Back to Index of Year 2000 Correspondence

Back to Home Page

Selected Political Correspondence

May to June 2000

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


First letter to WSM forum:

5-25-00

The most attractive aspect of socialism is the classless and
stateless final stage, but how to get there is the controversial
part. Anarchists would replace the state with a classless,
stateless administration of things, while communists would
replace the state with a workers' state that would hopefully wither
away along with class distinctions, while Social-Dems would
nationalize industries and pray that the state would someday die
out. Where Marx, Engels (and so many others) went wrong was
to advocate the forceful abolition of private property and
capitalism
, a plan that many regard as the essence of socialism.

Since the forceful abolition of private property is the source of
so much controversy and division, I suggest its replacement with
a unified assault on overtime and long hours. Why? In the first
place, no socialist, communist or anarchist would ever suggest
that workers should work more hours than what they already
do, and most workers in Europe are already advocating sharing
'what little work that has yet to be replaced by computers and
technology' by means of shorter work days and weeks, etc. In
his book on "The condition of the Working Class in England in
1844
", Engels didn't blame the problems of poor workers on
private property or capitalism, but instead put the blame
where it really belongs, on the competition of workers
among themselves to win places in the economy.

So, how does this get us to classless and stateless society? By
communists, socialists and anarchists shelving their property
socialization
schemes and instead uniting behind a militant
reduction in the length of the work day and week
in order
to enable everyone who wants to work to find places in the
economy. As technology replaces more and more workers, the
length of the work-year would be forced shorter and shorter until
we eventually reach the zero-hour work-year*, which, according to
some projections, could come about in this century. In a workless
society, there would be no exploitation of workers, for there would
not be any workers. Without workers, there would be no surplus
values. Without surplus values, there would be no profits. With no
profits, no advantages to owning property. With no clamor to own
property, no need for a state. With no state, no enforcement of class
structures and privilege. With no classes, private property, or state,
maybe kiss the nuclear family goodbye as well. Does anyone else find
this scenario more attractive than leftist bickering and sectarianism?

* 2002 note: The terms 'zero-hour work-day (or week, or year)' were
eventually phased out and replaced with the idea that, at some point in the
process of legally reducing hours of labor, a new generation of energetic
workers will seize the initiative and volunteer to perform what little labor will
someday remain for humans to do, and all consumables will become free, due
to the absence of human labor involved in their production. (End of note.)

Ken Ellis

 

5-28-00

Dear Thirsty,

snip irrelevancies

Getting back to basic human rights: freedom of association, freedom of
speech, freedom of worship, freedom of lawful assembly, freedom from undue
interference to a person's development, freedom to self-govern, freedom of
choice, gawd, the list should go on and on, and include everything in the
Bill of Rights as well. Is there a freedom you can imagine? Then it ought
to be enjoyed by everyone, provided its exercise doesn't involve abrogation
of rights of others. Those who think otherwise should enjoy jobs such as
police, jailers and censors. In this often senseless world we live in, there
are lots of repressive jobs like the last three, liberally created by believers
in job creation, rather than in work sharing. They want to keep people busy
all day long, both the jailers, and the jailees. They think that, 'with people's
diseased and primitive mentalities, lots of free time would cause nothing
but trouble.' But, I'll bet that you are as distressed by your freedom and
leisure time as I am about mine.

When robots finally bring the age of work to a conclusion within a scant
100 years, the struggle to survive will no longer necessarily have to apply to
the human world, though it will still be operable in the vegetable and animal
kingdoms. Up until quite recently, the struggle for survival meant that some
people would survive while others wouldn't, but there wasn't much anyone
could do about it. The march of technology now means that a much greater
percentage of people survive to old age than even 100 years ago, while only
a few prosper. Technology will someday further improve to the point where
all people will prosper at the very same time that 'going to work' will be
consigned to the museum of antiquities, even though that presently sounds
like pure fantasy. The march of technology has made it possible for everyone
in this country, at least, to presently live without much pain or strain, while
many think that it's a crime for people to enjoy a good life without having done
something heroic to deserve it. The march of technology is superannuating
such notions, while naysayers are pinning their hopes on everything remaining
the same, or changing imperceptibly slowly, which gives them a good excuse
for failing to think ahead so as to consider measures to prevent future
disasters. It appears as though I am surrounded by people living in
a state of denial, but I'm not about to raise the white flag.

The march of technology will someday superannuate all justifications for
rationing human rights, and for rationing freedoms. The march will soon
abolish justifications for class distinctions, no matter what the basis of
those distinctions. As a socialist, where do you stand on the issue of
abolition of class distinctions? (That's a real test of socialist sentiment,
as you should know.) The future will soon bring a world which will be far
beyond the communist dream 'from each according to his abilities, to each
according to his needs!
' In fact, we may never go through that particular
stage, and instead proceed to 'from each nothing, to each according to his
needs', which goes considerably beyond the stage of workers' liberation
suggested by Marx. But, somehow, I can't imagine such an egalitarian state
of affairs pleasing you very much, for gone would be struggle and privilege.
Struggle and privilege may be the way things are at present, but the present
is only a snapshot of a process of development that should proceed for a
long time, provided that we don't blow ourselves up before work disappears
altogether. So far, like most other socialists, you give scant to zero indication
that you believe that anything will change at all. Some people in the Jeremy
Rifkin camp believe, on the other hand, that the abolition of human physical
labor will occur by 2050, which is considerably sooner than the EE Times
prediction of 2086.

As a socialist, you might subscribe to the theory that class-divided society
evolved out of primitive communism, when land was held in common, and
when primitive means of production could not possibly support notions of
private property. Indeed, some languages in the world STILL don't have words
for 'yours' and 'mine', indicating that some societies are still immersed in
primitive communism. Hard to believe, here in the USA in 2000, where 'I got
mine', and 'you got yours', and it's hard to imagine things being any other
way. Eons ago, I can't imagine people having to fight to exercise their basic
human rights, because there was no oppressive state to take rights away, and
it would have been a waste of time for an individual to try to deprive another
of his or her rights. It's hard to imagine having to fight for one's rights in
a primitive society, except for the COLLECTIVE need to fight a not-so-
neighborly adjacent tribe trying to run them off a piece of land. Depriving
people of rights in a systematic fashion probably didn't happen until society
evolved to include class divisions. So, in other words, just looking at why
'innate human rights' have been fought for in history, I can't imagine people
being born without innate human rights. Thus, I can't imagine people not
fighting back when rights are abrogated. Present-day struggles all over the
world against totalitarian regimes and usurping corporations indicate people's
struggles to retain and exercise the innate human rights we are all born with.
Arguments to the contrary are appropriate to manuals on how to subdue,
divide and conquer.

Did you ever wonder why the Bill of Rights was appended to the U.S.
Constitution
? It was to make sure that our precious government didn't
become a government of men who would walk roughshod over basic
human rights, which is why the Bill of Rights has language beginning
with: 'Congress shall make no laws ....'.

When did you last read the Declaration of Independence? You would read
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among
these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-That to secure these rights,
governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the
consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it,
and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and
organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to perfect
their safety and happiness.
" ... The founding fathers pretty much say in that
passage that people crawl out of the womb with human rights, and that's
good enough for me.

snip

Another probable example of your 'immersed in the past' thinking (that you
bravely admit to) was when you wrote: "Unlike you, I don't want to see the
"resource pool" enlarged. I just want to see things shared more equally. We
already consume too much. We should learn to live at a much lower rate of
consumption.
" Out of those 4 sentences, I agree with the last 3 unequivocally,
but the first sentence might indicate a disconnection with my argument. There
is more than one way 'to enlarge the resource pool'. There's the obvious way
of just wastefully 'creating more', which I think we both would object to, but
there's also the less obvious way of more equitably sharing increasingly
scarce resources, such as the shrinking number of long-hour opportunities to
make the rich richer. Sharing work by means of shorter hours would not deplete
resources any faster than what we deplete them now, I think you'd agree. Waste
could thereby be prevented and resources conserved. Think of all of the Chicano
families who spend a good part of their lives running up and down routes I-5 and
99 in California looking for farm work and failing 9 times out of 10, and think of
all of the gas that could be conserved if they didn't have to do that. It's relatively
easy to think of many ways in which our economy would be more efficient if
tens of millions didn't have to compete so ferociously over increasingly rare
long-hour opportunities to make the rich obscenely richer.

It can easily be proven that the North entered the Civil War as a measure of
defense against the hostilities of the South. Agreed? Remember who fired on
Fort Sumter. As I wrote earlier, the South aggressed against the North so as
to conquer power, thus to ensure the dominance of their institution of slavery.
What really proves that the institution of private property is inviolable in the
USA is that, after vanquishing the South, the North had the perfect opportunity
to give each of the freed slaves 40 acres and a mule, but couldn't find the
political will to carve up the Southern plantations and redistribute the land.
If we were perfectly unwilling to take apart the Southern plantations when
we had both the perfect opportunity and all of the moral compulsion that
could possibly be mustered at the right time, then how are socialists ever
going to convince the electorate to nationalize industries? Redistributing
wealth and property doesn't permanently address the problems of the poor.
Solutions have to address problems appropriately. Why would socialists
want to redistribute wealth and property? Because the poor don't have
enough of either? Those are the least of the problems of the poor. The
poor just want a decent chance to make an honest living in the first place,
not have socialists hand over wealth and property on a silver platter, unless
they are too sick or disabled to go out and earn it on their own. Many millions
of potential workers are being prevented from working by reason of structural
unemployment. Bosses know that a certain percentage of unemployment
increases competition for scarce jobs, which ensures that desperate workers
will accept jobs at very low wages, which low wages ensure high profits. The
unemployment rate is being influenced by the Federal Reserve Board to ensure
high profits for investors. They raised interest rates 6 times in a row because
the hot economy forced unemployment rates so low that the resulting high
wages put unacceptable downward pressure on profits. Now, how does
socialism address this problem? Redistributing wealth and property
doesn't address that problem for very long, and couldn't address
the problem in the long term without creating tons more waste.

Changing property relations doesn't properly address unemployment and never
will. The 'isms have never been as dead as they are now, and because they won't
make any more sense in 2100 than they do now, the 'isms are doomed to a slow
extinction, just like Luddism. In their heyday, Luddites figured that: 'if machines
are responsible for our unemployment, then smashing the machines will solve
that problem.' They could see the handwriting on the wall, but there are laws
against smashing the bosses' machinery, so it was easy enough for Luddism
to fade in popularity because not every worker was willing to go to jail in the
service of class solidarity. Ah, class solidarity, where did you go?
And, what will revive you?

Though there may not be much evidence for us going in the direction of
socialized ownership, and though I campaign against the forceful socialization
or redistribution of wealth and property, the future that I see for the world
goes exactly in the direction of socialized ownership. It's just that, unlike
socialists and communists, I don't see the force of the state entering into
the process to any significant degree, and most emphatically not in the role
of 'leading a charge for socialization'. The details of the relationship between
the state and socialization of ownership will work themselves out in time, but,
by the time we get to the point of full socialization, the state itself will have
withered away to nothing, showing that the state will play no driving role in
the process of socialization, which is very different from the points of view
of Marx and Engels, who believed that the socialist workers' state would be
the initiator of expropriation and socialization of ownership, which is the way
it happened in the Soviet Union, among many other places. These distinctions
between my views and socialist views are not insignificant.

When it comes to figuring out what it would take to abolish as dreadful an
institution as slavery, we have to consider the backward mentality of the slave
holders, or, more accurately, the backwardness of slavery as a political force
and movement (for we know that even Thomas Jefferson was a slave holder,
though not the most acquiescent of slave holders). Slave holding is roughly
aligned with monarchism, and free labor with democracy. When the country was
founded, free labor was in its infancy as a political force, while land ownership
and slave holding were well established. It wasn't a perfect cinch for the colonies
to adopt a republican form of government during the struggle for independence
from England. What won the day was the sheer numbers of small land holders,
some of whom also insisted upon the privilege of owning slaves, who back then
were a very important means of production. So, there were tensions. The
dominant interest at the time of independence was to create a government that
would serve the interests of the many small owners, and that won out over the
interests of those who would have preferred remaining aligned with England.

Retaining the institution of slavery was a troublesome compromise for the
new Republic, but slavery couldn't have been resolved in the late 1700's, nor
until labor, freed from the land by the enormous increases in agricultural
productivity in the early 1800's, was free and numerous enough to become a
political force. As in the Revolutionary War, the newer struggle involved the
shedding of blood, but the Civil War wasn't initiated by masses yearning to
be free; rather, it was initiated by slave holders yearning to conquer political
power by means of force and violence, and to impose slavery on the whole
country. Had slave holders instead been philosophical and content enough
to face a slow extinction as a class, and to ride out a limited lease on power
and influence, slavery could certainly have lasted a few more decades, I think
we can agree. I think that we can also agree that, in theory, it may not have
taken a civil war to abolish the institution of slavery, and that it probably
could have been chipped away in small chunks. But, we also have to pay
attention to the mentality of slave holders that compelled them to act in the
manner in which they did, and we must also not overlook the mentality of the
monarchists who would not acquiesce to the certain future independence of the
13 colonies, and who were compelled to enact one kind of insulting tax on the
colonies after another, perhaps in hope of keeping them in a state of perpetual
weakness. In both cases, it was the need to be very oppressive that eventually
brought the oppressors down. Similar parallels can be found in the history of
communism. Milosevic doesn't have much time left. Nor does Castro. Cuba
bans the Internet on principle.

Now, let us see where we stand. Let me know which of the following
statements you can or can't accept, because the following elements
are key to the critique of the 'isms:

1 Changing property relations is the essence of communism, socialism
and anarchism, as admitted in the text of the Communist Manifesto.

2 Changing property relations was possible after communists overthrew
feudal monarchies in backward countries, such as Russia, China, etc., or after
communists liberated colonies, as in Mozambique, Angola, Cuba, etc. History
proved that one.

3 Changing property relations was not possible after socialists and communists
won mere elections in Western European democracies, such as in France and
Italy. There is little evidence to show that workers are willing to smash their
democracies for the purpose of changing property relations.

4 The reason for the failure indicated in #3 is that winning mere elections
never confers the degree of physical force which is required for either
expropriation, or for significant wealth and property redistribution. That
is a reasonable observation, compared to the actual communist successes
noted in #2. Communism is based upon having the physical force requisite
for expropriation. Not many capitalists willingly turned over their assets to
communists.

5 Communism has been proven by the history of the affected countries to be
incompatible with democracy. There has never been an example of democratic
communism. Can you show otherwise?

6 If reasonable people of ideological frames of mind would look at things from
the perspectives of #1-#5, they would immediately begin to look for a solution
that makes more sense than socialism, for most of them are basically honest
people who sincerely want to be effective, and will not let their advocacy of
worn-out ideologies that are ill-fitted for Western democracies to forever
stand in the way of moving forward. They will reject the old and adopt more
intelligent ideas if progress is more important to them than sentimentality.

7 One impediment to enlightenment includes the fact that ideological leaders
have vested interests in the success of their movements, so the news that their
ideologies aren't appropriate to the West is no more welcome than any other
threat to their security, so they ignore and denigrate any threats to their
empires. They create bureaucratic sects that operate in secrecy, and
they censor their opponents. That is my experience.

8 The better idea for full employment and an end to poverty is a militant
insistence upon equitably sharing increasingly scarce work by means of
winning shorter hours for workers, for our increased productivity not only
makes shorter hours possible, but also makes it essential to prevent
exploitation of resources, overconsumption and overproduction.

If #1 through #7 are reasonable, then the history of workers' struggles
can lead history buffs directly to the perfect solution in point #8.

I've been asking you to get real about your responses for quite a few letters
now, and, guess what? I'm still waiting. If everything in the above 8 points is
agreeable, then what reason could you give for remaining tied to traditional
socialist tactics? Work-sharing and work-conservation measures would
save the earth infinitely better than all of the socialist, communist and
anarchist property and wealth redistribution schemes put together.

I don't know exactly why I push people who have heard the arguments a
few times to hurry up and make intelligent decisions, but maybe it's because
I feel as though there isn't a whole hell of a lot of time left for people to
straddle fences. I really don't know if we have time or not, so perhaps I err
on the side of assuring the earth a good factor of safety. Getting with the
program at this stage in your development involves little more than carefully
thinking about what you advocate, maybe while you mow. Think deeply
about points #1-8, and make a decision about them soon.

snip

Be good.

Yer olde pal,

Ken Ellis

 

5-28-00

The following missed the forum the first time because
I sent it to the wrong address. I'll learn someday.

Liam's response 'but for things like mining it will always
be cheaper to use wage slaves
' implies that some realms of
production will 'always' be better accomplished by humans,
but, what need will humans have to work beyond the next 25-50
years, when machines become smarter than humans? Many
traditional socialist arguments depend upon the current level
of productivity remaining the same for the rest of eternity, but
socialist wishes don't determine the future of high tech.
Technological progress didn't make a hell of a lot of difference
to production in the 18th century, but made much more of a
difference in the 19th, and made a spectacular difference in the
20th, so does anyone want to assert that production in 2100 is
going to appear very much like it does at present
? Some might,
but credibility requires a solid track record, and the decline of
the 'isms since the collapse of the Soviet Union didn't do the
socialist track record much good, so socialists ought to think a
little more carefully about what they've endlessly repeated since
1917. It doesn't do the final goal of the classless and stateless
society a bit of good to make ridiculous assertions, nor does it do
much good to try to get there by means of forcefully abolishing
private property
. Too many conflicting schemes for doing that are
available for human consumption, but only one logical and useful
direction in which to adjust the length of the work-year exists.

Matt's response 'about workers .. oppos[ing] a mandatory
reduction in the working week as an infringement upon their
right to work themselves to death
' raises the important issue of
'the rights of the individual vs. the rights of the collective'. In
our freedom loving society, collective rights often give way to
individual rights, but individual rights also often give way to
collective rights, as evidenced by the fact that property owners
can't always do exactly what they want with their property. As
competition for 'the last of the long-hour opportunities to make
the rich richer than their wildest dreams' soon increases to an
even more unbearable level, labor will again adopt a work-
sharing agenda, as it did during the Depression of the 30's.
Sharing work is as inevitable as is the future classless and
stateless stage of society, but abolishing private property and
capitalism by means of force
will forever remain a shattered
socialist fantasy.

Dr. Who said that 'trying to get the owners and the state to
reduce the work week to six hours WILL depend on issues
regarding profitability and surplus value, hence we will
never
arrive at the classless society using that logic.
' First, I never
promoted a 6-hour day. I advocate shorter work days, weeks
and years in general, and overtime premiums steep enough to
make it prohibitively expensive. People tend to forget that 8 hours
is an arbitrary number of hours, and that time and a half is an
arbitrary number for an overtime premium. Both numbers change
with time, and there's no reason to think that 'because we've had
a 40-hour week for 60 years, we are fated to have it forever
'.
Federal workers had a 10-hour week in the 19th century, and
Europeans today are struggling to share work by means of
shorter hours. A recent TV program showed one of the countries
with the shortest work-weeks has capitalists clamoring to invest
there, so we shouldn't too quickly associate the shortest hours
with the lowest profits. People tend to forget that shorter hours
are in the workers' interests, and that even Marx stated in Capital,
Volume 3, that 'a reduced working day ..... is a prerequisite to
freedom
', though Marx thought that shorter hours would be a
more appropriate goal for the proletarian dictatorship than under
capitalism, but that wasn't the only place he was wrong, for he also
thought that the socialist revolution would spread from the most
advanced capitalist countries of Europe to the rest of the world
.
Don't forget as well that, the more time we spend working, the less
free time we have, and the less freedom we have. Advocating that
hours of labor should remain the same (or get longer) should be
left to reactionaries.

Dr. Who further stated: 'That is a big problem with reformism,
in my view, the idea that people can just will (brings to mind the
free will argument again - help!) capitalism to run any way people
think would be "better," and not by its own laws (that is why Marx
did advocate workers
abolishing the wages system rather than
reforming it
). It is precisely because capitalism cannot be shaped
according to the desires of the politicians or reformist plans
that
we want to abolish it outright.
' If what we have today is not the
result of its being shaped by politicians and reformers for the
past many centuries, then he should have stated exactly who is
responsible for what we have. Is what we have the result of forces
that are uncontrolled by humans, as though capitalism has a life
of its own, like an alien life form from another planet, and that
our only hope is to slay it like a dragon
? Is our only hope to
rally millions and perhaps billions of workers to
abolish the
institution of private property
?

Dr. Who further stated: 'You say it is a mistake for the theory
to advocate "forceful" removal of property, but do you think the
owners of industry are just going to give it away because we ask?
'
We won't even ask. What I said in part was: 'With no profits, no
advantages to owning property.' This means that the institution of
private property will fall into disuse, so will fade away along with
the state. It will die out perhaps after we consciously abolish work
that is coerced by economic necessity. It is not for us to say in what
year this will happen. For most, or even all of us, it won't happen in
our lifetimes, so, not to worry about it.* The end of the institution of
private property will arrive without anyone's direct help. It's natural
demise will prove that the institution of private property never
oppressed anyone. What oppresses the poor is not property, nor
their lack of it, but their inability to find long-hour opportunities
to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams, so we should do
the humanitarian thing as workers who believe in class solidarity
and learn to share what little work that has yet to be taken over
by computers and technology. That would be our greatest gift
to the poor, and to the planet, for it will mean the beginning of
solid conservation measures, as opposed to window dressing.

* 2002 note: After discovering Ray Kurzweil's web site, I have fairly
consistently predicted the demise of work as occurring around the year 2040.

Dr. Who's final paragraph raised the question of uniting to
abolish capital, but he should know that there are too many
mutually exclusive methods by which to do that for radicals to
ever decide upon a single plan, so he will never find the desired
unity. The plan to abolish private property and capital is so
fatally flawed that unity around a single plan is impossible.
During the Spanish Civil War, communists executed anarchists
over ideological differences. That's how bad the disunity runs.
As a past sectarian myself (who hopefully learned a little from
his mistakes), I know how deeply the bad blood can run.

I think that it is very possible for most of us to agree that less
work - not more, nor the same amount - is what the world could
use. Don't forget that it's the bosses who benefit from longer
hours, not radicals or workers, unless we are talking about the
kind of radicals who think that long hours and kindred
oppression will deliver workers into the hands of radicals.
Some advocate exactly what the bosses want in a
mistaken attempt to get workers to revolt.

Ken Ellis

 

5-31-00

Matt's reply of 5-28 unfortunately fell short of proving that
Liam's answer was 'incontestably correct'. So short that one has
to wonder just exactly why Matt had to judge as 'incontestably
correct
' what people with a technological clue would claim was
'incontestably incorrect'. The issue was simple, and hinged on
Liam's word 'always': will miners someday be replaced with new
technology and robots, or will miners continue to dig for all of
eternity? For the answer, one has only to ask if new technology
ever affected mining in the past, and then dare to think of the
possibility that new technology might also affect mining in the
future. The answer is so intuitively 'yes' that one has to wonder
why one socialist would bother to so adamantly defend another
socialist on such an indefensible point. I have witnessed the
same phenomenon time and again in the socialist community
when socialists feel threatened. They circle the wagons and
resist all attempts to reason with two by four logic.

If the capitalist class informed Matt that they are someday
planning to stop automating so as to forever ensure that workers
will remain at one another's throats, what date did the capitalists
give for when the final new machine will be installed? I haven't
heard of anything that absurd since Arnold Petersen of the
American SLP redefined the proletarian dictatorship over the
bourgeoisie
as a proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry.
But, there was method to A.P.'s madness. He convinced his
members that, 'since agricultural wage labor had already largely
replaced peasant labor
, the USA would not need a proletarian
dictatorship
over a relatively non-existent peasantry.' If 'a
proletarian dictatorship
(over a non-existent peasantry) was not
needed in the USA
', then it was also easy to conclude that 'the
USA would not need a transitional political solution', and could
proceed to classless, stateless society without having to pass
through
the transitional stage of proletarian dictatorship, thus
negating Leninism
.' But, the SLP program of 'proceeding directly
to classless and stateless society by means of Socialist Industrial
Unionism
' was based upon more than one fraudulent trick, and for
that reason is nullified, and will never be adopted. If 'socialism'
is so wonderful, then why do some socialists find it necessary
to lie about it?

The tactic of messing with state power so as to enable property
socialization
is where socialists go wrong. It's an easy mistake to
make because everyone since Marx made at least approximately
the same mistake. But, history has shown that changing property
relations was feasible only after socialists smashed feudal
monarchies (as in Russia), or liberated colonies (as in Cuba), but
changing property relations was never feasible after socialists or
communists won mere elections, such as in France and Italy,
because winning elections never confers the enormous amounts
of state power that are required to change property relations. This
real history proves that changing property relations is based upon
socialists wielding enormous amounts of force, but workers in the
Western hemisphere don't want to live in societies based upon the
ongoing use of heavy force, for they are used to living in civil
societies and exercising hard-won freedoms, such as voting and
owning and enjoying property, so will resist any group of socialists
intent upon changing property relations. And workers have yet to
smash democracies for the sake of enabling socialists to change
property relations.

Further: Even though the American South had been totally
defeated by the end of our Civil War, when it would have been
feasible to expend a minimal amount of extra force to carve up
the plantations so as to provide the freed slaves with their 40
acres and a mule, there wasn't enough political will to violate
widely accepted rules of property ownership, no matter how well
that bit of retribution might have served social justice, so how
can socialists in the West possibly hope to someday impose
socialized ownership on such a reluctant populace? Socialists
have no hope for doing things by messing with the state and
property, which is why they can't even begin to plan for socialism
in the West. There is no unifying plan for changing property
relations, and no population ready to implement any of the
existing plans. This should be recognized as a happy fact,
so that socialists can begin to explore new ways to arrive at
classless, stateless society. Sincere activists shouldn't waste
their lives forever dreaming about how to accomplish the
impossible. Eliminating overwork in Europe and the States is
as easy as amending laws that are already on the books, a very
civil solution. Too civil, perhaps, for those who advocate violent
revolution
. Where violent revolution loses is when its advocates
try to logically connect violent revolution to the final goal of
permanent social justice and peace on earth. In democracies,
there is no need for a revolution, and even Engels asserted
some 110 years ago that 'England has a good-enough
democracy for workers to get what they want.
'

Finally, Matt wrote: "Well stop feeding the bastard, by producing
surplus value.
" If Matt would read Marx's Capital, he would find
that surplus values are augmented by two main methods, 1) when
machinery makes workers more productive, and 2) when people
work longer hours than what they need to earn the value of their
labor power; so, while we may not be able to stop the march of
technology, we could relatively easily gain collective control over
the hours we spend working if we are willing as a class to do so.
So far, there's too little sign of the latter, even if shorter hours is
the perfect solution to our working too many hours and producing
more surplus values than what a lot of progressive people would
like. Also, if a crunch ever materializes sufficiently to move
workers as a class, workers will more likely take the civil option
of sharing scarce work by means of shorter hours than they'll
go with the uncivil option of revolting. Just wait until the next
depression (like the one in the 1930's) to see what workers do.

Ken Ellis

 

6-02-00

Stuart cordially wrote, in part:

> But wouldn't you like to extend us the same courtesy and
> investigate what we do actually say, rather than assuming that
> we have something in common with everyone and with every
> social system that has ever used the label "socialist"? Go to
>
http://www.worldsocialism.org

I'm not so sure that I made such a sweeping assumption, but I
followed up on the suggestion and went to the web site and found
that the site's definition of socialism looks very much like a concept
of classless, stateless society, which is also very unlike the societies
which presently exist. I wouldn't mind being at the stage of society
that was described there, but I felt as though the site should have
included a subject category entitled, 'How to get to socialism'. But,
I didn't see such a category, which was disappointing, because: for
socialist groups and parties, 'getting to socialism' uses a variety of
methods that socialists find difficult or impossible to agree upon, so
it would have been illuminating to see an official WSM position
on 'how to get to socialism'.

As you may have followed in my arguments: after I discovered
that my old party's socialist program was based upon quotes
from Marx, Engels and Lenin out of context, and later discovered
that socializing ownership was feasible only after socialists had
smashed feudal monarchies or liberated colonies (which also
meant that smashing democracies in order to socialize ownership
is highly unlikely in the democratic west), it occurred to me that:
what workers have a real history of fighting for in the west -
shorter hours and higher wages (a goal for which every socialist
including Marx and Engels has had nothing but criticisms)* -
might also be a way for us to get to classless and stateless society
without bogging down in controversial and sectarian issues, such
as: what to do with the state in order to get control of property,
steps which I now consider to be unnecessary. I instead figure
that: after the development of technology makes it necessary
for workers to equitably share the remaining work sometime
in the near future, that accomplishment will have also prepared
their character for the higher development of altruism and virtue
that will be required for future generations to equitably share the
products of 'machinery that will no longer need the assistance of
flesh and blood'. My alternative also raises the question of whether
socialists can actually use force and violence to get to the classless
and stateless bliss of peace, freedom and good will toward all. Can
peaceful ends be reached by a brief frenzy of violent means?

*2002 note: What M+E seem to have criticized was common unwillingness
to fight for shorter work hours and higher wages on the legislative level.

So, Stuart, perhaps you know how to get to socialism in the West
by actually dealing with issues of property and state. If so, would
you please let me in on the secret? I'd appreciate knowing as well.
If you don't have a perfect solution, then, how do you like my idea?
Is it as good or as bad as yours? Don't be afraid to tell me that it's
worse if you actually think so, but be sure to be courteous enough
to tell me why you think so. If you do, then maybe we'll be able to
work our way to unity. Wouldn't it be wonderful to achieve unity
on the question of how to get to classless and stateless society?
Thanks in advance for a well-considered response.

Appreciatively,
Ken Ellis

 

6-05-00

Stuart wrote on June 3, 'We say that we (the WSM) can't get to
socialism. That's impossible. Socialism can only be established
when a majority of the world's population understand socialism,
are in favour of it, and are prepared to organise to achieve it.
'

snip irrelevancy

In my previous correspondence, I hinted at a desire to know if
the WSM had a plan for 'getting to socialism', and Stuart replied
in part that 'it says in our declaration of principles, we must organise
consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers that oppress
us.
' As a student of the olde First International, that brought back
memories of their program. Fighting for political supremacy also
sounds like it could come in handy for a subsequent act of
socializing ownership.

If what I wrote fairly summarizes the intentions of the WSM
with regard to the issues of state and property, then it sounds
like the WSM would probably rather try to get to classless and
stateless society by going for power and property than by
militantly struggling to see that 'what little work that remains
for humans to do' gets equitably shared. Yes or no?

Stuart didn't quite accurately capture my intent when he
paraphrased: 'Socialism will creep up on us like a thief in
the night while we are busy fighting for reforms that are not
achievable.' Stuart is not alone in thinking that the indicated
reforms - shorter hours and higher overtime premiums - 'are not
achievable', but I would like to know why. Such a belief doesn't
take into account what recently happened in France, which just
amended its laws to mandate a shorter working week. In the face
of that, and so many other laws in so many other countries, how
could you possibly say that such reforms are not achievable?
Since laws regulating hours of labor were quite scarce before
1830, were you just repeating an obsolete party line from 2
centuries ago? Years ago, I didn't very much like having to
repeat party lines at the same time that I knew deep down that
I didn't really know what I was talking about. So, please let me
know if you are really sure that the reforms mentioned 'are not
achievable'. Quite a bit of potential progress in this dialogue
hinges precisely on this question. I understand the pressures
on party people to maintain party lines, so for that reason will
also understand if you insist upon abandoning logic in service
to your standing in your party, none of which institutions I've
ever known to doggedly fight for the truth. But, I will not be
swayed by statements to the effect that 'reforms in the service
of shorter hours and higher premiums are not achievable',
unless that assertion can be proven a lot better.

Stuart also wrote: 'If you want to avoid "controversial" and
"sectarian" issues, then what are you involved in political
discussion for?
' I didn't mean 'PERSONAL avoidance of issues'.
I'm almost always up for a good dialogue. On the other hand,
because there are so many conflicting methods for going after
power and socializing ownership, socialists can't unite behind a
single method, and the public thinks that socialist internecine
struggles are nothing short of ridiculous. Rome burns while
Nero fiddles. And the public is right, because, in this dog-eat-
dog world, the only thing that stands between the public and
insecurity is their own property. The more property they own,
the more secure they feel, especially in the USA, where you
couldn't possibly convince the man on the street that socialism
would solve anyone's problems. So, socialists usually end up
'preaching to the choir'. In the meantime, millions here go
homeless and hungry while socialists get no closer to bringing
socialism to the world because they adhere to 1917 tactics that
don't apply to democracies, or else they want to 'tax and spend',
or create jobs the old fashioned way, by spending money.
Sharing work is hardly on anyone's horizon. But I'm not
going to give up on it very easily.

Stuart also wrote: 'The technology necessary to ensure that we
can provide enough for all and cut working hours to a few hours
a day already exists. Why aren't we seeing the benefits already?
Cos it ain't ours and we can do what we are bloody well told.
That's how this system works.
'

I believe that the first sentence is correct, and the answer to
the question of 'why we aren't seeing the benefits' isn't perfectly
easy to answer. One answer comes to mind: the left hasn't even
begun to try to reap the benefits. The left has been working
diligently on a wide variety of other issues, but very few have
been applying themselves to the issue of sharing work through
shorter hours. Perhaps a lot more progress would have been
made had the left actively pursued this issue. Even I have only
been campaigning on it since '94. I have never gotten an answer
to my question of 'why fight for power and property instead of
putting everyone to work by means of equitably sharing it?' Of all
of the people I have reached, I have gotten poor to no responses.
I campaigned on the air for 2 years on Free Radio Berkeley
(California), and, while lots of people applauded my efforts, not
one said that I changed their thinking. So, I don't know why we
aren't reaping the benefits except to say that the left is more
interested in gaining power and socializing property ownership
than in equitably sharing work. We should diligently try to figure
out why. I think that it has more to do with force of habit than
with intelligent decision making.

Stuart wrote: 'Higher wages and shorter hours is a good idea.
But it
won't lead to a classless, stateless, moneyless society.
That's what I'm fighting for because it's a
better, and more
realistic
, idea.' This is where we have to develop the dialogue
so that I can know exactly why you prefer to pave the road to
classless and stateless society with struggles over power and
property instead of with reforms mandating a more equitable
sharing of work. A previous message outlined my scenario: 'As
technology replaces more and more human labor, the length of
the work-year would be forced shorter and shorter until we
eventually reach the zero-hour work-year, which, according
to some projections, could come about in this century. In a
workless society, there would be no exploitation of workers, for
there would not be any workers. Without workers, there would
be no surplus values. Without surplus values, there would be no
profits. With no profits, no advantages to owning property. With
no clamor to own property, no need for a state. With no state, no
enforcement of class structures and privilege. With no classes,
private property, or state, maybe kiss the nuclear family goodbye
as well.' Now, where is the weak link in that line of dominoes?

Finally, Stuart wrote: 'Love the sarcasm Ken. Keep it coming.'

To the extent to which I may not have fully recovered from my old
left-wing mode of verbal struggle may be the extent to which my
prose may remain perceptibly sarcastic. I'll admit to occasionally
getting into a 'pit-bull' mode of dialogue, especially when I can't
edit as I go; but, in print mode, I always try to edit out as much of
the sarcasm as I possibly can, for I am not here to try to put people
down. I can be easily out-classed in that department, so I long ago
ate a lot of humble pie and gave up that struggle. I am presently
trying to reason for the purpose of arriving at common ground on
the best way to proceed toward our mutual noble goal of classless
and stateless society. I sincerely would like to let our mutual interests
in the attainment of the final goal be our guide. If I ever see that I have
been wrong on a certain point, then I will acknowledge that I was
wrong and will promise to adopt more logical points of view as
they reveal themselves. Can you promise the same?

Ken Ellis

 

6-06-00

Stuart wrote on June 5: 'there is no "party line".' I'm glad. As an ex-
member of the American SLP, I know what it's like to have had one's
life micro-managed around upholding and promoting a party line.

He also wrote: 'I am stating what I actually think, and if that is
different from what the majority in the party think, you will be
sure to hear about it. If you look at previous posts on this forum,
you will see that many members, myself included, have argued
against the majority position.
'

That is all to the credit of your organization, but I am so used
to being censored in so many ways by other leftists, that I am
wondering when the axe is going to fall on me in this forum. I'm
surprised that it hasn't fallen already for all of the anti - 'power-
and-property-grabbing' prose that I've written so far. You folks
are either awfully patient, or early on heeded what Engels wrote
to Trier about parties needing freedom of speech in order to
develop
. In outrage over the high-handed tactics of the Danish
workers' party's Hovedbestyrelsen (supervising committee),
Engels wrote: "Are we demanding free speech for ourselves,
only to abolish it again in our own ranks?
", but you may not
find that passage except* in the German language, for English
speaking socialist leaders never found that particular passage
flattering enough to their censorious practices to want to
popularize it. But I think that it was one of the most important
statements that ever could have been made by a person of his
stature in relation to the practices of socialist workers' parties.

*2002 note: It finally was published in English in 2001. (End note.)

I have never heard of free speech being consistently practiced in a
socialist group or party. Even left-wing KPFA-FM in California had
a gag rule on its staff, even though they openly prided themselves on
being the epitome of free speech on the FM radio dial. Free speech is
dangerous to communist ideology, which is why communist countries
universally banned free speech. You won't find much Internet activity
in Cuba, because they are afraid of the ideas floating around. And this
is from a guy who was once proud to say that he marched on the Plaza
de la Revolucion
in front of Fidel on May Day of 1982. Lately I more
remember it as a long, sweaty walk on a hot, muggy day. A cursory
glance at countries that once prided themselves on being 'proletarian
dictatorships
' shows that free speech and communism don't mix, and
the 'too close for comfort' association of communism with both
anarchism and socialism doesn't help the latter two 'isms. That's
one good reason why I still say: toss out all 3 'isms and reach
classless and stateless society with a new (200-year-old) method
that doesn't involve censorship, secrecy, bureaucracy, sectarianism,
dominance-seeking, revenge, violence or property socialization,
and instead involves free speech, humanitarianism, work-sharing,
workers' control and less work for all, among many other virtues.

Ken Ellis

 

6-07-00

Someone recently wrote that 'socialism is not fatally flawed',
but guess what? Socialism is fatally flawed, and even intellects
of the stature of Marx and Engels got sucked right into it because
they couldn't foresee what would become of their socialist dreams
in subsequent centuries. What was happening in Europe inspired
them to think that classless and stateless society could follow the
socialization of property ownership. They expected socialist
revolutions to begin simultaneously in the most technologically
advanced countries of Europe and then spread to the least
developed
, but socialist revolutions instead occurred one at a
time in relatively backward countries. Marx said that the Paris
Commune was defeated precisely because supporting revolutions
didn't break out in Germany, Spain, etc., which enabled the Prussians
to join the reaction.
The theory of socialist revolution demands
simultaneity in the most advanced countries in order to prevent
counter-revolution
, and demands it to be so sweeping that the
reaction would be crushed before it could do anything nasty. It
had to happen first in Europe because that was the only place
outside of America where private property was developed enough
for socialist revolution to be relevant to the existing political economy
.
The modern theory of socialist revolution was a reflection of what was
going on in Europe in the 19th century, at a time when the number
of democracies in the world could be counted on the fingers of one
hand, and it was possible to conceive of 'pushing' European bourgeois-
democratic revolutions through to proletarian dictatorship
. Where are
socialists going to find that pleasure today? Sudan? There aren't that
many feudal monarchies left. Because overthrowing democracies for
the sake of socializing property ownership is a chore that few people
think is necessary in order to arrive at social justice in the West, and
because socializing ownership was never feasible after socialists and
communists won mere elections in the West, the theory of arriving at
classless and stateless society by means of using the state to socialize
ownership
had to have been fatally flawed from the getgo. Since Marx
and Engels never suggested smashing existing democracies for the sake
of socializing ownership, that leaves present day Western hemisphere
revolutionaries pretty much out in the cold, with not much to do except
to look for backward countries where they can join revolutionary
movements. Years ago, I wanted for little other than to fight for freedom in
the jungles of Central America, or to be another Che Guevara. I think that
I've recovered from that, for I began to see in '94 that there was good work
that could still be done to prepare us for classless and stateless society.

Ken Ellis

 

6-07-00

Bob Malone wrote in part: 'When you are a wage slave you are
employed for someone else's benefit, not your own.
.... Workers
generally want to be efficient and it often works against them.
....
many of the jobs that people do are unnecessary, apart from
propping up the system and protecting capital.
' .... Bob also
very well pointed out the problems created for workers by
encroaching automation.

What Bob brought up for me was the issue of workers' control,
not very much of which can be exerted when workers compete
among themselves over the last of the long-hour opportunities
to make the rich obscenely richer. Average weekly hours have
fallen in fits and starts from an 1870 high of 60 to less than
40 today because of the rise of part-time work. Few expect
California loggers to join 'save the redwoods' movements when
loggers are consumed with seeking the last of the long-hour
opportunities to cut down the last of the old-growth redwoods,
and to make Charles Hurwitz of Maxxam obscenely rich and
powerful in the process. Without workers' control, workers can't
do anything but join their fellow workers in raping the land, or
otherwise being quite destructive. Workers can't do much more
than thank god for providing them with lousy jobs in factories like
the one in Minnesota that produces land mines so that peasants in
far-off countries can blow themselves up while scratching around
in the dirt to eke out bare existences. The work that we are forced
to do by economic necessity (our own need to financially survive)
has an impact, and too often a negative impact on our environment.

Consider what would happen if workers could see the robots and
technology coming to replace them, and, instead of adhering to
solutions inspired by living in underdeveloped monarchies, they
united to create an artificial scarcity of labor that would put all of
them to productive, useful, safe, and environmentally-friendly
work in the highly developed democracies in which they find
themselves. Creating an artificial* scarcity of labor would enable
choice on which enterprises to expend their energies. If workers
controlled their hours of labor, they wouldn't have to worry about
how to put themselves to work, because, as the robots march in,
workers would just amend their hours of labor in a downward
direction so as to ensure full employment for everyone who needs
work. They could easily boycott the land mine factory in Minnesota,
and they could also boycott the rapacious lumber barons who would
cut down all of the redwoods. This would represent quite a change
from what we have now, and the beauty part is that this change is
feasible, as opposed to trying to overthrow democracies for the
sake of socializing ownership. All it would take would be a little
organization on the sound principle of equitably sharing work.

* I use the word 'artificial' because human beings, depending
upon age and condition, can naturally work anywhere from 0
to 18 or so hours per day. Any legal or regulatory attempt to
shorten the length of the work-day, week or year creates an
artificially shorter work-day, week or year.

Ken Ellis

 

6-08-00

Deathy wrote: "We cannot share out the work and organise the
society according to our will, until we collectively own society,
and have the *power* amongst ourselves to use that property
as we will.
" What Deathy wrote pretty well reflected Marx's
opinion in a Letter to Kugelmann, and similarly in Volume 3
of
Capital, but I think that Marx was as wrong about 'shorter
hours more appropriately following proletarian dictatorship
' as
he was about socialist revolutions spreading from Europe to the
rest of the world
. There isn't going to be any more of a formal
proletarian dictatorship than workers are going to smash their
democracies for the purpose of socializing property ownership.
If history is any indication, then people in the West are going to
ride out their democracies for a long time to come, and the same
goes for the institution of private property. We might as well
learn to make lemonade out of the lemons we've been handed.

Deathy also opined: "When the labour market demands, such
regulations will be
overlooked, and people in the 'black economy'
will be compelled by poverty to work longer hours - and as we
have seen here in the U.K., when health and safety laws are not
backed by the political will to enforce them, they become mere
paper statements - much like minimum wages. the law is
achievable, but more often than not,
it does not work, or it
merely does not further the ends of the working class
."

This scenario for hopelessness and despair had to have been
gotten out of someone's crystal ball, and reminds me of similar
dire scenarios that have long been promoted by revolutionaries
in hopes that it will convince people to revolt. I'll admit that there
isn't a whole hell of a lot to be hopeful about in the world we live
in, but scholar Ben Hunnicutt in his book "Work Without End"
reminds us that a half of American businesses during the
Depression of the 1930's voluntarily adopted some form of
work-sharing, indicating that many companies are not as
vicious as some people would lead us to believe.

Deathy also wrote: "even if we cut the working week, we are still
exploited, still wage slaves, and still unfree.
" Granted, that is true
in the Marxist sense in that Marx didn't believe that we would be
truly free until the state disappeared. But, we can get to freedom
if we whittle the work-week down to zero, which would dissolve
economic compulsion that sends us off to work. The journey of
a thousand miles begins with a single step, but socialists behave
as though that first step known as 'promoting shorter hours' isn't
worth taking as long as the carrot of instant, total gratification is
dangled before their eyes and keeps them forever reaching out
for that unreachable goal. But, workers in the West show little
interest in going for state power for the purpose of socializing
property ownership
, and the monarchical conditions for being
successful in that goal are long dead and buried in the West.
If some people think that the purpose of revolutions in the 19th
century was for the liberation of the proletariat, they are mistaken.
The basic purpose of revolutions back then was to replace
monarchies with democracies
. Socialists wanted to orchestrate
those revolutions into proletarian dictatorships, but didn't have
any long-lasting luck until 1917.

Deathy also wrote: "technological advances lead to a lack of
demand for labour, i.e. the benefits of advances in technology
accrue to them as own society, not the workers.
" I was amazed
to hear on the TV just the other day that the Internet was
responsible for the creation of 2 and a half million jobs in the
USA in 1999
. It seems as though new technology has merely
been shifting people from obsolete jobs to new kinds of jobs.
'Official' unemployment figures in the States haven't been this
low in a while, which is why Greenspan raised prime interest
rates 6 times in a row in order to cool off the economy, slow
down hiring, increase competition for scarce long-hour
opportunities to make the rich richer, making workers more
eager to accept low wages, which will raise profits and increase
investments in the USA. That's if we allow Greenspan to blithely
get away with it without a struggle, and if we refuse to spend a
moment thinking about creating an artificial scarcity of labor that
would put everyone to work, even the 'hidden' unemployed. That
would hurt profits like no other solution. But, as revolutionaries
fear, a satisfied working class is a non-revolutionary working class,
so some revolutionaries think that it's better for the revolution if
the unemployed continue to suffer, and the number of unhappy
unemployed increases. Where are you on the suffering of the
unemployed? Do you want to see it get worse? Do you think
that more suffering will yield a revolution? I know that my old
party would not lift a finger on the issue of unemployment,
except to hand out leaflets to urge people to revolt.

I think it would be better for the poor if socially concerned
people promoted feasible solutions for preventing unemployment
misery. I didn't know any better myself until after I proved to myself
that my revolutionary ideology was based upon lies and quotes out of
context. Revolutionaries lie? But, they're supposed to be the good guys!
Yeah, yeah. My old party was marketing anarcho-syndicalism cleverly
disguised as 'socialism', and my comrades in the National Office were
more interested in maintaining and repeating the lies in order to maintain
the status quo so that the members in the field would keep on supporting
us in the National Office, and so that the party could keep on pretending
that its program was the only salvation for society. But, my unwillingness
to participate in the betrayal of the interests of the working class was
forcing me to quit, especially if the National Secretary wasn't going to
give me a raise for keeping my mouth shut after I caught on to the scam.
Revolutionary ideology in democracies can be as rotten as that. My
experiences and research proved to me that life in democracies doesn't
have to be any more hopeless than what we are willing to allow it to be.
I have replaced my revolutionary ideologies with optimism that people
of good will can affect the course of history in a positive way, inch by
inch, step by step, but not by revolutionary leaps if we already live in
democracies.

Ken Ellis

 

6-09-00

On the 7th, I received from Stuart: "We would say, on the contrary,
that communism is impossible without free speech and democracy.
And "communist country" is another oxymoron. We mean the same
thing when we say "socialism" as when we say "communism"
.... "

And: "Well, seeing as you have confused "socialism" with the
left-wing of capitalism and "communism" with the state-
capitalist
dictatorships in places like Cuba, then I welcome you chucking
out these -isms. As long as you realise what you are chucking
out is a different -ism altogether -- capitalism.
"

Stuart isn't the only one in this forum to chide me for alleged
'transgressions of nomenclature'. My old party tried as well to
redefine socialism and communism to mean classless and stateless
society, and its members are convinced to this day that 'socialism
and communism have never yet existed, except in our imagination.
'
They say that 'Marx and Engels never distinguished between socialism
and communism
', but M+E sure as hell distinguished between
proletarian dictatorship and classless, stateless society, a distinction
that my party tried to deny in various ways, except when it came to
assuring us that 'the proletarian dictatorship was a dictatorship over
the peasantry
' instead of over the bourgeoisie. Only when over the
peasantry
were they sure that the proletarian dictatorship was real,
especially after Stalin started practicing his 'proletarian dictatorship
over the kulaks'. Fuel, as Stalin did, a ridiculous misconception with his
pogroms, at least Lenin was with Marx on the definition of proletarian
dictatorship
. He also created controversy by defining socialism to mean
the lower stage of communism (or the theoretical proletarian dictatorship),
and defined communism to mean the upper stage (or the theoretical
classless, stateless society). Because of Lenin's popularity in the 20th
century, billions of people became acquainted with his definitions, and
adopted them without much fuss. At least they made sense in that they
replaced clumsy, multi-worded phrases like 'dictatorship of the proletariat',
and 'classless, stateless society' with the single words - socialism and
communism. Why would the WSM want to use socialism and
communism to describe the very same upper stage? Does the
WSM dislike the idea of proletarian dictatorship as much as
my old American SLP?

Those were the 'theoretical' definitions, but there's also the
question of how to define countries that have been influenced
by communist and social-democratic ideologies to one degree
or another. Today, billions of people would define what they
have in Sweden as 'socialism' or 'social-democracy', and billions
of people would define what they have in No. Korea, Cuba and
China as either 'socialism' or 'communism'. Who wants to argue
with billions of people? Because only mere millions of people (at
the very best) understand socialism and communism the same
way the WSM does, you would only be out-voted yet again by
the billions who understand the 'isms in more popular ways. And
what good would it do, even if you persuaded the billions to see
things your way? A rose by any other name would still smell the
same, and you still wouldn't be any closer to your classless and
stateless society, especially if you insist upon getting there by
means of taking state power so as to socialize ownership. Since
your forum reflects a deep-down pessimism that you won't soon
be able to muster the forces to get to socialism, are you perhaps
figuring that you can at least change the way everyone
understands socialism? Why bother?

Stuart also wrote: "As capitalism is a system of society based
on
minority-class ownership of the means of living, wage-labour
and commodity production, you can see that Russia, China, Cuba,
and all the other "communist" countries,
were in fact capitalist,
not communist
."

What do we have here? Another redefinition? What happened to
capitalism as 'PRIVATE ownership of means of production', and
why has it suddenly changed to 'minority-class ownership'? Is it
because 'only a relatively small number of people control the means
of production, so can thereby be claimed to be a minority class'?
The only other reason I can think of is that the redefinition
justifies calling the old Soviet Union a capitalist country, which
fits in with the charge that 'communism and socialism has never
been tried in the world, so, if you want to fight for real, virgin, and
untried socialism, then join the WSM.' As far as the old Soviet
Union being capitalist goes, one noted Soviet scholar I knew
when I lived in California (for his courageous face-downs of
McCarthy and HUAC committees) always answered that charge
by assuring people that 'there was no private ownership of means
of production until the reforms of roughly a decade ago
'.

Stuart also wrote: "And if you are chucking out capitalism, you must
also logically be chucking out all that goes along with it, namely
production of goods for sale on a market, employment, wages,
money, class, states, national boundaries, and private property.
"

I hate to seem so heretical all in one gulp, but I'm afraid that I
can't chuck out any of those right away. To try to chuck them all
out at once would be revolutionary, but I gave up on revolutionism
in '94, when I discovered that socializing property ownership was
feasible only after overthrowing feudal monarchies in under-
developed countries, or after liberating colonies, which rules out
England, Europe and the USA, among many other places. And
workers have little history of overthrowing their democracies
for the sake of socializing ownership, proving that revolution
in the West is so unlikely that we concerned people will just
have to find a different way of achieving social justice, so, why
not take a page from Capital and cut down on surplus values by
not working so hard to make the rich richer? If it doesn't make
any historical sense to revolt in the West in the 21st century,
then it doesn't mean that we can't strike a blow at the life blood
of the monster we daily create and re-create with our long hours.
I say, hit 'em where it would hurt them the most - their ability to
make us fight among ourselves for the last of the long-hour
opportunities to make prostitutes of ourselves. It would be so
much nicer not to have to scrape and bow, and so much nicer to
be able to afford to be brave. So many of us have never had the
liberty to be anything but cowards that it would represent an
important, character-building adventure to equitably share the
remaining work and prepare ourselves for the day, perhaps in
this century, when we will never again have to go to work under
economic duress, but will also have to learn to share the products
of technology when we no longer have a means of earning our keep.
That's feasible, and, as we arrive there, we will be able to watch the
market, employment, wages, money, class, states, national boundaries,
and private property all fade in importance and dwindle away to
nothingness, and have a good laugh at the predecessors who
earlier thought they could make it go away in a coup de main.

Ken Ellis

 

6-10-00

On the 8th, Stuart wrote: "we want to do away with employment
and replace it with voluntary, cooperative work to produce the
things we collectively decide we want.
"

Abruptly, or by means of long-term change? What would people
do today and tomorrow to get closer to that goal?

Also: "The other part, you may remember, was about a majority
of the world's population being in favour of introducing socialism.
"

A billion people in the former Eastern bloc recently allowed
property to be privatized. The change in Russia went away from
the direction of socialized ownership. Do you still hope that the
world will go in a socialist direction? It seems that everyone in
the world increasingly wants private property for themselves,
and the more they get, the better off they think they will be.

Also: "Yes. We are going for property."

In order to get the property, you will have to do something
about the power of the state that keeps property in the hands
of a relative few, which is all that I meant by 'going for power'.
In the West, will a workers' party be able to win an election
based on a socialist platform, and will an elected workers'
party be able to socialize property ownership?

Also: "And no to the idea of equitably sharing, work.
Some may want to do more work than others.
"

What I meant by 'equitable' was not a hair-splitting
mathematically precisely exact division, but rather something
that is fair, which is a widely accepted definition of 'equitable'.
I only intended 'dividing the available work in such a way that
everyone who wants some work can get enough to get by to a
degree to which they would feel comfortable.'

Also: "I'm not saying, anyway, that a fight for higher wages
and longer holidays couldn't be won, nor that they shouldn't be
fought. They have, as you point out, been fought and won in the
past.
WSM members have been actively involved in that (trade
union) struggle throughout the past century. They are not
achievable in the sense that they will
not palliate the effects
of capitalism. And
neither will they lead to a stateless,
classless society. How could they?
"

I had just mentioned shorter hours and higher overtime
premiums, but suddenly they became higher wages and 'longer
holidays
', both of which aren't the worst things workers could
want, but are slightly off point. The second problem is, if 'they
will
not palliate the effects of capitalism', then why would workers
fight for them? Should we believe (from what you wrote) that
'lower wages and shorter vacations will more effectively palliate
the effects of capitalism'?

While higher wages and longer holidays may not be the most
logically consistent route to classless and stateless society, shorter
hours certainly would be a great way to approach the zero-hour
work day. When no one is forced by economic necessity to go to
work anymore, then owning means of production will no longer
yield surplus values and profits. Without those two, ownership
will no longer have such an appeal, so interest in property will
fade away. With little interest in owning, property will then merge
into the collective, and the state will fade away as well. That's the basic
mechanism. Between now and when we get to the zero-hour day, we
will maintain all of the elements of class-divided societies, but, to the
extent to which we can share work equitably, i.e., fairly, will be the
extent to which many poverty problems will be alleviated, which will
diminish dependence upon organs of repression, like prisons and
police. My scenario is entirely peaceful and practically seamless.

Also: "Socialism isn't a thing that can solve people's problems
for them, anyway. It is a system of society which we must bring
into being ourselves, should we want to. I do. I'm waiting for the
man in the street to get more greedy and selfish.
"

I'm sorry not to be able to follow the logic of this statement. If
'Socialism isn't a thing that can solve people's problems', then I
wonder why anyone would want to adopt it. I'm also wondering
why you are waiting for the man in the street to get more
greedy and selfish
.

Also: "I don't want to see the left reap the benefits. We are
hostile to the left wing of capitalism. We want to reap the
benefits for ourselves. Why not? We do all the bloody work.
"

I can't think of a possible way in which the left could reap
the benefits of shorter hours for only itself, because regulations
on hours of labor apply to everyone.

Also: "There is a weak link that can't have escaped your notice.
Who makes, maintains and runs these machines? We do. Next,
who owns them? Who owns what the machines, what we, make?
Not us. The capitalist class. They will
continue to sell back to us
what we have made and realising a profit
."

I had just gone through explaining how to get to classless,
stateless, and propertyless society, and I assumed that Stuart
would have followed my argument and had likewise imagined
that very same stage of our evolution, but Stuart didn't follow the
argument at all, and instead came back with his 'the capitalist
class still owns the means of production and sells us goods at a
profit.
' Sometimes I think that Stuart doesn't pay attention. Good
grief, Stuart. Your interjection was irrelevant to the stage of the
argument to which I had taken you. Please go back and read it
over again, and come back with a relevant critique.

Ken Ellis

 

6-10-00

On the 7th, Deathy wrote: "If we are discussing Marxian
socialism, then surely, on the basis that Socialism requires
a sufficiently developed technological level, then socialist
revolutions, by definition, cannot happen in relatively back-
ward states - only revolutions *calling* themselves socialist.
"

2002 note: Please take the first sentence of the following reply with a grain of salt. (End note.)

I never heard of Marxian socialism requiring 'a sufficiently
developed technological level'. Back when socialist revolution
(of the Marxian variety) seemed possible, and even seemed very
close at times, especially in 1871, socialist revolution required a
certain level of lower class political inclination (not technology)
to replace feudal monarchies with democracies so that socialists
could hopefully take charge and further the political turmoil into
'universal proletarian dictatorship'. Revolutions in Marx's time
were purely political events, and had nothing to do with economic
development except to the extent that the development of the means
of production had fostered the development of a bourgeoisie and
proletariat whose economy was stifled by feudal restraints, readying
the two classes to assert their ascendancy by abolishing monarchies
and creating democratic republics that would better serve their
interests. Under any other circumstances, socialist revolution was a
mere fantasy. Engels believed, at least by 1880, that the means of
production had sufficiently developed for the kind of radical change
he and Marx had in mind, and the most that could be hoped for in
their day was simultaneous revolutions in the relatively advanced
countries of Europe that were already ripe for bourgeois democratic
revolutions. Simultaneous Marxist revolutions throughout Europe,
fast on the heels of bourgeois democratic turmoil, would have added
up to a real socialist revolution, whereas the actual individual
revolutionary events of the day signified nothing more spectacular
than individual bourgeois-democratic revolutions. There is no
evidence in the writings of either M or E that a level of technological
development higher than what they lived with was required for a
universal proletarian dictatorship to be established, or 'the lower
stage of communism
', a development which billions of people
would have also recognized and labeled as a 'socialist revolution'.
Europe in the 19th century was the only place and time in which the
term 'socialist revolution' could have applied in all history. It would
have been the only Marxist event that could have theoretically
embarked society into the Marxist classless and stateless 'upper
stage of communism
'. A real socialist revolution will forever remain
in the realm of theory, but, try explaining that to the billions of people
who think that what happened in Russia and China, etc., were Marxist,
socialist or communist revolutions. It's a big job. Be assured that the
reality of what happened in Russia, China and other places can't hold
a candle to Marx's theory of socialist revolution.

2002 note: One must be careful to distinguish here between 'socialist
revolution
', and what the WSM regards as 'socialism'. In the incomplete
version of Collected Works at hand, M+E used the exact phrase "socialist
revolution
" but 5 times, the publishers and editors using it 49 times. On the
other hand, "communist revolution" was used by M+E 11 times out of a
total of 20 appearances. (End note.)

Also: "Where does Charlie Marx state that bourgeois revolution
is a condition for prole revolution
?"

2002 note: Here is a place: me6.333 "The workers know that the
abolition of bourgeois property relations is not brought about by
preserving those of feudalism. They know that the revolutionary
movement of the bourgeoisie against the feudal estates and the
absolute monarchy can only accelerate their own revolutionary
movement. They know that their own struggle against the
bourgeoisie can only dawn with the day when the bourgeoisie
is victorious. Despite all this they do not share Herr Heinzen's
bourgeois illusions. They can and must accept the bourgeois
revolution as a precondition for the workers' revolution. However,
they cannot for a moment regard it as their ultimate goal." (End note.)

I'm not so sure that he said it right out loud [but, there it is, just above],
just the way he never fully defined his revolutionary scenario. Marx's
whole scenario depended upon the instability created by bourgeois-
democratic agitation and monarchist intransigence. The history of
Europe of his era didn't turn out to be much more significant than
individual bourgeois-democratic revolutions. In order to be considered
socialist, the revolutions would have had to occur throughout most of
Europe, and would have had to have been made permanent by further
development into universal proletarian dictatorship, only well after
which could the state have begun its decline.

Also: "We are *not* a Leninist party, we do not advocate
being leaders, being a party dictatorship *over* the working
class, or anything associated with Bolshevism.
"

I'm beginning to get the picture. I wouldn't want
any of the things you mentioned, either.

Ken Ellis

 

6-11-00

Stuart wrote on the 10th: "I don't think Marx was with Lenin on the
definition of
proletarian dictatorship. Marx meant the dictatorship
of the majority class in society, in other words democracy. Lenin
meant dictatorship
over the proletariat by a vanguard party. Hardly
the same thing.
" I've never been able to find a place in Lenin's
writings that even hints at a 'dictatorship over the proletariat by
a vanguard party
.' All anyone has to do is go to the subject index
to his 45 volumes of collected works (all of which I own, and most
of which I have read) to find categories such as: "Party, Proletarian -
as the vanguard, as the advanced, class - conscious detachment of
the working class
", for which category more than 100 references
are listed. Lenin was a good teacher of Marxism. Who but the
Bolsheviks put more capital into popularizing Marx for the
masses, with their inexpensive editions in dozens of languages?
If it wasn't for the inexpensive Progress Publishers editions,
it would have been much more difficult for me to find the
ammunition with which to rebut the theoreticians
of my very own American SLP.

And: "We use the words socialism and communism interchangeably.
So did Marx. If you want to make a Leninist distinction, that's fine.
In which case I would say that I am opposed to socialism, and do
not see any need for a "
lower stage of communism" in the
developed capitalist world we find ourselves in.
"

Well, neither do I see a need for a lower stage of communism in the
developed capitalist world we live in
, but probably for a different
reason than you do. For me, the lower stage of communism is
synonymous with proletarian dictatorship, which I wouldn't want
unless I planned on taking away the property of the rich, but I
found a way to classless, stateless society for the times we live in
that doesn't use as confrontational a method as Marx's, Lenin's,
or even WSM's.

And: "If only! Mere hundreds I would say, unfortunately." Aw,
you have to give yourselves more credit than that. There have been
hundreds of groups, I'll bet, that have existed from time to time
that have shared the same basic beliefs of the WSM, and if you
multiply those hundreds of groups by the hundreds of members,
on average, in each group, then you are talking about a million or
so, at least over the past couple of centuries. Take heart. It's been
a long tradition, but you have an opportunity to bravely break with
tradition and fight for classless and stateless society by means of
taking care of your humanitarian responsibilities. Put your
humanitarianism to the forefront, and all will be well.

Stuart quoted me: "you would only be out-voted yet again by
the billions who understand the 'isms in more popular ways."
And then answered: "Doesn't make us wrong." True, that alone
doesn't make you wrong, and in politics, it's hard to say that there's
even a right or a wrong, but there sure as hell is effectiveness and
dominance, which is the real name of the political game. If you want
your program to dominate, then it has to attract the masses; but
socialism, communism and anarchism repel the masses because
we no longer live in feudal monarchies that are rotten-ripe for
overthrow, which is the only condition (besides living in a Batista-
style colony) in which changing property relations was feasible
after smashing those states. You and I both know by now that a
Marxist, all-encompassing, socialist revolution has never occurred,
and with democracies as the dominant form of state in the world
nowadays, no one is willing to smash them for the pleasure of
socializing property ownership. Isn't the state responsible for
upholding the institution of private property, even democratic
states?

And: "we only want to "take" state power so as to dismantle
it (we aim at the conquest, ie subjugation, of the powers of
government). And we do that not in order to
socialise owner-
ship
, but rather to prevent the powers of the state preventing
the majority
socialising ownership...." I notice that you put
dismantling the state ahead of socialism, which appears as
though you make dismantling the state a precondition for
socialism, which doesn't sound a hell of a lot different from
what I wrote, which was: "you insist upon getting there by
means of taking state power so as to socialize ownership."
In other words, you want to get to classless and stateless
society by dealing with state power and property. You didn't
deny it; you just versed it in a different way.

And: "If billions did see things our way, then we would be a
hell of a lot closer to seeing the stateless, classless society which
we call socialism/communism
. ..." I could say the same thing about
sharing work, which gets neither of us anywhere in this dialogue.
Let's not merely answer assertions with assertions.

And: "... unless people understand socialism, our grounds
for pessimism will remain well founded.
" I think that people
understand socialism better than what you give them credit for.
A relatively small sect's redefinitions of socialism aren't going
to attract the masses. Your socialism and their concepts of
socialism agree in essence in that they both involve getting to
paradise by dealing with government and socializing property
ownership
, methods that many billions of people reject, but would
be glad to explain why as well if they knew much about history.

And: "Private ownership, state ownership, what's the difference
as far as we workers are concerned?
" Many battles have been
fought, and people have died over that very issue. Workers in the
West have a lot invested in the institution of private ownership
and would die in droves to prevent it from being socialized or
taken away from them, both of which they would interpret in
similar negative ways. It is not a trivial issue, and makes a lot of
difference. We are captives of our times, and would not react so
strongly against the idea of not having property if people didn't
profit from property. That would fade in time if we could get
with the right program.

And: "Private ownership, state ownership, what's the difference
as far as we workers are concerned? We say that capitalism is
a system of society based on certain social relationships. That
system of society and those social relationships existed in
"socialist" Russia.
" That all sounded rather indefinite and
uncertain to me.

And: "In Russia there was a ruling class which owned and
controlled the means of producing and distributing wealth who
lived very nicely off the unpaid labour of the workers. We call that
capitalism. Again, you can call it what you like. Property society?
Advocado-ism? We don't care.
" It's true that what happened in
Russia doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference to us here and
now, except when we try to build on our theories of what other
people had a long time ago in order to justify our notions of what
we will someday have in the future. If 'what people had' is too
controversial to agree upon, then we may not be able to agree on
what we will have in the future. If what one group asserts 'people
had' doesn't square with what experienced scholars assert, then
it wouldn't be the fault of the people if they paid more attention
to consensus, which says that the Russians had state ownership
instead of just plain 'capitalism'.

Stuart quoted me:
>> I discovered that socializing property ownership
>> was feasible only after overthrowing feudal monarchies
>> in underdeveloped countries, or after liberating colonies,
>> which rules out England, Europe and the USA, among
>> many other places.

He then answered: "So you keep saying.
Where did you "discover" this fact?
"

My old party believed in a lot of lies that justified their
anarcho-syndicalist program that was cleverly disguised as
'socialism'. The lies in their pamphlets were 'supported' by lots
of quotes out of context from Marx, Engels and Lenin. Finding
my very first quote out of context in '76 in a pamphlet that was
written in 1931 was a devastating experience, for it shattered
all my dreams of what I thought the party was about. I initially
thought that my fellow comrades would be honest and concerned
enough that the mere exposure of that quote out of context would
have led to a process that would rejuvenate the party, but no one
would join in my quest, or even touch it with a ten-foot pole, so I
quit in frustration early the following year. I figured that I would
someday write about my experiences, but didn't do anything until
'92. As I wrote my book from '92-'94, I had to do lots of thinking,
research and had to find lots of quotes in their original context. In
'94 I finally figured out that my party lied.

Marx's socialist aspirations were integrally associated with smashing
feudal monarchies, the only condition under which the theoretical
socialist revolution could possibly begin, because communists
knew they were too few to do it all by themselves. Now that we
in the West are well away from monarchies, it would be sensible
for socialists to more closely examine their tactics and strategy,
but no one who has heard the argument has been willing to
change yet. I figure that it's inertia, as well as socialism being
an ideology that has had such a panoply of misinterpretations
and downright lies built around it that it has somewhat corrupted the
participants and made religious zealots out of them, barely able to
use logic any more. I know that I couldn't use logic while I was still
smitten. If everyone was willing to take as much time to do their
own independent research as I was, then there might be more hope,
but who has the time or inclination? I know that I'm fighting a
losing battle, but am helpless to do anything but continue to
struggle against the very bad odds of finding even one more
person like myself who has been lied to, but who would rather
negate lies than to waste their lives fighting for an 'ism that
seemed feasible in the 19th century, and would have made
sense in 1917 if Europe had followed Russia's lead and
had a sufficient number of long lasting mutually supportive
revolutions. So many cans of worms were opened up by the
Soviet 'limited' success. It gave hope to so many people, but
yielded sorrow upon sorrow. Perhaps when the last of the
'socialist' countries becomes democratized and privatized,
people will be more willing to examine other paths to
classless, stateless society.

And: "There was no history in Russia of feudalism being
overthrown and replaced by state-capitalism until 1917. That
didn't stop it happening.
" Your logic is good to a certain extent,
but Russian feudalism was so rotten ripe for sweeping away for
such a long time before the fact that even Marx and Engels
wouldn't have been surprised to see it happen in their own day,
which was a few decades earlier. M+E even expected a Russian
revolution to trigger revolutions in Europe, that's how close it was
to happening all over Europe for so many years. Now, if, in the
USA, there was a 'socialist' party that could make it onto a
national ballot, there might be a little more hope for 'socialism'
of any variety, but don't blame the oppressive laws of the USA
for its not happening either, for the Bolsheviks won the battle for
hearts and minds in their country even under totalitarian restraints
on speech and assembly. Lenin was in exile for many years before
1917. We don't worry much about such gross censorship today.
All that socialists have to worry about is trying to market solutions
and 'isms that were appropriate to the 19th century. It's like trying
to sell Model T's to people who lust after new Cadillacs. Like they
say in Texas, "That dog won't hunt."

And: "Why aim only at cutting it [surplus values] down when
we can cut it out?" Because you don't want to be so far out with
your solutions as to alienate ordinary people. If your 'solution'
doesn't appear to be politically achievable, then that cuts you out
of the political arena, which means that you won't even get a
hearing for your program. If you can't deal in the realm of
what's possible in a democracy, then you can forget about
making a political impact.

And: "As you say, we create and recreate it every day. Why, then,
do you make it out to be a monster beyond our control?
" I think
that it's just as potentially in our control today as it was when
Engels urged workers in 1845 to do exactly the same thing that I
urge, i.e., for workers to end the competition amongst themselves
in the labor market. No more than that, coupled with a vision of
what's possible and likely in the 21st century, will win the day for
the working class. It's so simple and feasible, but distractions like
socialism* have to be dealt with in a reasonable way so that people
of good intentions won't waste their energies for the rest of their lives.

* 2002 note: By 'socialism', I often intended something closer to 'expropriation'.

Stuart quoted me:
>> but will also have to learn to share the
>> products of technology when we no longer
>> have a means of earning our keep.

And asked: "Eh? What does this mean?"

Many of us now earn our keep by going to work, but when the
machines take over much more completely before the end of this
century, there won't be a way for us 'to go to work to earn our
keep' any more. By learning to share work fairly now, that will
prepare us for the day when we will have to fairly share the
products that emanate from whatever entity produces things.

Stuart asked: "When has a ruling class ever sat by
and watched its power and control dwindle away?
"

Oh, they fight back with a vengeance, for sure.
It was just at the beginning of '98 that California ended
its stricter rules on overtime and regressed to the federal
standard of time and a half after 40. For a good 20 years,
up until '98, California workers enjoyed time and a half after
8 in a day, and double time after 12 in a day, as well as the
usual time and a half after 40. The bosses knew how to turn the
screws, and they won because not enough workers and unions
were willing to protest on any level, and the size of the protests at
the public meetings where it happened was too small. Too few
understood the gravity of the situation. The biggest losers were
the unions that make movies, because of the long hours they put
in. Unionists spoke about losing their houses and goodies if the
regulations were ended. On one of the days I was there, Andrew
Barnett got up, spoke, and then waved a gun at the 9-member
Commission. He was tackled, put in jail, and a year or so later
committed suicide. Many bosses want to end regulation of
hours of labor, and too few workers sufficiently understand
its importance to fight back. So many of them are smitten with
the 'isms that the bosses get away with murder, so it's a little
too early in the game for us to 'worry' about the ruling class
panicking as it watches its power and control dwindle away.
We've barely begun to raise our voices against the monster,
never mind raise the sticks of improved legislation and refusing
to work overtime for less than double time. In the meantime, the
bosses like nothing better for us to be smitten with 19th century
solutions. Nothing could make them happier than for us to live
in a dream world of unfeasible solutions.

Thanks for your patience, and I hope that you are learning useful things.

Ken Ellis

 

6-12-00

Stuart wrote on the 11th: "The change in Russia did not go
away from the direction of
socialised ownership. It merely
moved from a system of
state ownership (nothing to do
with
social ownership) to private ownership."

I would assert, on the other hand, that, in theory,
state ownership stands somewhere between private
ownership and common ownership because of what
Engels wrote in 1880 in "Socialism: Utopian and
Scientific
". Engels' opinion on state property was part
of his and Marx's scenario that never happened, viz.,
simultaneous socialist revolutions beginning in Europe,
so the whole theory has to be taken with a grain of salt,
or be regarded as something to chuckle over.

Also: "But I find it hard to imagine that people are
going to put up with capitalism
for ever."

I agree. It's days are numbered. Just like the title of
an old American SLP pamphlet that says: "Capitalism
is Doomed
", I give capitalism 2* more centuries at
most. A thousand years of it is more than enough.

* 2002 note: In light of more recent information at the Kurzweil web site, I now
believe that capitalism, economy and scarcity will end around 2040. (End note.)

Also: "You ignored another question I asked. What about
those who can't get or don't want or are not capable of work?
"

A thousand pardons. As for those who can't get work, an equitable
or fair share among everyone who wants work will take care of
all who want some. As far as those who don't want to work, I can
understand their attitude, for work can be very difficult for the
lowest classes - long hours, low pay, exposure to hazards, no
respect, etc. An equitable sharing of work would eliminate a lot
of current complaints, bringing in a lot of people who ordinarily
wouldn't be caught dead doing anything as disgusting as work, so
earn livings in the alternative economy. I have seen drug dealers on
TV swear up and down that, if they could get decent jobs, they would
give up the drug trade. As for those who can't work, we already have
programs for them, don't we? I should think that society should
continue the programs to support those who can't work.

Also: "They will not palliate the effects of capitalism in the sense
that we will still be alienating our living activity, still working for
wages and so therefore still living in relative poverty
" ...

I didn't promise a rose garden right away. Just slow and respectable
progress, that's all. For instant gratification, you will have to make
the WSM program a reality.

Also: "... we will still be competing for jobs and for markets,
therefore involved in daily war to some degree, etc, etc.
"

At this particular future stage of the program (that I think we are
both talking about), where we have supposedly already adopted a
program of sharing work, you are tending to blow out of proportion
the amount of horror that will still remain. Once the working class
takes control of the labor market by means of setting their hours
of labor in their own interests, you will be able to kiss most of the
horrors of working class life good-bye. This could happen relatively
soon, bestowing enormous relief on a significant portion of the
population in a relatively short period of time. It just takes
unity on this feasible goal.

Also: "Are you serious about this zero-hour work day,
or did you read it in a science fiction novel?
"

I'm not the only one to predict 'the end of work' in this
century. There already is a book by the very same name, and
an issue of the trade journal Electronic Engineering Times
(eetimes.com on the net) in the mid-90's predicted the end
of all physical work by 2086. Jeremy Rifkin thinks work will
end by 2050. There are probably scads of similar predictions
from other people and organizations. I think that it's past time for
us to propose a reasonable program for dealing with the future.
If we insist on one soon, we could effect workers' control, stop
cutting down the rain forests, etc. Because we work unnecessarily
long hours, we overproduce. Historically, overproduction has been
handled in 4 main ways: 1, promotion of overconsumption (seen
and heard enough ads yet?) 2, encouragement of population growth
(do we have enough people yet?) 3, government spending to promote
consumption and employment (think FDR's New Deal), and 4, market
expansion into new territories (think 'dropping the American embargo
against Cuba', etc.). Sharing work would enable everyone to make a
living without resorting to explosive growth in order to consume the
glut of commodities and services that would otherwise go unsold.

Also: "... this zero-work day. It just aint possible. Or am I missing
some scientific leap forward where human labour can be entirely left
out of the production, transport, running and maintenance of machines?
"

Like I say, it isn't my prediction. I try to stay abreast of what
people are thinking about the future. I'm just reporting what
more and more people are becoming more and more sure of for
our future. If you were to follow technological developments, you
might be amazed. I enjoy being amazed by our inventiveness.

I wrote: "regulations on hours of labor apply to everyone."
Stuart answered: "No they don't. We already have regulations
on hours of labour. They do not apply to everyone.
"

All right, I shouldn't have made it sound so black and white.
I'm not that familiar with the British rules. Here in the colony,
unions very often bargain away their rights on hours and
overtime premiums in exchange for other benefits. In that
manner, the bosses get the hours they want, which seems to
be the most important thing to them. Americans are fairly well
protected by the 40-hour limit unless they're a farm worker, a
sweat shop worker, a person of color, or belong to any of a
number of similar categories that aren't adequately protected,
leaving a lot of loopholes. I stand somewhat corrected. The
intent of the law was to generalize the protection, but, in
practice, there are lots of ways around the law. That's all
part of the horror and unfairness of contemporary life.

Also: "OK, let's imagine that ownership doesn't matter and
that the owning class are going to let us do what we please.
You still have to answer my question about who makes,
runs and maintains the machines.
"

Thanks for your interest.
In classless, stateless, and propertyless society, the machines will
pretty much take care of themselves, if there will even be such a
thing as a machine. I like to fantasize about a 'primordial ooze'
that will (at our command) materialize into whatever physical
entity that will give us pleasure. Don't laugh. I didn't think that one
up either. A reluctant individual will not have to don dirty overalls
once a week, month or year and crawl into the belly of a machine
to replace a broken thingamajig or a whatchamacallit. Instead,
something else will happen that will not involve human labor,
alienated or not. It may all sound strange now, but people a
century ago would have laughed at the thought of space travel.
We may have gone a long way in the 20th, but only a tenth of
how far we'll go in the 21st, barring blowing ourselves up, or
an ecological disaster, either of which could send us back to
the stone age, or wipe us out, and leave us to evolve from
amoebas all over again.

Have a nice vacation, Stuart
Cheers
Ken Ellis

 

6-13-00

Deathy wrote on the 12th in regard to Marx's politics: " ...
when it comes to a straight fight between workers and capitalists,
the workers can only abolish their opponents. In so doing, they
abolish class itself.
"

That might be true if the working class was inclined to fight their
bosses, but there isn't much indication of that in the 21st century.
Peaceful coexistence increasingly seems to be the rule, and
violence the occasional exception that proves the rule. Microsoft
workers certainly aren't going to turn against Bill Gates for
making millionaires out of them. Only the lowest paid workers
are going to be more consistently hostile to their bosses, but they
don't seem to be stampeding to overthrow them. In democracies,
civil remedies to grievances against bosses will continue to be
sought, not revolutionary solutions. Workers have a track record
of having fought alongside their bosses to overthrow feudal
monarchies. Reasonable people are not going to look at real
history and use what they learn to conclude that a revolution will
occur in the West. In real history, revolutions were fought to bring
democracy to where it didn't exist before, not to remedy workers'
suffering, which has always been addressed by reforms.

Ken Ellis

 

6-14-00

Adam Buick sounds like an educated person. What does Adam
think about the possibility of getting to classless, stateless society
by driving down the length of the working day to zero over an
extended, indefinite period of time? Feasible, practical, desirable?
No, no, no, or yes, yes, yes?

Ken Ellis

 

6-14-00

Dear Honorary Mom,

snip

I think perhaps that I may turn out to be more of a socialist than what
I originally thought, for I do believe, along with many other socialists,
communists and anarchists, that society has a good chance of reaching
the classless and stateless stage that was predicted by Marx and others.
Communists, socialists and anarchists all have different and mutually
exclusive methods for getting to classless and stateless society, but the
three methods are similar in that they all involve property and wealth
redistribution. Because the means for getting to classless and stateless
society are so different for communists, socialists and anarchists, they
can't solidly enough agree on a single way to get to their mutual goal
together. Many are so divided among themselves over how to handle
power and property that they waste more time fighting among themselves
than in doing constructive things. They vainly compete among themselves
to attract workers to their own particular schemes for getting control of
government, property and wealth, whereas the public couldn't care less
about their internal squabbles, nor does the public want to take away
anyone's property, for it seems that everyone wants property for
themselves, and the more of it, the better they feel, so they don't
want to see laws passed to take it away from anyone else. If the
left can ever see how futile it is to go after property, they will be
freed to work on more useful projects, like teaching the advantages
of equitably sharing work, but no socialist I know to this day is
willing to shed their interest in dominating government in order
to confiscate property. It's still very much of an uphill struggle.

I've recently been active in discussions on the Internet, trying to talk
sense to a group based in England called the World Socialist Movement,
or WSM. Once again, however, it's another group of anarchists disguised
as socialists, but I do think that I am making some strides in developing
good dialogue with a few of them.

snip

Ken Ellis

 

6-16-00

I recently asked, "What does Adam think about the possibility of
getting to classless, stateless society by driving down the length
of the working day to zero over an extended, indefinite period of
time? Feasible, practical, desirable? No, no, no, or yes, yes, yes?"

Adam answered: "Thanks, but it's, no, no, no, I'm afraid."
He continued: "... we're only going to get to a classless, stateless
(and moneyless, any reason why you
dropped this?) society if (1)
a majority of us want it and (2) organise ourselves democratically
to get it, by political action aimed directly at getting it, ie at making
the means of production the common property of all under
democratic control.
"

This sounds like 'socializing ownership of the means of production'.
Other contributors to the forum indicate that the WSM wants to
dispose of the state as the first step toward socializing ownership,
but isn't this an over-ambitious goal for such a small movement? I
ask further, isn't the over-optimism of the goal the reason why the
WSM, and associated movements, are so small? What changes do
you foresee coming up in the future that would give you hope for
a successful realization of the goal? Or, as was the case with my
old party, is the program the way it is because people can still
be roped in to buy hopelessly damaged goods?

We have already accepted the fact (haven't we?) that socializing
ownership was possible after overthrowing feudal monarchies in
backward countries (like Russia), or after liberating colonies (like
Cuba), but was never possible after socialists won mere elections
in Western democracies (such as France and Italy), which proves
that socializing ownership (in real history) is based upon having
the force of the state with which to socialize ownership, and also
proves that socialism is based upon using lots of force in order
to keep the property in the possession of the state. On the other
hand, it takes very little ongoing use of force to maintain property
in the hands of individuals and capitalists in the West, because the
socialist threat to the institution of property in the West is so
minuscule, and the institution of private property is something
that the vast majority of people respect. That was not the case in
Russia in 1917, when the armed forces were under communist
control, with the brief exceptions of Machnow and Kronstad, and
the West wanted desperately to overthrow the new Soviet system.
I remember reading Lenin to the effect, 'On the very first day of
the Russian revolution, private ownership of land was abolished.
'

To answer your very first question, I don't understand why
'moneyless' is such a big issue with the WSM. 'Classless and
stateless' were the traditional issues at stake when Marx defined
the upper stage of socialism, but I don't know which theorist first
decided that 'moneyless' would be nice to throw in as well, or
what reason the theorist gave. Perhaps someone could fill me
in on why 'moneyless' became a de rigeur part of the WSM's
definition of the upper stage. If it's a good enough reason,
I'll consistently adopt it as well.

Adam asked: "How long are you prepared to get to a classless,
stateless society?
" I don't think that it will happen in my lifetime,
but I don't really care how long it takes, as long as a valid
movement to get there can be created. I'd like to help make
the world a better place for future generations.

Adam wrote: "... shorter hours still leaves capitalism in existence
and still means exploitation (extraction of surplus value), in fact,
normally,
increased exploitation since the deal with the employer is
that you work harder in the shorter working day.
" Adam is correct
about the first part (ah, cruel fate), and is correct about increased
exploitation as well, unless we make a real class-wide political
movement out of the shorter hour quest and create a shortage of
labor that would confer workers' control on the whole working
class, thus eliminating speed-ups and so many other annoyances.

2002 note: Due to the existence of 'necessary labor time', surplus
values and exploitation would diminish at a disproportionally
greater rate than hours of labor would be lawfully reduced.

Adam wrote: "... employers will always resist union demands to
shorten the working day
". What I want is a political movement to
standardize shorter hours and higher overtime premiums for the
whole working class, and enforced by the state, not merely an
individual union effort.

Adam wrote: "They're never going to let the day be shortened
to anything anywhere near to zero, otherwise where would their
profits come from, so at some point on your strategy you're going
to have to
organise to remove them from the equation. How? By
democratic political action!
"

I'm wondering how Adam could have learned with such certainty
that the capitalists will never let the work day be shortened to zero.
Did one of them tell Adam personally? We already have a 40 hour
law; but give us workers an inch and we'll take a mile! Adam then
asked where capitalist profits would come from, as if he were
concerned over their welfare, but Adam isn't the first socialist to
worry about capitalist profits. Many other socialists with whom I've
discussed the shorter-hour project have expressed similar worries.
Curious, isn't it? With so many concerned socialists, it sort of makes
one wonder why capitalists should worry about socialist intentions.
More seriously, Adam then raised the specter of having to remove
the capitalist class
by means of an unspecified democratic political
action
. What did that mean? They couldn't be removed by merely
voting, could they? So, what's the program? Curious as well is
Adam's reasoning behind having to remove the capitalist class
(in the shorter-hour scenario) at any point. That sounds pretty
revolutionary, but the only revolution involved in the shorter-
hour scenario is the revolution within the minds of socialists
and revolutionaries if and when they finally see what's feasible,
and, more importantly, what's not.

Adam wrote: "Of course, once we've ended minority ownership
and control of productive resources, and hence established a
classless, stateless society, we can fix the length of the working
day at our discretion, to suit our needs and desires.
"

I don't understand why people would need to 'fix' the length of
the working day at all during the era of classless and stateless
society. Having a fixed length implies the necessity to protect
workers. Protect them from whom? Capitalists? Not in a classless
society. Protect them from the government? Not in a stateless
society. In a classless and stateless society, the length of the
work-day either makes no sense at all, or would be of such
trivial concern that it would be up to individuals to determine
for themselves what part of the day or year they would 'work', all
without any compulsion from any person or entity. Considering
how little work it takes to create necessities of life at our present
stage of development, it would be silly to talk about work at all
in a classless and stateless society, for such a society would be
one that would be best characterized by 'complete and perfect
freedom', whereas we know all too well the degree of subjugation
implied by the word 'work'. When referring to the classless and
stateless era, maybe we should replace the word 'work' with
'economic activity'.

Adam then wrote: "But, as others have also pointed out, even in
a classless, stateless, moneyless society we'll
still have to work
to produce what we need, even if not so hard as under capitalism.
"

I wonder about that as well. The failure of history to adhere
to Marx's revolutionary scenario also consigned some of its
classless and stateless features to the ash bin of history, such
as the association of any labor or work compelled by economic
necessity, maybe even collective economic necessity. I believe
that the only way in which the classless and stateless era will be
able to hang together in a logical fashion is if it excludes work,
because of the degree of compulsion implied by that particular
word. But it is tangential for us to try to determine in too great
detail from where we are today what the future society will look
like. The important thing for workers to begin with is to discuss
how and why to share work equitably in order to provide everyone
with work who wants or needs some to get by, to enable workers'
control, and to raise wages to a decent standard for all. That's the
humanitarian thing to do. As the old timers knew, the creation of
a shortage of labor leads to higher wages, as the recent American
experience proves, but the most ecological way to create a shortage
of labor is through our own class-conscious efforts to shorten hours
of labor. Continued failure of workers to get started on that great
project indicates our collective worthiness for hellish dooms-day
scenarios. I hope that our humanitarianism will prevent us from
suffering much more than what we already do. We shall see.

Ken Ellis

 

6-16-00

> You all probably think this Ken guy is a weirdo, but he has a
> point. It is true that there is simply less work out there to be done

... and ...

> raw hours of work, regardless of whether
> one works 12 hours a day, are declining.

Mahyar can see the hand writing on the wall, i.e., that technology
certainly has made inroads into the amount of work available. The
question of what to do about it is a big one, and ideas on that
abound. I hope that the people who are serious about change will
take some time to think about what's moonshine, and compare it
to what's possible in developed countries. I know that it's easier
to sit back and stare at the telly after a hard day's work, but I
didn't achieve the perspective I did by laying back. Maybe I
am a little weird, but maybe that's the price I've paid for having
kept my nose to the grindstone and my shoulder to the wheel
since '92. Without having done that, my uneducated opinions
about what's wrong with the world and how to fix it would be
just as good as the next guy's, which is worth what? I know
that we're not going to get to classless, stateless society in my
lifetime, but how do you tell whether what I have to say is worse
or better than anybody else's words? By doing the hard work of
analyzing details of what we all have to say, and trying to figure
out whose arguments are more consistent. If enough people
concentrate on figuring out what various groups and individuals
are really saying, then we'd get somewhere. Millions of people are
shouting: "I have the answer!" You also have 10 times more than
that who are willing to believe what nearly anyone has to say for
the sake of belonging to an entity that has a message to sell. Does
that get us any closer to classless, stateless society? Only if the
message is correct for the times and places we live in. Only you
can determine that for yourselves. I always warn people to be
careful and do your own research. Don't believe what anyone
has to say unless you are absolutely sure. Raise your doubts
from barely conscious uneasiness to a burning desire to get the
issues straight. Only then will you begin to be useful to others.

Ken Ellis

 

6-17-00

I get the feeling that people are hiding away and doing their best
to avoid the issues that I bring up in this forum, and are probably
just hoping that I will go away so that talk about movies, books
and free will, etc., can flow uninterrupted. Continued avoidance of
these difficult issues tends to prove that socialist theory is truly
dead, and that talk about socialism will forever go around in
circles, beating the same old, tired and dead horses ad infinitum,
ad nauseam. Was the Soviet Union 'socialist', did Marx err, is a
proletarian dictatorship feasible in Western democracies, etc.?
We could argue about these issues forever and not get a
bit closer to our mutual goal of creating a better world.

We have here a great moral issue, whether the most advanced
elements of the proletariat are going to continue to do little more
than bluster about socialism in the face of the dire unmet needs
of the lowest classes, or whether we are going to seriously own
the arguments against socialism and begin to do something
useful like teaching people to share what little work that has
yet to be taken over by machines and technology. That is one
big choice before us. Which path shall we take? Can we wait
forever to come to a decision?

Ken Ellis

 

6-17-00

Dear Nicholas and Thirsty,

I've been having fun at my WSM socialist forum recently, blowing
a lot of arguments out of the water. Here is what I just posted:

see previous message

Whaddaya think? Will I get censored eventually, or not? Their address is:
http://www.egroups.com/community/WSM_Socialism_Forum

Bro'Ken

 

6-21-00

Thanks for the responses. Sorry I couldn't reply sooner, but was
offered a chance to go whale watching on Cape Cod Bay. I was
lucky that the whales chose to put on a spectacular performance
on Stellwagen Bank. I was worried that the ship's props might
carve up the whales, but was assured that it instead uses water jets
to get around, and we also remained a good distance away. Whale
watching seems to be a well-regulated industry in the 21st century.

You both have nice styles of writing that suit dialogue well. I
wrote the ditty on avoidance because I was getting worried that
people might disagree with me, but wouldn't spare the time to
argue points of principle. But, Paddy ended with: "We see no
option but to argue it out, however long it takes. Vanguards don't
liberate, and ignorance isn't bliss. That's why we do what we do.
"
That's a nice attitude. It renews my faith that we can proceed until
logic prevails, and even beyond that happy day.

Paddy wrote: "I wouldn't be persuaded either by being told simply
'
well, that won't work' without being told why."

"well, that won't work" arguments are the kind that I have tried
to avoid like the plague because I know that they don't prove
anything. If someone could give an example of my using a 'that
won't work
' argument, I would be glad to do penance. On the
other hand, I have tried to explain quite a few times why
'socialism won't work' in the West, such as my latest to Adam:

"We have already accepted the fact (haven't we?) that socializing
ownership
was possible after overthrowing feudal monarchies
in backward countries (like Russia), or after liberating colonies
(like Cuba), but was never possible after socialists won mere
elections in Western democracies (such as France and Italy),
which proves that socializing ownership (in real history) is based
upon having the force of the state with which to socialize ownership,
and also proves that socialism is based upon using lots of force
in order to keep the property in the possession of the state."

That was real history, but Adam took issue with 'state ownership'
and rightly pointed out that it isn't the same as common ownership,
but I wonder how different it is in essence, as far as billions of
people are concerned. Allow me to illustrate: I wrote to Stuart
on the 11th that: "in theory, state ownership stands somewhere
between private ownership and common ownership because, in
Engels' 1880 pamphlet "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific", state
ownership
is a legitimate roadside stop on the way from private
ownership to common ownership." I would be happy to be
recorded as being as adamant an opponent of state ownership
as the WSM, but I do regard state ownership to be a legitimate
roadside stop in Marx's scenario from private ownership to
common ownership, which is the only scenario to date to even
approximately be implemented on a long-lasting mass scale.
But, because the Marxist scenario is obsolete for its faultiness
(as explained elsewhere and in previous messages), I do not
regard state ownership to be a legitimate roadside stop 'on the
way from where we are now to classless, stateless society by
means of progressively shortening hours of labor'. Though you
will never find me advocating state ownership, I do acknowledge
its place in scenarios that I do not agree with. Acknowledgement
is the only intellectually honest thing to do. If something was,
then it was, and we can't retroactively wipe it out, unless we think
we can fool a lot of people in the process. There is a tendency for
some avid believers in their own scenarios to deny logical elements
of scenarios they do not agree with, such as the SLP's denial of
Marx's proletarian dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, and their
denial of the concept of workers' state power, even though the
SLP cleverly disguises itself in 'scientific socialist' garb.

Adam says that the WSM wants to do something different
from state ownership. I can't fault the WSM for that, because
state ownership yields nothing but trouble. In the Marxist
scenario, the difficult part was to get from private ownership to
state ownership, for that revolutionary point was where the most
intense violence was to take place, whereas Marx's transition
from proletarian dictatorship to classless, stateless, moneyless
and propertyless society (CSMPS, to save words) was to have
been peaceful, gradual and relatively painless. Real communists
and followers of Lenin want to replace existing states with
workers' states in order to both abolish private property and
to put society on a trajectory leading to CSMPS, even though
some may argue that Lenin intended something else; but, all that
anyone has to do in order to affirm that Lenin was as interested
in CSMPS as Marx and the WSM is to read Lenin's "State and
Revolution
". What Russia had to do in practice was far different
from the Marxist scenario, because Europe didn't simultaneously
revolt in support
of Russia, so people have little basis for blaming
Lenin for all that Russia became. All one has to do is read some
of the last works of Lenin to find him anguishing over having to
deviate from initial socialist goals to adopt the NEP program that
re-established a level of capitalism. If anyone would feel better by
having 'someone' to blame, blame Europeans for not supporting
Russia, or blame Marx for giving socialists tasks that proved to
be impossible.

The reason that the bit of history from 3 paragraphs ago is so
important is that it shows what billions of people are willing to
do to achieve measures of social justice. 'Billions' is the same
number of people whom the WSM would like to convince to
do impossible things to their democracies for the sake of
socialism, which is close enough to the paths toward which
history shows the masses are not willing to be led. The present
situation begs the question, 'Can socialists learn from history?'
So far, the answer seems to be a resounding 'No!'. The next
question is 'why not?', for which I will offer more suggestions
some other day, cuz this is already too long.

The 'progressive shortening of hours of labor as a path to
CSMPS' is relatively new to me as well. After discovering in '94
that Marx's socialism is highly unlikely in the West due to the
amount of force necessary to get there, and while refuting SLP
lies in two pamphlets: Arnold Petersen's "Proletarian Democracy
vs. Dictatorships and Despotism
", and in Petersen's "Preface to
Engels' 'Socialism: Utopia to Science'
", I remained open to the
possibility that some other ideal might replace Marx's path to
CSMPS for me. There was no competition from anarchism,
because it shares the same problem of putting together the
enormous amounts of force necessary to divorce the rich
from their property in a day's work. If Marx couldn't ride
the coat-tails of European bourgeois-democratic revolutions
to proletarian dictatorship in his generation, and if all that Lenin
could put together was an inadequate caricature of a Marxist
revolution (because Europe wouldn't join the Bolsheviks), then
that combined with the increasing democratization of the world
can only mean (in hindsight) that the era of the possibility
of a Marxist scenario ended 80 years ago, and that broken
revolutionary dreams should be replaced with something that
is feasible in the West. There's no competition from tax-and-
spend Social-Democratic ideas, either, for I can imagine no
way of directly legislating property away from people, as
modern democracies are practically founded upon rights
to own and enjoy property. Socialists seem to have some
pretty high hurdles ahead of them.

In the process of refuting SLP lies, I researched and read a
lot of Marx and Engels about monarchies, democracies, and
struggles for shorter hours. I came to see that neither Marx
nor Engels had any interest in dismantling existing Western
democracies, and that the First International adamantly favored
replacing monarchies with democracies. Marx and Engels were
always at least luke warm toward struggles for shorter hours,
which Marx included in the First International's program, so I
began to advocate shorter hours as a means of assisting social
justice, and started reading modern histories of struggles for
shorter hours. It must have been around '95 or '96 when I began
to advocate getting to classless and stateless society by means
of progressively shortening hours of labor, for I always accepted
the CSMPS portion of socialist ideology. Adding 'getting to
classless and stateless by militantly shortening labor time'
seemed like a natural extension of what I had come to believe.

Shorter hours is something that the workers of the world could
cooperate to achieve, for it wouldn't make much sense for one
country in Europe, for instance, to try to adopt a 30-hour week
while other countries were willing to remain with 40 or more.
The rate of profit of a country with a remarkably different set
of regulations would surely mean financial difficulties for that
lone brave country. Solidarity among the workers of the world
could compel uniformity of labor regulations among all
countries, which is a very worthwhile goal.

I think that future advances in technology will create more
interest in sharing the remaining work. Not long after that
takes hold, advanced thinkers could get back on the leisure-
time bandwagon of 80-100 years ago and may become more
open to the idea of phasing out capitalism by means of a
progressive shortening of hours of labor. I was hoping to
jump-start the process and eliminate needless lower-class
suffering by getting the discussion phase started sooner
rather than later. Like socialism, sharing work can't take
place without the involvement of millions of people.

Though I think I may have heard of the Chicago School theorists
some time back, I'm not familiar with their ideas. From Paddy's
description, their prediction sounds as ugly as Huxley's 'Brave
New World
' scenario. But, I don't remember my mentioning
anything about a future crisis of surplus values. All I can
remember perhaps warning or hinting about is an increase
in surplus values unless workers compensate their increased
productivity by working less. I'm really shocked to think that
people who are familiar with Marxist economics don't avidly
talk about this yet. Anything less than a reduction in labor time
means environmental degradation first, and catastrophe later.
How can this problem be solved without us working less?

While we are at it, will someone please take up the question of
whether we can possibly move any closer to workers' control as
long as workers fight one another over diminishing numbers of
long-hour opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest
dreams? Doesn't competition between workers just make
prostitutes out of us, compelled to do anything the bosses ask,
no matter how destructive? How can workers boycott destructive
occupations unless we create an artificial shortage of labor to
enable workers to freely move to less destructive occupations?

Paddy adequately surmised my view: "... the working class
can respond to this crisis, and simultaneously undermine
capital, by agreeing, no doubt in a class-conscious way,
to share this diminishing job pool."

But then added: "But since human history indicates that sharing
only takes place in situations of abundance, not scarcity, this seems
to
fly in the face of human behaviour. If I was starving and only had
one apple, the chances are I wouldn't be sharing it round. Sorry.
"

I am sure that Paddy and I both agree that people are more
likely to share commodities and necessities of life when they are
abundant, but Paddy then tried to extend the concept to 'people
being more likely to share work when jobs are more abundant',
but I think that future work is a very different resource compared
to commodities. When jobs are abundant, there is less need for
workers to share work, and with work scarce, more need and
likelihood to share it, which is the actual experience of the
working class during the great depression. Dire scarcities of
work were the occasions when work-sharing really kicked in.
While all of the commodities that are in existence today were
produced today or in the past, and are fit for considering whether
to be shared or not, it wouldn't make sense for people to imagine
that work that was done in the past could be shared today.

The only alternative to sharing work is not sharing it. Assuming
for the moment that we don't share the remaining work, that can
only pave the way for mass suffering of Biblical proportions. As
long-hour opportunities to serve the rich diminish in number as
willing unpaid robots fill workers' shoes, then I can't imagine a
satisfactory solution for those who get left in the lurch. Putting
more people on the dole or on welfare would be rebelled against
by taxpayers in the USA who have already demonstrated their
willingness to scale government spending down instead of up.
The Brave New World scenario raises its ugly head again.

In the absence of much working class solidarity on the subject,
workers tend to associate greater personal wealth for themselves
with working longer, so, many who would climb the social ladder
resist the idea of working less. Many younger workers want to
grab as much work as possible for themselves, whereas some
older workers are more likely to be burned out and more
amenable to shorter hours, especially if they could
work less without losing much pay.

In his section on economics, Paddy made some valid points
that got me to re-think a propaganda point. Twenty-four hour
institutions like hospitals normally operating with eight-hour
shifts could not switch to 6 four-hour shifts very easily. Though
I more intended the zero-hour day to be construed in a figurative
sense, Paddy's comments may be reasonable enough to restrain
me from talking about zero-hour work days and instead switch to
talking about zero-hour work-years and lifetimes. I am as sure as
Paddy that hospitals aren't going to switch to a whole bunch of
small shifts. People will find better ways to share work, whether
it's an extra day off per week, an extra week off per month, an extra
month off per year, an extra year off per lifetime, etc., but they won't
do it with as many 4-hour shifts as what a slow transition to a 'zero-
hour day' conjures up. All of those people traveling back and forth to
their 4-hour shifts would also be an ecological disaster, I think many
of us would agree. What do you think, or is 'the zero-hour day' still
good enough a concept for propaganda purposes?

At the same time, work will have to be shared as machinery
replaces many more workers than ever before, no matter what
the cost to society, because society (the capitalists, whoever) will
have to bear the 'burden' of workers working less and producing
fewer surplus values. Otherwise, work won't get fairly shared,
which opens the door to mass suffering and doomsday scenarios.
People won't let that happen. We will share. All it takes for people
to open their hearts is for some kind of disaster to happen. Whether
it's a fire, a storm, a tornado, avalanche, an accident, you name it, and
people open their hearts and doors to allow for full recoveries. We
are not going to let a predictable event like the total replacement of
labor by machinery to prevent us from fulfilling our humanitarian
duties. We will not waste too much time wondering if 'the capitalist
pigs' are going to let us share work or not. Just like in the great
depression, factory owners will even take it upon themselves to
see that work at their own factories gets as equitably shared as
financially feasible. Rather than let things get to the point where
we have to wait for the individual humanitarian impulses of the
bosses to save us, we could see the handwriting on the wall and
generalize our humanitarianism through a political movement
(pass laws, in other words) and begin to save ourselves and
our planet by acting to implement intelligent plans now,
instead of waiting for our sorrows to multiply.

I was a revolutionary from '72-'94. That was 22 years for my
revolutionary imagination to run wild. At first I was an anarchist
(but thought I was a socialist), but found it impossible to fight for
the SLP revolution without sacrificing my integrity. For 18 years
after, I was an independent Leninist who was more often on the
fence about smashing 'bourgeois' democracies than advocating
it, simply because replacing bourgeois democracies with workers'
republics didn't feel perfectly right, for replacing one type of
democracy with another democracy seems redundant. If sharing
work by means of shorter hours didn't feel perfectly right for the
times we live in, I wouldn't ask anyone to pay attention to this.

After reading what Paddy and Adam had to say about
'moneyless', I am sold. I think that moneyless is very consistent
with stateless, classless and propertyless. Can I sell you all on
'workless' being consistent with the other 4 as well? Or, would
you all be content to work in CSMPS for no money? The notion
of 'work' during classless, stateless and moneyless society
doesn't feel right. I think that 'work' is a bad word to try to use
to describe anything that will go on in that era, unless it applies
to 'machinery', or whatever it is that helps keep us alive. I assume
that the reason the WSM wants 'work' to be contemporary with
CSMPS is because you want CSMPS now, and also understand
that the robots are still far away from replacing us all, so can't
extend CSMPS to include W, or workless.

I remember the SLP advocating the use of labor vouchers, but I
was never part of a group that speculated about that very much,
so I couldn't give many particulars about the nuances of those
arguments. I sort of got wrapped up in the bigger issues, such
as 'what really happened in history'.

With high regards for your thoughtfulness, and thanks to so many
people for using 'Avoidance' in their subject headings. I certainly
got your message, and can see that you are all paying attention.

Ken Ellis

 

6-21-00

Lew's recent bit on the pressures on the working class were
sobering. The pressure on those who already have jobs to work
more hours per week has increased in the USA since the late '60's.
In the meantime, revolutionary parties like my old American SLP
say nothing about absurd capitalist pressures to work harder
because the SLP wants the pressure to build on the working
class even more, so as to hopefully encourage workers to
revolt. Because our program was based upon rallying hate,
we couldn't do anything to diminish class hatred, and instead
had to do and say things to amplify it, hopefully past the point of
explosion. If our program had instead been based upon love and
working class solidarity, we more likely, as a group, would have
advocated sharing work by means of shorter hours for all. With
a little more vision, we could have advocated getting to classless,
stateless, moneyless, propertyless and workless society
(CSMPWS) by means of militantly pressuring Congress
to gradually legislate weekly hours of labor down to zero,
as permitted by improvements in technology.

But no, we had to advocate a program based on class hatred,
and we could not advocate the use of existing government
machinery to further working class goals, because our ideology
and the basic idea behind our Socialist Industrial Union program
originated in the mind of Bakunin, and was amended a little by
De Leon, who strongly advocated throwing out all 'capitalist law'
(which was quite a thing for an ex-professor of international law
to advocate), so out with reform as an option. The ideology was
so sacred, and it worked so well for the party bureaucracy, that
no one dared to touch it, even after they found out that it was
rationalized by lies, as if no one knew that before I told them so
in '76. This is just a little note to remind you of how sweet, benign,
honest and humanitarian
that socialism and anarchism can be.
There goes the sarcasm again, Stuart. You were right about me.

Sarcastically as ever,
Ken Ellis

 

6-22-00

Adam brought out some differences between Lafargue's and
Morris's programs for dealing with work in the future. I can
endorse Morris' 'converting work from "useless toil" into a
creative, pleasurable activity
', but I could take issue with
Lafargue's alleged 'reducing work to a minimum in a Socialist
Society by means of automation
'. What did Lafargue mean by
'Socialist Society'? Engels supported Lafargue for many years
to do Marxist propaganda, so my guess would be that Lafargue
intended 'proletarian dictatorship', or a workers' state, or maybe
even Social-Democracy. Reducing labor time would be concurrent
with the political tasks of a workers' state, but I think that classless,
stateless, moneyless and propertyless society will also have to be
workless as well. I wouldn't have as much trouble with 'reducing
work to a minimum
... by means of automation', except that, only
strict rules and legislation can reduce work to a minimum *for the
working class*. Automation makes protective legislation necessary,
but only a lot of informed people can make legislation happen.

Adam wrote: "But surely it's going to be just as hard to get
majorities elected on such a programme as on a straight Socialist
one? So why not go for Socialism instead of this
completely
unrealistic and unrealisable
gradualist reform programme?"

Adam is correct in suspecting that my program for
"getting to classless, stateless, moneyless, propertyless
and workless society (CSMPWS)" is reformist. Reform is
complementary to life in democracies, like a horse to a carriage.
I'm sorry not to know how else to equitably phase out work in any
kind of a democratic society except by phasing it out gradually
as technology permits, and by modifying rules and legislation to
increasingly protect workers. We now have democratic institutions
to work with, and some of us could run for public office to try to
amend labor laws, and we could also pressure existing lawmakers.
Can anyone out there guess the alternative to 'workers benefiting
from improved technology'? Hint: Bosses would benefit, and they
already do that in spades because workers have yet to turn that
situation around. That's all we have to do: turn that situation
around by amending existing labor laws. Is that harder than
socialism? A kindergarten class could give a good answer.
It should be noted that 'workers benefiting from improved
technology by means of more leisure time
' was a prominent
plank of the American SLP's platform before the party was taken
over in a hostile fashion by anarchists in 1889. Does that tell
anyone anything? (snip sarcasm)

I hope that the revelation of my inclination to gradually get to
CSMPWS by means of reform will not prevent Adam and Paddy from
responding to the rest of the points I made in yesterday's long message.

Ken Ellis

 

6-22-00

Len W. did a good service with those quotes from Lenin
and Trotsky. The ugly things Lenin and Trotsky did and
advocated were sure signs of a very troubled revolution, which
was far different from the Marxist scenario that could have been
realized if Europe had successfully supported the Bolshevik
revolution. Marxism wasn't realized, and we have to seriously
ask ourselves why. I think that Marxism itself was fatally flawed
from the getgo, and that we can't create social justice by going
after property. Socialism should be cast aside so that people
can move on to less exciting, but more practical and meaningful
tasks. Unless, of course, people would prefer to ensure their
impoverishment by continuing to fight among themselves
over the last of the long-hour opportunities to make the
rich richer than their wildest dreams.

Ken Ellis

 

6-23-00

Dr. Who wrote to Alan on the 22nd: "To "strengthen" laws
to protect "labour" (hands up, you know who you are!) is to
strengthen our "right" to be exploited, hardly revolutionary (the
revolutionary position would be upholding Lafargue's (son-in-law
of Marx and brilliant writer in his own "write") "right to be lazy."
"

OK, I have my hands up. I'm a convicted reformer with strong
convictions. Noble a goal as it might seem, I don't think that it's
possible to abolish exploitation overnight.

And: "Socialists, Alan, don't want "strengthened" labour laws, but the
total opposite, the abolition of the wages system (that one came from
Marx not Gore by the way), and
the end of "labour" as we know it."

I thought that the opposite of 'strengthened labor laws' can only
be 'weaker labor laws', which could mean a return to 12 hour days, 6
day weeks, and a return to the conditions of the Industrial Revolution
of the 19th century. Happy days. Read Marx's Capital for a nice
description. Another alternative is to leave labor laws the same while
automation continues to replace labor. Again, lower class conditions
get worse. But, what if the moment of revolution appears to be no
closer? Then lower class conditions will only get worse. But, what
if the moment of revolution still appears to be no closer? Then lower
class conditions will get worse still. And so on, especially if we
refuse to apply our energies to the actual problems of the day.

Is Dr. Who counting on atrocious working class conditions to
kick off the revolution? Where is the precedent for revolutions
due to poor working class conditions? I can't think of any. People
have revolted in modern times to replace rotting totalitarian
monarchies with democracies, or to politically liberate former
colonies, but not to address lousy working class conditions.
Thanks to the WSM, will there be a first time for doing that?

Suppose England were to revolt over its atrocious working class
conditions. What if the working classes of other countries were
to thumb their noses? Then what if an indignant USA, Germany,
Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain, etc., decided to restore
Tony Blair back to power? How would English revolutionaries
like to be in the same position as the Paris Commune of 1871?
In other words, just as in the Marxist scenario, the revolution
would have to be simultaneous in the most advanced countries
and involve billions of people. In the meantime, Dr. Who is
speculating about expelling Andy before he has even had a
chance to join! Expelled for what? For even *talking* about
nationalization. What a sin! Threatening expulsion for talking
about forbidden subjects is a hell of a good way to get the
revolution off to a healthy start. Instead of being a party in which
interested people could be patiently taught about the superiority
of revolution over other methods, we are told that Andy would
first have to get his act 'a little more together'. Still we are assured
that: "until you join the World Socialist Movement you have no idea
how truly democratic an organization can be.
" Until the WSM takes
to heart what Engels had to say ('Are we asking for free speech for
ourselves, only to abolish it again in our own ranks?
') I remain
unconvinced that the WSM would go down in smoke before
relinquishing a death-grip on the unvarnished principles of
free speech. My experience is that freedom of speech and
advocacy of socialism are mutually exclusive. The fragility
of socialism makes it crack like an egg under the pressure
of free speech, which is why socialism is losing ground
in an increasingly free world.

Ken Ellis

 

6-23-00

Hi, Len,

Just a follow-up to Lafargue: Was he propagandizing anarchism
when he was working for Engels?

You say about Lafargue that: "In his reminiscences of Marx he
stated that
Marx believed that the working class would "establish
communism as soon as it had achieved political and economic
leadership of society.
""

If, by communism, Marx meant 'classless, stateless,
etc., society', it sounds like Marx must have converted
to anarchism after many long years of trying to create a
workers' state. Funny that Engels never mentioned Marx's
conversion in the dozen years of opportunity he had after Marx's
death. Are you sure that you're not just repeating an anarchist lie?
By way of illustration, my old party, the American SLP, was also
great for putting the wrong words in the mouths of Marx, Engels
and Lenin in an attempt to make anarchists or anarchist
sympathizers out of all 3, all in the name of 'socialism', mind you.
If you read some of their literature, especially that of their old
National Secretary, Arnold Petersen, you will find all sorts of
rubbish, much of which can be refuted by checking original
citations of the 3 authors in question. I was a sucker for that
stuff in the early '70's, and a dogmatist, for it wasn't until '76
that I started doing my own research. For 4 years, I didn't
know that 'socialists' lie like crazy, and that the whole thing
was about supporting party bureaucrats who hated truth. But,
we have a certain responsibility to human progress to find the
truth so that we don't lead people astray. When quite a few
people have made industries out of anarchism, we have to
be very careful about what we believe in. The world is
quite a bit more complicated than what the retailers of
quick fixes would have us believe.

Ken Ellis

 

6-24-00

Frank M. wrote: "if they DO chose to work, what will push them
to work as hard as workers in a capitalist system?
"

The same people who think that there will be work to do in the
era of classless and stateless society will probably also tell you
that 'the reason the Soviet Union wasn't 'socialist' was because
they didn't reach classless and stateless society right after their
Bolshevik revolution in 1917'. Because they want classless and
stateless society to happen tomorrow, and because they have
enough awareness to suspect that there will still be some work
to do tomorrow, they glued the two together to bring you: Ta Ta -
classless and stateless society with work! (?) But, no money! Be
skeptical. Do your own research, and don't be afraid to get many
more opinions.

Ken Ellis

 

6-24-00

> Ken:
>
>> I remain unconvinced that the WSM would go down in
>> smoke before relinquishing a death-grip on the unvarnished
>> principles of free speech.
>
> Why?
>
>> My experience is that freedom of speech and
>> advocacy of socialism are mutually exclusive.
>
> Why not have another look at what the
WSM actually say? And
> at the way they actually work?
>
>> The fragility of socialism makes it crack like an egg
>> under the pressure of free speech,
>
> What fragility? What are you talking about?
>
>> which is why socialism is losing
>> ground in an increasingly free world.
>
> Free? Well, perhaps in the US, or wherever you are. But
> "increasingly free" is most certainly not the way I would
> describe life in, say, the UK.
>
> Toby

Toby is right! I jumped the gun and ran ahead of myself. Edit, edit, edit!

Ken Ellis

6-24-00

Frank M. wrote: "Hi Ken, Thanks for the e-mail. I'm not sure
what you had meant below. Can you please expand on it? Thanks.
"

I'm not sure of which part of yesterday's message you were
unsure of. My messages often contain pretty cynical perspectives
on socialist ideology. I've been a critic for some time. I guess that
I need a web site where I can put up some of my past writings for
people to reference. Instead of re-inventing the wheel here and
now, I'll work on getting a web site. I hate to disappoint you by
saying nothing of substance here. In the meantime, try mining the
archives of this website since May 25 for related material. Until I
receive a more specific question, this is the best I can do for now.

Regretfully,
Ken Ellis

 

6-24-00

Hi Len,

You wrote quite a bit on the 23rd about Marx, Engels, and Lenin,
unfortunately without clarifying very much for me. One could go
away from it still not knowing the distinction between the anarchist
and communist theories of the socialist revolution. I detected a
tendency on your part to sort of moosh-merge communism and
anarchism together, especially the way you used 'abolishing the
wages system
', 'expropriating expropriators', 'negating themselves
as a class
', and 'transition periods in historical context'. Are you
trying to build unity or something? I don't think there would be
much substance for anarchists and communists to want to go to
war with one another over if there wasn't a fundamental difference
between the anarchist 'replacing the state with an administration
of things on the same day as the revolution' and the communist
'replacing states with workers' states that would fade away along
with class distinctions'. Another way to try to build unity might
be to assert that the workers' state (in the communist scenario)
would die out rather quickly.

I think that the ideological differences will continue to run too
deep to allow for revolutionary movements to become one big
happy family. Memories linger. Communists executed anarchists
over ideological differences during the Spanish Civil War of the
1930's. They must have found the differences between themselves
to be more important than fighting fascism. When I was working
for the SLP National Office in the mid-'70's trying to make sense
of their hostility toward the Communists, a picture of Gus Hall
accidentally was printed in the Weekly People (WP). That whole
edition had to be scrapped, and a new one printed. We had to work
most of the night. A WP writer told me of the Communists: 'If they
ever come to power, they will kill us.
' What a shock that was to my
delicate ears. It was one of those unforgettable occasions, like
remembering where I was when JFK was assassinated. I really
didn't know that things could be that bad between revolutionaries.

I see that you also refloated the old anarchist saw: 'the socialist
revolution was impossible in Russia
'. You forget that Marx
wanted a Russian socialist-inspired revolution to trigger similar
and supportive revolutions in Europe
, and you forget that 'the
socialist revolution was impossible in Russia
', depending upon
one's definition of 'socialist'. Using the much more common
Leninist definition of 'a workers' state', the answer is 'it was
possible', while using the much rarer anarchist definition of
socialism as 'classless, stateless, moneyless and propertyless
society', the answer is 'it was impossible'. So, you are correct
as far as a maybe a million people can gather, but incorrect
as far as a billion people can gather, the very billion you
need to make a socialist revolution.

I would appreciate it if you would admit, 'Yes, there are grounds
for sectarianism in revolutionary movements.' After that, maybe
you could admit that the communist and anarchist programs are
mutually exclusive. In other words, you can't choose to use one
program as well as the other program at the very same time; you
can only choose one at a time, making mortal enemies out of the
ones who get left behind. Why the bitterness? Well, there's control
over all of that property at stake. Revolutionary leaders can't
wholeheartedly support sharing work by means of shorter hours
because there's no pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. There is no
'dynamic vision of socialism', because socialism died, and there's not
much more to do than pick its bones. Maybe there's still enough meat
to support one or another socialist leader. Even the head cheese of the
SLP once admitted to me that 'the problems of the revolutionary
movement began before De Leon.
' It was maybe a year after that
when I discovered that our party program was based upon quotes
out of context. Various sects made a mere business out of socialism,
which is all about PROPERTY. You were right about new people
having to read Marx for themselves. But, to really learn what the
last 2 centuries were about (for billions of people, it was 'replacing
monarchies with democracies', a task that is finished for the most
developed countries), one would have to try to refute lies that were
written about Marx, Engels, and Lenin. At first, suspect EVERYTHING.

Ken Ellis

 

6-24-00

I wrote: "I think that classless, stateless, moneyless and
propertyless society will also have to be workless as well."

l_light replied:
"I disagree. We must as surely insure the right to work,
and that individuals in society are insured productive and
interesting tasks and that selection for these may still be
in some ways competitive.
"

l_light may not know that technology is replacing labor at such a
fast rate that many predict 'the end of work', at least the physical
portion of it, by 2050. Who wants to work, anyway? I always tell
people that I was born in the wrong century, and that I should have
been born after 2100. I feel very indignant over the fact that I've
had to do so much work all my life, while people who are born
20 years from now may not get to do much work at all, if any.
I'm jealous of people who have yet to be born. But, that's only
if present generations can bring order and sanity to the world
in our own time. One way to do it will be to build 'the brain'
with full and complete knowledge of everything that is, and
everything that ever was, and let the brain sort things out and
figure out what really happened. In that way, it will be so much
easier to be able to figure out who lied, and when. Once we have
the unvarnished truth readily at hand, and it's no longer of any
use for anyone to try to get away with lying any more, then it will
make the job of moving society forward a lot easier. As it is now,
perfect liars can still eke out livings pumping out lies, and they
can easily drown me out. I can't wait for the truth machine to be
sicced on them. Talk about 'optimal ways of thought' - to be able
to learn things without having to be bombarded with a constant
stream of lies would certainly boost societal efficiency.

I don't understand how my trying to get to classless, stateless,
moneyless, propertyless and workless society (CSMPWS) by
militantly forcing down hours of labor as technology permits,
has anything to do with "trying to find equivalent solutions to
socialism that end up
hiding and obfuscating human faults,
and faults caused by capitalist production.
" Please make the
connection between 'the shorter hour solution' and 'hiding
human faults' in a more understandable manner.

> Reformism breeds limited views and the cancers of capitalism.

Reforms are a dime a dozen. I can't think of any that truly
address the process of replacement of labor with technology
as well as shorter hours of labor. The replacement of labor
by technology is going on under the noses of radical and
progressives right now, but all too few are talking about that,
few want to deal with it, and fewer still have a viable program
for addressing that issue. Not doing something real about
the replacement of labor by technology leads to all kinds of
problems, such as over-production, exploitation of resources,
population explosions, gluts of advertising all day and all night
long, enormous amounts of surplus values and profits, an
enormous state apparatus, etc. Radicals erroneously blame
all those problems on 'capitalism'*. Many more progressives
advocate reform. There are reforms, and there are reforms. Tons
of reforms do nothing to address the problems I mentioned, and
a lot of them just make government bigger. Shorter hours goes
right back to the program of the First International, and to the
program of the SLP before it was hostilely taken over by lying
anarchists in 1889. The struggle for shorter hours is a proud
and worthwhile struggle among American workers since 1820,
because it fundamentally addresses the replacement of labor
by technology. Even Marx and Engels couldn't say anything bad
about shorter hours, and endorsed the struggle halfheartedly for
England and America. Halfheartedly because they preferred
socialism, but history showed what became of socialism, a program
so weak that there are dozens of conflicting views on socialism,
and too much of a bad taste left by the abandoned Soviet effort.

* ... instead of blaming problems on unrestricted surplus values.

> When you are precise and disciplined enough to really
> communicate what you mean, and compassionate to your
> audience, you will not need to be sarcastic.

Maybe you are right. I have yet to change anyone's mind.
If no one changes their perspective, I will never know if my
ineffectiveness is my own fault, or if the unwillingness of
my audience to change is their own fault. Chronic lack of
effectiveness can lead to cynicism, apathy, sarcasm and
sloppiness. If someone could please change their mind soon,
we could together figure out how to improve the message.

Ken Ellis

 

6-25-00

Len wrote: "Not exactly trigger a revolution, but may be a prelude
to a revolution in the rest of Europe. It is a distinction.
"

What is the significance of the distinction? The failure of Europe
to follow the example of the Paris Commune disappointed Marx,
who was more encouraged by the quantity and quality of Russian
radicals than he was by the Europeans who weren't showing much
initiative in the 1870's. Only by preceding desirable European
revolutions could a Russian revolution have 'sparked' the desired
domino effect in Europe, so I fail to gather the significance of
the distinction between 'trigger' and 'prelude'. Please explain.

Len wrote: "Yet, in his work in the International, Marx spoke
of the
workers forming their own political movement (a bone
of contention with the anarchists). And, again, the working
class would work towards
abolition of the wage system."

I didn't think that the abolition of the wages system* was an initial
point of propaganda for the First International, so I returned to my
5 volume set of 'Documents of the First International', and in Volume
One, p. 284
, I read in Marx's Inaugural Address about the achievement
of the Ten Hours Bill: "This struggle about the legal restriction of the
hours of labour raged the more fiercely since, apart from frightened
avarice, it told indeed upon the great contest between the blind rule of
the supply and demand laws which form the political economy of the
middle class, and social production controlled by social foresight,
which forms the political economy of the working class. Hence
the Ten Hours' Bill was not only a great practical success; it was
the victory of a principle; it was the first time in broad daylight
that the political economy of the middle class succumbed to the
political economy of the working class.
"

* 2002 note: My contrariness here was due to my erroneously
regarding Marx's abolition of the wages system as an exclusively
violent revolutionary event. Only later did I regard Marx's abolition
of the wages system
as happening gradually. (End of note.)

Marx continued: "But there was in store a still greater victory
of the political economy of labour over the political economy of
property. We speak of the co-operative movement, especially the co-
operative factories raised by the unassisted efforts of a few bold
"hands". The value of those great social experiments cannot be
over-rated.
...." Further on, page 286, Marx added, on the subject
of an upper class "impediment in the way of the emancipation of
labour
": "To conquer political power has therefore become the
great duty of the working classes.
" In his Inaugural Address,
and in all of Volume One, at least, there was nothing about the
'abolition of the wages system', though we do know that it
appeared in a separate pamphlet. In Volume One, page 343,
Marx prominently placed advocacy of the 8-hour day in the
programme of the International.

On re-opening the first volume of documents of the First
International
, I found a note to the effect that I had purchased the
5 volumes for the amazing sum of $13.50, which was nearly half
a day's pay while I was working for the SLP, so it represented a
considerable outlay for me in 1976. I remember hesitating to buy
it for that reason, but it more than paid for itself in terms of the SLP
lies that it helped me to rebut. I also have to give the Russians a lot
of credit for putting so many inexpensive and informative volumes
in the hands of working people. Even my 45 volumes of Lenin cost
only about $80. What a gold mine that turned out to be in terms of
proving that many SLP quotes from Lenin were out of context. I only
wish now that I had all of the Marx-Engels Collected Works*.

* 2002 note: I received the MECW on CD in 2001.

Len wrote:
"I could hardly call the Russian revolution "Marxist-inspired".
There is a
vast gulf between the so-called "Marxism" of Lenin
and what Marx actually wrote.
"

If a vast gulf exists, it should be easy for Len to cite a
single significant difference. (I found one.) Did anyone
ever wonder why the 'communist' countries of Russia and
China printed so many pictures of Marx, Engels, Lenin and
Stalin, and why they decorated their main city squares with
their statues and other likenesses? There has to be a reason
why Bakunin and De Leon aren't there.

Len wrote:
"Lenin owed more to the Jacobins, August Blanqui and the
traditions of Russian political and philosophical thought than
to Marx. By stating that
the Russian revolution was inspired
by Marxism only perpetuates a myth."

Notice how few references to the Jacobins, Blanqui, etc., are
listed in the Indexes to the 45 volumes of Lenin, and we have:
Jacobins - 11, Blanqui - 5, and the next big question for Len is:
which paragons of 'Russian political and philosophical thought'
inspired Lenin? Struve, Martov, Plekhanov? Lenin mostly
criticized those 3, as well as just about every other Russian he
cited. As for Blanqui, we find in Volume 8, p. 207, "In November
1880 Blanqui in "
Neither God Nor Master" condemns the theory
of the class struggle and the separation of the interests of the
proletariat and those of the nation.
" On pp. 110-1 of Volume 12,
we find: "Marx knew how to warn the leaders against a premature
rising. But his attitude towards the heaven-storming proletariat
was that of a practical advisor, of a participant in the struggle of
the masses, who were raising the whole movement to a higher
level in spite of the false theories and mistakes of Blanqui and
Proudhon.
" On page 475 of Volume 13, we find: "The patriotic
idea
[government of national defense-KE] had its origin in the
Great Revolution of the eighteenth century; it swayed the minds
of the socialists of the Commune; and Blanqui, for example,
undoubtedly a revolutionary and an ardent supporter of
socialism, could find no better title for his newspaper
than the bourgeois cry: "
The country is in danger!""

There were two more references that I didn't look up, but you can
see the rather mundane level of respect Lenin had for Blanqui. Re
Jacobins: on page 222 of Volume 8, Lenin defended the Jacobins
against the Girondists for the parts they played in France in 1789-93:

"... the Jacobins ... upheld the interests of the advanced class
of the eighteenth century as consistently as the revolutionary
Social-Democrats
[the future Bolsheviks-KE] uphold the
interests of the advanced class of the 20th.
" In Volume 21,
p. 434, we find: "... the Russia of 1915 is fighting, not more
backward countries, but more advanced countries, which are
on the eve of a socialist revolution. It follows that, in the war
of 1914-15, only a proletariat that is carrying out a victorious
socialist revolution, can play the part of the Jacobins of 1793.
"

Lenin also referred to both parties as 'bourgeois', which hardly
was cause for awe. As for the number of references to Marx, all
I can say is 'wow'. There are 3 columns, each column has about
50 lines, and each line has about 5 refs apiece, for a total of 750
references, plus or minus 10%. As for Marxism, 'double wow'.
There are 11 full pages of refs for an approximate total of well
over 5,000. If anyone can find a single reference that was hostile
to Marx or Engels, that would be a revelation. This little exercise
shows that the alleged 'myth' that "the Russian revolution was
inspired by Marxism" was fully justified. You can't go anywhere
in Lenin's works without seeing lots of praise for Marx, or the
use of Marx's works to illustrate points of history, including
socialists further developing bourgeois-democratic revolutions
into proletarian dictatorship
, like Lenin wanted for Russia, but
failed to achieve (except in caricature) only because he didn't
have the support of the rest of Europe.

Len asked:
"How does one abolish exploitation (the extraction of surplus
value
by another class) without changing property relations?"

I'm glad you asked. There are two main ways to extract surplus
values, according to Marx in 'Capital': 1) by getting workers to
work beyond the point in the day when they finish earning the
value of their labor power, and 2) by introducing machinery,
and thus increasing workers' productivity. Since we can't do
anything about #2 except by becoming Luddites, that leaves #1,
which means reducing labor time, and we now know exactly
what Marx and the whole First International thought about that.
THEY ENDORSED IT. Why doesn't the WSM put the whole-
hearted endorsement of shorter hours on its agenda? That would
be a step on the road to bringing sanity to the world.

Len quoted me:
"Lenin built upon Marx's ideas to include workers
in the West replacing their democracies in order to
create a world-wide proletarian dictatorship."

Len then asked:
"Where did Marx EVER say that??"

I must admit that I slipped up here by making that statement
ambiguous. I didn't mean for it to appear to be as much Marx's
idea as it was Lenin's. In fact, that's one of the places where Marx
and Lenin part ways, for Marx encouraged workers to use their
democracies to their full extent, such as in their struggles for
shorter hours of labor and so many other issues. Though Marx
certainly endorsed the replacement of monarchies by democracies,
Lenin extended that idea to include replacing Western democracies
with workers' states
. The latter idea was also endorsed by Stalin,
Mao, etc. The Communist Party of the USA advocated it for awhile
in the 20's and 30's. I believe that there might still be a Maoist sect
here and there that still advocates it. Too bad for them that such an
overwhelming percentage of the population opposes the idea.

Len replied to my appeal to create an artificial scarcity of labor to
put everyone to work: "Capitalism already creates artificial scarcities."
But, capitalism doesn't create a scarcity of labor, it creates a glut of
labor on the market. Len didn't follow up his reply with anything
that would logically militate against my appeal. He instead tendered:
"And workers control is meaningless when capital still reigns supreme."
But, the issue of workers' control has often been tied to the issue of
shorter hours, which has been fought for and won, to one or another
limited extent, for over a century.

Len next stated: "The point is that capital is a social relation
and the dictates of the economy would
not follow from what
workers want, but what capital is only capable of in its own
"logic".
Capital is not controlled. IT controls."

'Capital being a social relation' didn't improve that particular
argument, and Len failed to define 'the dictates of the economy',
which are ... what? If the economy has certain dictates of its own,
then it is difficult to imagine either capital or labor being able to
control that dictator. Assuming from your statement that the logic
of capital is that 'capital controls', we are then left with: 'the dictates
of capital follow from what capital is capable of controlling'. Whew!
I'm sorry not to be able to follow the syntax any other way.
Perhaps you would like to reword that and submit it again.

Len next stated:
"Real "workers control" cannot be established
unless one
abolishes private property!"

Who says? That sounds like an assertion to me. Can you prove it?

Len asked: "Are we to expect that "workers control"
can be established under capitalism?"

Yes, which neatly dispenses with his next question of:
"If not, then what do we replace capitalism with?"

Len asked: "How could it ever be established as long as
property is held in the hands of another class?
"

I don't understand how 'property' can prevent workers'
control. 'Property' doesn't just sweep down from the sky
to prevent workers' control. Workers will begin to exercise
workers' control on a class-wide basis when they decide, en
masse, to create the kind of artificial shortage of labor that
will enable them all to find a place in the economy, and will
give them the freedom to move about from one job to another.
In that manner, workers will be free to decide what gets
produced, because they will be able to boycott occupations that
have no redeeming social value, such as land-mine production,
and the cutting down of the last of the California redwoods.
Workers in other industries would make room for the people
who want to boycott the ugly jobs, and if hours of labor have
to be further shortened to make room, that is the name of the
game that we could play. The only reason why we live in such
a destructive society right now is that we are divided and helpless
to do anything except what the bosses tell us to do, in spite of
our better inclinations. We haven't yet learned to come together
on the economic or political field as a class, and the bosses like
it that way just fine. In the USA, unionism has been declining
for the past few decades, and now only about 15% of workers
are unionized. And the trend may be continuing downward,
though I would be glad to see some more recent figures. I'm
not saying unreservedly that unionism is great, for their ideology
is pretty much dominated by Social-Democratic notions of job-
creationism by means of tax-and-spendism, seasoned with a
lot of nostalgia for FDR's New Deal programs. As an elected
delegate to the founding convention of the relatively new
American Labor Party in '96, those were the vibes I picked up.
Of course there was opposition from fringies, but they didn't
provide much of a viable alternative. If the bulk of the delegates
were Social-Democratic, then the fringies were more radically
socialist, communist or anarchist. The goal of just about every
one of them was a 'more equitable redistribution of wealth and
property', whereas I believe that I was the only who was
campaigning for a more equitable redistribution of work.
There's an awfully big difference.

Len added: "You state that workers could "boycott jobs", which
means indeed that capitalists and thus capital, would
still be in control.
How is this in line with the idea that
workers would have control?"

'Workers' control' is a relative term. If workers unite to enable one
another to boycott destructive jobs, or jobs with few to no socially
redeeming values, then workers would control to a greater degree
than they presently do. We should advocate programs to move
workers in the direction of greater control over their lives and
work. Workers' control may never be absolute as long as people
have to go to work for a living. The fact that workers can go out
on strike and shut down production proves that there is no such
thing as absolute bosses' control. Like Einstein said, it's all relative.
If we want more of something, then we have to change the way we
operate so that we can move ourselves in the direction we want to
go. Otherwise, the bosses will keep on pushing us in directions
that we don't want to go, such as less union membership.

Len added, after I had just warned about ROBOTS
walking all over workers:
"I am not saying that capitalists have to walk all
over us. But the idea of workers control without
changing property relations
is illogical."

Perhaps you haven't researched the subject closely enough.
The connection of workers' control with shorter hours has
been a factor in labor relations for more than a century,
according to one book I read.

Len added: "Yes, we can do something about changing property relations."

There are no more opportunities for socialists to ride the
coat-tails of bourgeois-democratic revolutions and further
develop them into proletarian dictatorships for the purpose of
expropriating property in the 21st century, but you still want to
change property relations? You would need the support of an
army, but what could convince them that property relations are
the cause of their problems? If we look at the problems that
could possibly cause people to rise up and revolt in Western
democracies in the 21st century, they would be: unemployment
and poverty, both of which could rather civilly be handled by
means of the working class more equitably sharing what little
work that has yet to be taken over by machines and technology.
Failing that happy event, when unemployment and poverty get
bad enough, the bosses' reps in government will step in to see
that people don't get too unruly, so the prospects of people
revolting for the cause of socialism are pretty slim, in fact,
non-existent in the West.

Len ended with: "Socialism, changing property relations,
has not failed because it has
never been tried."

Oh? I suppose they didn't change property relations in the Soviet
Union or Cuba, and I suppose that's why the West had such good
relations with Russia from 1917-91, and such good relations with
Cuba since 1959. Billions of people would describe Russia as socialist
from 1917-91, and Cuba since 1959. Only a relative handful would
insist that socialism means something other than what it has meant
to billions for decades. The SLP also tried to redefine socialism
and capitalism to mean classless, stateless society, and see how
their membership rolls shrink with the passage of time. Shrinking
is no way for a party to start a revolution, but the SLP doesn't just
'think' that it is correct - it 'knows' that it is correct. People who
'know' so much need to learn very little else.

Ken Ellis

6-27-00

 

Hi Len,

You wrote about differences between anarchists and
communists/socialists, and said that the latter are materialists,
while the anarchists are not. I wasn't aware of that distinction
before. I'll let it ride. You also wrote:

"Marx (and we) hold that the capitalist class maintains
economic control by virtue of their political control of
the state machinery. The anarchists disagree.
"

2002 note: At the time of this reply, I wasn't aware of the similarity of
this perspective and that of Duhring, which perspective was addressed
by Engels in Anti-Duhring. If capitalists control the economy, then the
depressions and financial crises over the years would not have been
allowed to happen, and desperate capitalists would not have jumped
off the tops of tall buildings during the Great Depression. (End note.)

What you wrote sounded awfully familiar, and I was able to find a
critique of it in Engels' 1-24-1872 letter to Cuno on pp. 424-5 of
Volume 2 of the MESW (Marx-Engels Selected Works):

"Bakunin has a peculiar theory of his own, a medley of
Proudhonism and communism. The chief point concerning
the former is that he does not regard capital, i.e., the class
antagonism between capitalists and wage workers which has
arisen through social development, but the state as the main evil
to be abolished. While the great mass of the Social-Democratic
workers hold our view that state power is nothing more than the
organisation which the ruling classes - landowners and capitalists -
have provided for themselves in order to protect their social privileges,
Bakunin maintains that it is the state which has created capital, that the
capitalist has his capital only by the grace of the state. As, therefore, the
state is the chief evil, it is above all the state which must be done away
with and then capitalism will go to blazes of itself. We, on the contrary,
say: Do away with capital, the concentration of all means of production
in the hands of the few, and the state will fall of itself. The difference
is an essential one: Without a previous social revolution the abolition
of the state is nonsense; the abolition of capital is precisely the social
revolution and involves a change in the whole mode of production.
"

So, according to Engels, it sounds like you have it backwards,
and that Bakunin and the anarchists agree with you and the
WSM that "the capitalist class maintain[s] economic control by
virtue of their political control of the state machinery.
" Are you
surprised? What does it mean for WSM ideology?

Regarding yesterday's discussion of the First International,
I found this very interesting passage in "Fictitious Splits in the
International
" by M+E, written 3-9-1869 (MESW 2, p. 254):
"It is not the logically impossible equalisation of classes, but
on the contrary the abolition of classes, this true secret of the
proletarian movement, which forms the great aim of the
International Working Men's Association.
"

I raise this point because the shorter hour program
is a way of moving in the direction of abolishing class
distinctions
. It puts everyone to work at decent wages,
while reducing surplus values. An abolition need not be a
sudden act like an execution. Some abolitions, such as the
abolition of class distinctions, can only occur slowly.

2002 self-correction: Forcible expropriation of capitalists has been
a traditional quick Marxist way to abolish class distinctions, by driving
the wealthy down to the level of workers.

You quoted my message of the 24th:
>> "I detected a tendency on your part to sort of moosh-merge
>> communism and anarchism together, especially the way you used
>> 'abolishing the wages system', 'expropriating expropriators',
>> 'negating themselves as a class', and 'transition periods in
>> historical context'.

And you replied: "I only used the words that Karl Marx used
(with the references to his work).
"

The issue was not so much the words themselves as the way
you used them to make the abolition of classes appear to be
able to arrive a short time after the capture of political power.
Was that the impression you were trying to create?

2002 note: Quick abolition of class distinctions was part of Marx's plan,
after workers captured state power. (End note.)

I next asked if you were trying to build unity (between anarchists
and communists), and if I didn't openly imply what I meant, I meant
'building unity by blurring the distinctions between the anarchist and
communist theories of revolution'. So, since you didn't come close to
answering my question, I'll ask it again, and this time in full: Are you
trying to build unity between anarchists and communists by blurring
the distinctions between the anarchist and communist theories of
revolution so as to try to appeal to both tendencies?

To the question of: "Are you trying to build unity or something?",
you only commented on the last sentence of my paragraph with
the obvious: "We do not wish to build a "workers state". That is
a Leninist conception.
"

Probably most of the people in this forum already know
that, and it didn't come anywhere close to answering the
only question in that paragraph. Even your follow-up
paragraph didn't illuminate the issue.

Next, I illustrated the issue of sectarianism with an anecdote
about the Spanish Civil War, and with one of my personal
experiences in the SLP, and you responded perfectly illogically
with: "Once again, you are criticizing Socialists in the WSM for
what
the Spanish Communists did, for what Lenin said, for what
the
SLP did. That is unfair."

The trouble with your answer is that no impartial jury
would convict me of any of the things you accused me of.
Besides, only a perfect idiot would criticize "Socialists in
the
WSM for what the Spanish Communists did, for what
Lenin said, for what the
SLP did." What were you trying
to accomplish with those accusations?

You quoted me:
>> I see that you also refloated the old anarchist saw:
>> 'the socialist revolution was impossible in Russia'.

And you replied:
> No. The anarchists in Russia DID believe that communism could
> be built.
Lenin's conception of socialism was state capitalism.
> Socialists (
in agreement with Marx) said that a socialist revolution
> was impossible in Russia in 1917
. And we were correct.

I think you have it backwards. It would have more logical to say
that 'the anarchists in Russia believed that anarchism could be built,
and the communists in Russia believed that communism could be built.'
If I had been an anarchist in Russia who believed that communism could
be built, I think I would have switched camps.

Secondly, Lenin's concept of socialism was not state capitalism.
It was proletarian dictatorship, and his concept of communism
was classless and stateless society. That's common knowledge,
and was popularized in his "The State and Revolution". What
Russia ended up with is a different story, and has often been
described as state capitalism.

Thirdly, how could socialists have agreed with Marx that "a
socialist revolution was impossible in Russia in 1917
" when
Marx died in 1883? Just a technicality. Not to duck the issue,
though, I'll bet that Marx would have endorsed replacing the
monarchy with bourgeois democracy
, especially considering the
high level of support already in Russia for further developing a
bourgeois-democratic revolution into proletarian dictatorship
,
otherwise known as a communist revolution to the billion people
who are familiar with Leninism.

Len stated: "The definition of Socialism is ours (and based much
upon the ground breaking work of Marx and Engels did in their
analysis of capitalist society and where it was headed).
"

There's no doubt that your Socialism contains elements of what
Marx and Engels advocated, but it contains more Bakuninism (in
terms of more immediately getting rid of the state) than what you
would probably like to admit. Who wants to be associated with the
theories of a person and his associates whom M+E were constantly
linking with the police? I can sympathize, for I unwittingly advocated
'Bakuninism disguised as socialism' for 4 years before I smartened
up. You don't have to advocate 'Bakuninism disguised as Socialism'
for the rest of your life if you don't want to.

I wrote: "I see that you also refloated the old anarchist saw: 'the
socialist revolution was impossible in Russia
'. You forget that
Marx wanted a Russian socialist-inspired revolution to trigger
similar and supportive revolutions in Europe, and you forget
that 'the socialist revolution was impossible in Russia',
depending upon one's definition of 'socialist'."

Len replied with: "Even if we used the verbiage of Leninist
mythology, a "
workers state" was never constructed. The
working class in Russia did not control the state. The
Bolsheviks and their bureaucracy did.
"

By merely saying what we already agreed with: that 'a workers
state was never constructed in Russia
', Len avoided the central
issue of whether the critique known as 'the socialist revolution
in Russia was impossible
' was a rather unsupported anarchist
assertion. Using the Leninist definition, the socialist revolution
in Russia would have been a lot more possible had European
socialist revolutions supported the Bolshevik revolution.

Len added: "Was Socialism impossible in terms of classless,
stateless society?
" And he answered 'no', added the names of
others who agreed with 'no', but failed to give Lenin's opinion,
which was 'yes'. As far as Russia's actual progress out of
feudalism goes, I remember Lenin claiming little more than
'consummation of the bourgeois-democratic revolution', and not
true socialism (which he equated with proletarian dictatorship),
a lack of progress which he openly regretted.

Len stated:
".. setting shorter hours under capitalism to supposedly
"
make more work*" is an old trade unionist argument that
just does not work. Are you suggesting that our end should
be living under a capitalist system and that all we can get is
shorter hours to make work for everyone?"

To answer the second question first:
As far as most people are concerned, 'living under
democratic governments' enormously outweighs the
issue of whether or not they live under capitalism. Creating
democracies was what most of the revolutions of the past 200+
years has been about. Even the Russians had to start with
'creating a democracy' before the Bolsheviks abolished it.

*20002 note: "setting shorter hours" doesn't "make more work", it makes more jobs.

If sharing work by means of shorter hours allegedly doesn't
work
, then why are French unionists going out on a limb to adopt
maybe the shortest working hours in Europe? It's true that the
most we can hope for at the beginning of this century is to make
room in the economy for everyone by means of shorter hours.
Making more jobs in that manner (instead of taxing and spending)
is much better for ourselves and the planet because we wouldn't add
to the size of the state, and we wouldn't waste scarce and precious
resources by adding unnecessary make-work. If we would advocate
sharing work with shorter hours, at least we would be doing what's
possible for where we are at this stage of development. If we militantly
insist that increases in productivity redound to workers in the form of
increased leisure time, and that work gets equitably shared among all
who can use some to get by, then we will prepare ourselves for the time
in the not too distant future when the products that keep people alive will
have to be equitably shared in spite of the probability that there won't
be a way for people to 'earn' what keeps them alive. The time for that
might arrive as soon as 2050, while others say later. No matter when,
we have to prepare ourselves as soon as possible so that there will be
something left of the planet if society makes it to 2050. We consume,
waste and pollute far too much, mostly because of the needlessly long
hours we put in. If Americans are 40 times more productive now than
they were 200 years ago, then Americans, and the rest of the West, could
probably 'make do' with working just an hour a week. I'm not advocating
that as a goal for tomorrow, I'm just illustrating our enormous productivity
increases. But, a factor of 40 will pale before the enormous factor of
increased productivity that will arrive in a scant 30 years. Even if you
have your revolution the way you want it, you will still have to deal with
the consequences of constantly increasing productivity, unless part of
your plan is to halt all innovation and channel the research community
into new pursuits. That will require an exercise in authority.

Len added:
"Socialism has not died. It was NEVER TRIED. To say
Socialism died gives in to the arguments of people like
Fukuyama who proclaim that "
history has ended"."

Well, in that case, just exactly which issue do you thing billions of
people are likely to have revolutions over, now that most are living
in democracies, and now that so many Europeans are seeking
greater measures of social and economic justice by means of
shortening hours of labor? How are we going to make history?

Len added:
"Saying Socialism is dead means you agree with the
hucksters and apologists for capitalism that "there is
no alternative to capitalism
". There is."

But, I used to work for hucksters who insisted that
there IS a socialist alternative to capitalism. Been there,
done that. Learned a few lessons. None of what I have
written can be considered an apology for capitalism.
Especially since, as I quoted from Marx, I advocate replacing
the political economy of the capitalists with the political economy
of the workers by means of amending labor laws in the interests
of workers. Some libertarians are great apologists for capitalism,
and some advocate ending labor-law protection because they
argue that such regulations prevent full employment. With
friends like that, labor doesn't need enemies.

Len added:
"Societies change. Economic systems change and are overthrown.
why can't this happen to capitalism? And if
Socialism is dead*,
as you say
it is, what do propose to replace capitalism with?"

*2002 note: By 'socialism', I most often meant 'expropriation'.

It's true that capitalism's days are numbered. It will fade away
when people are no longer compelled by economic necessity to
go out and earn themselves a living. My theory is that, if we can
become avid fans of the shorter hour solution, then we will be
able to get to classless, stateless, moneyless, propertyless, and
workless society (CSMPWS) without a bang, and hardly a
whimper. The first to go will be W, which suits me fine, for my
right to be lazy has never been recognized by anyone so far. After
W, it will be C, for the distinction between worker and boss will
be blurrier, except that the bosses will still have their property
for awhile, which will do them no good in terms of making them
profits, so P will merge with the collective. With W, C, and P out
of the way, S and M will be soon to follow, leaving only the last S,
society. In case some people are really into S and M, better make
that M and S instead. (Get it? Just a dirty joke. Perhaps my first
and last in this forum.) But, that end stage is way down the line,
and shouldn't be a major concern for anyone alive today.

Len stated once again, this time in reference to the SLP's
De Leon: "... in the WSM we have no such leaders."

Without my being so thorough and prudent as to first consult
the WSM web site, perhaps you could indulge my laziness by
informing me of where I could learn more about the structure
of the WSM. I would be most grateful.

Len added:
"And true, the problems of the movement go back WAY
before De Leon. One only has to read the debates Marx
had with others from his earliest days.
"

I'm sorry to have worded my statement ambiguously.
I think what my 'comrade' in the SLP intended was that
'Marx was also part of the problem', though I should have
inquired further, but didn't. While at the National Office,
there was such an atmosphere of secrecy around so many
subjects that I scarcely knew what was 'safe' to discuss, and
was often too shy to be very persistent in getting my curiosity
satisfied. I had the feeling that a lot of people would have been
happier if I didn't have an ounce of curiosity to my name. It was
my curiosity that got me into trouble in the end. I wasn't content
to be the drone they thought they had hired. I was genuinely
more interested in social justice than I was in any party that
promised it could deliver it.

Len then wanted to know how to reach workers control without
changing property relations
, but I made an attempt to answer it
in my message on the 25th, so I will wait to see if he has a more
specific question about it. I'll get to Marxisms 1-8 as soon as I can.

For the abolition of classes the slow way,
Ken Ellis

 

6-27-00

My apologies to the people whose messages
I've unfortunately had to neglect responding to.

Hi Len, Regarding Marxism 1:

You wrote: "I quote Marx, in his work VALUE, PRICE AND PROFIT
which was a paper he communicated to the General International
Congress of the First International held in September, 1865:"

My 5-volume set of the "Documents of the First International"
shows that the only thing Marx promised to deliver, and actually
delivered, to the CONFERENCE of Sept. 25, 1865, (not a Congress)
was a report from Wilhelm Liebknecht about German workers. At
the "Central Council Meeting" of May 2, "Weston then read a portion
of his paper on the question of wages.
" On June 20, before the same
body, "Citizen Marx then read a part of his paper in reply to Citizen
Weston's propositions on the question of wages.
" On June 27, before
the same body, "Citizen Marx, after recapitulating the principal points
in the first part of his paper which he had read at the last sitting,
proceeded to read the latter part, at the conclusion of which Citizen
Cremer said there were many who would like to have both papers -
of Citizen Weston and Citizen Marx's reply - printed, but he hardly
knew how the expense was to be met. Citizen Weston questioned the
correctness of the statement contained in Citizen Marx's paper having
reference to agricultural labourers. On the motion of Citizen Eccarius
the debate was adjourned to the next sitting to be opened by Citizen
Eccarius. The Council then adjourned to July 4th.
"

Probably no more than a dozen people attended those
meetings, though attendance was not taken at very many of
the early ones. Though the debate proceeded on July 4, none
of Marx's views at that meeting were recorded, presumably because
IWMA President Odger was taking notes. It appears as though nothing
more of Marx's report came before any other body of the International.
A note indicates that Marx's daughter Eleanor had the report printed
under the title "Value, Price and Profit" in 1898, which was probably
the first time it became popular to any degree.

I don't know where Len got his information about the report
being delivered to a Congress in September of 1865. It would be
instructive to know who or what wanted to blow the importance of
Marx's report out of proportion. Many years ago, I had a dream
that sticks in my mind to this day. A group of friends and I were
trapped in some kind of subterranean hell-hole, and the only way
we were to win our release was if I, alone, were to commit an act
requiring perfect accuracy of aim. All I remember was being put
on that spot, and dreading the responsibility. 'Why couldn't they
have chosen one of my other companions to do this?', I anguished.
I never wanted to do any more than blend in with the crowd and be
perfectly anonymous. I didn't have cause to remember that dream for
many years until I got into the refutation of SLP lies and distortions.
The lesson I think I gleaned from that dream is that: at present, when
so many people can still get by making decent livings for themselves
by peddling lies, the only way that we are going to be of any use to
one another is by finding out what really happened and re-telling
that bit of truth, regardless of how it might change the perspective
of others who may have already formed certain opinions of us.
Getting the courage to get on the right track is no easy thing, and
when people stray from the image that other people expect us to
uphold, it's often 'tough sledding', but the choice is there; we
either decide to do the right thing, or else we don't.

Ken Ellis

 

6-27-00

Hi Len,

I don't have much to say about what Marx had to say about a
Russian Revolution, so I'll let Engels speak for Marx, and also
will let him take it on home for me. In his 1894 work "On Social
Relations in Russia
", Fred said (Marx-Engels Selected Works,
Volume 2
, pp. 409-10):

"So there continues this accelerated transformation of Russia
into an industrial capitalist state, the proletarianisation of a large
part of her peasantry, and the destruction of the old communist
community. I do not undertake to say whether this community is
still sufficiently intact to become, when the occasion arises, and in
combination with a revolution in Western Europe, the starting point
for communist development, as Marx and I had still hoped in 1882.
This much, however, is certain: if anything of this community is to be
salvaged, the first requirement is the overthrow of the tsarist despotism,
a revolution in Russia. The Russian revolution will not only wrest the
greater part of the nation, the peasants, from their isolation in the villages,
constituting their mir, their universe; it will not only lead the peasants out
into the large arena, where they will come to know the outside world and
with it their own selves, their own condition, and the means of escape from
their present misery - the Russian revolution will also give a fresh impulse to
the labour movement in the West, creating for it new and better conditions
for struggle and thereby advancing the victory of the modern industrial
proletariat, a victory without which present-day Russia, whether on the
basis of the community or of capitalism, cannot achieve a socialist
transformation of society.
"

Over the course of several years, Engels repeatedly mentioned
the benefits to Russia of a proletarian victory in the West, and,
conversely, the benefits of a revolution in Russia to Western
workers. Failing the revolution beginning in the West, Engels
expected a Russian bourgeois-democratic revolution to "give a
fresh impulse
" to a proletarian victory in the West, the success
of which might have allowed Russia to preserve its communist
land scheme and proceed to a "socialist transformation of
society.
" Notice how much Engels thought that the "socialist
transformation of society
" in Russia depended on a proletarian
victory in the West. It was a little more complicated than what
I had originally remembered it, but I wasn't far off the mark.

Ken Ellis

 

6-27-00

Hi Len, you wrote on the 26th:

"Come now Ken, this truly is a shoddy argument! Counting the
number of times Lenin makes reference to Marx as a
proof that
he was more influenced by Marx than by other? Don't Christians
have a saying for that, that
the Devil too can quote Scripture?"

I'll admit that it might not have been the most airtight argument I
ever made, but, given the gravity of the subject, viz., the extent to
which Lenin might have been more inspired by Blanqui and the
Jacobins than by Marx, the numbers demonstrated the overwhelming
impact of Marx on Lenin, compared to the thinkers whom you named.

Len wrote:
"The number of times Lenin quoted Marx has nothing
to do with it! It is the SUBSTANCE of the ideas,
not
how many times they are given reference that matters.
"

In that case, you should have been able to find all kinds
of cites of Lenin simply salivating over the ideas of some
other thinker. That would have provided more substance to
your argument. If you are going to make the claim for Lenin
being more inspired by Blanqui and the Jacobins, you should
be able to document your assertion with sample quotes from
Lenin, but I doubt if you will find anything more convincing
than what I already provided: Blanqui didn't impress Lenin,
and the Jacobins were bourgeois.

Len wrote: "The Council Communist, Anton Pannekeok
in his work "
LENIN AS PHILOSOPHER"..."

Len should have been able to figure out that:
what a council communist would have to say about Lenin
matters little to anyone or anything except to the relative handful
who are into that stuff. No use flogging a dead horse. We know
that Leninism was flogged dead by history a decade ago, and it's
just a matter of time before people figure out that its intellectual
predecessor - Marxism - is also dead because of its inapplicability
to billions who are simply ga-ga over property, so won't let anyone
go after their own, and will fight for their rights to every scrap of it.
That's why they call this bourgeois society, and if anyone thinks that
socialism has a snowball's chance of superseding capitalism, they
ought to be able to show that people are somewhat interested in
socialism, and that the socialist mode of production is taking root
alongside of the capitalist mode, and has a good chance of replacing
capitalism after the longed-for and much-anticipated shift in power
takes place. We all remember how capitalism grew inside and
alongside of feudalism, so socialism ought to be growing inside
and alongside of capitalism as well, instead of being stamped
out all over the world.

Len finished with:
"As far as select quotes from Lenin to show how he
completely misunderstood Socialism
, I refer you to my
former emails with quotations from Lenin and Trotsky.
"

Oh, great. Lenin is supposed to show that Lenin misunderstood
Socialism
? I suppose you found Lenin saying: "I don't understand
socialism, never did, and never will.
" Or maybe Trotsky saying:
"Lenin is right. Lenin doesn't understand socialism." Sorry if that
doesn't work, Len. The method goes: you quote an author, and
then you PROVE how the quote displays the author's
misunderstanding of the subject.

Have a nice concert, Len. See you when you get back.

Ken Ellis

 

6-27-00

Toby, I'm truly sorry to hear the news, as you were one of my
most reasonable critics, and the only one to inspire me to make
a full retraction of a message. I hope that I won't be the only one
to miss you and your sense of fair play.

Ken Ellis

 

6-28-00

On the 26th, Len wrote, at the end of a long message: "Workers
cannot control capital. They can toy with it. But capital is based
on the exploitation of labour
."

And: "Shortening working hours does not end exploitation.
Workers still working for a wage leaves the system of exploitation
still in place. Decisions are not made
unless it involves profit
maximization. That's what capitalism is all about. that's why
"capital is not a thing". It is a process, a relation.
"

2002 note: It's too bad that my research on the issue of exploitation
in 2001 was so primitive that I wasn't able to dig up the many identities
Marx made between exploitation and surplus values, and of the identity
between surplus values and long work hours. (End of note.)

The bulk of Len's message consisted of information about
workers' control in non-Western countries, but I didn't make it
clear that I had been referring to workers' control in the West,
especially in the USA. My apologies for my contribution to the
confusion. The 2 paragraphs that I quoted from the end of Len's
message appear to be oriented toward Western workers' experiences.
Two of the sentences appear to be relatively assertive, such as: "Workers
cannot control capital." And: "Decisions are not made unless it involves
profit maximization.
" The latter assertion unfairly demonizes a class, as
if the condition of being rich makes the rich demons and removes all
humanitarianism. What about the people in the middle classes?
Shorter horns on their heads?

The capitalist (system of exploitation) is viable because it grew up
within and alongside the old societies and eventually was adopted
in just about all of the countries that come to mind, including a lot
of previously 'communist' societies (using popular nomenclature).
How many of the latter are left besides Cuba and North Korea that
have yet to end their cold-war relations with the West? Capitalism
is creeping everywhere, while WSM socialism gets nowhere. Why?

The reason why socialism gets nowhere is because it is based
upon changing property relations in a world that increasingly
cherishes the institution of private property. Therefore, if we
really want a greater measure of social, political, environmental
and economic justice for the lower classes of the world, we have
to apply pressure in areas of concern where we think we can
achieve at least some degree of success. The fact that changing
property relations was plausible (and even possible in Russia
and Cuba) after overthrowing feudal monarchies and liberating
colonies makes one wonder just how many more opportunities
like that still remain in the world, and while Sudan comes to mind,
I can't think of too many more, the toppling of a simultaneous
number of which would put socialists (who had been riding the
coat-tails of bourgeois-democratic or anti-colonial movements)
at the head of the resulting victorious movements, and would enable
them to begin to build socialism. Because of the backward nature of
such societies for which this scenario still might be plausible, socialist
society would not be immediately feasible, and the all-powerful West
would also initiate a successful counter-revolution. When and where
the socialist scenario was far more plausible was for the Europe of
Marx's day, when there were still quite a few feudal monarchies
waiting to be replaced with democracies, and with socialists (like
Engels in Germany) willing to engage in battle to consolidate the
hopefully successful red republics into a wide-spread proletarian
dictatorship
that would have been able to approach the upper stage
of communism
without much threat of counter-revolution from
powerful neighbors. If a socialist scenario didn't work in Marx's
time, and if the Russian and Chinese revolutions turned out to be
disappointments, then, guess what, folks, you had your socialist
chances and you blew it, and the chances of your being able to
get to socialism the way you want to do it, by directing your
strategic blow against property, are non-existent. So, if you
would like to make yourselves useful to the lower classes, then
let us reason together about how concerned people in the West
can apply our energies with some small hope (at least) that our
efforts will not have been in vain. The reason why I can be excited
about the struggle for shorter hours is that it allows for socialists
and/or ex-socialists to retain their dreams of abolishing classes
and getting to classless, stateless, moneyless, propertyless and
workless society. My proposal just gets us to the upper stage
of communism
in a non-socialist way. [2002: Non-socialist way?
There I was identifying socialism with expropriation.]

Getting back to workers' control: The economies of the West are
tied to labor markets. Over on Cape Cod, near where I live, the labor
market is so tight that a restaurant owner was relating on TV how
he is using a hotel near his restaurant as a free dormitory for his
restaurant employees. Other summer-season employers have also
had to use higher wages and benefits to entice workers onto the
unaffordable Cape. For most of us, however, the opposite is true,
i.e., our labor is glutting the market and bosses can afford to pay
low wages because, if one poor bloke doesn't take a lousy job,
some other bloke will. Take the scenario out to California, and
put a chainsaw in some poor bloke's hands and tell him to take
down the rest of the old-growth redwoods, and, do you think that
he's going to refuse? If he does, well, for every one who can afford
to refuse, there will be a dozen who are desperate and/or willing
enough to do the dirty work for a pittance. But, of all of those
desperate workers, how many of them truly want to ravage the
forests? There's always one sociopath in the crowd who would be
glad to do it for the fun of it, but I'll bet there wouldn't be many
who would do it without a tinge of regret, or without wondering if
there might be a better way to meet society's needs for wood. How
do we harvest THAT sentiment? Besides directly legislating redwood
preserves, there's another way to preserve forests without leaning on
accursed state intervention. Creating an artificial shortage of labor
would enable workers to boycott ugly jobs like that. In the 19th
century, workers mostly relied upon their unions to bargain for
shorter hours so as to keep workers functioning in productive
jobs in spite of the introduction of improved machinery. In today's
mobile society, it would be better to legislate shorter hours to prevent
scabbing, while a shortage of labor would enable workers to move
freely through the economy, depending on their interests. Workers
would even be able to totally boycott socially unredeeming jobs
because, with the shorter-hour legislation on their side, they would
be able to shorten hours sufficiently to assure all workers of places
in the benign and productive sectors of the economy, which would
dry up interest in non-productive and destructive jobs. Sorry if that's
the most 'revolutionary' suggestion I can offer today, but, if shorter-
hour legislation is followed to its natural conclusion, we could someday
achieve the zero-hour work-week, though I think that that particular final
blow against work will not be necessary, and what little work that will be
left for humans to do will be done voluntarily in a world that would be
so different from our dog-eat-dog world that few would recognize it.
People can change because we can reason.

Ken Ellis

 

6-28-00

Len asked:
"And you are saying that capitalism should remain
but that work should be redistributed. Am I right?"

Yes. I think that most of the problems of the poor in the USA are
caused by a very inequitable distribution of work. Those who have
work often also have too much, while many millions of others can't
find enough well-paying work to get by in a decent fashion, forcing
some to opt for more lucrative lives of crime. Since a democracy
reflects the will of the people, or even their willingness to allow
gross injustices to co-exist with the splendor of the rich, it is up
to the advanced elements of society (us) to educate people as to
the benefits and necessities of equitably sharing work now, and
in the future as well - considering how work will likely cease to
exist later this century.

Ken Ellis

 

6-28-00

Len wrote on the 26th: "Well, frankly, I have never seen one
experiment in all the world where the workers are in charge of
their own destiny under capitalism. Can you show me an example?
"

Sorry not to be able to. You probably have never seen a socialist
society either, so, I guess that makes us even. We are two frustrated
people looking to create a better world. I would like my dream to be
realized as much as you would like your dream to be realized.

Len also asked: "How can workers control anything when
they produce surplus value for another class and the other class
dictates what is produced, who will produce it, how fast it will be
produced, how much surplus value and profit will be extracted?
"

The way the labor market is now, workers surely don't have
much control, but we could surely take control of the labor market
if we put our minds to it. Why do we have to be on the losing end
of the deal, and why do we have to suffer with approximately 10%
unemployment in much of the West? I don't know what keeps us
from learning from the example of the French struggle, and why
we don't universalize the struggle for sharing work through shorter
hours. The nominal length of the work week is set far too long in
the USA. During our Great Depression of the 1930's, labor
supported a Bill for creating a 30 hour week which passed the
Senate, but social-democrats betrayed labor's interests by instead
pushing for New Deal programs that created jobs by means of
government spending. People were thus put to work, but the
economy that resulted is very wasteful.

When it comes to surplus values, they are augmented in 2 chief
ways, according to Marx in 'Capital': First, by extending the length
of the working day beyond what is required for workers to earn
the value of their labor power; and, secondly, by making workers
more productive by introducing machinery and new technologies.
We can't do anything about the second method except by becoming
Luddites, but we can certainly do something about the first method
by cutting down on our labor time. Some socialists can be militant
Marxists until it comes to teaching this chief economic lesson from
Marx, and even Marx himself didn't make it his highest priority
because his method of attaining social justice was plausible past
the end of Marx's life. Everyone except socialists learned in the
20th century that things changed. Instead of learning that
socialism is no longer possible in the West, socialists continue
to go after property. Though work days in the past 2 centuries
in the West have been cut back from infinite to 12, then from
12 to 10, and from 10 to 9 in some countries, and from 10 to
8 in others, socialists have chosen to ignore that path toward
economic justice.

I have proven socialism to be impossible several times already,
but socialists continue to talk as though it's still possible. Here's
the proof that the socialist scenario is no longer feasible, as
written in my 'Marxism Octet 5' on June 28:

2002 note: snip repetition of that paragraph for brevity

It would be instructive if you could explain why my proof
might be incorrect, and why socialism might still be possible.

Ken Ellis

 

6-28-00

Hi Len,

The differences between Lenin and Marx that you brought up in
your "MARXISM 8 - final" contribution of the 26th were very
instructive: State capitalism, dictatorship of one person, death
penalty, abolish the wage system vs. Taylorism, police and state
spies, recall of delegates to government vs. closing down the
Constituent Assembly
, that was all very instructive, juicy and
well noted. Thank you.

You asked: "Shall I go further?"

Please do, but if you could direct your energies toward clarifying
2 topics: Their possible differences on the worker-peasant alliance,
and on further developing bourgeois-democratic revolutions into
proletarian dictatorship
.

In one of my earlier messages, you may remember that I had
indicated one important difference: Marx's inclination to work
within existing democracies
vs. Lenin's inclination to replace
democracies with 'communist' states
, a policy retained by
Stalin, and extended to the American Communist Party's
program of the '20's and '30's.

Reminding myself of that difference, perhaps you could explain:
If the WSM program includes workers getting to classless, stateless,
moneyless and propertyless society not long after 'taking power', would
you characterize that taking of power as a revolutionary act? Or a democratic
act, perhaps similar to the SLP's program of winning an election before replacing
the state with an administration of things? Is there much of a difference between
the WSM program and Marx's program for democracies?

Ken Ellis

 

6-30-00

Hi Simon,

Free speech in the UK may flourish, but may also not be as
well protected as in the USA, as debate on the recent McDonald's
Burger
libel case indicated. I can't be any more specific than that.
Maybe someone else has more ideas on that issue. I can't
remember my writing anything conveying the idea that the
UK might have less freedom of speech than the USA.

The fact that some governments are regarded as social-democratic
indicates a high degree of success for that particular kind of 'socialism',
but what I really meant was: free speech will probably not redound to
the benefit of socialist PARTIES, for I think that trying to create social
and economic justice by going after property is no longer feasible
in the modern world. It was only plausible for the Europe of Marx's
day, or if the Russian revolution had triggered simultaneous supportive
European revolutions, but those political conditions no longer exist,
and probably never will again. You will need to read my recent
messages "Marxism Octet 5" or "Marxism Octet 7" for the
extra details that will clarify this issue.

Free speech will help people to figure this stuff out, so
free speech will not redound to the benefit of groups calling
themselves socialist, especially if they are of the type like my
old American SLP, whose elite in control knew darn well that
what they had to offer was worthless to the lower classes, but
often roped in enough new suckers to support the elite in their
national office, so they could afford to be bureaucratic, sectarian,
censorious, and secretive. They could afford, in their debates, to
overlook the main criticisms against them, and simply nitpicked
arguments to death. Were they serious about socialism? They
could put on an act, but that was all part of making a business
out of selling anarcho-syndicalism disguised as socialism, and
anything that got in their way - like free speech within the party
- could easily be dispensed with. I guess that's why pessimism
occasionally leaks out of my prose. My freedom of expression
in the WSM forum has so far been an unblemished liberty,
for which I am grateful.

Ken Ellis

 

6-30-00

Hi Simon,

You asked: "Please explain which socialists
make a business out of selling anarcho-syndicalism.
"

I mentioned one party in the text of my message.
Go back and read it, and you will find it.

Ken Ellis

End of May to June 2000 Correspondence

Back to Index of Year 2000 Correspondence

Back to Home Page