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Selected Political Correspondence

February 2001

Text coloring decodes as follows:

Black: Ken Ellis
Red: Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.
Green: Press report, etc.
Blue: Recent correspondent
Purple: Unreliable info

2-01-01

I've been reading about LTVs [Labor Time Vouchers] in the forum, but
there may be a larger issue. The SLP and the somewhat related WSM both
call for 'work' to continue after 'the revolution', but I question the compatibility
of work with classless with stateless society.

Work cannot be done without a division of labor, unless brain surgeons
would be required to work in the fields or wash dishes for part of the year, but,
what institution would force brain surgeons to do other jobs? I think that the
Chinese government tried similar methods of reducing class distinctions during
their cultural revolution, so that option is out for obvious reasons. Perhaps the
division of labor in the USA would continue as before.

If brain surgeons remain brain surgeons, and refuse collectors remain refuse
collectors, would not the brain surgeons (and other highly skilled workers)
continue to want to live separately from the refuse collectors, or would we
all immediately become such selfless socialists that we instantly become
one big happy family? That's hard to imagine.

If one big happy family did not immediately occur, and if the extra labor
involved in the production of highly skilled labor translated into higher
rates of compensation, then would such a disparity in compensation create
class divisions? It's not inconceivable that a large enough disparity in rates
of compensation could give rise to a government or state to enforce the
privileges of highly skilled workers. They just might want to exclude
the refuse collectors in their neighborhoods except on collection day.

Work seems incompatible with classless and stateless society.
Perhaps someone has a thought or two about this.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

2-02-01

Mahyar wrote me a note:

> French workers have got a 35 hour week, but their pay
> has decreased pro rata, so the rate of exploitation remains
> unchanged. Is that what you want? Because I don't.

Some people mistakenly think that a shorter work week would
automatically mean lower wages and a lower standard of living.
That relation may hold in some cases, but not all of the time.
Otherwise, this old 19th century doggerel could never have
been formulated: "Whether you work by the piece or work
by the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay.
"

People should keep in mind what wages represent: the sum
of commodities and services required to produce and reproduce
labor power (or to keep people going to work, week in and week
out). In theory, no matter how long or short the length of the work
week [at any particular point in the development of the means of
production], the commodities and services required to produce and
reproduce labor power remains fairly constant. The bosses' attitude
consists of: "Well, if it's going to take X amount of dollars to get a
worker to show up at work for any length of time, I might as well
keep them on the job for as many hours per week as possible,
thereby to get my full money's worth by extracting as much
labor as humanly possible."

Whether the length of the work week is 20, 40 or 60 hours, the
mass of commodities and services to keep workers coming back
for more wage-slavery remains pretty much the same. While it is
in the bosses' interests for the work week to equal 60 hours, it is
more in the workers' class interests to work 20 hours. It doesn't
take a rocket scientist to figure out that the rate of exploitation of
the 60 hour workers is 3 times the rate of those who only work 20
hours (with the condition that the 20 hour law became universal).

Lowering the rate of exploitation thus becomes another good
reason for fighting for legislation to lower the length of the work
week. In the process thereof, we would be incrementally freeing
the whole working class from wage-slavery. No matter how
undesirably high the rate of exploitation may appear in spite of
the 4 or 5 hour decrease in France, it is important to maintain the
pressure for shorter hours, which is the best guarantee that the
rate of exploitation will decline, and will someday end altogether.
No wage-labor = no exploitation. I keep my eye on that prize,
whether we get there with a bang through revolution, or by
gradually reducing the length of the work week.

Ken Ellis

http://www.libcap.net

 

2-03-01

Robin replied:

> My position has always been and continues to be:
>
> 1. That the concept of a proletarian state is a contradiction in
> terms - not in the sense that the proletariat might not temporarily
> provide the personnel to administer a state (e.g. Paris Commune etc)
> but that the INTERESTS that such a state can serve must necessarily
> be those of the bourgeoisie vis-a-vis the workers. It simply cannot be
> otherwise - not while you have workers and bourgeoisie coexisting.

If a proletarian party cannot represent the interests of the
proletariat, then I would understand why the alleged proletarian
party could not represent the interests of the proletariat in the state.
Funny thing is, though, I'll bet you don't have any trouble with the
theory that 'a bourgeois party can represent the interests of the
bourgeoisie, so a bourgeois party can also represent the interests
of the bourgeoisie in the state'. You are probably already aware that
De Leon, Arnold Petersen, and their ASLP had the same trouble with
the concept of a proletarian party, but they accepted the concept of
bourgeois parties ruling in the state. I have yet to see a substantive
argument against Marx's theory of proletarian parties and proletarian
rule in a state, but I have heard a lot of assertions. The best argument
against Marx's theory of proletarian dictatorship is that it didn't happen
during the only epoch in which it had a ghost of a chance of happening.
Therefore, it becomes easy enough for some people to strip Marxism
bare of its essences before our very eyes, while most others passively
observe without a frame of reference.

If you think that our democracies must necessarily represent the
interests of the bourgeoisie, and cannot represent the interests
of the workers, then why did Marx carry on in so many places
about democracies being the final form of state in which the
battle between worker and boss would be fought to a finish
? If
you think that democracies always and irrevocably represent the
interests of the bosses, then you would necessarily have to claim
(like Arnold Petersen of the ASLP) that 'Marx was merely and
unwittingly setting up the working class for inevitable failure.'
Why can't you instead consider our modern democracies to be
potential proletarian dictatorships, and then push for proletarian
policy to take precedence over bourgeois policies?

> Furthermore, the tendency will be for those non-bourgeois
> elements monopolising state power to themselves become
> members of the bourgeoisie by virtue of the very set-up
> they find themselves in. Hence the upper echelons of the
> pseudo-communist party in the USSR were transmogrified
> into the capitalist class by virtue of their state control
> over the means of production.

Don't worry, a workers' party doesn't have to become the ruling
party in order for workers to win a shorter work week, so all we
have to do is win the shorter work week, and not worry about
anyone being bought off. Too many people will be fighting for
it, and if the bosses would be willing to buy off that many, then
they just might as well give people what they want in the first place.

> 2. Whatever the historical justification Marx may have
> adduced for installing a "
dictatorship of the proletariat"
> this no longer exists;

Such a statement demonstrates a lack of understanding of the
concept of proletarian dictatorship. Marx's socialist scenario was
inconceivable without it. Marx's scenario had little to do with the
development of the means of production, but had EVERYTHING
to do with the political conditions of his century.

I also don't advocate applying a proletarian dictatorship to the
world of today, nor would anyone in their right mind advocate
the same. Thus, if a Maoist or Leninist sectarian advocates a
proletarian dictatorship, to me it betrays a lack of knowledge of
history. One simply cannot take a revolutionary scenario that was
plausible for the 19th century and apply that any kind of revolutionary
scenario to the 21st. This has nothing to do with the development of the
means of production, however. It instead has everything to do with the
fact that most of the world's intransigent absolute monarchies have been
replaced with democracies. It is a common mistake, but not correct to
say that today's economic conditions preclude a proletarian dictatorship,
for nothing that went on in the economic sphere ever precluded Marx's
dictatorship of the proletariat.

> the very notion [proletarian dictatorship] has become a hindrance
> and distraction to the development of socialist consciousness.

How can the socialist movement understand where it is today
unless it understands where it's been? Then, if people really
understood what socialism really was back then, the revolutionary
movements of today would be forced to logically conclude that they
have no justification for existence, and would disband, or turn their
attentions to useful pursuits. Your statement is similar to asking a
new teacher of modern history to ignore whatever happened in
previous centuries as inconsequential to the events of today.
That may work for main-stream historians who are only
interested in getting their students to rote memorize
a mass of seemingly unrelated facts and figures, but
does not help people understand how we arrived here.

> It is seized upon by Leninists and trostskyists to cloak
> their bourgeois totalitarian ideals in an aura of Marxist
> respectability when in fact Marx meant by the proletarian
> dictatorship something
very different to what these
> leftists have in mind

I noticed that you didn't say what you think proletarian
dictatorship meant to Marx, nor did you say what you think
proletarian dictatorship means to Leninists and Trotskyists.

> 3. Frankly, it is not really that important what Marx might
> have said on the matter in any case.

It would be such a blessing for the shorter work week movement
if people would go back and read Marx and everyone else from
the past couple of centuries. The nice part about Marx was that
his socialist revolutionary scenario, and everything else that he
advocated, was at least plausible for the times in which he lived,
while today's socialist revolutionary scenarios are little better
than cruel jokes played on dumb, blind followers (much like
I was in the early 1970's).

> In the end we have to make our own judgment on
> what needs to be done based on the conditions
> in which we live TODAY, not 150 years ago.

Your statement seems to eschew leadership, and tolerates
as many different opinions on 'what to do' as there might be
revolutionaries. It seems to me, on the other hand, that people
who are interested in changing the world for the better might be
more interested in accepting some responsible leadership from
people who put forth plausible programs, and whose positions
have a modicum of logical consistency about them.

> To witter on now about something so tenuous and
> self-contradictory as a "proletarian state", on the threshold
> of a new millennium when the forces of global capitalism are,
> as it happens, relentlessly working to undercut the economic
> foundations of nation-states large and small, across the world,
> seems...er... a trifle irrelevant and obscurantist, don't you think?

Well, like I said, I'm gratified that there will always be a few
people who will want to understand how we got here by better
understanding where we came from. A party that cannot do a
credible job of explaining how we got here, and how better to
proceed, will succeed better in alienating people than anything else.

> We have a new world to win, not an old world
> to reminisce and quarrel over.

If you are not willing to argue about history for fear of not being able
to win your arguments, then I can't blame you for not wanting to discuss it.

> Leave that old world to the vultures of the Left to pick
> over with their conservative and musty antiquarian
> fascination for what Mr Niewhuys may have said
> to Mr Marx or what Marx may have said in return
>
> Robin

Robin's attitude seems to be 'take it or leave it'. Not an attitude
conducive to proper education.

Ken Ellis

 

2-04-01

Bill quoted me:

>> Technically, that may be correct, but Marx's lapse doesn't
>> mean that he did not intend for us to consider the dictatorship
>> of the proletariat
to equal the lower stage of communism. Otherwise,
>> someone could come along and say that Marx intended society to
>> proceed through as many as 4 (or more) steps beyond capitalism:
>> a proletarian dictatorship, a lower stage of communism, an upper
>> stage of communism
, and classless, stateless society.
>
> Erm, that's only three stages, since Communism is a classless
> stateless society. but yes, that
is what he was saying, as IIRC
> Adam has made that point on this forum more than once.

Bill appears to think that Marx prescribed 3 stages beyond
capitalism. If so, then each of these stages must have had a
historical purpose attached to them. Of the alleged 3 stages,
classless, stateless, etc.less society needs no explanation, since
it's the final common goal, including mine. That leaves 2 other
stages which Marx allegedly proposed. Perhaps Bill could
oblige us by naming and describing those 2 post-capitalism
stages for us, explaining which stage follows which, and
what the differences are between them.

>> The trouble is, the would-be revolutionaries can never
>> quote Marx to prove that 'Lenin and Mao were wrong'.
>
> "
Parties do not make revolutions, only nations [do]"
> K. Marx, Interview with the Chicago tribune, 1871, iirc.
> Among other quotes.

Since Lenin and Mao came after Marx, it was incorrect for me
to phrase that sentence the way I did, but Bill's answer conjures
up Lenin and Mao being Blanquists and advocating that a party
could make a revolution without much mass involvement
, which
I don't think anyone will be able to quote Lenin or Mao as having
said. Does the mere advocacy of a strong party automatically mean
that 'Lenin or Mao wanted their parties alone to make the revolution'?
Instead, Lenin and Mao always advocated parties leading the masses,
and the masses making the revolution. One doesn't have to read much
of L+M to figure that out. But it's all pretty moot anyway, since there
won't be any more revolutions in the West, now that the old
monarchies have been replaced with democracies.

>> Marx was a realist about the small size of the socialist
>> movement, and he understood that the only thing that
>> could have armed the proletariat sufficiently to help
>> them take away the property of the rich was if socialists
>> had helped overthrow a group of monarchies and become
>> dominant in the resulting new democracies, or 'red republics'.
>
> Erm, so what was all that stuff in the manifesto: "
All previous
> historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the
> interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self
> conscious, independent movement of the immense majority
> in the interest of the immense majority.
" how much clearer
> did the man have to be?

There wasn't a contradiction between socialist leadership and
socialist revolution in Marx's day. Plus, I didn't say that the
majority was NOT to be involved in the overthrow of old
monarchies and in the creation of democracies. How other than
through mass involvement COULD a revolution in the interests
of the masses be accomplished? A revolution in the interests of
the masses automatically means mass involvement. In Marx's
day, the number ONE task for the majority in Europe was
'winning the battle for democracy for all', after which the armed
proletariat, after successfully creating the universal proletarian
dictatorship throughout Europe, could then (and only then) put
socialist expropriation on their agenda. Wishful thinking in
hindsight, of course, but it was plausible in the bad old days
of struggle against all of those intransigent monarchies.

> Further, as to conditions, by political conditions we cannot
> understand it in terms of legalistic/constitutional terms,
> but in the social (and thereby ultimately economic) terms.
> i.e. only when the working class could obtain sufficient
> social force to push its interest through would it be able
> to, make its political revolution.

It wasn't made very clear here how or why political conditions
should be understood in terms of social and/or economic conditions.
Differences between democracies and dictatorships in Marx's day were
central to the possibility of proletarian revolution, but Bill seems to have
discounted those differences as inconsequential. But, the precondition
for Marx's proletarian revolution was the democratic revolution, because
the socialist movement of yore was not as large as Marx would have
preferred, so the proletariat needed a good excuse to be armed, and the
inevitably victorious democratic movement was precisely the bedrock
upon which to build Marx's socialist revolutionary movement.

>> In the meantime, sectarians continue to try to make the
>> case for socialism, leaning heavily upon what THEY say
>> Marx said. The only way for innocent bystanders to be
>> sure about anything is to find out for themselves what
>> Marx really said, but who has time for that? It's easier
>> for innocent bystanders to think that the majority
>> voices in a forum have the corner on the right info.
>
> Are you implying mendacity upon our part again Ken?
> Ad hominems are a shoddy way of arguing, darling.

Nothing personal, I can assure you. If everyone who committed
a crime against consciousness was totally aware of the gravity of
the offense, then there would hopefully be a lot fewer people
committing those crimes. When I was a fledgling socialist, I
unwittingly repeated my absurd socialist catechism to other
unwitting ears, believing it to be based upon solid science, and
capable of winning all hearts and minds. I didn't have the foggiest
notion that my party's 'revolution in democracies' was entirely
based upon lies and quotes out of context, proving that my party
had nothing better than shoddy goods to sell to gullible parrots
like me. Socialism has a certain captivating internal logic of its own,
which is only disturbed when the light of reality shines upon it. The
fact that some socialists can imagine bourgeois control over parties
and governments, but completely discount the possibility of
PROLETARIAN control over parties and governments, shows
that socialists blind themselves to at least one aspect of
Marxism that conflicts with their 'socialist' philosophy.

>> It's easy enough for many to take the wrong lesson from
>> history, mistakenly thinking that the development of the
>> means of production alone rendered Marx's scenario
>> obsolete, thus missing the historical point that it was
>> the relatively peaceful replacement of monarchies into
>> democracies in Europe that rendered Marxism obsolete.
>> With no monarchies for socialists to help violently
>> overthrow, and with no other impetus to arm socialists
>> for the task of becoming the power of the state, the dream
>> of taking away the property of the rich or establishing
>> common property will forever remain a broken dream. R.I.P.
>
> If
their case was based upon the overthrow of monarchies,
> wy in the critique of the Gotha Programme did they spend so
> much time criticising bourgeois institutions in Switzerland
> and America? Why did they organise in bourgeois yankland?
>
> Bill.

M+E understood that, in order for socialism to succeed, the
movement would have to be universal and simultaneous in the
most advanced countries, including in the few existing democracies
of the day, though socialist success would take a different form in
democracies. In his 1872 speech at The Hague, Marx speculated that
American and British workers' parties could peacefully come to power
in their democracies (as opposed to violently on the Continent of Europe)
.
But, M+E also speculated about slaveholder rebellions in democracies if
electorally victorious workers' parties tried to socialize ownership of means
of production. What would happen then? M+E's socialist scenario for
democracies never seemed to me to be perfectly well explained.

The scenario for the monarchies of Europe, on the other hand,
was pretty well carved in stone, and is easy enough for readers
of M+E to ascertain. M+E's often-repeated call for republics was
the political equivalent of the call for the overthrow of German and
other monarchies, but M+E never advocated that workers should
overthrow their democracies. That's because monarchies were
considered to be negative, while democratic republics were
regarded as the negation of the negativity embodied in monarchies.
The negation of monarchies was the essence of revolution in Marx's
day, and was the precondition for the hoped-for universal proletarian
revolution on the Continent. If Americans and Brits had been as
interested in revolution as Continental Europeans, then maybe
succeeding generations would have been spared contemplating
revolution at all, and we would today be living out some of the
final days of the proletarian dictatorship well on its way toward
workless, classless, stateless, propertyless and moneyless
society. Ahhhh .... such a sweet dream.

Ken Ellis

 

2-05-01

Len wrote:

> Refering to Ken Ellis's letters.
>
> I wrote:
>
>>> Karl Marx, in his
Critique of the Gotha Programme, did
>>> most definitely NOT refer to the lower stage of communism
>>> as the dictatorship of the proletariat.
>
> Ken replied:
>
>> Technically, that may be correct, but Marx's lapse
>> doesn't mean that he did not intend for us to consider
>> the dictatorship of the proletariat to equal the lower
>> stage of communism.
>
> Ken sees this as a "
lapse" on Marx's part. Poor Marx!
> Didn't have Ken to tell him
he lapsed!

Marx anticipated the foul ends to which his prose would be put,
but he didn't jump through hoops in order to express himself so
perfectly unambiguously that he would never be misunderstood.
He knew that the people who would stoop to twist his words
around in order to make anything they wanted out of them
would eventually come to nought.

> <snip "hatred" of Lenin and Mao>
>
> The fact that Lenin and Marx were incorrect has nothing
> to with it! And we have proven that countless times.

Lenin and Marx were incorrect? Didn't you intend Lenin and Mao?

Actually, all 3 were wrong about world revolution. If they'd been
right, then we would be waist deep into proletarian dictatorship by
now, and getting a lot closer to Marx's upper stage of communism.

> Ken asks:
>
>>>> Can you find a place where Marx says that the
>>>> proletarian dictatorship has much to do with the
>>>> low level of productive forces
, other than in the
>>>> Communist Manifesto, where M+E included in
>>>> their post-revolutionary program 'increasing the
>>>> productive forces as rapidly as possible
'?
>
> Again, the
Critique of the Gotha Program where Marx
> deals with the issue of "rights".

Thanks for putting me in the ball park.

As I recall, your argument is that 'we don't need a proletarian
dictatorship because of the amazing development of the means
of production.
' You might also say that 'the present development
of the means of production in 2001 corresponds to the development
required for socialism, or the higher phase of communist society,
as Marx put it in his Critique of the Gotha Program.'

Let's go over some of the preconditions to the fulfillment of Marx's
'higher phase of communist society', contemporaneous with:
"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!"

First, in our present new millennium, has 'the enslaving subordination
of the individual to the division of labor ... vanished
'?

Second, has 'the antithesis between mental and manual labor ... vanished'?

Third, has 'labour ... become ... life's prime want'?

Fourth, have 'the productive forces ... increased with the all-round
development of the individual
'?

Or, do we regularly witness many individuals being consigned to
lives of poverty, hunger and deprivation, in spite of our modern
technological marvels?

If the last case is truer to the nature of the times we live in than
are Marx's conditions #1 through 4, then how could anyone make
a case for us being but a whisker away from classless, stateless,
etc.less society?

You know, it simply grieves me to say this ;-), but Arnold
Petersen of the ASLP said that the USA (and, by extension, the
rest of the developed English speaking world) had reached the
level of technology required for a direct passage from capitalism
to socialism
way back in 1931! Seventy years later, we still haven't
gotten there, so, how many more years do you think it will take?

> <snip denial>
>
> And thus Ken concludes with the following:
>
> 1) our conception of socialism is wrong because it is not based
> on Lenin and Mao's obviously "correct" interpretations;

When it comes to as vague a term as 'socialism', one has to wonder
how 'wrong' anyone could really be. If your concept of socialism
includes depriving the rich of their property, and involves a distinct
political movement with that intention in mind, then what you espouse
is socialism in my book as well. The only question I have, "Is socialism
via the Marxist or Bakuninist methods possible in the West in the 21st
century?" Some say yes, but history says no.

> 2) we are poor Marxists and Lenin and Mao are better ones;

Adherence to proletarian dictatorship makes Leninists and
Maoists a bit truer to Marxism than those who eschew the
dictatorship, but advocacy of revolution in democracies
takes such parties out of the field of political viability.

> 3) we simply do not know how to read Marx, but Ken does;

Anyone can read Marx, but how many in this world want to take
things to heart that conflict with their rigid beliefs? Far too many
people bend Marx's statements to their own purposes.

> 4) Socialism will never come because there are
> no monarchies left to overthrow;

That's right, if we qualify socialism as a method of taking state
power in order to socialize ownership. There's simply nothing
momentous (like a democratic revolution) going on sufficient
to stir up the masses to revolutionary action.

> 5) Socialism may have succeeded one hundred years ago,
> but today it is out of date.

That's right. The failure of Europe to revolt in sympathy with
the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the eventual defeat of the
mini-revolts in Germany and elsewhere at the same time, all
prove that Marx's revolutionary scenario had to have been
flawed enough to become unacceptable to too many people,
thus dooming the prospects of socialism using the Marxist
method of assailing governments and property.

> <snip papal bull> ;-)

Ken Ellis

 

2-06-01

Ben explained a sentence that I abruptly clipped off:

>>> If that were not enough
>
>> Not enough for what? To get us to revolt?
>
> Never said that. As I said before I don't think sheer
> horror and brutality and its increasing incidence
> alone will lead to revolution. If anything it tends
> to deaden working class thought. If total misery
> and devastation were the preconditions for revolt
> world capitalism would not have survived WWII.

In the bad olde days, total misery played a big part. If you ever
get a chance to read E. Belford Bax's little book on the French
Revolution of 1789+, you'll get the flavor of the sheer horror
and brutality of those revolutionary days.

My old ASLP often preached that conditions in the USA were
bound to decline and lead to mass misery and 'the collapse of
capitalism'. For quite a while, my antennae were tuned to signs
of that collapse. I scarfed up cheap used books of economic
statistics, hoping to someday make a study that would lead to
a prediction of the day when capitalism would collapse. I had
a bad case of over-enthusiasm for what I was being fed. :-)

> Things are somewhat more complicated.
> Enough for what? Well, to cause us to reflect
> on the appalling effects of capitalism and the
> foreign policies of the great powers on our fellow
> human beings. Also, to stir feelings of solidarity
> with our international sisters and brothers?

Appalling effects of capitalism? Appalling maybe for the people
on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, but it's a far cry from
1789. Too far a cry to get ENOUGH people excited over very much
but football and hockey. Tis a curse to live in post-revolutionary times
and countries. Why aren't we lucky enough to be able to strap on our
swords and fight for social justice as in days of yore? We've been
cheated! I demand to be taken back to 1848, or to 1776.

>> For decades, the USA has had the same bans in place
>> with regard to what Americans can take to Cuba. It's a
>> rather brutal policy that causes a lot of needless suffering,
>> and probably does our image abroad more harm than
>> good. It also encourages Castro to take a harder
>> stance on his policies toward the USA.
>
> The image problem doesn't seem to bother US
> governments overly. Much of this is probably down
> to the reality of power. The world's most powerful
> capitalist state has a huge amount of sway over
> "opinion", as the media will tend to report that
> which fits the status quo and put the "right"
> sort of spin on what is reported.

Yes, but that doesn't mean that it all goes down undebated and
in total secrecy. Competition among the plethora of news sources -
new and old - brings out information like never before in history. In
my home town, I am occasionally amazed at what some of my yokel
friends have learned. Some seem to be just the opposite to the way
they were before I left for California 27 years ago.

> <snip debate over relative sizes of wars>
>
> Yugoslavia's dismemberment did after all
> involve the mobilisation of national armed
> forces, genocide on a big scale, and the shelling
> and destruction of whole towns. Words like "
full
> scale war
", "tragedy" and "utter defeat for the
> working class
" do indeed spring to mind.

It's true that it was no day at the beach for anyone unfortunate
enough to be at that bleak scene of destruction. TV images from
those unhappy days recur to me now. 'Skirmish' over-trivializes
it for anyone who was there, but a couple of my uncles fought
in WW2, and I don't personally know anyone who has fought
in a war since Vietnam.

Allow me to question the "utter defeat for the working class".
Who defeated the working class? Was the defeat military, political,
or economic? Your phrase conjures up a picture of 'no one allowed
to make a living any more', mass unemployment and starvation. I
can only guess that an already bad unemployment picture had to
have been worsened ten-fold in the affected areas.

> Does everything have to be compared to WWII?

With 20,000,000 Russians dead, as well as 6,000,000 Jews, and
not counting I don't know how many others, WWII certainly
became a new world standard for death and destruction.

> I repeat we have had war in Europe (culminating in
> western European forces actually bombing another
> European city) for the first time since WWII. This
> absolutely gives the lie to the bollocks about the "end
> of history", "peace dividend" and "greater unity" we
> were told by the media when the Warsaw Pact
> died on its arse at the end of the eighties.

If it hadn't been for the outrage generated by the ethnic cleansing,
we wouldn't have dirtied our hands. Don't forget that it was one of
the last of the hard-line Stalinists who started the ethnic cleansing.

>> snip long history lesson which, though certainly well-written,
>> unfortunately doesn't prove that we need a revolution
>
> How does its endemic tendency towards more and more devastating
> armed conflict NOT provide an argument for abolishing capitalism?
>
> All the best,
>
> Ben.

Can you prove that capitalism causes war in the first place?
I wonder if anyone could demonstrate how capitalism was in
any way involved in Milosevic's ethnic cleansing campaign.

I can't think of an area of the world in which Western or NATO
powers are actively engaged in a hot war - unlike not very long
ago, when there was always something going on practically right
up to the end of the 20th century. I think that the probable election
of Ariel Sharon in Israel could heat things up over there. If so, then
I fear that a lot more people will get hurt over there, starting very
soon. I hope that I am wrong.

2002 note: Ariel Sharon is turning out to be such a butcher that even
the USA is putting some distance between itself and his policies.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

2-07-01

Thanks to Robert's suggestion, we added proportional representation to the list:

1: double time instead of time and a half.

2: 3 or 4 weeks vacation instead of 2.

3: bring in all workers under the protection of the FLSA.

4: replace fixed salaries with hourly rates of pay.

5: freedom of choice as to salary or hourly pay.

6: shorter hours with no reduction in pay.

7: portal to portal pay.

8: 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.

9: define the minimum needed to qualify for benefits as 16 hours per week.

10: benefits should be prorated, regardless of how many hours are worked.

11: universal health care.

12: proportional representation

Ken Ellis

 

2-08-01

Jimmy wrote:

> Since you figured out what the first word in my PS was I would
> have thought that the second one was obvious, but if not it was OFF.

Thanks for the help, bro. Sometimes I wish my imagination were bigger.

>> <snip me> Trends point to an eventual driving down
>> of the length of the work week as computers and machinery
>> become so incredibly smart that they replace all kinds of human
>> labor, and we give up on trying to compete with them in the same
>> way that the sledge-hammer-wielding John Henry was ultimately
>> defeated by the steam hammer. That bit of folk music will remain
>> relevant for a few more years to come.
>
> So he was, but sledge hammers are still being used in some
> industries and jobs. Take it from someone who knows.

I here you, bro, for I was using a home-made electrician's sledge
with a hollow pipe handle to drive an electrical ground rod into
(where else?) the ground one fine day a few years back, and it
slipped off and I caught my hand in between ... and blood
flowed and I was out of commission for a couple of days.

> Automobiles are today largely constructed by robots, but
> the motor manufacturers still employ a lot of human labour.
> Robots can only do work which is repetitive and, I would
> imagine extremely boring for men and women to do all day,
> and every day, every week, etc. etc. so, given that criteria
> I do not think that all work will be robotised, even in
> socialism, but of course I could be wrong.

Whether you are right or wrong, I do know that people
are still developing smarter and better robots. Many robot
manufacturing companies are publicly owned, and are traded
on the stock market. Some robots are even using artificial
intelligence to evolve into more useful robots without human
intervention. Computers get smarter, the technology gets better,
and I don't foresee an end to it. Some people in the forum have
expressed the thought that the bosses are figuring out ways to
keep us permanently enslaved to them, but the bosses' economic
survival will always come first, and if some bosses want to keep
us enslaved on the one hand, others are rushing to replace human
labor as fast as they can to keep from being outclassed by some
lone renegade capitalist who won't get with the enslavement
program, and who sees his opportunity to more full automate
and gain a competitive advantage over his plotting brethren, and
win the whole show for himself. That right there says that no
capitalist in his right mind would plot to keep us enslaved if
there's a chance that some other capitalist is going to more
fully automate to gain the upper hand.

So, that's why I say that the capitalists are in a mad dash to
replace us as quickly as possible with machines that don't
demand lunch breaks, IRAs, unions, shorter hours, parking
lots, medical plans, gymnasiums, child care at the job site, you
name it. If anyone wants to stop this robotization process anytime
soon so that people will be able to 'enjoy' going to work under
socialism
, they had better hurry up and have their socialist
revolution within the next 20-30 years, because there isn't going
to be much work in the industrialized world after that. Being the
lazy bastard that I am, and putting my own selfish laziness ahead
of the desires of socialists to 'work under socialism', I want the
socialist revolution to be delayed so that robotization will
continue to proceed, and so that neither I nor anyone I know
will have to get up to go to work for very much longer.

Do you know what that riff seems to indicate? That socialism
might be a fetter on robotization, and that socialists might be
more interested in keeping workers on the job than BOSSES.
If socialism would become popular, pro-robotization and pro-
automation ideology may need to be adopted, because I
don't know of very many people who would want to
work for nothing if they didn't have to.

> Basically, I am in favour of a reduced working week, without
> loss of pay of course, but, I am not
having it for a solution
> to the worker's poverty, because it isn't. If the 40 hour week
> is reduced to, whatever without loss of pay under present
> circumstances, far from making the workers think about
> your workless classless etc. society,

The average worker may not give much of a hoot about our
mutual goal of arriving at classless, stateless, etc.less society,
but you and I do. That's why I've been trying to point out the
Western European prejudice in favor of the institution of private
property vs. the Eastern hemisphere's relative apathy that enabled
revolutionary activists to nationalize land and means of production
in Russia, China, etc., without the kind of opposition the activists
would have met in the West. Engels noted that, in his day, the
institution of private property barely extended east or south of
the Mediterranean
. Socialism in the West is impossible because
of our commanding interest in capitalism and private property.
Since 1917, nothing made Westerners even more fanatically
pro-capitalist than their observations of what happened
behind the Iron Curtain.

> it just means they have extra hours of free time to eke out
> their poverty stricken existence
, or getting another job to
> earn a bit extra to try and alleviate their position.

I wonder about the usefulness of insinuating our present
individualistic pre-shorter work week consciousness onto
(ta-dah!) the future era of mass determination to share work,
an era when we will regard ourselves as all in the same boat
much more than we do now. All it will take to create a new
and more cooperative consciousness will be for us to
become determined to share the remaining work, and the
nasty conditions you describe will gradually disappear.

>> Like you and the WSM, I also don't see a need for Marx's
>> lower stage of communism, but for different reasons, for I
>> think that society will seamlessly merge into Marx's upper
>> stage, precisely as though we are now living in a proletarian
>> dictatorship, but we don't have the consciousness to appreciate
>> just how much we can do for ourselves at the present,
>
> How will we know when we are living in a proletarian
> dictatorship, or is the proletarian dictatorship with us now?

We can regard our present-day democracies as potential
proletarian dictatorships (in the better of the two senses, i.e.,
the way Marx envisioned it, but not the way it was practiced
behind the Iron Curtain), but we are not yet very cooperative
from one country to another. When the movement to share
work takes off in earnest, and all of the advanced countries
endorse work-sharing politics, and further, (and this is the
key point) when all of the advanced countries decide to
COOPERATE with their work-sharing policies, and their
regulations of hours of labor become much more UNIFORM
from one country to the next, and thereby makes it unfruitful
for capital to flit from one continent to another in their search
for cheap labor and resources, then you will be able to regard
our democracies as much more analogous to Marx's universal
proletarian dictatorship, an era in which Marx expected sad
working class slaves to become happy masters. But, we will
have arrived at that point by a method totally different from
Marx's scenario, and in a different century. It will also mark
the beginning of our common climb out of ruthless, dog-eat-
dog, competitive individualism toward workless, classless,
stateless, propertyless and moneyless society.

To continue the thought: Suppose we do manage to put
everyone to work, but the tools of production improve even
more, and the pressure for lay-offs builds anew. What would
we do? Shorten the length of the work-week even more, and so
on, until the work-week becomes so short that we abolish wage
labor, enabling volunteer labor to perform the remaining work.
Then we will have arrived at workless and classless society, and
we would then be free to further evolve into a stateless, propertyless,
and moneyless society as well. Just to arrive at workless and classless
will signify a vast change in social consciousness, with none of the dog-
eat-dog bickering characterizing today's relations. Many in this forum
are young enough to live to see the end of work by the time they get to
middle age, so it's worth thinking about, and worth planning to get there.

> I think you are a bit confused about the proletariat.
> If it is as Marx meant by the proletariat the working
> class, and socialism/communism is the emancipation
> of the working class, therefore a classless society,

If we intend to speak of Marx's scenario, then Marx's scenario doesn't
equal the WSM scenario of classless society arriving on the heels of
capitalist individualism. Marx disparaged the competing scenario of
'classless society directly following capitalism' as Bakuninist anarchism.
Bakunin's plan didn't allow for the kind of social, economic and political
evolution that could only occur during Marx's theoretical era of proletarian
dictatorship. The WSM scenario is very unlike Marx's scenario, and is closer
to that of the ASLP I joined in '73 and quit in '77, except that the WSM doesn't
advocate workers join up into anything like the ASLP's SIU, or Socialist
Industrial Unions. Neither Marx nor Bakunin were correct about how
history would unfold, but Bakunin's disparagement of the proletarian
dictatorship appealed to a lot of people, and made as much or more
sense to them than Marx's proletarian dictatorship, but neither plan
generated enough support to enable either to succeed.

> who is the dictator and who is the dictatorship dictating to?
> Your answer to that question will be interesting I think.

According to Marx, neither class - proletariat nor capitalists -
would disappear right after the proletariat established their
political dictatorship. After the proletarian revolution (to be
simultaneous in the most developed countries), the proletariat,
BY DEGREES, was to wrest all capital away from the capitalists
,
and the proletariat organized as ruling class was to put the means
of production under their own control and ownership
, as described
in the Communist Manifesto. Because of the division of labor then
existing (and still existing), it is ridiculous to think that the WHOLE
proletariat would rule in their state, so, as Engels hinted in his 1894
"Peasant Question in France and Germany", the proletarian party
was to operate the machinery of state.

If bourgeois parties could rule in their states, then nothing
theoretically could prevent a proletarian party from advancing
and enforcing proletarian policy in THEIR state or government.
As Engels wrote in The Housing Question: "Each political party
sets out to establish its rule in the state.
" If people join a party, but
are forced to abandon all hopes for their party to dominate in the state,
then they can rest assured that they have not joined a real political party.
People have complained that proletarian subordination to the capitalists
makes proletarian political and state domination inconceivable, but the
argument is as good as saying that: 'because the Republicans are now in
the White House, it is inconceivable for Democrats to ever contemplate
getting there.
' That's how silly the anarchists' arguments against
proletarian dictatorship, proletarian state power, proletarian
political domination, etc., you name it, have amounted to.

Because Bakunin and followers hated the concept of proletarian
dictatorship, and because modern followers have not lost their
prejudice against it, people like the late Arnold Petersen of my
old ASLP and his followers disparaged a proletarian dictatorship
as being a contradiction in terms, inconceivable, etc. But, it's nothing
they can prove using logic, so they can't offer anything better than
mere assertions. Plus, I wouldn't believe people who relied on false
arguments like: the USA doesn't need a proletarian dictatorship because
'the proletarian dictatorship equals a dictatorship over the peasantry, and,
because the USA doesn't have much of a peasantry, then we don't need a
proletarian dictatorship over a non-existent class.' The trouble with A.P.'s
theory was that it contradicted Marx's idea of a worker-peasant alliance,
and A.P. tried to 'prove' his proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry
theory with a quote that I easily proved had been taken out of context,
which also proves that some socialist leaders of the past [lied] to uphold
their ideology. Today, many people in the ASLP deny the need for a
proletarian dictatorship on the basis of a 'conditions have changed'
argument, but cannot give a watertight logical explanation.

Because Marx spoke of capital being 'wrested by degrees', the
concentration of capital into the hands of the proletarian state
was to be considered a PROCESS much more than a single
big bang like the proletarian revolutionary act, which was to
be simultaneous in the most developed countries. So, capitalists
willing to cooperate with the proletarian regime would have been
allowed to carry on business pretty much as usual, but with profits
curtailed by a progressive income tax. Remember the income tax?
That was primarily a business tax in the 19th century. The American
tax on wages wasn't withheld until 1943, and was intended as a fund-
raiser for WW2, starting out as a mere one percent.

> I will leave the rest of your post for another time to
> comment on, after all Socialism/Communism is not going
> to creep up on us like a thief in the night, is it Ken?

I think it will happen without a lot of awareness of what's going
on while it's happening. Years later, people might look back in
history and say, "Marx said something like this would happen
some day, and though he didn't have the method nailed down, his
end stage seems to have arrived with few of us being the wiser."

Ken Ellis

 

2-09-01

Bill wrote:

> "Old Left" fundamentally means Communist Party of the USA. Although
> officially it still exists, it has maybe a couple of thousand members, while it
> had 100,000 on the eve of McCarthyism. It has done nothing of significance
> since the battle to save Angela Davis when she was on trial for murder
> roughly thirty years ago. Most of the remaining members are quite elderly,
> although I hear that it has gained some young people in the past year or so.
> It has a youth affiliate, the
Young Communist League, which also has a couple
> of thousand members, while it had 20,000 when I "graduated" from it about
> 1938. So I can't take it seriously as an organization to lead us into the future,
> although its members as individuals may be doing fine progressive work on
> immediate issues."New Left" are the people who became active in the 1960s,
> for whom"participatory democracy" was the key idea, and
SDS (Students
> for a Democratic Society
) was the main organization.
> Bill Mandel

In the early '70's on the East coast, 'new left' meant groups like SDS, while
'old left' meant the CP as Bill mentioned; and it also meant my old SLP which I
was a member of from '73-'77, as well as the SWP, and, if I'm not mistaken, the
term 'old left' applied to just about every party that hadn't been newly created
after the mid-1960's. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that was the impression I got.

Ken Ellis

 

2-09-01

Scott wrote:

> Well, the material conditions for socialism, or what we might call
> the objective conditions,
are certainly present.

I've heard this before, and I've also heard people say that the material
conditions for socialism didn't exist in the days of Marx and Engels.
In a 1931 pamphlet, Arnold Petersen claimed that the material conditions
for socialism in the English-speaking world existed in his day.

The question is: If the material conditions existed in 1931, but didn't exist
in 1871, then when did they come into existence, how was that determined,
and who determined it?

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

2-10-01

Len wrote:

Snip Len's regret over losing my last message. Lost
messages can always be downloaded near the forum's
log-in page. Click on 'Messages', and they are there.

> 1) Ken Ellis wrote that Marx delineated the preconditions
> for Socialism as entailing a number of things including
> the breakdown in the separation of Town and Country,
> the separation of mental and physical labour, etc. etc.
>
>
Where, asks Ken, has this happened?
>
> Answer: Aside from the point that Marx did not make this list
> the *
absolute* preconditions, they have all indeed transpired.

What are the alleged *absolute* preconditions? If people agree
with LW that everything on the list of preconditions in the Critique
of the Gotha Program
has transpired already, then it means that the
division of labor has been abolished, and refuse collectors will do
just fine tomorrow if they go to work designing bridges and
space ships. But, I'm not sure that I'm ready to travel on
anything they've designed.

> 2) As to the point that Lenin and Mao (yes, I meant to
> write Mao not Marx as Ken pointed out) are the definitive
> interpreters of Marxism.

Sorry to report that I don't regard Lenin and Mao as definitive
interpreters of Marx, for the differences between the 3 are
significant enough to warrant a separate reading of them all.

> First, this ignores the entire body of western Marxist literature
> that was non-Leninist and completely disputes Leninists' claims
> to assume the mantle of Marxism and/or Socialism.

It's fine for Westerners to disagree with Lenin and Mao, and even
with Marx. The question is: are their critiques valid? Not always.
Some Western critics of Lenin and others are as good at writing
rubbish as anyone else, as proven in my book at my web site.

> Secondly, that we should take a Lenin or a Mao as such
> interpreters would mean we would have to overthrow any
> historical materialist analysis of Lenin and Mao's work.
> Both were
self-appointed leaders (note this - self-appointed)

LW seems to think that Lenin appointed himself as the leader
of the Bolsheviks
. If so, then the Bolsheviks had to have been
willing to accept a lack of democracy within their party. If so, then
Bolshevik Party consciousness had to lag behind that of the masses
who were willing to die to get rid of the undemocratic Romanov
dynasty in favor of creating their own new democracy. If party
members accepted undemocratic rule over themselves, then why
weren't they simply in bed with the Romanovs? Plus, if Lenin's
leadership over the party was undemocratic, then why were
the Russians so glad to receive Lenin from exile in 1917?

The following evidence demonstrates that the Russian
Social-Democratic Labour Party was as democratic as
possible under the political circumstances of the times:

In a little note in 1904 (LCW 41, p. 95) Lenin opposed Martov's
suggestion that a certain Party election be postponed.

In 1904, Lenin complained about his exclusion from a meeting of
the C.C., proving right there that he couldn't dictate to the others
(LCW 7, p. 461): "a) on what grounds was Comrade Osipov, a
member of the Central Committee, not invited to the meeting? b)
ditto as regards myself; c) do they recognize that the majority of a
body has the right to adopt decisions in the name of the body as a
whole only if the minority has been invited to the proceedings and
given the opportunity to state its views and enter a dissenting opinion?
"

In his February 1905 'Draft Resolutions for the Third Congress of
the R.S.D.L.P.
', Lenin added (LCW 8, p. 196): "Under conditions
of political freedom, our party can and will be built entirely on the
elective principle. Under the autocracy this is impracticable for
the collective thousands of workers that make up the party.
"

In his November 1905 "Reorganization of the Party", Lenin added
(LCW 10, p. 30): "We, the representatives of revolutionary Social-
Democracy, the supporters of the "Majority", have repeatedly said that
complete democratisation of the Party was impossible in conditions of
secret work, and that in such conditions the "elective principle" was a
mere phrase. And experience has confirmed our words.
... But we
Bolsheviks have always recognized that in new conditions, when
political liberties were acquired, it would be essential to adopt the
elective principle. The minutes of the Third Congress of the R.S.
D.L.P. prove this most conclusively, if indeed, any proof is required.
...
Thus, the task is clear: to preserve the secret apparatus for the time
being and to develop a new, legal apparatus.
"

In his March 1906 "Tactical Platform for the Unity Congress",
Lenin added (LCW 10, p. 163): "We are of the opinion, and
propose that the Congress should agree: (1) that the elective
principle in the Party organisations should be applied from top
to bottom; (2) that departures from this principle, for example:
two-stage elections or co-optation to elected bodies, etc., may
be permitted only when police obstacles are insurmountable,
and in exceptional cases especially provided for;
" ...

In his April 1906 "Appeal to Party by Delegates to Unity
Congress
", Lenin added (LCW 10, p. 314): "On the question
of organization, we differed only as regards the rights of the
editorial board of the Central Organ. We insisted on the right of
the Central Committee to appoint and dismiss the editors of the
Central Organ. We were all agreed on the principle of democratic
centralism, on guarantees for the rights of all minorities and for all
loyal opposition, or the autonomy of every Party organisation, on
recognising that all Party functionaries must be elected, accountable
to the Party and subject to recall. We see the observance in practice of
these principles of organisation, their sincere and consistent application,
as a guarantee against splits, a guarantee that the ideological struggle in
the Party can and must prove fully consistent with strict organisational
unity, with the submission of all to the decisions of the Unity Congress.
"

In his June 1906 "Let the Workers Decide", Lenin added (LCW
10, p. 503): "The St. Petersburg worker Social-Democrats know
that the whole Party organisation is now built on a democratic
basis. This means that all the Party members take part in the
election of officials, committee members, and so forth, that all
the Party members discuss and decide questions concerning
the political campaigns of the proletariat, and that all the Party
members determine the line of tactics of the Party organisations.
"

In his April 1907 "Reorganisation and the End of the Split in
St. Petersburg
", Lenin added (LCW 12, p. 395): "In essence these
organisational rules boil down to adherence to consistent democratic
centralism. The highest body in the organisation is the conference,
elected by direct ballot by all members of the Party (there are two-
stage elections only in cases of insuperable difficulties) with a fixed
rate of representation (the first conference was attended by delegates
elected at the rate of one per fifty Party members). The conference is
a standing institution. It meets not less than twice a month and is the
supreme body of the organisation. It is re-elected twice a year.
... The
conference elects the St. Petersburg Committee from among all Party
members, and not only from those working in some particular district
of the local organisation.
... This type of organisation eliminates any
disproportion in the representation of the districts
..."

In his November 1907 "Preface to the Collection - Twelve Years",
Lenin added (LCW 13, p. 103): "Despite the split, the Social-
Democratic Party earlier than any of the other parties was able
to take advantage of the temporary spell of freedom to build a
legal organisation with an ideal democratic structure, an electoral
system, and representation at congresses according to the number
of organised members. You will not find this, even today, either in
the Socialist-Revolutionary or the Cadet parties, though the latter
is practically legal, is the best organised bourgeois party, and has
incomparably greater funds, scope for using the press, and
opportunities for legal activities than our Party.
"

As a Social-Democratic Party, they were interested in creating a
democratic republic, but not just an ordinary bourgeois republic with
property strings attached to the right to vote; they wanted to create a
SOCIALLY controlled democratic republic with universal suffrage. As
such, they supported the creation of any kind of republic to start out with,
and would use their new political freedoms under a limited republic to
fight for social control, which was also the strategy of Marx and the First
International. They didn't call themselves Social-Democrats for nothing.

> [Both were self-appointed leaders] in countries where the
> economic and political preconditions of Socialism
were never met.

If that argument is valid, then Engels would have considered it
fruitless to fight for the formation of a red republic in Germany
during the revolutions of 1848+. He would have resigned himself
to waiting for the times to ripen, and M+E would never have fought
to create a dictatorship of the proletariat at any point in their era.
The same goes for Lenin and Mao in their respective countries,
and for Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Castro in Cuba, etc.

While we are at it, at what point in time between 1871 and 2001
DID the conditions become ripe for socialism in the West? Arnold
Petersen of the ASLP said they became ripe in the USA by at least
1931 or earlier
, but what about England, or Canada? We must have
our curiosity satisfied as to the exact second of the exact minute of
the exact hour of the exact date when the means of production
became conducive to a direct passage to socialism
in the USA,
the West, or you name the country.

The impossibility of naming that particular point in time
demonstrates the poverty of the argument that the economic
conditions for socialism did not exist in 1848. If the economic
conditions for socialism didn't exist then, neither can they exist
now. But, M+E thought that the political conditions for the
universal dictatorship of the proletariat had arrived in their time.

> Their thinking itself and actions were influenced
> and determined by such pre-capitalist conditions.

In that's the case, then I wonder how Lenin could get away
with writing a book at the turn of the century entitled: "The
Development of Capitalism in Russia
".

> That being noted it does not take much of a leap
> to understand that their interpretations were and
> are completely unsuitable for Socialists dealing
> with highly developed capitalism.

Marx's dictatorship of the proletariat was intended for the most
technologically developed part of the world, indicating that it had
more to do with their hoped-for political repression of the bourgeoisie
than it had to do with developing the means of production, though it was
certainly intended for the proletarian dictatorship to influence the economy
as well: In an 1890 letter to Schmidt, Engels wrote: "And why do we fight for
the political dictatorship of the proletariat if political power is economically
impotent? Force (that is, state power) is also an economic power!
" Barth had
accused M+E of arguing that 'politics had little effect on the economy', while
Engels countered that each affected the other. State power in the hands of the
workers was certainly intended to bend the economy towards the interests of
the working class.

> 3) Ken posits for the umpteenth time his belief that Socialism
> was only possible in the 19th century and
not the 20th century
> and suitable only for the overthrow of monarchies.

The closest times that the world came to actualizing Marx's
revolutionary scenario were in 1871 and 1917. Just a page or 2
away from the end of his "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific",
Engels wrote (MESW 3, p. 149): "The possibility of securing for
every member of society, by means of socialised production, an
existence not only fully sufficient materially, and becoming day
by day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all the free
development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties -
this possibility is now for the first time here, but it is here.
"

"With the seizing of the means of production by
society, production of commodities is done away with, and
simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer.
Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite
organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears.
Then for the first time man, in a certain sense, is finally marked
off from the rest of the animal kingdom, and emerges from mere
animal conditions of existence into really human ones.
"

That sounds like quite a positive change away from ordinary
capitalist exploitation, and Engels was pretty enthusiastic about
the potential for positive change under the influence of the universal
dictatorship of the proletariat IN HIS TIME. That kind of momentous
political change was the most that could have been hoped for. Political
change is the most that we, in our day, can hope for as well, and will
consist of the realization of working class policies in our democracies.

> To this we first note that Ken has merely stated and restated
> his assertion.
No proofs have been given, only assertions.

Readers can judge for themselves whose arguments hold up better to scrutiny.

> Secondly, the form of the capitalist state (whether it be
> republican, a constitutional monarchy, etc.) has
little to
> do with the question today.

The form of state made all the difference in the world to M+E,
otherwise Engels wouldn't have risked his life to bring democracy
to Germany. The reason the form of state doesn't make much
difference in TODAY's world is that most of the developed world
has fought for and won democratic forms of government, the
playing field has been considerably leveled, and we don't
have to worry about acquiring democracy for our class.

> The political and economic preconditions
> for a transition to Socialism
exist now.

As the quote from Engels shows, the economic and political
conditions for the lower phase of communism existed in his day,
but, the economic conditions for the upper phase do not exist
today, for we are plagued and limited by deep divisions in
the world of labor.

> Ken's assertion is not only wrong today,
> it was
wrong 130 years ago.

Sorry to report that I wasn't around to make that assertion 130
years ago, though the Paris Commune certainly would have
been an exciting place to be.

> Ken would have us believe that Socialism was possible in
> 1870 France or other countries where the working class was
> still not the overwhelming majority and the technical/productive
> forces were not available (a point Marx himself noted).

Certainly the upper phase of communism wasn't possible then
or now, but the lower phase was worth fighting for. M+E made it
clear beyond doubt that the lower phase of communism was fitted
for the level of political and economic development of their day.

> Ken would have us believe that today, when the
> working class is the overwhelming majority and
> the technical/productive means
are at hand
> (the
very preconditions that Marx spoke of!),
> that
Socialism is impossible.

This statement contains a little problem. The working class
being the majority has little to do with socialism, for M+E
proposed proletarian dictatorship for times and places like
Germany where the peasantry was the majority. The worker-
peasant alliance
was to take care of that little problem.

> Not only is Ken's an illogical argument, it is an irrational one.
>
> Finally, in an appeal to WSM comrades who continue this
> debate with Ken (I'm a fine one to talk!), I would like to
> ask - When will it all end? The same points have been
> made to Ken since August of last year.

Don't you think it's getting more interesting all of the time?

> Last year a number of people quickly tired and were upset
> by a two and a half week debate concerning dialectical
> materialism, yet an almost seven month debate with Ken
> over the same old points drags on.

People wouldn't do it if they weren't having fun.

> Let's stop wasting our time,
> end it and move on to something more productive.

Getting on the road to socialism is so much fun that we can't
stop ourselves. Enjoy! :-)

Ken Ellis

Refuse to work overtime for less than double time.

 

2-11-01

Bill quoted me:

>> <snip>
>>
>> That leaves 2 other stages which Marx allegedly proposed.
>> Perhaps Bill could oblige us by naming and describing those
>> 2 post-capitalism stages for us, explaining which stage
>> follows which, and what the differences are between them.
>
> They aren't necessarily
post-capitalist phases, they are phases
> on the movement to communism, specifically as the first is the
> struggle for political power under capitalism (the
dictatorship
> of the proletariate
), then the raising of productive levels,

Yes, you are right about those phases not necessarily being
post-capitalist. My mistake. I actually meant 'post-revolutionary'
instead of 'post-capitalist', for the following quote shows that
some capitalist relations of production were intended to continue
after the revolution, for as long as the capitalists in question
remained patriotic to the new proletarian regime.

Few would deny that Marx intended for improvements in
productive powers to be contemporary with the dictatorship
of the proletariat
. In the Communist Manifesto, M+E wrote:
"The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by
degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all
instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the
proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total
of productive forces as rapidly as possible.
" All of those tasks
were complimentary to the era of proletarian political supremacy,
i.e., after the proletarian revolution. If anyone ever tried doing any
of those tasks BEFORE the revolution, they wouldn't get very far,
though the means of production have certainly continued to
improve with each passing year, just the way glaciers
gradually find their way to the sea.

> and finally a stateless moneyless society.
> Generally, stage two was needed back then
because
> capitalism had not yet developed the productive forces
> sufficiently to go straight to a moneyless society.

Aaarghhh, matey. I'd like for you to quote Marx somewhere
saying that 'the advanced development of the means of production
in some countries would allow a direct and dictatorshipless passage
to the
higher phase of communist society'. Because the dictatorship
of the proletariat
scenario was intended for the most advanced
capitalist countries, you won't be able to quote him saying that.
The only thing close you will be able to dig up will be: 'peaceful
change in democracies, and violent overthrow of monarchies
', as in
his 1872 Speech at The Hague. But, if you get a chance to research
how far back your opinion originates in your party's literature, I'd be
mighty interested in hearing where that idea comes from. I can tell
that you have a certain penchant for scholarship, so it will be nice to
know at which date the party thought that the line was crossed when
the means of production became conducive to a direct passage to the
higher phase of communist society.

>> Since Lenin and Mao came after Marx, it was incorrect
>> for me to phrase that sentence the way I did, but Bill's
>> answer conjures up Lenin and Mao being Blanquists and
>> advocating that a party could make a revolution without
>> much mass involvement
, but I don't think anyone will
>> be able to quote Lenin or Mao as having said that.
>
> To paraphrase Lenin, '
The party is made of jacobins,
> indissolubly connected with the class conscious sections
> of the working class.
' (IIRC, One Step Forwards- wherein
> he outlined his 'hermetic' almost esoteric model of the party:
> 1) The Central Committee and Theoretical leadership;
> 2) The Theoretically aware Cadres;
> 3) The organised class conscious workers;
> 4) The rest of the organised workers).
> Further, Lenin also said that, had the Bolsheviks not
> acted, it was have taken 500 years to get to socialism.
> As Trotsky said in '
Hue and Cry over Kronstadt' "The
> revolution is made by the minority
" with the passive
> backing or neutrality of the majority.

If you can get a copy of "Left-Wing Communism - An Infantile
Disorder
", then on pp. 92-3 of Volume 31 of the Collected Works
(which looks to be about 71% or so towards the end of any
pamphlet version you might have), you could read the following:

"Victory cannot be won with a vanguard alone. To throw the vanguard
into the decisive battle, before the entire class, the broad masses, have
taken up a position either of direct support for the vanguard, or at
least of sympathetic neutrality towards it and precluded support
for the enemy, would be, not merely foolish but criminal.
"

Lenin recognized the necessity of the involvement of the masses
in any revolution in which mass interests are at stake. All else
would be a palace coup in the interests of a minority.

>> Does the mere advocacy of a strong party automatically
>> mean that 'Lenin or Mao wanted their parties to make the
>> revolution
'? Instead, Lenin and Mao always advocated parties
>> leading the masses, and the masses making the revolution.
>
> Bolsheviks usually credit the Party for making the revolution,
> and Lenin's models usually implied an elemental approach to
> the working class, that it would be the steam that drove the piston.
> Trotsky makes it quite clear in his history that the decision to
> seize power was taken by the bolshevik high command alone.

A mere decision by the high command wouldn't mean that the
party alone would do EVERYTHING
, as the quote from L-W
Communism
should make pretty clear. Any political party
represents the advanced elements of a class, those who are most
attuned to their class interests. It's only natural for them to lead
when the masses are ready to act. Until that point, the party can
foment change, argue about what it should do, and work its way
toward clarity. Because of the mistakes of the past, there's an
abysmal amount of mucky mistakes to work our way through.

>> There wasn't a contradiction between socialist leadership
>> and socialist revolution in Marx's day. Plus, I didn't say
>> that the majority was NOT to be involved in the overthrow
>> of old monarchies and in the creation of democracies. How
>> other than through mass involvement COULD a revolution in
>> the interests of the masses be accomplished? A revolution in the
>> interests of the masses automatically means mass involvement.
>
> Not mass involvement, *conscious* involvement -
> that's the key distinction.

When it came to hating monarchies and wanting democracy,
don't you think that our ancestors were conscious of what they
were doing when they replaced monarchies with democracies?
If the masses in Europe had also wanted to go all of the way and
create the social republic, or have a proletarian revolution, they
could have achieved those things as well, if they had wanted to.
Do you think that the Russians were a dumb driven herd for
going along with the Bolsheviks? Kerensky's republic was
the bourgeois republic, while the Soviets during the period
of dual power represented the social republic, the very type
of a republic the First International wanted to create
throughout all of Europe, which was one of the major
points of distinction between the First International
and ordinary bourgeois republican clubs.

> You are, however, contradicting yourself. You said
> Marx's argument was based on the idea that mass
> backing for socialism was
not on the agenda, and
> yet you assert
his plans relied on mass backing.

Marx's plan for socialist revolution was based upon mass support,
true, but the majority was only willing to go as far as bourgeois
revolution. Hence, the success of bourgeois revolutions, and the
failure of the socialist revolution. Europeans were happy enough
to achieve plain old democracy as a very important first step, while
Marx was counting on democratic revolutions in many European
countries (at the same time) realizing the universal social republic.
*The fact that it didn't happen Marx's way proves that the West wasn't
ready for much more than achieving plain old democracy as an all-
important first step in one country at a time, and then using their
successes as platforms on which to fight for universal suffrage, and
later creating Social-Democracies. Marx had one thing in mind, while
the masses had another, but both ideas relied on mass involvement.

*2002 note: This second part of the paragraph appears a bit muddled.

>> It wasn't made very clear here how or why political
>> conditions should be understood in terms of social
>> and/or economic conditions.
>
> What I was driving at was a distinction between *formal*,
> legal and juridical understandings of politics (who has the
> President's favour, who is out of favour, how many seats
> does the party have), towards a social view that assesses
> political conditions in terms of the movement and power
> of social forces needed to effect them.

Yipes. My eyes glaze over. Sorry to be have gotten bogged down
with an overload of abstract terms. Perhaps a specific example
would sufficiently clarify things.

>> Differences between democracies and dictatorships
>> in Marx's day were central to the possibility of
>> proletarian revolution, but Bill seems to have
>> discounted those differences as inconsequential.
>
> Well, speaking as someone who lives under a monarchy, I
> can say that the formal and legalistic stylings of a constitution
> aren't the salient point when assessing these things, rather the
> practical and social aspects of the situation.

What you have in G.B. may be a monarchy to you, but it's a
democracy to the rest of the world; otherwise, wouldn't our new guy
G.W. Bush be dealing with her majesty instead of with Tony Blair?

>> But, the precondition for Marx's proletarian revolution
>> was the democratic revolution, because the socialist
>> movement of yore was not as large as Marx would have
>> preferred, so the proletariat needed a good excuse to be
>> armed, and the inevitably victorious democratic movement
>> was precisely the bedrock upon which to build Marx's
>> socialist revolutionary movement.
>
> Again, I refer you to the distinction in my quote
> from the manifesto, *conscious* revolution.

Unfortunately for the socialist movement of the old days, the
people (masses) of Western Europe were consciously prepared
to win plain old democracies for themselves, but were not prepared
to fulfill Marx's dream of creating the universal red republic. Sad,
but true. Maybe that's why Marx's youngest daughter once painted
a verbal picture of her father toward the end of his life sometimes
wandering the lanes of Le Perreux like a lonely forlorn tramp. The
image stabbed at me like a knife. It can be found somewhere in
the 3 volumes of Engels-Lafargue Correspondence.

>> The fact that some socialists can imagine bourgeois
>> control over parties and governments, but completely
>> discount the possibility of PROLETARIAN control
>> over parties and governments, shows that socialists
>> blind themselves to at least one aspect of Marxism
>> that conflicts with their 'socialist' philosophy.
>
> Of course, Britain's major parties are controlled and
> organised by the workers, but they are organised on a
> terrain and a situational logic which means they have to
> act according to the prevailing power of certain social
> interests. I'll leave your 'God that Failed' argument
> alone, cheers.

God that failed? Fill me in on the details. I've never heard that
one before. Instead of reading, I spent too much time trying to
make the rich richer than their wildest dreams.

On the other note, I don't think British workers are compelled
to fulfill the interests of the bosses on the political and social
plane as much as on the economic, on which level 'they have to
work in order to live'. Future mass unemployment will prove the
lower classes to have a will of their own. There's no way they're
going to let the bosses starve them. When it comes down to the
wire, and the springs of social wealth become ever so much more
productive, the bosses won't even want to see the masses starve,
for they will also evolve far enough away from the bad old days
of brutal competition for survival, and will become more
philanthropic than ever before. No more 1871s, thank goodness.

>> M+E understood that, in order for socialism to succeed,
>> the movement would have to be universal and simultaneous
>> in the most advanced countries, including in the few existing
>> democracies of the day, though socialist success would take a
>> different form in democracies. In his 1872 Speech at The Hague,
>> Marx speculated that American and British workers' parties could
>> peacefully come to power in their democracies (as opposed to
>> violently on the Continent of Europe)
. But, M+E also speculated
>> about slaveholder rebellions in democracies if electorally victorious
>> workers' parties tried to socialize ownership of means of production.
>> What would happen then? M+E's socialist scenario for democracies
>> never seemed to me to be perfectly well explained.
>
> No, Indeed, they were pragmatists, that's the defining feature
> of their (specifically Engels') thought - they would play it by ear.
> the salient fact was, that by whatever means possible, the working
> class should come to control political power.

I agree, but it all depended on mass will, which unfortunately
didn't extend to realizing Marx's proletarian revolutionary scenario,
and only went as far as obtaining democracy. That's what the
majority could agree on - completing their democratic tasks.

> Further, as M+E noted, IIRC in some letter from the
> IWMA, the reason that they organised its Head Quarters
> in England was because as the most advanced bourgeois
> state they expected it to come to revolution first - so they
> could hardly have been banking on the overthrow of
> monarchies as the central pillar of their thought.

I recall reading it was because London was the only place
around Europe where the International could meet openly,
without fear of police interference. Engels in Manchester wasn't
far away, while Marx and a lot of trades unionists lived in London.
Many Continental radicals also found refuge in London, and were
ready to lend their assistance to an international workers'
movement. London was the most logical place.

2002 note: The literature certainly shows that the bulk of police
interference was occurring on the Continent. Expectations for
revolution in England were not nearly as high as on the Continent,
this luke-warm attitude manifesting in Engels' Dec. 8, 1889 letter
to Hyndman (me46.49):

"I welcome the prospect of the journal you speak of. If you say that
you do not share the views of my party for England I can only reply
that that party considers an English revolution not necessary, but -
according to historic precedents - possible. If the unavoidable evolution
turn into a revolution, it would not only be the fault of the ruling classes,
but also of the working class. Every pacific concession of the former has
been wrung from them by 'pressure from without'. Their action kept pace
with that pressure and if the latter has more and more weakened, it is only
because the English working class know not how to wield their power and
use their liberties, both of which they possess legally.
"

During its 8 years of existence, Marx often suggested as a
gesture of fairness that the General Council be moved to other
countries, but the poor political conditions of most countries
militated against any daring moves.

About the expectation of revolution in England before all others -
on the one hand, they regarded the English proletarianization of
agricultural labor as a very important factor, but M+E also
complained about the political nullity of the English working
class since at least the 1850's, so I don't think they harbored too
many illusions about a proletarian revolution in England after
Chartism collapsed. The First International was the first big
hopeful thing that had happened in a long time, but never
became big enough to raise anyone's hopes too high.

> The fact that Engels supported Morris'
> Socialist league, which explicitly set out to overthrow
> the British Parliament, I suspect, just suspect mind
> dearie, might just undermine your whole argument.
>
> Bill Martin XIV.

There's a big difference between a movement setting out to realize
its communist objectives, and that same movement having any chance
of success. If Freddie liked the S.L. program, and if he thought that it
well represented the interests of the working class in a variety of ways,
then it would seem natural for Engels to have mentioned Morris in a
letter, but my book of Selected Correspondence didn't contain a single
reference to Morris' name, nor was there a mention in the Selected
Works. Lenin thought enough of at least one thing Morris wrote to
cite a few words in an unpublished notebook (Volume 39, p. 455),
but he never mentioned Engels' alleged support for Morris or the S.L.

I think it was in the Engels-Lafargue correspondence that Engels
mentioned the English workers as having a 'good-enough democracy
to get what they want
', which contradicts the idea of overthrowing Parliament.

I hope that Bill will come across with something significant in
terms of backing up Engels' alleged support for the Socialist
League, and hopefully in the words of Engels himself.

2002 note: Eleanor Marx helped found the Socialist League. In an
1884 letter near the time of the founding of the Socialist League,
Engels regarded Morris as "a very rich but politically inept art lover" ...

In a Jan. 1, 1885 letter, Engels wrote: "three more unpractical men
for a political organisation than Aveling, Bax and Morris are not
to be found in all England. But they are sincere.
"

In a March 20, 1885 letter, Engels wrote (me47.431):
"Fortunately the Socialist League is dormant for the time being. Our
good Bax and Morris, craving to do something (if only they knew what?),
are restrained only by the fact that there is absolutely nothing to do.
Moreover they have far more truck with the anarchists than is desirable.
Their celebrations on the 18th were held in concert with the latter and
Kropotkin spoke there - twaddle, or so they tell me. All this will pass, if
only because there is absolutely nothing to be done over here just now.
"

In an April 18, 1886 letter, Engels wrote: "Morris going head foremost,
bull fashion, against 'parliamentarism', will have to learn by experience
what sort of people their anarchist friends are. It would be ridiculous to
expect the working class to take the slightest notice of these various
vagaries of what is by courtesy called English Socialism, and it is very
fortunate that it is so: These gentlemen have quite enough to do to set
their own brains in order.
" End 2002 note.

Ken Ellis the umpteenth

"As for myself, my dear General, you know that it's enough to be
a Marxist and Engelsist to stay young forever!
" ... From a January
2, 1893 Letter from Laura (Marx) Lafargue to Engels.

 

2-12-01

Mark, my request was also denied. An invitation to join had been extended
perhaps through this recordist list a couple of months or so ago, and I applied
and waited and waited and waited for some word back, but none came until the
other day, when we probably both got our refusals at the same time. Believe me
when I say that I had nothing to do with suggesting your name. I try to mind
my own business, and have no interest in doing things that other people
are perfectly capable of doing for themselves if they so want.

Anyway, I waited and waited, and every once in a while I would go to the 'My
groups' page to check on other stuff and would always be amazed that the request
for membership was still pending, and I'm thinking, 'What's with this group?' What
kind of saboteur am I who would require months of investigation to be able to lurk
in the background and maybe once in a couple of months or less have something
to say? After all, I was only involved with KPFA to any extent at all, but a dozen
years ago, on a motor trip back to the East Coast to see my nephew graduate from
UMass Dartmouth, I stopped at as many Pacifica outlets as I could along the way
in order to 'check them out'. The only one I never got to see was WBAI, because
of the traffic, and some growing time constraints.

I wouldn't have minded so much if the group that denied us had kept their
presence a total secret from us, and continued to do whatever they do without
ever letting us know. But, for us to get an invitation, and then to be denied 2
months later with such a rude notice, that takes the cake. In my humility, I
wasn't going to say anything at all about this until you brought it up, and
now it's going back and forth. Now I feel as though I should broadcast
my own sense of indignation.

Seduced and abandoned,

Ken Ellis

 

2-12-01

Bernie: Since you monitor this recordist list, allow me to make this dialogue
public. Here is the text of the public invitation from way back on Dec. 17,
which was sent by BettySammy:

> From: Democratic Means
> Subject: Pacifica Axing WBAI General Manager Valerie Van Isler -
> KPFK Listeners Group in Solidarity with WBAI
>
> THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT REGARDING THE IMPENDING REMOVAL
> OF WBAI MANAGER VALERIE VAN ISLER WAS PASSED UNANIMOUSLY
> BY THE GENERAL BODY OF THE KPFK LISTENERS GROUP
> IN LOS ANGELES ON DECEMBER 2, 2OOO.
>
> The KPFK Listeners Group opposes the efforts of the Pacifica Foundation to
> remove the Manager of its New York station- Valerie Van Isler of WBAI- on
> the grounds that this removal is an unmistakable effort on the part of Pacifica
> to censor the broadcast content of WBAI as a whole.
>
> We also hold that the role of the Corporation for Public Braodcasting in
> encouraging the censorship of WBAI programming must be criticized
> and opposed by all Pacifica listeners, staff and management.
>
> We are deeply concerned, given the efforts on Pacifica's part to censor Amy
> Goodman, Juan Gonzales and "Democracy Now!", that Pacifica has chosen
> this juncture to target Ms. Van Isler, who had been playing a role in defending
> "Democracy Now!" from its would-be censors.
>
> The creativity and political daring of the WBAI staff and the programming they
> produce make that station an invaluable resource for the New York community,
> a resource that must be guarded from all external efforts to weaken it.
>
> Finally, while our own position is that further cooperation with the
> illegally constituted Pacifica National Board of Directors is futile, we
> support all efforts by the WBAI staff, management and its Local Advisory
> Board to maintain their autonomy and self -determination, and all efforts to
> resist the censorship of WBAI programming and the removal of Van Isler
> as WBAI's manager.
> To subscribe to KPFK listeners group list-serv, send an email to:
> fre...s.com

The last 2 lines of the message contained the irresistible seduction.
I joyfully sent my e-mail, but, three weeks later, on Jan. 4, I was
disappointed to receive the following from e-Groups:

> The email address used to send your message is not subscribed to this
> group. If you are a member of this group, please be aware that you may
> only send messages to this group using the email address(es) you have
> registered with eGroups. eGroups allows you to send messages using
> the email address you originally used to register, or an alternate email
> address you specify in your personal settings.
>
> If you would like to subscribe to this group:
> 1. visit http://www.egroups.com/subscribe/pacifica_grp
> -OR-
> 2. send email to pac...s.com
>
> If you would like to specify an alternate email address:
> 1. visit http://www.egroups.com/myprofile
> 2. click the "Edit Profile" button
> 3. type your alternate email address in the area labeled "Alternate email addresses".
> 4. click the "Save Changes" button
> 5. wait approximately 10 minutes for the change to take effect
>
> After you follow these steps, you will be able to send messages
> to all your groups using this alternate email address.
>
> For further assistance, please email sup...s.com
> or visit http://www.egroups.com/help
>
> From: Kenneth Ellis <ken...k.net>
> Date: Thu, 04 Jan 2001 07:42:45 -0500
> To: <pac...s.com>
> Subject: subscribe
>
> subscribe

Up until that point, I received no indication that this was a 'private'
group, so, I then did as suggested, and sent the e-mail to pac...s.com,
and proceeded to wait another 5 weeks before being notified of the
rejection. Bernie so sympathetically wrote:

> dear ken, (to echo mark's reaction... <sigh>)
>
> oh my, seduced ain't so bad but abandoned...
>
> look, guys, i have already written that the previous moderator (and
> our group, because i don't want to fault only the moderator) of the
> Coordinating Council of the KPFK Listeners Group sat on both
> of your request for quite a while. i admitted that.
>
> i also explained that when i got the charge to clean our membership list
> up to include only those people who were attending meetings, i did so.
>
> i ALSO explained that the language that yahoogroups used to send you
> the "denial" message is their wording, and that we have no say in that.
>
> ken, mark will you both accept my apologies now for the following:
>
> 1. i am sorry that our group did not act sooner on your requests
> 2. i am sorry that our policy was unclear and that when it finally
> was clarified, that i did not personally email each person denied
> and each person removed from our group.
> 3. i am sorry that yahoogroups sent you guys such a rude notice.
>
> by the way, ken, you say that you got an invitation...could you reply to
> me off-list and tell me about that. maybe mark got an invitation, too, and
> both of you replied with an acceptance of that invitation. if all that is true,
> then i need to bring up with our group why certain people got invitations
> and others did not. nobody reading this now need be concerned about
> receiving an invitation from us...no sir, we have learned our lesson.
> it's like this...if you want to be on our list, attend our meetings.

It should be pretty obvious that we ALL received your invitation. Accepting
Mark's reply at face value, perhaps I was the only one to consciously follow
through. I accept your apology. What follows is my original message, and
then Rafael's response:

> At 06:54 AM 2001-02-12, you wrote:
>> Mark, my request was also denied. > snip repeat of message >
>>
>> Seduced and abandoned,
>>
>> Ken Ellis
>>

Rafael then opined:

> This is drama, and, forgive me, not an important one or one
> that is any cause for concern in the movement.
>
> The Pacifica_grp listserve is the private listserve of the Coordinating
> Council of the KPFK Listeners Group (KLG). There has been
no public
> invitation to join it published at any time in any place. There has been
no
> seduction and abandonment of anyone.
>
> We recently replaced the moderator of the list. It hadn't seemed the most
> pressing of the many pressing matters before us, since the listserve is by
> nature small and reaches only those concerned with internal KLG matters.
>
> Yes, the yahoogroups message sent when a moderator chooses the option to
> deny membership seems rude. That should be taken up with Yahoogroups and
> not taken as a somewhat random opportunity to slam a fraternal listeners group.
>
> If you have any other questions, please convey them to the listserve
> moderator.
>
> Rafael Renteria
> KLG Coordinating Council

No further questions, thank you. Feel free to continue to meet and plot in
secrecy. I'll try to remember not to apply again. Once was more than enough.

Ken Ellis

 

2-12-01

Bob took issue with my statement:

> <snip preliminaries>
>
>> "Such a statement demonstrates a lack of understanding
>> of the concept of proletarian dictatorship. Marx's socialist
>> scenario was inconceivable without it. Marx's scenario had
>> little to do with the development of the means of production,
>> but had EVERYTHING to do with the political conditions
>> of his century."
>
> This is what Marx said:
>>>
"In the social production of their existence, men
>>> inevitably enter into definite relations, which are
>>> independent of their will, namely relations of
>>> production appropriate to a given stage in the
>>> development of their material forces of production.
>>> The totality of these relations of production
>>> constitutes the economic structure of society, the
>>> real foundation, on which arises a legal and political
>>> superstructure and to which correspond definite forms
>>> of social consciousness. The mode of production of
>>> material life conditions the general process of social,
>>> political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness
>>> of men that determines their social existence, but their
>>> social existence that determines their consciousness.
"
>
> This is from
the preface to "A Contribution to the
> Critique of Political Economy
" it was written by Marx
> in London in January 1859 .

That 1859 tome sounds like what we call the Grundrisse.

> It would appear Ken that Marx does not agree with you! I repeat
> Marx's words, "
The mode of production of material life conditions
> the general process of social, political and intellectual life.
"

Maybe I should have worded my statement a little differently.
Maybe saying the following would have been more clear: Marx's
revolutionary scenario included momentous political change in a
relatively short period of time, as in 'simultaneous revolutions in the
most developed countries
'. In such a situation, civility is breached,
and blood flows when one party forcibly displaces another.

The development of the means of production in Marx's century
precipitated a POLITICAL crisis in Europe. The rise of the two
new industrial classes, proletariat and bourgeoisie, commensurate
with the development of the means of production, and the failure
of old monarchies to adapt to the political needs of the new classes,
combined to stir the masses to unrestrainable democratic aspirations.
Hereditary absolutist rule became too great a fetter on the capitalist
processes of production, so a change from the rule of hereditary
elites to the rule of the people became the number one agenda
item for Europeans during the 19th century (and even before),
and spread to much of the rest of the world in the 20th and 21st.

Though political conditions can change overnight, economic
development has always been relatively glacial, though it appears to be
speeding up in recent times. A new tool is introduced, and as soon as it
becomes the new standard, it is rendered obsolete by even better tools.

Marx was smart enough to take slow economic processes AND
rapid political change into account. When I wrote: "Marx's scenario
had little to do with the development of the means of production, but
had EVERYTHING to do with the political conditions of his century",
that was because the economy, and the class struggle reflected in it, had
developed to the point where the old political apparatus had become a
fetter on further economic progress, so the times demanded severe
political changes if economic progress was to continue. Where Marx
went wrong was in too quickly concluding that one of the classes that
had sponsored the burgeoning economic progress had also become
enough of a fetter upon progress to demand the political overthrow
of the bourgeoisie as well. Marx's plans turned out to be just a little
too ambitious for what the world was prepared to deal with.

In overruling Marx, the majority of the people turned out to be
correct, as usual. They overthrew their monarchies, but spared
the rule of the bourgeoisie.* Just a page or 2 away from the end of
his "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific", Engels wrote (MESW 3,
p. 149): "The possibility of securing for every member of society,
by means of socialised production, an existence not only fully
sufficient materially, and becoming day by day more full, but an
existence guaranteeing to all the free development and exercise
of their physical and mental faculties - this possibility is now
for the first time here, but it is here.
"

*2002 note: That conflicts with my later opinion that the replacement
of absolutist regimes with universal suffrage signified the rise of the
rule of the people. In spite of their new rule, and to the chagrin of
communists, people were not interested in changing property relations.

"With the seizing of the means of production by society, production
of commodities is done away with, and simultaneously, the mastery
of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is
replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for
individual existence disappears. Then for the first time man, in
a certain sense, is finally marked off from the rest of the animal
kingdom, and emerges from mere animal conditions of existence
into really human ones.
"

Such a change was to signify nothing less than the achievement
of the lower phase of communist society, otherwise known as the
dictatorship of the proletariat. We certainly didn't get there, but we
did arrive at majority rule, which we are duty bound to utilize if we
think that our working class political agenda surpasses the status
quo. It is up to us to politically steer our democracies toward the
fulfillment of working class interests by fighting for and winning
full participation in the economy by means of shortening the
length of the work week in all developed countries.

What Marx spoke of in the quote from the Grundrisse provided
little more than a general philosophical background to the
revolutionary situation facing Europe in the 19th century, and
spoke nothing of what the proletariat did, or perhaps should
have done, given the circumstances surrounding them.

Ken Ellis

One for all, and all for one.

 

2-13-01

Bernie wrote:

> Well, <sigh> once again...

I can tell that this continues to bore you. Would it help if we sent money
to compensate for your pain and suffering?

> Dear Ken,
>
> I believe that you were frustrated and I believe that there was a mess-up.
> So maybe we messed up a little and maybe
you messed up a little.

Where did *I* mess up? Didn't I follow the directions contained in the
December message?

> Is it worth the time and space on this list. My sense is NO, but for some
> reason you need to get it out of your system.

Why not speculate about the reason? Why not make a public defamatory
accusation? I'm sure that we are all sitting at our computers, waiting to be amused.

> This will be my last attempt at rectification.
>
> Bear in mind that although these actual people (groups) have a relationship
> with one another, there is no egroup connection to one another.
>
> 1. Whenever i mention egroups, you all need to know that
> egroups is now yahoogroups.
>
> 2. bettysammy have nothing to do with this other than
> they forwarded lark2's email
>
> 3. lark2's public invitation was to the KPFK Listeners Group list,
> fre...p.com, an open non-moderated egroup.
>
> so, if we can agree on what the lark2 email is, let's go on.
>
> pac...p.com is a members-only non-moderated egroup list.
>
> Ken, the egroups company's reply that you show is NOT to anything sent to
> fre...s.com.
>
> Rather the egroups automatic reply is to an email that someone (maybe you)
> tried to post to pac...p.

I replied to pac...s.com in order to subscribe, as the invitation instructed.

> Because the egroups company knows that pac...p is a members-only list,
> they sent an auto-reply. It was not sent by pac...p. The invitation to join
> is part of their automatic reply.

Well, I thought it was like anything else. How else does one become a member
unless one joins? I know now that it doesn't work that way. You are forgiven.

> Ken, you then attempted to join pac...p, and that's why your request
> was in "pending" heaven because we didn't know who you were.

Somehow, the image of you biting your fingernails for weeks and weeks,
just wondering who I am, doesn't seem applicable.

> I am sorry that the previous moderator of our group list
> did not contact you. I am sorry that I did not contact you.
>
> I hope you can let this go now.
>
> in solidarity,
> -bernie.

I once upon a time made a good-faith effort to join an e-mail list. It didn't
bend me out of shape too badly to have to wait 2 months to get an answer,
nor to learn that the answer was 'no'. This episode would have gone easier if
people had restrained themselves from making rude and condescending remarks.
This whole rancorous episode is a symptom of the way sectarianism has poisoned
relations in the left. Too many people don't understand that one person's concept
of radical change is as useless as any other's, and that their sectarianism is based
upon theoretical mistakes, and that there isn't going to be any radical change. If
everyone understood all of those things, then maybe we could all get along a lot
better. If we can't be that fortunate, then I still offer the old olive branch, and say
'enough is enough'.

Ken Ellis

 

2-13-01

Bill Mandel wrote a long time ago:

> Not so simple, Ken. There was a point in the early '70s when the staffs
> at all three then Pacifica stations, KPFA, WBAI, KPFK, were more Maoist
> than anything else, due to their desperate desire to keep the '60s going.
> Had things been fully democratic, the stations would have gone down
> the drain along with everything else of a Maoist nature.

Had Pacifica been fully democratic from the getgo, and had it been taken over
by the mainstream early on, would world (or American) history have been much
different, better, or worse? I doubt it. Curious people would have found out what
they wanted to know by other means. But, this is not to belittle Pacifica's contribution
to free speech and thought. I am glad to have been able to play a small role in the
80's and 90's, and I hope that those who are dedicating so much energy and
resources into restoring Pacifica will succeed. Otherwise, I would be
one of the many who have recently noticed us with 'unsubscribe'.

If KPFA fell into the hands of Maoists for awhile, Maoism obviously wasn't
strong, valid, or uniting enough to remain KPFA's guiding ideology. Quick
burnout, or an inability to become attractive to enough people, is a problem for
all ideologies that aim at radical changes in government or property relations.

The absurdity of some leftist ideology may know no beginning, and may
know no end. As soon as it became clear that Europe was not going to revolt
in sympathy with the Russian revolution of 1917, domestic revolutionary groups
should have folded up if they had wanted to be honest about the possibilities of
revolution in the West. Enough people back then understood that the precondition
for a Marxist revolution included the overthrow of a bunch of monarchies in Europe
and Russia, but because some revolutionaries in democracies back then were not
honest, and because they could always find a few gullibles to buy their damaged
revolutionary goods, 'revolution in democracies' became no more than what it could
ever have become - a mere business - hence the bureaucracy, censorship, secrecy
and sectarianism of modern revolutionary sects, dishonest traits that are antithetical
to democratic values, and which helped to poison so many relations in the left.
Unfortunately, few see a way out of the mess.

While failing to bring about 'revolution in democracies', many radicals have
nevertheless done important and impressive work on social justice issues
that will not soon be forgotten, driven in many cases by the sense of fairness
embodied in their socialist ideologies. If they could only get over their foolish
notions that 'governments and private property need to be radically changed',
that new understanding would help their credibility and effectiveness.

> Fortunately, the then Pacifica Board had a better grasp of reality. The
> difference from today is that it understood and upheld the principles
> on which Pacifica was founded, which were for freedom of thought
> and not ideological. Today's Board wants the stations to be
> megaphones for the Clinton-Gore Democratic Party.
> Bill Mandel

Ken Ellis

 

2-13-01

Robin wrote:

> <snip and cut to the chase>
>
> The
only way in which a proletarian party can conceivably -
> and faithfully - represent the interests of the proletariat is by
> seeking quite explicitly to bring about the demise of the state
> along with private property.

Advocating a program like that is the best way I know of to
guarantee that workers won't join, no more than Europeans
were interested during Marx's century than in anything more
radical than obtaining socially-controlled democracies. Today it
is silly to think that just because Marx, Engels, De Leon, Lenin,
Mao, etc. advocated 'the demise of the state along with private
property
', that the West would accept it as their program. It's all
a big mistake, unfortunately and regrettably. So, do we repeat the
mistake the rest of our lives just because bigger people than us
led the way? Not I. The shorter work week scenario is an implicit
way of getting to socialism, and is superior to more radical methods,
in that the social tensions the program creates are manageable, as
witnessed by France recently phasing in a 35 hour week.

> If, as you suggest De Leon, Arnold Peterson and co had the
> same problem with the notion of a proletarian state then I can
> only conclude they were quite right in entertaining such doubts.

Well, we should also try to understand why the aforementioned
expressed their reservations, and what they suggested the proletariat
do about the 'problems' they detected. Their phony and fraudulent
critique of the 'Marxist' theory is exposed in my book at my web site.

> The concept is ridiculous - not because members of the
> proletariat cannot conceivably occupy positions of state
> power but quite simply because
the state as the "executive
> committee of the ruling class"
cannot conceivably operate
> in the interest of the proletariat who are
by definition the
> subordinate and exploited class.

Aw, give me a little rope, and I'll hang myself. The state as the
executive committee of the ruling class
perfectly exemplified the
useless intransigent monarchies of olde, but, if Marx identified
democratic republics as the negation of monarchies, and if Marx
suggested that workers use their republics to fight for reforms in
their class interests
, then I don't think that it's very wise to regard
our present democracies as needing to be abolished, or voted out of
existence, or replaced with something we've never tried before. If a
working class party can represent the interests of the working class,
and if the working class party can also represent the interests of the
working class in the state, then the working class (which is admittedly
on the lower rung of the ECONOMIC ladder) can theoretically
simultaneously occupy the uppermost rung of the POLITICAL ladder,
which is what the theory of proletarian dictatorship was all about. What
is it about Marx's theory that bothers you, unless you automatically
lump together the political and economic as conditioning one another,
and perhaps think that economic superiority automatically confers
political superiority? 'Wresting capital by degrees' speaks otherwise.

>> "If you think that our democracies must necessarily
>> represent the interests of the bourgeoisie, and cannot
>> represent the interests of the workers, then why did Marx
>> carry on in so many places about democracies being the
>> final form of state in which the battle between worker and
>> boss would be fought to a finish
? If you think that
>> democracies always and irrevocably represent the interests
>> of the bosses, then you would necessarily have to claim (like
>> Arnold Petersen of the ASLP) that Marx was merely and
>> unwittingly setting up the working class for inevitable
>> failure.
Why can't you instead consider our modern
>> democracies to be potential proletarian dictatorships,
>> and then push for proletarian policy to take
>> precedence over bourgeois policies?"
>
> You completely miss the point. Marx advocated the capture
> of political power by the proletariat as the means by which
> socialism could be established. Otherwise that same political
> power would be used by the capitalists to defend their system
> against the movement wanting to establish socialism. With the
> capture of political power, the proletariat abolishes capitalism
> and with the abolition of capitalism, political power as
> incarnated in the state will itself dissolve.

'The proletariat abolishes capitalism'? All at once? No. As a
process? Yes. In the Communist Manifesto, M+E spoke of the
victorious proletariat 'wresting capital by degrees', not all at once,
indicating that capitalist relations were to continue in industries
whose patriotic capitalists might have been willing to cooperate
with the proletarian regime. But, note that Marx never lamented
the primitive stage of economic development of their era as
condemning victorious workers to experience the 'horrors' of
wielding their own class superiority in their socially-controlled
universal republic. M+E would have unreservedly welcomed the
era of proletarian dictatorship as Bakunin would have welcomed
the replacement of the state by the classless, stateless
administration of things.

> If Marx was suggesting otherwise, ie, that proletariat
> could hang on to political power in circumstances in
> which the capitalist basis of society continued to exist
> then
YES, I would say he was indeed "unwittingly
> setting up the working class for inevitable failure
".

The continuation of capitalist relations of production after the
political victory of the workers was precisely what Marx intended
by his 'wresting capital by degrees'. The continuation of capitalist
relations was also indicated by the proposed income tax, unless
you think Marx intended to tax the working class. :-) And look at
the other capitalist relations that would continue after the political
victory of the proletariat: Rent, credit, and banks.

But, "unwittingly setting up the working class for inevitable failure"
is what A.P. of the ASLP 70 years ago opined about Marx's scenario,
swearing that the Marxist scenario would have delivered nothing
better than state capitalism
, and 'the concentration of all of the
capital into the hands of the state
' as accomplishing little more
than 'concentrating all capital into the hands of the CAPITALIST state',
thus creating state capitalism. But, A.P. 'had his blinders on', refusing
to acknowledge the fact that Engels did a very nice job of differentiating
the socialist proletarian dictatorship from state capitalism in the pages of
"Socialism: Utopia to Science". A.P. also never really got around to
criticising the MARXIST theory of the state, instead criticizing only
the Social-Democratic scenario of 'peaceful elections of socialists
in democracies'. A.P. completely removed the element of revolution
from Marxism before deigning to criticise what was left of it. As
proven at my web site, A.P. knew exactly what he was doing, for
he sought corroboration for his theories in mere assertions and in
quotes from Marx, Engels and Lenin that were easily proven to have
been taken out of context. In other words, ASLP anarcho-syndicalist
ideology was based upon lies, and a lot of people believed in them and
spent their whole lives defending and promoting them, like any other
dumb, driven herd. What kind of a humanitarian or a socialist would
I be if I didn't warn other socialists off of those reefs? For my efforts,
socialists censure me as a dupe of reactionaries. La lutta continua.

> As for your suggestion that we consider our modern
> democracies to be potential proletarian dictatorships, and
> then push for proletarian policy to take precedence over
> bourgeois policies?", I invite you to explain how on earth
> it is possible for "
proletarian policy" to take precedence
> over "bourgeois" when the relation between proletariat and
> bourgeois is
NECESSARILY one in which the interests of
> the latter take precedence over the former
. Please explain Ken

It's a matter of differentiating between economic and political
dominance. As things stand today, the economy works in the
interests of the bourgeoisie. In the USA, at least, politics also
works in the interests of the bourgeoisie. But, it doesn't mean
that a workers' party couldn't be in control of government. The
history of Western Europe for the past century testifies to such
situations, and look at the resulting Social-Democratic reforms
enjoyed by European and Scandinavian workers: Free and
universal health care, universal suffrage, shorter work weeks,
earlier retirement, etc., stuff that matters to the so-called
exploited classes in those countries.

In our democracies, we enjoy majority rule, the majority being
the working class, which, if we were interested in pursuing a
working class policy in our democracies, could easily win on the
political front, while continuing to be somewhat exploited on the
economic front (which apparently isn't good enough for the people
who think they can do everything in one day). If Marx had thought
that capitalist economic power and proletarian political supremacy
were mutually exclusive
, then the program of the Communist
Manifesto
would have been quite different.

Instead of working with what exists, some of today's most class-
conscious elements unfortunately fritter their energies trying to
concretize a revolutionary scenario, and bitterly compete against
other revolutionary scenarios instead of cooperating to find a
common scenario of feasible social progress. Sad, but true, and
the Communist Manifesto for them is a dead letter, some using the
excuse of the enormous development of the means of production
as having superannuated the entire text (at least in practice), but
the pages of that pamphlet still contain a lot of good lessons.

> <snip long quote and cut to the chase>
>
> First you say:
>> Why can't you instead consider our modern democracies
>> to be potential proletarian dictatorships, and then push for
>> proletarian policy to take precedence over bourgeois policies?"
>
> NOW you say
>> " I also don't advocate applying a proletarian dictatorship to the world
>> of today, nor would anyone in their right mind advocate the same"
>
> I just wish you would make up your mind!!

Very good. How will I wriggle out of this one? Let me make a valiant vain attempt:

Marx's proletarian dictatorship, as the first day of the proletarian
regime, was to embody all of the hopes of the lowest classes, as
well as signify the beginning of the end of the brutality of their
subservience to capital, and it was to mark the dawn of a truly
new age in which proletarian policy would prevail over the
interests of any other class. If you have ever sung the words of
the Internationale, you will understand the kind of hopefulness I
mean. In THAT sense, a dictatorship of the proletariat wouldn't be
the WORST thing that could happen to the laboring classes of today.

At the same time, we also know about the historical record of a
Russian regime that also called itself a 'dictatorship of the proletariat',
and we still have similar regimes in China, North Korea, Cuba, and
others, and we know enough about them to know that we wouldn't
be interested in adopting very many of their policies. So, in that sense,
we definitely DO NOT WANT a proletarian dictatorship, and the
adoption of such a regime could easily be the WORST thing we
could do for ourselves. The sectarians who would replace our
democracies with proletarian dictatorships meet with resounding
disapproval at the polls, as the .2% turnout for the SWP in Monroe
County, New York testifies, even though they may not be as overt
in their calls for a proletarian dictatorship as are some splinter
groups which do not even bother running candidates.

Though Robin's critique was well-aimed, my reply hopefully
sufficiently explains my seemingly conflicting support AND
opposition to a proletarian dictatorship.

> Secondly, you are also technically incorrect in suggesting that
>
>> "Marx's scenario had little to do with the development
>> of the means of production, but had EVERYTHING
>> to do with the political conditions of his century".
>
> For example in his draft for the
Communist Manifesto,
> Engels offered the following response to the question
> "
will it be possible for private property to be abolished
> at one stroke
":
>
> "
No , no more than existing forces of production can
> be multiplied to the extent necessary for the creation
> of communal society. In all probability, the proletarian
> revolution will transform existing society gradually and
> will be able to abolish private property only when the
> means of production are available in sufficient quantity

> (
Principles of Communism Pluto Press p.13)

Point well made about the 'forces of production ... multiplied to
the extent necessary for the creation of communal society
', by
which Engels had to have meant a HIGHER phase of communist
society
, and not a lower phase. You will notice that he didn't say
exactly what quantity of means of production he considered to be
'sufficient', and I wonder why so many of today's revolutionaries
consider today's quantities to be 'sufficient', which would also mean
that at some date between then and now, the line was crossed
between insufficiency and sufficiency. What's the date, Robin?

While the development of the means of production may have
given rise to a bourgeoisie and proletariat, and enabled those
classes to place themselves in contention with the hereditary
monarchies for political power, Marx's revolutionary scenario
addressed the POLITICAL changes that needed to occur if the
means of production were to continue to evolve. That requisite
development of means of production occurred in Europe during
Marx's era, and, as a revolutionary, Marx advocated an
instantaneous and simultaneous replacement of old monarchies.

Marx curiously enough also regarded the bourgeoisie and
bourgeois relations of production to have become a fetter upon
production in his day, and his program was designed for a rapid
replacement of capitalist relations of production with socialist *
relations
. His critique of capitalism was more radical than what
the average thinker was ready to accept, and we have only to
observe the enormous changes of the past century and a half
to know that the announcement of people's readiness to
replace capitalism was a little premature.

*2002 note: There will be no 'socialist relations of production',
unless what M+E described in the Communist Manifesto would
be considered such. I should have said something like:
'replacement of competition with association'.

> Indeed the Communist Manifesto is even more explicit:
>
>>> "
The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest,
>>> by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise
>>> all instruments of production in the hands of the state i.e.
>>> of the proletariat organised as the ruling class and to
>>> increase the the total of productive forces as rapidly
>>> as possible
"
>
> Marx and Engels may have been quite
wrong to advocate
>
wresting "by degrees" all capital from the capitalists -
> rather than get rid of the wage labour and capital
> relation (or what remained of it) at
one stroke -

How could anyone possibly argue that Marx and Engels was
wrong about
'wresting by degrees' in their day if it is also to be
argued that the means of production were insufficiently developed
back then
? If Marx's revolutionary political scenario had been realized
in his day, it would have thrown society into quite a tizzy, setting much
or most of the bourgeoisie against the new proletarian regime. Individual
capitalists who might have sided with the workers certainly would have
been encouraged to continue in operation for the short run, at least until
the workers had become sure enough of success to use their political
supremacy to wrest the remaining capital out of capitalist hands and
turn it over to the control of the great cooperative enterprise
. On one
hand you complain that socialism wasn't possible back then due to
the primitive nature of the means of production
, and on the other hand
you would have liked Marx to have advocated a complete economic
transformation on the same day as the political revolution
. Is that what
you would have wanted? Advocating such an enormous change certainly
would have made M+E more radical, but they would have ended up
probably no more memorable than Bakunin as a result. It was because
M+E were more correct about what was possible in Europe that Lenin
was able to build upon their very sincere theorizing and use it to overthrow
the Romanovs, and then replace the bourgeois republic with the Soviets,
which revolution failed only because the sympathetic European revolutions
were not strong enough to conquer all, forcing Russia to go it alone, and
degenerate without the support of the more advanced countries.

> but what is clear from the above quote is that their
> rationale for doing so, quite contrary to what you claim,
> had indeed to do with developing the productive forces.

No one would deny that the further development of the means
of production was one of the POST-revolutionary tasks, but that
single element of proletarian policy shouldn't be regarded as
THE raison d'etre for proletarian dictatorship. One other task
was regarded at least as important, viz., beginning to socialize
ownership. That particular task could only be done with the help
of proletarian political supremacy, whereas further development
of the means of production
could be accomplished by either a
bourgeois or a proletarian regime, just the way the present-day
state encourages research, and the Sandia Lab uses government
grants to develop miniature robots not much bigger than a
centimeter across, as one example.

> In other words, a proletarian state in their eyes was
> justified
because the development of the productive
> forces were not then sufficient to enable the socialist
> movement to move at once into communism proper.

What also justified the proletarian dictatorship was the
Manifesto's claim that the bourgeoisie itself had become a
fetter on production, was no longer fit to be the ruling class,
had unfairly extended the hours of labor beyond reason
(which
is one of the issues which Marx, in the 3rd volume of Capital,
expected the proletarian dictatorship to address and rectify, saying
in essence that the prerequisite to freedom was a shorter working
day
). Marx assailed the enslavement of the worker, their wives,
and their children to the machines, to the bourgeoisie, and to
their state. The Communist Manifesto contained dozens of
complaints about the reign of capital, all of which complaints
were to be addressed and rectified by the new proletarian
regime. "And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is
unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose
its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law.
"
Plus, how else could the proletariat make "despotic inroads on
the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois
production
" except through the use of state power? Those were
a few of the many, many justifications of proletarian state power
that didn't have anything to do with the level of development of
productive forces, which could be improved under bourgeois
as well as under proletarian rule.

> You say in response to my statement that
>>> "the very notion
[proletarian dictatorship] has become a hindrance
>>> and distraction to the development of socialist consciousness" ...
>
>> "How can the socialist movement understand where it
>> is today unless it understands where it's been? Then, if
>> people really understood what socialism really was back
>> then, the revolutionary movements of today would be forced
>> to logically conclude that they have no justification for
>> existence, and would disband, or turn their attentions to
>> useful pursuits. Your statement is similar to asking a new
>> teacher of modern history to ignore whatever happened
>> in previous centuries as inconsequential to the events of
>> today. That may work for main-stream historians who are
>> only interested in getting their students to rote memorize
>> a mass of seemingly unrelated facts and figures, but does
>> not help people understand how we arrived here."
>
> This is
ridiculous. |'m not asking you to ignore history.
> but simply to learn from its mistakes. The notion of the
> "proletarian state" is one of history's more conspicuous
> examples of a mistake at least from the standpoint of the
> revolutionary movement

I think, like you say, I jumped the gun on that one, and that you
aren't asking us to just jump right in without learning history.
Sorry about that. Secondly, you are right about us not wanting
or needing to repeat the creation of a proletarian state, especially
in the Russian, etc., sense. In retrospect, the proletarian state in
practice has been a colossal failure, and just think of how much
that failure would be compounded if we ever tried to repeat Marx's
revolutionary scenario, which turned out to be impossible due to
being more radical than what people were willing to deal with.
I hope we can agree upon that.

> You say:
>
>> "I noticed that you didn't say what you think proletarian
>> dictatorship meant to Marx, nor did you say what you think
>> proletarian dictatorship means to Leninists and Trotskyists."
>
> OK I'll say it now - the proletarian dicatorship to Marx
> meant something
very different to what it means to the
> Leninists and Trotskyists. To Marx it meant an ultra
> democratic republic with mandated delegates; to Lenin
> on the other hand "
there is absolutely no contradiction
> between
...between Soviet (that is socialist) democracy
> and the exercise of dictatorial powers by individuals
".

Don't forget though, that Lenin thought that the dictatorship
of individuals was valid for factory management, but not for
the running of government
. Does that agree with what you
understand to be true?

> These two points of view are worlds apart and in total
> contradiction to one another. In contrast to Lenin's view
> that "
socialist consciousness cannot exist among the
> workers
" and that "this can only be introduced from
> without
" (What is to be Done), Marx held that "we
> cannot
..co-operate with people who openly state that the
> workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and
> must be freed from above
(circular to German socialists 1879).

Marx was indeed very critical of his German Party, observing
trends of thought that did not correspond with his own. But, as
history has shown, workers on their own have not gone further
than trades union consciousness, what with their campaigns for
shorter work days and weeks, and higher wages. M+E often
lamented the political nullity of the British working class after
the collapse of the Chartist movement. It was precisely because
socialism did NOT represent the interests of the working class
that socialist consciousness had to be brought in from without,
but that method of building socialism was only effective in
countries in which the democratic tasks had not yet been
consummated, such as Russia. There Lenin was able to
combine Social-Democratic and communist propaganda with
support of workers' trade union struggles. Just think how far
the Social-Democrats would have gotten if they'd been too
one-sided as revolutionaries, or too one-sided as trades union
activists. By combining both, Lenin was able to win the support
of the workers like no other party could, and was able to push
Social-Democracy beyond the scope of a bourgeois republic for
the first time since the Paris Commune. But, without many other
European countries going communist as well, and then offering
each other mutual aid, what happened in Russia was doomed
(by a lack of sympathetic response) to fail like the Paris
Commune, or else was doomed to become a mere distorted
caricature of Marx's hoped-for proletarian dictatorship.

> The question is Ken where do you stand in this regard
> given your following statement:
>
>> "It seems to me, on the other hand, that people who are
>> interested in changing the world for the better might be
>> more interested in accepting some responsible leadership
>> from people who put forth plausible programs, and whose
>> positions have a modicum of logical consistency about them"
>
> Robin

Well, if we can agree not to try to create a Russian-style
proletarian dictatorship, now may be time for us to figure out
exactly what else to do. Eliminating [the 'option' of] a political
dictatorship of a workers' party leaves us with: working within
our democracies, or replacing our democracies with a classless,
stateless administration of things. Any other suggestions?

Ken Ellis

 

2-14-01

Hi, Gang,

> so....it is Bush's first night at the White House and he is so excited...
>
> he can't sleep and then sees a ghost of George Washington. Bush asks him
> what can I do? I can't sleep. Washington says "Be honest".
>
> Bush tries but still can't sleep and then sees a second ghost and it is Thomas
> Jefferson. Bush asks him what can I do? I can't sleep. Jefferson says "Cut taxes".
>
> Bush again tries to sleep but only tosses and then sees a third ghost and
> it is Abraham Lincoln. Bush asks him what can I do? Lincoln says
> "Go see a play."
>
> kathleen

Very good. I wish he'd see the play as well, but then we'd be stuck with
Cheney, with his ever-present and uncontrollable sneer, which was a lot
worse back before he hit the national news with any kind of regularity,
so maybe he took his face in to be trained by the sneer doctors.

snip irrelevancies

Bro'Ken

 

2-14-01

Hello again, Heidi,

> Dear Ken,
>
> you bet! and thankfully you seem to have taken my msg in the spirit it
> was intended. (i was hesitant possibly that it wasn't any of my business) I
> know how Bernie can be sometimes, he's sort of a curmudgeon of sorts at
> times, and I could see that he had not comprehended what (i had perceived
> to be) the root of the misunderstanding in the first place.

Thanks again. I'm glad that this sad chapter seems to be over with.

> I recall reading several of your posts during the national elections and
> had a sense that you are a person of fairness and rational sensibilities.
> I also found those posts to be very interesting reading. If i recall
> correctly you would engage in discussions and debate on the various
> ideas attributed socialism and such. It was never my field of study,
> so i didn't weigh in, but again found it interesting.

Yes, I think that it's an important task that the left completely overlooks, and
I wonder sometimes if it might work out to be impossible or futile. On the
World Socialist forum, I have been campaigning my ideas for 2/3 of a year.
Some opponents with power and prestige in their party have tried to chase me
off several times, but the one thing that keeps them from being successful in
driving me away is their anarchistic dedication to free speech. So, I correspond
with quite a few of the more honest members quite frequently, and my draft file
always contains about 5 messages that I try to polish a little more every day. I
have to be very careful in what I say, lest I contradict myself. With a subject
as complex as socialism, it's very easy to do that very thing, and get 'caught'.
On this list serve, I think I worked on my latest to Bill Mandel for about a
month, but still he has 'taken umbrage', and I am going to have to work
very hard to get to the root of that.

> Have you subscribed to freekpfk or newpacifica yet? I hope you remembered
> to adjust your mail settings to web site only!!!
>
> Amor,
> ~Heidi

I did briefly subscribe to newpacifica for a week, but was bored by the
repetition, and also had trouble with the large monaco text format in which
messages appeared in my mail program, which made it impossible to copy
any text at all without copying every bit of it, and it also disabled my scroll
wheel on my new turbo-ring mouse (which is as big as a rat, much bigger
than the 'hockey puck' that came with my iMac). I think that this recordist list
will suffice to tell me what I need to know, and the text is readable enough.

It's a pleasure to be able to talk to someone civilized now and then.
You seem very reasonable. Are you from the KPFK area?

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

2-14-01

Dear Craig,

I see you decided to keep this off of the public list. You quoted:

>> If they could only get over their foolish notions
>> that 'governments and private property need to be
>> radically changed', . . .
>
> I'm so foolish.
>
> craig

Thank you for being candid about this issue. If I may inquire,
what method of radical change would you use?

Ken Ellis

 

2-14-01

Bob quoted me:

>> "You have yet to comment on whether the most important
>> difference between us is that I advocate shorter hours
>> 'before the revolution', whereas you advocate shorter
>> hours 'after the revolution
'. It helps to always provide
>> examples, otherwise your argument will go nowhere, and
>> will be regarded as little more than an attempt to create a
>> negative impression about me in the minds of the more
>> impressionable readers. Is that what you are trying to do?"
>
> Ken, why would I try to create a negative impression of you?
> This is an open forum, and you have been a frequent contributor
> to it, I think people will judge for themselves the merits or otherwise
> of any contributions that are made. As a trade unionist for over forty
> years, I have always favoured reducing the hours of work, and I have
> explained this to you on several occasions.

On Jan. 21, my comment referred to your ongoing accusations
that 'I don't criticize what you and the party actually say', while
I've been waiting for you to provide an example, all the better
to discuss it. Otherwise, the accusation appears a bit empty.

> My personal experience over the years is that low paid
> workers struggle to live on their wages and when there
> is a boom, they are pleased to have the opportunity to
> earn extra money by working overtime.

That seems to be a pretty common occurrence. People should
be taught by workers' parties that there is a 'right and wrong'
aspect to working overtime. People need to hear that overtime
premiums ought to be set a lot higher so as to discourage
overtime and overwork, and to encourage work sharing. People
should hear that 'human labor will end in a few decades', and
that we need to prepare ourselves for that happy day by learning
to fairly share what little work that remains to be done by humans.

> <snip prelude>
>
> After eight hours the penalty rates were time and half for
> the first three hours and double time in excess of three
> hours. On Saturdays the first three hours were time and
> half and double time after that. Sundays and Holidays were
> always paid at double time, and workers were given another
> day off in lieu of the holiday they worked, or they could
> accept cash, effectively treble time for a holiday.

That was a pretty powerful disincentive to overwork.

> Also in the 1970's, a no fault accident compensation scheme
> was introduced that gave workers 80% of their normal weekly
> earnings, including overtime earnings, if they were injured
> during working hours or when traveling to or from work.
> If the accident happened outside work hours they received
> 80% of their earnings after the first week of absence and
> all medical expenses were paid by the scheme.

That also seems very generous.

> These conditions were all guaranteed by law, but over the
> years economic conditions changed, and so did governments,
> and so did the laws that many workers thought were carved in
> stone. Nowadays many workers receive no penalty payments,
> there are no national industry awards, and workers injured
> at work must pay part of their medical expenses.

That seems to be somewhat of a trend in at least part of the
industrialized world. It parallels the increased hours spent by
American full timers, going from 43 hours in 1980 to 47 in 1999.
The 90's became the decade when all of the previous decades
of the computer revolution finally started to pay off in terms of
increased productivity, which is why productivity figures have
shot up at an accelerating pace in recent years. If we workers
can't take the benefits of increased productivity in the form of
increased leisure, then the benefits go right into the bosses'
pockets in the form of increased profits, and we fight among
ourselves over declining numbers of long-hour opportunities
to pour those profits into their pockets. Where oh where is
class consciousness?

> As a trades unionist I know that workers should make every
> effort to 'wrest by degrees' improvements in working conditions
> and shorter working hours, but as a socialist I know that the profit
> system resists every attempt at improvement and reclaims whatever
> it can at any sign of a downturn. What is guaranteed by law today
> can be overturned by law tomorrow.

Sad but true, but if our attitude is one of acceptance of defeat,
then we will be defeated. We need to adopt a reasonable strategy
and work unflinchingly to realize our goals. We should demand
full participation, and accept nothing less. Things in the USA
are still so good right now that a working class party doesn't
seem to be on anyone's agenda, and nearly everyone is either a
Democrat or a Republican. Class politics seem to be taboo, and
anything that sniffs of it is roundly disparaged as such, with many
alleged perpetrators running off with their tails between their legs.

> We both know that by applying today's technology we can
> produce enough for all with less than half the hours people
> work presently, but that is not the problem. The problems
> are to do with social organisation and are therefore political.
> Individual employers will employ workers or machines in
> order to reduce costs and increase profits and governments
> will applaud their enterprise because it is good for the
> economy. The people who are displaced by the machines
> will be told by the media that what they need to do is train
> for the new industries that are short of skilled workers. You
> see
the problem being solved by employers taking on more
> workers and each worker doing fewer hours.

Because part-time labor has increased by leaps and bounds in
the USA, while full-timers are working longer hours, our overall
average hours of labor have not changed very much.

> However for employers costs increase with the number
> of people employed if units of production remain the same,
> and businesses fail all the time if they can't compete with the
> opposition. You dismiss this argument as
an unnecessary
> concern for employers profits, but when you crunch the
> numbers those businesses that do not make profits do
> not continue to employ people.

You may regard that as an argument, but I see it as a mere
statement of fact. It sadly appears to me as though you feel that
workers can buy their way into job security by volunteering to
work longer hours
. I can understand individuals feeling that way,
and it may even work in the short run for a few individuals, but I
think that it would be a wrong approach for political people who
might contemplate class struggle.

> And that's the rub, businesses do not exist to employ
> people, they exist in order to make profits.

This is true. But you seem more worried about the ability of
bosses to remain profitable and thereby keep workers employed

than you seem to care about full participation in the economy,
which you have yet to indicate any desire for. You have no trouble
endorsing a shorter work week for the ease and convenience of
workers
, but you don't yet regard a shorter work week as a
powerful, accessible and political tool. That's a BIG difference in
our mutual advocacy of a shorter work week. Does your seeming
apathy toward using it as a political tool reflect some rigid aspect
of your ideology?

> Even if all employers agreed with you, and employed as many
> people as they could and paid them as much as they could,
> you still have to live with the market.

So, what's wrong with the market? It certainly worked to make
the English-speaking world and West Europe the dominant
economic, political and military forces in the world, and we
no longer fight one another, so the market can't be all bad.

The market is compatible with democracy, and the market has
provided for people like no other system ever has. The market
may not be perfect, but what is? It surely is better than what was
practiced in Russia, which recently gradually evolves toward free
markets. Billions of people can't be very wrong if the market
system and democracy are either what they have, or what they
want, or are trying to institute. The national leaders who continue
to repress the free market in their countries will eventually be
shown a thing or two.

> Industrial employers would argue that the cost
> of food and housing was too high
, and employers in
> the food and construction industries would say they
>
are going out of business because wages are too
> high and they employ too many people.

It never ceases to amaze me how much you worry yourself
to death over the plight of the bosses. In a recent response
to Mahyar's complaint that exploitation would continue
with a shorter work week, I wrote:

>> People should keep in mind what wages represent: the
>> sum of commodities and services required to produce
>> and reproduce labor power (or to keep people going
>> to work, week in and week out). In theory, no matter
>> how long or short the length of the work week, the
>> commodities and services required to produce and
>> reproduce labor power remains fairly constant. The
>> bosses' attitude consists of: "Well, if it's going to
>> take X amount of dollars to get a worker to show
>> up at work for any length of time, I might as well
>> keep them on the job for as many hours per week
>> as possible, thereby to get my full money's worth
>> by extracting as much labor as humanly possible.
"
>>
>> <snip repetition> While it is in the bosses' interests
>> for the work week to equal 60 hours, it is more in the
>> workers' class interests to work 20 hours. It doesn't
>> take a rocket scientist to figure out that the rate of
>> exploitation of the 60 hour workers is 3 times the
>> rate of those who only work 20 hours (with the
>> condition that the 20 hour law become universal).

To use the number 20 as an example: with a 20 hour week for
all, and with a greater determination to share work equitably,
life would continue, and a greater proportion would prosper.

> Many workers would agree with their employers,
>
if they employed fewer workers on piece work they
> could earn higher wages and the employer could
> reduce their costs
, this is the market at work.

If hours of labor go unregulated, then bosses reap greater profits,
but then we all reap social conflict and increased taxes to offset
some of the worst manifestations of unnecessarily brutal
exploitation and mass unemployment. I can't think of a worse
way to run a world than by letting bosses' greed go unregulated.
Failure to advocate stricter regulation of hours of labor implies a
willingness to allow workers to continue to be relentlessly exploited.

> Look at the electric power situation in California. They
> have the power stations, they have the people to operate
> them, they have the people willing to pay for the power,
> but the market rules, the companies are in trouble.

Many people understand that a rather complex deregulation
process set off this little power crisis. Some states that had
recently been considering moving towards deregulation have
just shelved those plans in order to wait and see how this
Californication turns out.

> As trade unionists we are trying to obtain a better deal
> for workers who must sell themselves on the market, and
> even if we succeed the economic laws can reverse the
> gains whenever there is a downturn in the economy.

With insufficient regulations in the interests of workers,
bad economic and social effects are to be expected.

> Production for use ...

Not so fast. Production for use is a long way down the road.
We should learn to crawl before we try to run.

> Production for use can reduce the work week to a
> minimum, people could have a lot more freedom
> when we propose a cooperative world society.

Your party has been proposing a cooperative world society for
nearly a century, but society is still pretty short in that department.
It may take more than a mere proposal in order for the world to
actually get it. In other words, activists do not just walk into a
meeting and slam down a piece of paper on the table that says:
"We propose a cooperative world society", unless we would like
to be laughed out of the room. Be concrete, and your plan ought
to be at least as concise as 'a shorter work week' if you don't want
to put people to sleep. 'Revolution' and 'socialism' mean too many
different things to people, so you may not be able to get away
with saying just either or both of those words.

> But as long as people continue to patch up the
>
never ending failures of capitalism it will be the
> promise of a shorter working week for
some
> and misery and unemployment for others.

Once again, you don't seem to understand that the purpose of
a shorter work week is to provide FULL participation. In other
words, to enable EVERYONE to participate in the economy for
as long as people will still have to get up in the morning to go to
work. Full participation in the economy alone will guarantee that
a minority will not be allowed to rot away in the reserve army of
the unemployed, desperate for any kind of work, accepting low
wages, thereby driving down wages and conditions for all.

> I do not expect all people will develop a political
> awareness overnight,

What you've written so far doesn't exactly indicate much
POLITICAL awareness or intent. 'Political' is a word that
implies classes of people in conflict.

> but when the conditions for change become more
> apparent, the need to change will be driven by the
> obvious failure of governments to use the productive
> forces of society for the benefit of all.

That sounds like a lament that the government hasn't yet taken
over the means of production. Is state ownership and/or control
your 'socialist' solution?

> Workers throughout the world are reacting to the
> globalisation of major corporations and the World
> Trade Organisation, but their own movements are
> being globalised themselves by the process.

'Globalisation of workers' movements'?
Is that supposed to be good or bad?

> What must precede a change in social
> organisation is a revolution in the world of
> ideas and the way that workers think about their
> world and the way in which they contribute to it.

Here's to the 'revolution in the world of ideas'. Cheers.

Ken Ellis

One for all, and all for one.

 

2-15-01

> Lorna S. wrote:
>
> (please forward to Ellis; thanks).
>
> I swore to myself I wouldn't get involved in discussions
> about the US Left but your exchange about WBAI changed
> my mind (my husband Eric was music director there
> in the early seventies as well as the early sixties).
>
>
<snip appreciated information>
>
> As for WBAI needing to be democratic, I am not sure what that means for
> a listener supported station or any form of media that is not literally owned by
> its listeners or the public. What would constitute the structure of management?
> Who would make creative decisions? To whom would the station, or its
> producers or staff, be accountable? Are you talking about a cooperative
> (cooperatively owned and managed) enterprise? If so, who puts up the money
> to pay for everything? If the listeners support it, do they have a say in policy
> making? How you identify the "listeners"? Those who pay? Those who pay
> more than others? Those who don't pay? What kind of decision making body
> would be "selected" from the public at large? Frankly, I could only see a worse
> situation than now, especially given the identity politics that was rife at the
> station and which contributed to the lack of professionalism that enabled
> the foundation to get away with what it is doing, at least up till now.
>
> The problem as I see it now is that there was no founding or mission
> statement that binds the foundation board to operate in certain ways, nor
> any such policy statement or charter that would give the local advisory
> boards any real power. With hindsight the latter problem seems the biggest
> of all. I could envision some kind of democratic election of local advisory
> boards, accompanied by a mission statement and some kind of charter or
> bylaws to which these boards would have to adhere, and some process for
> local supporter input to the local advisory boards as well as accountability
> processes. But the notion that
the whole foundation and network should be
> "
democratically controlled" seems absolutely unworkable and inappropriate.
>
> Lorna S.
>
>
<snip quotes at end>

Dear Lorna, thanks for the feedback, which Bill forwarded to me. I listened to
Bill for many years on KPFA, and eventually got to meet him. He is a national
treasure, as I'm sure you'll agree.

People have suggested various ways in which Pacifica could be made
democratic. Many plans can be found at the 5 stations' associated web sites.
After struggling with Pacifica bureaucracy for many years, many listener
activists have come to agree that they can't live with the self-perpetuating
intransigent bureaucracy, but could live with an organization whose
National Board (PNB) would be elected in some fashion.

Having also struggled with censorious bureaucracies in my day, I can assure
you that a democratically elected board would be easier to live with than what
we have, even if not perfect.

I'm sorry not to have the time at present to go into great detail about your
questions, but lots of information exists at the web sites. My own personal
struggle with an intransigent party bureaucracy can be read at my web site.
My very best wishes to you.

For democratic and peaceful solutions,
Ken Ellis

 

2-15-01

Hi, Magda,

snip irrelevancies

> PS: Ken, you created kind of theory, you wrote a book, you want to change
> the world by step-by-step reforms,......and questions: Are you a member of
> any party?

Not right now. I was thinking of joining the Green Party, but they are a
little too far away for me to travel.

> How are you going to set up your reforms in practice, I mean, can you
> influence rulers, government?

Sure, no major road-block. Back during our Great Depression, a 30 hour Bill
passed the Senate (!), and looked ready to pass our House of Representatives
in 1933, when President FDR's 'brain trust' came out against it, and had the
Bill killed. If we were that close to passing such a good reform at one point
in our history, that proves that the reform is theoretically quite possible.

> How many people bought your book (or maybe it
> is only Internet version)?

When I finished the book in 1995, I tried getting it published, but it didn't
arouse much interest. So, I put it on the Internet last August.

> How many people (approximately) support your view?

Some people tolerate my opinion, and a very few on other forums
have expressed interest. I recently got an e-mail:

>> Dear Ken Ellis,
>>
>> Your opinions in the forum of the pnews.org online site caught my attention.
>> As associate editor of im-ur, I have been scouring the forums of online
>> sites for intelligent and active contributors like you.
>> I would like to invite you to express your comments and opinions at im-ur,
>> a site that is quickly on its way to becoming "The Daily Newspaper of the Web."
>>
>> im-ur has revolutionized the concept of the media on the web by creating
>> a newspaper that is written by its users. The New York Times wrote,
>> "Few challenge the status quo as much as im-ur.com."
>> im-ur represents the ultimate in freedom of speech and democracy.
>> What you write appears immediately in the pages of im-ur, as soon as you
>> post it.
>> The readers decide the hierarchy of articles contributed; the more an
>> article is read, the closer it gets to the front page. It's that simple.
>>
>> Incidentally, we are giving away $500 every month to the person whose
>> article attracts the most readers.
>>
>> We look forward to your contribution.
>>
>> http://www.im-ur.com
>>
>> Sincerely yours,
>>
>> Troy Turner
>> Associate Editor, IM-UR

So, I sent in a short essay, but I haven't heard anything since.

> Did you invent it by yourself?

Yes. The ideas came to me as I was writing my book, which is a refutation of
the lies spread by my first party, the ASLP. I was a member of that American
Socialist Labor Party from 1973 - 1977. In the book, I tried very hard not to
contradict myself. I had to think and think and think everything I wrote over
and over again, and it paid off, for the result is quite unique.

> Whom were people who influenced you?

Mostly Marx, Engels, and Lenin. They taught me history and revolutionary theory.

> How many years are you in this theory?

Since the end of 1994.

> What are your wins, successes?.

Not very many, for I think that people are just beginning to pay attention.
It has been a struggle, for I have only been writing for 9 years, having spent
most of my life working at ordinary jobs, and my powers of persuasion are
limited. About 5 people in the WSM forum are no longer hostile, and are trying
hard to understand. Educating people requires a lot of care and patience on my
part. I think that it's worth it. A better world might result from the effort.

Thanks again for the nice Valentine wish.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

2-15-01

Hi, Ben,

Thanks for the new title. It's much more appropriate.
Re: 'the collapse of capitalism':

> Capitalism will of course not "collapse" of its own accord. On
> this point I'll limit myself to a nice quote from the April 1927
> "
Socialist Standard" (it's all bang up to date around here!) I
> recently came across. I think it sums up what I was trying to say:
>
> "A period of revolution begins not because life has become
> physically impossible, but because growing numbers of
> workers have their eyes suddenly opened to the fact that
> problems which they hitherto accepted as part of man's
> unavoidable heritage have become capable of solution."

Does that mean that the revolution is the solution? Can you
make 'the revolution' more concrete for lunkheads like me in 25
words or less? If not, then it may not be able to compete with
'shorter work week', which everyone can at least understand,
even if they may not want it.

>> Competition among the plethora of news sources - new
>> and old - brings out information like never before in history.
>
> Granted - especially with the Internet etc. (if you've
> got it) it's possible to access a wide range of different info
> from various sources. However, the "mass media" (which is
> becoming ever more dominated by a few huge monopolies)
> has a direct interest in maintaining the status quo. The media,
> as it has been pointed out before, is not CONTROLLED by
> big business - it IS big business; media corporations are in the
> business of selling a product known as The News. Therefore
> "the media" (esp. TV, newspapers, etc.) has a vested interest
> in not making an explicit connection between the bad stuff
> it reports on and the capitalist system of which it is an
> enthusiastic and active part.

There certainly is a tendency toward media monopolies, as
documented by Ben Bagdikian and others, but it still isn't 'just
one big company', thank goodness. Plus, if one monopoly were
to become too sedate for news junkies, then too few of us would
buy their product. Even if all of the major media became too
pollyannish, then the people would create their own media
alternatives, of which we have scads and scads in the USA. If
the monopolies became too censorious, then that in itself would
become a big story in some other media, forcing the accused to
come around. I don't think there's a danger of our news orgs
becoming like Granma in Cuba, or Pravda in the old SU.

>> Allow me to question the "utter defeat for the working
>> class
". Who defeated the working class?
>
> That any war occurs is a
defeat* for the working class
> as it shows we have not been able to prevent or halt the
> slaughters which are carried on by the national ruling class
> sections of the world at the expense of the working class.

When it comes to war, the biggest target is the opposing army,
or, in guerrilla operations, civilian populations. Lots of bombs go
off in marketplaces, or in World Trade Centers, and in big cities.
It is often more disruptive to target the bourgeoisie in their cities
instead of some poor peasant's hut in the countryside, so I don't
see the lowest classes being targeted, while big shots are targeted
all of the time.

*2002 note: In the early 1890's, Engels feared and anticipated war
between Russia and Prussia, but in another sense would have
welcomed the opportunity to wage war by revolutionary means,
thus helping his German Party to gain influence, and even come
to power, but the war did not materialize.

> In the case of Yugoslavia, not only have thousands of
> working class people been killed and damaged, but the
> wars have also surely largely
shattered what working
> class unity existed in the former Yugoslavia.

If anyone ever decided to wage a war targeting the working
class, then that kind of selective persecution would only cement
class solidarity instead of shattering it, unless it were a complete
rout. If armies generally consist of working class people, do you
think they would easily go along with a war directly targeting their
own kind? They would regard it as unfair, and would refuse to fight.

> The "ancient hatreds" that were parachuted
> onto local populations and enforced at gunpoint
> as the various national interests fought over
> territory were calculated to destroy class
> unity and replace it with "national unity".

Interesting analysis.

>> With 20,000,000 Russians dead, as well as
>> 6,000,000 Jews, and not counting I don't know
>> how many others who died, WWII certainly became
>> a new world standard for death and destruction.
>
> Absolutely. If there was one defining point in the century
> which underscored capitalism's utter decadence and social
> uselessness (to put it mildly), that point was WWII.

All the more reason for us to abolish capitalism, I guess.

>> Can you prove that capitalism causes war in the first place?
>> I wonder if anyone could demonstrate how capitalism was in
>> any way involved in Milosevic's ethnic cleansing campaign.
>
> Yes indeed. Croatia and Slovenia went for independence
> (backed by Germany) in order to secure their territory,
> infrastructure, raw materials, means of wealth production
> etc. for their own national capitalisms (the various republics
> having very much their own agendas for some time previous).
> One problem in Yugoslavia being uneven development - why
> give it all away to Serbia when it can become the undisputed
> property of the local capitalist class? Federal Yugoslavia went to
> war precisely to stop this and then to try to cling on to as much
> land and wealth as possible (in Croatia, the Bosnia, then Kosovo,
> and maybe in Montenegro next (?)). The "ethnic cleansing" (which
> was most definitely NOT restricted to Serbian forces) was very
> much a part of this capitalist agenda as the republics (especially
> Serbia and Croatia) grabbed land they claimed was "theirs" and
> then booted out or killed "suspect" populations (people they feared
> they could not rely on to subscribe to their new, ethnically-based
> national unities). Kosovo is actually a classic case in point. Why
> did Serbia so not want to lose Kosovo? In the words of Major-
> General MacKenzie (a former commander of UN troops in
> Bosnia): "Quite frankly, they want the northern half of Kosovo.
> That's where the mines and natural resources are". Which is why
> there is still a lot of lower-level fighting going on there now around
> the border (as well as no little "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs and
> Gypsies still in Kosovo by the KLA factions). All in all
> it is capitalism first and last that is behind all of this.

Nice analysis. All the more reason for us to abolish capitalism.

>> I think that the probable election of Ariel Sharon in
>> Israel could heat things up over there. If so, then I fear
>> that a lot more people will get hurt over there, starting
>> very soon. I hope that I am wrong.
>
> There you go then. The capitalist world IS pretty scary
> isn't it? Even when we haven't got a war blowing up in our
> faces there is always one waiting to happen. The working
> class has no country - the world is our country. And, as
> your fears over the breakdown of the middle-east "peace
> process" so amply demonstrate, it is essential that we
> start acting in our international class interest.

It's a complex issue. If you say that the only answer to all of this
is the abolition of capitalism, then maybe you are right. In fact,
you've reawakened me to the fact that the abolition of capitalism
is something I've wanted for a long time. Do we have a choice of
weapons to do it with?

Good job well done, Bro. You woke me up. Sometimes I get so
frustrated with revolutionary ideology that I forget that deep down
we all want the same thing. Let's choose our weapons.

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").

 

2-16-01

Jimmy wrote:

> I take all your points about computers and robots making
> work easier, but I have to say that I have some reservations
> and do not wholly share your enthusiasm, but, no matter
> I may be wrong, anyway, time will tell.

If you have the time and energy, then it might be advisable
for you to try to actually determine 'who and what' are right
or wrong. Social change isn't won by people who allow fuzzy
thinking to determine their tactics. We are beset by so many forces
influencing us this way, that way, and every way one can think of,
that it isn't an easy job to figure out what's really what. I wish
there were an easy way to figure it all out, but good hard work is
the only way I know. The nice part is, once you arrive on the right
playing field, it becomes harder and harder for opposing forces
to set you back, and the more you work at it, the more solid your
position can become. Whether or not the hard work is for you can
be determined by answering the question: 'Do I want to be rock
solid in my convictions? Or is it enough to merely pay my dues,
go along with the prevailing line, and pray for the best?'

> You still persist with eventual driving down the length
> of the working week, albeit within the framework of the
> existing form of society, and you may well be correct, but
> I still do not see that as being
a way to establish socialism.

Maybe it's because you regard the establishment of socialism
as necessarily a one-day affair. To M+E, the conquest of political
power necessarily had to be a figurative (if not literal) one-day affair,
but that conquest would have landed them only at the threshold of
the lower phase of communist society. M+E knew that it would be
a long hard climb through that first phase, but they unfortunately
didn't tell us how long it would take us to get to the HIGHER phase
of communist society
. Though some people claim that 'we now have
the technological level required to get to the
higher phase of communist
society
', that implies that, sometime between the times of M+E and the
present, the line had to have been crossed when we arrived at that happy
level of sufficiency, but no one can tell me the year in which that happened,
most likely indicating a problem with their theoretical assertion. They also
conveniently ignore the claims of M+E that the conditions for the lower
phase of communist society
existed back in THEIR day, indicating that
the times were ripe for the political triumph of the workers in the 19th
century. Do you know of a socialist who ever claimed that the conditions
for socialism did NOT exist in the times in which s/he lived? Why be a
socialist at ANY stage of history if the times are not ripe for socialism,
and socialists are paralyzed as a result of insufficient development?
Wouldn't it be an indication of arrogance for someone to claim that
the conditions for socialism exist today, but did not exist during the
times of M+E? If so, then what did M+E fight for if they couldn't
fight for the achievement of their own scenario? St. Simonism?
Proudhonism? Lasalleanism? Bakuninism?

>>> How will we know when we are living in a proletarian
>>> dictatorship, or is the proletarian dictatorship with us now?
>
> I cannot go along with your explanation below of how you see
> the
Dictatorship of the Prolateriat.

Oh, well, I might as well snip <<it>> then.

> You continue to quote long dead revolutionaries
> and
reactionaries to back up your case,

Reactionaries?????

> which I suppose is fair enough, after all we owe a debt
> to past writers, and philosophers etc., but we should also
> realise that their ideas etc., were the product of the
> conditions and experiences of their times. But,
> conditions and experiences change over time.

If a revolutionary wishes to take state power in order to use that
power to establish common property, then that road to power and
property is essentially the same as that of Marx, Engels, Bakunin,
De Leon, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, etc. They all
believed in getting to socialism by means of directly dealing with
power and property, while my method of getting to socialism by
reducing labor time (by law), whether one agrees with it or not,
can only be regarded as quite different from a Marxist method.
So, whether or not it is I who quotes dead Marxist revolutionaries,
it is not I who would change society by a Marxist method. Rather,
it is the Marxists who would take state power in order to socialize
ownership, and it is they who remain attached to a revolutionary
scenario that was far more appropriate to the era of overthrowing
rotten-ripe monarchies, which political conditions are no longer
enjoyed in the West. Because those necessary political conditions
no longer exist to facilitate the Marxist ascension to power, then it
may not be entirely unreasonable to ask revolutionaries to rethink
their revolutions. At any rate, the request shouldn't be too much
to ask of people who are sincere in their aspirations.

> Some [conditions] however, have changed very little, e.g.,
> since Marx's time the Capitalist Mode of Production and
> Distribution, and the social relationships concomitant with
> that are still very much with us at the beginning of the Twenty
> First Century. Capitalism is a dynamic society, and it won't
> just fade away. It continually adapts and renews itself, so the
> problems it throws up also change, but the basic ones do not
> change. Namely the ever present threat of war, and the continual
> insecurity and poverty of the working class, and that can only be
> solved by the working class becoming class conscious socialist/
> communists and taking the necessary political action to banish
> capitalism and all it stands for from the face of the Earth.

It's funny how, since my last conversation with Ben, I can't help
but agree with you, and think that neither of our methods of getting
to socialism contradicts the societal need to banish capitalism. It's more
of a question of which method better fits our present times and democratic
frameworks. 'Executive committee of the ruling class' was a perfect description
of the old intransigent monarchies which so many many people wanted to get rid
of in the old days, but Marx regarded democracies as the negation of monarchies,
and favored workers working within democracies as much as humanly possible.
Lenin differed in that he would have had the West replace its democracies with
workers' states. But, Lenin's scenario didn't appeal to enough people, and today
Lenin's scenario appears rather bonkers. But, Marx's scenario for peaceful
change and political class struggle in democracies
is still valid, which is
why Marx and Engels still live on in our hearts and minds.

> This, in my opinion brings brings us back to the beginning
> of our discussion and no nearer to an agreement, because you
> Ken will stick to your opinion about the way to bring about your
> moneyless workless etc. society, and I will continue with my opinion
> and to work for the establishment of World Socialist/Communist system
> of society. So, Ken, I fear that we will just have to agree to disagree.
> Anyway all the best.

When we meet again on the road to socialism, I suspect that
our conversation will be as cordial as what we've enjoyed in
this forum. It's been a pleasure. All my best to you as well.

Ken Ellis

"Refute all lies!" - Pablo Neruda

 

2-17-01

Craig answered my question:

>> If I may inquire, what method
>> of radical change would you use?
>
> Well . . . how to talk about this depends very much on underlying
> assumptions. If you're focused on "practical" actions that have some
> likelihood of resulting in changes within a relatively short time-frame,
> that's one thing.
>
> When i came to believe that that sort of focus has been remarkably
> ineffective in producing any real, profound changes, though, i changed
> my way of thinking about these things. (This was actually a very long
> time ago, when i was a teenager).
>
> Now, one could take the view (which i believe _most_ people do) that
> nothing else is really possible (a form of pragmatism) and therefore
> one lowers one's sights and works for what is "achievable".
>
> My perspective, though, is different, as it arises from a profoundly
> different philosophical foundation. I believe precisely the _opposite_
> of what i heard you seemingly (to my ears) espousing. I believe the most
> direct path to a substantively better world is through pushing radical change.
>
> Of what sort? Well, i believe the concept of ownership of land is a disaster.
> If there were one thing i would work towards changing (and i suppose i do,
> in my own way) that i feel would change EVERYTHING it would be that.
> Realistically, holding that goal firmly in mind and working slowly towards
> persuading a large percentage of the population that this change needed to
> be made might not have any appreciable impact for a very long time. But
> that's how i see _real_ change being made. Through pushing directly on
> trying to change people's consciousness. When it moves even a little
> (after a lot of pushing) the leverage available can result in profound
> changes. Whereas centuries of fiddling with the status quo probably
> will leave us all in far worse shape than we are now.
>
> So, that's just an example.
>
> craig

Thanks, Craig. I hope you don't mind my habitual capitalization of your name.
If it bugs you, then I'll lay off. I just do it automatically as a traditional sign
of respect for a peer.

'Ownership of land', by which I imagine you also mean 'private ownership of
land
', has a couple of millenniums or more of tradition behind it, and people
often stake their personal security on it. My home town of New Bedford
has a pretty good sized class of people who own, say, a 3-tenement house.
They live in one tenement, and rent out the other two to working class
families. That rental income is mighty important to that class of small
owners. Small ownership is mighty important to a lot of people in the USA.
Just imagine all of the small towns in the USA with all of the millions of small
rentals and small businesses which employ half of the working population.

Which brings us to the question: Why do you consider the institution of
private ownership of land to be a disaster? I hope that you have a succinct
answer for the many people out there who might want to know, and might
be looking for a real quick bullet-proof argument against private ownership
so that they too can join your campaign.

Are you familiar with the writings of Henry George? I wonder if there's
anything in common with your ideas and his. Over a century ago, he
suggested that all rents be paid to the state.

Feuding radicals of various stripes seem to have one goal in common, which
is for society to someday arrive at classless and stateless society. Do you share
that goal? It is my goal as well, but I don't think that a good way of getting there
is by directly meddling with government and property, which is the way most
radicals want to get there. Instead, I see technology advancing so fast in the 21st
century that all human labor could disappear in the next 30 years in the USA and
other developed countries. That is why I favor driving down the length of the work
week in proportion to advances in technology, sort of the way France is phasing in
its 35 hour week. I'm looking for people to get more militant about it so as to cut
down the waste of the present 40 hour week in the midst of growing poverty.

Until I hear from you again, best wishes.

Ken Ellis

 

2-17-01

Dear Bro,

snip irrelevancies

>> It looks as though Thirsty and I have gotten tired of one another. We
>> haven't talked since the heat of the election. Oh, well. Do you still write
>> to him?
>
> Interesting. It was about the same time that Thirsty sent his last e-mail
> to me. I didn't respond because I thought it was an inappropriate response
> and I was getting weary of his unwillingness to consider my questions
> seriously. Kind of good riddance if you will. I was wasting a lot of time
> and was not having a very interesting experience. Now I wonder if he is
> OK. Have you queried him lately?

No, though I think of him occasionally. I had the same trouble with his responses.
No matter how many times I said something, he would always come back at me
with arguments indicating that he had never paid attention to what I had written.
On the personal level, though, he was quite good at answering my questions
about his apple orchard and garden, which is pretty big, by the standards of
my little plot in my back yard. He has dozens of acres out in the country.

snip pleasantries

Bro'Ken

 

2-17-01

I inquired:

>> The question is: If the material conditions existed in 1931,
>> but didn't exist in 1871, then when did they come into
>> existence, how was that determined, and who determined it?

After I sent that message, it occurred to me that someone
would surely answer '1905', but Carl instead answered:

> I think certain conditions have to be met in a society for Socialism
> to be successful. First the means of production must be developed to
> a level where enough can be produced to eliminate want in society.

Just a page or 2 away from the end of his "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific",
Engels wrote (MESW 3, p. 149): "The possibility of securing for every member
of society, by means of socialised production, an existence not only fully sufficient
materially, and becoming day by day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all
the free development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties - this
possibility is now for the first time here, but it is here.
"

If Engels thought that the means of production were well-enough developed in
his day for them to reach the lower phase of communism (using Gotha Program
terminology), then who are we to argue 'no'?

> Second there must be a large working class majority and this majority
> must be at least marginally educated and able to manage and operate the
> means of production themselves. Most important of all, this working class
> majority must become classconscious so they will know when the time comes
> what needs to be done, and why
they must not be diverted from their goal by
> sops, reforms, and other bait that will delay the revolution
. I don't think any
> of these conditions prevailed in Marx's time especially not in Europe.

On the other hand, the POLITICAL conditions of Europe in Marx's era, and those
of Russia in 1917, were about as good as could have been gotten for attaining the
lower phase of communist society. Revolution (in history) has been a POLITICAL
act, not an economic act, so revolution depends upon ripe political conditions. The
presence of absolute monarchies that were rotten-ripe for overthrow provided exactly
the political conditions needed for the Paris Commune and the Russian revolution.
Marx's scenario depended upon overthrowing monarchies, establishing democracies,
and further developing those democracies into the universal socially-controlled
democratic republic that Marx expected to go socialist as well. But, the attainment
of Social-Democracy was a good-enough revolution for most people.

> The means of production were rapidly developing
> but I don't believe they were at the level necessary to eliminate want.

Not according to Engels, as evidenced above. Do you disagree with Engels'
assessment of the conditions of his era?

> There was not a working class majority in Europe
> during this time, working class being those that exchange
> their labor power for wages. At the time mentioned the
> majority in Europe was still made up of peasant farmers.

Wasn't the worker-peasant alliance intended to take care of that? That
alliance is what the hammer and sickle on the old Soviet flag signified.

> The working class where it existed was not well educated,
> most were not educated at all. Most children of school age
> were employed in factories along side their parents so that
> their combined incomes could eek out a starvation existence.

Those impediments don't appear to have diminished the desire of M+E for
the big political change they saw as feasible in their time. If poverty and lack
of education had been insurmountable obstacles, Marx and Engels would not have
been as interested in fighting for the dictatorship of the proletariat from 1848 onwards.

> I don't think anyone just made the decision that
> the preconditions of Socialism had been met in 1931.

Well, Arnold Petersen - 55 year National Secretary of the SLP - indicated in
his "Proletarian Democracy vs. Dictatorships and Despotism" in 1931: "in the
perfect flowering of capitalist industrial development the form, i.e., the instrument
or means of revolution, merges logically into the very governmental structure of
the new society itself, or, in other words, the Industrial Union becomes the
very framework of the Socialist Industrial Republic of Labor.
"

A.P. believed that the economic conditions for socialism existed in his day, as did
De Leon for his day as well. What kind of socialist would say otherwise about
whatever era they lived in? So did Marx and Engels, but trouble might arise when
we consider the various definitions which people attach to the word 'socialism',
indicating that the definitions are unfortunately different from one party or
person to another, so 'socialism' can mean different things to different people.

> I think it was a rational assessment of the existing conditions
> and state of development society had reached at that time. I
> think anyone could look at America in the '30's and make the
> same assessment. The means of production were in place to
> eliminate want, even though America was in the throes of the
> Great Depression, we had a majority working class and that
> class was well enough educated that they could have taken
> the bull by the horns and run society in their own interests.
> The only thing lacking was a classconcious majority of
> workers who knew what needed to be done and why.
>
> Carl

The AFL in 1933 supported legislation that would have taken us a bit down the
road toward abolishing capitalism, even though few might have consciously
regarded the Black-Connery 30 hour Bill as being such an agent of progress.
That AFL-supported Bill passed the Senate, and also looked like a shoe-in for
the House of Reps before FDR's brain trust turned on the pressure to kill it.
In 1938, we got the much weaker Fair Labor Standards Act which phased in
time and a half after 40 in 1940. This history is well recounted in Prof. Ben
Hunnicutt's "Work Without End".

One feasible and peaceful way to abolish capitalism is by driving down the
length of the work week. When it gets ridiculously low, and there's not much
left to do except replace wage-labor with volunteers, then capitalism as we've
known it will disappear. With all of the troubles surrounding socialist theory,
lovely dream that it was, we should replace the dream of 'getting to socialism
by directly dealing with government and property' with a program that doesn't
directly attack government and property, so as to avoid the inevitable social
clash associated with such a drastic change. We can get to the same upper
phase of communist society
using the democratic tools at our disposal, and
by fighting for the kind of work-week reductions that will be necessary to
eliminate waste and poverty while all human labor is being abolished by
technological progress. Learning to share work in the present will teach
us to share the necessities of life in a few short decades, when there will
no longer be a way for us to get up in the morning to go out and earn
a living. Probably most people alive today will see that development,
which is why we have to put on our thinking caps now.

Unfortunately, I've never known a revolutionary to whole-heartedly endorse
a shorter work week, for all revolutionaries seem to want their revolution
first, after which they would support a shorter work week. Their perspective
is analogous to Marx's idea that the era of proletarian dictatorship would be
appropriate for winning a shorter work day and week
. But, he never fought
against the real gains that occurred in his day, such as the 10 hour day in
England. His First International promoted the 8 hour day, echoing the
efforts of American workers in the 1860's.

I hope people will be open to exploring the possibility that a lot of differences
between various radicals and groups are based upon theoretical mistakes,
which I think can be easily enough corrected if we give it the old college try.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

snip irrelevant PS:

 

2-17-01

Bill quoted me:

>> <snip my extraneous> I'd like for you to quote Marx
>> somewhere saying that 'the advanced development of
>> the means of production in some countries would
>> allow a direct and dictatorshipless passage to the
>> higher phase of communist society'.
>
> I don't think I have to, I think it is:
> a) based on the interpretation of the presuppositions
> which we can observe in Charlies works Passim.

It would have been nice to see a little example. I don't think the
assertion can be supported, and here's why: M+E said that they
lived in an age when the establishment of proletarian dictatorship
(the lower phase of communist society) was possible in their day.
As for getting to a higher phase of communist society in their day,
that would have been considered ridiculous, for in no country had
the distinction between town and county been abolished, and in no
country had the population been liberated from the division of labor,
and we STILL haven't abolished the division of labor, nor labor itself.
Also, having intended for their revolutionary scenario to apply to the
most developed countries of Europe and the world, no developed
country was spared from the scenario of having to pass from
capitalism to the lower phase of communist society before getting
to the higher phase (though they did speculate about the common
ownership of arable land in Russia facilitating Russia's transition).

Those are some good reasons why you won't find M+E even
hinting at: developed countries passing directly to a higher phase
of communism
. The only thing vaguely analogous to that theory
is where Marx said that 'workers in democracies could get what
they want in a peaceful fashion
' instead of with a violent overthrow,
but his 1872 Speech at The Hague referred to the benign POLITICAL
conditions of the USA and England, not to their economic conditions.

Your theory echoes that of my old ASLP, but their literature
TWISTED Marx's 1872 Speech at The Hague to take on a new
meaning that 'developed countries can get to the higher phase of
communist society without a proletarian dictatorship
'. The ASLP
claimed that Marx's speech referred to economic conditions, but their
assertion was without reference to anything particular in the text.

Bakunin and others claimed that political forms were undesirable and
unnecessary
, and that UNIONS would become the basis of socialist
society
, but unions in 1870 had not progressed beyond craft unions,
while monopoly ownership in De Leon's era gave rise to a corresponding
industrial unionism that inspired De Leon's SIU. The trouble with the
ASLP's version of the theory that 'hyper-developed means of production
obviate political solutions
' was that ASLP authors took Marx's Speech at
The Hague
out of its context of POLITICAL conditions, and illegitimately
substituted ECONOMIC conditions. They claimed that the advanced
development of the means of production in the USA gave De Leon the
idea for the FORM into which workers should organize in order to
replace capitalism with a classless, stateless administration of things,
viz., the Socialist Industrial Union. Their chief author Arnold Petersen
knew that he was fooling the people by taking quotes out of context,
but ran a bureaucratic enough party to ensure that he could not be
deposed, and he had the means of internal communication so
well sewn up that he knew who opposed him, and was relatively
free to expel either the dissenters or their Sections, and later
'reorganize' the loyalists into a new Section.

> b) based upon an observation in the general change
> in conditions since Charlies' time, i.e. that even the
> advanced capitalist countries did not possess the
> necessary productive capacity for such a change.

That sounds as though the conditions for socialism will improve
even further in the future, more or less as a function of time and
technological development, as in: the more time that passes, the more
applicable socialism will be to our ever-improving technological conditions.
And yet, we know that people were more attracted to the word socialism
a century ago, while interest in it doesn't seem to be going anywhere
in recent times. Can you explain that contradiction?

>> Lenin recognized the necessity of the involvement of
>> the masses in any revolution in which mass interests
>> are at stake. All else would be a palace coup in the
>> interests of a minority.
>
> Yes, as the quotes I reference said, but look again,
> even your reference places the working class into the
> role of 'involvement' *supporting* (or being actively
> *neutral*) towards the vanguard, not the conscious
> agents of revolution.

No one need worry about the masses not being involved in both
Russian Revolutions of 1917. Few would assert that either was
a palace coup. Just the fact that people organized themselves
into Soviets indicates mass involvement.

>> A mere decision by the high command wouldn't mean
>> that the party alone would do EVERYTHING, as the
>> quote from L-W Communism should make pretty clear.
>
> No, but it was figured as *the deciding force*, as the
> active part of the 'machinery' of revolution to which
> the working class operates as a prop.

Well, with Lenin reporting 70,000 members in 1917 (Vol 41, p. 412),
and maybe 200,000-400,000 in 1922 (Vol 45, p. 467), the Bolsheviks
were much more of an influence back then, compared to maybe the
few hundred revolutionaries in developed countries today.

>> Any political party represents the advanced elements
>> of a class, those who are most attuned to their class
>> interests. It's only natural for them to lead when
>> the masses are ready to act. Until that point, the
>> party can foment change, argue about what it should
>> do, and work its way toward clarity. Because of the
>> mistakes of the past, there's an abysmal amount of
>> mucky mistakes to work our way through.
>
> No, its the party's job to
follow, to be the back seat
> driver
of the revolution, knowing the line of march
> does not give us privileges to run ahead and try to
> drag folks with us.

Who wrote that rule? In the age of overthrowing monarchies,
a party had to closely watch the mood of the masses. When it
looked as though they were ready to revolt, then was the time for
the party to come to the fore and lead them to victory. In today's
democracies, working class parties should represent the class
interests of the workers, and push those political interests to the
fore in the state. If political conditions change, then so does the
role of a party.

>> When it came to hating monarchies and wanting
>> democracy, don't you think that our ancestors were
>> conscious of what they were doing when they replaced
>> monarchies with democracies?
>
> Yes, they wanted democracies and an end to monarchies,
> but they didn't want socialism (at least, not the majority).

Agreed.

>> <snip my redundancy> Do you think
>> that the Russians were a dumb driven herd
>> for going along with the Bolsheviks?
>
> No, I think that the workers had an agenda different
> from the Bolshevik's, and that the bolshevik's rode
> the similarities as long as they could, which came
> to an end pretty quickly.

Sounds like you blame the mess in Russia upon Bolshevik
mistakes instead of upon the failure of Europe to successfully
revolt in sympathy with Russia. Lenin made a good faith effort to
create a workers' state in Russia. If Europe had followed through
with their revolutions, our history would have been a lot different,
we would be studying Marx, Engels and Lenin in public schools,
we'd be up to our belly buttons in proletarian dictatorship, and well
on our way toward classless, stateless, etc.less society. In other
words, I think, along with M+E, that successful simultaneous
revolutions in many countries
were essential to socialist success,
while a lone revolution in one country was a guarantee for failure,
which was the lesson of the Paris Commune in Marx's 1872
Speech at The Hague. What do you think?

<snip dialogue that I couldn't take anywhere relevant> :-(

>> What you have in G.B. may be a monarchy to you,
>> but it's a democracy to the rest of the world; otherwise,
>> wouldn't our new guy G.W. Bush be dealing with her
>> majesty instead of with Tony Blair?
>
> Not really, The Queen is technically free to appoint
> whatever Prime Minister she wants, (which she did in
> 1962(?) when she chose Alec Douglas-Home over Rab
> Butler), to dissolve parliament when she wants, in very
> strict terms (but not in actuality, the point I was driving
> at) she is free to veto legislation. Also, the Government
> can sign and bind international treaties by royal
> prerogative without reference to Parliament. but, as I
> said, you make the point, we are legally and technically
> a monarchy, but technically a parliamentary democracy.

The monarchy part of your message is pretty compelling. All the
more reason for us to abolish the state. Let's choose our methods.

>> <snip general agreement>
>
>> God that failed? Fill me in on the details. I've
>> never heard that one before. Instead of reading, I
>> spent too much time trying to make the rich richer
>> than their wildest dreams.
>
> "God that Failed" Common media tactic, get an
> 'ex-marxist' to come in and be the bitter opponent of
> Marxism or some other radical movement, "
I was a
> true believer once, but I was let down.
"blah blah blah...

Gee, that sounds similar to my story at my web site. :-)

>> On the other note, I don't think British workers are
>> compelled to fulfill the interests of the bosses on
>> the political and social as much as on the economic
>> plane, on which level 'they have to work in order to
>> live'. Future mass unemployment will prove the lower
>> classes to have a will of their own. There's no way
>> they're going to let the bosses starve them. When it
>> comes down to the wire, and the springs of social
>> wealth become ever so much more productive, the
>> bosses won't even want to see the masses starve, for
>> they will also evolve far enough away from the bad
>> old days of brutal competition for survival, and will
>> become more philanthropic than ever before. No
>> more 1871s, thank goodness.
>
> Indeed, but the problem might come about that the
> bosses have
no alternative, in which case the workers
> will
not be able to find a solution within Capitalism.

But, the bosses will always have more alternatives than workers,
won't they? Can you picture a scenario in which the bosses run
out of alternatives?

> Perhaps I was imprecise, the workers can only
> direct society *under capitalism* the capitalist
> way, any attempt to drive it in a different direction
> means changing the shape of society.

I like to think that we can direct society under capitalism toward
socialism, by driving down the length of the work week, and thus
gradually abolish capitalism. Do you regard that as feasible?

>> There's a big difference between a movement setting
>> out to realize its communist objectives, and that same
>> movement having any chance of success. If Freddie
>> liked the S.L. program, and if he thought that it well
>> represented the interests of the working class in a
>> variety of ways, then it would seem natural for Engels
>> to have mentioned Morris in a letter, but my book of
>> Selected Correspondence didn't contain a single
>> reference to Morris' name, nor was there a
>> mention in the Selected Works.
>
> Erm, there are a couple of Mentions, one about Morris
> and Bax in a letter to Laura Lafargue, and IIRC Thompson
> quotes a reference in Engel's writings to the effect that he
> thought Morris was Naive.

Thanks for your candor, Bill. It's a pleasure to dialogue with
honest people.

>> I hope that Bill will come across with something
>> significant in terms of backing up Engels' alleged
>> support for the Socialist League, and hopefully in
>> the words of Engels himself.
>
> References to Morris in the General's letters to the
> Lafargues:
> Vol I: 179, 245, 317, 347, 370.
> Vol II: 36, 39, 44, 45, 97, 220, 236, 254, 259, 263, 269, 286, 347.
>
> "
Morris is all very well as far as he goes, which is not far..."
>
> "
Our good Bax and Morris are torn by their desire to do something..."
>
> "
Morris is a settled sentimental socialist..."
>
> As for the League, I suggest E.P. Thompson's treatment
> of the matter in his Biography of Morris.
>
> Idle Bill.

Well, as we know from history, and as likable as he was (and I like
his writings and art, too), the effect of Morris on history was pretty
limited. Thanks again for being frank about Freddie's assessment.

Engels occasionally mentioned republican campaigns against
what was left of the British monarchy, and I'm sure he wouldn't
have minded if the republicans could have bought out the monarchy.
Overthrow is a little too strong of a word to describe feasible proposals
to get rid of the remains of what he called 'the dynasty'. In his Critique of
the Draft S.D. Programme of 1891
, Engels wrote (MESW 3, p. 434):
"One can conceive that the old society may develop peacefully into the
new one in countries where the representatives of the people concentrate
all power in their hands, where, if one has the support of the majority of
the people, one can do as one sees fit in a constitutional way: in democratic
republics such as France and the U.S.A., in monarchies such as Britain,
where the imminent abdication of the dynasty in return for financial
compensation is discussed in the press daily and where this dynasty is
powerless against the people. But in Germany where the government is
almost omnipotent and the Reichstag and all other representative bodies
have no real power, to advocate such a thing in Germany, when, moreover,
there is no need to do so, means removing the fig-leaf from absolutism
and becoming oneself a screen for its nakedness.
"

Just the way today a few dreamers contemplate overthrowing British
parliament and the American democracy, some were thinking the same
thing in the days of Engels and Morris. Engels' thoughts about the
dynasty was shown by his quote to be decidedly tamer.

Ken Ellis

"As for myself, my dear General, you know that it's enough to be
a Marxist and Engelsist to stay young forever!
" ... From a January
2, 1893 Letter from Laura (Marx) Lafargue to Engels.

 

2-20-01

Socialism is a word that contains the word 'social', so one would hope that a
socialist solution would truly embody a social program, but some programs are
unfortunately designed to affect not much more than the wealth and property of
the rich, so end up being NOT true social programs. Also, there's no guarantee
that the wealth that would thereby be transferred to the state would also end
up in the hands of those who could use it the most.

Social programs should address full participation in the economy by ensuring
that what little work that has yet to be taken over by ever-smarter robots and
machines gets equitably shared for as long as people will still have to get up
in the morning to go to work. Evidence shows that Marx and Engels intended
for socialism to serve the greater goal of full participation in the economy, and,
towards that goal, supported workers' struggles for shorter days and weeks.
Our social programs should include higher overtime premiums, shorter work
weeks, increased vacation time, earlier retirement, etc., which would qualify
the programs as truly social in nature.

Best wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

2-23-01

Hi, Magda,

snip pleasantries

> If you had a chance to be 23 y.o. would you change anything in your
> life? Would it look like the same?

Oh, I'd probably have gone to California at age 23 - when I wanted to -
instead of waiting until I was 31. That would have changed my life a lot.
I would have arrived in San Francisco in time for the 'summer of love'.

>> Sure, no major road-block. Back during our Great Depression, a 30
>> hour Bill passed the Senate(!), and looked ready to pass our House of
>> Representatives in 1933, when President FDR's 'brain trust' came out
>> against it, and had the Bill killed. If we were that close to passing such
>> a good reform at one point in our history, that proves that the reform is
>> theoretically quite possible.
>
> I read an article about Americans workers whose situation is much worse
> now in comparison in the last 20 years, they earn more but simultaneously
> they have to work unproportionally much more. They have to work more
> hours than earlier for the same money....And I just thought that this workers
> can create a lobby for less hours work, maybe they could force it on the
> government....writing it I realize how
unrealistic it is, I have just read that
> some guy said that Bill Clinton was the last President of USA and now
> the corporation will be ruling USA and globe btw. I think it has happened
> before so nothing will change at all.......if not for worse. So theory can
> seems to be possible but practice not necessary, unfortunately.

Theories like those are fairly common; some are good, while others aren't very
useful. What I like about my theory is that a shorter work week is inevitable,
because computers and robots are getting smarter and smarter all of the time,
and pretty soon some of the low-skill service jobs, like cooking hamburgers,
will be more fully automated, and a whole lot of jobs will disappear; but, this
time, there will be no way for the economy to expand to absorb the extra
workers, and we'll be forced to do again what we've done before in our history,
and look for ways to share work. The rich people who today are most against
shorter work weeks will see the movement grow and grow and grow, and the
movement will put an end to capitalism as we've known it in another 30-40
years. As young as you are, you will probably live to see it, but I'm not so
sure about myself.

> How many pages your book has? I hope that not too much,
> I will never find time to read it!

If it were in print, it would be about 550 pages, but the Internet book has
no provision for page numbers. The first 3 parts, A, B, and C, are semi-
autobiographical and have some human interest, while most of the rest are
rather dry theory. You could learn a lot about socialism and me by reading
the first 3 parts, which aren't all that long. The first time you look at it, the
book is not to be studied. Instead, it should be read quickly. Later, if there
were questions, one could go back and look at things a little more carefully.

>> Educating people requires a lot of care and patience on my part. I
>> think that it's worth it. A better world might result from the effort.
>
> yes, you are right but do you think that effort of one man can change
> the world? Do you think that an individuum can has such a big power in
> nowaday times? You need followers, students, well, you have a long way
> ahead........but if it is really worth it don't give up!

There are others with some ideas like mine, with web sites of their own,
which are very interesting. Here is my favorite one:

http://www.Timesizing.com

From that one site, you can link to what many other people have to say about
this issue. My perspective still remains unique, for I am the only leftist I know
who has carefully analyzed leftist ideology enough to conclude that socialism
is inapplicable to today's world, while shorter work weeks are both applicable
and necessary to prevent mass suffering, waste, and global warming.

snip pleasantries

> it is great to write with you, Ken!!!
> Bye for now!
> Magda

That's a very nice thought. It's a pleasure to converse with you as well. You
are sincere in your ambitions to create a better world. If you allow your
sincerity to be your guide, you cannot fail in your mission. But, as soon
as we allow other people to do our thinking for us, then it is very easy to
become innocent victims of one or another useless or obsolete ideology.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

2-23-01

Bill Mandel wrote:

> I do take umbrage at the statement that "domestic revolutionary groups
> should have folded up if they had wanted to be honest about the
> possibilities of revolution in the West."

Nothing I wrote was intended to personally offend anyone. If I inadvertently
did, please accept my apology. Instead of saying 'folded up', I should have
said 'reorganized along lines compatible with democratic frameworks'.
Overthrowing democracies has never been very logical, but, until I thought
it out more carefully, I advocated precisely that. Absolute monarchies and
colonial dictatorships comprised the states that needed to be replaced.

> Hindsight is no guide to how people thought and why they thought it,
> in an earlier time.

That's true, and I agree. But, at least some leaders were conscious of the
unfeasibility of revolutions in Western democracies, but promoted their
revolutions in the full knowledge of their own dishonesty. Because
revolution was only relevant to overthrowing monarchies and liberating
colonies, revolution never expressed the interests of people living in
democracies. Some revolutionary leaders took advantage of the fact that
followers can be attracted to nearly any kind of bad idea, so they set up
little businesses that could afford to discard democratic processes within
their ranks; they could afford to organize themselves bureaucratically; they
could afford to offer their members less freedom of speech than the very
governments they swore to overthrow; they could afford to be sectarian;
all of which necessitated operating in secrecy. Dishonesty remains the
best explanation of at least some of the goings-on in the revolutionary left.

> When I was invited to re-join the Communist Party in 1956, after
> having been kicked out in a deep-underground secret trial at the bottom
> of McCarthyism three years earlier for having a mind of my own, I accepted,
> against my better judgment, because I loved the honesty, devotion, and courage
> of the people with whom I had spent thirty years in children's, youth, and the adult
> organization. I did make the condition that I would give it one year, to see if it would
> make the changes I thought essential to its being effectual. It didn't, and I left.

My experience in the SLP was vaguely similar. I had the same faith in the
rank-and-filers with whom I worked, and whom I knew were basically honest,
and would never be consciously dishonest about the alleged necessity of
overthrowing democracies, but their devotion to their leaders and out-of-place
revolutionism caused nearly all of them to vote with their leaders against
hearing me out. They had a morbid fear of free internal communications.
Talk about gag rules. That story is at my web site.

> My generation grew up in a time when there was the model of a country, the
> Soviet Union, that alone on earth had no unemployment during the world-wide
> Great Depression when many Americans were literally starving. It had no
> evictions when Americans were being thrown out into the street daily before
> your very eyes, and you wondered if you would be next. It was practicing
> affirmative action in education for women and ethnic minorities, as I saw
> it in my classmates in Moscow University in 1932, and in jobs, and in
> government appointments, and in the introduction of ballet, opera,
> symphony music, museums, and subsidized mass and cheap editions
> of the world's literary classics in dozens of languages, often of people
> who had been pre-literate before the Revolution, as well as the Russians
> themselves, three-quarters of whom didn't know Tolstoy because they
> hadn't been able to read and write.

The USSR's policies sound even better than mere affirmative action, i.e.,
the way affirmative action is practiced in the USA today. Your description
portrays the USSR as practicing the undiluted politics of inclusion. The
trouble with affirmative action in the USA today is that it makes room for
women and minorities by excluding white males, a policy which falls short
of 'the undiluted politics of inclusion', which is why I could never fully
endorse affirmative action, which put me at odds with a lot of people with
whom I worked at KPFA. Very few people seem willing to compare
affirmative action with the undiluted politics of inclusion. If a party
or group can afford to endorse a band-aid like affirmative action,
then it can also afford to reject the undiluted politics of inclusion.

> It was providing arms to the Spanish Republic when no other government
> on earth except Mexico would give any help whatever. It was calling for
> collective security to stop Hitler when the West was nudging him Eastward
> at Munich. So what was illogical about thinking that that was the way to go?

The SLP, on the other hand, was notoriously socially inert, while I was
wishing in the early half of the 1970's that we could have taken a stand
against the war in Vietnam. We were constrained by our political abstentionist
ideology. We were afraid that the state apparatus the Americans were propping
up would be replaced with a communist state. To us, the state = evil, so the only
thing we could have supported was the total abolition of the state, which we
knew the Vietnamese Communists would not support - hence, no
complaints from the SLP over the slaughter and devastation.

> <<Forgive me for snipping to the core:>> And I went on believing in the
> desirability of Marxist socialism until 1991, when two years of sharply
> declining living standards in the formerly Communist-governed countries
> failed to bring about an about-face in their peoples' rejection of a return
> to it, and I had to re-think my convictions of a lifetime.

I was a believer in one form or another of revolution from '72 until '94. Two
years into writing my book of experiences in the SLP, I discovered that: taking
away the property of the rich was feasible after overthrowing feudal monarchies
in backward countries like Russia, or after liberating colonies like Cuba, but was
never feasible after winning mere elections in Western Social-Democracies like
France and Italy. Suddenly I understood that communism was more fitted for
backward countries than for the advanced countries which Marx said would
have to go communist before the rest of the world. It also proved that
communism was really based upon communists having the full force
of the state in their hands, and that they would have to forcibly overthrow
their democracies in order to socialize ownership, as Lenin advocated, but
which few people in democracies were willing to go along with. This also
proved that the struggle for socialism or communism in the West would
eventually prove to be futile, for lack of interest.

> If I didn't know you personally, and know you are a nice guy, I'd resort to
> sarcasm and write that we're not all as smart as you, Ken, or sharper words.

The restraint is appreciated. I try to write in such a way that will hopefully
make you glad that you maintain restraint. Having known you from listening
to you for over 20 years, I know that your heart is with the common folk, and
that you won't carelessly demolish honest attempts to understand or bring
understanding. If you'd rather not dialogue, though, I won't hold your feet
to the fire, and I'll even let you have the last word if you so desire.

> But it does hurt to find you calling dishonest those who built the movement
> for unemployment insurance until even the A.F. of L. leadership, which had
> said: "
American workers will never accept the dole," had to change its mind;

My writing doesn't target good-faith activism in the interests of the working
class. But, I don't regard the AFL as having been politically inert during the
Depression, nor do I regard them at that particular time as needing to be
pushed to the left. Labor watched apprehensively as warehouses filled with
unsold merchandise, and predicted real problems well before the Crash of '29.
The AFL supported its own legislation to take care of the unemployment and
poverty of the Depression. Passage of the AFL-supported Black-Connery 30
hour Bill would have obviated a lot of need for unemployment insurance and
a lot of other programs, enabling a smaller government, less waste, and
environmental friendliness. The 30 hour Bill was compelling enough to pass
the Senate and looked like a shoe-in for the House before FDR's brain trust
convinced Congress to kill it. A few years later, we got the much weaker 'time
and a half after 40' that was inadequate then, and which still is responsible for
unnecessary suffering and exclusion today. While labor was supporting a real
traditional American solution to unemployment and exclusion, others were
advocating revolution, bandaids or other wasteful measures, none of them as good
as labor's choice. What was the CP position on the Black-Connery 30 hour Bill?

> those who were killed by the police in the San Francisco General Strike
> (specifically Communists); those who built a real movement against
> lynching, and won before the Supreme Court in the Scottsboro Case
> the right of African-Americans to sit on juries..

Would anyone be foolish enough to disparage these brave acts? Not I.

> It's precisely posts like yours that convince me I was right to spend all
> those years writing Saying No To Power, so the Seattle generation can
> learn something about how the American people learned to fight for
> its own interests in my lifetime.
> Bill Mandel

Now that I have my own checking account again, I just sent my $23 to 4500
Gilbert St. #426, Oakland, CA, 94611.

All my best. K.E.

 

2-23-01

John-Paul replied:

> <snip intro>
>
> First of all I wouldn't put too much faith in the Arnold Petersen
> pamphlet "
Proletarian Democracy vs. Dictatorships and Despotism"
> as that pamphlet was withdrawn from circulation by the
Thirty-First
> National SLP Convention
in 1978. The SLP basically disowned its
> contents 23 years ago.

In a way, that's regrettable, for I know of no other SLP pamphlet that tried to
justify the SIU in the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin as thoroughly as that
pamphlet tried. If anyone today were ever curious enough to want to know just
how the SIU relates to the ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin, I wonder precisely
where in SLP literature people could now turn.

> Concerning the fight for a shorter work week. A Socialist Industrial
> Union is designed to be a fighting union which carries on the day
> to day struggles. It fights for improved standards of living while
> keeping socialism as its final goal. The
Industrial Workers of the
> World
has been fighting for the four hour day for the past sixty-
> years. De Leon himself used to say
why waste time fighting for a
> ten or eight hour day when the real working day is more like three
.

In approximately 30 years from now, there isn't going to be very much work
remaining for people to do. Those who sincerely want society to arrive at the
upper phase of communist society (classless and stateless) ought to consider
making use of the tendency of modern capitalism to replace all balky human
labor, with its demands for wages, time off, medical and dental plans, vacations,
severance pay, IRAs, etc., with robots and machines that are perfectly willing to
run 24/7 for absolutely no pay, and without a complaint in the world. Capitalism
could help us arrive at classless and stateless society if we constantly ensure that
what little work that remains for people to do is equitably shared for as long as
people will still have to roll out of bed in the morning to go out and earn a living.
When the work week becomes ridiculously short in the future, and volunteers
step in to replace the last of the wage-labor, then capitalism as we've suffered
from it will disappear, exploitation of wage-labor will cease, and ownership of
property will thereafter fail to accrue to the benefit of owners, and will gradually
decline from lack of use. That is a feasible and peaceful way to put an end to
capitalism, and, what's more, it's the only possible way to do it. Learning to
equitably share work now will ensure that we will be ethically prepared to
share the products of whatever entities produce the means of life in the future.
In our current mad competition to accumulate items of value, we are a little
low on the learning curve for sharing anything right now, but that will have
to change in order to create a better world. It would be great to see the SLP
support a shorter work week like they did before the 1889 coup, when the
SLP had a program which Engels regarded favorably.

> The Socialist Trades & Labor Alliance 1895-1905
> The
Industrial Workers of the World (Socialist) 1905-1908
> and the
Workers International Industrial Union (Detroit IWW) 1908-1924
> all fought to improve working conditions, to lesson the day's work, to
> increase benefits, to gain the immediate demands of their members.
> Each of these organizations had as its credo the creation of a socialist
> republic as the only true emancipation for the working class.

It sounds like the revolutionaries of old may not have been as ham-strung
with the strict 'revolution vs. reform' philosophy of later years. Did the SLP
change its policy on reform in recent years? What new language did they adopt?

> The American Federation of Labor never intended to
> further any philosophy other than teach its members
> about '
the brotherhood of capital and labor.'

That paints them with a pretty broad brush, but, in 1933, the AFL backed a
Black-Connery 30 hours Bill which would have met labor's needs a lot better
than the New Deal reform packages that were imposed on us, which ensured 40
hour weeks (and more) worth of wage slavery, instead of the much more sensible
and liberating 30. While labor was supporting a real traditional American solution
to unemployment and exclusion, others were advocating revolution, bandaids or
other wasteful measures, none of them as good as labor's choice. The less time
we spend making the bosses rich, the less rich they get, and the more time we
have for ourselves, a reasonable thing to advocate in today's crazy world.

Brotherhood of capital and labor goes back to the days when our ancestors were
all united in their desire to replace intransigent monarchies with democracies, so,
it may not be the most sinister thing in the world. The essence of the class struggle
is: if capital is going to pay labor a certain amount to show up at work, and if the
cost of getting labor to show up for one day per week isn't much different from
getting labor to show up for 7 days per week, it will always work to the bosses'
economic advantage to get workers to show up for 7 days instead of fewer. What
differentiates workers from machines is the reluctance of workers to show up for
all 7 days. It is in their CLASS interests to show up no more than what it takes to
ensure that every OTHER worker can also find a place in the economy. A political
party that represents the interests of the class will put those exact concerns to
the fore, in order to ensure full participation in the economy, which, to M+E,
was a goal towards which socialism itself was subservient.

> De Leon talked about it this way, he talked about the difference
> between a quack and a scientific doctor. De Leon said that when
> someone is in pain from a serious illness a scientific doctor studies
> him and prescribes a whole list of things which that person must do
> to cure themselves of the disease. The scientific doctor gives the patient
> nothing to help them immediately. The quack (reformist) simply looks
> at the sick person and sells them a jar of morphine tablets which will
> ease the pain but leave the disease rampant if not fatal. De Leon said
> that socialists have to avoid both of those extremes. They need to
> place themselves in the middle. They need to work to cure the
> disease but also to ease the daily pains which it causes.

In democracies, revolution is never an option, because the historical purpose
of revolution has been to bring democracy to where it didn't exist before. If
democracy is absent, only then does it make sense to advocate revolution.

> As to the material conditions: The purpose of capitalism is to create the
> means for socialism. The fatal flaw of capitalism is that it allowed those
> means of mass production to become the private property of a chosen
> few. The means for socialism have been in place for quite some time.

Private property is not exclusive to capitalism, as it existed during
feudalism and ancient slavery. Considering the longevity of private
property, it won't be possible to whisk it away overnight.

> The Paris Commune of 1871 was probably the closest any group
> of people anywhere came to socialism (at least as the SLP defines
> it) than anywhere else. Arguing about a specific date as for when
> socialism should have 'happened'
is kind of irrelevant.

Each socialist since even before M+E thinks s/he lives in an era that is ripe
for socialism. Somewhere along the line, perhaps to explain why the revolution
hadn't happened yet, and perhaps to give new revolutionaries hope that it could
happen in the present, it became fashionable to opine that: 'the times for socialism
were not ripe during previous generations. As the means of production improve,
extrapolation would indicate that the chances for a socialist revolution just keep
on getting better and better.
' :-)

For skeptics (perhaps like myself), it becomes de rigeur to ask the deflating
question: If the times for socialism were not ripe in 1871 or in 1848, but
supposedly are ripe in our present age, then in which year did the times for
socialism finally ripen? :-) I think you can appreciate the can of worms such
speculation invokes. If M+E thought that the means of production were well
enough developed for a socialist revolution in their day, then people should
take their words at face value, and not try to get others to think that: "The
reason socialism didn't happen in Marx's day was that the means of
production were insufficiently developed.
"

The economic argument also fails for the very good reason that Marx's idea for
a socialist revolution depended upon ripe POLITICAL conditions, not economic
conditions, for they regarded the economic conditions to have matured when
the first crises of overproduction began in 1825.

Another good reason the economic argument fails is that Marx set up some
SOCIAL conditions for the attainment of the upper phase of communist
society
in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (MESW 3, p. 19):

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

First, in our present new millennium, has 'the enslaving subordination of the
individual to the division of labor
... vanished'?

Second, has 'the antithesis between mental and manual labor ... vanished'?

Third, has 'labour ... become ... life's prime want'?

Fourth, have 'the productive forces ... increased with the all-round
development of the individual
'?

Or, do we regularly witness many individuals being consigned to lives of
poverty, hunger and deprivation, in spite of our modern technological marvels?

If the last case is truer to the nature of the times we live in than are Marx's
conditions #1 through 4, then how could anyone make a case for us being
but a whisker away from classless and stateless society?

> It's more important for workers to understand
> that we haven't had socialism yet despite what the
> CPUSA, the NY Times, and the US Govt tell them.

Doesn't a lot depend upon which definition one chooses for the word 'socialism'?
Billions of people understand socialism as what they enjoy in the Social Democracies
of Western Europe, while the same billions understand communism as what they
suffered from in Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba, etc. Those who say that 'socialism
has never existed
' number only a few thousand, and are not regarded seriously by
the mainstream. Socialists are going to need the help of the mainstream to arrive
at socialism, but they all seem to speak on different wavelengths.

> <snip Madison>
>
> As to the democracy vs monarchy equation: Engels didn't seem to
> believe that what we have in the USA was anything like a democracy
> as he and Marx defined one. Engels' comments on the two party duopoly
> ring as true today as when he made them around 130 years ago. It is also
> funny that an overwhelming amount of the USA's founding fathers hated
> the idea of a country run by political parties. They equated them as being
> traits of a Monarchy, and called them factions which forced people to
> decide whether they would be categorized as A's or B's.

The nice part about being a revolutionary in the old days was that absolute
monarchies were unbearable, and the people were united in their desire to
get rid of them. Socialists fought to replace monarchies with democracies
simultaneously in Europe, and Engels himself got hurt while trying to create a
Red Republic in Germany. Socialists hoped to further develop the fledgling new
democracies into a grand unified proletarian dictatorship. Only a great number of
countries going socialist together could have provided the solidarity necessary to
prevent a bourgeois counter-revolution, which is why the lonely Paris Commune
succumbed, according to Marx in his 1872 Speech at The Hague.

What we have in the USA, no matter what anyone calls our form of government,
is still relatively so much better than absolute monarchies that more people are
willing to lay down their lives to defend it than are willing to abolish it, meaning
that we are stuck with it, good or bad. But, things could be worse, since M+E
regarded republics to be the form of state in which the battle between worker and
boss would be fought to a finish
. Surely everyone must also remember Engels
saying in his Critique of the Draft S.D. Programme of 1891 (MESW III, p. 435):

"If one thing is certain it is that our Party and the working class can only
come to power under the form of a democratic republic. This is even the
specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the Great French
Revolution has already shown.
"

That pretty well eliminates the SIU, but, unfortunately for Marx, Engels and
Lenin as well, the failure of Europe to successfully revolt in support of the
Russian revolution doomed forever all hopes of creating the grand unified
proletarian dictatorship, and then divorcing the rich from their property
without fear of counter-revolution. Socialist revolution in Marx's day was
100% associated with overthrowing monarchies, after which the armed
proletariat was to use its new political power to divorce at least some
of the rich from their property to begin with, and the rest of them later.
A far cry from the SIU scenario, for sure.

> But then again isn't the SLP a political party? Yes it is. But all of
> its members wait for the day when we can bid it a fond farewell.
> Organizing politically as well as industrially is the best way to
> work for a peaceful transition to socialism.

Well, remember the slaveholders' rebellion which M+E and De Leon warned about,
so no one should embrace a PEACEFUL change of property relations as a done deal.
If the Black-Connery 30 hours bill had been passed in the 1930's, on the other hand,
we would have taken a giant leap towards abolishing wage labor, and we might even
be at a 20 hour week today, and well on our way toward abolishing all wage labor
as robots and machines become really really smart in the next few decades.

> A partial answer at best--but I'm a worker and a student and time is spare.
>
> Hope this helps,
>
> John-Paul Catusco

Thank you for your contribution to the debate. Try to take up some of
my concerns if you have time. Don't rush; take the time to think it out
carefully; I see that you are a busy student.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

2-25-01

Bill quoted me:

>> As for getting to a higher phase of communist society in
>> their day, that would have been considered ridiculous, for
>> in no country had the distinction between town and county
>> been abolished, and in no country had the population been
>> liberated from the division of labor, and we STILL haven't
>> abolished the division of labor, nor labor itself.
>
> I don't think that such a situation is a condition, nor an
> essential feature, of Communism proper,
all that is required is:
>
> 1: the productive capacity to sustain communism.
> 2: the common ownership of the means of production.
> The combination of which will enable us to abolish the
> distinctions you mention.

In order to remedy our dog-eat-dog world, M+E expected the
era of proletarian dictatorship to provide the nurturing conditions
to create a new kind of citizen who would abolish the crazy
competition that makes monsters of us all. As Engels wrote in
1845: ".. the supremacy of the bourgeoisie is based wholly upon
the competition of the workers among themselves; i.e., upon their
want of cohesion.
" In terms of today's level of ethics, here's an
example from just a few days ago and a few blocks from here:
a group of teenagers baited a 45 y.o. man by slashing his tires,
and then stomped him to death when he went to change his tires.
We simply do not have what it takes to enter the gates of heavenly
classless, stateless, etc.less society on the very next day after the
political victory of the workers. Few in this world are ready for it.
Many of us would mess it up royally. We need time to evolve
out of this unethical, ultra-competitive stew we are in.

>> Also, having intended for their revolutionary scenario to
>> apply to the most developed countries of Europe and the
>> world, no developed country was spared from the scenario
>> of having to pass from capitalism to the lower phase of
>> communist society before getting to the higher phase
>> (though they did speculate about the common ownership
>> of arable land in Russia facilitating Russia's transition).
>
> But the advanced capitalism of their day was significantly
> less developed than the one we have now, even in England.

As Engels wrote somewhere, 'Our theory is theory of evolution,
involving successive phases
'. In a Jan. 27, 1887, letter to Florence
Kelly, he wrote: "Our theory is a theory of evolution, not a dogma
to be learnt by heart and to be repeated mechanically.
" Because the
dictatorship of the proletariat was to apply to the most developed
countries, no nation was to be spared the chore of collectively
evolving toward a higher ethical standard during a transitional
era directed by proletarian policies instead of bourgeois policies.
Because the means of production developed sufficiently to create
6 crises of overproduction between 1825 and 1880, the means of
production were MORE than adequately developed to enable society
to achieve the lower phase of communist society in the mature days of
M+E. No society was to be spared the chore of cleaning its Augean
stables of bourgeois cheating, stealing, enslaving of the weak, etc., all
of which cheating corrupts the morality of everyone who participates
in the filthy economy. I know few saints today who would hesitate to
elevate their social and economic positions at the expense of others.
All of our capitalist-competitive-corrupted morality was to be corrected
during the era of proletarian dictatorship in order to prepare us for the
future heavenly pastures of workless, classless, stateless, moneyless,
and propertyless society. We can begin to evolve toward that non-
competitive paradise today by ridding ourselves of obsolete ideological
baggage and insisting on full participation in the economy.

>> Those are some good reasons why you won't find M+E even hinting at:
>> developed countries passing directly to a higher phase of communism.
>
> They don't hint at it, indeed, because the conditions
> for such an idea just did not exist.

But, their writings contain many references to enormous
improvements in the means of production in their era. Some
improvements in armaments nonplused Engels about their
impact on modern socialist military tactics. If Marx could quote
Aristotle musing about machines moving of themselves, then
M+E surely had to have contemplated the end of all human labor,
as well as its impact on socialism. It surely isn't correct for any of
us to think that we can see so much further than M+E just because
some of us were born 150 years later, and are thus lucky enough to
own a Playstation 2. We have not yet begun to evolve out of our dog-
eat-dog competitive mentality. It is only because we are mentally
chained to the traditions of the past that we needlessly continue to
compete among ourselves for scarce long-hour opportunities to make
the rich richer than their wildest dreams. If the rich were truly devils,
they would be laughing uproariously at us right now for our collective
inability to understand or to do anything about the labor market. We
will make a step in the direction of abandoning destructively competitive
ideology when we insist upon full participation in the economy.

> However, as I said, we can deduce that situation
> from the logic which they applied to their own
> time, i.e. it is a statement that is compatible with
> a system of thinking applied to conditions.

As before, the enslaving division of labor, the antithesis between
mental and manual labor, the extreme differences in lifestyles
between rich and poor, all of these factors and more militate
against our ascension to classless, stateless, etc.less society on
the day after a socialist electoral victory. Before we become morally
fit for an upper phase of communist society, we will have to become
considerably more disgusted with today's bourgeois cheating politics
of exclusion. Marx's scenario of proletarian dictatorship would have
built upon the ripe political conditions of their day, and would have
provided a transition period in which morals and ethics could evolve
in proportion to their ascension to the upper phase of communist society.
Smashing useless monarchies and replacing them with democracies in
themselves may not have been acts of great morality, but the proletarian
policies that would have followed such a political change would have
put us on track to eliminate competition for places in the economy,
and would have put us on the right moral and ethical track
for getting to the upper phase of communism.

>> Your theory echoes that of my old ASLP, but their literature
>> TWISTED Marx's 1872 Speech at The Hague to take on
>> a new meaning that 'developed countries can get to the
>> higher phase of communist society without a proletarian
>> dictatorship
', and the ASLP claimed that Marx's speech
>> referred to economic conditions
, but their assertion was
>> without reference to anything particular in the text.
>
> The difference hear, being that we don't claim that Marx
> said any such thing, but that *we* do, given that we live
> in different times, and that the claims we make are not in
> contradiction with Marx's general analysis of capitalism
>
nor methodology.

Up to the point of getting to the upper phase of communism by
means of taking state power and establishing common property,
then you are correct. Beyond that point of general agreement, I
have tried for the past several months to define some of the
ways in which your program differs from that of M+E.

> As for your paragraph I've deleted, we have
> never used this argument to remove the need
> for political action, it is still needed.

Well noted.

>> That sounds as though the conditions for socialism will
>> improve even further in the future, more or less as a function
>> of time and technological development, as in: the more time
>> that passes, the more applicable socialism will be to our ever-
>> improving technological conditions. And yet, we know that
>> people were more attracted to the word socialism a century
>> ago, while interest in it doesn't seem to be going anywhere
>> in recent times. Can you explain that contradiction?
>
> Well, I'd challenge your first premise that
Capitalist
> progress will keep on improving, I think the record shows
> about thirty years of aweful economics in UK/Europe, and
> Yankland growth only achieved at the expense of the workers.

If my words could have been interpreted as meaning that all of
us were sharing the new wealth, then I can only deny that was my
intention. Instead, I've been referring to the ongoing evolution of
the means of production. When workers do not take the benefits
of improved productivity in the form of increased leisure, then the
benefits of improved productivity take the form of increased profits.
Revolutionaries chronically fail to note that lesson from 'Capital'.

> As for the second point, I don't think the objective possibility
> necessarily must automatically translate into subjective awareness/desire.

From the way M+E complained about workers in the USA
and England, it appears that the people's interest in socialism
has pretty much always been inversely proportional to the
development of the means of production.

>> No one need worry about the masses not being involved in
>> both Russian Revolutions of 1917. Few would assert that
>> either was a palace coup. Just the fact that people organized
>> themselves into Soviets indicates mass involvement.
>
> I agree the masses were involved, I have done so several
> times, but I do say that the workers were not the conscious
> agents of Communism, most of their programme was to
> defend the soviets etc. a programme the bolsheviks
> rode for as long as they could -

I'm beginning to see your point. When it came to overthrowing a
monarchy that didn't have the support of the masses, and whose
army was wavering and willing to go over to the opposition, then
you have to wonder just how much of an army of masses anyone
would need to muster in order to overthrow such a rotten-ripe
monarchy. Obviously, not all of the masses.

> oh, and I would say that October was a coup,
> since it was exclusively organised by the bolshevik
> high command, that it was a coup that held popular
> support is neither here nor there.

I suppose that if a limited effort was sufficient to overthrow a
monarchy, then it wouldn't have taken a hell of a lot more effort
to overthrow a fledgling republic that didn't have much time to
win a lot of mass support. Whatever it took to come to power in
Russia, it's plain that the Bolsheviks had more Moxie than their
opposition - revolutionary, republican, or monarchical. You have
to hand the trophy to the winners, take whatever lessons you
can glean from their victory, but not try to apply their tactics
to peaceful processes in democracies, where the hearts and
minds of a distinct majority would have to be won over
before socialism could become the social agenda.

snip repetition

> Further, the growth in the party can be ascribed
> in significant part to its success and monopoly of
> power as much as to the influence its ideas wielded.
> Why would a party with conscious, popular mass
> support need censorship to prop its rule up?

What happened in 1917 didn't conform to Marx's scenario
of simultaneous revolutions in the most advanced countries.
Because Europe didn't revolt in sympathy, Russia was put in
the unenviable position of having to go it alone in a very hostile
world. They had a civil war, the West was trying to overthrow
the new regime, agriculture was in crisis, hunger was growing,
commodity production was in crisis, the worker-peasant alliance
was disintegrating, etc. Had Europe revolted in sympathy, and
had the rest of the scenario gone according to plans, Russia
and Europe would have cooperated, and the only repression
necessary would have been the minor local amounts necessary
to prevent bourgeois counter-revolution. Because things didn't
go according to plans, and because a lot of Russians had already
developed a taste for private property, brutal repression was needed
to enforce the new order, and to prevent counter-revolution from
beginning within Russian borders. Not a happy chapter of history.

> <snip Highgate Cemetery joke> :-)
>
>> In today's democracies, working class parties should
>> represent the class interests of the workers, and push
>> those political interests to the fore in the state. If political
>> conditions change, then so does the role of a party.
>
> A working class party only advances workers' interests
> within the state if it wants to represent them as workers, a
> socialist party wants to represent workers as the abolition
> of their condition, and thus exists to
solely establish
> socialism and encourage the working class to that end.

If that's the case, then who do you think will end up representing
the workers? The workers' party, or the socialist party?

>> Sounds like you blame the mess in Russia upon Bolshevik
>> mistakes instead of upon the failure of Europe to
>> successfully revolt in sympathy with Russia.
>
> No, I blame the mess in Russia upon Russian and world
> capitalist (uneven) development, I think the choice between
> white fascism or red fascism was a pretty poor one.

I agree that it was a bad choice, but with Europe failing to revolt
in support of Russia, a bad deal was as good as any country in a
similarly lonely position could have gotten; shades of the Commune.

2002 note: If 'uneven capitalist development' was an argument for
'Russia being the only revolutionary country in 1917', then it also
explains why England was the formost capitalist and democratic
country, and why European monarchies had to be overthrown.

>> Lenin made a good faith effort to create a workers' state in Russia.
>
> He made a good effort to hold on and hope for a world revolution,
> yes, but nonetheless,
his premise, that of a jacobin-vanguard working
> at the head of relatively unconscious russian workers
, was flawed
> and created more problems than the situation need have.

If the Bolsheviks had been any less correct than their competing
parties, then they would have been outclassed, and some other
party would have come to power. Then, if Europe still refused to
revolt in support, people could have enjoyed kicking the butts of
the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Cadets, or some other guys for
the next century or more.

2002 note: Anyone who reads Lenin knows that his PREMISE was not
as described. If the situation turned out to resemble what Bill wrote, then
no one could blame LENIN for that. Again, Europe failed to revolt in
sympathy, dooming Russia to almost insurmountable odds against
maintaining state ownership of means of production in the face of
the White onslaught.

> It's worth reading Lenin's last essays, where he begins to talk
> about educating the workers, after his Party had seized power,
> I take that as an acknowledgement of the importance of mass
> consciousness and understanding, and also of its absence in russia...

To imbue the masses with some kind of idealism about communism
was about as wise a move as they could have made if they wanted
to hold onto power after emerging from one hellish existence,
only to be thrown into another. Once any party is in power,
then no matter how well or badly they run their government,
they usually want to hold onto power for as long as possible.

>> If Europe had followed through with their revolutions,
>> our history would have been a lot different, we would
>> be studying Marx, Engels and Lenin in public schools,
>
> Surely we'd have burnt their books as worthless now?

Not if the revolution had been successful. We would
be thoroughly immersed in Marxism today, and would
continue to be immersed for a long time in the future.

>> other words, I think, along with M+E, that successful
>> simultaneous revolutions in many countries were essential
>> to socialist success, while a lone revolution in one country
>> was a guarantee for failure, which was the lesson of the
>> Paris Commune in Marx's 1872 speech at The Hague.
>> What do you think?
>
> Yes, it has to be a worldwide revolution, and that means
> building a worldwide movement etc. but it needs to be
> a worldwide movement of workers, not of jacobins
> indissolubly linked with the class conscious
> sections of the working class.

I would agree with the necessity of mass involvement, with the
reservation that: revolutions in the West belong to the past.

>> The monarchy part of your message is pretty compelling.
>> All the more reason for us to abolish the state. Let's
>> choose our methods.
>
> The ballot box looks pretty convincing to me...

Sounds good to me as well. All we would need is something to
vote for. Do you have a piece of legislation sitting around in the
files that could be dusted off and submitted to legislative bodies?
In the USA, we would have to try to get something passed as an
initiative in some of our states lucky enough to have the initiative
process. To move that along, lots of petitions would have to be
signed by thousands of people collecting signatures in front
of supermarkets, malls, etc. It would be a lot of work.

>> But, the bosses will always have more alternatives than
>> workers, won't they? Can you picture a scenario in which
>> the bosses run out of alternatives?
>
> A situation in which the rate of profit has collapsed,
> and in which several financial centres have shut down,
> and bankruptcies are running rampant: i.e. in conditions
> in which anything given over to support unproductive
> workers might well wipe out profits...

That sounds like a pretty bad recession or depression to me.
We know from the writings of M+E, and from what happened in the
1930's, that depressions are crises of overproduction, so I dare say
that Britain would once again try to share the remaining work by
adopting a 3 day week like in the 1970's, and that we Americans
would also react similarly to the way we did in the Depression,
when half of the companies voluntarily adopted work sharing
policies. Lots can be done to share work, and a lot of people
would be willing to do it.

>> I like to think that we can direct society under capitalism
>> toward socialism, by driving down the length of the work
>> week, and thus gradually abolish capitalism. Do you regard
>> that as feasible?
>
> No, not really, because I think that the tend of that would
> be to force a revolutionary confrontations pretty soon, so
> I'd rather just prepare for that bit...sort of cutting out
> the middleman...
>
> Bill M.

Do you think, then, that something as innocuous as an amendment
to existing hours-of-labor laws could trigger a revolution?

Ken Ellis

One for all, and all for one!

 

2-26-01

Carl quoted me:

> <snip old exchange>
>
>> <snip my quote from Engels>
>>
>> If Engels thought that the means of production were well-enough developed
>> in his day for them to reach the lower phase of communism (using Gotha
>> Program terminology), then who are we to argue 'no'?
>
> ----------------------------------------------- Note that Engels stated
> "
The Possibility of securing for every member of society......." I think what
> he was saying here is that since the technology of the time was advancing
> rapidly, with the industrial revolution and socialized production methods,
> there was the POTENTIAL to eliminate want. I think that in the time
> frame mentioned -1871- these means of production had
not progressed
> to the point of this being a reality. This is my own opinion.

In his same pamphlet, Engels counted 6 crises of overproduction occurring
1825-1880. Overproduction signified that the bad old days of brutal want and
scarcity had come to an end. In another passage, Engels was even more emphatic
about the end of the justification of the division of society into ruling and ruled
classes (MESW 3, p. 148):

"It is, therefore, the law of division of labour that lies at the basis of the
division into classes. But this does not prevent this division into classes
from being carried out by means of robbery, trickery and fraud. It does not
prevent the ruling class, once having the upper hand, from consolidating its
power at the expense of the working class, from turning its social leadership
into an intensified exploitation of the masses.

"But if, upon this showing, division into classes has a certain historical
justification, it has this only for a given period, only under given social
conditions. It was based upon the insufficiency of production. It will be
swept away by the complete development of modern productive forces. And,
in fact, the abolition of classes in society presupposes a degree of historical
evolution at which the existence, not simply of this or that particular ruling
class, but of any ruling class at all, and therefore, the existence of class
distinctions itself has become an obsolete anachronism. It presupposes,
therefore, the development of production carried out to a degree at which
appropriation of the means of production and of the products, and, with
this, of political domination, of the monopoly of culture, and of intellectual
leadership by a particular class of society, has become not only superfluous
but economically, politically, intellectually, a hindrance to development.

"This point is now reached. Their political and intellectual bankruptcy
is scarcely any longer a secret to the bourgeoisie themselves. Their
economic bankruptcy recurs regularly every ten years.
" ...

The several crises of overproduction over the decades proved to Engels
that the existence of a ruling class was no longer justified in his era. If
political - as well as economic - conditions had favorably matured in his
day, the lower phase of communism could have started right then and there,
without having to wait for the means of production to develop any further.
Engels was ready to jump on the chance to overthrow several monarchies
at once and further develop the several resulting fledgling democracies
into the universal proletarian dictatorship.

>>> <snip repetition>
>>
>> On the other hand, the POLITICAL conditions of Europe in Marx's era, and
>> those of Russia in 1917, were about as good as could have been gotten for
>> attaining the lower phase of communist society. Revolution (in history) has
>> been a POLITICAL act, not an economic act, so revolution depends upon ripe
>> political conditions. The presence of absolute monarchies that were rotten-ripe
>> for overthrow provided exactly the political conditions needed for the Paris
>> Commune and the Russian revolution. Marx's scenario depended upon
>> overthrowing monarchies, establishing democracies, and further developing
>> those democracies into the universal socially-controlled democratic republic
>> that Marx expected to go socialist as well. But, the attainment of Social-
>> Democracy was a good-enough revolution for most people.
> -------------------------
> A revolution is an economic and political act. All of the changes
> brought about in human history have been the result of contradictions
> in the economic systems prevalent in each period.

The development of the means of production prepared the foundation for
political struggles between the feudal lords and the two new classes most
interested in democracy - the proletariat and bourgeoisie. The history of the
19th century recounted by Marx helps us to understand proletarian struggles -
not only to acquire democracy for property holders, as desired by the bourgeoisie -
but to make their new republics socially controlled on top of being democratic,
by means of simultaneously winning UNIVERSAL suffrage.

I wonder how a revolutionary act could also be considered to be an economic act.
When I think of economic acts, I think about buying and selling. When I think
of 19th century revolutionary acts, I think of overthrowing feudal monarchies,
and replacing them with democracies, entailing no significant accompanying
economic acts that I am aware of. But, certainly the succeeding economic policies
enacted by the new democracies favored bourgeois commerce and production
like never before, enabling capitalism to develop at an unprecedented speed.

> When these contradictions became too enormous to ignore the
> old system was pushed aside in favor of the new one. All of the
> systems up to the present time have had built in antagonisms, slave
> and owner, feudal monarch and serf, capitalist and worker etc.

Don't forget the struggle between feudal lords and the ascendant capitalist and
proletarian classes. What came to a head in Europe in the past few centuries
(and spread to the rest of the world in the 20th and 21st), was the POLITICAL
contradiction between feudal absolutism and bourgeois democracy.

> When the constraints of each of these systems prevented
> further development, further progress, these fetters were broken
> and a new system was introduced. The scenario you mentioned,
> overthrowing monarchies and establishing democracies, I feel
> is no longer valid in the present period of development.

Certainly replacing monarchies with democracies no longer continues in the
West, our democratic tasks being more or less complete in the most developed
parts of the world. But, with the completion of democratization, so evaporated
as well any more political opportunities to establish the lower phase of
communist society
, or the universal proletarian dictatorship. Europe's failure
to revolt in sympathy with Russia in 1917 marked the end of the era of a
possible Marxist socialist scenario of simultaneous revolutions in the
advanced world
, and instead opened the door to socialist-inspired revolutions
in less-developed countries, but only one at a time. What happened in Russia,
China, Cuba, etc., were only crude caricatures of Marx's scenario of
simultaneous socialist revolutions in the most developed countries. I think
that we can agree about not wanting to repeat any of their revolutions, but
such a revolutionary scenario is probably not on very many people's minds.

> The reason for establishing democracies was to allow the means of
> production to develop to a point where want could be eliminated
> in society, and then a socialist revolution could take place
.

Developing the means of production sounds more like a job for capitalism
than a job for democracy, which merely accelerated capitalist development. But,
development of means of production can occur under just about any form of state,
as long as at least some competition in the market is allowed. Restraint on the free
market was why the Eastern bloc of nations performed so badly economically.

> Since capitalism has reached an advanced stage of development, at least in
> the industrially advanced countries, we can bring a socialist commonwealth
> into existence almost
immediately. Marx's scenario was valid for it's time.
> The SLP program points to the need for organization on both the political and
> economic fields, proof that a revolution is both an economic and a political act.

The SLP version of revolution may very well be economic and political, but it
doesn't resemble any previous revolution, which may have a detrimental effect
on its chances of ever happening.

>> <snip my redundancy>
>>
>>> There was not a working class majority in Europe during this time, working
>>> class being those that exchange their labor power for wages. At the time
>>> mentioned the majority in Europe was still made up of peasant farmers.
>>
>> Wasn't the worker-peasant alliance intended to take care of that? That
>> alliance is what the hammer and sickle on the old Soviet flag signified.
>
> ------------------------ This is true, but the fact that the majority were
> not wage workers signifies the fact that the means of production
> were
not developed to the point needed for socialism.

2002 note: No, if by "socialism" the 'upper phase of communist society'
is intended, yes if the 'lower phase of communist society' is intended.

This last comment plus the next few parts are all related to the main thesis
that 'the modern development of the means of production obviates any need
for proletarian dictatorship
', so I'll snip the most repetitious parts.

Regardless of the level of development back then compared to today, Engels
thought that the economic conditions were ripe even before he wrote "Socialism:
Utopian and Scientific
". He cited the 6 crises of overproduction experienced since
1825, proving to him that the means of production were more than sufficiently
developed to establish the universal proletarian dictatorship
, which lower phase of
communist society
would have comprised the transition to the classless, stateless
upper phase of communist society. The lower phase of communism was regarded
as necessary, not only for increasing the productive forces, but also for abolishing
the contradictions between town and country and between mental and manual labor.
Also, to abolish the stultifying division of labor, as well as to nurture the all-around
development of the individual.

> <snip>

>>> <snip>

>>> <snip>

>>> <snip>
>>
> ---------------------------------- I don't think we can eliminate capitalism
> by shortening the work day. The capitalist is entitled to make a profit
> and can only do that by extracting surplus value from the workers.

More than we should concern ourselves with the entitlement of capitalists
to make a profit
, we should worry about the entitlement of workers to a
productive and satisfying place in the economy. No one said anything about
ELIMINATING surplus values. The bosses have such easy access to so many
surplus values that they can live with fewer surplus values EASIER than workers
can live without work. In a more ideal world, we would be charitable enough to
ensure a place in the economy to everyone. We can create a more ideal world by
putting full participation in the economy ahead of less-pressing considerations.
The bosses can take care of themselves. They have enough parties for that,
while we have - how many?

> If you shorten the work day this limits the surplus value which
> the capitalist is able to extract.

This is true, but the tendency of modern capitalist production is to increase
the proportion of surplus values to necessary values. Before the division of
society into classes, necessary values were all that we produced. As better
tools and accompanying surpluses enabled alienating class divisions, the ratio
of surplus/necessary values gradually increased. Marx's 'Capital' often used
the example of a 12 hour day divided into 6 hours of necessary labor, and 6
for surplus, for a ratio of 'one'. Our productivity increases so fast that the
ratio will go infinite in another 40 years or so, when no human effort will be
required to produce commodities and other means of life. Today, I can easily
imagine necessary labor time taking up less than one hour's effort per day,
with surplus values comprising the vast bulk of what's produced. And yet,
some activists worry about capitalist profits.

> If work hours are shortened then the capitalist will
> compensate by speeding up the work or some other
> measure which will
make the situation unbearable.

While some speed-up seems to be de rigeur with shorter work days and weeks,
speeding up so much that the situation becomes UNBEARABLE for workers is
a good way to drive away one's workforce entirely, which would be very counter-
productive. In practice, workers seem quite happy and satisfied to work a little
harder in exchange for a couple of more hours to do what they want, specifically
citing some recent experiences of Hewlett-Packard 6 hour/day workers in Germany.

> In my opinion shorter work hours will never be allowed
> to happen,
not without a revolution.

Marx certainly thought that the shorter work-day reform would best be enacted
during the proletarian dictatorship, but he didn't advise AGAINST workers'
struggles for the 8 hour day. Instead, he placed their demand prominently
in the program of the First International.

Workers and unions were able to win work-day and work-week reductions from
1820-1920 precisely because productivity was on the march, and long hours at work
became less and less necessary. Even the bosses enjoyed some extra time off from
work. With the rise of the professional managerial class, that situation changed a bit.

France didn't need a revolution to phase in its 35 hour week. Americans didn't
need a revolution to go from a 60 hour week in the 1800's to a 40 hour week in
1940. Changing the length of the work week would only require a little amendment
to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). To get legislators to amend it in our favor,
aye, there's the rub. People would have to pressure their Congress people. Before
that, people would have to become more aware of the desirability and effectiveness
of such a change in solving our social problems, which would require the previous
awareness of a working class party.

> Of course with greater automation etc. jobs will be eliminated and
> production increased but this will only
increase the misery of the working
> class because they will work shorter hours and get
less in return.

I don't think going from a 12 hour day in the 1800's to an 8 hour day in the
1900's made the lives of the workers any more miserable. Don't forget to factor
in the increasing productivity of labor. One estimate says that we are now 40
times more productive than we were 200 years ago, which pretty much matches
the productivity gains in agriculture. 200 years ago, it required the work of 80%
of the population on the farm to feed 100%, whereas now it only takes 2% to
feed us all. This is why we could theoretically slash to a one-hour work week
and still provide everyone with at least the bare necessities.

> The work day will only be shortened if it benefits the
> capitalist, and only then at the
expense of the workers.

As in the past, the work week will be shortened when people see no other way
to prevent mass misery. Don't forget how humanitarian we all are. We have only
to be confronted with a fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane or tornado for everyone
to pitch in and lend a helping hand. If, someday, a shorter work week looks like
the logical thing to do, then we will do it regardless of the curtailment of the
profits of the bosses. Even the bosses themselves will jump in, as they did in the
Depression, when half of them VOLUNTARILY adopted work-sharing policies.

> The only way to eliminate this contradiction is to eliminate the system.
> The
only way to eliminate the system is through a revolution.

Don't forget that the purpose of revolution in history was to bring democracy
to where it didn't previously exist. Once a democracy is in hand, then it becomes
the form of state in which the battle between worker and boss will be fought to
a finish
, as M+E wrote in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, in a letter to
Bernstein, and in a letter to Turati.

> I think we are long overdue for the needed change. Unfortunately
> the psyche of the workers is not ready, the classconciousness needed
> to carry out the revolution is not there, yet. I think that
we are moving
> toward changing that situation
however. How long it will take is
> anyone's guess, let's hope it doesn't take much longer. In short,
> a socialist revolution is the
only answer to the contradictions
> inherent in the capitalist system.
>
> Fraternally, Carl Miller

That we are overdue in a change in consciousness, that is assured. What kind
of change of consciousness is another question. Thank you very much for your
contribution to the debate. I look forward to reading your response to my concerns.

Best Wishes,
Ken Ellis

 

2-26-01

Ben wrote:

> <snip freundlichen grussen>
>
> "COLLAPSE"
>
>>>
<snip preliminary dialogue>
>
> The revolution will be about the realisation that the
> system of wage slavery is not innevitable or "natural"
> and that we don't have to resign ourselves to it and
> the attendant miseries of poverty, insecurity, stress,
> institutionalised violence etc..

That sounds like a revolution in the world of ideas. I'm all for that.

> Further it will be the realisation of the fact that
> common ownership is both a possibility and a
pressing
> necessity
- we CAN take control of our own lives.

I've never met a man on the street who was willing to consider
'changing to common ownership' as a pressing necessity. Private
ownership is usually regarded as an institution that makes everything
work smoothly. Suggest eliminating private ownership, and it reminds
people of what happened in Russia and Cuba. You've got your work
cut out for you, to put it mildly. Been there, tried that.

> MEDIA
>
>> There certainly is a tendency toward media monopolies,
>> as documented by Ben Bagdikian and others, but it still isn't
>> 'just one big company', thank goodness. Plus, if one monopoly
>> were to become too sedate for news junkies, then too few of us
>> would buy their product. Even if all of the major media became
>> too pollyannish, then the people would create their own media
>> alternatives, of which we have scads and scads in the USA. If
>> the monopolies became too censorious, then that in itself would
>> become a big story in some other media, forcing the accused to
>> come around. I don't think there's a danger of our news orgs
>> becoming like Granma in Cuba, or Pravda in the old SU.
>
> No it isn't 'one big company' (though Rupert Murdoch is
> giving it a good go). It is actually probably in the interests
> of the "status quo" to have a few different, competing news
> corporations - if only to preserve the
illusions of "choice" and
> what passes for public debate (not to mention that different
> sections of the capitalist class have differing interests and
> thus need to compete on the field of propaganda).

All the more reason to abolish capitalism. Let's choose our weapons.

> There is certainly no immediate danger of western
> news organs turning into
Pravda, but then there is no
> need for such state authoritarianism. News corporations
> are in the business of selling their product and turning
> a profit and are thus no more capable of attacking the
> capitalist system than are businesses producing other
> commodities, such as BP or General Motors.

Few in the commercial media would consider attacking
capitalism, but capitalism is man enough to dig its own grave.
I give wage-labor a maximum life span of 40 more years in the
West, and 41 elsewhere. More brilliant silicon brains will soon
make human effort superfluous.

> This doesn't mean newspapers etc. can't present a "radical"
> scandal-busting image. Indeed exposing the more obviously
> outrageous corruption and wrongs of capitalist society helps
> the system with its image problems (and often distracts
> attention from other, more important problems).

Which problems could be 'more important' than the 'outrageous
corruption and wrongs of capitalist society
'?

>> snip all of WAR, as you obviously know your wars a lot better
>> than I have either time or interest. Our conclusions about war are
>> identical - we know that capitalism in very much implicated, providing
>> plenty of motivation for putting an end to both war and capitalism.
>
> I am really glad that we can agree on capitalism's tendency
> towards war and the resulting need to do away with capitalism.
> And brother, you are not the only one who gets frustrated with
> revolutionary ideology!!

If you remain a revolutionary, then what possible problem could
you have with revolutionary ideology?

> As for our choice of weapons -
> time (and the working class) will tell which
> one is "right". As you say, the goal (the ending
> of capitalism) is the important thing here.
>
> All the best.

Thanks for the kind wishes, bro. It's a pleasure to dialogue with
reasonable people.

Last time, I suggested 'a shorter work week' as a step in the
direction toward getting rid of capitalism. For the sake of the
debate, I was hoping that you would find fault with my suggestion
and/or suggest something else just as concrete to displace my
concrete suggestion. If you could try to work on your concrete
suggestion for the next round, that would move our dialogue
along. Thanks in advance.

Respectfully,

Ken Ellis

"Whether you work by the piece or work by the day, decreasing
the hours increases the pay.
"

 

2-27-01

Craig,

Thanks for your good detective work regarding Ruben Barrales and other issues.
I hope people take to heart the lesson that shooting from the hip may work to
keep audiences glued to their TV sets or movie screens, but it takes a certain
dedication to facts to keep a movement from going astray and defeating itself.

Ken Ellis

 

2-27-01

I seem to have gotten up to my nostrils in a little debate that I'm having in
another forum. Maybe someone here can give me an idea about how I should
respond to the quoted text. I had argued that: during the Depression, the left
had been fighting for socialism or bandaids like unemployment insurance, while
the AFL was fighting for passage of a measure that would have done something
real and environmentally friendly about unemployment, obviating the need for
band-aids. I asked the esteemed Sovietologist - Bill Mandel - to whom I listened
for 20 years when he was on the same radio station I worked at in Berkeley, CA:
What was the Communist Party position on the Black-Connery 30 hour bill?
Here's what he wrote back:

> Turning to the realities of the American scene, when Ken talks of the
> Black-Connery 30-Hour Bill, I am reminded of my experience in a job
> as precis-writer for the
United Nations, when the Universal Declaration
> of Human Rights
was being drafted, and I sat facing the chair, Eleanor
> Roosevelt, maybe ten feet away. Every time the
Soviet Union offered a
> proposal in the area of social or ethnic rights,
Australia would offer
> one farther to the left. I concluded that its job was to defeat any
> such move by proposals that had no chance of passage.
>
> The
A.F. of L. had to support the Black-Connery Bill precisely
> because it had been politically
inert, and was faced with an amazing
> situation in that a Republican labor leader, John L. Lewis of the
United
> Mine Workers
, rebelling against that inertness, was organizing an
> independent labor federation, the
Congress of Industrial Organizations,
> because the
A.F. of L. refused to go beyond organizing workers in
> skilled crafts to those in the mass production industries such as auto
> and steel and rubber. So it tried to look good by backing a bill that,
> contrary to your impression (here I have got to say that I lived in
> that time), had no chance of success because it was too radical.

Maybe Bill is right about 30 hours being too big of a step for a lot of people
to swallow, though we certainly know that it would have had the desired effect.
Was the AFL really just 'trying to look good' with the 30 hour demand? Did
the CIO have a BETTER plan to address unemployment, or a plan at all?

The 30 hour bill had "no chance of success"? I'd already informed him of its
passage by the Senate, and its shoe-in status in the House, when the 'brain
trust' advised its demise. Now what can I say? Anything you can come up
with will be greatly appreciated, especially some hard facts or greater insight.
Thanks in advance.

Ken Ellis

http://www.libcap.net

 

2-27-01

Shiu wrote, in part:

> I can see a "parallel" with what we went through with our "alternative"
> school and now our struggle against Pacifica, thats all. I hope this
> "trying" explanation will help you to understand this issue. Shiu

Thanks for the longer explanation, Shiu. I didn't know that you were so
closely involved with Ruben over the school. Now I wonder if I wasn't the
one shooting from the hip on issues I didn't have the interest to follow up on.

Ken Ellis

http://www.libcap.net

 

End of February 2001 Correspondence

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