on protecting it afterward, rendering socialism impossible to implement in the very advanced capitalist countries where M and E predicted it would happen first. This fatal flaw in socialism was only hinted at by De Leon and A.P., where M and E were, for once, accurately criticized for giving workers a program for democracies that would only result in state capitalism if implemented after mere electoral victories. It seems like no one on the ideological left is willing to discuss this fatal error of collectivizing means of production into the hands of the state after victory, because so many leftists of the statist variety are convinced that concentrating means of production into the hands of the state is the only way for the lower classes to achieve social, political and economic justice, and thus mostly fail to consider shortening hours of labor as a more logical way to achieve justice in advanced capitalist democracies, where labor is more productive than anywhere else, less time is required to produce necessities of life, and where workers spend increasing amounts of time producing surplus values that flow right into the hands of the upper classes and the government, and are also used to diversify and expand the economy. In the meantime, and along lines that could also be described as collectivist, the anarchist portion of the left would abolish private ownership of property by getting lower class organizations, such as unions, to take possession of means of production. It's too bad, though, that collectivization from either a socialist or an anarchist perspective was a mistake, for their inability to be implemented after mere electoral victories, and that, consequently, masses stay out of socialist, communist and anarchist parties in droves, petty-bourgeois elements running in to seize business opportunities in the resulting sects, running them with the attitude that if people didn't like what they hear in one sect, then they can bloody well go down the road and get involved in another sect, but not to expect anything but censorship if they discover that the programs of their sects are based on quotes out of context and lies cut from whole cloth. As Engels wrote to Trier, in a passage which, up to now, has only been available in German and Russian, "Are we demanding from others free speech for us, only to abolish it again in our own ranks?" If one is trying to protect the fraud that is being perpetrated, sure, why not do away with free speech that interferes with doing business?
I recently finished reading Robert Michel's brilliant 1915 analysis of European Social-Democracies in his book entitled 'Political Parties', not to be missed, due to his theories of formation of oligarchies in workers' parties. I think that it was the impossibility of socialism in democracies compared to what was possible, and did happen, after overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries, that led to opportunism in Social-Democracies. Radical perspectives that harshly condemn old S-D's for their lack of revolutionary performance are just as bankrupt, as in the example of the pot calling the kettle black. The physical paralysis of old S-D's is surpassed only by the mental paralysis of hyper-radicals, for their inability to reject the notion of changing ownership of means of production, due to its impossibility in democracies. It's easy for Monday morning quarterbacks to deride old Social-Democracies, but the same quarterbacks refuse to admit of the impossibility of socialism in democracies, for abandoning collectivist schemes would deprive them of a reason for existence. And their journals continue to disseminate dubious advice to proletarians, but always attract a certain element that realizes that something real has to be done in the direction of social justice, but not necessarily knowing what to do, not doing their own research, and instead, by default, enabling their leaders to make all of the decisions about the party line. For every 'great proletarian revolutionary leader', a hundred or a thousand followers learn little more than to parrot the party line. We saw that in the SLP, and I have no reason to suspect that the same isn't true elsewhere, given the abysmally low level of discourse out there in radical media. It has to be low by necessity, for there is no one out there willing to tackle the arguments that would put all of the revolutionary nonsense about changing ownership of means of production out of business, which is all it can be if it doesn't make any sense with respect to the flow of history. And, if all that radical parties can ever be are businesses, then each of their products are unique, and there is no reason for any of them to change their product if someone finds fault with them, for customers can just go down the road and find 'isms more to their liking. If not, too bad, but don't expect to change an established 'ism, any more than you can change Christianity into Judaism, so religiously do ideologues uphold their 'isms, even if they were justified by quotes out of context, and lies cut from whole cloth. But, I don't think that I can make a business out of converting revolutionary parties into movements to reduce hours of labor, for this particular 'business' is going pretty bad right now. If all I was willing to think about was making money, it may have been better for my wallet if I instead could have found a scam that I could have run on other suckers, for they say there is one born every minute. I should know, for I've been there, and got suckered by the SLP and many others, but I've never been much of an entrepreneur myself.
Because socialism was impossible in European democracies, and parties were unable to establish workers' states after mere electoral victories, and unable to concentrate means of production into the hands of [non-existent] workers' states, then they necessarily could do only what they could do, which was to work for reforms in the interests of the lower classes, create cradle-to-grave welfare states, etc., but never to concentrate means of production into the hands of the state without creating state capitalism. If anarchists a century ago knew that collectivizing in democracies would only yield state capitalism, and rightfully criticized Marx for giving us a program that could only lead to state capitalism in advanced capitalist democracies, they certainly were unwilling to give the full explanation of how Marx erred, for the full explanation would have put out of business even their own scheme for changing ownership of means of production. Hence our Party's cryptic and incomplete descriptions of the Marxist theories of the state, both the violent one for feudal monarchies, and the peaceful one for democracies. For the consumption of the SLP, the dichotomy was described as 'peaceful where means of production are advanced, and violent where peasants till the land, due to the violence of proletarian dictatorship over peasants.' The willingness of 'radicals' to perpetrate scams like this can only be explained in terms of willingness of ideological entrepreneurs to attract suckers to plausible scams that could only appeal to the politically naive, like I once was. The entrepreneurs were certainly not interested in preparing unwashed masses for a real battle for social, political and economic justice, even though you would think that they would have been more sincere in their stated purpose of doing just that, and would have engaged in criticism and self-criticism to keep themselves focused on that goal. Not very many beside myself actually wanted criticism and self-criticism.
When you say that 'it is perfectly possible that the proles will be class conscious enough to abolish classes .. when they achieve power', it doesn't sound very much like what M and E wrote at the time of the First International about 'increasingly poor economic conditions causing the proletariat to revolt, take state power, and use their new political power to expropriate the expropriators, and breathe life into great cooperative enterprises.' This latter scenario is similar to what they wrote in the Communist Manifesto, but they didn't seem as tuned in to the notion of cooperatives as the way to 'reorganize labor along new lines' until later, like in the 60's. Given the record of workers so far of having allied themselves with capitalists to overthrow feudal monarchies and replace them with democracies, and to assist in the tasks of national liberation, and lately to prostitute themselves to whoever holds the purse-strings, and commit any crime they are paid to commit, I don't see them as having enough power or consciousness to do much for their liberation at all, not having the consciousness to even fight for a peaceful reduction in the hours of labor, that task most likely having to be initiated by the bourgeoisie as the only plausible way to deal with the crime wave that upsets them so much.
The record of the proletariat seems to be one of historic alliance with the bourgeoisie for the purpose of overthrowing feudal monarchies and establishing democracies, or in winning freedom from colonial domination. The presence of democracy prevents revolution, i.e., establishing political democracy was what revolution seems to have been for in historical terms. Marx was on record as favoring pushing bourgeois-democratic revolutions through to proletarian dictatorship, the form of which was yet another democracy. But, where is the Marxist record for revolution in any of the then-existing democracies? I can't find any so far in the works of Marx and Engels, but overthrow of democracy certainly shows up in the literature of Lenin and anarchists. On the other hand, the record demonstrates M+E's adherence to collectivization of means of production, no matter what the form of state. This huge mistake of M and E seems to have earned for their theories the honor of having layer after layer of distortion and falsification overlaid on them by succeeding generations of leftist ideologues.
The scenario of a powerfully elevated consciousness driving proletarians to abolish classes after taking power seems quite removed from what reality bodes. 'Abolition of classes' can appeal to educated anarchists and socialists, though 'taking power' may alienate anarchists.
Engels' critique of anarchists might have been correct, but I think that much of the anarchists' critique of Marxism was also correct, in that they were able to correctly predict that proletarian dictatorship would lead to oppressive bureaucracy. Where both Marxists and anarchists failed was in not being able to figure out that what they were both fighting for, i.e., collectivization of means of production, was far more capable of being implemented after overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries than after winning mere elections in democracies. While Marx thought that feudal monarchies would have to be followed by proletarian dictatorship, with very likely a brief interlude of bourgeois democracy in between, it seems that Bakunin's scenario was for workers to overthrow feudal monarchies and replace them directly with classless, stateless administrations of things through workers' unions. Marx's scenario was certainly more realistic, having been implemented by real people in 1917, though not much happened as he predicted in more technologically advanced countries. After the Commune, it was noted that Marx had more of a following among the youth of Russia than did Bakunin, and that Bakunin was more popular than Marx in much of Europe.
Where both Marx and Bakunin seem to have failed was in not giving us scenarios suitable for democracies, Marx merely claiming in 1872 that 'workers could get what they want by peaceful means in the USA, England, and perhaps Holland'. He certainly had in mind democratic processes, reforms and elections for those countries, but to what end? Collectivization? Could he not have foreseen in his day what De Leon and others pointed out in their day, that pursuit of collectivization in democracies would only lead to a defeat of workers through their having implemented mere state capitalism? Could he not have seen that people in the USA were willing to fight a civil war over ownership of a form of property, namely, property in slaves, and that, given their willingness to go to war over a mere form of private property, would surely be willing to go to war over private ownership in general? Marx said at the 1872 Hague Congress that workers in democracies could 'achieve their goal by peaceful means', whatever that goal was supposed to be, which, though, from previous paragraphs, looked like 'winning political supremacy in order to organize labor along new lines'. Marx surely had to have understood that the kind of 'political supremacy' afforded by an election was surely not of the same ilk as the true political supremacy obtained after smashing a feudal monarchy. The more I dwell upon this problem, the more I wonder that the mysterious nature of it was not more completely explored by others at various times, but where? Post this question to the net if you're as curious as I am, and see if anything worth repeating comes back.
If Marx or Bakunin had said that the mission of workers in democracies was to apply constant pressure to shorten hours of labor so as to ensure full employment, we wouldn't be in such a swamp of conflicting theories, all born of the impossibility of collectivist revolution in advanced capitalist democracies.
P. 93: 'By destroying the state, the anarchists, more often than not, meant destruction of the capitalist state.' Marx used 'capitalist state' as well*, but the term, as used by anarchists, sometimes seems like a euphemism for bourgeois democracy. Its use seems like an attempt to 'educate', or miseducate, workers to the notion that a capitalist state is the property of the capitalist class alone, and that workers should not try to use it, and will be tainted if they do. When anarchists speak of the capitalist state, are they purposely taking it out of specific context to make it easier for workers to accumulate contempt for it? Notably missing from the subject index to M-E Correspondence are indications that workers should support republics under siege. Just prior to the Commune, though, Marx noted that the International was the only ally that the new French Republic had. The correspondence of M and E at the time of the Commune indicates that the Commune was called for the purpose of defending the Third French Republic, after Thiers made a deal with Bismarck for capitulation of all resistance, the only holdout being the Republic. Revolutionary collectivists seem not to give a damn if Internationalists were ardent republicans, which is probably why so few know much about its concrete history, yet can gleefully recount glorified accounts of its history and sing the song. Even Marx and Engels exaggerated the 'proletarian revolutionary' character of the Commune, though their correspondence at the actual time of the Commune claimed repeatedly that Communards didn't want a civil war. Some 'revolutionary' initiative, huh? There seem to be lots of similarities between the Commune experience to the defense of the Spanish Republic in the 30's. Defense of democracy was the thing.
* 2002 note: Marx used the exact phrase "capitalist state" but once, in Marx's critique of Bakunin's book, Statehood and Anachy. Marx quoted Bakunin, and then commented (me24.499):
"In Holland, England
and later in the United States of America they created a new civilisation
which was in essence anti-<statist>, but <bourgeois-economic>
and liberal" (p. 72).
"This passage is very typical for Bakunin; the genuine capitalist state for him anti-governmental; secondly, the different developments in Germany, on the one hand, and Holland and England, on the other, are not the result of changes in world trade, but etc." (End of note.)
With regard to 'political hull', more responsible publicists translate it as 'political mask'. In my last letter, I wrote:
'Other translations of the same work have the workers 'throwing the political mask aside', as in alternately swapping political/economic tasks, or as in alternately swapping the tragi/comic masks of the theater. More detailed analyses of A.P.'s use of this quote can be found on page 269 of the ms. No dictionary even hints at synonymity between hull and mask, either.'
In a desperate effort to get as many anarchist implications as possible out of that phrase, I have no doubt that the totally unethical ideologues of the SLP did not hesitate to swap 'mask' for 'hull' so that it could far more easily be interpreted as a political state. How many suckers did A.P. win over with that one? Let us not forget that the Van Patten letter proved that the 'King of Prussia' article (with its political mask) was written before M and E had agreed upon their theories of the state.
Let me acknowledge the SLP scheme of things, i.e., 'the state as such ceasing to exist because of social ownership of means of production, and what that implies, i.e., the abolition of classes.' I wonder where that can be found in the works of Marx and Engels, though it wouldn't surprise me too much if it could, given the plethora of other Marxist scenarios I have documented.* I earlier used to fiercely resist A.P.'s statement that 'M + E sometimes made statements that contradicted their other statements', having convinced myself that Marx and Engels were infallible, while SLP leaders were evil genii who twisted M + E's perfection, such twisting serving SLP leaders' evil anarchist ends. Now I know that M + E's mistake of advocating collectivization in democracies enabled others to make their own mistakes, or to distort, or to falsify.
* 2002 note: The abolition of class distinctions is the precondition to the abolition of the state. M+E expected the proletarian dictatorship to allow socialization of ownership, giving society a jump start on the abolition of class distinctions. (End of note.)
In light of more mature writings of M and E, the SLP scheme of things has little resemblance to mature Marxism, but has a whole lot of resemblance to Bakuninism, even though Bakunin was barely ever mentioned in SLP literature. Anarchism a century ago must have had a sufficiently terrible reputation to cause the SLP to want to divorce itself from any overt connection to it, while covertly adhering to its essence.
P. 99: I'm glad that you brought up the idea of Bakunin connecting 'political' with 'belief in the sanctity of bourgeois democracy.' I'd like to know where you found it or where it was written. I might like to use it in my next revision if I can document it*. Incidentally, because of all that I have researched and thought about since March, these pages of the ms. need a rewrite very badly.
* 2002 note: It could not be found in any of Marx's critiques of Bakunin. (End of note.)
I can only agree with the assertion that Marx advocated the abolition of the wages system, for that very idea was advocated in the last paragraphs of 'Wages, Price and Profit'. Too bad he didn't say something concrete in the same breath about exactly how to abolish it. It may be a Bakuninist construct to say that 'workers' recognition of the wages system was a compromise', considering how few workers have ever wanted to do anything more radical than fight for a fair day's wage. On the other hand, collectivists who recognize the wages system would probably be compromising a good portion of their ideologies. It is true what you said about Marx preferring that workers organize into unions that advocate abolition of the wages system. More of us should admit that which is. It would have been less traumatic for me if the SLP had admitted, even if only for the sake of argument, things I found that contradicted their ideology. We will never get anywhere as a class if we remain in a constant state of denial over what is and what was, though, I know in my own case that denial is a layered affair, with some layers so deep that other layers have to be removed first.
P. 100: Thanks for the info about early socialists advocating that trade unions 'just concentrate on abolishing wage labor.' I could use a pointer to some documentation for that.
I'm glad to see that you do not reject reforms, which is all that is possible for any of us to do as long as democracy exists, revolution reserved for rectifying the absence of democracy, the category 'economic revolution' reserved for ideologues out of touch with reality.*
* 2002 note: After acquiring the CD of Collected Works, I was surprised that 'economic revolution' was used 13 times, M+E placing an unexpected emphasis on what appeared to be the equivalent of a 'modern industrial revolution'. Engels wrote in the "Housing Question" (me23.323): "It is precisely modern large-scale industry which has turned the worker, formerly chained to the land, into a completely propertyless proletarian, liberated from all traditional fetters, a free outlaw; it is precisely this economic revolution which has created the sole conditions under which the exploitation of the working class in its final form, in capitalist production, can be overthrown."
Marx wrote (me34.466): The economic revolution ... "creates the real conditions for a new mode of production, superseding the antagonistic form of the capitalist mode of production, and thus lays the material basis for a newly shaped social life process and therewith a new social formation." (End of note.)
I'm not so sure that 'legislation concerning the 8 hour day, civil rights, family leave, ballot restrictions, campaign financing, single payer, etc. are all reforms of the capitalist system' as much as they represent reforms of democracy. I would more happily describe capitalism as a system of economy, performing well under monarchy, fascist dictatorship, or democracy. It seems as much affected by advances in technology as it does by meddling from the state. Attempts to really interfere with class exploitation by state interference can lead to boycotts of such states by the rest of the world, or else outright intervention. Of the reforms you mention, the lone one having a direct economic effect would be the 8 hour day. It would as easily be put into effect by legislation as any of the other reforms, but its main effect would be economic, while the others would operate primarily in the political arena, some with secondary economic effects. From this perspective, it may be as impossible for capital to rule politically as it is for politicians to 'run' the economy. Stay with that for a minute. In the first case, it would be as though Wall St. could rule without any help from Washington. In the second, as though Washington could make laws in total disregard of Wall Street interests. Some reforms strengthen the hand of capital, others improve the lot of labor, such as the recent one preventing bosses from firing workers who became union organizers before joining a company. This kind of give and take is all we can do in a democracy. Bosses now want to take away overtime over both 8 and 40 hours, at which time you can kiss the 8 hour day good-bye, and say hello to unmitigated exploitation of labor, which will create tremendous amounts of surpluses that will make governments stronger and bosses richer, will intensify competition for scarce jobs, driving wages lower, will worsen unemployment and crime rates, may improve American balance of trade, etc. And like you say, all of this reality can be well documented by parties that have magic forms that workers should unite into, but who also don't care if their programs are impossible to implement in advanced capitalist democracies, just as long as they can find suckers who will buy the party line.
P.113: 'These last statements' ..... When you said that you 'wouldn't put it quite that way', and explained that 'feudal states ... under the absolute dictatorship of the aristocracy were not the states of 1848 in France or England', etc., I couldn't figure out how what you wrote related to what I had written, and don't know what 'it' was that you wouldn't quite put 'that' way. Please clarify.
Even so, 'These last statements' reflected a certain degree of confusion on my own part, even as I so assertively wrote what I did. Reading it over again, the key words are 'for their own purposes', for what is the purpose of creating a workers' state for M and E except for using it to expropriate upper classes? This task has always been impossible for workers after simply winning elections in democracies, but did happen in the old SU in 1917 after overthrowing a feudal monarchy, for the question of expropriation revolves precisely around the question of who holds state power. Both elections and overthrows are forms of political victory, but are of entirely different orders of magnitude and significance. While democracy exists, we will never indulge in overthrow, no matter how bad economic exploitation gets, but if exploitation gets so bad that upper classes end up abolishing democracy in the interests of order, then there could be revolution; but rather than risk losing their political supremacy [in democracies], upper classes will rather shorten the hours of labor, which is the only thing that will do anything real about crime and unemployment in democracies, and will therefore be the last thing that they will try. It will be testimony to the continued bankruptcy of the ideological left if they do not think of shortening hours of labor before the upper classes enact it. They may then deny that it has an effect, so enamored are they of their collectivist schemes, or else will credit themselves for the social peace that results without having done a thing to earn it. Professional ideologues have so prostituted themselves to their 'isms that they will remain in a total state of denial until the forward march of history pronounces their ideologies moot.
We may have to agree to disagree on the worth of the Party program. Back in the 30's, the Party was actually involved in union organizing in the coal regions of Illinois, or thereabouts. There was a long debate in the pages of the NEC reports between A.P. and an organizer who was getting jacked around by the Party around an issue of reimbursement for services. My stolen notebook would have refreshed my memory on these points, but I remember the organizer putting forth theoretical Marxist economic arguments that were better than those countered by A.P., but the organizer got fired anyway, so I think that Party efforts to establish class conscious unions did materialize at various times. Don't know if they were 'meaningful historic steps' or not. Perhaps there would have been more meaning if they continued to exist in the present in some form or other. Would such efforts have lasted if they were worth anything? Along those lines, I often used to wonder why it was, after I refuted Party dogma to my satisfaction from a socialist perspective, if Marxism and principles of the First International were all that great in comparison to Party lies, that there was not a surviving relic, say in NYC, of some storefront dedicated to the memory and principles of the First International. Maybe no relic remains because Marxism itself turned out to be of as little worth as a Party established around lies about Marxism. From this perspective, I think that it would be of little consequence if I agreed about the harm our great leaders did by rejecting reforms, considering the depth and quantity of their other crimes.
Back to p. 101: Thanks for the validation. It's good that we can at least agree on what the Marxist theory of the state is before we dialog on its value. What with the Party's falsifications of the theories of M and E, dialog within the Party about the theories of M and E was impossible, forcing sincere people to carry on dialogue out of the Party or elsewhere, such as here. What accounts for much of the diversity of left-wing viewpoints is the small business nature of so many parties distorting theories for their own purposes. Disagreements between leftists are based not so much on real differences about the common stated intent of improving the lot of the working class, as they are the result of so many of us following charlatans who didn't hesitate to toss bullshit into the fray to watch us fight over it. What my book is about is exposing the fact that our great leaders wrote garbage fully comprehending that they were purposely misleading the members. That was the big secret that S.K. knew could never be revealed when he admitted that I 'really got f***ed over'. The old leadership couldn't help but understand that the quotes they were taking out of context actually proved the exact opposite of what they were saying they meant. A program based on quotes out of context can't help but be worthless, which forces sincere people to do their own research into what really are good ways to achieve social, political and economic justice. If a program of revolution is really the logical way to achieve justice for the lower classes in a democracy, then you can bet that the lower classes would have been far more involved in revolutionary parties, and it is logical that one big revolutionary party would have represented the interests of the lower classes far more closely than any of a smattering of small sects. It's been very scatological, these past 4 years, and it hasn't stopped. In fact, to do it justice, it should be far more pains-taking than what little time I've had to devote to it. Getting your feedback is very important, for you have clued me in to many interesting theoretical permutations.
I'm not sure what you meant when you said that I was 'right to point out' ..... that 'the agricultural industry would have been a significant problem during' A.P.'s time, all with respect to 'proles taking power in the USA, but not tolerating private ownership of industry, finance, and real estate, and therefore would abolish classes with their victory.' If agriculture was proletarianized, which it increasingly has been in the USA, then, with a collectivization scenario, I don't see any difference in difficulty in the expropriation of either land or factories. Not even A.P. had any problem with expropriating land as easily as factories in the USA, due to the proletarianization of agribusiness, especially 'with no peasantry for the proletariat to have to oppress'. I may be barking up the wrong tree, so wonder what you meant ..... Many years ago, when I first criticized the Party's rejection of proletarian dictatorship, it was because I was defending Marx's 'proletarian dictatorship over the bourgeoisie' against the Party's 'proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry', and must admit that I fully adopted Marx's theory after rejecting the Party's fraudulent theory. Recently, I have learned to reject proletarian dictatorship, along with collectivization, due to the presence of democracy, but these reasons for rejecting proletarian dictatorship are totally different from the Party's. I may not have made this clear enough in the ms., so I hope this gives you a better basis for understanding it.
P. 110: If Marx and Engels were right about proletarian revolution, which I now take issue with, but, again, assuming they were right, what you said about 'it is the content of the state that counts' is true to what they wrote. But then, when you write about why CP states failed to bring about socialism, then we have to step out of the M-E paradigm and discuss the very possibility of socialism, which seems to have been possible only after overthrowing feudal monarchies in lesser developed countries, and after obtaining liberation from colonial status, but never in advanced capitalist democracies after mere elections. Because of the way in which socialism did in fact get established only in lesser developed countries, in a manner totally different from Marx's scenario of simultaneous revolutions in advanced capitalist countries, the actual development of socialism in various countries could only then have been a distortion of Marx's vision. As the result of such distortions, debates occurred, such as the one over the possibility of socialism in one country, but how many of the arguments developed along the lines I developed here?
When we look at socialism from the perspective of workers, socialists, peasants, and petty-bourgeois democrats allying to overthrow a feudal monarchy and establish a democratic republic, and for workers and socialists to push that republic through to proletarian dictatorship, which is what Marx was hoping would happen in Germany in his day, then you will have to admit that the SU scenario had very much to do with Marx's revolutionary scenario for feudal monarchies. Some revolutionaries, especially those of the anarchist persuasion, seem to have a problem admitting that the revolutionary scenario in the old SU had much to do with Marx's scenario of socialist revolution*, and they have dredged up some wonderful and irrefutable data showing how little the unfolding of proletarian revolution there resembled a development of socialist paradise for workers. The failure of permanent revolution in general was part of the failure of socialist revolution to happen first and simultaneously in the most advanced capitalist countries, those very most advanced of them, unfortunately, turning out to be democracies - flies in the ointment - where socialist revolution will always be impossible as long as democracy exists. Let us therefore not blame CP's for the failure of bringing socialism to where it couldn't have happened at all, nor for their revolutions turning into mere caricatures of workers' paradise where revolution did happen. Except for leaders who might have suspected something was terribly wrong, but who failed to say much in public, or anything at all, the vast majority in the old CP's were as much victims of Marx's mistake as the rest of us were, and as many more are likely to become in the future, given the morality of socialist and anarchist leaders who know that something is wrong, but fail to say anything, refuse to allow the media they control to be media of debate, and all because their parties became small businesses that afforded livings to leaders. This explains the way in which early SLP theoreticians criticized Marx and Engels only to the extent that their critique made it easy to replace the Marxist theory of the state with an anarcho-syndicalist theory, but failed to adequately explain why we should blame Marx and Engels for handing us a program that was far more easily implemented after overthrowing feudal monarchies than it could in the very advanced capitalist countries where it was supposed to happen first. After we laud early anarchists for having correctly concluded that collectivization yields no benefits to workers after winning mere elections in democracies, then we can turn around and blame the same anarchists for failing to fully explain why collectivization yields little of value, or, better yet, would be impossible to implement at all, even though they were perfectly capable of explaining the problem to workers so that they could have understood it, but used their prodigious talents to cover up the problem instead. The Party's agenda included items other than proper education and liberation, certainly included selling anarcho-syndicalism disguised as socialism, and, given the lengths they were willing to go to mislead people, I'm not certain that they didn't have more sinister motivations than just running a business as best they could. More research needs to be done in this very sensitive area, which may be the best covered up area of all. If our Party leaders had at all been interested in 'the liberation of the lower classes', they would at least have been as willing to discuss the problems of Marxism in the kind of depth and with the kind of candor that the problems deserved. But they didn't, and instead of candor, we got lie after lie out of them, proving that the SLP under De Leon, A.P., etc., could never have represented the interests of the lower classes, but instead might have represented the interests of upper classes who were happy with the confusion bred of Marx's mistake, a confusion that led many an honest worker to believe that 'peaceful revolution in the USA was possible due to our advanced means of production', but never learned from leaders they learned to worship that we could peacefully evolve here because of democracy. What the SLP continues to perpetrate upon gullible workers is nothing less than a crime, a crime that requires more gullibility than what most workers here may be capable of in these days, for, in their demand for something real, they will continue to reject Party idiocies like proletarian dictatorship over peasants, and other idiocies that will cause the Party to dwindle even more. Speed the day of its final collapse, and the day when they all have to go out and find 'honest' jobs, which may make them wish enough for a shorter work week to fight for it. Do we find ourselves in sufficiently rough times that sectarianism will again be smashed, such as the times Marx lived through in the 1860's? The house that the left built is a house of cards.
* 2002 note: In the Collected Works, Engels used the term 'socialist revolution' a mere 5 times, but Marx never used it. (End of note.)
If some revolutionaries are against reform, isn't it because they recognize the recuperative functions, as you so eloquently put it, of reform, recuperative qualities that also lull proletarians to sleep, make them less revolutionary than before reform, and all the less likely to want to smash the state? And isn't it because the same revolutionaries want proletarians to follow them that they would like conditions to be really bad, much worse than ever, much more like a pressure cooker, the slightest provocation of which would cause us to explode in revolutionary action? And aren't middle class revolutionaries far more capable of sitting out bad times with far fewer repercussions on their lifestyles than on the lifestyles of the lowest classes? Such is the hypocritical nature of revolutionary aspirations in a democracy. Much violence would be required to collectivize, and no form of workers' organization, no matter how well advertised and promoted, will give workers who organize into such a form the superhuman qualities that will enable them to collectivize without violent repercussions. After all of the lies our Party told us, we are supposed to accept their main thesis that such a form exists, and that the Socialist Industrial Union form was the product of De Leon's alleged genius. Tell us another one, dear leaders.
What you wrote with regard to the kinds of deviations that are afforded by top-down organizations, that is true. True as well, there is nothing wrong with getting back a piece of the worker-made pie, but I think that it could be done democratically by converting competition between workers for scarce jobs into competition between bosses for scarce labor, and would be so much easier compared to any socialist or anarchist forced collectivization scheme. Witness the effect upon McDonald's wages during the Massachusetts 'miracle' as reported in the latest issue of the Wildcat, and the wage increases that resulted from a similar economic boomlet in Madison, Wisconsin. Both wage increases were the product of the effect of supply and demand in the labor market, an oversupply of labor driving wages down, and a scarcity of labor driving wages up. All we gotta do is create a scarcity of labor everywhere, as in a universal slowdown strike, by union action if we can't get what we want right away by legislation. Winning social, political and economic justice for the lower classes won't be easy. But, we can't forget that, according to M+E themselves, all that we workers want is high wages and short hours, so let us finally get around to struggling for what we want, instead of what ideologues think that we should want. Trying for shorter hours will be a lot easier than trying for political supremacy [a very common term in the works of M+E], which is the Marxist precondition for collectivization. Anarchists, of course, will always disagree with political supremacy as the precondition for collectivization, and so begin very complicated arguments over scenarios that are impossible in democracies in the first place. Marx himself was always in favor of easy ways out, and suggested to Engels time and again that he thought "we would get off cheapest if we could buy out the whole lot of them." (MESW III, p. 474)
P. 115: When I wrote that the DOTP was socialism, it was for the purpose of using widely accepted definitions among the ideological left, especially the socialist and communist left, viz., that socialism and the DOTP are the same thing, i.e., the transition stage between capitalism and classless, stateless communism, as lain out by Lenin in "The State and Revolution", who followed Marx's 'Critique of the Gotha Program', what with its two stage theory, accepted by the many statists who have or had faith in that scenario.* Our old Party has disagreed with the M-L scenario for nearly a century, but fail to even describe it accurately before condemning it. They claim that their brand of socialism is classless, stateless communism, the same as the upper stage of collectivism that Marx described in his Critique of the Gotha program. Party leaders also went to great lengths to create the impression that the USA could go from capitalism to classless, stateless communism without the need for proletarian dictatorship, having redefined it as a dictatorship over peasants, pointed out that a barely existing peasantry in the USA would scarcely need to be repressed by the proletariat as how Stalin repressed the kulaks, leading the SLP to safely conclude that the DOTP (over the peasantry) would not be needed in the USA. But, when the Party says that we can go from capitalism to classless, stateless communism peacefully, they are merely crudely mocking Marx's theory that peaceful transition to socialism can occur in democracies. When you say that socialism is not the DOTP, do you mean that 'socialism is classless, stateless communism' for the same reasons that the Party described, and that we could indeed go from capitalism to classless, stateless communism because we don't need a proletarian dictatorship over a non-existent peasantry? I need to understand the Mike B. theory of what socialism is, how it differs from the DOTP, and how we're going to get there.
* 2002 note: Marx's "Class Struggles in France" itself could be used as a reference (me10.127): "This Socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally" ...
Well, this has been an exercise. I hope that you have time to go through all this, as well as through the ms.
P.S.: You may have noticed by now that my latest submission to the DB didn't make it into print. I think I pushed the envelope too far. F.G. really wants to maintain fraternal relations with the whores of socialism in the SLP, and f*** those who want to expose the lies of the Party.
March 21, 1996
Thanks for your latest contribution to the critique, which must have crossed my answer to your last critique in the mail. Good timing. Thanks also for the material from Mike L. He might be interested in some of my material, so I found a conventional address for him in an old issue of DB, and sent him a tape of my radio broadcast of Feb. 21, in which I explained why the SLP could not have supported demonstrations against the War in Vietnam without sacrificing all of its 'principles'.
I finally can begin to examine your latest contribution. I also just got your answer to my comments of January, but since this letter is already so full, maybe we can dialogue about that later. With regard to your last comments on the ms.:
On page 36, the name of the organizer was Larsen, if I remember correctly. People's names might make the story more interesting to those who knew some of the players, but I don't think it will make much difference to the principles involved. But, unless I self-publish, I may pretty much have to rely on the advice of publishers with regard to using names. There probably would not be any problem with referring by name to someone who was active in the thirties.
On page 37, 'traitorism' ... You're right about reformulating the sentence in which traitorism appears. In it I used the word 'history' twice, so it could be worded much better if I did it over. Or, with my luck, maybe worse.
Page 39: Wow... I was astounded to see you write that people stuck with the Party in spite of knowing that Petersen was wrong a lot of the time ... I might have been more alienated than you, with regard to being able to read the pulse of the Party, so I bow to your input on that point. But, how specific can you get, or, who did you know who disagreed with A.P. while holding to the Program, and can you remember any of the bases of their disagreements?
Pages 40-1: I'm glad that you appreciated the story about the sacred cash cow. It was probably one of the most difficult parts for me to write, for I had to confront my own tendencies toward opportunism in a candid way, even though I ended up embarrassing the hell out of myself after I committed to telling the naked truth about it. I also wonder which aspect of the cash story you found significant.
Pp. 44-6: Give the chapter on the State Convention the axe? It still embarrasses me to read it, and I probably anguished over that chapter more than any other. But, it's the truth, and after working so hard to force myself to write the truth and only the truth about it, it would be difficult to axe the damned thing. I have a theory that relating one of the more significant events of my Party existence in a totally candid way, no matter how embarrassing, would not damage someone who has neither fame nor reputation to defend. On the other hand, there might be something in it that others can identify with, and then they would know that this is the real thing, from start to finish. It's just a theory. I never expected to come out of this thing looking any better than a big, dull, honest bumpkin anyway. At this stage in my little life, I may never turn into anything much better than that. Appearances mean a lot less to me now than they did twenty or thirty years ago.
P. 55: Huh? I can't figure out if you were having trouble with what I had written, or with what Marx had written. 'improvement .. wouldn't .. negate .. fact .. workers ruled as a class under a DOTP'....?
P. 56: 'not so much a question of oppressing the peasantry as ... much as it is that peasants would be living in a workers' dictatorship .....' Well, I think that, according to Marx, that might be approximate enough to the truth, but, for A.P. it was a matter of oppressing the peasantry, for, in order for Party theories to fit together in their own, semi-coherent framework of logic, and, in order to help convince us gullible proles that we do not need to use the state, the Marxist theory of proletarian dictatorship over upper classes most assuredly had to be converted into a dictatorship over peasants, so that A.P. could show us that we don't have any peasants in the USA to oppress, and therefore do not need a DOTP (over the peasantry) here. On the continent of Europe in the old days, or in the SU, however, according to A.P., a DOTP over peasants would be appropriate, because of all the peasants there, who allegedly would need to be oppressed according to Marx. It was as cheap and dirty a trick as anyone can imagine, getting us to think that proletarian dictatorship, or workers' use of the state, was good only for backward countries where peasants worked, but those were the depths to which A.P. dared to stoop. Notice also that A.P. would have an admittedly tiny proletariat in the old SU dictating to an enormous class of peasants, whereas Marx would have had the proletariat dictating over a class of capitalist exploiters that was relatively small compared to the proletariat. Big difference in numbers. Big difference in the feasibility of implementing one vs. the other, as well. But, none of it was possible for long, anyway, as the world increasingly and inevitably swings toward democracy and capitalism, so what did arise socialistically had to turn into a grand distortion of the original vision.
The definition of 'middle' classes for me was also a problem, until I adopted the following definitions, depending on time frame: In Marx's day, middle classes were bourgeois, big and small, just as you wrote, existing between powerful feudal aristocracies at the top, and lower classes at the bottom. Recall the scenario in which both workers and middle classes ally to overthrow aristocracies and create democratic republics, and that workers and socialists push republics through to proletarian dictatorship, as in 1917. Peasants have alternately been considered both as workers, and as middle classes, depending on who's talking, Lenin considering at least half of them in Russia in his day to be poor and working, as I document in my book. The image that A.P. applied to peasants, that of 'free and independent land owners', applies as much or more to the USA of a century and more ago than to any other country ever. Such is our experience, and comes relatively easily to mind. The reality of the peasant and middle class situations in the old SU and the USA conflicted sharply with the fairy tale that A.P. wrote, and with what the SLP believed. But, far be it for the dogmatists of the Party to do their own concrete analysis, or to make any effort to contradict the NO, for what the NO dictated had to be, or else. We've been there, seen that.
Nowadays, in the USA, 'middle class' applies to just about everyone who isn't poor, whether they own their own business or have a decent job. It's probably more objectively one's economic status that defines a person's class status, more than their outlook. Our common modern image of the middle class is quite a bit different from what it was in Marx's day.
P. 67: "Lenin's justification for Party dictatorship i.e. Left Wing Communism ....." could hardly be used by anyone (A.P. included) to promote the idea of a benign non-antagonistic relation between the Party and those it ruled." ?
Gee, I don't remember Lenin in any part of 'Left-Wing' Communism advocating a dictatorship of the party. It seemed to me that, in the passage I quoted, Lenin was being very idealistic (and Marxist) in his portrayal of relations between the party and the lower classes, and between the proletariat and other classes. Assuming that Lenin was exhorting his comrades to come around to his position, there was a tremendous difference between what Lenin was writing about how the party should behave, and the brutal monster the party was increasingly becoming as time went on. So, given Lenin's idealism and coaxing, which to me was quite detectable in various texts, it was impressed upon me that a 'benign non-antagonistic relation' was Lenin's intention for relations between the party and the lower classes (proletariat and peasantry). Are there any exact words that Lenin used that would indicate a need for a party dictatorship? I need a page number, because, of all of the Lenin I have read, I never got anything out of it like him advocating a party dictatorship.
On the other hand, it served A.P.'s anarchist ideological purpose to make the Bolshevik proletariat, party and state appear antagonistic toward peasants and middle classes, classes that allegedly don't exist in the USA, so that the sadness of the situation in the old SU, both according to A.P.'s distorted theories, and in actual fact, could be used to convince American workers that 'things are different here, and with no peasantry or middle classes, we can do without parties, states and institutions that are necessary in backward countries.' And, A.P. distorted party and class relations in a similar manner over and over again in a very detectable pattern. This doesn't mean that things over there were not awful, and that Stalin didn't turn his party into an instrument of dictatorship, it just means that A.P. was willing to use every half-way plausible argument he could think of to turn American thought away from using parties and states for solving society's problems. A.P even went so far as to imply that Stalin's oppression of the peasantry was the result of Stalin following the dictates of Marx with regard to proletarian relations to peasants. If that had been anywhere close to the truth, it would be hard indeed to reconcile those alleged views of Marx with Lenin's 1908 formulation of the relation as a 'dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry'; in other words, workers and peasants as full partners in the common struggle against the uppermost classes. It is true that, toward the end, Lenin did express concern about middle peasant resistance to prevailing policy, but this was also at a time when the alleged great proletarian revolution was increasingly in trouble in a lot of ways, and the idealism of socialist theory was increasingly occluded by the harsh reality of socialist practice.
I don't think that parties and states are desirable either; rather, the state could play a much smaller role if workers used shorter hours as the means of getting social and economic justice; if they decided to share what little work that remains for humans to do among the whole class, and if they created an artificial shortage of their services from the labor market. But, considering the poor quality of working class leadership, they may not easily get to hear such arguments, and I may have to continue to make a nuisance of myself, and keep on plugging away with my arguments. With feedback, such as at our little workshop, I just might be able to figure out where my arguments fail to communicate what people need to hear in order to bridge the gaps in their thinking.
Pp. 114-8: Point 5: Once again, I was only using Lenin's definition, and most of the ideological left's definition, of socialism and communism; socialism as the lower stage, i.e., proletarian dictatorship; and communism as the upper stage, i.e., classless, stateless society. The SLP said that Marx and Engels never distinguished between the terms communism and socialism, and they might be right about that part, but, in the 'Critique of the Gotha Program', M+E certainly distinguished between two stages. Lenin just tried to set a standard of use of terms to eliminate a certain amount of confusion that existed. If you call socialism the upper stage, then what do you call the lower stage? Or do you call it the same thing, and just differentiate the two stages by calling them 'upper' and 'lower' stages of socialism? Or, do you just call it a state, without differentiating between a workers' and a capitalist state? No matter what we call them, we should be able able to define Marxist, De Leonist, Leninist and many other theories of the state to our mutual satisfaction, whether we believe that only our own personal favorites will be realized in the future, or don't believe that any of them will be. Our own personal beliefs shouldn't prevent us from stating 'that which is' and 'that which was', and that some very real differences exist between the various theories of state.
If one looks at history, there certainly is a lot of evidence (given the miserable performance of communist regimes) for the existence of a state as such. But, if one looks at Marx's theories, then one certainly has to admit that, in theory, Marx differentiated strongly between a workers' and a capitalist state. This Marxist differentiation was denied by the Party in a couple of different ways, 1): the relation between workers and state allegedly being a one-way street only (i.e., the capitalist state over workers, but never a workers' state over capitalists), and 2): the redefinition of Marx's workers' dictatorship over capitalists as a dictatorship over peasantry and middle classes, but only in backward countries. In this formulation, oppression against other lower classes in backward countries was, for A.P., the only conceivable kind of oppression that workers could possibly exert, and, if you read the fine print, workers were supposed to use the capitalist state to oppress peasants and middle classes, because a workers' state, or workers' state power, has always, to the best of my knowledge, been inconceivable in Party literature. Not once so far have I seen the Party expound on any kind of a theory of workers' state power over upper classes, except to deny it, for upper classes were all supposed to be cowards who would run away, according to A.P. To the Party, the only conceivable kind of a state is a capitalist state, or a 'state as such', so that the only thing we will ever be tempted to do with regard to it is to destroy it.
To me, the theory of the state as a top-down, one-way street certainly assists in persuading workers that the capitalist state is useless to them, with the exception of having it around as a plaything to smash up at the moment of victory. Thus, its portrayal as a one-way street certainly denies what has existed in more mainstream revolutionary theory, and in Marxism. The Party actively, every day, misleads workers away from the only activity that is possible in a democracy, viz., reform. Do you think they have any chance of growing out of it? Do workers stand any chance of seeing SLP denials for what they are, even if plausible arguments were erected on top of those denials?
P. 121: I agree that the Soviet state was certainly not a democratic republic, and, as I wrote in my last response, I don't think we can blame Lenin or anyone else for failing to concretize what may have been impossible in the first place. The programs of Marx and Bakunin were both far more easily implemented after overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries, or after winning independence from colonial domination, when workers, socialists and anarchists had the kind of physical force within their hands that would be required to carry out collectivization. Our job is to discover the program that is more easily implemented after winning elections in advanced capitalist democracies, rather than after either overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating from colonial domination. My investigation has proven to my satisfaction that collectivization and democracy are incompatible, the amount of terror required to collectivize means of production so eliminating any chance for the flowering of democracy that collectivization will surely fall into permanent decline as a desirable tactic in democracies, as must become the fate of any other form of altering ownership of means of production, from taxing upper classes to create a benevolent state, to nationalization, to out-and-out expropriation. The only thing in advanced capitalist democracies that will guarantee economic justice for the lower classes, which is the precondition to effectiveness in political spheres, will be if they convert competition between themselves for scarce jobs into competition between bosses for scarce labor, which can be realized by going on a slow-down strike and withholding our services in an organized fashion. As Marx says near the end of Volume III of Capital, a shorter work-day is the precondition to freedom. It only makes sense that the less time spent in wage-slavery, the more freedom we have, and that the longer the hours we put in making the bosses rich and governments powerful, the less freedom we have.
"This transition is bridged by a State ruled neither by the bourgeoisie or the proletariat but will or should end up in the rule of the workers." This is a new theory to me. Where did you get it? How does it relate to what Marx, Lenin, Bakunin, De Leon, etc., wrote, or is it the product of more modern thinking about the state? It recalls for me what Engels said about Marx thinking that 'the democratic republic is the battlefield in which the final struggles between proletariat and bourgeoisie will be fought out.' This also was the basis of what is considered to be the Social-Democratic theory of the state, viz., that 'collectivization in democracies can be accomplished over time by means of reform.'
"As for the claptrap about the army, the police and officialdom, the proof is in the pudding." Gee, whiz, you must have a concept of Lenin as a vile hypocrite who was evil from the day he crawled out of the womb. Our experiences of him are quite different. As I wrote in part earlier, I see him as a tragic figure, limited to whatever could be accomplished in a collectivist direction in what could only have turned out to be a distortion of Marx's vision of socialism, for a socialist revolution without support from the other countries (that were supposed to revolt at the same time) could only be partially successful at best. Lenin may not have been able to predict ahead of time the failure of the West to revolt and help out, but he remained quite idealistic and true, as much as he could as a 'true believer', to the intent of Marx with regard to the roles of parties and states to classes. Compare that to the bureaucrats of the SLP, who saw the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin as mere raw material to be exploited for whatever anarchist spin that could be gotten out of quoting them out of context. There's a big difference between Lenin making a revolution out of real motion in the wave of world revolution from the West to the East and this other business of concocting a whole fabric of lies that have not the slightest chance of productively guiding any worker who seriously follows the SLP, for the SLP leadership knowingly defrauds their members out of proper understandings of history and theory, and has to engage bureaucracy, censorship, and internal secrecy in order to maintain the hegemony of the fraud. If Lenin committed fraud, he certainly was a lot more subtle about it than A.P. The only place I have been able to detect a big mistake on Lenin's part, if it was a mistake, was in asserting that the reason for the possibility of socialism without violence in the USA in Marx's time was the alleged lack of a machine of oppression over workers to prevent collectivization after victory at the polls, but the USA had just fought a Civil War over as immoral an institution as private ownership of slaves, so think how hard people would be willing to fight over private ownership of means of production in general. There would be no moral restraint at all against fighting for private property rights that are practically engraved in the Constitution. I don't think that the lessons of our Civil War could have been so entirely lost on Lenin, or maybe even on Marx, and maybe that's why A.P. hinted that Marx willfully ignored something, but never defined exactly what it was. I don't know how anyone could look at the Civil War without understanding just how 'precious' is our institution of private property to so many people, and how willing they always have been to fight for it. I think that Lenin was hiding something, and maybe even Marx willfully ignored this compelling lesson. Again, perhaps another grain of truth in A.P.'s smokescreen.
P. 121, Cont'd: It is true that 'the grand old International did not lift a finger to produce the Commune.' The Commune was born as a measure of defense against French and German government collaboration on counter-revolution against the 3rd French Republic. After so many wins and losses in that century with regard to the struggle for democracy, middle classes and workers alike wanted to preserve what they had created. Marx described the brand new 3rd republic as a decadent republic, mostly composed of bourgeois elements that had no representation in the regime of Napoleon III. Marx noted that the International was the only friend that the Republic had, and the International urged British and other governments to recognize the Republic, but to no avail. So, there, as well as in Spain in the 30's, defense of the republic was the order of the day. If some socialists had designs on pushing republics through to proletarian dictatorship after securing them from feudal influence, and then using their political supremacy to abolish private ownership of means of production, then maybe that's why that portion of them might have been such ardent republicans. On the other hand, if some workers in Chile had not been such prostitutes to the fleshpots of the CIA, they might instead have supported Allende, but we will do anything we get paid to do. Prostitution to lies is why the K.s couldn't possibly admit what I was doing into general discussion. They were making too good a living, and didn't want to sacrifice the support of the died-in-the-wool anarchists (who thought they were socialists) who would have kicked the K.s out. Thus the bitterness of their rule, the necessity of sticking only to organizational procedure, dotting the i's and crossing the t's with a fanatical attention to detail, and the absence of civilized discussion of revolutionary theory. Hence the inability of members to understand our new policy about the Vietnam War, and the inability of the intellectuals to tell about the anarchist underpinnings of our inability to support the Vietnamese in their struggle. Too deep a discussion of our 'mistake' would only have revealed to members the depth of the fraud that was perpetrated against them.
I think that you are right about the Russians learning many lessons from the Commune, and that they didn't want to end up like the [dead] Communards. Hence, when things started coming apart after nationalizing land, which happened on the very first day of the revolution, party rule was increasingly resorted to as a means of maintaining hegemony. Can't blame them for trying to keep it together, though we can blame them for perpetrating 'any means to an end'.
P. 121 (b): 'The next Lenin quote ... is equally problematic ... dispense with Lenin quotes altogether'. I guess I could have done without the second quote; I definitely included it at the time as both an instructive example of Lenin's contempt for anarchism, and to buttress my own vengeful perspective on anarchism, having been so badly burned by the Party's lock-step adherence to anarchy. This quote was more of a left-over from the early days of the book trying to be a strictly socialist refutation of anarchism, but serves little useful purpose. In my more modern perspective on the question, it is possible that the only quotes from Lenin that will be actually used in the finished product will be those from which A.P. took excerpts out of context, so that the actual context of Lenin's quotes can be there for readers to compare with A.P.'s snippets.
P. 121, cont'd: 'Lenin is right when he says that a State would be necessary to get from capitalism to socialism, if the workers had to allow other classes to exist.' Is there a choice, according to Lenin or Marx? Like Marx, Lenin advocated gentle abolition of class distinctions, unlike Stalin's abolition of classes by means of force. But, unlike Marx, Lenin advocated proletarian dictatorship in the most advanced capitalist countries.
"Lenin is wrong (and history has proven this) when he speaks of the need for dictatorship and means the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party."
As I wrote earlier, I don't believe that Lenin ever advocated a party dictatorship. Other than that, I can only remember him consistently believing in proletarian class dictatorship all along. History certainly has proved Lenin wrong on a lot of points, but I think it was his rather consistent adherence to Marxism that enabled him to be as successful as he was. Both Marx and Lenin were serious revolutionaries, as opposed to the secretive and bureaucratic liars of the SLP, who have only ever mocked intent to change the status quo.
If any particular piece of concrete history proved Lenin wrong on the question of the need for dictatorship (of whom? over whom?), maybe you could refresh my memory as to what it was. I remember Lenin maintaining a quite idealistic attitude on these questions to the bitter end. He does talk often about the need for a militant party to lead the proletariat, but party dictatorship over the proletariat seems neither Marxist nor Leninist, unless you can show otherwise.
Distortions can easily be used to keep the left divided among themselves, just as the left is already divided along so many other fine points of historical interest. We should continue to put each other on the spot and make each other deliver the goods, so that we can better figure out whether what we believe in has any basis in history or reality. A noble and feasible goal, no doubt.
I consider Lenin to be nearly as much a victim of Marx's mistake as Marx himself. I think that research will show a concerted effort on the part of immoral socialist and communist scholars to cover up the whole issue of the compatibility of socialism with democracy (due to the terror required to collectivize). Someday, people may more easily accept the barbaric nature of collectivization, but maybe not right away. What my presence on the scene represents is the growing consciousness on the left that something real needs to be done about present-day problems, and that old solutions (i.e., what was possible after overthrowing feudal monarchies or after winning independence from colonial domination) are not applicable to advanced capitalist democracies. If I could just get ideologues up to the point of Marx's address in 1872 (workers in democracies getting what they want by peaceful means), that would be a step in the right direction.
P. 123: You are probably right on the money about the SLP supporting the SU until 1940 or so, but there is a difference between merely supporting the old SU, and calling it a workers' state in the Marxist-Leninist tradition. A party could support the old SU merely on the basis of solidarity between parties calling themselves communist or socialist; on the basis of the Soviet experiment still being young, and not wanting to condemn it too harshly, thereby giving comfort to the common enemy; and/or other plausible bases of moral support might have been put forth. With its ideological purity, I can't imagine the SLP ever openly supporting anything that resembled a workers' state, simply because it was a construct that contained the word 'state', or otherwise signified a workers' political government, such a gizmo standing in stark contrast to SLP denials.
What with the multitude of expulsions from the SLP in the 30's, it's not hard to imagine A.P. supporting Stalin's purges in the SU as well. But, what with A.P.'s ideological purity, I think he would have been loath to hear anyone refer to him to a 'Stalin of the US socialist scene', or 'De Leon as a Lenin', in spite of how well the apellations might have fit the characters in question. There just might be more parallels than what A.P. and De Leon would have felt comfortable with.
Do you remember De Leon's comparison of the union to the elephant, with the three blind men alternately describing the union as a rope, a tree, and a wall? That's the way our separate descriptions of the SLP and its ideology have sometimes appeared to me.
I'm glad you see some plausibility in my argument about the SLP's inability to support nationalist-anti-imperialist struggles, and maybe they did sometimes besmirch 'the good name of socialism', especially from an SLP perspective. But, no one in my neighborhood ever had anything good to say about socialism, and it's only recently that I understand why. When I was a socialist, I used to wonder why people were 'so willing to accept the lies about socialism', but now I have seen that socialism was a mistake that violates common sense, a mistake around which whole networks of lies were built, and that socialism was impossible in democracies, and incompatible with democracy as well, I can better understand the gut emotions of the man on the street about socialism, even though they might not get very far while trying to make a reasoned argument against it. I'm glad to report that I now have explanations to help them understand more logically why socialism is worthless in democracies, if they gave a damn about theory in the first place. I'd rather talk to revolutionaries who give a damn about doing something real, even if they're usually stuck energetically promoting impossible-to-realize revolutionary scenarios. Come to think of it, they're usually defending affirmative action, or other reforms, instead of smashing the state, if they will ever get around to it. When talking to the man on the street, I can skip the ideology for the most part, and get straight into what we should do in our own interest, viz., the universal slow-down strike. I'm glad to hear that the Wobblies are interested in a 4-hour day; now to get them to put it on the front burner.
P. 124: Thanks for jogging my memory, and I will say somewhere in the book that the Party believed that the War in Vietnam was capitalist-inspired. It almost seems like a bit of a joke sometimes, though, for the Party described almost every awful thing as capitalist-inspired, but, it is important to admit that, if they did oppose the war, that they did it on that particular basis. I also liked that phrase about 'national liberation as a form of false consciousness'. Did that appear in print anywhere, or did it just float around in our collective consciousness?
One of the reasons progressive people supported an end to the Vietnam War was that they were sure that whatever was to replace the puppet South Vietnamese regime was bound to be more people-oriented than the American-supported monstrosity that existed up until 1975. Maybe some communists supported anything new, gambling that the colonial regime would be replaced by a communist state, while other progressives might have hoped for a people's state, or a social-democracy, and still other dreamers might have hoped for a classless, stateless administration of things. To many of us, though, it didn't matter so much what was to replace the colonial regime, for none of us thought that its replacement could be any worse than the puppet. Thus, the state that was going to replace the colonial regime after the war ended represented a real improvement in things, no matter what it was going to turn out to be, simply because the class and national content of the state was bound to change enormously, with entirely different interests.
But, what did the SLP think about the change? Well, at least some of us believed that a bad-enough state existed before the war ended, and that a just-as-bad state was bound to take its place, given Vietnam's lowly state of means of production, and it's total impossibility of replacing its old colonial regime with a SIU, or a classless, stateless administration of things. For us, any state that could possibly exist in Vietnam could only be a 'state as such', as brutally repressive and capitalist-dominated before the war ended as was bound to take its place afterwards. Under our belief system, in which any state - new or old - is the enemy of the people, it didn't make a difference to us what happened in Vietnam. Hence our inability to justify anyone protesting the war. I didn't protest, either, in spite of my gut feeling that I should have, and when I heard the post-war celebrations on KPFA, I suspected that I had missed out on wonderful and meaningful experiences.
I guess if you insist that 'the SLP did not deny proletarian state power', then I ought to document the place where that phrase or sentiment exists. On pp. 32-3 of "PD vs. D+D", A.P. quoted our noble master De Leon, saying that political power is destructive only, the job of our party is purely destructive, and that after the triumph at the polls, the party and state dissolve, and the industrial unions go on to exercise proletarian economic power, but no proletarian state power, for, after victory, there is no state, hence no state power. Besides, De Leon rewrote Marx by saying that 'Political power ... is merely the organized power to oppress, to curb, to keep the working class in subjection', but never the reverse, as in proletarian dictatorship over upper classes. You might want to skip ahead to pp. 238-43 of the ms. to see that denial for yourself, for it's definitely there.
Our mutual history seems to have dimmed in my memory, but I remember my last Section meeting at the B.'s place, in which I tried to force the gathering to peruse my critique, or else I would quit, and I also remember the gang of four being at a meeting where they voted in favor of such a discussion, and, of course, my side lost. Or, was the vote in which I remember the gang of four siding with me the one that was taken toward the end of '76, at which you might have voted with me for an immediate discussion, whereas the majority voted to table it till the end of our study of "The State and Revolution"? I can't remember. Hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago. But, I do remember at least you from the gang of four voting for one of my motions, so it might have been in '77, at a time when you had less to lose than at the end of '76, when you might not have been quite so disenchanted and ready to scram.
Our little workshop in S.F. was quite valuable. I need to take notes on the response to some of my statements, for I haven't as yet figured out why it was that whenever I talked about the Eastern bloc, the state kept on popping up as being foremost in others' thoughts.
April 22, 1996
Thanks for your critique of my January 24 critique of the critique; may I critique it? Thank you. We are heavy into dialogue, wouldn't you say? Nothing sloppy about it either, being in hard copy form. Sorry if this version has to be in smaller print, but I kept on writing and writing and if I don't mail this off now, it will just keep on getting longer.
I wonder 'how much' workers are interested in getting back all that they produce. Right now, the upper 20% get 98% of all new wealth, the lower 80% getting only 2%, about which, beyond what a few radicals have said, it just doesn't seem to make the ranks of the great debate out there, in fact a lot less than shorter hours of labor, considering all of the press that Jeremy Rifkin and others have gotten lately, including radio programs like "To the Best of our Knowledge", bits on Pacifica, mags like "The Nation", "Technation", etc. But, I never hear or see anything in the media about us getting back all that we produce, a rip-off that seems to be taken in stride, even given the experience of the old Soviet bloc, where surpluses were confiscated as well. As an aside, I remember Marx pooh-poohing the whole idea of workers getting back all that they produce, though I can't remember whether it was criticized as a part of Lassalleanism, or which tradition it comes from. Do you remember which?*
* 2002 note: Engels summed up the Marxist counter-argument very well in Anti-Duhring (me25.27): "even if the capitalist buys the labour-power of his labourer at its full value as a commodity on the market, he yet extracts more value from it than he paid for; and that in the ultimate analysis this surplus-value forms those sums of value from which are heaped up the constantly increasing masses of capital in the hands of the possessing classes; ..." (End of note.)
I agree that Marx would not oppose the revolution being at hand. That would probably make him very happy. Right now, the revolution seems to be closer at hand in Montana, though it seems far away from being a left-wing revolution. Will the left allow the right to steal the show by smashing the federal state before the left gets its hands on it? It seems as though a major difference between what the anarchists and the right wing would do is: the right seems to be aiming at smashing the federal state so that small business can flourish, while the left would smash the state so that property can be collectivized. Not much basis for unity between left and right state-smashers, is there? And that lack of unity is bound to reduce any chance of success of anyone smashing the state. If only revolutionaries, left or right, could ever agree on anything, but their specific scenarios of change exclude any other scenarios, which makes it impossible for lower classes to unify behind any one of them.
I wonder on what basis workers will ever organize. From the press Jeremy Rifkin gets, one would suspect that workers must be closer to organizing for shorter hours than they are to organizing to smash the state, or to organizing to take back all that they produce. One nice thing about organizing for shorter hours is that getting back a greater proportion of what we produce, and even a greater absolute portion, is part of the benefits if we are at all successful in shortening hours by any of a half-dozen means of doing so, from higher overtime premiums, to bringing all workers under the purview of the Fair Labor Standards Act, to earlier retirement with full benefits, to longer vacations, to more paid holidays, to shorter work-days.
"It really doesn't matter how democratic or undemocratic the ruling class is." I was having difficulty in figuring out how that sentence related to what preceded it, which was about Marx not opposing the revolution, after which workers would get back all they produced. If 'all states are dictatorships of a ruling class', that sounds pretty absolute to me, and makes me wonder if we will ever be able to pass another reform in the interests of labor again. Are you sure that this sort of statement is not just another part of the ideology of persuading workers to adopt 'such a contempt for democracy that they will be only too glad to smash it in favor of revolution'? It sure sounds like ideology to me, which may help people understand some trends in history to a certain extent, but to me is useless in a democracy, where the state can be anything people want to make of it. Try making the state what you want of it, though, either in feudal monarchies, or in regimes like that of Pinochet, Hitler, Stalin or Mao. In a democracy, workers just need something non divisive to unify around. What could be more divisive than programs around dealing with the state and property, none of which can be implemented without leaving other scenarios and their advocates out in the cold, and alienating lots of people who thought they were going to get to do something real? If we are screwing ourselves by competing over scarce jobs, can we do anything better than blame the government or private property, or some other institution we don't have the slightest chance of changing? In our weakness, we are restricted to affecting what goes on only within our own ranks, and may the goddess help us if we adopt such restrictions on what can be said that we cannot even talk frankly about what goes on in our ranks, from the swindles we lay on one another, to competition between ourselves for scarce jobs.
In my Jan. missive, I wrote "A heavy dose of Marx and Engels themselves has been a good antidote to revolutionary Marxism in inappropriate places", and you wondered why I said that, and though it isn't the easiest question I could imagine answering, I'm glad you asked it, rather than just writing a big exclamation mark (!). All I can imagine having inspired that statement was the fact that I don't find a record of Marx advocating revolutionary overthrow for the few democracies of his day, but he did say that workers in democracies can get what we want by peaceful means, which can only mean reforms and other democratic processes within governmental frameworks that allow for such processes, as opposed to old feudal monarchies like Germany and Russia of his time. As he said in one of his last letters, 'This time the revolution starts in the East', referring to Russia [me45.278]. In this instance, he predicted it happening there first, but I can't recall him explaining exactly why, and he may never in his day have been able to predict that revolution would proceed further yet to the east (after Russia) instead of going west as I'm sure he would have desired. Marx, though, just never got it, unfortunately, for he would have saved generations lots of pain if he had been able to see that collectivization was possible only after overthrowing monarchies, or after colonial liberation, when workers and socialists had the physical force within their hands with which they could collectivize. As early as the First International, there were signs that 'middle class republics had become impossible on the continent of Europe', socialists at the ready to heed the call of the bourgeoisie to help overthrow monarchies, so that socialists could then use the force they would have had in their hands to push resulting (simultaneous) republics through to proletarian dictatorship, collectivize means of production into the hands of their very own states, and proceed to socialist paradise. But, the German bourgeoisie and aristocracy saw the handwriting on the wall, and united into a constitutional monarchy instead, frustrating German socialists in the process, causing Marx to rail at the German bourgeoisie as "cowardly" for refusing to arm the proletariat to help violently overthrow the old monarchy. In this respect, I guess that I might have been justified in saying what I did, but not so much out of what Marx and Engels might have said about revolution itself, rather more out of the whole context of their writings, i.e., when they were paying attention to what was going on in the world, and its actual history, rather than focusing on mere revolutionary wish lists, rantings and ravings. It's kind of like paying attention to the subtext, or something like that, that caused me to imply that reading M+E between the lines and figuring out what workers did in the evolution of our history has taught me a lot about the actual course of revolution, and tells me where it is most likely to happen next, if at all, and that enabled me to move on in my own evolution to find something more beneficial to workers than revolution in a democracy.
With regard to the political state, I am really glad to report that we seem to agree perfectly in our concepts of what the political state meant to Engels. Hooray! This is something to celebrate! I can't help but feel that we are making progress.
But then, there is always our getting hung up on our different definitions of socialism, I consistently using the Leninist version of socialism equaling the DOTP, while you prefer the old SLP definition of socialism equaling classless, stateless society. I suppose that if we agree to hang onto our different definitions, but also agree to recognize what the other means by the word 'socialism', then I cannot imagine us having too much more trouble over the word, for you obviously acknowledge Marx's two-stage theory of socialism the same basic way that I do, what with a lower stage of proletarian dictatorship (that Lenin labeled as socialism), with the lower stage as the transition to the upper stage of classless, stateless society (that Lenin labeled communism). No matter what Lenin called them, it is clear to me that we both recognize Marx's two stage theory, and it also means that I may no longer have to worry about you having joined in with the SLP's complicated denial of Marx's theory of working class state power, which is something that I went into some detail in my last letter. To recap and embellish:
SLP denied working class state power and supremacy, basing the denial on what Marx allegedly said, i.e.: 'workers' use of the capitalist state is unnecessary in advanced capitalist countries due to advanced means of production' (monopoly showing us the SIU form); while what Marx really implied at the 1872 Hague Congress was that 'violent overthrow is unnecessary where democracies exist'. The fact that the SLP bureaucrats had to take quotes out of context in order to misinterpret Marx in this manner proves their venal intentions. Engels recognized the difference between what was possible after winning elections vs. after overthrowing feudal monarchies, and wrote in 1894 not to entrust the task of building socialism to bourgeois republics. But, it was socialism that Fred wanted to build, highly unlikely socialism in a country like where we live, whereas bourgeois republics have done a decent enough job enforcing the 8 hour day, especially when workers were militant enough to demand that it be implemented and defended. Nowadays people are so ignorant that they hardly recognize the importance of anything anymore, but hopefully a free labor party press will be militant enough to remind them.
SLP said that advanced means of production and monopolies showed workers the industrial union form into which they could organize so as to collectivize peacefully, and 'without using the capitalist state', while Marx said that workers could use democratic forms of government to get what they want, which, presumably, meant collectivization by means of reform rather than by violent overthrow. Nice try, Marx, but shame on the SLP for distorting Marx's theories (unworkable as they certainly were), and for making mere caricatures of them. While Marx may very well have erred badly with regard to the program of labor in democracies, the SLP didn't make a mistake, for they willfully distorted Marx, Engels and Lenin while calling them socialists, though the Party made them appear like anarchists in the intent of their programs, Lenin less than the others, as to be expected, but it happened occasionally.
This last paragraph is merely the bare bones of a scam that would take too many more pages to flesh out, but which points of analysis are scattered around in the book. Keep in mind that the SLP did scatologists a great favor by trying to justify its anarchist program through quotes out of context and through a totally phony interpretation of Marxism (so that it could maintain a plausible grip on the word 'socialism'), a scam that my book tries to unravel line by line from Party literature. Since discovering their dishonesty, that is why I turned to the Leninist definition of socialism, it being so much more solidly identified in revolutionary texts as the transitional stage known as workers' state power, whereas the SLP's definition of socialism as the upper stage of classlessness and statelessness was, in itself, a denial of working class state power, and was based on fraud, unlike Lenin's definition, based as the latter was on a rather forthright presentation of Marxism, as in "State and Revolution". The SLP's version of socialism resembled pure Bakuninist anarchism, while claiming that it was Marxism for advanced capitalist countries. Thus, to anyone who ever looks into this the way I have, the SLP version of socialism cannot be anything but an incredibly poor joke, and with such evil intent behind it as well, that calling classless, stateless society 'socialism' is a bit like describing Pinochet's government as a democracy, the way the CIA described the great change as Pinochet 'bringing democracy to Chile, and replacing Allende with a more democratic government'. That's what I mean about the SLP misrepresentation of 'socialism', claiming as they did that it was based on Marxism for advanced capitalist countries, whereas the choice, for Marx, was between collectivization for democracies without overthrow, vs. collectivization after overthrowing monarchies. Even Stalin presented the Marxist meaning of socialism better than our old Party did, which doesn't exonerate him of very much, but I mention it just for the record. Our old Party is guilty, guilty, guilty of crimes against consciousness, and is paying the price for those crimes through a steady decline in membership and constant internal discontent.
Naturally, I totally agree with what you said about no classless, stateless society having been consciously created in modern times, although we could also probably agree that classless, stateless society based on a lack of surpluses existed back before society divided up into different economic classes. You remember those good old days, just like I.
So, now I know what you mean about 'parties not being able to bring about socialism', especially if socialism = classless, stateless society. Parties mean the presence of different economic classes, the state, etc., things that are incompatible with SLP socialism. I understand, no problem. Then you went on to describe an anarchist scenario of revolution by means of a c.c. proletariat, etc., and that's where I got bogged down nit-picking small internal inconsistencies in what you wrote, but I won't concern you with them just now; maybe further down the road we can take it up.
I am glad to hear that you have no problem with shorter hours, and I was also glad to hear that the Wobblies have endorsed a 4 hour day. That's all thinking in the right direction, but if we all agreed to shorten hours of labor, we wouldn't need to decide which of the many schemes for smashing the state, creating a workers' state, taxing to create a benevolent state, nationalizing industries, expropriating, etc. we should also adopt, many of which schemes exclude the others, for shorter hours by themselves deliver most of the justice that the lower classes really need on an immediate basis. One of these days I may spend some time carefully showing how all of the other schemes benefit classes other than the lowest, specifically how opportunists would exploit lower class anger to orchestrate themselves into positions of power, after which they would be only too glad to betray the interests of those who put them in power.
Your feedback really helps me clean up my language. When I talked about the 'impossibility' of socialism in democracies, I should have used the word 'improbability', for society is unlikely to go so far backwards as to smash democracies in order to impose collectivization. It hasn't happened yet, but given our low level of leadership, and our adherence to programs that do little to nothing to elevate the lowest of the low, it may happen yet. If there existed too few c.c.proles in democracies to enable socialism to triumph, then what would it take to produce them? More suffering, I would guess. That will happen. All we have to do is wait, for improvements in technology constantly reduce the portion of the product of labor known as wages, while simultaneously increasing surplus values, making upper classes richer and governments more powerful, but the kicker is this: the upper classes don't have to plot, conspire, or do a thing to disenfranchise the lower classes; this is a natural consequence of the wages system in a world of evolving technology, but as long as lower class consciousness remains static, thanks again to our great leaders, workers will continue to compete for scarce jobs, continue to suffer from lower wages as the result of competition, and I wonder how far this will go before anyone notices. Already, 98% of new wealth goes to the upper 20% of the population, while only 2% goes to the lower 80%. Maybe we will have to wait until the figures go to 99% and 1%, or 100% and 0%. It just seems as though a wonderful opportunity is going by to have some real good stuff explained to people that would save them a lot of misery in the future. The SLP attitude is to let them suffer enough to make them want to abolish the state at the ballot box, but I'm no longer one of them.
I don't understand why you would be willing to contradict De Leon and A.P. about collectivization in democracies leading to state capitalism. Those were the anarchists I was referring to in the letter. To me, what they wrote represented one of those nuggets that I was trying to refute as just another SLP lie, but try as I did, the more I looked at it, the more that what A.P. said made better and better sense. And, indeed, lots of anarchist criticisms of Marxist socialism make sense, and that's what enables anarchism to compete so well with socialism. It's too bad if both anarchist and socialist predictions of how society will evolve are wrong, due to the unlikelihood of collectivizing in democracies. If you think that the anarchists of the SLP or other anarchists did not understand Marx, it would help me if you gave an example of what you mean. I don't think that critics could have made anarchism the opposite of socialism unless they understood both of the Marxist theories of the state. But, certainly someone didn't understand something, and such a description could certainly apply to rank and file anarchists who thought they were socialists, as in rank and file Party members, but when it came to De Leon and A.P., I think that they understood Marx very well, and never ever made an honest mistake while misinterpreting him, consciously twisting what Marx, Engels and even Lenin said in order to make them all appear like philosophical anarchists in content, though they had to label them all as socialists, as was required, for the last thing that A.P. and De Leon wanted members to know was that they were marketing anarchism disguised as socialism, and that the anarchists took over the Party in the coup of 1889. So many fools bought the charade but none of them understood it enough to enable them to do anything about it. Because I worked hard enough to bring myself to understand the swindle, I am willing to admit that I was bamboozled by charlatans, swindlers and mountebanks. And is there any other way to overcome a swindle than by understanding and admitting it?
In the 70's, when Marxist scenarios of colonial liberation were happening hand over fist, and communism and socialism hadn't looked so good in quite a while, I attended a leftist event with S. K. who told me afterward why he didn't identify who he was when he asked Irwin Silber a question, unlike the other questioners who proudly identified their affiliations. S.K. said that the communists would kill SLP members when communists came to power, which certainly shocked me, and made me wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into at the time, but it wasn't until I educated myself about the various ideologies that I began to understand why, and how it went back to the old anarchist-communist split, which was based upon business rivalries between 'isms. At the time of that event, I still thought I was a socialist, and didn't know that I had been suckered into marketing anarchism disguised as socialism.
Socialism was supposed to be better than just playing people for suckers, but its unlikelihood in democracies opened up the field of promoting it to few others than swindlers and their fools. But, I'd like to think that it was a very good swindle as swindles go in order for them to keep me in a state of ignorance for so long, and also for me to remain a socialist until as late as 1994, which was so many years after discovering that the Party's socialism was a mere disguise for the underlying anarchism. Socialism was what I had been initially interested in, was what Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth" discussed, and when I discovered that I had been suckered into marketing anarchism, I knew immediately that I had been swindled, but my initial investigation in the seventies was only a scratch on the surface of that swindle. If only I had worked on my book more diligently in the seventies, I might have been one of those lucky few, or perhaps the lucky one, who could have predicted the fall of the Soviet bloc solely on the basis of the faulty logic of collectivism. Maybe in my next lifetime I will be a more obdurate scholar.
About collectivization in democracies leading to state capitalism, here is the scenario: Well-meaning but retarded proletarians run a social-democratic campaign based on nationalization of property, they win the election because nobody else is any smarter than they are, they gradually abolish private property and concentrate means of production into the hands of the state, and then they sit back and expect to enter the realm of socialist paradise. But, here's the hitch. They didn't do any of those things by force of arms; rather, they did it peacefully, and, 'in our country, no property gets confiscated without just compensation', so the state ends up compensating the upper classes for all of the property they took, and the compensation lasts for generations, perhaps forever. Workers in their factories go on being exploited with little difference as to whether they were working for the state or for capitalists directly, so A.P. and De Leon were correct, as far as I can see, about collectivizing in democracies leading to state capitalism. Isn't that a likely outcome of Marx's social-democratic scenario, and weren't A.P. and De Leon smart to criticize it, and can anyone blame them for trying to replace a faulty product with a better one? Marx's own error, probably caused by his genuine lack of solid experience with socialist revolution back then, made it possible for business interests to enter the marketplace of ideas with an alternative that definitely addressed the problems of the state continuing to exploit workers after collectivizing by peaceful means. Smash the capitalist state, on the other hand, and you can entirely divorce the upper classes from any future rip-off of workers, in theory, at least. The Party scheme may have ended up being as utopian as Marx's scenario, and as utopian as any other scheme that promises to rearrange property relations or abolish the capitalist state, but that is beside the point right here. One of the biggest problems that we face, as little people, is the fact that only wild, impossible schemes such as the SLP's, Marx's, and so many others get their own press and air play, while remedies that directly address competition between workers for scarce jobs rarely get any. I sometimes wonder what kind of class interests exist behind parties that promote unlikely schemes of overthrowing governments or rearranging property relations, for their promotion definitely works in the interests of the upper classes, while competition for scarce jobs is what's killing us as a class, and is the only thing that we can reasonably expect to change, for it is something that is going on within our own ranks, not outside our ranks, like the state and property, which makes those things too remote for us to influence, due to our inability to buy our own politicians.
"The central driving factor of class society - the commodity." I thought that Marx said that class struggle was the driving factor*, but I'm sure that you remember that as well, so I won't argue. The evolution of commodity production certainly has been dramatic over time, and has definitely shaped changes in forms of class struggle. To me, in our present era, the central driving factor of our own class society is the rapidly reducing amount of time required to produce necessities of life, the resulting incredible surpluses which cannot all be used to put people to work, leading to brutal competition for scarce jobs, and very low wages (or shares).
* 2002 note. "Driving factor" only appears once in the CD of Collected Works. In "Dialectics of Nature", Engels wrote (me25.463): "Thus the interests of the ruling class became the driving factor of production ..." In an 1894 article, Engels wrote (me27.478): "Since the dissolution of primitive communities, the struggle between the different classes of which every society was composed was always the great driving force of historical progress." In his 1877 biography of Marx, Engels wrote (me24.192): "Only upon the newer school of French, and partly also of English, historians had the conviction forced itself that, since the Middle Ages at least, the driving force in European history had been the struggle of the developing bourgeoisie with the feudal aristocracy for social and political domination. Now Marx has proved that the whole of history hitherto is a history of class struggles, that in all the manifold and complicated political struggles the only thing at issue has been the social and political rule of classes of society, the maintenance of domination by older classes and the conquest of domination by newly arising classes." (End of note.)
Duly noted was your comment about fixed ideas serving religious purposes, and I'm sorry if I took your scenario about proles abolishing classes after taking power too literally.
I agree with your comment about the bourgeois solution to the unemployed being throwing them in jail, and I wonder when enough is going to be enough, America already holding the world record, I think. Am I my brother's (jail) keeper yet? If not today, then maybe tomorrow.
On page 7, I wondered aloud about the mysterious nature of Marx not recognizing what could be done after winning elections vs. after overthrowing monarchies (and yet it seems as though Engels did, in much of his correspondence after Marx passed away). I have also tried to determine a hierarchy of political victory, from the most liberating to the least: 1) The kind of political supremacy derived after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating colonies, enabling collectivization, 2) the political strength derived from winning an election in a democracy, which doesn't enable collectivization without compensation, 3) the elation derived from winning an important political reform, such as an important step in improving rights of unions to organize, and 4) the disappointment when reforms are passed in the interests of the upper classes alone.
Given the ferocity with which the south was willing to fight to the death to enjoy such an immoral institution as the right to own slaves, think about the ferocity with which north, south, east and west would be willing to fight in order to protect the institution of private property in general. In that context, merely winning an election in a democracy would never allow a party to collectivize without compensation, no matter how class-conscious the proletariat was, due to the ferocity of defense of the institution of private property. In fact, a party that ran on the platform of collectivization without compensation, no matter how violently or peacefully it allegedly could be accomplished, would never enjoy the status of anything more than a small sect in a country in which private property is the national religion, for the sanctity of private property is just about the only thing that the man on the street can agree upon with other men on the street. The SLP has run on the platform of instant collectivization for a long time, and look where it's gotten them. Everybody digs private property except for a minuscule left, and the more aware members of the left will eventually have to synchronize themselves with the mood of the nation, lest history leave the left further back in the dust than what it already is. Collectivization just ain't got what it takes to compete in the free and democratic exchange of ideas in a democracy, it being so far out of line from what people are willing to do that some of the left looks at the silence with which its ideas are met as a conspiracy of silence. Henning Blomen taught me the conspiracy of silence theory in one of his study classes 25 or so years ago, and it was such a horrific idea to a politically naive me that I never forgot it, but it turned out to be as phony a theory as to why no one listened to the Party as was the Party's DOTP over the peasantry the reason why DOTP in the USA was not necessary. The Party had its own press, the gummint never hassled us over what it said while we were there, and if any of its ideas were worth anything, it probably would have gotten places. It's past time for the left to put the whole socialist collectivist era in historical perspective, and move on, for it is history.
When it comes to attempts at socialist revolution, then, of the scenarios you listed, the Paris Commune and Spain in 1936 were motivated more by defense of existing republics, the ferocity of the reaction in Paris in 1871, though, certainly motivated by bourgeois rage over commies. 1917 was certainly a revolution in a backward country, but 1968 in France was what? That whole event went right by me, I being rather non-political at the time, but I don't recall much blood being spilt over socialism. Wasn't it more like a bunch of students running amuck? So, when it came to socialist revolutionary sentiment in advanced capitalist democracies, what percentage of those who got caught up in the events had socialism on their mind, and how many of the socialists trucked themselves in? You didn't mention the L. A. riots after the Rodney King incident, but I'll bet not many of them had socialism on their minds, though a lot more might have been inspired by revolutionary sentiment of some sort, many others inspired by wanting to get back their fair share of the loot, but I haven't really studied that either, it being so much like an isolated incident. When it comes to the wave of bourgeois revolution from west to east, however, it was such a detectable event that historians could look at the path of the crest of the wave and predict which way it would go next, as Carroll Quigley did in part. Given how the Russian revolution turned out, one could look at it as a distortion of that wave of bourgeois revolution, revolutionary bureaucrats often behaving like a 'new class', of what I haven't figured out yet, but many of them certainly didn't represent the lowest of the lowest classes. I remain suspicious of those in advanced capitalist countries who aim to 'liberate the lower classes' by going after the property or the state of the upper classes, rather than fixing what really ails the workers, their competition among themselves for scarce jobs. At some point, I have to reread Engels' book on 'The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844', for somewhere in there he nails a major problem of the working class as precisely that competition between themselves for scarce jobs.
Well, I took the time to look it up, so here it is, another nail in the coffin of Marxism, along with the news that the Italian left just won the latest round of elections after dropping their Marxist rhetoric. Emphases are mine (pp. 255-6):
[snip repeat of passage, available in the RBSD essay, accessible from this web site's home page.]
The underlined sentences should make any revolutionary wonder why they should persist in their revolutionism. And yet, Engels went on in other passages of the same book to advocate violent revolution. I may have more to say about this in the future. This is such fresh evidence (only 150 years old) that I can't think too straight about it just yet.
Those old NEC Reports were a real gold mine of info. I looked at a lot of data back then, giving me a perspective on what was going on from 1915 to 1935 or so that never could have been gotten from Party pamphlets. I should have studied a lot more of those Reports, but after they had convinced me of what a monster A.P. was, I was then diverted onto the course of figuring out if he had written things that had shaped the Party's theoretical outlook.
When you wrote that ideologies do not make history, that rang so true. Chalk up a point, old boy. Blind, automatic, lock-step defense of many mutually incompatible ideologies is the undoing of the left, but it is just what our ideological leaders want us to do, and give us so much support when we do it. But, I no longer wonder why, for our brave leaders often get paid for the work that they do, and often have financial interests in peddling their own ideologies. The whole thing about pushing competing ideologies is so bourgeois, for it is a real struggle in the contest for hegemony in the marketplace of ideas, so many of which are totally worthless to the lower classes. The bankruptcy of the left is a perfect reflection of the very same characteristics in the right. It's simply that old 'force vs. force' thing all over again, when just a few well-directed intelligent policies would enable us to ride capitalism all the way to the abolition of class distinctions and the state. We live in a era of a dictatorship of mindlessness, and one can only wonder if there's any hope.
As far as the farmer question goes, a concrete analysis of statistics would be necessary to determine ratios of farmers to workers over the years, i.e., owners to landless wage-workers. Like you say, though, there had to have been proportionally more peasants in A.P.'s time than in the present, though he just about totally denied their presence, even in his time, as well as the presence of a middle class 'of any consequence' (he was totally wrong about the middle class, though, as small business accounts for roughly half the economy, as my book documents). A.P. definitely had a concrete basis for denying the existence of the peasantry here, compared to any other country except England, but the reason he denied their presence was to lead us to swallow the punch line of 'us not needing a proletarian dictatorship over a peasantry that doesn't exist'. And, 'if we don't need a DOTP over a non-existent peasantry, then there's no need for us to use the capitalist state for anything, and we can leap directly to classless, stateless society, unlike countries where peasants will resist proletarian rule due to their property interests, and will therefore need to be repressed.' Will you ever agree that this part of SLP ideology was a pure swindle, or is there any basis on which you think that A.P.'s logic could be defended?
On page 13, we once again tangled over the alleged establishment of socialism in lesser developed countries, you taking the position that classless, stateless society did not get established there, but I concur entirely, and never disagreed. The only problem was with our conflicting definitions of socialism, I using the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Ho Chi Minhist definition of socialism as the DOTP, alleged or not, with you continuing to use the SLP definition as classless, stateless society. I totally agree that the so-called socialist governments that were established were not real DOTP's, nor real democratic republics the way Marx predicted, nor classless, stateless societies, and you can probably guess that I will also say that the scenario evolved outside of what Marx predicted, which included simultaneous revolutions in the most advanced capitalist countries, but one thing that cannot be denied is the amount of collectivization that occurred in all of the alleged socialist countries. You wouldn't deny that the Soviet Union abolished private ownership of land, would you? Or that other countries also collectivized property into the hands of the state, either. That certainly went on, in spite of the socialist revolution not occurring first and simultaneously in the most advanced capitalist countries the way Marx predicted. Definitions of socialism more popular than yours are so irrevocably tied up with the notion of collectivization that all countries that collectivized in one form or another (with the exception of Western European social democracies) universally adopted the Leninist definition of socialism as the lower stage, i.e., proletarian dictatorship as a transition, and communism as the upper stage, i.e., classless, stateless society. So many people describe socialism as state ownership of one sort or another, whether they live in capitalist countries, or in alleged socialist countries. I personally do not intend to fight the tendency of the masses to believe what they want, for, having thoroughly divorced myself from the dictatorship of SLP fraudulent directives about how to think about socialism, I am ready to flow with the course of history, and flow with the course of mass thought, and need not buck it to keep a very small portion of what's left of the left from accusing me of betraying those same masses. I hope that you will see the futility of trying to impose a pure anarchist interpretation of 'socialism' on an unreceptive audience. It will be quite a disappointment if you continue to honor SLP falsifiers of history by continuing to adhere to their definition of socialism as classless, stateless society, a definition that is shared by so few people in the world, compared to the billion and more who identify socialism with collectivization and statism, no matter what the class content of the state might be. The mistake that the Party bureaucrats made was to claim on the basis of quotes out of context that their definition was based on Marxism for advanced capitalist countries, but their mistake made it all too easy for ordinary workers such as myself to check their documentation and discover that they distorted Marx's theory of workers' state power after overthrowing monarchies (the notion of violence against upper classes too hot for them to handle, causing them to turn Marx's theories into a DOTP over peasants and middle classes), and only described Marx's social democratic theories of peaceful collectivization in democracies in sufficient depth to enable them to criticize and 'correct' that theory. Marx's theories turned out to be unlikely anyway, an unlikelihood that A.P. acknowledged, but not to his credit, due to the unethical ways in which he used his insights.
Unlike the SLP, you certainly recognize the DOTP, as well as so many other theories of Marx, Lenin and others, and you also differentiate various theories of evolution of society from others, i.e., you know the differences between anarchist, socialist and reformist theories of evolution of state. Knowing what I do about the origin of the SLP's insistence on defining socialism so differently from others, and having discovered the fraudulent basis of their contradicting truly mass understandings of socialism, collectivism and statism, I immediately stopped using the old Party definition of socialism, especially if I wanted to blend in with the rest of the crowd and didn't always want to appear as though I had spent the last 1000 years incommunicado out in space and had just gotten off the space ship, so I just wonder if you ever plan on blending in with the rest of the crowd as well. It certainly doesn't mean that you have to start believing that Marxist-Leninist theories will come true. I certainly do not believe that the Marxist scenario will be implemented, for it was proven to be faulty as soon as the revolution happened in Russia, and was doubly proven when the revolution moved further east and south instead of west. All it would mean is that you would be ready to take a step in your scholarship, the prerequisite of which is that phoniness not be honored, but rather criticized in the depth that it deserves.
On the next page, I agree with your critique of CP communism, that it was an awful caricature of what Marx wanted, that it was a monster state that oppressed whoever Stalin picked out as the enemy of the day, whether it was the bourgeoisie, proletariat, or peasantry, but I also explained why the scenario turned out to be so different from what Marx wanted, for he did mistakenly give us a program that was far more easily implemented after overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries, or after liberating colonies, when socialists had the power with which they could implement Marx's program of collectivization, such power not being available after winning mere elections in democracies of western Europe. I don't understand what might be wrong with this analysis, nor what it might have to do with the class consciousness of the proletariat. You say that my assessment 'sounded like it was written as a briefing for state department morons', but I don't have the faintest idea what you mean by that. I hope you will help me understand my blunder if it was a blunder. Good explanations will be required if we are to move away from blunders.
You also didn't explain why you disagreed with my analysis: "After we laud early anarchists for having correctly concluded that collectivization yields no benefits to workers after winning mere elections in democracies, then we can turn around and blame the same anarchists for failing to fully explain why collectivization yields little of value, or, better yet, would be impossible to implement at all, even though they were perfectly capable of explaining the problem to workers so that they could have understood it, but used their prodigious talents to cover up the problem instead."
It may have been an overstatement to say that collectivization would be impossible, so I probably should have used the word 'unlikely' instead. The anarchists in question were A.P. and De Leon, who claimed that a workers' program of collectivization after their party won an election would only lead to state capitalism, which faux pas* they juxtaposed to the SLP way of simultaneously taking over industries as the enforcement of the mandate for socialism at the ballot box, which sounds like a hell of an improvement over the social-democratic scenario. But, A.P. and De Leon didn't make the scenario any better by adding the SIU enforcement, for SIU enforcement, no matter how much it seems to improve a faulty scenario, in a country in which the majority of the people would fight to the death to preserve private property, the scenario is cold, flat-out highly unlikely. Collectivization has only been possible under certain historical conditions that hardly any longer exist in most of the world, a tremendous number of democracies having been added in the last hundred and twenty years to the list of merely 3-5 in Marx's day. And more democracies are popping up all the time. Added recently was South Africa, at last. Together, the march of bourgeois republicanism makes collectivization so much less probable that it is not difficult to conclude that collectivism is dead in the minds of billions of people, for now most of them want democracy and capitalism more than anything else. Too bad, for collectivism made for some real exciting times. Revolutionaries love revolutionary excitement, and it may be a crime for the march of history to deprive them of it.
* 2002 note: Actually, state capitalism could easily result from mere collectivization with compensation after winning a mere election.
When I wrote about peaceful evolution in democracies and you pointed out that Bernstein had been an advocate of evolutionary socialism, I agree. But, Bernstein was just following up on what Marx had said at the 1872 Hague conference and amplified it, I guess, for I have yet to read much Bernstein, though I would really like to know what he said in places in the old Neue Zeit. Here's a librarian's question for you: the old Neue Zeit was absolutely a gold mine of information and would be absolutely indispensable to understanding how socialism developed up to WWI. Can you put out an inquiry on the Net, or otherwise use your vast resources to find out if the Neue Zeit was translated by anyone into English? I just can't get through all of that old German script, and I hate to bother anyone to translate all of the stuff I copied off the microfilm.
I wonder if there was much new in Bernstein, but what was important was that workers and capitalists allied in earlier days to create democratic republics on the burning embers of feudal monarchies, and strong values around using and preserving democracies and private property has been the result among western European peoples. Marx himself noted that, in the earlier days of bourgeois democratic revolutions, interests of workers and capitalists were scarcely differentiated, but as time went on, the major contradiction in western Europe changed from that between capitalists vs. monarchists into that between capitalists vs. workers, by virtue of the marginalization of monarchs, the increased exploitation of workers by capitalists as time went on, and the consequent building up of resentments that had not been as much of a factor in class struggle in the early days. This latter factor was what made 'middle class republics impossible in Europe' by the time of the heyday of the First International, for 'arming workers to fight for republics would have caused republics to go socialist', as in that famous 'pushing republics through to proletarian dictatorship'; so capitalists, as in Germany, compromised their demands and accepted constitutional monarchies, causing Marx, in his rage, to accuse German capitalists of cowardice. By Lenin's time, chances of workers in the west allying with socialists to overthrow democracies in favor of socialist collectivization was just not in their tradition, after having worked so hard to create and use democracies. This was very much unlike more eastern European tradition of endless monarchic oppression, a much lower level of bourgeois and proletarian development, but with a much higher socialist consciousness that made pushing the Kerensky republic through to Bolshevism much more of a possibility in Russia than anywhere else. But, of course, not having happened simultaneously in the most advanced capitalist countries of Europe, the great socialist revolution that Marx had hoped for turned into a gross caricature of the original intent, and many of the criticisms that anarchists have pointed out about the Soviets not being a workers' state, I very much agree with. Agreement ends when leftists refuse to take the whole period in broad historical perspective and start blaming this or that leader or party for having 'betrayed the revolution', or 'betrayed the proletariat', when a broad historical perspective simply rules out any possibility of success of world-wide socialist revolution, the collectivist scenario handed down by so many anarchists, socialists and communists being far more capable of being implemented after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating colonies, when socialists had the physical force in their hands with which to collectivize, but which physical force was just not available after socialist and communist parties had won mere elections in western European democracies. It has been the utmost failure of socialists, communists and anarchists not to have admitted a long time ago what I recently figured out for myself, but which must have been figured out by others a long time ago, somewhere, somehow. It has also been the utmost failure of alleged socialists, communists and anarchists and other great leaders of the proletariat not to have figured out, based on objective conditions of production, a program that is more easily implemented in advanced capitalist democracies than in backward countries, and to go for an easily implemented program instead of nationalizing, taxing, collectivizing and trying to do other highly unlikely things, many of which are impossible to do at the same time as many others, not being complementary to each other. Leftist literature just doesn't address this, as far as I know. How do we correct for the oversights of Marx, Bakunin, Lenin, Mao, Castro etc.? For, that is what they were, major oversights. There was something that was going on in Marx's head, though, when he spoke in 1872, and it's hard to believe that he couldn't have learned more than he did from the American Civil War, this thing about Americans being willing to fight to the death over such an immoral form of private ownership as slavery, and would therefore be at least twice as willing to fight to the death over the institution of private ownership in general. Something as plain as this, like the hair at the end of one's nose, must surely have been thought about by someone, sometime, somewhere, but who, and where? It is to the perpetual discredit of the left that they have not been able to talk about this at all, perhaps for all of the ramifications it has on the possibility of collectivizing, nationalizing, or even taxing the upper classes to create a benevolent social-democracy, and, what's worse for them, ramifications on their future abilities to market improbable scenarios and make livings on convincing suckers of the inevitability of unlikelihoods. Private property in this country is such a god, goddess, deity, Buddha, whatever one wants to call it, and it will forever prevent us from either legislating wealth away from the upper classes directly by taxing them, or by taking it away by force. And the biggest lie of all was that organizing ourselves into socialist industrial unions would enable us to collectivize peacefully. Not even the K.s believed that, those upholders of the SIU, no matter what comes, hell or high water; hence S.K.'s desire to make state organizations out of the SIU's, those fighting SIU's, as he used to call them. He was no utopian dreamer, like so many other members were, nor a dogmatist. I remember learning a lot from him, even if he did decide that attacking the foundation of the Party's problems would too greatly jeopardize his income, and therefore used the Party bureaucracy (that A.P. carefully polished) to censor me, and force me to leave before I could discover all of the truth about so-called 'peaceful revolution', and develop arguments that could influence others. It couldn't be the first time something like this happened in history, for it is all tied together, everything about rotten, corrupt and censorious bureaucracies watching for their own financial interests, calling themselves anarchist, socialist and communist, offering nothing of value to the working class as a whole, operating in secrecy, and preventing civilized debate within their own ranks about the evolution of society. What these little groups do is not much better than market their ideologies the same way vendors market sewing machines and vacuum cleaners, and if you don't like what you see in one display window, go find some others until you find whatever fits your needs, but if the machine breaks down or needs service, or if your ideology doesn't hold water, you can expect less response from ideological bureaucrats in terms of fixing what's wrong with party ideology than you can expect in getting your vacuum cleaner fixed, that's for sure. If you no longer like your ideology, then you might as well get out of your party or start your own splinter group, cuz you are not going to change De Leonism into Marxism, or Leninism into Trotskyism, or any sectarian 'ism into anything that makes sense in advanced capitalist democracies. What all of these useless ideologies have in common is collectivism, which was much more likely after overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries, or after liberating colonies, but has not yet been done in advanced capitalist democracies. The more class conscious the proletariat gets, the more it will have to eventually bump its head into that very fact, and, if their c.c.ness is of sufficient caliber, perhaps they will discover a technique of assuring economic, social and political justice for the lower classes that makes more sense in advanced capitalist countries than it could ever make sense out in the heart of Africa, where backward monarchies can still be found.
I also remember De Leon's famous statement about reform being a concealed measure of reaction. Wasn't that a warning to anarchists not to water down their revolutionism by advocating reforms that make the proletariat less revolutionary, and that only delay the revolution? Doesn't it mean, accordingly, that the c.c.proletariat should not buy into any reforms? I remember you disagreeing with De Leon on the question of reform, and seemingly taking a stand in favor of reform, but here I find you seemingly using his best argument against reform, so I remain confused as to where you really stand on this issue. What you didn't address in your comment (that I wish you had) was my perception that critical attitudes toward reform, such as 'concealed measure of reaction', generates a negative attitude toward it, against using what democracy we have, and encourages revolution instead. And, what's revolution for anyway, in this country, but to enable the plunder of the rich by middle-class revolutionists? It certainly wouldn't be for creating democracy (where democracy already exists), or for liberating the American colony from the King. Also, the part about middle-class anarchists being far more capable of living without reforms than the lowest classes would be, that I would like to see addressed. Revolution doesn't seem to me to be a lower class issue. There is nothing preventing us from doing something about competition for scarce jobs except our own selfish adherence to our own ideologies. My experience in the SLP was proof of the hegemony of selfishness come hell or high water, for they were making money marketing their ideology, they treated it like a product, and, if it was any good, would have allowed for other ideas to compete in a free marketplace of an open party press. But the K.s knew it was worthless, and could not let the truth about it compete. This is why the new labor party must adopt an open press policy, for capitalism and democracy have been proven to be desirable to billions, and capitalism and democracy will prove to be able to withstand any challenge that the left can throw at those institutions.
I'm glad to see that you like the idea of replacing competition between workers for scarce jobs with competition between bosses for scarce labor. FW 'Internal Exile' also seemed to have a spontaneous favorable reaction, and when I mentioned it to an old friend (with whom I used to tape Stockwell and McMichael back in the '80's for KPFA) during a meal at the Sizzler, he actually spontaneously pounded his fist on the table as well.
Once we get a taste of the benefits of replacing competition between us with competition between bosses, thoughts of revolution will disappear from the minds of many people who presently find the idea attractive. I certainly can't blame people for wanting to change something; the only people I take issue with are those who know better, like SLP bureaucrats, but who refuse to live up to their responsibilities to tell the truth to the class they claim to represent, turning what they knew instead into a series of cheap and dirty tricks. To the extent that revolution makes no sense with respect to our political and economic institutions, to the same extent marketing revolution is so much more necessary and pressing for sectarian leaders, so that they can continue to make a living. 'The People' was just forced to retreat to a monthly, which gives them fewer opportunities to spread their lies.
If what Engels wrote was such a joke, then why did he say that "Marx told me (and how many times!) that in his opinion we would get off cheapest if we could buy out the whole lot of them"? Though lower classes certainly did not have the money up front (just as I think you meant), that certainly did not exclude a possible scenario of buying them out slowly. But, who is to say what was going on in the minds of people who were incapable of seeing just how immutable and precious is our system of private property in the USA? Not to mention the amount of force and violence required to change ownership, as proven by every country that has done it, including our own abolition of private ownership of slaves. If anyone likes the taste of blood, I urge them to try to achieve social, political and economic justice by means of force, violence and revolution, all in the service of changing property relations. Not to say, though, that liberation of colonies isn't sometime desirable by any means necessary, or that revolution to create democracy isn't sometime necessary either, for sometimes it is.
I hope that my unwillingness to advocate revolution in democracies will not be construed as class collaboration, for I definitely know which side of the class struggle I am on, advocating more power and wealth for the lower classes, and less for the uppers. I also see value in the final common goal of anarchists, communists and socialists, i.e., classless, stateless society, and look upon steadily diminishing hours of labor as a valid means to get there. I just disagree with revolutionaries as to the means of getting to classless, stateless society, history showing the unlikelihood of collectivist revolution in democracies. I wonder at the class content of neglecting plans that make sense for advanced capitalist democracies, and the propagation instead of highly unlikely schemes. I think that it betrays the desire of a new class to come to power and live off the surplus values that others produce, all of the propaganda to the contrary not withstanding a more thorough analysis.
Your scenario of 'socialism' is interesting, this idea that was mentioned earlier about 'socialism' being brought about by some kind of class conscious activity. In the Marxist scenario, on the other hand, (not that it's correct, though) classes are supposed to be in a process of dissolution near the end of the DOTP, and with classes and the state so close to being non-existent, it isn't hard to imagine class-consciousness itself being at the end of its normal life. In the Marxist scenario, the period of most intense c.c.ness was to be at the revolutionary border between capitalism and DOTP, when the exploitation that forces the proletariat to revolt* is at its greatest intensity, rather than at the end of the DOTP, when exploitation, class distinctions and the state were to be at their mutual minimum. There is something about this scenario of Marx that I cannot buy, however, for I think that it will take a continuing consciousness to abolish wage-slavery, and I'm not even sure if that particular abolition alone will be enough to abolish exploitation by means of rent. We'll see, or, rather, some future generation may see.
* 2002 note: This seems to have been Marx's theory, at least in his early writings (me3.270): "Eventually wages, which have already been reduced to a minimum, must be reduced yet further, to meet the new competition. This then necessarily leads to revolution." (End of note.)
Your own description of revolution seems to lump a dozen or so processes together without providing much of a sense of how any of them evolve, and which ones would be more intense at any particular time, etc., which was different from the smoothness of the Marxist scenario of the state: class distinctions, and exploitation all fading away as the lower transitional stage gives way to the upper, this dying out of the horrors of exploitation being more a function of advances in means of production than arising from any conscious attempt to make the state or exploitation go away, if I interpret it correctly. In my own fourth-way scenario, I think that it will take constant vigilance to make sure that people who have jobs are not overworked, and that what little work that remains for people to do will be shared by the whole class, workers living up to the old ideals of 'an injury to one is an injury to all', and 'all for one, and one for all'.
When you say that socialism=communism=anarchism, what they all have in common is collectivization, but Marx put forth two different ways of getting there, viz., through social-democracy and through communist DOTP, while Bakunin gave us one, anarcho-syndicalism. Common to all three was the very end product of classless, stateless society, while the means of getting to that end product is distinctively different with each of the three, and so much disagreed about. So, to me, they are not equal, otherwise we wouldn't have the three-way split between social democrats, communists and anarchists, and instead we would all be unified. The bro'ken way to class and statelessness, a goal I share with the other three, is through continually shortening labor time, the only way that fits the most advanced capitalist countries whose people would be willing to die and more to protect their private property. This fourth way is gradual, as were both of Marx's scenarios.
Consider now the impossibility of creating a moral society when so many occupations are destructive to ourselves and to the planet. Consider how much more virtuous we could be if there were a positive demand for labor, and if we were able to abandon occupations that do not support life. Imagine workers in Minnesota making land mines, but who would rather be doing something constructive; so they take no pleasure in their jobs, but cannot leave for fear of not being able to get another job. And when I discovered in 1976 that I was only pushing lies and wanted to leave the SLP immediately, I was forced to hang on to save money so that I could afford to be unemployed for a while after quitting. I was unemployed from April to June of 1977, and when I finally got a job, I was flat broke. A positive demand for labor could do so much, and I have yet to compile a list of what it could do.
I got exciting news on March 30 when a union steward who represents 3,000 proles nominated me to the founding convention of the new labor party, probably on the strength of my printed campaign statement containing suggestions on party structure, press, and program, which I enclose. Now all I gotta do is get elected and raise some money to send me to Cleveland. I'm also active on the platform discussion committee, which activity may make me well enough known, or notorious enough, to get me elected. We had a meeting on April 16 when my enclosed measures on the front were adopted for recommendation to the whole chapter, and some more thoroughgoing stuff about party structure and press will be considered. I'll be going back East around May 7 or so, and if I get elected as delegate, will swing through Cleveland for the Convention, June 6-9, on the way out west.
Thanks for the invite to the IWW. What is it that interested people get to read and sign in order to join? Since I'm already so busy with these concluding weeks of life of LPA, and I may be even more busy with the new labor party (wishful thinking, no doubt) I may not have any time in the near future to devote to Wobbly life. On the other hand, the new labor party might very well evolve out of the control of rank and filers, and I might just have lots of time to devote to Wobbliness. We shall see, and there's no predicting what's going to happen. Right now I'm getting strokes for my work and writings about the new labor party, and my hope lies in helping found a truly democratic institution from the ground up, so that's where the bulk of my interest lies right now. Tomorrow might be a different story though, for one never knows. But, it is so very kind of you to suggest that I join. I am honored that you think enough of me to invite me into the ranks.
July 12, 1996
Thanks for your note. Sorry to hear that my harangue depressed you, and hope that you will soon get back in the swing of things. I enjoyed the Bernstein stuff about shorter hours, and read it over the air on my July 3 show on FRB.
Thanks also for the info on e-mail accounts for Wobblies. I ran into FW's Fern and Nett the other day, told them that I was reading the new Labor Party's Program and Constitution over my radio show, and half-jokingly asked them why they weren't in Cleveland at the Labor Party founding convention, and Fern said that adherence to Wobbly rules prevents them from simultaneously being members of the Labor Party. Is that true? I guess he should know, but, from what little I know about such things, it sounds like the IWW has adopted a sectarian policy, which reminds me of the rules of the SLP. It sounds as though I could not be a Wobbly if I also wanted to be a Laborite. At least the Labor Party doesn't (as yet) prevent me from joining whatever other organizations I might like to join, though it wouldn't surprise me if they someday did, which would be a big disappointment.
I'm sorry to see that you assume that I 'accepted capitalism in stride'. Before I got to know the SLP, I hardly even knew I was part of a system, but thanks to the SLP, I learned to reject capitalism as early as 1972 (you probably rejected capitalism a lot earlier than I did) when I accepted their brand of 'socialism'. After discovering in 1976 that the SLP's 'socialism' was really Bakuninism in disguise, I didn't jump into anything resembling an acceptance of capitalism, for, all I thought at the time was that anarchists must be some kind of evil people to disguise their anarchism to make it look like socialism; so, by default, I philosophically jumped into the Marxist and Leninist camp at that point, but in a rather passive way, neither flirting with other parties, nor hardly cracking any of the books again until 1992, when I started to write my book. In 1994, two years into writing my book in earnest, and having to do some very serious thinking along the way, I discovered that socialists themselves had suppressed good arguments against socialism, and that expropriation - communist, anarchist or socialist - was indeed incompatible with democracy, due to the tremendous amounts of force required to rip off the rich. It's only been since 94, when I discovered that shorter hours beats expropriation for advanced capitalist democracies, that I reluctantly accepted capitalism and democracy for the first time, a milieu in which people could all plug into the existing economy, and we know that plugging the poor back into an economy of one sort or another is a major ostensible goal of leftist ideology. No matter what 'ism we happen to find ourselves in, we really have no excuse but our own selfishness for not making sure that everyone has a chance to make a living, for such a task is common to all 'isms, and none of them carry automatic money-back guarantees of full employment. I probably could have discovered most of the above earlier, i.e., if I had pursued writing my book in the late 70's, but I didn't, and instead wasted some of the best years of my life adhering to absurdities of one form or another.
I am glad that you asked me to do a bit of concrete research into the differences between socialism and communism, as proposed by Lenin. The difference is to be found toward the end of Chapter V of "The State and Revolution", pp. 470-5 of the Collected Works, Volume 25. On p. 470,
"But when Lassalle, having in view such a social order (usually called socialism, but termed by Marx the first phase of communism), says that this is "equitable distribution", that this is ......"
On p. 472,
"And so, in the first phase of communist society (usually called socialism) "bourgeois law" is not abolished in its entirety, but only in part, only in proportion ......"
And, finally, on p. 475:
"But the scientific distinction between socialism and communism is clear. What is usually called socialism was termed by Marx the "first", or lower, phase of communist society." ....
It also helps to read the surrounding text on p. 475 about how anarchists reduced the Marxist distinction between socialism and communism to as close to zero as they could, just the way the SLP did, in spite of what Marx wrote about two distinct stages in his Critique of the Gotha Program. Many of the crimes against consciousness that Lenin documents as having been perpetrated by anarchists can be detected in many examples of SLP philosophy, including their denial of the worker-peasant alliance, as though the hammer and sickle was just an abstract artistic design out of the blue. The lengths to which the SLP went to make Marx look like an anarchist were inexcusable, considering the readily available history that exists for serious students to explore, but which the SLP took out of context. Business is business.
Because expropriation in advanced capitalist democracies never made sense, the masses stayed out of parties of expropriation in droves, petty bourgeois elements running in and making small businesses out of them, creating bureaucratic structures operating in secrecy, and censoring their members. Competing business are all that parties of expropriation will ever be in this country, while the good talent going to waste advocating expropriation could just as easily advocate eliminating competition between workers for scarce jobs, just as Engels in his youth (1844) suggested.
When corporations want to maximize their profits and executive salaries, they create bureaucratic hierarchies that operate in secrecy, and censor their workers. When progressives and leftist communities put together parties and programs for expropriating the property of the rich, or for taxing the rich, progressives and leftists also create bureaucratic hierarchies that operate in secrecy and censor their membership. The labor movement that organizes to create an artificial shortage of labor that will drive wages up and put everyone to work will challenge the world to logically refute its program in an uncensored press, and will use the same press to openly negotiate and carry out every important detail of its organizational procedures.
About Stalin inaugurating the lower stage of socialism in 1936 - that may very well be something that Stalin claimed, but it has to be as much of a joke as Bakunin abolishing the state in Lyons, because I don't think that various stages of evolution of society can be arrived at by mere proclamation. When you consider that the DOTP, according to Marx, was supposed to be the result of proletarians pushing newly formed democratic republics through to proletarian dictatorship, that event could only have happened in Russian history in Oct. 1917, a few months after the establishment of the Kerensky bourgeois republic. With regard to state power, I can't recall anything in Russia in 1936 happening on the scale of either Feb. or Oct. 1917. Can you?
What you wrote about the existence of classes necessitating class rule, I couldn't agree with you more. Democratic vs. dictatorial makes a lot of difference to workers, however. If Bolsheviks claimed that their CP was the form of proletarian dictatorship in Russia, I wonder what Marx would have said about that. If the Commune was a proletarian dictatorship, as Engels claimed, but if the International played only a small part in the Commune, then there is no way that the Bolsheviks could righteously claim that the CP was the legitimate form of proletarian dictatorship in Russia. I think that we can be of like mind on this issue so far. I can't help but agree with everything you wrote with regard to the lack of proletarian control of the state, party and economy in Russia.
The only place we might disagree a little will be the extent to which capitalist rule in the USA is totalitarian, i.e., excluding the legitimate democratic aspirations of the working class. I think, on the other hand, that capitalist rule here is by default, in that there is, as yet, no contest on a class-wide scale; conditions here having been so good for so long that there have been few clear class distinctions around which a class-conscious working class movement would have to arise. Kind of like how Marx and Engels likened the state in the USA to nothing less than anarchy, especially in the Wild, Wild West, where the state barely existed until the end of the 19th century. Considering how much abuse people can take before squawking, it took a much longer period of time than what M+E would ever have imagined for us to finally put together a labor party based on the unions. We are so immature, in spite of the economic disparities.
The little excrescences that we have known up to now in this country, including the excrescence we were a part of a generation ago, pale before what will eventually be created, a party that will be based on putting everyone to work, will be based on ending the Darwinian struggle for existence by recognizing the right of everyone to play a part in the economy, enforcing that right by eliminating competition for scarce jobs, by the best method of all - more worker and environment friendly than all the others - higher overtime premiums and shorter hours. Debated out of existence will be any remnant of the petty-bourgeois demands of the past, i.e., taxing the rich to create a benevolent state, or robbing the rich of their property.
The movement that I am increasingly inclining toward lately is toward a double-time overtime premium, the realization of which relies not a bit on the government or politicians to enact (to begin with), for all that workers would have to do in order to act in solidarity with the unemployed and the homeless is to walk out at the end of 40 hours, unless and until the bosses offer them double time. A twenty year old study has revealed that a double time premium in itself would reduce unemployment by 1-2%, would encourage the hiring and training of new workers, and would discourage bosses from spending valuable $ paying people overtime at the much more expensive double time rate. One can figure as well that the reason people today are working 50, 60, 70 and more hours per week is that time and a half has ceased to be the disincentive to keeping people working overtime that it was intended to be 56 years ago, for what with all of the present competition for scarce jobs, wages are already quite low, and time and a half times something that's very low is not going to be out of the range of affordability for the boss.
It was only a year and a half ago that I was quite an advocate of the thirty hour week, but, in my greater maturity, I realize that the reason that the 40 hour week no longer works is that time and a half no longer provides a large enough disincentive to keeping people working long hours. I'll never come close to advocating '30 for 40', a very unscientific and redundant slogan, considering that wages would not go down at all if hours were shortened, and instead would go up. One can pretty easily figure out that '30 for 40' would be much more happily granted than double time, for time and a half would still be little disincentive to working people far beyond 30 hours, and they would continue to work 40, 50, 60, 70 hours and beyond with only a marginally increased expense. My niece's husband put in a 100 hour week last year, which points out the need to put teeth in the 40 hour law. He would probably never work beyond 50 hours a week if his bosses had to pay him double time after 40 hours a week. A hundred hour week at time and a half over 40 would cost the bosses 130 hours of pay, a hundred hour week at time and a half after 30 hours would cost 135 hours of pay, whereas a hundred hour week at double time over 40 would cost 160 hours of pay, and a hundred hour week at double time over 30 would cost 170 hours of pay. So, double time is definitely of greater disincentive than time and a half, and is of much greater effect than a thirty-hour week. I'm designing a button to help push a double time movement.
It wasn't easy for me to give up on the struggle to dump capitalism. I was as convinced of that necessity as a lot of other SIU advocates, but, as my ms. states, I was more against capitalism than I was for the SIU, and when I used to wrap WP's with old SLP stalwart Bob McC. 20 years ago, I was amazed when he said after listening to some of my critiques of A.P., "Well, let's not do this if it isn't any good", indicating that he had far shakier convictions than what I ever would have suspected any SLP type as having. In my agitation, I used to be far happier critiquing the effects of capitalism than advocating the alternative to it, which I could never put over in a convincing way, for I could never convince myself. I don't know how I ever convinced Section Boston to admit me, but I was glad they did, and I was captivated by Henning Blomen's stories for many months before I joined the NO. As I explain in the ms., I wondered why the SLP would take me as a member, not being a firebrand persuader of others to socialism, and, with my negative attitude to 'agitation', was barely good enough to hand out leaflets on street corners, equating such activity with what I suspected was what nut cases do, and was embarrassed to then have to do the same. I have a long history of feeling like I didn't have much credibility to my name, and leafleting on the street never added to my feeling of self worth. I never thought I had much going for me but my physical size, which prevented me from being bullied around by too many others, and the fact that I could occasionally add 2+2 to arrive at 4. I never worked any more than what I could get away with, never saving a dime with but few exceptions, and always spent them before they could gather any dust, while I watched all of my friends acquire land and money. I couldn't find the energy to do much more than bum around and follow unproductive whims.
So I thought, why would the SLP ever accept me? I was even afraid at a very early stage that I might do something to make them sorry, that too much responsibility would be put on me that I wouldn't be able to handle, and that I would somehow do more damage than good. I dreaded really messing up somehow when I was around them, and felt so inadequate going to the nerve center at the NO to help them move to Palo Alto, and yet I was so curious as to what went on at the nerve center of a revolutionary party that my curiosity overcame my desire to benevolently neglect to help them. On the other hand, I also figured that if they were dumb enough to ask my help, then maybe they would deserve what they got. And yet, the last thing that I wanted was to do them any harm, and so I walked around on eggshells for a long time.
I shipped out so many leaflets that first year at the NO, and I kept on thinking what a waste it all was, that no one was going to have their minds changed by a piece of paper handed out on a street corner by a nut. I was so glad that, by the time the end of '75 came around, the membership was sufficiently burned out by not getting any results from the leafleting blitz that they never ordered too many more after that, in spite of the many exhortations of the NS to leaflet for the sake of saving and rejuvenating the Party. And it wasn't too long after that I found out that he didn't even believe in what he was doing, and that the problems in the Party started a long time before A.P. became the boss. I was afraid to ask when the problems started in the Party, for I was too afraid to learn something that would change my outlook on it. I wanted to imagine it forever being that marvelous institution that changed my way of looking at life, and lifted me out of a long depression, so I was afraid to ask difficult questions and hardly ever did, even though my concern and curiosity over why the Party was so small was a consuming interest that burned in my mind. But, I feared opening Pandora's box, or opening a can of worms that I would never be able to get back in the can.
So, when I found that A.P. had taken quotes out of context to rationalize his SIU, then my curiosity was satisfied, and I knew why the Party would never become as big and strong as it always said it wanted to be. Knowing the shameful truth shattered all of my dreams and hopes, like the revolution betrayed, and I suddenly felt like I was part of the counter-revolution. Though I was ready to walk out at that same moment, I couldn't really afford to, having spent all my money as though I was going to be in the Party for a long, long time. I also had the feeling that I was never going to be allowed by the 'powers that be' to confront the whole Party with the fraud that had been perpetrated against them. The K.s could see what was coming and made sure that I got censored on the Section floor so that I could never legally bring up the question of fraud before the rest of the Party. I learned too late that I was the employee of the NEC, not the NS, and so I never pursued an appeal to the NEC. The thought of working around the scum who so brazenly censored me while I pursued an appeal to the NEC did not appeal to me at all, however, so I threw in the towel. I just did not have the strength or support for that amount of torture. How could a workers' party do that kind of thing to one of its own? Could what they have to offer to workers possibly have any value at all? Unless they never were a workers' party to begin with. They knew what they were doing when they censored me, and if they didn't know, they sure did after I sent them the manuscript in '92, but I have yet to get an apology. After what they did, how could what they stand for be anything better than a bourgeois scam, and when did it start? Was it AP, De Leon, Engels, or Marx?
I don't think that Marx would have willfully given workers a program that is unlikely to be implemented, but history may not have proceeded far enough in his day to enable Marxists back then to detect what was going to happen in this century, and the past few years of activity in the socialist bloc has clearly shown that some corrective measures to the theory must be applied in order to rectify its mistakes. I don't think of this so much as a tragedy as much as an opportunity to recognize that the theoretical work of the left is not yet finished, and that there is some joyous work ahead for us. As you know, Marxists claim that we went from primitive communism to slavery to feudalism to capitalism, and predict that we will go on to socialism and then classless, stateless society. I don't think that there is much argument with this theory of progression of social systems among the broadest portions of the millions (and billions) who have been affected by socialist theory, though some sects like the SLP (who only think they know better) may argue with it, and try to diminish the difference between socialism and communism. But, the "Critique of the Gotha Program" could not be more clear about how Marx thought society is supposed to get to classless, stateless society, i.e., through proletarian dictatorship beginning simultaneously in the most advanced capitalist countries, a dictatorship which a billion Europeans and Asians identify with the word socialism, due to the influence of Lenin. If a thousand or ten thousand people in this country were influenced enough by the SLP to think that socialism is classless, stateless society, they are outnumbered by the billion who think that proletarian dictatorship - or, in western democracies, state ownership of any kind - is socialism. Having proven to myself that the SLP got to its conclusion through sheer fraud and quotes knowingly taken out of context, I am more than willing to concur with the billion or more people who think of socialism along the lines of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Ho Chi Minh, for trying to convince a billion people that they are wrong does no one any good, and does not bring the revolution a second closer. But I doubt if there'll ever be another revolution here, for we've already had ours.
Here's a recruiting conversation that you'll recognize:
'Marxist': Socialism is the answer.
'Dummy': They already tried that and it didn't work.
'Marxist': No they didn't, for they didn't have real socialism in those countries.
'Dummy': Yes they did. The next thing you'll be telling me, 'we don't have democracy in the USA.'
'Marxist': How did you guess I was going to say that?
This is the kind of crap I used to peddle in my early days of Party involvement, and you see where it got me. If revolutionaries cannot talk on the same wavelength as the man on the street, they're cause is as doomed as if they just came right out and said that they are a member of a party of confiscation.
Marx predicted that socialist revolutions would happen first and simultaneously in the most advanced capitalist countries, and if they had, that would have been consistent with the Marxist theory of progression from feudalism to capitalism to socialism, but socialist expropriation happened first in a backward country - Russia - only a few months after the overthrow of the Romanov Dynasty, and very much in accordance with the scenario that Marx predicted for lower and middle class alliances to overthrow feudal monarchies, and for the lower classes to push the resulting democratic republics on through to proletarian dictatorship. Remember what they used to say in the heyday of the First International, that 'middle class republics had become impossible on the continent of Europe', because the middle classes arming the lower classes to overthrow feudal monarchies would cause the reds in the armed lower classes to push the resultant middle class republics through to 'proletarian' dictatorship. I still wonder what drove Bolsheviks to join up with Lenin, what was in it for them, as opposed to joining up with the other parties. What study has been done on their motivations?
The first socialist expropriation didn't happen after overthrowing several advanced capitalist democracies simultaneously as Marx predicted it would, but if his program of expropriation had been worth anything, it would have been easier to implement in advanced capitalist countries than in backward countries, for then the progression of systems would have been consistent with the predicted progression from feudalism to capitalism to socialism. On the contrary, the Russian transition in this century from feudalism to socialism to capitalism has shown that the era of socialist expropriation is better described as having fallen between feudalism and capitalism, and it happened in that sequence because socialist expropriation would not have been possible after mere socialist electoral victories in democracies, but was easy enough after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating colonies, for, after helping to overthrow and liberate, socialists had the kind of physical force in their hands, the guns, etc., with which to push the resulting new republics through to proletarian, or, rather, socialist dictatorships, under the influence of which force expropriation could be accomplished. History has proven the enormous amount of physical force required to rip off the property of the rich. The SLP theory of 'peaceful revolution' took a tremendous blow after 1917, when the Civil War in Russia began, and it was proven just how hard the rich were willing to fight to retain their property. After winning mere elections in European Social-Democracies, however, the kind of physical force that is required to rip off the rich was never at hand, as proven by the history of elections of socialists and communists to parliamentary seats, their enactment of reforms in the interests of the lower classes, but their inability to rip off the property of the rich.
If expropriation had ever been worth anything to workers in advanced capitalist democracies, expropriation would have been easier to implement here than it was in backward countries, where most of the people, except for a few extremists, recognize socialist expropriation as having happened first. In backward economies, where peasants may or may not own the land they till, means of production are on the primitive side, surpluses barely exist, and production is not carried on with the degree of cooperation enjoyed in advanced capitalist countries. Expropriation of latifundia from oligarchs can make sense there, along with the struggle for political democracy, whereas shorter hours for peasants in rice paddies and fields may not exactly be what they're interested in fighting for. While redistribution of land and democracy can be of value to peasants in backward countries, expropriation of land and factories in advanced capitalist democracies has never been worth very much to workers, so workers in advanced capitalist countries did not indulge in expropriation, and instead fought for the kinds of reductions in hours and overtime, and improvements in benefits, all of which make good sense in highly productive and cooperative economies. Expropriation is as meaningless for workers in advanced capitalist democracies as shorter hours in backward countries are for peasants who don't own anything much fancier than oxen and plows, and who do not cooperate with each other to produce in the manner of agricultural wage slaves, or as factory workers. But, since backward economies will soon be as technologically advanced as we are, as automation makes inroads into hitherto unimaginable spheres of production, sharing what little work that remains for humans to do among all workers will become higher in priority in backward countries than what it does now, and what it once might have, so the question of expropriation in backward countries will soon become as meaningless to workers there is it is here, if it isn't already. What keeps us from sharing the work more evenly is our own individual selfish habits of behaving as though we were still in a Darwinian struggle for existence, which selfish habits will disappear when we are finally forced to share, lest we witness even greater starvation and misery in the midst of the potential for more than enough for everyone. I don't know what it could be other than selfishness that could explain why we don't even talk about sharing the work more equitably, do you?
Another major problem with taking away the property of the rich, though, is that there is no clear distinction between who is rich and who is only middle class, and whatever line that gets drawn in the sand with regard to who gets expropriated is bound to be fraught with error and injustice. Compare the impossibility of being anything more than arbitrary with regard to the quantity of property, or the amount to tax the upper classes, to instead saying that work beyond 40 hours per week will be compensated at double time in order to discourage overwork, to encourage a fairer distribution of work, and as a beginning to make a dent in unemployment, poverty and homelessness. Quantities like 40, 8, and double time are very easily defined and enforced, for around those sharply defined numbers, with a lot of tradition around two of them, there can be little quibbling. It is, without doubt, the number of hours of work beyond those representing the value of our wages is what makes the rich as rich as they are, and instead of lusting after property, reducing hours of labor should be what workers should interest themselves in, for hours spent working is easier to organize ourselves to affect, and we can even initiate shorter hours and higher overtime premiums by walking out at the end of 40 hours, and without any need to call in the force of the state. Compare the piddling amount of force required to later on enforce shorter hours to that required in history to expropriate, and you will see what I mean. In our Constitution can be found guarantees of the right to accumulate property, but no guarantee of an 8-hour job, nor of any kind of a job, the Jeffersonian image of a broad mass of peasants working the land supposedly guaranteeing all of the social, economic and political justice that anyone at the time would ever want. Forty acres and a mule meant more to American peasants than a lot of other things. Everything must be put in its correct historical, political and economic perspective, and we must adopt tactics that are appropriate to our own modes of production, no matter where in the world we are. Expropriation of latifundia just might be appropriate to some other countries; I don't know, for I don't live there, but I support it when it makes good sense in theory for the other countries.
Another major problem with expropriation is that it would probably continue to be done the same way as in the past, i.e., a strong party would become the essence of the state, and expropriated wealth would not necessarily find its way into the hands of those who need it most. If anarchists insisted on abolishing the state, they would have to remain armed to prevent communist opportunists from coming to power. Expropriation would just bring more of the same old crap, and I don't recall workers ever overthrowing democracies due to exploitation of the proletariat. Is there a case?
In America, and in other advanced capitalist democracies, the peddling of expropriation as the only means of getting social justice increasingly turned into nothing less than a giant swindle that netted savvy ideological entrepreneurs a decent living. In America, we are seemingly helpless victims of ideological entrepreneurs who would have stood to win big if we ever were stupid enough to help them fulfill their agendas of expropriation, whether it's through a workers' state, through taxing the upper classes to create a benevolent state, or through abolishing the state and expropriating through one big union. Whether it's communism, socialism or anarchism, it's as useless to us here as shorter hours would have been to peasants in backward countries in the last century, and even to our own uniform mass of peasants of yesteryear. Opportunists would exploit lower class anger to orchestrate themselves into positions of power, after which they would be only too glad to betray the interests of those who put them in power, which happened far too often in history, the Bolsheviks having repeated the same betrayals as so many bourgeois revolutionists before them. I sometimes wonder what kind of class interests exist behind parties that promote unlikely schemes of overthrowing governments or rearranging property relations, for their promotion definitely works in the interests of hierarchies, while competition for scarce jobs is what's killing us as a class, and is the only thing that we can reasonably expect to change, for it is something that is going on within our own ranks, not outside our ranks, like the state and property, which makes those things almost too remote for us to influence in our admitted disorganizational weakness. To find the issue around which lower classes could organize is truly a holy grail of some sort, but a party that ran on the platform of collectivization, no matter how violently or peacefully it allegedly could be accomplished, would never enjoy the status of anything more than a small sect, like the SLP, in a country in which private property is the national religion. It is all tied together, everything about rotten, corrupt and censorious bureaucracies watching for their own financial interests, calling themselves anarchist, socialist and communist, offering little of value to the working class as a whole, operating in secrecy, and preventing civilized debate within their own ranks about the evolution of society. What's worse, as in a piece of propaganda from the CP that I read over the air, they sometimes point out that it takes less time than ever to create necessities of life, and that we are spending more time than ever making the bosses rich and the government powerful, but instead of concluding the obvious, that we need shorter hours to cut down on the surplus values, they instead conclude that we need socialism! What a stinking CP swindle! And you know what kind of socialism they want, certainly not the kind that you want, so it's better for radicals to give up on wanting socialism at all, so they won't have to spend the rest of their lives fighting over what socialism means.
Our Party was making money marketing its own ideology, and they treated it like a product as much as the CP did. The whole thing about pushing competing ideologies is so bourgeois, for it is a real struggle in the contest for hegemony in the marketplace of ideas, so many of which ideas are worthless to the lower classes, but with all too few takers for the likes of ideological bureaucrats. Pushing ideologies is superfluous to putting people to work. The bankruptcy of the left is a perfect reflection of the very same characteristics in the greed-driven, business-minded right wing that sees labor as just another commodity to be exploited. The right sucks labor's physical substance, while the left sucks out its brains, and, as long as I was shipping out leaflets and literature before I smartened up, I was as much an unwitting part of the problem as the K.s were witting agents. The K.s and the B.s, to me, rank up there with Oliver North and Elliot Abrams. After I smartened up, but still did my job, I considered myself to be as witting an agent of upper class interests as the K.s and the B.s, but I had no intention of making a career of spreading their lies.
All the talk from both the extreme right and left ends of the ideological spectrum about America being a fascist or neo-fascist state is ideological nonsense, and is designed to get gullible people to smash this alleged fascist state, so as to elevate ideological opportunists to power. People here know that we have a democracy, and that their votes have an effect in many cases. They are not about to give democracy up for the sake of stomping the rich, who put a lot more people to work, and give workers a lot more money, than do ideologues who are just as intellectually and morally bankrupt, if not more, in a lot of cases (such as the SLP), than the most detested politicians and plutocrats. The reason that the bourgeoisie were revolutionaries was because they had the means with which to put people to work, whereas the present purveyors of 'isms are incapable of any more than sucking substance from workers. The K.s and the B.s are guilty of doing what they can to prevent workers from knowing what they need in order to elevate themselves. The lies that the K.s and the B.s help spread, and the new ones that they tell, only perpetuate the superexploitation of the poor.
I still wonder if anyone ever translated the Neue Zeit into English. Mike L. gave me a bucket of worms to unravel, but my reply seems to have stopped him in his tracks, for he hasn't replied yet. I hope you had a nice vacation from the debate, and hope you can prove me wrong. I'm a monster on the loose. Stop me!!!
September 02, 1996
Thanks for the info on IWW membership, and for clearing up the distinction between party membership and paid office-holding in a party, but I wonder if I could handle any more memberships at this time. I'm working to sway the new Labor Party over to my perspective, without much success, of course, but, having the chance to work with real old-fashioned laborites in a brand new entity is somewhat of a kick, and is quite a different situation compared to working with overt revolutionaries, whose asses get kicked over and over again in the LP. Being in the LP broadens the experience, and things happen at times that are truly educational.
All of my reasons for no longer being a revolutionary are pretty well lain out in my old correspondence, there being no feudal monarchy to have to overthrow in the USA, no revolution having occurred yet in the world due to exploitation of the proletariat, and nothing stopping us from putting everyone to work, which is what really needs to be done in this country and the rest of the world.
With regard to eotp (as opposed to DOTP), I am working on a bit of history that perhaps you might already have a perspective on. It seems that in the days of ancient slavery, slaves didn't get much more than means of subsistence in exchange for the product of their labor, of which product they received nothing, unless they got compensated in kind, as is conceivable in agriculture. In feudal times, serfs split the product of their labor with their landlord, but, as you probably know, they only worked half to two-thirds of the year and had lots of holidays. I wonder how artisans got compensated, unless they bartered their products for food and other stuff. Under capitalism, workers give up all that they produce in exchange for the price of their labor power, i.e., the market-modified quantity of services and goods required to produce and reproduce labor power. I believe that's how it could be described scientifically.
One thing that differentiates capitalism from previous systems is that we now have such abundances of raw materials piled up in warehouses waiting to be processed that it pays bosses to keep workers at work every second of every day, whereas previous systems of production had no such abundances of raw materials waiting to be processed, and therefore made no extraordinary demands on every moment of a slave's, serf's or artisan's existence. The point here is that capital not only takes all, or nearly all, of products away from producers, but it also gobbles up every second of their existence as well, especially if workers allow capital to sap their entire substance. Hence, the modern struggle for limits to the length of the working day, whereas the total rip-off of the product of labor has been accepted and coped with for a far longer historical period of time than the existence of capitalism. A corollary of that theory might be: Workers may have to find a way to take care of the inroads on every second of their existence before the age-old problem of the rip-off of the product of labor can be addressed with any kind of finality. Secondly, shorter hours seem to be irrelevant to producers in more primitive modes of production. What do you think? Am I on to anything here? A correct analysis will have a lot to do with what tactics we adopt, so your input is very important here.
I could tell from what you wrote about abolishing wage slavery and the rule of capital that you are a real revolutionary, but, do you remember what Engels wrote in 1845, and what I reproduced in my letter of March?
"The working-men cannot attack the bourgeoisie, and with it the whole existing order of society, at any sorer point then this. If the competition of the workers among themselves is destroyed, if all determine not to be further exploited by the bourgeoisie, the rule of property is at an end."
The only point that I would add here is that we don't need a revolution to abolish competition among ourselves, which abolition, according to Engels, would suffice to put an end to the rule of property. On what grounds would you differ with Engels?
"Marx did not construct a two-stage dogma in which the social revolution would have to march" is what you wrote, but then you quite accurately reiterated his two-stage dogma, and, in this case, I would use the word dogma, for society did not evolve anywhere near the way Marx predicted for reasons explained in other letters having to do with whether the amount of force required to redistribute property would be at hand or not. The reasons why anarchism was so good at competing with Marxism was because Marx's prediction of how society was likely to evolve was so far off the mark. I think that, in Marx's mind, the transition to communism by means of proletarian dictatorship was the only way in which he could imagine society evolving, as evidenced by real activity in the lower classes. Hence his lifelong attachment to the notion of workers' state power, from the Communist Manifesto onwards, and to his constant critique of trades union mentality, what with the concerns of trade union leaders limited to shorter hours and higher wages, things that Marx also supported, but which he felt didn't go far enough. One can get the most wonderful clues as to what's really important by reading M+E, viz., some of the things that they gave relatively less value to. It makes you wonder if M+E weren't motivated by the egotistical satisfaction of 'knowing' what was good for workers better than they did, and so must have hated being out-led by mere labor leaders. And with all of M+E's volumes about surplus value of all types, much more verbiage than about politics, it's a total wonder why they didn't just advocate shorter hours. Were they blinded by jealousy? They certainly knew that working long and hard was what made the bosses rich, and that the labor market was what caused the price of labor to fall above or below its value, and that the prerequisite for lower class freedom was a shorter work week. What ever could have gotten in the heads of people who made such great contributions toward understanding the system under which we live that would have caused them to think that workers' state power in the service of ripping off the rich was the best way to get to nirvana?
Marx also said that workers in democracies can get what they want by peaceful means. But, peaceful rip-off of means of production? On what planet? We couldn't even outlaw the right to own other people in this country without civil war, so change ownership of means of production by means of reform, and without violence? De Leon and A.P. could see the impossibility of that one, which made them revolutionaries, so what kind of drugs was Marx on? So much fails to add up in the Marxist scenario, if it really is theirs, that one sometimes has to wonder what the communists did to Marxism. So much mystery, so little clarity. I wish I could devote the rest of my life to studying obscure texts from the last century. Send money, and I will. Lots of money.
I noticed that you prefer to differ with Lenin on the definition of socialism, but that's OK, as long as you are willing to admit that you are differing with various theorists when you do differ. We all know that Marx and Engels were communists and socialists, but it's too bad that they never defined the terms for us, and left it to Lenin to fill in the vacuum. One of the major ways in which the SLP lied was in saying that Marx taught that workers should not use the state, and instead should abolish it, whereas an essential part of both Marx's Social-Democratic and overthrow theories were 'the use of the state by the workers'. It seems to me that the Marxist scenario of 'society moving toward proletarian dictatorship', faulty as it is, requires such an enormous qualitative and quantitative change in consciousness that I cannot imagine Marx and Engels continuing to call the era of proletarian dictatorship 'capitalism', even though it is clear from the Communist Manifesto that capitalist relations of production could still exist during that era. Calling it capitalism, though, would be quite anti-climactic, as if nothing of importance had happened, which is exactly how the renegade A.P. portrayed it, whereas it was an incredibly important step, a precondition, in the Marxist scenario, on the way to abolishing the wages system, and would therefore be worthy of a moniker of greater prestige than 'capitalism'. Engels called the Paris Commune a proletarian dictatorship, though I don't recall him calling it socialism, or even socialistic, the International playing such a small part in what really could best be described as the defense of the new French Third Republic, which the International overwhelmingly supported. As much as M+E might have charged the anarchists with having tried to 'claim the Commune for their own', M+E might have been guilty enough of the very same charge if they overstated the amount of proletarian or socialist consciousness behind the Commune.
You are right about the amount of consciousness required to expropriate the capitalists. Lots and lots of it. Workers could not consciously reject expropriation of the capitalists when they don't even think about it in the first place. When's the last time even the Wobblies considered going out the next day and expropriating? Wobblies are most likely just trying to ensure that workers have a chance to join and maintain unions, if the activities described in the Industrial Worker are any indication of activities. If not even Wobblies are plotting expropriation, then it seems to me that revolutionaries must be light-years away from expropriating. Think about all of the people who would have to be converted to going along with expropriation as well. It seems like a daunting task to me, much like the SLP scenario. Too few revolutionaries, too many more immediate problems, like overwork, underwork, pollution, clearcutting, corruption, union-busting, even Pacifica consulting with a union busting firm, etc. The age-old question arises for activists, what to do first?
And then, of course, comes the question of what to do in some kind of crisis. Wobblies know what to do, of course, and so will the SLP know what to do; and so will the Trots, the Commies, the Maoists, and all of the rest. They all know what to do, but each group has different ideas from the others, and there's the rub. Will they be able to decide on some common revolutionary plan, or will they end up fighting among themselves over incompatible plans, like the bourgeoisie want them to do? With such enormous and irreconcilable differences between them as to what to do, I think that the defeat of all of them is inevitable, and will it be bitter! On the other hand, we could just start following Engels' advice now, and there wouldn't even be a crisis. Just peace, brotherly love and contentment in our time.
Appealing to labor to be more conscious of their rip-off, and appealing to labor to consider tactics that supposedly would enable them to get the whole kit and caboodle, seems to me an appeal to the selfishness of the working class. I don't know if I ever ran into a real worker who ever wanted any more than a living wage, or a higher wage, and the time with which to enjoy it. I remember GM workers recently complaining about forced overtime, and I could imagine them benefiting from an overtime premium high enough to economically discourage bosses from keeping them beyond 40 hours per week. I doubt if 'kit and caboodle' will appeal to those with full time jobs and are living a 'middle class' existence. Neither will it appeal to those who are underemployed and who wish they could get by on what little work they have, or who wish they could get a little more work.
If my advocacy of higher overtime premiums and shorter hours is all to the good, then is there anything that I'm doing wrong? I am telling the truth as I have seen it unravel in front of me as I proceed down life's paths. What more can I do?
Sometimes, when I think about the difficulties of getting us to do anything in terms of shorter hours and higher overtime premiums, I think about a compromise such as starting out with time and a half over forty, and double time over fifty to discourage the most egregious examples of overwork. Anything at all in this direction would be something to build on, but I've lately been disappointed in attitudes within the ranks of labor on the subject of putting scabs to work, many unionists falling into line with what the pigs want us to do, namely, fight among ourselves, worker against scab, scab against worker, the lower classes desperately fighting among themselves for scarce jobs. The bosses will never lose as long as we fight like we do in our own ranks, and I have seen little to nothing in lower class literature advocating compassion for scabs, and only lip service to the problems of the underemployed. The powers that be in the Labor Party seem to want the state to take care of the forgotten classes. It's all an uphill battle.
As mentioned before, I also do not think that leaders taking state power for the masses would do them much good on any level, for what they desperately need is to merely stop fighting among themselves for the opportunity to make the rich richer. If there is a general strike someday due to some atrocity somewhere, we should make sure that when people do go back to work, they take care of the least advantaged and act in solidarity with the underemployed by refusing any overtime that is not compensated at a higher premium rate.
Two theories of the state: SLP asserts that Marx later on modified his theories to allow for the possibility of 'peaceful revolution' in countries with advanced means of production, like England and the USA. That corresponds with Marx's real theories of violent revolution in monarchies, pushing the resulting republics through to proletarian dictatorship, and, on the other hand, workers in democracies 'getting what they want' without violence, neither of which theories rely upon relative development of means of production, but, instead, are differences relying totally on political conditions in various countries. A big SLP distortion of Marx's revolutionary theories. Comments?
I'm keeping this note nice and short because I don't think you want to handle too many major manuscripts. With family and other commitments, perhaps you don't have time to reciprocate with a more complete response, so it might be best if I don't burden you with polemics you cannot engage in. It looks like M.L. has dropped out, though Monroe keeps plugging away, though it is hard to keep him on point.
Till next time, don't work too hard. We're getting too old for that. And, never-ending thanks for the continued feedback.
October 31, 1996
Things in the LP continue to be educational. So many of the members are ideologues of some sort, Trotskyism, or statism of some sort being the main currents, I would guess. Very few of us are not ideological. I collaborate fairly well with a non-affiliated laborite and an anarchist-minded NO-BAWC anarchist who promotes cooperative and collective ownership of local businesses.
The LP has a 32 hr week with double time in the platform that was adopted at the Convention in June, so I feel almost at home in this party. I also sometimes worry that the measures will just turn into mere fixtures that no one will want to do much about, nor want to advance any much more than the rest of the program, which is quite an ordinary mishmash of social-democratic political reforms, like affirmative action, campaign reform, etc. Some Laborites also strongly want to pursue their own election to office, as if electing Joe Blows to office would, by itself, do much to put everyone to work. We are a party of full employment, but many want a repeat of the New Deal to accomplish that, even though there is insufficient political will for it in the country (thank goodness), for it would use up so much energy as to be ecologically unsound. From what I've seen of my fellow Laborites, I wonder, if they got elected, if many of them would be that much different from many other politicians. Not many would use much ideological language, though we did have a number of revolutionaries who, for the most part, have gone back to unions like AFSCME, SEIU, or the revolutionary parties from whence they came, leaving our meetings to more Democratic Party types, or more patient ones.
I'm interested in helping to encourage big May and Labor Day marches in S.F. for next year, emphasizing the effects of competition for scarce jobs, such as: low wages, immorality, prostitution to the money-bags, environmental devastation, poverty, lack of affordable health care, crime, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, worker and public safety, workers' control, and you name it. Sharing work may be quite a reasonable issue around which to bring labor and the left into a giant coalition. I'd like to see a quarter mill on May Day, a half mill on Labor Day, and in '98, 5 million marching on Washington for May Day, with a million pledging to sit around until Congress does something real about bringing every worker under the protection of the FLSA, and also implementing a plan to make overtime much more expensive to the bosses, as an expression of our disgust with wasteful competition for scarce jobs. 111 years after Haymarket, and there are still plenty of reasons to be carrying a banner for the 8-hour day, especially in California, where time and a half after 8 is under attack.
I've been reading a book that you might also have in your library at Stanfoo. It's called "Work without End", by Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt. He makes it quite clear that society had the choice in the 20's either to continue to take advantage of increasing productivity, and continue a century long tendency to shorten hours of labor a few percent per decade, or whether to push consumerism, installment plans, and gov't spending. The rest is history. In the 20's, the bosses refused to go along with shorter hours any more. Even though the unions warned them of impending disaster, bosses held fast, not doing much more than pursue consumerism until the social unrest of the 30's forced the government into public spending. In just four years, from '29 to '33, average weekly hours of labor fell by 15 per week, from 48 to 33, inspiring the AFL to demand a 30-hour week, and inspiring about half of the businesses to voluntarily cut back on hours in order to save jobs. To the greedier bosses, however, anything was better than allowing workers more leisure time than what they were already getting. The book makes clear that society had a choice, but the bosses chose profits for themselves, and slavery for us. Do we have the balls to re-examine their decision, or is prostitution to the money-bags the only habit we will ever know?
Putting the upper classes to work always seemed to me more like a wish than a practical measure. Assuring a job to everyone who wants one is quite enough for me, and is more compatible with common dreams of freedom. Unlike A.P., I don't want to be anyone's jailer. Besides, until hours of labor get closer to zero in the future, we will need upper classes to put us workers to work. Do you remember why workers followed the revolutionary capitalist classes into battle to create democratic republics? It was because the capitalists had the means to put workers to work, and that's what made workers loyally follow their bosses, which they still do. On the other hand, what means do socialists have to put people to work? None that I know of, unless socialists can successfully rip off the property of the rich, put it in their own hands, and put out a help-wanted sign; so, without a following of workers, and without a leadership that is capable of providing jobs, socialists are not going to be able to merrily lead workers down a path to revolution. In America, there is only lower-class misery to revolt against, which is an insufficient reason, considering how much ordinary people are willing to blame the poor for their poverty. If, on the other hand, we were still a colony of England, or if we were a monarchy that brutally repressed revolutionary sentiment, we would then have good reasons for being revolutionary. Revolution in a democracy is a historical absurdity, at least until now. Remember what Marx said at the 1872 Hague Congress.
Another trouble with the left is a relative lack of a sense of a moral order, whereas the right has a well-defined sense of a moral order. George Lakoff gave a powerful presentation at Cody's recently about moral orders, and his latest book gives us some real tools to work with. I am personally appalled by the lack of a moral perspective within the left on the subject of putting the working class to work, not even able to make a priority of doing so, fighting for just about everything but. Maybe it's because so much of the left is employed, and if others don't have their jobs, then maybe it's their own fault. Maybe the left, being a scrappy bunch, knows how to compete for scarce jobs. But, I remain appalled that they are more interested in revolution, fighting the right, affirmative action, and any number of causes that don't do a thing to ensure that everyone has a chance to make a living, as if the state has to be smashed, or property confiscated, before we can put everyone to work. But, since Hunnicutt's book makes it quite clear (without even saying so) that our history has been stolen from us, the answer to my question just might lie with the ignorance of the left in general, the fact that they, like so many others in this country, have not taken, or made any, time to learn history, perhaps preferring Nightline or movies instead. Or, more likely, they were so impressed with the ability of their forebears to seize property and state power after overthrowing monarchies and after liberating colonies, that seizing power and property are the only paths to social justice that they can imagine, which may be why they heap so much scorn on corporations and the state.
It's true that, like you say, the rate of profit would go down if we made the bosses put all of us to work, and, like you say, that's not nice. But, their manipulation of the economy to keep 5-6% of us unemployed, no matter how many jobs programs they give us with the other hand, is also not very nice. We would not be able to countenance all of the suffering within our ranks if a hell of a lot of us workers were not bought off. 'Whew! What a relief to have a job! Sure glad I'm not one of those who don't. I'd better keep my nose clean and not make too many waves.' How many people do you know who think like that?
With regard to raw materials, I concede that raw materials make little difference to the boss who turns them into finished products, and who only has to worry about selling the finished product. An appropriate time for raw materials to become an issue for the bosses is when raw materials are slow to come by, or sometimes get cut off altogether, and thus hold back or halt production of finished products. Back two centuries ago, before the age of abundance, I could imagine 'material shortages' being much more of an issue than it is now. We are so much more confidant about uninterrupted flows of material that 'just in time' deliveries prevent the need for warehousing inventory.
Thanks for the references on money and exchange in the old days. I have a lot of feudal lore to bone up on, no doubt. I discovered that we have the famous "Six Centuries of Work and Wages" in our U.C. Library, so maybe I'll crack it when I get off the Hunnicutt binge. It will do me good.
You wrote: 'By abolishing the wage system, we could remove the commodification of labor in order to destroy competition for scarce jobs.'
If we are supposed to organize enough of our ranks to revolt, it's hard to believe that organized workers would not first use the fact that we were organized to do the easier thing of ensuring us all adequate access to means of making a living, any grand step toward which would probably suffice to eliminate most talk of necessity of revolution. Job scarcity creates much of our revolutionary sentiment, which enables small businesses devoted to revolution to thrive. To the bourgeoisie, allowing incompatible revolutionary plans to compete in a free marketplace of ideas has to be a lot better for them than if workers organize to put all of themselves to work, and thereby reduce capitalist profits. It's a lot cheaper for the bosses to allow a few revolutionary parties to breathe flame. Bosses know that they have nothing to fear from revolutionaries, none of them capable of deciding whether to smash the state, or create a workers' state. If we can't decide about 'what kind of state', or 'no state', then why do revolutionaries try to do anything directly about the state?
'Abolishing wage-slavery is the proletariat's key to freedom'? Marx, in his 3rd Volume of Capital, p. 820, said that 'The prerequisite to the true realm of freedom is the shortening of the working-day.' On what basis would you differ with Marx, if you do? Of course, he talks of shortening the working day in the context of a task for 'socialized man', as though shortening hours is more appropriately done in the context of proletarian dictatorship. But, that was Marx's hang-up, for they certainly didn't need a proletarian dictatorship to pass 12, 10, and 9 hour laws in Marx's day in England.
The 'abolition of wage-slavery' certainly sounds like the negation of the negation, but why can't shorter hours be the synthesis? Or do we have to abolish private property and capitalism in order to abolish wage-slavery, and why? Capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction already, for, more than any other system, capitalism contains the incentive to put the whole working class out of work, and without workers, there can be no exploitation of labor, no profits. It's up to us whether we allow capitalism to abolish our access to means of life in a piecemeal fashion, i.e., worker by worker, and with lots of pain, starvation and homelessness for the individuals at the bottom of the totem pole, or whether we force capitalists (thru the state) to assure a decent living to us all for as long as economic incentives entice us to go to work for them. Most of us would rather work than starve, so we voluntarily look for, and most of us find others to work for. When it no longer is worth our while, we abstain. Some desperados in this country are willing to work for as little as $2/hour right now, and many of us allow them to do so while we avert our gaze, hoping that such degradation never has to happen to us. The nice part about the present crisis is that such degradation happens to more and more nice people every day. Every week, the banks repossess 500 family farms. Every year, labor gets more and more productive, and it takes less and less human labor to create the necessities of life, meaning that we spend more and more of our lives working not for ourselves, but for the bosses and the government. It is amazing that the Communist Party had a comparable analysis in one of its Worker's Worlds, but concluded that 'the solution to the problem of ever-increasing surplus values is socialism', instead of shorter hours! In other words, they took the hard data, they analyzed it, and came up with a 'solution' that was totally irrelevant to the premises they started out with! How and why do socialists do this? Maybe such a conclusion can appeal to the already converted, and can pacify nervous revolutionaries who constantly need to have propaganda organs buttress the minuscule confidence they have in their' isms of choice, but can such highfalutin conclusions ever be justified by scientific logic? Maybe only be twisting science, like the SLP did.
'The abolition of wage-slavery .... is .... the best guard against getting side-tracked and channeled by the ruling class ....'
Does this mean that, when Western workers went only so far as to demand and get more time for themselves, that they were only side-tracked off some allegedly more valid course of 'abolishing wage-slavery'? Once again, I am beginning to find the term 'abolition of wage-slavery' to be as ill-defined and subject to interpretation as the terms revolution, socialism, communism and anarchism. I think that the clearest and most obvious way to abolish wage-slavery is for everyone, for the rest of time, to go anywhere except to work, but who would then create and distribute the necessities of life? We would probably just starve, which doesn't sound like a good alternative.
If 'abolishing wage-slavery' is something that is more appropriately done in a five-minute operation, as what Mike L. and probably many others believe, and if it involves abolishing the right to own means of production, then just how many people can be signed up for this task, given popular American values that so many millions believe in? And what will be done about defectors from revolution like me, who have had quite enough with the bureaucracy, secrecy, censorship and lack of democracy practiced within revolutionary parties? I also intend to talk as many revolutionaries out of their revolutionism as I can, and I hope that my arguments will someday be logical enough to sway them. If revolutionaries cannot, or refuse to do the right thing by their own members, that has to prove in itself that there can be nothing moral about revolution, and that cadre must have a very badly developed sense of right and wrong, as in 'the end justifying the means'.
I guess that we would have to be pretty mad at the state in order to want to smash it, but so many more people than ever work for the state, which divides workers into a lot of defenders of the state that puts food on their tables, and who would not fight against it. Right there, revolution is beginning to sound yet more difficult. What is the statistic for people working for some kind of government entity now, as compared to a century ago? Percentage wise, it has to be an enormous increase.
With you, it seems to be 'commodification of labor', and with the News and Letters crew, with whom I have recently tried to start a dialogue, it is 'fetishism of the commodity', as though anyone (like myself) who can bear the thought of living one more second of his or her life with the institution of capitalism has to be a moral 'prevert' of some sort. On the other hand, the News and Letters crew think nothing ill of their own willingness to do nothing about the many more each day who get displaced from their jobs, or get thrown off the welfare rolls, because it is obvious that things will have to get worse before the revolution begins, so there is nothing wrong with standing idly by while things get worse, for it is all to the greater good of someday making the big break with capitalism and all of the dreaded commodification and fetishism that goes along with it. I used to be a purist also, and couldn't stand to have peas touch mashed potatoes on my dinner plate. But, things change, and the question is, am I more moral, or less moral, for my unabashed willingness to tolerate capitalism until the all-volunteer work-force makes private ownership redundant? Who knows?
You may not be aware that, during the Depression, when all of this was being debated at least as intensely as it is today, Arthur Dahlberg posited that capitalism would be just about an ideal system of production, if forced to operate under a scarcity of labor, and I think that he hit the nail right on the head.
Socialism was only a niche opportunity that never applied to countries like the USA, and it applies to fewer and fewer countries as all of them industrialize. Rapid increases in productivity is making labor redundant all over the globe. In their mad dash to make the rich richer and their governments more powerful, workers are racing themselves to the bottom of the heap, and are continually less able to afford the things they produce due to their willingness to accept lower and lower wages. To be pushing for a radical redistribution of property and wealth under American conditions is to forget what the history of socialism was all about.
It is to forget that the first step, as in the words of the 'Communist Manifesto', was to win the battle for democracy. In other words, to ally with the revolutionary middle classes get rid of feudal monarchies, to help establish a democratic republic, as in the first stage of the Paris Commune, and, under the right conditions, as Marx warned the Communards not to do in their own particular instance, to push the bourgeois democratic republics through to proletarian dictatorship, an event that would have applied to the Commune only if Germany and England had already gone along with French revolutionary sentiments, and had revolutions of their own.* It would be only then, under the circumstances of successful simultaneous revolutions in the most advanced countries, that workers would finally be able to go after the property of the rich. If history had gone that way instead of the way that it did, then ripping off the rich would have been the order of the day, which would have been just fine with me, and I probably would have been a lot happier to live under a revolutionary proletarian dictatorship in a Western country that paid a lot of attention to ecology, than in the capitalist swamp of ignorance, exploitation and fear that I seem to have barely survived.
* 2002 note: Sadly absent from my assessment of democratic tasks back then was 'the winning of universal suffrage'. The CD of Collected Works (obtainable only since 2001) revealed M+E's strong commitment to universal suffrage. (End of note.)
It is not unusual that revolutionaries do not understand this bit of world history, and for that reason, could never satisfactorily educate the workers who would need to obey revolutionary orders. Because revolution could never represent the interests of the masses in this democracy, the exploited masses stayed out of revolutionary movements in droves, and left the movements to petty-bourgeois interests to make bureaucratic, censorious and secretive businesses out of them. When I finally cracked the secret SLP recipe for revolution, and discovered that it bore no relation to the original recipe, and I wanted to tell the membership, I became persona non grata. No one else wanted to tell the world about the many ways in which the recipe had been secretly changed, for that would have opened the door to charging the old leadership with fraud, a fraud that the new leaders were helping to perpetuate. The revisionist recipe for socialism was selling as well as could be expected, there was nothing moral about revolution anyway, and many Americans like myself could be relied upon to try almost anything once, and a long train of suckers could be relied upon to come along and get milked at some point in their lives.
I think that you could admit all of this if you were willing to. I wonder, given my presentation of this material ad nauseam, ad infinitum, if any misunderstanding of history could be involved with your not admitting all of this. Or, perhaps being part of a comfortable community of shared beliefs is more important to you than changing what you are willing to do or think. One of our very important human needs is that of belonging to something or other, and when in a comfortable spot, it is difficult to change. It was probably as difficult for you to depart from the SLP as it was for me at the time, though you never departed from it ideologically like I did. Breaking from a system of lies became an undeniable moral imperative for me. The shores toward which I fled turned out to be as rocky and unfriendly as the shores from which I fled, but I wasn't really sure why until well into writing my book, when having to intensely confront all of the theories head-on finally convinced me that 'any ideology that advocates taking away the property of the rich has to be fatally flawed, and will eventually become obsolete'. Not that shorter hours will not also become obsolete as well, for there is a lower limit to the length of the working day, otherwise known as zero, but the era of property-grabbing was far sooner doomed to the museum of history than shorter hours, as evidenced by the willingness of a billion people to give it up.
Where Marx predicted the future course of society was best exemplified in his 'Critique of the Gotha Program', where he said that, 'between capitalism and classless, stateless communism lies the period of revolutionary transformation of the one into the other in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.' Can this statement be interpreted in any other way than that 'society will proceed from capitalism to socialism to communism'? In this instance, I was using Lenin's definitions of the terms, for the SLP has no language for that particular course of evolution. They hardly ever acknowledge a period of proletarian dictatorship in a developed country, though they did acknowledge a proletarian dictatorship in a backward country, but only over the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie, and certainly not over the big bourgeoisie for whom A.P., and the rest of us, were working.
At any rate, when a theorist says point-blank that society will go from A to B to C, and not simply from A to C, what else can that be but a prediction of something he says will happen to future generations? I'm sure that you will agree that Marx predicted what can easily be documented that he predicted, even though the SLP cannot. S.K. would have agreed, and maybe D.B., and maybe even N.K. on an honest day. But, the denial of such a dictatorial stage in an advanced capitalist country was an official position of the Party, though contradicted by some in more private meetings, so our comrades talked out of both sides of their mouth depending to whom they were talking to, as in 'white man have forked tongue'. Even when you don't agree with certain theories, you at least can recognize their existence, I'm sure. I certainly don't agree with any of Marx's predictions of the inevitability of proletarian dictatorship as the transition to stateless and classless society, as he wrote in his 1852 letter to Wedemeyer as well, but I did believe in those predictions from '77 to '94. So, take your pick of references. Either one is readily available. And the course of history in Marx's time indicated that the form of proletarian dictatorship could be nothing but a democratic republic. (See close to the end of the 'Gotha Program'.)
The Sept. 4, 1870 establishment of the Third French Republic touched off a series of conversations about republicanism in the General Council of the First International, where, in the meetings of Feb. 14 and 21 of 1871, Marx predicted that the French Republic would go socialistic, and opined that 'middle-class republics had become impossible on the Continent, causing both the French and German reactionaries to scheme against it'. On March 28, Marx stated that "The International wanted to establish the Social and Democratic Republic and therefore it was high treason to belong to it." Distinguishing the International's republicanism from the middle-class type, Marx also stated that: "no republican movement could become serious without becoming social." Perhaps nowhere but in these conversations was the idea better expressed of new democratic republics, from 1870 onwards, evolving into proletarian dictatorship. The DOTP as a red republic was based upon real motion of the masses [for universal suffrage], but the question is, how much more was the DOTP based upon real motion of the masses than was Bakuninist anarchism, which certainly competed well in the marketplace of so-so ideas?
I have increasing confidence in what I am saying, for most of the research that I do, for a long time now, since 1994, has confirmed and deepened my convictions, whereas one can take a revolutionary group like the News and Letters crowd, and, when asked to define their revolution, can come up with as many different definitions as there are members. It was kind of fun one night to stop them cold with that very question, but it was sad as well. I wonder what the hell good it is to work for something that you can't even define. You expressed the same kind of nebulousness about the Wobbly tolerance of different perspectives on what your own revolution will consist. The SLP had the same problem, in that lots of differences could be argued on the exact structure of the SIU structure that we were supposed to organize ourselves into. So I wonder, when are selfish revolutionaries going to do something real about the unemployed by sharing work with them? Sharing what little work that remains for humans to do doesn't seem to be on any revolutionary agenda. If shorter hours does appear in a platform, revolutionaries use it as mere bait, and then hook the suckers with the 'overwhelming need to abolish capitalism, the state, and private property as the only permanent solution to the exploitation of labor.' But, as Marx wrote to Nieuwenhuis on Feb. 22, 1881 (MESC, p. 318): "The doctrinaire and inevitably fantastic anticipation of the programme of action for a revolution of the future only diverts one from the struggle of the present." People seemingly wait for all kinds of revolutionary plans to be somehow resolved satisfactorily in their minds while millions go homeless and hungry. Millions! But, as Sam Gompers said a century ago, 'As long as one person who needs work cannot find it, the hours of labor are too long.' Which points to the absolute necessity of a moral revolution to go on within the minds of revolutionaries so that they can become concerned enough with the plight of the poor enough to do something real for them, rather than just trying to use the poor to elevate cadre to positions of power. That's why I call cadre whores of anarcho-syndicalism, socialism, communism, revolutionism, etc. I don't know if I could ever have been included as one, for I never willingly lied to my class while I was at the SLP, for as soon as I discovered that I was merely being used to disseminate disinformation, I started to argue against it, and when that avenue was closed to me by the real whores, I quit, though I might have stayed if they had offered me enough. So, maybe I am a real whore, and maybe they just weren't willing to offer me enough to stay on. Shipping clerks are a dime a dozen, and it's easy enough to find clerks who are willing to betray their class, as long as they get paid enough. Petersen was supposed to have been a clerk of some sort before he rose in the Party.
You are right about the membership of the working class having swelled, with only 2% of the population or less working as agricultural wage slaves. We've come a long way since Jefferson's vision of a vast independent and moral peasantry that was 80% of the population in his day. They were moral because they wouldn't consider working for anyone else but themselves. Wage-slavery was considered to be morally degrading, and he was right, because we are all whores and will do whatever in hell we get paid to do.
Where did M+E say that 'workers winning class battles over reducing the workday were victories along the road to winning the class war with Capital.'? It sure sounds like something that Marx might have said, perhaps in 'Value, Price and Profit'; and, if he did, it certainly was as wrong* as his prediction of proletarian dictatorship. And here is why: victories over hours issues put workers to sleep. Victories over hours put a greater proportion to work, and thus reduce the pool of fighting and dissatisfied revolutionaries. I cannot for the life of me imagine workers getting so inspired over a victory on the hours question that they would be inspired to go berserk and try for a revolution. That doesn't seem to have happened on any of the planets that I have inhabited so far, so I wonder how Marx or anyone else could justify such a statement. Proletarian exploitation causing revolution has to be pure revolutionary dogma. I can't imagine labor fakers having much to do with turning workers away from revolution, because I wonder what class interests the proletariat would have in revolting and stealing away the means of production, for their class interests, as revealed by Engels on many an occasion, were merely high wages and short hours, not ownership, which M+E found regrettable. Workers were practically scolded by Engels for not being revolutionary, whereas the whole point of revolution in concrete instances in the last century was getting rid of monarchies and establishing social and democratic republics. Certainly the Chartist movement that was so popular in the 1840's wanted to replace the English monarchy with proletarian dictatorship, but I think that the Ten-hour Law of '47 put 'em to sleep until the 1860's. The 1850's seemed to have been the decade of English labor being as bourgeois as their bosses, so pacified were they. Oh, sure, M+E complained a lot about Ernest Jones, but without revolutionary material, i.e., a revolutionary class, how far can the revolution get?
* 2002 note: Looks like my contrariness overcame my ability to think clearly. Mike's impression of what Marx thought was 100% correct. My comments that followed were rather irrelevant to the issue advanced by Mike. I was reduced to repeating my same old boiler plate. No wonder he found some of my letters depressing. 'Not having the CD of Collected Works' is the only possible excuse for my lapse. (End of note.)
To me, nowadays, the purpose of labor faking can have nothing to do with revolution, but has everything to do with making not a bit of progress on the hours question, for that is where our economic interests lie. Since when has labor militantly fought for shorter hours so as to share the work? A long time. They are more interested in fighting scabs, and thus in betraying workers' class interests. That's a real indication of class collaboration, not in their rejection of an illogical revolution. Nowadays, solidarity of unionists means solidarity of unionists against scabs as much as it means solidarity against the bosses. And this travesty is advanced by socialist union leaders!
'Subaltern' sent me scurrying to the dictionary; that was good exercise! To reiterate, Engels told us how to get over the rule of capital by ending the competition among ourselves for scarce jobs. I really can't imagine ourselves in a permanent state of subservience to the bourgeoisie unless we forget what our class interests are, or stop fighting for them. We'll get over capitalism someday, we just have to get to the zero-hour day first.
I don't know if you have much opportunity to listen to Jerry Brown, but he purposely plays dumb on the hours question, pretending today, Jan. 27, not to know how to fix the unemployment problem; and he did the same thing during one of his shows last year as well. I know he's playing dumb, because no one as experienced with the issues as he is could possibly not know that sharing work would fix unemployment. Sometimes he infuriates me, and I may just call him on the air again soon, and call him on this 'playing dumb' thing that he does so well.
I think that your definition of socialism as the end of capitalism, classes and commodity production is as good as anyone else's. Just try getting there in your lifetime. If you even try, that means that you are not a deep-down political person, for* politics is the art of the possible, and socialism means so many different things to so many different people that you will never be able to agree with anyone on what should be the first step you should take to get there. It does no good to try to explain socialism to anyone, for, everyone has heard about it already, and if you haven't yet found enough allies out of the many who call themselves socialist, chances are that you will continue to be unsuccessful. Just try sitting down with people with whom you already have good rapport, imagine that you are the general of a great army of socialists, and answer the question of what you are actually going to do on the day of the revolution, after having had breakfast, of course. Will you be able to agree with your lieutenants on what will be the first target? I think that the minute you start thinking about being practical, you will run into trouble.
* 2002 note: This may have been another case of my contrariness so running out of control that my sense of logic failed me. (End of note.)
Yes, you are right about Lenin. Some of the people around him were talking about getting to communism, while he knew that he hadn't even come close to getting to socialism. But, the info in your last letter about Stalin proclaiming that they had achieved classless, stateless society in 1936 was a truly classic piece of what A.P. would have loved to have labeled 'Burlesque Bolshevism'. But, Lenin was very proud of Bolshevik 'elimination of the last vestiges of feudalism by completing the bourgeois-democratic revolution', though I am not sure how lasting or successful he truly was. In the heart of Africa, I am given to know that there are still a few countries that are quite feudal in nature, and could use bourgeois-democratic revolutions, though the numbers of such countries are dwindling.
You were right about the Commune not being socialist. As Marx wrote to Nieuwenhuis on Feb. 22, 1881 (MESC, p. 318): "[T]he Paris Commune ... was merely the rising of a city under exceptional conditions, the majority of the Commune was by no means socialist, nor could it be."
From my perspective, I don't think that I could agree that all reforms are concealed measures of reaction, for there is no viable alternative to reforms in the bourgeois democracies that an increasing number of us find ourselves living in. The proposed repeal of California's time and a half after 8 law is certainly an unconcealed measure of reaction, i.e., the forces of greed are certainly not fooling organized labor with their efforts, and labor promises not to take this slap lying down. They may not be willing to take their resistance any further than trying to save the 8 hour day, though what's needed at the minimum is to extend time and a half after 8 to the rest of the states, so that California's more stringent standards are no longer an easy target, due to being nearly unique in the land. Certainly some of the newer and more esoteric tax laws can be concealed measures of reaction, or even the fact that people are paying income taxes starting at around $4,000, which figure hasn't changed much from the times when $4,000 wasn't too bad a years' pay. I remember feeling not too bad about the $7,000 I was getting from the Party. Am I getting old, or have times changed?
With regard to reform vs. revolution, you sure sound like you have a lot of faith in the revolution. Just recently I am beginning to wonder if progressive intransigence on the question of sharing work is not going to make another revolution inevitable. I don't want to be part of that one, for it's only going to be a blood bath, with very little-to-nothing resolved in the favor of the little guy. The same old people will remain in power, and it'll just be another Commune at the best. If workers manage to hold onto power at all, it'll be just for awhile, for there is no viable vision. If I had any influence at all in this world, I certainly wouldn't use it to goad people to revolt against the upper classes. More against the labor aristocracy that steals work from the poor to provide themselves with fat-cat, middle-class lifestyles. It's true that they have no real control over their conditions of labor, and maybe they wouldn't work as hard if they had a real choice. It's hard to imagine the ignorant poor teaching the ignorant labor aristocracy anything, but the educated poor have to do what they can to make a dent in the dumbheit. If what I have to say is of any value at all to the poor, then hopefully my voice will become at least as loud as that of the charlatans, unless I am just totally surrounded by charlatans, which is sometimes just what it feels like. I have not yet run out of patience, however, for my voice may not yet be anywhere near as strong as what may be required to make a difference. It has only been 5 years since beginning to write my book and start campaigning for truth and justice, and I have a lot to learn. If I had kept on writing in the 70's, I would have been that much further ahead with my struggle to communicate.
The class war to me will be won when we get to the zero-hour day, or the all-volunteer work force. What better way to get rid of class distinctions? We will never be able to count on any kind of a 'decisive battle' over the bosses. Just abolishing our own competition among ourselves for scarce jobs would be the greatest blow we could ever deliver against the bosses. This looming battle over time and a half after 8 in California is the first real public battle over an hours question that I can remember in my lifetime. What an opportunity!!!!! If we lose this one, then woe is us. The only way to ensure any kind of lasting success is to get time and a half after 8 in all of the other 47 states.
Our appetite for labor is quite limited by the hours of the day, but our lust for property knows no bounds. My house, my block, my city, my state, my country, my planet, my universe. How much more can I own, and where do I cash in my chips? I think we will be much more amenable to limiting how much we will allow each other to work than to limiting how much we can own. Limiting how much we can work will automatically limit what the capitalist class will be able to accumulate. But all we have to do at first is to just limit our work sufficiently to enable all to participate. 'Save some for me! No, you can't have any.' Will that be the limit to our dialogues?
Poor people should beg labor for access to jobs, not the bosses or the government, for labor has been all too willing to work long hours, and unwilling to share work with the poor. Picket the Union Halls! Demand that they clear out of their work places at the end of 8 hours to make room for more people to share the work. That'll put a bug up the asses of the labor aristocracy. That'll show the aristocracy that they have been completely immoral on the issue of unemployment, what with their predilection for attacking scabs.
Yes, your thoughtful last letter was more encouraging than some of your last ones, and I hope that my reply hasn't been as depressing for you as some of my others might have been. At this stage of desperation for the lower classes, when food stamps and welfare have never been so rapidly taken away, and now that they are also threatening to take away overtime disincentives in the name of saving jobs, there isn't much time to waste, so mincing words becomes too great a luxury for the lowest classes.
Look for an article of mine in the upcoming Slingshot, only slightly edited to avoid offending prostitutes, where I wrote about 'the willingness of workers to prostitute themselves to the fleshpots of capital.' I can't figure out how that wording would have offended anyone but workers in general, but editors must be editors.
As usual, my bottom line statement is this:
If taking away the property of the rich (as in socialism, communism and anarchism) had ever made any sense in the more advanced capitalist countries of the West, then taking away the property of the rich would have been easier in the West (where Marx even predicted that it would happen first) than in less developed countries, where taking away the property of the rich (communism) did happen first, and was especially feasible after helping to overthrow feudal monarchies (as in Russia), or after helping to liberate colonies (as in Cuba and Africa), events after which socialists had the physical force in their hands with which they were able to deprive the rich of their property and without compensation, whereas taking away the property of the rich without compensation in the Social Democracies of the West proved to be unfeasible after merely winning elections, when the physical force of the state that protected private property before the elections went on protecting it just as well afterwards.
The type of struggle for social justice which made more sense in, and was relatively more easily accomplished in the more productive economies of Western Europe and America, and was a type of struggle that perfectly complemented Marx's theories of surplus value, but which logic he seems to have missed entirely, was the struggle for less work through shorter hours, a genuine means of delivering social justice by means of distributing work to all who could use it, a means that has been fought for by Western workers' movements for two centuries. The fatal flaw in Marxism is precisely its inability to define the most important differences in conditions of existence that exist between countries, and implement appropriate means of struggle for those different conditions. Instead, 'the rip-off of the rich' is applied to all countries, even though it fails to apply to the West, where redistributing what little work that has not yet been taken over by machines and technology would deliver all of the justice that we need. Try getting unity around revolution.
May 4, 1997
Something that I had to work on for quite a while, and just finished up, was a 30 page reply to a 5 page reply to a 18 page challenge that I issued to the News and Letters group. They consider themselves to be real Marxists, and don't like pea-brained half-wits [like me] to challenge things that 'they think they know a lot better than I could ever pretend to'.
Now I find myself plumbing the depths of their belief system, and we shall see if any flaws can be found in it or not. My 18 page challenge was updated to a 20 pager that I also sent to the SLP to see if there is any grounds on which we could cooperate to put everyone to work, for that goal is something that will take the cooperation of everyone, but so far, no reply. They might very well be so far outside the realm of cooperating with anyone as never to stoop to do anything for anyone but for their own selfish little interests. But, they've only had it since the end of March. I should wait a bit before I give up on them, maybe until the end of May.
Things in the LP continue to frustrate me. Now they want to fight for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that will guarantee everyone a job at a living wage, thus giving all of the initiative to the government, which they hope to constitute some day. It seems to be trending toward a Social-Democratic agenda. I don't agree with too many in the LP about anything, anymore.* They seem to have relegated shorter hours and higher overtime premiums to the back burner, and don't consider putting it up front, and won't even discuss it. So, I went less active by resigning from a committee I was on.
* 2002 note: The basis of my criticism of the LP Amendment was sorely lacking. (End of note.)
On an overt propaganda level, the LP isn't at all interested in doing away with capitalism. Without saying it, they think that everything that workers need can be gotten by means of reforming the system. But, there are many socialists in the LP who are absolutely galled that the LP doesn't come out more militantly for socialism. Their opposition has said outright that putting forth such an agenda would mean doom for the LP. So, in spite of lots of desire for the kind of fundamental change that I'm sure a lot of them would like to see, they play it cool, hoping that a more radical plan can be inserted into the agenda at an appropriate time in the future. Thus, you have yet one more party with yet another hidden agenda, or perhaps more than one hidden agenda, the appropriateness of which many are loath to discuss. Sick syndromes get endlessly repeated. The only kind of movement that I would like to build is one that is not afraid to debate the differences between agendas. It would start out with higher overtime premiums and shorter hours to begin with, but would be more than willing to take on all opposition by means of principled dialogue. Anyone would be able to claim that socialism (or any other 'ism) is better, and then the debate would be carried openly. If an 'ism wins the debate, then so be it. But, I think that this would be a good way to really determine what's best for American workers.
In the East Bay, we have a coalition that worked to put together a big march for Bread, Jobs and Justice on March 1 that drew a couple of thousand. At one of the follow-up planning sessions, I was the only one who suggested that we put something together for May Day. At that point, I didn't know that the Industrial Welfare Commission was going to drop the fight for the 8 hour day in our laps again, but 111 years after Haymarket, here we go again. Are you ready to work longer hours for less, and have all of the abuses of the Industrial revolution recreated in your workplace? Not me, either.
At their most recent meeting, they talked about organizing a living wage campaign in which communities pass local ordinances that force bosses to pay living wages and be nice to unions. I wanted to work on the wording of the ordinance, which would reflect a workers' program of sharing work through higher overtime premiums, but all they were interested in doing was trying to determine how they were going to relate to another community group named ACORN. This BJJ coalition seems to be dominated by socialists and revolutionaries. As such, they may not want shorter hours and higher overtime premiums because they may feel that things should get so bad that workers will revolt. At the same time, when things get real bad and the revolution does happen, they will look like a community group that honestly looked like it was pursuing honest reforms in the interest of the working class, and will thus have some leadership credibility, and will be likely to lead the lowest classes in their revolution, and will be elevated to power. I wonder if this is their real strategy, or if alleviating lower class misery is foremost for them.
On Jerry Brown's show recently, he had on a guy named Charles Siegal who sounded like he could have read the book "Work without End", by Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt. I will try to get hold of him to invite him onto my show someday.
You may be right about Trotskyists. Your opinions are seasoned by many years of observation. I'm not so sure of their inability to reject the abolition of the wage system. It is an abstract concept to me, though. Sooner or later the question has to be asked, "How do you abolish the wage system?" If it can't be explained in less than 25 words, then there is the chance that people will be lost in uncertainty. That is one of the reasons I like the words 'shorter hours and higher overtime premiums'. Those 6 words, by themselves, if implemented, could do the lower classes so much good. More than enough to render the lower classes non-revolutionary, which revolutionaries would hate to see, which is why they only use shorter hours as bait to get workers interested in 'isms that allegedly would do so much more than the 6 words would do, as if workers would need any more than what the 6 words could deliver, when workers already have democracy, freedom of speech, and private property.
If anything is worse than capitalism for workers, I think that it would have to be competition for scarce jobs. No matter what system society adopts, they are all bound to be rotten if competition for scarce jobs prevails, for, in any system in which classes exist, competition for scarce jobs is the hook by which one class gets another to do the dirty work. And, by that, I don't mean merely cleaning toilets, I mean obeying orders to do evil things, such as cutting down the last of the redwoods, throwing people in jail for the 'crime' of smoking dope, writing stories to please hated power structures, abject servility, and the list could go on for a long time.
It is easy enough to claim that replacing one system with another would automatically eliminate competition for scarce jobs, but I just don't believe it, for no one that I know of sells any 'ism on the basis that it would automatically eliminate competition for scarce jobs, do you? I don't think that anyone on the left takes the perspective that competition for scarce jobs is what allows so much evil to take place. Instead, it's always something outside of our class, such as the government or corporations. But, if I could hire you to do wrong for me, then I am in a class that can afford to hire people to do things in the first place, but, what makes this society so damned immoral is that I can use competition between you and the guy standing next to you to make sure that my orders are obeyed, for if what I ask you to do is below your moral standards, then maybe it won't be below the standards of the guy standing next to you, who then steals the job away from you, and gets to survive, while you starve. You can see where moral standards would go in such a society. Straight to hell. That's part of the stress of living in today's world, for people fight each other for the chance to obey the orders of some authority, and we have all become something like meter maids looking for 'violators' to help us fulfill our quotas of people to oppress.
What system do you know of that is guaranteed by some identifiable mechanism to absolutely eliminate the kind of competition for scarce jobs that prevents us from doing right by each other? Systems so far have created such monsters out of wage-slaves that the very idea of us cooperating with one another to see to it that moral standards can constantly be upgraded never approaches the threshold of our consciousness. We have become monsters, drawing guns on each other on the freeways, for instance, in such a hurry to do something equally destructive in the course of on-the-job duties, that it is hard to imagine us cooperating to do anything real about it.
These businesses called revolutionary movements are in such cut-throat competition with each other for their fair market share of naive suckers that their ideological workers are forced to demonize the ideological workers and members of other movements, or else they can be replaced. I therefore do not find the strongest survivors of such warfare to be in such a hurry to eliminate the system of competition that they survive. If competition for scarce jobs makes such good warriors out of them, then competition has to be good enough for everyone else. And, if it helps their image to say that their party program is more apt to eliminate competition for scarce jobs than the next group's program, then lying in support of their program would not be below them. After all, revolutionary groups did away with morals a long time ago, judging from all of the dirty lies they have told about so many things, such as 'the essence of Marxism being stateless', or 'the Soviet Union being a true workers' state'.
I wonder a lot about the inevitability of another 'crisis of capitalism'. It very well could be that us laboratory rats will always be kept in a state of subjection to the lab techs, who are conscious of rat psychology so much more thoroughly than us rats ourselves, who can be said to be conscious of what? Food, sleep, sex, and comfort, but never the grand design. It is the duty of us rats to skitter in response to stimuli, always readily provided by the laboratory apparatus, and much more scientifically provided than ever before in history. So what if techs make a slight miscalculation now and then, and a few rats run amuck, or a few others do something unpredicted? The experiment can always be reconfigured, but the laboratory need not be burned to the ground just because a few rats met an untimely end. No matter what happens in the future, all that needs to happen is to make a few adjustments, but there's no need to throw in the towel and give up on experiments that provide the lab owners with so much enjoyment. The rats in the cages that line the walls of the lab might sometimes react in righteous indignation at some of the excesses that occur in some of the experiments, but may not realize that their expectation that God or some deity will call a halt to the grand scheme just because a particular contraption went up in smoke was as much a part of the lab process as any of the other experiments. It serves the bosses well for us to sit on our asses while wrong compounds wrong, and while we wait for some grand fiasco to cause a revolt.
You should have read the optimism with which Engels reacted to the Panama swindle of the last century, where the French invested in the Panama Canal, but the company ran off with the money. Engels fully expected the swindle to start his much longed-for revolution, but Lafargue wrote back with the opinion that 'the general' must be crazy to think that a revolution would be triggered by such a puny stimulus. Back then, the French coped a lot better with their swindle than what the Albanians responded to theirs. We would have to be pretty desperate to wait for something to trigger a revolution that has a snowball's chance in hell of happening. Democracy is the most flexible of the governmental systems, and if one party in power really screws up, we just get another party the next time, and life goes on. 'We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.' Those of us who are standing by, waiting for that big catastrophe that will start the revolution will be waiting for a long time. We see so many wrongs around us, and, instead of doing something about some identifiable wrong, we instead wait for things to get even worse in order to spark our much longed-for revolution. After all, we 'know' that worsening conditions will spark a revolution eventually, and we 'know' that we are the ones who know what to do when the revolution happens, because some great revolutionaries of a century ago got us to read their writings. People will look up to us and will listen to our advice. When we tell their unions to form up in regional and national councils and abolish political government, they will listen to us, won't they?
Marx seems to have been guilty of laying down a universal law of revolution that each nation must go through. Marx observed workers fighting alongside the bourgeoisie to replace old monarchies with new republics. Engels fought in revolutionary struggles in Germany for that very thing. The red agenda was plausible under the circumstance of workers helping to overthrow monarchies, and keeping guns that would enable them to take away the property of the rich. After helping the bourgeoisie win democracies, reds would lead workers to take the power of the state for themselves, and to use the power of new workers' states to put the means of production into the hands of workers' states.
In neighboring countries that were already democratic enough for workers not to want to overthrow them, and with no need for the bourgeoisie to arm workers to overthrow monarchies, and with only the moral force of elections of workers' parties, workers' parties were not able to vote the property of the rich away from them, but yet we find the Marxist program of taking away the property of the rich applied by Marxists to all of the West, feudal or democratic, and to democracies where little to no possibility of carrying through the program of revolutionary socialism exists. Workers overthrow democracies for the purpose of socializing wealth? Except for dumping the Kerensky republic, workers have more often organized to help create democracies rather than to overthrow them, except maybe in Chile in the early '70's, and there they overthrew a Social-Democracy that didn't pay close enough attention to the inviolability of private property.
This is why Marx's program is dead here, having never made sense in democracies, and with little to no chance of ever being implemented again, as the past century of establishing democracies in one country after another gains even more ground. But, both Marx and Marxists laid down a general law of expropriation that they would have liked to apply to democracies as much as it at one time could only have applied after overthrowing monarchies, as in Russia, or after liberating colonies, as in Africa. The Marxist program of taking away the property of the rich was flawed from the beginning, it failed the test of universality, and long ago should have been recognized as only partially useful for a relatively short period of time, but not for the lowest classes, who always get the short end of the stick.
With regard to the growth of capital, it is only because we are so willing to work beyond the time required to create the necessities of life that the bosses are so rich, and the government so powerful. To cut down on the growth of capital, and the enormity of surplus values, we must simply stop working so much. It's that simple, except that we must be organized to do it the correct way, a way that enables all to share what little work that's necessary to produce and reproduce labor power. Until then, we willingly fight with each other for decreasing opportunities to make the bosses richer and the government more powerful. Loggers fight each other for declining opportunities to cut down the last of the redwoods. Pacifica workers fight with each other over declining opportunities to obey gag rules. Newspaper workers fight each other over declining opportunities to suck up to the powers that be. The list is endless.
So, I take the position that it is not the wages system itself that is to blame, rather, what's killing us as a class is competition over declining opportunities to partake of the benefits of the wages system. It is our willingness to allow our fellow workers to do without work that is sending our class racing to the bottom. It is most particularly the willingness of revolutionaries to allow things to get worse and worse and worse, while they wait and wait and wait for their revolution to get off the ground. That is at least as responsible for the sufferings of the lower classes as is anything that the bosses are willing to dish out to us. Revolutionaries are supposed to be so conscious of what is going on. And yet, any belief system that requires that we stand by and do nothing while things just get increasingly worse cannot be a belief system that does any good to the lower classes. Instead, all of that waiting around can do nothing but good for the upper classes, who have a distinct interest in seeing that the lower classes adopt belief systems that dictate that their most 'conscious' members just sit back and do nothing in order to best prepare the ground for their deliverance.
Suppose we were to change the system, and take over the means of production, would anyone want to continue to work an 8 hour day? The first thing that the OBU would do would be to shorten the length of the work week. That is the only thing that makes sense to preserving the environment, sharing the work, and stopping the population explosion. No one ever does anything real about the population explosion because growing populations help absorb excess production that results from far too much work. If it wasn't for so many people worrying about the depression that would result from the stabilization of the population, we most certainly would have done something about the population explosion long ago.
Prof. Hunnicutt pointed out that consumerism really blossomed in the 20's, when the bosses decided en masse not to allow us to take the benefits of increased productivity in the form of shorter hours. If products are to be produced to excess, then people will have to be encouraged to consume them. But, even the mass consumerism of the 20's was not enough to prevent the crisis of overproduction of the late 20's, and the collapse of the Stock Market. Labor back then knew that the only answer to overproduction was shorter work hours, which led to their battle for the 30 hour week in the 30's, which even passed the Senate. It was the most efficient solution to the problem of overproduction.
Since we do have freedom of speech and democracy in this country, we can shorten hours of labor without changing property relations, or revolting. It certainly did not take revolutions to enact labor laws in the West; all it took was pressure from below. If the aim of the workers movement is to change property relations, then they will have to prepare for Civil War, and a bloody one. Look at what it took just to abolish private ownership of other people in this country. It will take far more bloodshed to abolish private ownership of means of production in general.
It may very well be wrong for bosses to take away the wealth we produce. But we can't do anything about their lack of morals, for we can only do something about the lack of morals in our own class. Our own moral problem is that we willingly work long hours, and thus prevent others who need work from getting any at all. We should raise this as a moral issue in our class, for we will have more of a chance of instilling morality in our own class than in any other class. The bosses are nothing to worry about. Their agents in our class are the most pernicious enemy we face. They try to convince us that we are perfect, and that all of our problems are due to the bosses and their government, and that all we have to do is abolish the upper classes and their government, and our problems will all go away, but this is like a fairy tale that most of us are not going to believe.
Like you say, shorter hours here will only give bosses the excuse to shift work elsewhere. If smart, that would only inspire us to shorten hours even more. Which, in turn, will cause bosses to shift even more work to the rest of the world. At some point, workers in the rest of the world will have the same problems that we have faced for a long time, and will want shorter hours for themselves. For us to simply say that shorter hours here will force work offshore, as if that presents the lower classes with any great problem, is to be very insecure about shorter hours as the solution to anything. We should then be very afraid of shortening hours here for fear of losing another stinking job to some other country. This kind of thinking would be akin to the fear of taking away the property of the rich, for fear that there would then be no one to write out a check at the end of the week. The fear of no check at all is probably greater than the fear of a smaller check, such as what might result from shorter hours under some conceivable circumstances, especially if we decide to really take it easy on the environment and really scale back production. But, at first, shorter hours for the lower classes will mean nothing less than a good job at a living wage with workers' control, which is much better than what 40 million people in this country are getting right now. Workers' control has always been an issue related to shorter hours, for fear of losing jobs translates into fear of blowing the whistle on wayward corporations and government entities.
For Marx, solidarity at the time of the Commune meant for workers in Berlin and Madrid to act simultaneously with the French to overthrow their monarchies and push for red republics. If they had succeeded, they would have started Marx's world-wide proletarian dictatorship, and, if that dream had come true, and if everything had gone according to the master plan, we would be very close by now to a classless and stateless society. No WWI or II, no Korean War, no Vietnam War, no ozone hole, no environmental degradation, no SLP as we knew it, etc. It would have been a much different world for you and I to grow up in, and we may never have met, or even had a cause to. But now, we have to cooperate to create some kind of better world. It certainly won't have much to do with creating Marx's proletarian dictatorship, and it won't have anything to do with taking away the property of the rich by means of any 'ism.
The moral outrage I feel is that, people who should know better, and some who even do know better, keep on pushing schemes for taking away the property of the rich, even when they know that our chance of doing so in a country that worships private property is less than nil. Some of them work for the bosses directly, and comprise the true cynics, while others do it merely to make a living, and may wish from time to time they could make a living in more of an honest fashion. As long as workers can be hoodwinked into blaming something outside of our class for our problems, such as the class of bosses, or the government, nothing real will happen.
If workers were all as class conscious as you and I, and if they really wanted to take back the whole product of their labor, they would cut back the work week so as to only reproduce their wages, and whatever else was required to maintain functionality of means of production. By sufficiently cutting back on hours of labor, they could cut profits so much as to practically eliminate them altogether, if that's what workers really wanted. Shorter hours is a tool that workers, in their present state of unconsciousness, hardly imagine using to their advantage at this time. Instead, they leave control of the labor market to the bosses, who manipulate supply and demand of workers through their control of the hours of labor, and through their control of the Federal Reserve and the interest rate. As long as the bosses control hours of labor, we are paralyzed. It is a slap in our faces for them to control our hours in a way that prevents all of us from sharing the work. We will organize to control hours of labor before we organize to rob the rich of their property, because controlling hours of labor is easier and more meaningful than taking control over and owning industries. Changing ownership, by itself, changes nothing for our class, for we get to work under the same conditions the day after as the day before, whereas, adding or subtracting an hour of labor, or doubling or eliminating overtime premiums, has a direct effect on all kinds of indicators of well-being for our class. And we can affect our hours and overtime premiums without changing ownership, in spite of Marx's indications to the contrary, who had to have been in a state of denial over what had already been accomplished by regulation of hours in his own lifetime.
Considering the consistency of the many volumes that Marx wrote about surplus value, he failed to correctly apply that very useful concept to workers' movements, even stating in his Jan. 8, 1868 letter to Engels that "direct and conscious control of society over its working time .... is possible only with common ownership ...", as though we would have to wait for the age of socialism in order to put everyone to work. Near the end of the 3rd volume of Capital (p. 820), Marx wrote in essence that 'the prerequisite to the true realm of freedom is a shortening of the working day', though he once again tied shortening the work day to the set of tasks best left for the era of proletarian dictatorship, as though society had not already passed 12, 10 and 9 hour laws during his own lifetime.
Marx was in a state of denial over many issues, having witnessed the violence required to abolish as immoral a form of property ownership as slavery in this country, and then totally disregarding that extreme amount of violence when he went on to say that workers in this country could peacefully achieve socialism. It took a Civil War to abolish slavery, but owners are supposed to play dead over the issue of abolishing private ownership of means of production in general, just because a workers' party, with socialism in its platform, gets elected. What an oversight! And what fools we are for not looking at the problems of Marxism from this perspective!
I'm sure that Marx would have disagreed with me as well, if he could have seen my argument before he experienced the Commune, or earlier. I wonder just how honest he had to have been in order to choose to ignore the bearing of the American Civil War on the hopes for socialist expropriation. Marx was a socialist, and probably would have agreed with Engels on the need to downplay shorter hours if adhering to a program of expropriation was of the highest priority. Maybe A.P. was right when he hinted that Marx chose to ignore certain developments in his own time. Not everything A.P. wrote was a lie.
Who is it who is most concerned with property? Insecure property holding classes who are worried about being forced out of business by an inability to compete with the more capital-intensive, and more efficient, uppermost classes. And who are their natural allies? Workers in the employ of these desperate middle classes. Small businesses employ about half of the working class, so that's a lot of workers with loyalty to small business people, and since we all tend to believe what we are told, workers have gone along with middle classes who convince us that taking away the property of the uppermost classes is in our interests. But, once you scratch the surface of the illusions, and begin to ask the question of 'at what level of wealth will we let the middle or lower classes keep their property?', that is when negotiations will break down, for there is no 'natural' break point at which private property will be respected, and on the other side, not respected. Private property is one of those principles that we either respect in toto, or we don't respect at all, for vacillating middle classes will never be able to determine the point at which our respect for it should exist, or cease to be. The length of the working day, on the other hand, cannot be other than fluid, starting with 12 hours in the last century, generally moving downwards, and varying from one country to another.
Engels thought that hours of labor should stay longish, rather than shorten so much that workers would be able to equitably share the work, and would therefore be deprived of the suffering required to think about revolting against the democracies that their ancestors shed blood to establish. Engels really laid it on the line in some of his letters, such as:
Engels to Eduard Bernstein in Zurich, London,
May 22, 1886 (MEW 36, pp. 486-7):
. . . "Our Frenchmen are doing fine. Here, on the other hand, everything remains amateurish play. The anarchist stupidities in America can become useful; it is not desirable that the American workers achieve too rapid successes while they are at their present still quite bourgeois stage of thinking - high wages and short working time. That could strengthen the one-sided trades-union spirit more than necessary." . . .
Can this mean anything other than 'it is better for the development of socialist sentiment if workers do not succeed in shortening hours to distribute work to all who can use it'? Is it any wonder that socialist scholars did not rush to translate this letter into English? My book, if published, might be the first time it gets published in English. Engels didn't need to be told that failure to distribute work in proportion to improvements in productivity results in increasing competition for scarce jobs, which also results in impoverishment. This is even more true now, while the social safety net is shrinking.
Engels to Laura Lafargue in Paris, London,
May 23, 1886 (ELC I, p. 355):
. . . "The victory at Dec[azeville] would have been exceedingly nice, but after all the defeat may be more useful to the movement in the long run. So I do believe, too, that the anarchist follies of Chicago will do much good. If the present American movement - which so far as it is not exclusively German, is still in the Trades Union stage - had got a great victory on the 8 hours question, Trades Unionism would have become a fixed and final dogma. While a mixed result will help to show them that it is necessary to go beyond "high wages and short hours.""
Equitably distributing work through shorter hours depletes socialist sentiment. As passionately and consistently as Marx, Engels also wanted workers to suffer enough to think about attaining state power that would enable expropriation of property without compensation. This is the sticking point about revolutionism. One either wants workers to happily share work, have lots of time on their hands, watch out for the environment, enjoy human relations, etc., or else workers should suffer enough to think about joining revolutionary adventurers in doomed efforts to smash democracies and 'expropriate expropriators'. The latter is the choice that revolutionaries have made, and may not be willing to stop to figure out what revolutionism was for. Perhaps revolutionaries are more desperate to belong to communities of shared beliefs than they care about spending time to search for truth about what revolution was for in history.
My hit on the 2nd International is that its adoption of reformism, and rejection of revolution, were inevitable in the pre-WWI climate of increasing opportunities in Europe for mass participation in government, and the phasing out of monarchical despotism, as never before in their history. Russia, on the other hand, was still dominated by a feudal monarchy that begged to be overthrown, and thus there was a place for a revolutionary like Lenin to critique 2nd International vacillations from a revolutionary perspective. Lenin was such an adherent of Marxism that he critiqued Marx's idea of 'peaceful transition to socialism in democracy' as gently as possible, as in Volume 28, p. 238, but failed as badly as Marx to draw any lesson at all from America's rigid adherence to principles of private ownership that required a Civil War to abolish as immoral a form of private property as private ownership of people. Lenin thought for sure that the Russian Revolution would trigger revolutions in the West, and while it did trigger revolts, they were all snuffed out, and Lenin spent the rest of his life waiting for Western workers to overthrow Western European Social Democracies in favor of supporting the Russian Revolution, and building the world-wide proletarian dictatorship that Marx had hoped would have started at the time of the Commune.
Do you remember why the Commune failed? At the 1872 Hague Congress, Marx blamed the failure upon the unwillingness of other cities, such as Berlin and Madrid, to revolt simultaneously with Paris. Lack of solidarity doomed the Commune. 46 years later, the center of revolutionary sentiment shifted to Russia; 30 years after that, to China, and then to increasingly backward countries, as it has ever since day one. And for good reason, since socializing means of production has only been possible after socialists helped overthrow feudal monarchies, or liberate colonies, but never after winning a mere election, for mere electoral victories never bestowed sufficient force to socialize property. You'll never hear that from a socialist, who always want people to become teary-eyed over the word 'socialism', and will never offer you a concrete critique of its failure to apply to the democratic West.
Don't forget that socialism, as it actually existed, did exist, whereas scarcities of labor have only popped up here and there, now and then, but their effects have been dramatic enough for the bourgeois press to report them. In the recent past in this country, shortages of labor have forced prevailing wages to soar above statutory minimum wage levels, have caused bosses to forego drug tests, have made bosses happy to pay workers just to show up and go home on time, etc. I can't imagine workers under such conditions wishing they were living in Cuba instead, unless they were communists, as well as workers.
About robbery: I doubt if it happens at the means of production, except at the hands of other workers. I associate the term robbery with the surprise and unexpected use of weapons and violence to extract wealth, whereas the removal of surplus product from the hands of workers takes place routinely every day on the job. Workers don't resist it, and instead aid and abet it. No matter how much workers produce, they are content to get paychecks in return, and the actual sense of how much profits are being made off of surplus product is something that takes place at high levels of financial accounting. Workers hardly know or care about what the rate of exploitation is, for they are happy to be taking home a living wage, when they do earn a living wage. If workers are unfortunate enough to have skinflint bosses, then workers might be interested in knowing just how much profit-taking is actually going on, and why it is they are being asked to sacrifice so much when the execs are making millions. But enough workers actually live well enough off their jobs that they have little interest in having their involvement in the economy being described as a process of robbery of any sort. I'll bet that they would probably be more morally outraged at the news that their willingness to work long hours robs work from those who could use some work for themselves. If described in that manner, they might be more willing to do something about that than they would about very mundane and civil removals of surplus product.
I don't think that I ever embraced the 'socialistic' tendencies of the 2nd International, and can't think of anything that I have written that would indicate that I did. I have pointed out that there have been two major brands of socialism practiced in the world, viz., nationalization with compensation, as practiced by the West, 2nd International style, and nationalization without compensation, as practiced by Russia, and in many communist countries since. As scholars, we can certainly try to describe such systems as accurately as we can without necessarily advocating one or the other. I no longer advocate nationalization by any means, whether it's by the communist method, the socialist method, the OBU, or SIU methods. I think nationalization is a dead end, no matter which method the masses can be goaded into supporting. Having tried the socialist and communist methods, do you think that workers will be silly enough to adopt a 3rd method? I don't. In this game, it's two strikes and you're out. Even Labor in Britain is dumping nationalization, which enabled them to win over the Conservatives. Labor in Britain is getting smart for a change. It won't be humane or smart enough, though, unless it adopts the ecologically sane alternative of sharing work by shorter hours.
Perhaps you may think that if I can't be an anarchist, then I must be a renegade communist or socialist, but there is yet one more choice that all too few people know about, which is a work-sharer, for want of a better name. To another correspondent, I kicked around the term 'workertarian' to connote the sense of a desire to get rid of as much of the state as possible, so much of which is just totally useless dead weight, without connoting 'isms like anarchism, socialism and communism that aim to rob the rich of their property. Workertarianism smacks more of Libertarianism than anything else, but Libertarians are mostly bourgeois enough not to give a damn about workers sharing work equitably. Libertarians think that getting rid of all regulation will solve all of the problems of the economy, and thus have no use for regulating hours of labor, even though removing such regulations will cause people to work very long hours, such as they did at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
So, which illusions about Stalinist socialism do I 'still' harbor? I'll admit to a few in '75, while learning about the appreciation my hero S.K. had for Lenin, but I thought that all those illusions disappeared by '94, when I discovered how little sense any brand of socialism, communism or anarchism made for the West. Like you say, Russia sure is in a sorry state of affairs now, and I haven't the faintest idea what to do about their state of affairs, short of them trying the same thing there that I advocate for here. It's almost a no-brainer for any country, for work-sharing is so humane, except to mega-profits, for which it is the cruelest of all post-socialist, post -communist, and post-anarchist treatments.
Re Predictions: If Marx didn't seriously think that Western Europe was fated to pass through the stages of capitalism and proletarian dictatorship on the way to classless, stateless society, he wouldn't have made the socialist revolution sound so 'inevitable' in so many of his works. Engels, in his 1883 letter to Van Patten, indicated that both he and Marx thought that the revolution was definitely a thing of the future. One cannot read the Critique of the Gotha Program without getting a feel for the inevitability of proletarian dictatorship. Somewhere, either M or E wrote that '[?]'s fall and the victory of the proletariat are inevitable.'* In V. 23, p. 69, Lenin states, "All nations will arrive at socialism - this is inevitable, but all will do so in not exactly the same way, ......". There is a whole category in Lenin's Subject Index, on p. 179, with what must include 100 entries devoted to the inevitability of proletarian dictatorship. Wherever could Lenin have gotten it from? He was a true believer, and I was at one time as well, but not anymore.
* 2002 note: "What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable." - Communist Manifesto [me6.496] (End of note.)
Many of the things that were pointed out by the chief ideologues of the SLP never held any water, except in the eyes of Party members, and perhaps a few sympathizers. About M+E using the terms socialism and communism interchangeably, if you look at the Communist Manifesto, M+E described all of the various splits and tendencies of their day who called themselves socialist or communist, and decided that they would not call themselves socialists, but instead would call themselves communists. They detected a big difference in what the various terms signified, and thus decided to label themselves with a term that best symbolized the future evolution of societal development, which included notions of proletarian dictatorship, and the rip-off of the property of the rich without compensation. Lenin's simplification of the problem of how to label the era of proletarian dictatorship with a single term, and how to label the era of classless, stateless society with a single term, were very appropriate uses of the terms socialism and communism, at least for the realm of theoretical discussion among millions of people in his day.
When it came to actually existing socialism and communism, as practiced in the social-democracies of Europe and in the countries of Asia and Africa, respectively, then it is safe to say that Asian communism did not really correspond either to Marx's vision of proletarian dictatorship [Lenin's socialism], nor to anyone's vision of classless, stateless society [Lenin's communism]. Just as easily, it can be stated that the social-democracies of Europe corresponded to neither Marx nor Lenin's ideas of socialism, for none of those countries did away with bourgeois domination in governments, nor did they take away property of the rich without compensation, nor did they arise by violent overthrow, except for the French 3rd Republic, nor were they established simultaneously. So, actually existing socialisms and communisms have never corresponded very closely with Marx's visions and predictions of societal evolution. Of all the changes that did occur, the Paris Commune and the Russian Revolutions came closest to corresponding to Marx's predictions, coming, as they did, in the middle of wars, and following the establishment of bourgeois republics. But, no other countries revolted in sympathy with either of them to the extent necessary to create a network of invincible European proletarian dictatorships with the kind of force required to smother the bourgeoisie with the violence required to rip off their property, and make it impossible for them to employ various means of counter-revolution.
And what was the reason for the scenario to fail to correspond to the visions of M+E? Was it a failure of the human element? Was it a corruption of revolutionary parties? Was it the weather? What caused revolutions to fail to correspond to Marx's vision of simultaneous socialist revolutions in the most advanced countries?
Marx failed to detect, or admit, just what people were willing to do to create measures of social justice for themselves. He was very good at detecting what would happen to old and rotten feudal monarchies, but not enough Western workers were willing to overthrow their social-democracies in favor of supporting the Bolshevik Revolution. Marx, Engels and Lenin all failed to perceive what the lower classes in democracies were willing to do. All of them failed to appreciate just how much Westerners had come to respect the institutions of private property and democracy, and none of the revolutionary theorists were in awe of the amount of violence that it took to abolish as immoral a form of private ownership as private ownership of other people. If it took a Civil War in this country just to abolish slavery, just think about how much blood it would take to abolish private ownership of all means of production. There is no way that Americans can or will ever be led into doing away with private property, or into socializing ownership of means of production. Everyone knows that it is precisely private property, combined with democracy, that made America the colossus that it became, so no one in their right minds in this country will have anything to do with socialism or communism. When I joined the SLP, I was an alienated worker, and not in my right mind. To get me in touch with reality, it took the discovery that small parties like the SLP were just looking for suckers to support their utopian impossibilities. Since the SLP was not a real workers' party, and was no longer interested in putting everyone to work, having lost that interest back in the last century when they dropped shorter hours out of their program, they became a mere business devoted to the marketing of their SIU, and if someone like me were to come along, wise up, and become interested in exposing the lies that buttressed their program, then I could just as well get lost as far as they were concerned, for business must continue. Thus, no internal democracy could exist within the SLP, and we were treated instead to censorship, bureaucracy, secrecy, & sectarianism, all of the things that are necessary to preserve absurd distortions of Marx's original doctrines, flawed as they were to begin with. If Marxist predictions had ever been possible in this world, then simultaneous proletarian dictatorships would have been established all over the West a century or more ago, and we would be living in a workers' paradise at this very moment, and wouldn't be corresponding with each other in hopes of starting from scratch and building a better world. World population would have stabilized, the ozone hole would never have started, workers would be in control of what was produced, we would not be in a mad dash to out-compete other countries; racism, sexism, and ageism would be abolished, and we would be down to a 2 hour day. Maybe.
The chief ideologues of the SLP did anything it took to get us to believe that Marx had only one vision of socialism or communism in advanced capitalist democracies. We were just about the only group that paid any attention to his 1872 Hague Congress statement to the effect that workers in democracies could peacefully get to socialism. The SLP denies two stages of socialism, and compresses the socialist era down into one stage. They claim that 'Marx had a vision of only one stage of socialism for technologically advanced countries, but he did conceive of the necessity of an intermediate stage of proletarian dictatorship in backward countries'. They fraudulently substituted the economic condition of technological advancement for the political condition of democracy as the prerequisite of peaceful change; they similarly substituted backwardness for monarchy as the prerequisite for violence, and reasoned that: 'Proletarian dictatorship makes sense over peasants and middle classes in less developed countries, but makes no sense in advanced countries where those classes have been totally marginalized, so tiny middle classes in the USA need not be repressed as peasant countries like Russia needed to, hence no need for proletarian dictatorship here.' No lie was too rank for our old anarchist party to tell if it could prevent us dumb workers from taking over the means of production by means of proletarian dictatorship, which was the only Marxist way that I can find in Marx's literature. We in the advanced West were too good for force and violence, so we had to do it peacefully, by means of the unions, but the regular unions wanted shorter hours, so we had to have a revolution based instead upon the continued suffering of the workers, which shorter hours alleviates, so our phony SIUs had to be based upon our collective refusal to reform hours of labor laws, so that we could suffer enough to be inspired to take over the industries. Our revolution was to be based on hate, which was just the way Marx and Engels wanted it, so we did adhere to some tenets of Marxism, minuscule as our adherence may have been. On the other hand, sharing work is based on compassion.
So, it was the failure of Marx to put out a program of shorter hours that would have been appropriate to the most advanced capitalist democracies, but which would not have applied to backward feudal monarchies. For those countries, creation of democracy required revolution, and Marx observed a differentiation between bourgeois and proletarian republicanism that he hoped could be extended into movements to socialize means of production after helping bourgeois democrats win battles for democracy. Workers were to retain their arms and hopefully gain supremacy in the new republics (proletarian dictatorship), and enough countries would do it simultaneously enough to enable workers to rip off the property of the rich, and render counter-revolution impossible. There wasn't enough evidence out there, though, that would indicate that workers were all that interested in taking over the property of their bosses. Engels criticized the Commune for not taking over the bank. I think that taking over the property of the rich was just another petty-bourgeois wet dream. Through state power, Lenin made expropriation real in his day, which was also the beginning of the failure of the Soviet economy, the starvation, their Civil War, invasions, etc. It turned into such a farce that we won't do it again. We have learned our lesson, and now know that there were too many logical holes in Marxism to ever want to adhere to it again. There are better ways to put everyone to work, and to alleviate the misery of the masses.
I don't think that I said that the proletarian dictatorship in Russia ever occurred in any more of a glorified form than in embryo, for I was corrected on that point back in the 70's. From conversations that I had with Stan, Nat and Dick, they might have been able to conceive of proletarian dictatorship in advanced countries, which contradicted the SLP line. Back in the mid-70's, I held out the possibility that they might have been a little more open-minded than average members or sympathizers. The had quite a bit of contempt for the level of comprehension of the average SLP member for theoretical matters. Stan, especially, seemed to have an appreciation and respect for Leninism shared by few others. The amount of antagonism from old Petersenites out in the Sections was enormous. There was very little trust for the new people in the NO, so when I went to join the NO, I got a surprise reception from members of my old Section. It was almost as though I had joined up with the enemy. And I will admit that the 'enemy' converted me into thinking that the old Sections were filled with just a bunch of dogmatists who could not argue their way out of a paper bag, and were thus completely useless for the task of recruiting and building the Party. I always wondered why so many people looked so old to me when I joined. Bright people in the Party expected other bright people to join Leninist, Trotskyist, or Maoist parties, for those ideologies were dominant in the world, so it wasn't long before I looked upon anyone who would join the SLP with suspicion, as in "What's wrong with that person?" I wondered if what few new people we attracted would have to be as isolated and estranged from society as myself, and wondered why they hadn't joined some communist or socialist party. Thus, not much was ever expected from anyone I ever met in the Party, and if I had found out that the person had quit the next day, it didn't surprise me. I felt as though I was walking on eggshells half the time I was there, wondering if some inappropriate thing I would say would cause someone to quit. And sometimes it did happen, as in losing Bob McC's help with wrapping the WP, after I started describing some idiocies that A.P. perpetrated in the NEC Reports of 1915-35.
The reason that communist, socialist and anarchist parties are so bureaucratic is that their members all think that their sects have something of value that is worth preserving. With the SLP, it was their SIU that the members thought was so unique and valuable, and with other parties, it is other stuff that distinguishes them from other parties, which is also beyond attack from mere mortals. If anyone finds fault with their particular shibboleths, then they might as well leave their parties and go on to bigger and better things. So, members generally condone bureaucracy, secrecy, censorship, and other rotten practices, for it works to preserve parties, and whatever it is that makes them unique. Preserve and market, and if you don't like it, then get out. Not very user friendly, and is why the level of theoretical thought is often so low among rank and filers. If a person is at all capable of thinking independently, then that person had better be prepared as well to be forced out of the party, break up all of the relations they previously enjoyed, and once again find themselves out on their own. When I started hanging out with the News and Letters group last fall, I had hoped to be able to start some real dialogue on the Marxist theory of the state, but the level of feedback that I got back was not very high. In general, what they have done is to circle the wagons around their Marxism-Humanism, and not answer challenges that the outside world delivers. And yet, they openly state that they are interested in hearing voices from below, and claim that they are interested in dialogue. Except when the dialogue goes out of certain circumscribed boundaries. One thing that was out of bounds was calling into question why Marx didn't take into account any of the lessons of the American Civil War when he suggested that Americans could peacefully achieve their goals. There is so much that they have refused to take up in my challenges to them that I suspect that they will shut off discourse altogether soon. But, I will give them more time. It took me two months to answer one of their replies that was only 5 pages long, so it may take them a year to answer my 30 page reply.
What you mentioned about cults of personality was very apt. Cults of personality perfectly complement secrecy, censorship, and bureaucracy practiced by parties that adopt bankrupt policies like taking away the property of the rich. When I merely lumped secrecy, censorship, sectarianism and bureaucracy together, I inadvertently left out personality cults. Now I realize how mistaken I was, so I thank you for bringing this oversight to my attention. This reminds me of the News and Letters personality cult built up around Raya Dunayevskaya, a former secretary to Trotsky. Thanks to you, it makes more sense now.
I'll have to figure out how to reword my plea to 'selfish' revolutionaries. What I probably should have written was something more like "... when are selfish revolutionary parties going to do something real about the unemployed by advocating work sharing?" That would have been more reasonable, for, as you state, individuals have no means by which to share work. I like that term of yours - silent agitators.
You wrote, "We'll never be able to share the work, until we can force the capitalists to pay us enough of our product back to live on it." Using approximately the same words, but taking into account supply and demand in the labor market, I would say instead, 'We'll never receive our product until we share the work.' Being smart enough to demand that work is shared through shorter hours will not only solve the problem of unemployment, but will ensure wages high enough to live well. We are being punished for our willingness to let the government 'take care' of the poor, but the bourgeois final solution to the problems of the poor is to imprison them, and let businesses exploit prison labor, let low-paid prison labor compete with, and drive down, wages on the outside. We must not allow governments to determine all policy, and instead must create policy of our own, for our class, by insisting that what little work that remains for humans to do gets equitably shared. That to me is the meaning of class solidarity. We have no excuse for not putting shorter hours and higher overtime premiums at the forefront, unless we secretly want things to get worse so that the proletariat will revolt. With what we know, we have no excuse for allowing a blood bath to occur, for we know what will put everyone to work, and will enable all to live well, and we simply have no excuse for not doing the moral thing. If you or I belonged to some secretive revolutionary society that had in its program, "No Compromise! Revolution or Death!", then I could understand that we would do like the SLP does, and just wait for things to get bad enough for the proletariat to turn to us to tell them what to do. And then we would merrily lead them to City Halls and Federal Buildings and take them over, or turn them into day-care centers. And we would not forget about the lock-out of the capitalist class, and the OBU's possession and control of the industries, if we could overcome the resistance of the communists and socialists. But we could also end up fighting ourselves over what to do about property, as during the Spanish Civil War. But, if the biggest reason for having a revolution in the first place is unemployment, we already know how to fix that, so the question becomes, 'Why revolt?' I can't think of a single good reason in this country, whereas people had good reasons back when they were fighting colonialism and feudal monarchies.
In communist theory, there never was anything wrong with the term 'socialist state', for the proletarian dictatorship is precisely a socialist state*. And such a society is neither classless nor stateless, for, in order for there to be a proletariat, there must necessarily be a bourgeoisie along with the proletariat as well, for the proletariat to oppress through its state apparatus. Basic Leninism. But also obsolete.
* 2002 note: In the Collected Works, M+E never used the phrase 'socialist state'. Neither did they use 'proletarian state'. Marx attributed "workers' state" to Bakunin, but Marx didn't find fault with that term. (End of note.)
Anarchist theory rejects the term 'socialist state', for, to anarchists, proletarian dictatorship makes no sense, and neither can a proletarian state. Classes and the state are abolished instantly in the anarchist scenario, more or less, and with them all oppression. Also obsolete.
Sometimes, you have to put yourself in the shoes of every player in the field. But, when people favor sides, it is quite difficult to do so, and scholarship is replaced by partisanship.
I think that there are divisions within our class, otherwise we wouldn't have to talk about the employed, the underemployed and the unemployed.
Anyway, we should not wait for the bosses and the government to put us to work, and instead we should rely instead upon a caring self-organization of our class to put pressure on government to alter hours and overtime premiums as required. So, when I say that the poor should beg labor for work, what I mean is that the poor, as an ever-growing segment of the working class, should have a working class umbrella group to look up to that would seek to abolish the poor as a sub-class through appropriate downward pressure on hours, and upward pressure on overtime premiums. We theoretically could put all of ourselves to work without a bit of help from the government, by means of an umbrella group that would count beans and determine that workers should walk out at the end of 7 hours, or 6 hours, or whatever, in order to put everyone to work. Once shorter hours was established as a de facto rule, then the government could seek, if it were a reasonable government, to establish the fact of shorter hours as a de jure rule, by codifying it. A few successful battles like that would soon establish shorter hours as the principle means of assuring 'labor peace'.
December 09, 1997
Thanks for replying to my letter from May. I know it's not easy for you to juggle a 40-hour job with endless other obligations. I recently got word that the health of my parents has been on the decline, so I will be going back East to help take care of them. I should be outta here around Xmas, and don't plan to return West any time soon, if ever.
Thanks for the info about Charles Siegal. I'll try to get hold of the issue of the IW with the review. Thanks also for the copy of the poll on attitudes to shorter hours. It is quite a long poll, however, and one would have to have the patience of Job to answer all of the questions.
I see that our old Party recently moved again, I suppose to smaller quarters than ever. When they finally make it to the broom closet of the Redstone building, we will know that the end will finally be close at hand. I gave up on waiting for the SLP to reply to my challenge, so, when I find a little time, I will have to scold them for dereliction of duty to dialog.
I recently went inactive in the Labor Party, for all of my other obligations combined to make heavy involvement in the LP less feasible than ever, and my involvement in that group was less than satisfactory to me besides. I couldn't get anyone to respond to anything that I wrote or said, and there didn't seem to be any means of engaging in principled dialog within it. At least I had other outlets for my ravings. My audience on FRB was captive, and the little feedback that I got for my show was always positive. Now all of this is in the past.
Having dispensed with too much involvement with the LP, I ran across a flyer from the Committee for a Shorter Work Week (CSWW), which I briefly joined forces with, since we at least vibrate on the same wave-length. I had them on the air a few weeks ago, and had a few meetings at local library branches. I already knew the two founders. One is M.Del., People's Park activist who once ran for Berkeley Mayor, and the other is M. Syrek, who was in the Labor Party with me, and we even attended the same LP meetings together. I once heard him talk about shorter hours, but never expected to join forces with him. He's retired, and admitted to having been a Trotskyist. M.Del. is a member of a union, but hasn't worked in 5 months. It's a small world. It's too bad that I have to leave the area just as their ballot initiative is taking shape.
The News and Letters crowd pretty much decided that their guru in Chicago would be the designated 'handler' of the theoretical challenges that I presented to them, but their responses were slow, and I recently stopped going to meetings that eventually became too boring and unproductive. As a result of my absence having been noted, Chicago stopped corresponding to me, I think. Much of their literature mystifies the legacy of Marx, and the era in which he lived.
You may have thought that you had abolition of the wage system explained in 20 words, but ordinary people would remain uncertain about 'replacing capitalism with a system of production/consumption based on use and need'. People would go nuts trying to figure out how to replace one system with another, and would need whole manuals describing system replacements, which would take at least 20^20 words, which is a mighty big number, instead of just 20. The concept is too complicated. People wouldn't have any trouble with the concept of the OBU; they already understand unions, and would have little trouble with 'one big union'.
The six words that need little explanation - shorter hours and higher overtime premiums - still have everything else beat by a mile. As far as delivering workers' control, Prof. Hunnicutt says that workers' control has often been an issue in arguments for shorter hours. Even though he didn't explain why, imagine trying to oppose the production of land mines at that factory in Minnesota, where every worker who quits over the moral issue of building the infernal devices will find xx more workers glad to take their places due to desperate competition for scarce 8-hour jobs. In any situation where you have competition for scarce jobs, workers' control becomes less and less likely. Loggers compete with one other over scarce opportunities to cut down the last of the redwoods. People are scared stiff of blowing the whistle on errant corporations. While the Karen Silkwood case may have been an extreme case of repercussions, just the thought of losing one's job is enough to make scared rabbits out of the rest of us. This whole paradigm of job insecurity that generations of people have grown up with has created a class whose prostitution to the moneybags has been forced upon them, and whose moral values can change with every new situation they find themselves in. They have one set of morals for the job, another for their families, another for driving on the road, another for dating, another for the tavern, etc. Having to change moral standards when changing from one situation to another cannot help but create stress.
In a world of worship of institutions like private property and democracy, settling for workers' control of industry by means of creating a shortage of labor is the best that we will be able to hope for, due to the innate simplicity of the methods. I think that a well-maintained shortage of labor would be just as effective a means of workers' control as we would ever need, for it would ensure that we would be able to preserve the redwoods, end overfishing the oceans, and end military 'grossitures' without suffering from unemployment. Creating a shortage of labor is at least a billion times more realistic for the kind of circumstances we will have to live under in the foreseeable future. If we couldn't organize to create a shortage of labor, we could never organize to do the more difficult task of abolishing wage-labor, what with the concomitant necessity of replacing one system with another, which is too complicated for me to handle, for sure, and I wouldn't want to spend long weekends looking at long lists of numbers and data so that I could help determine what needs to be produced. Besides, creating the shortage of labor will solve so many social problems that the state will then begin to wither away, for it will no longer be needed by the upper classes to jail the working class at anywhere near the previous rate.
To carry the scenario a step further, once we decide that the entire working class has the right to share work for as long as it is necessary to get up to go to work every day, that in itself will be such a tremendous victory for our class that that particular increment in consciousness may mean that we will have finally won the war, for it will mean that workers forever after will no longer be throw-away commodities like milk cartons and pizza boxes, and will be acknowledged as valuable members of the community. This is the great leap forward we need to take in consciousness, for right now we are looked upon as little better than slaves fighting among ourselves over scarce opportunities to make the rich richer, and to make the government more oppressive, as in building ever greater numbers of prisons for those who are redundant to the 'sacred' process of enriching the rich, and where prison guards get paid to torture victims of our criminal injustice system. Prisons are where the invalidation of one human being by another is brought to its highest expression, where prisoners are treated like dirt, without any rights or dignity, and where the maltreatment of one human by another is aided and abetted by the government of, by, and for the rich, who are experts at playing the politics of excluding the poor from enjoying their rightful places in the economy.
It is now time for the working class to get behind the politics of inclusion and decide that every human being is in the same boat with every other human, and is worth making room for in the workforce. When we eliminate overwork to begin with, and shorten hours of labor as needed until everyone who wants a job can easily find it, that will prove that we are really part of the same race. Sharing work is the sanest way for the working class to end its commodity status, for commodities don't fight back, and they don't complain when similar commodities get downsized. If we don't become a humane society while we still have a chance, and before we make the planet unlivable, we may have little hope of doing so when computers and machines really make inroads in replacing every one of us.
About getting the full product of our labor: Allow me to draw a little picture*, which, in itself, my be worth a thousand words, and may help explain why sharing work can be considered to be independent from capitalism, socialism, communism and anarchism. Not only independent, but also the most pressing issue of the day for any progressive or leftist capable of independent, non-party thought.
* 2002 note: The missing graph will hopefully be installed sometime soon. (End of note.)
All that it means is that, as technology is introduced, the ratio of surplus to necessary labor can do nothing but increase as long as hours of labor remain relatively stable. Much of the left is incapable of doing anything about this indisputable fact due to their slavish adherence to taxing or taking away the property of the rich. As the graph shows, nothing but shorter hours will do anything real about bringing down surplus values (short of a Luddite smash-up of means of production), and we don't need to revolt to amend laws that already regulate hours of labor. I didn't need to be a mathematical genius in order to figure out this trend in the generation of surplus values, but I may have to become a genius in rhetoric in order to sell this concept to the left, so blinded are they by their petty-bourgeois fascination with taxing and/or taking away the property of the rich.
Given the experiences of the ex-Soviet world and other such societies, you ought to be able to imagine that it's possible to change ownership of means of production without changing the proportion between necessary and surplus labor. In fact, just changing ownership by itself does nothing to change those proportions. Organizing the lower classes to change ownership results in changing ownership, while organizing to share work results in jobs for everyone, and in lower profits. Which path to equality do you prefer? The difference is whether we follow the petty-bourgeois path of changing property ownership, or whether we follow the working class road of diminishing labor time as much as is needed to satisfy our needs, at least to begin with, for it would mark the beginning of human solidarity, which would be a wonderful change from the divisiveness we now suffer from. It would be nice to have something feasible to unite around for once. Changing property relations in what M+E described as 'the most bourgeois country in the world' is rather plainly not feasible, especially when such a change will only ever be advocated by a relatively small number of radicals.
According to an arrow you drew on page 3, it looks as though you think that the Abolition of the Wages System (which I am still not clear on) would eliminate competition for scarce jobs, presumably by eliminating labor's commodity status, if I read you right. In order for me to comprehend Abolition of the Wages System (AWS), I would first have to know how AWS relates to changing property relations. Does the OBU seize the means of production? Is it like the SIU program, but not necessarily with the Social-Democratic element of the big election? I can understand concrete elements of a plan of concrete action, but AWS by itself is not well-enough defined to enable me to accept it as a plank in a platform, or as an important element of a program of action. With my minuscule understanding of it, it presently sounds like it could sustain itself as an item of philosophy in a preamble, or something like that, but I can't imagine us on a fateful day marching out together to AWS. I could understand the fulfillment of a concrete scenario resulting in AWS, but can't imagine us going anywhere, or doing anything, that at all that could be described in itself as AWS. I hope you understand my problem with AWS, for I consider myself to be a practical man, and when I talk to people on the street about shorter-hour legislation, it's something they have absolutely no problem understanding, for regulation of hours of labor is already on the books, and just needs a little adjustment in order to put everyone to work. 'From the SIU to shorter hours': I've come a long way since the SIU. I like to think that I'm a practical man with a practical plan. Maybe that's the slogan I'll use if and when I run for office. I would have liked to have run to replace the retiring Ron Dellums, but can't if I'm going East.
In the sense of AWS being a noble goal, I can agree with it. I would just disagree on the presumed tactics of how to get there. While radicals might claim that the way to get there is by changing property relations, I think that AWS could more easily and practically be phased out by means of continually shortening hours of labor as permitted by both technological advances and our own development as moral human beings who want to do the right thing by one another and the environment. The very limited amount of state force required to shorten hours pales before the amount required to collectivize property, unless radicals would like to stake out a denial on that very obvious historical point as well (amplified upon later). We already regulate hours of labor, so amending the regulations to phase in shorter hours would entail little more force than what's required to enforce time and a half after 40, which amount, in 1997, is tiny.
You ask how to back up, or provide the enforcement, for work-sharing, but the present-day state can do that chore as easily as the state enforces 40 hours nowadays. All it will take will be a few little amendments to the laws already on the books, such as in the Fair Labor Standards Act. To ensure that the laws do get amended will require some political will being demonstrated on our part. In other words, a movement, an organization, or a coalition of labor and progressive forces. I can't predict how it will develop. It will have to start with good ideas catching on and spreading to other people. Trying to work within organizations that routinely censor such ideas, such as revolutionary organizations (like the SLP, and News and Letters) that I have tried to work within, may be frustrating to a certain extent, but any dialog on any level helps one to develop arguments, and builds experience, which makes war-horses out of those who sincerely believe in their ideas, and who refuse to be frustrated by the word "No!".
Once again, when I used a concrete term like 'competition for scarce jobs', you chimed in with 'commodification of labor', which I find to be a more abstract term. I can relate immediately to competition for scarce jobs, i.e., I now know what to do about it, while, if I were a man on the street, I may not know exactly what to think about 'commodification of labor', which doesn't sound very nice, but what can anyone do about commodification of labor*? Except perhaps, to follow the radical lead to abolish the system of commodity production which makes commodities of everything, even labor, which I suppose explains why revolutionaries bent on abolishing the system of commodity production would want to use terms that inspire more rage than does the term 'competition for scarce jobs'. Needless to add, I don't find 'commodification of labor' to be a perfect substitute for 'competition for scarce jobs'. While there is a relation between the terms 'jobs' and 'labor', 'competition' and 'commodification' are 2 very different things, so the result is two entirely different meanings for the two phrases, one being easily remedied, the other not; one being a practical problem with a humane solution, the other having no practical solution, but which would require a lot of blood-letting to try to accomplish. In a democracy, who's going to buy a bloody solution?
* 2002 note: M+E apparently never used the verb 'commodify', nor 'commodification'. (End of note.)
Not having ever gone to property management school, and not likely ever to do so, such concerns being rather far removed from my sphere of interests, I wouldn't relish the thought of myself, and others in my class whom I know, suddenly becoming owners of the means of production, and then faced with the responsibility of managing them. Trying to figure out what to produce, and how much, would be not a very exciting or gratifying task for me. I am very much more content to allow a freer market determine what's produced. What makes the present free market seem like such a monster is the fact that the lowest classes never receive much more than necessities, and consequently spend the other 98% of their working hours making the rich richer. If, on the other hand, we had the mentality to risk cutting down on the hours that so many of us so unquestioningly and willingly work for the rich, and eliminate the scarcity of jobs, that would enable workers' control to an unprecedented degree. I could live with a lot more workers' control, say about 10,000% more than the minuscule amount we have now. Did you ever notice how few people ever talk about workers' control, or how to get it? Commies always say we have to overthrow capitalism - and sure, in theory, that would work, but get real. We are going to have private property and capitalism around for a long time, because we are too afraid to use anything else. Private property and capitalism have served Americans well for a couple of centuries, so the man on the street is not about to give up 'what works' for something that didn't work for very long in other parts of the world. Selling alternatives to capitalism is a fine thing for entrepreneurs to do in this most bourgeois country in the world. But, pose a threat to the system? Never, for the anarchists will never cooperate with the communists, who will never cooperate with the socialists, for they represent 3 distinct means of taking away the property of the rich, and, rather than cooperate with each other on a common plan to take away the property of the rich, they would probably much rather blow each other away, as they did in Spain in the 30's. A.P.'s Burlesque Bolshevism is alive and growing stronger, and I don't expect people with business interests in any of the 'isms to behave any other way than the way they do.
I've been consuming and repairing commodities all of my life, so I don't find commodities, or much about commodities, that could oppress me. I buy the ones I can afford, and crave the ones I cannot. Many people who have used - and even produced - commodities during their entire lives have gone to live to ripe old ages. What oppresses me is not having enough time to enjoy what little time I have left on this planet due to overwork; and what also oppresses me is the kind of competition for scarce jobs that depresses the standard of living for me and many other members of my class, forcing me to live under a self-imposed austerity plan. Unless, of course, I want to run my credit cards out to the max, and then declare bankruptcy, but that wouldn't be a very sustainable lifestyle. I could live higher on the hog than usual for maybe 6 months to a year, and then what would I do? Try to find somebody or something to leech off of? I find the thought of doing that tempting sometimes, but don't know of anyone who would let me. Ah, the weakness of the flesh.
Well, we have been corresponding about the alleged statelessness and classlessness of communism/socialism so many times now that it may be a waste of words to make further excursions into the subject. Marx's scenario made slightly more sense for backward countries, where real monarchies were waiting to be overthrown, and where socialists were at the forefronts of democratic struggles, and came to prominence in whatever bourgeois republics were established, as in Paris in 1871. In that scenario, simultaneous revolutions in several advanced countries were supposed to establish proletarian dictatorships that would be invincible to bourgeois intrigue and counter-revolution, leading to eventual world-wide statelessness after class distinctions were abolished sometime in the future relative to 1871, but even after the most favorable scenario that could possibly have occurred in 1871, certainly neither classes nor states could have been abolished in that very same year, or there wouldn't have been a need for the theory of proletarian dictatorship. Obviously, things didn't happen the way Marx wanted them to happen, either, and it disappointed him so much that, in one of the 3 volumes of Engels-Lafargue Correspondence, Marx's youngest daughter Laura described him during his last decade as wandering the lonely streets muttering to himself like a bitter old man.
Marx's scenario for republics was equally problematic, for while proletarian party domination in the state was conceivable by means of elections, a program of divorcing the rich from their property would never fly, and indeed has never flown in Social-Democracies, for merely winning elections never delivered the kind of state power required to divorce the rich from their property, whereas the kind of power that availed after overthrowing monarchies, or after liberating colonies, did suffice to enable socialists to divorce the rich from their property. This vicious amount of power required to take away property proves in itself that socialism is lower in stature than democratic capitalism, just as slavery was a step below feudalism. People want property, and people should be allowed to enjoy property. If left to themselves to manage property, ordinary folks can do it with a minimum of muss, fuss and state intrusion.
So, you may begin to appreciate the kind of logical problems that became the inescapable baggage associated with the program of trying to take away the property of the rich in democracies. It isn't possible, nor is it desirable, except to petty bourgeois who crave control and ownership of property, and is the class for whom taking away the property of the rich is marketed by petty-bourgeois interests, all under the cover of being a proletarian program, so as to make the notion of divorcing the rich of their property more palatable to would-be proletarians.
A question arises as to what really constitutes the rip-off of the working class. While some may argue that the rip-off consists of the expropriation of the bulk of the product of labor, I think that such a formulation is too simplistic, for the working class is a willing collaborator in the process of turning over the bulk of what it produces to the bosses. Workers don't seem to mind that the bulk of what they produce goes to a different class, and are seemingly content to work for wages, or to receive only a small portion in return, the upper 20% receiving 98% of new wealth, leaving the bottom 80% with only 2%. As long as the working class gets by half-way decently, it seems content to be ripped off in the process of making the rich obscenely rich. You can't fight this, for it's true.
I see the central problem as us working too long and hard, and, in the process, competing for scarce opportunities to serve the upper classes. The state, in the meantime, seems intent on jailing all those who fail to find scarce 8-hour opportunities to make the rich richer, for enriching the rich is what 'life' for the lower classes is supposed to be all about in this best of all possible worlds (for the upper classes).
One of the worst aspects of wage slavery for me is having no alternative but to do what I am told, or else try to find a job somewhere else. Most low-skill and low-wage proles have few such alternatives, and are forced by economic necessity to remain working under inhuman conditions of wage-slavery. We could easily put an end to that form of wage-slavery by means of creating the artificial shortage of labor that would put everyone to work, which would enable proles to boldly boycott occupations that have little socially redeeming value, such as cutting down the rest of the redwoods, producing land mines, or overfishing the oceans. It would be much easier to organize proles to create that shortage of labor by means of struggle for shorter hours than to organize them to collectivize property. I underlined artificial because, even though increasing proportions of the 8-hour day are wasteful, people don't necessarily recognize that as being the case, and are content to keep on working these stupid 8-hour days. We need to educate them as to the wastefulness of creating surplus values. Since the sell-out of labor's interests by FDR, the 8-hour day is the measuring rod with which all other working days are measured, and people have come to accept the 8-hour day as immutable. Not only that, but people, depending on the kind of work that they do, are generally capable of working 8-hour days. In their ignorance of the future of work, they might even feel indignant over the imposition of shorter hours. That might be a good psychological reason why fighting for higher overtime premiums to eliminate overwork might be a good thing to fight for first. After that, when the 7-hour day becomes logical, we could explain, "Hey, look; the reason we fought for higher overtime premiums was to put more people to work. It worked to a certain extent, for which we are grateful, but putting more people to work is the reason we must also fight for shorter hours as well, whether or not a shorter work-day will satisfy our need for work. It's the only humanitarian thing we can do for ourselves. The robots are coming, after all, and we have to adopt our social institutions to stay ahead of them, lest we go back to the bad old days of the 20th century. Isn't it better for you to have too much time on your hands than for other workers to suffer from a lack of opportunities to make a living?"
I must insist that any success in shortening hours of labor, or eliminating overwork, diminishes revolutionary sentiment in the working class. If work were more equitably shared, and if more people who wanted jobs were able to find them, I don't understand from where revolutionary sentiment would then emanate. Recently, people on Free Radio Berkeley were talking about revolution as a cure for poverty, which I found ridiculous. To me, it is logical for ameliorations of conditions of life for the lower classes to diminish revolutionary sentiment, so I can't understand where the movement to AWS by changing property relations would then come from. Perhaps you could explain. Don't forget as well that revolution has yet to be inspired by capitalist exploitation of workers in any country I ever heard of, but instead was motivated by the need to convert absolute monarchies into democracies. This is where I think so much of the revolutionary left has gone so very very wrong in thinking that poor economic conditions will cause people to revolt just because someone in the last century said they would, instead of poor political conditions causing people to create democracies, which was what was really observed. As long as we have a democracy, the wolf named 'revolution' will be kept at bay, no matter how badly people are exploited.
As the result of dogmatic thinking about revolution, revolutionaries force themselves into the absurd position that, 'when things get bad enough, people will revolt'. That faulty axiom is far more frequently heard than its obvious corollary, which states that 'we revolutionaries will advocate no ameliorative reforms that will take the pressure off the revolutionary proletariat, nor will we advocate any policy that buys them off piecemeal, and causes them to lose interest in revolution'. In one of the latest Discussion Bulletins, just such sentiments were expressed. I will submit to you the thesis that 'revolutionaries have to be able to afford to ignore reforms that do real things for the lower classes', temporary and band-aid-like so many of them can be. And who can better afford to do without reforms in the interests of the lower classes than middle and upper class revolutionaries? You and I know how middle class the SLP is. Their arguments against reform in the interests of the lower classes are transparent enough to alienate a lot of progressives. As it is, so few people are interested in revolution that the small businesses in this country devoted to revolution are not doing so well.
In other words, therefore, revolutionary ideology that militates against reforms is tendered in the interests of classes other than the lowest classes, and such allegedly proletarian ideology serves only the upper classes. What? Revolutionaries serving the upper classes? YES! They are only dabbling in the luxury called 'revolutionism', just the way non-proletarians can afford lots of other luxuries. Those who have educated themselves as to real working class interests are all too few, and, from what I see around me, I might be the only one, for all I know. I may go to my grave thinking that 'revolutionism in democracies', and 'the movement to share work by means of shorter hours', are antithetical to each other. To work for one movement at the same time that one can state that one is working for the other is schizophrenic, which is why so few revolutionaries, to the extent that they can be said to be sane, do anything real for the struggle to share work by means of shorter hours. The reason for that is that sharing work can only reduce revolutionary sentiment, so revolutionaries would be shooting themselves in the feet by working for a reform whose successful implementation could only reduce revolutionary sentiment. Not only that, but most of us cannot serve 2 masters. We cannot simultaneously serve both the cause of revolution and the cause of shorter hours without badly serving both of them. Also, a bloody revolt is far better served by unreasonably long hours than it could ever be served by solving social problems by means of sharing work. So, most of the revolutionaries you find out there in the world have little more than contempt for shorter hours, or any other reform. They know how to maintain their interests by seeing that the lower classes suffer enough from poverty to revolt. Oh, sure, they might occasionally fight for a halt to the cutbacks in welfare, and they may be in the forefronts of many other people's struggles, not only from the goodness of their hearts, but also to make themselves visible to the working poor, and so that the poor will become ingratiated to revolutionaries for having tried to do something real. That way there, in theory, and in practice, people become as indebted to revolutionism as they do to the revolutionaries. But, in general, the many issues that have been struggled with in the past few decades have not prevented the lot of the common man and woman to decline. Sooner or later, revolutionaries will have to choose between the continued intensifications of the suffering of the poor by means of waiting for things to get worse, or reversal of the suffering by means of sharing work, which, in a democracy, is the only struggle capable of leading to lasting success.
If equitably distributing work doesn't deplete socialist sentiment, then does it enhance socialist sentiment, or is it neutral, and why? If I forgot my lessons of socialism, I may have forgotten what is going to get workers to overthrow the capitalist system. I thought that lower class suffering would lead them to revolt. What is the critical nexus that gets workers to see that their liberation is inextricably intertwined with changing property relations, and when, in the history of socialism, did that connection get made? How does putting a new class in power assist workers the day after the revolution, unless the new class is pledged to shorten the hours of drudgery? But, can't the hours of drudgery be just as easily shortened within the framework of capitalism?
Something that scholars may help me resolve is the mystery of Marx's indication of support for shorter hours, combined with indications that 'further reductions are best undertaken under a proletarian dictatorship', as in the two excerpts in my last letter to you. Engels, on the other hand, seemed to be positively hostile to shorter hours in his later years. As passionately and consistently as Marx, Engels wanted workers to attain the kind of state power that would enable expropriation of property without compensation. But, contrast that to what Engels wrote back in 1845, in his 'Condition of the Working Class in England' in 1844 (pp. 255-6):
"The active resistance of the English working-men has its effect in holding the money-greed of the bourgeoisie within certain limits, and keeping alive the opposition of the workers to the social and political omnipotence of the bourgeoisie, while it compels the admission that something more is needed than Trades Unions and strikes to break the power of the ruling class. But what gives these Unions and the strikes arising from them their real importance is this, that they are the first attempt of the workers to abolish competition. They imply the recognition of the fact that the supremacy of the bourgeoisie is based wholly upon the competition of the workers among themselves; i.e., upon their want of cohesion. And precisely because the Unions direct themselves against the vital nerve of the present social order, however one-sidedly, in however narrow a way, are they so dangerous to this social order. The working-men cannot attack the bourgeoisie, and with it the whole existing order of society, at any sorer point then this. If the competition of the workers among themselves is destroyed, if all determine not to be further exploited by the bourgeoisie, the rule of property is at an end. Wages depend upon the relation of demand to supply, upon the accidental state of the labour market, simply because the workers have hitherto been content to be treated as chattels, to be bought and sold. The moment the workers resolve to be bought and sold no longer, when, in the determination of the value of labour, they take the part of men possessed of a will as well as of working-power, at that moment the whole Political Economy of to-day is at an end."
If 'the supremacy of the bourgeoisie is based wholly upon the competition of the workers among themselves', then do we need a revolution to fix something that is going on within our own ranks? If all we have to do in order to end the political economy of capitalism is to eliminate competition among ourselves for scarce jobs, why Engels did not stick with this formula will remain a mystery for now, but not sticking with this formula was a major blunder.
My study of the diverging tactics of obtaining equality by means of shorter hours vs. by means of socialism shows that the 2 tactics are antithetical to each other. Starting at least with Engels, it is clear that he thought that shorter hours interferes with the (petty-bourgeois) struggle to socialize ownership of means of production. I say 'petty-bourgeois', for the classes who are concerned with property and ownership are the bourgeois classes, while workers are more concerned with getting away from work with enough time to be able to enjoy a smattering of life away from the job. Thus, there may be no better indication of the petty-bourgeois nature of socialism than an examination of the works of Engels. Socialists want control of property, while workers want control of time. I suspect that this statement may arouse some controversy, so I am naturally quite interested in what you will have to say about it. If I am correct in what I am saying, this statement may emerge as one of the more powerful simple lower-class arguments against socialism. Socialists cannot possibly deny that statement, for property concerns, as primary concerns, are implicit in the term 'socialism', i.e., socializing ownership of means of production. There just is no getting away from property concerns, if one is a socialist.
I wonder what evidence exists that a mass movement will ever be generated to socialize ownership, and what could possibly generate such sentiment? Certainly the lowest classes would like to be a little more equal than what they are, and we know that socialism is a great equalizer, but how far are the lower classes willing to go to equalize? It may now be clear to both you and I that there is a great choice between socialism and sharing work as methods of creating equality, and that there are probably a lot many more people advocating socialism than sharing work. How many people, though, are aware that socialism and shorter hours are antithetical to each other, and that socialists, at least since Engels, suppress the shorter hour cure? Even Marx was reserved in his support. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been a socialist. He wanted to divorce the rich from their property above all other means of equalizing economic differences. It was also to be the means of abolishing class differences, and as the best means of getting rid of the state as well. Pretty ambitious, and perhaps more plausible in his day than in ours, which is a difference that revolutionaries who are making money selling their product can afford to ignore and deny. When Marx's ideas were first being formed, he didn't have the lessons of America's Civil War or the Paris Commune to draw upon, never mind the lessons of the 20th century's real experiences with socialism and communism, nor with our dramatically increased productivity. It's a lot easier to critique socialism if we know even just a little bit of history, and the more history I learn, the more obvious it becomes what a failure socialism has been, and why people are abandoning it.
Socialism was conceivable at the time of the Commune, and 'if Berlin, Madrid, and other European centres' had joined with the Communards to create that grand unified proletarian dictatorship that would have made counter-revolution impossible, and would have ensured the triumph of the socialist means of achieving equality, which would have then spread all over the world. It's too bad that socialists back then were incapable of ascertaining what people were willing to do to create equality in the few existing republics, for private property had become such a dominant feature of the more highly developed Western republics that people there were unwilling in sufficient numbers to smash their democracies for the sake of socializing ownership. Look at the ideological battles that went on in Germany over reform vs. revolutionizing an already constitutional country. In Russia, smashing the Kerensky republic and dismantling the constituent assembly was what it took for socialism to displace capitalism and feudalism. Socialism is not only antithetical to the shorter-hour solution, socialism is also antithetical to democracy. At least that's the way it has been in history. Ask the old Guardian Maoist Irwin Silber about how much force of state it took just to administer the means of production in Russia.
Revolutionaries take a woefully inadequate view of world history, for though a revolution may have been plausible in Spain in the 1870's, it isn't in America in the 1990's, for we are not a monarchy that is rotten ripe for overthrow, as was the Spanish monarchy a long time ago. Revolutionaries live in such a Valhalla of fantasies that pinpricks of reality may not be welcome news, but perhaps a little more unemployment in the ranks of revolutionaries will help awaken them to the extent necessary to get them to think about organizing proles to share a little work with them. In such a scenario, revolutionaries would not be saving proles. Rather, proles would be saving revolutionaries. When the SLP finally goes under, and their staff scrounge around for bosses to put unemployed professional liars to work, they may get turned away from many doors, for liars are a dime a dozen.
The reason why petty-bourgeois radicals have no interest in organizing proles to do the possible is that radicals want proles to elevate them to a position of mastery in society. Radicals want to organize hatred against authorities so as to elevate themselves into positions of authority, and make the rivers run red with the blood of the bourgeoisie so that proles will have saviors to look up to. Won't the radicals then have something to be proud of?
In a democracy, putting everyone to work would enable the state to shrink, even with nominal bourgeois control of the state; but, there may be no better means of ridding ourselves of bourgeois control of the state than by eliminating the enormous surplus values that are converted into bribes that convince politicians to do the bidding of the rich.
In one underlining, you seemed to indicate that you don't think that private property is inviolable in the West, as I claim. But, M+E indicated that the USA was the most bourgeois country in the world in their day, which can only mean an inordinate amount of interest in the institution of private property, compared to the underdeveloped world. Even our 5th Amendment contains a clause that 'property will not be taken for public use without just compensation', meaning that property will not be expropriated for public use without compensation in the way that the Bolsheviks did in Russia, and so many other communists did in other countries. To think that the institution of private property is not an important institution in the West, and is not increasingly so in the rest of the world as well, is to live in a state of denial, which is an essential state of mind to remaining a revolutionary. When considering how precious private property has become to Western revolutionary bureaucrats, one has only to consider how little they allow for dissenting viewpoints to be heard equally, for fear that other voices might more effectively lead the membership, and a new group come to dominate, and possibly separate original leaders from their sources of income. It's as though the parties were the personal property of the bureaucrats. Hence, revolutionary parties bumble along, push the same old worthless party lines, live in chronic and static states of denial, and react only in certain circumscribed patterns to various stimuli. What a way to be revolutionary.
Revolutionaries treat their movements like private property. Look at the way in which the SLP became the private property of the K.s, and how carefully they guarded the treasure that provided their income. In a situation in which revolutionary movements (whose programs enjoy zero credibility) strive to market unlikely programs to the politically naive, and if the politically naive grow up to recognize the scam for which it is and go away like I did, or whether they grow up to become cynical exploiters of the naive, then you can expect true dialogue and internal party democracy to take back seats to sectarianism, secrecy, bureaucracy, cults of personality, and censorship, as ruling elites struggle to maintain their domination over marginally useful movements. For experienced revolutionaries to claim that private property is of no value to the lower classes is to practice the kind of denial of the obvious that revolutionary movements are known for. It is based upon pure hypocrisy, and they fool only the naive.
I say 'marginally useful' because they sometimes do wonderful work on behalf of exposing prison conditions, and fighting for release of political prisoners, as well as lots of other useful work. How their work relates to revolution is anyone's guess, most of the time, but they do occasionally state or imply that oppression of the poor would require a revolution to repair. Once again, however, it is only taking revolution out of historical context.
On my side of the Bay, one glaring example of hypocritical revolutionism is the way BAMN (The Committee to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary) periodically steals the Daily Cal out of its news racks and prevents dialogue on the issue of affirmative action whenever the Daily Cal prints opinions that do not conform with those of BAMN. One indication of their bourgeois nature is that they defend a bourgeois policy of exclusion, i.e., under the principles of affirmative action, women and people of color can't find jobs and opportunities without simultaneously taking them away from white males. Under the bourgeois principle of maintaining competition for jobs and opportunities, the ratio of jobs and opportunities to seekers thereof remains too low to please everyone, so providing women and people of color with opportunities automatically disenfranchises white males when opportunities are not created for everyone. Instead of BAMN fighting for opportunities for all, they instead refuse to go beyond the bourgeois ideology of opportunities for only some. They prove their bourgeois monarchist tendency by refusing to intelligently debate opinions that do not correspond to their own. I'd hate to see them run newspapers or radio stations.
In this country, and increasingly in the rest of the world, private property has become God, for, from the standpoint of an individual, property is more reliable than friends, relatives, bosses, governments, clergy and Jesus. It was increased productivity that enabled the institution of private property to arise, and it was the institution of private property combined with overwork that enabled inspired individuals to make themselves inordinately rich. It fell to the lot of the lower classes to protect and augment the wealth of the rich. And in our country, anyone can become rich. So, what fool dares to assault or disparage the institution of private property? None but revolutionaries, who can look forward to such a total degree of failure in their quest to eliminate private property that the rich have as little to fear from revolutionaries as humans quake in fear that dogs, cats, cows, chickens and goats will organize to overthrow the human race, the humorous musings of singer Dana Lyons to the contrary notwithstanding.
I was encouraged to see that you think that 'capitalism can be reformed via the OBU's strength at reducing the work week.' If that is or becomes the OBU's raison d'être, I could easily see us cooperating. As it stands now in IWW literature, what reasons, and how many, are given for workers to organize into the OBU? Has the OBU ever been proposed as an organization for revolution? Are Wobblies divided among those who think that the OBU will be the means of revolution, and those who think that the OBU will be the means of reforming capitalism by means of winning shorter hours and other battles? What opportunities exist within the IWW for dialoguing this issue into clarity and resolution? Would the brass be more scared of potentially losing the revolutionary basis of the organization than of doing whatever in hell it takes to create a saner society? Are things finally bad enough for us to finally start shedding the old ideologies that prevent us from doing something real for the 6 million homeless? Is it possible that we may need 12 million homeless? How about 25 million? 50? 100 million homeless in the richest country in the world? Somebody has to start doing something real sometime.
What should be added to the list of what encourages mass consumerism - beside high wages and low prices - is advertising and easy credit, both of which were introduced in the 1920's on a mass scale.
When it comes to morals, you were right to criticize what I wrote. It is true that workers may very well have moral sentiments; it's just that job insecurity prevents us from acting upon our moral impulses, and prevents us from doing right by one another and the environment. Competition between bosses for high profits that attract investments prevents bosses from acting upon their moral impulses as well, so it is up to a class-conscious working class aware of the moral-smashing attributes of job insecurity to finally put an end to what prevents us from acting on our moral impulses. Unless you can show otherwise, I won't think that it is anything except job insecurity that prevents us from being braver than what we are.
The lesson that I take from our Civil War is one that I have never seen socialists take. And for good reason, since the lesson that I take shows how few are the chances that this country will ever adopt socialism. The North put up with slavery for a long time. When the South finally fired on Fort Sumter, and the North was finally forced to take a stand, it became a fight for survival of the fittest, and free labor won the day. So, we abolished the privilege of ownership of other humans, but, when it came down to providing freed slaves with 40 acres and mules, it would have required dismantling plantations, which certainly was feasible, considering how thoroughly the South had been crushed, but would have represented too gross a violation of the principle of ownership of everything except other humans. So, I conclude, a country that looked at redistribution of plantation land as too great a violation of the principle of private property, even when it had the power to do so, will not be the same country that will rush to redistribute property to the OBU, the SIU, the state, or any other entity. Want to start another Civil War? Try redistributing property. I still don't see what any of this has to do with the overthrow of the Shah, for his overthrow 'in a relatively peaceful manner', as you wrote, didn't have much to do with redistributing property, did it? I fail to understand how the Iranian experience relates to what is going on in America. There may very well have been a mass movement there, but, did the masses alter property relations at all? The way I remember it, they got rid of the Shah and put in Khoumeni, but I have no idea what classes either of them represented, though the Shah might very well have represented himself, as in an absolute monarchy. How do the Islamic fundamentalists relate to private property, or is property now in the hands of a fundamentalist state that is driven by priests?
I could be wrong, but I thought that 'Hallelujah, I'm a bum' was a celebration of free-loading and laziness.
You correctly stated that 'It's a question of power between classes as to how short the working day can be made within a cap[italist] system.' Considering that mature people will recognize that we have no choice other than capitalism, that statement could be further simplified to 'It's a question of power between classes as to how short the working day can be made.' This will prove true no matter what system we operate under, for whatever class gets to be on top will want the lower classes to work long hours for the benefit of whoever's on top, so there will be a constant struggle between lower and upper classes to keep hours of labor short or long. Why don't socialists teach the class struggle from the perspective that 'the top accumulates wealth and power by having the bottom work long hours in exchange for necessities, but the bottom could create equality by limiting how much they allow themselves to enrich the top'? No one could deny the truth of that, but the concept of enriching the upper classes by means of us working long hours doesn't serve the cause of socialism as much as 'exploitation of labor' does. 'Exploitation of labor' is an emotional argument that inspires rage, while the other argument is intellectual, and inspires thought and willful action derived from rational thought. But, thoughtful action is hardly the goal of socialists who want mobs of enraged workers to elevate socialists to power. Are you getting the picture of how badly we've been swindled by socialists?
So few people have figured this out that it is absolutely scary. Thus, UPS part-timers went on strike for the right to work longer hours, inspiring wonder if they ever gave a thought about what the essence of the class struggle is all about. Socialists are never going to educate workers about this, for the goal of socialists and so many other kinds of radical revolutionaries is to take away the property of the rich as their primary goal, and putting everyone to work as a secondary goal. In order to take away the property of the rich, they will have to rally hatred for the rich. But, much more than achieving that goal, they are more successful in rallying hatred between workers by teaching overworked unionists to hate underworked replacement workers by calling them 'scabs'. Rallying compassion for the poor by struggling to share work with them seems to be beyond anyone's consciousness.
Obviously, a great change of consciousness must occur before we can become a sane and compassionate society, which is entirely physically and economically possible, but doesn't seem at all humanly possible given the poor level of consciousness that exists. Thus, I think that the greatest existing dangers to people and the environment are none other than revolutionaries in little parties who insist on rallying hatred, and who refuse to consider alleviating the horrible conditions of the lower classes by rallying their compassionate desire to share work equitably. It makes me wonder if the revolutionary left could do any greater harm than if they were getting their funds directly from the government or the bosses. If only there could be a serious debate between the real choices people have at their disposal. That might wake up quite a few as to how badly we have been fooled. Back in '76, I learned that I had been swindled, but had no idea just how badly until '94, well into writing my book, when I had to think things out more precisely. It's too bad that not everyone in the left feels compelled to write about their true sentiments resulting from their real-life experiences, which is a great opportunity to achieve clarity.
When I first started writing my book, I was so frightened over my own rage at our own little Party leadership that I was afraid of what demons might be unleashed by my dwelling on the issues. I didn't expect enlightenment as much as I expected to be driven to sue them for fraud, or perhaps embark on some other fruitless endeavor. Perhaps the sense of rage of other rank and filers prevents them from examining their own little parties, for fear of opening Pandora boxes of intrigue, enigma and extraordinary complexity. In my case, however, it seems as though everything in my earlier years had prepared me for my SLP involvement, for I had already explored my inner motives, and was less fearful of dealing with my internal mechanisms than other people might be. There were a lot of things in my early SLP involvement that had aroused my suspicions of them, and when the fraud revealed itself to me, it didn't surprise me as much as its depth shocked me. Instead of just leaving them immediately, which would have been the easy thing to do, I was compelled to remain within, and, in the best possible scenario, get my revenge on the leadership by exposing their foot-dragging and even their possible complicity in the crimes of the old leadership against consciousness. How much the consciousness of fraud perpetrated by revolutionaries must accompany the development of share-the-work consciousness is anyone's guess. More research needs to be done. My book only scratched the surface of the depth of the leadership's witting complicity in their betrayal of lower class interests. It's one thing to merely make a business of an ideology, while it's another to actively collaborate with upper class interests by purposely confusing the lower classes. How much of this active collaboration I am looking at is anyone's guess, but their taking quotes out of context opens the door to charges of the most pernicious and malignant of motives. So, come on, join the effort to vigorously explore the depth of the intrigue against workers. Are you not even remotely interested in solving the mystery about why the SLP was as off-base as it was, and its program so far out of the realm of what's possible? But, not so impossible that no one would buy it, which is a neat balancing act.
Given the useless ideologies that exist within revolutionary parties, you can be assured that, if a socialist government ever got into power in this country, shortening hours of labor would be a measure of last resort. The first thing they would do, with their present programs (which, by the way, will never get them elected), would be to figure out how to nationalize industries without a civil war. But, who needs either war or changes in ownership? For anyone to suggest that a socialist party in this country could ever even get close to the reins of power is to reside in a fantasy land. One might as well wish or wait for Lenin or Marx to come back from the dead.
French socialists knew what would get them elected, for the masses know instinctively how to put everyone to work. All they needed was to find a party to express their interests. French socialists had their ears to the ground. There is a level of nastiness to American socialism, on the other hand, that leaves me cold and alienated when I am not trying to engage them in constructive dialog. Before moving East, I've been briefly in dialog with the Committees of Correspondence, for they seem to be trying to figure out if there really is a valid critique of socialism, i.e., whether socialism declines and falls of its own dead weight, or whether socialism is perfect and immalleable. From what I see, though, I think that they will need for Marx to come back from the dead and confess that he f***ed up before the COC will ever change their minds. Who am I, without credentials (except for maybe having learned from my mistakes) to teach them otherwise? We shall see how things work out.
Every once in a while I have to correct the errors of my ways. Even though I said it distinctly in my last letter, I was wrong to imply or state that Marx said that workers here could peacefully achieve socialism, for he only went so far as to say that workers here could peacefully come to power in our republic, as in a workers' party winning an election, whether or not on a socialist platform. Implementing socialism would then be the tricky part, as the lesson I draw from our Civil War illustrates. Socialist bluster on the hustings may then amount to nothing, or no more than it amounted to in Western Europe, our common appreciation for private property no more enabling socialism here than it was implemented when socialist and communist parties came to power in Europe.
Even though the SLP was adamant about backing up ballot box results with the SIU, I can't recall any place in their literature that went into the reason why the ballot box had to be backed up. Can you recall any of the reasons they might have expressed, and in which pamphlets? Did anyplace in SLP literature explain exactly why socialist and communist parties in Europe failed to socialize ownership of industries after coming to power? There is no place I can remember that talked about nationalizing with compensation, as in England, vs. nationalizing without compensation, as in Russia. If ever I implied that the SLP never said that ballot box victories needed to be backed up by some presentiment of force, then I had to have been wrong. But, the simple assertion of a 'need to back up the ballot box' endangers socialist ideology not a whit. Compare such a simple assertion to a fuller explanation, however, and socialism begins to lose its appeal. So, what would motivate socialists to teach the truth?
There can be no place in SLP literature that frankly discusses the extreme amount of force required to take away the property of the rich without compensation, and when those opportunities availed in history to socialists. After comparing prospects for socialism in democracies vs. after overthrowing monarchies or liberating colonies, one is led to the inescapable conclusions that socialism is dependent upon the force of the state to expropriate property, socialism and freedom cannot coexist because of all of the force that has to be constantly exerted, and as it is daily exerted in the remaining socialist countries. Massive exertions of state power have no appeal to people who come from a heritage that Marx described as close to statelessness, especially in the old Wild West.
Neither the SLP, nor any other socialist entity, could possibly explore the differences in applicability of socialism in democracies vs. undemocratic backward countries, because to do so is to severely endanger the ideology that claims that 'socialism is equivalent to peace, freedom, and all of the other finer virtues of noble governments.' Socialists cannot possibly even begin to seriously, or candidly, approach the question of why socialism happened only in backward countries, but didn't happen where it was supposed to, without alienating audiences that grew up under democratic circumstances. And the SLP had the nerve to call themselves an educational institution. It was pure miseducation all along the line, buttressed with quotes out of context.
Rank and file socialists cannot even begin to tackle the subject, because the rank and file have yet to be taught the differences, not because socialist leaders never thought about the differences, but because socialist leaders are cowards who have purposely suppressed as much thought and discourse on that subject as they can without looking as though they are trying to hide something. But, they are trying to hide something, and not only that something, but other somethings as well, such as the forced prostitution of the workforce to the moneybags. Instead, socialists complain long and loud about the alleged exploitation of the workers, as though the more highly paid workers did not buy the prevailing ideology and benefits - lock, stock and barrel.
Can you imagine socialist leaders promoting discourse on a socialist topic that is bound to turn off all but those most prone to aspire to the excesses of Stalinism? What socialist leader is going to proudly point to the fact that socialism is based upon the use of more force than what people in democracies are willing to exert? No socialist leader is going to do that any more than any Corvair dealer of the '60's was willing to proudly point to the susceptibility of Corvairs to overturn. What a selling point! Imagine a socialist coming up to you and saying, 'Step right up folks, I want to introduce you to a system that is guaranteed to equalize income in the USA, and all you will have to give up is your freedoms, as well as your private property.' That's just as likely a line as a Corvair dealer saying, 'Step right up, folks, and I will introduce you to a car that will get you around town with great mileage, but has an unfortunate tendency to overturn.' Socialist leaders are no more suicidal than Corvair dealers were. Both are or were just trying to find naive suckers to make a buck off of, though when it comes to the class struggle, more insidious forces may be at work than purely economic interests. The less that the audience knows, the better, which is why SLP members who retained any degree of skepticism and smelled the rats who were covered with the perfume of 'equality' arguments, were guaranteed to get out someday.
So when are people finally going to go socialist? What's it going to take to get them to adopt the ideology of socialism, and to consider voting for more than just a lone Bernie Sanders and/or a Ron Dellums? When is socialism going to become popular, and why will it? I keep on thinking that things will have to get worse for people to adopt it, and that's that we were waiting for, back when we were in the SLP together. All we had to do was keep passing out the 'literature' so that people would know what to do when they finally came around to embrace socialist sentiment.
You don't seem to be able to admit that socialism did exist for a billion people in the world, and that that billion far outnumbered the million anarchists who only think that what the socialist countries had wasn't socialism. Perhaps, in that way, the notion that 'the predicted socialist revolution has yet to happen' can comfort dreamers who may think that 'it might be just around the corner.' But, Bill Mandel wasn't afraid to unequivocally state that what the Russians had was socialism, for private ownership had been abolished, not only in Russia, but for lots of other socialist countries as well, if I may add. But, if some groups who are critical of what was achieved want to say that 'they didn't have a classless society', or that 'they had a strong state', or that 'Stalin was all-powerful, and so, therefore, they didn't have socialism', then various small handfuls might very well be entitled to define socialism any way they want to, or the way Bakunin might have wanted them to, but they remain outnumbered by the reality that billions of people believed that what the Soviets had was socialism. It doesn't matter so much that the states that owned the property didn't represent the masses the way the critics say the state should have represented them. It's a distinction - but only a small distinction - that proletarian dictatorships, in theory, were to represent the masses with a far better quality than did the bureaucratic states that evolved. For self-satisfied critics to relentlessly critique the states that did exist without critiquing the dramatic failure of their genesis to adhere to Marx's desired scenario, is for the pot to call the kettle black, but I never knew a critic of the Soviet state to call the bureaucratic distortion of the Soviet state to be small potatoes compared to the failure of socialism's first manifestation to adhere to Marx's dreams. In fact, leftists are so unfamiliar with Marx's desired scenario, or are in such a state of denial about it, that few today can talk intelligently about the revolution having been supposed to start in the heart of Europe, and then spread to the rest of the world, or else for a Russian revolution to spark revolutions to the West. The News and Letters people are fond of pointing to Marx's latter theory, but are rather poor at admitting to Marx's first theory, for the failure of the revolution to adhere to Marx's first theory makes him look like a duffer, while the News and Letters people seem to be all about promoting his infallibility. Once again, the rank and file cannot think for themselves, even when I confronted them with these facts. They contented themselves with assurances from their National organization that Marx didn't make any mistakes with his predictions because he didn't make any.
People who live in states of denial cannot relate to the common knowledge of the man on the street who thinks that he understands at least a little of what socialism meant. Radicals end up confusing the issue more than clarifying anything. The dirtiest trick that was played on the rank and file by socialist leaders was to promote the lie that 'socialism hasn't yet happened anywhere.' Certainly that could appear true if the alleged socialism of the tiny sect never corresponded to the socialism that is understood by the masses. Do you think that the tiny sect known as the SLP is going to bother to tell anyone that its redefinition was based on quotes out of context? Wake up, smell the coffee, and join the millions who learned to accept the dirty truths about the kind of socialism that was practiced in the real world, is fading from the scene, never to return. R.I.P. An 'ism whose proponents are more comfortable with the lies that support it than the truth that extinguishes it deserves to fade away into oblivion, and the sooner the better for the masses. Socialism is a sick ideology promoted by dogmatists who prefer repeating the pronouncements of liars than to apply themselves to the investigations that need to be done, but which unfortunately rarely get done, for people are lazy, religious, and enjoy the company of like-minded individuals, no matter whether the others in the group are right or wrong. At all times, we have to deal with the human material at hand, and it is more often easier and more lucrative to repeat what people are used to hearing, and what they want to hear over and over again. Indeed, rank and filers often pay their national organizations to repeat the same old stuff to them, as in a perfectly bourgeois relationship.
While in the SLP, one of the things that used to irk me was the task of trying to 're-educate' people to accept the SLP redefinition of socialism, and not getting anywhere. In my early stages, little did I know that the SLP redefinition was based on a hurricane of hate for the Leninist definition of socialism that was acceptable to a billion people in the world, and was far more compatible with the Marxist scenarios of proletarian dictatorship (Lenin's socialism) and classlessness and statelessness (Lenin's communism) than the phony and fraudulent SLP version of 'socialism = communism = classlessness and statelessness' ever could be, based as it was on quotes out of context and lies cut from whole cloth. How could the SLP 'dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasantry and middle classes' ever be reconciled with Marxism and Leninism? Never. No wonder S.K. said that the communists were going to kill us SLP people as soon as they came to power. Just stating that was an admission that the SLP brand of socialism didn't stand a chance against the Communist Party version in the free marketplace of ideas, based as the CP version was upon at least a semblance of history and reality instead of on the wet dreams of professional liars who were selling anarchism disguised as socialism. We in the SLP were some of the worst liars and repeaters of criminal distortions of ideology who ever existed. We didn't have a moral leg to stand upon, couldn't stand for the humane doctrine of sharing work, and couldn't even oppose the Vietnam War. We were entirely worthless to society, and even represented a net loss. You and I were part of that outrageous affront to morality, and must as much atone for our sins as we would like to see Henry Kissinger atone for his. The world would have been better off if the SLP had never existed. I finally had to get out of that party that was too petrified to perform the task of examining the basis of its ideology, even after I showed them that it was based upon quotes out of context. Can there be anything brave about revolutionaries who are afraid to confront the lies they repeat? I used to think that revolutionaries had to be brave people, but they unfortunately are too scared to confront the lies they repeat. Our old Section could admit that A.P.'s quotes were out of context, but were afraid to admit that the quotes had been intentionally taken out of context, perhaps as if A.P. had been unable to help himself, or as if taking quotes out of context was the only conceivable way he could deal with quotes. One has to be able to afford to be so challenged by common standards of integrity, and the only people who can afford to be liars are the upper classes and the people who work for them. It's either repeat the lies, or face the other choice of getting fired. It's little wonder that a society as burdened by lies as ours can afford to turn its back on the 6 million homeless and 40 million or more living in poverty.
What is it about revolutionaries that enables them to withstand gross inaccuracies and travesties of justice within their own parties? What enables them to offer less freedom of speech within their parties than what is offered by the bourgeois state that they claim to want to overthrow? Can their violations of common freedoms be any better proof that socialist revolutionism in democracies is worthless to the lower classes? How much more proof than their endless boring repetition of evil behavioral patterns do you need to determine that you've been lied to, and when will you get the nerve to say no to the lies? Why have you never been able to join with me in condemning the SLP's phony 'dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasantry and middle classes'? You can't pretend not to know better than that phony theory, so why do you just let all the phony theories co-exist in your mind with a sense that shorter hours is worth working for?
It may or may not be true what you said about 'socialism based on wage-labor and commodity production' is not 'revolutionary, i.e., will not produce socialist relations of production.' It's truth depends upon how one wants to define socialism. It is clear from the Communist Manifesto that proletarian dictatorship and capitalist production could co-exist, for instance, whereas it is perfectly clear that classless and statelessness could not possibly co-exist with capitalist commodity production.
There is nothing superior to revolutionism. Therefore, there is nothing subaltern about fighting for a mundane living wage for all. If workers need anything more than a living wage, you didn't make a case for us all needing mansions with swimming pools, Cadillacs, tennis courts, yachts in the harbor, second homes in exotic climes, etc. In history, revolution was needed to bring democracy to where it didn't exist, and to liberate colonies. Where democracies exist, such as in the USA, no more need for revolution exists. For anyone to say that there is such a need in the USA is to repeat what highly misinformed people of doubtful integrity would like for us to believe. The more time that is wasted fighting for what's unlikely in our future, the less time will be found to fight for real gains that are possible in the present. By that I do not mean workers ending production of surplus values and getting the full product of their labor, but workers obtaining real increments of freedom by being freer for a longer portion of the day, saving the environment by working a lot less, and looking to the goal of phasing out all wage labor by means of progressively shorter hours. In a democracy, that is the way we can get to classless, stateless society and AWS. It's too bad that someone from the last century with a big following didn't say it first, and we could unthinkingly follow the correct path automatically. I rely instead upon what I've been able to figure out for myself, and upon what A.O. Dahlberg wrote in 1932.
Charlatans erect lies, but one either learns how to decode them, or else we become part of them. Decoding left-wing lies may not be the path for everyone, but I can't create a better world by myself, and I am always looking for capable others who are willing to apply themselves to the goal of standing and fighting for truly possible paths to working class liberation. Those who are so enamored of the glitter, dross and rubbish of revolutionism that they stick with it to the end will have no one to blame but themselves for witnessing the march of history, but not being able to exert a lasting effect upon it, always remaining far in the background, reduced to the role of merely lamenting the constant stream of atrocities, while dreaming of the 'better' world that remains sadly out of reach. We could, on the other hand, create an organization that would be dedicated to resolving differences in ideologies until we became clear enough to do something real for lower-class liberation. What a difference that would make to our future. And, it is so feasible. So easy. You'd have thought that someone would have done it before. But, business and political interests have obviously gotten in the way.
Admittedly, there is no morality in the present circumstances of exploitation of wage labor. The question is, where is the morality in the revolutionary alternative? There is no morality in such a product intended for mass consumption, but which unfortunately makes no sense for democracies. People are not going to smash the state in order to abolish private property just because Bakunin, Marx, Lenin, or someone else in the past wanted them to, no more than workers are going to create workers' states just because Lenin wanted them to do that. The First International was more grounded in reality because they fought for red republics when other republicans weren't willing to go beyond what the bourgeoisie wanted for Europe; and, for Europe in the last century, what the 1st International wanted was not totally outside the realm of what was conceivable, considering how many red republics had been created in the revolutions of 1848-50, and considering how close the Commune came to initiating the universal red republic, and making the revolution permanent. But, that was all in the last century, and we have to move past those unrealized dreams unless we prefer living in a dream world, and never getting beyond the dream of the cataclysmic change that will shake our souls to the core, and initiate the social and democratic republic of labor. It isn't going to happen here all at once, and we might as well just resign ourselves to merely fighting for what's possible a step at a time, and fighting for what will mean progressive changes for the lower classes. That would be better than for us to continually lose over and over in our headlong race to the bottom. So, come on and join the race to put humanity first before somebody else beats us to doing it. This idea is so latent under the present conditions that even the bourgeoisie is introducing 30 for 40 in certain factories, for they find it to be an effective weapon against absenteeism. Don't you want to be on the forefront of possible social change, or do you forever want to remain in the arena of competing unlikelihoods?
Proletarian blood is spilled every day in
the quest to make the rich richer. Telling workers the significance
of competing with others for scarce jobs, and organizing them
into the union of the enlightened who know enough to go on a slow-down
strike and withhold their labor power so that everyone who wants
to earn a living will be able to do that - may require an enormous
change in people's consciousness. But, once people see the logic
of doing that, the next step is to implement it. After that, it
will be possible to reflect upon the effects of the real action
we engaged in. This simple process is essential to reversing the
race between proletarians to the bottom of the slag heap. What
a way to go - in a mad dash to obtain the last of the 8-hour
opportunities to make the rich richer. The ones who win will be
oh, so proud of themselves until the latest version of super-computing
robots takes their places, after which they might elect to do
something to ensure a natural retirement, or maybe not. Maybe
they will elect to starve themselves to death, perhaps thinking
that 'people who aren't noble enough to
have clawed their way sufficiently close to the top don't have
a right to survive if they don't have a job', in a fine
replication of bourgeois ideology.
Though critics may think they can easily prove it to be regressive, I think that the only fair tax is a flat tax with zero loopholes. Applied to the income tax, that would mean a small tax on the gross, rather than a big tax on the net, which would cause the tax burden on the rich to increase dramatically, for they presently have so many deductions that they can end up with net incomes of zero or below, and GM and others can end up paying less of an income tax than any one of their production line workers. Nothing helps the rich avoid their fair share of the cost of putting us in jail like taxing the net, rather than the gross. Under my tax plan, because the upper 20% get 98% of the new wealth, they would end up paying 98% of the tax. As it is now, the rich can afford to waste the lives of minions who pour over increasingly arcane rules and regulations in an attempt to spare the rich of paying one more dime than what they are willing. All of those CPAs are being employed, so what bourgeois apologist is going to scream about all of that unproductive or non-productive work as long as it saves the bourgeoisie money? What if the auditing bill for a giant corporation is larger than the entire GNP of some small states, it's money well spent putting people to work doing something, isn't it? I say instead, 'for the purpose of taxation, end distinctions between net and gross, and apply a small tax to the gross'. This would be the essence of Ellis's Tax Simplification Act, and its essence is 'equal treatment'.
When you say that you are not an anarchist, does that mean that you never were, or you no longer believe in the necessity of taking away the property of the rich? As a past member of the SLP, all of whom at one time believed in taking away the property of the rich, including myself, did you change your mind at some point in time, and when? In the Communist Manifesto (MESW I, p. 122) M+E wrote: "In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend."
The term 'robbing the rich of their property' may not be a nice term for those who really want to do that very thing, but would rather not call it that. It also has a little history. I remember a conversation or debate between De Leon and another person who asked if De Leon believed in 'confistication'. De Leon argued against confiscation, using a high falutin argument about how private property was a creature of the masses, who also had the right to abolish it when it was felt to no longer serve their needs. But, I'd rather eschew obfuscation and call a spade a spade. 'Robbing the rich of their property' may not be how revolutionaries would want to describe it, perhaps for fear of alienating masses who want private property of their own, so how do revolutionaries get around such inconveniences? 'Robbing the rich of their property' may sound like how bourgeois libertarians would describe their perception of the post-revolutionary act, but that doesn't make me a bourgeois libertarian, for the Libertarians on the Libertarian Hour on Free Radio Berkeley don't seem to have much of a labor program at all, and seem to think that merely deregulating business will get us to the promised land. I do not feel that way at all, and would never join them on the basis of their non-existent labor program. So very, very few people in the world can see that the prerequisite for human progress is getting labor off the market. There is no other way.
No matter what the policy is called, the rich would certainly protest having their property taken away from them, and would feel as much robbed of their property as the Russian aristocracy felt robbed when the Bolsheviks took away their land on the first day of their revolution. At the same time, I do not think that most of what goes on in the American workplace can be described as robbery, for workers do not protest the exchange of their labor for living wages. Incidentally, a big sign on the union bulletin board at KPFA proclaims, "We demand a living wage!" It just goes to show how non-revolutionary they are, although Phil M. once claimed to be a revolutionary. I never thought of him as a revolutionary, however.
Robbery of workers might take place if some of them occasionally get mugged at the point of a gun, or if their homes get burglarized. I've been burglarized a couple of times since coming to the West coast, and the feeling is definitely different from whenever I've been lucky enough to get paid by employers. I have usually felt a certain pride over having done good work, and have always been glad to be paid for it. I've never felt robbed over having gotten living wages, and, instead, have felt lucky to be making decent wages sometimes, as I did when I worked at the Rad Lab. I think that it would be a tougher sell to convince individual workers that they were being robbed at the point of production than it would to explain to a worker that the class receives only a small portion of what they produce. The latter can be backed up with numbers, for it can be noted that the lower 80% get only 2% of new wealth, while 98% accrues to the upper 20%. The point is not to convince the lower 80% that they should be getting most of the new wealth that they produce, but that most of what they produce is probably unnecessary anyway, and that they should stop fighting one another over diminishing opportunities to turn over 98% of what they produce to the rich, by organizing themselves to do less work, which is the same as less unnecessary work.
From elements in the left, I have heard about workers being robbed of most of the wealth they produce ad infinitum, but I never got that particular feeling. Some situations made me feel as though I should have gotten more, as I did when working for the SLP at the end. It may be time to start relating to workers on a slightly different basis, i.e., on a basis that they can unreservedly relate to, which may make your educational efforts more successful. They might be more sympathetic to the news that their willingness to work long hours too cheaply prevents others from getting enough work to get by, and that they should think about coalescing to make their overtime much more expensive to the bosses, or agree not to work overtime at all. That would be a wonderful term of a pact between workers. That's what we ought to work on, a universal contract between workers. Why haven't we thought of that before? Let's draft one, and distribute it. When we reach a critical mass, we could seek to have the terms enforced. I enclose a draft.
When it comes to the inevitability of the victory of the proletariat, I took some time to look it up, and found it in the Communist Manifesto (MESW I, p. 119): "What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable." That's probably where Lenin picked up his sense of inevitability of socialist success, rather than from just within his own mind, as you unjustly charged. In democracies, however, proletarian victory will not be a cataclysmic one, as what came after pushing bourgeois-democratic revolutions into proletarian dictatorship, but will instead consist of proletarian recognition of everyone's mutual humanity, and the right of all people to share productive positions in the economy. No successful work-sharing movement can be built upon notions of elitism, as evidenced by two-tier structures, or affirmative action for mere portions of the work-force, etc. We will have to learn to practice the undiluted politics of inclusion, or else suffer yet another series of defeats. When we will learn to think this way is anyone's guess. It will not be the result of revolutionism.
When Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, stated that the victory of the proletariat and the fall of the bourgeoisie were both inevitable, that could only mean to me that he predicted both events. He didn't say when it would happen, but that isn't part of the dictionary definition of 'predict' anyway, which is merely "to say in advance (what one believes will happen); foretell (a future event or events)". Now, if saying that 'the victory of the proletariat is inevitable' was not a prediction of proletarian victory, then I'll eat my hat. Tell me, what purpose does this mere assertion that 'Marx did not predict the victory of the proletariat' serve for you? I would bet that the assertion that 'he didn't predict the victory of the proletariat' serves to protect Marx's image of infallibility in your mind. You are not the only one who asserts that 'Marx never predicted anything'. The News and Letters people do the same thing. They have a Marxist revolution to sell to American workers, and they don't want little foibles, like being inaccurate on this or that particular prediction, to get in the way of the sales pitch. So, once again, tell me how Marx's statement about 'the inevitability of the victory of the proletariat' was not a prediction.
The way in which the News and Letters people handled my critique of their narrow treatment of socialism was to refer to the talents of their top ideological guru, who proceeded to more inflict personal attacks than confront the essence of my challenges. The revolutionaries in the local passed the ball to Chicago, relieving themselves of responsibility of doing research that could settle the matter of whether they were right or wrong. They go deeply into obscure aspects of Marxism that are tangential to the question of whether we need a revolution, and though they put on six weeks of classes about the idea of 'revolution in permanence', could not explain the meaning of 'revolution in permanence' to one student's satisfaction. Lenin at least put it in concrete terms when he defined it as pushing newly created bourgeois republics into proletarian dictatorship. The News and Letters people must have been scared to admit to the scenario for fear of perhaps having to go to the next step of explaining why the scenario didn't happen as desired. "Why didn't workers push the resulting bourgeois republics into proletarian dictatorship, except in the Commune and in Russia?" Because history didn't happen as Marx predicted. "Why didn't history happen as Marx predicted?" Because Marx couldn't figure out that Western workers were unwilling to overthrow their democracies for the privilege of turning the wealth of their nations over to the state. "Why didn't they learn those lessons from history?" They were blinded by their desire to divorce the rich from their property, or something. Who knows? They also never had to confront the fact that improved productivity automatically requires shorter hours to prevent overproduction, not socialism, and that socializing ownership of means of production does nothing in itself to prevent overproduction.
Socialism and shorter hours are antithetical. One philosophy relies on things getting worse to create the revolution, while the other takes away all pressures to revolt. When push came to shove, News and Letters people always took the revolutionary way out and found the lamest excuses for not supporting shorter hours. The local doesn't even allow themselves to consider that the worst mistake they made was to let Chicago relieve them of their obligations to achieve clarity on theoretical matters by themselves, and risk (Yes! Risk!) the possibility that a full and fair debate might have swung them around to advocate peaceful evolution in democracies by means of a struggle that is over 200 years old, and fits technologically advanced democracies to a tee. Like so many other revolutionaries, they chose death over life, chose 'passing the buck' to principled confrontation, and chose fossilized silence to life-promoting dialogue. Like so many other revolutionaries, they gave up the right to think for themselves, and to liberate themselves at their own pace, contenting themselves with the fantasy that Chicago could set me straight, and even remake a revolutionary out of me. They relieved themselves of the opportunity to learn from their own mistakes. They were no more capable of thinking for themselves than were members of the SLP capable of thinking for themselves. You may remember how the NO had to micromanage the political campaign of a New York member who was running for office in some podunk on the Hudson, and how it was that whenever a pressing matter came up, it was always referred to the grand masters in the NO, who proceeded to micromanage the campaign into failure. You also can't forget that all correspondence between SLP Sections had to go through the NO. That is the extent to which revolutionaries in democracies are allowed to think for themselves. In other words, hardly at all. They are but the slaves of their national organizations, mere marketers of bad ideas, or else they have the other choice of resigning. You may not want to see the pattern, or you may want to deny this pattern, but revolution in a democracy is such a joke that there is hardly any other way for a revolutionary group in a democracy to behave. In spite of Raya's intent not to create a cult of personality around herself, there was no way, after her death a decade ago, to avoid the unavoidable.
With regard to what Lenin said about workers' consciousness, a look at "What is to be done?" can be instructive, for framing the question in terms of the consciousness which they are capable of achieving out of the context of the actual pamphlet can be misleading. Lenin actually stated (LCW 5, pp. 421-3):
..... ""Everyone agrees" that it is necessary to develop the political consciousness of the working class. The question is, how that is to be done and what is required to do it. The economic struggle merely "impels" the workers to realise the government's attitude towards the working class. Consequently, however much we may try to "lend the economic struggle itself a political character". we shall never be able to develop the political consciousness of the workers (to the level of Social-Democratic political consciousness) by keeping within the framework of the economic struggle, for that framework is too narrow." ......
...... "In fact, the ideal leader ............. is something far more in the nature of a trade-union secretary than a socialist political leader. ...... the Social-Democrat's ideal should not be the trade-union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat." ......
"Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes. ...... To bring political knowledge to the workers the Social-Democrats must go among all classes of the population; they must dispatch units of their army in all directions."
You may be able to detect that there was no contradiction between what Lenin wrote in 1902 about workers' consciousness, and the ability of Russian workers to invent Soviets in 1905. In a country like Russia in the early 1900's, and in a situation in which it was necessary to win the battle for political democracy, socialists could not possibly hope to win workers over to the battle for democracy by merely doting upon the problem of exploitation of workers in factories. Rather, as Lenin seemed to be pointing toward, socialists had to bring their knowledge of the oppression of all of the lower classes to the attention of the workers so as to inform them of the connections of their own struggle with those of poor peasants and petty bourgeois. Only with the cooperation of all of the lower classes could the struggle for democracy hope to be won. The situation for them 'then and there' was far different than what we have 'here and now', what with our battle for democracy having been won long ago, and with the task of improving our democracy nowhere near as pressing for us as the problem of convincing our fellow workers to make room for the 6 million homeless and 14 million underemployed in the economy by sharing work with them by means of shorter hours, higher overtime premiums, earlier retirement, longer vacations, more paid holidays, paid sabbaticals, bringing everyone under the purview of the FLSA, etc.
The 'divorce of the rich from their property without compensation' was supposed to be the great equalizer, but it became so mostly in the minds of adherents to socialism, communism and anarchism. Before Marx was born, American unionists learned to use shorter hours to put more people to work and raise wages, but shorter hours never became the ideological industry that socialism became, mostly because, I think, there was not as much money in sharing work as could be made by promoting more unlikely schemes that middle or upper classes could afford to support. Proponents of 'isms make money doing what they do, and some of them have mighty good critiques of what's going on in the world. But, proponents have as little chance of changing property relations as icebergs get to the equator without melting.
Implementation of shorter hours in a big way would reduce overall social wealth. Since most of us seem to be in a mad dash to create wealth, perhaps the cause of 'less work' is doomed by human habits. I used to think that uncovering the underlying fraud behind certain ideologies would act as preventative medicine to our endlessly repeating worthless activities, such as how the news that 'DDT softened birds' eggs so much that they became useless' caused DDT to be banned, but I have been disappointed in how little interest was generated by the news that the SLP program was based upon pure fraud, was therefore useless, and was therefore not worth supporting. Maybe I have been dealing with religion all along, and have been too dense to recognize what I have been trying to do is change peoples' religions. Maybe it's time that I woke up, smelled the coffee, just let society evolve the way it may be fated to evolve, and stop trying to change the course of our evolution. And, in the meantime, find some scam to perpetrate on others that will ensure me a fat and happy old age. Or, perhaps I will be so forever motivated by revenge on those who got me to work for stupid ideas that I will do my darnedest till the day that I die to make it more difficult for them to get away with it.
If the rich rip off the wealth that workers create, then that is not what many workers experience. Otherwise, workers would fight back, as they do when wages become too low to support them. They don't mind getting back in return what it takes to get them to come back to work the next day, as is proven by the fact that the lower 80% get back in return only 2% of what they produce, and life rolls merrily along, with no sign of revolt. Better paid workers don't experience exploitation, and even if some of them do, that is never enough of an excuse to get them to overthrow the system. For a revolutionary, the trick is to get workers to follow revolutionaries into overthrowing the system. But, what if the reasons the revolutionaries give aren't good enough? In a better world, revolutionaries would go back to the drawing board and try to find better reasons, and for a while might try to convince us that "America is not a democracy", which many do say. But, people who vote are no more going to believe that America is not a democracy than the ones who have decent paying jobs believe that they are exploited. Many who think that they are exploited go to computer school, or do something about whatever in their personal lives prevents them from 'getting ahead'. I come from a whole family of people like that. I'm the exception that proves the rule. I could have remained in the home town and run a successful auto repair business if I hadn't been so turned off to the thought of working at all by having been exploited so brutally when I was young.
The people who imposed the regimen on me were as much a product of our dog-eat-dog system with its near total disregard for the welfare of the lowest classes as any other poor people. The brutality that shaped their lives wasn't so bad that they became conscious enough not to pass on the same brutal treatments to their kids. What was good enough for them was good enough for their kids, except maybe to overly sensitive kids like I once was, who dedicated himself at the early enough age of 23 to try making a better world out of the present one by any means necessary. So, it was no unusual step for me to become a rebel and a revolutionary. It's just that I dedicated myself more to being effective in my goal of changing the world than merely staying with any one dream, no matter how attractive the dream might be, if that dream were to prove itself to be not much better than gold-plated rubbish. In a democracy, revolutionism can never be anything better than gold-plated rubbish. It just takes the willingness to scratch the surface a little deeper than the average lock-step revolutionary is willing to do. My book ought to be entitled "Leaders and Followers", for that is what my book is really about, how average people are willing to follow totally worthless and useless ideologies, however habitually and perfunctorily their performances in spreading the party message might sometimes be. Let me add that the ideologies that are totally useless to the lower classes are worth their weight in gold to the upper classes, for our divisions among ourselves over competing unlikely courses of action are no threat to the upper classes, but assist in confusing us into ineffectiveness.
It is our willingness to work far beyond the time required to create the necessities that makes the rich as wealthy as they are. If labor is the source of all social wealth, it is only by cutting down on the amount of labor that we do that will cut the status of the ruling class down to our level. We won't be making ourselves any poorer than what we are by working less, for, no matter how much we choose to work, necessities will always have to be paid out to enable us to go to work every day. There is a lot of social security in eliminating dog-eat-dog and becoming a more cooperative and caring society. That path can be embarked upon tomorrow by just recognizing the inalienable right of everyone to be part of the economy. Let those of us who are even ostensibly interested in the fate of the masses to resolve to share the work tomorrow, if it's too late to start sharing it today.
As far as Lenin and Stalin allegedly having done 'a great disservice to the proletariat for not clearly defining what socialism/communism meant to Marx and Engels' goes, you could have more accurately blamed Petersen, De Leon and the SLP for spreading confusion with their untenable, oft-repeated groundless assertions that what socialism/communism meant to Marx and Engels was classless, stateless society, as though the whole period of proletarian dictatorship was supposed to be a transition period that was only supposed to apply to backward countries, and was not supposed to apply to the USA. We know that this is a lie because we know that proletarian dictatorship was supposed to apply to some of the most advanced counties of Europe first, and to the rest of the world second.
Aside from what Lenin wrote about the absence of a military bureaucracy in America and England in the last century precluding counter-revolutionary violence at that time, I think that he was closer to accurately portraying the Marxist theory of the state than what the SLP could ever dream about doing. Lenin was close enough to the concepts of Marxism to be able to use them quite well, and, when the Russian Revolution occurred, and the whole world became aware that it was based upon Marxism at least to a certain extent (except for not happening in the heart of Europe simultaneously with a lot of other countries, and for not triggering revolutions in the heart of Europe), whereas the SLP was miles away from Marxism, but wanted to be known as a Marxist party, for Marxism had some credibility back then, and the SLP wanted to attract at least some of the people who were attracted to Marxist or Soviet communism. But, there was no way that the SLP could convince anyone with a decent knowledge of Marxism that they were very much more than Bakuninist. The SLP simply falsified its version of Marxism, and preached Bakuninism in the name of Marxism, taking quotes out of context, and cutting lies from whole cloth to make themselves appear to be Marxist. And, when doing little more than running a business, and having no intention to lead the proletariat to anything remotely approaching a victory, then one can get away with shit like that. And because Marxism was so irrelevant to the working class that Marxists never had the mass involvement required to purify their own ideology into something remotely meaningful, the too few people who actually gave a shit about principles were always out-numbered by the businessmen and Party bureaucrats who ran the Party for their own benefit, and were free to expel, or sufficiently discourage, anyone who looked like troublemakers for their immutable product.
As a result of the SLP's isolation from the working class (which was not a mistake, and not rectifiable as long as they were revolutionary), they could propose a definition of socialism that was miles away from how the rest of the world understood it, was even miles away from their own pre-1889 understanding of it, and they could always count on a small portion of the working class to support their gibberish, and dump people if or when they ever stopped supporting and parroting it. If I had been a better parrot, I might today still be parroting the SLP line, and still part of that tight little network of fans of the SIU 'solution' to the labor question. Being part of a little network of people you can count upon as being there like the Rock of Gibraltar is still something real in this world of fuzzy relationships, and it was not easy for me to go from something as real as that network to throwing myself out in the open with no network of friends and collaborators at all. Supporters enjoy their little club, which can be a very predictable little society. Members can count upon each other to repeat patterns of mutually supportive behavior till the cows come home, even though they are losing a war of attrition one by one, and their publication has gone from a weekly to a monthly over the past 20 years, and shows signs of coming apart at the seams altogether someday in the future. It's just a matter of time, and, when it does happen, will their phony redefinitions of socialism, anarchism and communism die out with them? Perhaps not as long as various contingents are willing to keep it alive.
It's funny that, in order for their redefinitions of socialism & communism to have weight in any system of halfway credible logic, they had to redefine anarchism as 'replacing the state with nothing at all'. The original definition of anarchy was 'replacing the state with a classless, stateless administration of things', which had to be quietly buried without ceremony, so that the SIU, which theoretically exactly replaces the state with a classless, stateless administration of things, wouldn't be tainted with association with anarchy. Their redefinition of anarchy can be found on the bottom of page xiii of the SLP reprint of Engels' pamphlet: "Socialism: From Utopia to Science". Was there anything moral about that phony redefinition? You must be able to recognize that lie for the lie that it is. It's no wonder that they have not been able to reply to my challenge to them. They don't have a leg to stand upon, morally or theoretically, and they know it, and refuse to do anything about it. Their moral turpitude is so profound that I doubt if they ever lose any sleep over it.
Are you ever going to start giving half a damn about this stuff, and stop treating this whole issue like a mosquito that occasionally buzzes around you a few times, which you can afford to ignore for the other 99.99% of the year? I can understand liking being part of existing movements that already have resources, but what I'm talking about is founding a movement from scratch that is critical of the dying movements of the past whose ideologies have so many holes in them as to make them worthless to the lower classes at the end of the 20th century. The man on the street doesn't think that the industrial proletariat has anything to offer the world, and the industrial proletarian doesn't even think that he's exploited, if his services are enough in demand to warrant a good paycheck. So, we need to address more of what's happening in 1997 than what happened in 1897, which is much more homelessness and poverty, and less of a feeling of community than ever. For us to be a good community of workers, we have only to take care of what's going on within our own ranks, and the rest will fall into place.
Both you and I were swindled by the SLP, and other revolutionary parties and organizations are just as willing to swindle the public. When people scheme to make money off lies, then, to revolutionaries, lies become 'facts', and the facts themselves become 'lies', which get denied with great authority. Your unwillingness to confront SLP lies and take a stand against them is the moral equivalent of aiding and abetting an enemy of the workers, which the SLP is and was, even while we were still in it. It just takes a little education to determine just how evil it really was, many details of which are provided in my book. In the most bourgeois country in the world, how can the proletariat resist bourgeois encroachments other than by refuting bourgeois lies and rationalizations for the status quo? Marx himself said that 'In a monarchy, the bourgeoisie rules by force; in a republic, by deception.'* On so many issues, you seem to either enjoy being dumb about them, or else you are playing dumb. Which is it? We can't get anywhere unless we are fully aware of what we are doing. We can't let the bourgeoisie enjoy a monopoly of consciousness of the tricks and turns of the betrayal of lower class interests. We have to become at least as smart and crafty as they are.
* 2002 note: Darned if I can find anything like that in the CD of Collected Works. Anyone else out there have any luck finding it? (End of note.)
'A system of direct democracy without a party bureaucracy controlling the government' sounds like a good-enough definition of any of the dozen or more versions of socialism that exist, and sounds like a fine enough goal to work for, but is it feasible? Is it worth spending any time working for? Is society willing to take the smallest step in that direction? Or, is any form of socialism a mere utopia that no one but bourgeois idealists are willing to take the time to ponder and dream about?
As obstinately as the SLP, your version of socialism seems to be as much a part of your consciousness as theirs is to them, with perhaps no educational effort on earth capable of changing your minds. You seem to be so wedded to your definitions of socialism and communism as classless and stateless that not even Hercules might be capable of removing that obstacle to understanding that 'it's o.k. to talk to people about common terms of parlance that are acceptable to billions of people'. Due to the practically 50-50 split between 'expropriation without compensation' practiced in 'communist' countries, and 'expropriation with compensation' practiced in Social-Democracies, the definitions of communism and socialism are already hopelessly muddled, and it is therefore fair game for ideological opportunists to try to get as many people to adopt whatever definition seems to have the best chance of being adopted by everyone else, if anyone, anymore, cares to have anything at all to do with 'isms. But, it is no violation of a principle of socialism to say that proletarian dictatorship is inseparable from the concept of a state and classes surviving a revolutionary struggle. Anarchists might argue otherwise. So, if you say that a revolution of the future would quickly abolish classes and the state, you are repeating what anarchists would have you repeat. Similarly, if you say that a revolution of the future would replace the bourgeois state with a workers' state, you would only be repeating what communists would have you repeat. Either way, to proclaim the supremacy of either scenario is to engage in the kind of useless hairsplitting that will get workers nowhere, neither scenario at all matching what workers in democracies will ever be willing to struggle for, for as long as we live in democracies.
What you say about the victories of the Bolsheviks not being failures rings true on a certain level. 74 years of communist domination in Russia certainly counts for something. It wasn't so much of a failure in general as a failure to adhere to the Marxist vision of happening in a more central country of Europe, and was a failure in that other countries didn't come to the aid of the revolution so as to ensure that the multiple simultaneous revolutions would truly mark the dawn of a new age in history, the age of socialism, as Marx meant it to be in Europe, as in feudalism being replaced by capitalism, capitalism being replaced by socialism (proletarian dictatorship), and socialism eventually being replaced by communism (classless and stateless). As it turned out, actually existing socialism was not the kind of proletarian dictatorship that Marx had in mind, and was only a temporary stage in backward countries between feudalism or colonialism and capitalism. Socialism and communism, not being what they theoretically were supposed to be, are nearly dead. Long live capitalism, but only under Dahlberg's regimen of operating under a chronic, artificial, man-made shortage of labor. Getting there at all will be the beginning of peaceful evolution of, by and for the workers. Incapable of finding leaders any better than those in the SLP, and in other revolutionary organizations, I see little hope for any person, animal, or plant surviving too much longer on our planet.
As for the 'major error' of the SLP, that animal could better be described as its adherence to the notion of revolution in democracies, which is so out of the question in the USA that it is best left to elaboration by those who can afford to dwell in the realm of far-fetchedness, much of which can be found in the pages of the Discussion Bulletin.
Taking over the property of their bosses is not in the interests of workers. Workers' interests lie in being able to get home to their families or other interests at a decent enough hour as to be able to enjoy them, and not just flop down in bed, only to wake to the prospect of repeating the same old grind the very next day. With where we are now, that change has to be number one. Give that same worker 100% of what he produces, but keep him working the same number of hours, and he will only wonder when he will ever have the time to enjoy his wealth, which proves that the alleged exploitation of the workers by having his wealth robbed from him is not the issue that you would like to make it out to be, because we will not voluntarily drive ourselves crazy with work in order to provide ourselves with endless luxuries that we won't have the time to enjoy. Because there is no working class leadership today, we are driving ourselves crazy with work to provide the upper classes with luxuries that only they have the time to enjoy. They are the ones who have the wherewithal to enjoy the zero-hour day, when they aren't busy ensuring their own successes in the great marketplaces.
Humanization of the way we live our lives is our biggest challenge, not in figuring out feasible ways to socialize ownership, for there are no feasible, or humane, ways to do that. Socializing ownership is in the interests of petty-bourgeois elements who seek to make a mountain out of a minuscule amount of lower-class rage against the upper classes, for many people worship the upper classes, as is proven by the popularity of shows like 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous'. There is far more rage against the government. Socialism may be the way to instant equality, but the middle class elements who would gain state power in order to socialize industries would then maintain the same old rate of exploitation so as to maximize the wealth and power of the state machine that these middle class elements would then control. Not enough people are going to be sucker enough to fall for the same old scheme that was tried in other places at other times, and that didn't liberate a single proletarian. Once again, socializing property is not in the interests of workers. It never was, and never will be. Even in a draft of "The Civil War in France", Marx admitted that the Communards wanted to compensate owners for the use of factories that suddenly went idle, but whose output was considered essential to maintain. And yet, in the final version, Marx asserted that the Communards wanted communism. What bullshit! He knew that most Communards didn't want communism, as he also admitted in some letters. [As in "this was merely an uprising of one city in exceptional circumstances, the majority of the Commune was in no sense socialist, nor could it have been." (me46.66)]
There is a long history of Lenin advocating that proletarian dictatorship be democratic, as in the Commune. Before the Russian Revolution of 1917, Lenin's works were full of such advocacy, and never do I remember it being suggested that any other situation was supposed to prevail. In many cases, Lenin quoted M+E themselves, who often said or implied that the form of proletarian dictatorship was a democratic republic. To them, it wasn't the form of state as much as it was the class content of the party in power that mattered, and, in a republic, the proletarian party was supposed to be able to come to power peacefully, by means of democratic elections, but it should be obvious that the proletarian party would only get elected if the proletarian platform made more sense than the platform of the bourgeoisie.
Like you say, it will take power to win any battle worth winning for workers, and whether our organization turns into an OBU, or anything else, it is better founded upon a program that makes sense for where we live, and for what is happening, than something that was more appropriate to what was possible after overthrowing feudal monarchies in backward countries. I am glad that you got around to thinking about organizing workers' power, for all of the finest arguments in town do not matter a whit unless we do something about getting them organized. For that reason, I enclose a leaflet for a 1998 ballot proposal for the town of Berkeley that will provide double time after 35 hours per week for Berkeley workers. While some may complain that it is too little and too late, it is past time for us to take any step at all in the right direction.
In 1932, both Republicans and Democrats had shorter hours in their platforms as the cure for the overproduction that brought on the depression. Where did the SLP stand on that issue? If a proletarian party platform had anything in it that advocated taking away the property of the rich, you can bet that no such proletarian party would be peacefully elected, and would have to take power by means of force and violence. But, having absorbed so many benefits of bourgeois democracy, you can bet that only the most alienated fraction of the masses could ever be won over to taking away the property of the rich, for no one who is capable of coming around to a right mind would advocate taking away property in order to bring about equality. Private property is one of the inviolable principles of this country that no sane person need cast aspersion upon.
Taking away the property of the rich has now become the exclusive territory of a class of bureaucrats in dying socialist, communist and anarchist movements who may never allow for their ideological underpinnings to be taken away from them as long as there is one more ignorant individual out there who is willing to be misled into thinking that 'taking away the property of the rich is the best way to achieve equality all over the world, including in the advanced capitalist West'. All they could ever hope to win is a portion of a niche market, and with enough people in a big country, a bit of a niche market could end up making a few people rather comfortable. With all of the born suckers in the world, they could ensure these revolutionary bureaucrats a decent living. Revolutionary life in democracies sure is an easier regimen than what Castro and Che had to do to liberate Cuba. Try to imagine Bob B. or Nathan K. up to their ears in muck in the heart of a steaming jungle. It doesn't compute, does it?
So, like you say, we have to organize the power, and I sure would like to do that, if it weren't time for me to go East, where I just might try to do the same thing back there. To start, we might have to have some kind of journal that would allow for us to put across our evolutionary ideas, and would allow for the kinds of debates that sects interested in marketing bad ideas would never allow to corrupt the purity of their revolutionary journalism. A journal might have to be the starting place, or local ballot initiatives for shorter hour measures to generate debate in a journal that has the kind of integrity and courage to tackle the hard issues, and would admit if it was ever wrong, and would allow for the fullest range of ideas on the social question. I'm ready for that. Who has the money to start it?
Well, I really went too far this time, perhaps
4 times further in length than what you may be able to digest,
and I also seem to have lost some of my previous unfathomable
depths of patience with your willingness to preserve old and useless
ways of looking at the problems of workers in this country. I
wouldn't blame you for being so indignant at some of my criticisms
that you decide to break off the correspondence in favor of keeping
the good comfortable relations that you do enjoy in the world,
and dropping the few who contradict your obstinate adherences.
Dropping difficult dialogues may be the easiest thing for some
people to do, but I doubt if that would be any way to create lasting
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