Back to Index of Year 2000 Correspondence

Back to Home Page

Selected Political Correspondence

November - December 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


11-01-00

Bob brought up important issues:

> Unless the root organizational, psychological, political and economic
> causes of why it has taken so long to resolve the
Pacifica Censorship
> Crisis in a democratic way are generally understood and then
> addressed by anti-censorship/Free Speech activists, my impression
> is that a democratic structural/institutional resolution of the crisis
> (which would permanently empower listener-sponsors and volunteers,
> as well as paid staffmembers) will tend not to happen.

My 30-years on the left often remind me of a sentence of Engels' letter
to Trier: "Are we demanding free speech for us, only to abolish it again
in our own ranks?
" My participation in leftist activities was more welcome
if I simply repeated the teachings of my 'great leaders', and if I didn't
have anything original to say.

Considering the struggle over the airwaves between what's marketable
vs. what's inspiring, one has to wonder if Pacifica programming could have
remained inspiring for very long if its structure had been democratic from
the getgo. If Pacifica had not been designed to be self-perpetuating, the
mainstream might have come to dominate and ruin it a lot sooner. There
probably was a lot of justification to set up a structure insulated enough
from the mainstream to be able to exclude it.

But, now that the organization has been captured by Democrats, the shoe
is on the other foot, and it has become difficult to impossible for more radical
voices to gain entrance, so the left faces the mighty problem of the mainstream
wanting to exclude the excluders. Does anyone else see it that way?

Ken Ellis

 

11-01-00

Martin wrote:

snip irrelevancies

> I would be happy to make time to march on Washington.
> However I will confess to being pessimistic that such an
> event will ever take place. I believe the work ethic, that
> is so deeply entrenched in American culture, would cause
> the participants of such an event to be viewed as a bunch
> of lazy a$$ cry babies by the majority of Americans.
> The work ethic is even reinforced in TV commercials
> such as the
WalMart ad; "retirement is for the birds,
> I'd rather work
". I only hope I'm proved wrong.

If the public would [think] so lowly of us, then it just shows that they
don't understand either us or the future, which means it's merely a
question of education. We are not in this struggle to make things
easier for ourselves, even though that would be concomitant to
solving some increasingly troublesome social trends that no other
solution but ours will be able to adequately address. While people
can still hold back the flood by taxing and throwing money at some
problems, they won't be able to do that forever.

People will all be thinking very much like us in a few short years. If what we
say now cannot make them think like us, changes in the economy will certainly
make them think like us later. Unlike socialism, which can only go further away*,
our issue is becoming more relevant by the day.

* 2002 correction: Actually, Marx's vision of a "higher phase of
communist society
" approaches closer and closer, in spite of many
sincere efforts to avert it. Also, first phase and higher phase were
the terms Marx used, not upper stage, higher stage or lower stage,
as I unfortunately wrote so often. (End of note.)

When I was an elected delegate to the founding convention of the new American
Labor Party in 1996, I was amazed at the amount of Social-Democratic sentiment
expressed by so many unionists. Many of them seemed to think that taxing and
spending is the way to go, but, one can only practice New Deal tax-and-spend
politics just so long before the waste of effort and resources becomes abundantly
apparent. To convince unionists otherwise seems to me to be a worthwhile goal.
Do we have any unionists or union leaders in our list? If so, what do they think,
and what obstacles to adopting our logical social solution do they run across?

Ken Ellis

 

11-03-00

Brian wrote: "My guess is that he is thinking very hard on it,
or he would have been back by now.
"

So true!

KE

 

11-04-00

Jeff wrote:

> There is strong sentiment in Labor Unions particularly
>
UAW NEW DIRECTIONS out of St. Louis, MO - in support
> of
Shorter Work time, fighting over-work and "speed-up"
> in manufacturing.

Good. Expanding this sentiment to other unions would be what the country
needs. Does UAW NEW DIRECTIONS have their own web site?

Has anyone an idea of Nader's sentiments one way or another on the shorter
hour issue, or might Nader be uninformed or uninterested as of yet?

Ken Ellis

 

11-05-00

Scott wrote:

> Hi Ken,
>
> I enjoyed your last letter. I'm afraid I must admit
> I'm the anarchist who butchered the Marx quote.
> Not quite the great conspiracy behind it that you
> had deduced, however, I actually thought I had it
> right, but I shouldn't have put the quotation marks
> around it without checking. I apologise! I wasn't
> trying to twist the meaning! I really am not a great
> expert on Marx, and I won't do that again.

The apology is gladly accepted. It's always a pleasure to discuss
important issues with people who are not afraid to admit their
mistakes. One lesson we could all get from this: none of us has
to be an expert on Marx in order to quote him accurately. If we
each admit our mistakes when proven wrong, then we can make
progress and stay on track. But, I'm afraid that Scott's fine quality
automatically disqualifies him for ASLP membership, because we
mere mortals make mistakes, while ASLP members have often
regarded themselves as infallible as the pope. I wonder if
that's how De Leon got his nickname: 'the pope'?

Error correction is even a principle of motion control. On the wide
seas, a ship proceeds on course, but a gust or a wave knocks the ship
off course, and an 'error' is detected by the differential amplifier in the
automatic pilot, which error is amplified negatively and is used to turn
the rudder to correct the course. It's funny how it even uses the principle
of 'negation of negation'. The constant process of error correction is
also how we navigate automobiles down the road. If error correction
is eliminated from our ideological struggles, then errors are replicated
endlessly, and stubborn movements that perpetuate errors end up in
the ashbin of history. We all make errors, and we all correct our errors
behind the wheel, lest we wander off the highway of life and end up in
a heap in somebody's yard. But that rude awakening doesn't prevent
some people from cursing the road for not constantly paving itself
in front of their paths, no matter into which impossible terrains
their paths may lead.

> I'm the anarchist only by your definition of the word
> anarchist. I still consider myself a socialist, even though
> I'm further in the direction of anarchism than the
SLP of
> America because of my advocacy of a
Revolutionary Co-
> operative
movement. But, I don't really care about these
> labels, so call me whatever you like, and I won't take
> offence. And if the definition of anarchist really is
> "
one who wants to abolish the state" (in the context
> I have already discussed), then I am an anarchist.

Anyone who is willing to admit a mistake should feel
right at home here, no matter what name they choose
to call themselves. (Gawd, I hate these clumsy English
language transitions between singular and plural.) What's
in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name ...

> One thing about your letter kind of disappointed me. I
> thought your treatment of the economic, and mathematical,
> concepts surrounding the issue of exploitation was superficial.
> After all, that was the thing I really wanted to ask you about. I
> would appreciate a more thorough response in that area. As a
> first step in that direction, I'll outline some of these concepts,
> as I understand them. I must admit, that much of this comes
> from study groups, and
SLP pamphlets rather than actually
> reading
Capital, so I must admit from the start that it's
> possible that the
SLP was distorting the meaning of
> Marxian economics, but at any rate, it goes like this.

There was an old saying in the left that, if a person wanted to
learn economics, then go to the ASLP, but if a person wanted to
learn politics, then go anywhere except to the ASLP. If the ASLP
distorted Marxian economics very much, I never picked up on it,
at least on a microscopic level. But, the whole left, including M+E
themselves, were awfully blind on the macroscopic level because of
their inability to do much more than prescribe revolution as the cure
for the 'enormous surplus values' malady. Every Marxist worth their
salt KNOWS that enormous surplus values are generated by 'too much
work
', so their revolutionary solution doesn't follow from their premises!

> Value is a function of labour time, given the prevailing
> technology, let V represent value, and W wages. Surplus
> value is the part of what we produce that isn't represented
> by our wages SV=V-W. The
rate of exploitation is SV/V*,
> in words, that is the value of the part of what you produce
> that the capitalist gets, divided by the
total value of what
> you produce
. It makes good mathematical and common
> sense that we would call that
the rate of exploitation.

* 2002 note: Marx's rate of exploitation equals the rate of surplus value,
which equals 'surplus value/necessary labor', or s/v. The first portion of a
working day is spent creating the value of wages, termed 'necessary labor'.
Instead of just going home after creating the value of their wages, workers
stay on the job, creating new value which is pocketed by bosses, which
new value Marx termed 'surplus value'. (End of note.)

> The rate of surplus value which is closely related to
> the rate of profit is given by SV/(variable capital (VC)
> + constant capital (CC)), in other words, What the
> capitalists extract out of our collective hides, divided
> by their cost for labour and material factors.

So far, so good*. I don't remember the ASLP making a big issue
out of SV/V, though I don't disagree with your formulation of it.
In which pamphlet does the ASLP discuss it?

* 2002 note: Instead of the 'rate of surplus value', Scott actually defined
the 'rate of profit'. He also unfortunately used non-Marxist nomenclature.
Marx used v for variable capital (or wages, or necessary labor). Marx
sometimes used W for the German 'wert', which equals the English 'worth',
or 'value'. Marx also used either m or s to denote 'surplus value', or 'mehrwert'
('more-value'). Throughout many of Marx's writings, value was expressed as
c + v + s, or constant capital + variable capital + surplus value. By the 3rd
volume
of Capital, he wrote value C = c + v + s (me37.41): "Suppose profit
is p. Then the formula C = c + v + s = k + s turns into the formula C = k
+ p, or the value of a commodity = cost price + profit.
" (End of note.)

> Here's the rub, and its no minor thing that can be swept
> under the rug. According to Marxist theory, at least by
> way of the
SLP of America, The rate of surplus value
> must decline with time, leading to periodic economic
> crises that have catastrophic consequences.
*

The ASLP response is what I meant by the inability of activists
to do much more than yell - catastrophe! Aux armes! On a more
practical level, when the bosses decided in the 1920's to refuse
to allow labor to take the benefits of improved productivity in the
form of shorter hours (like they allowed themselves and their
workers to do during the century from 1820-1920), organized
labor warned the bosses about a crisis of overproduction, which
became very apparent after the stock market crashed in 1929.

* 2002 notes: Actually, my answer was quite inadequate, because Scott
confused the rate of profit with the rate of surplus value, and I wasn't
keen enough to catch his error at that time. In today's world, and
increasingly so in the near future, the rate of surplus value - (Scott's
SV/V) - or Marx's s/v (surplus value/variable capital) actually rises
higher and higher at the same time the rate of profit (Marx's s/[c+v])
tends to sink lower and lower. M+E noted in the 3rd volume of Capital
(me37.238): "The tendency of the rate of profit to fall is bound up with
a tendency of the rate of surplus value to rise, hence with a tendency
for the rate of labour exploitation to rise.
... The rate of profit does
not fall because labour becomes less productive, but because it
becomes more productive.
"

The rate of profit has a tendency to sink because historically increasing surplus
value s is increasingly invested into capital and technology c. The investment of
so much surplus value s into constant capital c tends to increase the denominator
of the rate of profit - s/[c+v] - quite rapidly, preventing the overall value of that
ratio s/[c+v] from increasing as rapidly as s increases. But, that tendency of the
rate of profit
to fall is nothing for poor people to cy over, especially considering
the wealth of the rich. Compare the paucity of capital investment previous to the
1700's to the enormous (and ever increasing) investments of modern times. The
further back in time, the lower the rate of surplus value. With the passage of time
and increasing productivity of labor, however, v shrinks with respect to c, s rises
with respect to v, while c and s rise together. Doom descends on companies that
don't invest heavily in new capital c, because companies that DO invest derive
competitive advantages. The trend is to trade as much v (human labor) as possible
for c (technology), because v cannot work 24/7 the way c can. c never demands
the perks demanded by v, such as limits on the length of the working day, wages,
vacations, child care, health benefits, etc. c never goes out on strike, nor demands
freedom of speech, etc. Mollycoddling v in a company is tantamount to
economic suicide. 'Automate or die.' (End of notes.)

> It works like this, capitalists are forced by competition to increase
> constant capital. Variable capital, what the capitalists dish out for
> labour, will decrease as a percentage of total investment as a result
> (what Marx called the increasing organic composition
* of capital), but
> the total investment, which is the denominator in this fraction, must
> increase with time. Now let's consider the numerator, Surplus Value.
> It can increase too, but with value being a function of time, value can
> increase only by increasing the number of workers, because
only that
> will increase the number of hours worked, but investments in constant
> capital force variable capital out of the expression, in other words,
> machines take over people's jobs. Surplus value which is related to
> value, (
just subtract wages**), behaves in much the same way. It can
> increase
only when more labour hours are worked***. Surplus value
> can actually increase, but not as much as the sum of VC and CC. The
> up-shot is that the denominator must increase faster than the numerator,

* 2002 note (me37.210): "This continual relative decrease of the variable
capital vis-a-vis the constant, and consequently the total capital, is identical
with the progressively higher organic composition of the social capital in its
average. It is likewise just another expression for the progressive development
of the social productive power of labour, which is demonstrated precisely by the
fact that the same number of labourers, in the same time, i.e., with less labour,
convert an ever-increasing quantity of raw and auxiliary materials into products,
thanks to the growing application of machinery and fixed capital in general. To
this
... corresponds a progressive cheapening of products."

** 2nd note: Scott's mistake. Using Marx's formula for value C = c + v + s,
not only wages v must be subtracted from total value C to arrive at s, but
constant capital c subtracted as well.

*** 3rd note: Another mistake. Not only can surplus value increase
'absolutely', i.e., by prolonging hours of labor, but surplus value also
increases 'relatively', by displacing labor with labor-saving machinery.
The latter process increases the productivity of labor, reduces necessary
labor time, and intensifies the exploitation of labor. Due to the ongoing
replacement of full-time with part-time labor in the USA (as a documented
example), the decline of average hours of labor has a direct negative effect
on creation of absolute surplus value. But, that particular tendency to decline
is more than compensated by increasing relative surplus value. Technological
innovation constantly reduces necessary labor time, which increases relative
surplus value, at a double exponential rate. (End of 3 notes.)

> therefore, the rate of surplus value, and therefore the rate of profit must decline.

2002 note: This statement contradicts what Marx wrote (quoted above). (End of note.)

> When capitalists encounter unprofitable situations, they
> close their doors, and the results of that can be horrible. We
> can see throughout the history of capitalism, this phenomenon
> happening again and again, and
the capitalists' response has
> often been to devaluate constant capital through the vehicle
> of war.
The above explanation seems reasonable to me.

One question: Is this a mathematical problem or a social problem?
Whether or not Bill Green of the AFL in the 1930's understood the
math as well as some of us, Labor understood that the most efficient
solution to overproduction was 'less work', which is as appropriate a
response as brushing a fly off one's nose. Labor supported passage
of the Black-Connery 30 hour Bill, which actually passed the Senate,
and looked like a shoe-in for the House of Reps, before being shot
down on the recommendation of FDR's brain trust. What we got
instead of 'less work' was overwork, overproduction, advertising,
consumerism, a tremendous expansion of government, and gov't
stimulation of production, all of which I join in condemning as
vigorously as any other enemy of the state. It added up to folly
and colossal waste. And yet, many Social-Democrats thank FDR for
'saving the country from the Depression'. Disgusting. Having grown
up in the wake of that unfortunate decision, I feel as though the
conditions of my own early development were less than optimum
because my working parents didn't have much time to spend
with sis and me. (Brian, are you listening?)

> You see the really intolerable aspect of the rate
> of surplus value is not that it is high, but that
it
> must continually decline, bringing on crises that
> make stable prosperity and tranquility, impossible
> for working class people.

The declining rate of surplus values causes crises? What kind of
crises? The crises I am most familiar with are 'crises of overproduction',
in which overproduction causes an unemployment crisis. So, what kind
of crises are caused by the declining rate of surplus values that
workers need to talk about?

2002 note: My failure to research the alleged decline in the rate of surplus values at
that time, besides not having the CD of Collected Works at my disposal, combined to
grossly diminish the adequacy of my replies. (End of note.)

The decline of the rate of surplus values may be one thing, but
the gap between rich and poor continues to increase. How can our
vocabularies and mathematical formulas be adapted to explain the
trend toward a widening gap between the rich and poor (in spite of
the decline of the rate of surplus value), and thus make the dialogue
about surplus values more relevant to the actual experiences of the
working poor? One problem with restricting the dialogue to 'declines
in rates of profits and surplus values' is that it tends to create SYMPATHY
with the capitalist class whom we can only imagine 'must be suffering
terribly as it is', and, secondly, 'facing even more economic hardship in
the future as rates of surplus values and profits inevitably decline even
further'. Thus, our working class analysis has to somehow address what
the working class sees happening to itself. Many workers could care
less about declining rates of surplus values, and perhaps rightly so,
if that trend cannot simultaneously be used to explain the growing
gap between rich and poor.

> If these arguments are indeed correct, where is
> there hope for humanity outside of socialism,
>
not in timesizing I'm afraid.

Afraid? Up to this point, Scott's arguments seemed quite well
thought out, but not when he uses his FEAR that 'timesizing
wouldn't offer hope to humanity' as an ARGUMENT against
timesizing. I would have to ask him to go back to address the
issue once again, and then make an attempt to PROVE to us
that 'timesizing wouldn't work'. If timesizing has a fatal flaw,
then Scott may be the man to find it, and help us to eliminate
that solution from our list of possibilities.

> I would just like to say to the WSM, I think your
> forum is great. There is some very intelligent debate
> that takes place here, and you are courageous and
> dedicated people with high principles.

Their dedication to the principles of free speech
is sans pareil in the activist community.

I see that Scott is an old friend of Karl H., who did a bunch of
good work for the ASLP back at the end of '74, when we were
moving into the new headquarters in Palo Alto. I would have
loved for K.H. to have joined our staff, but, sad for me, it was
not to be, and he went back home.

Ken Ellis

 

11-06-00

Dear friends of an open forum,

Andrew wrote on the 31st:

> I would appreciate an exposition of your conception of private property.

I tried (around 9am East Coast USA time on Nov. 6) to post a
message to Andrew and to everyone else about the subject of
private property, but Stuart apparently didn't APPROVE of my
message, and this is what Stuart wrote back to me personally:

> You have already made these points many many times on our
> forum. If you wish to post, please do so more succinctly. You
> may reply to Andrew direct if you wish, or you may post on the
> forum with a SUCCINCT message, perhaps referring him to an
> earlier post where all these points are made.
> Stuart

This incident just happened a day after I had posted to everyone,
first quoting Scott, and then myself:

>>> I would just like to say to the WSM, I think your
>>> forum is great. There is some very intelligent debate
>>> that takes place here, and you are courageous and
>>> dedicated people with high principles.
>>
>> Their dedication to the principles of free speech is
>> sans pareil in the activist community.

Does what Stuart did to my attempt to publicly answer Andrew
appear to everyone like 'dedication to the principles of free speech'?

In explanation to everyone, Stuart wrote:

> Dear comrades and friends,
> Sorry if this message appears twice, but I wasn't sure
> whether it had posted. I am just writing to inform you
> that I am currently helping Shaun moderate this forum,
> and that I have just rejected a post from Ken Ellis. The
> post was lengthy, but only made points he has made
> many many times before. Anyone interested in his
> post should contact Ken Ellis directly.
> Yours for socialism,
> Stuart Watkins

Before I release Andrew's answer in a 'private posting' at 9pm
Tuesday, which will be roughly 36 hours after the original attempt
to post it publicly (similar to what I did in a different incident
around a month ago), I thought I would let everyone know what
was going on, and to see if you would like to plead with Stuart to
release my answer to Andrew, and to everyone else. If the original
posting got lost, I will be glad to re-send it to the moderator.

Ken Ellis

 

11-06-00

On the 1st, The Correspondent (TC) wrote,

> So, it has been a twenty year battle with the defenders
> of Leninism as Marxism that resulted in the latest episode
> - my quarrel with Ken Ellis on the
WSM Forum. That
> quarrel has now gone on for five months. Two or three
> times I announced an end to the debate on my part but
> was unable to tear myself away from it, much like the
> singer Barbara Streisand in her fifth annual '
Farewell
> Performance
'. I am sure the debate has stretched
> the patience of some members of the Forum.

Is TC tired of this? I'm not tired of it.

> Yet here is my pledge to the members of the WSM Forum
> {and to Shaun, the moderator of the Forum} that this indeed
> will be my final posting to Ken Ellis on the subject of Marx,
> Engels, the State, the
dictatorship of the proletariat, Lenin.
> And I will only use the centre of Ken's opposition to the
WSM
> which he used in response to one of Scott's questions:
>
>> I think that it's the best place to draw the line -
>> between those who would abolish the state and
>> those who would use the state. Look at the hostility
>> of the ASLP and the WSM to anything resembling
>> Leninism or Social-Democracy. Their goal of an
>> immediate classless, stateless, etc.less administration
>> of things
clashes with both the revolutionless Social-
>> Democracy and Lenin's post-revolutionary workers'
>> state.
>
> Ken's statement is pregnant with meaning. Socialism,
> to him, can only be defined as that which resembles
>
Social Democracy or Leninism.

I don't take sides between socialism, communism and anarchism.
TC may not recall that I also believe that we will get to classless,
stateless, etc.less society. While he would get there by dealing with
the state and property, I would get there by militantly reducing hours
of labor. Class distinctions will disappear more assuredly in the shorter
hour scenario than in any other, because it deals with class distinctions
in a feasible manner. Less work for workers means that they will become
freer, and will begin to approach the freedom of the rich. Anyone who
thinks that society has any interest in driving the freedom of the rich
down to that of a working person, even to the level of a working person
enjoying shorter hours, has to be fantasizing. It just isn't going to happen.
In the history of the human race, the rich were freed from work before
workers ever will be freed, and workers will just have to adopt policies
that will ensure freedom equal to that of the rich. After all, what IS the
purpose of all of this technology we are creating? None other than
to abolish labor for all.

> Ken is free to think as he likes on the matter and five months
> of debate has not moved him to consider
anything else other
> than Social Democracy or Leninism as valid expressions
> of so-called 'Socialism'.

I consider anarchism to be as invalid as the other 2, and I
have made it clear since joining this forum that all 3 'isms are
obsolete due to their programs of gaining political power for
the purpose of either redistributing property and wealth, or
establishing common property. I wonder how many more
times I will have to repeat this. Is TC trying to associate the
shorter hour program with Leninism or Social-Democracy
so that it can be all the more easily dismissed?

> But he states a truth here - that the WSM is opposed
> to the reformist
Social Democrats. Ken is very much in
> agreement with them in their conception and
opposition
> to Socialism, their conception and opposition to Marx.

See what I mean? He knows very well that I'm not a 'tax and
spend' Social-Democrat
, nor am I 'with tax-and-spenders in their
opposition to Marx and Socialism'. A study of Marx has a lot to
offer to workers, but socialism* does not, because socialism has
been proven by history to be an obsolete way to get to full
participation
, and was plausible only [up until] around a
century ago.

2002 note: As in so many other places, here I used 'socialism'
in the sense of 'expropriation'. (End of note.)

> And the WSM is opposed to the vanguardist politics of Leninism,
> the dressing up of party-run dictatorships in Marxist garb.

When did I ever say that I FAVORED vanguardist politics,
Leninism
, or 'party-run dictatorships in Marxist garb'? The best
that could be said about any of them was that they were realistically
brutal enough to SURVIVE some pretty hard times in the past. I tend
to admire success more than I admire failure, but vanguardism, Leninism
and party-run dictatorships in Marxist garb
are not appropriate to the
democratic circumstances in which we in the West presently find
ourselves. Haven't I always advocated workers using the democracies
already in place, the same way M+E advocated workers' use of their
democracies, and reforms in the interests of the working classes?

> Modern Social Democracy has openly repudiated both
> Marx and any reference to Socialism (either now or in the
> distant future). Leninism, to borrow a phrase from Leon
> Trotsky himself, has been relegated to the '
dustbin of history'.

Though many S-Ds started out as Marxists, why would they,
or anyone else, want to retain Marx's program that became
completely obsolete when Europe didn't revolt in sympathy
with Russia? Some people, at least, were capable of moving
on to adopt more reasonable programs.

> What remains is the conception of Socialism as defined
> by the
WSM and a recently new scholarship on Marx has
> suggested that
Social Democracy's history and outcome and
> that of Leninism has been a vulgarisation of everything Marx
> stood for. That
scholarship has unknowingly restated and
> confirmed an earlier argument from the immediate post-
> World War I era that
Social Democracy and Leninism
> were
two sides of the same coin.

What difference does it make if Lenin vulgarized Marx? If Marx's
communism hadn't been so fatally flawed in the first place, then it
wouldn't have lent itself so well to vulgarization and sectarianism.
If someone wants to point out the foibles of Leninism so as to
make another 'ism look more Marxist in comparison, it's as
wasted an effort as trying to get people to adopt any
other program that dwells on property and power.

> As I said, the debate with Ken over this has gone on
> for five months. He is free to think as he wishes, and
> free to consider us 'unSocialist'.

I would never condemn people for being unsocialist*.
Un-socialist is what the entire left should strive for.

* 2002 note: There again I used 'socialist' in the sense of 'expropriation',
which is an absurd and inappropriate goal for modern times. (End of note.)

Ken Ellis

One for all, and all for one!

 

11-07-00

Oh, (gasp), sorry, Toby, you weren't the TC in question.
I completely forgot that your initials were the same as for
'The Correspondent'. A thousand apologies. TC in this case is
someone whose name I promised I wouldn't mention. I'm sorry.

Ken Ellis

 

11-07-00

Many thanks to Stuart for reconsidering policies, and thanks as well
for the many other messages of support for free expression.

Andrew wrote on the 31st:

> I would appreciate an exposition of your conception of private property.

A common element of modern versions of anarchism, communism
and socialism (in the popular sense) is their goal of dealing with
political power in order to abolish private property, establish common
property, or to otherwise redistribute property and wealth. In broadly
socialist circles, abolishing private property has long been regarded
as a prime agent of social progress, a tradition Marx and Engels were
proud to follow. In history, activists enjoying full state power were able
to expropriate property without compensation, whereas merely winning
elections only allowed for nationalization of means of production with
compensation
[as in Marx's buyout of the capitalists].

One major problem with the 3 'isms is that they represent 3
different ways of dealing with the issues of property and state,
and the 3 methods even exclude one another. You simply can't
create a workers' state while simultaneously trying to replace the
state with a classless, stateless, etc.less administration of things,
nor while simultaneously using the existing state in order to
nationalize the means of production, so proponents of the 3
different 'isms will never cooperate to realize their dreams by
agreeing on a common method of dealing with property and
government. The 3 methods are perfectly incompatible with one
another, so their proponents will continue to waste time and
effort by squabbling and fighting one another, just the way they
did during the defense of the Spanish Republic in the 1930's.

If concerned activists will never agree on a common plan, then
why not someday wake up to that fact and find something to do
that is less divisive? Is social justice so irrevocably tied up with
changing government and property relations that activists can't
see the conflicts it creates? A lot of people still think or insist that
'it's the only method', but the abolition of private property wasn't
the end-all and be-all of radical activism for Marx and Engels that
it is for modern proponents. Socialism to M+E was merely a tool
for arriving at full participation in the economy. Full participation
was regarded as the greater goal, while socialism was subsidiary
to that goal. Many activists have missed this, but it's right there
in Engels' 1877 biography entitled 'Karl Marx', easily found
in the 3rd volume of Selected Works.

Marx also wrote: "That the economic emancipation of the working
class is therefore the great end to which every political movement
ought to be subordinate as a means
". Workers' political supremacy
was to enable workers' cooperatives to solve the problems of production
while eliminating unemployment. The abolition of private property was
to prevent people from becoming rich, and a working class standard
of living for all was to prevent the former rich from buying political
influence, and from using their influence to plot counter-revolution.

One of the biggest problems with Marx's scenario was manifested in
the 20th century by the fact that the only time taking away the property
of the rich was feasible only after overthrowing feudal monarchies (as in
Russia, etc.), or after liberating colonies (as in Cuba, etc.). Those were the
only times when activists had the full power of the state with which to
expropriate property without compensation. Tyranny was needed to
prevent people from owning stuff in Russia and other countries.
Nowadays, China is restoring private ownership of homes,
indicating recognition that the policies of the past 50 years
were a mistake. Depriving people of property just isn't
worth the terror and bureaucracy required to do so.

It would be nice to find a means of arriving at full participation in
the economy
that is more practical and feasible than by trying to
do it socialistically. Wouldn't you know? People in the most advanced
countries have been fighting to share work by means of shorter hours
for almost 2 centuries. Even M+E noticed it, and sometimes even
encouraged it when they weren't criticizing workers in the USA and
England for advocating shorter hours and higher wages to the exclusion
of vying for state power
*. In his 3rd volume of Capital, Marx stated in
essence that 'the precondition for freedom is a reduction in work hours',
which makes sense, because, the more time people spend serving the
interests of their employers, the less time they can spend on their own
interests. M+E always thought, however, that a shorter hour program
would best be implemented during the transition era of proletarian
dictatorship
, which is why their support for shorter work hours
sometimes ran hot, and sometimes ran cold.

* 2002 correction: The communism of M+E never excluded
struggles for shorter work hours. (End of note.)

A modern militant battle for shorter hours would not mean giving
up on the ultimate goal of someday arriving at classless, stateless,
propertyless, and moneyless society, for we could also get there
as well, and we WILL get there, for only an environmental, energy,
meteor, political, or a global warming crisis could prevent us from
fully automating. Seeing as there is no apparent movement toward
socialism, and seeing as we are abolishing human labor at an
accelerating pace, then maybe we ought to apply our intelligence
to guiding the automation process in a manner that will ensure
full participation for as long as people will still have to get up
in the morning to go to work.

After we get to workless society (assuming that a major catastrophe
doesn't prevent it), we will also effectively get to classless society as
well, for neither owners nor non-owners will have to lift a finger to
acquire necessities of life. Our simply having learned to share work,
while there was still work to share, will have taught us to share the
product of 'whatever entity creates the necessities of life' after all
of the means of earning a living have been abolished. Thus, with no
more 'worker-boss' relationship with its associated exploitation,
property ownership will cease to benefit owners, and ownership
as an institution will fade away and disappear over time.

Ken Ellis

 

11-08-00

[ There's too much quoted text in here. The message is about 22 kb is size,
which in my opinion is too big/long. Please try to reduce the size your
messages
- Shaun]

On the 30th, I wrote:

>> There is precedent in Marxism and history for
>> dismantling old bureaucracies and military machines
>> after a revolution, such as in the case of the Paris
>> Commune
, but no precedent for doing that after
>> a mere electoral victory in a democracy.

A correspondent (TC)(but not Toby) replied:

> And thus, Ken Ellis has his say.
>
> But what does Frederick Engels say? Let's quote from
> his work "
Origin of the Family, Private Property and
> State
", (published in 1884, Marx and Engels Collected
> works, vol. 26
):
>
> "
The highest form of the state, the democratic republic,
> which under our modern conditions of society is more and
> more becoming an inevitable necessity, and is the only form
> of state in which the last decisive struggle between proletariat
> and bourgeoisie can be fought out - the democratic republic
> officially knows no more of property distinctions. In it wealth
> exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely. On the
> one hand, in the form of the direct corruption of officials, of
> which America provides the classic example; on the other
> hand, in the form of an alliance between government and
> stock exchange, which becomes the easier to achieve the
> more the national debt increases and the more joint-stock
> companies concentrate in their hands not only transport but
> also production itself, using the stock exchange as their centre.
> Besides America, the latest French republic is a striking example
> of this; and even good old Switzerland has contributed its share
> in this field. But that a democratic republic is not essential for this
> fraternal alliance between government and stock exchange is proved
> by England and also by the new German Empire, which one cannot tell
> who was elevated more by universal suffrage, Bismark or Bleichroder.
> And lastly, the possessing classes rule directly through the medium of
> universal suffrage. As long as the oppressed class, in our case, the
> proletariat, is not yet ripe to emancipate itself, it will in its majority
> regard the existing order of society as the only one possible and,
> politically, will form the tail of the capitalist class, its extreme Left
> wing. TO THE EXTENT, HOWEVER, THAT THIS CLASS MATURES FOR
> ITS SELF-EMANCIPATION, IT CONSTITUTES ITSELF AS A PARTY OF
> ITS OWN AND ELECTS ITS OWN REPRESENTATIVES, NOT THOSE OF
> THE CAPITALISTS. THUS, UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE IS THE GUAGE OF
> THE MATURITY OF THE WORKING CLASS. IT CANNOT AND NEVER
> WILL BE ANYTHING MORE IN THE PRESENT-DAY STATE; BUT
> THAT IS SUFFICIENT.
" [my emphasis - TC]
>
> So much for Ken's theory on electoral successes, about
> monarchies and the inapplicability of Marx and Engels
> to so-called "democracies". So much for
his theory
> that
Marx and Engels were only concerned about
> monarchies and not democratic republics.

TC provided a fine quote, but I still don't know how its fine logic
supposedly nullified my theory that 'dismantling old bureaucracies
and military machines was feasible after a revolution, such as in the
case of the Paris Commune, but was not feasible after a mere
electoral victory in a democracy.' Engels certainly didn't indicate
that 'the working class of a democracy COULD dismantle the
bureaucracy and military after an electoral victory.'

> In the next paragraph Engels writes: [me26.272]
>
> "
We are now rapidly approaching a stage in the development
> of production at which the existence of these classes not only
> will have ceased to be a necessity, but will become a positive
> hindrance to production. They will fall as inevitably as they rose
> at an earlier stage. ALONG WITH THEM THE STATE WILL INEVITABLY
> FALL. SOCIETY, WHICH WILL REORGANISE PRODUCTION ON THE BASIS
> OF A FREE AND EQUAL ASSOCIATION OF THE PRODUCERS, WILL PUT
> THE WHOLE MACHINERY OF STATE WHERE IT WILL THEN BELONG:
> INTO THE MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITIES, BY THE SIDE OF THE SPINNING-
> WHEEL AND THE BRONZE AXE.
" [my emphasis - TC]
>
> So much for Ken and his "
worker's state".

Engels spoke there of the demise of the state AFTER the
abolition of class distinctions. As long as classes exist, so also
exist the division of labor, political parties, and the state. Class
distinctions need to be abolished before parties, politics and the
state will go away. Class distinctions cannot be abolished by fiat,
edict, decree, act of congress, or coup d'etat, but, a working
class policy in a democracy could facilitate the gradual
dissolution of class distinctions rather nicely.

> Three years later, in 1887, Engels writes in "The Labor
> Movement in America
, Preface to the American Edition
> of
The Condition of the Working Class In England"
> (
Collected works, Vol. 26): [me26.436]
>
> "
Consequently, the platform of the American proletariat...
> will proclaim, as the ultimate end, the conquest of political
> supremacy by the working class, in order to effect the direct
> appropriation of ALL means of production - the land, railways,
> mines, machinery, etc. - by society AT LARGE, TO BE WORKED
> IN COMMON BY ALL FOR THE ACCOUNT AND BENEFIT OF ALL.
"
>
[my emphasis - TC]
>
> So much for Ken's theory that Marx and Engels
> did not consider taking over a "democracy".

No Marxist is going to disagree with 'the direct appropriation
of the means of production
'. The only question that should have
been answered definitively by M+E was, could the electorally
victorious workers directly appropriate the means of production
in a democracy without a civil war? And, could they dismantle the
bureaucracy and military
? On those pertinent issues, M+E provided
very little information indeed, and we are forced to look to history for
the answer - 'no'. Direct appropriation after overthrowing monarchies,
on the other hand, looked like a shoe-in for Engels in his 1894 article
on "The Peasant Question in France and Germany", specifically with
regard to the German monarchies (MESW 3, p. 474): "As soon as our
Party is in possession of political power it has simply to expropriate the
big landed proprietors just like the manufacturers in industry.
" See how
easy expropriation was supposed to be after overthrowing monarchies?
Lenin claimed to have abolished private ownership of land on the very
first day of the Bolshevik revolution. It's easy when activists enjoy full
state power. (My trigger finger itches when I think about it. It must
be a flashback to my commie days.)

> What else did Engels say concerning the modern
> State (be it monarchical or republican)? Read his
> book, "
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific"
> (published 1880,
collected Works, Vol. 24): [me24.319]
>
> "
The modern state NO MATTER WHAT ITS FORM,
> is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the
> capitalists, the ideal personification of the total

>
national capital." [my emphasis - TC]
>
> Engels here speaks of state ownership as NOT being the answer.

State ownership in the context of that particular passage could only
mean 'CAPITALIST state ownership', which certainly was not the
answer for Engels. In his same pamphlet, Engels went to lengths
to distinguish capitalist state ownership from socialism, because
socialism did not equal capitalist state ownership, as we can agree.
For M+E, the first phase of communism did equal workers' state
ownership, facilitated by workers' state power. After taking state
power (the dictatorship of the proletariat), their program was to
turn the means of production into state property, as they made
perfectly clear in the Communist Manifesto, and in Socialism:
Utopian and Scientific
, no matter how long the transitory
dictatorship was supposed to endure. Engels qualified workers'
state
property and power as not the final solution, but rather
the TRANSITION to the final goal of classless and stateless
society with common ownership. The human race may
someday be able to forget about ownership entirely, and
become (in this one respect) like some tribes that even today
do not have words for 'mine', 'yours', or other possessives.

> The "solution" can only "come about by society
> openly and directly taking possession of the
> productive forces which have outgrown all
> control except that of society as a whole.
" [me24.319]
>
> So much again for Ken's theory of "democratic" States.

What Engels described was merely a portion of the party
program. Engels said nothing there about expropriation after
mere elections. TC seemingly wants to blur the distinction
between monarchies and republics by saying that 'M+E believed
that the same program would be appropriate after either overthrowing
monarchies, or after winning elections in democracies
', but, no matter
how indistinctly M+E might have compared what was possible in each
instance, one has only to use hindsight to see what was actually possible.
M+E didn't regard democracy as the 'negation of monarchy' for nothing.
The two forms of state are antithetical. Democracies were to be used, and
monarchies overthrown. That's why Lenin was not successful in getting
European workers to replace their democracies with workers' states.
Workers enjoy their democracies too much to want to replace them
with workers' states that weren't guaranteed to be as good or better
than the original democracies. DOWN with Leninism.

> Engels goes on two pages later to say, yes indeed,
>
the working classes seizes State control and turns
> private capitalist property into State property
. Yes!
> It is true! But look at HOW he states it. He qualifies
> his statement:
[me24.320]
>
> "
The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means
> of production into State property. But, in doing this, it abolishes
> itself as the proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class
> antagonisms, ABOLISHES THE STATE AS STATE. Society thus far,
> based upon class antagonisms, had need of the State. That is, of
> an organisation of the particular class which was pro tempore the
> exploiting class, an organisation for the purpose
. . . of keeping the
> exploited classes in the condition of oppression
. . . When at last it
> becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it RENDERS
> ITSELF UNNECESSARY. AS SOON AS THERE IS NO LONGER ANY SOCIAL
> CLASS TO BE HELD IN SUBJECTION; AS SOON AS CLASS RULE, AND THE
> INDIVIDUAL STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE UPON OUR PRESENT ANARCHY
> IN PRODUCTION, WITH THE COLLISIONS AND EXCESSES ARISING FROM
> THESE ARE REMOVED, NOTHING MORE REMAINS TO BE REPRESSED, A
> SPECIAL REPRESSIVE FORCE, A STATE, IS NO LONGER NECESSARY.
"
> [my emphasis - TC]
>
> And Engels qualifies this again!!:
[me24.321]
>
> "
The first act by virtue of which the State really constitutes itself
> representative of the whole society - the taking possession of the
> means of production in the name of society - this is, at the same
> time, ITS LAST INDEPENDENT ACT AS A STATE.
" [my emphasis - TC]
>
> "
State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after
> another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of
> persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct
> of processes of production. THE STATE IS NOT "ABOLISHED".
> IT DIES OUT.
" [my emphasis - TC]
>
> And thus Engels has answered both the reformists
> such as Ken and the anarchists (whom Ken
despises).

TC claimed that Engels QUALIFIED his 'state take-over of means
of production
', but TC did not give us the details of HOW Engels
might have qualified that take-over, except, from its context, to try
to make it appear as though the take-over wouldn't last very long.
But, no matter how long the transition was to last, the take-over
of the means of production by the state (to be known as the
dictatorship of the proletariat) was *the program*.

Engels predicated the abolition of property, capital and the state on
the abolition of class distinctions, and on that, M+E were correct.
Because that theory was valid (and remains valid) they repeated that
same message very clearly several times. Classes, classes, classes. I
wonder why activists can't sometimes discuss what it would take to
arrive at the abolition of class distinctions. It is the fundamental key
to getting to the future stateless, propertyless and moneyless upper
stage that most activists of all stripes want society to get to. That
upper stage will not arrive until we first get rid of class distinctions.
If we can get rid of class distinctions, then all of the other awful
things will go away as well.

One civil way to abolish class distinctions is to abolish the division
of labor
. As long as there's work to do, some people will more likely
do some kinds of work than other kinds, so we agree that Jimmy will
take out the garbage, and Johnny will do the dishes, while Cedric will
lobby Congress, etc. So, in order to abolish the division of labor, first
abolish labor. Having abolished labor and the division of labor, we will
then have gone most of the way toward abolishing class distinctions.

This is why, in the past, I have always been critical of the socialist
insistence that work continue after the socialist revolution, but was
unsure why. I am finally able to more accurately define why work
and WSM socialism are incompatible. Work cannot be done without
a division of labor. There is no way in which one person could learn
to do all of the different types of work that everyone else does.
Therefore, work itself is inseparable from class divisions. As long
as class divisions exist, classless, stateless, etc.less society cannot
be reached. Abolish work, i.e., fully automate, and we are then ever
so much closer to abolishing class distinctions.

I don't despise anarchists, communists or socialists any more than I
would despise Democrats, Republicans, or any other misled member
of society who is willing to unquestioningly believe the incorrect
information they've been told. The movement to share work is not
based upon hate or revenge. It is based upon equal love for all people.
We want all people to share what little work that has yet to be taken
over by Mahyar's grey goo. Misinformed and misled people just need
help in understanding how poorly their ideologies sometimes cohere.
If people are willing to change their views when better arguments come
along, then all the better for human progress. If no one changes their
views, then we may not get to share work equitably, and we may all be
pitched into battles for the last of the fading 40-hour opportunities to
make the rich richer than their wildest dreams. We can do better than
that, and we will.

> As for Ken's comments concerning the insufficiency of
> electoral action to effect Socialism, we have only to look
> at Karl Marx in his "
Preamble to the Programme of the
> French Workers Party
", 1880, (Collected Works, Vol. 24).
> Marx writes that
the working class must emancipate itself
> and "
cannot be free unless they are in possession of the
> means of production
". And this at the time that France
> was a Republic! He adds:
[me24.340]
>
> "
That this collective appropriation can only spring
> from the revolutionary action of the producing class
> - or proletariat - organised into an independent
> political party;
> That such an organisation must be striven for, using
> all the means at the disposal of the proletariat, including
> universal suffrage, thus transformed from the instrument
> of deception which has been hitherto into an instrument
> of emancipation;
"
>
> And thus electoral means can be revolutionary.

No more revolutionary than a new dish-washing soap.* People
shouldn't try to dilute the word revolution any more than what it
already has been. My dictionary gives it roughly as 'overthrow
of government, usually by violence
'.

* 2002 correction: Live and learn, TC wasn't wrong. M+E apparently
regarded at least SOME peaceful reform and electoral means of change
as revolutionary, as indicated by a November 1880 letter from Marx's
daughter Jenny to her husband Charles Longuet (me46.474):

"As to the revolutionary side of the struggle for the limitation of the
working day, he thinks you have passed it over without notice in your
answer to those revolutionists of the fire and sword. - From the Capital
you will see that the fight of the English working class assumed more
than once the character of a revolution, and that the governing classes
only granted what they dared not refuse.
" (End of note.)

No matter what opinions M+E might have held about what workers
could or couldn't do with the ballot, more modern history has defined
its limitations quite adequately. In the days of M+E, few people on the
planet enjoyed democracies, and the USA didn't yet have women's
suffrage. Having seen the limitations and possibilities of the ballot over
the past couple of centuries, the present becomes the launching pad for
theorizing about what ELSE may or may not be possible in the future,
but the question of expropriation after overthrowing monarchies, or
after winning elections, is settled history. Expropriation without
compensation
requires nothing less than brutality, which few
people in democracies are willing to consider.

Electoral means can be liberatory, yes, in that reforms in the
interests of the lower classes can be implemented. Socialists and
communists won elections starting a century or so ago, and came to
power in democracies, but could only nationalize with compensation.
This was a history-proven limitation of the ballot. Common property
has yet to be established after workers win mere elections. Workers
in democracies have had far less interest in changing property
relations than the parties that claim to represent them.

> And I would note to Ken that this Preamble
> and
Programme had a guiding influence upon
> the
WSM's Statement of Principles (if only
> he cared to read our literature).

Having read the DoP, I wonder what WSM literature
would have to say that could change my mind?

> Perhaps I should state ONE MORE TIME, Socialists
> have no opposition to what Engels said above.
> We have said as much to him again and again.

For TC to admit that the proletariat was to seize power and turn
the means of production into state property
represents progress.
It's good to be able to agree with another aspect of what's in
black and white. It makes me hopeful for even further progress.

> And if, for Ken, this has become a question
> of "ethics", then perhaps he should turn his
> mind inward and ask himself why
he has
> never answered any questions put to him
> in the past five months of this debate.

If I have left so many questions unanswered,
then which one does TC want me to answer first?

> Finally, in a separate email, Ken wonders if he will
> be charged with "megalomania". Well, Engels charged
> Duhring with it. And Ken... if the shoe fits...

As long as the good doctor is also willing to keep on providing
such good therapy, I won't argue against the diagnosis.

Ken Ellis

-------------------------------
"Live working or die fighting."
-------------------------------

"The watchword of the modern proletariat" that the silk winders
of Lyons inscribed upon their banner during their strike (From
Marx's 1869 "Report on the Basle Congress").

 

11-09-00

The Massachusetts ballot had 8 numbered questions on it.
Six were more socially significant than the other 2.

Where voting by incarcerated felons was concerned, MA decided to
go along with most other states by denying felons the vote.

When it came to cruelty to animals in dog racing vs. a few hundred jobs,
the voters chose the jobs.

Where a sales tax reduction was at issue, voters elected to lower the rate
to the detriment of government programs.

Where an expansion of health care benefits was regarded as too expensive,
the vote was no.

Where new income tax credits could benefit people who use toll roads,
the vote was yes.

Where drug treatment could have limited the expansion of the
criminal justice and prison systems, the vote was no.

Massachusetts voted opposite to the way I voted on nearly every issue. The
voting demonstrated: a gross reluctance to interfere with an existing gambling
enterprise, an aversion to taxes, a get-tough-on-crime-and-criminals posture,
and a willingness to allow low-income patients to continue to struggle with
inadequate health care.

Clearly, the people were against anything that smacks of socialism, or
government programs, or government interference with business, except
when it came to criminal justice issues, where they favor the strong arm of
the law. I am with the public in opposing a myriad of government solutions, but
when it comes to having something valid with which to REPLACE government
programs, we as a society are far from accepting their replacement with a
work-sharing solution. Perhaps we should all pledge to work within our
parties of choice to further the cause of the shorter-hour solution,
which we understand to be the key to social justice.

Ken Ellis

 

11-09-00

I snipped a lot out of this piece, on Toby's, Kevin's, and Shaun's
suggestions. I'm trying, gang, trying really hard:

The correspondent (TC)(but not Toby) wrote:

> Ken Ellis <<snip>> needs a lesson from Marx
> himself in regard to the
Commune.
>
<snip>
>
> Nevertheless, for the first time, workers had
>
seized political power to establish a working
> "government" (
not a "worker's state").

If the terms 'seizing political power', 'working government' and
'workers' state' are allegedly so different, then their distinctions
should have been clarified. The three sound to me like they are all
elements of the same phenomena, and are not antithetical to one another.

> Marx's <snip> analysis was also aimed at the followers
> of Blanqui (who participated in the
Commune)

People should wonder how much of a role Blanqui could have played
from his jail cell. Marx wrote in "The Civil War in France" (MESW 2, p. 239):
"The Commune again and again had offered to exchange the archbishop,
and ever so many priests in the bargain; against the single Blanqui, then
in the hands of Thiers. Thiers obstinately refused. He know that with
Blanqui he would give to the Commune a head; while the arch-bishop
would serve his purpose best in the shape of a corpse.
" You see how
dangerous a man to official France was this Blanqui, who had to be
kept in jail for the duration of the Commune.

> What was the Commune? Marx says: <snip>
>
> It was a
Revolution against the STATE itself,
>
[me22.486]<snip> It was <snip> a Revolution
> to break down this horrid machinery of Class
> domination itself.
<snip>
>
> Note! A
Revolution AGAINST THE STATE ITSELF!
>
> One will search in vain in Marx's work on the
>
Commune to find Marx speaking of a so-called
> "
worker's state" (Ken's "socialist" ideal).

2002 note: In the Collected Works, Marx used "workers' state" twice.
Marx credited Bakunin with popularizing that term [me24.520], and
did not find fault with it. (End of note.)

The Commune during its 9 weeks was in nearly a constant state
of war with both official France and Prussia. In his letter to Beesly
a month after the Commune was crushed, Marx wrote (MESC, p. 251):
"If only the Commune had listened to my warnings! I advised its members
to fortify the northern side of the heights of Montmartre, the Prussian side,
and they still had time to do this; I told them beforehand that they would
otherwise be caught in a trap;
..."

It was because the Commune didn't pay enough attention to
military matters that it succumbed, according to Marx. And still,
because TC can't find any indication in the works of M+E of the
exact words "workers' state", then maybe TC thinks that 'the
Commune was an attempt to create a classless, stateless, etc.less
administration of things'. But, when a working class is armed, and
is defending its autonomy while under siege, then: 'an embryo
workers' state under siege' is not the most inappropriate term
for the Commune.

> What Marx does say is that "the working class
> cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made State
> machinery, and wield it for its own purposes
".
>
It was his answer to a statement that all the
> workers had to do is seize political power.

Now, who would have stated that 'all the workers had to do
is seize political power
'? That particular statement had what
relevance to the Commune?

In the context of overthrowing a monarchy, 'seizing political power'
means taking power AWAY from the enemy and putting it in one's
own hands. When the Commune seized the cannons in dispute, did
they not take the cannons AWAY from official France and put them
at their own disposal? That act marked the beginning of the Commune.

'Seizing political power' in a democracy can never mean any
more than 'winning an election', and, for that occasion, the
word 'seize' sounds a bit overblown.

<snip>
> In his Second Draft of "The Civil War in France",
> Marx puts it as:
>
> "
But the proletariat cannot <snip> simply
> lay hold of the existent state body and wield
> this ready-made agency for their own purpose.
> The first condition for the holding of political
> power, is to transform the traditional working
> machinery and destroy it as an instrument
> of class rule.
" [me22.533]
>
> <snip>
The political instrument of their
> enslavement cannot serve as the political
> instrument of their emancipation.
"
>
> Ken says that this means the workers
had to build a new
> "worker's state" and defends Lenin's view of the matter.

I'll bet TC won't be able to quote me saying THAT. I have pointed
out that the old state to which Marx referred was so steeped in feudal
traditions and encumberments that, as Engels stated in his 1884 letter
to Bernstein, 'the state would have to be ALTERED before it could be
made useful to the working class.
' Whereas Leninists and Bakuninists
have always used that one sentence of Marx to justify 'smashing the
state', the words of Engels in his letter are good enough for me.
Does that sound like a defense of Lenin?

> But Marx goes on to explain how this actually means
> dismantling
* the bureaucratic-military machine.

* 2002 note: Of the 14 variations of 'dismantle' in the MECW,
M+E never applied a single one to 'the state'. (End of note.)

What the Commune actually did was create an islet of lower
class autonomy, surrounded by hostile powers, in which the
Commune's new institutions prevailed for 9 weeks, making
the old institutions temporarily irrelevant to the Commune.
The Commune never got the opportunity to cleanse all of
France of its old institutions.

Even as TC admits, the Commune incident was little more than
an uprising in a city. Workers adopted governing devices that were
far different from those in place in the rest of France. The uprising
never matured beyond a condition of 'dual power', in which the new
Commune ruled Paris, and a few other Communes briefly ruled a
few other cities as well, while the old powers ruled most of France.
When Paris was 'restored to order', many of the old institutions were
restored and carried on as usual, except that Napoleon III was not
restored to the throne. Marx regarded the resulting 3rd Republic
to be so undemocratic and unchanged in so many respects that
he called it 'a monarchy without a monarch'*.

* 2002 note: While rechecking the origin of that phrase, no more than
'republic without republicans' could be found, in an editor's note to an
article by Engels [me23.698]. The intent of either is the same. (End of note.)

The Commune wasn't part of Marx's scenario of world-wide
revolution
. As Marx complained, the other European centers,
Berlin, Madrid, etc., did not support Paris with simultaneous
revolutions
, so the Commune, in many of its manifestations,
could never have been more than a caricature of Marx's dream
of world-wide revolution. What happened within could be and
was taken as a GUIDELINE for future developments [especially
by Lenin], but not every word written about the Commune
should be regarded as a perfect blueprint for our next tactic.

> Marx writes that the Commune was the direct
> antitheses of the Empire
, <snip> a government
> led by workers "
that was not only to supersede
> the monarchical form of class-rule, but class
> rule itself.
" [me22.330] And it was in this that
> Marx noted its socialist tendencies. This was
>
not socialism itself, but a "tendency" to it.
>
>
<snip> suppression of the standing army.
> Councillors were chosen by universal suffrage
> and could be revoked. It was not a parliamentary
> body but a working body (executive AND legislature)
> at the same time. The police were stripped of political
> attributes and turned into revocable agents of the
>
Commune as with all officials. Dignitaries disappeared
> as did their vested interests. Disestablishment of the
> clerical forces. Public servants, magistrates and
> judges to be elected, responsible, revocable.

>
> How
different this was to Lenin's conception
> (and Ken's) of a "post-revolutionary
worker's state."

There's no contradiction here between the Commune and a "post-
revolutionary worker's state." Workers retained their arms for 9
weeks. The Commune was definitely post-revolutionary, was it
not? The workers held state power in their enclave, did they not?
If what they created was not a bourgeois state, and if what they
created was not a monarchy, then what else did they create but a
workers' state? In a revolution, one state power replaces another.
No more than THAT would I want to read into the term 'workers' state',
but TC seems to think that a workers' state can only mean hordes of
people waving guns and little red books, with a 'proletarian dictator'
at the podium reviewing these troops as they march into battle,
perhaps to die for the greater glory of their proletarian dictator.

<snip>
> self-government of the producers." [me22.332] Again, not
> a "
worker's state" as Ken claims, but a "self-government".
> And "
The unity of the nation was not to be broken, but,
> on the contrary, to become a reality by the destruction
> of the State power which claimed to be the embodiment
> of that unity independent of, and superior to, the nation
> itself, from which it was but a parasitic excrescence.
"
>
> <snip> The
self-government of the working class
> was
no longer the State. The Commune was a
> "
working class government" [me22.334], and a
> government body devoid of the state bureaucratic-
> military machine, a body to end class rule and to
> end the State itself.

If so 'ultra-democratic and stateless', then one would have to wonder
why Marx wrote in the finished work (MESW 2, p. 221): "The few but
important functions which still would remain for a central government
were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally mis-stated,
but were to be discharged by Communal, and therefore strictly
responsible agents.
" So, some central government functions
were to continue operating. One also has to wonder who was
mis-stating ideas about suppressing state functions.

> "It aimed at the expropriation of the expropriators. It wanted to
> make individual property
<snip> into mere instruments of free
> and associated labour
. ... Communism!"
> (And we have already heard Ken's aversion to
>
expropriating the expropriators).

My question would be: In the midst of all of this 'planning for
communism', why did the Communards compensate the factory
owners for the abandoned factories they took over and used?
Something in this whole 'communist' scenario is contradicting
itself, and you have to wonder why such an important fact that
was good enough for Marx's First Draft didn't make it into the
final manuscript
*. Did Marx overstate the Commune's
'communist' tendencies?

* 2002 correction: Actually, 'compensating the factory owners'
does appear in Marx's final work, at me22.339. (End of note.)

> And in this revolution, the "working class was
> openly acknowledged as the only class capable
> of social initiative
[me22.336] <snip> through
> the system of universal suffrage.

2002 note: "Universal suffrage" was not part of that sentence
or thought. The next closest mentions of "Universal suffrage"
were on pages 333 or 346. (End of note.)

Universal suffrage? For Paris, sure. But, M+E criticized the
Communards for taking the time to stage an election instead
of making war on Versailles. A problem with the Commune,
as M+E revealed in their correspondence, was that it didn't
adequately prepare its defense and offense.

> The working class of Paris did not "smash the
> State" and build a new one (as Lenin held), it
> seized political power
of the State machine and
> immediately began to dismantle its class basis.

TC spoke of 'political power' and 'State machine' as though they
were separate enough to divide into 2 distinct entities. What's
the relevant difference?

TC didn't made clear how 'the working class immediately began
to dismantle the class basis of the State machine
', except maybe
if the rich fled to Versailles, which many of them did. But, that
particular 'dismantling of the class basis of the state' was unique
to the Commune, and was not really a part of Marx's idea of a
world-wide revolution. In the latter, dismantling the class basis
of the state machine could better be accomplished by abolishing
class distinctions
, which was to be accomplished by abolishing
the division of labor
(between town and country, and between
mental and manual labor
), and by abolishing bourgeois property.

> And contrary to what Ken states ad nauseum,
>
it did not matter whether it was replacing
> the monarchical form of State or the
> bourgeois democratic republic.

Too bad that what TC wrote doesn't match the actual experience
of the proletariat in any country so far. The form of state made the
difference between war and peace, as Marx explained in his 1872
Speech at the Hague. In the future, the bureaucracy and military
machine will begin to dissipate when workers decide to reduce
their competition among themselves over increasingly scarce
opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams,
and when they finally adopt a work-sharing program, which will
also begin to shrink the gap between rich and poor. If we can
begin to do that, we will simultaneously begin to diminish class
distinctions, and thereby diminish the necessity for strong states.

Ken Ellis

"Tactics are not made from nothing, but according to changing
circumstances.
" - Engels

 

11-10-00

Andy wrote:

> As a relatively new subscriber to the forum I had not
> previously been privy to the intensity of Ken Ellis's irrationality.

Can Andy point to an instance of my alleged irrationality? After all, we
are humanitarians, and we do like to help one another understand things.

Ken Ellis

 

11-10-00

OK, gang, I snipped a lot out of this final message (of this series) as well:

The Correspondent (TC)(but not Toby) quoted me:

>> The correspondent now implies that 'proletarian
>> dictatorship
' can indicate the dictatorship of a
>> single person (like a Stalin) because of the way
>> a single worker can be regarded as a proletarian,
>> so 'a
proletarian dictatorship is the dictatorship
>> of a single person.'
>
> I do not imply it. That is
EXACTLY what Lenin said.
> I have already given you the citing for this.

I don't remember TC previously giving us a citing. Is the reason
he doesn't give it now because no such passage in Lenin's works
can be found? I think that's the reason, but I'm willing to be proven
wrong. On the other hand, we know that Lenin often claimed that
'a single factory manager with dictatorial authority would not be
incompatible with the dictatorship of the proletariat.
'

>> I don't know why the correspondent repeatedly returns
>> to the Russian revolution as a debatable example of a
>> proletarian dictatorship.
>
> Gee! It was you who originally said it was Ken!

TC must have gotten a wrong impression, for it has been many
years since I might have even WANTED to think of the Russian
revolution as 'a real proletarian dictatorship'. Because the Russian
revolution didn't lead to long-lasting revolutions in Europe, it therefore
wasn't part of Marx's scenario of world-wide revolution, so the state
they created in Russia could only have been a rough caricature, or
a crude approximation, to Marx's dictatorship of the proletariat.

> Lenin dressed his revolution in a vulgarised
> Marxist garb and called it Marxism.

True, he must have encouraged it, because his followers
have also called themselves Marxist. Lenin might have been
preparing for the hoped-for day when Europe would have
followed Russia's lead and revolted as well. Only then would
the several simultaneous revolutions have been Marxist, and
our history lessons in school a lot different.

>> After the Bolshevik uprising, whatever government
>> materialized there could not have been anything better
>> than a bad approximation to the dictatorship Marx
>> advocated <snip> Take away the civil war, the external
>> war of aggression, the starvation, the collapse of
>> production, the failure of Europe to support the
>> revolution, etc., and the proletarian dictatorship
>> in Russia couldn't have helped but turn out better <snip>
>
> And the
Left-Menshevik Internationalists said there was
> an alternative
. Lenin did not listen and thus began his
> cruel experiment in the garb of Marxism.

Maybe Lenin did turn cruel in order to maintain his grip on power.
He certainly wasn't very nice to the Romanovs. Even if he was cruel,
we could go on in this direction for decades and still not do anything
about people's problems in the present. We know that Russia was an
inadequate expression of a Marxist world-wide revolution, and that all
of the other revolutions in the world since then have been inadequate
as well. If we can't spend as much time trying to figure out why these
revolutions have been inadequate as the amount of time spent vilifying
Lenin, Mao and Castro, etc., then it shows a profound lack of sense of
priorities, as though vilifying dead or aging leaders is more important
than thinking deeply about why income disparities presently worsen,
in spite of popular sentiment for stopping the slide to the bottom.

Together we should try to agree upon 'why revolutions didn't happen
the way Marx wanted them to happen', without picking on Russia, Cuba,
China, etc., as mere 'bad examples'. What would Marx have wanted us to
do in the year 2000, knowing what we know about history? Would he have
wanted for us to forever engage in a scatological examination of 'the failure
of Lenin to be a good Marxist'? If Marx's revolution didn't go the way he
thought it would go (had he lived long enough to see it NOT go his way),
what would Marx have done? Commit suicide? Send the workers into a
suicidal vengeful rampage against reality? Or, would he have analyzed
his failure to accurately predict the course of revolution and start fresh?
To honor the memory of Marx, activists have to do more than curse the
past for not developing the way they wanted it to. There is something
very bourgeois about activists affording to play nit-picking games
instead of finding a feasible program that they could all support.

>> Millions of English-speaking people have used
>> the 2 phrases [dictatorship of the proletariat and
>>
proletarian dictatorship - TC] interchangeably for
>> many decades, and, after the dust settles from this
>> dispute, people will continue to use the two
>> phrases the same way. <snip>
>
> And millions of English-speaking people
> believe that
capitalism is as good as it gets.
> It doesn't mean they are correct.

Sometimes it doesn't matter to current events whether millions
of people are correct or incorrect. What matters to history is if
some ideas are strong enough to carry an election, bring down
a government, or drown out unpopular ideas, right or wrong.
The difference is that the correct ideas will gradually come
to be adopted by more people, and the wrong ideas will
fade away, like phlogiston theory.

> Come now Ken. You quote a so-called "scholar"
> and you refuse to say who it is?

Once again, his identity is irrelevant to the issues at hand. He
was informed about the existence of this forum, but expressed
no interest in being part of it.

> You were the one who said the USSR was socialist
> and we debated that very idea. Of course you never
> said it was socialist in the
WSM sense.

It has been many years since I've believed that Russia was socialist in
a Marxist sense. However, to a billion people, Russia WAS 'communist'
in the popular sense of China, N. Korea, Cuba, etc. Because socialism,
communism and anarchism are all becoming increasingly obsolete,
trying to convince a billion people that their definitions are inaccurate
is a losing battle. When an ideology is on its way out, some 'corrections'
just don't matter. It's like making a hard turn off the middle of the Golden
Gate Bridge, and then correcting the steering wheel while on the way
down to the cold Pacific waters.

<snip>
>> nothing reasonable I say seems to make much difference.
>
> First, I have
not found much that you have had to say
> "
reasonable". In other words, it is illogical and many times
>
unreasonable. Secondly, it is you who desires to force us
> into a false choice between being anarchists or Leninists.

I would never try to force anyone to adopt either Leninism or
anarchism, for that would imply that I would regard one to be
superior over the other, which I don't. I regard all of the 'isms
be equally flawed, and therefore useless. They all rely upon mass
rejection of the institution of private property, whereas the American
Civil War experience demonstrated: 1) the willingness of people to
fight to the death to preserve as immoral a form of ownership as
slavery, also showing that they would be much more willing to
preserve ownership of every other form of property, and 2) no
political will existed to provide freed slaves with their promised
'40 acres and a mule', and the refusal of the North to partition the
Southern plantations demonstrated a lack of interest in trying to
achieve social justice by redistributing property and wealth, even
when the North enjoyed all of the might that it would have required
to impose partitioning. Developed Western nations have proven to
be havens for exploiters of natural and human resources, provided
that outright slavery be kept in the background. If exploitation
didn't occur with broad consent, then people in democracies
would change it today. We could change that if we could
unite over a single feasible program.

> Thirdly, it is false of you to claim that I have
> ever said that anyone who disagrees with
> our concept of history is a Leninist.

I agree that I went too far with that one. I'm glad you caught
me on it. My humble apology for my error.

2002 correction: Actually, the text often shows me dividing ideologues
into 3 camps: Lenininsts, Social-Democrats, and anarchists. (End of note.)

Ken Ellis

 

11-11-00

We received the following:

> Dam how can you guys try to run a coherent
> campaign or put forth a philosophy? I just sat
> hear and read most of your nonsense, I think you
> guys are just lazy. Our economy doesn't function
> because how long we work
>
> It functions because we are sufficient workers.
>
> If we cut the day or even if we cut two hours out
> of every day of work then we lose a days pay.
> Sure well have more free time but who needs it.
> Most responsible adults have jobs and they learn
> to manage their time around their work schedule.
>
> Many of you lazy bastards need to do the same and
> stop blaming your laziness on businesses trying to
> run successful operations.

A friend forwarded your message to me. Why timesizing? We stand at the
threshold of an era in which computers will soon be smarter than humans,
so it won't be long before technology will replace most human labor, simply
because technology will prove to be cheaper and more reliable. Some people
foresee the obsolescence of all human labor within 50 years, others sooner,
and others later. Barring a catastrophe that prevents us from reaching that
stage of technology, human labor will soon be totally replaced, but we will
have to deal with the social significance of that event long before it arrives.

The humanitarian aspect of timesizing lies in this: Due to an unprecedented
replacement of human labor by technology in the near future, developed
economies will be swamped by an unprecedented unemployment crisis,
so our goal is for people to learn to fairly share what little work that has
yet to be replaced by technology.

Sharing work is actually a very old social device that Americans have been
using since 1820, and is as American as apple pie. Sharing work originates in
our humanitarian spirit, and the motivation is the same as how we react in any
other time of disaster, be it flood, fire, famine, etc. If we don't share the remaining
work, the benefits of all of the technology we create will accrue only to the people
who own the technology, and to the government. Would it be fair for the people
who actually create the technology to miss out on its benefits, just because they
don't own it? So, timesizing has absolutely nothing to do with laziness, and has
everything to do with finding a feasible and reasonable solution to our social
problems in an environmentally sound manner.

Feel free to reply if you have any further questions or comments.

Ken Ellis

 

11-11-00

Hi, Phil,

Thanks for the correction on the sales tax/income tax issue; I don't know how
I missed it, even after looking over my voters' pamphlet. Oh, well. It must have
been that 5% figure that stuck in me haid and threw me off course.

What was this 'fusion' stuff the New Party was interested in?

> I'm not particularly keen on being "it" = the grain of sand
> in the middle of the pearl of a focused
SWT party

Are you playing that role now? Is it voluntary?

> but I sure don't think that
>> "all pledge to work within our parties of choice
>> to further the cause of the shorter-hour solution,
>> which we understand to be the key to social justice"
> is going to work now after three historic failures -
> the first two of which occurred when more
> people were more tuned in to the issue.

If we are failing and failing again, it sounds like we haven't yet figured out
why. If our motivations are the most noble and humanitarian possible, then
why don't people flock to our movement? It's not like we have a hidden
agenda. It's not like we are secretly trying to use shorter hours to recruit
people to socialism, like some groups on the left. What are we doing wrong?

I'm not sure about the 3 historic failures to which you allude. If I could
guess the first one, would it be the Black-Connery Bill? Would 1979 be
the next? What's the 3rd?

> Now it's even harder to focus on because
> we've gone so much further down the chute
> of "working hard to get ahead" and "I'm
> overworked so that proves I'm important".
>
> It's really really difficult to focus on TIME as
> an issue, and given a list of issues, people
> willnot gravitate toward the hard one.

Maybe we should focus on work-sharing as a humanitarian solution.
Get people to think about what's inevitable by 2050, and think about
a reasonable social response. ???

Compared to the turnout for some sectarian parties, 8390 votes is nothing
to sneeze at. That might make a good base for a new party. What did you
mean by "mostly blind Republican/protest voting"?

I sympathized with your response to the angry worker who disparaged
our program. I took the opportunity to send the following, and I'll keep
us informed of whatever reaction I get:

snip repetition. See previous letter of 11-11.

Ken Ellis

 

11-11-00

Dear Thirsty,

If you follow the WSM forum, you may have noticed that they once again tried
to censor me over the course of a few days, from about the 4th to the 7th.
Many people spoke up and put an end to that in fairly short order, and the
moderator 'gave me back my freedom of speech.' My main opponent in the
forum seems to be refusing to do battle any more. Almost every time he
opened his mouth lately, he seemed to be sticking his foot in it. I think a
lot of people finally caught on to his game, which is why he decided to
bow out. When Scott indicated an interest in sparring with me, that
relative newcomer got a storm of mail subtly urging him to join
their unofficial boycott of me.

M+E's statement: "The social productive forces had outgrown the control
of the bourgeoisie
" [me24.193] was prompted by the periodic crises of over-
production that began in the 1800's. Capitalists sponsored the growth of
productive forces far beyond the extent of any previous class, but that growth
began to backfire as ever-worsening boom and bust business cycles developed.
Clearly the bosses could do nothing about it, and, if the government was as yet
unprepared to step in, then it was up to the working class to choose to share the
remaining work so as to better be able to weather the storms. That's really all
that the working class ever has to do when the going gets tough under any
kind of system. Their determination to share work could get them through
anything. Otherwise, the lucky ones get to live, and the unlucky ones get
to die, or are forced to rely on public and private charity, if there is any.

As to points 1-8, going back many months:

We seem to be in general agreement on 1, 2, 3, 4a, and 4b.

1 Changing property relations is the essence of capitalism, communism,
socialism and anarchism.

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 did not happen 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.

4a The reason for the failure indicated in #3 is that mere elections have
never conferred the degree of physical force which is required for either
expropriation, or for significant wealth and property redistribution.

4b That is a reasonable observation, compared to the actual communist
successes noted in #2.

Now for a troublemaker:

4c Communism is based upon having the physical force requisite
for expropriation.

I see that you disagree with this one. Your remark on communism being
based upon Marx's
'from each according to his ability, to each according
to his need
' was unfortunately based upon theory rather than reality. That
phrase was Marx's speculation about what life would be like in the higher
stage
of communism (also known as classless and stateless society).

Society was supposed to first pass through a lower stage of communist
society (aka the dictatorship of the proletariat) before getting to the upper
stage
. In the lower stage, the economic prescription was: 'from each
according to his ability, to each according to his WORK
.*' During that first
stage of communist society, Marx knew that scarcity was to remain a factor
during the proletarian dictatorship, so people would not be able to freely
remove from the common store everything they wanted, so their compensation
was to be commensurate with their work. Russia and every other communist
country operated under the constraints of scarcity, so there is no way in which
Russia, or any other communist country, could have formulated their economics
on Marx's 'to each according to their need' philosophy. 4c was based on practical
circumstances, while 'to each according to his need' is a speculative philosophical
proposal.

* 2002 note: According to a note in the MECW (me10.110), the analogous
phrase "To each man of talent according to his work!" originated with French
socialist St. Simon in 1830, which does not contradict Marx's ideas about
proletarian dictatorship in his "Critique of the Gotha Programme" [me24.87].
Louis Blanc originated "from each according to his ability, to each according
to his WORK
" in 1849. Marx used "abilities" instead of Blanc's "ability".
(End of note.)

Let's look at 3 different kinds of political victories, as experienced in history.

First is the winning of reforms in the interests of the working class, such
as winning the Wagner Act in the 1930's that made it easier for labor to
organize, or reforms that regulate the length of the work-week, such as
the USA's Fair Labor Standards Act.

Second type of political victory is the election of a workers' party
to elected offices, as in France and Italy, etc., and coming to power
peacefully and democratically. Workers are then in a position to
legislate their own class interests a lot more readily than if we just
go on electing Republicans and Democrats. This level of victory
allows for nationalization of industries, but WITH compensation.

Third and most powerful of the 3 political victories is the kind of total state
power enjoyed by the Bolsheviks in the Russian revolution that allowed them
to nationalize all of the land on the first day of the Russian revolution, and
WITHOUT compensation. That kind of NEW state power is enjoyable
only after overthrowing and wrecking an OLD state power.

If you disagree with this history, then I can see how you might disagree with
4c. Let me know if there's anything in the last few paragraphs that you find
to be untrue, or whatever else might prevent you from accepting 4c.

4d Not many capitalists willingly turned over their assets to communists.

We agreed to 4d. I think that we should work on 4c before we try
to do anything with issues 5-8.

You wrote on the 9th:

> I feel surprised that you would take someone's objection to mudslinging as
> an indication that he would vote for Bush. I thought you wanted to clean up
> the mess in Washington. You
can't do that if you sling mud. Do you approve
> of
Democrats slinging mud at their opponents? You must - you just did it.

Previous to reading what Moore had to say, I didn't know that Bush had been
arrested 3 times, instead of just once. For Bush to admit to only ONE arrest
without admitting to the other 2 might have been all of the sign of dishonesty
that people might have needed to refuse to vote for him, had they been aware
of it, which is why I passed the information along to a dozen friends and
relatives. Does my motivation still constitute mud-slinging in your book?

Bro'Ken

 

11-12-00

On the 8th, Scott wrote:

> <snip> You seemed to be saying there that timesizing
>
could actually be a cure for the business cycle.

Yes. Labor has recognized timesizing as the solution to downsizing
since the spontaneous formation of the first unions almost 2 centuries
ago. As long as people go to work, the labor market will periodically
have to be adjusted for the on-going replacement of human labor by
new technologies. We should have been doing that continuously since
1820, but we stopped adjusting in the 1920's, and adopted wasteful
mechanisms to absorb surpluses and promote consumption. We
should seriously examine why our psychology and politics changed
in order to accommodate an allegiance to greed. Prof. Ben Hunnicutt's
book "Work Without End" begins to examine that issue, but the work
needs to continue. The monster needs to be identified.

> If we eventually come to that conclusion,
> then I too would be tempted to abandon
> my commitment to the revolution, and
> accept the slow and steady progress that
> would accrue to us through capitalism.

That would be a rational decision.

> I don't believe that conclusion is imminent, however.

Oh, well. Back to where we were.

<snip>
> First of all, I always objected to the idea that extraction
> of surplus value from workers by capitalists (exploitation in
> other words) must necessarily lead to a glut of commodities
> on the market.

I agree. For millennia, functioning people have had to provide
for the very young, the old, and the disabled, as well as for
governments, capitalists and kings, etc. As long as people
have worked, they have created surplus values, so I don't
think there's any getting away from it in the short run.

> The workers and capitalists (along with the
> capitalist state) together have the buying power
> to
buy back everything that was produced.

This possibility will become increasingly strained as technology
increasingly replaces human labor. The extreme case, and without
any change in today's selfish mentalities, is the total replacement of
labor by technology, leaving the workers totally out of the picture. That
scenario is conceivable only if we fail to adopt a more humanitarian
philosophy and politics. We will not fail to change, no more than we
would fail to help one another in any other crisis. We need one another
now because we appreciate the widely differing roles we play in the
division of labor, but we may not really need one another in the
same way once human labor is abolished.

> The response was always, yes, but the capitalists
> have no need for the millions of spare refrigerators,
> washing machines, etc. And it may be true that the lack
> of purchasing power on the part of workers, caused by
> exploitation, in the past resulted in gluts on the market,
> but more and more, capitalists are planning production
> more efficiently.

Efficiency in the management of production is unrelated to crises
of over-production. What counts, no matter how well or how poorly
managed are the processes of production, is whether commodities are
piling up in warehouses. If piling up, then people are working longer
than necessary in order to fulfill society's needs. The solutions? War,
mass destruction of commodities, destruction of means of production,
promotion of consumerism, government incentives to slow production
down, government purchases of surplus commodities, and less work.
Obviously, the least wasteful solution is less work, but what if the
bosses and government won't let workers take the benefits of improved
productivity in the form of shorter hours? Then society goes back to try
the more wasteful solutions. None of this comes from my imagination,
for it all comes out of history. This is what people actually do, and what
they will probably continue to do in the future. The application of
intelligence to this problem could prevent a lot of waste, but greed
often prevents the application of intelligence to social problems.

> The relatively new "just in time" philosophy
> in industrial engineering gears production to
> satisfy only existing orders,
thus reducing
> the problem of a glut of commodities.

I don't think so. As an example, just-in-time can be used to
efficiently deliver radiator caps to an installation point on an
auto assembly line, but just-in-time has no effect whatever on
the quantity of automobiles manufactured. I don't think that
'just in time' addresses over-production of commodities.

> However, just because a glut of commodities does
> not appear, that does not mean that society's needs
> are being satisfied.
<snip> I would say that more
> work is needed to satisfy those needs,
not less.
> (see
killer facts by Papillon, Nov 8).

Certainly a good point is being made about the lack of satisfaction
of everyone's needs, but Scott indicated that MORE work might be
needed to satisfy them. Is more work a reasonable solution in light
of the fact that Americans with full time jobs are now working 47
hours per week, instead of a mere 43, only 20 years earlier? If going
from 43 to 47 obviously didn't solve society's needs, it should be safe
to conclude that going from 47 to 50 also wouldn't satisfy them. If
some people are going hungry or uncared for because the ones with
47 hour jobs are hogging most of the work, then the answer is for
them to work fewer hours, not more, so that the people who don't
have enough work will be able to get a fair share.

This will require a very big portion of the working class re-thinking
their attitudes to work. A decision to share work would require the
understanding that they have been competing too vigorously with one
another, and that their competition among themselves was responsible
for driving down wages, and their over-willingness to work long hours
deprived others from participating in the economy, so this decision to
share work, should it happen, would be from the bottom up, and not
from the top down (like the decisions to create the conditions that
force us to compete mercilessly).

snip Scott's general agreement with sharing work

> It seemed to me that you just
brushed off my argument
> about the falling rate of profit as a
key factor contributing
> to economic crises.
Timesizing doesn't seem to have any
> component that deals with this aspect of the problem.

Sorry about the appearance of a brush-off. On the other hand, I
don't remember anyone ever making a good case for "the falling
rate of profit as a key factor contributing to economic crises.
" Just
exactly how does a falling rate of profit cause economic crises? I
need to understand the exact mechanism before I can accept it.

I still regard the falling rate of profit to be a bourgeois issue, and
not a working class issue. Since when should workers worry about
falling rates of profits when they are more often concerned with falling
wages? If a falling rate of profit causes economic crises, then what are
workers to do except: everything they can to ensure the highest profits
possible, which means accepting speed-ups and long hours without
question. That scenario isn't very likely, given the present
willingness of workers to strike over forced overtime.

> The SLP pamphlet which discussed that, by the way,
> was entitled,
The Great Depression, by Alan Karp,
> I believe it came out around 1981 or so.

Perhaps you could summarize the crux of his argument about
the falling rate of profit so that we can have a better look at it.
In 1974, A.K. took some time off from his engineering job in
Canada to help pack up the old ASLP headquarters in Brooklyn.
I credit him as the first to convince me that I needed to study more
about socialism. I once spouted a few dogmatic party lines at him,
but he didn't willingly take them for gospel. I knew that I didn't
really know what I was talking about back then, and he was the
first to confirm my suspicion. His brother Stan was also very
sharp. Neither of them was as afraid of Lenin and Mao as the
rest of the ASLP, which encouraged me to order Lenin's 45
volumes in a cheap package deal with a couple of other N.O.
workers. Imagine getting 45 volumes for $75!

> Certainly I presented the argument in a grossly
> oversimplified manner, commensurate with my
> superficial understanding of the whole matter.

Welcome to the club. [Mutual confusion was proven by my failure
to pick up on Scott's confusion between the historical falling rate of
profit and the rising rate of surplus values
, discussed on Nov. 5th.]

> <snip> the economic crises that rock capitalism
> periodically, seem to be rooted in the very nature
> of capitalism, in other words, the private ownership
> of the means of production, and the exploitation of labor.

How does private ownership cause crises of overproduction and
unemployment
? I thought overproduction and unemployment were
caused by people working too much, and by the replacement of
human labor with labor-saving technology.

> If you can show that these catastrophic crises are
> not rooted in the very nature of capitalism, then
> you may be on to something.

I don't think I could do that. These crises obviously are rooted
in capitalism, because that's the name of the system we live in. The
question is, what is the working class solution to these crises if it
isn't sharing work for as long as humans have to work? No matter
which system we find ourselves in - capitalism, communism, socialism
or anarchism - devices still have to be discovered and implemented to
allow for an equitable distribution of work. We might as well prepare
for the inevitable work-scarce future by learning to share work now.

> And they are indeed catastrophic.
> I think that word is justified. The
>
Great Depression lasted ten years,
> and led to
World War II, are you
> telling me that's not catastrophic?

I don't remember saying or suggesting that it was or wasn't.

> The term Great Depression itself was borrowed
> from the
Great Downturn of the 1890s. You touted
>
the century from 1820 to 1920 as a period when the
> bosses allowed labor to take the benefits of improved
> productivity in the form of shorter hours.

In the 19th century, owner-managers also benefited from shorter
hours, because management had yet to be as thoroughly shifted
to a highly-paid special section of the working class. As some
owners gradually stepped away from management, their increasing
leisure was compared to the overwork of the working class, which
applied social pressure to adopt shorter hours for all.

> That didn't prevent the Great Downturn
> of the 1890s. Not to mention a major
> economic crisis which started in 1873.

Economic speculation can easily cause sudden turns in the
economy that strike hard before the working class has a chance
to react. The changes in hours of labor in the 19th century
generally occurred union by union, or in one industry at a
time, but only rarely by legislation - Van Buren gave
government workers a 10 hour day.

> <snip> We have the technology, the natural resources,
> and the human labor power to create an abundance for
> everyone on this planet. Why doesn't it happen? Because
> the working class is not in control of the means of production.
>
Because the basis for production is profit rather than the
> satisfaction of the material needs of the producers.

How do we get control? If we cooperate to create an artificial
shortage of labor, then we could safely boycott the most destructive
jobs, like land-mine manufacture, and cutting down the last of the
California redwoods, because we would then have the economic
security with which to refuse unredeeming jobs, which would
put us a lot closer to being in control. If our boycott shut down
an industry, then other workers would gladly make room for us
by further shortening hours of labor. How's that for replacing
competition between workers with cooperation? All it takes
is for labor to be in charge of the labor market.

Even if Scott is right about the CAUSE of our economic woes,
we also have to be realistic about a SOLUTION, for trying to do
anything about private property or profits has been, and will
be, rejected by people in general.

Ken Ellis

Instead of workers competing for scarce jobs,
bosses should compete for scarce workers.

Greed often prevents the application of intelligence to social problems.

 

11-13-00

Bob wrote:

> I am surprised to see that you are again proposing
> a workless society. I am sure you said you would
> no longer propose this zero work week.

I'm still not proposing a zero-hour week. We buried 'the zero-hour
week' a while back. A workless society, on the other hand, could
easily arrive in another 30-50 years.

> What does not surprise me is that in spite of all
> of the volumes of writings of Marx and Engels that
> you continue to quote from, you
fail to consider
> some fundamental facts about capitalist society.

snip litany of complaints about capitalism

> Your solution to the problems of capitalism do not stack
> up
. I have shown you the calculations on this previously
> but you
chose to ignore them, and understandably were
> unable to refute the logic of the numbers.

I don't remember avoiding an argument. You wrote something
on the 31st that wasn't addressed to anyone, and didn't have
any numbers to argue about, so I didn't say anything. I carefully
addressed your message of Oct. 4. A couple of weeks ago, though,
I think that a batch of mail disappeared in some kind of computer
glitch. Might I have missed a message from you? If so, then
please send it again by private post, so as to help spare
the rest of the forum from the agony of repetition.

snip basic lesson in economics, and proceed to hypothetical example

> Start with 1000 units produced by 1000 workers in
> 40 hours = 40,000 hours
> Floor space per worker 110 square feet (10sqmetres
> approx) 110,000 sq. ft. needed
>
> Double the number of workers and half the time for
> each and double the units produced. (Allow for robots)
>
> 2,000 units by 2000 workers in 20 hrs = 40,000 hours
>
> 4,000 units by 4000 workers in ten hours = 40,000 hours
>
> 8,000 units by 8000 workers in five hours = 40,000 hours
>
> 16,000 units by 16,000 workers in 2.5 hours = 40,000 hours
>
> 32,000 units by 32,000 workers in 1.25 hours = 40,000 hours

The problem with this example is that the number of units
doubles at every step, but we were given no explanation of
why a society that had previously been content with 1,000 units
demanded 32,000 units at the end. Why? If we were to produce
32 times as many units as before, then of course it would take
more work and more resources. But, such an expansion of
production in this particular venture hardly* represents
the experience of the whole economy.

* 2002 note: While the market for familiar items like refrigerators, soft drinks,
and autos may be fairly well saturated, new items may enjoy temporary booms,
and change overnight from luxuries to 'social necessities', which happens quite
often in the sphere of consumer goods. (End of note.)

snip paragraphs about hamburgers, shoes, etc.

> However these people need to subsist, and the
> employer now has to account for 32,000 people.
> How will they live on 1.25 hours wages and who
> will be buying the goods they produce?
>
> These are the questions that you need to answer
> Ken. because you want all of these things to
> happen within a capitalist economic framework.

It's difficult to debate this example because of the unexplained
constant doubling of units. Bob should redo the math, keeping
the number of units at a more reasonable steady-state, and then
the example will be more relevant to the existing economy.

> You want to preserve the idea of private property at all costs.

Preserving private property, and preserving the IDEA of private
property, are 2 different animals.

As for the idea: Long after private property will have faded away,
the idea will survive, simply because people will long remember it,
even though property someday won't be any more significant than
spinning wheels or bronze axes.

As for property itself: For a long time in this forum, I haven't
said anything different from: 'we will eventually arrive at workless,
classless, stateless, propertyless and moneyless society', which
nearly reflects the WSM's final goal, except for the 'workless' part.

snip dog story

> Please Ken, give a well reasoned response to my
> questions because I don't want to waste my time
> advocating a
world cooperative society, when you
> can explain to me how I can reduce my work week
> to zero and enjoy the benefits of capitalism that the
> owners of the robots
are eager to share with me.

Don't give up working for the cooperative society. Cooperation
will have to replace competition someday. Just don't expect society
to do anything forceful or sudden about private property. This isn't
1848 any more, and Marx's revolutionary scenario became totally
obsolete when Europe refused to have long-lasting revolutions
in support of the Russian revolution.

Ken Ellis

 

11-14-00

Dear Nicholas,

Well, another week has gone by, and we still don't know who our next
fearless leader will be. In the meantime, the Bush camp desperately tries
to block recounts in counties and states where it looks like Bush could lose.
The situation constantly unfolds.

snip irrelevancies

The WSM forum still threatens me with censorship. They tried again about
a week ago, and the debate still rages. I have a lot of defenders. Half of the
messages mention my name in one capacity or another. Most of them really
hate me, and would love to be rid of me if only that action wouldn't reflect
so badly on them. It has been an interesting experiment.

Bro'Ken

 

11-15-00

Many Pacifica people continue to believe in the validity of one or another
socialist solution, in spite of the changes beginning over a decade ago.
Socialist solutions can include some woefully divisive measures, such as
'taking away the property of the rich', 'taxing and spending', 'redistributing
wealth and property', 'nationalization of means of production', 'creation of a
workers' state', 'replacing the state with a classless, stateless administration
of things
', etc. The list could go on, but those are a few highlights, many of
which solutions exclude even others in that same list, which puts some
Pacifica people at loggerheads with other Pacifica people, and which
encourages squabbling and conflict.

Sad to say, some Pacifica people seem more interested in free speech for their
sectarian issues than in freedom of speech for all. I witnessed people with axes
to grind try their darnedest to rally troops to prevent other viewpoints from
expressing themselves, and the many who could be rallied thought it business
as usual to exclude other points of view, and few spoke in favor of inclusion of
all perspectives. As one member of the program council explained the ease of
his function, 'All we have to do is keep saying 'yes' to whom we already say
'yes', and to keep saying 'no' to whom we already say 'no'.
'

I wonder if the conflicts within Pacifica can be resolved until everyone in it
comes to understand that socialism is too self-contradictory and divisive to
be of use to the world, which understanding might end a lot of the bases for
Pacifica's internal bickering. Are people willing to change internally for the
sake of feasible external change?

Ken Ellis

 

11-17-00

Hi, Phil,

Thanks for the long message the other day. It was full of interesting theory
and history. I basked in its abundant wisdom. Allow me to press further on
a couple of issues.

Thanks for the extra info on the "mostly blind Republican/protest voting".
It sort of took my breath away when I allowed the information to finally sink
in that you ran as a Republican. With your swt agenda, I'm surprised that the
Republicans allowed you to run as one of their own. Could you go further into
the possible conflicts around them choosing you, and you choosing them? I've
heard of strange bedfellows, and I can only imagine this as one of those
occasions. I associate Republican interests with 'a prolongation of the
work-week'. Do I jump to conclusions?

> Why don't people flock to our movement? They don't have time.

Are you sure that we aren't making life too easy for ourselves by relying
on the 'no time' argument? Martin had the same reaction to my suggested
"Overworked Millions March on Washington". 'No time' can raise a giggle
here and there, but I tend to think that we could do better to win hearts
and minds, and, though I'm not exactly sure what, I'll suggest that we
make an attempt to convince the left that their socialist goals are
impractical or illogical, and that swt is the superior means of
achieving social justice. After hammering away at this issue,
I was finally successful enough to get a socialist newsletter
to print a devastatingly anti-socialist 'letter to the editor',
due out on Dec. 4.

Changes in the economy might move people over to our side, even if our
rhetoric doesn't change, but everyone on the left is counting on the very
same happy thing happening to their movements. Food for thought?
Can we be as complacent as some of them?

I don't think it ironic for Rexford Tugwell to have been a socialist, because
socialism and shorter hours exclude one another, and here's why: Socialists
think that conditions have to get WORSE in order to drive people into their
waiting arms, and, because shorter hours makes conditions better, socialists
therefore cannot wholeheartedly promote shorter hours by itself. Some
socialists promote swt as a desirable post-revolutionary program, and
some are jealous [or territorial] enough to want to sabotage efforts
to bring about swt within the context of capitalism.

You wrote: "Yes I KNOW Marx said this but we've got to stop talking about
Marx
". That's true for the millions who regard Marx as a monster. But, many
of the people I speak with consider themselves knowledgeable about Marx, so
we often argue about his contribution. I think I know the places where Marx
went wrong, but most people infected with Marxism worship his name, and
consider him faultless. I think that the decision to mention his name or not
depends on the audience. The ones who don't know much about him don't
really need to know more, unless they ask.

I think we can agree that 'using inevitability as an argument is no argument
at all
', especially when trying to persuade the unconvinced. You and I might
know in our hearts that shorter hours is inevitable for the future, but merely
asserting that 'it's inevitable' wouldn't sell it.

> <What are we doing wrong?> One thing is definitely
> not distinguishing ourselves clearly and simply enough
> from the left/socialism and the whole obsolete left-right
> paradigm. That is easily done by mentioning the
4th
> Cmdmt
and contrasting the left's "burgeoning maximum
> of stifling details
" vs. our "stable minimum of freeing
> general rules
" - ideally just one.

According to 3 different Internet sites, you probably mean by the 4th
commandment
: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." That's a good
recommendation to take at least one day off per week. My favorite line from
"Two Years Before the Mast": "Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thou art
able, and on the seventh, holystone the decks and scrape the cable.
" Those
were the days of wooden ships and iron men. Where are they now?

Focus is important, like you say. I've met a lot of people who advocate
shorter hours, but who also regard socialism as the greater goal. Very sad,
especially when they won't commit to a full dialogue on the issue of the
antithetical nature of the two*. Many seem to have lost the ability to think for
themselves, which goes hand in hand with their fierce loyalty to their parties.

* 2002 note: In many arguments, I often equated socialism with expropriation,
which mistake I try not to make anymore. (End of note.)

I see that you list the New Party as a failure of the '90's. From my few contacts,
I don't remember them paying much more than lip service to swt. When I was an
elected delegate at the founding convention of the Labor Party in Cleveland in '96,
the New Party put on a little dog and pony show one evening, but I don't remember
them doing much more than impressing us with their successes in getting their
candidates elected to office. Radical elements in other parties accused the LP of
having made a deal with the AFL-CIO not to mess with Democratic Party turf by
running LP candidates against the Dems. To this day, the LP might very well be
hamstrung in that manner. I phased myself out of the LP by the time I moved back
to Massachusetts a couple of years ago. They seem to be more interested in a
restoration of the New Deal than in swt. At the founding convention, I was amazed
at the amount of socialist sentiment expressed by the unionists in attendance.

snip irrelevancy

What you wrote surely demonstrated the insignificance of our little party. It
doesn't sound like it even has a membership, beyond yourself. Maybe the party
could self-organize through a web site. After all, if it is dot.com ... then, why not?
Maybe let people pledge to advocate swt, and let them organize themselves. With
perfect freedom of speech, and infinite expandability, the party might mushroom.
Maybe we just need to hammer out a few details about a web site, and then let it
happen. Centralization would have to be built out of the party, just like the Internet.
We would have to be just about everything that the other parties are not. We could
conduct all of the party's business over the Internet, and keep it out of smoke-filled
back rooms. Lots of people would be attracted to the complete lack of bureaucracy,
secrecy and censorship that so characterize other parties.

Ken Ellis

 

11-17-00

Bill Mandel wrote:

> Ken Ellis: I think you are misled by the necessity of
> moving from Berkeley to the East Coast several years
> back. Socialism was high in the minds of
KPFA's
> Program Council
members back then. It isn't today.
> They are interested: a) in keeping their jobs, and b)
> balancing the interests pressuring them now.

I've been away for awhile, but only since the very end of 1997. I wasn't just
referring to program council members. I should have made it more clear that
I was referring to just about everyone who gets involved with Pacifica. Having
personally known several members of the new LAB, it's likely that the connections
of Pacificaphiles with non-mainstream politics continues. If so, the fact remains
that trying to arrive at social justice by dealing with issues like wealth and property
redistribution, and with trying to gain political power to enact such programs, will
forever remain more divisive than redistributing work to those who could use a
little to get by. There are several ways to redistribute work, all of which methods
COMPLEMENT one another, whereas the zillions of methods of wealth and
property redistribution often EXCLUDE one another, leading to sectarian
squabbling, and the use of politics of exclusion.

snip repetition

Ken Ellis

 

11-17-00

Bruce wrote:

> Boy oh boy! Well, Bill and Evan's replies to _this_ red
> flag were certainly even handed. Socialism is _such_ a
> loaded subject, and so complex, how are all of the members
> of
Pacifica (assuming we listeners _are_ those members)
> ever gonna see eye to eye on the whole kettle of fish?

With a little education, people could come to regard socialist solutions as
belonging to the past, and irrelevant to the future. The only times in history
when taking away the property of the rich was feasible were after overthrowing
feudal monarchies, or after liberating colonies, occasions when communists
enjoyed full state power. But, taking away the property of the rich was never
feasible after winning mere elections in Western social-democracies, proving
that programs of property confiscation are based upon using quantities and
qualities of force that the Western hemisphere finds objectionable, which
accounts for the low esteem enjoyed by socialist parties in the USA. Votes
for socialists in the past election were so low as to go largely unreported.
This history shows that people really don't have to understand much about
the complex program known as socialism to know that it isn't for them.
One only has to know that socialism deals with property and government,
radical changes to either of which would require unconscionable amounts
of force, and for that reason, programs of property redistribution and
confiscation are unfeasible in the Western hemisphere.

> Who "won" when the Berlin wall went down? How will
> "our" victory look when/if "the markets" ever do fail? What
> exactly is ownership, and under what circumstances are an
> owners rights superseded? Is the poverty of Cuba, for
> instance, primarily the fault of the rigid, dogmatic
> administration of that hardpressed island?

Those are all good questions for socialists to wrangle over, but dialogue over
those issues wouldn't solve the problems of the millions in this country who
are homeless and hungry and could use a little work to get by. The purpose
of socialism in the first place, according to Engels in his 1877 biography entitled
"Karl Marx", was to enable full participation in the economy. Nowadays, people
unfortunately forget those words and regard property and wealth redistribution as
a thing in itself. The problem with socialism is that it was only plausible for when
lots of monarchies remained for Europeans to topple, which would have provided
socialists with the kind of full state power their program required. The failure of
Europe to revolt in sympathy with Russia marked the end of the feasibility of
_Marx's_ scenario. What happened in the world was not part of his scenario
of simultaneous revolutions in the most advanced countries, which program
should now be regarded as obsolete.

> The self-righteous arrogance of those who jump
> to conclusions on such issues, and believe that our
> opulent existence is the result of our moral superiority
> or of our understanding and support for "free markets"
> is simply astonishing.

Who said anything about moral superiority? What I write about is feasibility,
not morality. If any system is desirable for its moral superiority, it ought first
to be feasible. Bruce should render an opinion as to whether the 'big-picture'
history I recount either proves or disproves the feasibility of socialism in the West.

Ken Ellis

 

11-17-00

On the 14th, Bob wrote:

> I am beginning to understand why you find it so difficult
> to understand the nature of capitalism and why you
fail to
> see
that your solution of a zero work week cannot possibly
> exist within a capitalist framework.

I don't understand why Bob thinks that capitalism automatically
excludes a shorter hour solution. It sounds like he is with Marx in
thinking that the shorter hour agenda would be better pursued after
a revolution
, and that capitalism should be abolished before adopting
the shorter hour solution*. Is Bob aware of Marx's advocacy of shorter
hour legislation? Does he know that the purpose of the revolution in
history was to bring democracy to where it didn't exist before, not to
[directly] emancipate the proletariat from economic exploitation?

* 2002 note: The second clause doesn't reflect Marx's thoughts. (End of note.)

> For years you have been trying to justify spending
> your money on Lenin's excuses for failing establish
> socialism in the remnants of a feudal society.

This is pure silliness. According to Bob, I supposedly have been
feeling guilty for the past 25 years for spending $75 on Lenin's
Collected Works, and have ever since desperately searched my
soul to justify the expenditure.
The next part of the myth is that
'all that Lenin wrote was a pack of excuses for not establishing
socialism.
' If that's all that's supposedly in there, maybe that
helps Bob feel better for not having bought Lenin's Collected
Works
for his own library.

> You reveal to Scott W. that you fail to understand
> that workers are exploited
as a class*.

What exactly did I say that supposedly revealed that alleged failure?

* 2002 note: Actually, it isn't very useful or necessary to regard
exploitation as a CLASS phenomenon. Workers can easily be
exploited individually. In order to seriously counter capitalist
exploitation, however, there is no doubt that workers would
have to organize to seek legislation aiming at a reduction of
surplus values, which is the only conceivable method of
abolishing exploitation. (End of note.)

> "As long as people have worked, they have created
> surplus values" that is what you said.
>
> It becomes more and more apparent that you could
> have saved yourself a lot of bother if you had kept
> your $75 in your pocket and concentrated on the
> first chapter of
volume one of Capital, which
> explains the nature of commodities.

For the umpteenth time in this forum, Bob tells me that I need to learn
something about the nature of commodities from Marx, but he won't clue
me about what I need to learn. Does this vacuous advice indicate that he
is trying to create the impression that I'm ignorant of Marx?

> You do not understand the difference between work and employment

He accused me of the same thing a while back, and continues
to fail to tell me what I supposedly should know about it.

> and you fail to see that although workers as a class
> are exploited, - not all workers in employment produce
> commodities or surplus value. However I don't have the
> advantage of 45 volumes of Lenin, perhaps Vladimir Ilyanov
> can explain how it is that
all workers produce surplus value.

Now I allegedly created the impression that 'ALL workers create
surplus value
'. What did I say to indicate that? Not a clue was given.
If Bob supposedly can 'get' me on something, he is duty bound to
quote me, not just make unsubstantiated accusations ad infinitum.

> While you are about it, maybe you can find out
> from Lenin, how workers are supposed to subsist
>
without wages while they are following your advice
> and
permanently withdrawing their labour so that it
> becomes artificially scarce.

This isn't as much an attempt at making dialogue as it is a sneering
derision of both Lenin and the shorter hour program, relatively unrelated
as the two are. In Marx's writings, can Bob find out how workers can
force their democracies to establish common property without having
to fight a civil war? Chapter and verse, please.

> According to you, employers will pay more for it when
> it is scarce, and allow them to work fewer hours as well.

It's a very old relation going back to the 19th century. According
to the nineteenth-century doggerel: "Whether you work by the piece
or work by the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay.
" Workers
saw that very thing happen to them back then. Workers will have to
decide someday if uniting behind the shorter hour solution is more
honorable than remaining unorganized and madly competing over the
last of the long-hour opportunities to make the rich richer than their
wildest dreams. Given that choice, Bob seems to prefer unmitigated
exploitation over organization, which is very typical of the anti-worker
attitudes of revolutionaries. If workers won't become revolutionary,
then revolutionaries believe that workers should suffer until they do.

> Please Ken give us the benefit of your $75 bargain and
> explain how it is that
all workers produce surplus value.

I never said that 'ALL workers produce surplus values' because
it isn't true in the first place. Secondly, I never implied anything
worse than 'some workers produce surplus values'.

Ken Ellis

 

11-17-00

Bob wrote:

> What is the difference between a zero work week and a workless week?

Worklessness will arrive when technology will have replaced
all human labor. The zero-hour work week was an obsolete
propaganda term I once proposed for describing a militant
driving down of the length of the work week from 30 to 20
to 10 to 5, etc., until we arrive at a zero-hour work week, which
unfortunately conjures up the thought of us getting in our cars
and driving to our previous places of employment, and then just
driving ourselves back home again without doing a bit of work,
or some other silly nonsense. I think what will happen instead is
that, when the work week begins to get ridiculously low, and our
[social] commitment to sharing work [and other misfortune] is
sufficiently elevated, paid labor will be replaced with an all-
volunteer work-force as a transition to the eventual pure
worklessness of a future higher stage.

> You have argued that automation and the use
> of robots will eliminate the need for work by
> people. You refuse to explain how this will
> happen within a market economy.

All it will take is a little extra legislation limiting hours to prevent
overwork and overproduction. Labor needs to get control of the labor
market. That shift in control will represent such an enormous change
in society that the old days of dog-eat-dog will disappear. Our whole
society will then be dedicated to the equal protection of each of us, and
we won't have to worry about anyone being left out of a cruel marketplace.

> Automation has increased production enormously in the last
> fifty years, but according to you
workers are working longer
> hours. You do not explain how a reduced working week or a
> workless week will come about, you just insist that it will.

All it will take is a little legislation. In the USA, a few amendments
to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Instead of the present time and a
half after 40, make it double time after 35 for starters. To make
that happen will require a lot of support from labor and the
public, but few seem interested as of yet. I used to think that
socialism was an underdog in the USA, but the shorter hour
program is even more of an underdog than socialism.

> You say my example is not valid because I doubled
> output each time I doubled the workforce. I said (allow
> for robots), I was trying to accommodate your argument.
> Look at it again with the same number of units produced
> each time. Your proposal is to
increase the number of
> people working but reduce the number of hours each
> person works, so that eventually all people work no hours.
>
> Start with 1000 units produced by 1000 workers in
> 40 hours = 40,000 hours
> Floor space per worker 110 square feet (10sqmetres
> approx) 110,000 sq. ft. needed
>
> Double the number of workers and half the time for each.

This is sort of a mechanical application of a shorter hour program,
and the example does not perfectly reflect its real-world intent. What
happens in the real world is that people are replaced by machinery and
go on to find new kinds of jobs, some of which may never have been done
before, such as aerospace, communications, biomedical research, and so
many other new fields that didn't exist not long ago. People get shifted into
these new fields by being released from the old ones. Thus, factories that ran
with 800 workers 20 years ago are running with 200 workers today, to use a
sobering example of a factory in my own home town. A good percentage of
the people who used to work there found other work. The following scenario,
like the one from the previous message, still does not apply to the real world,
even though it's more plausible than the example in a prior message.

> 1,000 units by 2000 workers in 20 hrs = 40,000 hours
>
> 1,000 units by 4000 workers in ten hours = 40,000 hours
>
> 1,000 units by 8000 workers in five hours = 40,000 hours
>
> 1,000 units by 16,000 workers in 2.5 hours = 40,000 hours
>
> 1,000 units by 32,000 workers in 1.25 hours = 40,000 hours

Bob didn't mention a time line between each doubling of workers.
A fair guess would be 10 years between each doubling. This new
example also does not take into account technological innovation,
so, instead of the number of workers doubling every 10 years,
the number of workers could most likely remain substantially
unchanged. If the number of workers remains unchanged for
equal production, the number of hours per worker could
probably be cut in half every 10 years, and the
following escalating figures would not be valid:

> Say each worker drives to work and uses one gallon
> of petrol (4.8 litres) at $2 and buys a hamburger for
> lunch at $1. Originally we buy 1000 gals of petrol
> and 1000 hamburgers total cost $3000
> 8,000 workers buy 8000 hamburgers and use 8000
> gals of petrol total cost $24000
>
> 32,000 workers use 32,000 gallons and spend
> $64,000, - no lunch for these people! but the
> cost of getting them to work is 32 times greater
> and what about the associated costs 32000 pairs
> of (c)overalls 32000 pairs of safety shoes 32000
> carparks, lockers, the list goes on. This is the
> population of a small town, will they all fit
> into the factory?
>
> However these people need to subsist, and the
> employer
now has to account for 32,000 people.

These figures become invalid if technological replacement of
workers is factored in. The number of workers could remain the
same, and the same number of workers could work fewer hours.

> How will they live on 1.25 hours wages and
> who will be buying the goods they produce?

Because the whole work force would be that much more
productive, shorter hours would not mean that they would
have any lower standard of living that they do today.

> But forget about my example, show me your own
> example of how you will solve the problems of
> employment in capitalist society.

From my analysis of Bob's example, I think people can
get a realistic picture of a more likely future scenario.

> These are the questions that you need to answer
> Ken. because you want all of these things to
> happen within a capitalist economic framework.

There's nothing about capitalism that couldn't be fixed by the working
class merely getting control of their own labor market. Workers have
yet to get control of the labor market, and it's tragic that the people
who consider themselves the most class-conscious elements have
yet to lift a finger to help labor get control of the labor market.

Ken Ellis

 

11-18-00

Bill M.: Sorry to have labeled the answers to both you and Bruce
with the same title. It left me wondering as to which part of which
message you referred when you wrote:

> Ken: Here we differ fundamentally. You mean the use of nuclear weapons
> was a manifestation of democratic humanism
versus violent socialism?

I was hoping not to dwell on the morality of capitalism vs. socialism as much
as I wanted Bruce's opinion on the feasibility of communist solutions in the
West. I think we should feel comfortable with each others' commitments to
nuclear-free peace. But, I've had great difficulty in getting my fellow activists
to opinionate on the feasibility of communism in the West in the light of world
history. I do hope that Bruce and/or you will help resolve this particularly thorny
issue, a question which everyone else on the left goes to great lengths to avoid.

With regard to your use of the term "violent socialism", your learned opinion
would be welcome. You may recall in the Engels-Lafargue correspondence Engels
mentioned that the institution of private property in his day hardly extended south
or east of the Mediterranean
. Then, Lenin in his "Proletarian Revolution and the
Renegade Kautsky
" said to the effect: 'On the very first day of the Russian
revolution, private ownership of land was abolished.
' Marx wrote about agriculture
in Russia on land held in common, which was hoped to someday ease Russia's
transition to socialism. Q: Was the relatively wide-spread common ownership of
land a big factor in assisting the Bolsheviks in nationalizing land? Do you have an
opinion on whether the revolution in China was similarly assisted? (I was also going
to ask you to compare the reaction if a Western government were to try to nationalize
land ownership
, but there simply is no substantial movement in that direction.)

Thanks, Bill.

Ken Ellis

 

11-21-00

Bruce thoughtfully wrote:

> Out front, let me be clear that I'm personally committed
> to non-violence, both mentally and physically.

I'm with you on the non-violence. In one forum, I've had quite a few epithets
thrown my way, and I still persist in communicating with some of the less
violent correspondents. I regard some of what goes on in these forums as
'experiments in communication'. I promise to keep a civil tongue, no matter
what happens.

> That said, I don't think recent history indicates
> anything vaguely approaching the unworkability
> of socialist alternatives (here language, with
> attendant baggage, adds to thorn factor).

I hope that we can agree that many societies calling themselves socialist and
communist existed and still exist, though none of them came about as a result
of Marx's dream of world-wide simultaneous revolutions in the most advanced
countries
. Please say yes or no, or in between, because it would be nice to know
if we can reside on the same page. It is necessary to build a base of general
agreement as to what really happened in history, after which we can proceed.

> IMHO world scene is ruled by hierarchical,
> and to put it mildly, unethical institutions all
> struggling with each other for primacy of power
> over various sandboxes. Collapse of Soviet Union
> was not of anything approaching a "
Communist State",
> but of one cabal of sandbox bullies who ran out of rope,
> incidentally, when convenient, invited to join various more
> purportedly "Market Oriented" gangs in continued
> struggle, not one involving nation-states other
> than as a ploy when thought effective. This
> will continue until something happens.
>
> I'm strongly of the opinion that our collective
> hallucination regarding ownership of pieces of
> the natural world, of which we are integral parts,
> is making us virulently psychotic. We have
> mistaken the purpose of our living habitat, and
> have turned it into little more than an elaborate
> score-card, with decision making power accruing
> to those parties or coalitions who can pile up the
> most beans, which are currently, literally, nothing
> more than collections of binary code flitting
> electromagnetically around our earthmother as we
> jockey for position with each other. All of this is
> making the great mass of people sucked into the
> game, including our self-styled overlords, deeply
> unhappy, alienated and with deep tendencies to
> cast about for mood-altering behaviors to numb
> the pain and reinforce denial of the true situation.

Socialists, by vying for control of state power in order to gain control
of property and wealth, hardly make the situation (described above) any
better, which is why I advocate allowing the property and wealth chips to
fall where they may, and concentrate instead on controlling factors we
have a better chance to control.

> I believe we are on the brink of a fundamental shift in
> values, from a patched up legacy system based almost
> exclusively on monetary considerations, to one based
> on a better articulated understanding of wholeness
> and the inter-relatedness of living systems.

That sounds like a basis for mutual cooperation.

> All of the questions I briefly hinted at in my
> previous post are, again IMHO, not even close
> to of exclusive interest to people you might label
> "socialist," but of vital concern to all if we want
> to survive to make this transition. But then,
> perhaps I'm in need of more education.

Having read them over again, do you think that good answers
to those questions will get us closer to solving the problem of
hunger and homelessness in America? If so, how?

> In the thorns,
> Bruce

I hope that you will return to answer my message of the 17th. Line by line,
was I right, or was I wrong? This isn't irrelevant to Pacifica's problems. Do
we continue to be divided over the zillion methods of redistributing property
and wealth, or do we take the plunge into the intellectual unknown and see
what happens? I firmly believe, if I may be so bold, that the left has to smash
socialist ideology before we can become relevant to real people's problems.
(I hope that my use of the word 'smash' isn't unacceptable in this context.)
It won't be easy or painless for some, but, if we could accomplish that, then
we could replace socialism with something more feasible and relevant.

I do hope that you will be comfortable enough with the tone of my messages
to allow you to continue to dialogue.

Ken Ellis

PS: Thanks for the microscopic view of the CIS nations. I'm still looking
forward to tossing around some macroscopic perspectives.

 

11-21-00

Russell's message inspired me to ask if people would be interested in kicking
around ideas for creating a virtual swt party. We could give ourselves at least
the next 6 months to discuss it before we actually do anything, and possibly
select May Day as its inauguration date. This hiatus might give us just enough
time to work out enough structural and democratic details in advance to
prevent the party from collapsing as soon as it starts. People should
feel free to help rewrite and modify the following suggestions:

The international participation party would:

figure out what name it wants to call itself, if not the ipp, or fpp
(full participation party).

be dedicated to full participation in the world's economies,
with a goal of zero unemployment for as long as people
still have to get up in the morning to go to work.

be democratically controlled, with annual elections. In the beginning,
at least, perhaps the only elected offices at all would be the people
in charge of the web site and the forum moderators.

be infinitely expandable.

have its own multiple web pages. Fraternal organizations could link with us.

write up an introductory statement for its main web page.

be as international in membership as the scope of the Internet.

have no physical capital, no dues, no paperwork, at least until considerably
further down the road.

tolerate internal dissension and difficulties, and encourage full and open
debate of important issues.

accept for membership everyone with a name and e-mail address.

keep nothing secret.

adopt only as much structure as necessary to assist the dominance of reason.

have its own perfectly public discussion forums about all issues, internal
and external. In a main forum, it would only edit out material that has no past,
present or future relation to swt or swt politics, but would maintain another
forum, completely unmoderated, in case anyone felt left out of the main
forum, and wanted to rant and rave to their heart's content.

Ken Ellis

Russell wrote:

> I was a member of the New Party national
> organization for a few years and there was an
> attempt to set-up a
NP chapter here in the Iowa
> City-Johnson County but like everything else
> "progressive" in this town nothing came of it.
>
> I am currently Secretary of the Johnson County
>
Labor Party, a position I've held for the past year.
> In the summer, we had Professor Ben Hunnicut
> address our group but like everything meeting of
> the
JCLP very few people showed up. It was a very
> interesting talk and my fellow members who were in
> attendance were all in agreement on the need for
SWT.
>
> I am also a member of the
Iowa Green Party and was
> a candidate for state representative in the 46th district
> receiving 22% of the vote, the largest percentage among
> the 16 or so third-party candidates for state rep. I was
> going to try to bring up the issue of
SWT but I never
> really did get the issue into the campaign. I did insert
>
SWT into an answer on my local labor federations
> questionnaire and despite having the best answers
> among the candidates, my incumbent
Demo opponent
> was endorsed with no joint endorsement even considered.
>
> One would think that a labor organization would
> support the candidate and issues that best represent
> them but to use a Marxist term, there is a great deal
> of false consciousness among union members. You
> would naturally think that unions and a
Labor Party
> would be the natural proponents of
SWT but there
> isn't enough "outside the box" thinking going on in
> unions and the
LP to make this one of their top issues.
> Russell L.
> Iowa City, Iowa

 

11-21-00

Bob wrote:

> When Marx explained in Vol.1 of Capital, that
> the reaction of employers to the
ten hour day bill
> was that all of their profits were made in the eleventh
> hour, it is the same kind of reaction workers receive
> today from employers everywhere when they try to
> reduce hours of work.

The bosses' arguments were as silly back then as they are today.
One gauge of the maturity of our class will be our ability to proceed
to our goal in the face of lies such as 'no profits until the 11th hour'.
No matter what the bosses' arguments, we should persevere in
insisting that work be fairly shared.

snip accusation that I don't understand capitalism

> You talk about over production as if everyone's
> needs are being met
. Your rationale appears to
> be that
there is nothing wrong with capitalism,
> except that it is not being controlled by workers.

It's true that not everyone's needs are being met, but the second
sentence pretty well sums up my views about capitalism. So few
people think that a revolution is needed to provide for everyone's
needs that the few revolutionaries will never be able to realize
their desired revolution.

We overproduce food at the same time people in the USA go
hungry, showing that distribution is a problem. 'If you don't work,
you don't eat
' remains a bit of a truism for people at the bottom of
the economic scale, with our huge productive capacity standing
in increasingly stark contrast.

Not only are there problems with distribution of food, clothing,
housing and health care, but also a problem with distribution of
work. If we work, we eat, but a certain level of unemployment is
national (and international) policy. Alan Greenspan and his Federal
Reserve Bank
adjust interest rates in order to keep unemployment
hovering around 5%. Such policies ensure that our labor markets
are adjusted in favor of the bosses, and to prevent full participation
in the economy
. Guaranteed unemployment guarantees competition
for scarce jobs, which guarantees low wages and high profits.

If a small elite consciously decides to set policy favoring profits,
then there is nothing to prevent the majority of the people from
reversing their policy, and making new policy in the interests of
full participation, even internationally. So, you have it right when
I say that there is nothing wrong with capitalism that couldn't be
fixed with workers' control over the labor market, all over the world.

> You seem to ignore the essential factor
> that the commodity, labour power, is controlled
> by capital because workers are
locked into wage
> slavery, it is their only means of subsistence.

Labor power isn't controlled by capital the way puppets are
dangled on strings. It's really a very civil arrangement, and the
only FORCES that drive workers to seek employment are economic
forces, not the power of the state. Because it is a civil relationship,
it is regulated by laws - municipal, county, provincial, state, federal,
etc. As a civil relationship, it is bound by contract law, as in: I agree
to work for so many hours for so many dollars, agree to have this
many vacation days, that many sick days, etc. When the market is
tight, or if my skill is in high demand, I can cut myself a deal that
is often good enough to cancel out any radical tendencies. On the
other hand, if I am anxious to do anything for any amount of money,
and if there are dozens of others competing for the same work, I have
to take what little the boss is willing to offer me if I want to survive to
the next sunrise. What will happen to these workers when low-skilled
labor is fully eliminated by technology in probably the next 20 years?
We have some thinking to do about that. Since the bosses don't care
as much as we'd like them to, it will be up to the rest of us to care
for one another's interests.

> Please explain to me how workers will continue
> to exist while they withdraw their labour as you
> suggest
in order to make employers agree to a
> shorter work week. This is your grand scheme
> for worker control so please spell it out.

Let's look at 2 scenarios, one better than the other. The less
desirable scenario alluded to above is a hypothetical 'universal
slow-down strike brought on because bosses and government
do not allow passage of shorter work week legislation.' In the
1930's in the USA, Labor's 30 Hour Bill was railroaded by FDR
and his brain trust. Instead of reacting to their defeat by adopting
a universal slow-down strike, workers went along with the wasteful
New Deal's 'job creation' by means of government programs,
stimulation of the economy, and consumerism.

A similar job crisis in the future might again initiate proposal of
a 30 or 35 hour Bill, and, in lieu of that legislation being passed
quickly enough, or not at all, desperation could force workers to
unite to withhold their labor power so as to help them share the
remaining work. I don't know of an instance of this latter scenario
happening, which is why I now label it as a hypothetical scenario.
It doesn't mean that the universal slow-down strike couldn't happen
someday in the future. Now that the wasteful policies of the New Deal
have been tried ad nauseum, and people are sick of big government
meddling, the more desirable of the 2 scenarios will probably happen,
appropriate legislation will be passed, hours of labor curtailed,
overtime premiums increased, vacation time extended by law, etc.

> I agree with you that technically we can produce
> all that we need in a small fraction of the time.
> However, commodities are
not produced to meet
> people's needs, they are produced for profit.

This fact doesn't necessarily negate the shorter hour solution.
In Capital, Marx often used an example of a 12 hour day, and
counted necessary labor time at 6 hours, as well as surplus labor
time at 6 hours. With today's 8 hour day, necessary labor time
doesn't remain at 6 hours (with surplus at 2). Instead, because
of the enormous increases in productive capacity since Marx,
necessary labor time today might be as low as an hour, or even
less, especially in agriculture, where less than 2% of the American
population provides for more than 100% of the people. An hour
of necessary labor time would leave 7 hours of surplus labor
time, which would allow for plenty of profit. High profits
are reflected in CEO salaries rising to hundreds of times
more than the wages of the lowest paid workers.

> The legislation of a commodity producing society will
> reflect the needs of the owners of the means of producing
> commodities not the people who do the producing.

How does Bob reconcile his opinion with the opinion of Marx on
the 10 Hours Bill of his day? In his Inaugural Address to the First
International
, Marx hailed the passage of the 10 Hours Bill in England
with (MESW 2, p. 16): "Hence the Ten Hours' Bill was not only a great
practical success; it was the victory of a principle; it was the first time that
in broad daylight the political economy of the middle class succumbed to
the political economy of the working class.
" Marx favored reforms in the
interests of the workers, but some hyper-radicals propagandize that 'all of
the legislation on the books only serves the interests of the upper classes.
'
Part of the post-revolutionary program of the ASLP, for instance, would
be to 'toss out all capitalist law'. That De Leonist plank, among others, is
so absurd and ridiculous that it's no wonder the ASLP is barely hanging
on. Every few years, they have to scale back their operations due to
the absurdity of their program.

> <snip area of general agreement> Even if the work
> week was reduced over time in some nation states, we
> would still have the major problems of other nation states
> competing over resources and markets, and putting pressure
> on workers elsewhere to increase working hours and reduce
> wages. That is how the market works, not because employers
> are cruel or kind, but because it is inherent to the working
> of capitalism.

It's true that businesses all over the world are under pressure
'to increase working hours and reduce wages.' So, what do worker-
victims do about such pressures? Revolt? The pressures that drive
workers into poverty have always been too civil in nature to get
enough people excited enough to revolt. Workers won't revolt
for as long as wage and time pressures can be countered in a
civil fashion with counter-pressures, such as strikes and
protective legislation, etc.

> The most meaningful legislation cannot prevent market
> forces driving investment to wherever profits are greatest.

That's why our counter-pressures will be most effective when
applied internationally. Such a movement doesn't even seem to be
out of its womb, never mind in its infancy. The big employment
crunch has yet to happen, and won't happen until technology
gets a lot smarter.

Consider how dumb a little video camera is, and consider how
much processing power it would take to make its video signal
useful to the human race in some capacity (other than by letting a
human monitor the camera's output). It takes a tremendous amount
of intelligence in order for us humans to take in what we see every
split second, and to be able to figure out not to stick our hands in hot
soup, not to drive on the wrong side of the road, etc. Things people do
automatically and take for granted is still impossible for machines to
figure out with their present pea-brained level of intelligence. But, in a
mere 20 or so years, the processing power of our gray matter will be
available in a small lump of silicon (or what-have-you), and then we
will really see human labor rapidly become obsolete. If the human race
as a whole doesn't respond to that development fast enough in the next
couple of decades, we will put ourselves in the kind of turmoil and
unrest that revolutionaries have been dreaming about for a long time.

snip a big chunk on which we generally agree

> But reforming and legislating alone will not deal with
> the major conflicts capitalism continually produces.

The big developments that will really threaten the stability of
society are a few years off in the future, so it's a little early
to say whether reform will continue to be viable then.

snip closing statement

Ken Ellis

 

11-23-00

Hopefully, we will make rapid progress in our dialogue
if we allow logic to prevail. Bruce quoted me:

>> The only times in history when taking away the property of the rich was
>> feasible were after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating
>> colonies, occasions when communists enjoyed full state power.
>
> I certainly don't advocate taking anything away from anyone. I would prefer,
> over the long haul, to talk them out of it, much as Gandhi talked the British
> out of leaving India.
<snip>

This seems like a non-violent approach, and yet resounds with socialist
preoccupation with changing property relations. Knowing the extent to
which people (in this uncertain world) associate their personal security
with their property, and associate an attack on anyone else's property as
an attack on their own, I doubt if 'talking to them' will suffice to get them
to give it up, unless someone has a real powerful tongue in their head.

snip, hopefully nothing of great importance

>> But, taking away the property of the rich was never feasible after winning
>> mere elections in Western social-democracies, proving that programs of
>> property confiscation are based upon uses of quantities and qualities of
>> force that the Western hemisphere finds objectionable, which accounts for
>> the low esteem enjoyed by socialist parties in the USA. Votes for socialists
>> in the past election were so low as to go largely unreported. This history
>> shows that people really don't have to understand much about the complex
>> program known as socialism to know that it isn't for them. One only has
>> to know that socialism deals with property and government,
>
> Yes, socialism deals with property and government. The coming changes
> will deal with a deep understanding of truths regarding the nature of life,
> our places in the living continuum, and what really constitutes quality of
> life. Hopefully, knowledge will help build understanding and consensus,
> and ultimately there won't be a percentage in trying to insulate
> ourselves from life and our fellows with money.

What are these 'coming changes' you foresee in the future?

>> radical changes to either of which [property and government] would require
>> unconscionable amounts of force, and for that reason, programs of property
>> redistribution and confiscation are unfeasible in the Western hemisphere.
>
> Well, how about the programs of redistributing and confiscating the land
> of the Native Americans? Or, more recently, the land of black farmers in this
> country? Or the wealth of the American middle classes, as we race for the
> bottom thru globalization and the price of housing becomes beyond the reach
> of honest, productive citizens? Or the commonly held property of peoples
> throughout the world who are behind the eightball of finances manipulated by
> the princes of the "free markets?" These are the actions which make possible
> the apparent (momentary?) successes of the global elites and the glittering
> opulence that exists for a dwindling percentage of the world population.

The robbery of Native Americans, black farmers, common property, the
expropriation of the middle classes, etc., won't be disputed. But, they are
all instances of rip-offs perpetrated by upper layers on the bottom. What
I want to know is if your idea for a lower-class program of social justice
consists of simply reversing that rip-off, and redistributing property and
wealth from the rich to the poor. For instance, some socialists cite the
example of the replacement of monarchies by bourgeois democracies,
and look forward to the day when workers replace their bourgeois
democracies with workers' states, and regard that program as a
dialectical 'negation of the negation'.

> Again, I agree that any program of the relatively dispossessed
> wresting stuff from the relatively well-heeled would result in
> a continued cycle of resentment and violence that wouldn't
> ultimately achieve hoped-for results for the masses.

This is good news indeed.

<snip>
> Why do we spend so much energy vituperating against Cuba? Could this
> be another example of militating against something that causes us deep
> discomfort? We point with pride to their poverty, when it's largely a
> product of our long-term embargo against them. And, yes, there are
> many horror stories of political repression there, not my idea of a
> good time, but they have a lower level of child-mortality than we do
> here, and do have greater opportunity for the poor in many ways,
> remarkable considering their general poverty. Why doesn't this
> represent at least a glimmer of an idea of possible alternatives?

I think that some of our foreign policy toward Cuba has been based upon
cruel vindictiveness toward socialist experiments, and even toward social-
democracies such as Chile. I spent a week in Cuba in 1982 touring their
media facilities, and found it very educational. I wish I could give an
unqualified approval to their socialist experiment, but, I now think that
Cuba is fated to someday end it, just like Eastern Europe and CIS. As a
long-time supporter of free speech, just the fact that Cuba doesn't encourage
the Internet and other forms of free speech bodes ill for their system. It
doesn't surprise me that so many Cubans would rather live in the USA.

>> Those are all good questions for socialists to wrangle over, but dialogue
>> over those issues wouldn't solve the problems of the millions in this country
>> who are homeless and hungry and could use a little work to get by.
>
> This
really smacks of a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" attitude.

In what way?

> The reality is that the current social mores do not support people who want
> to make a simple contribution to society in return for the material support of
> their fellow humans. The financially oriented culture pays no more than lip
> service to making a contribution to life on the planet in exchange for the
> support of the web of life.

I have no argument with that.

> The currently fashionable "welfare reform" process has little to do with
> encouraging the poor to take responsibility for their lives. Economics is
> social policy, and the current social policy is to further the profits of corporate
> structures that concentrate financial wealth in greater and greater amounts in the
> hands of fewer and fewer people, with the overriding
Darwinian Socialist myth
> that their primacy is due to their genetic superiority and pragmatic abilities.

I have no argument with that, either. But, I still don't follow
the 'bootstraps' reference.

>> The purpose of socialism in the first place, according to Engels in his
>> 1877 biography entitled "Karl Marx", was to enable full participation in
>> the economy
. Nowadays, people unfortunately forget those words and
>> regard property and wealth redistribution as a thing in itself. The problem
>> with socialism is that it was only plausible for when lots of monarchies
>> remained for Europeans to topple, which would have provided socialists
>> with the kind of full state power their program required. The failure of
>> Europe to revolt in sympathy with Russia marked the end of the
>> feasibility of _Marx's_ scenario.
>
> The revolution in Russia was in part financed by interests in Europe
> who wanted to prevent just such a development of popular interference
> in the managed economies of Europe. The Soviet Union became a
> powerful enemy and example of what would happen if the unwashed
> meddled in affairs they didn't understand.

The fact remains that Europe didn't revolt in sympathy with Russia, and
Europe continued to democratize at its own pace, thus gradually eliminating
absolute monarchies - the overthrow of which monarchies was the basis of
Marx's revolutionary scenario*. Only then would European socialists have had
the requisite full state power for socializing property ownership in Europe, as
well as creating the universal proletarian dictatorship it would have taken to
prevent a counter-revolution. I think that the reason socialists don't like to
mention macro history like this is that it proves that socialist transformations
have required force in the past, while today's socialists usually try to convince
people that socialism is based upon qualities a lot prettier than force.

* 2002 note: Marx wrote (me6.332): "They [workers] know that their
own struggle against the bourgeoisie can only dawn with the day when
the bourgeoisie is victorious.
... They can and must accept the bourgeois
revolution as a precondition for the workers' revolution.
" (End of note.)

>> What happened in the world was not part of his scenario of simultaneous
>> revolutions in the most advanced countries
, which program should now be
>> regarded as obsolete.
>
> Marx was wrong, Marx was wrong, Marx was wrong. There, I said it.
>
> Yes, his program is obsolete, largely because it was wrong. That doesn't
> mean that we shouldn't have a program that is not obsolete.

I think that Marx was wrong because his plan proved to be overly ambitious.
He wanted to capture state power in order to abolish bourgeois property, which
would have gone a long way toward diminishing class distinctions. In retrospect,
we can say that Marx's program was quite plausible for the semi-feudal times he
lived in. The relatively peaceful democratization of Europe in the latter half of his
century eventually ruined his scenario's chances.

>>> The self-righteous arrogance of those who jump
>>> to conclusions on such issues, and believe that our
>>> opulent existence is the result of our moral superiority
>>> or of our understanding and support for "free markets"
>>> is simply astonishing.
>>
>> Who said anything about moral superiority? What I write about
>> is feasibility, not morality. If any system is desirable for its moral
>> superiority, it ought first to be feasible. Bruce should render an
>> opinion as to whether the 'big-picture' history I recount either
>> proves or disproves the feasibility of socialism in the West.
>
> The question in the final analysis, is not IMHO the feasibility of socialism,

I think, on the other hand, that the feasibility of socialism is just about the
biggest issue that the left should try to face if it wants to be more effective.
If I KNEW that socialism was unfeasible, but still continued to work for
socialism, wouldn't I be wasting my time in a rather ridiculous fashion?
If we are humanitarian enough not to want to witness people throwing
away their lives on lost causes, that alone makes the determination of the
feasibility of socialism a very important question. Unfortunately, some
socialist leaders have known for a long time that socialism was only a
dream, but have been making a good enough living selling that dream
that they will never give up their sales jobs. Some socialist leaders have
spent their whole lives at their craft, get mighty good at writing and
speaking about it, and are loath to give it up and start fresh. What a
slap in the face it would be for someone to tell their followers that the
dream they have been trying to realize is unfeasible! For that reason,
neither leaders nor followers will listen. I used to theorize that logic
could penetrate any wall, but experience speaks otherwise. Because
it is only a sales job for some leaders, their organizations are relatively
undemocratic. Some are more secretive and bureaucratically intransigent
than the very governments they claim to want to replace, and offer less
freedom of speech. Shades of Pacifica. As Engels wrote to Trier, "Are
we demanding free speech for ourselves, only to abolish it again in our
own ranks?
"

> The question in the final analysis, is not IMHO the feasibility of socialism,
> but the feasibility of an economy purported to be driven by free market
> capitalism, which is in fact managed by those willing to do what is
> necessary to dominate it, without allowing the truth of their actions
> to be plainly visible, without accountability for the effects of their
> actions, without a connection to the people or living systems affected.

It's true that our present system is no bed of roses, but I would hate to think that
Bruce may be thinking that the present system might be unfeasible. It functions,
Bruce, it functions, particularly well for the rich. Because our system is happening,
it is feasible. If socialism was happening in the USA, I would have to say that
socialism was feasible, but socialism isn't happening. Socialism isn't unfeasible
because it isn't happening, rather it's not happening because it isn't feasible.

To conclude, I also believe that capitalism's days are numbered. The people
who are doing the most to get rid of capitalism are the capitalists themselves,
and they do it by replacing expensive and balky human labor with machines
and technology. It will only take another 20 years before machines as smart
as humans will be far more willing to do every task humans have complained
about since the rise of class divisions. After human labor has been replaced
with machines, and with no more humans for capitalism to exploit, capitalism
as we have known it for so long will no longer be capitalism.

So, what do we do about the total replacement of human labor? Here's what
people can't do: It is impossible for the left to simultaneously create a workers'
state
while replacing the state with a classless and stateless administration of
things
. If the left is going to try to do either of those two things, then it also
wouldn't make much sense to try to simultaneously nationalize the means
of production
into the hands of the existing state. If people insist upon being
socialist to the grave, but if socialist programs cannot but help but be hopelessly
split along those 3 major factions, then the basis of the kinds of splitting and
feuding that has plagued socialism since the days of Marx and Bakunin will be
maintained, and socialism won't get anywhere. Likewise, Pacifica will remain split.

On the other hand, socialist sectarianism could be replaced by cooperation.
Several different programs for achieving full participation in the economy exist,
in spite of the increasing replacement of human labor with technology, most of
which programs are complementary to one another. People who would work to
create a 35 hour work week would have no need to viciously compete with those
who would choose to try to replace time and a half with double time, nor would
they conflict with those who would try to legislate longer vacations to augment
our measly 2 week vacations. The same goes for earlier retirement, bringing all
workers under the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act, etc. These are all
complementary to one another, and all aim for the common goal of full participation
in the economy
, which was a superior goal to socialism for Marx and Engels.

There is another goal that the best of the socialists, communists and anarchists
hold in common, and that goal is the eventual arrival of classless and stateless
society, a goal I also share with them. I just don't think that meddling with state
and property is a valid means of getting to classless and stateless society. I think
that the work week will eventually be driven down so low that people by then will
have sufficiently given up on competition among themselves as to decide to replace
paid labor with an all-volunteer work force for as long as people will still have to
perform some administrative tasks. Learning to share work equitably in the
present will prepare people to share the products of whatever entities create
the necessities of life when there will be no way to go out and earn them.

If the purpose of socialism was to better enable full participation, and if
socialism is too divisive to be of practical value, then why doesn't the left
apply its energies to various programs of full participation? Or, would they
rather fight among themselves? With such dedication to fighting, sectarianism
prevents meaningful communication. The fact that Bruce agrees to dialogue
at all is cause for hope.

For finding a solid basis for sisterhood and brotherhood,
Ken Ellis

 

11-23-00

Danny wrote:

> Hi Ken
> For your proposal to work, the working class will
> have to be in a position to dictate to the capitalist
> class its terms. Having gained this social power,
> what I'd like to know is, why use it to carry on
> donating our energy, creativity, our very lives to
> a class that is parasitical, useless and obsolete?
> Surely we're not that dull, are we?

As much as anyone else, I would love to be able to wake
up tomorrow to a world that has been transformed. But, rapid
change doesn't seem possible in the context of our democracies.
If we could just trade our poverty and homelessness for full
participation
, that would be enough for me, and I would be
content to let the machines and robots hurry up and replace
my labor altogether. As far as change goes, we have to keep
in mind what's civil and reasonable enough to be feasible.

> And while I'm at it. The reason we are difficult
> to dissuade is that we have spotted something,
> and it is this. The working class (that's us that is)
> get a life by selling our lives to employers (users)
> for wages, so when we go to the market we have
> some credibility, our needs are recognised, but
> only in proportion to how well we're wedged. No
> money no life! So it comes to this, all the means to
> meet our material needs are for sale, at a price! Logic
> dictates that if something is for sale at a price it can
> in no way be seen as free, it has a price, it's for sale,
> it's not free!
>
> Lets apply the same logic to a view of us, the
> working class. Do we have a price? Are we for
> sale? Are we free?? Yes yes and ?!

Yes, yes and no, we are not free, unfortunately.

> Rationality compels us to ask, in a world where
> every thing including human life is for sale, how
> can anything or anyone be free? The answer is as
> plain as the collar around a slaves neck. That's what
> makes us so insistent, so resolute and so hard to
> dissuade, it's the intoxicating vision of freedom.
> To live life for ourselves not for a system that
> farms us for profit, to return to the natural state,
> not to be domesticated by capitalism. In the
> best sense, to be wild animals again living
> free and securing the future.

These metaphors for a better way to live reminded me of a
passage in Prof. Ben Hunnicutt's immortal "Work Without End".
In the 1920's, psychologist "G. Stanley Hall ... declared that he was
not at all satisfied with the direction that evolution had taken in the
modern industrialized world. Industry required great specialization
and thus the increased "subordination of the individual to the welfare
of the group." This process, while it resulted in the "mastery" of nature
and production of life's essentials, required an "unnatural docility" of the
individual and made his dependence on others and on authority nearly
absolute. This submergence of the individual was the "chief cause of
the present (industrial) unrest and the chief peril of democracy.

"Hall thought that "we cannot avoid the necessity of harder and
ever-more specialized work." But as work became harder and more
intense, it would be more "potent" and productive, hence less of it
would be required.
... Technological progress and efficiency had
created a wealth of free time that could make the renewal of natural
and instinctual behavior forms practical. Because people had long
subordinated their natural selves to the demands of the machine
and the industrial state, they had at last been freed from economic
necessity for at least part of their lives. They were free to express that
part of themselves that was being increasingly repressed at work.

"But Hall noticed a curious phenomenon. Just when the external
reasons for servitude - the need to feed, clothe, and house the body -
were less pressing, men were choosing a form of voluntary servitude.
Americans were choosing to continue instinctual repression for a
variety of illegitimate reasons, such as consumerism and faith in
unlimited industrial progress.
...

""Man has been proper, decent, judicial, and scientific but a very
short time compared with the long history of his race, and he is
very prone to slip in thought, work, if not in deed, the leash of
conventionalities and be all himself again if only in a flitting
moment, and to revert to the prelogical stage of wild fancy and
the prelinguistic stage of cachination. He is like a potted house
plant in the north that dreams of its native tropical jungle, like a
domesticated stabled animal that longs to cavort, frisk and snort
in the old unfenced pastures of ancient feral days.
... He is weary
of being stable fed and wants to nibble and browse and taste
again the old gamy flavor of the wildwood and the prairie, to
woo folly and "cut up" as madly as he can. Alas for him who
does not and cannot thus at times renew the youth of the
race in him, for cadaveric rigidity has begun."
"

> As Marx pointed out what we can have. "In place
> of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and
> class antagonisms, we shall have an association,
> in which the FREE development of each is the
> condition for the FREE development of all.
" [me6.506]
>
> Is it that it's much too simple?
>
> Danny.

I hope you are not forgetting that WSM socialism includes work.
To the extent to which people would still have to go to work after
the revolution, I don't understand where, in WSM socialism, all of
the freedom would come in. If, according to Marx, the prerequisite
to freedom is a shortening of labor-time
, then I won't regard people
as being totally free until they no longer have to go to work, and the
machines, robots, and technology do everything we don't want to do.
Speed that workless day. Just yesterday my sister was nagging me
for not keeping as clean a house as hers. I can wait 20 years until the
robots march through the door to help me with my chores. Why can't
she? Neat freak? If she ever reads this, I'll be in deep doo-doo.

Ken Ellis

 

11-25-00

Jimmy quoted me:

>> Workers won't revolt for as long as wage
>> and time pressures can be countered in a civil
>> fashion with counter-pressures, such as strikes
>> and protective legislation, etc.
>
> Hello Ken,
> This passage in your post caught my attention
> and caused me to wonder how it is possible for
> the pressures you talk of can drive the workers
> into poverty, when poverty is the basic condition
> of our, (the workers), existence. The workers do
> counter the downward pressure by various means
> of industrial action but, at the end of the day this has
> only a limited effect, and any protective legislation is
> almost every time
in favour of the employing class.

Today, people living in developed democracies enjoy the
benefits of lots of protective legislation. If legislation could be
improved enough to eliminate unemployment, the problems of
the working class would disappear. I hope that you won't forget
the importance Marx attached to the Ten Hours Bill in England,
and that he was always in favor of reforms in the interest of the
working class. The kinds of reforms Marx didn't like were the
middle class reforms.

> Even if there was to be "protective" legislation
> of sorts in favour of the workers, we; the workers,
> would still be working for wages, and capitalism
> would still be in existence and the workers still
> churning out surplus value for the capitalist class.

Marx never promised anyone a quick fix to capitalism. His only
quick fix was not an economic quick fix, but a quick political fix if
absolute monarchies had been replaced with democracies according
to plan. Socialists were to further develop those democracies into
workers' states, each to be inducted into a grand unified proletarian
dictatorship
that would have been powerful enough to both abolish
bourgeois property
and prevent counter-revolution.

Marx's program for democracies was very sparse in details. He
suspected that workers could not abolish bourgeois property without
a civil war on top of their election to office. In the Communist Manifesto,
M+E wrote about 'wresting capital by degrees' from the bourgeoisie. That
was a solid indication that capitalist production was to have continued under
the aegis of a proletarian dictatorship, at least for a while. M+E understood
that class distinctions could not be abolished right after the overthrow of
monarchies. Class distinctions give rise to politics, governments, parties,
etc., and all of those awful things would have to wait for future
generations, reared in better circumstances, to retire those
devices to the museum of antiquities.

So, anyone today who thinks that capitalist exploitation could be
quickly gotten rid of could not have gotten their idea from Marx,
and must instead be repeating the thoughts of lesser lights.

> Therefore, no solution to our (the workers)
> predicament. The case for common ownership
> of the means of life the land mines and factories
> and the complete
abolition of private ownership
> capitalism and, then the workers, us, can truly
> claim victory and a lasting solution to Human
> predicament. Workers of the world unite for
> Socialism we
have nothing to lose but our
> chains, we have the World to win.
[me6.519]

Good luck with trying to do all that in a day.
You will need a big appetite for civil war.

Ken Ellis

In his letter to Florence Kelly of Dec. 28, 1886, Engels wrote:
"Our theory is not a dogma but the exposition of a process of
evolution, and that process involves successive phases.
"

 

11-26-00

Danny quoted me:

>> I hope you are not forgetting that WSM socialism
>> includes work. To the extent to which people would
>> still have to go to work after the revolution, I don't
>> understand where, in WSM socialism, all of the freedom
>> would come in. If, according to Marx, the prerequisite to
>> freedom is a shortening of labor-time
, then I won't regard
>> people as being totally free until they no longer have to
>> go to work, and the machines, robots, and technology
>> do everything we don't want to do. <snip>
>
> Hi Ken
> I won't regard people as being totally free until
> they no longer have to go to work for an employer
> (user). You haven't taken my advice and read
> William Morris on "
Useful work v useless Toil"

I found the Morris essay at:

http://marxists.org/archive/morris/works/tmp/useful.htm

Morris wrote a fine essay. But, also a little dated where he says:
"Who will dare to deny that the great mass of civilized men are poor?"
It's difficult at best to regard all of my neighbors as poor, what with
their homes, cars, boats, TVs, stereos, etc. Morris wrote:

"The first step to be taken then is to abolish a class of men
privileged to shirk their duties as men, thus forcing others to
do the work which they refuse to do. All must work according
to their ability, and so produce what they consume - that is, each
man should work as well as he can for his own livelihood, and
his livelihood should be assured to him; that is to say, all the
advantages which society would provide for each and all of
its members. Thus, at last, would true Society be founded.
"

There's that 'quick fix' again. Unfortunately for the ideas in the
essay, few people today are interested in creating a society in
which the rich would be forced to live and work like the poor.
Rather, we are approaching a society in which everyone will
soon be living like the rich, with nothing to do but consume
the wealth that will spring effortlessly. But, the dreams of
bringing down the rich die hard. Morris wrote:

"As long as the work is repulsive it will still be a burden which
must be taken up daily, and even so would mar our life, even
though the hours of labour were short. What we want to do
is to add to our wealth without diminishing our pleasure.
Nature will not be finally conquered till our work
becomes a part of the pleasure of our lives.
"

Like Marx, one of Morris's big mistakes was to regard reductions
in labor time as a post-revolutionary measure
instead of a measure
to be legislated in the here and now. Like most of the left, Morris
mistakenly regarded organizing a revolution to be easier than
winning shorter hour legislation. That might have been applicable
to the absolute monarchies of yore, but not to modern democracies.

> I really don't see a problem with work as long as it's
> creative, enjoyable and worthwhile. I can see, and it's
> not that hidden, something you've missed and that's
> appreciation. If it's all handed over on a plate to us,
> then not being responsible for its production, having
> put in no effort, we wouldn't appreciate fully what's
> produced. Marx said that
emancipation of the working
> class must be the work of the working class itself
,
> because if we the working class are not responsible
> for our freedom we would be unaware of its worth
> and could not be responsible for its maintenance.

When the robots really begin to replace human labor in another
10-20 years, working people will be faced with a situation like
they've never faced before in human history; but, when you
consider how well the rich handle their worklessness, the poor
will probably use their example to fare equally well with that
'problem'. It's one problem in life I wouldn't mind having.

> And Ken, if you yearn so much for the *shorter
> working week* why not get rid of all the useless
> toil needed by capitalism's money system, then
> everybody with energy could use their talents and
> creativity pro-socially, in harmony with nature to meet
> our needs, now that would shorten the working week.

It sounds like any method other than legislation would be
acceptable, which reveals a traditional anarchist distaste
for either political action, or the use of legislation.

> Of course when producing to satisfy needs
> and not for profit, there would be no reason
> to produce anything other than the very best of
> everything, not like commercial production where
> things are made to wear out, break down without the
> possibility of repair, so they have to be made over and
> over again, so they can be sold over and over again. So
> making and producing the very best will save work. I
> have to ask, what would you do Ken, in a zero work
> situation? Would you just sit around on your
> freckle getting fat and flatulent?

A lot of people who know me personally accuse me of doing too
much of that already. To be able to sit on my freckle all day long
without feeling guilty, ah, that would be a huge relief.

snip

The idea that work should continue after the revolution is not
defensible. Marx knew that the prerequisite to statelessness
is classlessness, but work cannot be efficiently done without
a division of labor, which division constantly re-creates class
divisions, unless we want to go the Maoist route and send the
scientists and intellectuals to work in the fields for part of the
year, but programs like that would be objectionable for the
amounts of force and state intervention that would be required.
That's why I say that work's constant re-creation of class
distinctions would make work incompatible with classless,
stateless, etc.less society. The best way to abolish class
divisions is to militantly press for shorter hours so that
workers would gradually acquire the same freedoms as
the workless rich. Shorter hours would also enable workers'
control of production, which would improve the quality of
what gets produced, and would do it in an environmentally
sensitive manner.

Ken Ellis

 

11-26-00

Bob wrote:

> (1) You are opposed to the effects of capitalism on workers,
> poverty, hunger, ill health, poor housing, unemployment.
>
> (2) You think
the problems of unemployment can be solved by job sharing.
>
> (3) You think
the work week can be reduced by legislating for it to happen.

Yes to 1, 2 and 3. Work sharing would best be implemented by
legislating shorter hours, higher overtime premiums, longer paid
vacations, earlier retirement, etc.

> (4) You say workers can bring about this change by
> a general go slow, or by general strikes.

That's one possible tactic, but limiting hours of labor by
legislation is more desirable than the working class going it
alone. If workers couldn't get help in the form of legislation, then
the reluctant politicians probably wouldn't get elected the next time
around. Our ability to replace unresponsive politicians is what makes
democracy valuable to the majority. Politicians all want to get elected
and re-elected, but won't unless they follow the will of the voters.

2002 note: Engels did not by any means regard electoral means as antithetical
to his revolution, as evidenced by these sentences from his July 23, 1885 letter
to Laura Lafargue (me47.314): "Here too we shall have a peaceable revolution
in November. The new electorate is sure to change the whole basis of old
parties.
" [There Engels referred to the extension of suffrage to more
people in England.] (End of note.)

> (5) You say when workers are in control they will
> reverse the policy of favouring profits and make
> new policy, - presumably discouraging profits.

Instead of that, I remember saying that higher wages would
mean lower profits', which could promote an even stronger urge
to replace increasingly expensive human labor with machinery,
which could further increase the pressure to shorten hours, and
so on, until human labor becomes perfectly redundant. Creating
policy to directly discourage profits would be more trouble than
what it would be worth.

> (6) Now that there are no profits to be made, and
>
workers are working less and less, what will you
> do about people who insist on buying cheap and
> selling dear and making profits anyway?

The first half of the question doesn't represent my views.* The answer
to the second half is: people who take advantage of markets would be
tolerated as before. There's no percentage in creating any more of a
police state (by outlawing civil behavior) than what we already have.

* 2002 note: The goose that lays the golden egg should not be killed.
Profits enable production to flourish. Production is presently inconceivable
without labor and a division of labor, which in turn give rise to class divisions,
politics, parties, the state, etc. Profits enable investment in labor-saving machinery,
which is sufficiently powerful a process to eventually abolish profits and capitalism
themselves, which will only have to be tolerated for as long as labor is essential. Our
duty in the meantime is to diminish class distinctions, and to reduce the enormous
income gap between rich and poor. (End of note.)

> Of course we will still have competition on world
> markets, and
capitalism run by workers will still
> have lots of people employed in buying and selling.

Capitalism run by workers? Capitalism would still be run by
capitalists, while the labor market would be run by labor. Just
getting control over the labor market would be labor's major
victory, and would give them far more of a say in public affairs.

snip sarcasm

> You still haven't explained what the workers will
> do for food and shelter
while they are on strike for
> months, waiting for the legislation to be passed
> putting them in charge of capitalism.
You seem
> to keep avoiding that very basic question.

Months back, I posed a hypothetical less desirable scenario of
what might happen if the bosses and the government refuse to
pass sufficiently protective legislation, such as what happened
in the USA in the Great Depression of the 1930's, when they
refused to pass labor's 30 hour bill, and we got consumerism,
government stimulation of the economy, taxing and spending,
and other programs that were a lot more wasteful than if labor
had been able to continue to reap improvements in productivity
in the form of increased leisure time.

If legislation supporting sharing work wasn't available in a
particular country, workers might entertain a slow-down strike
to accomplish that same thing, but intransigent non-democracies
might be the only countries in which such action might be necessary.
Legislation enacted on behalf of the working class more befits our
modern democracies. I hope this helps Bob and others discriminate
a little better between the two tactics.

Ken Ellis

 

11-27-00

Scott wrote:

[proceed to proposal of unifying principles:]

> "The working class and the employing class have
>
nothing in common. There can be no peace so long
> as hunger and want are found among millions of the
> working people and the few, who make up the employing
> class, have all the good things of life. Between these two
> classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world
> organize as a class,
take possession of the earth And the
> machinery of production, and
abolish the wage system.

In the process of doing that, do workers create a classless, stateless,
etc.less administration of things, or do they create a Leninist workers'
state
? If the revolutionaries who want to create a workers' state won't
cooperate with those who want to abolish the state, and vice versa, then
how will the revolution get off the ground without the cooperation of
every revolutionary? Or, does one group of revolutionaries think that
it can afford to ignore all of the others?

> We find that the centering of the management of industries
> into fewer and fewer hands
makes the trade unions unable to
> cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The
> trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of
> workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same
> industry, thereby helping to defeat one another in wage wars.
> Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead
> the workers into the belief that
the working class have interests
> in common with their employers.

A party of unity would never belittle trades unions, even if unions
won't go along with 'revolutions in democracies', no more than
European workers were willing to support the Russian Revolution
by replacing their Social-Democracies with workers' states.

2002 note: I should have added: Workers and bosses have had interests
in common since they long ago united to help one another replace feudal
absolute monarchies with modern democracies. (End of note.)

> Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's
> wage for a fair day's work,
" we must inscribe on
>
our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition
> of the wage system
." It is the historic mission of the
> working class to
do away with capitalism. The army of
> production must be organized, not only for the everyday
> struggle with capitalists, but also
to carry on production
> when capitalism shall have been overthrown.
<snip>

A feasible mission for the working class is to abolish class
distinctions
by reducing labor time so that workers can become
as replete with free time as their theretofore bosses. Capitalism
is slated to exist right up until the end of labor. No more labor,
no more capitalism. Labor implies a division of labor. Division
of labor creates class distinctions. Class distinctions prolong the
existence of the state, property, and money. Class distinctions
grow wider by the day because the left continues to look at the
world through its obsolete ideological filters, thereby splitting
itself into factions that oppose and nullify one another.

> The preamble of the IWW is as relevant today as
> it was ninety some years ago. Form a party based
> on these principles, and
people will flock to it. The
> innumerable Leninists who suffered demoralization
> with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and are in
dire
> need
of this vision of socialist struggle.

But, Leninists want to create a workers' state, and have
nothing but contempt for creating a classless and stateless
administration of things after the revolution (prescribed below).

> <snip> Our intention is to use the political process
> in order to democratically capture the political state,
> for the sole purpose of abolishing it, and vesting all
> power in the hands of the revolutionary industrial
> union movement, and what ever other organizations
> of mass struggle develop in the process. We will
> continue to use civilized methods as long as the
> state refrains from using barbaric ones.
"

Once again, this proposal leaves out the Leninists, which exclusion
eliminates unity among revolutionaries. What demonstrates the bourgeois
nature of revolutionaries is that they think they can afford to ignore
opposing revolutionary forces. Programs dealing with property and
state are fated to exclude one or more factions of the left, so unity
on the basis of doing anything serious about property and state is
impossible. The politics of dealing with the state and property are the
politics of exclusion, which are the politics of the bourgeoisie. The
politics of unity and inclusion, on the other hand, are the working-
class politics of ensuring full participation in the economy.

Ken Ellis

 

11-27-00

Allison wrote:

> I know why socialists aren't into reformism, i know
> why revolution is felt to be necessary, but i still have
> yet to understand how society comes to revolution
> avoiding reform altogether.

Reform is the correct tactic for democracies, but revolutionaries
eschew reform. They don't seem to want to recognize that revolution's
historical purpose was to bring democracy to where it didn't exist before,
and for that reason doesn't apply to existing democracies. According to
Engels, England was democratic enough for workers to get what they
want. Marx in his 1872 Speech at the Hague juxtaposed 2 paths, the
revolutionary path for overthrowing old European monarchies, and
the peaceful path for the handful of existing democracies of his day -
USA, England, and possibly Holland. Workers won't overthrow today's
democracies any more than European workers were willing to support
the Russian revolution by replacing their Social-Democracies with
new workers' states. Some attempts were made to do precisely that,
but obviously weren't successful enough to do the trick.

Marx distinguished between various types of reforms. He supported
reforms in the interests of the workers, such as England's 10-Hours Bill,
and America's push for the 8-hour day, but he opposed reforms in the
interests of the upper classes. Opposition to ALL reforms characterizes
anarchism, whose proponents often oppose democracies as vigorously
as they oppose absolute monarchies. As the Russian writer Lozovsky
put it in his pamphlet "Marx and the Trade Unions": 'Anarchists make
no distinction between governments that shoot workers and governments
that shoot bosses.
' As anarchists intend to abolish democracies as readily
as intransigent monarchies, they then have no use for reforms. [Their
quest equates to pure petty-bourgeois adventurism. It is pure waste,
but some people can more afford to be wasteful than can others.]

Ken Ellis

 

11-30-00

Bob wrote:

> People want answers as to how we can bring about
> a
social revolution, the answer is to study the nature
> of capitalism and you will see that
you can no more
> legislate against unemployment than you can
> legislate against an economic depression.

Then why all of the clamor in Europe for shorter hour legislation?
To the extent to which they diminish the hours of labor is the extent
to which more people can fit into the economy. You argue against
legislating against unemployment under capitalism, and yet, after
your revolution, shorter hours is precisely what you would adopt.
At some point, the contradiction between your contempt for
shorter hours in the here and now will have to be reconciled
with your embrace of shorter hours after the revolution.

Secondly, labor predicted the USA's Depression of the 1930's
long before it happened because they could see the surpluses
building up in warehouses. They also knew that passage of their
desired 30 hour bill at the proper time would have eliminated that
Depression, so, the answer is: proper legislation can prevent
both unemployment and crises of over-production.

> people are conditioned to think that the world
> cannot operate without money or markets because
> it is the only society that they are aware of.

The main reason ordinary people reject alternatives to capitalism
is that we tend to go with what works. If it doesn't work, then we
reform what exists and make incremental changes, none of which
are violently different from what we have.

> Central Government, local government, armed
> forces, police, courts, prisons, the entire legal
> profession, banks, insurance companies, stock
> exchanges, charitable organisations are all
> involved in propping up capitalism,

Because no other system is a threat to capitalism, all of
the above institutions do what they do without looking
over their shoulders in fear.

> and they are all a burden on the productive
> work of the 40% who actually produce wealth.

This part of the sentence is true. This kind of waste could be
diminished considerably if people would share the remaining
work by reducing hours of labor. Everyone could be ensured
small portions of useful, productive labor, which would help
save the environment in the process. This solution is so
logical that it will eventually become increasingly obvious.

> Instead of useless employment, socialist society
> will allow these people to do useful work that is
> satisfying, fulfilling, and makes a contribution
> to the improvement in our way of living.

People will see that this last sentence isn't true if they merely
look at the actual program of socialism, which is all about gaining
state power in order to establish common property. After supposedly
accomplishing that, socialism itself says nothing about an equitable
distribution of work, unless it wants to arrogate to itself all that is good
and pure in ideology. In socialist ideology, people have to first go along
with revolution, and only then will goodness and purity supposedly begin.
Socialists since Marx have regarded work-sharing to be best initiated
after the revolution, but work-sharing could actually begin any time
the people are ready to do it.

> Because there is less waste of material and human resources
> people will work a lot less than they do now, and will have time
> to engage in all of the other activities they wish to be part of.

There's no reason people can't do the same thing
within a capitalist framework.

> The WSM exists for one reason only, to advocate a
> world society, socialism. We know that governments
> around the world will legislate continuously to make
> capitalism more acceptable, but they will
not be able
> to resolve the basic contradiction of capitalism.

People will ride capitalism right up until the end of class
distinctions
, which will mark the end of capitalism itself. People
will never let things get so bad that they start to seriously think
about adopting another system. Capitalism has all that it takes
to abolish itself peacefully, and within a democratic framework.
We will get to classless, stateless, etc.less society, but not at
all in the manner described by those who mistakenly regard
democracies with the same contempt with which the public
condemns dictatorships and absolute monarchies.

> The ability to produce enough for all, but
> the inability to ensure that peoples basic needs
> are met because of the market mechanism.

The market never hurt anyone. Markets are civil institutions. Various
countries have tried working without markets before, and look at what
happened to them. Recently, practically all of the previously marketless
economies are phasing markets back into operation.

> So what is the answer? <snip>

Let's apply our humanitarian sentiments to ensure full
participation in the economy
, and all of the other chips will
eventually fall into place, and we will reach classless, stateless,
etc.less society after the length of the workweek gets so low
that we replace the workforce with volunteers.

Ken Ellis

 

12-02-00

Bruce wrote:

> Noticed you snipped most of the following out of
> previous reply. Interested in why you may think it
> not worth reiterating or replying to?

Sorry not to have added a little explanation to each snip,
as I sometimes do, so I'll try to do that from now on.
Here's the additional commentary:

> I certainly don't advocate taking anything away from anyone.
> I would prefer, over the long haul, to talk them out of it,
> much as Gandhi talked the British into leaving India.

I replied to that part, but not to what followed:

> I think the analogy is apt. We have been colonized, we
> are being schemed against in secret, our children are
> being brainwashed and commercially "carpet-bombed,"
> and our habitat is being wasted in the interests of
> preserving the emotional defenses of people who
> "really" do own the whole goddam road. Like any
> good addict, their attention is directed toward
> preserving their sources of supply at any cost.

Though I might want to object to the severity of the language,
I didn't find much there to argue against.

> I think Marx had a wonderful intuition about some
> generalisms of possible liberation from the horrors
> of industrialism, however was just wrong about many
> crucial factors, including the dynamics of social
> change. <my own snip>
[sic]

I can't help but agree with that, which is why I snipped it [the first time around].
I tend to snip the parts which I don't find to be very controversial.

> At any rate, it is so obvious to me that violence begets
> violence. And this includes our attitudes toward those
> with whom we disagree. I think that at a subconscious
> level we cannot see the difference between threats we
> project against others, and threats against ourselves, so
> that every attack out is an attack in, at an emotional
> level. So, "
I ain't agone to study war no more"
> is a matter of practical necessity.

I can't disagree with that. It appears that you have studied issues about violence.

> I'd say that we could look forward to a long period
> of letting the chips fall where they may, except that the
> continued growth of our power over our natural habitat
> (and fascination with same, again driven by our terror
> of introspection

I can agree with that. When I started my own self-analysis in the 1960's, I
was at first terrified at what I found inside, but was later amazed to be able to
work my way through it. Over weeks of analysis of every nuance of emotion
and thought, I finally learned to stop lying to myself. The effort was well worth
it, but it didn't make me feel perfect about the world, which is why I continued to
search for answers, and later became a socialist because of its ability to teach about
what people actually do when faced with hardship on a mass scale. It's too bad that
my socialist experience wasn't as perfect as I had hoped it would be. In fact, it was
gut-wrenching to find out that my anarcho-syndicalist ideology was based upon
lies and quotes from Marx, Engels and Lenin [taken] out of context, and that the
brave socialists I learned to love didn't have any interest in stopping the lies we
were propagating. It turned into such a swamp of immorality that I had to leave.
And these were the people who would make a new society? I was tempted to
say: 'I'd rather hang around with Republicans!'

> and need for diversion), and seeming inability to take
> responsibility for the power we crave is creating tragedy on a
> mass, soon to be epic, scale. So, I believe that an accelerating
> process of change will occur, in which we _are_ letting the
> chips fall where they may with the exception that we're going
> to be informed about where they're falling and expressing our
> truths about the actions persons who are causing any harm.

Nothing to argue with there. And, going back to the original issue, I wouldn't
be doing what I do if I was willing to let EVERY chip lay where it falls. Just the
chips that are too big for us mere mortals to do anything about, such as
property and state. But, the socialists think they can tackle those.

Here's hoping that you found this helpful.

Ken Ellis

 

12-02-00

Hi, Phil

Re: http://www.timesizing.com/1gopwkwk.htm

Your web page about Republicans is very interesting and informative. I'm glad
that you also noted some differences between swt and socialism. Here's another
distinction: Upon their hypothetical coming to power, some socialists would
force the rich to go to work for wages, whereas the gradual phase-out of work
will enable workers to become as free as the rich. Society is moving forward
into worklessness, but socialists remain attached to the past by prescribing
jobs for all. A recent article at a technology site demonstrated a rapid rate
of technological sophistication:

"Sony built six units and used four of them in a demonstration during which
one robot walked, squatted, got up, balanced on one leg, was directed to search
for a colored soccer ball and then kicked that ball into the goal.
... Three other
robots showed up as a dancing team, waltzing around the stage and doing
synchronized choreography. In the soccer-playing demo, the SDR-3X recognized
an instruction to find a colored ball. It located the net, moved next to the ball, shot
the ball and then recognized whether the ball landed in the net or missed.
"

If robots can do that much already, then it won't be much longer before they
become far more useful, and human labor that much more redundant.

Ken Ellis

 

12-02-00

Bob wrote:

snip

> According to your earlier posts, workers will create
> an artificial scarcity of labour and then force wages
> up, and hours of labour down. Good scheme, sign me
> up tomorrow. However the question I have repeatedly
> asked you, and which you keep avoiding is: since
> workers can only survive by selling their labour power,
> what do they live on while they are withdrawing their
> labour in order to gain power over the capitalists?

It's not a total withdrawal; it's only a partial withdrawal in which
they keep on working for wages, but for fewer hours. Because of
our concern for the welfare of other workers, and because we would
rather share the remaining work than see our fellow workers go without,
and because it would be too costly to provide make-work for those without
work, and no one would want to pay the tax bill for that, what remains is for
us to make room in the civil economy for our fellow workers by each of us
working 30 or 35 hours per week instead of 40 and beyond. So, there is no
reason for anyone to have to worry about what they would "live on while
they are withdrawing their labour in order to gain power over the capitalists
".
A withdrawal of labour power by no means has to be total. To make any
sense, the withdrawal could only be partial, in which the ones who
worked before continue to work, but for fewer hours.

> This question is critical to your proposal, but you refuse to answer it.

I hope I covered it this time, if I didn't adequately cover it the last few times.

> When you have control of the labour market, what
> price will you charge for illegal immigrant labour, as
> this is used by employers to bring down the cost of
> local labour while the authorities turn a blind eye.

I am content to let the labor market determine the wages of
all workers, but I am not content to allow the labor market to
be run by the bosses. We have to replace workers' competition
for scarce jobs with bosses' competition for scarce workers.
Accomplished on an international basis, we will then have more
clout to affect the legal status of our fellow workers, and national
borders will become much less of a source of controversy.

> I can't wait to double my wages and half my working week Ken,
> just tell me how we can do it? As briefly as possible, please.

Among your fellow workers, talk up some opposition to the
bosses' policy forcing us to fight for the last of the long-hour and
low-wage opportunities to make the rich richer than their wildest
dreams. Get them to apply pressure to their representatives to push
for legislation lowering the length of the work week, increasing the
overtime premium, increasing the length of paid vacations, lowering
the age of retirement, and anything else you can think of that would
help get labor off the labor market, and create a positive demand for
labor. That should be at least as easy as organizing a revolution,
don't you think?

Ken Ellis

 

12-03-00

Dear readers,

In DB104, Aufheben's belittlement of shorter hours roughly paralleled the
opinions of Marx and Engels, who thought that shorter hours would be better
pursued after the revolution
. While Aufheben had little good to say about it,
Marx in Volume 3 of Capital regarded shorter hours as a prerequisite to freedom.

Shorter hours after a world-wide revolution would have fitted Marx's
revolutionary scenario very well, but, after Europe failed to support the
Russian revolution with long-lasting revolutions of its own, Marx's plan
became obsolete, and it's now time to take shorter hours off the
back burner and implement it in the here and now.

As tools of production become so advanced that the times cry out for workers
to take the benefits of increased productivity in the form of increased leisure
time, just like they did from 1820-1920, winning shorter hours becomes the
most appropriate thing workers can do about unemployment, poverty,
hunger, overproduction, environmental degradation, etc.

If workers were to more thoroughly share the remaining work by means
of shorter hours, interest and curiosity about revolution would decline even
further, which would deprive revolutionaries of an audience. Revolutionaries
steer workers away from shorter hours hoping that worsening conditions will
stimulate a revolution, even though the wholesale replacement of colonies and
monarchies with democracies in the past century means that the age of
revolution in the West has gone away forever.

Ken Ellis

 

12-03-00

Bruce wrote:

> Ken, hope you are enjoying further discourse,
> including, of course, the occasional digression...
> hope multiple nestings aren't too confusing.

I'm glad that Bruce seems up for this little tete a tete. I only have
difficulties with all of the little arrows in the multiple nestings, so I did a
little reformatting. Let me know if this clean-up effort doesn't work for you.

Also, I try to leave out dialogue that doesn't seem to be at issue, which
is why I don't repeat some dialogue. I do that to avoid posts that would
otherwise go on interminably. I hope you will find that to be OK as well.

> Property relations must necessarily change. Those
> who believe they own everything will give it up
> when they see an alternate belief system that
> benefits their quality of life in practical ways.
> Like Scrooge in _
A Christmas Carol_.

I also think that property relations will change, but, contrary to socialists
who want to change it in the here and now, I foresee the devaluing of property
only after the abolition of both work and class distinctions, because property
ownership will then no longer redound to anyone's benefit, so it will fade away
due to lack of popular interest. But, trying to do anything about property now
is only asking for strife and conflict, because people strongly associate their
personal security with their property, so will reject any attempt to change that
institution. If slavery was the only form of ownership people were willing to
fight to the death to either preserve or change, then think how hard people
today would fight to preserve the ownership of everything else. Socialists
rarely consider this lesson from the American Civil War.

>> What I want to know is if your idea for
>> a lower-class program of social justice
>> consists of simply reversing that rip-off,
>
> Well, reversing a rip-off, if we can all fully and
> freely observe and agree that it was one, is not, and
> does not have to be emotionally perceived as an attack.

This still sounds like it has a lot of socialist content. Because Bruce isn't
disputing the fact that communism was feasible only after overthrowing
monarchies and liberating colonies, then I wonder how he can still keep
communism in mind for democracies that aren't rotten ripe for overthrow.

> And, of course, you can't take all the surplus wealth,
> give it out to people who also have profound, perhaps
> even deeper (is it possible?) than the power elite,
> ignorance of its potential life enhancing benefits,
> and expect that a social cataclysm won't take place.
> Modern business and accounting practices have
> their places, but we won't know fully where those
> places are as our paradigm shift proceeds.

Which paradigm shift?

>>>> Those are all good questions for socialists to
>>>> wrangle over, but dialogue over those issues
>>>> wouldn't solve the problems of the millions
>>>> in this country who are homeless and hungry
>>>> and could use a little work to get by.
>>>
>>> This really smacks of a "pull yourself up by your
>>> bootstraps" attitude.
>>
>> In what way?
>
> The implication that the homeless need some kind of
> job provided by the system to be worthy of allowed to
> have shelter for their physical bodies, that they need to
> produce pecuniary value validated by the "free markets"
> in order to belong. The rest of the implication is that if
> the do-gooders would please sit down, we can get about
> the business of finishing with the triumph of market
> realism and that market forces will show these damaged
> men and women (and children?!) the path to
> participation in the commonwealth.

Now I think that I understand what you meant. If people continue to work
hard and over-produce for so little in exchange, here you would be correct in
decrying bringing the homeless into our false economy by means of some form
of make-work, which would do little to alleviate the waste, and which program
would only redound to the benefit of a few politicians who might then proudly
point to their pet program of making the homeless less visible.

On the other hand, sharing work by means of shorter hours would mean that the
work would be distributed much more fairly than at present. Some people have too
much work, while others have too little or none at all. Such an imbalance in work
distribution means competition for scarce jobs, which enables bosses to offer low
wages, causing poverty among the working poor. Shorter hour legislation would
move us in the direction of creating a scarcity of labor that would enable all willing
people to be brought into a more functional and meaningful economy. By making
labor scarce and more valuable, it would reduce incentives for creating wasteful
work, which would help save the environment.

> Again, if social mores could be reshaped to more closely
> (perfection, while conceptually cool, seems unlikely at first)
> parallel the nature of the real life continuum, people's
> movement toward healing themselves and their relations
> (real work, in the Gurdjieffian sense), would be compensated
> more and more directly, the tendency to give up and gather
> redeemables for a bottle and a bedroll under a bridge might
> be ameliorated. Damaged mentation (including that of the
> "law enforcement" officials so much a part of the lives of
> those in the netherworlds) would not be so supported, even
> manipulated into being. The moral equivalent of war.

Many of us are driven by similarly lofty ideals, but I'm still waiting for a
concrete proposal for legislation, or other measures we can sink our teeth into.

>> I think that Marx was wrong because his plan
>> proved to be overly ambitious. He wanted to capture
>> state power in order to abolish bourgeois property
,
>> which would have gone a long way toward diminishing
>> class distinctions. In retrospect, we can say that Marx's
>> program was quite plausible for the semi-feudal times
>> he lived in. The relatively peaceful democratization of
>> Europe in the latter half of his century eventually
>> ruined his scenario's chances.
>
> Marx couldn't imagine the profound changes he
> intuited occurring without someone DOING it. If
> property relations
needed to change, violence must
> be required, a
dictatorship of the proletariat was
> necessitated. <snip>
[sic]

Marx followed a long tradition of socialist thinking that 'property relations
need to be changed
', and he theorized that the overthrow of the monarchies of
his day would put the requisite force for changing property relations in the hands
of socialists. In the Minutes of the General Council of the First International, Marx
stated: 'Middle class republics have become impossible in Europe', meaning that
overthrowing monarchies would have enabled fledgling bourgeois democracies to
be quickly developed into his grand unified proletarian dictatorship, and [victorious]
socialists would have [then] had the power to expropriate property.

But, here are 2 places where the socialist scenario is obsolete: 1) Continuing
to think that re-distributing property and wealth is still necessary for social
justice
. We could get far more social justice simply by equitably distributing
work; 2) The political conditions in which the establishment of the worldwide
proletarian dictatorship was once plausible have all disappeared in the West.
Monarchies were replaced with democracies without accompanying socialist
revolutions until 1917, but the rest of Europe then failed to follow along
with Marx's scenario, dooming it to obsolescence.

>> It's true that our present system is no bed of roses,
>> but I would hate to think that Bruce may be thinking
>> that the present system might be unfeasible. It functions,
>> Bruce, it functions, particularly well for the rich. Because
>> our system is happening, it is feasible.
>
> By this same logic, I could have said the same of
> "socialism" during the reign of Stalin. I'm not sure
> we'll be able to reach a working agreement when you
> so assiduously insist that the system is working today.

Regardless of how well our system works for the rich, and how poorly it
works for the poor, our system is in operation, so it must have been feasible.
Because Stalinism worked for a while in the old Soviet Union, it too had to have
been feasible for its place and time. While Stalinism dwindles, democratic capitalism
conquers ever more turf. Our recent American election revealed that socialist solutions
are no more on the horizon than are any other thorough-going changes, so, what do
Americans do? In spite of the economic boom of the 1990's, the latest indicators
show that we may soon be headed for another economic crisis. Because the
clock is ticking, we need a concrete proposal to replace broken socialist dreams.

> Regarding the coming changes I foresee, it must first
> be plainly obvious to all involved that our social construct
> is rapidly running out of maneuvering room. If you don't
> see that the apparent placidity glazing the surface of our
> boundless, heedless ravenousness is largely the product
> of what Noam Chomsky called "
manufactured consent,"
> and that the forward momentum of the
Titanic we ride on
> is fueled by a consumerism that is directed to meeting
> imaginary needs (again, emotional hunger), then I begin
> to fear we must wait for the (inevitable) coming shocks as
> more and more draconian measures and environmental
> disasters wake the sleeping and ignorant. Dorothy,
> we're not in
Disneyland anymore.

Thanks to Pacifica, I also became a fan of Chomsky. About 10 or so years ago,
I saw him deliver a speech at UMass Dartmouth. I agree that we don't seem to
headed anywhere good unless we do something real about the growing gap
between rich and poor; but, the question remains: what exactly can we agree upon
doing? My study of the social question reveals that socialism belongs to the past
because of the undue and objectionable amounts of force that would be involved
in redistributing wealth and property, so, can we someday find consensus on the
unfeasibility of socialism so that we can move on to a better plan?

>> If socialism was happening in the USA, I would have
>> to say that socialism was feasible, but socialism isn't
>> happening. Socialism isn't unfeasible because it isn't
>> happening, rather it's not happening because it isn't
>> feasible.
>
> This is a circular argument. It isn't feasible because
> powerful people have feared it for approaching 100
> years, and have worked diligently at creating social
> control structures that mitigate against it, i.e. mass
> schooling, censored mass media, law enforcement
> technology, mind control, etc. Human nature, IMO,
> is not as venial as we're being sold it is (hear the drum
> beat on, relentlessly, hypnotically). We are capable of
> more than a fear of uncertainty that creates the certainty
> that our selfishness will bring about a terminal social
> dissonance of some kind, if only our own due to our
> own unease at the plight of the socially engineered
> tragedy we witness "below" us.

I wonder if these explanations don't so much explain why socialism isn't
feasible as they attempt to explain why socialism is far from being realized.
Is mass propaganda, mis-education, mind control, and human nature responsible
for socialism's non-realization, or is socialism unrealized in the West because too
many people suspect that socialism is incompatible with democracy? No one would
describe the communist or previously-communist countries as political democracies,
and most people understand the degree of force required to run communism (as
practiced). Irwin Silber spoke to a group of us on that very issue, and confirmed
a lot of average-joe consensus about the objectionable amounts of force involved.

About the censored mass media in the USA: You probably are aware that the
very real censorship faced by Lenin's party in the early 1900's didn't prevent the
Bolsheviks from coming to power, while America's relatively free press doesn't
prevent some of the most violent exhortations to overthrow our government to
be freely delivered by the Post Office, and passes unmolested on the Internet
as well, and yet the people here are far from ready to revolt.

Continued in part 2

Ken Ellis

 

12-03-00

Continued from part 1

>> It is impossible for the left to simultaneously create
>> a workers' state while replacing the state with a
>> classless and stateless administration of things.
>> If the left is going to try to do either of those two
>> things, then it also wouldn't make much sense to
>> try to simultaneously nationalize the means of
>> production into the hands of the existing state.
>
> Who would do such nationalization?

It's an old Social-Democratic dream.

> This would imply force and an extension of
> the ownership paradigm, which I believe, as I've
> said before, is due to a kind of hallucinogenic
> misapprehension of the nature of the reality
> continuum we are living in/creating continuously.
> The process of waking from this dream/nightmare
> is the process of the coming changes, again IMO.

Is this an argument against state ownership, and for common ownership instead?

>> If people insist upon being socialist to the
>> grave, but if socialist programs cannot but help
>> but be hopelessly split along those 3 major
>> factions, then the basis of the kinds of splitting
>> and feuding that has plagued socialism since the
>> days of Marx and Bakunin will be maintained, and
>> socialism won't get anywhere. Likewise, Pacifica
>> will remain split.
>
> Agreed, feuding on the left (or amongst people of
> good will, in general) is our constant bane. Mao was
> right in proposing that self-criticism is part of the
> answer, but not some kind of public self-flagellation.

Is self-flagellation all that we are doing? I like to think of this as a
reasonable conversation in search of common ground. If self-flagellation
is the only way socialists will ever be able to regard self-criticism, then it's
little wonder why so many are reluctant to dialogue. I think that we should
either own our ideologies and defend them the best way we can in public,
or our dawning understanding of our inability to defend obsolete ideologies
will hopefully persuade us to give them up in favor of adopting one that has
a decent chance of addressing our predicament. Or, we bury our heads in
the sand and take our broken socialist dreams with us to the grave.

> Each of us, in order to wake from the ways in which _we
> keep ourselves down_ (!) MUST constantly observe ourselves
> and take note of the ways in which our self-defensive myths bring
> us to distort our pictures of our lives and our relationships, and to
> attack others (and, as I mentioned previously, subconsciously
> attacking ourselves in the process). We need to have peace in
> our hearts, paradoxically even as we take a keener and keener
> interest in the truth of the suffering and malfeasance wrought
> by ignorance on all fronts. Amid the heroism and beauty.

Bravo.

>> <snip> People who would work to create a 35 hour
>> work week would have no need to viciously compete
>> with those who would choose to try to replace time
>> and a half with double time, nor would they conflict
>> with those who would try to legislate longer vacations
>> to augment our measly 2 week vacations. The same
>> goes for earlier retirement,
>
> What are we gonna do after we retire?

Play golf? Community service? Write a book? Research? Time for family and
friends? All that and more, I would guess. A century ago, when people were
still taking the benefits of increased productivity in the form of increased
leisure time, they eventually reached the point where a debate sprung up
about 'the threat of too much leisure time', and propagandists began to
extol the virtues of hard work and consumerism.

>> bringing all workers under the protection of
>> the Fair Labor Standards Act, etc. These are all
>> complementary to one another, and all aim for the
>> common goal of full participation in the economy,
>
> How are we going to participate in an economy run
> entirely by financier, technocrats, and robots, and owned
> entirely by, say, 1/2 of one percent of the population?

Let the bosses run their businesses, and let the workers control the labor
market with an eye to full employment, and that would be a major step in the
right direction. As long as we were in control of the labor market, it wouldn't
matter who owned what, for we would have the power to ensure everyone
of a fair share of the remaining work, no matter what.

For the past year, the media have proudly proclaimed that half of the USA
owns a piece of the stock market, and that half of the wealth in the market is
owned by pension funds. Isn't that ownership a lot broader than the reported
half of one percent?.

If we can't bring ourselves to advocate full participation in the economy,
then what's left but to advocate only partial participation, perhaps the meager
degree of today? This would prove our humanitarianism to be only skin-deep.
If, as the robots encroach on what little work that remains for humans to do,
we find ways to share that work, then we will also be preparing ourselves to
share the product of whatever entity creates the necessities of life when
there no longer is a way for humans to go out and earn them.

> This ownership, of course, predicated on
> the value of their work and creativity.

The rich can't help but get richer if we can't figure out a feasible and socially
acceptable way to stop endlessly enriching them. It should make sense to
everyone that the less we work for them, the less rich they will be, and if we
can do that while simultaneously putting everyone to work, then we would
be well on our way toward bringing social justice to the lower classes.

> Here in the greater San Jose Area, I see a
> good deal of participation by multiple families
> living in the same supposedly single-family home,
> with many working multiple jobs in which they're
> compensated in proportion the "real" value of their
> labor. A deeply hypnotic frame of reference.

Our present style of participation is so unbalanced that most people would
not describe it as 'full participation'. Full participation could be achieved by
militantly driving down hours of labor so that everyone could enjoy a single
good short-hour job. This would also give us the kind of mutual security
needed to be able to boycott the clear-cutting of the last of the old-growth
forests, the building of inhumane products such as land-mines, and a plethora
of other socially unredeeming jobs. With a positive demand for labor, workers
would be able to walk off the most irresponsible jobs without ever having to
look back, and workers' control would become a reality. Without us first putting
everyone to work by creating this artificial scarcity of labor, we will get nothing
better than what we already have. We need to replace workers' competition for
scarce jobs with bosses' competition for scarce labor. If we are all competing
for the last of the long-hour opportunities to make the rich richer than their
wildest dreams, then how can anyone expect anything good to happen?

> We are all participating fully in an energy economy on a
> moment to moment basis, and no system can prevent this.

This isn't a good model of full participation.

> The relative freedom created by the founders
> of the United States has given this a major chance
> to become more apparent. However, until we make a
> change to a system that acknowledges this explicitly,
> most of us will be participating largely in forging our
> own chains, either on the top, or the bottom, makes
> little difference in the end.

What are the details of the proposed changes to the system?

>> There is another goal that the best of the socialists,
>> communists and anarchists hold in common, and that
>> goal is the eventual arrival of classless and stateless
>> society, a goal I also share with them. I just don't think
>> that meddling with property and state is a valid means
>> of getting to classless and stateless society.
>
> As Jesus (Yeshua?) supposedly said, a man is as he
> thinks himself (a woman is as she thinks herself). If
> we don't "see" ourselves in the roles of the new
> feudal underclass, then it won't happen. But to
> do it with peace in our hearts is the key.

Can you help me better understand how Jesus, self-estimate, new feudal
underclass
, or peace in our hearts relates to what I wrote?

> We are under attack. By ourselves, HA. But
> seriously, it seems clear there are some sad,
> powerful people out there who believe we
> must be controlled for our own good.

Maybe there are, but they are few, and we are many. Or, are those few so
sinister, mean and powerful that we on the bottom will never get anywhere?
I used to have thoughts like this the many years I was a socialist, and I was
even warned about the imposition of 'industrial feudalism' unless we revolted,
but coming to understand the unfeasibility of socialism enabled me to see real
possibilities for progress in spite of private ownership, so I no longer have such
dark thoughts. If others can also come to regard socialism as having been
relevant only to the past, and see how inadequately Marx's scenario applied
to democracies, then they will also be able to see that we can all start fresh
and succeed in creating a better world, in spite of private property.

> And in order to do us this favor, they are working
> long and hard, with many examples of extreme
> self denial, to create a self-perpetuating system
> entirely resistant to change, for the absolute
> protection of massive capital (bits and bytes)
> accumulation. To protect themselves, but us
> also, or at least those of us like them, for
> they must belong as well, to something.

Who are these people? How does your view of them reconcile with Mao's 'paper tiger'?

>> <snip> Learning to share work equitably in the
>> present will prepare people to share the products
>> of whatever entities create the necessities of life
>> when there will be no way to go out and earn them.
>
> In this view, the necessities are something outside.

If I go to the store to get what I need to maintain the household, then
doesn't that mean that food, clothing, and medicine come from outside?

> The revolution will be to seeing that they are
> within, that they are always there, and that nothing
> stands between us and them. Sharing the stuff
> outside is one of the conditions requisite to
> opening and maintaining that flow from within.

Once again, I think that a more complete explanation might be in order.

>> If the purpose of socialism was to better enable
>> full participation, and if socialism is too divisive to be
>> of practical value, then why doesn't the left apply its
>> energies to various programs of full participation?
>> Or, would they rather fight among themselves? With
>> such dedication to fighting, sectarianism prevents
>> meaningful communication. The fact that Bruce
>> agrees to dialogue at all is cause for hope.
>
> The cause for hope is within each of us. If socialism
> is at its root the idea that living in relationship to each
> other and the living web of life has real benefit, then,
> ultimately, it will not be found to be divisive, and will
> be found to be of unmatched practical value.
> Down with sectarianism!

Does the above response constitute a redefinition of socialism? I thought that
socialism was all about dealing with government so as to better deal with private
property, which is traditionally regarded by socialists as the enemy of the people.

If socialism could be redefined in a more holistic fashion, thus attracting
so many millions that people decided one day to 'go for it', what would
their socialist plan amount to in concrete legislative terms?

A concrete and feasible plan for the future can only mean appropriate
legislation. Let me know what's wrong with a 35 hour week, double
time, a month of paid vacation per year, earlier retirement like Norway
(instead of the USA's later and later retirement).

For finding a solid basis for sisterhood and brotherhood,

Ken Ellis

 

12-03-00

Jimmy wrote:

> <snip> The point about eliminating unemployment
> is
not even a remote possibility inside capitalism,
> so that is
not a solution to the worker's problems.

I wonder what could make anyone think that way. We know from all
of our daily contacts that we are not organized as a class, and we know
that we would have to be very well organized to make a revolution, so
the question is: If we are capable of organizing ourselves around any
task at all, would we organize around the difficult chore of making a
revolution, or would we organize around a relatively simpler chore, like
sufficiently forcing down hours of labor so that everyone can fit into the
economy? As the machinery of production becomes smarter and smarter,
and human labor becomes increasingly redundant, society will soon be
faced with having to choose what to organize over. To demonstrate just
how close that moment is, here is an excerpt from a technology site:

"Sony built six units and used four of them in a demonstration during
which one robot walked, squatted, got up, balanced on one leg, was
directed to search for a colored soccer ball and then kicked that ball into
the goal. Three other robots showed up as a dancing team, waltzing
around the stage and doing synchronized choreography. In the soccer-
playing demo, the SDR-3X recognized an instruction to find a colored
ball. It located the net, moved next to the ball, shot the ball and then
recognized whether the ball landed in the net or missed.
"

Burger-flippers of the world, unite! You have only your aprons to lose.
If robots are that sophisticated now, then it won't be but a few years
more before they will be useful enough to displace at least some
human labor, and their evolution won't stop at that point.

> Marx probably did support the Ten Hours Bill, I
> suppose that he would have supported the
8 hour
> day and the 40 hour week
, but so what? In Britain
> there has been even further reductions in some
> industries, with no discernible improvements in
> the general conditions of the working class.

That's because we haven't gone anywhere nearly as far as we
should have gone in the direction of sharing work. In the USA,
Prof. Hunnicutt's "Work Without End" shows how fear and
greed in the 1930's halted a century's progress of workers
trading productivity gains for more leisure time. In the past
60-odd years, productivity has continued to increase, while
the length of the work-week has remained pretty much the
same, even though labor's burden could probably have
shrunk down to a 10 or 20 hour week by now, and
with a lot fewer social problems than we have today.

>> Marx never promised anyone a quick fix to
>> capitalism. Marx's program for democracies
>> was very sparse in details.
>
> You are correct about the quick fix,
> but sparse in detail, I don't think so.

Sparse in detail, I am correct. For instance, Marx never spelled
out whether extra violence would be needed to further develop
fledgling bourgeois democracies into proletarian dictatorships.
He never said whether workers would have to fight a civil war
for socialism after their parties won elections in democracies.
Where were his final answers to socialists on these crucial
issues? If what he had written had covered all of the bases,
sectarianism would never have come to dominate the socialist
movement, and there would have been but one international
party of Marxism. As it is today, there are dozens of parties
calling themselves Marxist, socialist or communist, etc., and
all of them are at each other's throats, trying to outdo the
other Marxisms. That can only be because Marxism is
subject to interpretation, meaning that what Marx and
Engels created was too big and complex, even for
giants like them.

If Marx had written a single work perfectly outlining his revolutionary
programs for all occasions, then it would be easy for any scholar to
correct any person or party who might vary. As it is, scholars who have
devoted their lives to the study of Marx and Engels have different views
about his revolutionary program. I have studied M+E since the 1970's,
and you may have witnessed over the past few months how different my
perspective is from those of the other correspondents, and each of us
thinks that they alone are correct. It was good to be able to convince one
correspondent that the program of M+E included turning the means of
production into state property
, but no one will admit that it was to be
proletarian state property. No correspondent distinguishes between
monarchies and democracies, nor do they distinguish between those
two forms of state and a workers' state. Monarchies, democracies and
workers' states are all the same to those who would abolish the state.
That right there is a departure from Marxism, for Marx is on record
as regarding democracies as the negation of monarchies. If a member
of the WSM, you should grab that tiger by the tail and demand some
final resolution. 2+2 can't equal both 4 and 5 at the very same time.

snip points not in contention

>> So, anyone today who thinks that capitalist
>> exploitation could be quickly gotten rid of could
>> not have gotten their idea from Marx, and must
>> instead be repeating the thoughts of lesser lights.
>>
>> Good luck with trying to do all that in a day.
>> You will need a big appetite for civil war.
>
> This part I tend to agree with you, except
> the reference to a big appetite for a civil war,
> large or small. Universal suffrage, and a class
> conscious working class will take care of that,
> and it will not be done in a day.

In history, however, abolishing bourgeois property without
compensation
has taken civil wars. While it is perfectly all right
for some people to say that you can do certain things without a
war, and it is perfectly all right for others to believe in what some
people say, it's another thing entirely to be accurate enough to get
a lot of people to adopt a party program. Take a close look at what
parties advocate, and look at what people historically have been
willing to do to bring about social justice. Weigh their political
circumstances, and you will find that abolishing bourgeois property
was feasible only after overthrowing feudal monarchies or after
liberating colonies, occasions when socialists and communists
enjoyed full state power, proving that socialism is based upon
having raw force at the disposal of activists, which is a lot
more effective than tossing around mere assertions.

> I think that I have gone for long enough, in fact
> more than I intended, but let me leave you with a
> quote from Marx in his address in 186
2 to the
>
International Workingmen's Association which
> was subsequently published under the title
Value
> Price and Profit
. He urged them to, abandon the
> motto:
A fair days pay for a fair days work and
> adopt the revolutionary watchword,
Abolition of
> the wages system
. I would say that was a clear
> enough message.

Marx was a revolutionary, but he lived in revolutionary times,
while we do not. He had a plausible revolutionary scenario for
his era: simultaneous revolutions in the most advanced countries;
but it was just a little too far-fetched for the very part of the world
where he predicted his revolutions would happen first. Instead of
Marx's scenario, the world got revolutions in backward countries
one at a time. Today, capitalist democracies are increasingly
successful all over the world, and those two trends put
together signify the decline and fall of Marxism. It's
past time to replace broken socialist dreams.

Ken Ellis

 

12-03-00

Sorry to be slow in responding. I just got my reminder to at least
answer the last question. Here's the whole ball of wax:

Danny quoted me:

>> Morris wrote a fine essay. But, also a little dated
>> where he says: "Who will dare to deny that the great
>> mass of civilized men are poor?
" It's difficult at best
>> to regard all of my neighbors as poor, what with
>> their homes, cars, boats, TVs, stereos, etc. >
>
> Hi Ken
> I don't have the time to reply in full to your post, however
> this little paragraph of yours is most revealing and I can't
> resist an open goal. Who do you see as your neighbours
> Ken? Are they those that you can see from your street door?

Those were the ones I had in mind. Mine is just an average
neighborhood. A mix of single family dwellings, double deckers,
and triple deckers. Not too far from the center of town, and not too
far from the neighboring relatively woodsy countryside, though the
latter is too quickly developing into subdivisions. People who like to
disparage our neck of the woods refer to my town and the next one
down the road as 'the armpits of the universe'. When unemployment
strikes, it hits our part of the state pretty hard. Right now, few
complain about the economy, though we suspect that the
recent downturn in the stock market will soon have negative
consequences here before it hits some other places.

> Those that live in the same town or state or even perhaps
> the same country? I'm sure that if you took a really good
> look at the US (the most powerful and productive state
> there is) alone you'd discover more poverty than riches.

I lived in New York City for a couple of months, and 10 years
later stayed over a week in the heart of the famous Pine Ridge
Reservation
of South Dakota while trying to jump-start a Native
American
owned and operated radio station. I've driven through
the state of Maine and was astounded at how poverty stricken it
looked compared to neighboring Canada. I've driven through
crumbling towns in West Virginia. I worked for a number
of years around some pretty depressed parts of the San
Francisco Bay Area. So, I have seen plenty of pockets of
poverty, but the prevailing impression is that of a bell
curve, with a predominance of middle-class existence.

> Along with material poverty (which is irrefutable in
> the US) it's possible to have cultural poverty, sexual
> poverty, the poverty of relationship in general and the
> poverty found in dull, irksome pointless toil for the
> benefit of a leech class.

That would be foolish to try to deny.

> This is the point Ken, along with your *rich* neighbours
> I assume you have the use of a television, now when I watch
> my set it's impossible to avoid the reporting of poverty on an
> obscene scale all over this world of ours, you must see it too.
> But because these people ain't your neighbours, their poverty
> doesn't exist, they don't exist! Does it? Do they?

Sure they do, and so does their poverty. I didn't become a
socialist to please myself. I wanted to change the world for the
good of the oppressed people of the world, and I still do. I just
don't want to waste the rest of my life trying to accomplish the
impossible. If you haven't been able to detect this, maybe I'm
doing a worse job of explaining myself than I thought.

> You exhibit so clearly what socialism must eradicate to
> achieve its ends, this disconnection, atomisation, alienation,
> you're condemned by your own keyboard Ken, you're alienated,
> not only from others but as it must follow, from yourself.

Danny seems to have given us a 'pull yourself up by your
bootstraps
' problem: If socialism has yet to achieve its ends
because it has yet to eradicate disconnection, atomisation,
and alienation, then socialism is stuck, isn't it?

This is not to deny my own disconnection, atomisation, and
alienation. When I was but a wee lad, I remember my friends
and I intensely discussing our mutual oppression by our schools,
parents and churches, and it seemed that we were of a like mind in
opposing them for awhile. One by one, though, the others abandoned
their radical opinions and became like the rest of the world, while I
maintained my opposition for a long time, and remember feeling quite
alone in my radicalism. Anyone else have a similar experience?

> As the man said 'I am he as you are he as you are me and
> We are all together!
' You must have read Marx where he
> wrote that
the ruling ideas in any society are the ideas of
>
those that rule. As I see it in this commercial world we
> have the blindfolded ruling the blinkered. So come on
> Ken, you can do it, rip 'em off.

Does Danny think I had my blinders off while I was a socialist
(1972-94), and that I put them on in order to move away from
socialism? It seems to me that in 1994 I peeled off another blinder.

> <snip> And now for a question to which a considered
> answer would be welcome; If in your proposed society
>
all our needs will be met electromechanically and all
> work is done by robots including I assume the making
> and development of robots, what will humans do?

Freed from work, everyone will do whatever they want to do,
I would guess. What's your guess as to what they'll do?

Ken Ellis

 

12-05-00

Danny prodded:

> Ken
> That really isn't good enough. I repeat when the machines
> are doing all the work what will us humans do?
>
> Come on Ken, use your imagination, what is it that you
> can see us getting up to that requires no work, when we
> have these super robots to do it all?
>
> Hopefully yours
> Danny.

Human beings certainly feel the need to get up and move about,
if my observations of the younger elements among us aren't all wrong.
In the early part of the 20th century, psychologists observed the need for
humans to play. Psychologists welcomed the shorter hour movement of
the Progressive era because the realization of shorter hours was giving
humans more time to play. In the workless future, people will continue
to play lots of games, and will invent new ones as well. All that we
activists have to do is worry about how best to phase in a
wonderful new way to live.

Hoping that this helps,

Ken Ellis

 

12-05-00

Jimmy quoted me:

>> Marx was a revolutionary, but he lived in revolutionary
>> times, while we do not. He had a plausible scenario for his
>> revolutionary times, but it was just a little too far-fetched for
>> the very part of the world where he predicted his revolution
>> would begin. Hence, the eventual failure of Marx's plan, and the
>> increasing success of capitalist democracies all over the world.
>
>
<snip>
>
> I disagree with your assertion about his plausible
> scenario being a little too far fetched for every part
> of the world. Marx's idea of socialism/communism
> depended then, as now on a class conscious working
> class armed with universal suffrage. I do not see how
> you can say that
Marx's plan failed. Something can
> only fail if it is tried and found to be wanting.

I'm glad that Jimmy has decided to grapple with the historical
issues related to socialism. In waters where few others tread,
Jimmy bravely goes. This is good, and he should interrupt
and ask more questions where he sees fit to do so.

In the many French revolutions especially, it was noted that
workers increasingly came out for themselves as a class in
each successive struggle, pushing their own class interests to
the fore, evolving out of their previous role as compliant tools of
the bourgeoisie's battles with feudal aristocracies. Building upon
this observation, Marx's idea for proletarian revolution was for
workers to further develop fledgling bourgeois democracies into
a European-wide unified proletarian dictatorship. This scenario
pre-dated [the full implementation of] universal suffrage in most
countries, if not all, for only a small handful of democracies
existed back then, and not even the USA or England enjoyed
UNIVERSAL suffrage. [The franchise was encumbered everywhere
with a wide variety of property ownership requirements.]

Marx knew that communist and socialist sentiment was weak
enough back then that the workers could never initiate a socialist
revolution on the basis of their own anti-oppression sentiments. A
campaign for socialism would prove to be a mere uprising that would
easily be crushed. Socialists needed to use the antagonism of both the
bourgeoisie and workers against the monarchists, so Marx wanted
workers and socialists to be very much a part of the revolutionary
movement to replace monarchies with democracies, and to further
develop those fledgling democracies into a grand unified proletarian
dictatorship
. Overthrowing enough European monarchies at the
very same time
would have given triumphant socialists the mutual
security needed to establish the confiscatory measures that would
have forever removed the sources of riches and power that had
previously enabled the upper classes to re-establish their rule by
means of counter-revolution. After the crushing of the Paris
Commune
, Marx noted that it failed due to a lack of solidarity -
Madrid, Berlin, etc., failed to revolt at the same time as Paris,
and so they could not assure mutual success by supporting
one another's revolutions.

> So, I would suggest to you that to date his plan has
>
not failed, simply because it has not yet been tried.

What was Marx's plan? Was Marx's plan for world-wide revolution
based upon the very real dynamics I described above, or was it
based upon something else? If so, please describe his
revolutionary plan as you see it.

Marx's plan for world-wide revolution was never tried in its totality,
though furtive attempts were made at the times of the Paris Commune
and the Russian revolution; but, the failure of other countries to revolt
in sympathy and resonance doomed Marx's plan to obsolescence and
extinction once the old monarchies disappeared forever.

> In Marx's time the capitalist democracies that were
> increasingly successful all over the world, as they
> did, were
anything but democratic.

That's a [semi-]valid observation, but the new democracies were
a good step forward in that they satisfied a lot of democratic and
independence cravings in one fell swoop. Since then, the world's
democracies have made incremental and gradual progress
towards universal suffrage, civil rights, etc.

> Universal suffrage was only gradually being won,
> and in Britain, any way universal suffrage to all adults
> over the age of 18 years was finally granted during the
> Wilson
Labour Government of the 1960's. A long way
> from Marx's time wouldn't you say.

This is true, and it's amazing that it took the Brits so long.
Is it true that they still don't have a guarantee to free speech
like our American First Amendment: 'Congress shall pass no
law abridging the freedom of speech
, etc.'?

> Now that a considerable number of the world's
> workers have the vote, all that is needed is the class
> consciousness. So you see Ken, while the
Socialist
> Party
is endeavoring to propagate Marx's idea the
> Case for Socialism we do live in revolutionary times.

If by 'revolutionary times' you are thinking about overthrowing
something, Engels regarded the English democracy, even in his
day, to be 'good enough for workers to get what they want.'

Marx's idea for socialism included a universal proletarian
dictatorship
, and included turning all property into the property
of the state
, both of which ideas we will probably all agree are
obsolete, so you should specify what you mean by 'the SP
propagating Marx's idea
'.

> PS, It does not matter if there are some parts of the
> so called
Third World that have not reached the same
> development as the largely industrialised part of the
> world. As long as the class conscious majority of the
> workers in the capitalist democracies { that you seem
> to be so fond of }, want to establish Socialism, then
> that is that. The worlds population will have it.

If the world's population wants socialism, then who am I to stand in
the way of a strong tide of sentiment? The question arises, however:
does the majority of the workers want to establish socialism? Few
need to be reminded of how small the socialist movement actually is.
It's problematic size was a burning question for me 25 years ago,
and my investigation uncovered the reasons why socialism in the
20th century could never be a large movement: Socialism aims at
the conversion of property into common property, while few in the
world are interested, though that doesn't mean that their sentiment
couldn't change. What also militates against socialism becoming
favorable under present circumstances is that socialism acquired a
bad name, which is one possible reason why some correspondents
are interested in changing the name of the WSM.

Ken Ellis

 

12-07-00

Tony quoted me:

>> the answer is: proper legislation can prevent
>> both unemployment and crises of over-production.
>
> Of course, since it will keep all of those legislators working.

That critique implies that keeping fat-cat politicians in office is my
primary consideration. What did I say that would make Tony think
that? Just because I know that it's foolish to want to abolish bourgeois
democracies, does that mean that I support its worst manifestations?

> Good thing socialism eliminates both of those problems
> by producing for consumption and not profit.

In what country can I find this? If not, then it might be better to
avoid the present tense, at least until socialism actually happens.

> If legislation was the answer, why has it taken until
> modern times to arrive on that conclusion? And if
> legislation is so jim dandy at solving problems, why
> hasn't this legislation passed yet, and why do we
> still have problems at all?

Maybe we haven't passed that particular legislation because
Tony and his fellow revolutionaries refuse to work for legislation
in the interests of the working class, and instead work for socialism,
even though socialism is strongly rejected in the West.

> It's not for lack of legislation;
> we seem to have a good deal of that already.

The only reason we have so much yucky legislation is that we
don't yet have the right amount of the right kind that would enable
us to eliminate a lot of purely oppressive and wasteful laws.

> When has legislation ever really solved a problem
> instead of creating them?

If it wasn't for legislation, people would be driving around in cars
without lights, mufflers or pollution controls; elephants would be
extinct because of people taking their ivory; you'd be able to rob
or rape your neighbor without fear of punishment from the state,
but watch out if your neighbor's relatives come looking for you.
I suppose I could go on at length, but I think you get the point
that legislation protects individuals as well as groups and classes.

> When has it made anyone's life better
> at the expense of no-one else?

When it comes to one thing being implemented at the expense of another,
socialism isn't exempt, for it would happen at the expense of the rich.

> When has it made anyone happy?

If Parliament passed a tax (or some other kind of) bill to benefit
you in particular, that might tend to make you happy.

Ken Ellis

 

12-08-00

Bob wrote:

> Hi Ken,
> "
The market never hurt anyone." I do not believe
> a person of your obvious intelligence could make
> such a statement and expect people to go along
> with it. The US court system, in which you have
> so much faith, is replete with examples of the
> market, not only hurting people but killing them.
>
> The classic case was the construction of the
Ford
> Pinto automobile (car), the fuel tank was placed in
> a position that was recognised as being dangerous
> but could save the company $US9 per car. They knew
> the risk of being sued, and calculated it was still worth
> it to save on costs. The
US Supreme Court awarded
> unprecedented millions of dollars damages to a child
> who survived the crash that killed both his parents
> and left him permanently disfigured.

In that case, it sure doesn't sound as though Ford's little 'gamble
in the marketplace' paid off very handsomely for them. It sounds
as though the jury punished them for putting profits before people.
Engineers must have agonized about that fuel tank, but were too
insecure to say anything, going to bed at night knowing they were
wrong for not making a stink. Imagine, on the other hand, all workers
uniting to create the artificial shortage of labor that would enable
engineers to speak up without fear, knowing that, even if fired from
Ford, they would be able to design better cars at GM or Chrysler, etc.
Do you see how competition for long-hour opportunities to make the
rich richer than their wildest dreams makes sniveling cowards of us all,
and how it prevents workers' control at the point of production? From
this perspective, how can anyone rightfully blame the Pinto fiasco on
'the market'? It's a failure of the engineers, their bosses, and us all.

Bob seems to be playing the old 'blame game'. If capitalism or the
market can be fingered as to blame for people's problems, then perhaps
a case could be made for abolishing the market and capitalism. In another
part of the forum, people are presently pointing to zillions of deaths and
atrocities as 'innocent victims of capitalism'. One problem with this approach
is that: In every case, examined minutely enough, coroners write down specific
causes of death, and none of the death certificates read 'capitalism'. Because
most of what happens in the world happens within the context of the capitalist
system, is it correct to blame capitalism for everything? Did people back in
feudal times blame feudalism for their problems? Did people back in the days
of primitive communism blame their system for their universal poverty and
hard times? From that perspective, I hope you can see how silly blaming
capitalism becomes. In democracies, problems are identified, and appropriate
legislation is passed to ameliorate or eliminate problems. Would anyone want
to blame capitalism for the election woes in Florida? Maybe some would. In
another few months, appropriate legislation will hopefully be passed that will
bring the American election system up to date, and will put paper ballots and
associated technology into the museum of antiquities, along with the
spinning wheel and bronze axe.

snip woeful tales of product safety, outright harmful products,
and planned obsolescence

Every complaint in that list could be adequately taken care of by
workers' control, which is something that we will never have as
long as we suffer from competition over scarce jobs. People who
want to act on moral principle are prevented from doing so, for
they know that as soon as their exercise of moral fortitude gets
them fired from their lousy jobs, a dozen times as many others
will fight among themselves for the privilege of committing the
very same crimes against people and the planet. While workers
compete among themselves for scarce jobs, the net effect of their
moral compunction is nil. As many times as I bring up the nitty-
gritty of the evils of competition for scarce jobs, socialists have
nothing to say, for they think socialism is the perfect answer to
every modern problem. When I was a socialist, I felt the same
way, but later found out that it was mere self-hypnosis. It took
writing a refutation of lies to get me out of my trance, but what
will it take to get others out of their trances? (Your assignment,
Bob, is to write a refutation of lies to see if it works as well for
you as it worked for me.)

>> "The market never hurt anyone. Markets are civil
>> institutions. Various countries have tried working
>> without markets before, and look at what happened
>> to them. Recently, practically all of the previously
>> marketless economies are phasing markets back
>> into operation."
>
> There is
not a country in the world that has tried working
> without markets and in which workers have not worked
> for wages or bought their daily subsistence.

Excluding a commodities market doesn't automatically exclude
a labor market. Commodity production quotas in the Soviet Union
and other countries were determined by the government. Sector
managers who could meet the state-determined goals were
rewarded, while those who couldn't were punished.

> In fact Soviet workers had a saying, "they pretend to
> pay us, and we pretend to work
". During the Cultural
> Revolution
in China, Mao proclaimed that "the children
> of capitalists must be allowed to join the
Communist
> Party
if they wished". The Soviet, Lada car was built
> with the assistance of the
Ford and Fiat companies.
> The Siberian gas pipe lines were financed by a
>
Texas Consortium backed by Hunt petroleum.
>
> Sorry Ken, but whether backed by state or private
> capital the market has intruded into all of our lives,
> and it is as
pernicious as ever. The "trickle down effect"
> so often lauded by economists is best described by the
> Canadian economist JK Galbraith, advisor to the J.F.
> Kennedy administration, he said "
the trickle down effect
> is like saying when the horse shits, the sparrow eats
".

So, is the problem with the market, or with a lack of workers'
control? I know that you like the idea of shorter hours, but I've
never heard you say anything good about workers' control, or
how to get it. You seem to still regard shorter hours as strictly
a post-revolutionary measure, and won't fight for it in the
present tense. Why not?

> "The market never hurt anyone." Don't make me
> laugh, for someone who was supposed to have been
> a socialist, you haven't learned much about capitalism.

You should consider the advantages of achieving workers'
control in the present tense, and you should reflect on the
impossibility of achieving it without first creating the artificial
scarcity of labor that would enable each worker to freely choose
between doing evil or opting out. When it comes to creating a
moral society, I trust the morality of the workers far more than
I trust the morality of bosses who are driven by profit motives.
Shorter hours is the best way to give the workers the space and
freedom they need in order to act in their own class interests. If
activists can't help workers to achieve this rather logical goal,
then their alternative 'isms may not be all that they are cracked
up to be. I question the morality of any 'ism that can't help
workers win a moral society in the present tense. It's always:
wait for the revolution, but the revolution never comes.

Ken Ellis

 

12-09-00

Dear friends of swt,

Since we know that time and a half is too little disincentive against long
hours, what do you think about starting off with a bill to raise the overtime
premium from time and a half to double time after 40?

It wouldn't do much good to try to legislate a 35 hour week if it's still going
to be cheaper to keep people working long hours than to hire new people.

Another possibility is legislation to bring all workers under the protection
of the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act). As we know, a lot of labor is exempt.
Anyone have a list of the current categories of exempt workers? I'm pretty
sure agricultural labor is exempt.

Another possibility is to get behind the current movement to guarantee 3 weeks
minimum paid vacation, upgrading from the present standard of 2 weeks.

Since we have to start somewhere, let's kick around a few pros and cons
on these proposals and possibly more.

Ken Ellis

 

12-09-00

Leonard wrote:

> how are we going to know that socialism is a progressive
> solution unless it can be theoretically justified.

That it can't be theoretically justified doesn't help it very much.
Socialism was fit only for Marx's era, when there were still a few
European monarchies to be overthrown, and the resulting fledgling
democracies fashioned into a universal proletarian dictatorship. The
fact that it didn't happen then, and couldn't be brought about in
conjunction with the Russian revolution, proves that socialism was
more emotion than science. Though socialism was supposed to
happen first and simultaneously in the most advanced countries,
socialist-inspired revolutions happened first in less-developed
parts of the world, and one at a time. Because the course of
events didn't adhere to Marx's socialist scenario, socialism's
threat to advanced democracies continues to diminish. R.I.P.

> nowhere in the world today is the working class
> going to bring about socialist revolution overnight

So true, and with the supremacy of democracy, what is there to
revolt about anyway? Where are the monarchies to overthrow?
Are workers to overthrow democracies merely because of their
economic oppression? On what planet has this ever happened?

> As long as neo-liberalism does not cause widespread
> unemployment it will be tolerated by the working class;

An unprecedented replacement of human labor by computers
and technology in the next few decades will certainly cause
a crisis. Some socialists think that only socialism can fix
unemployment, even though the essence of socialism
deals with government in order to establish common
property, which says nothing in itself about jobs.

> history in terms of scientific and technological
> development for the material benefit of mankind
> has progressively
come to an end in the light of
> the exigencies of the ecological imperative.

Then why hasn't the stock market crashed yet?

> I do not think that the modern-day working class
> is too stupid to understand socialism.

Most workers stay away from socialism because they
understand it better than what socialists give them credit.

On the 8th, Leonard added:

> What is perhaps agreed upon is that on a worldwide
> scale the productive forces of capitalism could technically
> at least adequately provide for the material needs of
> everyone on the planet, and that, as long as the capitalist
> law of value operates, there will still be widespread poverty.

Not necessarily so, if we can unite to create the universal
artificial shortage of labor that would put everyone to work,
put a damper on consumerism, and provide workers the space
to implement workers' control. Sharing work would also prepare
them for the day when the machines take over far more completely,
and prepare them to share the products of whatever entity creates the
means of life when there's no longer a way to go out and earn them,
which could begin in earnest as soon as 20-odd years from now.

> it is necessary to limit material consumption

There's no better way to do that than by militantly driving down
hours of labor to provide a little work for everyone who could
use some, while eliminating a lot of wasteful over-activity.

> I think that it is just futile trying to explain
> unpalatable objective facts to ideologues.

You noticed that too? But, don't forget that we are all in this
together, and before we resort to hitting each other over the
head to drive home our 'correct' perspectives, it might be better
to maintain the dialogue for as long as we can. It sometimes
works: I was able to get one correspondent to finally admit that
Marx's program included turning the means of production into
state property
. (It's right there in black and white, so one cannot
deny some things without simultaneously shooting oneself in the
foot.) So, if we persist with presenting material which we know
in our souls to be correct, we can sometimes make progress.

Ken Ellis

 

12-09-00

Tony wrote:

> Revolutionaries fight for revolutions,
> not for silly band-aids.
<snip>

Once again, then, where's the absolute monarchy to overthrow,
and where's the colony to liberate? Or, are you working for
a revolution to relieve the economic hardship of workers in
democracies? Where has a revolution like that ever occurred?

> Oh wait, I think you have the United States confused
> with a democracy. We are a republic, sir. Shmoes
> like me don't make the laws.

Not if we don't exercise our right to initiative. Californians and
residents of a few other states often exercise that right, as in the
recent victories for medical marijuana, and a long list of other
propositions. A lot of activists believe that we need the initiative
on a national level as well. I'd second that motion.

> Your adherence to the idea that legislation is necessary
> to fix an economy reminds me of a line from a Star Trek
> movie: "
Just what does god need with a starship?"

It's obvious from the sentiments of many in the forum that its
revolutionaries don't need existing democracies for anything,
because they can go out and create anything they want. Before
that, they just need to attract a following, that's all. But, that
should present little problem for those who can see their
revolution coming down the pike, if we can just wait a little
longer. If things get bad enough, people will follow, right?
After all, Marx said it was inevitable. Lenin said 'the revolution
is inevitable
' at least 10 times more often than Marx.

>> The only reason we have so much yucky legislation is that
>> we don't yet have the right amount of the right kind that would
>> enable us to eliminate a lot of purely oppressive and wasteful laws.
>
> Can I rephrase this circular argument? "
The only reason we
> have bad legislation is because we don't have good legislation
> that would enable us to get rid of bad legislation.
" Hoo Ha!

If labor had its way in the Depression, and the 30 hour bill
had been passed, we would then have maintained a century-old
tradition of taking productivity gains in the form of more leisure
time. (Average hours of labor in the heart of the Depression fell
below 35.) Instead, we got longer hours, make-work, consumerism,
a much bigger government, and other wasteful policies. Passing the
good 30 hour bill would have obviated the passage of a lot of bad,
wasteful, and oppressive laws. While labor was fighting for their
30 hour bill, what were the socialists doing? Fighting for socialism!
They could afford to fight for socialism then, and they can still
afford to fight for it now. In democracies, where socialism has
always been regarded as an absurdity by the majority, socialists
have always ignored the interests of the working class.

> Tis a shame, what with 535 lawmakers who all work less
> and make more money than I do. They've been at it for 224
> years. How long do you think it will take those 535 people
> to make some un-yucky legislation? Should I hold my breath?
> Write them a letter? Bribe them?

Writing a letter and bribing aren't the worst suggestions for
persuading them to pass legislation that would help the working
class get a fairer share of the remaining work, preventing both
underemployment and overwork. Unless we'd rather have truck
drivers, railroad engineers and airline pilots continue to operate
while impaired by fatigue, which has caused quite a few
crashes, as we all know.

>> If it wasn't for legislation, people would be driving
>> around in cars without lights, mufflers or pollution controls;
>
> until they hit a tree in the dark, went deaf or died
> from the carbon monoxide. Where are these dummies?

Maybe they all live in my home town. I used to do auto
inspections back in the 1960's. You'd be surprised and amused
at what people would drive around in, if allowed to get away with it.

>> elephants would be extinct because
>> of people taking their ivory;
>
> because capitalists buy it, silly. Ivory would be
> worthless in a socialist society. The same is said
> for any luxury commodity. Sheesh!

Ivory might not have exchange value under socialism, but it will
always have use value. What's to stop all the free people from
taking the ivory for its use value? A rule? A law? Moral restraint?

>> you'd be able to rob or rape your neighbor
>> without fear of punishment from the state
>
> the reasons to rob and rape have increased over time
>
> the amount of legislation against robbery and rape has
> increased over time
>
> the amount of robbery and rape has increased over time
> hmmmmmm.........

Therefore, legislation causes robbery and rape! Is that the
conclusion we are supposed to reach? If so, then eliminate
robbery and rape by eliminating legislation
. Sign me up! ;-)

>> but watch out if your neighbor's relatives come looking
>> for you. I suppose I could go on at length, but I think
>> you get the point that legislation protects individuals
>> as well as groups and classes.
>
> Yessiree Bob. Should I carry the Ohio
Revised Code in my
> pocket as I walk through the East side of Youngstown at
> Midnight? Maybe I could whack that potential rapist over
> the head with all that useful legislation.

If people weren't so alienated and driven to madness and desperation
by the disparities in the distribution of work, then maybe you would
be able to walk safely. Shorter hour legislation could fix that.

Are you from Youngstown? In a cold January of 1970, in the
middle of a snowstorm, I went there (in a pickup truck without a
heater) to buy a couple of Matchless 350cc British Army surplus
motorcycles. Six months later, I rode one to Labrador and back.
Dem was da good old days. God, how I hated Youngstown. They
had traffic lights on every corner, and none of them were coordinated.
The light turns green, and ya get stuck forever at the very next light,
with no cross traffic! Took an hour to get from one end of town to
the other. Are the lights still uncoordinated?

>>> When has it made anyone's life better
>>> at the expense of no-one else?
>>
>> When it comes to one thing being implemented at
>> the expense of another, socialism isn't exempt, for
>> it would happen at the expense of the rich.
>>
> Oh come Ken, it takes more than a classic Ellis
> Maneuver to throw me. Answer my question.

I didn't know that my dialogue was so tainted by evasion
and subterfuge. Live and learn.

The answer is NEVER. Legislation has never made anyone's life
better at the expense of no one else. I'm nearly as anti-legislation as
anyone else, but please let me have just a few little laws, and it would
make things so much better for everyone. Let's make a deal: You let
me have my few little laws, and I'll let you have your revolution. OK?

Awright, so you saw through that one. You know as well as I that my
few little laws would take away every bit of interest in the revolution. So,
be a spoilsport and don't help me get my little laws, and then maybe people
will revolt because of the lousy conditions that are bound to result. Isn't that
the unspoken essence of motivation behind the revolution? I would be very
interested in your opinion on whether 'mass suffering will cause the
revolution', and whether socialists welcome suffering as the surest
factor in driving the masses into their arms. It's difficult to get
socialists to comment on this, so please give it a try.

>>> When has it made anyone happy?
>>
>> If Parliament passed a tax (or some other kind of) bill to
>> benefit you in particular, that might tend to make you happy.
>
> The Tony Enrichment bill might be an exciting prospect
> until one second later I realise that the government would
> be taking from others AND myself to give to me. No thanks,
> I have a little more integrity than that. How could I call myself
> a socialist if I fell for such simple bait? Puhleeez.

Such a good sentiment. Can you extend it beyond money
matters? Do you have a good job or two? 3? 4? Do you know
someone who doesn't have a job? Failing the achievement of
your socialist goal in the next few years, how would you feel
about legislation in the meantime raising the overtime premium
to double time in order to apply a little disincentive to keeping
workers on the job beyond 40 hours, which would hopefully
encourage bosses to hire more people? Can you bring your
humanitarianism and integrity to bear on this item?

For coordinated traffic lights,

Ken Ellis

 

12-09-00

Ben asked:

> I would be interested to know how effective advertising
> is and how its "success" is actually measured. Does
> anyone know if advertising executives actually think
> adverts and/or product placement (in films, TV etc.)
> can directly sell products?

I remember an old analysis of Coca-Cola's advertising strategy:
Their advertising budget was determined according to cost vs.
benefit
. If they spent much less than a certain amount, sales
would slump too low. On the other hand, they could pour in a
seeming infinite amount of $ above a certain level with hardly any
extra sales. So, they aimed to spend that magic minimum amount
that would maximize sales without overly damaging profits.

I hope this helps at least a little.

Ken Ellis

PS: Will try to answer Ben's other messages in a couple of days.

 

12-11-00

Thanks to Dana's and Joe's recent additions, we now have
5 legislative items for consideration:

double time instead of time and a half

3 or 4 weeks vacation instead of 2

bringing in all workers under the protection of the FLSA

replace fixed salaries with hourly rates of pay (is there a better way to say this?)

freedom of choice as to salary or hourly pay

Any more suggestions for immediate legislation?

Dana also wrote:

> Sorry to be so negative, but my frustration lies
> in the fact that legislation moves in geologic time.

I hope no one is forgetting to factor in the speed of change in the near
future: IBM's recent announcement of the likelihood of a computer as
smart as a human in 10 years, but covering 2 basketball courts
. At the
rate of miniaturization, it might be only another 10 years beyond that
when such a degree of smarts will fit into a teacup, and the age of
truly effective replacement of all human labor begins.

Most people will remain unruffled at the thought of the complete replacement
of human labor and think: We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, and, in the
meantime, get on with life as best as we can.
For us, it might be at least a little
fun and recreational to anticipate appropriate legislation for the days in the
not-too-distant future when legislation will really be needed.

It's true that in some sectors that time and a half can be fairly effective,
but in others it was discovered that the cost of health insurances and other
benefits for new employees was more expensive than keeping the same old
staff working far beyond 40 hours, which still happens to some people, and
is presently happening to my nephew, a mechanical engineer.

Peter Rinaldo suggests a 4 week vacation instead of just 3, so I added that
possibility on the second line. I didn't add his suggestion for alternate 5 day
weeks, because he suggested it for 'further down the road'. It certainly is a
good suggestion, and I would agree that it's probably better for later than
for now. If I am mistaken by withholding it from the list, it will only
take one comment from anyone for me to add it to the list.

Allen made some interesting points, but it wasn't as obvious to me (as it may
be to others) exactly what he was disagreeing with. What Allen wrote made me
wonder: might the AB60 he referred to be on-line at some web site? For that
matter, are any or all of the state and federal labor laws available on-line as
well? If so, web addresses, please. Thank you.

Joe Polito likes converting to hourly pay, but also likes the idea of freedom
of choice as to salary or hourly pay, which may be the least divisive solution
of all, especially if the freedom of choice could be written into law,
enabling workers to change their payment method at will.

Ken Ellis

 

12-11-00

Gene Coyle wrote:

> Legislation, especially legislation leading to a
> redistribution of income, needs to have a strong
> grassroots foundation. The list of demands and the
> drafting will unfold as we put together a movement.
>
> Let's think first about constituencies and how to motivate them.

I agree that it's good to think about constituencies, and how to motivate
them. On the other hand, no one has yet mentioned a redistribution
of income in the few months I've been part of the forum, and I can't
imagine very many in this forum suggesting that we contemplate a
redistribution of income. I can't help but think that most, if not all,
are more interested in a redistribution of work. Am I wrong?

Ken Ellis

 

12-11-00

Thanks to Guido, we now have a suggestion for income redistribution,
so the list grows and includes:

1: double time instead of time and a half

2: 3 or 4 weeks vacation instead of 2

3: bringing in all workers under the protection of the FLSA

4: replace fixed salaries with hourly rates of pay
(is there a better way to say this?)

5: freedom of choice as to salary or hourly pay

6: income redistribution

Any more suggestions for immediate legislation? Feel free to amend or more
closely define whatever is on the list. #6 especially could use a little definition.

My previous attempt to publish a bulleted list of #1-6 failed miserably.
Something in the e-mail system bit the bullets and ate them, so I'll try a
handmade numbered list.

Ken Ellis

 

12-12-00

Thanks to Allen and Joe, we now have 3 more suggestions, and the list grows to 9 items:

1: double time instead of time and a half

2: 3 or 4 weeks vacation instead of 2

3: bringing in all workers under the protection of the FLSA

4: replace fixed salaries with hourly rates of pay (Better way to say this?)

5: freedom of choice as to salary or hourly pay

6: income redistribution

7: portal to portal pay

8: large up front exemption (to employers amenable to work-sharing?)

9: very progressive rate structure to the payroll tax (disincentive to overtime?)

Maybe Joe could help me better word # 8 and # 9, and maybe Guido
could be a little more specific about # 6. Thank you, gentlemen.

Any more suggestions for immediate legislation?

Ken Ellis

 

12-12-00

Ben quoted me:

"I would be very interested in your opinion on whether
mass suffering will cause the revolution, and whether
socialists welcome suffering as the surest factor in
driving the masses into their arms. It's difficult to get
socialists to comment on this, so please give it a try."

> Good question. My answer as an "ideologue" and
> a socialist - NO. I have to admit I am too fond of
> my friends and family to want to see them or any
> human being suffer more from living under
> capitalism - from more stress at work, from
> more deprivation, from anything.

That's a welcome sentiment.

> Personally speaking I don't think mass
> suffering is going to bring about the
> revolution if by that we are talking about
>
worsening conditions leading directly to
> a growth in revolutionary consciousness.

Yes. 'Worsening conditions leading to revolutionary
consciousness' is the hypothesis I have in mind. Let's
look at some alternatives: 1) Things get better. So, why
revolt? 2) Things stay pretty much the same. If people
haven't revolted by now, what's going to get them to
revolt later, especially if things don't get worse? 3)
Things get worse. Now we're talking unrest, riots,
and perhaps revolution, aren't we? But, it looks
like you don't buy that, for you go on to say:

> I think its more likely to be the other way round.
> When we are comparably "
better off" we are more
> likely to think about an even better future and a better
> system of society. Like with the events in France in 1968.
> When people are starving or crushed they will tend to think
> about getting a feed and keeping going. Faced with pure
> survival how likely is social transformation going to seem?

Having recently read E. Belford Bax's treatment of the French
Revolution of 1789, and about the desperate hunger and suffering
of the 'sans coulottes', they were truly ready to smash their monarchy
and wreak vengeance, which they did. Today, things are different, and
the Western hemisphere no longer has absolute, intransigent monarchies
to overthrow; clothes and food are more readily available. People don't
riot in the streets for bread. Instead we riot over IMF policies and the
cutting down of the last of the old-growth redwoods, etc., and they
don't seem like riots for replacing our governments. It's hard to
imagine people today rioting for that, or for an end to capitalism.

> And who could be bothered about it?
> So let's have more workplace militancy
> and fight for shorter hours. I'm all for that.

This is a miracle! It's wonderful to find a socialist in favor of
shorter hours, and one who doesn't regard shorter hours as a
purely post-revolutionary measure. I am stunned, overwhelmed.
Maybe Ben could explain the hostility of his fellow socialists to
shorter hours, and their hostility to amending existing labor laws
in order to more equitably distribute work to all who can use
some. I can't recall a socialist in this forum objecting to
shorter hours AFTER the revolution, so why is shorter
hours so objectionable BEFORE the revolution?

> And those people who like that sort of
> thing can wave the banner of "fairer laws"
> - if they succeed I hope we all feel the benefit!

Bravo. Workers couldn't fail to benefit from a fairer distribution of work.

> But since capitalism will never actually come
> anywhere near solving our problems

Capitalism is certainly solving the problem of production of
abundances, and legislation in the interests of the lower classes
will solve the problem of unemployment. Marx favored the 10-
Hours Bill
of his day, and the 8 hour day was an important goal
of his First International. A fairer distribution of work would be
a real problem solver.

> we can just say "thanks" and move on
> to establish socialism (and abolish
> the cause of "mass suffering").

After winning shorter hours, and winning a more equitable
distribution of work, I wouldn't argue with what else the workers
would want to do, including socialism. After all, I'm not that selfish
that 'I want my program, and only my program, and nothing else'.
I can give a dozen reasons for fighting for shorter hours, and an
equal number for not trying to win socialism now, but would be
glad enough of winning a more equitable distribution of work not
to stand in the way of whatever else workers might want to do.

Ken Ellis

 

12-13-00

Here's the latest updated list of proposed legislation:

1: double time instead of time and a half

2: 3 or 4 weeks vacation instead of 2

3: bringing in all workers under the protection of the FLSA

4: replace fixed salaries with hourly rates of pay (Better way to say this?)

5: freedom of choice as to salary or hourly pay

6: income redistribution

7: portal to portal pay

8: To implement SWT strategies we need to decrease the financial disincentive
for employers, and to create an incentive: a very progressive payroll tax structure,
with such a low rate on the first $10,000 as to be virtually an exemption.

Thanks to Joe for the assistance with the new # 8. It looks better now.

# 6 still needs some definition.

Re # 3, I understand that a lot of agricultural labor isn't protected by the FLSA,
so the growers can run some very mean sweat shops and get away with it. We
won't have liberty and justice for all unless all are covered by the FLSA.

Any more suggestions for immediate legislation?

Ken Ellis

 

12-13-00

Dana asked:

> I may have missed this, but what is your action plan
> once you finalize the list of items?
>
> How does one go about getting "immediate legislation" to happen?

Sorry to disappoint anyone with the admission of not personally having
an action plan. I think that this is mostly a wish-list for legislation that we
would like to see be passed immediately. I don't have any resources to
make the legislation happen, and I have a lot of things weighing against
me to personally try to make these things happen.

I sort of took it upon myself as a little chore to maintain the list in a
decent, easy to read format. If anyone wants to go further with actualizing
the legislation, I think that development would be most welcome to all of us.

Ken Ellis

 

12-13-00

Got your message Ben. Will get to it asap. In the meantime:

Ben quoted me:

"I was able to get one correspondent to finally admit
that Marx's program included turning the means of
production into state property
." <snip>

snip

> Yes it is "right there in black and white" (in the Communist
> Manifesto
) that Marx's "programme" AT THE TIME HE CO-
> WROTE THE
COMMUNIST MANIFESTO included state
>
ownership of the means of production.

Engels also wrote the same about state ownership 30 years
later in his "Anti-Duhring", part of which was excerpted and
widely popularized as "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific".
In Marxist circles, there never was a question that the post-
revolutionary program would include: initial expropriation
of at least some property without compensation
, and
administration of production and property by the proletariat
organized as ruling class
. That was good enough of a theory
for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho, Castro, and many millions of their
followers, for that's what they tried to emulate. The failure of
Europe to support the Bolshevik revolution, and the modern
lack of monarchies to overthrow, spelled doom for Marx's
program, and history proves that you can't have socialism
in [just] one country.

A lot of people of libertarian socialist persuasion have chafed at the
reality of Marx's program, preferring to think of property as becoming
common property instead of state property, but property wasn't to become
completely communal during Marx's lower phase of communist society
(known as the dictatorship of the proletariat), because that era was
to include class divisions, parties, the state, and state property.

> Precisely in order to make the production
> of a social abundance possible and thus
> to make socialism/communism possible.

Also to prevent the capitalist class from enriching themselves
to the detriment of the working class, and to prevent capitalists
from using their mounting riches to abet counter-revolution
against the new proletarian dictatorship. Divorced from their
property and profits, the upper classes would effectively be
divorced of opportunities to plot counter-revolution.

> He didn't think it was possible at the time
> to establish communism right away -
it is now.

Certainly M+E thought that the lower phase of communist society
- the proletarian dictatorship - was possible in their day. As Engels
said in his "Housing Question" (paraphrasing): 'Every real proletarian
party since the Chartists has put forward the dictatorship of the
proletariat as the immediate aim of the struggle.
' Bakunin's program
for the immediate abolition of the state implied society's immediate
ascension to the upper stage of communism - classless, stateless,
etc.less society - which was certainly ridiculous for the 19th century,
and no less ridiculous today. Marx's program of post-revolutionary
evolution within a proletarian dictatorship was far more realistic than
Bakunin's instantaneous program, and Marx's program was so
realistic that it almost happened. Still, Bakunin's program certainly
appeals to anti-statists, and in that regard appeals to me, for I am no
adoring fan of the state. To synthesize the best of both Marx's and
Bakunin's programs to include 'a militant driving down of hours of
labor in order to overcome both the state and capitalism' is truly
in the interests of the workers.

> As capitalism itself has now given us the
> potential to produce an abundance no such
> "transitional period" is now necessary -

I also eschew the proletarian dictatorship as unnecessary. Nothing
anywhere near [the first phase of] Marx's program will happen in the
future. It is passee, but not for the reasons activists usually give. One
myth is that 'Marx's transition period was merely to gear up production
to provide a material basis for establishing common property', but a more
important function of the transition was to provide the POLITICAL framework
for the abolition of classes. To start with, the expropriation of the upper classes
aimed directly at the abolition of class distinctions, and what better way to do
that in Marx's day than to bring the level of income of the upper classes down
to the level of working people, simply by taking away their property as quickly
as possible, and thus taking away their ability to foment counter-revolution.

But, people today are not interested in meddling with the institution
of private property, for they associate their personal security with their
own property. Half of Americans own a stake in the stock market, and
with home ownership broadly distributed, people wouldn't want to meddle
with the institution of private property for fear that any big change might
backfire on them. Threatening that institution is barking up the wrong tree.
The way to get to classless, stateless, etc.less society today is to militantly
reduce hours of labor as made possible by improvements in technology,
and when the length of the work-week gets ridiculously low, wage labor
will be replaced by volunteer labor, thus ending capitalism as we have
known it. It will be relatively so much easier to end capitalism that way
than by activists fighting over wasteful and conflicting programs for
dealing with property and state. In order to get anywhere, activists
should recognize private property and democracy as a juggernaut
of stellar proportions that will require subtlety, cleverness and
craftiness to overcome. Bosses want nothing better for activists
to oppose private property and democracy, for the bosses know
that activists will only burn themselves out by fighting against
those two, and they will laugh at us all the way to the bank.

> Marx was talking about what should happen
> if the workers took control AT THAT TIME.
> He
changed his mind later anyway

In what way?

> and, it should be added, never suggested that the state
> would or could continue under socialism as he and we
> understood/understand it.

When speaking of *Marx's* vision of the state and socialism,
people should take into account his "Critique of the Gotha Program"
and its 2 separate future stages of society. The intermediate stage was
to be a proletarian dictatorship, which Engels regarded as a state, but
not a state in the proper sense of the word, but a state nevertheless due
to the existence of class divisions, an armed proletariat, parties, etc. After
that dreaded era was to be over with (because of the gradual and final
abolition of class distinctions), only then would it be proper to speak
of classless, stateless, etc.less society. While trying to be clear about
Marxism, activists should try to keep these 2 different eras of
communist society separate, and try not to moosh them together.

> Precisely because we are NOT fundamentalist ideologues
> we do not cling to ideas particular to past times when
> the material circumstances have changed.

In his "Housing Question" and elsewhere, Engels stated that the
material conditions for the proletarian dictatorship had arrived
in his day, and that there no longer was an excuse for a ruling
class (except for the proletariat organized as ruling class).

Libertarian socialists can't help but think that 'changed material
conditions make socialism possible in the present', but, what is all
of this noise about changed conditions that gives them so much hope?
That 'conditions' argument has a long tradition, but differences between
economic conditions were not as important to Marx as political conditions.
After all, the world in both his day and ours was either working within the
capitalist system, or else was rapidly converting to capitalist relations of
production. In his 1872 Speech at the Hague, on the other hand, Marx
noted that democratic republics enabled workers to get what they want
peacefully, while workers on the Continent of Europe would have to
resort to violence, i.e., overthrow their monarchies by force
, and replace
them with democracies, and hopefully do it to enough monarchies at the
same time to enable the establishment of a universal proletarian dictatorship
with enough combined force to prevent counter-revolution while embarking
upon their socialist program of expropriation. Marx spoke of distinct
differences in socialist tactics depending - not on economic conditions
- but rather upon POLITICAL conditions, i.e., depending upon whether
workers found themselves in democracies or in intransigent monarchies.
M+E regarded democracies as the NEGATION of monarchies, and
democracies were to be worked within, while monarchies were to be
smashed and replaced. But, for ideological purposes, libertarian socialists
make no distinctions between monarchies, democracies, or workers' states,
all of which the libertarian socialists would abolish at a stroke. They are
extremely mistaken by no more wanting to use a democracy than anyone
would want to try to wield an absolute monarchy. They are also mistaken
when they sometimes try to justify that aspect of their ideology in
Marxism. It can't legally be done. They are also mistaken by thinking
that improvements in technology make the establishment of socialism
easier today than in Marx's day, whereas people are as dedicated to
the concept of private property now as they were then.

> Marx was also wrong at one time to say that revolution
> in Ireland would lead to a workers' revolt in Britain.
So
> what? We in the
SP never felt the need to parrot some
> sacred text and support Irish
Republicanism.

Here's to the ability to disregard sacred texts, but it helps
one's chances of success to have a very good idea what is being
disregarded. Some tend to throw the diamonds out with the dross,
and worship trinkets like 'abolish the wages system'. My advice to
everyone? Do your own research. Because 'revolution in democracies'
has always been so impossible and ridiculous in the West, the only thing
left to do was to take parts of Marxism out of context and use those parts
as bases of competing sectarian programs. Some conflicting programs are
so antithetical to one another that proponents will never cooperate enough
to bring about a revolution. It is impossible to create a workers' state while at
the same time replacing the state with a classless and stateless administration
of things
, and while trying to do either of those two, it makes little sense to try
to nationalize the means of production into the hands of the existing state. So
many conflicting 'socialist' ways to deal with the state and property exclude
other methods, so activists will never agree on any one method. What results
is such a mish-mash of conflicts that the only sensible thing left to do is to
start fresh and dump programs dealing with property and state, and fashion
a program that deals with time. Reduced labor time is a program plank the
workers can agree on. Who but the bosses and their lackeys would
argue for labor time to increase?

Ken Ellis

 

12-14-00

Tony wrote:

> Initiative or not, the mechanism just
> isn't there
for you or any other common
> man to produce legislation unless you are
> elected as a representative, a defining
> characteristic of a republic.

That's true.* There is a big difference between wielding
the federal government compared to the residents of a
small town making their own local laws.

* 2002 note: Easy as it is to ignore the pleas of a single individual
to get a law passed (unless the individual has tons of money), popular
demand for laws and changes isn't as easy to ignore, which is why some
Western U.S. states succeeded in passing medical marijuana legislation,
in spite of stiff opposition on the Federal level. (End of note.)

> We can vote on the passage of an already-
> proposed law on a local or state level, but the
> reality is that the "
initiative" you describe is no
> more than pathetic lobbying
, plain and simple,
> and not lawmaking.

I wonder if the activists who won the medical marijuana victories
in California and other states could be convinced of that. I'm sure
they consider what they accomplished to be a tremendous victory.
Better yet, the idea is spreading to other states. Decriminalization
is a victory against the state itself.

> If the US or any other so-called "democracy" was
> really a democracy, the laws would be created by
> the people, and therefore accepted by them with
> little or no need for "enforcement".

As well, this distinguishes between what happens on a federal
level with what happens in small New England towns. Few small
New England towns could be regarded as 'armed camps'. The
politics can be dirty enough on a local level, but, at higher levels,
where the stakes are much higher, things can get really dirty, as
in the recent case of the banana republic known as Florida being
ordered by the Federal Supreme Court not to count all of the votes.

> I only wish that people would stop referring
> to the US or any other constitutional republic
> as such as the basis of an argument.

A lot of what Tony writes about the limitations of our democracy
rings true. But, no matter how limited, what counts in the end is
what ordinary people think, and practically everyone in the USA
'knows' that we live in a democracy or a republic. If the average
person thinks we live in a democratic republic, and trusts that it's
flexible enough to handle anything that anyone, domestic or foreign,
can throw at it, then the few who constantly disagree aren't going to
be able to change what we have. People should be sobered to learn
that Engels thought that the England of his day was democratic
enough for the workers to get what they wanted.

There's no question that our democracies could be more democratic,
and that there continues to exist a lot of injustice and unfairness. We
could have more citizen participation in democracy if we were not so
wrapped up in competing for the last of the long-hour opportunities
to make the rich richer than their wildest dreams. The fact that there
are provisions for only a few people to wield the state goes right back
to the old division of government vs. civil labor mapped out in 1776.
Like you say, we elect representatives who wield the state. A few
others provide the necessities of life, and today most of us perform
some kind of unproductive labor. When labor is finally abolished,
we will have abolished the division of labor as well, and people in
general will become much more involved in the administration of
their common affairs. We today can begin to abolish labor, and
thus proceed to begin to free average people to get more
involved in the administration of our common concerns,
and that can be done via a fairer distribution of work.

snip my own redundancy

>> If labor had its way in the Depression, (snip)
>
> If, if, if. The fact remains that your wunderlaws
> still do not exist, and they do not for a reason.

The law already exists in the form of the present Fair Labor
Standards Act
, or FLSA. It just needs a few little amendments
to make it more effective in more fairly distributing work.

> The 30 or whatever hour bill is counterproductive
> to the status quo, and
will remain a pipedream.

Not everything that is counterproductive to the status quo
is doomed to remain on our unfulfilled wish list. I doubt if
anyone would argue that medical marijuana reproduces the
status quo, but medical marijuana seems to be a growing
movement among the states, and may someday become
national.

>> While labor was fighting for their 30 hour bill,
>> what were the socialists doing? Fighting for
>> socialism!
>
> As I said, we are revolutionaries, not reformers.
> To fight for anything less would be
hypocritical.

Using that yardstick, was it hypocritical for Marx to advocate the
8 hour day for the USA and other democracies while at the very
same time he advocated overthrowing European monarchies? Marx
had the advantage of knowing what revolutions were for, which is
why he could both advocate revolution where appropriate, and
simultaneously advocate reforms where appropriate. Modern-
day revolutionism in democracies is misplaced, which is why
it can't yield anything better than sectarianism.

> Some of us see past our own noses and recognize
> a reform bill for what it is. Socialists simply want a
> different system, Ken! Not a fix of the present system!

I'd love to live in an absolute monarchy, and have the pleasure of
knowing other people who were as interested as in overthrowing
it as I. Then we could all rightfully be critical of the few who
wanted to preserve it.

> If it were only about working less hours, we'd be another bloody union.

In his November 1871 letter to Bolte, Marx wrote that reducing
labor time for the whole working class is a political movement
. If
a movement to reduce hours doesn't extend beyond the perimeter
of a workshop, then it certainly would only be a union activity
[aka as an economic movement].

> But we are not. We set our sights a little bit higher.

While I have always admired revolutionary desire for thorough-
going change, proposals have to be appropriate to the problems
at hand, and to political conditions, in order to be fit for public
consideration. Revolutions in democracies to relieve the economic
suffering of the working class unfortunately fail that test, so they
will never come about. The problems of people in countries like the
USA will always be handled by means of reform. Take away the
ability to reform in a meaningful way, and then it isn't out of bounds
to discuss revolution. But, with our freedoms of speech, assembly,
election, worship, etc., where's the pressing need for a complete
change in our political system? If we DO need better protections
for our freedoms, we can reform our way in that direction. [If
reforms can be guided by the intent to abolish class distinctions,
then a revolution will result as a result of a long reform process.
"the abolition of capital is the social revolution and involves a
change in the whole mode of production.
" (me44.307)]

> Too bad someone of your intelligence
> doesn't feel the same, but hey, I respect
> your "right" to feel however you want.

That's a nice civil attitude. I also advocate everyone's absolute
right to feel the way they do.

>> Writing a letter and bribing aren't the
>> worst suggestions for persuading them to pass
>> legislation that would help the working class get
>> a fairer share of the remaining work, preventing
>> both underemployment and overwork
>
> Surely
you are kidding! Such a statement taken
> seriously might cause me to lose my breakfast. You
> yourself here
admit that we can't change the law our
> selves
, we have to resort to "persuasion". That kind
> of system
sucks and we want it gone.

I might have been kidding about the bribe portion, but you
(jokingly, I presume) mentioned bribes first. By mentioning
bribes first, I assumed that would have been immunized you
against nausea, so let me know if I'm not now detecting a
little disingenuity.

Writing letters and e-mails aren't such bad ideas, like most civil
methods of persuasion.

If Marx suggested that workers work within their democracies
to get what they want, and if Marx recognized democracies as the
negation of monarchies (Marx was adamant about overthrowing
monarchies), then from what branch of ideology does your
revolutionism come from?

snip further discourse on ivory and other valuables, which argument
I can't seem to take anywhere of value, so am content to drop

>> Therefore, legislation causes robbery and rape!
>> Is that the conclusion we are supposed to reach?
>
> You don't really expect me to fall for that, do
> you? The conclusion should be that legislation
> does not stop or reduce robbery or rape.

OK, I wasn't sure. I think you are right about legislation not stopping
robbery and rape
, but, I wonder if, though, in the present days of rampant
social conflict, and in the absence of anything really good happening very
soon, a little disincentive to robbing and raping doesn't help keep 'honest'
people honest. If the laws were to be suddenly removed without a previous
change of mass consciousness, would or wouldn't that tend to throw civil
society into chaos? If you suspect it might, then would you perhaps
respect today's legislation as serving a crime-retardant purpose
in this hypothetical 'pre-revolutionary' era?

>> If people weren't so alienated and driven to madness
>> and desperation by the disparities in the distribution
>> of work, then maybe you would be able to walk
>> safely. Shorter hour legislation could fix that.
>
> *cue belly laugh*
40 hours a week causes madness
> but 30 hours is Nirvana. *giggle*

During the Depression, passage of the Black-Connery 30 hour
bill
would have made the difference between workers' control vs.
bosses' control, more leisure time vs. more time for enriching the
rich, full employment vs. today's real 11% (using the government's
U-6 figures). The 30 hour bill passed the Senate and looked like a
shoe-in for the House before FDR's brain trust (including socialist
Rexford Tuggle) advised long hours, government stimulation,
consumerism, and other wasteful measures. I can't help but
think that scuttling labor's agenda set us up for lots of
social conflict in the midst of material splendor.

snip Youngstown, evasive dialogue, and 'trading laws for revolution'

>> <snip> I would be very interested in your
>> opinion on whether mass suffering will cause
>> the revolution, and whether socialists welcome
>> suffering as the surest factor in driving the
>> masses into their arms.
>
> I and others believe those conditions are already here.

If the conditions for people adopting socialism are already here,
then why didn't the various parties of socialism do better than
practically nil during our past election?

> I do understand your position, Ken and you
> express yourself well. I guess it boils down to
> different opinions on the way to alleviate the
> suffering you speak of.

I guess the only way to get unity is to explore why so many opinions
differ. Has history come around to smash sectarianism, like Marx
thought it did during the formation of the First International?

> If you think we are waiting for something
> to drive people into our arms, then Ken,
> you have us seriously mistaken.

It would be a pleasure and a relief to be mistaken about that.

> That's really not what we are about, and it
> borders on insult. If I was really that sick,
> I'd be a Nazi or a Christian or something.

I'm glad you spoke to the issue. I also was concerned about
useful change when I was in a party in the early 1970's. We
also were averse to reforms of any kind, and were mostly silent
about waiting for things to get worse in order to drive people into
our arms
. We knew deep down what we were doing in that regard,
but didn't want to bring that subject up, for we all suspected that our
ideology was so fragile that it would break under too close scrutiny,
as I later in the game came to suspect. If we and our ideology were as
great and as perfect as we often repeated we were, then why weren't
we getting anywhere? At the end, I came to understand that the party
was nothing but a milk cow for an intransigent party bureaucracy.

>> Failing the achievement of your socialist goal
>> in the next few years, how would you feel about
>> legislation in the meantime raising the overtime
>> premium to double time in order to apply a little
>> disincentive to keeping workers on the job beyond
>> 40 hours, which would hopefully encourage bosses
>> to hire more people? Can you bring your
>> humanitarianism and integrity to bear on this item?
>
> This equates to a governmental economic
> sanction against business. Capitalism does not take
> governmental restrictions lightly.
Only in state capitalist
> countries can the government exert that kind of power
> without some kind of repercussion.

Businesses have already put up with time and a half after 40 for
some 60-odd years, and some American states have even stricter
rules. Up until 1998, California had time and a half after 8 per day,
and double time after 12, but bosses pressured them to fall back to
the weaker national standard, which they did (over the dead body of
one protester). If the figure of time and a half is an arbitrary figure,
there is no good reason why it couldn't be amended to double time.
Surely it would cost the bosses something extra, but time and half
already costs them, so it wouldn't be a matter of PRINCIPLE to
increase that number, only a matter of cost vs. social benefit.

> Like a rock in a pool, the ripple of such
> legislation would also cause the employers
> disincentive to keep so many people on the
> payroll. It happens all the time here in Rusty
> Ohio. The Unions get pay raises and celebrate
> their victory, and 1-2 years later there are
> layoffs to "maintain profitability".

I don't know of too many bosses who keep people on the payroll
simply because they want to be nice to their workers. Most prefer
to conduct business with as few workers as possible, and hardly
overlook opportunities to get rid of as many workers as possible.
In the course of time, employers install labor-saving machinery
and/or speed-up policies that make lay-offs possible. If the
prospect of future sales warrants keeping workers on the job,
they have a better chance of staying employed. Technological
unemployment is just part of hard, cold reality.

> So now you have less people working all
> of this lucrative overtime and buying lots
> of ivory who have forced tho low men on
> the totem pole into unemployment because
> of seniority. However, I am not an expert on
> the relationship between govt. and business,
> so what I think may be so much horse poo.

I don't think we have very many experts in this forum. When I
was a socialist, my comrades and I suffered from mutual social
pressure to maintain a public facade of infallibility, even if we
weren't exactly sure of the ground we stood on. I also learned
to resent people telling me new things because I was already
supposed to know them, as well as everything else. Sad, eh?
Sectarianism sucks out our brains.

Ken Ellis

 

12-16-00

Danny asked:

> You have on more than one occasion referred to the
> "
lower classes" could you please give us some idea of
> how many there are, what defines and differentiates them.

By "lower classes" I would include the working class,
the unemployed, the homeless, and even small proprietors,
especially the self-employed who occasionally drift from
owning their own businesses to resorting to wage labor.
I'm probably forgetting to include some categories here,
but the general idea is that the 'lower classes' include
people who somehow manage to scrape by without
getting very far on the socio-economic ladder.

> I asked you previously what people would do in a
> workless society? Your answer was anything they
> wanted, now this is lazy Ken, can you please
> bring little more detail.

Future generations will enjoy any kind of sport thinkable, games
that have yet to be invented, and all kinds of recreational activities.
Some people will venture into education, research, and space
exploration. Others will venture into the purely fun parts of using
their brains and imaginations, and take their adventures to the
outer limits. The human psyche will be truly unleashed once
people find themselves free of repetitive drudgery of any kind,
like going to work, cleaning house, taking out the garbage, etc.
Once freed from work that few really want to do, technology
and science will continue to evolve in the direction of serving
the interests of the whole population, not for the benefit of a
mere small subset. People will gather to plan out their future
like it hasn't been done since the days of primitive communism.
Schools will no longer be the detention camps they are now.

The biggest bumps in the road have yet to arrive. People are so
wrapped up in the struggle to get other people to do their work
for them that it will take a lot of personal changes to get people to
understand that their personal future is wrapped up with the futures of
those around them. One can see this in embryo when people cooperate
to overcome disasters like fires, floods and earthquakes, but to live in a
cooperative sense on a moment to moment basis, and to permanently
discard the old exclusionary mentality, will entail quite a bit of personal
struggle on the part of a lot of people. When you consider how badly
sectarianism divides the left, imagine what it would take to unite them
around any kind of common goal. This is what the whole human race is
up against, so the left is not alone in its foolishness. If it was alone, then
the rest of the world would charitably step in to lend a helping hand.

The further into the future I go, the cloudier my crystal ball
becomes. I hope what I wrote helped.

Ken Ellis

 

12-17-00

Danny wrote:

> Hi Ken
> You wrote in reply to Leonard. "
Most workers stay
> away from socialism because they understand it better
> than what socialists give them credit". This clumsy
> hurried sentence betrays clumsy hurried thought.

I agonized over the construction of that sentence for quite
a while, and couldn't figure out a better way to say it without
complicating it further with a lot of "that"s and other conjunctives,
etc. I sort of gave up and decided to trust that its gist would
become evident without undue difficulty. It must have
worked for you, because you then wrote:

> Are you serious? On what evidence do you base this claim?

The fact that all parties of socialism in the recent American
election got results not worth reporting shows that socialism
of any stripe just isn't popular. For a 3rd party, the Greens
and Ralph Nader were a factor with their 3% turnout, but
they didn't run on a socialist platform.

> Is this not a massive prejudgment (prejudice)
> plucked out of the air in an attempt to shore
> up an argument that has no foundation?

It's very difficult to argue with such a resounding electoral
rejection of all kinds of socialism and communism. On the
other hand, the czar's censors and other repression couldn't
stop the Bolsheviks from coming to power. But, they had a
monarchy that was rotten-ripe for overthrow, while we have
flexible democracies that the people are loath to drastically
change for fear and uncertainty of what would replace it.

> My evidence comes from my own experience of three
> years of Sundays at
Speakers Corner London on the
>
WSM platform, where I have spoken to and met with
> thousands of working people, who in the vast majority
> thought that socialism was the state capitalism of Stalin,
> Castro, and Mao, the
KGB, the NKVD, bread cues, old
> men in fur hats on some balcony waving at the tanks,
> troops and missile launchers, hysterical youngsters
> with little red books, the cult of the personality, show
> trials, political executions, brain washing and of course
> no democracy and no freedom!

Maybe this common impression of socialism is the reason why
some in the forum are suggesting a name change for the WSM
and/or related parties.

> This is readily understood when you take time
> to consider the effort that capitalists put in to
> the propaganda of misinformation.

All of the czar's censors and Black Hundred liars couldn't prevent the
Bolsheviks from coming to power. Nothing can stop valid (and even
invalid) ideologies from becoming popular if their time has arrived.

> I'm employed as a caretaker at a school,
> when I started I wasn't surprised to find
> that none of the teachers, (the educators)
> let alone the kids had a clue about socialism.
> Most people, the ones that have heard of him,
> think Marx was some kind of old nutter that
> urged violent totalitarianism.

When I was but a lad in the 1950's, that's what I was taught in
school as well. I absolutely hated history. In the 5th grade, the
teacher wrote an endless series of questions and answers on
the blackboard, and the kids who copied and best memorized
the answers, and later repeated them as close to word-for-word
as possible, got the best grades. Much later, when I finally read
history written by Marx, Engels and other socialists, it was such
a breath of fresh air. I never thought that I would ever enjoy
history until I became a socialist. It was a complete surprise.

> Capitalism is a psychological infection
> passed down through the generations by
> tradition (like an alp round the neck), that
> trains us to know our place, see ourselves
> as ordinary, sinful, greedy, lazy etc,

I doubt if the blame can rightly be placed on an 'ism. While
unrelentingly criticizing the way greed is rewarded, we should
celebrate capitalism's positive effect of abolishing labor, and
learn to use that positive effect to our best advantage. If we can't,
then our evolution as a species will soon end. Our epitaph may
read: 'We had the brains to abolish labor, but not to abolish our
disposition to enslave one another, both to labor, and to belief
systems.' Half of the work of a party is to convince outsiders, while
the other half is to maintain the convictions of the already convinced.

> the only way to combat this scourge is to use
> the greatest of all disinfectants, the truth!

No argument with truth.

> We're not into brain washing Ken, we're here for brain rinsing,
> and in my opinion, with respect, you need some.

In what way?

Ken Ellis

 

12-18-00

Jimmy wrote:

> I was to reply to your points in Jimmy on reform 3,
> but I had an accident when I was clearing out some of
> the huge amount of posts and inadvertently deleted it,
> and as it happened permanently, but not to disappoint
> you I thought you would not mind if I make some
> comments on paragraph below

There's an on-line archive labeled 'messages' near the page
where we post messages, so nothing can ever really get lost.
Give it a try!

>> <snip me>
>
> Practically from the very earliest in the development
> of capitalism as a mode of production it has been
> improving on the means of production, new machinery,
> new means of communication, and transport, from horse
> drawn waggons to canal barges to the railway systems,
> and today with huge motor vehicles, satellite round the
> world telephone and television communications, even
> the
Internet et al. The point that I am trying to make is,
> in the face of all this advancement to date it has
not
> made the workers relative position regarding our
> share of the wealth and the hours of labour any
> different from our forebears.

If workers a century ago enjoyed little more than food, clothing
and shelter, and didn't have radios, electricity, TVs, computers,
automobiles, refrigerators, personal water craft, microwaves,
walky-talkies, etc., then one could say that the average
standard of living has gone way up over the years.

In the meantime, the rich have gotten extremely rich as well, as
the gap between rich and poor widens. If wages represent not
much more than necessities of life, and if the necessities of life
take less time to produce than ever before, and if the ratio of
surplus to necessary values continues to increase, then why are
we working so long, except that we must be sharing at least a
little in the largess we produce, precisely so that we can afford
our radios, electricity, TVs, Internet, automobiles, refrigerators,
personal water craft, microwaves, walky-talkies, and other non-
necessities. In other words, our hard work and long hours have
paid off at least a little bit, and a lot of workers I have known over
the years wouldn't have it any other way. How else could they own
their own homes and other stuff unless they made 'good money'?

> Indeed, the hours of labour have been reduced,
> the
10 hour bill, and to date the 40 hour week,
> and in spite of the reduced hours we the workers
> have improved our productivity beyond the dreams
> of our forebears wildest imagination, and again,
> with
no visible improvement in our share of the
> wealth of society.

We can't expect much more than that when wages represent
not much more than necessities of life. If productivity increases
at the same time hours of labor stay the same or increase, then
most of the extra goodies go right into the pockets of the bosses.
It would be absurd to try to get a larger share for workers at the
same time workers compete among themselves over scarce jobs,
because competition among workers allows bosses to offer low
wages, which desperate workers have to accept or starve. The trick
here is to eliminate the competition for scarce jobs by fighting for
shorter hour legislation. Create the artificial scarcity of labor that
would put everyone to work, and enable the resulting not-so-
desperate workers to demand higher wages and get them, while
at the very same time not working so long and hard that they
wastefully overproduce. It would mark the triumph of sanity
over madness, but it doesn't seem to be good enough for
socialists, who want things their way, or not at all.

> I think that it is safe to assume that it will be
>
no different for the foreseeable future as long
> as capitalism as the mode of production lasts.

Events will unfold faster in the 21st century than ever before
in human history. If IBM will have a big computer as smart as a
human in 10 years
, and if the same smarts will fit into a teacup by
2020, then the complete replacement of human labor by technology
within the lifetimes of many people now living will drastically change
their lives very fundamentally and swiftly. We should start preparing
now by discarding baggage from the past that might have been plausible
at one time, but no longer holds water. This will entail fearless thinking.
Part of the problem of today is that people who are part of groups don't
even want to think things that they suspect or know will upset others in
the group, so they just shut their minds to thinking those things. But,
when things begin to move fast, and people see things happening not
according to prediction, then some will become brave enough to think
more freely, and will convince others to think in new ways as well.

> Finally, socialism is not just about solving employment
> and unemployment, which of course it will.

How will it do that? How does establishing a new democracy
and common property fix the unemployment problem? Just exactly
what's in the program of socialism that fixes unemployment?

> Socialism is about much, much more, it is
> about solving the Human Predicament.

How does one define the Human Predicament?

> Ridding the world of an economic system that
> impoverishes millions of human beings,

If people in the Western Hemisphere didn't always tolerate a
certain amount of impoverishment among the population, then
we would have eliminated it by now. A certain amount has been
tolerated for thousands of years, but impoverishment will come
to an end after there's no longer a way for people to go out and
earn a living. This era will arrive in another 20-30 years (barring
an intervening catastrophe). When the workless era begins,
depriving a certain portion of the population from an equal
share [of necessities] would be so arbitrary as to be more
ridiculous than depriving Al Gore of his Florida recount.

> starves to death millions more human beings,

In which Western Hemisphere country today?

> murders and maims millions more human beings
> in the pursuit of various brands of nationalistic territory,

It's been a little while since Germany invaded France. Events like
that have pretty well come to an end in Western Europe.

> raw materials, markets, trade routes, and at the
> end of all that murder rape and pillage realising
> profits for the various nationalist capitalist nations.
> As you will know it is the working class that are the
> main participants and victims in this mayhem that is
> the normality of modern day, and again there is no
> guarantee that it will be no different in the future.

Didn't the formation of the European Union signify that the bad
old days of war and conquest are coming to an end? The most
capitalistic and democratic-minded nations are now leading the
way to world peace.

> Is this the system of society that you want to preserve Ken?

I certainly don't want to PRESERVE the bad things mentioned
above, which is why I concentrate on trying to change only what I
think I have a ghost of a chance of affecting. Just because I don't
regard changing property relations as possible doesn't mean that
I disfavor change altogether. I've been advocating change for quite
a while, but mostly ideological change. I am confident that, though
the road may not be smooth, our consciousness will evolve in the
same progressive direction as technological change, and we will
abolish labor, class distinctions, and later property, money, and
the state. It's just a matter of detecting real movement and
guiding it in the interests of the working class. For the
next few years, we will will increasingly witness the
abolition of labor. We just need to guide it so that we
can benefit from it as least as much as the bosses.

> I am afraid that you will have to raise your sights
> far higher
than hours of labour legislation if you
> really want to solve the problem.

Peace on earth and harmony are where my sights are set.
At least in the Western hemisphere, hours of labor legislation
will be the way to get there.

Ken Ellis

 

12-19-00

Ben wrote:

> <snip> There are libertarians/anarchists who
> make no differentiation between "democracies"/
> bourgeois republican setups and dictatorships (not
> very many monarchies for them to worry about these
> days). We in the
WSM on the other hand DO make
> that differentiation though. This is why we have not
> needed elaborate justifications for unashamedly backing
> workers' struggle for the ability to express themselves
> at the ballot box and organise independently where this
> does not exist. We see the bourgeois republic, with its
> limited (
very limited) democracy as the best setup under
> capitalism for workers to organise for self-defence and
> for the establishment of socialism.

Backing workers' struggles for self-expression at the ballot
box indicates advocacy of the vote. Does it include voting for
politicians and/or ballot issues?

> <snip> this is exactly the way in which we see the
>
socialist revolution being ultimately accomplished.

So far, I see no more than: "workers to organise for self-defence
and for the establishment of socialism.
"

> The establishment of universal common ownership
> by the vast majority HAS to be
the ultimate
> democratic act
- in the real sense of a
> political declaration of will.

If workers are expected to vote for common ownership, they
certainly didn't come anywhere near to doing that in the recent
American election.

> Maybe this was why Marx and Engels were so
> keen on them. Democracies ARE to be worked
> within, but to pursue the material interest of the
> working class
(common ownership),

Workers don't seem to regard common ownership as in their
material interests
yet. But, the socialist program is for 'workers
to vote for common ownership at the ballot box. Then the
government goes along with it because the overwhelming vote of
the workers will signify the national will, which no one will dare
oppose.' If that's the case, then it's just a matter of convincing
workers of their interests. Has such a piece of legislation
already been written for people to study and think about?

> which is different from "working within"
> them as some sort of political outfit out to
> help capitalism solve its insoluble problems
> (like UNEMPLOYMENT).

It's 'all right to use democracies to establish common ownership,
but not all right to use democracies to reform what's already in the
law books'? Wouldn't it be better for socialists to advocate ongoing
use of the ballot so as to prepare workers for the fateful day for
establishing common property? After all, suppose workers take
your advice and don't vote in the meantime ... the big day arrives
and they want to vote, but the polling places are not prepared for the
flood of voters. Better to keep the machinery well-oiled, I would think.

Can you set aside your aversion to helping (yucky) capitalism,
hold your noses, and take an interest in reforms to help workers
better survive the upcoming enormous displacement of human
labor by technology? After all, you did mention self-defense,
which I would think should include fighting for reforms in
their own class interests.

> It may be that this conversion of an instrument of
> fraud (universal suffrage) into an instrument of
> emancipation
will so startle the capitalist class
> and state that
they will attempt to take it away.

Americans are already pretty well lathered up over the way the
vote was taken away from the people of Florida, so you may have
noticed how much our officialdom is harping on national unity and
harmony between Dems and Reps. Some bigwigs are a little bit
nervous right about now, but that's nothing compared to the effect if
some windbag were to threaten to take away the vote on a national scale.
The Florida debacle, mildly fraudulent as it was, would be like a day in
the park compared to the anger the other threat would cause. The state
is the place in which capitalists fight out the battle among themselves
in a civil fashion, as well as with other classes, so I'm pretty sure they
want to keep it that way. Even Marx regarded democratic republics
as the form of state in which workers and bosses would fight out
their battle to a finish
, which certainly implies both sides using
reforms to the best of their abilities.

> For things to have got that far though presupposes socialist
> consciousness will have reached the point of no return and
> will express itself anyway. However, I raise this possibility
> to point out that
Democracy is not as important to the
> bosses as it is to people like you and me.

The fact that the poorest sectors of the population tend to stay
away from the polls in our bourgeois democracies shows that
democracy is at least as important to bosses as it is to us. If
workers were enthusiastic voters, and bosses the contemptuous
abstainers, we might call what we have 'proletarian democracies'.

People who rise above a certain socio-economic status don't
automatically turn into monsters. Not many people buy the idea
that there's a hell of a lot of difference between any of us, from
Bill Gates down to Joe Shmoe. But, revolutionaries demonize
the bourgeoisie. In an absolute monarchy, demonization of the
monarchy would be understandable, but, in a democracy,
demonization of the bosses is ridiculous, so unity of workers
against bourgeois policies is the best that can be hoped for.

> They like it fine if the odd election adds
> legitimacy to their system, but as ever
> "
government by the people" for them
> means government
by people like them.

I doubt if Presidents from humble origins such as Abraham
Lincoln, or even Bill Clinton, could be convinced of that. Lots
of other representatives are of humble origins as well.

>> But, people today are not interested in meddling
>> with the institution of private property, for they
>> associate their personal security with their own
>> property. Half of Americans own a stake in the
>> stock market, and with home ownership broadly
>> distributed, people wouldn't want to meddle with
>> the institution of private property for fear that
>> any big change might backfire on them.
>
> Private property or personal property? The property we want
> to "meddle" with is the means of production and distribution.

People generally don't make much of a distinction between
personal property and private property, mainly because of the
plethora of small businesses. In that vast arena, one would often
have to split hairs to distinguish between personal and private
property, especially with so many small businesses being run out
of people's homes. There is little interest among activists to meddle
with small businesses, so that property is safe, but at what arbitrary
point does a small business become the kind of business the
activists would love to meddle with? Is it possible to draw a line
without being completely arbitrary? That's why Americans think
that 'property is property', and are little more willing to meddle with
someone's personal dwelling than they are with the property of GE,
Microsoft, or any other giant. When freedom of property ownership
becomes a principle, the great variety of quantities thereof becomes
of relative little importance.

Socialists have yet to draw a definitive line as to whose property
would be made common. Think of all of the agony, arguments,
complications and bureaucracy that would be required to draw such
a line. That is one reason why 'hours of labor' is such a comparatively
easier issue to deal with. If a law declares x to be the hours of labor, but
fails to put everyone to work, then the law gets amended the next day,
week, month, or year to become y hours. If y hours still isn't low enough
to do the trick, we keep amending until it does. After that, constant
improvements in technology will eventually force hours of labor so
ridiculously low that we convert to an all-volunteer work force.

> The question is whether the means by which humanity
> maintains and reproduces itself belongs to all of humanity
> or is monopolised by a parasitic ruling class.

Monopoly ownership isn't as big a question for average people
as it is a question for communists. If the alleged parasitic ruling
class wanted to withhold production for some insane reason, then
ownership WOULD become an issue, but owners ordinarily want
to sell as much as possible in order to make themselves as rich as
possible. Since it's not a question of purposely starving or depriving
the masses, then hunger becomes a question of unequal distribution.
If food isn't distributed fairly because jobs aren't distributed fairly,
then it's up to the population to get involved in correcting the
inequalities in the distribution of work.

> This has nothing to do with someone's PC, moped
> or collection of toby jugs (or their own house, if they've
> bought one) and I really do think that almost anyone would
> instinctively know the difference without much need for a
> rigorous study of marxism. How much "security" does
> most people's property give them? I would suggest
> that very many people are only too aware that
it gives
> them next to none as they actually own sod-all.

In my home town, small landlords abound. Most housing here
consists of 3-deckers built in the 1920's. Each deck most often
holds one family, but the whole house is usually owned by one
person or family that often lives on one deck and rents out the
other two to working class families. For the small landlords, their
personal security is obviously wrapped up in their income property.

For the many who own only their own homes, their ownership is
often the only thing that stands between themselves and financial
ruin in case of emergencies and sickness. Europeans may enjoy
more of a social safety net, but we Americans depend more
upon property for our security.

> While most Americans may well own shares (ludicrously
> small amounts which they cannot live on) they are just as
> likely to be up to their eyeballs in debt. Continuing with
> private/monoplised property society is far more likely
> to lead to things "backfiring" on them.

That statement sounds very close to: 'property leads to debt'.
Much more likely is the probability that 'mismanagement of
property leads to debt'. For most people, property leads to
even more wealth instead of debt, which is why so many
people want more and more property for themselves.

> A question sometimes asked by (WSM) socialists
> to people they are having a chat with (and something
> which sums up the case for socialism pretty concisely)
> is: "
If YOU had the casting vote on whether to abolish
> money and private property which way would you go?
".
>
MOST people, when its put like this, say yes, they would
> vote FOR the
abolition of private property. I think it would
> be very unwise to over-estimate the working class's
> identification with their MASTERS' PROPERTY.

Given such a limited choice, I might also be willing to vote to
abolish property before money. But, what group is ever going to be
so lucky as to be able to force a choice like that on the population?

Ken Ellis

 

12-21-00

Deathy wrote:

> just flicking through an edition of Critique of the Gotha
> program
, and found a neat quote from Freddy in a letter,
> thought it might help illummine our discussion with you.
>
> In it, Freddy distinguished
legislation by the 'people' from
> administration by the people
. Now, isn't it the case, that under
> capitalist democracy, administration lies in the hands of a
> special body,
divorced from the people.

In the USA, a common scenario is for leaders like mayors and
governors to get elected, and then appoint their own staffs, who
are usually loyal to their elected leaders. If they are part of what's
called Civil Service, then they don't lose their jobs when someone
new gets elected. In such a system, it's really hard to describe the
administration as coming from a special body. Leaders want to
please people so that they can be re-elected, so don't want their
appointed execs to behave too dictatorially, because of the poor
reflection it would make on the elected reps. Chores and conduct
of office are usually prescribed by law.

Freddie made a good point in his 1875 letter to Bebel. He
seemed to be heading in the direction of advocating that elected
bodies become executive and legislative at the same time
, as in
the Paris Commune, whose governmental processes were to
be very transparent to the general population.

> For example, the Health and Safety Executive is
> the
British state agency for overseeing workplace
> safety, and yet it places enforcing safety law 7th
> in its list of priorities.

This H&S Exec sounds like it was bureaucratically appointed,
but, somewhere along the line, I suspect that the boss of the H&S
Exec
has to answer to one or more elected officials who usually
want their appointed officials to be responsive to the people.

> So, if we were ever to pass reduced work hour laws, they,
> like health and safety law, would
only work if the workers
> enforce them themselves (via their unions, say).
>
> D'ya think this cuts to the nub of our dispute?

In the USA, the government does all of its own enforcement of
the Fair Labor Standards Act that prescribes time and a half after
40, and gross violators are hauled into court and are dealt with,
often by slapping them on the wrist. People tend to trust their
government to deal with matters like this quite a bit. They don't
have much of a choice, for there is no formal provision for unions
to do much more than make complaints, and hope and lobby for
the government to do something real about enforcement.

Ken Ellis

 

12-23-00

Ben wrote:

> Nice point about the poorest workers being least
> likely to vote. In the UK the mainstream political
> parties have now consciously given up trying to woo
> "
the poor". They now try to win elections by appealing
> to an ever-changing perceived "
middle class" and do not
> appear too gutted if the so-called "
underclass" they're
> always going on about stays home or doesn't register
> to vote. This I think underlines why "
Democracy is
> not as important to the bosses as it is to people
> like you and me
"

This reasoning about the importance of democracy seems to
contradict itself. If democracy was important to workers, we
would vote, plain and simple. Why use the fact that 'the under-
classes hardly vote
' to conclude that 'democracy is more
important to the underclasses than to the bosses
'? If we
vote less than the bosses, then it would appear that
voting would have to be LESS important to us.

> - it's a means to an end for them (and not an
> absolute necessity) - they don't want or need to
> encourage everyone to have their say, while you and
> I rightly see it as an ideal which we must defend.

I don't understand why it would be any less of a necessity to
them than it is to us. If it were less of a necessity to them, then
they'd use it less, which they do not. We agree that they use it more.

> The point I was trying to make was not one of individual
> capitalists being personally "for" or "against" democracy in
> the abstract, but rather that
the extent to which they fly the
> "democratic" flag is based on their perceived class interests.

> When things are going their way then democracy is the best
> thing since sliced bread (they even claim to fight wars for
> "democracy"!!!) - but when the situation changes ... well!

Do you mean they will take it away? In what country since Chile?

> Here's what Sir Ian Gilmour, a member of
> Thatcher's cabinet had to say on the matter:
>
> "
Conservatives do not worship democracy. For them
> majority rule is a device.
..Rational, economic, utilitarian
> man exists only in the imagination of some economists and
> philosophers. Similarly, MAJORITIES DO NOT ALWAYS SEE
> WHERE THEIR BEST INTERESTS LIE and then act upon that
> misunderstanding. For Conservatives, therefore, democracy
> is a means to an end, NOT AN END IN ITSELF.

Should we allow one conservative's ravings to set our agenda?

> In Dr Hayek's words, democracy is 'not an ultimate or absolute
> value and must be judged BY WHAT IT WILL ACHIEVE.' AND IF IT IS
> LEADING TO AN END THAT IS UNDESIRABLE OR INCONSISTENT WITH
> ITSELF, THEN THERE IS A THEORETICAL CASE FOR ENDING IT. ...
> In practice no alternative to majority rule exists, THOUGH IT
> HAS TO BE USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH OTHER DEVICES
".
>
> - From his book "
Inside Right". (My EMPHASIS).
>
> Loud and clear then -
democracy is an instrument
> of class rule
which is good as far as it goes and needs
> backing up with good old-fashioned state violence.
> Gilmour here is basically making a tortuous attempt at
> philosophical justification for a possible "
counter coup"/
>
martial law scenario if democracy is "used wrongly"
> by untrustworthy and "misguided"
proles like us.

It is Hayek's right to advocate dictatorship, I guess. It doesn't
mean that we have to so fear and tremble before the threat of
martial law that we give up using our democracies to the fullest
extent possible. Such cringing before threats would be cowardice,
and I'm sure that we don't know any of those poor wretches, so let's
call their bluff and use our democratic tools fearlessly. If they want to
dissolve what we have, then we'll show them how to build a real democracy.

> Something along these lines did actually happen
> in "democratic" Chile for example - with the same
> justifications being made (ie. scrapping democracy
> to "save it" from "communists"!).

Sad to say, many workers and unionists collaborated with the
forces of reaction in that counter-revolution. Maybe they thought
there was something in it for them. I wonder how many workers
were sorry afterward?

> While extremely limited democracy
> is a general feature of "advanced"
> bourgeois republics, it is not guaranteed.

Death and taxes are probably the only institutions with
bullet-proof guarantees. We could argue about how limited
our democracies are. Relatively speaking, with devices like
'initiative', and the USA's ability to vote for real revolutionary
parties in case we don't like our bourgeois democracies, the
USA is much more fortunate than were the residents of the
old Soviet Union, who could vote for one apparatchik or
another, but never for an opposing party. In the 19th century,
Marx noted that Europe regarded America's Wild West as a
region of near perfect freedom and statelessness, which is
pretty hard to improve upon. The USA's West may no
longer be as perfect as that, but the old spirit lingers on.

> Gilmour was not a particularly extreme
>
Conservative for his time, by the way. This
> should all be of concern both for us and also
> for YOUR hopes of militantly driving down
> labour hours using industrial muscle.

Industrial muscle would be far less important than political
muscle in any movement to drive down hours of labor in
democracies. In the USA, it's up to the government to enforce
the laws, and for little people to sue if the government doesn't.

> When the state starts to smell the heady scent of united
> action to bring down hours and keep the same or better
> wages I suspect
we will soon start to hear the tramp of
> marching boots and the clash of baton on riot shield as
> the police are sent to "deal with things" (us) once again.

We're not afraid of anything like that happening. Our movement
is political all the way. If it has any legitimacy at all, the scenario
will be similar to what happened to the Black-Connery 30 hours
bill
of the 1930's: the bill will work its way through legislative
bodies, it will be passed by both houses of Congress, will be
signed by the President, and will become the law of the land,
which law everyone except a few insignificant loose cannons
will respect. If the USA can pass legislation forcing oil
companies to clean up their diesel fuel, we can pass legislation
to drive down hours of labor. The basic framework is already
there in the Fair Labor Standards Act; it just needs amending.

> One reason why we in the WSM want to go straight
> for the jugular by capturing political power using the
> vote in order to neutralise and abolish the state.

If we did that in the USA, we would be abolishing our means of
enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act, which might mean regression
to a 12 hour day and 72 hour week, which would be an awful waste.

I wonder why you don't do the Marxist thing of advocating workers use
their existing democracies to the fullest extent. Do you remember Marx
regarding democracies as the negation of monarchies? If democracies
are the negation of monarchies
, and if absolute monarchies are useless
to workers, then why neutralise or abolish a form of state - democracy -
which is useful to workers?

>> People who rise above a certain socio-economic
>> status don't automatically turn into monsters. <snip me>
>
> So:
> I generally agree with you on the "
monsters" point -
> I am more interested in abolishing the capitalist system
> than spitting blood at the personnel. The personality
> profile of the capitalist class is peripheral - whether
> they are Robert Maxwell or St. Francis of Assisi they
> will end up having to act in the same way, as their class
> position comes through the exploitation of the workers
> and they don't want to go bust and end up joining us.

I don't want bosses to become workers like us. It's 19th-century
ridiculous to think that bosses' labor would at all be necessary in the
21st. I want workers to become as free of labor as their bosses, which
is what the 'militant driving down of the hours of labor' is all about. If
history is to go forward, bosses will not be enslaved to meaningless
labor; rather, labor will become as free of work as their bosses.
This is completely different compared to the socialist scenario.

> However, I don't think it too controversial to imagine
> that a lifetime of profit and loss reports, sackings and
> circumventing health and safety law probably does
> something bad to these unfortunate people's psyches.

Some bosses can be mean, do doubt about that. I've had my
share of them. American workers who have suffered under bad
bosses occasionally succumb to the malady known as 'going
postal
', and go on shooting sprees, often shooting their bosses
and co-workers. From personal experience, I also know that
some workers can be as bad or worse than their bosses, and can
be passed over for promotion because of excessive meanness.

> It is also going too far to expect too much empathy for
> people whose "interests" can cause such devastation
> to working class people's lives. But, point taken -
>
people are people are people.

It's nice to be able to agree now and then.

> This is part of the reason I find class rule so
> ridiculous - the bosses are nothing special (and
> neither am I). Why should a tiny parasitic class
> monopolise control of wealth production to
> everyone else's detriment?

That's what Engels wrote about in "Socialism: Utopian and
Scientific
" as well. It's only because we are numb and apathetic
enough to give the upper classes carte blanche to get away with
it. And we are also pretty dumb, considering the dumb things we
allow to divide us. We are so stubborn in our belief systems that
we allow ancient irrelevant ideologies to dominate our thinking.
Because so many of us are so well off compared to the poorest
people, no ideology of change captures our attention, whether it's
socialism or sharing work. This will change in the future, I am sure.

> This sort of behaviour is certainly
> not encouraged in children - if we're
> lucky we are taught to share our stuff
> with others by our parents/primary carers.

I think most of us know what it's like to fight over stuff. If some
families are lucky enough to know how to share without fighting,
then all the better for themselves and the world. What we learn as
kids about sharing certainly extends to how we behave later on in life.

> Anyway, we don't need to demonise the bosses -
> particularly since we have no squeaky-clean "nice"
> "revolutionary" leaders to put in their place (unlike
> Capital's left parties) - its enough to say we want
> to abolish the boss/worker system entire.

That will happen in time, I am sure, but there's no question that it
won't happen all at once like revolutionaries want it to. Rather, it will
happen slowly over the course of the next few decades if we adopt
correct policies to make it happen in a benevolent way. Since it will be
the triumph of intelligence over brute force, it won't happen without
a lot of ideological struggle. Many will be able to afford to maintain
useless and old ideologies in spite of the upcoming changes, but most
workers will start from scratch and do what's in their general interest.

> The other reason why I agree its self-defeating is that
> no one NEEDS to be "taught" to demonise the mighty -
> if individual workers think about individual capitalists
> or royals in demonic terms its probably because their
> personal experiences have given them grounds to!

That's certainly true. And when it comes having to deal with
human relations, we will see if we treat the bosses like demons,
or whether we can all come to regard one another as full
partners on a bon voyage toward workless, classless,
propertyless, moneyless and stateless society.

Ken Ellis

 

12-24-00

Jimmy wrote:

> What I am saying is that poverty is relative, and that
> the workers share of the social product today is
> relatively,
the same as a hundred years ago,
>
likewise a hundred years before that.

I would have to respectfully disagree, and here's why: Workers
become more and more productive all of the time. Back in pre-
history, we had a productivity of barely more than unity (1),
meaning that we could take care of ourselves, but hardly more
than that. The more the tools of production evolved, the better
able one person could provide for others. Workers in the USA
are now 40 times more productive than they were 200 years ago.
Back then, 80% of the people worked the land to feed 100%.
People received in return almost as much as they produced.
Nowadays, workers get FAR less than what they produce,
and the ratio of what they produce to what they receive
continues to get larger all of the time, and will hit infinity
when human labor is totally replaced by technology.

If, in the meantime, we reduce hours of labor and decrease our output,
we will thereby receive a greater proportion of what we produce, which
will lower the [surplus values]/necessities ratio. We certainly can't do
too much about increasing the denominator [personal consumption]
as long as we allow competition for scarce jobs to continue unabated,
so we might as well work on the numerator [surplus values] of that
ratio. Mother Earth will love us for cutting back on hours of labor, as
will everyone except the uppermost classes, but they can afford a little
financial hardship easier than we can, so let us weep no tears for them.

>> In the meantime, the rich have gotten extremely rich as well,
>> as the gap between rich and poor widens. <snip>
>
> Correct, indeed
the gap between the rich and the
> poor is widening, but that unfortunately is the
>
nature of the beast called capitalism.

This has less to do with capitalism and more to do with the
increasing productivity of labor, competition for scarce jobs,
and a lack of organization of the working class. There may
not be much we can do directly about capitalism, but we
could organize to eliminate competition over scarce jobs.

> When individual members of the capitalist class
> can accumulate more money for their personal use,
> than some of the so called third world countries
> national product. It seems that society is just
> a bit topsy turvy. Wouldn't you say?

It is unfair. But, workers nevertheless continue to fight over
vanishing long-hour opportunities to make the rich richer than
their wildest dreams, which seems very generous in a self-
destructive way, so we should instead extend a little of our
generosity towards our own class in terms of sharing work.

> The workers can avail themselves of these items
> you list today because, some time in the nineteenth
> century some members of the capitalist class came
> up with the idea of
Hire Purchase, I think that you
> call it
Installment Credit in the USA., this enabled
> the workers to be able to purchase those items by
> means of a small deposit and over a period of months
> or years pay whatever they had purchased. Nowadays
> that system has largely been overtaken by
Visa etc. etc.
> credit cards, and the ensuing problems that can cause
> if you happen to lose your job and your good money.

Some people can't handle the temptation of over-using credit, so
consequently go into debt. Wages often represent less than the
value of labor power, so workers then dig themselves into a hole
of debt which they later can't get themselves out of because of
high interest rates. Do we need a revolution because of this?
Or, can we fix the low wages and lousy social values that
drive people into debt?

>> <snip> Create the artificial scarcity of labor that
>> would put everyone to work, and enable the resulting
>> not-so-desperate workers to demand higher wages and
>> get them, while at the very same time not working so long
>> and hard that they wastefully overproduce. It would mark
>> the triumph of sanity over madness, but it doesn't seem to
>> be good enough for socialists, who want things their way,
>> or not at all.
>
> Some of what you say above is correct, when labour
> is scarce due to increased demand in the market for
> a particular commodity, then the workers can use
> their industrial muscle to get higher wages,

What's wrong with using POLITICAL muscle [as well as industrial]?
Legislation is the only way for shorter hours to become general
in a country, as well as in the world.

> and maybe get a reduction of hours in their working
> week. That is the way the market system works. I can
> not understand from what you say above how you are
> going to be able to alter that?. The only way that I can see
> out of that is that
the market must go i.e. capitalism must go.

All we have to do is manipulate the labor market for the benefit
of workers. The market is a neat invention, and has worked for
a zillion years. We will undoubtedly have to create an artificial
shortage in the supply of labor in order to cause an increase in
our price, just the way OPEC ministers create shortages in the
supply of oil in order to raise its price. If they understand how
to manipulate the market, then why can't we learn to manipulate
the labor market? That would be such an accomplishment that I
can't imagine us not feeling better about that than the feeling we
get while throwing ourselves wholesale onto the labor market,
and driving wages down for all. Given the 2 alternatives, which
is superior? Organizing to use the market, or just collapsing in a
heap under the weight of all of the yucky capitalism on top of us,
and screaming bloody murder? If we can't do better than scream,
then maybe our financial hardship is fair punishment for our
ideological bankruptcy.

>> <snip> If IBM will have a big computer as smart
>> as a human in 10 years
, and if the same smarts will fit
>> into a teacup by 2020, then the complete replacement
>> of human labor by technology within the lifetimes of
>> many people now living will drastically change their
>> lives very fundamentally and swiftly. <snip>
>
> A bit of crystal ball gazing here I am afraid Ken,
> making your self a hostage the future, a big mistake I fear.

I'd like to know which part of the total replacement of human labor
scenario you disagree with. Are the bosses going to someday call
a halt to robotization so that we will forever remain their slaves?
Others in this forum seem to think that robotization will someday
stop, but they refuse to tell me WHEN robotization will stop.
Maybe you can tell us when it will stop, as well as the
name of whichever authority said so.

snip old dialogue

> Socialism will solve the problem of unemployment
> by getting rid of employment. Employment, which
> in capitalism is paid for by wages, or salaries to the
> working class, is along with the capitalist ownership of
> the means of production and distribution the economic
> base of capitalist society. Socialism means the common
> ownership of those means of production and distribution
> and the democratic control of them by and in the interest
> of the whole community, the World community, and other
> than that I am not going be a hostage to the future by even
> trying to crystal gaze, even the tiniest bit.

You may not want to personally gaze into a crystal ball, but seem
perfectly willing to accept the gazings of a few others, who seem to
have learned from their crystal balls quite a bit about 'the coming
revolution, and how life will proceed the day after'.

You might want to get rid of employment, but some crystal ball
gazers say that people would still have to work in the socialist era.
Can people work without a division of labor? Can a division of labor
exist without creating class divisions? Wouldn't such class divisions give
rise to a state in order to maintain the privileges of the upper classes of
workers? Or, in order to minimize class divisions, would brain surgeons
be forced to work in the fields or flip burgers for part of the year, and
janitors forced to perform brain surgery? If so, then wouldn't it take
a state power to force a minimization of class divisions?

Evidence and logic are beginning to show that work and classless,
stateless, etc.less society are incompatible. Even though Marx
imagined work during the upper stage of communism in the
vaguest of terms, there, as well as in his prediction of the course
of world revolution, Marx was wrong, for a look around us shows
that work is well on its way toward being abolished before class
divisions, the state, property and money.

>>> Socialism is about much, much more, it is
>>> about solving the Human Predicament.
>>
>> How does one define the Human Predicament?
>
> First, poverty and that means working for wages or salaries,
> the insecurity, the ever present threat of war.

Of those problems, at least poverty and insecurity could be fixed
by creating an artificial scarcity of labor.

>> <snip> impoverishment will come to an end after there's
>> no longer a way for people to go out and earn a living.
>> This era will arrive in another 20-30 years (barring an
>> intervening catastrophe). When the workless era begins,
>> depriving a certain portion of the population from an equal
>> share would be so arbitrary as to be more ridiculous than
>> depriving Al Gore of his Florida recount.
>
> Crystal ball gazing again.

We have been on such a binge of productivity increases for so
many years that people have studied history to determine that labor
today is 40 times more productive than 200 years ago, which is also
reflected in the fact that 80% of the people were once required to
feed 100%, while today it takes less than 2%, another ratio of 40
to one. One has only to extrapolate along this trend in order to
see that work will be abolished in another 30-50 years. It has
nothing to do with crystal ball gazing. Just because the future
hasn't happened yet doesn't mean that the future won't happen.

>>> starves to death millions more human beings,
>>
>> In which Western Hemisphere country today?
>
> Parts of South America, and I might say with the
> connivance of the U.S.A. Nicaragua for example.

But, those are underdeveloped countries. I should have made it
more clear that I was referring to developed democracies.

>>> murders and maims millions more human beings
>>> in the pursuit of various brands of nationalistic territory,
>>
>> It's been a little while since Germany invaded
>> France. Events like that have pretty well come
>> to an end in Western Europe.
>
> Haven't you heard of the recent conflict
> in the Balkans, Kosova for instance.

Those countries are in Eastern Europe. With his reputation as 'butcher of
the Balkans
', Milosevic could hardly be described as a Social-Democrat.

> Even the mighty United Nations Organisation was
> totally useless in that event. No, no I cannot share
> your belief in these so called
peace keeping forces.
> When a Nation state deems that its interest is being
> interfered with
then it will go to war. Instance
> America, Britain etc. etc. in the Gulf over OIL
> supplies. I think enough said.

Yes, we are occasionally willing to go to war, but Saddam was
invading Kuwait. No Western power was about to stand around
with their hands in their pockets under those circumstances. The
West wouldn't have invaded if Saddam hadn't made his move.
After the Vietnam War debacle, we'd better have damned
good reasons to commit American lives.

snip Q and A

>> <snip> For the next few years,
>> we will will increasingly witness the abolition
>> of work
. We just need to guide it so that we can
>> benefit from it as least as much as the bosses.
>
> I don't think that it is our place to guide, it is
> our job to propagandize the idea of socialism
> and all that such an idea implies.

If unwilling to guide society, you might just as likely refuse to
accept anyone else's guidance. Thus, you can probably afford to
ignore or reject anything the rest of the party disagrees with.

> Based on my own experience and coming to an
> understanding of the case for socialism, the working
> class, once the proposition is understood then I would
> suggest that there will be no holding them back.

So much work will soon be lost to technological change
that there will arise a general movement for sharing work.
Ideologically, it will probably start off rather weak and none
too militant. I have apparently failed to prove to anyone that
socialism is obsolete, but, if I had accomplished that goal, then
I might have allies in the task of turning the future work-sharing
movement into a militant drive to share work, spare the environment,
and not lose sight of our common goal of arriving at workless,
classless, stateless, propertyless and moneyless society. It will
take many more of us than just lonesome me to start a big enough
movement to get to that goal efficiently. If socialists are going to
insist upon trying to get to the upper stage of communism by going
for state power and common property, then socialists may have to
learn the hard way that it can't be done in Western democracies.

>> Peace on earth and harmony are where my sights
>> are set. At least in the Western hemisphere, hours
>> of labor legislation will be the way to get there.
>
> Why limit yourself to the western hemisphere?
> Why not be a devil and go for the WORLD?

By necessity, we would have to begin in the most advanced countries,
but I'm not ruling out the movement spreading to the rest of the world.

Ken Ellis

 

12-25-00

Tony quoted me:

>> If workers are expected to vote for common
>> ownership, they certainly didn't come anywhere
>> near to doing that in the recent American election.
>
> He has pointed out this fact before as proof that
> people don't want socialism that features common
> ownership, real democracy, production for use etc.
> Well Ken, in your lovely republic, you can only vote
> for people who run, and since no socialists were
> running, you can't very well vote for them!

Information on 3rd party results isn't the easiest thing to find
on the Internet, but one county in Washington state published
its entire results, and listed about a dozen parties, at least 2 of
which were noticeably socialist. Together, socialists got about
2 tenths of one percent of the total votes in that county. In
California, the Peace and Freedom Party, which doesn't have
a socialist name, but is staffed with socialists, got 5% in some
races. See what I mean about low support for socialism? My
old ASLP used to run candidates in many elections, but
usually got similarly insignificant results.

> If you did notice, however, voter turnout has continued
> to decrease, showing that more and more people are
> dissatisfied with the present system.

In the USA's past close election between Al Bush and George
Gore ;-), it was such a tight race that people came out to vote
like not for a long time.

>> Workers don't seem to regard common ownership
>> as in their material interests yet.
>
> Oh really? What is your statistical sample? Merely
> that mentioned above? Or have you talked with so many
> workers that you can make a blanket statement like that?

I think that the low performance of overt socialist and communist
parties in the last election speaks for itself.

> How can you condemn those for not making
> a choice they didn't have under your little
> bougie republican system?

The government does not intimidate people out of wanting to
establish common property. It's simply a thought that hardly
enters anyone's head. If people did want it, they would vote
for it, but they don't vote for it, proving that they don't want it.

>> Socialists have yet to draw a definitive line as to
>> whose property would be made common.
>
> How's this... "
The stuff I need to personally
> physically possess for use in my everyday life,
> and items which pertain to own life exclusively
> (pictures, souvenirs, things I made for myself) are
> personal property. The stuff I don't need to possess
> personally for everyday life is commonly owned.
"

Not bad!

> I think this is a common-sense distinction which
> only the most twisted capitalist pig lawyer can hope
> to succeed in blurring. In a no-scarcity reality, there
> will be no one desiring to take my microwave or bath
> towels because they already (or will) have them if they
> need them; in addition, they are designed for personal
> use. However, I would not deny some comrade the use
> of them if she desired it.
>
> Land and houses (which in reality do not require
> someone to physically possess them to be useful)
> become common property

I can't think of many home-owners who would be willing to give
up their homes to the common good, but, as you say, the vote for
socialism means a very big change in attitude. It certainly would
boost socialist spirits to see attitudes changing in their direction.

> as do roads, utilities, other means of production and
> "businesses" (since no business of any kind can actually
> be physically possessed by any one person in a sane
> society, and since they exist only to produce profit,
> they become obsolete as such...poof!)

A self-employed carpenter could run his own business out of
his home and garage, and his business assets would include his
power and hand tools, his truck, ladders, etc. He might not take
well to the notion of his business going 'poof' if work still needed
to be done, and his services still required, but he would no longer
have the profit motive to inspire him to work. Arrrghhh. The very
thought of work grates on my nerves, and then, worse than that,
the thought of working for nothing! Even less appetizing.

>> Think of all of the agony, arguments, complications and
>> bureaucracy that would be required to draw such a line.
>
> This is only a construct of a mind which cannot think
> of the world in terms other than "I must possess as
> much as possible to be successful".

Property ownership in the West is a principle. A person's
property is generally protected by law, no matter how little
or much that person may own. The 5th Amendment to our
Constitution prevents private property from being taken for
public use without just compensation. When it comes to
throwing out that principle and establishing common property,
socialists should be able to figure out that people's present
interests in property obviate the achievement of perfectly
common property in one day, and that the only way to get
anyone to join in the quest anytime soon would be by creating
alliances. Alliances imply compromise, so activists would agree
not to touch the property of the lowest classes, including their
homes and small businesses. The only question after that would
be: where to draw the line on the size of the small businesses
whose property would be removed. If you want some kind of
socialism anytime soon, you would have to learn to deal with
the necessity to join alliances and compromise.

> Such possessions protected by the present system are those
> which are artificially made scarce such as land, houses and autos.
>
> I would like to say more on this but I must get ready for
> a bankruptcy hearing, in which I will experience your
> aforementioned agony, arguments and complications.
> Here's to your bloody private property laws, Ken.

They're not my laws. I didn't make them. I can't help it if so few
people are willing to change the whole shebang in a day. I was
once willing to do it, but I learned the hard way, as will many
another poor soul, no doubt.

Ken Ellis

 

12-31-00

Dear Thirsty,

snip

When I began writing my book in '92, I quickly realized that it would 'come
together' better on a computer, but didn't have enough cash to buy one. During
the summer of '92, I drafted the book in a notebook during the day, then went
to KPFA at night to enter my progress onto the Program Director's new Mac.
The daily trips quickly became a nuisance, so I bought a new Macintosh Classic
II
that Sep. '92, and a printer in '95, both with a credit card, for a total of around
$2,100. But, now I have a new computer that's advanced enough to talk to the
Internet with ease. My nephew bought my dad's boat, so we took some of the
money and bought me a new $1400 iMac DV. I had considered buying a used
Mac, but the specs on new ones are so much better than the old ones, that the
monetary savings wouldn't have been worth the hassles with obsolete technology.

snip

Did you ever read the book called 'Summerhill' by A.S. Neill? That book
represents my child-rearing philosophy. But, having never brought up any kids,
any philosophy I might have about it would only be untested speculation. Let's
just say that 'I have ideals'. Maybe it's too bad that I don't live in an ideal world.

You were right when you filled in the gaps in my prose and said that
'Ignorance on the part of the exploited allows the intelligent to steal from
them.
' I think there is a certain amount of planning or conspiracy involved,
but certainly not universal, for, one has only to look at the example of the
kind of inflation that business people worry about to detect the chinks in
their armor. About 1 time in 10, someone will leak evidence that indicates
that the only kind of inflation the business community worries about is wage
inflation, for higher wages would cause lower profits. Students of Marx claim
that higher wages don't necessarily translate into higher prices as much as
they translate into lower profits
, because of competition in the world market.
I always smile when the term 'wage inflation' appears in the media instead of
just plain 'inflation', which we all fear and dread, while relatively fewer of
us fear and dread 'wage inflation'. Wage inflation would be a boon to a lot of
low-wage workers.

Look at what spurred one of the latest little stock market rallies. The stock
market didn't go up because unemployment dipped, as most media incorrectly
led us to believe. Few sources reported that a rise in wages did not accompany
that dip in unemployment. It was the fact that wages did not go up that clued
world investors to the fact that the USA is still 'safe for investing'. These are
real important issues in life, and are being misrepresented by most media,
or are not being reported in sufficient depth. They leave a lot for us to figure
out for ourselves, and because so many of us are too busy to do our own
research, we consequently figure things out differently from one another,
so can not act in concert to right the wrongs of the world.

What are the real important things in life? The things they don't teach
in school, to start with. I learned little of importance in grade school.
Elementary schools were brutal for me. Other than my kindergarten teacher,
Miss Hathaway, the other teachers and principals were only interested in
discipline. The other kids were brutally competitive. They never taught us
that we are born free, and have innate rights to a decent life. It was dog-eat-
dog, and the devil take the hindmost. I grew up wishing I could hide away
from the world. I wanted to find an island I could call my own and never see
another person. I may have recovered from that point of view, but life didn't
need to be that harsh. I'm one of the 'walking wounded', you might say. Now
I want to change the world so that kids will be able to grow up free, and
cooperate with one another. Tests, tests, tests. Naturally, Massachusetts made
sure that a lot of kids are going to 'fail' the MCAS (standardized) tests by
defining a certain grade below which they won't graduate. They always have
to reinforce the old paradigm of success and failure. How are they going to
explain, 50-100 years from now, the overwhelming failure of workers to find
8-hour opportunities to make the rich richer? Future generations will have to
learn to hang their heads in shame, while the people in control, who know
better, will be congratulating themselves over having perpetrated yet another
successful swindle. Their swindle has to be fought against by everyone who
can see what's coming, but would put harmony before ruthless competition.

Renting was always a sore point with me, for I never paid any rent until I
moved to California in '74 at the ripe old age of 31, so didn't have to adapt
my finances to paying rent until a lot later in life than most other people I
know. We pay for every other commodity we use, so why not rent? It wasn't
the biggest issue on earth for me. Just a thorn in the side. But, where I am now,
the thorn has been removed, and I get to stick the thorn in the guys who rent the
garage from Mom. So, all of a sudden, rent isn't such a bad thing at all. Do you
see how our social standing can determine our outlook on life? It may not be
long before I become a perfect hypocrite, if I haven't already. What do you think?

Rent won't go away until private property fades in importance. Until then,
it's only fair for the propertied classes to charge rent. Let me tell my vision
of the future of private property, a task I maybe should have done long ago.
I don't think private property will last forever. Perhaps in a mere century, I
think that it will occupy a diminishing role in our lives. What will happen
is that: computers and technology will continue to put people out of work
at an increasing rate, raising our consciousness that work will have to be
shared more equitably in order to ensure a modicum of a future for the
working class, until work as we know it is phased out completely. This
movement will acquire increasing importance in the future as machines get
smarter and smarter, making human labor increasingly redundant. The average
work year will continue to plummet toward zero, which it will someday reach.
When it does get there, the rich will no longer be able to profit from the
labor of the poor, which will extinguish the basis of capitalist enrichment.
When labor, the source of capitalist wealth, no longer has to work for the
rich, the rich will then find that their property has little value to them. To
the extent that private property declines in value to the rich, labor will also
cease to be as infatuated with obtaining it, and will come to put more value
in their own human associations, which is as it should be. This also shows
that it is not private property that makes the rich richer; it's our willingness
to work long hours for them that makes them so rich. If we didn't work for
the rich, the rich wouldn't be rich. Isn't that the way it has been since time
immemorial? Socialists tend to forget this fact, and instead think that
'property makes the rich rich.' But, that's not so. As it is now, 98% of
new wealth accrues to the upper 20% of the population. This also means
that the lower 80% has to get along with the mere 2% of new wealth that
they receive. I hope that this helps to dispel the socialist myth that
'property makes the rich rich, so property must be redistributed.'

Thanks for the advice to 'pay my taxes'. A lot of other people have told me
the same thing over the years, but now I won't have to do so until I once again
have income. '99 is the first year in a long time when I didn't have any income
at all; maybe '63 was the first year I paid anything. Speaking of 'income', did
you know that the definition accepted by the Supreme Court means 'profit'?
Wages certainly aren't profit, so why are so many people paying income
taxes on wages? Withholding from wages started the year I was born as a
fund-raising measure for WWII. It was supposed to stop by the end of the
war, but the measure kept on being approved by Congress, for no one there
wanted to shut off the money supply.

snip

Some 'schemes' for sharing work could easily be accomplished by means of
amending the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), such as a shorter work day
or week, and higher overtime premiums. Amending already-existing legislation
isn't the most difficult thing we could do. Labor is already somewhat protected
by the FLSA, which took effect in the late '30's, and phased in our 40-hour week.
(France pioneered its own 40-hour law in '36.) Our law just needs better teeth so
that work can be more equitably shared. But, due to people's ignorance and apathy,
there was more talk just a few years ago about gutting the intent of the FLSA by
converting the 40-hour week into a 160-hour month with no overtime premium.
I don't think I ever saw a counter-attack, but labor's perspective is hardly ever
fairly represented in the major media.

If society never decides to share work equitably, I shudder at the thought
of what it will signify about the nastiness of the people of the world. But, I
can't imagine the mass stupidity of us endlessly continuing to claw and fight
for the last of the declining numbers of 8-hour opportunities to make the rich
richer, while the ones who are unlucky enough not to find such opportunities
get to starve to death. We will come to our senses eventually, but how much
longer will it take? As improbable as it may often seem, 'coming to our senses'
is not the most impossible thing we can do. If I didn't have faith that we will
find more ways to express our humanitarianism, I wouldn't bother writing
and working for my goal.

If we can ever learn to share work equitably, that will represent such a
complete revolution in the way we humans regard one another, that our
generation will not have to worry about how future generations will share
the product of machine labor when no one ever again has to go to work to
make a living. When the great age of equitably sharing work finally dawns,
the rat race will be something that people will have to go to the archives to find
evidence of. It'll be such a wonderful change compared to what we presently
experience that it makes me wonder if evolution in that direction will so
intensely oppose our willingness to fight one another that we won't be able to
make the humanitarian grade. But, it's really 'do or die'. The robots are coming,
whether or not we will be able to handle that event. If we don't slow the economy
soon, the polar ice caps will melt even faster. My house is only 10 feet above the
highest tides, so it may not be very long before it'll be right on the beach, and
many of my neighbors under water. In Hurricane Carol in '54, the ocean
came right up to our cellar bulkhead before receding.

snip

With regard to employment by small vs. big business in the USA, you were
correct to be a skeptic, and my book shows why. Let me quote one of its
paragraphs (p. 61):

"Point 3 of A.P.'s analysis was that 'Small owners and peasants play an
insignificant role in America
', and, in 8 separate places, A.P. did his best to
diminish the importance of American middle classes. In the 1988 edition of
Small Business Data, statistics showed that in 1982, there were 3.66 million
small businesses in the USA
, and in 1987, small business dominated
industries employed over 46 million people
, or nearly half the work force,
which, in itself, totally disproves A.P.'s thesis that small businesses play
an insignificant role in the United States
. While it is true that employment
on small farms has shrunk drastically over the years
, for instance, from 6.7%
in 1950 to 1.7% in 1990
, this trend does not at all mean a corresponding
shrinkage in the middle classes in general. Many farmers sold their farms to
start small businesses in the city. The statistics show that the American small-
business community and other middle classes are still going very strong."

From the above, I concede that my previous letter's statement: 'the vast bulk
of American business is small business
' needs to be clarified in light of the
hard data I just quoted. While the number of small businesses certainly is
enormous, they don't employ anywhere near as large a proportion as what my
statement seems to imply, but nearly half of the workers isn't a bad showing
for small businesses. I'm glad that you caught me on that one. It brought me
back to earth.

Socialists' performance in office hasn't ushered in the millennium, not because
of the failure of socialists, but rather because of the failures of socialism and
communism to meet expectations. Communism was marketed as the savior
of mankind
, but had so many internal contradictions that it turned out to be
far worse than Western democracy, and never occupied a place higher than
an intermediary between feudalism or colonialism and capitalism. Social-
Democratic
schemes for taxing and spending to put people to work, or for
taxing to redistribute wealth and income, all fail to take into account the
increasing productivity of labor, the need to slow down the economy by
working less so as to preserve the environment, and the fact that work itself
will soon no longer be around to nurture future generations of workers the
same way it nurtures existing generations. It's time for us to take off our
blinders to the significance of technological progress. We work too much,
and yet people behave as though work will sustain us forever, but it's not so,
and it's better for us to learn this lesson sooner than later. Those are real
important things that they don't teach in school, and they don't, not because
'they don't know for sure that it's going to happen', but because the ones in
control are making money hand over fist from the high profits and low wages
that result from our mutual competition over long-hour opportunities to make
the rich richer. Who wants to slow down the gravy train? Few that I know.
We will someday have another real crisis of over-production in the midst of
underemployment, but few will want to crank up government spending to fix the
problem. Such programs were bearable at more primitive states of technological
prowess, such as during the 1930's, but will not suit the next big crisis. We'll
have to think up something else. What will it be? What will people demand?

I think that I'm still a member of the left, because I once heard the
left described as 'that portion of the political spectrum whose goal is the
empowerment of the lower classes
', which is my goal. I'm just no longer
a communist, anarchist or socialist, because those leftist ideologies are
concerned with redistributing wealth and property instead of redistributing
work to all who could use some to get by. My brother-in-law quotes a saying
that goes: 'All of the cash could be evenly redistributed to everyone in the
country, but, a year later, the cash would be concentrated in just as few
hands as today.
' Bob is about as far from being a socialist as most NRA
members are. His apt observation shows how limited the benefits of a
one-time redistribution would be.

Many workers may very well be content with their own standards of living, but
too few feel safe in their communities, or feel safe sending kids off to school.
Lots of people spend big bucks trying to ensure their security, but, in a world
that drives so many people to desperate measures, no one I know can say they
really feel secure. With so many 'going postal', even communities like New
Bedford are discussing how to prevent tragedies like at Columbine High
School from occurring here. With the inevitable eventual decline in the
number of 8 hour opportunities to make the rich richer, many of the
content cats in the lap of bourgeois democracy will find the going a
lot tougher, maybe even tough enough to inspire them to want to
share the remaining work. We'll see.

You passed another test. The pre-1889 SLP platform was pretty good, but, after
1889, the SLP became useless to workers because they scrapped the good old
program in favor of revolution. Revolution in a democracy? The purpose of
revolution has always been political, and has been to replace non-democracies
with democracies, so there is nothing better than the notion of 'revolution in
democracies
' to alienate average people, without whose support the revolution
won't happen anyway.

Adopting a program that is based on force instead of freedom would be a very
big deal to Americans. Marx regarded America as a country whose government
interfered at a minimum in people's affairs, and our wild West as a model of
stateless anarchy. Our unique situation in the world made a distinct impression
on Europeans who were still under the thumbs of oppressive monarchies,
inspiring many Europeans to move here. As a result of our small-government
heritage, Americans want nothing to do with social solutions that are based on
wielding lots of force. Enforcing tighter regulations of hours of labor would
not require anywhere near the amount of force compared to trying to change
property relations. There is hardly any comparison in the levels of force
involved, the difference is that great.

I see that you still don't believe that it took a Civil War to end slavery.
The fact is that the South gave us no other choice. Well before the War, the
South was dominant in the Senate, thus was able to retain slavery as a durable
American institution in spite of the opposition of the North. The only way the
South could retain their majority in the Senate was by ensuring that new states
brought into the Union would permit slavery. Fierce battles were fought in
Kansas, Nebraska and Texas over slavery, which gradually lost more ground
than it gained. Sensing that the battle would soon be lost, the South launched
a last desperate measure to ensure the endurance of slavery by assaulting the
North at Fort Sumter. But, the North defended itself, and then determined to
decide the controversy over slavery once and for all. If you someday read
collections of Marx's writings like 'On America and the Civil War', all of the
above will be manifest. If the South hadn't been so aggressive, then ending
slavery without war would be debatable, but the South gave the North no choice
but to fight back, and, at the same time, to resolve the issue once and for all. If
the war hadn't settled the issue so dramatically, it's plausible that wage-labor
might have gradually replaced slavery, but it's also plausible that the issue of
slavery might be so innately contentious that there was only one way to resolve
it, i.e., by means of civil war. As we have noticed, people were willing to fight to
the death to preserve their right to own other people, but, can anyone imagine a
civil war over shorter-hour legislation? That idea might be absurd, but it's funny,
for one sectarian argued against me over the shorter-hour issue on the basis that
'the bosses will never allow it, so you had better fight for socialism instead.' When
I heard his argument, I was taken aback by his hubris, but later understood that I
had been taken to the cleaners yet again.

Marx's writings easily prove that our Civil War was fought over the issue of
slavery
. Slavery was the only form of private ownership the majority considered
to be sufficiently politically incorrect to want to do something about. Private
ownership of everything else seems to be just fine and dandy to average people.
Due to people's strong sentiments in favor of the institution of private property,
the degree of force that would be required to radically alter property relationships
just isn't available to small communist parties, or to any number of them banding
together. Revolutionary changes are so unlikely that it's becoming increasingly
ridiculous to even harbor such desires, especially since the events of 1989-91.
Faced with such arguments, how can radicals continue to hope to change property
relationships? The fact is that most radicals don't want to get anywhere near to
having to think about arguments such as these because they simply can't come up
with rational responses, so they just ignore the many problems with their ideologies,
and hope they will go away. Few radicals can admit that their ideologies have problems.
The News and Letters group despairs over 'what socialist society will look like on the
day after the revolution.' Though they may represent some of the few who wonder out
loud, they can't even begin to plan ahead for the day after the revolution, for every
member of their group probably has a completely different idea on how post-
revolutionary society would look. The SLP doesn't wonder what society would
look like on the day after the revolution because they have a complete blueprint
known as Socialist Industrial Unionism-an organizational structure into which
the whole society would fit, but their whole shtick is so absurd that the Party
shrinks a little more every year.

I remember the forecast of really cheap and prolific sources of nuclear power
in mags like Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. One magazine forecast
nuclear power plants in the cellars of every home, and similar small plants in
autos. Like you say, it didn't happen. What has continued to happen, however,
has been the rapid diminution of the amount of time it takes to create necessities
of life in industrialized countries. For eons, getting necessities was what a lot of
human activity was about, and there were few surpluses that could be drawn upon
in emergencies. Any argument there? The more technology we adopt, the easier it
becomes to create necessities, so we consequently now spend proportionally more
time creating non-necessities. Is there anything wrong with that idea? If you
disagree with those 2 propositions, then it's easier to understand why you may
disagree with the graph I drew. Your dismissal of the graph could imply that you
think that we may someday be spending more time creating necessities, instead of
less. If we have some kind of major catastrophe, then spending more time creating
necessities is quite likely, but I find it hard to believe that technological progress is
coming to an end anytime soon, or will someday go backwards for no good reason
at all. If you think that the curves are someday going to change in direction or
acceleration, please give a reason that we can later grapple with.

I also wonder when work will become 'meaningful, safe and pleasant'. But, if, by
the end of the 21st century, all physical labor is replaced by machines, I find it hard
to believe that there will still be jobs for cess-pool workers, garbage-men, steeplejacks,
and other hard-working types who are so familiar to us in our day and time.

I don't understand how you can compare 'talking to me' to 'talking to a wall'.
I take your criticisms seriously, and I even alter my ideas and writings when
your criticisms hit the spot. This very letter contains examples of my appreciation
of well-placed critiques, so, how can you fairly accuse me of being inert? On the
other hand, I am still waiting for you to begin to seriously comment on my critiques
of socialism. I will bet that you have already figured out that you really can't find
anything substantively wrong with my argument that 'socialism has no place in a
progressive agenda', so you may have decided to discard that topic from further
consideration. Come on, make my day and admit that I'm right, or tell me where I'm
wrong. The working class doesn't have forever for people to 'get it right' on life and
death issues like this, because the robots are coming, and we don't have forever to
learn to cooperate to equitably share the remaining work. Put your thinking cap on.

Once again, you were correct about the issue of universal morality. It was
dumb of me to write "universal for everyone except", for, when I put in the
exception, it's automatically no longer universal. It's good to be able to
count on you to catch me when I mess up.

I don't know what's wrong with naming a party after thinkers. After all, the
political spectrum is already full of similar phenomena. Libertarians can
certainly be found outside of the Libertarian Party. People who believe in
democracy can certainly be found outside of the Democratic Party. Reformers
can certainly be found outside of the Reform Party. Workers can be found
outside of the new American Labor Party. Not all thinkers will want to join
the Thinker's Party. Might you be just a little far out on a limb on this one?

snip

I wasn't very surprised to hear that you were surprised to hear that the end
goal of socialism and communism is classlessness and statelessness, exactly
like the goal of anarchism. You can find it in Marx's 'Critique of the Gotha
Program
', and in Engels' 'Socialism: Utopian and Scientific', among other
places. I once thought that every socialist believed that the state will not go on
forever, and that the state will fade away as class distinctions dry up, but many
socialists I've met could use a refresher course on socialist history. Dictionary
definitions always fail to include complete philosophical ramifications of
ideologies. A dictionary definition is usually only a paragraph competing
for space with another half-million definitions, so can't do complete justice
to a subject as complex as socialism. An irreconcilable difference between
communism and anarchism that you won't find in dictionaries is that anarchists
believe that classlessness and statelessness can be achieved as soon as the
present-day state has been dealt with, or abolished. Communists, on the other
hand, believe that present-day states will be replaced with workers' states which
will someday fade away in proportion to forced nullifications of class distinctions
(with communists cracking the whip). Some philosophical socialists want the states
that they hope to someday control to eventually fade away. The ultimate goal of all
3 ideologies, historically, is for us to someday be able to do without the 'benefits'
of the state, but the 3 have irreconcilable differences as to the method of
'persuading' the state to go away. Because of their very real differences,
lack of cooperation and sectarianism are the results. Socialism, communism
and anarchism are all doomed to eventual insignificance because their
adherents will not be able to cooperate to change property relations.

I'm glad to see that you have long embraced the philosophy of sharing work.
It makes too much sense not to, but lots of socialists refuse to embrace it
because they'd rather work for socialism. I'm glad that you're not so hard-
nosed that it's either 'socialism or nothing' for you. Many socialists are
that hard-nosed.

snip

I think I already told you the news that 500 family farms go under every week.
Do you foresee any problems along that line for your farm in the future?
If so, it surely won't reflect any failure on your part, at least in my book.
It's all part of the coming changes. Sad, but true.

That's it for now. Thanks again for keeping me on my toes. Season's greetings.
Happy millennium.

Yer olde pal,

Ken Ellis

End of November - December 2000 Correspondence

End Year 2000

Back to Index of Year 2000 Correspondence

Back to Home Page